As a child, I had night terrors. I’d wake up screaming at the top of my lungs, tears streaming down my face, traumatized by what I’d just experienced. Feeling myself fall off a cliff. Feeling someone grab my neck from behind. Or worse, seeing the people I loved dead in a pile in the middle of the room. These fucked up visions were the product of my young mind, but they felt entirely real and sometimes it would take my parents hours to convince me otherwise.
It’s surprising I’m such a well-adjusted and fully-functioning adult today, but the truth is those terrors never stopped. Only they don’t happen at night anymore. Instead they occupy my waking mind. Whenever a plane experiences turbulence, I’m sure we’re going down. When I feel an unfamiliar pain, I’m sure it’s cancer. When my boyfriend takes longer than expected to come home, I check the news for reports of an accident. When my family calls unexpectedly, my heart sinks as I assume the worst.
I am debilitated by my fear of death.
This year instead of my usual 10 resolutions like drink more water or read a book a week, I’ve chosen to focus on just this one. But how do you go about unraveling something that has been knotted up inside of you for all this time? Something that seems so innate to who you are.
I could obsess over analyzing all the reasons why I am this way, dredge up the past and pick it apart. But I can’t undo the past no matter how hard I try. Instead I need to focus on the now and what I can do to change who I am today.
As with all kinds of fear, regardless of what, there’s a fixation on the future. What might happen and how it will make us feel. All the what-ifs flood in. We spend so much time conjuring up the future, we actually cause ourselves the pain we’re so desperately afraid of. We end up living in our imaginations and not in the real world that surrounds us, the safe and comfortable present tense.
All this fear of dying and I’m not fully living. Where’s the sense in that?
I don’t know when death is going to ring my bell, or take away the people I love. I certainly can’t control it. All I can control is me, by cultivating presence and living for today. Every moment I spend with my head in the future is a moment I’ve lost being here now.
2014 is my year to live.