House On Fire

I grew up on Taylor Avenue in South Hackensack, NJ. The people in my neighborhood really got to know each other, to the point of bonding, becoming like family. The atmosphere was very grounding and remains to this day. There is an incredible sense of comfort in knowing there are hearts in which you will always be received and welcomed with the warm glow of rekindled connections.

Our house sat on a corner, just across from the part of the park that us neighborhood kids used most. The baseball field was scuffed out to our liking. The distance between bases not so long as the town's turf. In the outfield, there was an incredible tree, elm maybe. It had three large trunks coming out of the ground. Inside was big enough for us to sit. I can remember being sad when I outgrew the tree. I could always stand or walk through it but sitting inside there as a little kid was different. I always felt like time was altered in there, stretched in some way.

My grandfather had bought a double lot, built a house, two car garage and had room for a large garden and yard. We had dogs, rabbits...and rabbits and more rabbits, ducks, Chico the parakeet, Big Red and Happy the two talking crows. Story goes when my mom married my dad, my grandfather ripped the roof off the house and built another story for us to live above them.

This was home, the center of my world. My second floor bedroom looked out towards our side lawn, the garden, the park, the tops of the tall kingdom. I would observe the rhythm of the neighborhood from morning till night. I watched my grandfather working in the garden, my grandmother hanging out clothes to dry, neighbors coming home from work, birds feeding...

My bedroom was in the back corner, the quieter end of the property. Next to my door was another which lead to either the staircase out of the house or down to my grandparents. One night I was woken up by my mother who was frantically telling me that I had to get out of the house and go across the street. She took me out of bed and set me down the stairs while she went back into the apartment. My bare feet were cold from the slight rain that had accumulated on the stair treads. The railing too was was unpleasant to the touch, cold, flat, wet metal.

Looking across towards the driveway I could see the sky flashing red and blue momentarily illuminating the neighbors who were outside watching events unfold. Apparently there was an issue with our furnace. Looking down I could see people going in an out of the bulkhead to the basement. Everyone was serious, focused, tense. I can remember something coming over me causing me to stop, turn around and go back to my room. There was way too much to take in, none of which made any sense.

My mother was upset to find me back in bed on her second sweep through and closely supervised my second exit. We talked about it the next day. She didn't understand what would ever possess me to go back in the house when clearly it was not in my best interests. I cant remember if I was able to articulate the motivation behind my actions or not. It was such a physical feeling, a strong longing for safety. The lights, the people, the all confused me.

Going back into a smoking building

felt more comfortable than being vulnerable outside.

Now there is something to think about...I was drawn back by a profound longing for shelter, for a place to escape, a safe place where I am not confronted with all of these lights, noise and heightened energy. I wanted to be in the only place I had known. I needed that familiar vantage point.

Metaphorically I have run back into the burning building many times in life. This usually happens during the time when everything in life falls apart. Its not so much the dynamic of change that I struggle with. It is the feelings of vulnerability that test me.

I think that we can get caught in these patterns of behavior based on our beliefs about ourselves. Some of it comes from the messages we received within our family, friends, in school or other social arenas. Some of it is from us, from our own suppressing self beliefs. We run to home, to where, to who and to what we think is safe even if we have clear evidence that the situation can cause us great harm.

Eventually, hopefully one day we become aware that we have choices. We have the ability to chose another line...maybe one you have never run before or one that is well out of your comfort zone. Go for it, jump in and swim like hell. Your certainly worth it.