“Lost in a book.”
There is something so enchanting about this phrase, so whimsical. Lost in a book. As a lifetime romancer of YA fantasy, I picture myself caught up in a mythical adventure, a flurry of horses and dragons and magicians. Forests, mountains, cold, untouched streams.
But what if you were lost in a different book? Lost, or rather, trapped, in a story of disappointment, inadequacy, feelings of shame. Given the choice, this is not the tale in which I would lose myself.
…Except I have. And I wonder if I am not the only one. We all (I think) have shit from our childhood. Perhaps things we were born imprinted with from the stories of our ancestors, or perhaps tales that we believed about ourselves when we were young and innocent. Maybe we had inarguably wretched childhoods — experiences of obvious neglect, abuse, disappointment. Perhaps, like me, we were loved — hard — and had opportunities and joyful moments. Regardless, if we look closely enough…there is shit. Someone, somewhere didn’t love us hard enough. Somewhere, somehow we learned that praise = love and that to be loved we must perform (and succeed). That to fail is to be dismissed, discarded. We learned fear. Shame.
As capable, independent adults, you might think that we would discard these old scripts. We have proven ourselves strong, resilient. …And perhaps that is your story — as in, perhaps you have changed your story.
I have not. I am “lost in the book” that was written as a child. Trapped, eternally reading (or writing) the same pages over and over and over again: Inadequate. Not belonging. Unloved. Bad. Shameful. I am the same child who somehow, amidst all of the love and support believed herself to be unworthy. Today, decades later I recreate that story day after day through behaviours that leave me self-disgusted, sad – defeated.
How then to find ourselves? To escape the pages of this cheap horror novel? In studying recently for my upcoming yoga teacher training I have been reading through the Yoga Sutras — and they speak a lot about non-attachment. Non-attachment: choosing not to suffer. So simple in sound — but is it truly? How simple is to to stop a pattern we have ingrained over years, that is a part of our every day? In order to not suffer, logically, we must break the chain and resist the behaviours that perpetuate our pain. What are they? Do we binge on food? Do we present an aggressive attitude toward those around us, constantly standing in the way of the childhood “us” who so badly craved acceptance and belonging?
Stop the behaviour. Stop the suffering. Escape the story.
…But of course it isn’t so simple. If it were we might have stopped long ago. We have tried to stop, to harness willpower to combat our destructive habits.
And so today (it is February 21st) I am suggesting something new. New to me. I am suggesting it and I am committing to it, for myself. What if today, we went back to the beginning? What if today, we remembered the child us — Haven at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…12. Haven at 0 who was born a clean slate. Haven who was new and whole. Was she “bad?” …How do I feel about her?
I am talking about our “inner child.” Yes, yes, we’ve all heard it — it’s almost a “buzz phrase” in the increasing popular theme of self-love. Our inner child, that youthful version of ourselves who bought into a story that is not true. The kid who somehow got stuck in a poorly written book.
It turns out that I love that girl. She was curious. She was fiercely independent and she insisted on dressing herself. She loved bright clothes and her brother’s oversized hand-me-downs. She hated socks that fell down and scrupulously rolled hers down into funny little inner-tubes around her ankles. It is that same girl who today only wears ankle socks.
That girl could swing for hours on the little plastic swings in our big maple tree, imagining she was on a flying horse, escaping from an evil raven — a character from a storybook we read once from the library. This girl hated change and threw anxious fits when her Mom and sister would move the furniture around in the living room. My heart goes out to that girl.
That girl was enough. That girl was young, loving, afraid, bold, shy, smart, clever, silly, loud, quiet. That girl was enough and she deserves to star in a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. She deserves to write the rest of her own story.
I am going to find that girl. Beyond that…I do not know exactly what it is I will need to do. But that girl is lost. Lost in a book. And she deserves to be found.
February 21st, 2018.