Short thoughts on what it means to feel alive.
Last week, I got to interview Jericho Brown. Who was delightful. As I said last week, he is my go-to person when I am feeling stuck. Or that life is meaningless. Or like answering the question of what is the point of making art anyway? It was a kinda out of body experience, talking to him. In the morning before we met, I told myself in the shower that it was just another day. That I would talk to him like I would talk to anyone. That I didn’t need to worry.
I used to talk to people all the time. I felt ok that I was a weirdo. Comfortable that I might make people uncomfortable with my questions, meant I cared. I don’t know about you but my social anxiety has gone into high gear lately. I find myself worrying about every conversation after. Did I say the right thing? Did I seem stupid? Was I a bother? Did I stand too close? Did I not stand close enough? Etc. Did I miss an opportunity to connect? I think I want that so badly these days…
Whatever the case, Jericho mentioned something while talking about how having to move during the pandemic forced him to start living again.
I had been mulling it over with my therapist for some time. This desire of wanting to feel alive. (I think my understanding of the word “alive” must have come from reading some Esther Perel. She talks so often about the longing to feel alive. Mostly in regards to partnership, but I want to expand that to wanting to feel alive in life.
“We're walking contradictions, seeking safety and predictability on one hand and thriving on diversity on the other.”
― Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic
Have you been putting your life on hold these past couple of years? What does that feel like? I feel like I have been putting my life on hold but I am living. I feel a sense of guilt saying that - I am a privileged person who gets the luxury of “feeling” like I am putting life on hold for measures of safety.
I want to spend a moment thinking about what it means to long to feel alive when for all accounts I am living. I had to breathe to write this. When I look up the definition of what it should feel like to be alive I just found: Having life; living; not dead or inanimate.
So maybe this is it? Life just is. And it cannot be on hold. Death perhaps could be life on hold. Perhaps this feeling is just a feeling of being stuck.
Last night, I had a glass of wine. I am not a drinker. I drink to get drunk. I drank last night because I thought it would make me feel alive. But I just felt really tired. So I went to bed. I dreamt about riding horses with M. We were stuck in sand dunes that turned into a river, that our horse was not able to swim through. So we sat on the horse treading water until I woke up.
This week, I am talking to Phil Christman about How To Be Normal. I read his essay in Harpers titled, “Some Deaths Before Dying,” and I thought it was a beautiful way of thinking about love over a lifetime. He described that sometimes faking being in love is actually what love needs to endure. And there was something that a young Carissa would have violently disagreed with. But the current Carissa finds comfort in.
"For some of us, there’s a season on the cusp of young adulthood—around sixteen or seventeen—when all the deepest failings and yearnings of our nature announce themselves as symphonic themes that the rest of our lives will restate with greater complexity, perhaps, but never again so pristinely. We adults view the struggles of teenagers with pity, amusement, and contempt, reactions that preserve our distance from our own memories of being so young, so susceptible to the characteristic pain of this period: pain constituted, in large part, by the absence of perspective. Every breakup, every fight, every death, every friendship lost to gossip or to moving trucks seems unsurvivable precisely because you haven’t survived many such losses yet. You wonder, rightly, how it can possibly be done. And yet there is something admirable, even beautiful, about these storms of rage and sadness and fear, which recall the goddesses and gods of classical mythology, who also live outside the dulling and comforting repetitions of time.” - From How To Be Normal by Phil Christman