A “Creed” of hope that all parents must pass on to their children
As a child, I lived in fear. Total fear. It wasn’t the fear borne by those great traumas that you hear every day that break your heart…sexual abuse, domestic violence, oppressive totalitarian regimes. It was an ordinary freckle-faced girl’s fear that, for some unknown reason, the big bad wolf was on a single hunt for her, the timid ten year -old girl that she saw when she looked in the mirror. And so she [I] I chose to remain hidden deep in a woody forest of obscurity that would shelter me, protect me. The thought of venturing out never even crossed my mind. I stayed in this forest for almost forty years.
Part of the fear was passed down by my loving father, a father who always attended church on Sunday, paid his bills on time, combed his hair with that perfectly symmetrical father part, and was simply afraid of the big bad wolf too.
When he took me driving, even if the destination was forty miles away, I was to told to stay in the right line, the lane for the slow, the aging, the cowards who were too afraid to zoom ahead on life’s highways. Absolutely no passing. No going over the speed limit. No blaring of the radio that might take my focus somewhere other than the road.
And so I did what a good little girl does. I obeyed. Out of duty. Out of fear.
Don’t get me wrong. There were moments of strength where I waged open rebellion against the great fears that consumed me. I was drawn to the arts, especially to the theater. For some reason, when I immersed myself into the heart and soul of another person on the stage, the layers of cowardice shed in great beautiful shimmering scales, like a snake who is made beautiful and young again.
So, I went to college for theater. I was going to be an actress. Finally, I would take my chances in the fast lane. Put myself out there. And I did, for four years. Until it was time to truly live by the passions in my heart, time to “put up or shut up.”
My theater teachers, actors themselves, encouraged me to move to the Big Apple. There was something in me, they said, something “ethereal” that drew people to me on the stage. [ I remember looking up that word periodically throughout my life, just to remind myself of the possibility, even though it was never realized, that I was someone special).
The time had come. Time to zoom forward. Time to “hold life by the hands” with “arms wide open.”
And I failed. I broke up with passion, with the idea that I could be friends with the wheel of fortune, that it just might throw a full house or royal flush my way and make my dreams come true.
The risks were too great. Leave my family, my comfort blanket, for a world where everything was beautiful and glittering and uncertain? I couldn’t do it.
Back to the right lane. In fear.
I changed my focus and my major to teaching English. It allowed me to immerse myself in other people’s lives on the pages I read, people unlike me, people who rode in the left lane for miles and miles. Who took risks for life and love that I wouldn’t.
It was now my charge to urge the young minds I taught to act boldly, to drive outside the right lane, to be greater than fear, and to make the moves I was too weak to.
It was about this time that life made forced me into the fast lane: Sperm and egg met. I was pregnant.
This time there was no turning back. I had to ride that left lane. For the sake of my child. A child who I wanted to embrace life “with arms wide open.”
I didn’t want the placid, safe, boring life I had lived for this child. I wanted him to taste the beauty of life’s moments of wild abandon. To feel the power running through his veins. To be full of wonder at all he can do and be in this world. So I sacrificed, closed my eyes, and pushed my feet to the petal.
I learned I could be strong. No cigarettes for nine months, no smoky friend I could turn to when life got too scary. No alcohol to numb the fear and no caffeine to give me the energy to face the world with fake confidence. Only me. And I did it. Eight pounds, two ounces. Ethan. “Young warrior,” the baby books said. Just what I hoped for.
And now, I sit here in this seventeen-year old’s room typing away. A room filled with crushed water bottles but perfectly shaped dreams. He wants to be a gamer. A pro, he tells me. So unsafe. So left lane. So, so wonderful.
This is where the words come pulsing back to me with the song’s opening heartbeat:
“If I had just one wish
Only one demand
I hope he’s not like me
I hope he understands
That he take this life
And hold it by the hand
And he can greet the world
With arms wide open…”
Arms wide open, son. Greet the fear and let it in. Then release it.
Drive in the left lane. Drive fast. Feel the sun on your back and the wind in your face. Fall in love. Get hurt. Fall back in love. Get up. Back into the left lane. Claim your destiny. Go for your dreams.
Trust in the power of you, and know that if you need help, I’ll be in the right lane, and I’ll let you in until you remember you are a star. Then, gently, lovingly, I’ll urge you back into the left lane. Where you belong.
*Credits and Lyrics from Creed’s song “With Arms Wide Open”