Anais Nin apparently wrote (I quote this from the novelist Jonathan Carroll’s page on the Book of Faces): “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”.
I like that. I like the idea of the expanded life. I love the idea of courage – be it physical, emotional, mental… Life DOES take courage. But sometimes I’m really not that brave at all. My cowardice manifests itself as laziness. I’m scared to write because of the risk of not being all that good. I have grand ideas, start outlines of plots, and then run, trembling, from my computer because I suddenly fear I have only a half-formed, little idea. A seed. A spore.
And that’s just part of it. I want to be outdoors all the time, but I get scared of somehow disappointing the wife – that I’ll mess up her plans for an evening because I decide to be up by a fire-pit in the Angeles Crest. I want to learn the names of all that gorgeous flora and fauna up in the chaparral of Southern California – but the sheer volume of research involved scares me. Hell – I don’t even know how to pronounce ‘chaparral’. I want to live in a more beautiful place – I want to make a long table out of recycled wood and sit and type at it in our sunroom. I get scared of making something that isn’t all that pretty, of vision outstripping capability. I get scared of spending the money on the tools I’ll need. I’ve talked about it for a good few years now.
I want to work more. I work in the LA biz. I have the great fortune of being one of the precious few making my living as an actor. It’s a very small living. Everyone in this industry spends their lives trying to get work. Yet despite my faith in my abilities, my track record, I’m always too scared to ask anyone to help me get more work because I’m afraid it’s somehow pushy, bothersome, gauche…
I undermine myself constantly. My desires are many – so many that they remain inchoate, they rarely even pass the stage of ‘vague hope’ and become fully-fledged desires.
This is not uncommon. This is, perhaps, a near-universal condition. I’m not blowing any minds here. But how do we defeat this condition? I know people – one couple in particular springs to mind, my mates Rhys and Rosie – who have what I can only recognise as an overwhelming internal “YES”. They have ideas, and their inner voice says YES and they set about playing with those ideas in the real world. They make shit happen. They are brave as all hell, and being with them charges my batteries of hope and desire. But left on my own, that YES very quickly shrinks to a quiet ummm and finally a whispered how?
That’s the coward voice. The how is far worse than the no that I thought was YES’s opposite. How is an insidious, doubt-filled little word. And I think how is the nastiest bequest El Pedo has given me.
Doubt. Fear. That nagging sense that I’m not good enough. All from El Pedo. Shit, it’s almost dawn and I’ve been up since three because of his voice in my head, telling me I suck. I’m sure he talks inside the heads of the rest of my family.
Yet for ages I have known a way of beating him. I’ve just never had the courage to shut him up and declare victory. You see, if someone is talking inside your head with a voice you don’t like, it’s not like they have a scalpel to your cerebellum and are holding you hostage. You can surely chase them out and replace them. Surely! I have a picture of Sir Edmund Hillary in my wallet. I want his voice in my head. I pull it out to remind myself sometimes. Sir Ed famously climbed the tallest mountain because it was there. He dedicated his life to the people of Nepal not because he wanted to be a philanthropist, nor because he wanted to help. He once told an interviewer that he simply did it because he could. He was the first person to take a mechanised expedition to the Pole – simply because he was in the vicinity. He doesn’t give a toss about how. Sir Ed tells me if I want to do something I should just do it and not make such a bloody song and dance.
Or he would, if I could dislodge El Pedo.
El Pedo just sits there and dares me. He whispers his how and even though I KNOW HOW he paralyses me with it. He shrinks my life. Motherfucking pedophile kidfucking sickfuck is sitting there like a big orange wheel clamp in my brain.
Look – I’ve lived a pretty expanded life. I’ve wrestled rodeo bulls (I lost). I married a beautiful girl in a ruined village on a hilltop in Greece. I guess I really aspire to being in an ad for a certain mexican beer. I’m also high on painkillers right now because a surgeon had to reacquaint some of my tendons with their estranged bone partners. But I want my life to keep expanding. Don’t we all? So – this week, this year, I shall be brave and drown out the how with a resounding, Everest-conquering Hillaric Yes!
Shit – I may get that new recycled-wood table out of it.