Comments

  1. Donna Aceves says

    My life’s map is best described by T. S. Eliot – Little Gidding, from Four Quartets.
    - We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

  2. Camilla Sørensen says

    This poem is the trajectory of my life and so well written.

    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one travler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that, the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.”
    Robert Frost 1916

  3. Paula Hill says

    MAPPING MY LIFE………

    GAIA’S DESIGN

    I live within the threads that knit edges of seasons together
    into contrasting colors that blend
    with mysterious grace…

    Born in Late Summer,
    a sunflower seed, one of many cast upon the parched soils.
    The heat bore down, drying my tenderness, and I, a lucky one,
    escaped the fate of birds’ hungry beaks.

    In Autumn, the chilly mornings brought leaves down,
    blanketing me in their decaying warmth,
    akin to a grandparent’s last embers passed down from ancient lineage.

    In Winter, dry snows and wet rains beat upon my dormant shell,
    pushing me downward into the darkness of earth,
    sheltered in a cave of oblivious dreamless slumber.

    In Spring’s lingering time, I began to sprout,
    journeying between the pebbles and chunks of clay;
    green tendrils writhed wantonly towards life’s embrace.

    Guided by warmth and moist waters,
    onward I grew, sturdy and tall,
    a stalk strongly holding the tight blossom as my face opened
    to follow the beams of Sun…
    …days upon days upon days…
    …to now…as Moon’s gentler rays preserve the length of my time….
    ‘til cycle’s end….
    to begin anew…..

  4. Eugenia says

    And my fiction story. sorry for the grammar… I am learning.

    I don’t have a lot of money, and this crazy trip already costs me over ten thousand dollars. As I open my wallet, I cringe. There are five more days to go, and I already spent all I saved in the past five years in anticipation of this journey.

    So I say, “Jennifer and I will sleep in the village,” when our driver, Jomo, a small Kenyan man who wears short shorts with the Christmas vest over his shiny brown torso, stops at the luxury Colonial villa with thick fragrant straw roofs and barefoot maids wrapped in the orange fabric and matching head dresses. The Sanctuary at Ol Lentille. I read about it on Internet. Five hundred dollars a night.

    The air conditioners fog the windows, but I can see the dark spacious rooms, and the blades of the ceiling fan turning slow, moving the net over the cool white beds.

    Jennifer wrinkles her sweaty face, noisily exhales, but says nothing. She honorably holds her part of the bargain. Jennifer doesn’t ask for t-shirts at every stand, turns away from the local souvenirs — dry snakes in green bottles, diligently wraps her apples and half-finished sandwiches to be eaten later as snacks, bargains when she buys water bottles, and generally, doesn’t cause me trouble. She understands how difficult it is for a divorced mid-level accountant and a mother of two to afford this Safari trip. Her older sister, on the other hand, still stuck in the rebellious teens, tough already a college freshman, informed me that she will spend her spring break in Europe. Last year she promised me to work more. Her father got angry with this change of plans, so I am paying for her trip too.

    “Mam,” insists Jomo, “You won’t regret staying here.” Traveling with us for a week, he still can’t make sense of my spending habits. I save on the accommodations and food, bargain for an hour and leave empty-handed, but tip well and never refuse even a bluntly-commercial sight-seeing tour.

    Jomo drives down the yellow sandy path into the property, turns his jeep around the corner, and extends his glistening arm to the right, inviting us to look there.

    Barely waiting until we come to a stop, Jennifer jumps out, and runs to a two-story structure, a tower of sorts. She climbs up the outside staircase made of the thin narrow boards, a couple of them cracking under her foot, and disappears behind the wall.

    I hurry after her.

    On the other side of the structure, in an enclosed yard with a few acacia trees, stand three giraffes. The tallest one walks toward Jennifer, who holds her hand out, and licks her fingers. His big Bambi eyes with long straw lashes are half closed, his moves — deliberate. The smell he exuded is heavy and leathery.

    “Yuck,” laughs my daughter, her face showing happiness mixed with disgust. She shakes her hand, dripping with saliva, and wipes it on her t-shirt. “Mom! Look!” she exclaims, her voice breaking. She points to the head of the giraffe who, standing with his head high, is taller than our tower.

    I look at him, and laugh too.

    On the top of giraffe’s head, in a comfortable nook right between his horns, sit a small tousled white-faced monkey. With one hand he holds the giraffe’s horn, and with another he bangs on his own furry head. The monkey makes faces, showing two rows of strong teeth, and screeches.

    Suddenly, he makes a leap. From the giraffe’s head right onto Jennifer’s shoulder.

    My daughter freezes, half-excited and half-scared. She lifts her shoulders and waits.

    The monkey slides down her shoulder into her arms, and sits there, quite comfortably, occasionally making screeching sounds.

    “Her name is Gin-gin,” says Jomo. “Vervet Monkey. She lives here. “

    “Does she bite?” asks Jennifer, still a little cautious.

    “If you’re not careful,” responds Jomo, and shakes his head. “No worry. Gin-gin is good.”

    Jennifer cradles the monkey in her arms. Her face is gentle and her eyes are focused on the animal.

    The acacia leaves tremble with the hot wind. Giraffes are slowly walking from a tree to a tree, occasionally pulling on the branches. The evening air is noisy with various sounds — rustling of tall grass and trees, calls of some animals, buzz of the insects, and chirping of birds. Meaning, that world here is peacefully quiet.

    “Oh, what the hell,” I say, and wave my hand. “We are staying the night here.”

    Jennifer doesn’t hear me, mesmerized by the animal in her arms.

    “I always wanted to come to Africa and play with the monkeys,” I say.

    Jomo nods many times, showing me that he appreciates my joke. He takes our dusty bags and suitcases out of his jeep, and hurries inside the cool lobby of the resort.

    He doesn’t know I am dead serious.

    ***

    “My uncle is a sea captain,” I say to Tolik. “And he brought me something from Africa.” My hands immediately turn cold. My eyes shift down, and I step from one foot to another. If Tolik had known how to read the body language, he would immediately caught my lie.

    Tolik is my next-door neighbor. We are nine years old, and we see each other in school daily. Just a few months ago, Tolik was my friend, but something has happened with him lately. When he sees me now, he laughs with a jeer, his yellow eyes almost disappearing. As if he knows a bad secret about me.

    I can’t understand what I did to make him feel this way, and try hard to show that I am still the same.

    “What?” Tolik brings his red prickly head close to my face. His eyes are still puffy. I heard him, screaming and crying this morning, through the thin walls of our apartment building, when his mother, a drunk, took the scissors and a razor, and gave him a close haircut. I felt bad for him then, but now I can’t think about it.

    “A monkey,” I press. “He brought me a live monkey.”

    “Can I see her?” challenges Tolik. He stands with his legs apart, his hands clenched into fists in his pockets, pulling on the fabric. He laughs that laugh.

    “She jumps all around our apartment, and she eats buckwheat,” I say fast, as if the speed of my tongue proves the truth. “She tore all our curtains. But my uncle says that we can’t show her to anyone. If we open the doors, she could run away.”

    Tolik hesitates, rocks on his feet, and then says, “Jews are not allowed to travel to Africa. So it means, you have no uncle who traveled there. And there is no monkey Jolie,” he takes his fists out of his pockets, relaxes his fingers, spreads his arms wide, and continues, as if with regret, “You will never, ever go anywhere.”

    His words, like nails, nail me in place. I couldn’t cry, and couldn’t argue. I heard it all before, and I knew he was right.

    So I learned to live with it. “It doesn’t matter,” I would say to myself. “Who cares about Africa?”

    When I was ten, I picked up a new hobby. I began collecting the post cards of exotic places I would never see.

    Fifteen years later we were let go, and moved to America.
    I still can’t believe that drastic change that happened in my lifetime – the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union, and my move here.

    Then, in twenty more years, I am here, in Africa, with Jennifer, a hundred-percent American kid, as I like to point out (mostly to myself, as nobody else seems to appreciate it as much as I do)…

    I make slow careful steps toward my daughter, who still holds the monkey, and touch Gin-gin’s head with my index finger. Her hair raises up.

    Gin-gin jerks her body, screeches, bites my finger, and, within a splitting second, flies back to the giraffe’s head.

    The maid rushes to me with the medicine and a band-aid. Jomo runs up the stairs too. His eyes are full with guilt and regret.

    “You need a shot,” says the orange maid, and shakes her head with the matching headdress. “We’ll call a doctor.”

    “Yes, the shot,” I agree, but I smile.

    I am in Africa.

    And he said I will never ever be here.

    • Ilana says

      Eugenia- I love the way you start with the trip and then flash to the childhood only to take us back to Africa. Then you pulled it all together with such triumph. I’m going to hold onto your last line for inspiration in times of frustration. “And he said I never would.” Thank you for sharing it with me.

      • Eugenia says

        Dear Ilana,
        so grateful for your comments. Thank you for reading. Honestly, I am learning a lot from you too. From your sensitivity, openness, and ability to be supportive.
        Wishing you all the best.
        EB

        • Ilana says

          Eugenia- The feeling is very mutual. I look forward to your posts and your responses to my posts every week. Good Shabbos!
          IM (My name isn’t entirely made up so these would be my initials. ;)

    • Debbie says

      Eugenia – I think what I enjoy most about your stories is that I never know where you are going to take us. I always read it once – so very quickly – because my curiosity won’t let me slow down enough to savor your words, imagery and characters – I have to know where we end up! Then the second or third time through, I experience it in a totally different way – seeing more of your skill and talent as a story-teller. What fun – thanks so much!

      • Eugenia says

        Dear Debbie,
        Thank you for reading. And for reading again :-). I am such a beginner (may be a couple of years writing) that to know you appreciate it is huge!!!
        Let’s continue writing! It’s such an important part of our lives…
        Warmest regards,
        E

  5. Linda J Gassaway says

    Symmetry
    Consistency
    Order
    Patterned
    Predictability

    My day-to-day existence relies on these attributes.
    I witness nature’s fractals with comforting regularity.

    Seed pods
    Petals
    Stars
    Fern
    Minerals

    “Look back” , she suggests.
    I shoulder the task with great trepidation.
    I see patterns.
    Miles and miles of patterns.
    Problem is, my patterns are not beautiful.
    They are ugly and painful.
    My roadmap?
    Drawn retrospectively (don’t tell me now, that there WAS a roadmap!) the roadways are sinuous, bordered in spots by twisted guardrails and soft shoulders but more often than not, steep drop-offs. There are sectors with looping pathways that promise to go nowhere, and do. Some routes are landing-strip straight, where I, as the driver, plowed full steam ahead. Deliberately oblivious.

    Potholes and oil slicks littered the road. Hairpin curves appeared without warning. What is left of the foundation is sandy and eroded. It is paved with fear and devoid of signs or speed limits.

    There were no rest stops to be found. Forced to make my own, I would swerve off the road into a stand of trees. The trees were always waiting for me. My comfort. My confidant. Loyal protection.

    Now, “look forward”.
    I am apprehensive but determined.
    I must, if I want to live, re-purpose the crumbled roadbed of my past into a porous, yet sturdy foundation for the new road ahead.
    If I look back and attempt to predict a trajectory based on previous experiences and trends, I would probably find a nice cliff and get it over with. But I am choosing to make the needed changes. It is time.
    This road that trails behind me, following me into the next week, and the week after that, does not have to continue in the same vein. I am now the mapmaker. Let’s go for a drive.

      • Linda J Gassaway says

        Thanks for the opportunity and the prompts.
        BTW – Courage to Heal has been very helpful to me. Peace.

        • Ilana says

          Linda- I loved your imagery. The descriptions are so clear and expressive. I was very touched by the section “Now look forward.” I appreciated the apprehension coupled with determination and then the acknowledgment that if you used old patters you’d “find a nice cliff”. When instead you “choose to make changes” it felt so hopeful. Beautiful piece. I, too, am getting a lot out of “The Courage to Heal.” Just hearing someone say she is reading it helps me feel less alone. Thanks for sharing.

          • Laura Davis says

            Ilana and Linda, I guess I should speak up here and say I’m sorry you’re needing to read The Courage to Heal, but certainly glad that you’re finding it helpful. I’d only suggest that you make sure you’re reading the newest (20th anniversary edition). We did a major rewrite a few years back and included new stories, lots of changes and the latest research on trauma.

    • Debbie says

      Linda – I am taken with how well you used the metaphor of the road map and turned into the components of the journey. And the last two lines are so amazing “I am now the mapmaker. Let’s go for a drive.” Yes, let’s go indeed! Welcome to this growing community of writers – thanks for sharing with us.

  6. Linda J Gassaway says

    Ilana – thanks for your nice comments. I’ve just started trying to write and am feeling my way through it. This feels like a safe venue in which to explore with writing.
    Laura – thanks. Yes, I have the newest edition and the workbook. Thanks so much.

    • Ilana says

      Linda- I would agree, this is a very safe place to share. I have often said, “You guys don’t know my real name but you know me better than people I talk to every day.” I look forward to reading your future posts. This week was very difficult for me so I don’t have too much written but I haven’t missed a week since I started. I hope this won’t be the first.

      Laura- I’ve got both books’ most recent editions too. Thank you for caring enough to point it out.

      • Debbie says

        Ilana – I found this prompt challenging as well. It wasn’t until I was walking my dog this morning that a response started to form in my mind. Along with Laura’s permission to write “crap” at times, we also give ourselves permission to share only because it is what we want to do and we can’t really stop ourselves. I would miss your contribution this week should you not post but I know you will be back – and worth waiting for!!

        • Ilana says

          Thanks Debbie. I just posted but have run out of time. I will read everyone’s posts soon. Thank you so much for the encouragement. IM

  7. Debbie says

    Considering the roadmap of my life to date immediately brings back a remembrance of a philosophy I was exposed several years ago. For some, they hold the belief that our spirits exist before and after this physical experience as beings of light and energy. These light beings pick or are chosen to incarnate into a specific mortal life in order to discover an important truth or serve as the catalyst for another spirit incarnate to find a needed learning. The exquisite and finite nature of the sensual experience of physical life both sets the wondrous backdrop for learning and the deadline to learn it.

    It is from this perspective that I have been considering the map of my life. What was, or is, the truth my spirit being volunteered to learn by breathing energy into my existence?

    Mapping my life to date takes more than two dimensions, which means the picture that is reflected back depends on the point of view of the observer. Many pathways have run along concurrently, not always in the same direction but rarely intersecting. Those other lives crossing the geography of my life terrain are points of intersection; sometimes shifting the direction and other times causing only congestion.

    Of late, however, a strange metamorphosis has been occurring, the roadmap of the past has been getting fainter. Rather than looming large, as it sometimes has, it feels the fertile decay of the giant trees into the soil providing the much needed nutrients for the new, young shoots. The ground is spongy and soft yet solid. The sun is on face, not my back as I look around for familiar landmarks. The details of what has been blurred and fading.

    There is a spirit whisper “What a man can be, he must be,” that keeps pushing me on through the darkness, the unfamiliar territory toward the hoped for light. It feels like this lifetime, this very one, so many aspects are in alignment that if I don’t lose heart, I might find path to place near the top of the Maslow’s pyramid and experience self-transcendence.

    If a spirit being chose to animate my flesh through this mortal life I am experiencing, I think the lesson was to learn all that I am seeking is already within me. To share the life energy I have been given with myself first, then those that I love instead of the other way around. To realize that I am whole even when alone. That experiencing happiness, love, contentment, peace are all gifts I give to myself. I need not be dependent on others for my heart’s breath.

    To realize that I am a spiritual being having a physical experience and not to waste a moment of what’s left in this exquisite, sensual experience of being alive on blindfolds that I can simply choose to remove and never replace.

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- I like your progression. Each section has something to teach but I felt it all building to a crescendo and I was not disappointed when I came to the end. To be whole even when we are alone and to be careful not to waste a moment of the “exquisite, sensual experience of being alive. Beautifully written and beautifully taught. Thank you! IM (Yes, using my ‘initials’ now in a small rebellion against the anonymity.)

  8. Paula Hill says

    Hi Debbie…Really enjoyed your piece. What came to mind for me was The Devil Tarot Card. The Devil is an impossible, horrendous creature with a horned, large-eared goat’s face, a human torso with batwings attached on back, animal-hairy legs and eagle-clawed feet. There are two naked humans next to the Devil’s throne, one male and one female, who are held in bondage with chains extending from the throne which end up wrapped up around their necks. With dulled eyes, they both seem unaware of the limitation of their vision when in actuality the chains around their necks are loose, and all they have to do is lift them up and over their heads to become liberated…..

    • Debbie says

      Paula – I was intrigued by your comments about the Devil Tarot Card so I looked around a little on the internet and came across these parts of the explanation when describing the power represented by this card.

      “All I am doing is bringing out what is already in you,” it responds mildly. “Such feelings are nothing to fear, nothing to be ashamed of, or even to avoid. They are even useful to helping you in your quest for spirituality, though many try to pretend otherwise.”

      “On hearing this, the Fool sees that he has mistaken the Goat-god. This is not a creature of evil as he thought, but of great power, the lowest and the highest, both of beast and god. Like all power, it is frightening, and dangerous…but it is also a key to freedom and transcendence”

      Interesting and, in many ways, very applicable. Thanks for this learning.

  9. Bobbie Anne says

    There is no map available for my life. I have to make a path for myself. It is unique and it is for me to do. No one else can do it for me. It is scary and exciting at the same time. I am the one in charge of my life here on earth. I can make choices. It would be nice, though, if I could go back in time to see the me of years ago and reassure her that all she needs is faith in God and herself. I would try to help build up the confidence and self-esteem of myself from the past so I would be ready for the road ahead.

  10. Jennifer Ire says

    A Map of my creative journey

    Today March 9th, I found myself looking back at yesterday’s memory-opening experience with my creative life adventures. I was at the first session of an art class titled “Drawing from Life.” The instructor asked us to introduce ourselves by telling a ¬¬story of our creative life and she defined creative broadly to include even cooking. The question sent my brain into burping a variety of memories that had not shown up in a long while, and as my turn came and I started to speak more memories arrived. What took place was a mapping of the journey into recognizing how incredible creative I am. A new thought indeed!
    Recently I made myself a quilt. I am now living in New York City. Winter was approaching. I am living in an apartment, with no garden, no room for even a window garden. I could feel myself about to scream for dear life, and decided it was better to remain focused on the brightness, colors, beauty and warmth of Kauai. I brought out all the fabric I brought with me, just to remember Kauai, and made a quilt. Every night I go to sleep under Kauai colors, during the day they remind me of warmth, beauty and spaciousness.
    I came to sewing out of vanity. I needed to have my clothes fit properly. Years ago, when I first migrated to the US I started making my own clothes, because the off the rack stuff fitted horribly. I made everything, blouses, shirts, dresses, pants, suits for work and even a winter coat or two. I can still recall the pleasure of wearing clothes that sit well, how beautiful I felt and looked, and the many compliments I received. I always was surprised at the look on peoples’ faces when I said that I made my clothes. There was one suit that I had a hard time giving away after I had out grown it, it was so beautiful, the fabric, the style, the color, the pleasure in wearing it, everything about it was beautiful. I can picture it to this day.
    Sewing was also an inheritance from mother and father. Both were sewers, one a seamstress, the other, a master tailor. I remember watching how the mother would look at a dress in a magazine for a moment then simply cut the cloth to make the fashion correctly every time. I did not know how she did it. I did not receive that skill, I rely on patterns. As a child I hated sewing. As the eldest child of a, in reality, single mother, I had to help. The inside view of a seamstress was not pretty and my frustration with the reality of it emerged as disgust with the form. That was the easy way out because I could do nothing about the women who would not pay what was charged for work well done. Ah, that’s another story.
    My uncle Kenneth was another creative genius. His was the art of costuming. He would design and make costumes for his carnival band every year. I would watch him design beadwork and then turn his designs into fabulous costumes. He was patient, starting over if that was needed to get it right. For him authenticity was key. I loved it when he and his buddies emerged dressed in their costumes, such beauty.
    My next stop on my creative journey was the making of greeting cards and paper. I love the creative freedom of card making and the technical mystique of making paper. I used to love making the thinnest most fragile of paper. I loved adding plant and other materials to the process to make unique sheets. Such pleasure brought about through a friend’s introduction and encouragement to the form.
    At the class, I recalled the love of writing, though I did not speak of that. What I said for the first time in my life was, “I am a writer, mostly for my own pleasure at the moment.” I remembered how glorious it felt in the past, when the story line and characters appeared in my mind speaking, interacting in the life they were showing and telling me. I used to churn out fiction during my lunch hour and then share it with my office mates. Someone would always keep the story. You know how it is when you are young. I never thought the ability and connection would go away. It did, and now I am asking, begging for its return.
    My journey down the roadway connected to the creative pulse of the family. One of my uncles was a natural artist as was his first son, both never had a lesson they could do almost anything with art. I watched my uncle do a self-portrait, just do it. My aunt was an artist with fabric, my mother and father sewed exceptionally well. I cannot draw a straight line with a ruler, and yet I have images in my head. I have not been able to release them through my hand onto paper. I described the feeling as though the fuse that connects imaging to actualizing is broken. This drew laughter and nodding heads from some of the class. The teacher said that lots of people described similar experiences and that it is in the right/left brain connection. That I know. I do not know how to fix it. She said that it could be different by the end of the class. I look forward to that possibility arriving in my life.¬¬¬¬¬
    As she moved on to the next student I remembered that when I was young (up to my late 40’s) I used to have clear scenes of choreography in my head, with the feeling in my body as accompaniment. This came in response to music, usually classical music at first then that expanded. I could not demonstrate any of the movement, or even describe what I was seeing and feeling to another person. I spoke to a dancer about that and she said that I should try. I tried.
    That memory burp produced another remembrance. Sometime in my twenties, that I was falling asleep while listening to classical music on the radio, when in the in-between place of sleep and dream I had a full body vision. I was an older woman, maybe in my forties. I was European, speaking a northern European language. It felt Scandinavian. This woman was teaching a young ballerina to perform the steps and was trying to demonstrate the posture and movement. She could not. She had been injured, still had the form and grace but could not execute the movements.
    I felt the movement she could no longer execute in her body, and mixed in was the grief, the love and the frustration all rolled into one, that she felt. I came out of the state with tears back of my eyes, the feelings still raw in me. I understood my love of music and the ballet. It explained in that moment how it was that when I see the ballet, I could feel the movements in my body, and seem to know the movements so clearly. I also had a capacity to look at a dancer and know when something in her/his movements was incorrect. This dream-state experience explained all that and calmed my need to know self.
    The teacher described cooking as creative. That caught my attention, because the word in a flash linked me to a couple members of the family. My uncle Leslie, the artist and dancer was also a fabulous cook. I remember as a child, waiting up for him to come home from fishing because no matter what time he came home he would clean and cook whatever he caught. Once he was done even the neighbors woke up to enjoy the feast. He would not have to call loudly to wake me up. My favorite was when he caught shark, especially baby shark; his curried shark would light up everyone’s eyes. I hope my love of cooking and ability to create with whatever was available is connected to him.
    I feel as though a whole new view of me has been emerging through the simple act of deciding to take this art class, and the opportunity to map it out. I am a creative being. I am seeing more and more of how my creativity expresses itself in my world: in the garden, in the kitchen, in making things on paper, with fabric, with words, and so on. I have a new appreciation for me today for my creative journey through this crazy life of mine.

      • Jennifer Ire says

        Thanks for your kind words. This was a revelatory experience for me and it just flowed. Talk about life review, this was it for me.
        Thanks for the prompt,
        Jennifer

    • Debbie says

      Jennifer – so wonderful to read how your concept of your own creativity is expanding. Your posting helped me think about some of the aspects of my own life/personality that I had not previously defined that way. Thank you!

    • Eugenia says

      Hi Jennifer,
      Such a wonderful post full of joy, interesting characters, art and wisdom.
      Hope you write more,
      Regards,
      E

  11. Ilana says

    Alright. Here it is. Thank you for your encouragement and for permission to write “crap”. This isn’t my favorite work but I didn’t want to skip the week. Thank you all.

    The toddler- I can- “I am beautiful. I am special. I am excited. The world is so delicious. A million new things to try and I want to taste every one of them. I can.”

    The preschooler – I think I can- “Okay, so I’ve messed up a few times and bad things happened but there is still plenty of beauty in the world. There are colors everywhere and a million strangers who are just friends I haven’t met yet. I want to experience the world. I think I can.”

    The child- Maybe I can’t- “Oh, this is scary. I keep getting it wrong. No matter how hard I try I keep doing it wrong and I keep getting punished. I am stupid. I am ugly. I’m doing something wrong but I don’t know what it is. I need to do something right, something that will make people stop hurting me. But Maybe I can’t.”

    The teenager- I don’t think I can- “I’m nothing special. I’m wrong, all wrong. I keep trying and I keep getting hurt. Why is everyone so mean? It must be my fault. I am ugly, horrible and wrong. This world wasn’t meant for someone as disgusting as me. But I live here so I have to hide it. I have to find a way to keep the truth from everyone. But I don’t think I can.”

    The young adult- Maybe I should stop trying-“The world is a dark and scary place. Around every corner is something else I can do wrong and get punished for. I’m not doing such a good job of hiding how awful I am from the world. Even my fiancé, the man who says he loves me, sees all the faults and punishes me for them, daily. I’m not doing such a good job of hiding my ugliness from the world. Maybe I should stop trying.”

    The graduate student- Then again, maybe I can- “I had the strength to leave him. Maybe I’m not so powerless after all. Despite all the obstacles, I made it into graduate school. The world is still scary and dangerous but there is good in it now too. I have friends and there is a new man. He sees all that I think is wrong with me and he says it’s not true. I’m not hiding from him, he won’t let me. He knows all there is to know and he thinks I’m beautiful. Maybe, just maybe, I can.”

    The bride- I should give it a try. – “He loves me. He is marrying me. Maybe the world isn’t as ugly as I thought it was. Maybe I’m not as ugly as I thought I was. It’s possible. We could have a nice life together. I am scared but hopeful but I should give it a try.”

    The mother- I must.- “I’m a lousy mother. I can’t make breast milk for my baby and my mother has a correction for every single move I make. Everywhere I turn is just another failure. But I must push on. I must learn how to be a good mother and hide from my children how awful I truly am. I owe it to my children. I must.”

    The survivor- I will. “I can. I know I can. I’m scared but my sister survivors have faith in me. I gain so much strength from the women in my support group, from the women who have shared their stories in books and from the women who share of themselves in the Writer’s Journey. I will. I owe it to myself and with their help I will.”

    The future- I did. “I don’t know how this ends but it’s what I must keep striving for. One day I will come out of this hole. I will survive and I will succeed. I have to. There is no choice. Too many people are counting on me. Too many people are supporting me. One day I wil look back and say ‘I did.’”

    • Debbie says

      Ilana – this is really wonderful! It is your unique voice taking us through the journey in ways we can all identify with. I really liked your approach and agree with Laura’s assessment. It is clearly not “crap”, or ugly, or horrible or wrong. It is beautiful – like you! Whether you did it out of duty or desire – I am so glad you shared this with us.

      • Ilana says

        Debbie and Laura- Thank you both. The truth is I am exhausted. This week has been a very painful and difficult step in my healing process. I didn’t want to skip the week because your posts and comments mean so much to me. I’m glad that I did find the energy to write something that, although not my favorite of my work, is true to me, and share it with this wonderful community. Thank you again, IM

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