Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought. Useless and disappointing.
— Hilary Duff, A Cinderella Story
It feels like the number of ways we are urged to play it safe in life has grown past all reason. What was once a mild discomfort about asking a question “in front of a group” seems to have become a maelstrom of anxiety and a litany of questions to determine if “this is a safe space.”
Despite the development of scores of primary school curricula that seek to convey to children the names for their feelings, we have fallen short of helping us all understand that these feelings are ours and not absolute indicators of environmental variables. It is as if we deeply hold that our joy comes from things around us; our fears, from a lack of safety. If I feel sad about getting a B- on an exam, it must be because B-‘s produce sadness. Too bad if someone else is happy about her B- on the same exam. Toilet seats left in the up position cause anger.
As I write this, I am aware that I am anticipating push back about the experiences of people who have experienced trauma. I am also aware that I could stop writing about the topic, communicate this post only to some select friends, or drop in a trigger alert at the beginning. After all, conflict apparently causes fear today.
I could also wait.
Maybe someone smarter, more patient, kinder, more thoughtful, popular, more experienced, taller, or whatever I am not (straighter?) will come along and I can jump on their bandwagon. The thing is, unlike the fairytales, Prince Charming is not coming. Even if he did, his taste in shoes is dreadful, he is unlikely to be a faithful suitor if he goes gaga after a few dances, and his house has way too many stairs to keep clean. Prince Charming is very unlikely to get that whole trauma thing and he wouldn’t know a lack of safety if it bit him in the ass.
When I was deeply hurt as a child, I could not fight back or get out. Things were unsafe. I hold no fantasy that there were good old days when everything was better. But I also know that I am more resourceful, can fight, and can flee. I am not four years old. Usually when I get afraid, it is not because of objective reality. It is because of what happened back there and something is reminding me of it. It could be water, a classroom, a park, the dark — but now I can swim, read, run, and stand in the light.
Why wait for things to be just right? Let’s make them right enough.
My mother used to teach me ‘Cinderella is a perfect example to be’ but I have learned that Cinderella can go fuck herself, I’m not waiting for anybody, anymore! I’m going to run as fast as I can, fly as high as I can, I am going to soar and if you want you can come with me! But I’m not waiting for you anymore.
― C. JoyBell C.
[This post is dedicated to Mary Lou Young, Nicole Angresano, Linda McFerrin, Julie Rothwell, Bailey Murph, Sally Vliet and all of the other women leading and working at United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County. Thanks for making history every day.]