When I was a kid, I used to think of amazing comebacks to a putdown about 2 hours after I’d left the circumstance. It would hit me like a thunderclap and I’d role play quietly in my head. The perfect ‘what if I’d’ scenario. I could never retort or react to whatever was happening because I was too busy retracting. Retracting from the environment, the catalyst and my body. I would retreat until I cowered above my physical body, scanning around for a possible exit. Only when my body caught me up, did I assimilate what had happened.
When I was younger, I used to shake. I still remember watching an argument outside a McDonald’s where a man shoved a woman up against a pane of glass so hard it shook. Half of me wanted to turn on my heels faster than I could compute, half of me wanted to fly over and make a positive difference. I’ve shaken like that pane of glass every time I’ve ever heard shouting, my brain vibrating inanely as my body did the same. In fact, I would shake doing anything stressful, to the point that I never learnt card games because I’d always have to hide my hands.
I’m a flight person. Maybe I’m lucky that I’m a flight person. Because the struggle is internal. It tends to be that dealing with anxiety and fear as a flight person only holds you to random, it takes no other prisoners. If you are wired to fight first, you take everyone with you. If they’re near, a fighter will suck them in as they assess the dangers all around. Maybe I’m lucky because, as long as I find the time, when the adrenaline has subsided, I can go back into the chaos and sift through the thoughts and energy to make sense of it all. A fighter deals with it all then and there, real or implied danger, aggressor or victim.
For most of my life, I’ve been a flight person. My anxiety response is to out as much distance between myself and the trigger as possible, literally, energetically or emotionally. My response has been to leave or to shut down if I’ve nowhere to go. I vacate the premises.
One of the things I’m learning is that when you start to be mindful, creating vacancy is harder. And being present is beyond uncomfortable. Suddenly, all that energy building walls of protection or skilfully extracting myself from a room without causing more waves needs to be channeled elsewhere. I tried everything. I’ve been angry and I’ve been sad. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried, but one thing’s become clear. The only way to manage it is to deal with what the triggers are in the first place. Because once that response is triggered, it takes you caring more about changing than being catapulted along by your emotions yet again. It takes valuing the new path more than riding the path of least resistance. It takes courage and faith that there’s more to life than feeling threatened.
When I was younger and I replayed the scene, I used to re-write myself as a fighter. I used to lucidly carve my boundaries and stand my ground. What I realise now, is that I re-wrote myself as mindful. My goal has always been to be lucid and present, on a good day and a bad, surrounded by love or by venom. My goal has always been to rise about the biochemical wiring to a mindful reality in which I understand there is genuinely little threat in the world. I don’t want to feel a fight or flight response when I consume media or overhear a conversation. I don’t want to be triggered by a colleague nor a control issue. I want to enjoy my life without deeming my existence so fragile that I need to rise and react to innumerable stimulus around me daily.
Now that I am here, now that I know I want to change, the only flight I want to see is from those I love, to see them soar free and unburdened. And the only way I know how is to learn to do it first. The challenge? Not to pick a fight with anyone who stands in my way 🙂