When the funhouse isn’t fun anymore

For me, autumn brings to mind all things pumpkin flavored, brightly colored falling leaves, and a host of festivals and fairs to cater to your tastebuds and tempt your pocketbook for the chance of winning some ridiculous human sized stuffed animal.

I remember as a kid getting lost in a maze of funhouse mirrors. It was delightful and entertaining in the beginning. Look at one reflection and you’re tall and skinny, the next one you have fat feet and a little head, and on and on with playful distortions. Until it didn’t seem so playful or fun anymore because you realize you’re lost and all you can see are the malformations surrounding you.

Recently I have been realizing more and more that the reflections I see of myself are distortions, and I feel completely surrounded. It’s no longer any fun because somehow those contorted images became my view of reality.

In conversation with those close to me, I hear their words and find that we view very different images of me. The person they would describe, I am at a loss for how to see.

I want to argue and prove my point. In my mind I am listing all the reasons why their point of view and words cannot be true.

But slowly these last few days I have realized that I am in the midst of a giant, winding maze of misrepresentation. I have lost myself in it for years, this labyrinth of lies concerning who I am as a person: unworthy, unlovely, undesirable, the list goes on and on. I’m realizing the horror in it, the knowledge that this is really how I have come to see myself, and how I expect others to see.

The funhouse mirrors of my mind aren’t fun and entertaining anymore. I want out. Does anyone know which way to the exit?

 

Children Can Be Dangerous

“You know what’s funny?”

“What’s that?”

“You’re much older than I am, but I can swim much better than you can.”

If it wasn’t for those soulfully sweet and innocent eyes that have locked their gaze with mine, I would be more upset, but there is nothing malicious or taunting in the words, just an observation from my young friend.

Children are dangerous that way. They can be brutally honest, in the most disarming of ways.

He knows the water frightens me, and it never ceases to amaze me how sensitive and caring he can be. Numerous times this summer, he has come to the edge of the pool with his sword and declared himself to be my protector, which though maybe make believe, I am totally convinced.

Then there was the day he talked me into one of those holding your breath challenges. I went under for a whole two seconds, after I had just held him under for like 40 or something. I was hoping it would get me out of the game when he realized how lame I truly am in comparison, instead he turned to me with all seriousness and said, “I’m sure you can do longer than two. Maybe you can even get to ten.”

Who can argue? That day I held myself underwater for 24 seconds, voluntarily, because a ten year old believed I could.

Spending time with children is dangerous, I tell you.

“People wish to learn to swim and at the same time to keep one foot on the ground.” -Marcel Proust

Therein lies the problem with learning to swim, it requires letting go and trusting.

{insert Frozen sing-a-long soundtrack here}

I am well aware of the terror beating in my heart and racing through my brain, which I feel I am completely unable to control or to tame. It crowds out any logical thought processes and shutters out any hope of change. It has been my companion for decades.

Then a child with knowing eyes, looks at me and says, “Come on. Follow me,” as he swims for the deep end of the pool in search of sea creatures to explore and be rescued from.

Children can be dangerous that way. They are persuasively charming when they invite you into their world, a place where anything is possible.

And against all the fear-filled judgement of my situation, I think, “Yeah, just maybe it really is possible.”

 

 

 

Cut It Out

For several months I have been staring at the rosemary bush in our backyard. It has perplexed and irked me despite my love for its aromatic and flavorful offerings.

Said bush has had a huge brown, dead spot that has bothered me from day one. It is not just on an edge, sort of out of sight.  No, this spot  is smack dab in the middle of the plant and impossible to ignore.

We live in the midst of a state facing a severe drought so it seems unlikely the bush is facing root rot. Regardless, root rot or infection, the only advice I’ve been able to find online is to prune it and get rid of the dead branches.

So this morning, with cooler temperatures hinting at autumn, I set out to remove the eye sore.

Finally, I simply had to walk away. The job half-finished. My hands cramped and blistered. While the rosemary bush, significantly less brown, now stands with a gaping hole, evidence that something was once there and has been forcefully removed.

Pruning isn’t fun, but it is necessary for the life of the plant. 

Sometimes branches have to be cut out of our lives because they are dead or diseased. It hurts. I mean, it never feels good to have some part cut away. Even when it isn’t doing us any good, we get attached to those branches.

But, I also realized that sometimes pruning hurts the gardener too. I walked away with blisters from the tools and sore muscles from the work. I am not upset about the work or the price I physically paid, but it is just a seeing and knowing that it cost me something too in this process.

And then, there’s the gaping hole.

Part of pruning’s purpose is to make way for new life and the ability to be more fruitful, but looking at so many dead branches and what seems like such a large hole makes it seem a lot less convincing.

Or maybe it’s just the realization that then, after the pruning, comes the waiting.

Waiting for the growth to happen. Waiting for the new life to appear from what now seems dead.

Waiting.

It isn’t my favorite task.

While waiting, there’s just this empty space that’s clearly visible. A place where you know life once was, but now it is just empty.

It cannot easily be hidden, and at this moment, today, there is no making it nice and neat and beautiful.

That feels an awful lot like life right now, and I’m trying to be okay with that.