Trying to Fly: Giving Up What Weighs Me Down

Pain woke me in the middle of the night. It flattened me to the mattress. I lay still, certain that if I moved, my head would not move with me. It would simply snap from my neck, a lead weight of agony too heavy for my body to support. I’m not given to migraines, but this headache, so intense the nausea began in my toes and roiled through my limbs, was something organic, alive, beyond the reach of medication or meditation. I barely slept, and at four a.m. I gave myself up to the inevitable.

As soon as I opened the front door to unhitch a hanging plant whirling in the sudden wind, I knew. Overnight, the gray silk of Autumn had slipped in, running cool fingers through Summer’s sun-bleached hair before gently pushing her away. Now Autumn sat heavy, pregnant with rain, aching to release the new season from her throbbing uterus. In her angst to be next, to be now, this Bitch of Barometric Pressure had a white-knuckle grip around my brain.

I knew from whence this pain emanated. A change of weather so fast, the shift of seasons so acute, my body clenched and strained. But as I moved gingerly, trying to avoid a further disturbance of my universe, I felt another weight bearing down, more insidious, but no less frantic. The pressure in my head was emblematic of the pressure in my soul, and as the season shifted, as a summer of dreams gave way to an autumn of industry, I knew the only way to relieve the burden was to make a decision.

I’m not a ditherer by nature. I tend to make decisions quickly and be done with them. That doesn’t mean I won’t carry my doubts around, worrying over them like a stray thread that won’t break off, but in the moment I just do the thing and move on.

A few weeks before, an essay dropped into my life—from where, I no longer remember—and forced me to face a doubt I’d been ignoring, a dissonance I’d plugged my ears against, not wanting to admit that I’d made an error of judgment. Here it is: Are You Empowered By Being Here? Rather new age-y, but I’m a bit new age-y myself, all give things up to the universe and listen to the voice inside. You know that about me.

The author, Jamie Khoo, posits that by determining where you stand on the following two points, “… you’ll know exactly whether you’re being empowered or dis-empowered where you are; and whether you should stay or leave.”

Are you: Becoming More or Less of You

Do you: Realize Who Owns You

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Northwest Autumn © Julie Christine Johnson 2014

I knew the answer to the essential question—Are You Empowered By Being Here?—was ‘No.’ I had allowed myself to diminish, I had allowed a situation to own my time, energy, space, and thoughts. After coming to such a tremendous epiphany in February while reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I had placed myself in something that simply wasn’t me. That contradicted everything that makes me function in peace and productivity. How embarrassing.

Yet, I had set aside my doubts and talked myself out of action, certain my anxiety was misplaced because I wanted so badly to believe I could make it work.

Until the morning I awoke wanting to sever my head from my body to end the vice-grip on my skull.

I went for a swim, easing into the tepid water, allowing it to take my weight. In the hour that I moved back and forth, crawling and stroking, I practiced my exit. I willed myself not to excuse or explain, as is my custom, but to release myself with grace. And then I returned home and did the thing that needed to be done.

As I sat trembling, waiting for the hammer of doom, I heard the sound of water rushing at my windows, smelled the petrichor as the earth broke its summer fever and sweated in relief. The first rain in weeks, the first downpour in months, the pregnant sky birthing the equinox.

The morning after I closed that door, the strangest little thing happened. A friend of a friend from another life contacted me and said, please come and let me teach you. I have seen what you can do and I want you to do more. Let me teach you.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
― Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

11 thoughts on “Trying to Fly: Giving Up What Weighs Me Down

    1. Natalie, this was a tough one. It’s hard to admit limitations and accept that I can’t always mold myself to a situation-that sometimes letting go and moving on is the best thing. With a few weeks’ of hindsight and a change of perspective/routine/place, I know I made the right choice. But the wondering and regrets will always be there.
      Take care of you, my friend.

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  1. Hi Julie! Your post so reminds me of that poem by Mary Oliver:

    The Journey

    One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,

    though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,

    though the whole house began to tremble

    and you felt the old tug at your ankles.

    “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop.

    You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried

    with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,

    though their melancholy was terrible.

    It was already late enough, and a wild night,

    and the road full of fallen branches and stones.

    But little by little, as you left their voices behind,

    the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds,

    and there was a new voice

    which you slowly recognized as your own,

    that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,

    determined to do the only thing you could do,

    determined to save the only life you could save.

    Thanks for the reminder to stay true to ourselves….~Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walker, thank you for sharing this journey with me. I want to believe I can do and be all, but then, when I realize and accept my boundaries, the peace that follows makes me wonder what I was thinking in the first place. We try, we stumble, we keep going. Peace to you.

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  2. Wow, Julie. I just read your essay on Cain’s introvert book. Every word could very well describe me too. I’ve always thought that there’s something inherently wrong with me, because I abhor small-talk and after the initial get-to-know-you-conversation, I feel like someone has turned me upside down and emptied me of my thoughts. Being a writer is a perfect fit for me, because I need time to think and analyse.
    Breathe.
    This post is intriguing and beautifully written, as usual.
    Hugs x

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    1. Bianca-that book was such a revelation to me. For the first time, I felt validated, understood. I’m learning how to embrace my boundaries and to stop wondering what’s “wrong” with me. It’s a wondrous thing!

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  3. Julie I feel like you’ve left me hanging here, hoping all is ok with you, wanting to find out what happens next, even while knowing that as an introvert you need to hold your own counsel. Be well

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    1. Edith- all is very well- it was a release to make a decision and let something go that wasn’t good for me. And I’m in France at the moment, so la vie est belle!! It’s so good to hear from you.

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