As I read those words, a question jumps out at me: Have I ever really felt totally safe? I have definitely had places where I was comfortable, but I’m not sure I’ve ever felt safe. It may go back to my childhood with an alcoholic father. I have never really identified what may be the long-term impacts of that experience. Feelings of shame, guilt, confusion, and fear are definitely in the mix. But, I have spent a lifetime hiding them behind a smile or another excuse. My mother taught me to hide things. I’m not sure why. She is still doing it to this day. Hiding her illness from her siblings is the latest, but it has been a lifetime of hiding information that may be disturbing to or judged by others. So, I followed suit. Very few people in my life knew my dad was an alcoholic, despite the fact that his alcoholism was probably obvious to many. No one ever said anything and I certainly didn’t volunteer the information. We never had a lot of close family friends for this reason. It makes it harder to hide things when people are just dropping by or staying over for extended stays. So, we didn’t have much of that. I had a core group of friends that I had from Kindergarten through high school and although I’m sure they knew my dad drank, I’m also sure they never knew the extent of the problem.
So, now as an adult, with my dad suffering from dementia that may have been caused by all those years of drinking and my mom hiding her cancer from her siblings and none of us really knowing how to talk about anything in any sort of meaningful way because we have worked at keeping it hidden for so long, I try to navigate my own life. And, I find myself coming up short quite often.
I am more open with the facts of my life with my friends and family – my daughter’s illness is public information. But, there are areas of my life that no one knows that much about (even me?). Those same feelings of shame, guilt, confusion and fear are definitely still in the mix.
And so I enter this stage of my life, with a child of my own and relationships to build and I want nothing more than to be able to live life feeling safe to express myself – my real self – warts and all. I want to be open and accepting to others who inspire me to be a better self, but still my real self. Not some façade that I have to keep up for appearances. I want to express myself and my love to others with purpose and thoughtfulness.
It is difficult to move from shame and guilt and fear to a place of safety, love and appreciation, but it is what needs to happen. I am ready to move towards a better place and arrive at that place a better, happier, and inspired person.