The Other Half Of The Room

“Whatever I fear the most is/Whatever I see before me…” – Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Whatever I Fear”

For reasons I can’t figure out, our piano makes this annoying squeaking noise every time anyone walks past it. It sounds like something is rocking back and forth, and no matter how softly I tread, it makes the same amount of noise regardless. I’ve tried moving it, adjusting things on top of it, and performing the guy-tested method of staring at it intently, thinking it might be intimidated into silence, all to no avail. Whatever this noise is, it’s not going away.

Fortunately, our living room (where said piano is located) has two entryways. As a result, I have worked out an ingenious plan – I just don’t walk anywhere near the piano if I don’t have to.

Granted, this has effectively cut my travel routes to other parts of the house down a bit. I also seem to be the only person in the house that this bothers, as everyone else zips on by the piano seemingly oblivious to the racket it makes (which, by the way, only makes it more annoying to me). I can’t get it out of my head, though: “If you walk by there, it’s going to make that noise.”

Now, if the piano were the only thing in life that I avoided because of some type of personal hangup, I’d be a fairly well-adjusted (if somewhat anal retentive) person. Unfortunately, though, it’s actually pretty far down on the list. And while the noise it makes bothers me, it doesn’t cause my stomach to churn or my palms to sweat or that sweeping sense of failure to rush over me whenever I feel like I’ve failed at something. No, those things happen when I’m afraid – which seems to be most of the time.

Without turning this into a psychological discourse, let me just explain very briefly a couple of things about myself. While my writing voice may seem very self-assured, I am an incredibly introverted person. I don’t like large crowds, and I am nearly physically unable to mingle. I’ve often said that if given a choice between mingling in a room of strangers I didn’t know or taking a gunshot wound to the leg, I would go with the leg every time. I just have this overwhelming sense that whatever I do or say is going to come across the wrong way or make me look stupid or cause the other people not to like me.

To expand on that, I fear failure. I tried to twist that around recently and convince myself that what I actually feared was success. You know, the old reverse psychology way of making yourself think your opinion of yourself is so low and being so comfortable in that you don’t want to succeed because it would mean you’d have to change (I have no idea if any of that made any sense whatsoever…). I couldn’t make that fit, though. I’m afraid of giving something my all and that all not being enough to succeed, plain and simple.

And this extends to some ridiculous depths. The other day, I had some fliers with me from work. I was near a business that probably would’ve posted one for me somewhere, and I still had two or three left. I just couldn’t bring myself to go in, though. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen. I don’t think they would have driven me from the store with horsehair whips or anything like that. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even have said no. Whatever I thought was going to happen, though, was enough to convince me to get in my truck and drive home, fliers and all.

Instances like this are where I really get to put on the gloves and give myself a good mental beating. It never does me any good, though. I’ll listen to the right speakers, read the right scriptures, take the right vitamins, etc., etc., but the results are usually the same the next time around. Therefore, I walk on the other side of the room. If the piano doesn’t make any noise over there, then that is where you will find me.

I’m sure right now you’re having one of two thoughts: “My, what an uplifting post this is! What, there weren’t any mine explosions or derailed trains you could talk about today?” or “Oh, shut up. Quit your whining. Suck it up. Face your fears. Be a man!” (Well, actually, I don’t know if you’re having those thoughts, but I am.) The truth is, sometimes you have to slog through some pretty unpleasant details to emerge with any perspective on the other side. Consider these first few paragraphs “slogging.”

As usual, the conundrum here is the same as in most of my other posts: Do I believe a person is capable of having their nature changed or am I skeptical that this pattern of behavior will ever end? Well, that kind of depends on what day you ask me. I’ve actually been working on this post over the course of the last three days, and I would probably have given you a different answer at the end of each of them. Today, I feel pretty good. The day I started this, I was pretty sure I just needed to go live in a box somewhere, far away from any and all human contact.

Half the battle, though, is in the realization of what’s going on, and after all these years of trying to figure it out, I’ve arrived here. It’s a fear thing, no doubt. Where it came from, how it originated, why it’s still around, and where it’s going are all questions I can’t answer yet. What I can begin to do, however, is believe it can change, and even if I still have those awful, awful days, I can choose to look it in the eye and call it what it is. I can reclaim half of the room, whether that stupid piano is making noise or not.

In a somewhat related note, I realize this is really lengthy, somewhat depressing, and probably way more personal than I intended it to be. As a result, I’m actually thinking of going with different themes for different days of the week. I’m not exactly sure how it’ll work yet, but, hopefully, I’ll be able to get started tomorrow. Or possibly sometime this week. Or…

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