The Social Worker
When I was young child, a social worker used to come visit me at my home. Being adopted, I’m sure his intention was to make sure I was in the right place. Make sure I was safe.
However, whenever he came, I would notice the shift that would take place in my household. My father would disappear to the back of the house. While my mother would greet the social worker, head on, looking him square in the eye. Answering every question immediately, with certainty and with a passion. There was an air of confidence about her I didn’t understand as a young child, but one, I knew, I was drawn to. One I trusted and wanted to be like.
The social worker would always ask the speak to me outside. In the backyard. Away from the family. I would wait in the shade, under a tree while my mother would bring him out to me. She would be smiling warmly at me, looking at me directly in the eye, her way of letting me know I was ok, as they approached. Then she would walk away. She never told me the weight of the situation. She never had to. I felt it.
The social worker would kneel down before me. Friendly and trying to engage me. But my whole focus would remain on the back of my mother, walking back to the house. As he continued trying to capture my attention with little kid "small" talk and questions no one else seemed to ask me while wearing a huge smile. My mother would look back one more time before entering my home. My gaze would then go to the window, where I knew in a matter of seconds, she would pop up behind the glass. Every time, she did.
It would be at this moment that my attention would shift back to the social worker. Although he was always nice, cordial and happy in a childish way, I noticed a distance behind his smile. He would pick up my arms, inspecting them, looking at the front and back of my legs. Examining me. Asking where every scuff or scratch came from. Marking every bruise or scrape on his clipboard. While rarely making eye contact. I remember appreciating his kindness while feeling his disconnect. Polite, but detached enough to be professional, I guess. But in a way I didn’t trust. In a way opposite of my mother.
I remember feeling like he was masquerading as wanting to know me, but something inside me only feeling his threat. His power. Of what he could take away. Knowing there was a weight I didn’t understand in every one of my answers. Knowing I should keep my mouth shut.
Cut to many years later… we’ll leave it at “many”. I’m older now. I’m in a writing class every morning that does a daily meditation and gives a prompt. The other day’s prompt was imagine you are being interviewed by a social worker. What questions would they ask to see if you are fit to raise your creativity.
This prompt landing personally. Now being on the mothering end of such a situation. A mothering of my story. Caring for the voice that wants to share it. That was kept so quiet and has waited all this time. While at the same time, aware of what all is at stake. Its decision ultimately once in another's hands. The same fear of loss that has led my story. Fed the pain, fed the uncertainty.
Now, wanting to raise this voice to be strong enough to speak out. To give this creativity the space it needs to do what it does. This energy that wants to surge out of me. This vision that wants to transform a memory into a narrative. Changing the shame, the secrets, into spoken or written word. Sharing instead of hiding. While also morphing what I am in the process.
This ideation that has been buried and waited for years to be exposed. Told to stay safe. Told the fear is there to protect it. To keep it out of harms way. To keep it from being judged or ridiculed. When it has served its time in the silence and deserves to be released to roam wild and free.
At times I question if I do give it what it needs. Do I nurture it enough to continue? Do I create a safe place for it to bloom? Not wanting to neglect this vital seed from growing. Not wanting to neglect a part of myself in the process.
I imagine meeting this same social worker, years later, under the same shaded tree we met as a child. After he has walked through my home to see how it is kept. After he inspected what's in my fridge, the status of my bathroom. After deciding if the environment was stable. He sits before me quiet. Stoic. Impossible to read.
“How much time will you give to nurture this creativity?” He finally asks.
Before I answer, something in the back of my throat freezes. I picture my mother. Her bold honesty. Feeling the need to do the same. Wanting to be like her. But knowing the need to fully commit before I do. Once I do, knowing the responsibility is solely in my hands, just as it was in hers raising me. A choice to do so. To do right by it. To be kind. To give it what it needs. To raise it in the manner it deserves. But a fear resonates at the same time. One that vibrates my soul. Scared of what all that entails. The role I must represent. Scared I may fall short or fuck up.
I quickly search my heart. Asking for the courage to be honest. And suddenly feel calm.
“As much times as it needs, “ I hear my own voice say. Shaking as it answers. The truth now let out. Released to flow in the wind between us. Under the protection of the shade of this tree.
"What if it comes at inappropriate times?” He asks, still sizing me up. “What if it interferes with what is going on in your life? What if it feels like a burden? Will you grow angry and impatient? Will you welcome it at all hours of the day? Will you sit with it? And hear its needs? ”
Again, a nervousness rushes through me. Knowing the importance. Feeling the pressure, while now questioning my own capabilities. Then, I grow calm once again.
“I will. “ I answer scared but confidently sure in my response. As if I’m making a vow, a stand, to keep this precious thing in my life. Stepping into the foot steps of my mother. Knowing what I needed as a child. Her unwavering hand. The patience in her eye. Seeing the need to care for and tend to it. To raise it. To parent it to grow. Wanting it to flourish. Already feeling the protective love pulsating through my veins.
He sits across from me. Still staring. Still calculating, risk assessing. Deciding if I’m worthy. If he believes me. While I stare back, steadfast, determined, just the way my mother had.
“Are you capable?” He finally asks.
Feeling how desperately I want this role while at the same time feeling the old fear of losing it. Knowing how serious I will take it. While recognizing once more I have been here before. Feeling the power of CPS. Knowing it can snatch anything out of its home and place it into the hands of another. Remembering, as the child, the powerless feeling I felt to my core. The lack of security. The threat.
Then, remembering how my mother would answer with a confidence. A certainty. A closeness. A warmth. An authenticity in her eye. A passion in her soul. No distance. No professionalism. All heart. All strength. I believed her. Showing both him and I how badly she wanted me. Now, me as the adult. The control now in my hands. Destiny no longer left to anyone but my own.
Closing my eyes again. Asking for the courage to be honest. Another surge of calm takes over me. Realizing, this creativity is already mine. Just as I was already hers. It's been with me the whole time. Since I can remember. It came with me. The one thing that never left. When everything else did.
When I was taken from her home. When all things changed. When old homes were gone, and new, strange homes became mine. When different people surrounded me, this creativity never left. Always staying close to my heart. Tucked away, until one day safe to surface. Waiting patiently for this day to come.
Whispering lines and poems and sitting with me as I wrote. Whenever I was alone. Rekindling memories of everything I loved, everything I missed, I lost, I imagined, I wished.
Always keeping me company. Together. As a part of me. As the family we have always been. A family that has never broke. A unity that has never faltered. One, that no one could ever take from me. Because it is a part of me.
“Yes!” I confidently say, standing in the footsteps of my mother. Certain. Passionate. “There is no one more capable.”
Knowing this creativity is in my heart. A different being with a mind of its own. Its own soul, its own thought and creations, but a part of me. That I will help grow and nurture, just as it did for me. Because it has helped me survive. I have held onto the stories it told me to hold onto. It has written the stories that changed me.
Just like that the fear evaporated. Realizing the social worker is now only a memory from a past life, a memory in need of transformation into a story. A story that only I and this creativity can tell. One we can morph the pain into a beauty. Seeing there is so much beauty to be seen. Closing my eyes, asking for the courage to be honest, and trusting what ever wants to be spoken next. Trusting the creativity that has always burned brightly within me. As part of me. For so many years. And once again, it is time to let it go into all the unknowns this world has to offer. All the fear, all the uncertainty, knowing we, together, are capable. To take the colors, to paint any picture, to tell any story, to create a way through as we always have. With the air of confidence I learned from my mother. One I trusted and now hope to be like. Knowing it is now my intention to make sure I am the right place. Knowing we are now safe to tell our story of survival. Knowing we both chose this. And knowing I am the only one to do so.