a flock of geese flying

Being Good

28 Days of Flash — 19 of 28

I hear the first line of Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese in my head — you do not have to be good. You do not have to be good. I do not have to be good. I do not have to be a good writer. I want to be, and I constantly question whether I am.

When I start scanning my terrain for where to dig first, the yellow excavator with the CAT emblem moves away from my brain to my heart. The person at the wheel, hell-bent on getting down to the bottom, looks like Freddie Mercury wearing aviator sunglasses. The first extraction brings up the the blank pages of journals that were never filled because it wasn’t safe to write in them. It wasn’t safe to do anything except read and stay quiet. If it wasn’t safe to say things, it wasn’t any more safe to write them down. If I had written things down, said things, and not been quiet, I don’t know how it would have worked out.

Next, the bucket brings up the panic I felt when I raced away from my sister at six, tearing the drawing I just did of the dog to pieces so no one would see it. It wasn’t okay for anything I did to be just okay, and it wasn’t perfect so no one could see it.

I tell Freddie to stop digging.

I wonder where that scared kid came from. Because I also hear this echo of a voice in my ear giggling and it’s me at a year old, wearing a bright blue dress, my chubby fingers pointing at the camera because the person behind it is smiling. I know that smiles mean good things and happy people and I want to be with good things and happy people. I felt my grandmother’s arms pull me close when I told her that I was afraid of my grandpa — her husband — and I wonder if she hugged me because she was afraid of him, too. Maybe it was the secret no one wanted to say out loud — that my grandpa was mean and so many people were scared of him.

When I felt the fear of others, it felt like my only choice was to be smaller than them, less smart than them, less of a person, less intimidating. Six feet tall and less intimidating. I rounded my shoulders. I stayed quiet. I hid my legacy anger. Hide, back off, back down, stay quiet.

And then to receive a gift that compels me to shout it.

I do not have to be good. I do not have to apologize for being me anymore. I do not have to be a good writer. But I want to.



About Christine Wilcox Anderson

Writer, former corporate communications exec, and perpetual student of life on this rock.
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