Growing up is not an absence of dreaming
It’s being able to understand the difference between the ones you can hold
And the ones that you’ve been sold
And dreaming is a good thing cause it brings new things to life
But pretending is an ending that perpetuates a lie…
–Jewel, “Goodbye Alice In Wonderland”
I’ve been in and out of doctors’ offices and the emergency room the past two weeks, trying to figure out the fevers, what has me feeling so nauseous and in so much pain. It’s like a repeat of two years ago — doctor after doctor ordering test after test, prescribing medications that make little sense, that serve only as a mask for the pain as they pretend I’m all fixed up and send me on my way.
I know that mask all too well. It’s one that’s so easy to wear…
Pretend you’re not hurting and maybe, just maybe, you’ll eventually heal. Pretend you’re safe and sound and that nothing can hurt you and maybe, just maybe, you’ll believe it to be true.
Pretend that everything’s ok, and maybe, just maybe, it will be.
Pretend. It used to be my favorite game growing up…Our backyard jungle gym became a castle in which we held our defenses; the brook behind a friend’s house became the only source of water as we traveled the prairie à la Oregon Trail. We acted as mothers while we were still children, we were teachers while we were still learning ourselves. We were knights and princesses — saving and ready to be saved.
We were heroes.
I wonder if the hero inside begins to fade as we grow up. I wonder if everything that makes you a hero — the strength, the courage, the conviction– when you’re young gets buried beneath everything else when you’re older — as if there’s no more room and so something’s got to give.
Somehow, in the past few years, I’d managed to convince myself that I’d become so independent, so strong. I can do anything, I’d think. Bring it, Universe, I’d taunt. I’d cultivated the attitude that I could handle anything that was thrown at me, that I could do it all on my own.
And then, I began to believe that I had to do it all on my own — all of it: You want to succeed, you do the work. You want to find love, learn how to love yourself. You want something to change, you make that change…
Someone recently told me that there was no white knight to rescue me as there was so long ago, in that jungle gym fortress. It was up to me to pick myself up; it was up to me to save myself.
I had to become my own hero.
And I began to believe that I could be. I thought, maybe I could be strong for others and strong for myself. Maybe I can conquer this world on my own, maybe I can do it all, have it all…
But sometimes pretend is just that — an illusion, a quick fix. Make-believe makes you believe what you want to believe, but sooner or later, you have to put down the tree branch you’ve been brandishing as a sword. Sooner or later, you have to remind yourself that the swings are just swings, the slide just a slide, and you are just a little girl, being called into dinner.
Maybe I’m just like those doctors and their prescriptions. Maybe I’ve been fooling myself into thinking that all it would take was a couple of smiles, a couple moments of happiness, of reminding myself who I am and it would all be better…Maybe I’d been fooling myself into thinking I could be so strong.
Because now I’m scared that I’m about to shatter and I won’t know how to pick up the pieces again. Now I’m scared that I’m becoming so lost that I won’t be able to find my way back.
Now I’m scared…because I’m feeling so utterly vulnerable, because I don’t want to have to do it on my own.
Maybe I can let someone else be my hero…
if only for a little while.