Fear at the Beginning

“Beginning is difficult. We are afraid of failing. We are afraid we will have nothing to say. We are afraid that what we say will be banal or boring. We are afraid it may endanger us. We are afraid it may be a lie. We are afraid that what we say may be the truth. We are afraid of succeeding. We are afraid that no one will notice. We are afraid someone will learn what we’ve said–and it may be ourselves. We are afraid there will be consequences. We are afraid we will pay attention. We are afraid we will have to change our lives. We are afraid we won’t be able to change. We are most afraid that we will. It is right that we are afraid. If we are fortunate, we will say something, it will be the truth, it will be eloquent, it will have power to it, we will listen, and we will change our lives.”

–Deena Metzger, from Writing for Your Life

Tell me about something you very much wanted, but were afraid to begin.


  1. Susana says

    Horses were my first love.

    Just yesterday I was in Griffith Park, a large expanse of green that encompasses a(n) eastern portion of the Santa Monica mountains. A familiar longing swept over me. The park has equestrian trails and I wished for the thousandth time that I could ride.

    As long as I could remember I have loved horses, would read horse stories as a child.
    I love their power, their majesty, their innocence. Why “innocence”? It seems they are unaware of their beauty and their strength, grazing around as they do. Behold the camel, a none too beautiful creature with its haughty stance. The horse, so exquisite, in his natural posture hangs his head low, not proud as he ought to be.
    I am awed by horses. Awe has an element of fear.

    A long-time fantasy has been to see myself growing up on a farm, comfortable with animals, having my very own favorite horse. But I have long since grown up though my love affair with horses has not dissipated.

    The horse has often been likened to the id, the rider the ego. Thus in a simple metaphor, we have mastery of ourselves when we ride– and control–our horse. So, in part, I understand what my fear is telling me.
    I still wish I could conquer it.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Susana, this beautiful rendering has reignited my passion for horses! Not that I ever lost it. My spouse and I horseback ride any chance we get, which isn’t often. I’ve always loved them, seen and felt so much by witnessing their shy majesty. I love how you describe them, “Why “innocence”? It seems they are unaware of their beauty and their strength, grazing around as they do. Behold the camel, a none too beautiful creature with its haughty stance. The horse, so exquisite, in his natural posture hangs his head low, not proud as he ought to be.” Thanks so much for this post! Happy you shared this.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Thank you : ) I like the image of the horse with his head down–the comparison between the horse and camel. I enjoyed the id and ego part with the horse and writer–something I had not heard before. I felt the ache of the writer for a farm past and all that one imagines might come with it. Thanks! I also like the way fear and awe brush up against each other as well.

    • Debbie says

      Susana – a fellow horse lover! I find my writing often contains horse references and metaphors. I found your post thought provoking. I have marveled, as well, that such a magnificent being will allow their power and will to guided to service of humans. Great post – thanks for sharing!

    • Beverly Boyd says

      I, too love horses, though I’ve had only a little opportunity to ride them. I often think of my totem as a horse: representing my inner male: strong, stalwart and most of all spirited!

  2. Fran Stekoll says

    Creating prose has been in me since I was 6 years old. I wrote and self published a book called “Reflections” in 1976. I love to share personalized poetry with family and friends for special occasions. My Mother and I published and gave away verses of insight and awareness to hundreds. I have always been afraid of failure and success. I have this uncontrollable fear that what I’ve
    birthed will be taken from me. To compensate for this fear I get to a certain point with projects and volunteer activities and just when it becomes time to achieve it’s peak performance, I quit. From all outward appearances I look like everything is wonderful, yet somewhere deep inside there is this fear.
    Just writing about this helps; but obviously I need to overcome this roadblock in my soul before my number comes up if I can ever achieve success .

        • Hazel says

          I think fear of success stops or at least slows down a lot of us. I have the same thing with my art. Recognizing some of the successes helps, then you begin to see how well, or how good you really are.

          We are all discovering what it is like to be human. Thank you for sharing.

          • Fran Stekoll says

            Thanks Hazel, It’s comforting to know I’m not alone in this.
            I think of a book I once saw
            entitled “How to Succeed Without Really Failing”
            We should have a workshop
            on this!!!!

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      I enjoyed the way this piece opened up the dual fears of success and failure while, in my mind, showing me the success of someone who does or has put work out there. I like the phrase at the end “before my number comes up”–well put! Thank you!

    • Debbie says

      Fran – one of the most amazing gifts I have received from this online community is just what you noted. After writing and posting about a fear, a painful memory, a shortcoming – I often find it possible to let it go. Instead of the feeling, I remember writing about the feeling and that helps me gain some distance. I hope you will find writing this helps you as well.

  3. Missy says

    My daughter and I had wanted to go to Ireland for many many years. Last year, we finally booked with a tour group. Well, don’t you know that as soon as I did that, I became terrified at “what I had done”! I was afraid of what if the plane crashed, thinking I would rather be flying over land than flying over 7 hours of Atlantic Ocean, I would forget something, we would get separated, lost, lose something, and anything/everything else that could possibly go wrong.

    Well, the minute we arrived at the airport to fly out, things seemed better, and as soon as our tour guide met us in Dublin, all fears disappeared. So glad that I decided to just do it! Now, the next trip out of the country isn’t so daunting since I found out it isn’t as bad as I thought.

    I learned that my first gut instinct is the right one.

    It was the best trip ever, and so easy!

    • Hazel says

      Yeah, look out for that first step, it’s a big one. All the rest are easy by comparison.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Missy, I’m also happy everything worked out for you and your daughter in Dublin. Such a charming city to make your first trip. Thanks for sharing this story.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Thank you for opening up that intense moment or moments of fear of the unexpected and the way this fear and these thoughts can build…often in contrast to the reality which doesn’t live up the the fears at all. I liked especially the line, “I learned that my first gut instinct is the right one.” Powerful.

    • Debbie says

      Yahoo Missy – good for you! Your post makes me think about the saying – something like – the first step is the hardest. So glad you went and had such a great time.

  4. Hazel says

    It was bitterly cold in Minneapolis. My kids were five and eight. My husband was ill and spent much of his day unconscious and in bed. He had decided that he really must go to work to help out with our expenses so he applied for a job working in a restaurant kitchen. As a condition to his being hired he had to get an x-ray to show that he did not have tuberculosis. He got the x-ray but instead of a letter that cleared him he was asked to meet with some doctors at the big medical center there. He did not want to go but I told him he knew he didn’t have TB so just go see what they wanted and clear it up. When he got there, they wanted to admit him to the hospital immediately for open heart surgery (a very new procedure that had only been done a few times, this was 1965.) because he had an aneurism on the Ascending Aorta right where it came out of the heart. Typically, he said “NO!”

    When I came home from work that night he told me what they had told him and that he could die anytime as the aneurism could just burst. At first I was shocked. Then he asked me where I would like to live, as he knew I did not like Minnesota, and he would try to get me and the kids there before he died. I told him I wanted to live in Santa Cruz, California. I packed up our few belongings; we dug the Volkswagen out of the snowbank where it had been buried for the last three weeks, got the battery put back in it (we had taken it out to keep it warm in the house) started it. Then we managed to get our small station wagon started. I packed all of our belonging into the station wagon and the trunk of the Volkswagen and we were off to California.

    I drove the Volkswagen with my daughter in the seat beside me. My husband drove the station wagon with my son riding with him. We stopped several times for a day or two because my husband was just too ill for us to go on. All the time I was thinking of how I could possibly support my two children, not if, but when he died. I am a worrier so many scenarios went swirling through my head. To stop them I would turn on the radio to music when the kids were awake and to talk shows when they were sleeping. There was one news hour that was talking about people who couldn’t work because of illness who were eligible for Social Security Disability. I turned it up and listened carefully. When we stopped I told my husband about it. He just pretended not to listen, just one more government program that probably didn’t work.

    Finally we had nearly reached our destination and as we came up over the hill at Cloud 9 on the Highway 9, between San Jose and Santa Cruz I could see and smell the ocean. I began to cry. We had made it, but now, what was I going to do?

    We had used up nearly all of our meager funds getting here. There was an old motel on the road between Soquel and Santa Cruz that was run by a very old Irish woman. My husband went in and talked to her, the rent was $15 a week but if we paid her we would not have money for food. I don’t know what he told her but she gave us a cabin and later that day she brought over a big pot of white bean soup. That was the best soup I have ever tasted and I have tried many times to make it but it has never come out the same. It wasn’t very long until I was able to get work assembling small parts for telephone systems for Pacific Plantronics. They did not pay well enough and they hired people as they needed them and laid off when they didn’t so this was not exactly a source of income that I could count on to work at and raise my kids.
    My husband went to the Social Security Office the day after we got into town and started the process of applying for disability. Of course, they needed to have medical proof that he was in fact disabled. They sent him to one of their doctors who immediately sent him to a Cardiac Specialist in San Jose. They gave him money to go to San Jose so he went. Again they wanted to do surgery but they told him he would be one of the first 6 people in the country to have open heart surgery and that the “heart and lung machine” was little more than experimental. The odds of him surviving were way less than 50/50. He decided to have the surgery; said his goodbye’s to me and the kids and drove off to the hospital. He said he did not want me to come. I was very worried about our survival!

    I found out that if he did die, the kids and I could still get the Social Security benefits that he had been receiving. I knew that my job prospects in Santa Cruz at that time were sporadic and slim at best, but they had just started to build a community college, Cabrillo, out at Aptos, maybe I could go back to school. I had never been all that good in high school and they would want my grades. I had trouble reading fast enough to get through the required reading for each class then what would it be like now? Many questions went through my mind many doubts were there right behind them. I could go and just talk to them, but they would want me to take some tests, what would I do then except embarrass myself.

    Defying my husband I went to San Jose to the hospital to see him. The first thing when I asked what room he was in, the person at the reception desk said, “stay here a moment.” She came back with a nurse wearing one of those winged caps, in a uniform starched so stiff I swear it was holding her up, she seemed very flustered and in her hand was a sheaf of papers that had been fluttering when she waled. She said, “I need you to sign these permission papers. Your husband wouldn’t and we need them in order to give him blood and medications that he needs.” In a blur I began signing papers, not even knowing what I was signing, or what the consequences would be. Then she told me that they had just taken him into the surgery and she had to go with the papers; that there was a chapel down the hall where I could wait and pray.

    I did go to the chapel. It was cold and dark, it felt sad. There was a fake stained glass window with a small light behind it. I slipped onto one of the hard, straight wooden benches, folded my hands and waited. And waited. Hours went by and the more I thought about what I should do, the more I thought I should go back to school. The arguments went back and forth but by the time the nurse came back to tell me that my husband had survived the operation and was in the recovery room I had made up my mind that I would go to Cabrillo and give it a try.

    The nurse told me that it might be days before my husband could have any visitors so I had better go home and take care of my children. I left the hospital walking in a daze to my car. I didn’t know any more now than I did before I came. Was my husband going to live, or die?

    I sent the kids to school and went to my job, every day calling the hospital in the morning and evening to find out if there was any change in my husband’s condition. About the fourth day they told me I could come see him the next day but not to bring the children and that I would have to put on a cap, mask and gown over my clothes when entering his room. By this time it was the weekend so I left the kids to play with some cousins and drove over the hill to San Jose.

    When I entered the room where my husband was there were tubes coming out of his chest and he had an oxygen mask on. It was frightening. I walked over to his bed and touched his hand. He pulled it away and his eyes flashed. He mumbled through the mask, “why didn’t you just let them kill me? Why did you sign the papers?” It never entered my mind not to do whatever was needed to help save another person, no matter who they were, never mind someone I had shared my life with. Had he really wanted to die? I was confused. He wouldn’t look at me. Finally I left his room. The nurse came and told me, “he doesn’t have much will to live.” “I don’t know.” I responded. He was in the hospital for about four weeks. I called often but he would not talk to me. That’s when I made up my mind to go back to school and I went to Cabrillo and took there interest test to see what I might want to do.

    The counselor told me that I would be a good Forrester, or Occupational Therapist. He suggested that I take the information he had about Occupational Therapists home and read it, then come back in a few days and let him know what I thought. I read all about it and thought that is something I could do and be able to use all the things I already knew, that my husband thought was useless. I could help people by teaching them to make things. I became excited and the next day I went back and with trembling hands filled out all the paperwork to start school. I was given a list of classes for that term and a list of books. I was going back to school; was I out of my mind? I played hooky most of my Senior Year of high school, signing my own excuses so even my parents didn’t know how much school I really missed. What had I done?

    My husband came home from the hospital and was spending most of his time in bed, but that was not new. I picked up my books, my new notebooks, my special pen went out the door, got into my Volkswagen, drove across the road, up the hill, and there I was starting college. I was terrified! What if I couldn’t do it? The program was for five years, that was forever in my life at that time, how would I do it? I would have to shut off my brains nattering and concentrate on that first class. I would do it one class at a time. I know that I only have to pass, I can do better if I really try, but passing is good. After the classes and the internships was the test for registration as an OTR (Occupational Therapist, Registered). It was an eight hour test. I studied hard for it and just kept telling myself you only have to get 70% to pass. I really don’t remember what percent I achieved but when the letter finally came I opened it at the mail box, saw it said congratulations you have passed; put it back in the envelope and began to cry tears of relief. Relief of six years pouring out of my soul. (It took me a year longer than was originally planned.) Pride in what I had achieved mixing with it and flowing in the flood.

    • says

      I’m in awe of this story, Hazel, so beautifully told–and so compelling–but even more, I’m in awe of the courage of the woman who lived it. You did an amazing thing! I can’t wait to hear more.

    • Polly says

      Hazel, that shows an incredible amount of strength! I’m so impressed. That was very gripping. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Ilana says

      Bravo! Both on the writing and the courage and strength it must have taken to live this story. I was cheering for you the whole time. Would also love to hear more. IM

      • Liz F. says

        Ditto on that!! Bravo!! It sounds like the living, and then the writing of your life. Fears, tears and all. Keep on rollin’ with it!!

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Wow! What a well-told and complete story with great detail! I loved so many parts–the warming of the battery in the house and putting back in. The driving–radio and radio show. I was on the edge of my seat. There were such beautiful things that gave me a sense of time, the nurse’s starched hat or even that Cabrillo College was new. I felt like I was there when reading about the kindness of the woman and her white bean soup–the generosity of strangers. I felt like you gave us intriguing and difficult details of the personality of the husband. I was struck by the line he says in the hospital. I felt torn in empathy for all involved. Thank you for this brave piece. Oh, so many details were vivid. The moment in the hospital church and the thoughts of school, and the two different experiences of school–past and the needed school of college. Thank you!

      • Brittney says

        Your story was so beautifully conveyed it felt as if I was riding side-by-side with you in the VW! Such a courageous decision and something to be forever proud of!

    • Terry Gibson says

      This is so inspiring to me, Hazel. I’m so happy all your hard work paid off. I’m working on my own stuff slowly but steadily. Will think of you when I am filled with self doubt. Thanks, Hazel.

    • Debbie says

      Hazel – what an amazing and inspiring story of courage! I could not stop reading, then had to read it again slower to really savor all that you shared. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

      • Jim Dowling says

        Hazel – You have a story that resonates with most of us, I suspect. Instead of ‘adjusting’ to limiting and disappointing factors in life, you took initiative, took the plunge, made changes, embraced the unknown. You are a survivor and testament to one person’s determination not to simply ‘go with’ the cards dealt.
        I also appreciate the remembrance of detail. You took me back to another time. I can hear and feel that VW rumblin’ down the road.

        • Beverly Boyd says

          I too can hear and feel that VW bug. We had been married eight years and had six children before we got a bigger car. Of course if you live on Oahu the farthest you can go is 120 miles around the whole island

    • Beverly Boyd says

      I have to add my dittos to the other responses to your powerful story: the strength and courage you had to live it. I also remember that your earlier years were challenged when your mother got religion and the strength it must have taken to grow up in that atmosphere. You are way more than a survivor, that’s for sure!

  5. Adrienne Drake says

    What is it that I want to do but am afraid to start? My hand has been forced and I don’t get a vote. There is no choice. My life is in freefall because someone has moved my cheese!

    Grace brought me my best friend 30 years ago. My friend’s nurturing eyes always watched over me as we saw each other through our most difficult times: her divorce, my issues with my troubled family. Bonded through crisis, my story and her story eventually became our story.

    However, now her troubled daughter has become a trouble mother in a troubled marriage with troubled little ones. My friend’s worried mother eyes now turn away from me to her own daughter. Our story is starting to unravel as her story becomes more and more coiled with her daughter’s story like the DNA they both share. My story is becoming uniquely my own.

    I always knew this was coming. One always knows deep down the path that is true. Although not of my choosing, the timing is right. So I embark upon my independent journey the only way I know how to do anything. I bow down to the wisdom of the universe, surrending to the infinite possibility of grace.

    • Laura Davis says

      I wish you well on your new journey. Beginning with faith in yourself and the universe is a wonderful place to begin.

    • Ilana says

      Good luck, Adrienne- I hope that the future of her journey includes you. It sounds like a friendship that can weather a detour. All the best to you, IM

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Thank you for writing this. I was pulled in by the line, “My hand has been forced and I don’t get a vote.” Thank you for describing a hard and necessary transition. I also like the line that brings this piece full circle, “Though not of my choosing, the timing is right.” The writing embraces that hard part that we don’t get to choose and control it all and I like the recognition that the timing is right, nonetheless. Thank you much for writing on this topic : )

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Wow, Lee. I felt as thought I were whinning and complaining. You make me glad I posted this although I almost didn’t. You make me feel validated and I appreciate it immensley!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Adrienne, I love your eloquence in telling the story. It seems like there is always a load of clues, that we only notice after the first or second one we spot? I also love the wisdom, self-preservation and perspective of this. Bowing down to the universe and “surrendering to the infinite possibility of grace,” is something that is good for me.

    • Debbie says

      Adrienne – I was so touched by your post. It reminded me of lost friends and loved ones – even when inevitable, it leaves a hole. And these lines were especially powerful to me
      “So I embark upon my independent journey the only way I know how to do anything. I bow down to the wisdom of the universe, surrending to the infinite possibility of grace.” Thank you.

  6. Lee Xanthippe says

    Beginning used to be hard. Creative beginnings. I worked so much in my life to know how to begin. I think now I know how to begin.

    I actually often can’t wait to begin. I upset others sometimes by how quickly I jump in and begin—like that teacher recently who wanted me to stop and listen to her, but I had already begun and I didn’t mean to be rude but she was the one who put the supplies out, she was the one who tempted me, who lit enough of a fire that I could begin to put words to paper. She wanted me to do something else, to make a book and later put words or pictures to it, but I was beginning. I had paid her my money, but it was my Saturday and she opened up this space and heated it and I was beginning and I was not stopping. I was going. I was making the sun come out on this cold Saturday until the sun-heated outside was warmer than the heater-heated inside that had felt so warm before. And I was trusting myself and I was telling the story that had popped into my head and I was cutting it apart with scissors and measuring the line breaks and how the breaks sounded in my head and that was when I was inside and the voices were too loud, too invasive for me to hear my own voice, but when I went outside to the one round table that just appeared there for me, complete with an extra chair for a new friend and we worked and I saw how to put together my words and she saw how to put together her words and images and string and book and everything became a gift. She was working on a gift to a good friend, and the sun and quiet was a gift to me and the teacher come out and she saw it and she was glad I had trusted myself and I was just doing what I was meant to do and later at home I added the rest of the words and these random but not random torn pictures to pages and waited until the images and words spooned each other or just made me smile.

    Who knows if any of this is really good to anyone else? And I didn’t even finish the book yet, although I planned to or plan to and I put the book on my list and then life got in the way and there was that really important thing to do and that other important thing to do and I tried to fend those things off but new things came up and this week instead of finishing the book, I finished the things I was supposed to do (non-creative) and then set time aside to write the disability piece (I wanted to do), but I didn’t write that, I ended up writing about anxiety research (which I was driven to do) which was pretty exciting—my own research, personal research, these charts that help me understand and deconstruct this thing, exciting charts that chart the most difficult terrain in me and for me, with the most exciting views. And as I write I am thinking that “exciting” isn’t that exciting of a word especially if you use it twice and by you, I mean me, and there I go and I’ve written the darn word 3 times and I have written this thing (this whole piece) all with no paragraphs which if read will be like swallowing big rocks which no one wants to do, so I will break it up for you if anyone has made it this far, but breaking it up will also change the meaning, add new emphases that I hadn’t originally intended and I don’t think I have even gotten to the point I originally wanted to make which is that creatively I have learned well how to begin even if I don’t necessarily begin well or stop at all apparently, but what I have not yet learned to do is how to finish (should I put a period here or an exclamation point? Oh, I guess, it ended up a question mark and now a period. But what I wanted to write or try writing was, “…but what I have not yet learned to do is how to finish!” but I was afraid that might sound too dramatic and sometimes dramatic is good and sometimes it is very ignorable like the overuse of all caps. I just added this whole part in parentheses and now it does not quite work or work at all with the next sentence but I will leave it as is anyway.) How to follow through, stick with it, finish, edit to my satisfaction and finish and get the stuff out for the world to swallow or spit out.
    And there was more I wanted to say about the Deena Metzger quote and I didn’t even tell you about the next project I started yesterday and outlined—a little Sherman Alexie fanzine that I wanted to write after ordering someone’s Sherman Alexie fanzine which came yesterday but I didn’t want to read hers until I had written my own, so I started to write my own fanzine and then there was something I had to do (pick up my partner, Cale), so I stopped and when I came home Cale read the gal’s fanzine and I was jealous of him reading it because I wanted to read it but I wanted to finish my fanzine first, so anyway, I didn’t finish my fanzine but outlined it and then gave myself permission to read the other gal’s fanzine which was a little like mine will be and a lot different too, but I like her too have never written a fanzine. And now I am thinking of my fanzine-to-be (or not to be?) and I am wondering if I should include a copy of the 3×5 card I made when I was reading the book, “Live the Life You Love” by Barbara Sher (which I love and haven’t finished, although I do finish lots of books), but in this book which I was doing the exercises in, I made a list of all my “allies”—real and imagined—and that was much fun and I wrote Alexie’s name on there and I also wrote (or at least thought about) why all these people—real and imagined and borrowed—were my allies. What was it about them that somehow freed me or supported me…and what did each of them free me to do?
    I have learned an important thing from artists—from great artists—they can really begin anywhere, and then can pick anything as their topic, as their subject and if they have a good or exciting mind or a mind that likes to play, they can make their topic fly, roll, glide, or splat just right. That frees me up to begin wherever the heck I feel like beginning. I can always edit later, if I get to later.
    Oh, and another thing. It helps if I let “great artists” be great artists and me be myself. Although what I was mostly struck by in the Metzger quote is, “We are afraid it might endanger us.” Some of the things I want to write about especially if they are online could very well endanger me or hurt some of my opportunities, but will writing about these things also open as many new opportunities? Am I willing to take the risks? Can’t I just write under another name? Or would that work for me? Get the best of both worlds? I am also afraid (or cautious) about hurting other people. With my words. Oh, in praise of fiction, yes? But I would rather write from the point of view of “I”—is that so wrong? I think also, not consciously, but I feel it in my gut, that I am afraid of succeeding. Cale says to me, “Fear of success? Isn’t that scraping the bottom of the phobia barrel.” He doesn’t understand. I try to explain it to him. He doesn’t want to understand. He makes me laugh…not because he doesn’t want to understand or can’t understand but because his lack of understanding is funny—“scraping the bottom of the phobia barrel?” Success freaks me out or maybe it’s more that people expecting anything from me freaks me out. I just want to be free. I don’t like people liking me and yet I want people to like me. I want to have some clever ending right here to tie all this together, but I don’t right now and I want to finish…so I will.

    • says

      Lee, I was delighted with the rich, rule-breaking, vivid, honest uncensored piece you posted here. There were so many lines I loved, I can’t quote them all, but what I loved the most was you trusting your own process and your own voice. I love the way you let yourself break all the rules—that’s where creativity and finding our own unique voice come from. So bravo—and I hope to hear a lot more from you on this blog!

      • Hazel says

        As a teacher of creative arts (oil painting, bookmaking, various other crafts) I was laughing all the way through this piece. My first thought was, “aha, there’s one in every class I have ever taught.” But I was intrigued to follow the way your mind works, how it was like the little boy in the cartoon “family circle” in the Sunday funnies. He starts out from the same place the rest of his family does but he wanders all around the neighborhood, and does a dozen different things, before he ends up at the same place they do going from point A to point B. As a conservative artist and a teacher I pretty much follow the numbers 1,2.3,. . . and color within the lines but I do appreciate abstract art. Your writing is refreshing and, I think, this piece shows what writing practice is all about.

        Your fear of what you put online is a valid one. I myself, am careful of just what I post about myself and more careful still what I post about people who are still alive. The dead ones don’t count so much.

        You have a fresh new voice and you should continue to use it and let an editor or publisher be the judge of whether or not it will be successful or what changes you might need to make. Or, you can just write successfully for yourself.

        Loved every bit of this piece! Keep writing!

    • Ilana says

      Lee- I loved the unedited feel of this piece. It was like you were just talking to me. I also appreciated it because there is so much confusion, so many questions and that is how I feel right now. “Scraping the bottom of the phobia barrel”? A fear of success is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. I have so I can go there with you. Though we may understand these feelings differently, I can certainly understand why you’d feed that way. You mention wanting to write under a different name. Why not? Ilana is not my real name. My posts contain information that could hurt a lot of people. I learned long ago that I cannot afford to censer myself for their benefit. Good luck to you and thank you for posting. IM

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Thanks for sharing how you took the ball and ran with it in class.
      As someone who has taught classes, I had to smile. I think it is wonderful how you marched to the beat of your own drum. Good for you on finishing your piece just how you wanted to. I think when you write, you take risks. That’s part of the growing process. Good luck and keep on writing and being an artist!

  7. Brittney says

    In the short few months that I’ve discovered writing as a form of therapy I’ve come to the realization that I sincerely want to live my life soberly, something I’ve been so deeply afraid of what that new life would actually require of me. To live my life soberly would mean making a conscious effort each and everyday to be fully present, awake, and in the moment. It would mean putting my real self forth- without my liquid crutch. It would mean blossoming into an actual real, conscious person who is capable of facing others without diluting myself in a vodka haze. It would mean gaining a sense of self-respect and a set of morals to live by. It would mean admitting I am powerless over alcohol, that I am for a fact an alcoholic, and that I must turn my life over to a power greater than mine. By taking these steps I am beginning the exploration of my dark past, shames, and secrets that have been the building blocks in shaping who I’ve become. And as terrified as I‘ve been for most of my life to actually begin this mission, I’ve recently discovered how freeing this process truly is. And the only way that I’ve been able to finally begin this journey is through the gift that Laura has given me. Laura provided me with a safe environment, reassured me that it is okay to reveal my deepest and most shameful secrets, and the way to do so is simply by writing. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for acquiring the gift of writing as my form of therapy. My writing has made me aware of my secrets and why I have these character defects. But, it has also made me aware that only I can improve them if I simply cut out the booze and work the steps. All in all, the path I was so afraid to admit I truly needed is now one I could never image my life without.

    • says

      Dear Brittney, I was so happy to see your courageous words here this morning when I got up. Welcome to the Roadmap Blog–and what a first post! I’m so glad that writing has spurred you to find the courage to begin your path to sobriety. But I also encourage you not to be so hard on yourself–alcohol has been your way of coping with unbearable circumstances. And maybe it’s only now that you’re ready to put down that crutch and develop other alternative ways to deal with your pain, your past and the challenges you face in living a sober life. I’m rooting for you–and so will everyone else on this blog!

      • Brittney says

        Thank you for the reply Laura. I was really happy to see the quote and the prompt because it truly felt as if their words were speaking to my soul. Writing has changed my life and through this new hobby it’s as if a door has been open to me of loving, accepting, and healthy relationships… something I’ve been needing for much too long. Writing helps me heal and makes me happy! Thank you Laura!

      • Hazel says

        Welcome and thank you very much for sharing.

        You will find much encouragement and appreciation for all your work here. Keep writing.

    • Ilana says

      Brittany- What a positive and hope filled piece. I love it. Reading it, I am responding internally, feeling clean, refreshed and ready to start my own writing. Thank you for posting this. As Laura said that all of us on this blog are rooting for you, I second that cheer, at least from me. Looking forward to your future posts, IM

      • Brittney says

        Thanks so much for taking the time to read and reply to my post IIana as well as the rooting me on… really means a lot! And I too look forward to future post as well as post from all of you. Such a neat site we have here : )

    • Debbie says

      Brittany – I was struck by these lines in your post
      “By taking these steps I am beginning the exploration of my dark past, shames, and secrets that have been the building blocks in shaping who I’ve become.” It felt like you were talking right to me, about me. Through writing, and posting on this blog, I have dragged some of those dark secrets out into the light and watched them wither away. Please come back often and share with us!

  8. Bobbie Anne says

    I agree with Deena Metzger. It truly is “Writing for Your Life.” Yes, there is fear at the beginning. I am a writer. I am a poet. I want to put out my book of poems and my book of stories. I am afraid. There, I said it. I am scared. I am going to feel the fear, and do it anyway. I found a publisher. He is interested in what I have to say. So, I am going to give him what I wrote, my drawings and see what happens.

    I wanted to wait until I could get an illustrator for the book. I needed some nice drawings of trees. I was thinking, who could I get to draw trees for me? I thought about friends and family members who could draw. Then it dawned on me. I could draw the trees myself. So, I decided to go to art class. To sketch and paint trees. Just trees. It took me a loooong time. I still have one more tree to go. Art class is starting up again next week. Guess who will be there to draw yet another tree or two?

    I am going to come out with my book this year and it will be a Success!

    • Debbie says

      Bobbie Anne – good luck! I am impressed by your perseverance in not only getting interest in having your book published but also in taking the initiative to learn how to draw your trees! I hope you will also let us know when your book comes out…

    • Ilana says

      Bravo Bobbie Anne! I love the positive energy you put out. “I’m scared and I will do it.” Congratulations! IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Good one, Bobbie Ann. Sounds like good fun. So glad I dropped by today. I’ve got a resident artist here but still may insist I do the illustrations. No. I should take a class too. Thanks and a coffee toast to your success!

  9. Ilana says

    Beginning is Difficult

    It sure is. I am having a very difficult time beginning my response to this prompt. What should I write about? How hard it is to get out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to get to the gym? How hard it is to take that first step in the mile long run I take before I get into the ab work and the weight lifting? Maybe I should write about something more serious. How hard it was to begin going to my support group when I finally admitted that what happened to me was incest? How hard it was leaving the hospital to begin the excruciating recovery from my brain surgery, without the support of the caring hospital staff? Or maybe I should write about how hard it is to reestablish communication after my husband and I have had a fight. The possibilities swirl in my mind, confusing and overwhelming me. But with that last one my thoughts slam to a screeching halt. I am left breathless and shocked; just gaping at the picture in my mind. Perhaps it is best to listen to my internal responses and go with that one. Yes. I think that’s what I’ll do. I take a deep breath and wonder where to begin.

    Zander is a good man. I have been waxing poetic about him on this blog for over a year. But he is a man. A man with flaws, limited energy, an immense amount of responsibility and pressure on him, simple ignorance and God help me, a small, very human, dose of selfishness.

    Oh my God, did I just say that? Did I just accuse the loving, caring and patient Zander of selfishness? “Yes, Ilana, you did. Welcome to the world of honesty. Take off your rose colored glasses and set them aside. Not too far away, though. They still have their purpose.” I do as the strange inner voice has instructed and set aside the romantic image of my perfect husband.

    Sometimes he just doesn’t get it. He was never sexually abused. No one has ever used his body to hurt him, control him. That body has belonged to him his entire life. How could he possibly understand? And then he gets frustrated. Hell, I get frustrated. How could he not? Last week he fumed at me, “You got a word! When you were falling apart, almost completely nonfunctioning, you got to call it your emergency stage. I don’t get a word. I don’t get to call what I’m going through anything.”

    Anger, no blind rage blazes through me. How could he do that? The anxiety attacks, the flashbacks… the self-hatred and desperate need to cut myself to let out the pain. How could he compare that to an unfair employer and concerns about money? “Please.” I said, careful to keep my voice neutral and quiet. “Please don’t ever compare what I went through, what I’m going through, to a difficult job situation.”

    “Whatever, Ilana.” He fell back on his stock answer that’s always been there for him. We were in bed at that point. I simply curled up in my sadness and went to sleep as I’d been doing since I was a child. When I woke up I would be faced with the same daunting problem. How would we begin to forgive each other, to communicate again?

    Our marriage isn’t over. We love each other very much. There’s just too much bearing down on us right now. Neither one of us is listening to the other one’s needs. And we’re both too exhausted hear what the other is going through. Too tired and in too much pain to think of anyone but ourselves.

    This is not new to us. We’ve been through it so many times. We have too much love. We have too much respect and loyalty for one another to let it all go just because it got hard. So we wait it out. Just be miserable and hold on until one of us finds the courage, the strength to look past our own hurt and reach out to the other. Until we are able to do the hardest part, begin again.

    • says

      Ilana, I am so deeply moved by what you just wrote–the rock bottom honesty. I wish I could be as honest, for one minute, about my marriage, as you were able to be here with us. You captured the heart of the human condition and the pitfalls all couples fall into so beautifully. Thank you for giving us all that gift. I know that I, for one, will cherish it.

      • says

        P.S. I particularly loved these lines: I do as the strange inner voice has instructed and set aside the romantic image of my perfect husband.

        “Last week he fumed at me, ‘You got a word! When you were falling apart, almost completely nonfunctioning, you got to call it your emergency stage. I don’t get a word. I don’t get to call what I’m going through anything.”'”

        That captures the plight of partners so very well. I understand your anger at him too, though. You both have to make yourself bigger, both of you, to see each other’s distress and need to be heard.

        I wish you well in this impasse.

        • Ilana says

          Wow Laura, that’s a bitter pill. I suppose you’re right though. I think our problem is we’ve both been running on empty for so long. Thanks for your supportive comments and for making me look at what I had been hiding from. It feels like there is no more strength but the need is there so we’ll both just find it. Thanks for accepting the feelings that to me often seem unacceptable. IM

          • says

            Ilana, I didn’t mean to be harsh in any way. But to maintain a relationship as a survivor–at some point the scales have to tip the other way. Ultimately it doesn’t work for the person with more trauma and a more challenging past to always be the one who has allowances made, to always be the one who is heard, to be the one whose needs always predominate. Your trauma will always trump his. His work struggles won’t ever equate with sexual abuse on the greater balance scale of life, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need center stage sometimes too–and for his needs, at times, to be first. Personally, in my experience, it’s been good for me to have to give and be there for someone else, even in the worst of my own healing process.

          • Ilana says

            Laura- I took everything you said exactly how you meant it. You were not harsh at all. I’ve been trying to keep these things in mind for a while. It was just hard to hear from an outside source. (and one I have so much respect for at that) To find that I needed to be reminded and to remind myself that I need to watch out for him too. Thank you again! IM

    • Polly says

      Wow. Just wow. I admire your courage for writing about this and again I marvel at the fact that I *get it* too well. This is about you though so I just want to say very, very well done. And Zander and my wife should have a chat 😉

      Seriously, it will get better. Your strength resonates with everything I’ve read from you so far, so keep it up. You’re doing so great.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Polly- It’s helpful to know that I am not alone. I truly appreciate your encouragement and reminding me that I do have the strength to get through this. Sometimes that’s hard to remember. Thank you again, IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I like how you don’t back off what you feel driven to do … unless it is too much too soon. I’m glad you wrote about this topic too because it is very real in my life as well. I share my situation with nobody really, although I’ve alluded to it with a select few. But that’ll be my topic this week. These are such hard issues to deal with! I wish strength to all of us as we struggle and grow.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you Terry- This one took a lot of courage but I feel like lately I’ve been saying that every week. I truly appreciate your recognizing how hard it can be. IM

    • Eve says

      Ilana, I resonate to this piece & your dilemma so much. I too have one of the best men on this planet, but yet sometimes get reminded that he is human and indeed he is a man. I often have to remember too that he has stood there stoically with me through some really gnarly moments in my life. I have to remember that this healing process that I am going through takes more than I could ever imagine from him, and he just won’t or can’t show it. I am thankful for that manly trait at the time I need it, but I have to remember that his pain can often be put in other places that make no sense to me. I have to remember that he has been taught by society to stifle his fear, pain & sadness. When it comes out I need to learn to embrace it, because it is in him and he just isn’t allowed to express it the way he truly needs to. This is his healing process and he needs to feel that I can be stoic through his healing process too. Thanks for expressing my own pain with your words so I could come to this outcome right now.
      Our men rock!!! They are stuck in this mess of a world just like we are and definitely have some healing to do. Especially if they want to be with strong willed & minded women like us…

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – this is powerful. Your honesty about feelings and exchanges – bravo. You have identified a point in a relationship, marriage or otherwise, that always comes. And beginning again…… is hard. Thank you for trusting us with this post.

      • Ilana says

        Eve and Debbie- Thank you both for your words; for honoring my struggle and for the strength you have given me. Things are going so much better now. And in six days we will have a night to ourselves while my sister-in-law and parents split up the kids! Take care of yourselves, IM

  10. Bobbie Anne says

    Illana, I admire your strength. Laura, I appreciate and am grateful for your words of wisdom. As a person who has been physically and sexually abused (My doctor has a thick file on me, but he said one word sums it up- trauma), I get what you both have written. Thank you!

    Laura, what you said about maintaining the relationship as a survivor and being there and giving to your partner in this life strikes a chord in me. I agree. The scales of greater balance should be shifted so that the other person is acknowledged, thanked,and loved for themselves and what they bring to the relationship. Sometimes its is hard to remember that other problems are important and cause stress and other difficulties that add up. Keep on keeping on the road to your destination in life. No one knows what lies again, but we can enjoy the journey and help others and ourselves as we go along.

    • Eve says

      I recently found a guided imagery cd that is called Healing Trauma. It is excellent!!! I can’t think of the name of the person who made it right now, but I will post that too.

      • Eve says

        Healing Trauma is by Belleruth Naparstek. I have been listening to this CD over & over since I found it about a month ago. I really think that it is having a profound effect on my healing.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Bobbie Anne, sorry my post went in the wrong place, cutting yours off. Happy New Year to you. I’m glad you’re here this week. I appreciate what you’re saying too. Maybe what you said here was a comment to Ilana and Laura only and not your post. I wasn’t sure but wanted to say hi to you anyway.

    • Ilana says

      Bobbie Anne- Thank you for honoring the strength it took to write that post. I felt that I misrepresented myself a little bit in the following exchange. I don’t always put my own healing before Zander’s stressers. I just get tired sometimes honoring both. I feel like since Zander started this job a year ago I have been swimming under water waiting for things to get easier. Someone keeps pushing that wall back. Anyway, when he “went there” comparing the two, I had a very difficult time with it. Now, though, things are better. We have both taken a step back and begun listening to each other more. Thank you for your support, both of you and everyone who has commented this week. IM

  11. Bobbie Anne says

    Oops, I meant lies ahead, not lies again. I’m looking for the positivity in life. In the plant and flower section at the local store, I literally stop and smell the flowers. It makes me feel better. Sure, I have my bummer days like everyone else, so that is when I need to smell the flowers even more.

    • Terry Gibson says

      My fear of beginning has always been about change, something I’ve been doing a great deal of over the last two years. I decided to present this as follows:

      Whose pain matters more?
      Nobody’s. It matters equally but ….
      I feel like you’re minimizing mine.
      I’m sorry it sounds that way to you. But it’s simply not true.
      It sure seems like it sometimes.
      Okay. I’m listening. Keep talking.
      Your story is worse. I know that; I had it easy.
      Babe, some things were more stable for you growing up. Yes. But I’ve always cared how you feel, what happens in your life. Please tell me anything you want.
      I used to be first with you. Now, it seems I don’t have any place in your life.
      What are you talking about? I’m here, aren’t I? I fought all my life to be here! I’m older than you are. I’ve got to squeeze everything left out of my time. I have no time to waste.
      Your book is tearing us apart.
      How? Tell me. Openly. Please.
      I can’t listen to it anymore. I can’t bear it any more.
      Do you mean when I read to you. I never expect you to have answers. You remember that, right? I learned a long time ago that there are no answers for some things in life.
      I know. But I love you. It hurts too much to hear those awful stories again, knowing it’s you, not a stranger.
      I understand. That’s why I don’t bring it to you. I share that stuff elsewhere. With my writer’s community.
      When you talk in the present tense about being suicidal, it tears me apart.
      Where did that come from? That doesn’t reflect on you. It’s my inner struggle, how my thoughts slide back to that core self-hatred when I’m tired, sick, or in pain. You know my therapist P. gives me lots of emotional support. I don’t ask you for that anymore; I work things out for myself …
      It feels like I don’t matter as much to you.
      … that’s why I’m pushing so hard right now. To heal as much as possible. Of course, you matter.
      I can’t believe we might fall apart. It’s like a waste.
      How can twenty years of our love suddenly be a waste? Look how we’ve grown because of it!
      Is that what you’re saying? That it’s over? I can’t imagine my life without you.
      The same here. I would never stop loving you. However, we have changed a lot.
      YOU’VE changed a lot.
      Yes. Do you want me to feel guilty about that? I refuse to feel guilty! This is the most amazing time of my life!
      Why do you want to take all these trips? Without me? I thought we were going to travel more.
      We were. Are. You know why I need to go. I’m learning and blossoming. It makes me happy.
      What about us?
      I thought we’d been through that. I’m fulfilling a lifelong dream here!
      It feels like you’re leaving me behind. Say that isn’t happening.
      You know I can’t make promises; that’d be lying and I won’t do that to either of us. Listen. I love you with all my heart. Let’s come back to this fresh in a couple hours or tomorrow.
      What matters is how we’re both doing together right now. Not just me. If one of us is being hurt, this might not be right any more.We’ve got to face it.
      I’m so scared.
      Me too, babe.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Thanks Laura. I really,appreciated this topic coming up with this prompt. It’s hard for me to talk about as well. How to know that what I now want, given my changing needs, is right. How to move toward a slightly murky future. How to let love still be love and worth it despite its two decade old shifting and changing. Hard work. I never put my needs first anywhere in life and though it’s like wearing a hair shirt right now, I’m trying to hold my ground. Why does my happiness have to be a problem? Shouldn’t that enhance a relationship? Because I’ll be a better me. More present. A better listener. A better friend and partner.

      • Ilana says

        Oh my Gosh, Terry. This is amazing. It brought me in so well, welcomed me, made sense to me to such an extent that I felt like I was standing between these two people as they talked. There is so much love coming from each voice. The pain in this piece is heartbreaking, yes, but the love that each of these two people have for the other is absolutely inspiring. I wish you luck. You are clearly, both, such passionate and caring people. Thank you for letting us see this intimate portrait. (and thank you for helping me feel less alone in my struggles with my dear Zander.)

        -Thank you for being my friend and sister, IM

        • Terry Gibson says

          Thanks, Ilana. I’m glad it is helpful. Yes. There is a real love story here. Much like yours and Zs. It’s hard to sort everything out sometimes. How to stay present in my own skin to express myself clearly. How to not assume I’m ‘less than’ and therefore in need of giving, more often than receiving. Knowing when it is the time to sit back and listen with all of my attention. Finally, expressing my love often but trusting my own inner voice when it seems clear that, for me, there must be changes. What might they look like? Hang in there, Ilana.

      • Debbie says

        Terry – there are tears in my eyes. Partly because of the this well, written achingly honest post. And partly because it just took me back through a “wormhole” to some of the painful conversations and realizations in the couple of years prior to the end of my long term relationship. My wish for you is to find the path I could not; growing along with your partner, not growing apart. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece. Aside from the emotion it stirs in me – I also liked the way you handled the conversational style.

  12. Polly says

    Nothing to fear but fear itself:
    (Or more aptly titled: another post about relationship stuff)

    Without judgment, reading these last couple of posts (and some of the responses) was a good reminder for me to hold my wife a little closer tonight.

    As soon as the flashbacks started this fall, I became deathly afraid of intimacy on any level. In moments, I can’t let the one person who loves me the most in, the way I always have. I’m scared of being triggered. I am actually afraid of the fear. I become so focused on avoiding any physical closeness that I over-correct, and start to block even the feelings and treatment associated with love.

    She has been my rock this entire time. She might not handle it perfectly every day, but who would? I could start by being grateful. That I can do, almost every day.

    Because the truth is that there will be ugly days. If I have someone in my corner who is not the source of the pain and anguish – not the source of betrayal, violation and fear that I held in for close to thirty years; but is in fact a source of love and comfort and respect to me, then I had better remember to turn toward her, and not away. I actively choose to do so.

    • says

      Polly, I love the way you ended your piece, “If I have someone in my corner who is not the source of the pain and anguish – not the source of betrayal, violation and fear that I held in for close to thirty years; but is in fact a source of love and comfort and respect to me, then I had better remember to turn toward her, and not away. I actively choose to do so.”

      • Polly says

        Thanks Laura! I’m just glad to have been able to put this in perspective. It’s a matter of doing the work and being thankful that she’s still right there with me. She’s in the unenviable position of seeing me fall apart unpredictably. When I brush off my knees and stand up again, she’s handing me a cup of coffee and asking what I need to feel better. Sometimes I have to take a step back and remember these things.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Polly, I find your post so moving. Turn toward not away. Simple and sincere words. So wise. I appreciate them and also hope things level out for you again quickly.

        • Polly says

          Thank you Terry. I hope things work out well for both of you – whatever that ends up meaning in your situation. Good luck.

    • Ilana says

      Polly-This is such a rich and full piece. I remember when intimacy was such a difficult issue for me and recognize so many of the feelings you describe. I’m not going to say that I’m over that part. That would be blind and arrogant of me but I will say that with honesty, work and a lot of patience Zander and I have achieved a level of intimacy we never had before I confronted my past. I am so loved and grateful that I feel it deeply when I do little things for him outside of the bedroom, too. Pouring him a drink after a long day or slipping a love note into the pocket of a shirt I have just ironed, for instance, make me feel so close to him. I hope that you find similar sweetness. All the best to you. IM

      • Polly says

        That’s so nice! Thank you for sharing those things. We certainly have hard moments but we also know how to make each other laugh, which makes a difference.

  13. says

    Dear Writers,

    I just wanted to tell you all how thrilled I am with the way this online space is growing. I love the quality of the connections, the support, the writing, the honesty, the insights, and the risks taken here. It’s more than I expected when I created this blog two years ago–and it’s growth is all due to your diligence, trust, creativity, honest support and commitment. Thank you to all of you from me!

    • Hazel says

      I for one an honored to be here and thank you profusely for having me.

      I feel safe here, which leads to sharing more than I might have on other writing groups that I have been in online.

      Thank you again.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Thanks for saying that, Laura. I’m with Hazel. So happy this community is here! It has been a lifeline to me for two years now. It got me through some really tough nights and days and I am always happy to read people’s writing and reply as best I can. Thank you.

    • Debbie says

      Laura, I have been, am and will always be grateful that provide us not only the virtual “space” to share in this way – but that you have actively helped many of us find our voice. Thank you seems inadequate to the import of what you have given.

      • says

        You’re welcome, of course. Debbie, I so much appreciate the caring comments you make each week, savoring and appreciating each new piece of writing. You’re one of the reasons this community is growing, vital, effective and strong.

  14. Dianne Brown says

    It’s kinda funny that I find myself at a loss for words regarding this prompt. I never am at a loss for words when I apply my fingertips to my keyboard that has letters missing from erosion and over caressing.
    I think the most daunting words I ever heard were spoken to me by several people I chose to show the start of my mother’s story. I had promised my mother before she left this dimension to write her story for her. She had always wanted to write her story and now, “Will you write it for me?” she asked. This was a few months before she left.
    I started what I thought would be a small booklet for the family and a few friends who knew her and me. I chose a select few to read what I had started and from two sides of this continent they both said, “You should expand this and make it a book.” Yikes!
    I had started something quite small and now the gauntlet of dare-to-be-bigger was dropped before me. I knew the small booklet was good, but a book?
    I had always wanted to write a book–ALWAYS–but could I do this and do it well? Would anyone other than my two sister read it? And if I say that I will expand the story into a book, will I follow through?
    For the next year I poured myself into the making of a book from my mother’s story. In the expansion, I delved into the history and lore of the area I was raised. I found out so much that I didn’t know even though I lived there almost 20 years. Also, while delving, I went deeply into myself and I found so much forgiveness and exquisite love in my telling of this story. I wept and tears poured onto my keyboard, which might be why the letters are missing.
    I found something both wonderful and surprising–my roots and my heritage. I know that my book has touched many others who didn’t even know my mother, because I get emails and posts from the most amazing places.
    When I was at the point of wrapping it up and sending it to be published, I faced a different kind of fear. I didn’t want to be finished. I didn’t want to let it out of my hands. I didn’t want to quit loving my mother with the intensity that I had while writing her story. But I did. I finally hit “send.”
    Now I face the fear of diving into the next book, which is started–but a very little. Can I pull this off again? I will let you know in a future installment. First I have to open the file and write. The butterflies are good, they fan away the tendrils of doubt.

    • says

      Dianne, I just finished a similar project for my mother and can relate completely to the process, the absorption and the compassion and insight that arose from writing that book. I’m so glad I pouring my heart and energy into making it happen. In my case, it was a gift for my mother’s 85th birthday–so I got to see her read the story of her life. A gift she will open and utilize again and again as her mind slips further and further away.

      • Dianne Brown says

        I am so glad I did this and if I never write another word, I will leave this world so thankful for the experiences it gave me. I like to think that my mother was co-writing with me–it seemed she was there helping me choose the photos and the stories to tell and those to leave out. I think she has read it as many times as I have. I also think this was her gift to me that I can open and utilize again and again.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Dianne, Thanks for this piece. I’m in process of doing what you did. Feeling the excitement, tears, happiness, anger,disappointment, hilarious laughter, anguish, all the way to the end. I love your last sentence about butterflies and self-doubt.

      • Dianne Brown says

        Thanks Terry, and I cheer you on! Your emotions will run the gamut, but you will be so happy that you completed this great endeavor. For me, it was a semi-guasi exorcism/rebirth/recognition of love all along/and a complete peace with my past, present, wide-open future.

    • Debbie says

      Dianne – this is just a terrific line
      “The butterflies are good, they fan away the tendrils of doubt.” I admire your commitment to your mother and this labor of love. Good luck to you.

    • Polly says

      Dianne, I read this the other day and was so deeply moved. What an incredible gift to give to the mother you clearly have so much love for. Thanks for sharing this experience.

  15. Debbie says

    Even though I lived in California until nearly six years old, I have very few childhood memories of that time. There are a few standout moments like catching “horny toads” in a nearby wash, having a paved “playground” in kindergarten and my kindergarten teacher’s name. There is one more seminal memory; sitting and looking out the kitchen window at snow covered mountains. Until recent trips to the Los Angeles area as an adult, I actually thought I had dreamed this image up.

    Mt Baldy. That was the mountain which so enchanted my father he built a raised counter attached to the kitchen cabinets so when you sat just so, Mt Baldy was perfectly framed in the window. Mt Baldy, just a musty memory until my mother’s visit in December. Her longing to see again a life long friend who still lived “around the corner” from our previous home in Upland was touching. So one Sunday morning we packed up and threaded our way through the maze of Los Angeles freeway choices.

    Exiting onto Euclid Avenue, we turned up the wide, divided tree lined street I had heard described so many times as one of the features my mother had loved about this neighborhood. It was a surprise to see it still matched her memory. So many places of my childhood have been bulldozed and rearranged in the name of progress. The street was grand with wide sidewalks, a dirt trail down the median and aged trees bent together overhead like old friends engaged in a perpetual hug.

    Suddenly my mother, who had been so unsure of her sense of direction she had refused to even drive since arriving in LA, sat up straight, now sure and confident of where she was. Confidently she directed us to the home of her friend and they spent a lovely afternoon in memory and reminiscences of a much earlier time. Occasionally my name would come up, usually to determine if I remembered an event that had been of great import to them. After several disappointing shakes of my head, Mom and Evelyn gave up and continued their conversations mostly without me. That was fine as I was engrossed in contemplation of an artistic rendering of Mt Baldy hanging proudly above the mantle. Mt. Baldy, like a childhood mantra in my mind.

    That early morning seeing my mother and her husband off at LAX, I felt an unexpected pang of loss watching them walk away. Wanting to offset any post visit blues, I had made a secret plan for the day. Mt Baldy, that was my plan. The dog was set on her regular schedule for walks and no one was expecting me anywhere. I dug out cold weather clothes, sweaters, gloves, caps, scarves and headed out to reintroduce myself to this mountain.

    The drive up to Mt Baldy was uneventful, though I noticed the temperature dropping dramatically as the truck climbed the steep grades and switchbacks arriving at Mt Baldy Lodge. I double checked the coupon in my pocket; “Mt. Baldy Lodge – scenic lift to Top of Mountain Restaurant”. I had arrived. Checking in at the store, I exchanged the crumpled paper for lift tickets. Full of anticipation, I climbed historic stone steps to the scenic lift.

    Now, I don’t rightly know how I imagined I would get to the top of the mountain but it was not the well worn, minimal open bench seats with a small overhead rail to be pulled down for a footrest and hand hold. For a moment the amazing mountain before me did a ghostly shimmer as I struggled to contain my vertigo. Oh My Goodness! What The ….?? Mt Baldy waiting at the top of the ski lift. Mt Baldy, watching.

    I studied those in front of me as they hopped on the seats that did not stop but moved placidly around the bottom turnstile. I could feel courage and resolution draining out through my shaking legs. Still I moved woodenly forward with the crowd pushed along by indecision. Now I was only two folks away from committing to this mad, thrill ride. “I can do this. I can do this” I chanted under my breath.

    The ringing in my ears hit a crescendo as the woman just in front of me almost missed landing on the bench seat and headed up the mountain hollering and trying to pull down her “safety” bar. I almost lost consciousness! Or maybe I actually did because the next thing I remember I am at the “launch point” clumsily trying to slid onto the seat as it continued the inexorable ascent up the mountain.

    “I’m in!” I shouted to no one in particular pulling down the rail and realizing my legs were to short to reach the small footrest below. The gondola tipped precariously to one side, unbalanced by just one rider. I slowly slid more toward the center all the while wondering how the lopsided lift seat would navigate the first support tower. Surely they planned for this kind of situation. Surely!

    As I ascended to the first relay tower the ground below me fell away dramatically. Far below there was some sort of road. I found myself wondering if that was the rescue route for those who fell from the cables above. How should one try to land when crashing down thirty to forty feet from the air anyway? Feet first to break the fall, and legs? Or aim for a side landing cracking ribs prior to sliding on down to the bottom of the ravine.

    Clasping the rails so tightly my hands were becoming numb, I was just starting to calm my racing heart when progress suddenly halted. Swinging silently forty feet in the air, in an open seat halfway between the support towers, the guttural sound of fear could not escape my constricted throat. Behind me two young girls did not have this problem. Their screams, no more like moans, somehow quieted my own fears.

    Setting aside my contingency planning for how to crash land, I took a moment to look around. What a wonderland! Just to my left was a majestic tree starting far below my height and extending on beyond toward the sky. I studied the newly forming seed pods and noted how the snow had clung in such a dainty way to the fine needles. In the quiet, the sounds of snow melt trickled down the slopes far below. Losing myself in the natural beauty surrounding me, I unconsciously loosened my grip to rub numb fingers together restoring warmth and feeling.

    Just as unexpectedly, we suddenly started moving again. Up, up, toward the top of the mountain. I raised my eyes and head looked ahead . Mt Baldy, waiting. Mt. Baldy, watching. A frozen tear slipped free down my cheek.

    Mt Baldy, I am on my way.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Debbie. I always love the flow of your language, progression through a story, and how your charm translates to the page. It always holds me entranced. Also, this was such a joy and terror to read. I was with you, smiling at the beginning successes (still having ticket and “I’m in!”), laughing (guardedly, at your strategic calculations for a good fall, and the ultimate gulp, when all movement stops. I love that you did this and wrote about it. And with vertigo too! You rock, my friend. “Mt Baldy, waiting. Mt. Baldy, watching. A frozen tear slipped free down my cheek.” PS: You’re gonna love renting a truck and trekking through Australia’s Northern Territory. We’ll be queens of the desert, singing and doing broadway numbers until the roos run away for an inaudible break. :)

      • Hazel says

        Finding out what it was that your father had embraced before you made for a great story. Loved your “frozen tear”, could have been “frozen fear” slipped away as well.

        Thank you for sharing.

    • Polly says

      Debbie, this is beautiful. The ways in which you capture detail and convey emotion are truly impressive! Nicely done.

    • Ilana says

      Wow Debbie- I loved this piece. Your word choice is nothing short of artful. I, like many other who have already commented on your post, was frightened as I read. You took me along on the journey with you. The best part for me, though, was how you personified the mountain. Mt. Baldy seemed to be waiting for you specifically. Great piece, thanks for sharing. IM

    • Dianne Brown says

      Debbie, great piece! I found myself clutching the glass top of my computer table, holding my breath, and then almost moaning with you. Thanks for the ride up to Mt Baldy. What a moment for you. I felt as though I rode up with you–all but the view.

  16. Eve says

    Writing this book is something I have known I was supposed to do since 1996. Actually, ever since I was a little girl. My mom’s side of our family always had some major drama occurring. I remember always saying that I was going to write a book about my crazy family.

    I only knew that it was a crazy life because when I would visit my dad’s life once or twice a year things were always the same & normal. They never seemed to have the chaos surrounding them like we did. I would be given a glimpse of this perfect world for a weekend and then get dropped back off to my real life that was filled with turmoil.

    I never really got it back then, but the strife in my real life was usually always self-inflicted. I can look back now and see all the bad choices that were made by my loved ones were causing the pains that were being inflicted to us. These loose minded choices often led to my parents going through awful consequences dragging my twin brother & sister and myself along behind them.

    It wasn’t until I was 23 years old (in 1996) that my own terrible choices would catch up to me in the same way. I had carried on their trait of partying & drinking & drinking & partying. I thought I was much better then them though because I had vowed never to have kids.

    I refused to have babies who would not have their dad in their life. I had CHOSE to make that decision on more than one occasion by this time in my life. I told myself that I never wanted to get married or have children. Unfortunately, that had not stopped me from looking for my dad’s love in the arms of random men.

    I seemed to have thought that spreading my legs was the way to a man’s (my dad’s) heart and find the love that I was so desperately missing. I was dreadfully wrong. It took a long while to realize that sex didn’t equal love.

    Being so desperate to find love meant I had to be beautiful. I had a stubborn 20 pounds to lose and turned to a doctor for some prescription help to my ultimate beauty. It was working!!! I had lost not only 20 lbs, but 30. I was attracting men that I was sure would fall in love with my amazing beauty.
    It was all going great right up until the Phen-Phen (amphetamines) I was taking led to me lose my mind.

    My bad choices had finally caught up to me- BIG TIME!!! That is where my story begins…

    • Eve says

      Whoops- meant to say – led to me losing my mind. I got a little interrupted by my 3 & 4 year old during my proof read.

      • Ilana says

        Eve- There is so much story here, so much you are hinting at. I feel like you’ve given us a taste to see if we want more. It worked on me, I do. Can’t wait to read more of your story. Thank you for trusting us with it. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Eve, like Hazel said, lots of us confuse lust and love. I certainly did. Although I’m not sure I knew what either was. If you decide to write more, I’m also a willing and empathetic audience.

    • Debbie says

      Eve – your correction introduced a tantalizing detail – you are at least around young children these days…..
      Your ending about losing your mind reminded me of an old Billy Joel song: “You may be right. I may be crazy but I just may be the lunatic your’re looking for”.
      Not really sure where that came from – thanks for posting. Like the others, I am looking forward to hearing more of your story!

  17. Hazel says

    Yes, Eve, there are a lot of us that had to learn that “lust” is not “love”. And like that old western song of “looking for love in all the wrong places” is exactly what we have been doing. Fortunately we can change. Good for you!

    • Eve says

      Thanks Hazel- Yes, I certainly had this love thing all screwed up. I love the way you put it. I was “looking for love in all the wrong places.” What I am discovering is that the love that I was so desperately trying to find in outer sources has been within all along. I am ever thankful for the transformation that is upon me at this point in my life.

  18. Sangeeta S. says

    I am afraid to begin my new life. I have come through a very long very dark tunnel and the sunshine is hitting me square in the eyes. I have nowhere to go but forward. My life as I knew it has ended and my new life has begun–so whether I’m afraid to start it or not…it’s started!

    I’m afraid I’ll be left in a ditch; I’m afraid to do this alone (at the beginning…since I’m still alone); I’m afraid noone will be there to catch me, to see me, to use me or abuse me; I’m afraid I won’t know how to be happy; I’m afraid only good things will happen and won’t know how to feel; I’m afraid I won’t have to just survive everything anymore; I’m afraid the world will end; I’m afraid that the sun will stop shining; I’m afraid that noone will hear me; I’m afraid that I’m ugly and grotesque–like the famous cockroach; I’m afraid that I may go crazy on everyone. But what I think I’m most afraid of is death. I think I’m afraid that if I really do die someday and fail to live the life that was meant for me, that really will be the worst tragedy of all. We must be here for a reason, and if we’re not, even that doesn’t matter since I’m going to make sure we are! So, here’s my reason: I want to help people, be happy, be healthy, be active and, most importantly, I’m going to live. I’m glad to be here and I’m finally going to start enjoying life! woo-hoo, this is going to be a ride..

    • Eve says

      Woo Hoo- I can’t wait to ride this long wave with you. You are right, we are here for a reason. I pray everyday that I may still be allowed to live out this mission. I had to make a mess of my life first, which is a bit unfortunate, but nonetheless I am still here & ready to surrender.

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