"This is how I die." I am silently panicking in a car of strangers as we catch the first glimpse of the Wadi Nar (a road appropriately translating to "Hell Fire"). I had forgotten which route the service takes, and am now reminded. I smile at the woman next to me and she asks where I'm from. I wonder if the anxiety is written on my face.
The feeling isn't unfamiliar. My childhood comes to mind- when inline skating was popular. The 90's. My dad took my brother and me to a skate park in Tampa because we were convinced it would be as cool(and easy) as the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Then, I stood at the edge of an empty swimming pool, the front wheels of my inline skates peeking over the edge. I remember feeling excitement, slight terror, and pure unfiltered adrenaline.... a total loss of control sitting in the pit of my stomach and shooting out the ends of my fingertips. It's the feeling of potential energy converting into kinetic. The defining moment: you either sink or swim.
Philosopher Alan Watts said, "To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax and float."
At the skate park, I metaphorically sank. To put it gently, I "went for it", panicked, and face-planted. The point is, though, I went for it... I got back up and survived the 90's. Likewise, the service driver successfully navigated the hairpin turns of the Wadi Nar, and I’ve lived to blog another day. During the anxiety-inducing ride, I came to the realization this year is an exercise in giving up control. Over and over.
The thought brought me to tears- an emotional loss of control, to put it gently. I sat in between two strangers in the back row of a packed service navigating the edge of a cliff in the Palestinian desert and I silently wept. Not because I was afraid but because I recognized a vulnerability to discernment within my soul. It is in this space, this loss of control where I feel most guided. This is where discernment exists because all I can do is listen.
Bret Easton Ellis wrote, “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.” It is the beginning of his book Less Than Zero, and though the rest of the book isn't applicable, the line is something that has stuck with me this month. It is universal, and the beginning of my chapter in the Holy Land. People are afraid to begin something new and drop into the pool, but they do. People are afraid to confront themselves and try again when they fail, but they do. People are afraid of giving up control to float in the water, but they do. How fitting: I am afraid of confronting myself, trying something new, and giving up control but here I am in a van of strangers on the side of a cliff. I've made it into the pool, and now it's time to relax and float in the water.