Tessa hates the bath. She particularly hates having her hair washed. She bellows as the water is poured on her head, no matter how careful I am. She screams that I have gotten soap in her eyes when there is none anywhere near them, and she pronounces the decree; “I neborh gonna have a baff again!”. I ain’t the bath-every-nite kinda mama. As long as their feet are clean before they climbinto bed and their bums don’t stink, I’m good. She and I are not a good combination at this point if there is to be any hope of overcoming her fear. Afterall, you gotta face it, right?
But not long ago there was a slight shift in her. She and a little friend got all muddy and the mamas plunked them into the bath together. When I told Sophie it was time to wash her hair, with out a complaint, with out a pause, she plunged her head under the water and came up drenched, blinking and grinning.
Tessa was in shock. How was this possible? Why hadn’t Sophie screamed and cried? Why did she do it herself? When it was Tessa’a turn, she bravely plunged the front of her face into the water. She didn’t get much of her actual hair wet, but she allowed me to dump cupfuls of water on her head without a fuss. It was our first tearless bath in ages.
Oh, thank you Sophie, thank you mud.
Since then, there has been a subtle change in her. Without Sophie in the bath she did revert to some of her former fussing, but not with the intensity she had before. Then the other day, she finally agreed to lay on her back and let her head go under the water.
She was rigid and nervous, holding her head aloft in the water, not realizing that the bottom of the tub was about a quarter inch away. I gently pushed on her forehead and met resistance as she fought me. But it touched. She was thrilled. Her nervousness melted away into the warm water and she seemed free.
Fear is something that I allow to make a lot of my choices for me, and not in a good way. It keeps me from relaxing into the experiences that, like it or not, I will have to go through, and thus makes those experiences more difficult to bear. In childbirth we are taught that the muscular resistance created by us holding onto our fear increases the pain we feel. We brace ourselves, thinking that somehow in doing so we can minimize the intensity of what we feel, only to intensify it.
And sometimes it takes a push into the depths of it all from outside ourselves to reach that place where we find that we have met the limit of our fear, and it has not overcome us. But it is a battle to be fought and won in our heads. We alone can trust in what we have been told and shown by others who now fearlessly dive right in, through and beyond fear.
I appreciated watching Tessa as the thing she feared most became a blissful experience. She waved her head back and forth in the water, the warmth moving over her, the sounds thrilling her, and the freedom of the moment empowering her. Her contentment left no room or reason to hold place for her fear.
I think I know why the people of Tibet seek out the next Dali Lama in a child. When children find wisdom, it becomes them.