I often wonder what it means to be "safe." I wonder how each of us understands safety in a different way and how there have been hundreds if not thousands of moments culminating to produce our understanding of a seemingly innocent, four-letter word.
I think for many, a few of those moments became the bigger ones over the last year or so. We began to realize that maybe what makes us feel safest is something we can't see because it's within us... but damn does it pull its weight in work.
It's built with thousands of tiny cells, microorganisms, and fighters dressed in white that attack whatever it deems as an invader. We call it our immune system, our body knows it as it's safety armor.
We began to realize that without it, no matter the house we live in, the car we drive or the treatment we can afford, there comes a time when the immune system doesn't discriminate and can no longer pull its weight, no matter the safety measures we implore and retroactively use.
Safety is a basic need that most of us are lucky enough to have met, most of the time. Perhaps we've lived through moments where our emotional safety was contingent upon whether or not vulnerable information stayed with the person who became privy to it.
Perhaps there was a time when the health of your emotional safety came secondary to your physical safety. Regardless of how you came to understand it, safety is the feeling of being protected; financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally.
Over the years, I've tried observing how I subconsciously attempt to bring myself back to a feeling of security. I've found that I mostly try to neutralize my nervous system with actions that remind my body of times when I felt invincibly safe and secure.
Actions such as wrapping a towel around your shoulders like you're 8 years old and you just took a polar bear plunge. Or maybe you’re 3 again and a parent or grandparent wraps you up and whisks you away into warmth, comfort, and safety; freshly "bubble-bath bathed" and all.
I find immense comfort in being wrapped up... by a towel, the sea, or a chunky blanket when there’s no one there to hold you (providing yourself with a literal "safety blanket," if you will).
I find comfort and a feeling of safety in the way you can wake up in the fluffiness and warmth of your bed and know what temperature it is outside just by the way your feet chill as they hit the floor and the air seems a little heavier but crisp. It's that weird oxymoron of being chilled and your skin rising but somehow feeling a sense of weight and grounding by the way you experience your flesh seeming a little fresher than you remember it feeling when you tucked yourself into bed the night before.
The kind of morning chill that makes you want to pull on a thick pair of ski socks to feel the light compression wrapping around your ankle and upper calf - maybe providing a subliminal sense of solace that you didn’t know you were looking for.
In Chinese medicine, the feet are believed to be the "holders of it all". To protect them, to cover them, to wrap them up, is to do the same for yourself; your whole being.
I’ve always found it peculiar the way spreading our toes in feebly supportive sand calms the nervous system with each wave that rises and recedes over the tops of our feet.
Or the way walking on cool, green grass sends this kind of invigorating sensation through your entire spine until your brain feels washed anew.
I think whether we realize it or not, we often gravitate towards these modalities to feel comfort. To feel safe. Maybe to subconsciously remind us of moments from childhood, a bubble of youth.
I've noticed that when I begin to feel anxious and out of control, my body craves motion and movement. I'm not talking about the brief but fleeting anxiety we get after someone scares us or we think we've misplaced our keys. If you too have been followed by the shadow of anxiety then maybe you know the type that totally disorients you, paralyzes you, and you can't get ahold of the damn thing even though it's coming from inside of you.
Your breath can't seem to go past the base of your throat no matter how hard you try. Your hands become clammy and your neck prickly.
You become physically bombarded by an overload of sensory information that you did not ask for nor initiate. You begin to feel unsafe in your own body and mind.
When I begin to feel like this, I find myself running. Physically running, distancing myself from the usual label I give myself as "not a runner." I suppose I pursue the nuances of running in a feeble attempt to subliminally outrun the reality I'm facing; the lack of control and creeping anxiety.
It's as if somehow the running is a neutralizer and physically forces breath deep into my belly and lungs that otherwise would not make it there. I've found that I feel safe through movement.
And lastly, I've found that music, especially paired with movement, is a safety mechanism that always roots me to my core. The emotional connections we build with songs somehow transports the entirety of the mind, body, and soul into a suspended reality where all that exists is the vibration of the song and how our physical bodies experience it.
It's the moment when you feel held by the music you hear. Held by the beats that you can feel resonating through your bones and within your heart. Your entire being is literally experiencing vibrating movement through your cells and igniting your brain... embodying the music and returning you to a sense of self, a sense of security, a sense of safety.
We all want to feel safe. In one way or another at least. For it's when we feel safe that we can truly show up. For ourselves and then for others. It's when our immune systems feel safe that our bodies cease to experience continued inflammation leading to almost every disease we can name to date.
To be safe is to be well. And to be well is to be free. Whichever of these four-letter words you identify with, I encourage you to explore what makes you feel each one and then chase that feeling. Again and again and again.