Let me admit up front that I have long had rescue fantasies. I have long dreamed that one day someone would save me, recognize me, and lift me out of the many tight spots I’ve created for myself. Even as recently as this afternoon, I caught myself dreaming of rescue from stressful circumstances. Then, two recollections, separated by decades, came together in my mind surprising me and also giving me something new to chew on.
The first was a boyhood memory of a piano recital. I might have been eleven or twelve. On that day, I performed a Mozart sonata with the usual three movements. I can’t remember just how or where, but I can remember going completely blank. I stopped playing all together, heard chairs creak in the auditorium, and discovered in that moment that there would be no rescue. My mom did not leave her seat nor did my teacher. I had to find my way to the other side of the second movement on my own.
The second recollection comes from a time five years ago when I rode a ferry boat from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. My head was full of questions about a new relationship that I had embarked upon. The weekend encounter felt like a big step for me. That night, an intense wind blew across the bow of the boat, and all the lights on the island had gone out in a blast of Alaskan wind. I had my back turned against the chill.
Then, a little inside voice spoke, instructing me with a two word directive about how to approach things that frightened me: Turn around. Turn around! I turned to face into the wind. An intense, raw horizon stretched across the twilight before me. I won’t forget how the moody pitch of that sky penetrated! I came to see that if I kept my back turned, I would not see what I was missing.
I see myself in the children I work with every day. How will their experiences now resonate years from now? I remind myself about what how a child sees things when he gets roughed up by bullies, gets yelled at by a teacher, or hears his parents fight late into the night. All of it gets in. I hope that they (and I) carry forward the resilience to lean in – and not retreat.
To be plucked from the ashes like Cinderella and lifted to some rightful place along side a prince! Such a seductive fantasy!
It’s taking me years to learn the full depth and breadth of what it means to accept responsibility for my experience. But, I take stock in children who, in far tougher circumstances, find their own ways to unlock resilience. Even today, I can hear a boy calling to me from decades ago – an eleven year old on stage, struggling to remember the next note – telling me to stop, breathe and listen. Is preparing for the next step almost as simple as that?