I have a couple of safe spaces with people - women, mostly - I trust implicitly. Even there, though, I’m hesitant. I’ll ‘fess up, look for sympathy, hear their support and advice. Then I blow past it, turning to unhealthy habits and hiding under physical and emotional covers, piling on the layers of protection.
And then, as it does (and has been trying to do recently - remember this?), the Universe started shouting at me again. While I haven’t even been able to bring myself to hide from my worries in books - my escape as long as I can remember - the reading I have been doing, on the Interwebs, poked at me again this morning.
Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings is one of my favorite places on the Interwebs. She has an incredible knack for finding the most apt observations - written and otherwise created - from recent and distant artists and writers. As a writer, that her pieces often speak to creativity and how our brains may or may not process and work speaks to me. Over my second cup of coffee, first at my DayJob desk, and procrastinating from starting a challenging day of “racking and stacking,” of “blocking and tackling” to get through the deadlines between me and next Wednesday, I read this.
I read it after this.
The sweet Scary Mommy piece left me wistful over my own 5 and a half year old. I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last few days with only him. His big sister is away at my mommy’s, so it’s just us. Yesterday, after an indulgent couple of hours at a mall chain restaurant and toy store, he crashed out, thrilled beyond belief that he could wear his new skeleton PJs, which he’s been wanting for ages. That they may not glow in the dark like he wanted might not be relevant. And I might be buying a new pair that does. But that’s for another indulgent day.
As I found him an hour after he went to bed in ours, completely relaxed and vulnerable, I marveled at his state of mind. I wished for his openness. I wished for that, as Libby Galin wrote in “20 Reasons 5 and a Half Rules," ”The willingness to wear a t-shirt with a jar of peanut butter wielding a butter knife fighting a jar of jelly brandishing a spoon, with no sense of irony at all.” (But number 6? The one about the joy of butt and farts? Got that one. Never lost it.)
I fell asleep early, but not as early as I’d have liked, worrying about the deadlines looming, and having wandered from cabinet to fridge to cabinet in my kitchen, looking for something just the right sweet-fat ratio to dull my worries. On edge, I walked away with an unsatisfying glass of cold water and went to bed.
So when I watched Bianca Giaever’s film this morning, smiling and nodding at the 6 year old view of a story that needed to be told, I got a little blindsided. I’d ignored the title, you see. “The Scared is scared” slipped by me, then crept back up after the bear and the mouse had to leave the pool after a not long enough visit because it closed.
“The Scared is scared of what you like.”
We adults wrap ourselves in layer after layer of worry and fear of the fear. I’m in that place right now. I know what works to help myself out of it, and yet I’m allowing myself to be in that space, oddly happy at the shield I’ve built, despite the frustration and shadow hovering. I know they’re there. I can feel them, and I can see the deep grey cloud at the edges of my world. I know what I like. I know my Scared is scared of it, and I know that’s why I won’t pick up a pen like I didn’t last night and write. If I did that, you see, I’d have to allow the frustration and shadow to creep past the edge. I’d have to allow them not in, but out of hiding, and acknowledge them.
5 and a half year olds and 6 year olds know how to do fear and edges. They may not have the words, but they know that they can cry and even scream to voice those emotions. They may not have the words to name those emotions, but they can acknowledge them. Especially if a grownup is there to listen, they can be in that space. It’s our job - my job, as a mother - to help them be there. As an adult, though, I have to be that for myself. I have to know that it’s not only ok to name and acknowledge the emotions, fear especially, but that it’s healthy to notice and observe where I am. I have to give the Scared a name and let it be there a bit.
That edge is a scary place. If I can name that place, then, and only then, will I, the grownup, be able to lift a pen or lace up my sneakers and let what I like chase the Scared away.