We all need places to hide.
I’ve been feeling that need a lot lately.
I can remember it being a fun thing many years ago.
When I was a kid I had my favorite spots. They had to be places where I could see but not be seen. I was a spy.
Often I found myself in a tree, overseeing the world. But I also had a fondness for snaking through tall grass. And what kid doesn’t like to build a fort or have a tree house?
I remember the forts we built in the house with many blankets spread over furniture. Of course, I wasn’t really hiding. It was obvious where I was ... with permission.
But there was something magical about crawling into that cave of cotton and wool. My little kingdom. A world I had created. I felt safer and, yes, hidden.
I considered hiding a skill I practiced with pride. Hide-and-seek on my own level.
Fun hiding games dissolve over time, though. The urge to hide, however, does not go away.
As I’ve gotten older, this hiding thing has become more about dealing with stuff.
Seth Godwin is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker and author of the popular seths.blog, where he suggests:
“You are hiding.
“All of us are.
“Hiding from change. Hiding from responsibility. Hiding from the prospect of feeling foolish.
“We hide by avoiding things that will change us. We hide by asking for reassurance. We hide by letting someone else speak up and lead.
“We live in fear of feelings.
“We’re lucky enough that the things we used to fear don’t happen so often anymore, so now we fear feelings.
“We will rationalize in extraordinary ways to avoid coming out of hiding.
“When in doubt, look in the hiding places.
“Olly olly oxen free.”
I think we face hiding on two fronts: where we choose to hide and, of course, what we are hiding from.
There are monsters under the bed. We design them and put them there. Imaginary monsters are just as scary as real ones. And there are real ones.
We all have some kind of monster in our lives. Things we fear and avoid. They come in all sizes and shapes.
My heart aches for those who battle the beasts that hunt in the jungle we call life. Alcoholism, drug addition and pain. So many forms of pain and disease seem to glare at us every day.
For much of our lives, the monsters can be like gnats at a picnic – lots of little things that irritate us, snap at us, nag us – and we spend a lot of time swatting them away.
But even little irritating monsters trigger that need to hide, or more like just get away. Take a break. Relax.
Because sometimes life and all it demands can be the monster. The kind you have to feed and keep on a leash.
We all face deadlines – those little showdowns at high noon. Which is why it helps now and then to get the hell out of dodge.
We find many ways to do that: vacations, books, movies, all kinds of entertainment and pursuits of pleasure. Or on a higher plain we hide in the comfort of family and friends, religion, human connections and hope.
If the showdowns are frightening or seem unbearable, well, that pressure can lead to an escape that becomes the slippery slope into a world of addiction and pain.
I feel sorry for the brain, our command central. It’s always trying to untangle a head full of logic and math and dates and numbers, all dripping and soggy with emotions and memories.
That’s my brain these days. Bruised by grief but trying to manage the daily routine. Swatting away gnats but keeping a watchful eye for monsters in the shadows.
All that machinery needs to cool down now and then. So yeah, we all need places to hide.
But lately it’s been hard – really, really hard – to find a good place to hide.
The past couple of years, and especially the past few weeks, I have watched monsters take away people I love. My rambling words today have been mostly about those losses.
But there’s a positive note worth sharing. Whatever you are hiding from, you are not alone.
As I hide huddled under my blankets of sadness, I can look around and see many others with me. Embracing, not hiding. Grief creates its own network.
As you get older, you realize the weight of grief grows heavier with an impending truth – we all are mortal.
Perhaps that’s what I am truly trying to hide from – the ultimate monster.
• Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.