In the world we live in with all its fears and uncertainty, its frailties and capriciousness, having an Inner Sydney is a necessity.
Sydney is my eight year old granddaughter, and she was born with a sensitivity to textures and sensory experiences. As a very young child, everyday experiences often created a landscape of deep and immediate emotional reactions.
One would think that being wired this way would create a young woman who would be trapped in fear and anxiety. But Sydney is one of the bravest people I know.
As I write that, many memories surface of when I witnessed this first hand, but the freshest example is from the first day of third grade this year.
For the first time, Sydney was facing elementary school without her older sister, whom she adored. When we pulled up, the sidewalk was nearly empty and the school loomed large.
I felt her momentary hesitation and took her hand. “Syd, do you want me to go in with you?”
She stared right into my eyes, totally clear and open. I saw the beginnings of tears forming. Then, she took her hand away and smiled a weak smile.
Oma, I got this.
She closed the door of the van, squared off her shoulders, readjusted her backpack, and headed for the door.
A night later, she was standing on the field of the local high school stadium preparing to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” acapella before the start of a soccer match.
“Are you nervous?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she replied without hesitation and strode off with her mother towards the field. She was led off by an official to be in position for the start, and I saw that once she was settled in, she stood there silently holding her mic, waiting.
When the player introductions finished, her name was announced over the PA system,and the crowd stood. Standing by herself on the field, she seemed even smaller than her eight years. I felt her inhale, and then she sang with a confidence way beyond her years.
When she was done, I asked her how she handled her nervousness.
“I held a stress ball in my hand.”
That was all.
As a parent, as a wife, as a friend, as a grandma, when others express their fears, I often find myself giving pep talks, or at least what I think are pep talks, to help them “get through”. But this little girl has learned what many of us never do.
Strength has to come from the inside.
Strength from the inside is a strength that sustains. It is a strength that admits frailties and marches ahead anyway. It is a strength that gives voice to fear and then walks through it, head held high.
It is an "Inner Sydney strength" forged in the crucible of fear.
Someday, I hope to develop my own Inner Sydney and stare down the voices of resistance - to acknowledge my fears but not let them own me.
Someday, I hope you find her too