So, it’s the middle of winter, and I am binge watching “Call the Midwife,” and in one scene the midwife looks at a woman in labor pain and encourages her to “Remember a time when you felt really safe.”
It stopped me in my it’s-not-chocolate-it’s-cacao eating tracks. Safe. Really safe. When was the last time I felt really safe?
As I scanned through my emotional Rolodex (Instagram stories for the younger set) of different jobs, homes, and relationships, I was drawing a blank. As near as I could come to a gut level match was standing on my Dad’s feet as he would walk me to my bedroom and wish me sweet dreams. I was maybe seven. That is a really, really long time not to feel safe.
Safe means many things: free from harm, secure from threat of danger or loss, a steel box to protect valuables with a combination lock, the opposite of risk, and for my baseball friend, getting to a base without being tagged out.
Each definition evokes different feelings. We are lucky in my sweet village of Sag Harbor to feel generally safe from harm. Compared with many other parts of the country and world, we are blessed. We are only fighting the culture wars, not ones with bombs. Crime is still not a daily concern for most of us. It’s quite different from walking at night through some bad parts of Los Angeles where I used to live and my Chicago apartment, which was broken into twice. I did have a drunk guy on my doorstep once here but the police determined he was too inebriated to realize he was at the wrong house.
Secure from loss? Emotional loss? That one hits a nerve, a loss of a marriage, a beautiful home, my dogs, my Dad, friends to cancer way too young. Yeah, I would say no one is safe from loss. By walking planet Earth in imperfect step with destiny, we are none of us immune.
I am intrigued by the notion of an iron box where we keep what is most valuable to us protected from fire, theft, and even dynamite in the cartoons. Only someone with the combination can unlock the treasures inside. But like society women who wear copies of their jewels instead of the real thing because they are too valuable (or for insurance reasons), are we not at times keeping the best of us locked away with mere facsimiles presented to the outside world? Does it keep us safe from emotional jewel thieves? Yet the fake does not shine as bright, and reflect the light, and hold onto the body’s warmth in quite the same way as the real thing.
As for baseball, as I have learned, being safe is subject to the umpire’s call, which at times can be fair and at others, just plain wrong. It’s a personal judgment, not an absolute truth. And all the boos from fans can’t overturn it to make you safe.
But risk? Hmm. Risk is more, my friend, than safe. If the character in a TV show asked someone, “Remember a time when you took a risk,” a flood of memories come to mind. Leaving L.A. with just my laptop, feather boa, and Bichon Frise. Navigating a PR job in foreign country and language with serious jet lag. Saying yes to a sailor with bright blue eyes and a charming accent. Standing alone at the top of a mountain on a black diamond run with only green circle skiing skills. Holding onto the writing dream slaying naysayers and creditors with a sword of pure faith.
Maybe safe for me will just be a peaceful moment in Savasana, a cold morning in a warm bed as my lovely friend reminds me, or a moment in time where friends and family are healthy, all the bills are paid, and there’s even enough left for expensive chocolate. Er, I mean cacao.