I wasn’t going to talk about my actual age anymore. It feels limiting and makes me feel boxed in a bit. Like, you are supposed to be or do x,y.z by the time you are 1,2,3. You are grown up and responsible at given set of numbers and you aren’t supposed to live boldly anymore (if you ever were). You are not supposed to do things that scare you.
I was thinking about that for a long while. Because, you see, when I was a kid, I was fascinated by a particular Baha’i writing – paraphrased, it is that if you are afraid of things or people, you will never be truly afraid of God, and if you are afraid of God, nothing but God will make you afraid.
I was on a quest for quite a while to do the things that made me afraid. Small stuff: like I took a volleyball class in college because I was scared of volleyballs (uh huh, really). I took care of old people because I was scared of sickness. I didn’t do things that scared me against my instincts (- like walk down a dark alley or jump off heights), but I pushed myself to do the small things that scared me.
And then – partially from necessity – I pushed myself to do the large things that scared me. Like having a child with Down syndrome. Like embracing my own disability. Like being absolutely honest with myself. Like changing my website to meriahnichols.com and laying claim to my own words in the most public way possible.
At this point, I think of fear – and God – in ways different than I did when I was a child and wanting to understand the quote.
I feel the interconnectedness of us all more, which is a way to say that I feel the spirit of God in all of us. And “God” has never been the old man in the sky for me. It’s always been the Source – emanating energy, love.
I feel this Source.
As I stay on this planet and pass around the sun more times, I notice that the smaller stuff doesn’t scare me much anymore. Continually facing the volleyballs just makes me see that they really are just big, white, round balls. It’s not them I’m actually scared of; I’m scared of being hit.
I see that the smaller fears have deeper roots, and the deeper roots are sometimes tangled in the deeper fears.
It’s okay to feel fear. In fact, I think it’s very important to feel it.
Feeling it for me helps me acknowledge it. It allows me to think about the deeper places that the fear is coming from. Knowing where it is coming from lets me meet it head-first, address it and move on.
Coming back here scared me sick. It wasn’t the actual manual work that had to be done or the fairly rough living conditions or even the mice! It was the isolation. Feeling that – really feeling it, really getting to the core of what was making me so scared – was helpful for me because I could make a plan to catch myself when/if I needed it.
I switch those numbers around and they are 24. When I was 24, I had arrived on a hill in Vermont from Guangzhou, China. I attended graduate school. I met some of my best friends in that year, people that are very much a part of my heart still. I didn’t realize at the time how incredibly lucky I was to have like-minded people all around me then, I didn’t know how much I would miss that later. All I could think about then was how much I wanted to be married and have kids. I didn’t see what was fantastic about the situation – the friendships! – because of what I thought was lacking.
I’m again on a hill. I have the exact opposite of what I had on the hill when I was 24. I am married with kids, but I don’t have friends around. I mean, the irony is hilarious, right?!
This time I am not going to focus on what is lacking, because what is lacking will come in its own time. It always does. In the meantime, I have exactly what I wanted back when I was 24: 3 little kids and a pretty cool guy. I relish this opportunity to savor this moment.
I think everyone has an abiding thread in their lives. Something that they face repeatedly, or some particular piece that they struggle to make sense of. Something they are passionate about and want to truly understand. I know that for me, it is fear. Living my life with courage and understanding the nature of fear, feeling the roots of it, moving on and through it is very important to me.
It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done; it’s the best thing I have ever done. And ultimately, it’s what I feel will move me closer to God. God is still the point here for me – I suppose that is the simple result of my going through the windshield of a car when I was 4 years old. After that, God has always been the point.
I look in the mirror and I see my face has new wrinkles. The texture of my skin is changing. My body is changing, responding to the gravity of time. I am not particularly relishing these changes. In fact, I am scared. I’m back to that fear – and I sit with it. What am I scared of? I’m not scared of dying. So what is it? The change itself? Being considered ugly or irrelevant because I’m older? Yes, maybe. I’m not completely sure. I think I need to sit with this some more and breathe it in before I can figure it out and move on.
It’s the oldest I’ve ever been and even while the changes scare me, the numbers please me. I like their symmetry.
I’m glad I’m not 24. I’m glad this show of mine is moving forward and not back.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.