I saw a HONY post a couple of days ago about a man in crack addiction recovery, attributing his success in staying clean to his childhood — that buried beneath his addiction was the memory of something good, a version of himself he could return to. He said that many addicts who don’t recover often come from a life where there is only negative behind them – no comprehension of who and how they could have been.
Anxiety creeps up on me sometimes. To me, anxiety feels like the world is out of control. It feels like this big, chaotic, disorganised, frantic place capable of causing enormous pain. To counteract the lack of order out there, my coping mechanism is to create order in here. In the past, that has looked like extreme exercise. Very strict eating habits. Routines that kept me predictable and safe. Social guardedness. I learnt at a young age that there were things and people worth being terrified of, and having experienced them first hand, terrified I was. The world is not a safe place became my war cry and I whispered it to my lonely, terrified self until I was old enough to work hard on replacing it with something different. Drop any four-year old child into a situation where nobody is there to protect her, and then have it happen again a handful of years later, with a different, sick man in a different, sick setting and I bet you a million dollars that child will have a hard time trusting she is safe and protected in almost every aspect of her adult life. Indeed, that belief is still a defining thought within my current life and though quieted, my war cry still beats away. The difference now, however, lives in the clause that follows: The world is not a safe place but you hold the power. There is nothing that anybody could ever do to you that could destroy you because you are stronger, fiercer, and braver than any of this world’s pain.
I know like anyone who has suffered trauma, and even anyone who hasn’t, that there is so little I can do to protect my children from everything that can go wrong in this world. And dear god, let me never project my fear onto their living a huge, full, grand, beautiful life. Let them have the hardships that will grow them into resilient, capable, brave and compassionate people. Let life be just hard enough that they can be in a moment thirty years from now and feel the full weight of happiness because they understand what it is to hurt. But dear, dear god — let them have their childhoods. Please grant them that. Let them have their make believe and their movie nights and their lounge room dancing and their backyard fire nights and their toasted marshmallows and their silly twinkly lights of their Christmas in July parties and let the magic that bursts from the very centre of what it is to be a child buffer them from the mess to come. So they may know a version of themselves they can return to should they ever need to. So they may know deep in their bones to whom they belong and so they know that life – despite its pain and its terrible heartache, is still worth celebrating.
Celebrating first ever movie dates with my girl.
Celebrating winter adventures.
Celebrating Christmas in July anticipation.
Celebrating sleeping children and everything a parent feels in those moments.
Celebrating home made hot chocolates.
Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid. ― Frederick Buechner