how far?

I miss fireflies.

The setting sun did its best to turn midges into gold dust for me by the river, but the midge will never have the same power as the firefly to enchant the evening sky.

A certain smell, the way the light fell in the undergrowth sent me back to childhood:  to rare summer evenings when my father would take me down to the local ball park to watch the baseball game.

Before you conjure images of Uncle Sam and Apple Pie, let me say that I didn’t like baseball, and those evenings stirred all sorts of complex emotions.  On the one hand there was the excitement of a little girl out in the world with her father.  No small thing.  Also, the excitement of walking so far into places that I was normally not allowed to go, across places that seemed dangerous and unfamiliar.

But that’s where the complexity starts, because (you see) I was never allowed out that far.  I can remember distinctly the first time Dad took me:  I got more and more nervous as we transgressed one boundary after another and I seem to remember saying repeatedly:  are we really supposed to be here?  Are we allowed to go?

He didn’t understand.  To him it was a simple thing to cross the neigbourhood and go to the game.  To him it was a simple thing to assume he would belong:  that he was ‘allowed’ to go even though we didn’t know anyone there, and had no credentials.

My world was not so free then.

Comfort zones are so blithely transgressed by those who believe that the world is fundamentally safe, and that there is space enough for all.

I thought of all this as I walked by the river, unafraid.

It is too easy to push people out of their comfort zone without even realising that you’re doing it.

But to fully respect such boundaries?   Well, that can leave us trapped in the prison of our fears and the failure of our imaginations.

10 thoughts on “how far?”

  1. Yes, and comfort zones are different for different people. And different states of mind.

    Recently I have been having a discussion about same sex partnerships on a discussion list with a generally liberal membership and a couple of resident real conservatives. I wanted to display what seemed to me to be deeply illogical arguments, and I pressed on into specifics (not that specific!) and I became aware towards the end that the discussion was getting further and further into territory that many of these lovely people were deeply uncomfortable over.

    And I live up a hill, all alone except for my creatures, and for me that is most comfortable, but sometimes I am asked how I cope with it. (Too far out all the time, they mean) (I can see the lights of Kilmarnock but have learned to bless them for the living souls they represent is the true answer which I never give.)

    But yesterday I was in among people, kind, interesting and generous, and I was very tired, and I fell back into ‘automatic negative thoughts’ – I was in the world of childhood, and knew how stupid I was, and how unacceptable, and it was all I could do not to bolt back to familiar territory – and walking alone to my car the familiar expansion of the soul in solitude, the freedom of safe bounds, was mine again.

  2. p.s. I miss glow worms. I miss knowing that it will be a good night for them, and anticipating, and going out in the dark, with both parents, searching and seeing the tiny brilliant stars in the grass, and sometimes, with a torch actually tracking one down and seeing the unremarkable beetle. And sometimes, just sometimes, hearing the nightingale while searching for glow worms.

    I also miss having somebody competent to help me lay laminate flooring, who knows what to do, so I only have to fetch and carry and to whom I can say: ‘I’ll grunt if you lift’ so they can be not half as amused as I had hoped.

  3. Ah. good luck with the floor! couldn’t you have invited some of those nice (annoying) people over on the ground that they could lay the floor while you baked them cakes and told them how wonderful they were?

  4. It is a very scary thing to find yourself struggling with comfort zones and boundaries after spending years erecting them and to realise late in life that you are still profoundly scared. All the verses about walking with God through the valley of the shadow of death and fearing no evil vanish into the dark and mythic alleyways of the mind and you find yourself crawling petrified into a darkness you fear will overwhelm you or blot you out. But perhaps the most terrifying bit is to realise that there is part of you that would welcome and embrace such oblivion and to feel that making a mockery of the faith you have professed and proclaimed and which has established and secured your identity for years. What I am discovering is that you may get just enough strength day by day to cope with a little bit of that darkness and not go under. Sufficent grace, rather than abundant. Which is still a blessing.

  5. ‘My world was not so free then’.

    Can you imagine being strongly discouraged from crossing boundaries and venturing into strange places because they are inhabited by a purportedly hostile tribe? I doubt if I could have made the transition between the church in which I was brought up and the one to which I now belong if I had stayed in my native city. I thank God every day that my feet were set in a larger room.

    ‘trapped in the prison of our fears and the failure of our imaginations’: unhappily, so many people still are.

  6. Eamonn, I suspect Northern Ireland give a very public context for ‘hostile tribes’ but that on a smaller scale, far too many people are taught to perceive others that way.

    John– grace enough indeed. Here’s to a good day.

  7. Crossing boundries and breaking out of comfort zones. Is this not exactly what we are born to do?

  8. Oh Kimberly, you put things so well!

    I think that yes, we are probably born to cross boundaries. But. I think it’s important to proceed with care. Sometimes such activity is violent and violating. Which may be necessary for growth (our own and others) but can also lead to brokenness.

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