When I feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts, when my mind is filled with what-ifs and obsessively remembered slights, I often see an image of myself dangling high up, hundreds of feet in the air, my hand grasping on to something. We’re sometimes at the edge of a reddish brown cliff framed by pure blue skies, and all I see when I look down are the emerald treetops far below. My fingers, tightly wrapped around another hand, perhaps. The sinews in my forearms, hardened and bursting with exertion, and I’m already losing my grip, slowly and surely. A pained, desperate look on my face, begging them not to let me go. But they always do.
I never remember falling, aside from the fact that it’s easy and slow. Although I’ve never floated down a river on a boat, it’s kind of what I imagine it being like. It’s liberating, and although I dread it every single time, it’s not ever as bad once I’m actually there, suspended in nothing but nothingness for just a moment.
When I finally open my eyes, I’m young again. Maybe 8 or 9. Sometimes, I’m lying on a beach. The circumstance is always different, but the panorama is always the same. My hair is wet and matted. I see blurry glimpses of seagulls lost in the vast endlessness of a clear blue sky, their distinct shrieks piercing the salty ocean air. I feel the damp, gritty sand falling in clumps off my water-soaked skin, and I realize I’m shivering. The sound of waves rhythmically roaring, crashing violently against the beachfront, then bubbling away quietly only to start again in some sisyphean process is soothing, and I wonder if I can lie here forever. Here, where I’ve found an escape from myself. Here, where I’ve found salvation from my own thoughts, fears, and insecurities. The sun warms my exposed skin and leaves patches of salty residue on my arms. These precious moments where time has ceased its inevitable march always remind me of the times in my youth when my father would bring me to the beaches of Santa Cruz. All I remember doing is running around in the sand, free of any cares about BJJ or law school or improv or people or anything in particular.
A lifeguard runs over and asks if I’m okay. I don’t know what happened, the story he tells me always involves me having gone underwater for some time and washing to shore. Sometimes, the lifeguard is my dad. Other times, he’s a tall, bronzed, muscular Poseidon of a man. But he always asks me if I’m okay and if I need help getting up. I say that I’m okay. I just need some more time, but the sun is setting soon.
When I open my eyes, sometimes I’m lying down on the carpet in my apartment. It’s dark, and my skin is completely dry. What was I thinking about again? The fears and insecurities flood back like waves, rhythmically roaring, crashing violently, then bubbling away quietly only to start again. But this time it’s not soothing. There are no lifeguards in sight, and I realize that the only one who can pick myself up is myself…