I made the mistake of leaving the room while the T.V. was on this morning.
Billie’s program ended in my absence and was replaced by some sci – fi movie where some dude takes another dude’s eyes out with a pencil.
I only know this happened because Billie calmly walked into the kitchen and informed me, “Mom. I just saw a man get his eyeball ripped out of his head.”
I tried to tell her it was pretend. I tried to explain that it was make believe. And that mommy would be more careful with trusting daytime television programming. Of course, none of that logic stopped her from telling everyone in the world that her mommy put a bad T.V. show on and scarred her for life.
“Daddy, did you know that mommy put on a bad show and I saw a man stab a man in the eyeball with a pencil and RIIIIPPPP it all the way out of him? ALL THE WAY OUT, DADDY.”
It has persisted into bedtime. She’s currently in her room with her covers up over her head wishing away the evil eyeball snatchers of the world. Occasionally I hear her saying things like, “But I have beautiful eyes. I like my eyeeeesss” before shivering back under her comforter.
This is the problem with imaginations, folks. They make what you saw so much worse. They amplify and magnify every crazy, scary, beautiful thing and propel it into a realm of psychotic proportions. And it does not shock me that some of us lose our imaginations as we grow older. Who can blame us? Every nerve, every synapse, every iota of you gets completely wrapped up in a reality that only exists to you. And sometimes it is so beautiful and fragile, like a bubble garden made entirely of blown sugar, that one small step, or unkind word shatters the whole thing. Other times it can be so consuming and devastating that you feel trapped inside it with no escape. It brings you to the best parts of yourself and holds a mirror up to your greatest fears.
What a fucking weight to carry.
But I can’t help but admire it. I can’t help but want to foster it and hold her in these dark times just to show her that she can conquer this. She can wrangle it and learn to use it in powerful ways that no one has even dreamed of yet. She comes to me constantly with pictures of winged serpents fighting ferocious dragons and giant squids battling sharks and I think she already knows this. She knows enough about the frightening things to want to identify with them and tell their stories. She sees the fear. She processes it. Then she headbutts it with an artistic fervor that I can’t help but be awed by.
And, again, here we are at that super cheesy revelation that inevitably comes as I write these things: She’s helping me. Don’t get me wrong- my imagination is pretty on point and always has been. But I think she’s showing me how to process the fearful parts.
You lean in.
With blind hope, faith, and sometimes unapologetic rage. You handle the squids and the sharks and the creepy eyeball stealers in your nightmares, then your dreams, then on paper. And, slowly… eventually… they become as fragile as the page you drew them on. They become characters that no longer frighten you. You begin to realize that, even in your imagination, only you can frighten you.