Irresistible driving compulsion

ImageImagine this: you’re lying on a carpet, looking around with joy at the world you can see, the world that comes to you.

You have an instinct to flex a certain group of muscles in your leg, to move it a certain way. That drive becomes a compulsion and you do it over and over and over again, twisting your body at the same time until the world suddenly flips, your face is in the carpet and you have to lift your head to look around. You have rolled over. That’s pretty cool.

Then another compulsion takes over: the same leg, or the other one, flexes forward so the knee is in a different spot. Your hand reaches out in front of you, palm down. You do this, too, over and over and over again, lifting, flexing, with your eyes fixed, for no reason that you understand, but with aching, desperate desire, on an object in front of you, out of reach. More flexing of muscles. Hours of frantic frustration. A few days later, you are mobile, crawling, and your world will never be the same again.

You are full of joy, delight, at what becomes possible. You set yourself goals, targets and achieve them all. Fulfillment of desire becomes less dependent on the will of others. This is brilliant! What could be better? But this is not a resting place, it is a way point, and soon you are onto the next compulsion.

Getting vertical. You crawl to an upright object, more arm work, followed by practicing balance, falling, getting up again, falling, getting up…

You stand, you edge along the sofa. A couple of weeks later, you don’t know why, you launch out into open floor, walking. There might be an adult to share the joy with, but you’d do it anyway. You have no choice.

This is what my life feels like, moment to moment, day to day. I follow instinct, compulsion, to take action, to try something different, a very specific something, like flexing a specific group of muscles, or moving a limb in a certain direction, with no idea how that fits into the bigger plan.

In a world that asks for logic behind movement, I have a bit of a hard time with this. People around me want me to explain. “That’s not how we do things,” they say, “what are you thinking?”

“I don’t know. I just have to.” It’s like I am a different species, with different developmental phases, like a caterpillar amongst rabbits, or a kangaroo on a sheep farm: I don’t work the same. It doesn’t make sense, but I have to do it. I’m developing something, a new skill set, perhaps, but I have no idea what or how or why.

Just like the baby doesn’t know; but when they find themselves crawling or standing or walking they are filled with outrageous joy, and it is worth it, logical or not.

As I follow those promptings – to read a certain book or talk to a certain person, to go to a certain place, to see a certain movie, or, more likely, watch one I have already seen, again, flexing the muscle again, developing an idea, thinking something a little further through – I know, I just know, I am on the right track.

This is what it feels like, when we are learning and growing. We don’t know why but we are driven to do it. We can’t resist it or deny it or delay it or do something else. It is deep within us, deeper than we can see. The drive is enough. Logic falls away.

I take those actions, one after another after another, with blind faith; and occasionally I have moments when uncontainable joy pours through me. The phase I am in is over; the thing I had been trying to learn and to master has been gained. Like the baby shrieking with delight as they fall from their first two-legged moment, it is obvious. I just know. This is it, and it was worth it.

Jennifer Manson is the author of Easy – Stories from an effortlessly created life and six novels, all about people discovering and living their dreams.

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