Alive in the World ~ Jackson Browne coaxes me out of my shell

Alive in the World

I want to live in the world, not inside my head
I want to live in the world,
     I want to stand and be counted
With the hopeful and the willing
With the open and the strong
With the voices in the darkness
Fashioning daylight out of song
And the millions of lovers
Alive in the world

I want to live in the world, not behind some wall
I want to live in the world,
     where I will hear if another voice should call
To the prisoner inside me
To the captive of my doubt
Who among his fantasies
     harbors the dream of breaking out
And taking his chances
Alive in the world

To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world

With its beauty and its cruelty
With its heartbreak and its joy
With it constantly giving birth to life
     and to forces that destroy
And the infinite power of change
Alive in the world

To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world
To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world

Jackson Browne
Squamish River Valley ~ British Columbia :: On the road to Whistler

The Drive to Whistler

The turtle shell protects me.

I’m thankful for it. It’s kept me alive all these years. Held the terror at bay. Harboured the most vulnerable aspects of my being — the child who is beginning to feel safe now. Safe enough, even, to venture out. To venture out and, finally, grow up 48 years after the trauma which some might say took childhood away forever. That is not what a child survivor does. He survives.

He dissociates. He hides behind walls, in his mind, within his shell. And these keep him alive.

But not alive in the world.

I come here to this place, to Whistler, for many reasons. In 2008, I awakened here, became alive in the world on this sine-wave journey of light and shadow. I met the boy, learned about his trauma, learned about the depth of dissociation the survivor child built around himself. I came here this winter to become alive again.

That was not to be. A shoulder injury kept me off the ski hills. It’s so easy to come alive there. But in the valley, a cabin all to myself, I withdrew further inside the shell.

I heal in here. More slowly than when I’m alive in the world, but I do heal.

In here, this time, I realized it’s a shell. I learned to be grateful for it, for keeping me alive long enough to learn its nature, and mine. My strength manifests the shell. Resilience. Wherewithal. Tenacity. Patience. There is wisdom in knowing when to use it, when it’s time to stick my head out, and when to venture beyond it. I could never be free of a shell I cannot feel on my back, or see.

For all its protection, the shell is isolating. There is room for just one within its confines. Inside, it’s easy to forget how alone I am; being alone is safe. A joyless safety. A safety without the buttresses of community, or connection. Without fulfillment. A safety which, when tossed into the stream of life, bobs along guilelessly until some eddy sets it ashore.

Today, this afternoon, while in Vancouver to begin the process of healing my shoulder, I met a friend for a spot of afternoon tea. My childhood trauma isolates me. It’s nature is not something easily shared. Trust is essential. My friend opens up about herself, her connections with spirit, and I know she can be trusted. Like a gentle, inquisitive child, she coaxes the shy creature from his shell. For hours we talk about spiritual traumas, life after death, fate, faith and meaning, and whether the universe is friendly, or unfriendly. Not in the abstract, but in the personal. Our own experiences with the spiritual realm. Who we show this self to. Who we hide it from.

Later, as the car’s engine settles into its purr, the iPod in the glove box presents the opening bars of Jackson Browne’s, Alive in the World. Part way through, the realization comes, “I need to listen to this again.” And then again. On the third play I understand, click infinite repeat.

I listen to Alive in the world like a mantra for the two hour trip back to Whistler.

The drive begins a mental preparation for moving back to Vancouver.

Perhaps I won’t pack the shell?

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