In Search of a Safe Place

There are certain words/phrases that are used often in the spaces I tend to wander into. “My journey” is one that sparks ambivalence in me.

I’m not sure I believe that viewing every event/activity/experience in our lives as part of an epic narrative with profound significance for communal consumption is such a great thing.

It isn’t so much the narcissistic trap this put in our way, but the pressure to shape a meaningful narrative that will somehow justify our little lives. We write our own biographies as we live. We judge our experiences in terms of a self-constructed trajectory towards meaningfulness. More than that, for some of us: significance.

Taking on the role of a god –  divining our own fates – is an impossible burden. And maybe there is an irony in the probability that the further we come from from a faith in a god, the closer we come to believing in the powers of that god?

Another quasi-divine phrase that tugs at my solar plexus is “a safe space”.

I believe in the importance of safe spaces. I long for them. But I also believe most of us conflate safe spaces with secure spaces, believing that if we are able to secure a “space” – be it a conversation or a home – with enough restrictions, we will be safe.

But that’s not true.

The “being” of safe is not defined by a geophysical coordinate system or by a relational placement to things, ideas, beliefs. What we don’t know/aren’t aware of can hurt us.

The “being” of safe is a metaphysical state. 

We try to create our own safety by securing our surroundings. But nothing is every really secure. All the alarm systems, forbidden language, and powerful friends can never guarantee us from harm – though they might give us temporary illusion of control, and a temporary a feeling of safety.

Though it may be a necessary step towards creating the connections, community and calm we need to be safe, providing a safe place for one another isn’t simply a matter of shuttering ourselves against the phenomena that cause us pain.

People I love were robbed yesterday.
I don’t know how to help make them feel safe again.

My first thought is, “Come home“.
As though I had that power.



6 Replies to “In Search of a Safe Place”

  1. Remembering Carl Sagan’s “small blue dot”, scale does come to play. Not that I am unfeeling for their experience. But what to say? How’s this… during a recent chemotherapy session one of the drugs was shutting down my ability to breath. Stunning! Well, two nurses and one doctor did exactly what they were trained to do and all was fine. During those moments one of the nurses twice took my hand to ask and assure me I’d be alright. And that is what I most value and remember now. That is the only “safety” I care about or trust. I don’t think that’s a stranger to you. Regards, Neil

  2. You know–I have been trying to compose a piece that views my life as an epic. And it’s so NOT an epic, which is part of the challenge of trying to write it that way. And then I come across your words here: “I’m not sure I believe that viewing every event/activity/experience in our lives as part of an epic narrative with profound significance for communal consumption is such a great thing.” And yes.

    Because I wanted to try to write my life as an epic mostly because I have no sense of its being any recognizable kind of journey.

    And if it were, someone else would have to write that narrative…and be wrong about it.

    Thanks, Ren.

    1. I keep coming back to a desire to write a memoir, but I just keep realizing that that kind of editing cuts off perspectives I can still explore and grow from. Guess that’s why I’m okay with poems for now.

    2. Hmm. Just thinking. That is the difference between a memoir and a biography, isn’t it? A memoir is deliberately a single perspective on an episode that doesn’t attempt an epic “journey”.

      1. Biography as epic. You will need a Homer, I suppose. I was aiming for a tongue-in-cheek bard who recognizes the smallness of the life but who had imagination enough to fill the gaps with glory. 🙂

  3. I neglected to comment on the idea of safety, which also reverberates in my thinking.

    The whole safety vs fear dynamic.

    Yes, come home.


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