Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Change

When I was a child, by the age of six I had already faced many changes. I had emigrated with my family from Germany, my mother and father divorced, I had a new baby sister and I gained a stepfather.

School was one change too many. I was terrified of everything...the huge yellow school bus with the shouting children, the echoing halls of this...place...where I was required to spend most of my day...even the bathroom frightened me. We had an outhouse at home.

But I especially remember the shrieking children, as I watched them from under the coat racks that lined the long hallways. My coat smelled like home, I think. Homesick, I hung on to it, on those wintry days when all the kids played inside the school. The hallways and basement became the playground.

I was not used to children, even if I was one. My playmates were the family dogs, Trees, Plants and Stones outside. It was a quiet, natural world that I inhabited...any excitement around being generated by my own imagination. We lived on a rural property and far from the nearest town.

I did not know it was alright to shriek like that. Indoors, at that. I was afraid the wrath of the grown-ups around would come down on all of us, even me, who was not participating. It made my head hurt...the noisy confusion bombarded me from all directions, there in my little hidey-hole.

It seemed the fear took hold for months; I think it was only the first term. As I screamed my head off, my mother would place me on the bus and the bus driver would hand me over to one of the older girls, who held my hand and attempted to keep me in my seat. Still hiccuping with sobs, I would then, upon arrival at school, be handed over to my teacher, Miss Daily. She had incredible patience with me, letting me cling to her skirt for most of the school day.

I was never teased by my classmates; I have no idea why, since there was plenty of teasing happening with other students. Perhaps they recognized my absolute terror, perhaps kids can be kind, as well as cruel...I will never know. But they just accepted me, hiding behind my coat and all.

Eventually, some kids would come over and talk to me, racing off to play or chase somebody else at times. And eventually, I would run with them, leaving my coat hanging behind, for longer and longer periods of time. In time, too, I would shriek with laughter, chasing the boys or being chased. And I would no longer be frightened of the bathroom...it had become a matter of course.

But I remember well how I integrated myself into the social life of my school. As I hid behind the coats, hanging on to the cloth, wrapping the fur on the collar around my fingers...I watched these children. Each and every one of them became very familiar to me...their speech, their body language, what they laughed at, and how they interacted with each other.

And I told myself, over and over, one thing. I told myself that one day, I would no longer be frightened, I told myself that one day I would run and shriek with abandon, leaving fear behind. I told myself that the sky would not fall if I accepted and adapted to this irrevocable change that had been presented to me. I challenged myself to look at this opportunity without fear.

And to do this, I had to assimilate this whole different atmosphere into my very being. That is why I watched and waited. I learned who and how and what these children...these strange little beings, who were just like me...were. These were my tools, although I was too young to realize it. This ability to watch and wait and learn has never left me. This is a way of life that others sometimes may find slow...but it has never let me down.

Then I had to stand and face my Fear. I had to understand I had allowed that Fear to assume illogically huge proportions, and it was growing by the minute! And so, in my six year old mind, I had to shift it over...instead of letting Fear grow bigger, I could let it grow smaller.

It was a big lesson from my guides for a little girl. The idea that I could shift my reality and change what was so frightening has guided me throughout life's travails.

I'm still able to get wrapped up in fearful behavior, becoming anxious or angry...sending negativity flying into the ether. Sometimes I let myself shout with terrifying anger, or cry with abandon...but even then, there is a part of me that watches and learns what it is that is frightening me so intensely.

Then I remember that little girl, who hung on to her coat for awhile, and then stood away, facing her fear of change.

And I can do no less, as an adult.

13 comments:

  1. I enjoy that Marion, it brought back memories of my first days in school. I wasnt used to having lots of children around either. I can picture you staying close to the coat, a reminder of home and safety. Thanks

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  2. Well expressed. The ability to adapt and overcome fear is something that is ongoing in all our lives. Some people attempt to control and dominate the circumstances that create their fear, but changing and embracing the fear as as you have discovered makes for an exciting journey, best wishes, The Artist

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  3. Unlike you, and so many children of today, I never experienced being the "new kid," as I lived in the same house until I went to college. Reading your post made me feel like I know just a little of what being new must feel like, though. Thanks, again, for such a well written piece.

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  4. Again Marion, well versed and the story you tell is one that all of us have experienced one time or another in our lives.
    It is the fear that takes a hold of us. The unknown the unfamilar that creeps in grabs hold of us. Yet, without this fear how would know comfort or security. So it is a teaching instrument that we all use. It is not comfortable but is what life is.
    You have a knack of making these episodes in life eaiser to understand. Thank You

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  5. Thank you dear Marion. I needed to be reminded of the role fear can play and the need to face it down. Posts such as this are why I love your writing.

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  6. Fear can be a terrible thing.. but once you overcome it, it feels really good. I look at fear as an illusion or a power that tries to stop us from experiencing things that would help us grow. Nice Post, as always. :)

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  7. Marion,
    What a wonderful post. I was right there with you behind the coats. Thank you for that childhood memory.

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  8. i enjoyed reading this Marion, I also changed schools in my last year of Primary school, I actually had 3 months to go before the end of year finishes but my parents moved house.
    It was very scary for me too, to feel so strange and knowing no one.
    Great post.

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  9. I think a lot of the fear I experienced was due to the fact that I spoke German. I learned English very quickly, as children will, but a lot of what was expressed by the others around me was incomprehensible. And what I didn't understand made me so afraid!

    The noise, too, was something I wasn't used to!

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  10. I was just talking to a friend of mine this morning about how difficult it is to leave behind the things we learned very early on. It seems that the earlier you were 'imprinted' with something, the more tenacious it is. But many of us never stopping trying to change!

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  11. Marion.................you have been tagged! :-) I will look forward to your 5 things :-)

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  12. Dear Marion,
    Thank you for the kind words of support over on my blog. I remember those scary first days at school - the fear of being different, of being separated from Mum. Does it ever really go away? I think we just learn as we grow up how to hide it better. I am scared now, but your words of comfort have made it easier to bear. Thank you...

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  13. Rhea, change can be a good thing...it is the only constant thing in my life, at any rate. I have never forgotten that time or the lesson...face the fear, embrace the change...and suddenly that change becomes just a part of life...until a new direction comes along.

    Happy, don't hide your fear...know that somehow, someday you and your family will adapt and accept.Life is different for you now, than it was before, but it is as if a boil has been lanced...all the "stuff" that was hidden is suddenly in the open...you can only go forward, bruised and sore, but the lancing has already been done...the worst is over.

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