Monday, April 30, 2012

The Powerful Magic of Stories

Just finished reading Give Me by LK Rigel last week. Wonderful story, well-weaved, but what I wanted to share with you was how this story found me at just the right time on just the right day. If you've been following my blog, you know that I recently lost my beloved grandmother and I have been heartbroken. Suffice it to say, I have my good days and I have my bad days. Last Monday was one of those bad days where I was lost and befuddled. In retrospect, I can see how all the variables added up to it. The day was dank and dreary and I was wallowing in self-doubt about my own writing abilities. I was feeling lonesome and afraid, aware of the growing distance between myself a couple close friends.

 As usual, I was determined to fight my way through it and be productive. I stood in the laundry room, Tide detergent in one hand, coffee mug in the other, staring at the washing machine. I just couldn't do it, so I put the Tide down and backed away slowly. I brewed a cup of earl grey and retreated to my bedroom. With guilt riding my shoulder, I fussed with the bed clothes and pillows 'til I had a suitable nest. Kindle in hand, I flicked the guilt-bird off my shoulder and cuddled up with Give Me.

From the moment I opened the book, I was exactly where I most love to be: in a magic-filled world of witches - wyrding women, in this case - and mythos. Even when the ancient, wind-swept beach cliff turned into sunny California, 21st century, I willingly, hopefully followed. I trailed after Lilith, scared for her, angry for her, sad for her. Lourdes and Elyse lured me into their world of woes, while Bausiney and Marion brought modern-day Dumnos to life. The drippy, grey world outside my window surfaced just long enough for me to meet my kids at the bus stop, and I vaguely remember preparing dinner for my family. Meatloaf, I think...

Then, I was back, immersed in tragic decisions and lost love, wondering at how well-meaning intentions often lead us astray. Finally, relieved when. . .well, you'll have to read the book, yourself.  Well past bedtime, I was still book-dazed as I brushed my teeth, awash in that familiar fog of fragmented feelings from another world - sadness, relief, anger, regret, hope. And, dare I say, even a little left over lust? That night, I dreamed.

I dreamed I was with my Nan Baer, the where and what fors have disappeared, but I remember sitting with her, holding her hand and telling her how much I love her. The specific words are mostly gone, but I do remember saying, "I wish we could go somewhere peaceful and just talk over tea like we used to." I woke up crying in the dark, feeling adrift, as if I could have been anywhere, anytime. In my mind's eye I was standing under the protective cover of Igdrasil (read the book), watching the bank of clouds roil across the western sea towards me. And in that ethereal moment, I truly believed I had just been with my grandmother.

 If you doubt the powerful magic of stories, my heart is heavy for you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who has meant the most to you?

"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."

-Henri J.M. Nouwen, auther

I'm speechless. Wow! All I can think is WOW!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What are you afraid of?

I woke up this morning anxious.  I searched my brain for something I'd forgotten to do, but nothing came to mind.  I struggled with the fear for a few minutes, not wanting to let it pin me down.  The more I fought, the worse it got until it finally dawned on me: my old friend generalized anxiety was paying me a visit (strains of The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel softly play in the background – “Hello, darkness, my old friend. . .”).  As I Keurig'd my first cup of coffee this morning, I reprimanded myself for letting it get to me.  I knew better.  I've been working on this for years - this fear of nothing and everything that haunts me some days.  It used to haunt me every day, and at one very dark time in my life, all day

The fear waits for me under the bed or in the closet all night.  And just when I'm barely conscious, it strikes.  I haven't even registered what day it is and I'm suddenly in the fight of my life.  I'm throwing punches left and right, and all I seem to be doing is getting deeper into the fear.  What if something happens to my kids?  Did I pay that speeding ticket and did the tax man find something wrong with my return?  Is that weird mole skin cancer?  Or worse, what if I never stop feeling this way?  My chest is fluttering, making it hard to breath.  A thin film of sweat slicks across my palms and upper lip. 

POW! Get off me!

Kablam! What if you never get that damn book finished?

Then it dawns on me that I'm shadow boxing, again, and just like that, the fear monster poofs! into a puff of nothingness.  The after effects of adrenalin and cortisol do not, however, magically disappear, and I’m left with the metallic aftertaste of coppery fear, and the messy clean up. Once again.  *sigh*  Why do I let this happen to me?  And why did it come back again today?  I have been fear-monster-free for several weeks, so what changed?  I'm not sure - maybe I haven't exercised enough this week or maybe it was the glass of wine last night or carbs before bedtime, but something triggered the adrenalin and cortisol.  Maybe it’s nothing specific, just every day stress catching up with me. One thing I've figured out over the years, tho', is that while hormones may play a central role in my anxiety, ultimately, I'm the director.  It’s up to me to decide what needs to happen so that this movie plays well. 

And regardless of what fear pops into my mind, I can't let it take control.  Let me say that again: I cannot let it take control.  Fear has its purpose, but it shouldn't be in charge. Too often, I have let it lead, because it felt good to be "safe."  IF I could build the wall a little higher or add just one more steel bar, then the scary nasties wouldn’t get me.  And while I was putting most of my energy into building up and maintaining my fortress, I wasn't writing, or playing with my kids or even just allowing my overworked brain time to do nothing (are you out there Tapeworm?)  And when I wake up to what I’m really doing - building a prison - I realize I haven’t prevented anything I was afraid of.  My son got hurt on his ATV this winter anyways, and my daughter broke her wrist last Mother's Day riding her bike.  And my grandmother died, all the same.

As I sip my coffee between deep breaths, I’m practicing letting go.  I do what I can to stay on top of my life, and well, the rest I have to let go of.  Control was an illusion, anyways.  There’s no mental wall big enough to keep all the scary nasties out, whatever they may be.  But, what the wall can do is lock me up inside, unable to venture out or take a risk.  And THAT is something to be afraid of.