Sometimes I hear a song and it really takes me back. Memories pop into my head… some good, some bad. Most times good and bad since music and dancing have always been my go-to for getting me through hard times. But last night, something different happened. As I was on my way back from a great Valentine’s Day show at The Mystery Box, Enigma’s Return to Innocence came on the radio.
This is a song I’d listened to so many times in my youth that I’d destroyed tapes, CDs, and eventually went to electronic files, which don’t wear out. I loved the song. It always resonated with me, but not because I could relate. I just desperately wanted a chance to return to innocence.
No matter who we are, how great or horrific our childhoods and past have been, there comes a time in all of our lives when we lose our innocence. It’s that moment when we see the darkness for the first time.
This moment is different for everyone, and I remember that moment for me. I was five at the time and the news had come on announcing that a man had set fire to his son’s bed while he’d slept. He’d tried to kill him over a custody battle. The boy’s name was David Rothenberg, though now he goes by Dave Dave.
I remember walking out my front door and falling to my knees in the front yard.
I didn’t even know the boy, but that didn’t matter. I’d started to see darkness in the world already and certainly had things that terrified me by then, but it was the moment that I realized a parent would do that to their child that took something precious away from me.
Soon after more things would steal my innocence away. Bit by bit until it was completely drained from me. But it’s important that I remember the first thing that made me see the world as it was rather than in drawings of rainbows and unicorns. What happened to Dave Dave shook me to my core. I thought, no one is safe.
As I got older, I wanted so badly to see the light in the world that I got involved with spiritual groups, humanitarian groups, and all sorts of online healing communities, but no matter what I tried, that innocence never returned.
Mentors and teachers tried to help me. They’d tell me things about being myself, about opening my heart, about love in an epic humanitarian sense, but nothing ever did for me what they claimed it would. I never felt this sense of innocence and awe come back to me.
Years after that exploration, I met some folks on Myspace that had similar views and one guy there came closer to helping me than anyone else. He’d said, “Life is pain. Even if there were no other people on the planet, life itself means pain. There’s illness, storms, destruction… life is violent. Earth is violent. But it isn’t only violent. Life is also about creation.” This notion would return to me again and again throughout my adult years. But I still didn’t see how it might help me feel innocent again. Or if that were even possible…
Then recently, I had some very big growth and stepped into my place of power. I’ve changed a lot very fast and have stuck to these changes. It’s like I just ‘got it’ and once I had, I didn’t want to be on the same path I was. So new path, new habits, new practices, and this made a huge impact on my ability to be present and open.
Being open means I’m able to experience things I’ve not really experienced so far. And by experienced, I mean in a ‘present’ sense. Taking part in something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ‘experiencing’ it. I’d been simply taking part.
So sensations I’ve not been able to feel before, or things—like soft fur gently run across my body—went from feeling horrible to pleasant, nonexistent to existent.
As these sensations came to me, I found myself feeling young. Childlike.
The more I opened myself, the more innocent I felt.
None of it made sense. I have memories that still haunt me. Though I no longer suppress them. I also still have pain. I have more work to do. Always work to do… More to learn. More to understand. More growth to be achieved. So how could I be feeling this innocence?
It wasn’t computing in my brain.
I knew I felt innocent again, and this was fantastic. It was something I’d sought for so long. But I couldn’t figure out why this was. And in the big picture, it didn’t matter why it was. No matter how much I wanted to understand it, the most important part was that I was feeling it.
This brings me back to the Mystery Box storytellers from last night. There was something that each story had in common and it’s what made me finally get why I’m able to feel this level of innocence now…
Each person that told their story last night had accepted and embraced who they are.
They chose to honor who they are and love themselves fully.
The stories varied from sweet love to heartache, wild kinkiness, overcoming rejection, and the one that affected me most; embracing our own darkness and turning it to light with one simple word… consent.
Consent changes everything because we have to give it. We have agency when we consent. We don’t consent to abuse or trauma. But we can consent to experiences that heal that abuse and trauma. It’s what’s gotten me so far on my healing journey.
These stories resonated deeply. Each one. Because I connected to all of them.
The stories made me laugh, made me cry, and made me feel a full range of emotions that I couldn’t feel the last time I was at this show. So on my drive home last night, I thought about these stories as Enigma was playing. And that’s when I got it. I figured out why I was feeling innocence again.
When I stepped into my power recently, I embraced who I am fully. My darkness and my light. The parts of me that are both destructive and creative. I didn’t put judgment on myself. Or expectation. I simply was and am. I chose to love me. Just as the storytellers had chosen to embrace and love themselves.
I’ve also taken my darkness and turned it to light by way of consent. That one little word makes even the darkest of darks transform into something beautiful.
I thought about this as the song played. Specifically these lyrics:
Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence.
If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself don’t hide
I’d always thought the song was talking about loving others. That loving others would return my innocence to me (if returning innocence was even possible). And maybe that’s what the song did mean, but I don’t think so.
Loving me, that’s what brought this lovely feeling of childlike wonder back to me. Even with my power still intact. My knowledge still here. My experiences still front and center.
Innocence isn’t about youth or bad things never happening.
Innocence is about our ability to embrace both the good and bad together, choosing to keep our hearts open, being ourselves fully, being present, and loving who we are.
When we honor who we are, we maintain a level of innocence that no one can take from us. Being who we are means being vulnerable, and vulnerability carries innocence.
There is so much beauty in openness and vulnerability.
Yesterday was a very good day. Much happened, both bad and good, but because I embraced it all, everything ended up being good. The bad portions hurt, but I felt what needed feeling, released the lingering trauma, transformed something I hated into something I loved, and embraced the rest of my day with smiles and joy.