No One Is Broken could have been told as the story of how a father (and mother) saved a son. Things were looking dark for this little boy until they began joining him and not judging him. It could also be told as the story of how a son saved his father, how the act of not judging this little boy allowed this man to pull himself from his own darkness.
But the truth is no one saved anyone from anything. To be saved would be to suggest we were somehow in danger, that one or both of us were balancing on some precipice beneath which lay suffering without return. I admit there was one night when I perceived myself as having edged up against just such a precipice, and that if I were just a little carless I might fall from life forever despite wishing to remain upright. What I came to understand about that suicidal cliff is that I only reached it because I believed it existed, that the very belief in suffering without relief immediately creates suffering from which the only relief is disbelief.
If that sounds circular, it often felt that way to me. In those early years, when we were first joining Sawyer, there were times when it was as if I were seeing him through some funhouse mirror—one moment he looked broken to me; the very next he did not. All that changed in those two moments was what I was thinking. If I thought he was broken he looked broken; if I did not think he was broken, he did not look broken. The question, it turned out, was not how to save him or fix him; the question was how did I want to see him. If I did not want to see him as broken, then I could not think that he was broken, I could not believe in brokenness.
As a parent, it is tempting to view such a choice as an elaborate excuse to bury your head in the sand, that the job of the parent is to remain ever vigilant to quietly mounting threats. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I do not think there is anything wrong with burying your head in the sand if you are seeing a great many threats. Sometimes you have to close your eyes to see. My only job in life, whether I am a father or a son or a husband or a writer, is to perceive the world without threats. Only then will I know how to take action and move forward in a way that is in alignment with life, rather than dodging landmines of my own invention.
Living in this way becomes a practice in trusting what you do not see. I see landmines all the time. They seem quite real and ready to blow me into a thousand unrecognizable pieces. That’s a deathless moment when I step into that trap anyhow. Blow me up, I say. I’d rather be a thousand pieces in the wind than live in a world full of enemies and bombs. End it if you must. And so I step, and every time I do something else dies in me, into whose space life quickly returns.
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I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.