You come into the world alone. If you’re lucky you’re greeted warmly. If not, you may come to learn that chaos and emptiness surround you. Maybe you float, terrifyingly and wordlessly untethered. Gradually, the words come, and you cobble together a personal reality in survival mode. You do whatever’s necessary to get through each day.

Untethered from birth, you long for the safety of being tethered — of being attached somewhere, somehow. But lacking that early experience of connection, you can’t recognize it when it touches you.

Being untethered, new, and without language is terrifying. Coping mechanisms are vital, and their machinery is very simple. Clocklike and relentless, self-protective withdrawal is one swing of the pendulum. The other inevitably involves attempts to earn loving connection.

And to be seeking connection as if your life depends on it means that you are mightily and absolutely tethered — locked into unhelpful and endless circularities. The machinery, once in place, doesn’t stop grinding away. It becomes who you are. The terror of being untethered leads to a self-inflicted chokehold.

So this has been the tether of my 69 years. The simple machine I cobbled together in the 1950’s has been in action for a long, long time. But the safety of being tethered isn’t a thing that’s necessary or that works for grown-ups. And learning this, whenever the lesson becomes clear, is a great gift!

It was so scary to be untethered and wordless that I never wanted to feel that terrible feeling again. I thought that what I sought was something I needed. Back then it was. But I surely don’t need that now.

Being untethered and taking my place on this earth is the path toward new life.

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