I am the proud mother of a wonderful (and sometimes wild) three year old boy. Lately, our favorite bedtime story has been Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. Each time we snuggle up and read it, I am moved by the timeless lesson it teaches about how to face into things that are raw, brutish, scary, demanding, and overwhelming. Especially when those things are inside us.
In the book, little Max gets sent to his room without supper for making some poor choices. There, the room magically transforms into a jungle-like world, where a herd of scary-looking wild things greets him. They roar their roars. They bare their claws. They gnash their teeth. Max is frightened.
But instead of running away, Max does something unexpected. He faces the wild things full-on. Standing tall and quiet, he simply stares directly into their "terrible" yellow eyes, and says "be still!"
This move instantly tames the wild things. Max becomes their ruler. And then, the wild rumpus begins! Max stomps and dances, parades and swings, with the wild things. It's a primal party of epic proportions.
Eventually, Max decides the rumpus is over. Though the wild things roar in protest, he calmly departs, and returns to the safety of his room (and a warm supper).
Lately some "wild things" within me have been roaring their terrible roars.
Heartache. Compulsion. Worry.
But I've found, like Max, that by not looking away (or running away) from these raw parts of me, they can be tamed. They're not scary - they just want to be seen, accepted, known. They want connection. And so, when heartache roars, I take a deep breath. I stand within my true Self, who is strong, wise, and compassionate. I gaze calmly at the wild and hurting parts of me. And I say, lovingly, "Ssshh. Be still. It will be okay. Be still."
And then, the rumpus begins! I find that when I face my wild parts, there is a curious release of beautiful energy. It comes out in different ways. If I'm rumpusing with heartache, I'll write. If I'm rumpusing with anxiety, I'll run around the house five times with my toddler. If I'm rumpusing with a compulsion to do something self-destructive (like eat an entire pan of brownies), I'll hop into a bath that's obscenely full of yummy therapeutic epsom salts.
As we round the bend to 2021, may you, like Max, find the courage and equanimity to gaze with strength and compassion upon your untamed parts. May you bid them 'be still." May you relish the rumpus. And may you thereby feel enfolded within a profound sense of safety, nourishment, and homecoming.
Watch Me Read the Book
Click below to be directed to a YouTube link where I read aloud Maurice Sendack's Where the Wild Things Are.
Note: The link is non-public (unlisted) due to copyright laws.