I came home from the hospital to a totally different environment than the one I had left beneath the rear wheel of my father’s big black Pontiac. My world had been altered and, when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see what I had grown accustomed to seeing. I was changed both inside and outside. Besides having to deal with my changed and altered appearance, I had been thrust into learning the most important lesson we may all have to learn. I could have died, had come very close to that reality, at age four. And a four year old hasn’t yet developed all of the necessary synapses to untangle that large of an equation in a real, or adequate, manner. I couldn’t, didn’t even come close.
What I did conclude, at age four, was pretty garbled at best. My first day home is a good example. There were two built-in window seats opposite from one another, but situated between the kitchen and the dining room. My Mother had placed me on one of them, so that she could keep a close eye on me, and if I needed anything, she would be within reach immediately. I was terribly excited to be home again, and couldn’t wait to see my siblings, who were across the street at school. I could see through the back door window, and when my brother appeared, without any thought, I jumped up and ran giggling to the other window seat so that I could surprise him. My Mother reacted immediately, saying that I could not, under any circumstances, do that again, and I needed to remember that I wasn’t to move, or get up on my feet for any reason, due to doctor’s orders. My brother hung his head mumbling, perhaps thinking he was at fault for this latest admonishment.
What I felt, and experienced, was a deep deep loss. This was home, but I had no idea how I fit in anymore. My Mother was busy doing what she always did, fixing a meal and tending to things. My brother was coming home from school, as usual, and my older sister would be shortly doing the same. I had so missed being a part of all of that. But, they had obviously gone on being exactly who and what they were. Now I was back, but somehow different and needed to understand the new rules and how all of it worked. Somehow that all translated into the idea that my family had gone on being a family and they didn’t need me to complete that definition. Not only did I not fit, but I wasn’t necessary to the picture any more. I was something different, something outside that circle. Although I could be a part of it, somehow I no longer fit “inside” of it.
Let me stop here for a moment. As we move through our lives, we filter our experiences through the world view we created as a child. That worldview becomes the basic structure upon which we hang whatever we come into contact with. Thus, there are individuals who have never questioned some of the beliefs they have held most of their lives. It is what they were taught and it is what they go right on believing unless life throws them a serious curve and they become aware that maybe their view has been skewed. There are whole families that never leave the small neighborhoods in which they find themselves, because it has been that way for generations and they can’t begin to think of doing otherwise. Until one of their number actually moves outside that map of awareness, they wouldn’t even consider it and sometimes actually do remain through several consecutive generations.
I have spoken many times of the comfort zone we all erect. That comfort zone is established within the boundaries of ones worldview. Thus one stays where one is most comfortable, even when it is no longer so, because it is what one knows and has yet to discover there might actually be a different, even better way of doing, thinking, and even feeling about all of it. The best example I can think of, is a woman who returns again and again to an abusive mate. She may try to move on, but unless she actually finds that she can do so, and survive, she will return to what she knows. There is a saying that expresses that, but fits the definition of what I am talking about as well: Better the bogey man you know, than the one you don’t know. It is extremely hard to live with constant fear and anxiety, and that is what is created when one moves outside that comfort zone, or catches a glimpse of what might exist beyond ones established worldview. It is far easier to fight the change that might entail, than to push oneself to move toward or actually into it.
I had been outside the circle of my family at a very impressionable age. I had tasted that outside space, lived in it, and survived that experience. I had even explored it a bit, been wheeled around to see and visit other children on the ward while I was there. Spent more than one whole afternoon in the company of a stranger, albeit, another child, bedridden and needing some distraction, but I had been exposed to other views and modes of being. And with the trust of a child, had embraced a great deal of what I had come into contact with. And that outside flavor clung to my person. It was there and without my conscious thought, it crept into the way I saw and felt my own experience, my own person, and my sense of how the world as a whole operated, as well as my particular place in that world. In other words, it became a part of my own developing worldview. And it was decidedly different from the one my siblings knew, and the one my parents were attempting to teach me.
I felt lonely. Had just been away from home for the first time in my life, but was suddenly aware of being lonely in a way I had never felt before. I was in the very heart of my family, yet I didn’t feel at home. I was different, and would perhaps remain so for all of my life, and even had that ugly scar to prove it. They were the same, but they were different. And like any child of that age, I took on full responsibility for that difference. It must have been my fault, I was the one who ran behind the car. I was the one who slipped and fell, failed to get myself out of the way and caused myself and both of my parents an extreme amount of pain.
This was not an easy write, even though I know the material backward and forward after years of exploring it. I have been interrupted several times and every time was grateful for the distraction. The voice of resistance has been screaming in my ear, “don’t go there. Let it alone. Nothing will be changed if you stop. No one has to know any of this. And you’ll be far more comfortable not saying it at all. Besides, maybe the interruptions are meant to stop you from making an even bigger mistake, making this public, exposing yourself in this manner. What’s to be gained by it?”
What is to be gained is this: If only one individual reads this and finally understands and accepts their own view of their own story, I have accomplished exactly what I set out to do. This is, after all, the story of the birth of the Wild Things inside of me. And their story may be far more important than my own. Especially if another person listens and recognizes it as a piece of their own experience. Not to be dismissed or ignored, but of utmost importance in understanding who and what they are, and why they are. I am certainly not the only individual who has lived a majority of her life uncomfortable within her own skin. I will certainly not be the last one.
The resistance has been resisted, and I may relax because, just for today, I have done exactly what I set out to do. And, that’s never anything to sniff at. What’s more, the story will continue, next time.