When I was a child, I simply and casually went with the flow. I don’t think that’s common, but maybe it is for the good middle children, as such was I. Even when my parents announced their divorce, I took it in stride, felt it was best for all. Mom said it would hit me, affect me, someday. It never did.
In grade school, maybe sooner, I discovered the joy of being funny, of making others laugh. I’ve never shied away from a performance; I’m quite comfortable on stage, enjoy being the center of attention, the life of the party. Later in life, I believe being a comedian became a defense mechanism. But at the same time, I did and still do truly like making people smile. All people. That is not to say, as I will have come to learn, that I was ever actually an extrovert.
I think humor became a defense mechanism as an adult when I began hiding my personal life, all of those pesky elephants that kept trying to escape from the horrific circus of my home; we never discussed those giants, inside or outside those walls, as families tend to not do when alcoholism and addiction and denial are involved.
Eventually, my smile became that wall, and evolved further into a fortress, as many smiles do, I suppose, separating inner and outer worlds. Eventually, I even kept the fake one on at home. In front of the children anyway. And to avoid upsetting the alcoholic. I made my alcoholic’s life as cushy as possible. I became a liar, to everyone. To myself. I lost myself eventually, as spouses of alcoholics often do, I suppose.
It must be my nature, it seems, to be a peacemaker, a people pleaser. At work, I still go with the flow; I’m the one you can give the difficult tasks and people to. I don’t complain. I don’t resent. I am intrinsically motivated. I make do. I succeed. As resistant as they are, I relentlessly try to make my teenage students smile.
Where am I going with this as I sit on my patio watching the sun set, filling a blank screen with a supposed “nature essay?” As I recount my life, as I flip through my mental album, I search for the point in which nature infused my soul. No epiphany comes to mind. This seems essential as an essayist. To reflect on those pivotal or deeply seared moments.
I was very regularly exposed to nature as a child, so I am happy to give my parents partial credit: dad took us fishing and camping, we went to week-long summer camps each year, we were sent outside to play as a lifestyle. It became natural then for me to take my own family camping and on nature walks and outings as a lifestyle. And as my nest becomes emptier and my tie to one alcoholic dissolved, I am finding the ability, the freedom, to be able to be present in nature’s moments, more so than ever before, even as a child.
I do have twinges of near epiphany when I think about how many miles I rode my bike as a teenager. Alone. How those wheels and that wind set me free, how I escaped and left my siblings and parents behind, chose my own direction, traveled in and out time. Myself and the outdoors were all the company I needed. I discovered peace. I discovered healing. For as long as I can remember, I also remember not fitting in, feeling a sort of detachment. It is still how I feel, content in my surroundings but still an outsider looking in, bored only in the company of others, never in the company of myself. Especially when I am surrounded by nature.
Never before until now have I had the accumulated experiences I have to see all that I see in the overlooked daily wonders, gifts, and blessings so abundant all about me in the natural world. Perhaps I see myself in these stories that each petal and leaf and shell whisper to me. Perhaps these are the missing pages of my album I collect on the shore, in the trees, in the clouds. Perhaps it is my nature, that deep connection. Perhaps my home. Maybe going with the flow in all of my memories is because I always have been, even before my birth, from the soulline of Mother Nature and the universe.
Maybe I really search only for the light in my lens for myself. But I faithfully reflect the rays as inspiration and positivity to you, because of all the things I remember, I’ve always liked to make people feel better. And maybe each of these clues, each of these messages, each of these revelations are the manageable peanuts I am meant to open one by one, left by those invisible elephants of my past.
All words and images ©LauraDenise