We all have a safe space

We all have a safe space

I once believed safety was a relative term: a house to live in free from fear, food in the fridge, people to back you up and maybe a place to share what’s hidden in the deepest spot inside you, where your words mean something, where you’re believed, a table where your deepest fears and secrets are folded into spoons full of sugar, dissolving into hot liquid and drunk hastily, unquestioned.

I’ve sat at many of these tables, the only prerequisite empathy and an open ear. I’ve listened to secrets and pain, confessions that knocked the forward motion out of a person, and sat in lived-in couches where ideas were brainstormed on how to deal with bullies, navigate sticky situations and how to stay above the fray while doing it.

I’ve leaned into conversations with my children, my spouse, my extended family and the closest of friends. I have lifelines I can turn to and share the smallest cares of my day without inquisition. I have safe spaces.

Safe spaces, in the volatile plane we exist in today, are mocked for being necessary. I rack my brain to understand why that is and what turned a simple sanctuary into an emblem for being weak. If asked, I bet every one of us would know the place we long to run to when things get hard. Safe spaces are where we can recoup, think through things, maybe have a kind or encouraging word placed inside us.

The worn rocking chair you rocked your babies in, a cabin in the woods, a still lake to fish in, a serene hilltop meadow several miles away from your home, our mother’s arms, these are places we turn to. Without them, where do we process the joys and hurts of our days? To use a tired phrase, should we pull up our bootstraps, buck up, wipe the cares off our faces and stuff them inside to fester?

My girlhood bedroom was tiny, tucked under an eave, with pink wallpaper gracing the walls in an intricate pattern. I would go there and shut the door, bringing out my journals to wildly pen poems and lines, the prose — neatly lining up on paper — pleasing to my eye as I processed the day’s events.

My stereo, with big booming speakers, soon was playing at a pulsing beat where I could lose myself inside the inner workings, the loudness a balm to my ears. My room was my safe space, where I could untangle the issues of the day.

In today’s world of ever-present connectivity, having a place to land, to hear truth, to pick yourself up again and rearrange your pieces, that’s a godsend. But the sad truth is there is no safety in the thought of them anymore. They are maligned as places for people who are deemed not tough enough, have no stamina, aren’t Christian enough, can’t put on a brave enough face and move along.

We’ve forsaken all empathy for derision, derision for not believing the same exact way another does, for pushing fear-based ideas on each other and for believing others are to be belittled when they’re not on your level.

For all the terribleness in that statement, I declare I need a spot like this, a place where I can wash the words off my day and be who I am.

I believe we all need a soft spot to land where bullies don’t reside, where we are believed and valued. And if we sat in front of one another — really staring into the other’s eyes and listening — we’d all agree we need a kind word, a good ear and the ability to hear one another. To say we don’t is to betray ourselves, causing our bodies to be clogged up with grief.

I read a quote the other day that struck me hard with its truth: “You can’t condemn someone according to your beliefs.”

You can’t tell someone how to handle their own experiences, negating the impact by telling them to simply “get over it” or “run to your safe space and cry.” And you can’t tell someone their faith isn’t big enough when their world collapses; you sit and listen, extending empathy instead of inserting yourself.

When I need to, I’ll walk to my porch and sink into the deep cushions of my chair. I’ll sip my coffee and cry if I need to, listening to the early morning chirping. I have conversations with God in my own unique way, unspooling the gray matter in my head and laying it bare for him. If that’s what a safe space looks like, I’ll run to it every day until I can face the world again.

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