“This is my favorite kind of workout,” I text my workout partner, planning his own workout on the other side of the country. “Prolonged discomfort.” I wipe the sweat off my face, feel it pool in the crooks of my elbows. I bump up the resistance on my bike, (bad knees from weightlifting for a decade), and play Goodmorming Chlorophylla by Deborah De Luca and just go.
It only feels like a workout if it hurts for at least an hour. I’m only accomplishing something if I’m uncomfortable. I’m not alive unless I can feel it. It’s not love if my toes aren’t over the edge. But look at that view, I think as I gasp for breath, blink away tears, navigate the chaos of my own making. Look at that fucking view.
Strangely, I’ve never thought of myself as someone who curated chaos. “I don’t like drama,” I’ll say, “it just finds me.” A very good friend of mine laughed when I said this. I’ve known him for years. “It’s true that you don’t typically seek it out,” he said, “but you’re happiest when you’re fighting.”
We all have our comfort zones. Most somewhat normal people find comfort in tranquility. Some like to be productive. Some like to push themselves physically. I seek chaos. I crave novelty — new cities, new people, new experiences. I’ve been restless for as long as I can remember, pacing back and forth in cages, looking for a way out. When I’m too long in one place, I start to turn inward, anxious and irritable. Volatile. I do damage to myself and those around me. I know where this comes from now. I’m learning to embrace it.
I thought I’d grow out of it; that’s what my mother told me. It’s only immaturity, she said with infuriating smugness. I knew I was immature, but I didn’t want to mature out of feeling alive. What did she know? I’d never lose this wildness, this flirtation with self-destruction. Why would I ever want to? It feels good.
Until I did. And it didn’t. And there were people depending on me for stability.
Life happens. We never really learn to become someone new; we just learn to manage our base selves. Or we numb ourselves to the point of feeling absolutely nothing, and one day, it all comes roaring back, except we still haven’t learned how to deal with it. Chaos ensues. And it feels fucking good. It feels like something. If you’ve lived a quiet, mostly charmed life until that moment, you may be able to navigate it (mostly) unscathed. If you happen to have experienced trauma, the spin will catch you. There’s no riding it out when you’ve got damage on board.
I believe this collection of character traits, coping skills, defense mechanisms, and trauma responses is just who I am at this point. For a long time, I’ve been trying to wrestle them into submission and become someone else. Someone better, less chaotic, “normal.” I’ve changed my view on that.
While we can’t live as we did when we had no responsibility, we can admit to ourselves that we are who we are — good, bad, unlovely. We can learn to use our powers for good, (or at least socially acceptable behavior). We will never be happy if we deny who we are, but we will forfeit happiness if we live selfishly.
Maybe life is about finding workarounds, or management strategies, or just learning to look at yourself and realize that maybe stability isn’t your strength. No excuses, most likely many regrets, but a peace of some sort, if you can keep it.