I was also something I haven't been in ages - fearless. I ran down hills, snuck into movie theaters, investigated off limit places on the Navy bases, and sat with an older boy sat in the woods behind our house. I was gutsy enough to run away when he proved his intent was more about kissing than exploring. Kissing? Fearless, maybe. Naive, maybe. But not so dumb that I thought spending time in a lip lock was in my best interest. [Even years later, when I should have been more worldy, I thought Jeff Reynolds (no relation) trying to stick his tongue down my throat was perfectly gross. Note to younger self: Not making out with the coolest guy in the 7th grade gets you nowhere with the "in" crowd. When I was 9 I didn't know an in crowd even existed. I'd like to think I wouldn't have cared.]
I never went through with my plans for a one-woman-dare-devil bike-a-rama. I never posted flyers on neighbors' doors, or sold tickets. For reasons I can't recall my illusions of grandeur faded like puffs of smoke from Annie Oakley's six shooter. Little by little, fear creeped into my consciousness. One of five children I learned that parents can only handle so much greatness. It has to be spread around. When one child is on top, the others need to be knocked down a few pegs. At best, it's Darwinian - a way for both parents and children to survive. At worst it is reality TVwithout the TV.
The tentacles of fear tightened their grip after we moved to Florida where I discovered certain public bathrooms and water fountains in the South were labeled "colored." At 12, I became aware of the ins and the outs, the haves and the have nots. I learned that clothes from Rosenblums with a "Villager" label were more "in" than dresses my mom made on our dining room table. In junior high I caught on that knowing the right answer in English class and not being afraid to raise my hand put me smack dab in the middle of the "nerd" camp. A place the Villager set I wanted to like me avoided, or, worse, made fun of.
And there's no denying that, even though I don't know the year it happened, I became fearful in my own home. I was afraid of mom's anger, of words used like weapons, of looking foolish, of speaking my mind or trying out new ideas, of rocking a boat on waters that looked smooth yet roiled underneath, of feeling emotions that made others uncomfortable, of speaking about the elephant in the living room.
Oddly, when I felt the most fearful I became the most reckless. In order to fit in, I either kept silent or I ran with a beer-drinking crowd. In gym class I worried that my skinny thighs didn't touch (a belief in those days that one was not a virgin), but in the back seat of a Ford mustang skinny thighs were the last thing on my mind. I was too afraid to date boys my own age, but carried off an "adult" persona to woo and be wooed by a man 8 years my senior. A man I would love, marry, have children with and divorce while I tried to find my soul's desire that had been silent for so long. In the years since, like a kid on a see-saw, I've been up and down, fearful and brave, reckless and timid.
"When we have a good balance between thinking and feeling …
our actions and lives are always the richer for it."
I sit here today on a threshold of new ways of thinking, acting and loving ME.
We Look with Uncertainty
by Anne Hillman
We look with uncertainty
beyond the old choices for
to a softer, more permeable aliveness
which is every moment
at the brink of death;
for something new is being born in us
if we but let it.
We stand at a new doorway,
awaiting that which comes…
daring to be human creatures,
vulnerable to the beauty of existence.
Learning to love.
How does balance look to you?