The world has always brought me comfort. Maybe because I spent a long time in a religion that forced me to believe that I was “not of this world,” or maybe because believing in a Creator made me want to see everything They created. I don’t know. Probably both.
So please excuse my deep surprise and disdain for this new feeling that is quickly becoming a problem: agoraphobia.
Recently, I have been dealing with the deepest grief I have ever felt. I am living in the home that I spent a lot of time in with my deceased loved one and at first I found deep comfort in spending lots of my time here. I work from home and grieve from home. It seemed ideal and spiritual. But now I’m afraid it’s turning into something else.
The world has never been a scary place to me. Exploring every inch of it was always a very real and very unattainable goal of mine. But it’s unattainability was never a problem for me, just a challenge. How much can I see before I die?
Deep down, I still feel that way. I still ache for shores and towns and pastures and cultures unknown, but now it’s clouded by a deep anxiety. All I really want these days is to stay home.
There are some benefits that keep me from being too scared of becoming truly agoraphobic. I’m reading like I used to when I was a child that longed for the universe, but was confined to… everyday life. The differing perspectives and places I’ve never been comfort me in my grief. The pages of these books feel safe. I am exploring familiar territories in my brain, but adulthood anxieties seem to be creeping in while my fearlessness is on break.
Because I generally am fearless. At least in the sense that I don’t fear making mistakes. I don’t fear regrets. I only fear death and pain, like any other human. But I’m not so keen to avoid them either.
But that fearlessness is taking a much needed break while I grieve. More than anything, I have wanted to feel safe during this process. Grieving has never been my forte and I still struggle with everything it brings up because it generally is all the things I have been avoiding for a while. All the parts of myself that I have trouble facing really like to show up when I am in deep sadness and profound existentiality. Typical.
Instead of fearless, I feel fear trying to grab hold of me in the most painful way possible. Fear is trying to keep me from the rest of the world.
I have trouble driving to the store. Every breath is calculated on the way and every minute outside of my home is painful. All I want is to be within the walls where my beloved took their last breaths, as if her spirit were to fade if I were to leave for any amount of time. I want to cry in these walls, eat in these walls, spend time with the living in these walls, and sleep in these walls every day for the rest of my life. Deeply and truly, that is what my anxious soul desires. But when the anxiety fades, the frustration takes its place briefly. Then my soul remembers how much it longs for communion with creation.
I go places. I do most of the things I have to do outside of these walls. I make myself walk out the door and drive the car I spend a lot of money on and I force myself to act normal. Looking crazy and anxious isn’t really a concern, but I’m trying hard to convince every cell in my body to remember what we felt like while walking among the lives of others in places built by others and explored by others. In other words, I’m trying to fake my way back to who I am.
This is something I really wasn’t prepared for. No one warned me that I would want nothing more than to switch off which couch I’m sitting on in my living room. But even if they had, I probably wouldn’t have been listening. I’ve always thought that the issues of normal people never affected me, despite knowing full well that they really do. More often than not, I forget that my feelings of fearlessness are only my spirit ignoring my body. We all hold fear close.
Lately, I’ve been so anxious about leaving my home that I have been plagued by uncontrollable nausea. So now that my developing agoraphobia is affecting my beloved taste buds, I’m deciding to do something about it.
And this is what I’m doing. Writing it down. Sharing it with the world with no shame holding me back. Because if I didn’t know this could happen, someone else is in the dark, too.
We do terrible things when we grieve. We avoid people. We ruin our bodies. We stop working on ourselves. We do and say all the things we never thought we would. We become people we have actively spent lots of time trying not to be. And some of the things we do that are different aren’t so terrible in the end.
I can make home anywhere in the world because I have made home within myself. That is a feat that I will never stop being proud of. But I have always had trouble making home in one place that can always be there for me when I need it to be.
My beloved has given me more of a reason to work on that. I want to be here, where she was and I believe still is. My home is full of bodies and souls that I want to continue to care for. This home that my partner and I are building is crying out for permanence and my current bout of temporary agoraphobia (name it and claim it) is helping me on that journey. So for that I am grateful, despite fighting the demon that is trying to keep me from exploring every inch of this planet.
We become different people after losing someone so precious to us, for better or for worse. I’m really trying to make it the former.