safe haven

When I was younger, I found safety in my parents’ bed. Whatever had tried to hurt me before was deflected from the warm, puffy blanket and expanse of mattress. It was my castle where my mother would read me bedtime stories and indulge me in my next make-believe adventure.

As I grew older, things quickly changed. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of my junior year and underwent surgery and radiation therapy. Our temporary peace and tranquility was disturbed by the unwelcome presence of reality’s volatile capabilities. The mother who provided endlessly for our family was now a victim of life’s circumstances, one that I thought was only possible in the movies I watched or stories I heard on the news. No longer a detached issue for me, my mother’s diagnosis served as a rude awakening to life’s subjectivity. I found myself in the same bed, years later, keeping my mother company, no longer feeling secure despite the return to my safe haven. The bed was smaller — the pillows and blankets no longer the same enormous shields with which I could protect myself from the unforeseen.

Today, I am the product of these experiences. The bed is no longer my refuge or escape, but rather, the space between living in the past and moving beyond it, an ambiguous gray area. My mother has recovered, living a cancer-free present, but with no guarantees of the future, no promise of good health. My experiences know no closure, and I am thankful for that, because without closure, I have learned to live in the comfort of ambiguity. I realized I didn’t need any sort of defense against what life could provide for me. The promise of safety is an illustrious, enticing guarantee that does not allow for improvement, but I want more than that. I do not need to anchor myself to a bed or a comforting experience or moment. I want to live facing forward, ready to take on the next challenge without the weight of the past and the tenacity of vulnerability.

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