My Icarus Complex

Photo Credit: Meghan Schmidt

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Daedalus, before embracing his precious son, Icarus, for the final time, cautioned him:

“Take care to wing your course along the middle air;

If low, the surges wet your flagging plumes,

If high, the sun the melting wax consumes:

Steer between both:

Nor to the northern skies,

Nor south Orion turn your giddy eye,

But follow me.

Let me before you lay rules for the flight,

and mark the pathless way.”

In one ear and out the other.

My “Icarus Complex.” That’s what I call it.

I’m sure you know the type...

The type that daydream in the back of the class and, only when called upon without warning, you come to realize were lost in their own thoughts for the last hour...

The type that seemingly have no verbal filter, chatting insistently while interrupting you mid-sentence in a thoughtless but well-intended attempt to wedge in their two-cents without the slightest regard for courtesy...

The type that find such true insight and resonance in a piece of music that, while bussing to school/work/home, they can’t help but ignore the stares as they tear up and get lost in the melody…

The type that grin widely and wave hardily at a beckoning stranger, moments before cowering in embarrassment as they catch a peripheral glimpse of the oscillating hand (and eyes) of the intended recipient behind them…

The type that actually stop to smell the roses; then grab their camera, put on the perfect lens, adjust their settings, take seven photos of the roses from differing angles, stop to smell them again, look around for where their friends wandered off to, then go on their way...

The type that find it impossible to not express (all over their face) what they are feeling the instant they are feeling it...

The type that, though try as they might -- be it bleaching their arm hair to the point of numbness, extreme dieting to be able to beat the scale and squeeze into smaller jeans, even traveling the world in an attempt at self-realization -- simply will never fit into the mold society deems appropriate for them.

Now, I’m sure you’re savvy enough to know that this is me we’re talking about here. These types are my people. I love, nurture and wholeheartedly accept these aspects of myself now. But, there was a time I neither loved nor accepted my strange brew of idiosyncrasies.

Although I feel I’ve been an anomaly since birth, being in one of two sets of twins, I do have several very specific life experiences -- some of which I will doubtlessly share at another time on this blog-- that help to shed light on my disposition. From childhood abuse and severe trauma to bouncing from one temporary home to the next as a very young child (until my aunt and uncle intervened when I was nine), the chances of me becoming a square peg were pretty much guaranteed. But, you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let me explain my “Icarus Complex.”

I tried so so hard to conform. To fit in. But, I wasn’t being my authentic self. Like Icarus, in trying to be somebody I wasn’t, I foolishly flew higher than my fabricated wings could handle because I thought it felt right, and, as a result, felt myself plummeting into a sea of negative emotions. For a long time I felt constant, overwhelming anxiety, bouts of paralyzing depression, unfounded heated jealousy and, probably worst of all, an aggressive, unrelenting sense of self-doubt.

I felt doubt in my ability to truly listen to and reciprocate happiness or even sympathy for dear friends. I felt doubt in my ability to excel academically when rightfully challenged by a plethora of highly intelligent peers. I felt doubt in my ability to grant the type of emotional support and understanding that my husband so instinctively and consistently provides me. I felt doubt in my ability to connect to my daughters in such a way that they fully understand the aching love that swells in my heart for them, the unconditional appreciation I have for their uniqueness, and yet still the deep-seated, petrifying knowledge that I mustn’t shield them to the sometimes harsh realities of this world (at this point in their lives their “harsh realities” include not being allowed to eat books or dip their hands in the toilet water, but you get the idea). And, I think perhaps more than anything, I felt doubt in my ability to escape the self-fulfilling prophecy of somehow following in the footsteps of my mother.

So, I had a decision to make:

A. Sink under the weight of the negativity and ever-mounting stress.

B. Continue to doggie paddle through, dodging the tempests as they come.

C. Stop the wading, grab onto the outstretched hands reaching in from the shore, dry myself off,  fashion some kick-ass wings, and soar.

Through the encouragement of my insanely supportive and creative husband, as well as other dear friends, I chose C. This Icarus survived, is wiser from the long journey, is forgiving to herself (mine’s a chick). This flight may still be foolish and undoubtedly filled with risk, but I believe that taking flight despite the risks is related to the profoundly interconnected nature of the human spirit and overall meaning for purpose in this life.

So as I stand here at the precipice of this tower, prepared to embark on this new flight, determined to stay the course, staving off the storms as they come. But as I hunker down in preparation to push off, I will reflect upon these befitting words of Oscar Wilde’s...

“Never regret thy fall,

O Icarus of the fearless flight

For the greatest tragedy of them all

Is never to feel the burning light.”

and take the leap.