Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I'll Take a Healthy Dose of Living Instead

In Act I, scene 3 of Hamlet, Polonius tells his daughter Ophelia, "Best safety lies in fear." He's speaking to his daughter about her relationship with Hamlet. Spoiler alert: fear or no, things weren't all that safe for Ophelia. Fear didn't protect anyone in that play.

The desire for safety breeds fear, and fear is the dream killer. Follow me down a path. The woods are darkening, but not dark yet. Noises haunt these woods: the clack of bone-dry branches knocked together by ragged breeze, the scrape of our feet over the brittle leaves on the path, the distant moan of some animal you hope is only an owl or other night bird. Scary? Maybe. But do not be mistaken; the most dangerous thing you might find here came with you.

A desire to be safe.

It's supposed to be a comfortable word, a good, warm word. Safe. But the desire to be safe often leads to fear. Living in fear leads to a life of chances not taken, dreams unfulfilled because an army of "what-ifs" march to our threshold and hold us back. Will we fall on the path at times? Yes. Will we scrape our knees? Hell yes. There will be bruises, too, and hard times, and days of slogging through mud. But there will be wholesome fulfillment and love and wonder because we took chances at which safety balked. Safety never climbed Mount Everest. Safety never crossed an ocean. Safety never landed on the moon. Safety never fell in love and stayed in love through hardship and heartache. Safety never made me send my first short story submission into the wild. All "safety" ever brought was a heaping dose of fear. All fear ever brought was extra sour to my lemonade. God knows I like a good, sweet lemonade.

There is a certain freedom which comes when fear is put in its proper place. I remember the night I gave up. Max's birthday this year--just a month after Aimee's death. It was a raw night. The boys finally hit their beds after a long evening of cake and presents. I spent an extra hour building a Lego something which lasted about three days. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. Mom reminded me we needed milk. She stayed with the boys while I ran to the store. Walking into the grocery store, it hit me. After Aimee's death, after her illness, after Max's stint at Children's Mercy, after all the home improvement nonsense and the running and running and running... I was done. Spent. Stripped bare. What did I have left to fear?

It was a turning point. A glimpse of blue sky through the black web of branches on this path. What did I have left to fear? Fear never kept anyone I loved safe. It never protected my mother, my brother or sister, my kids, Aimee... myself. Fear never kept anyone safe no matter what it promised.

So fear? Safety?

Forget you. Forget you straight to Hades.* I'll choose to live instead.

*Did you like how I went all "PG"? Well played, Aaron. Well played.

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