When There’s Nothing Left to Do But Lean (or: Let Your Vertigo Compel You)

by JoAnna — June 30, 2014

Young people tell what they are doing, old people what they have done and fools what they wish to do. ~French Proverb

For the longest time I was a talker, a dreamer. I was a person who liked to think about her ambitions as opposed to going out and getting something done. It was easier to lean back and imagine accomplishing a bucket list of things (ah yes, travel to distant lands, playing in a royal conservatory of music concert or speaking in front of a crowd of hundreds) than it was to do the heavy lifting. It was much safer being in a whimsical space of potential where everything was possible and worked out for the best. It was far less work to inhabit the space of in between, a place where you haven’t quite committed to the process because you’re still standing on the threshold, possibly drunk with vertigo and dangling one foot out the door. That state where consequent rushes of energy sustain all the ideas stretching out endlessly before you–each grandiose opportunity flashing in epic bursts on the internal walls of your mind.

I enjoyed Briana’s and Bridget’s recent posts in touting the importance of just doing it. “It” being something you’ve been interested in trying or any heart roaring passion that lights a white-hot fire under your ass. Their missives made me smile and awakened memories of my former self—that shy and unsteady person who was often derailed by fear and worried too much about what others thought. Their posts also reminded me that some of the viscid and ropey residue remains, it is part of my-now-self-still. And while I have been empowered over the years to get over many a thing (e.g. fear of heights and motion sickness, both incredibly important if you want to travel) there are still a few trifles that have held me back from doing some of the things I’ve pondered deep or spent an inordinate amount of time blathering about to anyone who would listen, driving both them and myself perfectly mad.

This Empress-emphasized issue of moving past our fears (because at the heart of it all is often only one emotion: fear) and going after the things that resonate within us happened to come on the heels of a series of discussions I had with a dear friend of mine; a man with many talents, his particular gift lies in the creative realm. Although he has some envy-invoking achievements under his belt he has recently been con)fronted by a few obstacles, minor hindrances really, which have resulted in long delays or the shelving some projects entirely. This moratorium of his is deeply disheartening and, from the outside looking in, one can see he’s hedged in somewhat by fear. And though I do my best to cheerlead, motivate and provide sage words when they’re asked of me I can understand where my friend comes from—I know the place where he currently resides.

You see, fear uses a myriad of ways to bring us to our knees. Though it is sometimes brutal in manner and has a thing for collateral damage, it tends to prefer the path of least resistance. It likes to make us do all the work. Backing us into the corner, fear likes to see us go slack in that place of in between (otherwise known as Dr. Seuss’ “waiting place”). A domicile where all is eerily comforting, multiple chances are expected and anything is possible…although nothing gets done. It is the place where responsibility is not yours to bear and everything is legend. It is the place where time stands in such stillness you are duped into believing there’s an infinite amount of it, until the day you snap out of your reverie to realize that time has marched on. Two, four, six and ten years have gone and yet you are still idle in your intentions, no closer to realizing the imaginings you once held dear.

Been there, done that. The ever maligned "waiting place."

Been there, done that. The ever maligned “waiting place.”

I understand how easy it is to reside in such a place if only because I’ve been there myself. I’ve spent long and lonely stretches waiting for something to shift or for my attitude to change or for an opportunity to arise or the wind to blow in the right direction.

What a waste of time. I see that so clearly now.

The revelation came in my early 30s when I realized there’s no glory or fulfillment to be found languishing in indolence. I came to understand it was better to be on the move instead of nattering incessantly because talk is cheap, especially when it is the sort of clamor masquerading as bombast. I’m not interested in the sort of things unaccompanied by the Latin-based noun known as action, and while there still may be ample opportunity to see dreams take flight I’ve come to realize time is sure as hell not on my side. I’ve done the calculation, you see, and there are not enough hours in the day to dream away or live underneath fear’s gnarly boot. Not only is there not enough time but such idleness is tiring, pretentious and incredibly frivolous as well.

Milan Kundera wrote in one of his books: “Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”

Defending ourselves from the unexpected. Holding back from the fall. Fear of moving into the unknown. While some aspirations take time and require planning, almost all require the triad of reaction-movement-response to propel the process forward. I know how hard it is to shut off the mind/take the first step/make the first move/say the first words/write the first line/play the first note/take the first hit/clean the first wound/eat the first mouthful of dirt but at some point such occurrences have to happen if you ever want to move from the trailer park of in between to a much better place.

So why not fly by the seat of your pants and throw yourself into the moment? Put all plans aside and jump into a new idea, project or plan with abandon. Quell the verbiage and let the mutterings be extinguished. Imagine there’s no more breath to carry your words. Assume there is nothing left to do but lean. Way in. Believe the only step to take is the first. Allow gravity to take over. Let yourself fall.

And, of course, there are no guarantees. Perhaps there will be ground underfoot or maybe you will find nothing but air. Either way you’ll be momentarily weightless.

Note: that’s the way we learn to fly.

I say, let your vertigo compel you.

*What project, dream, goal or fear are you working towards completing/overcoming?*

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