Have you seen the video of the bear that snuffled a family’s home while they slumbered? Ursa major made a minor snack of their belongings. If you’ve had a chance to read my last blog where the idea of trauma and pain is likened to hangry bears who follow you and take up residence in your home, you may know where I’m going.
After I wrote “Thoughts from the quiet” and hit send, I sobbed like I had not sobbed in decades. Like a small goofy cow-licked child who had finally summoned the necessary courage to tell the whole story, to get it out to its end. Who now waited for the predictable cursing and physical, soul pain of that youth. I was afraid of going back to work for fear of how the truth could become my shame anew. I cried thinking how in putting all my vulnerabilities and should-not-have-beens out there – I’d never meet a curious, kind, wise and adventuresome fella who would love me as I am rather than what I could produce. I wanted to crawl under a rock last week, though I’ve been writing that story in serial since 2013.
Without notice, from that blog came the rest of the story.
The rest of the story surprised me in yoga, at work, driving, brushing my teeth, in spin class. I began to imagine bears in their frightening fangy fierceness, and their vulnerability fully exposed in flailing tree poses, locked in their confining assumptions and frightened themselves.
The rest of that story began Monday morning between sleep and awake when I imagined escorting a host of bears out the white wicket garden gate of the home I’ve always dreamt.
Bears as avatars of very real fears continue(d) to arrive on my doorstep of thought. Now I describe them in a little yellow field guide I picked up at a conference.
A few of the fear-as-bears avatars that have shown up are:
- Bears stuffed into my Sweet Vibe, parked in the shade of a too-hot summer’s day. Ransacking. my vibe. Released back into their world by a remote hatch control. I did not need to draw close to their teeth and claws to evict them.
- A particularly insidious bear that has loomed above me too many nights is frightened away by my finally reaching for the phone and calling for help. I see its stinking silhouette lumbering – defeated – toward the front door and my freedom.
- Finally defanging the wizened old gnarly beast of not being good enough; calling out its own fear and sending it to its cave, evicting it from my home, car, cubicle and family.
- Awkward bears at parties who stay in the library with the family dog.
- Bloodying bears which demand fealty; full price for cheap goods.
- Shaming bears which whisper and snarl accusations in a language I am learning to forget and forgo.
- Bears with headbands riding the vomit comet at spin class; fully capable of gnawing me to bits but focused on their own frazzling phantoms.
- Stalking bears judging my clothes, words, teeth, history – real and assumed, choices and openness. Now, I realize these bears are miserable in their own rank dungeons. They distract attention from their mess by focusing on my imperfections. They deserve no more of my attempts to satisfy.
- The worst bear – which surprised me – was the mutant bear of memory, a few tough days when the kids and I were growing up together. That bear. It was part rotting mangy mammal and part scaly singeing dragon. It reminded me of a terrifying movie I saw while home sick in elementary school called “Prophecy.” Holy buckets of bear poop. I’d forgotten of that terrible movie which kept me haunted for years.
My takeaway from this fear-become-bears of my imagination?
The growling, irascible and hangry bears are just as frightened as I am.
They no more want to bang around my head and heart than I want them there.
And though the thought of a bear riding a LeMond spin bike may sound cute even, this trick of imagination in no way diminishes what the fears represent – real history, real sustained terror and an origin story no one wishes and too many of us have.
All of these years of trying to out learn, out wrestle, out run, out work, out perfect and perform these fears – these bears – have only led me to exhaustion and distracted encounters with more predators.
Seeing fears for what they are as phantoms has given me a way to change the story.
They are not permanent residents – these fears. They stake no claim on my soul. These fears can be overcome.
Your fears need not stake a claim on your story and soul. You can find your way through the fear-filled forest.
I’ve been working on this for too many years to say for sure where freedom began to rise up. Only since 2013, have I spoken of the origin story plainly for what it is. Rape. Despair. Fear. Abuse. Learned anxiety. I called out loud for someone to wade in and help me find my way to shore. And they did. They sure did.
I think the new freedom must be related to a willingness to no longer try to hide vulnerabilities, the decision to stop trying to appear like I have it all together. No one was fooled anyway.
Also, I stopped pretending the bears and I could coexist. We can’t.
I don’t have to feed and care for those predators in hopes they would one day care for me. Treat me with kindness. Love me like a child longs for love that is safe, patient and reliable.
I finally learned that I can evict the monsters by telling the truth – the hard ugly-crying snot-blowing sobbing bewildering truth.
Eject them from my today and look toward a future of challenges and hope, an inner life no longer prey to the malevolent which lurks in the shadows.
If you are afraid and dodging your own bears…fears, join me. We’ll find reasons to keep going through the process to real freedom. Our conversations can build community among the freedom seekers and finders. I’ll share my Reeses and my tiny bits of derring-do.
We’ll get through this forest together.