This post contains two mild trigger warnings:
First, I briefly talk about my own panic attacks, particularly in regards to self-doubt. Proceed with caution if you’re prone to anxiety. Second, I delve into my own spiritual beliefs as part of my own identity, but I have no desire to push those on other people.
This post is best read along with the song “Saturn” by Sleeping at Last. However, if you haven’t heard it, I recommend experiencing it for the first time with the music video. You can always hit restart while you’re reading through this post. Trust me, you’ll want to.
You taught me the courage of stars /
before you left
Whettam the Contemplative, Hoarder of Sandwiches and Desk Mailboxes
That was my response to the question Ikkin the Grumpy, Hoarder of Granola Bars and Tumblers — also known as my wife Nikki — asked me over messages two weeks ago. What is you dragon name? Then I was presented with a mad-lib format:
[Your name spelled backwards] the [current mood], hoarder of [last thing you ate] and [object on your left].
My mood, contemplative, was appropriate.
I’m always contemplative.
I believe it takes courage to be contemplative.
Lately I’ve been thinking about courage, and the varying forms it can take in a world that is growing increasingly more connected. We’ve carried with us from humanity’s past an impression of courage that it must involve a great journey of traveling across the world — and indeed our literature backs that up. However, a century of advancing technology has made traditional frontiersmanship a thing of the past, meaning exploration has become more of a series of personal goals, rather than a quest for profitable discovery.
However, there is still one place where courage is helpful and even required: it’s the quest to appreciate everyday life. To stare life right in the face and say, “I’m content with my life and who I am, no matter what.” Finding personal truth in an unsupportive world is one of the hardest journeys a person can possibly go on.
How light carries on endlessly /
even after death
They say all writers have something wrong with them, and I am no exception. They also say that children have no concept of death and, in this particular case, I am very much the exception.
You see, from the time I was eight years old, I was prone to intense panic attacks — though it’s taken me almost two decades to identify them as such. Every time I envisioned panic attacks, I saw them as a near heart-attack state of uncontrollable anxiety — legitimate medical crises where your heart-rate escalates and your extremities go numb. But further exploration of the topic shows that it doesn’t always have to be this way.
For me, they instead took the form of intense existential dread manifested as spiritual unrest. It always started with the smallest trigger, some realization of the vastness of creation and that somehow I was alive. Things tended to spiral down from there with increasing velocity, like that of a stalled aircraft.
Why am I alive?
Why do I exist?
What does it mean to exist?
Why did God create me?
Why did God create anything?
I don’t want to cease to exist.
I don’t want to die.
Please God don’t let me die.
When I experienced these spirals, I almost felt as if my existence was being snatched away from me.
Interestingly, I thought this was a normal part of the human experience. Religious scholars, after all, have an explanation for this: doubt. For the longest time I attached myself to this concept, as if there is something wrong with me spiritually. But this is not doubt, at least not directly; my faith is strong. I have seen miracles. This is the malevolent fury of an unaddressed problem. Now that I’ve realized this, I can slowly become the person I’m meant to be — the next leg of the journey for personal truth.
With shortness of breath /
you explain the infinite
It takes courage to be the type of person who truly thinks about things — who truly dares to venture beyond the superficial distractions. The red herrings are plenty, filled in with political opinions and debates about highly specific moral situations. It’s just human nature that most people love to argue about frivolous things. Social media presents this interference front-and-center, the extent of which turns truth into a fragile balance of tensions where nobody is right. And if you do manage to overcome the recursive mindset of marketing addiction, things become even more challenging.
It’s funny how people will unconsciously try to rob others of their pursuit of happiness. I guess discouragement is an effective way to elicit sympathy.
“You’re overthinking things,” the masses will cry, blissfully unaware that a greater understanding of the universe is the entire point of life. Even if we do overthink things, which is just the opinion of an onlooker, mistakes are bound to be made. In their pursuit of virtues beyond tangible fact, one cannot be expected to have all of the answers without first going on a journey. The travel-time is long, and there are many stops along the way — places like annoyance, overassertiveness, cynicism, and healing.
How rare and beautiful it is /
to even exist
– Sleeping at Last, Saturn
Some may say the age of 26 is young, and indeed it probably is, but it’s not too young to learn from experience. Understand that I’ve gone through a significant amount mentally over the quarter-decade I’ve been alive. I’ve been on my personal hero’s journey, willingly or not, and it’s caused me to emerge from the other side a better person — a person who appreciates everyday life. And a person who anticipates the future with eagerness, rather than nervous dread.
For the first time in my life, when it comes to the end, I feel like a kid jumping off the diving board for the first time. I’m nervous about what happens next, but my Father is there, so I know things are going to be okay.
We, as humans, have a particularly bad habit of thinking that mental states, particularity those involving depression or anxiety, are going to be permanent from formation to death. For instance, when we feel like there’s “nothing new under the sun,” we grow increasingly concerned that the rest of our days will be played out in boredom. The reality of the situation — the deeper truth, if you will — is that we have found a resting place where we are temporarily comfortable with our own advancement. That comfort is totally fine, but if we’re not pushing ourselves to be continually better across our timeline, letting our experiences continually push us towards finding our virtues, then we’re not becoming the best manifestation of ourselves.
That’s a shame, I feel, because life really is a wondrous sight to behold. Remember that in both the amazing and difficult times.
You absolutely should not leave without informing us in the comments of your dragon name. I’m very curious to see what you guys are hoarding in your lair.
Beyond that, though, I’d love to hear about some of the things you’ve discovered about yourself. Even if that’s just recounting your life story, at least you’re thinking about who you’ve been and where you’re going. Let’s have a conversation in the comments!