In January, Deborah Solomon published a Q&A with Eve Ensler in the New York Times Magazine. For the record: I think Eve is brilliant. The Vagina Monologues was amazing, and I am sure her new book, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World will be equally spectacular. I can’t wait to read it. What struck me the most about the Q&A, however, was her quote above, which is a powerfully concise example of what I think many of us are feeling but can’t necessarily articulate.
I know I’m not looking for what our society considers security (perhaps if security were defined as infallible human rights…but it isn’t in most contexts, and for the sake of this post, let’s define it differently): freedom from danger, risk, or anxiety. I have no judgment for people who are, but my question is this: if danger, risk, and anxiety are dichotomous – and I think they are – what happens to the other aspects we can’t always see? Because I know for me the hidden element in danger is exhilaration. In risk, it is the possibility. In anxiety, the catalyst. Without those, I’m not sure I’d be alive - or much use to anyone else let alone to myself. If those are absent and what is left is called security, well, no thanks.
My daughter and I share a house with my best friend and her teenage daughters. One of them is fifteen - an age that is also dichotomous. An age when what lies ahead are endless chances to change the world yet also filled with angst from just as many absent connections. It's an age when taking the risks necessary to follow dreams means exposing oneself without the safety net and perspective of maturity and experience. And for many young women like my friend's daughter, it is a time of freedom but one with much isolation and few allies. As I observe her struggling to develop an identity, to define her wants and needs, and to set her personal limits, I'm frequently reminded that for anyone for whom developing a consciousness matters, the process is universal and cyclical. The questions she asks at fifteen are the same I ask over and over at thirty-four and the same ones my friends in their sixties still ponder. And yes, it might be risky to ask them. Yes, the answers at one stage may come easily only to prove painfully inadequate at another. Yes, at times, we may find ourselves without them - without even hope we'll ever know them or imagine knowing them again. But what does a life look like without them? Safe? Serene? Still? Empty? Shallow?
For me, I can't do it. As uncomfortably complicated as my world is when I question and challenge and push to make things different, it isn't shallow. If anything, the depth taunts me. It threatens to drown me when I get tired of trying to stay afloat. But perhaps drowning in it isn't as dangerous as it is scary - isn't as detrimental as it is unfamiliar. Perhaps surrendering to the process could bring ease or respite. Isn't it that ease that loosens everything just enough to allow in a connection? To welcome change?
Security? No, thanks. I hunger for more.
What about you?
Cross-posted at Notions of Identity
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