Safety and Happiness

When I was twelve, I wrote a note to my future self in my journal.

The note said: “don’t confuse safety with happiness.”

Sometimes I stare at those simple words in awe of my past self. How did I know, at twelve, that those were the words I would most need to read at nineteen, and twenty-four, and thirty-two, and now again at forty-four? How did I know at twelve that my future kryptonite would be the thought of life without a hot bath, a fire in the grate, a cup of tea, and a sense of security and belonging?

It is so easy to say this is enough; this is safe.

But the words “safe” and “happy” have never been synonyms in my book and my twelve-year-old self understood that best. She was meticulous and structured with her fear — and trust me, she had plenty of it. Ski slopes were conquered one bunny hill at a time and horses were walked in big circles while the other kids trotted fences and cantered across the turn-out field. That twelve-year-old was terrified of life: and she never let it stop her.

From the outside, I suspect that the slow fight against fear was not apparent. When everyone else headed up the mountain for a day of skiing, she worked her fear on the beginner trails, forcing herself to ski on one foot, then the other, without poles, and, finally, backward. Fear led to skill, then to ease and exhilaration. But she had no need to tell anyone. For years she left her family at the foot of the mountain every morning and met them at dusk. They assumed the baby hill as she slowly conquered the mountain.

In Five Element Theory — a theory that documents changes and growth — winter belongs to the element of water because, in the winter, it is water that is most changeable. It freezes and thaws, and as it does it changes the world around it: creating mud, cracking pipes, making roads impassable.

Fear is like this: it creates mud and cracks and impasses.

And yet, the wheel turns, spring comes: the time of wood, of growth, of small structured steps that carry us from winter’s fear to summer’s passion.

Why am I contemplating fear? Because change is once again afoot in my life and it would be so easy to go there and wallow a bit.

But as I once again read the wise child’s words, I know in my bones that safety is not happiness, that this year I will once again leave Safe.

And when I do, I will honor that twelve-year-old kid by taking small, meticulous steps to grow beyond my fear.

As always, the plant world offers a bit of support as change creeps in:

Aspen Flower Essence

for when my soul is quaking a bit

Passionflower and Milky Oat tincture

for the brain that races ahead

Catnip and Chamomile tea

for when the nerves hit my stomach

Jasmine essential oil with a hint of Lime

to remind me of sultry summer and the need to follow my passion

There are many ways to support yourself when change comes. Tell us about how you cope with your own fears below.