Thursday, June 26, 2014

When the wallflower gives way to the fool

I grew up believing trees were meant for climbing, however high the branches could hold, that falling wasn't the worst fate, that great heights outweighed the gravity of broken bones.

I'm not sure what age it was when fear grew like a layer of bark, a ring in the trunk--the kind you'd see if you cut me down and measured the length of my years. But there was a time, not too far past 14, when fear of falling, failing, overcame the fear of missing out, the thrill of swaying with the wind in the tip-top branch.

I lived afraid for a good many years, not so much of scraped knees, but of laughter and pointed fingers, of foolishness, of judgment.

I'm not back to climbing trees, no, not by a long shot. But I've started running full tilt against the wind. When it's age I want to defy, I turn to the track instead of the spa. It does no favors for my skin, adding years only to my heart. At 40, I'll be the fastest I've ever been. Maybe that's not saying much. (I wasn't terribly fast at 14.) But it speaks volumes to the part of me that used to be afraid.

See? I just said "used to be", like I'm not living in fear of what anyone thinks, like I'm not afraid to give my whole heart to beat loudly into the day and be made the fool of dramatic proportions. Finally, finally, I'd rather be the fool than the wallflower.

I see it in the way I live. I see it in the way I parent. I see it in the way I've stopped caring so much about the what ifs in favor of asking the why nots. Maybe this is what it means to grow up. Not to give up the climb, but to let go of the fear that I might fall.