“There’s a voice in your mind, you must have heard it by now… It’s calm when you’re panicked, fearless when you’re afraid… That’s what’s left of the original [you]…It’s not much more than a fragment anymore, a little piece of [your] personality clinging on… but if you begin to lose yourself, heed that voice. It’s your lighthouse. Everything that remains of [who] you once were.Stuart Turton, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
It’s amazing how much of ourselves we lose along the way, even more astounding is how long it takes us to notice. It happens slowly, glacially, rarely abrupt, and almost never all at once. Sometimes the pieces we lose are the parts we have outgrown; like shedding skin. Or, when new plumage replaces old feathers. But, sometimes we lose parts of ourselves that should have never been forgotten.
“The clothes make the man,” the old adage goes. Perhaps, they also re-make us as well. We wear so many hats, put on so many roles, bear so many names, until we are re-formed and re-fashioned into someone or something almost unrecognizable. There are lies sown into the fabric of forgetting, and we slowly sink into the seams. A snip here. A snag there. We are taken in. We are let out. All in an effort to find a better fit, but sometimes its forced. Too big. Too small Hardly ever just right. Eventually, we can’t even remember what “just right” feels like. It’s the moment when the clothes become a cage; when tailor turns jailor, and for a long time, we are none the wiser.
We chalk up the change to growing older. The wear and tear of maturation and advancing years. The encroachments of adulthood and obligations. Duty and responsibility. Regardless of the reasons, it gets harder and harder to hold on to who we are. And sometimes we stop trying altogether. The disturbing truth of the matter, as Chloe Benjamin says, “is that most people enjoy a certain level of impotence.”
We succumb to the warm and easy seductions of a liquor-like apathy and amnesia. We sip the slow and syrupy booze of believing that we are the equivalent to all the titles that have been thrust upon us. We shrug our shoulders, we wallow in the mire of self-pity and self-loathing. And, he plod along passively pretending that it’s just the way things are. “Almost without knowing it,” John O’Donhue warns, “we slip inside ready-made roles and routines which then set the frames of our possibilities and permissions”; becoming intoxicated by “the security of the confinement and limitation”.
We are afraid of our own freedom and choice because it forces us to recognize that we are completely responsible for the realization of all the potential and possibility that each of us hold.
We crave the enclosure of structure and facticity, especially in a world accelerating towards entropy, where nothing is overtly clear or explicitly resolvable. Facts are solid, and stable, and sensible. Facts are hard and unflinching and often immovable. Facts are like fences. We think they stand to keep the terror out, but instead they only serve to keep us closed in. We sacrifice the sanctity of our autonomy and ingenuity in exchange for a sense of safety. But, it is a grifter’s bait and switch, as we find ourselves wary and ever-watchful, with only our own anxiousness to occupy our minds.
And yet, a fence is just another word for a hurdle, a half-flacid barrier over which we can learn to leap. If we look closely we can see that we only appear to be held back. Implicitly they provide us with a clear demarcation of where we are and where we can go. They give us a calculable distance to run and a measurable height to climb. It’s the still small voice within that pushes us to the borders. It’s fragmented inner voice that entreats us to reach out just a little beyond our grasp. It’s the feral voice of who we used to before we were corralled and broken that begs and beckons us to pull ourselves up hard toward the top of the fence. It’s the clinging remains of our own wild and undomesticated voice that gives us faith enough to fly off the ledge towards the other side of the fence where possibility stretches out to catch us like a net. Maybe losing bits of ourselves is unavoidable. “Every life has such weight”, Stuart Turton says, and it’s impossible to carry it all. There is an art to letting go, but it’s one we can only learn through lifetimes of loosening our grip on the parts of ourselves we should have never let fall.
And yet, perhaps, the solace comes from recognizing that we never really lose them. They’re never truly lost. We’ve just lost sight of them. They’ve only been mis-placed and we simply need to re-member them. We simply need to listen. Careful to heed the voice that calls from where all the light within us first began to rise; and where it still resides.