I remember how the fear would thicken at night. After “lights out” I would lie still, wondering if tonight was the night I wouldn’t be afraid. Seconds later I would be under my sheets, the heat of my breath warming my face. I longed for cool air on my cheeks. I longed to be free of my fear of the dark.
My parents told me “there’s nothing to be afraid of” every night, but every night, no matter how I clung to their words, I couldn’t muster up enough belief to keep my blankets below my head. The shame of my lack of belief and my non-existent courage became the shadow of my fear, another layer of heat and hiddenness over me.
My fears didn’t stay in the dark. Later, it was a playground full of kids, and even later, a room full of mingling adults. My own feelings of awkwardness kept me from running out into the crowd to take up space and join in. My own anxiety taunted me with an invitation to play tag or introduce myself and engage in small talk.
So, I hid. I tried to summon the awkward feelings away. “Just be yourself,” they all say, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
What I didn’t know then, but wish someone would’ve told me, is that it wasn’t just me. What I am still learning is that we are all afraid. What I’ve heard is that we’ve all been told to take cover so that we don’t have to feel weight of our own awkwardness and misfit mistakes.
There’s no measure of mustering that will ever be enough to make me more than what I am. We learn and we grow, but we cannot escape the truth that we are imperfect vessels. We come and become cracked and miss-shaped in a world that tells us to shape up and cover everything odd and awkward. We do everything we can to take cover and in doing so we teach our children to do the same.
But, what if those very things, our cracks and blemishes, our process through being carried onto completion, are what makes room for someone else to see they are welcomed home and no longer alone?
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