A Safe Place

I used to smile a lot. Even now, I tend to smile, whether the other party is someone I know rather well or is a stranger to me. There are no words to be said or I don't know what to say. So I smile instead. And maybe that is why there were those who thought that I was more outgoing than I really was. They didn't know that my smiles replaced the words that would not come, that a smile (sincere though it was) was a substitute for a conversation, an exchange between two people. I didn't want that exchange, I was even sometimes fearful of that exchange. So I smiled or grinned. It was, after all, a safe place to be. I put myself out there, but not entirely.

There have been occasions when I would converse with another. But not always. And I wasn't always sure if the other person would want to converse with me. Perhaps they, too, were sometimes shy and would rather keep their distance. Hoping that someone else respected my boundaries and my space, I always respected someone else's space. At least, I hope I did as there have been times when I would reach out and lightly touch another on the arm, back or shoulder - woman or man - during the course of a conversation. One would think that was strange as I was usually the one who held back. But I think I would recognise when it was safe to do so, when I could trust the other.

I never said that I never contradicted myself.

The other evening, while listening to a request program over the radio on the way home, a listener called in, expressing his sorrow over the recent death of his brother, someone that he was very close to. So he was obviously still hurting, still grieving. And the host of the request program mentioned "a safe place," a place where he could vent and rage and cry and even begin to heal.

Whatever it was, I don't know, but whatever it was, once she mentioned "a safe place," I started to weep.

One needs to grieve in order to heal. One sometimes needs to express his rage in order to release the anger and tension within, as well as that familiar question, "Why?"

Why what? Why did it happen? Why did he die? Why did it happen?

There is not always a safe place, not even with someone you once thought you could tell everything to. And even if you could, even if you're encouraged to, you hesitate for fear of being ridiculed.

There are people who are so quick to judge others. Like anyone else, they too have their opinions. Maybe they hoped that you would see things their way for they believe that theirs is the only way. Some things are black and white, most certainly. But something doesn't feel right. I, too, have a brain. I, too, have a mind of my own. I, too, know right from wrong. But I have to keep it inside. Don't say a word. Be safe that way. I should be able to disagree or have a different opinion. But it feels all wrong somehow. I am not the brightest spark in the universe but I know humility, gentleness and kindness. I recognise that there is also deceit out there and I recognise the truth if it is set before me.

And if God is my last refuge, the only safe place that I will ever find for all eternity, why does He seem so far away at a time when I need Him the most? Oh yes, they say that is when He's really closest to you. One needn't feel God's presence in order to know that He is there. I know all that. I've always known. For someone who feels too much for her own good, whose emotions sometimes get in the way of common sense (which, fortunately, I do still possess), I have yet to truly feel His presence. Maybe I'm not supposed to.

It should have been safe sleeping next to my father that night. It was so long ago and it was just one night. And I was only ten years old. I forget how the sleeping arrangements came to be but I must have slipped into my parents' bed, sleeping in between my mother and father. And maybe my mother later went over to sleep in my bed (my younger brother and I shared our parents' bedroom for a while). In the middle of the night, I awoke, and realised I was no longer safe.

It was subtle. Creepily subtle. To be touched that way. And to be guided to touch. It should never have happened.

Maybe that is why those words, "a safe place," broke through that evening. I am not sure what I'm trying to say. I'm not even sure that I know what I'm saying.

I haven't completely healed. And I do not completely trust. And whatever it is, or whomever it is, I know that I still look for that safe place. My journey has brought me this far and certain experiences tell me that I am looking for something. Or wanting something. Or is it someone?

Or maybe it's the age old story of looking for God, of seeking Him, sometimes in the wrong places. But why would I seek Him in the wrong places? If it's the wrong place, surely it must be something else that I seek.

And if it is truly a safe place, maybe that is where I will also find Him. Silly to say that, I know, for He is already here. I hope that He is. Where is my faith? I am an older woman. And one day, I will be an old woman. And when I am old, will I still weep when, out of the blue, someone else on another radio program, perhaps, happens to mention "a safe place" ? Will I weep because I still didn't believe there was such a place? Or will I weep because I finally found my safe place and then say a quiet prayer for those who have yet to find their safe place.

Maybe I haven't finished grieving. Or maybe I haven't really started to grieve. And it is not just grieving for a father who passed away when I was seventeen. If only it were that straightforward. For, I think, I lost my father a few years before he actually passed away. I think, that is what I'm really grieving for. He was there all that time, yes, and he was my father. And all that time, I never realised what I was missing out on till long after his death. He was there; he was still around. But I couldn't reach out to him, not the way I would have if he hadn't been intimate with me. And a few isolated incidents thereafter remind me why I was afraid to get close to my father. Even if I really wanted to, I couldn't. I didn't feel safe with him anymore. I wished I did but the truth was, I didn't. And I can't erase that bit of truth.

I know that he loved me, like a father loved his daughter. And he later advised me, like a father advised his daughter. Then he was taken from all of us and I didn't have to be afraid anymore. And I didn't have a father anymore.

Life's a funny thing, isn't it.

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