Jen Louden’s theme this month for the Writer’s Oasis is Hiding.
While journaling to one of her prompts about the cost of hiding, I realized that the type of hiding I’ve been forced into doesn’t actually make me feel 100% safe.
I have spent a lot of time hiding. I didn’t start out this way. As a kid, I liked performing, entertaining people, showing off, and arguing for what I believed was right. But as a teenager, I learned the importance of hiding information and hiding feelings to survive. Hiding was my default, bent my Body, became my identity.
During these decades of hiding, I have never felt completely safe.
Why? Because I have to give up something important.
I had to give up my desire to be happy and supported as a teen. As an adult, I’ve had to give up some of my principles to keep my job.
Hiding can be good, when it truly protects me and gives me time to rest. But not when my whole sense of self is rocked. Not when I don’t feel safe inside my own skin.
Real safety doesn’t require me to give up important aspects of myself. Real safety encourages me to share those aspects.
I don’t have to hide when I dance. I don’t have to hide when I make art. Real safety helps me grow.
So how do I grow into real safety? I struggle with this every day.
Two things help a lot: forgiveness and small steps. I forgive myself for wanting to feel even fake-safe, because no one can be blamed for wanting to stay physically safe, which includes staying employed. Small steps are really small things that feel a little dangerous but are probably okay – I make a sarcastic comment at work or post a comic online.
I hope one day I will have taken enough small steps to return to the place where I feel safe just being myself.