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"I'm wary, on the look-out, peeking over one shoulder every step of every way."

I have heard about an alien concept I'll call ConfidentStrides. This term describes a totally mythical state where a person moves forward without hesitation, said to accompany personal conviction. The literature speaks of revelatory insights inducing such a sense of certainty that ConfidentStrides result. The hero or heroine marches into their future, utterly transformed, unstoppable. I refer to this state as alien and mythical because, while I've heard that such a state exists, I've never personally experienced it. Further, recognizing that I have not yet experienced it has sometimes encouraged me not to act, to sit tacitly by rather than to move forward and engage. I've yet to achieve anything by means of ConfidentStrides, which is not to say that I've never accomplished anything. I'm apparently more of a PeakingParanoia sort of person, I guess.

When challenged to do some right thing, I notice my paranoia peaking. I would, in that moment, much prefer to take a break, take a nap, perhaps cower beneath my bed.
I sometimes flee in the apparent opposite direction of real challenges rather than striding into them. I don't consider myself a coward, not exactly, but I am profoundly circumspect. I advance hesitantly, sometimes only after exhausting every obvious alternative course of action. I most often act after I fail to talk myself out of acting.

Once engaged, my PeakingParanoia tends to increase, for engagement provides no antidote. I find myself more deeply feeling the fear. I sometimes cannot hear the catcall criticism confronting me, so distracted by my own internal churning that I might seem invulnerable or indifferent, perhaps even courageous. I know the real story, an unspeakable story, one I could never tell. I wade through wet weeds, thoroughly soaking my shoes right through to my socks, engaging in somewhat of a paradox, damning myself every inch of the way whatever I do. I feel the fear and do it anyway.

I consider the ConfidentStrides myth poisonous. While it makes for fine inspiring screenplays, the absence of such certainty probably smothers more initiatives than its presence ever encourages. It does not encourage at all, but seems to enfeeble by disqualifying any alternative good-enough approach. Does anyone really need to know what will come to pass once they've utterly failed to talk themselves out of something? Then, a more can't-not-do attitude seems to take the wheel, damning torpedoes and moving in a more full speed ahead fashion. Downside ramifications fade into inaudible background noise. What? Did I expect to live forever?

My PeakingParanoia seems well-grounded, since we all know this world stalks and will eventually get us no matter what we do. I justify forward movement by insisting, almost believably, that I'd rather be prosecuted for sins of commission than ones of omission. The sins of omission seem graver somehow. The bridge never attempted. The flight foregone. The word swallowed before being spoken. The food forsaken just because I suspected something unusual like pig brains might be in it. My paranoia peaks after I engage, only spooling up before. Each significant choice point serves as a dedication test. Do I want to have done this or can I carry my paranoia and actually do this thing?

The Muse reminds me that beyond right and wrong lies left. I can argue well into the night about relative wrongnesses and rights, but by the following dawn, everyone will only be interested in what's left. What's left of my PeakingParanoia after that latest adventure ends? What story portends the following chapter, the next book? What will I have learned? I carry my PeakingParanoia like a mushroom gatherer's basket, a certain encumbrance unless and until I stumble upon some tasty mushrooms. Then, I'm grateful that I chose to come this way and bring along my clunky companion. Some, I guess, stride confidently forward. I'm wary, on the look-out, peeking over one shoulder every step of every way.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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