Friday, April 27, 2007

LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP: on Becoming Fearless





I know how fear has been a driving force in my life...how I wanted to avoid calling up any darkness by carefully guarding myself against it. I know that this hasn't served me...hasn't worked. I also know when I started to let go of my fears and open up to life, love, and motherhood with all of its terrifying possibilities. The women over at MotherTalk named today Fearless Friday in honor of a book by Arianna Huffington called, Becoming Fearless. I thought about my reckless college days, chasing down every dare I could. I remembered more recent travels over unknown highways in New Mexico with only a map in the passenger seat of my rented car keeping me company. But my fearlessness really began with motherhood...with that bittersweet realization that I didn't want to parent out of fear of what I could do wrong, but out of the possibility for the amazing ride we could take together--if I learned to let go.

My boy-o helped me with this by not fitting into the safe and secure roles of the hot house flower-children of his generation. One March, not long before his fourth birthday, my son curled up on the hardwood floor beside the glass door.
"Watching," he said.
"For what?" I asked him.
"For the sun..."
Our little nest was coated with day old snow--the most gray sky of the month hung overhead. Blooms and buds and the initial sprouting of an eager spring were subdued, in muted colors. I almost told him that the forecast said the sun wouldn't reappear for three days. But, I stopped myself. In that instant, my fear of his disappointment almost led me to chime my thoughts over his own, to assume the role of "knowledge dispenser". Suddenly I wanted him to just lie there, still, on the worn plank floor--his blue eyes scanning the trees and sky. I realized that leaving him to his own thoughts, his "watching" would teach him more than if I stumbled over his plans for sunshine with my presumptuous authority.

He was contented beneath a ragged patchwork quilt, his newly sprouting limbs curled up around themselves. He was quiet and a bird landed just on the other side of the glass. I saw him smile without even looking. With my firstborn, I surely would have sat beside her and said, "No, sweetie...you can't watch for the sun today. The weather report says it will be overcast and icy until the weekend." No doubt I would have then regaled her with the bits and pieces of meteorology I know, talking cold fronts and barometric pressure. She would have listened to me, and rightly so. Those were the facts...maybe she would have gleaned some new detail to tuck away in her mind about the weather. She could have pulled it out in school, a statistic about the jet stream and her teachers would have nodded, knowingly, at her intelligence. I would have felt a little more in control of this parenting thing, a little bit less afraid.

At every child's birthday party or school function, we over eager springtime parents spout praises about our prodigious offspring.
"Oh, he's speaking French already."
"Well, we've been doing Spanish ourselves."
"She's in art, soccer, and piano...it's never too soon, you know."
On and on and on we go...fear, fear, fear. Fear of our child's failure, of falling behind, of not being a good enough parent. We want the best, all of the best, for these little ones we so dearly love.

And yet...I let my son continue in his quest for sunlight on a dark day. I let him sit there, watching the birds skittering across the slippery ice outside. The sky covered us with drab fog, showed no signs of breaking open, clouds hanging heavy in the late winter sky. He wasn't getting the "facts" he should have been. But, something in me was breaking open and I wasn't worried or afraid for his skills and abilities. He was learning something, after all, of waiting. He was learning stillness and patience. He was observing the clowning birds perform a matinee of slips and scrapes and ruffled feathers, just for him. Instead of anxiously filling him, pouring details into his brain, I let him stitch together his own process without coating him with my mental fingerprints. I felt oddly at peace with this, I felt fearless...

In the end, I huddled down on the floor beside him and he casually shared the quilt and the space. The baby was sleeping, the eldest off at school. He relaxed his wiry body against me and I shared his silence.
"There is no sun today," he whispered.
"Oh..." I said, breathing him in. I had the sun, outgrowing my lap more each day--golden skinned, golden haired, warm blooded, fiery spirited. Instead of nervously teaching him, I held him. Instead of carefully cultivating his first thoughts, I let him grow.
"Watch, Mom," he urged, "The sun might come out soon."
His familiar arms twined around me like errant vines. His belly fluttered against the palm of my hand. He was introspective, glowing. I felt time pass through us and saw the certain sunlight in future days.
"Watch with me now," he said.
And so, wise for once...fearless in motherhood for the first time, I did.


That boy is now a seven year old dynamo, his elder sister on the verge of adolescence, and the baby nearing four herself. I continue to work to hold onto my sense of adventure as a mother, as a writer, as a woman--but I can pinpoint that moment as a pivotal one. When did you first become fearless in your life?

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16 Comments:

Blogger Melba said...

I don't feel fearless, yet I don't feel that I let fear stop me very often.
When it comes to my babies (which they are not really babies anymore) I want to hold on to them tight...I do feel fear (for them)about the unknown...

I love the top picture!
XO,
Melba

1:44 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

This was a heartwarming pivotal moment. How very wise of you to see that opportunity. As always your writing is eloquent. HUGS

I'm sad to admit I never have been a fearless parent. Now I'm a fearful grandma.

1:53 PM  
Blogger bee said...

that portrait of you and boy-o made me ACHE, it made me breathe in tears...it was beautiful. it was so delicately visceral - if that makes ANY sense...the line, "oh....i said ->" pulled at something in me. delia, this is amazing writing, and it's "just" blog-writing... ;)

oy, vey. i'm going to bookmark this one. simply gorgeous.

6:01 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Delia, your writing is always such as treat! Love this precious, precious story. xo

6:11 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

I am not fearless yet, but not as fearful as I was. And today, right now, I learned something new about letting go of responsibility and the need to get it just right.

10:52 PM  
Blogger angela said...

always such beautiful writing here.the question of my own fearlessness you've left me with, the wheels are turning :)

8:23 AM  
Blogger January said...

When did I become more fearless? Maybe in my 20s. But if there was something I wanted to go after, I usually did.

So happy Boy-O is feeling better. They're so lucky to have such a thoughtful and loving mom as you.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous acumamakiki said...

I'm all teary-eyed here.This is perfection D, absolute perfection. You've captured motherhood at it's best and your babes will grow into the delightful, observant and independent spirits you hope them to be.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Lilian said...

Wow, this was an awesome "meditation" about fear/ fearlessness and mothering.

Hmmmm, when did I feel fearless? As far as mothering is concerned, I don't feel fearless yet. As far as life in general, I think it was when we decided to leave our country and move to the U.S. That fearlessness is still here with us and propelling us to go farther and higher. I love that!!

11:03 PM  
Blogger Shaz said...

So beautiful and amazing, I loved this it touched me completely.

10:16 PM  
Blogger brittany said...

oh, delia, I almost feel like boy-o could be mine. I almost feel like that was my moment that I lived through and became fearless. I love coming here.

I'll have to think about a defining moment that helped me become fearless...

11:13 PM  
Blogger daisies said...

i am not fearless but after reading this i want to embrace that fearlessness ~ how incredibly beautiful ...

12:22 PM  
Blogger wish studio said...

what beautiful words for a breathtaking moment. a wonderful lesson and new perspective on fearlessness...a moment you will long remember i'm sure. xo, mindy

9:53 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

Wow have I missed you, lady. I hope I am never too busy to come treat myself to your words. I really mean it.

You should send this off somewhere...

I am still too full of anxiety, i think. Now I am full of anxiety, because I see how much anxiety Wyatt comes by. It would be funny, only it is not. It is a cycle I have more anxiety and fear for, and so on and so on. Eh.

So I catch myself trying not to have fear or worry about the small stuff. I don't put my kids in all the classes or on the teams I hear the other moms talking about as if their kids won't make it into Yale if they are not "envolved". I try to catch those moments on the floor, and cuddle in close...because they grow so damn fast.

I try to breath. I read other moms like you, and know I am not alone...

love you.
:)

12:29 AM  
Blogger MAHIMA said...

i am not afraid in big ways, i've realised. my fears are the smallest kind. the kind that don't make life changing decisions, but make my everyday choices less rewarding.
i frst became fearless a few years back. when i egan to pursue art more feralessly, more boldly. experimenting. taking criticism. throwing negative people out the window. speaking my mind with senstivity but absolute truth.
its been a very rewarding process.your writing is beautiful as always and i am grateful for having discovered you.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Chanty said...

You painted a tangible portrait of a gift in time. My heart expanded as I thought of similar moments with my sons as they grew. I have always been a fearless mother, trusting my own instincts rather than appeasing the base of should's. As my last one graduates and prepares to leave home I find my fearlessness exhausted ..oddly, not for them, but for me and I wonder when my next fearless epiphany will come.

5:30 PM  

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