Paddling into the waves
I wrote this on October 8, 2008, 10:51pm. It has been here waiting ever since. It has been long enough. -micah
Today I set out to understand myself. My peculiar mix of emotions and thoughts and attitudes - where does it come from? Whatever I am, it must be rooted in how I was when I was young.
So I thought back to what it was like to be 5 years old - running around like I was superman, in a world of simplicity and brightness. But even there, I recognized a theme. I distinctly remember feeling a sadness, an empathy for others, and for what I would now call the injury of innocence.
I had dreams when I was 5. In one of them, my mom had a flower in a clay pot, and she loved that flower dearly. My dad decided to do something nice for her, and sent it away to a place where they turned it into a mush, a kind of potpourri. He was trying to do something nice, but it broke her heart. She cried and cried.
I remember waking up and feeling so sad. I didn’t know whether it was real, but I was afraid of my dad. Not because of anything he had done, but because he caused such sadness.
Later on I would have dreams during which a young girl would get her hopes up that I would do something nice or fun for her, and she would be so thrilled. Then, when I wasn’t able to do what she was anticipation, she would cry. I would wake up sad.
In an earlier dream, I had a pet duck. And this duck had an outfit that matched mine. And when I was younger (so I dreamed), we had gone to church together in our matching outfits. We had been together since we were young. This duck had a nice environment to live in, but we would occasionally take him out of his cage, and let him walk outside. And in my dream, he flew away.
I was 5 years old. I cried for 5 days afterwards.
Where, I wondered, did this come from? My intense empathy, my bitter-sweet sense of other’s longings, my sadness at other’s innocent expectations disappointed?
I thought farther back. Several incidents occurred to me. My dad and I had been walking on the beach in Oregon one day (I would have been 3), and found a unique rock, full of holes. The holes went all the way through it, like a network of tunnels. In a special indentation, like a puzzle, a shell was fitted. I loved that rock. It was mine and dad’s, from a time I knew about, but couldn’t even remember.
One day, my brother climbed through my window, and knocked it to the ground, smashing it to pieces. I was heart-broken. I wanted to pick up the pieces and put it together again. I sketched a picture, trying to figure out how to get it back together.
Even earlier, I remember two incidences that were strangely similar. In one, my grandparents were visiting me in Oregon, and we were at a stream or river, playing in the water. Something floated by that caught my attention, and my grandparents told me to swim to get it. I tried, but the more I swam, the farther away it got. Finally, it drifted around the bend, and was gone.
I’m sure the sadness of a three-year-old boy paddling madly after something that is constantly slipping farther away is hard to grasp. Perhaps it will help to explain that somehow I perceived that object as special and beautiful just because my grandparents had sent me to get it.
The other event was at the ocean. Dad and I were walking along the beach, and throwing things into the waves. We saw a unique board floating in the water - and in some way it was special. Dad told me to swim after it, so I did. But the harder I swam, the farther away the board got, being carried over the crest of each wave farther out to sea. I wanted it, I longed for it, but my fear and powerlessness towards the ocean held me back. And so I swam, watching it drift farther from me, until it finally vanished.
Somehow, that memory has stuck with me, and the feeling of it has permeated me from top to bottom, coloring everything else I’ve ever done. When I look at the world, I see it through the shades of that longing. Every relationship is tinged with the sadness of my heavy touch on their light innocence.
Somehow, I think I will aways be that boy paddling desperately into the waves, watching as the thing he longs for slips farther and farther away.