Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Soft Place to Fall

I have sleep walked most of my life. I mean, real sleep walking....not just
"she sleep walks through life" type thing. I started sleep walking in the 3rd grade when that mean 'ole teacher told me I couldn't read good (or well.) By sleep walking, I mean that I actually got up and left places sound asleep, convincing others that I was awake. Many of my childhood friends could not wait for me to go to sleep just to see what I'd be up to within the next few hours.
Our family has been going to the beach in Carrabelle, Florida since I was five. Sometimes we spent the whole hot summer there. During many of those summer nights, I slept walked. Now this is true. My siblings will vouch for this (and more!) I swear it. One night, about 2:00 am, I climbed out of my window and out onto the roof of our two-story old beach house. In my dream-state, I walked around completing whatever unconscious business had eluded me in the daylight. Eventually you know, a sleep walker begins to wake and "come to." I was in that sort of dazed state when I heard my mama say, "Daddy, I think Marianne is out on the roof sleep walking." I know they were exhausted parents. It was at least 108 degrees, no air, too many bugs and kids. In some sort of distracted and groggy voice, I could hear my father reply, "Oh, gosh, I hope she doesn't fall off the roof and hurt the water heater. We just had that fixed last week." Yes, you read that right and I heard that right: "I hope she doesn't fall down two stories and hurt the water heater." I'm not sure if I crawled back through the window because I was tired or rejected. Whichever, I knew that I would hear about it in the morning.
When is it that we are supposed to spring out of our beds and out of our own lives to take care of children....again? Who is the boundary-drawer of that thin line between allowing our kids to grow up and be their own people without our constantly layering them up with all of our stuff---expectations, fears, dreams. My parents had witnessed my sleep walking a hundred times before. They knew that about me. That's what I did at night. It was part of who I was. At what point were they required to get up, stay up and help me take care of my life? When are parents supposed to intervene? (Anybody out there ever ask yourself this same question?)
We would probably all agree that we want to keep our loved ones safe. But there was a bigger issue that night at the beach. (They needed to keep the water heater safe-er.) Actually, what they knew was that I would find my own way off of that roof, back inside the window and safely to my own bed. I don't begrudge them this; they knew I was a skilled sleep-walker. I had never fallen before. They trusted that I would find my way....back.
(Side note: Being without hot water would have gotten me killed the next day anyway. My brothers and sisters would have finished me off.)
It is so hard to know what part of Taylor is just Taylor and what part of him is left up to me. Even with his profound limitations, I know that his own sweet soul has a journey and a purpose all his own. It's his gig. This life is his life, not just his life attached to me. He has his own path, his own needs, his own special job to do on this earth. Since I've already admitted to being God's wife, I must remind you how inclined I am to control his learning and experiences. I want him to grow and be who he is, but sometimes I probably work too hard to keep him from falling. I'm asking you, is it enough to offer those we love simply a soft place to fall? And, how do we know where that fine line begins and ends? Just asking.
I am so glad that my parents did not get up out of bed the night I walked around on the roof at the beach. I may have fallen and broken my leg or, G_d forbid, fallen on the water heater. But it would have been my fall, my leg, my own path.
This is a hard call. We all have them---hard calls. Is that our best bet---giving each other a safe and soft place to fall? I'm thinking yes.