Today may be a little short. I have had a few family members diagnosed with cancer, and lots of turbulance happening all over the place this weekend. The month in general has been just a major rush of highs and lows from all different angles that I’m still trying to sort out. I’m not sure what else I have to give. I’m somewhat thankful for the writing on here, because it’s nice to have a place to focus my thoughts, but I’m seriously overwhelmed today so, here’s what I have to say.
Throughout the day we’ve been sitting around a lot thinking and talking about old memories. That’s the thing that sickness can do. Particularly when the prognosis is just up in the air. It’s brings to light the fragility of life. And there’s been a lot of that around here lately. With my family and friends and in the news in general. I find myself staring a lot, with no particular focus. Which can happen anyway. I’ve always been a drifter in my mind. I was never great at paying attention in class. But in this case it’s frustrating, because I want to focus. I want to figure things out. There are things I need to get done in my life. Things I need to get in order and determining what needs to happen matters. Determining what I need to do is important. And as each day passes the importance grows.
We all have those things that we feel pressing us. Those things that we know we want to do. And we know that there is a time frame on them. We know that the moments we have to do the things we want will pass us by if we don’t act upon them. But we also have to take the time to figure out what needs to be done when. And take the time to not let things consume us to a point where we are ignoring the other things that are important. And that includes appreciating the time we have to spend with the people who are important to us. The time to just let it go for a few moments and know that it’s okay to just be. We have to allow ourselves to be human. To have more than one pressing need. To have a multitude of things that matter. And a complex web that we have to weave. It has to be strong. It has to hold our weight. It has to have a number of stops and crossroads. It has to have alternative paths to get to where we need for safety, which may be a different place at different times itself. We have to be people. Fallible people. And we have to let others be the same. A lot of the time that’s where the good memories arise from. That’s what we learn from. We are just people. And there is greatness in that. Even when we are overwhelmed and our minds drift. When we can’t get it all right. We are still doing something good. We are still trying, even if it ends up wrong. Great things can come about, even if we don’t think we have any more to give.
This morning my son said, “okay mom, I’m going to go by myself and be brave, because like you told me I could be brave.” This made me happy, because even though what he was doing was going in the dark room and turning the light on himself, he’s 3, and he really was scared. It made me happy that he is listening when I tell him he will be okay and he can be brave even though he’s scared. This is partly because I don’t ever remember actually being brave, just wanting to be. Because of that the post today explains how I spent the majority of my youth, and is an indicator of why I truly hope to be able to encourage strength and courage into Jack, especially in ordinary situations. The post is long, and I apologize, because it’s the majority of the chapter from the book.
I remember being a fearful child. I never, and I mean NEVER got into trouble at school, or anywhere else for that matter. I was always shy. I was scared to talk to people, even to make new friends. I was terribly scared of adults, because I thought they knew so much more about life than me. I assumed they’d be far too busy with important things to do than to actually care what I had to say or want to play with me. All of this is ironic, because the things I remember most happily in my childhood had to do with family vacations, games, and movie nights.
Nonetheless, I always felt less-than for some reason. The only times I remember ever not being afraid were those when I was singing, dancing, or writing. I did love to perform and make at least my parents watch. But singing and dancing were some of the only occasions I was willing to let others watch me, as well. And as you can imagine, I’m sure that all of the adults I performed for absolutely loved my renditions of “The Greatest Love of All” and “(Stop!) In the Name of Love.” At least I had good taste in music.
One of the biggest things that scared me as a child was the thought of eternity. I didn’t understand it. At 8, I remember something coming on TV that had this shot of the universe where the show or commercial talked about eternity, and I simply burst into tears in the middle of the den where we were all watching TV. I didn’t understand how anything could last forever or how if something did last forever there was really no beginning. It was something that truly made my brain hurt, and I had no clue how to handle it.
I remember my parents telling me it would be okay. They told me God loved me and because He did everything would be fine. I didn’t have to worry. But I don’t remember ever reconciling any of those feelings. That fear stayed with me. My desire to hang onto my family and my friends in this form was far too strong to allow any willingness to let go. I liked being alive. I knew how to understand a world with limits. It was a world without limits that baffled my mind, and created an uneasiness I couldn’t let go of.
About 3 years later, the most devastating event in my life to that point occurred. One of my family members was murdered. I remember during the period around this time, maybe the week or two before finding out, I could just feel a change in the air. I remember asking my mother if anyone in our family had ever been kidnapped or killed prior to my knowing anything was going on.
She told me no and asked what my brother had been telling me. He was 18 at the time, and I suppose had been informed that my uncle had been reported missing. I guess they decided it was time to tell me, and so they did. I remember seeing the news one evening. On it they showed that a set of remains, mostly bones, had been discovered in the woods a few towns away. At the end of the segment they showed a picture of my uncle and noted that he was still missing. I remember looking at my mother in her chair; we were the only two in the room. She started to cry.
To that point, I couldn’t ever recall seeing her do that. I knew something bad was going on. It didn’t take long for them to confirm the body was his. I remember fear immediately enveloping all of the areas it hadn’t previously.
As with any time there is a death, the fragility of life made its presence well known in my head. However, when the event that takes place is something as careless, as thoughtless, as disgusting, as completely unnecessary as these senseless acts are, the knowledge that the end of our journey may be up to someone else is the most unsettling part.
It does not matter what I do, if someone stands in front of me with a gun, he has a very easy means to stop my heart from beating. If someone is set on stopping me today, in the end, he has the capability to do so. And each person has the means to do so simply by virtue of being here. Every single one of us here has the capacity to do something amazing and something unspeakable. We all live in this paradox of extremes.
I didn’t know how to deal with that, so instead of talking to someone about it or finding some way to get help which can be difficult at 11, I chose to close off. I never went anywhere, or very rarely did. I had very few friends, although part of that can be blamed on the treacherousness that is middle school. I lost a way of understanding how a God that I was told loved me, therefore he’d protect me, wouldn’t protect my family. It seemed cruel. I was scared of life, mostly because I was scared of death. And I was scared of the power that other people had in my life.
When we stand on the edge of that platform looking through that barely veiled line that distinguishes between life and death, the presence of the ultimate extremes – love and fear – reveal themselves. They call out loudly and pull at us by what seems like a tangible force. And the tool that becomes the deciding factor on which side we’re really going to lean toward is self-worth. As I said before, even as a child, I always leaned toward the side of fear.
I don’t know what happened that I stopped believing I could be anything. I don’t know why I stopped believing I was worthy. Maybe it really did have something to do with my inability to comprehend the universe or the God I was praying to. But as I stood there to choose, I chose fear. And from that point forward, fear would lead my life.
Ironically, a good portion of what happens to us is likely due to our self-fulfilling prophecy trait. I wanted to feel bad, and in turn I did. Some of my friends were depressed, and I wanted to be too, so I chose it. I spent a lot of time feeling bad about feeling bad, which just made me feel worse. It’s a spiraling effect. Because, if I know that feeling bad is unnecessary, if I were really a good person, if I were really worthy of anything, then I’d go ahead and do something to change it, right? I was afraid, and I used it perfectly. It manifested itself through everything. I never had boyfriends. I wasn’t a good friend. I stopped trying in school, although I was competitive enough to make sure I did better than my siblings.
Most of the time, I just felt sad because my life wasn’t different. I never considered doing anything to change it. I sat happily in my misery, and never pursued anything that was a stretch. Who wants that disappointment? And I stayed just as I was the day before every single day. I didn’t get into trouble, but I didn’t do much of anything worth doing either. I simply was. And that was all.