The Illusion of Security

“Security is mostly a superstition.
It does not exist in Nature,
nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.
Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

–Helen Keller

Tell me about a time you went on a daring adventure—external or internal—even if no one else knew it at the time.

16 thoughts on “The Illusion of Security”

  1. I have started a daring adventure, after my father’s death in 2001 : discovering why I was so sad, what part of me was hidden.
    These days I am getting in touch with a traumatized 7 year old little girl, a traumatized professionnal, a traumatized woman, a traumatized ex wife, a traumatized mother.

    In this very difficult, hazardous adventure, that one could call reincarnation, rebirth according to one’s believes, I discover day after day the secrets of life and happiness. For me anyway.

    These days, I am getting in touch with the voice of my body : feelings. I am learning to respond to it, respectfully, within my limits, by trial and error. (Ok Laura, I know, you wished me luck on that many writing prompts ago :)).

    On this scary, yet beautiful adventure, I am a beginner on how to say no with kindness, but the NO still remains for the time being. The scary part is not be scared, stay connected and present while recognizing if the situation is safe or not. Boy, oh-boy ! Shitty first draft does not only happen in writing…

    I am a beginner at 56 in the practice of self respect, emotionnal intelligence, understanding of my own body language and projections, including my soul projections : another adventure in which I got lost.

    Having a strong and positive mind, being a creative, visionnary thinker and a strong believer in life, I can mirror the dream of others, getting actively involved until…until the trauma, karma hit again, leaving me in the dark side of the moon sometimes, with nothing but a reminder of my own limits and wounds.

    Until now, I tried to harmonize the outer world not to get hurt. Imagine the task! Don’t forget, I was carrying a little 7 year old traumatized girl I needed to protect.

    At a new starting point of this neverending inner adventure, I am learning, practicing to harmonize my inner world to get along with outer. Nature being a safe best friend. Oh yeah, I am also discovering my true nature as a loving partner. While my wounded heart is healing, I know it will open up again…to the new image in the mirror…

    So I am embarquing in a new adventure of engagement, freewill, choice and acceptance. I have never done that before. So it is an adventure. For some of us it is only leading, living a normal life.

    As Christmas is coming, I am scared ot the dark. IT, also happened on December 24. The words whispered in my ears were : If you tell, you will not get gifts from Santa Claus.

    But now I can hear the wind blows, see the blue sky, smell the sweet smell of success when the light wins over my darkness, transforming the nightmare into a good dream.
    When life becomes a conscious dream, life is good.
    Mastering it, is another adventure.

    Lots of gratitude for this beautiful, supportive, writers community.

    Claire

    1. Claire , your words are so deep and touching . I am from another part of the world with different culture but I empathize with your words

    2. Claire, thanks for this deep and honest sharing. There were a couple of lines in here I absolutely loved: “These days, I am getting in touch with the voice of my body : feelings.” So simple, so true.

      And this: “Shitty first draft does not only happen in writing.” Yes, how true. We don’t get to practice for life. We have to make mistakes of all sizes and learn as we go.

      And this, clear and poetic evidence of your growth and healing: “The words whispered in my ears were : If you tell, you will not get gifts from Santa Claus. But now I can hear the wind blows, see the blue sky, smell the sweet smell of success when the light wins over my darkness.”

  2. “Tell me about a time you went on a daring adventure—external or internal—even if no one else knew it at the time.”

    This prompt is irresistible to me! I have had many, many daring adventures. Danger is comforting to me, thrills are welcome.

    Fresh in my mind is an adventuresome morning I recently had in a forest. It was very early morning, pre-dawn. The darkness was thick, I could almost feel it enveloping me at each movement of my body.

    I had a flashlight with me but I wanted to remain in darkness. I kept the light in my hand.

    I was hiking in the dark! So exciting. I was staying at Land of Medicine Buddha as part of a retreat and had woken super early compared to everyone else, it seemed everyone was asleep. I had slipped out of my shared room with a jacket, a flashlight, and my constant companion- my drive for adventure.

    I flashed my light to the path briefly. I was hiking on a mountainside, climbing upward slowly, I had to stay away from the edge of the path or fall off the mountain. The way was paved so far and I had a map.

    Suddenly in the dark I heard ticking sounds … claws on pavement! Right in front of me not two feet away! I flashed on my light.

    Skunks!

    With tails raised high, two skunks scampered along the road in front of me. They appeared to be 4 feet high with their tails raised and fluffed out big. They went around a bend in the road. I proceeded.

    “Thank you for not spraying me.” I said aloud. “Can you guys just go on home so I can come up that way?”

    I rounded the bend, I didn’t see them. I walked on in the darkness.

    Again I heard scampering. The skunks were in my path! They split up and went in two directions. I chose my path and walked on. I didn’t get sprayed. Skunks! Amazing animals. I did not see them again.

    I came to the end of the pavement. I looked at my map. My goal was to follow the 8 Versus Trail that was clearly marked on the map and in reality (I had heard).

    I hiked onward, upward. I tried to walk as quietly as possible on the dirt path. No birdsong. No insects making noise. It was so deeply quiet, it was soothing and welcome.

    I began to notice an enticing scent. Wait! I know that scent! I flashed my flashlight to the forest around me. There must be trumpet flowers nearby! The heady aroma of the flowers was unmistakable to me. But where? I could not see them.

    I followed my nose, the scent growing stronger as I climbed a gentle slope. I passed a half-built Buddhist temple shrouded by scaffolding. I passed a port-o-let.
    The scent of trumpet flowers grew stronger.

    My beam caught a branch of a flowering bush. I approached, this was not a trumpet flower, and it was clearly at the end of its life cycle, brown and withered. I think it was rhododendron. I sniffed the old flower … mmm … very nice but not what I was seeking. I noticed a black pool of water 3 feet wide next to this old bush and made mental note to come visit in the sunlight.

    I flashed light in a circle around me, no trumpet flowers. I was sure I could smell them, I searched on.

    The forest became like a tunnel, closing in around the trail. I shined my light.

    There!

    Suddenly, the aroma was almost overwhelming me, headiness enveloped me, I was awash in delightful scent.

    There were hundreds, maybe a thousand, trumpet flowers dangling gloriously on the mountainside. The magnificence of this sight, this moment, this aroma, inspired me, this was aroma therapy at its finest. The trees were huge, towering above me.

    I basked in reverence for these flowers, for nature, for the planet, for life, for my life.

    I stayed with these flowers until the sun came up, maybe an hour. These flowers are night bloomers and can’t be detected by the nose in the daytime. I stayed until I heard birdsong, until I heard the sounds of the forest awakening.

    I stayed until my daring adventure was done.

    1. I love this story and that you had the adventure and that you set out alone and in the dark and in the quiet and in discovery of nature. All the things I hoped for you this past weekend at the retreat!

  3. I am not sure where I draw the line between daring adventures or just plain recklessness, but what first came to mind were my two semesters at the University of South Florida. A close friend calls it my dissociative fugue education. Whatever it was, I walked away strangely stronger but exceptionally sicker; it was a year of contradictions.

    I had left a women’s college in Georgia and decided to try something new. I honestly have no recollection of applying for admission to USF or how I thought that would be a good university for me. I had been an English literature major and going into my new school I changed my major to women’s studies. I’m not sure I even knew what women’s studies actually were. I knew no one from Tampa and had never visited the campus.

    The true adventure began as I packed my little blue car full of random dorm necessities. It was random. I did not think it through. I had enough money to pay tuition and for a dorm room, but I had no money left to buy a meal plan. My eating disorder was full-blown at the time, so I don’t think I minded the no food idea. I guess I figured I’d work it out somehow. I got out my map and headed to my new school full of dreams. I had no idea how far away Tampa was from where I lived either…I just packed up and left my parents home and headed south. Ironically, USF isn’t even in South Florida. I had begun my education.

    It took about four hours to get there and since I had never been there, it took a couple more just to find my dorm. I had gone from a four hundred student school to a school of thousands. It took another couple hours to unpack my car and set myself up in the dorm.

    I’ll skip ahead now. That year there taught me about resilience and a larger less sheltered world. I have little details about my year there. I know from my transcripts that I maintained a 4.0 GPA. I have no idea how I ate. I was not working. I was sick. But I had always been able to keep up on the academic aspects of even the worst times of my life. It is a mystery how I survived. I’m not sure of much surrounding this time.

    I do remember packing to leave this school much like I packed to go there. Multiple trips to my car to leave yet another place. That’s how I lived my life, running scared and never staying in one place too long. The line I mentioned between adventure and recklessness is blurry. I do wish I had the ability to remember more. I wish I could have stayed to complete this particular degree. I moved on though. I kept moving on and on. This was just one stop on my road with a map I hadn’t learned to read yet.

    1. Beautifully told. It’s amazing that you have enough distance to write about this with dispassion and some humor: “My eating disorder was full-blown at the time, so I don’t think I minded the no food idea.”

      I could also relate to picking up and moving and picking up and moving. My version wasn’t as extreme as yours, but that was the story of my life from 17-23. I loved this line: “I kept moving on and on. This was just one stop on my road with a map I hadn’t learned to read yet.”

    2. Hmmm. S. Bowerman, your adventure somehow reaches my taughts of today.

      I was looking for a secured place in the world, running around. I recently found it home…

      Now I am resting, nesting in it a bit, before heading towards my next destination… in a secured way.

      Love and kindness.

      Claire

      1. Claire, I relate to the idea of nesting. It was only recently that I realized that I had built a literal, real nest in my home. I sleep and meditate and rest with the dogs on two stacked mattresses in my living room….full of blankets and pillows. I find comfort in something now like a home. I’ve stayed here three years now…the nesting has only come in the last year. I plan to stay here as long as it will have me!! Love and kindness to you too. Stacey

  4. It was pitch dark night. All the other people had walked down to the fire pit at the edge of the lake. I couldn’t bear to walk with other people. These annoying tears wouldn’t stop rolling down my cheeks. How embarrassing for, well, people to see that. Wrapping my black sweater more tightly around me, I held it tightly, my arms locked snugly against me beneath my breasts, as I followed the pathway of lantern candles down the steep hill.

    I had chosen this weekend adventure, this spiritual retreat, and this was going to be a difficult part. I had just gotten through my piano recital, in spite of my fears. So now, there was this.

    Step by halting step, I slowly walked down the steep dark grassy hill. The votive candles were set into several inches of sand inside white paper bags, which lit both sides of a broad walking pathway down the steep hillside. I walked, slowly, a step at a time, sometimes stopping to blow or wipe my nose with a kleenex or the sleeve of my sweater. I had stashed a wad of kleenex up my sleeve, just in case. I would have to guard them to make them last, at the rate I was going.

    Once, I stopped beneath a giant tree. Reaching my arm up and laying it round the trunk, I clung to both the rough and the smooth of the bark. Leaning into the tree, together, our bodies rested. It held me up in those moments, and for that, I was grateful. Pushing myself onward, I realized I had been saying quietly beneath my tears, “I don’t want to do this. I really need to do this. I don’t want to go to this. I know I need to go to this. I don’t know how to do this! I’m going to do this, even if I don’t know how to. I didn’t know how to bury my Dad, but we got through it anyway…”

    When I took those last few steps, the icy air gave way to the huge fire’s circle of heat and golden light. Flat planks of wooden benches were arranged in rows around the campfire pit. Unable to look anyone there in the eye, I sat on a rear bench and finished smoking my cigarette. Looking up into the black sky night, the stars were huge, shining more whitely than I’d seen them since I was a child at Girl Scout summer camp. I stared hard, desperately searching for distraction from my grief. Was there a constellation I could recognize? Grasping for something intellectual, anything to drown out the sorrow dragging me down, the pain which kept forcing tears — now it was making me angry and humiliated, these stupid wet cheeks, tears still flowing steadily from my eyes. Why, I hadn’t cried this much at the funeral!

    Smothering the sobs, because I didn’t want anyone staring at me, I looked across the greenish black lake at the blackly violet mountains; they were carved high and sharp across the lake into the night sky. Shadows of the cattails scattered the banks before me, a black outline of beauty, swaying with the tall grasses on the shore. Tree branches reached wide and high up into the sky, holding the Autumn leaves, which sprinkled down in spirals with the whoosh of wind.

    I sat, dribbling, silently weeping, on the bench, staring hard into Nature, begging her to guide me, while people around me were speaking, sharing their memories of a person they’d lost this year, someone they loved who had died, people they were letting go of. This was a Memorial Campfire. This was our annual letting go ceremonial. I was among friends, people who would help me, if I would ask for it. But I am not good at that. Asking for help. So I hadn’t.

    I kept trying to think of, what could I say? What? What words would be short enough, to sum it up and yet, powerful enough to say whatever it was my heart needed to say? What could I say? What would be enough to empty this bottomless pit of grief, sorrow, fear and anger? How can you say: It isn’t fair that the nice parent’s dead, and I’m stuck with the mean one? Who can say that? How dare I say that? How dare I think that? How dare I feel that?

    I looked up again, staring into the dark sky, and begged the huge, white night stars to pull me up into the sky, to take me away. I didn’t want to face another day of feeling like this. This is too hard. This was too much.

    I kept thinking, “As soon as I can stop crying, then I can speak. Then I can say what I need to say, to let it go, but how CAN I let it go? It’s only been a few weeks. I don’t even know what I feel, and didn’t seem to be able to cry enough when I was supposed to…maybe I don’t feel badly enough, maybe I’m not doing any of this right. What’s wrong with me? Does this mean I didn’t love my Dad enough? Is this because I couldn’t talk to him about that my cousin raped me? Or ask him if Mom ever told him I told her and she didn’t believe me? I always felt safer with him than with her…but I was so so ashamed…”

    Wow. So much of his life I never knew. I didn’t even know he was in the Navy, before he was in the Air Force. Or that he had won awards for his lifetime of volunteer work for the blind. I knew he did do all that volunteer work; I just didn’t know about the awards. He never was one to brag about his achievements. He was a kind and quiet gentleman to everyone he knew. In fact, I was the only one who ever made him lose his temper. My mom would tell you that, and it was true. I was a difficult child, not easy, no, not easy.
    Yet here I am, still crying at the oddest times, watching a movie or a show on TV, or riding in my car, and suddenly I’m overwhelmed, crying, sobbing, “I miss my dad. I miss you, Daddy.” It’s not that he was taken before his time, no! He was 91 years old, and that’s a good long life. I’m glad I’m not the one burdened with the flag. They folded it so ceremoniously. Slowly. Crisply. Then knelt and handed it, all in slow motion, to my Mom. I’m glad I’m not her, not the one who has to mourn 65 years of marriage. But here I am, morning 60 years of being the Daughter. He chose to be my Father. He didn’t have to be my Dad. I was really taking potluck in the Parenthood Department. Adopted, you see.

    Well, I don’t know how long this sorrowing will last, and I don’t know why I couldn’t speak at the fire, but before I knew it, with tears still flowing down my cheeks, still completely unable to stop crying, they were closing the Memorial, and everyone began to leave, many walking back up the hill. I felt like people were starting to stare at me. Maybe my wet face was too shiny in the firelight, so I walked away, to the farthest bench, and sat facing the lake, sat closest to the cattails, suddenly noticed how cold it was, how chilled I was. Staring out at the dark lake, I let myself cry, cry, and cry. I sobbed with the crickets’ questioning chirrups. I sobbed with the dark swifts that darted past over my head. I sobbed with the constellation I finally saw amongst the scattering of bright white jewels above. It was Orion. Orion, striding across the night sky like the six foot tall man, Joseph, who strode through my life, my guardian and guide, the man who burped me, loved me, and gave me security — or at least, the illusion of security, my whole life long.

    1. Jane, thank you for sharing this story of grief. So unpredictable. So powerful. Like a tsunami in the soul. There’s nothing that prepares us for the loss of our parents–whether they were the “good” parent or the challenging one. Good luck on your journey.

      1. Welcome home, Laura.

        Thank you for your strong, encouraging response. It was good to remember this and save it in writing. The memory was clear, alive in my mind. I focused on sharing it clearly, to set the reader behind my eyes and inside me. You give me hope for a small success there.

        Thank you for the opportunity to write.

        Jane

  5. Security is a superstition ???

    I do not forget where I come from.

    I understood the nature, the meaning of security, the importance of it only when I got in touch with its absence-empty-nest (emptiness) inside me.

    I now come to understand how important it is to feel secured enough to risk another step outside towards my next destination.

    For most people, security it is a built-in concept. For victims of sexual agressions, incest, any agression that destroyed the person’s integrity, it is a work in progress to built IT. By trial and error. In order to walk towards my next destination. Its absence made me crash more than once.

    Only when I feel its necessity, recognize its importance when I take decision, in order not to put myself in danger. Only then will I be able to see and understand the nature of the illusion.
    Not sure it will be in this life though.

    I probably lost too much of IT by risking too much.
    I did not understand the concept of self-protection to maintain my integrity, dignity, self-love, self-respect.

    I will find balance eventually to be able to take reasonable risks. Security, limits, risk, in living a healthy, balanced life after a life in jail, will certainly be a chapter in my book.

    bests.

    Claire

    1. Claire, you’re right. It’s a lot harder to build a core to lean on than it is to have one instilled by loving parents and a secure stable environment. I often think about that when I look at my kids who had the kind of stable, consistent loving environment I didn’t have. They start from a different place with different assumptions about they are, what they’re capable of, and what they should expect in life.

      Those of us who have to build our own foundation have a different road to walk. I believe that sometimes we can become stronger in the broken places, but not always. Yet we have to work with the lives we were given.

      I loved this line: “For victims of sexual agressions, incest, any agression that destroyed the person’s integrity, it is a work in progress to built IT.”

      1. Thank you for these words Laura. Acceptance of who I was, who I am now, locating myself on my roadmap. Grief of the things i am not capable to do anymore or better : stuff that I don’t want to do, anymore.

        Leaving the empty-nest, the old nest of the illusion of security. Embracing the wholeness of life within me.

        Got it now. It was a tough year.

        Claire

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