Saturday, October 21, 2006

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

(Anaïs Nin)

Friday I heard Brian Collier speak. He is an African-American illustrator of children's books. His words ring in my head and in my heart. This is the refrain that I hear: Andrea Pinkney telling him to "Risk it all on every page." Brian said, "that rings in my head and in my heart" with every project.

These are some of the words that inspire me, that ring in my head and in my heart:

"If you don't want what you want, then you're not going to get it." (Madonna)

A pink tag from Bladerunners: SKATE AT YOUR OWN RISK.

"So take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs and mark out a straight smooth path for your feet so that those who follow you, though weak and lame, shall not fall and hurt themselves but become strong." (Hebrews 12:12)

"There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you." (Maya Angelou)

"I have accepted fear as a part of life--specifically the fear of change. I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back." (Erica Jong)

"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you." (Hosea 10:12)

"I don't know how to fight. All I know is how to stay alive." (Alice Walker, although in my brain I think Helen Keller.)

When I'm brave, when I remember who I am, this one reappears where it is generally written on my the inside of my eyelids in invisible ink:

"She is not afraid of snow for her household...she laughs at the time to come." (Proverbs 31:21, 25)

I took an abbreviated walk today. I got out there and realized that really what I needed to do was to get my thoughts down on.

So here it is, in black and white, on a pink background:

I am afraid you will leave me. It doesn't matter who you are.

The number of men I trust, four: My father, my brother, and my two pastors. The number of women I trust: a few more than four, and my mom tops the list.

I would rather leave you than you leave me. But I'd rather us stay. Unless I sense that you are going to leave me.

So when I went to an Internet Safety forum Thursday night and the evening's last speaker, Amber, a girl who was taken from her house because she trusted someone online, it brought up a ton of junk. At least 2,000 lbs, maybe more. "Have you ever had a man take your confidences, act like your best friend and then twist everything?" She asked us to raise our hands. I did. But she heckled us, because this was the North Hills, where everyone is so suburban and perfect so I might have been the only raised hand and no, I didn't raise it high. The other women in the room were most likely mothers, wives, and no one was sitting next to anyone they didn't know. "What, all your men are perfect?" she asked us.

My heart cries out: I have been betrayed. I have been twisted. "With a kiss" like the U2 song says. Sweet sixteen, never been kissed. Oh, to be 24 and be able to say that. But I'm past that now...

My first kiss, he later told me, expected me to slap him. For a moment, I am back there, in that dark auditorium, next to a boy who I had just met. I have two impressions of him. The first, from the previous day, when I met him: he was a jerk. The second, formed that night after he recounted to me his entire sordid life story, that he was okay. And then, in the dark of a high school auditorium with a band playing badly and loudly, he kissed me. I was too surprised to do anything but kiss him back. How I wish I had slapped him. How I wish I had had a hat pin (what our grandmothers carried to poke fresh boys that tried something in the dark of the movie theatres). But instead, I gave him my heart. And he never really took it, because he was also kissing four other girls. So my heart rested in the air, not in my chest any longer, and not in his heart. In limbo. It's a pretty painful place to rest--actually, it's not restful at all. Wondering if he's going to call, crazy glad when he does, waiting for that next kiss, stolen in the hall by the courtyard before lunch. Months of this before I woke up to the fact that my heart wasn't getting any actual healthy circulation, my heart was high and dry. I wish I could say I learned my lesson at 17. No, I gave out my heart again and again. And sometimes the boy held my heart, and sometimes I realized (usually too late) that my heart was getting unhealthy blood. I was Ophelia. I drowned, a lot.

Which brings us to present time, where I live my life like a normal person and no one knows that me, I do, I have black like tar secrets seething under the surface. Tar only bubbles up on the really hot days.

But in October, all bets are off.

I am tired of carrying around my suitcase of tar. I am tired of living as if I'm going to pretend to trust you and then I'm going to be broken hearted when you maybe disappoint me. I'm just trying to work this out. I'm ready to say, this is broken, please God, fix it! I'm ready to say, I AM BROKEN, PLEASE GOD, FIX ME!

"I'll shout it from the mountaintops" is a lyric from an old praise song. In the funniest movie I've seen this year, You, Me, and Dupree, Coldplay's song "Fix You" played in a particularly climactic scene. As the credits rolled, I knew I was looking for something. Because part of the reason You, Me... was so funny was because it was so true. It cut to the heart of all our insecurities.

Tears stream down on your face
I promise you I will learn from the mistakes
Tears stream down your face

Lights will guide you home
And I will try to fix you

We all want the "happily ever after." We are Americans and we believe in the gospel of Disney.

"I will go before thee, and make all the crooked places straight." (Isaiah 45:2)

For a moment, I see God as a Zamboni driver, smoothing out all the ridges in the ice. The rink is empty and the ice is smooth. A song comes out of the speakers, "Take my life," and I go out onto the ice and skate as if my life depended on it.


Amy A. said...

I'm going to tell your high school auditorium story to my daughter.

Thanks for sharing that.

Sarah Louise said...

Oh please do. My mother never told me even a peep about not to trust people (because girls can break your heart too.) If only I had known Proverbs 4:23 then: Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Holly said...

That Hebrews verse reminds me of walking to church in the snow on Sunday, a little bit trodden already from my peers walking to church ahead of me. And I have always loved the proverb from your email signature.

I honor the risks you take here. I wonder how far or close you feel to this Sarah Louise now.