When I was little life was... challenging. Part of the coping mechanism I developed was to simply agree, internally, that things were fine, when in many instances maybe they weren't so fine. It's a brilliant thing, the mind, and it can help you believe things that with time and distance look completely different.
This morning I watched a video about baby chicks and how they are treated before they are sent to 'fattening farms' to become the poultry we consume. It was awful, frightening, and if I'm being honest with myself, no surprise. I've always known there was no way the grocery stores could be lined with cases upon cases of fresh meat, all different kinds, always full, without there being some perversion in the process. Any one of us who's ever grown a tomato plant or watched a puppy grow to full size knows that the accelerated pace with which we source our food is a bastardization of the natural process.
I closed my eyes for a moment during the video and suddenly, inexplicably, I was there.
I crouched near the wrought iron fence of the schoolyard, tucked behind some apparatus, hoping no one would see me. I lowered my head and covered my eyes in the hopes that my inability to see others would make me invisible. What was I afraid of? I couldn't tell you. I imagined all the other children as monsters, drooling, ready to eat me! I was in the second of three elementary schools I would eventually attend. The mind wanders and invents.
It was a brisk day and the air smelled of Chicago cold. I just wanted to be invisible until the day was over so I could go home and be warm. I wanted to cry so badly, but third grade is too old to cry so I just shivered and waited for the bell to ring. I did that day after day, for quite some time, until the snow took my spot. And then, forced into the open, I had to face my new reality.
Surprisingly, no one ate me. In fact, one of the friends made in that school yard remains a dear friend to this day. He reminds me of home, of comfort, and the world for me is better with him in it, even if we don't see one another often. He was then, and is moreso now, too damn tall to crouch behind a jungle gym so had I never ventured into the schoolyard I'd never have met him, or any of the others I eventually came to call friends, if only for a time.
I can't quite explain why these two things seem connected for me, but if I had to guess I'd say life crouched in the corner wasn't much of a life, and life after I stood up and walked into the fray has been better, if still frightening. I don't think I can keep hiding behind the truth about where my food comes from. I think I need to stand up. I may not be able to change all my ways (Vegan bacon? No.) but I can't keep my head tucked in, eyes pinched shut.
As I am reminded again and again, life is better standing up.