Finding balance in the second half of life

Hazel and the Naughty Bear

In Survival on July 19, 2020 at 6:02 pm

This week I posted a photo of my granddaughter, Hazel, running ahead of me on our forest trail. It’s a magical photo, if I do say so myself. And social media friends agreed: “This looks like a cover for the next edition of The Secret Garden or something!” “Chasing the White Rabbit!”

The longer description, which didn’t quite fit in a social media caption, is this: When Hazel and I walk our trail, I’m assigned to play the Naughty Bear, lumber behind her, arms upraised and hands clawed, saying “Rawr” periodically and, once or twice, “I want to eat a sweet Hazelnut!” Hazel’s role is to run ahead of me, occasionally turning back to bring me a “sweet bloody stick” which I may [pretend to] gnaw on, since I’m unsuccessful [by design] in ever catching an actual sweet Hazelnut to assuage my hunger.

I’ve been thinking about this game since. First, I hope she’s not having nightmares. 

Next I think about all the ways in which we create motivation for ourselves. There have been other times on this trail when Hazel is dragging, asking for piggy-back or shoulder rides to make one circuit. When chased by a bear, she can run two or three times around—three times is a mile—without pausing even to catch her breath. I’m not sure how I feel about this motivation including faux fear, but Hazel herself is giddy, exhilarated, so I needn’t judge.

But then I think about fear. Of course there’s an enormous difference between fear we engineer ourselves—by assigning a Nana to act [sort of] like a bear—versus reacting to a genuine danger—like an actual bear. Once we get past the hard-wired fight or flight response, there’s some wisdom in considering our fear: Is it real? Or did we make it up? Do we have reason to be afraid? Or is it just Nana? 

For Hazel in the woods, fear is a toy; playing with it makes her feel brave and adventurous. I don’t want to live fearfully, especially in these disordered days. I’m going to work on clarity about which threats are imagined, and which are real. For those that are real, I’m going to do my best to look with clear eyes, to define any threat as clearly as I can, and to figure out what I can do to disarm it. And I’m going to hang on to hope. And maybe a sweet bloody stick or two.

  1. Such a lovely game. Reminds me of one my nearly (now) 38 year old Sarah used to entice me to play . . .

  2. Thanks for this, Lois. It brings back fondly fearful memories from my childhood. I still remember the strange excitement I felt when I was running (fast!) from my dad as he played the role of scary bear chasing little kid through the woods. When I heard his growl, I never turned around to look at him, afraid of what I’d see. Those are the only times I remember being scared of my dad. I was always relieved when the chase was over and my dad became a man again.

  3. Always so insightful, particularly in these fearful times. Thanks for sharing, and being a great nana too

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