The Six Enemies (my version)
3. Regret and guilt
6. Lack of passion
Apprehension clouds the brain, paralyzes the limbs and prevents me from ‘doing’. No flight or flight for me, but rather a gut-dissolving acid-bath of indecision. This is not to be confused with fear, which is what I would call a clean emotion, a purely autonomic response to danger. You know, when your heart lurches into high gear and your mouth fills with imaginary sand and the rush of adrenaline makes your brain crackle and your muscles strong.
No, I’m talking about that draggy feeling of dread that makes you twitch like a trapped rodent, churns your bowels, cramps your stomach and sends you scurrying to the toilet bowl, hunched over with the heaves. Apprehension is that voice in the middle of the back of your head, that whines and carps until you want to scream or weep to shut it up. And afterwards, when the inconsequential event has spun out like an untied balloon and you are limp with unrealized dread, pathetic in your relief that nothing really bad happened, then you wallow in the sour dregs of self-disgust and vow never to be such a spineless powerless wimp again. Apprehension is the enemy of peace of mind.
Cowardice is playing safe, never taking any risks, even good ones which would save your mind, your psyche or your soul or all three. This goes hand in hand with apprehension – a symbiotic relationship of parasites that cause you to play an endless mental game of “what if, what if” and when you can’t divine the answers with cards or horoscopes or tea leaves or intuition, you dither and never walk to the edge of the cliff to stare down at the froth of crashing surf. You never let yourself roll down a grassy hill under a sun-drenched summer sky, just because it is there, because someone might think you silly. You cover your mouth and never laugh out loud or taste something or someone new. You never speak to strangers on the bus or go outside without an umbrella on a cloudy day. What happens is, you stop living, because living, starting with the simple act of drawing in a deep breath and getting out of bed in the morning, is about taking risks. If you never take risks, you won’t ever know that you can make good decisions or that you should be grateful to our Creator for creating the cliff you did not fall off of. Cowardice is the enemy of resolve.
Guilt and regrets are wasted energy. They muddy up your karma and take up valuable headspace that could better be used for daydreaming or reflecting on happy memories. That is not to say that you shouldn’t be remorseful when you’ve hurt someone or done something abysmally stupid. The trick is not just to lament what happened and feel sorry; the critical thing is to act. Say you’re sorry; make amends; pay for the damage. Then get on with life! Fenders crumple, feelings are hurt; neither is forever. We’ve all done things that make us wince when we remember them. But did the earth tilt and move out of orbit at the time? Can you keep it secret? If you can fix it; fit it. Then go do something worthwhile. Guilt is the opiate of weakness and the enemy of strength.
“If wishes were horses, all poor men would ride.” Poor women too. Wishing, daydreaming about the perfect world or the ideal man or that dream house is escapism that just takes up action time. So who doesn’t want to win the lottery or find a cure for a loved one or help bring about world peace? But if I don’t buy a ticket, if I don’t give to charity or volunteer my services, what good am I? What kind of difference can I make if I don’t step outside, raise my face to the sun and pledge to do something to make a difference in the world? Making wishes is as helpful as making a prude stand naked in the mall at noon. And wishing should not be confused with fantasy, which is entertainment grounded in creativity, play and flexing the brain-muscle for pleasure. Wishing is the enemy of reality.
Anger, like lye, corrodes, painfully, slowly. It rots the soul, the mind, relationships. Both parties in an anger relationship suffer, sometimes interminably, when the cause can no longer be discerned and the outcome becomes the event. Anger is like a stubbed toe – flaring hot, throbbing, immediately hurtful. There is little to be done to cool it and, by the time it has subsided, another quantum of pain has raised the level of your emotional reservoir. If the anger is a constant, it slops over whatever psychic retaining walls you construct and oozes into the unprotected crevices of your soul, a viscous eroding lava. Unlike the phosphorescent slash of a sharp retort easily shrugged off, unrelenting rage burns deep. Counting to ten and being stoic are fine if you are dealing with a surly clerk in the department store, but in some situations, you could count to ten thousand and nothing would change. Anger is the enemy of peace.
The most insidious enemy is, to me, lack of passion. Not sexual lust unbounded, unchecked, but more of a zest for life and all that encompasses. Curiosity about what makes things work and people behave as they do, joy at a sunset or a patch of random wildflowers, wonder at a star-flecked sky or the turn of a baby’s cheek, satisfaction of time well spent with lovers and friends, the warmth of a hug of a shared smile. Being passionate means being committed – to people, places, memories, events, causes – it is a doing, a grand collection of actions flamboyant and mundane, but all recognized as important. It is paying attention to your breath from time to time or the hum of blood under your palm when you rest your ear against it or the colour of the inside of a tulip. Passion is energy, focused and true.