Who knows if that title makes any sense, at all.
I am trying to figure out whether the external world has changed, that much, because of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, two days ago. It feels like it has, but that doesn’t mean that it has.
As I and others try to make meaning of this — so we can go on with our lives — I’m experiencing a debate about how safe it is out there.
On the one hand:
The world feels scarier. Things are getting worse. It’s less safe than before. I am not going to go out into crowded places again. I will avoid these kinds of public celebrations, since the people who are supposed to protect us didn’t do enough to prevent this from happening.
On the other hand:
Boston feels scarier, but this sort of thing happens, somewhere, a certain amount of the time. It just hasn’t happened this close to home before. If we change how we act because of fear, the people who do these kinds of things have won.
This is how I’m seeing that “debate,” right now:
It’s the negotiating we do, as we move through life, trying to figure out how safe we are: How much we should venture out, away from what feels safer.
It’s natural to want to protect ourselves. But how much do we need to do that?
Sometimes I say this to people, who have told me horrifying, trust-mangling stories of things that have happened to them, “It’s amazing you ever leave home. How do you do that?”
We figure out how to do that — to venture out there — to a greater and lesser extent, every day.
Sometimes when we go out there, it feels like the “wrong” thing to do. Too risky, Maybe even foolish, counter-intuitive, the opposite of self-preservation.
Sometimes when we stay in our homes, it feels like the “wrong” thing to do. Phobic. Cowardly. Crazy.
How can we be “smart” about this, and do the right thing?
What the hell is the “right thing”, anyway? And if we can’t figure out what the right thing is — when it comes to survival, for cripe’s sake — what the hell should we do?
There’s so much evidence for why any decision we make about safety is “wrong.” There are so many arguments for both sides of the debate.
I notice that some people I know are more careful than I am about self-protection. They scan the environment for danger, more than I do.
They’ll point out when my shoelaces are untied. They’ll tell me to watch out for cars when I’m crossing the street.
When they do that, I sometimes have a negative reaction. I wonder: Am I taking good enough care of myself? Do they think I’m not capable of doing that for myself?
Today, I’m thinking that some people are more careful than others, in that regard. They negotiate that question of how safe it is differently than I do.
That doesn’t mean I’m foolish, though. It just means I’ve made different decisions. It means that I have a different “style” regarding How to Keep It Safe Enough.
Some people, who know me, tell me I’m “fearless.” I find that so ironic, because I’m scared so much of the time.
I’ve learned to calibrate and adjust for my own fear. That’s what I’ve done, dear reader. I have learned, as I’ve grown and aged, that the world is not as scary as I fear it is. Even if sometimes — like today — it feels a lot more scary than it usually does.
I’ve decided to look for what is Not Scary — out there and within other people. That makes me happier.
It’s riskier, perhaps. It’s not wrong. It works for me.
It might take me a while to get back to my “base line” — the way I usually negotiate risk and fear — after the images I’ve seen of people being hurt and the changes that I see, as I look around at my beloved Boston.
But I’ll get there.
And so will you, every time the world seems scarier. And you’ll do it, the way you always do, in the way that works for you. But with more experience and wisdom, every time.
Thanks for reading. Take care of yourself, the way you know how.