Exploration of the full range of his own potentialities is not something that the self-renewing man leaves to the chances of life. It is something he pursues systematically, or at least avidly, to the end of his days. He looks forward to an endless and unpredictable dialogue between his potentialities and the claims of life — not only the claims he encounters but the claims he invents. And by potentialities I mean not just skills, but the full range of his capacities for sensing, wondering, learning, understanding, loving, aspiring.

John Gardner


A writing prompt: “On fear”

The Guardian of enlightenment:  Fear

The first few breaths upon awakening come easily–soft, unhurried, free. I roll over to my side, body locked in intimate embrace with bed and pillow. I groan. I stretch, smiling to the popping, gurgling rhythm of morning movement. My breath remains deep; a patient vacuum funneling crisp jungle air. Dream remnants linger, some friends, family, and maybe a mystical creature–just enough to make me remember it’s not real. Shit. It’s not real. The calm clear tranquility–It’s a dream. Just a fucking dream. My eyes open, pried by the insistence of the other reality.

My room welcomes me back, messy neutrality, an almost home. My lungs realize they are late, shallow puffs of oxygen overtake my tightening body. Fragments of dream collapse, easy laughter falls silent. Reality, hello old friend. I wish I could say I missed you.

Clenching fists, the thoughts begin. A checklist of…not-quite-dread. Past or future, doesn’t matter; I slide inevitably into the mousetrap of mind’s turning labyrinth.

-Will I ever again laugh like a child, without the squeezed inhibition of my broken heart?
-Am I capable of being the kind of friend to others that I require in my own life?
-Do I have an intestinal parasite?

-Will I see my grandparents before they die?
-Will I ever put the pieces together and skirt the entropic explosion of occasional self-hatred?
-Does MSG cause cancer?

-Most importantly, who will win the world cup?

On it goes…a swirling mess, a mental mud puddle that I can’t help but jump into. Existential and mundane separated by the merest moment, intimate yet utterly dissimilar.

Today–today I will follow a thread, nearly invisible yet hidden in plain sight, along a razor thin edge. The drop to either side is long, the landing abrupt-not fatal-and the climb back up grueling. I will fall many times as the icy gridlock of fear overtakes me. And I will climb, step by concrete step, back to the thread that somewhere, deep within, I know as my true self.

Today is a day like every other: Brand new, open, unconditioned. And today, just like all the others, offers the same invitation: The opportunity to follow the twisting silk spider web of me through the crumbling ruins of fearful thoughts. I will fail more than I succeed, but if I have one victory-a belly laugh, a single selfless action, a fragment of creative insight-if I take one lonely, solitary step past yesterday’s finish line, I can fall again into the warmth of my dreams with a well-deserved smile.