Thursday, August 19, 2010
Most of my remembered childhood was remarkably small. Our world was the eighty acres of the dairy that was both home and work, and while it was a world that offered much to explore, it was bound by barbed wire fencing and the fear of my parents. A fear which settled into my cells without my invitation or clear awareness.
Town, seven miles away, was full of hidden dangers. People waiting to take advantage. Endless streets to get lost on. Mysterious temptations lurking in the shadows hoping to snare unsuspecting innocents into sin.
Even school, where I eventually learned that being smart was a way to be safe in a certain way, contained hidden dangers at every turn. Unspoken rules for behavior, dress, friendships - most of which I either didn't understand or didn't have the means to meet. Salvation Army clothes, saddle shoes and too-short bangs were not the uniform of coolness and popularity.
Without television or newspaper to offer a wider world view, my only lens to the world was my parents' paranoid and narrow belief that no one could be trusted, from The Government to Big Business to The Neighbors who were only looking out for themselves. Occasional old Life and Look and National Geographic magazines would find their way into the house. I read them cover to cover, with longing and hope, determined to someday find my way into the magic those pages and pictures offered.
The fear rooted itself deep and dark, invisible tendrils spread to every part of my being. Even in the light of a life marked by success and overcoming and respectability, it whispered, "You can't." and "You're not enough." and "You don't belong."
Like the light of a sun rising through softening layers of clouds, a new awareness has brightened my sky this summer. I no longer believe fear's lies.
Navigating our way to and around Iowa City, making wrong turns and ending up where we were headed anyway. Feeling like family in the midst of perfect strangers. Confident that my smile would get me something good, even if it was just a smile in return.
Driving away from a new friend's house, the route home not a perfect reverse, and believing without hesitation that I could (and did) figure out how to get myself to the freeway.
Making the huge leap a year ago from the security of a safe career into the great unknown of dreams beckoning from my soul, then embracing the gifts the year offered that were so different from the ones I expected.
I've watched my brothers conquer their own fears to make dreams come true. Frank, the oldest of them, finally living on and traveling in the boat he designed and dreamed and for which he's sacrificed much. Mark, the middle, in the face of daunting loss, more kind and gentle and loving than ever, moving slowly but without hesitation toward the light of a new life whose nebulous form requires a constant faith. Geoff, the baby, finally owning his own home after years of renting, an ownership that shouldn't have happened, but did because he wouldn't believe in No.
A new school year starts soon. My second with no new first-day dress, no closet full of new sticky notes and purple pens and bulletin board borders, no certainty of what the next nine months will hold. I face the unknown of it, holding the power of dreams-that-will-not-die and believing, hoping I'll be able to remember when fear comes with new warnings of woe.
I can. I am enough. I do belong.