we are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
-george bernard shaw
i can clearly remember times when i’ve been told to “let it go”…i remember the eyes of my friend while i was miscarrying, my doctor when i was giving birth. i remember the words texted from a friend, a message repeated many times for a few months. i remember hearing the voice from my phone, guiding me in a darkened house meditation.
i’m letting one of my old tasks go.
transforming pain to power, living in the discomfort, using my skills to help others…that is my task now.
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the secret task
she runs in small frantic circles, wide eyed and working. she’s busy.
she’s small. her hair is wispy and long. she has on a dress, creamy colored and hard to notice. her feet are bare, she likes it that way. her eyes are big. her mouth is opened bird like. she isn’t hungry or dirty or cold. she’s been fed homemade yogurt and bathed in ivory soap and allowed to wear what she wanted. she’s been hugged and talked kindly to and reminded of her goodness. she has been nurtured, she’s been bolstered, she’s been amply prepared for her secret task: to look beyond for safety.
she sees safe in a relaxed-smiled person, a bird who calls back and forth, a dog with slow wagging tail, a low-branched tree, a pile of blankets. her eyes notice it, her heart swells for just a second before the openness is too big and it clamps down.
she can’t settle in these. this isn’t her task. she is to look beyond safe. she is to look for danger.
quickly organizing the danger into a vertical tier of threat, she can move this order with incredible efficiency. the bottom is low threat. the top is high threat. every person seen or heard of is positioned.
oops, the way you raised your eyebrows at me just made you a little more scary, up you go. wait, you just reached down and pet that dog, okay, down you go.
you are a baby. you are lower than the bottom. i like to be with you.
yes! you smiled back at me, but since i had to work so hard to get it, you stay right where you are, and you’ll probably move to the top…so i’ll keep a little extra attention on you.
uh ho, i thought you were sitting on the sidewalk reading but really you’re asleep and the newspapers are your blankets! up you go.
you are the president of the united states, so you go to the top. but since i can’t interact with you, i just fantasize that you’re my grandfather. then you’d put a tarp over my house and no nuclear bombs would hurt me.
hey! you ignored me when you walked past. thank you! down you go…but i’ll look over my shoulder a few times and see if you’re looking back at me…your final position to be determined.
hmmmm, you are pushing your shopping cart, but you’re not looking at anyone, you go just below center. no wait, you just put fresh fruit in your cart, you go just above center.
you are my friend, you are at the bottom.
wait. you’re touching me under that hard to notice dress, you soared to the top.
wait. no. now it’s over and you’re being nice and talking to our other friends…so i will pretend you’re at the bottom but really you’re at the top, the tippy top…and you earned the first fixed position there.
(and little did she know that in the coming years, the tier would grow to have a gravity defying shape of revictimization…several people sharing that tippy top position, never to be moved.)
ok. new plan for everyone:
the further you are at the top, the more i will act like you are at the bottom, so i can try to get you on my side.
the further you are at the bottom, the more i will watch you, because you might be tricking me.
i will get to you before you get to me.
and now to make it simpler:
if you are smaller than me, you are at the bottom.
if you are bigger than me, you are at the top until you prove yourself otherwise.
i will start at the top and work down the ever shifting tier of danger.
it’s kind of hard since she’s so small. but her calf muscles are developed from standing on tiptoe. her neck is limber from straining to see. her arms are flexible, busy with daily work in order to keep her task hidden. her face is toned from forced expressions of change. her heart is strong from swelling at safety and the immediate constriction of fear that follows. every time.
don’t let your guard down.
work from the top.
win them over.
keep them happy.
stay alert for clues.
stay alert for surprises.
keep the work secret, no one can know where they are on the tier.
well, that little girl, a bit feral, has been approached. the tier of old memories is bathed in light. the same primal love of soap and food and kindness has corralled her. and now she scrambles a little more. her well worn paths are reduced to choppy segments. her legs used to more space, she’s awkwardly stumbling. her eyes used to darting further on the landscape, things are too bright. her heart used to the familiar dance of swell and constrict feels oddly numb. her ears used to waiting for startling sounds, quiet things are louder. scrambling and peering through cracks, it’s getting harder and harder to see beyond the fence of love that moves closer all the time. backing away in a quick crab like crawl lands her only against more love. the corners have disappeared. she’s losing her job of organizing danger.
she’s still little enough to hold and show things to and hide.
love edges in, crouches down, arms outstretched, promises repeated.
maybe while standing under a tree.
and hearing birds perched low.
and noticing a pile of blankets.
knowing the places to land
where the heart can swell and remain open.
knowing she’s been found
and it’s safe.
“here is the world. beautiful and terrible things will happen. don’t be afraid.”