Fear, Panic, and Things I Haven’t Done

A while back, a friend told me with a degree of wistfulness that they thought they’d done pretty much everything their body could do.

It was the wistfulness that got me. My heart is so full of longing for the things I haven’t done, and so full of fear that I will never get to do them, that it’s hard to imagine having even a twinge of sadness about having done something already.

It’s better now than it used to be. A year or two ago, I had my first kinky relationship, and it quelled some of the urgency I was carrying. Before it, I was just starting to know what some of my desires looked like, but in a way, it was all still theoretical. I had so many hopes for sex and play being hot and healing and transformative—being worth all the pain I’d gone through to get to this point—but I’d had hopes dashed before. My kinky relationship made something solid for me, showed me that what I hoped for really was possible.

Still, old patterns are hard to shake. And as I get further and further from that relationship and less and less connected to kink communities, I feel the old longings—and the old fears—coming back.

Thinking about what I still haven’t done within sex and play and relationships brings up a host of ugly feelings. Entitlement: this sense that I deserve to have done more, that the universe has cheated or robbed me of experiences I ought to have had by now. Competition: resentment and jealousy of the people I imagine have done more than I. Self-loathing: a certainty that all this is under my control, and that my not having done as much as I wish means I’ve failed somewhow. These feelings feed off each other (I work twice as hard as that person, and look what they get to do that I don’t!), grow big and panicky and monstrous until I am no good to anyone, least of all myself.

When I was still hanging out in the public kink scene, looking for miracles, I sometimes imagined myself as a rat trying to climb a glass wall. I’d scrabble and scrabble and scrabble against the wall, and the more I tried to climb, the more I panicked, and the more I panicked, the more I tried to climb, and the only thing to do was the most impossible and terrifying thing of all: I had to give myself permission to stop trying.

Which is what I do now when the panic sets in. I step away, take myself out of whatever thought spiral has led me here, get some air, watch a movie—self-care stuff. It doesn’t get me any closer to the sex or play or relationships I dream of for myself. But then, neither does the panicking.

You might be asking yourself, by the way, why I’m talking about things I long to have done rather than things I long to do. It’s a wise question, and I think that the answer is that the things I have done I now trust are possible, but the things I haven’t done I still fear are not. It’s a fear worth untangling (and the idea of “experience” is one I’ll likely come back to a lot here), but the fear is something I’m stuck with, at least for now. It’s not pretty, but heck, sometimes desire isn’t.

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