How do we heal our souls when they are ripped apart and set on fire? We sit in the smoldering ashes and feel powerless and incompetent because no one else we know could ever hurt this much.
People will gather for morning coffee or chat as they power up their computers on Monday, talking about exciting Saturdays and Sundays and we will pretend. We will find one good thing and exaggerate it so as not to lie to them but to hide the fact that our souls are raw and bleeding.
They would never understand.
Emotional pain is shameful unless someone dies or there is some other tragedy that legitimizes it. Nobody wants to know that we took a perfectly good weekend, fucked it up, and can’t even remember when and how it all began to unwind.
If we dare do anything but smile and answer, “Good!” to the how-was-your-weekend question, we see the panic on their faces and they shift their weight uncomfortably and, um, have a lot of work to get started on.
There you stand with your pants down, exposed and ashamed, and you silently vow never ever to veer off the acceptable Monday morning script again.
My mother is coming for Thanksgiving, and I feel myself slipping into Martha Stewart mode. If I could, I would empty out the entire house, scrub it down, reorganize everything, and paint all the walls. But I’ll be lucky if I can get the carpets cleaned and put dinner on the table.
Apple pie and turkey scents will waft through the house. Smiles and laughter will mix with love and gratefulness. The dining room will be transformed into an Autumn wonderland with the colors of the season lighting up the inviting table.
The meal will cook itself easily and I merely have to smile and open the oven with a flourish to reveal a huge bird with crisp, golden brown skin while my hungry loved ones gather around with Thanksgiving appetites.
We’ll find our places at the table amidst the usual last-minute race to get everything out at once, nice and hot. Our eyes will bulge as the delicious dishes make their way around the room. More laughter and conversations tumble over one another like warm clothes in a dryer.
And I will be exhausted, happily, and delighted, filled with a sense of family and belonging for those moments that will have to last me awhile.
I have a to-do list as long as my arm.
And I can’t wait.
I wish I had kept writing during the times when I didn’t know what to say; I would love to take a peek into my mind over the last couple of years.
I spent a lot of time investigating mysterious health issues that came up out of nowhere. I fought Fear and often lost. My running suffered. I lost weight and gained even more. I got caught up in painful family matters. I forgot who I am. And I cried – a lot.
I wish I could say I’m on the other side of “it,” whatever “it” is, but I don’t know that I am. I’ve simply begun a new chapter in this unwinding story, and I finally feel compelled to spill my guts again, here in this place that I hold dear.
I can say today that I am in a grateful space – optimistic about the future and acutely aware of the undeserved gifts the Universe has presented to me.
Something extraordinary and wonderful is about to happen. I already feel the excitement of it before I even know what it is. I’ve been plodding through the swamp, cold, wet, and miserable, but with dry land in sight and a hope that I would get there soon. And now here I am at the edge of the muck, climbing out of it and standing here, filthy dirty and covered in shit, wondering what I’m supposed to do next, but knowing whatever it is, it’s better than where I just came from.
Experience tells me that time in the swamp means spiritual growth – an uncomfortable stretching of my skin, a devastating tornado in my mind, and a bloody boxing match with Fear that leads me to a new insight and elevates my soul to new levels of Love.
This sacred place has been calling to me for months. Dozens of beautiful journals lie around with mostly blank pages – a testament to my unsuccessful attempts to write with paper and pen. My heart is here. My story is here.
And so I return to Unwritten.
I can’t identify the day when it happened. Maybe it was a gradual thing. Like a roller coaster fighting gravity to get to the top of the hill, the first part of my life seemed agonizingly slow. Then, at the top, a slight pause, and… the brain-shaking, frightening, no-turning-back descent.
Like most young people, I never thought I would age. I wasn’t going to have wrinkles or gray hair – I couldn’t even imagine it. One day, I woke up with crow’s feet around my eyes, and suddenly the lines multiply every time I look into a mirror. There’s no turning back now. I’m committed to the aging process, like it or not.
And with age, of course, comes death. Whether it’s progressing into my nineties or finally succumbing to the statistics of an accident or disease before I get there, my life is plunging down that hill at break-neck speed, and I want to get off the ride. Days have become blips as the wind-blown calendar pages turn over to another month, year… decade.
It begs the question… what have I done with my life?
First of all, I didn’t take moisturizing or sunscreen seriously enough, obviously. Secondly, there were so many things I dreamed I’d do. What about the books I was going to write? What about my contributions to the community? What about learning from all my mistakes and becoming wise and better for having gone through all the pain? What about my happy ever after?
It’s too late.
It dawns on me that while I may yet achieve some of the things on my bucket list, I’m definitely missed out on the wrinkle-defense plan. And so, as much as I detested my childhood, I find myself wanting a do-over. I want to go back and try again. I could do better, I just know it. I would make better choices. I would listen more. I would be a kinder and gentler Self. And I would really, really appreciate my cellulite-free body, and I would take much better care of it.
But if I’ve still got a good forty-some years left on this earth, what can I do with them? What changes can I make to erase any regrets and lead me to a well-lived life in my final breaths?
One of the things that makes me feel stuck in my garage-clearing efforts is figuring out what to do with all of the junk – and the good stuff – that I don’t want anymore. Small trash is a no-brainer. The clothes and small items in good condition are easy, too. I make regular donations to a local charitable organization that drives to my house and picks up the boxes and bags. Out the door with very little effort, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that someone else might find a little joy from these once-loved things.
The problem comes with the items that the charity won’t take, like mattresses and furniture and microwave ovens. So one day I figured out that I could simply drive these sorts of things over to our local dump, and, for a small fee, I could get them out of my crowded garage.
I decided I would start with just a small load, to see how the process worked. If it was as easy as it seemed, maybe I would rent a small truck later and just clear the whole shebang. I felt so proud of myself and happy as I followed the directions to the landfill. This was going to be great.
But nothing prepared me for the enormous, towering piles of trash left to rot and decompose under special tarps designed to speed the process. I drew my breath in sharply, and continued to the main gate, where they weighed the vehicle and directed me to the appropriate “do-it-yourself” dumping area.
The road wound around behind the giant hills, and I felt like I was in another world. Even on this gorgeous Saturday morning, bulldozers and dump trucks crawled over the grounds, like ants gathering food for the anthill. It was overwhelming in a sickening sort of way.
Once there, I watched in a daze as a man shoveled out loose trash and junk from the back of a large box truck into a huge dumpster set up smartly at a lower level, so there was no lifting required. My turn. I pulled out some smaller pieces first, and easily tossed them in the big hole. It felt great. But as my son’s small dresser and a twin mattress from the girls’ old bunkbeds went in, I had a very hard time. Breaking the emotional connection wasn’t a big deal. But knowing that I was throwing away perfectly good household necessities and adding to that mountain of garbage down the road brought a wave of guilt and remorse that I hadn’t tried harder to find them a good home first.
The experience made me more mindful of the waste I generate. It made me never want to buy another thing and to recycle as much as possible, even if it requires a bit more planning and effort than simply tossing things in a dumpster. Maybe our children should all be required to take field trips to the local dump to fully understand the impact of our consumer-driven greed. I have too much stuff. And for what? Clutter only creates stress and then we have to figure out what to do with it. From the store to the landfill – what a waste.
I’m starting to think those tree-huggers aren’t so weird after all.
I decided to take a trip down memory lane and look over some old blog posts here. I miss writing on Unwritten.
So I’m writing here tonight. Because it’s comfortable. Because it feels right. Because I can.
Unwritten is like a long lost friend. When I’m here, the words come easily and my writer’s brain comes to life. I tried a new version of my blog, but it just isn’t the same.
And here I am, sitting up in my bed with my laptop just like always, thinking my final thoughts for the day and storing them here in this sacred place. This precious story that was my lifeline for 10 years. I spilled my guts here. I revealed my Selves here. I used the word “fuck” a lot. I was so very angry for such a long time. I was vulnerable and honest and I learned to live in Love here.
But the Universe is lining up everything perfectly for my next step. I’m scared. I’m thrilled. I’m anxious. I’m moving forward, pulled and guided by miracles and Love, and a promise to myself not to die with the regret of not having done it.
I. Can’t. Wait.
All of my life, and all of your lives have come to this point. There is nowhere else to be, but here. Nowhere else to live or die, but here. To be here, now, is the only thing that matters.
~ Duke Rollo Lothbrok, Vikings
When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to grow up. Now that I’m grown up, I spend a lot of time thinking about my childhood. Dreaming and reflecting are a natural and necessary part of life, but I feel most alive when my mind, body and spirit are immersed in the moment at hand.
Last week, I learned how to saddle-stitch a small booklet. I became so consumed with this process that I did little else with my vacation time but print, cut and assemble beautiful personal journals to feed my paper fetish. Nothing else existed but the needle and thread and the task at hand.
A countryside run never fails to pull my attention to the present moment. My mind can be in a million places at the first step, throbbing with worries about the future or upset about the past, but by the last mile the breathtaking scenery and the rhythm of my pace pulls me out of my head and there is nothing else but the cornfields, my breathing, and my elated soul.
Whether I’m creating, running, or sharing a laugh with my children, my best times are the “here and now” kind.
I have decided, among other things, to return to one of my favorite blessed things – writing.
A lot has changed since I archived my 10-year-old blog last summer. I’m not always great with change, and I resisted this new venue, even though I created it and thought it best to have a fresh look and a new start. My posts have been very few and far between.
But I’ve missed it so – the pouring out of my heart onto a blank screen.
So, on this extremely hot and muggy summer day, I hereby declare my intention to resume my regular musings here on Unwritten.
We live in an age when no topic is taboo. We listened to Ms. Jenner talk about her gender-identity issues on prime-time TV, and I’ve heard the topic of colonoscopies come up at the office. Nothing seems to be too private to discuss.
But what about “The Change?”
Our mothers had early (and sometimes unnecessary) hysterectomies, so the symptoms of peri-menopause weren’t observed or discussed by the women in the family. Or maybe we don’t want to admit we’ve reached “that age.” Who are we if we’re no longer able to bear children? It’s a bit of an identity crisis, along with the absurd disconnection to our bodies which is frightening and tormenting.
I remember the exact day when my mind seemed to shut off communication with my body and each had its own agenda after that. No longer could I achieve that mindful spiritual state on a run when my body, mind, and spirit were all working together in harmony and I felt an ecstasy roll through me like a giant orgasm. It didn’t happen anymore. Everything was a struggle – sleeping, eating, running, breathing, reading, resting… all of it was suddenly unfamiliar and challenging.
I felt like my real body was replaced overnight with a broken one. Nothing seemed to work right anymore; it seemed like a stranger to me. It felt hot and uncomfortable, like a clunky suit that made it hard to get around. I attacked one symptom at a time, not knowing what was going on, but realizing that I most certainly was not myself.
I was treated for Lyme Disease. I was directed to an Asthma/Allergy specialist. I went to the eye doctor for a new prescription. And I tried every over-the-counter sleeping aid available with no success.
I tossed and turned and lay awake all night. I began my days exhausted, with chest pains and breathing problems. I was crabby. I couldn’t read things very well. I was tired. So very, very tired. It was all I could do most days to get through work and drive home to collapse in a chair and start the cycle all over again. “Mom isn’t feeling well,” was a mantra in my home.
I was in extreme survival mode, determined to get through the current day as best I could and hoping that tomorrow would be a different story.
But it was more of the same, day after day.
And no one ever talks about this horrible affliction that comes to women my age. So I went on believing I was dying – or at least that I wasn’t afraid to anymore.
And then one day, as quickly as it came, it went.
At least, I hope it did. I missed myself.
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,
what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.”
It was a tough year – 2015. But I am excited to start again with a blank calendar, a new list of goals, a fresh look for my blog, and a willingness to change.
Simplicity will be an ongoing theme in 2016. I have a couple of big projects underway with the goal of reducing my overall stress and getting through mid-life without inflicting too much pain on others.
The first big change was to archive my old blog of 10 years and find a new place to put my musings. I’m still fooling around with the tool set here, but I think I’ve got the clean look I was after.
Another humongous task I’ve already begun is The Great Home Clearing Project. I expect to be writing a lot about that; how clearing my clutter is touching other areas of my life and my heart.
So I’m looking forward to 2016. I am thrilled to be getting back to my writing, even if I’m a little rusty.
Here we go…
I listened to a country station in the car this week. Shh… don’t tell my dad.
My mother loved Simon and Garfunkel and ordered the latest K-tel record album with all the pop hits. I listened to Jim Nabors croon “The Impossible Dream” on our hand-me-down hi-fi, and after a brief silence while the record player dropped the next vinyl disk, Roger Miller sang, “King of the Road.” That was about as country as it got.
But then there was my father…
Dad grew up in the southern part of the state with banjos and overalls and liked the country music station with songs about dead dogs and tractor trailers. He tortured us all with that music, holding us captive in the old blue Chevy and chain-smoking during the hour-long trip to visit my grandparents while I tried to sneak the back window down and gasp for air.
I didn’t particularly embrace my redneck roots.
With the recent surge of genre crossover music that plays on both the country stations and the pop stations, I surprisingly find myself downloading more and more Nashville tunes. The lyrics ring of honesty and I much prefer the sound of real instruments to the synthetic pounding of today’s growing club music cult. And even if I’m not the flag-waving, bible-thumping girl I used to be, I understand those people better than most.
Besides, I think a little country twang fits much better with the surrounding farmland ambience.