How We Get Here
The last time I posted, I wrote about my inner child. We all have one because we all have both a past and a memory. Research tells us that by the age of five, we have constructed a world view: a sense of how the world works, and particularly our role, or place, within that world. Stop and think about that for a moment. At age five, that world view must be rudimentary at best, yet it becomes the filter through which we order much of the rest of our existence.
By age five, I had come very close to death, had been told (overheard my parents say) that I had about a 50 -50 chance of living through the surgery, and at best would probably end up with some amount of retardation (brain injury) with the result of something similar to Cerebral Palsy. And for at least, the next ten years, had to sit, yearly, and watch the Jerry Lewis Telethon. See those kids paraded out in their wheel chairs, many of them unable to speak clearly, let alone feed or take care of their personal functions without aid. Add to that, a visit to the doctor’s office meant being told that I was ‘his little Miracle Girl‘.
As an adult, I can look back and see that all those people were simply being grateful, but as a child I saw it very differently. I was me, but not just me. I had the ghost of another, far more unfortunate child permanently attached to my very existence. But, especially to my mental capabilities. Cerebral Palsy is an ongoing permanent glitch (hick-up) in mental functions. And miracles are very iffy things. Are they real, or just a fluke? I attended a Catholic Parochial school. I knew the drill. Miracles were examined for centuries by impeccable scholars before being pronounced as such. I, on the other hand, was just another little girl trying my damnedest to disappear into the woodwork, while not being allowed to do so. I was afraid and terribly angry. It was all so unfair.
It took another thirty years. Years of reading, exploring, studying quietly and on my own, until I began to unravel much of that childish world view. It was hard work because I wasn’t trying to convince the world, I needed to convince myself. And I was definitely a skeptic, with an overloaded knapsack of guilt and doubt.
I had read about the idea of the inner child. I had dismissed it out of hand. Not for me. Until the day I realized that I had dismissed it because it scared me out of my wits. It frightened me for very good reasons. I knew I had abandoned that child in me. Run from her and all her questions and accusations. She needed me, as any child needs a good parent. But, I didn’t trust me to be that for her. How could I?
I had also learned (through all of that study and reading), the value to be found in spontaneous imagery. I knew what I had to do. I made a space of time where I wouldn’t be interrupted. Got quiet, calming myself with slow deep breaths (while simultaneously breaking a sweat), then closed my eyes and asked my inner child to come forward.
She was there in an instant, stepping out of a wooded area. Dirty face, fisted-hands on her hips, torn dirty jeans (two sizes too big), large dirty t-shirt, her hair oily and greasy but covering her head in natural curls. She stared straight back at me from her defensive posture. And then I saw a strange contraption tied to her shoulders. Two huge blocks of wood, one to each side of her head, meant to protect it from any harm. The words “chip on the shoulder”, whispered their way through my mind. And I started crying, because she couldn’t turn her head to either side, without colliding with those wooden blocks.
I tearfully begged for her forgiveness, while she listened silently and totally still. Then I asked her if I could please help her remove those ugly blocks. To which she grinned for a split second, then went still again and nodded her head. I did so, and we both sat down rather hesitantly. I leaned cautiously toward her and said, “I know this is important, I must first ask your name. Will you tell me what it is?”
A wisp of smile crossed her lips, and she said softly, “My name is Beth.”
We both just sat there grinning at each other. I had chosen, about a year previously, to take back my baptismal name, Elizabeth. It means God is my oath, in Hebrew. And the word Beth, in Hebrew means God’s Abode, God’s House.
Elizabeth Crawford 6/1/2017
Note: The image is a digital painting done some years ago. I was just playing with colors and different effects in the paint program, when I realized that a face was taking shape, so emphasized what I was seeing in the color. It has always been a favorite.