After Dave died and the shock wore off, the big world became a scarier place.
If he could be snatched away, what else could?
If I stay close to home, says this fear-logic, I can somehow make sure the last remnants of that life won't disappear too. My cats will be safe, my home will be intact and no one can hurt me more than I've already been hurting.
I've pushed against those fears all along, though. In the beginning, it was easier. I had this wild the-worst-has-already-happened attitude until the shock wore off. Then, the fears began to fill the spaces in my mind, crowding themselves in, arguing over space.
What should I worry about now? Money? Being alone, possibly forever? Having no identity? Losing my in-laws, too? The cats dying too? My friends abandoning me? Hard to pick. How about I worry about them all at once? Yes, that's what we'll do. And then we'll never sleep again! Good plan.
It's as though the worrying alone might somehow keep me safe.
And yet, I've kept pushing, moving inexorably toward the scary stuff, though staying put would've been so much more comforting.
The problem is that the safety of my little microcosm - home, cats, my neighborhood - becomes a breeding ground for my insecurities. I get comfortable and I have my eye on everything I know. Nothing new. Nothing scary. I've got it all under control. I also don't make new friends, discover new talents or desires, or have new experiences.
I need my safe haven desperately, but using it to avoid real life can't be good. Sometimes it takes someone else to invite me out, but at least I'm getting out. Sometimes it takes a ton of discomfort, but I do it. I try out new things, meet new people and go to new places, even though I almost need to be dragged.
I spend the first hour of any social gathering feeling completely out of place and painfully self-conscious. I imagine the worst possible outcomes of every new thing I want to try. Those art lessons will expose that I'm really not talented. That master's degree will be too hard for me, or it'll be the wrong field and I'll end up hating it. I'm always the one who knows the least number of people at these gatherings and I'll feel like a weirdo.
The doubts are illogical, unreasonable and just plain wrong, but they still crop up and whisper convincingly "stay safe, stay home, don't risk". Acting anyway is my strategy. Giving those whispers a gentle "fuck you, I'm doing it anyway", seems to be the way to go.
I'm not able to jump into every new experience that comes my way. I say no sometimes. I go all hermit-style for a few days here and there. But, eventually, I push back again and claim what's mine - a life. A life I get to continue to live when he doesn't get that opportunity.
I'll keep taking leaps despite my strangling fears and doubts. And then sometimes, I'll stay home where I feel really safe.
I just can't give in to the fears all the time. I'm bigger than them. I'm more real than them. And beyond those fears is a whole world waiting for me.