“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.”
—The Velveteen Rabbit
My four year old sat holding a toy she wasn’t allowed to open until the next week. She caressed the edges of the box, held it up so she could see better through the plastic window, and chatted happily about all she’d do once the toy was out of its casing.
Each day my four year old repeated this ritual. She never complained or whined, just contented herself with holding the box, waiting patiently for the day designated for opening it.
“That’s so cruel!” A friend joked when I told her.
Jon and I don’t often try to shield our children from emotional discomfort. We make them wait, we don’t practice fairness, and we encourage them to work out their own problems as often as possible. It had never occurred to me to hide the toys away, because it had never occurred to me to shield my daughter from the discomfort of waiting.
Lately, I’ve been working to accept things in my own life that cause me discomfort. Jon and I are going through changes both as a couple and as individuals, and my life is currently full of questions and situations that almost daily bring up feelings of panic, fear, sadness, anger, and frustration. All my life, I’ve sought to avoid anything that might cause these “negative” emotions, but now, rather than seek to alleviate them, I’m trying to sit with them. Hold them. Let them touch me, then let them pass. They always do, eventually, and generally teach me something along the way.
I think the Skin Horse was right. “Becoming” doesn’t happen often to those who break easily or must be carefully kept. We have to be willing to go to a place where we allow ourselves to be hurt, afraid, sad, even broken, if need be. We have to be willing to enter that place with hearts wide-open, and embrace whatever is waiting for us there.
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse. “By the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”