When the panic sets in I circle the wagons. The world is frightening and generally I feel unprepared. I forget myself there in the middle of the wagon train and turn my back to the world, to social events, to branching out and trying new things. Things have been so bad in my brain and in my spirit lately that I have not been able to even put words to paper in any real organized way. I find myself staring at the blank page and considering even circling my wagons there too. I want to shut the computer, put down the pen and paper and just lay under the couch until it passes.
But it doesn’t pass. I know, deep inside, I’d end up languishing under that couch with only dust bunnies and stray toys until the end of time. It feels safe there, in that circle of wagons, but it isn’t really. I’m the child hiding her face behind her hands thinking that because I cannot see anyone, they also cannot see me. Sitting in that circle of wagons I realize too, there are no Indians attacking, we are alone out there on the trail, curled up like an armadillo under no real threat.
At Liturgy recently I wandered to the front. We had been standing near the back most of the service. One of my boys was whining and moaning a little too loudly. I threatened, I cajoled, I pouted and then I broke off and I wandered to the front. I let go of trying to control him, I let go of worrying that he’d be too disruptive, that we’d be judged, that I’d be a bad mother for wandering off. Instead of circling our wagons and leaving Liturgy to save face I wandered to the front, nearly in tears because I wanted the beauty and I did not know what else to do. As I stood there on my own, my family behind me somewhere I could not see or hear I took one small moment and exhaled as if I’d just been on the verge of a jump. Running toward the edge, I exhaled and let that moment be just what it was; solid, peaceful, no arrows, no indians. It may have been only a minute or two. It felt like one hundred years. It may have been a drop of water. It felt like I plunged into the warm ocean; pores filled, cells cooled, tears lost in the saltwater.
And then a little hand found mine. I looked down to see Miles standing next to me, he smiled and squeezed my hand and that was only a moment too. Before the end of Liturgy he was wandering too, to the back, to the pews along the edges of the old stone church, to the painting of St. George slaying the dragon and I let him wander because there was no threat, there was no enemy, there was no judgement. It was only this place and this time and one moment after another. It was only exhaling after holding my breath for too long, breathing air made visible by the priest and censor, the wagon train moving slow along the deep, dusty road.