Tag Archives: discomfort

Tend to the Wilderness Inside of You

Somehow in my never ending visits to the library as a child, stacks and stacks of books, I never read Where the Wild Things Are. When the movie came out when I was in college and the general population oohed and ahhed over their many memories of childhood bedtime stories, I felt left out. I even felt in some ways frustrated with my mother for never steering me towards the wonder of the world of Maurice Sendak. How could she have not included this literary masterpiece in my childhood education? I decided to fix that, so I found a copy and read it myself for the first time as a 22 year old. Children’s books read as an adult can be profoundly meaningful. Again, I felt small and swept up into a world both so otherly and so familiar. A good children’s book will do that. It’s the simple truth. What I love about the book is this entrance into an inner world of imagination that is in essence a wilderness. It is here Max comes face to face with himself and his beliefs and even his own wildness.

I currently live in a place that is mostly concrete. Concrete and steel and some graffiti art that a visionary has used to echo beauty in a place where people mostly look up rather than exactly where they are. I love art for that reason. It stops you. Arrests you. Makes you consider what is here rather than where you’re headed. Sometimes this city feels so tamed. The traffic, the people passing on the street, the bustle like ants in a never-ending maze, repeating the same tunnels all contained. A predictable chaos. Everyone with their lattes and schedule and striving. This is how I feel on days when I feel trapped. Trapped by the day to day. Limited by the steel and by time and by my own body.

There is an inner wilderness with which I have begun to be forced to come face to face. There are so many days where engaging it seems overwhelming, and I have chosen rather to flow with the norms and to numb the disconnection I feel. I’ve begun to recognize that when I start to feel closed in, something inside of me grows unsettled. There is a fear and a pain that begins to bang and clang against imaginary walls, desperate to escape.  I’m slowly finding these edges of myself, the cliffs that pushing past will leave me falling, bruised from the impact of the ways I try to manage my pain.  The admission that my internal world is not the same as what the external is showing is complicated. It’s gnawingly frustrating, even a little shaming, this feeling of not fitting, overwhelming my own skin, afraid it will all spill out and hurt those around me. I push it down and look for an escape. I want to start again, unfamiliar and anonymous, where what is around me is startling and new and strange and distracting.

The last four years of my life have kept me, held me, in this city with these people and I am thankful. Over and over, when my eyes have looked for an exit, my feet have been held by a commitment to the process of this vocation. Instead of journeying out, I have been asked and continue to be asked to march into the wildness of my own heart and to accept it’s chaos and beauty. Its limits and its possibility. Its sin and redemption. It’s all there if I will only look. I will choose that journey. How else will I believe it for anyone else?

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Jabberwocky

I sat on the bar stool on Sunday, warming my hands from the chill that’s crept into November. After minutes of small talk of which I never can quite maintain, my friend looked at me and said, “Ok, tell me, why did you cut your hair? I know you too well to realize it was more than just a haircut.”

Last week, I sat on the bathroom floor and cut lock after lock of browns and golds, after nearly two years of basic trims. Minutes later, I felt lighter, as if I had won some victory, and at the same time an extreme sense of loss.

I’m trying to live with this lady called Change. Some days she’s a seeming tyrant, pulling me along; I’m scuffing my toes as I shuffle, cursing each stone that trips me up. I lag behind like a kid being dragged to the dentist. Other days, she’s a storyteller. Her sweet words clutch my heart till I can’t sit still. I swat her hand away and I run past her, ahead to what she’s promised, leaving her in the dust. She calls after me but I’m too far gone to care. I’m impatient with possibility.

I was talking on the phone to my dad the other afternoon, on the drive between work and school, my thumbs drumming the steering wheel to songs I consistently play on repeat. I don’t have many of these phone conversations and I felt grateful to have a few minutes to hear about his day to day. As we were chatting, I asked a question that felt unexpected, even to myself, “Did I talk a lot as a kid?” He laughed. “We couldn’t keep you quiet. We called you Jabberwocky.”

I went back and reread the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll and had one of those “What were my parents thinking” moments. In my head I had remembered it being sort of dark. The story is terrifying. Calling your child a monster that gets slain in the middle of the night could be traumatizing, or at the least get you weird looks from anyone who knows the poem.

Some days I don’t know if I’m the monster or the girl. Maybe it speaks to my obsession with the dark and trying to figure it all out, trying to slay whatever voices I can. Slay the insecurity. Slay the struggles that always seem to be one step behind, that foot on the creaking board, that weight I expect to overtake me. Slay those parts of me that I deem unworthy or unattractive or any word that describes that fear of being noticed and then passed by with whispered voices.

I cut my hair and yell, “I’m different. Don’t you see. I’m not that thing you thought and rejected.” I look around at the marbled sink and feel the cold, tiled floor and realize it’s just me. I’m talking to myself.

Once upon a time you thought you’d never cut your hair on the bathroom floor again. I don’t know how the story ends, or if I’ll find myself here again. History tends to repeat itself. I’m learning to accept with compassion that we’re all still becoming. Maybe a part of that means beginning to tolerate the discomfort of this middle space, letting go of my battle with Change and her wild ways. And, maybe it also means, on days like this, embracing my humanity and taking a moment to laugh at the hair on the floor and fact that it’s going to take awhile to grow out again. And, that’s okay. That’s okay.