Comments

  1. Jaqui Jacobs says

    What stands between myself and the Peace I seek? That’s easy, I stand in front of myself thwarting all efforts to rebuild my life, wallowing in grief and pain and refusing to let my light rekindle and shine once again. I am my own worst pity party hostess and saboteur. I am beginning to think it’s time to crawl out of the darkness into the sun’s beams and go about peace seeking for myself once again. Peace and contentment are emotionally blended for me, it’s difficult to have one without the other and even more difficult to find it anywhere other than within. I need to look back to the peaceful places in my life and learn to recapture them – but that motivation escapes me and it’s back to Wallowville, a lonely and non productive little spot.

    The journey embarked upon here holds promise, I think. The weekly “unzippings” for the honest viewing of whats inside must surely regenerate something meaningful and bright. My appreciation to Hazel for encouraging me to join this group and to those of you who have commented. I don’t feel qualified to make comments myself, but once my self involvement gives way to faith and confidence perhaps, through newly found peace, I can contribute.

    • Wendy says

      Jaqui, I love the notion that there’s a place called Wallowville. I can see it very clearly on the map. Thank you very much for sharing.

    • Hazel says

      Jaqui,
      You know that you are loved.

      I am so pleased that you feel, “The journey embarked upon here holds promise.”

      The writing itself is very descriptive and well done. With you lines like, “I am my own worst pity party hostess and saboteur” and ” back to Wallowville.” They made me smile, even though you may not have meant them that way. It’s only that I know all about them as I have spent time there to. I thank you for sharing this piece.

    • Terilynn says

      I love your candor, Jaqui. I have hosted many a solo pity party and know of which you speak!
      And I wish you the peace you seek!

    • Karla says

      I like the undertone of humility and insight that seems to run throughout it. I’m glad you are here and there is no litmus test for commenting on anyone’s piece! So join in when you’re comfortable.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      I liked the term “unzippings” as well–I felt like I was with this piece and felt the reaching and struggle to break free in the piece and the appreciation of the spaces in which to do it…thank you!

      PS There are many ways one can go about commenting. I sometimes think, what would I say to a friend who just wrote a piece. I like to try to be helpful to writers by pointing out what I liked or thought was strong, what moved me, what words I especially liked.
      I think commenting for me is always an exercise or an experience of getting in touch with how I connect to a piece. It is so individual.

      • Jaqui Jacobs says

        Oh my … from my heart, thank you to each of you whose comments enhanced my day and spirit. I realize the time you take to read, think about and comment is a gift. I see this process differently now.

        • Adrienne Drake says

          Dear Jaqui~ This is a safe space, and I love all the nuturing in all the above comments, and I feel so good that you are taking it all in! I for one am glad you will “unzipping” with us!
          Adrienne

    • Nancy Qualls says

      Jaqui,

      You are preaching to the choir. No truer words were ever spoken…and all those other ‘buzz’ cleshay’s. There is one difference here in that we are on this site, making the effort, spreading our wings, releasing our souls and utilizing our brains.

      I always look forward to your posts.

  2. Karla says

    Chasing after peace is different from seeking peace, maybe in the same way that watching an exercise video from the couch is different from going for a walk. I have learned that for me, doing the chase—be it for love, money, accolades, or any of the intangibles– curdles my spirit like lemon juice in cream. The best way I can describe the sort of peace I’m seeking now is not a chase, but a quest to confront my life head on.

    The longest chase I’ve been on is the one that involves my work. I used to want, and by want I mean the big “D” of desire kind of want, for my clients to be vindicated, to be acquitted, to walk out of prison. It was a functional desire in many ways, as it led me to work hard and be compulsively thorough. It cultivated loyalty and respect among the people I have worked with. It was such a heady desire, like lusting after a rock star performing on stage, given a criminal justice system loaded with gender bias and a skew towards drama rather than truth. Man, it was a head first dive into the vastness of optimism, and it was thrilling. It was also a distraction from the real work that needed to be done.

    Now, I just want my clients to be free, and that can happen no matter what the outcome of their legal case turns out to be. Doing the work with them feels different in this context. My job is to explain a relatively discreet moment in their lives, when they picked up a weapon and fought back against the batterer who’d been hurting them. This moment has a large backdrop, usually years of domestic violence, often a history of childhood abuse. When I sit across the table with a woman incarcerated inside these grimy cinder-blocked walls, squirming to find a comfortable position in my plastic bucket chair, I luxuriate in the slow peacefulness that this is all I have to understand today.

    The other long-standing chase in my life has been after love. It feels now like wanting love is an obstacle to actually getting it. Chasing after love has definitely led me away from the path to confront my life head on. Waking up gradually from the chase, it seems like many of my choices have circled around what I think I need to do to earn the love of my family and friends. Inching towards the intentional actions of confronting my life—not necessarily getting into confrontations, or at least not unnecessary ones—I am straight to the point. I say, this is how I see it—but I have no investment in you agreeing with me. More importantly, I say, no– I do not want to do that, but you may feel free to do as you wish. I am liking what remains from this—love without control. Maybe that is the peace I have been seeking all along.

    • Wendy says

      Karla, I love that notion of the chase and idea of listening and attending. I love hearing about your work. Thank you.

    • Hazel says

      Thank you Karla,
      I feel you have captured what real love is all about “love without control. Maybe that is the peace I have been seeking all along.”

      Very well said.

    • says

      Karla, I injured my thumb and am typing one-handed, so this will be short, but I just loved this line, “Now, I just want my clients to be free, and that can happen no matter what the outcome of their legal case turns out to be,” and I imagine it will be a huge through-line in your memoir.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      I was drawn right into the strong language in this piece–the exercise and the walk comparison and the lemon juice in cream–so vivid!
      I felt drawn into this other world as well–defending the defenders–I enjoyed the descriptions of the rock star feeling and dedication, the physicality of the squirming in the chair and enjoyed the way the piece opened up into the meditations of seeking love–”wanting love is an obstacle to actually getting it”–powerful line too–Thanks!

    • Paully says

      I love this line: ” I luxuriate in the slow peacefulness that this is all I have to understand today.” There really is something to be said for easing into the present moment, isn’t there.

      Your work can’t be easy, but I think you see it as a valuable “school” for introspection and self-inquiry.

      You made a good point: when we can freely allow others to be just the way they are, we give them a rare gift. And it is a gift to ourselves to give ourselves the same allowance.

      • Karla says

        “I think you see it as a valuable “school” for introspection and self-inquiry.”

        I haven’t ever thought about it this way before, but I really appreciate knowing that you saw that in my writing. Thank you.

        • says

          well, yes, opposable (sic) thumbs enable everything–I can’t do my bra, pull up my pants, make dinner, do dishes (well that’s good), etc. and there’s the throbbing pain, too….but at least I have my thumb. All will be well in a couple of weeks.

    • Jaqui Jacobs says

      When reading I enjoy jotting down exceptional words or phrases in the back of the book, sometimes retrieving them latter in a journal. Your writing holds much fodder for my journals:
      – curdles my spirit
      – skew towards drama
      – love without control all colorfully describing what comes
      next and as the reader I am eager to
      see what that might be.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Karla~
      Your defense of these self-defending women continues to enthrall me. Your work is symbolic. It seems to me the work you do is the work the world needs to do, ie, embrace and empower the powerless. You describe your journey so well. Your passion is captivating, as will be the book you will someday write, because what you have to say needs to be heard in a hurting world.
      Thanks,
      Adrienne

  3. Wendy says

    I think my anxiety stands in the way between me and peace. My anxiety has been a constant companion, ever watchful, vigilant for changes in the weather, even if it might be a small shift in the wind, one grey cloud in a blue sky. My anxiety worries. She bites her nails. She is always cold. She clings to me. She would say I cling to her. We fight.

    My anxiety is young. I see her as a very thin teenager, orphaned. She doesn’t think to brush her hair. She long stopped flossing. She doesn’t sleep. Who has time for sleep? There is to much to monitor. Danger is behind that corner, coming up those stairs, opening that door. Is everything locked? Do you have a cup of coffee? What time is it? AAAAHHHH!

    My anxiety wants to take care of me. She doesn’t want anything bad to happen again.

    “Do not let your guard down,” she counsels me. “Do not relax. Do not be happy. Don’t be fooled.”

    I’m trying to make deals with her now.

    “What if we try for a few minutes just to let go? What if we throw caution to the winds and take a walk and smile?”

    Sometimes she agrees. Sometimes the hammer comes down hard, and later I try to talk with her.

    “There was really nothing to worry about. It was all fine. You just created a situation where we felt bad.”

    There are times now when she understand that. When she shakes her head as if she’s clearing an immense storm out of her ears, and I can see that she wants to have hope. For me, the block against peace is this skinny, stubborn, crushed girl who does not want to ever be fooled again.

    • Hazel says

      Wendy,
      How very unique to personify anxiety. ” My anxiety has been a constant companion, ever watchful, vigilant for changes in the weather, even if it might be a small shift in the wind, one grey cloud in a blue sky. My anxiety worries. She bites her nails. She is always cold. She clings to me. She would say I cling to her. We fight.”
      But we do understand who she really is with your final statement, “For me, the block against peace is this skinny, stubborn, crushed girl who does not want to ever be fooled again.”

      Thank you for a really good piece.

    • Karla says

      I thought this piece worked really well with Anxiety as your leading character. I thought she lived and breathed in your vivid descriptions of her and the ways that you detailed your relationship with her. It was lovely.

      • says

        Paully, Welcome to the Roadmap blog and thanks for adding your voice to our chorus. I hope you keep coming back–and look forward to your own post one of these weeks.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Such a powerful personifying anxiety–felt so familiar and loved the relationship between the main character and the anxiety…I loved that complexity of that relationship and the understanding of the anxiety, the embodied anxiety person–great details–the locking of the doors, the bargaining with–”What if we try just for a few minutes to let go?” and the voice of her counsel before that…thank you the so specific writing–wow!

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Wendy~ You portray the hypervigilence of the wounded child so very well. Your writing to me is an example of “We read to know we are not alone.” (That’s from CS Lewis in “Shadowlands.”)
      Nice work,
      Adrienne

  4. Hazel says

    Nothing stands between me and the peace I seek. I am at peace. There are no more struggles, just new experiences. I have done so many things, been so many places, loved so many people and animals, been loved by so many people and animals that I just cannot think of what more I would ask for to make me feel more at peace than I do. The constant pain left over from the shingles only serves to help me know that I am still alive, and pain is a whole different animal than peace.

    As I watch the fall winds strip the gold from the poplar trees I am reminded that it is not gold that is important but the soul of that tree that rests in the roots. They send the sap running in the spring, to cause the leaves to sprout and pop out and withdraw it in the fall and the leaves drop away revealing the bare skeleton. All the time the roots are at peace and at one with the earth. I am like those poplar trees in that the pretenses are falling away from the limbs that I have grown. What is left is the skeleton of what I was, or was not, in my life. Some limbs are strong like the bonds I feel for my true friends; for my mentors; for my loved ones. Some limbs are not so strong but more flexible like those of my creative interests. But, deep in my knowing, my roots, is a sense that I have been given much and I am bound by that to share as much as I can. I like myself. I have forgiven myself for the blunders I made and make. I am at peace with myself. Mostly.

    • Karla says

      Gratitude is what seems to be at the foundation of this piece, satisfaction with a life well lived and well loved. It was very effective and I feel happy for you, that you are at this place.

    • says

      beautiful–just beautiful. you had me immediately with your opening: “Nothing stands between me and the peace I seek. I am at peace. There are no more struggles, just new experiences.” Ahhhh….

    • Paully says

      Your descriptive writing brought me to peace just reading it. I felt the calm of the roots, the expansiveness of the branches…and the joy emanating from your being.

      Thank you.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Love the last word–”Mostly.”–Brilliant!
      I felt especially drawn in at the tree descriptions and metaphors–”I am reminded that it is not gold that is important but the soul of the tree that rests in the roots”–what a gorgeous line!

      Love this meditation on peace–it felt to me like a hard won peace or perhaps a peace coming from maturity, experience, and knowledge. Oh, I liked “the leaves drop away revealing the bare skeleton” like too… and that “Mostly.” So well-placed, so human…

    • Jaqui Jacobs says

      Oh Hazel, I want to take a page out of your book and be engulfed by that self acceptance and peace,”one with the earth”. You have presented this subject in such a way as to leave me longing, yet hopeful. Thank you, my friend.

      • Hazel says

        Thank you for daring to stick your head out of your rabbit hole and look around at the world again. You are precious. Take it in easy steps.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Hazel~
      I agree that adding “mostly” was a brilliant decision, because if you had not, you would be ghost writing this, and by that I mean, you would be sending it to us from heaven! ;-)
      Nice job,
      Adrienne

    • Wendy says

      Hazel, I really like this piece. I like that you begin so definitively and then you end with “Mostly.” That was so interesting and fun to me. This was very inspiring to me.

    • Hazel says

      How very grateful I am that you all have seen fit to read the little bit of writing I have posted here, and commented on it. Sometimes I am overcome, overjoyed, and quite surprised that by that, but more and more I beginning to see myself as a writer of real things. (Maybe even a real book.)

      Thank you.

  5. Terilynn says

    Peace is an elusive quality.

    My biggest hurdle could well be the inner judge who is harsh on me and anyone around me. She seems to absolutely censor anything resembling joy.

    The next roadblock is anxiety. Peace? But there’s a huge bad world out there!

    Next comes the defiant inner child. Oh, heck no – you can’t make me happy.

    Nonetheless, I took myself and the internal gang out in my kayak today. A young drake followed us, inquisitive and playful, for a good ten minutes.

    I didn’t get much of a workout. Instead, I allowed myself to feel the flow of the river as it gently carried me. I delighted in my new ducky friend. Before I realized it, I was surrounded by peace and exhilaration.

    I threw my boat in the car and achieved something simply major today.

    Sweet.

    • Paully says

      Nothing like a couple hours out in nature to well that peace up inside, is there. Nothing can beat it. Especially with a little ducky friend.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Loved the “internal gang” going out on the kayak and the drake following! And the ditching of the workout for something else. I enjoyed the casual throwing of the boat in the car and the words “simply major” were perfect–I felt the achievement, the “simply major” achievement. Lovely…

      • Karla says

        I would echo this as well, “internal gang” is a creative way to describe one’s inner life. I was so happy for you at the end.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Terilynn ~”I threw my boat in the car and achieved something simply major today.” With so few words you have conveyed so much feeling. That is a gift. As you say, “Sweet.”
      Adrienne

    • Wendy says

      Terilynn: I loved the idea of you and the gang in a kayak followed by a duck! That does sound like bliss to me. It really made me smile. Thank you.

  6. Lee Xanthippe says

    Do I seek peace? Or do I seek rest?
    Or do I seek activity that brings me rest?
    Or do I just seek another bite of your Kit Kat bar?

    I read you the quote, “There is more to life than merely increasing its speed.” –Mahatma Gandhi
    (which comes along with part two of LD’s writing prompt,
    “What stands between you and the peace you seek?”)

    You say, in that sweet and knowing, gently forward way
    that makes me believe you like he’s a pretty good friend of yours,
    “You know, he didn’t like to be called that—Mahatma.”
    (I start to think about Mahatma rice.)
    “What did he liked to be called?” I ask.

    “He liked to be called his name—Mohandas.”

    You say “Mohandas” like you just set a solid pumpkin down
    right in front of me—thump.
    You say “Mohandas” like you know it
    as sure as I know a pumpkin’s a pumpkin—boom.

    I like your solidity.
    I wonder about my solidity.
    (Now I am thinking about constipation.)

    But really I like your solidity.
    I like the way you know things.
    I like the way you befriend strangers who you know about,
    how they become not-strangers, how they become not strange,
    how you study their details, speak their words,
    use their humor.

    You say, “Roy Lichtenstein said, ‘I don’t worry about size…
    because I’ve got two.”
    You say it like it is something kind of wonderful.
    The idea of “two” tickles me,
    as does the idea of Roy saying, “Because I’ve got two,”
    as does you saying Roy said, “I’ve got two.”

    Uh-oh, I took it too far.
    Now it’s not even funny anymore.
    You know the trick to telling a joke, don’t you?

    Peace.
    P.
    Pea.
    ease.
    please.
    ace.
    act.
    c.e.
    e.e.

    It gives me peace to play.
    Last Sunday night, I watch them play—
    the man with the crazy air-playing hands I had to watch,

    the woman with the large harp with the foot petals
    who was the same woman who was named after a desert and
    shot a big bow and arrow into a cardboard box,

    the man with the tablas like water being swallowed
    and bouncing about, and then he played one of those xylophones
    with the metal tubes coming out which I forgot the name of—
    vibraphone?

    then enter the skateboarder-turned-alto-sax
    who knows that in both skateboarding and saxophone,
    if you don’t go for it, you end up bloodied.
    (Sometimes, Mohandas, we end up bloodied when we do go for it.
    But if we don’t go for it, we end up bloodied in a whole other way,
    bloodied from cowardice, bloodied from not living life true to our hearts,
    bloodied from living too easy a life and living to regret not really living,
    not really clearing paths or stepping on paths but steering clear.)

    Some people are content to die for no reason.
    I want to live for a reason, for many, many reasons.

    But back to the music…(you never know where a skateboarding
    go-for-it sax player will lead you.)

    And lastly there was the tenor sax—the thin tube of silver
    in his lips, the reed, and the tonguing.
    I saw his muted but slightly dark pink pants.
    You saw the way he held his instrument between his legs,
    sometimes gently gripping the instrument’s tip with his thighs.

    I didn’t see him do that move even when we watched
    the taped re-run.
    What is my type? I’ve been singing, “I don’t have a type…”
    but I think I’m wrong—I do have a type—
    a stranger who seems like a friend—a smart face that’s ready
    to be taken in with wit, with interesting knowledge, with laughter.

    I would like to think of myself as open to all different types
    and I am, but I’m not. I am open to all different types of people
    who want to take me in kindly if just for a moment,
    if only to joke, “Melashka, you should join our band!”
    if only to meet my eye and shake my hand,
    if only to say, “Better yet come up on stage!”—
    and we do—us half dozen—the man with the son and the daughter
    whose hands shoot up first like they we just waiting
    to be part of an adventure,

    and the smiling man who runs down the aisle to seize the night,
    and the last woman who hesitates a few moments longer than me
    and runs down the aisle, her friends hooting and applauding after her,
    and me, a woman in a soft striped inside out sweater and a yellow scarf,
    and a something in me, that does not just want to sit back and watch.

    We are given directions, and then the song begins and a few minutes later,
    we excitedly creep up onto the stage,
    and wait for the composer to wave his hands
    a this-a-way, and that-a-way, and this-a-way and—
    as the saxes hit their highest notes,
    the composer-man points his finger at us and we six,
    police whistles in mouths,
    BLOOOOWWWWW!
    And then BLOOOOOWWWWW! again for good measure.

    I have no idea what this has to do with peace.
    But maybe you will.

    The saying goes, “Rest in Peace,”
    yes, when we’re dead, but I don’t think peace,
    my favorite peace, is about rest at all,
    although I do like the peace that comes,
    the rest that comes, after I have gone for it—
    even if I’m not flipping a skateboard 360 degrees down 15 steps,
    and even if I am not playing my instrument
    at break-neck or break-tongue speed
    (and the composer man did say that those
    reedy men did get bloody tongues
    but that was the blood of going for it.)

    Know what I mean, Mohandas?

    “Do you think they called Mohandas ‘Mo’ for short?” I ask.

    You laugh from bed and say, “I don’t know.”

    • Karla says

      An engaging twist on the prompt, the playfulness that you show with your telling in the dialogue, slipping in and out of conversation, and spinning off from there, was delightful.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Lee~
      I like the man you are talking to. I like the fun you had with the music makers. I like that you do not take yourself too seriously, even when discussing something as topical and elusive as “peace.” Peace sometimes is simply a matter of doing just what you did in this peace, uh, I mean piece! :-)
      Adrienne

    • Hazel says

      Lee,
      I’m sure I’m your type: “a stranger who seems like a friend—a smart face that’s ready
      to be taken in with wit, with interesting knowledge, with laughter.” and if we hung out for a while I know we would have a lot of fun. My mind works much like yours if I don’t force it into a specific track.

      Thank you for such a capricious read.

  7. Sheila McGinley says

    There is more to life than merely increasing its speed.

    I had a professor in graduate school who dazzled us all with his stories and interpretations of the unconscious meanings behind our patients’ words. He had curly black hair and a slightly paunchy stomach and he would stride endlessly around the classroom as he held forth about the magic of unraveling people’s real meanings, the meanings that they could not know.

    When it was my turn to present a piece of my work with a patient, I began to speak, placing in front of me with my words the tired and tender person I had come to know over the months I had spent listening to her. Her early life had been a horror, assaults committed on her body and spirit, pregnancy the result, then removal from her home, making the betrayal complete. She survived, she became a healer, she reached past all her pain and found a way to love a man, bringing two small girls into her life. The day came, then, that the oldest reached the age she herself had been when abuse began. The little girl was happy, healthy, peaceful, and my patient became consumed with rage, with jealousy and resentment, with sorrow dripping from her tongue. She ran, left her home and family, wandered the streets all day and stayed in a small and dingy motel room at night, making her way after awhile to my office, each day lowering the great weight of sorrow and anger that she carried onto the couch, unwrapping the package between us as if her hands were burning at each touch.

    We went on like this together for months until, one day at a time, she returned to her home, her husband and children, her life. The moment came that she walked in to tell me that the weight was lighter now, that it was time for her to stop looking and remembering for awhile, that she needed to try to love again, to be in life once more. That she would be back when the pain was too much again. She smiled, and she walked out that door.

    I told them all of this and looked up. When my best friend touched my hand and squeezed it, I realized that I had not been breathing and I let the air out with a sigh. This had been a mistake, I thought, as I saw everyone’s head turn to the master alchemist pacing up front, smiling as he prepared to dazzle us all. Off he went, speaking of the unconscious shame and pleasure she had known as a child, the rivalry she had now with her daughter for her husband’s love, the running from home as the expression of wanting to be chased, to win. I stopped listening, lost track of the tale he was weaving, my head pounding as I heard the excited voices around me, joining in and adding fanciful pieces to the story he had formed. They were all talking so fast, waving their arms, looking at me as they talked. I felt like running, wanted to find some air, to walk some streets, to breathe.

    Closing my eyes, I began to circle my hands across my chest, rubbing my arms as if warding off the cold, while my body started to move in rhythm with the rubbing, grief filling me. Then I heard my name, a question mark at its end. My eyes popped open and I saw every face looking at me, waiting for my answer to a question. As I stared in panic, I realized what the question was: why had I let her leave, with no attempt to analyze, to interpret, to question, to confront? Why had I lost this opportunity to help her see, to help her understand, to move her forward into taking responsibility for her life? I knew that my answer was the wrong one: that she was done for now, that she needed to go, to stop thinking, to live. Before I could find something else to say, the professor spoke to me kindly, as if I was forgiven for my stupidity, and enlightened me as to what dozens of interpretations I had missed, of what a world of clarity she could have known if only I had been brave enough to hack through the jungle of her fears. Then he was done, the class clapping for his performance, and we were dismissed.

    That night I had the same nightmare, over and over. The professor was at the helm of a speedboat while we were all jammed into the seats as if to take a tour. The island in the bayou was beautiful and ravaged, broken and precious in its survival. There was so much new growth, beautiful young plants sprouting up among old corpses of past trees and bushes. I wanted to touch them, to see each one, to smell the odor of new hope alongside the disintegrating compost of the past. But the boat jerked and we took off, picking up speed until we were holding on for our lives. He shouted over the motor, waving his arms and pointing out splendid examples of life on that island, side by side with piles of death. I could see none of it because we were moving so fast that each thing he pointed at disappeared before my eyes focused. His voice flew from him and was lost in the waves, leaving me disoriented and afraid. Soon, the boat came to a screeching halt and everyone clapped, exclaiming at the magnificence of the tour. I looked behind me at the island, now in the distance, feeling lost as I tried to stand on shaky legs. I wanted to reach back and grab it, but it was done now and we had moved on.

    When I awakened from the nightmare the last time, it was as if my patient sat right in front of me. In my mind, I saw her take her thumb and forefinger and circle her wrist, holding tight as she told me of her rage. I watched tears fill her eyes and recede as she unfolded the picture of her daughter that she had been carrying in her pocked. I heard her soft and halting voice telling the story of adult after adult who had betrayed her. And I looked her in the eyes, her green eyes knowing more about love and abandonment than I had ever found in any book or classroom. My heart slowed as I remembered how she slipped on and off her sandals as she confessed to her anger and pain, how she held her daughter’s picture to her cheek and cried. Then I saw her sit back and breathe deeply when she told me it was time to go.

    I closed my eyes, feeling once again as if I was in the dream, but this time I was walking in bare feet across the island, feeling the mud and decomposing leaves slide between my toes, flowers dangling in my hair.

    There is, yes, so much more to life than merely increasing its speed.

    • Karla says

      There are so many things to love in this piece, I hardly know which to highlight first. One of the things you do extraordinarily well is how compassionate and consistent you are in your voice as you change perspective, from the focus on your patient when you are telling her story, and your focus on yourself when you describe what happened when you were a student (and the dreamer). I think you are also compassionate towards your former teacher and fellow classmates– you do an amazing job of just showing us what happened, without labeling the teacher with things that would be so easy to say or making commentary on how easy it is for charismatic teachers to bamboozle naive students. I especially love how you are compassionate towards yourself in how you process what is going on around you, it rings authentic and consistent with who you show us you are as the therapist (and as a dreamer). It seems clear that you have found peace with your work and with honoring the choices of the people you see. Finally, the way you interwove the themes of slowing down and finding peace, work and dreaming, just spectacular. The story unraveled in an unexpected way, engaging me at multiple levels. Thank you!

    • says

      Sheila, I was blown away by this piece. It reminds me so much of something I recently read from Sabbath by Wayne Muller–in preparation for this weekend’s “Coming Home” retreat. He tells the story of a doctor who could easily diagnose his patients and sense exactly what was wrong–when he was centered and moving slowly. But when his life sped up and was spinning, suddenly he was relying on all kinds of expensive tests and still unsure of his diagnosis. In your case, your teacher’s hubris and ego was a factor too, but I was so struck how your “on the ground” senses were the ones that were right and true–and how the “magnificent professor” was so much more absorbed in being the star that he missed the truth of your client’s painful situation. Beautifully told, too!

      • Sheila McGinley says

        Thanks, Laura! I would love to read that piece about the doctor, because it is so true for me too and what I was trying to pull from my life into this piece.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        As an aside, you describe what is wrong with medicine today and one of the many reasons I was compelled to retire.

    • Hazel says

      Sheila
      These words: ” each day lowering the great weight of sorrow and anger that she carried onto the couch, unwrapping the package between us as if her hands were burning at each touch.” are so expressive, such powerful pictures they make me pause to reread them. Over and over you present vivid pictures of your patient. You had to be “in the moment” to remember so completely what that was like.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

      I have not had a doctor who listened to me for so long I was going to say that, I have forgotten when the last time was. But I do remember it was 1995. I had given myself 6 months to find out why my back hurt so bad that I just wanted to die, or I would permanently solve the situation. I hobbled into her office and eased myself down into a chair adjusting pillows so that I could catch my breath and talk. She came in, a short stout woman with unruly grey wavy hair, flushed from the heat of the day, looking like she had weathered some of life’s storms herself. She sat down and said quietly, “Tell me why you are here.” Then, she sat back and listened, watching me carefully as I told my story to her. Then she said, “I can see by the way your body is contorted, the difficulty you have breathing, the tears in your eyes, and the tone of your voice that something is very wrong so we will start with some x-rays. Right now, across the street at the hospital.” She helped me up and assisted me out to my car. She did find the answer and I was fixed at the very last of the 6th month. It is nice to have a doctor, a therapist, a counselor, a nurse, a friend who just listens before they begin talking or treating.

      I want a therapist like you.

  8. Ilana says

    Smog

    The peace I seek. It seems a million miles away. There is so much chaos and unrest in my life right now. It’s been this way for so long and it feels like it will go on forever. No, not forever, but it will outlast me and that’s the same thing. I feel like peace will come to me only when I cease to be, cease to live.

    Discontent, entitlement, anger and righteous indignation swirl around me in a mist held together by misunderstandings, miscommunications and stubbornness. That smoggy, disgusting mist traps me. It is thick and impossible to see through. Blindly striking out in self defense, I cannot see who I am hitting, who I am hurting. I am crazy with pain and fear, panicked, so I keep striking out. Sometimes I hit a real threat. God knows enough of them are out there. But sometimes I hit something that I would have been better off approaching gently, with kindness. The others are as blinded by the smog as I am. They, too, strike out when they should be approaching me softly. I am so burdened with anger and hurt that my shoulders bend beneath it. Some days I seem unable to pick myself up off the floor.

    I’m tired. I’m lost and physical symptoms begin to make themselves apparent. I cannot breathe. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. My clothes are hanging off of me but people compliment me on my weight loss. I smile and thank them, knowing that if it goes on much longer I’m going to be in real trouble. Terrified, I cry out and ask for help. A figure appears out of the smog. A sister survivor, gentle, loving and filled with compassion, she helps me make sense of the confusion. A small space of air is cleaned around us. I feel so much better. I look at my friend’s face. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. When she says goodbye and steps back into the fog the space we cleared still lingers around me.

    I like the way it feels; free, safe, whole. Thrilled, I call my husband expecting him to celebrate with me. Splash! A bucket of ice water hits me full in the face. As I cough and sputter the smog closes in around me again. He’s furious. Why? Because of another misunderstanding. I explain the statement he misunderstood but apologies are nowhere to be seen. He’s still angry. Undaunted, I try to bring back the clean space by sharing my new wisdom with him. “I’m at work!” He snarls. “I don’t have time for this.” The smog closes in on me thicker than ever. I hang up the phone, lost in it. I bend, again overwhelmed by my burden.

    This is what stands between me and the peace that I seek. My parents’ inability to hold my older brother responsible for abusing me. My younger brother’s inability to see past his own pain. My own difficult and painful road to healing. And all the complications that come with trying to heal from the past while still living in the present. I might be able to deal with all of these things if it weren’t for that dreadful, smoggy, cloud; the discontent, entitlement, anger and righteous indignation that swirl around me in a mist held together by misunderstandings, miscommunications and stubbornness.

    My beautiful sister survivor gave me a flashlight. She said, “The only way to see through all of that is to start by being honest with yourself.” That’s where I will start and one day I will find my way through that smog to peace.

    • says

      Ilana, you capture your suffering so clearly in this piece. It is so hard to deal with healing from the past while living a full-tilt life full of responsibilities, relationships, complexities and demands in the present. But you are doing it.

      I’m so glad you’re coming to the retreat this weekend–I hope it gives you a needed time out and a chance to clear your head and have a much needed time-out from the dueling demands in your life. It will be a space for you–and you alone–time to be with your inner world and yourself without all the pulls constantly splitting your attention.

      See you soon!

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Dear Ilana~
      You have the gift of words that express how you are feeling so vividly. That ability alone will help you on your healing journey.
      Adrienne

  9. Ilana says

    Laura- I’ve been gone a while, I know. I think I may want to respond to the last two prompts. I know that those pieces of writing are more likely to fall through the cracks and get no responses but the prompts spoke to me. I just wasn’t ready to speak back. Thanks, Ilana

  10. MaryL says

    The message on my answering machine was an invitation. My dear friends, Marge and David, said, “We’re having some friends over. Come, bring something to share for supper and something to share in the circle… a song, a story, a poem.”

    We gathered on that Saturday evening, some old friends, some new. The potluck meal was wonderful, working out as these things do: always enough – more than enough – and a variety of tastes and textures. The table was decorated with purple flowers, orchids and cosmos, and many candles.

    After the meal, we went into the cozy living room, and I was asked to play the piano, “Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin with Me.” We each lit a candle, one of eighteen candles – separate yet melting into one. David asked us to relax a bit, then the sharing began.

    Someone who’d worked at Ground Zero in Manhattan told about an amazing connection that definitely personalized the tragedies of 9/11/01. Those of us who had been frantically trying to connect with a loved one in NYC or DC shared our relief. Another person read an inspirational e-mail about the change in our perspective – before and after that day; another read a poem she’d written.

    As I looked around the room at our little peace gathering, peering into the faces of these people who had come to share, I understood that the search of peace is poly-cultural, multi-faith, intergenerational, and open to all. Peace begins, however, in one person’s heart, and when she shares that, before you know it, it’s a powerful movement.

    So today I can say confidently, I know what stands in the way of my finding peace: I need to stop trying so hard to “fix my life” or “fix the world” and receive the energy and blessing of people who like me just the way I am and who are willing to share the good times and the painful times.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Dear MaryL~
      Your piece reminds me of this quote, also from Gandhi:
      “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
      You describe quite clearly a very peaceful evening.
      Adrienne

  11. Terry Gibson says

    There was a quick rush of adrenaline. I readjusted the phone at my right ear and sighed. “Let me get this straight,’ I said. “There is an opportunity there right away that pays $50 per month.”

    There was agreement at the other end. She was an OT from my provincially run counselling center. A mental health unit.

    “… but … I won’t get paid for two months … AND with 40 hours a month, I would make $1.25 per hour for my work?” I sighed heavily, feeling like I had just dropped one of our heavy dinner plates on my head.

    “It’s an incentive.”

    “And the money is withheld for two months? In the third month, would I be paid for those months too? Or is there NO pay for that time?”

    “None.” She started speaking again but the throbbing in my skull shut it all off.

    I gripped my phone so hard, my hand hurt. “And … why is that?”

    “It’s just to be sure you show up.”

    Listening closely, I tried to calm the rising anger in my throat. “So will you be here tomorrow for Employment Skills?”

    I could hardly breathe. Why can’t she GET it? I can’t! The group’s co-facilitator was Sherry, a woman I met three years ago at the back of a small room in the Supreme Court of Canada. We sat side by side and commiserated in whispers and giggles about how a computer spit our names out for Jury Selection. Maybe I heard wrong. “WHO is leading the class with you?”

    “It’s Sherry. You missed two classes but we just played some games. It was fun.”

    That quick friendship had continued. The new OT–co-facilitator of the job group–and I both landed on the Jury of the same second-degree murder trial. After session each day and the Judge’s instructions to us, the young and handsome Sheriff—who we came to know and tease–locked us in the Deliberation Room until the end of the day. The first day, I learned that many of my ‘peers’ were professionals and that Sherry and another woman worked for the same organization where I was a client and—being poor–got the only free therapy available. I always feel inferior to people so it was a real challenge to shrug that off and act like an equal. I did it though. And, after we delivered the verdict to an excited Courtroom, many of my new friends, thanked me heartily for my guidance, gritty knowledge, intuition, and being a big influence overall in the decision-making process.

    “I told you I know her,” I said to the caller, who burst out laughing for some obscure reason. “All I can say is this: I would rather volunteer for nothing then be offered a measly $1.25 per hour. That is demeaning to me as a person, woman. I am high-functioning human being who happened to be born in a really shitty place! I am trying to believe in myself! Do the impossible! How am I supposed to ACCEPT this situation?” Pain gripped my throat as she tried to interrupt me. “And now Sherry is going to teach me how to have good hygiene, how to dress myself for an interview and what a resume is?!” I knew these programs well. “I didn’t belong before and I certainly don’t belong now.” How can nobody see that? I even tried for a friend’s validation. Nothing. Have I become too haughty for my true inferiority?
    ****************
    What stands between me and the peace I seek?

    Reality. Resources. Confidence. Self-belief. Demoralizing situations like the two I face right now. Memories that flatten me like a cardboard box when I am tired or sick, that have incapacitated me longer than any medical situation. A lack of the continued opportunities I need. No chance to return to university. A real job. Is that too much to ask? Work that fulfils me and rejuvenates my heavy heart every day. Despair. Impotence. My truths forcing me to bash my head against the stone mantle of our unusable fireplace. Poverty. Loneliness. Exhaustion. Being forever stuck.

    Finally, I want to end on a positive note. Will doing so somehow crush the justifiable rage I feel at this second? The blind fury I desperately need so I don’t sink completely. Give up. Let’s try.

    Despite all of this and more, I will carry on. I am writing and plowing through so much material in my head. This is for my memoir, tentatively named “That Terry!” Also, I’ve got a lead on a REAL job. In fact, two. One of which, if I can tolerate my fear of the possible danger, would give me the opportunity to do every damned thing I need to live.

    PS: I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t say that I am not treated this way in every corner of that office. Within the walls of my therapy sessions, I am being catapulted to self-challenges I would’ve never even attempted before. I am being nurtured, loved and reinforced in every cell of being.

    • Karla says

      I was very engrossed in the story, although distracted by a gnawing sensation that it (the “offer”) didn’t make any sense. Then I realized it was because it actually didn’t make any sense. I think this was very effective, like a slow burn, allowing the reader to come to her own conclusions that the offers you were receiving were coming from “helpers” who (like many) are somewhat misguided. Sigh.

      I am excited to hear you’re writing a memoir, though. Good stuff for it.

    • says

      Terry, I was full of outrage, too, as you told your story of being demeaned like that. Your rage is fully justifiable–it’s rooted in your own hard-won self-esteem and self regard.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thank you Laura. When I wrote this, I took on an inner challenge–set in motion by you–to present it as a story. An attempt to help people get inside my skin. Even if only a few hear, I still accomplished something.

    • Ilana says

      Terry- Love the rage. It felt so powerful to me. This is a great piece and I got a rush hearing you go off on these people. Nice job! As I get ready to go to the retreat tomorrow I have to keep reminding myself you won’t be there. Oh well, you’ll be there in spirit. Thinking of you, Ilana

    • Hazel says

      Good writing, evoking feelings like I was right there with you, seeing from your point of view how some programs although intended to be for the person’s “good” or to help them (which they very well may do) are demeaning. Yes, you are worth more. You do have value.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Hazel, I appreciate your comments. I did something well? Cool! Feels good. I am doing some NaNoWriMo activities this year and wrote a chapter in a book called, The Arboretum. It was a round robin thing that I enjoyed a lot! I don’t know why but I thought you might like knowing that. Thanks, Hazel!

        • Hazel says

          I have looked at a lot of writing activities online but I don’t think I have seen that one. Sounds very interesting. Is the book on sale somewhere?

          It is interesting.

          • Terry Gibson says

            It’s still being written. One chapter a day until the end of November. After editing, I’ll know. As I read each day, I am having a rollicking good time.

    • Wendy says

      Terry, this felt very vivid to me. I felt immediately in the scene, and I felt on your side. You made the situation feel very alive to me. Thank you.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks so much, Wendy. Your thoughts are always welcome. I’m trying to catch up on everyone, which means I’m eager to read and comment on yours too.

  12. Adrienne Drake says

    Dear Terry~ This is a great description of your emotional struggle. I especially loved this descriptive line:
    “Memories that flatten me like a cardboard box when I am tired or sick, that have incapacitated me longer than any medical situation.” The results of emotional trauma are often hidden from the rest of the world. These words rang so true with me. So much of the struggle seems to me to be getting oneself heard, and getting the public educated. I believe writing such as yours and many on this blog can do just that.
    Adrienne

    • Terry Gibson says

      Thanks Adrienne! I am so glad something spoke to you. My biggest challenge is trying to write these vignettes in true story form, satisfying what people need to take the journey with me, and what I need to understand and appreciate what I’ve been through. Finally, I hope this breeds acceptance and gives me a golden gift–the ability to live with myself until the natural end of my life. No self-aggression again ever.

  13. Judy says

    What stands between you and the peace you seek?

    When I travel too fast, my monkey mind runs alongside with muddled cousins amuck and amiss.

    When traveling too slowly, my monkey mind shifts gears, accelerates, goes off rail giving me a metaphorical nosebleed and cries, “Ouch.”

    Namaste, Master Gandhi, there is far more to life than increasing its speed.

    To find that luscious middle ground and keep my monkey mind and its various committee members playing nicely together, I pause, take a deep breath and ask myself, what IS between me and the pleasure of this moment? Where is the peace and beauty that surround me?

    I take a few moments, relax and walk into the mystery. I identify the emotion and begin the Practice of the Internal Smile as I recite the Navajo Poem, I Walk in Beauty:

    In beauty may I walk
    All day long may I walk
    Through the returning seasons may I walk
    Beautifully I will possess again
    Beautiful birds
    Beautiful joyful birds
    On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
    With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
    With dew about my feet may I walk
    With beauty may I walk
    With beauty before me may I walk
    With beauty behind me may I walk
    With beauty above me may I walk
    With beauty all around me may I walk
    In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
    In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
    It is finished in beauty
    It is finished in beauty

    After my practice, and the poem, a feeling of gratitude moves through my body and there is a deep cellular shift. Ahhh.

    The razzlefratzing monkey mind and cousins have found the middle way and all feels good and peaceful once more. Until the next time.

    Namaste.

    • Terry Gibson says

      This has me going, “Ahhh!” too. I love your descriptions of monkey mind and “its various committee members.” I must also quote this: When traveling too slowly, my monkey mind shifts gears, accelerates, goes off rail giving me a metaphorical nosebleed and cries, “Ouch.” I never came across that poem before but love it. You took me so many places. Thank you so much!

      • Judy says

        Just back from celebrating my sister’s 80th BD at an all family female slumber party weekend. What nourishment! There was dancing, singing, tears of joy and stories told of the amazing women before us.

        Can you picture three little girls under eight, on the floor, center circle, their chins propped by little hands asking, ‘and then what happened?’ Sheer magic.

        My younger sister brought the Ball Brother glass canning jar which holds up to 4 generations of buttons—we felt greatly connected.

        I was focused on writing several tribute pieces to my sister, I feel I ‘speed wrote’ this piece so your comments are especially appreciated. Thank you for the validation Terry, Hazel, Karla & Adrienne. I was introduced to the Navajo poem at a ceremony many years ago and have treasured this one and have found other versions along the way. Yes, Adrienne, it does remind me of Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditations.

    • Hazel says

      Judy,
      You take us from the modern to the ancient through the forest into the desert with the Navajo. It was a beautiful juxtaposition just like our two cultures. I am so aware of these here in no-mans-land between the reservation and the rest of the world. It is a hard place to function, it is better to be one place or the other. The desert with the Navajo is by far the more peaceful place to be.

      Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem, and reminding us to slow our minds and just be.

    • Karla says

      “Luscious middle ground” indeed. I very much like the way you sandwich your intentional practice with the lovely poem.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Judy, thank you for sharing this poem with us. It reminds me of Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditations. So many universal truths just waiting to be discovered….!

    • Sheila McGinley says

      Thank you for this. I could feel your awareness and aliveness. And for the Navajo poem, which brought such peace to me. I am going to say it myself, as often as I can.

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