My aphantasia or mind-blindness is frustrating. I want to go back, find an event in my past, and look at it closely and clearly to uncover and make sense of the specific way I reacted to that specific event, which conditioned me to continue reacting in that way to similar events. But I can’t do it. I can’t tangibly return to a past event in memory. There is nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to taste, nothing to smell, nothing to touch. I am stuck with the present, and all the gurus with their beatific smiles stressing that the present is all there is, all the spiritually evolved people encouraging me to access the power of Now, do nothing to get me unstuck, or help me let go of my resistance to and frustration with this stuckness, which is what is here now. I want to go back into the past to try and understand why I have no patience for the present or hope for the future. But I can’t even conjure up a past feeling.
Since the past is out of the question, let me question the events of this day to see whether I can discover anything of value. I wake up already in a dark mood, exhausted though I slept nine hours. I make some coffee. The coffee wakes me up slightly, but the energy gained from the stimulant is used, by some unproductive but frequent mechanism of the self, merely to stimulate and increase my frustration. It is the kind of frustration that seems not to have any immediate cause. Which only means that the cause lies outside my conscious awareness.
I feel the frustration in my stomach as a hard knot of tension, what you might feel before running a race, or in the middle of a core workout. But I haven’t done any physical activity today except walking upstairs to put on the water for coffee. I am simply tense. I feel like I do not want to be disturbed by anyone today, but I am already disturbed, and there is no one else here. I feel a domineering inner disturbance. It is as if a rope, frayed from overuse, is tied around my midsection, and it pulls me along. I go wherever the rope, the noose, wills me to go. It is frustrating to feel I am not in control of where I am going. I cannot take one true step. But when the frayed rope snaps, or I let go, what will happen to me? It is like being on a ledge high on a canyon rim, the drop-off sudden and steep. Holding on to the rope I live a frustrated, fastened, anything-but-free existence. But if I let go, the only prospect I can see is an immediate fall to my death on the jagged rocks below.
I want to move easily, like a man who knows where he is going. Or maybe he doesn’t know where he’s going, but in that case he doesn’t mind not knowing. His every step somehow communicates a natural and relaxed attention, both to his outer environs and to his inner state. He trusts that he will know where to place his feet as he goes along. Wherever he ends up, and whatever he encounters along the way, will enlarge his experience of life, deepen his gratitude for it, and this awareness of the manifold ways in which life is a gift will grow within this man unself-consciously, until his thankfulness becomes as much as part of him as his hands and feet. He does not need to believe that life is a gift; he feels it and knows it. Even the deaths of the people he loves, even the prospect of his own death, do not subtract from this unshakable felt knowledge. If anything, they add to it. Death becomes for him a reason for more abundant life. Every passing moment is even more precious than the last, because every moment that passes brings him closer to his last.
But for the man who is not free, the tense man, the man whose every action is a reaction to some inner disturbance, life no longer seems a gift, and each passing moment, rather than expanding his capacity for heartfelt gratitude, only racks up his tension and increases his heart-constricting dread. Part of him sees and resonates and wants to reach out to the free man, ask him how he has been transformed, while another part of him envies and hates the free man, for he only serves with his easy grace to remind the roped man of his bondage. Life for the self-oppressed man is a constant struggle, the bulk of which takes place invisibly, in the confused turmoil of his inner world. Simple and spontaneous connection with anyone or anything looks to him like a monumental task, wrapped tightly as he is beneath the thick cords, the layered bandages, that cover his forgotten, but not thereby healed, wounds.
To reach out seems futile, for how can anyone else understand the maze he is stuck in, and lead him out? Despite this feeling of distressed futility, he longs for someone to see his plight in its entirety, to understand his suffering so deeply that, in the process of being completely understood, he is also freed forever from the idea that he was ever anything but free. But until that fairytale person arrives, he contents himself to waste his hours failing to understand his discontent. Though he claims to know without a doubt that he also cannot free himself, he continues to strive to do just that. His strained effort only tightens the chains, and to be in chains, even if they are not precisely literal, is to be on fire with tension, to feel every nerve in one’s body fighting in vain to loosen the iron bonds.
4 thoughts on “A Frustrated and Fastened Existence”
While you can’t picture things, you have a gift for describing what you are feeling in the here and now. Your frustration pulsates through this, and it gives me insight into what it must feel like. I hope fervently that you experience that feeling of being free at some point. Understanding your current feelings is a good start.
“Will anyone ever feel that sweet release…” Isabelle Stillman, lyrics from “Worry”. Thank you for sharing —so eloquently— the inner turmoil. This morning I prayed with Isaiah 43 which is like water for the parched soul.
I am always so moved by your writing – you have such power with words!
Thank you Aunt Peg, and thanks for being such a supportive reader through the years.