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"The tough guy who never cries seems like the bird that never flies."

When The Muse and I first got together, my life was in tatters. My second marriage had just ended, landing me back to Go without first collecting any two hundred dollars. I was living in a crummy little apartment. I felt separated from my life, a truly terrifying situation. Sunday nights, I would find myself crawling into the back corner of a closet and weeping uncontrollably, a full-blown panic attack temporarily taking over. These sessions usually lasted for two or three hours, though nobody was timing them. They'd end when I'd exhausted myself into sleep. I'd wake in the wee hours of the following morning to shamefacedly crawl into bed until dawn. The Muse seemed unflappable, observing my Panicking without taking it as a personal statement about her, a remarkably respectful and supportive response.

My Panicking pattern continued for months and months until it finally dissipated.
Before departing, it had taught me something significant about trusting my body to lead me through Valleys of the Shadows of Death. Life can get genuinely scary sometimes. Desperation doth occasionally overtake. I know of no way to reason through these detours. Valor and courage seem beside any point then. My Panicking proved itself to be a true and abiding friend, chasing off whatever bedeviled me for a time, and opening space for maintaining some semblance of a normal life through most of the following week. My Panicking utterly exhausted me, draining every available emotional and physical reserve. I slept uninterrupted following these episodes, troubled by no dread, fear, or bedeviling nightmare.

I came to understand that my emotional maturity was like the proverbial house built on sand. I simply could not reasonably expect my foundation not to occasionally shift, and no house, however well-architected, could be designed to simply stand straight as its foundation shifted beneath it. And it was not a fool who chose to build there, well away from immovable bedrock, but a man. It could not possibly be my primary job to somehow maintain a steady emotional state through these changes. I could usefully and ultimately productively freak out sometimes, though I do not believe that this option emerged from conscious choice. One simply does not choose to 'lose it', as the vernacular dismisses these experiences, as if one should always remain found. Like the pre-automobile country doctor returning after a near all-nighter tending to a patient, his horse knew the way back home, so he could doze in recovery along the way. My emotions seem to know the way, too.

Nor would I argue in favor of letting one's self engage in Panicking, for it seems to require no permission to kick in, but rather, it engages when the internal emotional pressure exceeds some unknowable maximum. For me, Panicking seemed as volitional as breathing, an alien alternate yet perfectly normal state. Had I somehow possessed the mythical emotional fortitude to resist it, I fear the resulting effects. I might have become rigid in spirit, a crusty old sea captain never humbled by his sea, a cold, as good as dead, fish. I continued growing, though apparently not so much to ever grow up or even to out grow such lowly emotional experiences, but perhaps to grow into this body which has not always seemed so well suited to my designs. I find that I'm more accepting when my emotions overwhelm me, as if they're simply successfully distracting me while necessary repairs occur.

I've grown to believe that Panicking represents an introduction to a higher state of emotional maturity, one of the states beyond operator control, where a transcendent wisdom takes over. Later, one awakes from their worst case scenario to discover that they've survived and have even lost a few metric tons of existential dread. I once believed that I might choose my emotional state, as my mom used to prescribe whenever I got The Blues, "Just turn that frown upside down!" Hers would have been fine advice if I'd ever figured out how to manually adjust my face. My frown served as information, though, not definitive definition. I was not sad, but feeling sadness. Feelings, far from volitional, seem present to inform me. Should I decide that I get to decide what emotions I experience, I've probably fled into my head to maintain a self-centered sense of emotional maturity. The tough guy who never cries seems like the bird that never flies. One can only wonder why anyone would even try to achieve that end.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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