Wednesday, July 9, 2014

East London Insomnia…(Fear of the Dark)

"I am a man who walks alone
And when I'm walking a dark road
At night or strolling through the park

When the light begins to change 
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it's dark"

- Iron Maiden 

Do we choose to be afraid?  

It's 3:30 AM, I'm in a posh East London hotel watching World Cup replays and deciding whether to shower or exercise, or both.  Stomach hurts from the flight and coffee and beer and shitty finger foods I've been eating all day.  The air is thick in here, and for some reason hotels don't trust me to not throw myself or large objects out the window, so it's sealed.  I could go outside, but then I'd have to put on clothes, and who knows what variable could throw itself at me at this time of night in a neighborhood I don't know.  These difficult choices that muddle my mind from the real gray area of my life I should be paying attention to.   

Part of my long and tenuous battle with the night is clearly based on fear.  When I was a child it was of death, basic….I knew my greatest fear and met it head on every night.  Now I just lay anxious, my fears so muddled through time and thought that they lay in an unrecognizable pile.  A pile that should get sorted through, piece by piece…cleaned and then re-assembled, like an engine.  But instead, at 33, I meet it with a begrudging inevitability.  Digging through that pile sounds exhausting and painful and the idea of letting it sit is so much easier.  Maintained happiness feels like a full-time job. 

Anyway…the question is, do we choose to be afraid?  This topic has been taking more brain space recently because of a documentary I watched called 'Don't Look Down.'    It's about two "urban free climbers", one from the UK named James Kingston, who travels to the Ukraine to team up with acclaimed Internet sensation Mustang Wanted for a couple of tandem climbs.  Essentially, these guys climb up cranes, bridges and old or new building frames, with no roping or safety, and dangle from hundreds of feet taking pictures of themselves.  It's fucking gnarly, and kind of rad, and gives you that "too high" feeling which leaves a knot in the bottom of your stomach and top of your balls just watching it.  

Overcoming and not recognizing fear, clearly plays a role in such a task.  At one point in the film, Kingston talks about the only difference between your hands hanging on to a bar at 10 feet or 300 feet is how your brain decides to see it.  I love this.  It's the same hands, and the same piece of metal you're holding on to.  He just doesn't allow his brain to receive it as fear, knowing he's done it thousands of times and has trust in his ability.  I'm inspired by this, irrational fear comes from a place that can be conquered, not simply dealt with.  

So now I find myself in a battle of wits with different parts of my brain.  The rational and irrational meeting in a heated battle to determine the speed of my heart palpitations.   Tonight I'll choose to not be afraid, and I'll win.  Tomorrow night, well…I'll deal with that when it comes.