Fear often comes from so many subtle, seemingly inconsequential, unexamined nuances in our lives. It was not until I had lunch with my cousin the other day that the source of my deepest fear all but reached up and slapped me in the face.
We were sharing stories, memories really, of our lives when we were children. My cousin talked about how my grandmother’s back door was never locked. Her house was full of people, and my cousin said that she never knew who was going to be there at any point in time. There was a constant coming and going with the milling around of multitudes it seemed. I marked how different my home was because it was always locked up tight. As I mentioned in my last post, having friends over was virtually unheard of; so, we knew exactly who was going to be in my house – us. My cousin commented that that was why she liked my house. She liked the security of knowing exactly who was going to be in the house no matter when she was there.
My mother-in-law was also my day care provider until my son was 10; so, he spent a great deal of time at her house. My mother-in-laws’ home was much like my grandmother’s home. They were both very accepting, inviting, gracious women. My son is more like them in his view of how a home should be, while I am far more locked away: not as badly as my mom was perhaps but reclusive and closed nonetheless. Although my son and I often debated the conflict between hospitality and privacy, I left him the freedom to bring his brand of hospitality home despite how unsettled and nervous I was much of the time. To my surprise, when he moved to his own place I began realizing I missed the coming and going. The quiet of being locked up had finally become deafening rather than safe and comforting. I just could not figure out why.
As I have been peeling away the layers of mask, the conversation with my cousin made me realize that the question of locked doors or unlocked doors meant far more than how many people wandered through my door. Having the door locked to the world all those years with me locked inside was the genesis of a deeply rooted fear – the fear of being unsafe. The bigger my world became after leaving home for college the more unsafe and vulnerable I felt. The fears born in childhood behind locked doors had formed the shadows of danger that made being outside of the security of those doors terrifying. This terror has darkened my view of my world ever since, and I constructed virtual doors to carry with me.
Am I really naturally shy as my voice teacher thought or just locked away with fear? I know that I am an introvert. I problem solve, learn and reason better by getting quiet and thinking things through. I am renewed and restored by solitary activities. But I have made a discovery recently.
- Shyness and introvertedness are not the same;
- Nor are they an inseparable pair.
My son’s hospitality let me play on the outskirts of being sociable without having to actually engage or participate. It offered a connectively I would never give myself permission to enjoy. On the other hand, it kept me unsettled because it surrounded me with activity beyond my control. It scratched at the underlying fear that not being locked away equals vulnerability, and vulnerability equals unsafe. It meant learning to trust. It meant becoming accessible. It meant coming out of the shadows, and I was so not ready.
I cannot say that I am ready now, but I can say I am ready to become – to become ready; to become free of the virtual doors that keep me locked inside; to become part of life and living. I cannot say that I am ready because recognizing fear is not the same as conquering fear, but I am ready for the battle – a battle I refuse to lose. I do not think I had a choice the first time. I do now.
Thank you cousin. You are a beautiful, awesome, fantastic women.