Why does Halloween exist? Is it because our humanness allows us to find a way to transform our fears into something fun, something goofy, something beautiful?
Dearest Doodle Soupsters,
One of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver is called “The Summer Day.” It goes like this —
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life?
I titled the artwork at the top of this post, “This one precious life,” which I made last year during my Into the Light series. I’ve written about this poem before … I return to it a lot, especially when I’m going through another wave of grief.
These words have been circling in my heart lately … Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
I care, a lot. There are times I agonize over choices I’ve made, going back years. I am so afraid of being like the people who abused me that I throw subtlety and nuance out the window. And, if you know me, you know I LOVE subtlety and nuance! Often, this newsletter is me sorting through what I see and feel, delving into the subtleties and nuances. (In fact, isn’t that what I’m doing right now?)
Well, anyway, I’m scared. And for all my understanding of feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I still really don’t like feeling like this. And, who, really, does enjoy feeling anxious?
But, yes, I’m scared. I’m scared … because my brain knows how to cope (?) with being mistreated and I don’t know what to do when things are good? … because my brain is waiting for the next shoe to drop and little things like a Halloween onesie being sent to the wrong address feel like they have to be some omen of all the giant disappointment and chaos to come? … because embedded in my brain is the belief that everything bad must be my fault and my responsibility because the truth is too scary? … because I’m human? … because I’m human and I’ve survived some scary things?
There’s a blow-up Hello Kitty in a Kuromi costume on a front lawn down the hill from here … it makes me smile every time I walk by …
Why does Halloween exist? Is it because everything dies at last and too soon? Is it because our humanness allows us to find a way to transform our fears into something fun, something goofy, something beautiful?
I haven’t celebrated Halloween in a while, but this year, I decided I want to dress up and have a Halloween party. Why?
I care, a lot … I wrote that. And maybe caring a lot means I need a lot of breaks from caring and that’s not such a bad, evil thing. Sometimes, I want to laugh into the abyss of loss. I want to swirl around in make-believe and skip in a field of gold. And, the gold is just tall grass, yeah, but for a moment in time, it’s gold to me.
And, I want to give myself permission not to put all of human suffering on my shoulders. Maybe, there are some burdens we’re not meant to carry alone. Maybe, it’s okay to feel scared and not want to use all your strength to muscle through it. Maybe, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” feels like more a curse than a blessing sometimes, and that’s okay to acknowledge.
And by maybe, I mean yes. And it’s okay that in this moment, I’m not in a declarative mood. I don’t feel strong right now. I feel emotional and contemplative, and that’s okay too.
I don’t have to feel strong and empowered when that’s not how I feel. I feel vulnerable and scared. I feel sad. I feel grief. And I feel like I don’t want to focus on any of these things.
So, here it goes … me making the distinction between being human and being abusive:
Taking a break, distracting, and giving yourself space to process … that’s distinct from dissociating as a lifestyle and hurting others in your dissociation from reality.
Needing help and support from others … that’s different from always putting your needs ahead of your loved ones and not taking proper care of children.
Giving yourself opportunities to feel joy and pleasure … that’s a completely different thing than closing your eyes and ears and yelling and turning away from a kid who needs your help.
I don’t have to be a superhero who always puts others first to be a good person who cares about others.
I don’t have to yell at myself when I need a hug.
It’s okay to have needs.
It’s okay to be different.
Loving yourself is a good thing, not a crime.
It’s okay to feel scared and not be brave all of the time. And, giving myself that compassion and grace is in fact brave.
I don’t have to rescue and fix every problem in the world to be worthy of love, comfort, pleasure, and grace.
It’s okay to feel sad and angry about what I learned while being traumatized. It’s okay to feel sad and angry about dealing with c-PTSD and trauma. It’s okay to feel stuck and disconnected.
It’s okay to enjoy this moment, even as there is so much pain, anguish, grief to be felt.
It’s okay to just exist. I don’t have to feel guilty for my existence.
Still healing and taking breaks to laugh,
Nicole Sylvia Javorsky
P.S. Today’s reflection questions:
What do you need a break from? When do you deny yourself your own humanity? How can you embrace your humanity?
When have you given yourself grace and compassion? What did that feel like? What happened afterward and what did that feel like?
What makes you laugh and smile? What reminds you that you don’t have to justify your own existence, that you can just be for a while?