When the Bill Comes Due

“The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused and our body tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill, for it as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.”

–Alice Miller

The truth I can no longer evade.

Comments

  1. Lee Xanthippe says

    6:58 am 9.10.13

    It is a very boring truth, a universal truth that comes to mind. I hope that’s okay. Oh, there I go all apologetic like, like I don’t belong here, like I have to apologize for my own truths. I guess the prompt seems to want to pluck out deep dark undeniable somewhat juicy truths even if perhaps terrifying, but my boring universal truth (as a kid I was the youngest and somehow mowed over by others, couldn’t fight to be heard, learned shy, or would I have been shyer either way—not that I am shy now, but still some part of me is shy, hesitates, needs bolstering—from myself and others, but never wants to appear weak in anyway…but I digress)

    My pressing truth (was that the prompt or was that my reinterpretation of the prompt, should I look up the real prompt…I wish I could type 45 wpm so I could get that job and change tracks and work for another kind of good in the world, could I type 45 wpm?..but I double digress…

    So the thing that keeps coming back to haunt me (is that the prompt?) is the boring fact that I will not live forever—which actually I accept (whatever that means), but the extension of that fact is that if I want to make my mark, throw that comic diary out into the world, write that next chapbook (the last was over 20 years ago, even though it seems like I’m too young for it to be that long), make that 2nd album (been 10 years since the first came out)…
    Despite the world and the guards that stand armed all around me, I must learn how to live my life. I mean I must learn how to gently and strongly put the best of me—my creations out into the world. I mean polish them, ready them, and let them live in the world.

    This is the truth that keeps slipping away from me…at the same time, as I keep hammering away at it at my own (too slow?) pace (yes, too slow for me).

    Boring, universal, too true. But my way through the barriers—wooing the guards, or sitting them down to play cards or learning to pet the growling dogs at the gate. My way through—my new way—befriending the demons or greeting them eye-to-eye and smelling them, then moving on, is uniquely mine. Universally perhaps uniquely mine.

    • Kate Samuels says

      I like that you chose the human condition- the ubiquitous existential truth that we will not live forever- and the urgency we feel to contribute in a meaningful way; and that this notion is both universal and “uniquely mine”.

    • Barbara Keller says

      Isn’t this the human condition? Not so boring. Aren’t we all struggling down the same road? I like, “smelling them” in the second to last line.

    • Karla says

      Hi Lee,
      I also didn’t find this boring at all. This sentence really struck me as working particularly well in this piece: “I mean I must learn how to gently and strongly put the best of me—my creations out into the world. I mean polish them, ready them, and let them live in the world.” I guess that was two sentences, but it occurred to me that they are a very good definition of Art– putting the best of us in the best possible way, out there in the world. Thank you for writing.

    • says

      Lee, no reason to apologize for this piece that so clearly elucidates a struggle so many of us live with on a daily basis. Not boring, but real, and well-articulated. Perhaps a first step in putting your work out in the world again is to eliminate apologies when presenting your words on the page–that’s one of the first rules in my in-person writing classes–no apologies allowed when you read out loud.

      • Lee Xanthippe says

        Oh, in writing groups I never apologize or when I am in front of an audience.

        When I write however, as myself, or as a character or some combination, I allow myself the full range of my words and feelings–apologies and all.

        Thank you for the advice in putting work out there–it is more, the inner apologist I am not even aware of that can hold me back.

        And I have just started putting my work out in the world–I’m in an online journal this month. I had a piece in a book last year and another short piece in chapter in a friend’s book. But I am still just dipping my toe in the water. And I am posting things on your site!

    • Cissy says

      I found it affirming and maybe universal but not boring. In fact, it was rather comforting and inspiring and I kept feeling, “yes… YES!”

    • Terilynn says

      I was also trampled, Lee, by my older siblings. So I love your last paragraph. The barriers are a set-up from youth. We built our barriers in self-defense. Perhaps the growling dogs do represent our letting go of the old. Then you can be uniquely you.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Lee, thank you for this. I could relate too well. Most of my points were already covered by others. PS: This was is Far from dull!

    • Judy says

      Lee, good craft and surely not boring. Your closing graph is spell binding with vivid images and texture. You have great wisdom to befriend your demons. Loved this read. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Polly says

      Lee, to echo what so many have said, there’s nothing boring about this. The way I see it, when you’re able to express and describe things that are universal in such a rich way, that’s about as interesting as it gets. Thanks for posting.

      PS: loved the ending especially.

    • Debbie says

      Lee -
      “Despite the world and the guards that stand armed all around me, I must learn how to live my life. I mean I must learn how to gently and strongly put the best of me—my creations out into the world”

      Perhaps universal – yet still so well said by you. Thanks for voicing what many of us struggle with every day.

  2. Karla says

    The Truth I Can No Longer Evade

    I think of myself as a kind of emotional martial artist, experienced at both evasion and attack. I know I have earned my black belt in evasion. A method for pacifying my fear and anxiety, it protected me for many years. Looking back, I bow to my evasion as a respectful opponent, offering up my gratitude for the lessons learned. I realize that evasion has not just led me away from what I needed to avoid, but also moved me towards the kind of work and family that I would never have created otherwise.

    As a survivor, the attack—or living with intentionality and probity—came much less naturally than evasion. I have been so fortunate, at various phases in my adulthood, to have therapists who nourished these attack skills into tools that I could bring myself to use. In most ways, I’m probably a white belt in attack—but at least I place the tools into my hands and flail away at my life with them. I’m not convinced that etching into excellence is more important than the deliberate flailing.

    Suckered (by myself) into believing that evasion and attack are mutually exclusive, I discover that evasion has evaded my consciousness. I read the Alice Miller quote with a misguided sense of self mastery, crowing that I’ve already paid my overdue bill. I did and I have, but one satisfied debt doesn’t stop the other bills from ripening. The truth is that I am now teetering on a high wire, perched above my life, eyes wide shut to the sleepy discomfort about what prevents me from being inside it.

    The truth I have been evading is that there are parts of my life that don’t fit with who I am anymore. That is such a cliché and this website should automatically eject my post for using it. It’s one of those clichés that feels dropped into my writing like a misplaced karate move: I meant to go somewhere else with this, but I ended up flat on the floor, staring skywards.

    • Barbara Keller says

      Be easy with yourself. They are cliches because they are so often true. I like your last paragraph. Important insights well put.

    • Hazel says

      Karla,

      I like the idea of being an “emotional martial artist,” and I like that you have carried that out throughout the piece. Your ending statement “I meant to go somewhere else with this, but I ended up flat on the floor, staring skywards” (also a vivid picture in my mind!) is where I to end up most of the time. I can really relate to that one. (also a vivid picture in my mind!)

      Very nice! Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      Karla, this is no cliche. I really could relate to the concept of an emotional martial artist–and know myself, too, the polarities of evasion and attack. Maybe not always attack–but courageously putting myself forward while simultaneously holding back and staying safe in other regions of life. The complexity of who we are as human beings–that comes across strongly in this piece. No apologies needed. This is a strong important piece.

    • Wendy says

      Karla, I love the idea of the emotional martial artists. I love the idea of a misplaced karate move, and I think the last phrase, “I ended up flat on the floor, staring skywards” is just terrific. Thank you.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Wow, what a powerful metaphor of the emotional martial artist and the meditations on attack and evasion! Beautiful language. Images and phrases that stuck with me–the end image flat on back, “black belt in evasion”, “white belt in attack”, I love bowing to evasion as a respectful opponent…and the image of hovering above one’s life. What skillful language with a strong emotional meaning! Thank you!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Karla, with every post you contribute, I want to read so much more! That’s a compliment not meant to flatter but speak the truth. I love the idea of you as an emotional martial artist, highly-skilled at evasion and attack. I must quote this, which I can almost hear you read, “I read the Alice Miller quote with a misguided sense of self mastery, crowing that I’ve already paid my overdue bill. I did and I have, but one satisfied debt doesn’t stop the other bills from ripening.” I relate to this every hour this month and smile at seeing the actual words, a universal truth, spelled out so effectively. Thanks so much!

    • Judy says

      Karla, this piece pulled me in quickly and held me through to the finish. What a powerful metaphor in ‘emotional martial artist.’ Be very kind to yourself. This prompt seemed to hit raw nerves and brought a great deal of creativity. Thank you.

      • Karla says

        Judy, you are perceptive about the “raw nerves.” Thank you for the reminder to take care of myself (I do a pretty good job with that, and I am continuing). One thing I have learned is that confronting my stuff– even when all it looks like I am doing is gazing at a steaming pile of it– is much better than avoiding it. So I have been saying this truth in different ways to different people all week. It has not been a bad thing.

    • Polly says

      Karla, I love the self-awareness and strength that are so evident in this piece. Using the karate analogy throughout was very effective. Really enjoyed this. Thanks.

    • Debbie says

      Karla – you had me from the first line:
      “I think of myself as a kind of emotional martial artist, experienced at both evasion and attack.”
      I laughed out loud in appreciation and recognition. I am sure this phrase will find its way back into my consciousness over and over again. Thanks!

  3. Wendy says

    The truth I can no longer evade is I feel I have missed out. I am now fifty-four years old, and I chose not to have children. I will not be a grandparent. I do not have retirement savings. I do not know how I will get by.

    I was in therapy since 1983. Part of it was very valuable. I uncovered memories of abuse when I was a child. In many ways I grew up. But then it seemed I stopped. I stayed with the same therapist. There was no encouragement ever to leave this community. When the crash occurred eight years ago, I started working freelance for my therapist. She paid me well and on time, but it was quickly all consuming. It took me four years to realize that she could no longer be my therapist. Last month I ended the work relationship.

    The truth I cannot evade is that when I was my child, I wanted my mother to love me, and she couldn’t do it. When I tried to grow up as an adult, I wanted my therapist to fix me, and that didn’t work. I feel I have lost many valuable years chasing a pointless train, and now, here I am, trying to figure out how to make ends meet, feeling like I’ve waken up out of some strange mirage into a brave new world where my contemporaries are contemplating retirement, and I feel I have yet to accomplish much of anything. I am terrified.

    • Barbara Keller says

      Great insights, and I’m guessing you’re not alone. It seems to me many people feel that haven’t even started, and wonder how they will manage. Good truths.

    • Karla says

      Wendy,
      I thought this was very brave writing, and what I liked best about it is that I could see all the growth you’d packed into writing condensed with important information. I feel like you did that thing that writers are always told to do– make every word count. There isn’t an extraneous word to your piece, and thank you for sharing it.

    • says

      Wendy, moving on and figuring out what you want the rest of your life to be begins with an honest assessment of what it has been and the mistakes you have made or the ways you have hidden from your true self. This piece marks a wonderful beginning to a healing process that may take you places you can’t yet imagine. I understand why you are terrified, and yet I imagine there is also some small flicker of excitement. Good luck.

      • Lee Xanthippe says

        Me too…this piece felt raw and true and like on the edge of something new. Vulnerable and also strong in opening up this moment…thank you!

        • Lee Xanthippe says

          Also, the straightforward language worked in this piece for me. And had an emotional weight and also a lifting to it…

    • Hazel says

      Wendy,
      I liked the honesty with which you assessed your life at fifty-four. To me that seems like you have a long rest of your life left for accomplishment, (that’s 23 years I probably don’t have). If I am truthful, I have always been terrified at every juncture, turning point, of my life and mostly in between.

      Thank you for sharing. Once again verification that I am not alone.

    • MaryL says

      Wendy,
      I think you are concerned about your age, 54. When I was entering my 50s and starting to “wake up” I lamented that it had taken so long to get on track. But there is something about time you could remember… time is a construct. As we get older, I believe, time can be more rich and deep, even though the digital clock moves mechanically all the time.

      Breaking with your therapist is a powerful step, a loss, and a gain. (Actually, I wonder about the appropriateness on his/her part of having a dual relationship with a patient…. but that’s my business.)

      Growing IS scary … because we’ve never come this way before … however, I think it’s important to focus on YOUR path and YOUR plans. You would, for example, probably learn that most of your friends are not getting ready to retire! What are your gifts? What are your skills? How can you earn a living AND enjoy the good stuff in life, perhaps at the same time.

      There is hope! It is an adventure, and no one has all the answers. Good for you … you have come very far! MaryL

      • says

        Mary, bravo for what you said about time as a construct. I’m with you there.

        Sometimes, we do get too old to do certain things. I, for instance, will never become a ballet dancer or a concert pianist, or a mathematician. But as Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes, another opens, but we often look so long and regretfully at the closed door, that we fail to see the one that has opened for us.”

      • Karla says

        Mary, thank you for sharing the wisdom in this response to Wendy’s post. When I was in my 30′s, I marveled at the 50ish women around me who were, as you’ve perfectly put it, “waking up” and just rocking themselves and their lives. Now that I am 50 and feel like I’m in the midst of my own waking up, it’s not really so scary. Thank you for reminding us that it’s never too late to live a “rich and deep” life.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Wendy, I am having a deja vu here so I must’ve written a response to this on my phone and lost it while half-asleep. Anyway, everything you say and describe resonates so well with me. And, trust me, I am not asleep saying this. You so succinctly capture my dilemma–rampant fears, sadness, bewilderment, anger, and not knowing how to proceed but always vying for position in the world at this stage of life. It seems everyone has been rewarded for their paid dues and all of mine evaporated without even a look-see; I (or perhaps we) have been snubbed and only given more to cope with. For me, this is a huge part of the despair that ails me. Yet, here I am, as are you, and all the others unlucky enough to sit at our table. Thank you for expressing this so well. I am clearer on what I must do, not how to go about it. Out of curiosity, has writing this had any positive effects for you? PS: I am also petrified.

      • Wendy says

        Terry,
        Yes. I have received a great deal of work this week. It is work that I really enjoy. I also learned of a book that I think may be helpful to read. It is called MONEY: A LOVE STORY by Kate Northrup. I have downloaded it on my Kindle and hope to start it soon.

    • Judy says

      Wendy, bravo to you for taking your personal inventory and moving forward. This is such a bold statement, ” When I tried to grow up as an adult, I wanted my therapist to fix me, and that didn’t work.” I wish you great success the next path of your journey. Like you, I’m often terrified, so just know that there is strength in numbers.

    • Polly says

      Wendy, I agree with what some have said here – that it’s not too late to start figuring out what you want out of life, and finding some things that could perhaps be so much more fulfilling than you would expect at this point. Adventure and satisfaction could be waiting around the next bend. Have faith in yourself and don’t lose hope.

    • Debbie says

      Wendy – the fear of being old and alone can quite literally be paralyzing. Some of us have written before on this blog of the (secret) desire to be rescued, from our life, from ourselves. I admire your courage in facing and defining your fears. It doesn’t make them go away – but does allow you to connect with others who may understand your feelings and offer comfort.

  4. Kate Samuels says

    The truth I am no longer trying to evade is still evading me. I am still not sure of my truth. Something I can’t describe nags that I am not completely in it yet. The something I can’t describe may be internal unrest and yes, at times, torment. Once the pestering began years ago I wondered where and how I find my truth.

    I am learning that it comes in pieces, and that I find it by following my own instincts; by moving through life from the core and not only from the mind, and by refusing to deny my “indefatigable hunger for your own truth,” as my friend describes it.

    Deceit has wrapped me in its warm, soft cloak, but I outgrew that cloak and shed it to stand in chilly uncertainty. It seems confusingly certain to me that the truth, when we meet, will confess and surrender to me as I will to it.

    • says

      Kate, you said so much in just a few short paragraphs. This was spellbinding: “Deceit has wrapped me in its warm, soft cloak, but I outgrew that cloak and shed it to stand in chilly uncertainty. It seems confusingly certain to me that the truth, when we meet, will confess and surrender to me as I will to it.” Thank you.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      “Deceit has wrapped me in its warm, soft cloak, but I outgrew that cloak and shed it to stand in chilly uncertainty.” A beautifully descriptive sentence!

      I also enjoy the daring of the beginning to write around something just taking shape…thank you!

    • Cissy says

      This felt like the chill before a storm when something “big” and powerful is coming and it’s both scary and welcome.

    • Hazel says

      Ah yes, the mystery of life; wonderful and confusing, soft and chilling. You caught me totally. Solid piece of writing.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      Kate, with so few words you create such yummy alterations. I love this piece and stand in applause. I will come back again to reread and savor it.

    • Polly says

      Kate, this reminded me of something I’ve been saying for years: the older I get, the less I know; although that’s starting to be less true for me in certain respects. I love your last paragraph most of all. Thanks for sharing.

    • Debbie says

      Kate – I really liked this line – very powerful!
      “Deceit has wrapped me in its warm, soft cloak, but I outgrew that cloak and shed it to stand in chilly uncertainty”

  5. Barbara Keller says

    The truth I can no longer evade is sad, not entertaining, not amusing and as far as I can tell, like the child in the quote, not likely to change.

    Yesterday it came to me clear as the Harry Porter movies I’ve seen 25 times. I feel I’ve been betrayed and abandoned by every single person I ever needed, ever hoped to count on, ever looked for when I was desperate.

    I was dozing while watching a movie. A woman needed help, looked and found help. I woke up asking, “Did you get to the right place?” (Thinking in my sleep that getting help depended on having something like the correct latitude and longitude.) “I never did.”

    I heard myself and realized what it meant. I never found any person I thought loved me and was there for me.

    That all said, and it’s real enough to make me cry too much and approach life with paranoid shadings, it’s also true, I think, that my choices and my memories are bound by this expectation, formed in my early childhood. No one will be there.

    My mother was reticent to bond, I think because her brother died when she was 3, and she grew up alone, selfish and certain it was better to start alone than to be left alone. My father had a history of depression and drifted into alcoholism. They were only horrible people from a certain point of view. They didn’t mean to be horrible. It was only that their own plans and defense mechanisms rendered them unavailable to me.

    So they really weren’t there, and I got crazier and crazier and then I made sure no one would be. It seemed best to maintain the continuity. The grief is real, the longing is real, and the cost of being held hostage by that small, scared, angry child is the bigger part of my life.

    • Hazel says

      Barbara,

      Well written, thank you for sharing.

      “I never found any person I thought loved me and was there for me.” at this point I’m not sure whether finding no person is not better than finding “one who is there for me,” but who is the crazy person.

    • Karla says

      Your opening and closing paragraphs in this piece were strong and vibrant. Your personal experience was enriched by references to Harry Potter, an unnamed movie, and insight about your parents. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • says

      Barbara, this honest well rendered piece states where you are now; but this does not have to be your truth for the rest of your life. Believe it or not, you still have choices. It is still possible to step out from the shadows. It is not too late, though the risk may seem overwhelming. But I believe in you–there is still a small child in there who is capable of receiving and giving love. She just never got to learn how. You can begin first, by forgiving and loving her.

    • Cissy says

      This made me teary, especially at the end. And also hopeful that there is still time for someone to be there for you even if, maybe especially if, that person is you.

    • Judy says

      Barbara, your clearly stated piece brought tears. I like how you so bravely told your story and expressed compassion for your parents. You are entitled to be loved and to take space in this world. I hope you throw your arms around yourself NOW and start to find the loving comfort you are so deserve.

    • Polly says

      Barbara, it makes sense, given your experiences, to have approached life and relationships the way you have so far. It’s completely understandable. I have to just reiterate what others have said here: that you deserve love and compassion, especially from yourself. This was a brave piece. Thank you.

    • Debbie says

      Barbara – I am impressed by your courage and honest sharing. It is difficult to accept some of our truths – especially when they carry pain. Thank you for being willing to allow us to “see” this aspect of you.

  6. Hazel says

    REFLECTION

    Who is the old woman who stares,
    gazing out from the window?
    A stark image standing there
    tired and bent in the thick wavy glass.
    She looks so much like my grandmother,
    but who is that old woman who stares?

    (A sijo form which I wrote in 2001 while we were in Seoul, South Korea.)

    It seems to me that we have written several prompts on this same subject lately and whatever I am evading is still saying “forgeddaboud it”!

    My body has been “presenting the bill” since I was five years old and had the “three-day-measles” twice. The list goes on through every childhood disease that was circulated from 1936 to present except whooping cough, and some that were outside the “usual.” The un-usual being; red measles, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever. Then just to scramble my brains just a tiny a bit more came dyslexia, my mother’s crazy religion, an abusive husband and two children. I finally get free and I am in a terrific motorcycle accident, nearly losing my left leg and then my very life with staph infection. I don’t know why I am listing all this shit but as long as I am here are the surgeries: back, shoulder, appendix, gallbladder, 2 total knee replacements, cataract surgery on both eyes, a spinal chord stimulator to help control shingles pain (3 3/4 years now). Okay, what more can it ask for?

    No, I will not accept it! It is short and fat with dimples on its knees and white hair. I’ve had to pretend that I was a jolly fat person or diet like hell all my life in order to be a cranky skinny person. NO MORE! I am what I am: a short fat, near sighted, cranky, bent over, slow moving old person. Don’t like it? Don’t look!

    Now, got anything else you want me to evade? What? You think I don’t feel accepted? Whatever gave you that idea? Who could accept this mess? Only another crazy person, I’m thinking.

    • says

      I loved this paragraph, Hazel: “No, I will not accept it! It is short and fat with dimples on its knees and white hair. I’ve had to pretend that I was a jolly fat person or diet like hell all my life in order to be a cranky skinny person. NO MORE! I am what I am: a short fat, near sighted, cranky, bent over, slow moving old person. Don’t like it? Don’t look!” That emancipating ultimatum made me smile out loud.

      • Cissy says

        This image is powerful
        “tired and bent in the thick wavy glass.
        She looks so much like my grandmother,” and how you are talking about you. You capture that surprise when the image in the glass doesn’t seem like you even though it is.

        • Hazel says

          Thank you Cissy. That is precisely what a Sijo poem is supposed to do. I’m glad you noticed that. You set it up in the first four lines then it is supposed to be a joke or a surprise in the last 2 line ending. It is an ancient “poetry form” developed in Korea. There are supposed to be specific numbers of syllables per line etc. but I cannot remember them right now.

    • Judy says

      Hazel, the sijo is wonderful writing. I hope you share more of them. I love this piece and glad you posted it–good mood or not.

      And, like others here, this is the stand out line, “No, I will not accept it! It is short and fat with dimples on its knees and white hair. I’ve had to pretend that I was a jolly fat person or diet like hell all my life in order to be a cranky skinny person. NO MORE! I am what I am: a short fat, near sighted, cranky, bent over, slow moving old person. Don’t like it? Don’t look!”

      • Kate Samuels says

        I love how you started with the sijo and then continued to explain what you DO see in the mirror and how you anticipate that others see and receive you. A very ‘visually’ complex piece. Very nice!

    • Polly says

      Hazel, I love the way you responded to this prompt! I like hearing that attitude and spirit. It was perfect. And I think I can speak for “the group” when I say that we accept you, messy or not. This was great.

    • Debbie says

      Hazel – your post made me smile. And I am still chuckling about this line
      “and whatever I am evading is still saying “forgeddaboud it”!”

  7. Karla says

    “Now, got anything else you want me to evade?”
    Yes, actually I do, because when you work on your evasion in your writing, it’s very punchy, vivid with interesting tidbits from your life, and it makes me smile with your attitude towards your “old person” self. I don’t know– you can write about yourself as an old person 100 times– and while your descriptions of your physical self might match the “old” Hazel that I have had the lovely experience of being in the room with– your writer is definitely young at heart, perky, and insightful.

      • Hazel says

        Karla,
        And I thought “perky” was a term meant for breasts, however mine were never that. They popped out and grew from flat chested to 34D in less than a year and have been hanging there ever since, always in the way.

        I have always thought that my body was just to carry my mind around but it has done a damn poor job of it. I’m looking for a different kind next time around.

        Thank you for your kind words.

  8. MaryL says

    MaryL September 10, 2013
    Today’s Writing Prompt: The truth I can no longer evade.

    After reading the prompt, I looked up what else Alice Miller has written, and I’m interested in reading much of her work. I like this period when she was trying to help adults to understand their childhood experiences in order to live a healthier adult life. I am definitely going to read her Drama of the Gifted Child, because that is about people like me (the definition is quite unique and apt).

    I suppose this passage means, first of all, that you can’t stuff everything inside … someday, you with explode, or implode, or some terrible thing will happen to your health. I understand quite a bit about chronic illness, and I see this as applicable to myself. Back problems are particularly distressing. However, I live my life … get up in the morning, keep busy and productive, work at my craft, work as a pastoral counselor, enjoy getting together with friends for a knitting session.

    Last evening, I found that I was feeling rather dark; I was in a group, but I felt alone. I walked a bit, sat down again, tried to act interested, managed to be a “good girl.” That kind of struggle, which is not all that common, takes a great deal of energy! So I was and still am very tired. It doesn’t help that the temps are at 100 degrees F! (You don’t have to tell me to keep hydrated… I am practically floating!)

    Today I spent a little time wondering what that “spell” was all about, and I realized that it was a familiar spot … needing comfort while moving back … not wanting to be a bother, so pretending (not very effectively) to be “just fine.” Over time, I have learned to “carry on” no matter how I feel … but is that wise?

    Well, it is exhausting, actually. I know that when others in our group announce, “I have a migraine!” people give them a little space, don’t bump into them, speak more quietly. Of course! What are friends for?

    So this is not the end of the story. I am still learning to “feel” and identify what I feel. Numbness is not the problem; I am feeling, but it’s such a challenge dealing with a jumble of emotions which are sad, mad, glad, silly, etc., and figuring how to let those feelings be, and expressing those feelings. No, I don’t intend to throw things around! However, I could take a few steps to a better place. And I could try to trust that my friends – who seem to like me though I am quirky and sometimes silly – will understand. MaryL

    • Hazel says

      Mary L,
      “No, I don’t intend to throw things around! However, I could take a few steps to a better place.” WOW, you seem so mellow; so cerebral. I have found that sometimes it just feels so good to throw some dishes and see, hear, and let them explode against a hard surface; even sweeping up the mess feels good, and when I dump the dust pan into the garbage I get to hear a softer crash as the anger, or the experience is going away. Some days when my back hurts I feel like breaking some more dishes. Now that I mention it I wonder why I don’t? I broke a whole set of dishes, cheap ones I bought at the dime store, for just that purpose when I left my X-husband.

      Very well written piece. Thank you for sharing.

      • Cissy says

        This was powerful. “And I could try to trust that my friends – who seem to like me though I am quirky and sometimes silly – will understand.”

    • Wendy says

      Mary,

      I like the way you share your process. It is very inviting, as if a friend had started a conversation and said, “This is my story right now.” Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      MaryL, thank you for posting this honest insightful piece of identifying your feelings. I was with you as you described the exhaustion after exploring the ‘spell.’ Can you hear the sigh? Your last graph was well done, full of hope, trust and forward motion. Nice job.

    • Polly says

      MaryL, I could identify with that sense of not wanting to admit when you’re not doing well emotionally, of trying to hold it together because we think that that is what we are supposed to do. I get it. You expressed everything really well.

  9. Emily Bitton says

    When the Bill Comes Due

    I am standing in the aisle of the fruit and vegetable market. I am small, maybe 4, maybe 5, maybe 6 years old. I am round of body and round cheeked, with long brown braids. My eyes are wide open. I am wide open. I take in the sights, the smells…. The green cylindrical kirbies, piled high in their bins like pickles. The plump tomatoes, spilling over like red rain. Witches’ hair parsley and dill, tentacles lying dead and limp over the counter. Pyramids of rosy apples, mounds of sunny bananas. The air is green and ripe.

    My father is standing over the produce, choosing every item with the precision of a surgeon. He examines each zucchini, turning it over, inspecting it for the errant blemish, the black dot suggesting the insect that preceded him. He will cook the zucchini later, with chicken, with onions, spiced with turmeric and coriander and cumin and garlic. It will be fragrant, but not in the way that children appreciate. The zucchini will be soft and squishy; each bite will expel the olive oil and chicken fat into my mouth. I will want to gag. He will tell me that in his country this is called jaja u greyat, and his mother used to make it for him when he was little. This last bit of information is designed to soften me towards this dish, to elicit warmth and nostalgia and to make me imagine the little daddy, a boy beloved by his mother. But all I know is this imposing giant of a man, the one who always walks outside wearing a suit on his body and a fedora on his head, the one who is now studiously inspecting the zucchini that will later nauseate me.

    My father will take his time and collect everything he needs for his cooking. He will put each item in its own paper bag, and, balancing the basket that holds the bags, will make his way to the line that is snaking towards the cash register. I will follow, ever dutiful, ever the good girl. I will be quiet. I will just watch. I will try to prepare myself for what I fear will ensue.

    When it is finally our turn, the cashier, the man with the mustache, the holocaust survivor who always tugs at my braids with an affectionate smile, who always tells me how beautiful I am, will take each bag and solemnly weigh it on a scale and write down on a piece of brown paper bag each weight and the corresponding price. He will add up all the figures and tell my father what he owes. This is when my body will stiffen.

    My father will react with shock to the amount quoted. His outrage will grow. He will demand that the mustache man add his numbers again, will accuse him of weighing down the scale with something else not contained in the paper bags, with inflating prices, in short, of cheating him. The mustache man will try to explain to him, to show him the numbers, what each one weighed, what it is per pound. The people behind us on line will shift and stir. The other fruit pickers will lift their heads mid pick, and stare. I will look down, and pretend to be invisible. I will try to shrink each cell of my body into the tiniest space possible.

    I have seen this act many times. I have seen it on Monday mornings when my mother asks my father to give her money so that she can buy groceries for the week. I have seen it when we would be checking out of a hotel and my father has to settle the bill. I have seen it at the supermarket.

    I always prepare myself for the moment of fury. I stand very still. I tense my neck, my jaw. My child sized fists clench. My eyes are downcast, but my body is rigid and ready. My eyes sting, my eyelids furiously blinking back nascent tears. My pulse quickens, my heart pounds. I am ready to flee, although I never do. I always just stand there.

    Sometimes my father will surprise me. Sometimes he will hear the price, or listen to my mother, and just take out his wallet and count out dollar bills like playing cards and set them down on the counter or the kitchen table with equanimity. And I will look up in disbelief, let out the breath that has been held in a great big rush, and color will return to my pale cheeks and I will feel ridiculous joy at danger having been averted. Sometimes this happens. This will not be one of those times.

    My father’s outrage will grow by octaves. His roar will be magnificent, more suited to a jungle than a small cramped vegetable store in Kings Highway, Brooklyn. I will hear it resound off the walls and bounce back to me. I will slink ever deeper within myself. I will try not to cry. I will try to be brave. I will try to pretend that I am anywhere but here.

    After sufficiently shaking his fist and shouting at this man, this mustache man, this man who had stood shivering during many a bleak frigid dawn being counted by Nazi guards and wondering if this would be the day that he will be shot or sent to the gas chamber, my father will be sufficiently satisfied that he has expressed his righteous indignation over the inflated price. He will slap down the necessary bills and coins, collect his bags, take my hand with surprising tenderness, and head back home.

    I will walk alongside him, my body limp and resigned. He will think that I am his daughter. He will think that I love him, that I will care about the dish he is about to prepare for me, the one that his mother made for him all those years ago, but all I will remember is that it is over, I am safe for the moment, and no one on the street is staring at us, that we look like any ordinary father and daughter returning from the market.

    Sometimes it will happen, even now, in my adult life, that someone will turn on me and yell at me. It could be a patient. It could be a stranger. Sometimes it is even a friend. It just happened to me last night. Someone screamed at me, someone was frustrated with something else, blamed me and screamed at me. And I stood there, 4 or 5 or 6 years old once again, my heart beating as if I had been running rapidly, my breath catching in my raw throat, my eyes stinging and filling with tears. I tried to tell myself that I still have power, that I am no longer a child, that this person is crazy. But my body knows better, it knows what to do in the face of anger and shouting and unpredictable rage. And I am a child in a vegetable store once more.
    September 10, 2013

    • says

      Emily, this is a gorgeous, beautiful piece, so well-written and full of vivid images. I loved the way your father took your hand with surprising tenderness, and so many other wonderful images and juxtapositions. I had empathy for both the girl in this piece and her father–to me, that means you truly succeeded.

      • Emily Bitton says

        Laura, you taught me to find my voice and to begin to learn how to express it. Thank you for that, and for your feedback.

    • Karla says

      Emily, your writing here was luminous, so full-bodied that I thought that I was reliving your experience as my own. We’ve all been there in our own version of the five year old in the grocery store, and you transformed this kind of universal experience into a rich and textured account with the twin roots of yourself and the cashier each affected in actual as well as symbolic ways. I absolutely loved it, thank you so much for sharing it!

      • Emily Bitton says

        Karla, thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate your wise and insightful comments. I also wanted to comment on your piece – I loved the imagery of an emotional martial artist – the juxtaposition of attack and evasion! I thought it was a brilliant and sensitive depiction of what so many of us struggle with. And your writing, as always, is skillfully expressive and engaging.. Alas, I am too computer impaired to figure out how to go back and comment on a piece that has been posted way up on the chain, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to tell you this.

        • Laura Davis says

          Emily (and any one else struggling to get your responses threaded properly so they show up where you want them to), read the FAQ:Community Guidelines and How to Post at the top of the page. If you haven’t read them, you should any way.

          Basically, you hit the little white Reply box immediately below the original piece or comment you want to respond to. That’s it!

          • Karla says

            I swear I know how to do this, but I find it difficult to apply in the moment. ;) Thanks for the gentle reminder, though.

    • Hazel says

      With that first sentence: “I am standing in the aisle of the fruit and vegetable market.” I am into the story and never once did I lose track as you took me through to the end. Really good writing, vivid images, loved the names of the items. Please keep coming back with more.

      Thank you for sharing!

    • Cissy says

      This entire paragraph as well as the last one are so powerful. The writing is so tight and precise and I can feel the being sent back into the past which feels very present, through your writing, for me as a reader.

      “Sometimes my father will surprise me. Sometimes he will hear the price, or listen to my mother, and just take out his wallet and count out dollar bills like playing cards and set them down on the counter or the kitchen table with equanimity. And I will look up in disbelief, let out the breath that has been held in a great big rush, and color will return to my pale cheeks and I will feel ridiculous joy at danger having been averted. Sometimes this happens. This will not be one of those times.”

      That last line… Chilling!

    • Judy says

      Emily, what engaging writing. You set the scene so vividly I could smell and taste the veggies. The shift from those pleasures to your tension when the men negotiated the costs was gripping. Wonderful writing and I look forward to more. Thank you.

    • Polly says

      Emily, this was chilling and rich with detail. So vivid. I was with you that whole way. The fact that you are always that little girl when faced with similar experiences resonated with me. Extremely well done. I loved reading it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Debbie says

      Emily – wow, this was a terrific post. I enjoyed your perspective as the young child recounting the ritual with physical descriptions. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  10. Cissy says

    Learning how to cope, cover and control symptoms, affect and impact is not the same as freedom. Passing as someone who “seems” normal and has a full life (and I do) is not the same thing as making choices not influenced by fear (and I do that too). I have done my healing/feeling and dealing and am grateful for full-fledged grown-up functioning.

    And yet, my life is a sculpture dedicated to fear. My body a bookmark for where a soul should have been. Avoidance was the exacto knife cutting away all juice and fat, keeping me anemic at the bone marrow when the tranfusions of life force were needed. I learned early how to leave my body detach so life woudn’t feel feel too crushing. Now, I can’t seem to get out of my default position where I hover over myself instead of inhabiting my body fully.

    I want to suck on passion, pray to uncertainty and hug myself steady so I’m brave enough to take risks. I want to mother nature, father time and be my own magical santa claus so I’m big enough to nurture it all – it being the human condition in my own physical five feet by eight inches form.

    My life is solid and decent. I own a house, pay my bills and am trusted by my daughter. I have close friends and a wonderful neighborhood. These are not small blessings and I’m grateful. But it’s time to get the hunch out of my shoulders, the knot out of my neck, the pause out of my step. The words held on my tongue are tired of being aborted and dying in my throat.
    The feelings jammed down and held back by carbs want to make an invisible water color of release on sheets.

    I know I skipped the classes where oral presentations were required because I was too afraid to speak in front of a class, chose jobs that were safe where I wouldn’t have to walk into dark garages, travel on the subway or do too much travel. I chose a mate who should have been a friend, because I was too afraid that the ones who evoked passion would gut me with betrayal and I would be too fragile to endure the loss. I adopted rather than gave birth because I was afraid my body could not handle motherhood, flashbacks, infant need and still be nurturing enough while postpartum. Thank God I ached for motherhood enough to chose to parent. But now that I’m in menopause I know some fears have expiration dates, windows of time in which they can be faced before the choice is no longer an option or a luxury to be made.

    Fear has been my most reliable companion. Now that my periods have ended, I’m going to use my life force in new ways instead of frittering away my dreams and goals afraid.

    I’m going to learn to take my hand, be my own parachute opener so I’ve got support enough to jump, air enough to breathe and legs to catch the ground beneath. This I pray…

    • Karla says

      Cissy, I loved the bold word choices you made in your writing here; they underscored the courage behind the words. I started hearing the song “Brave” (by Sara Bareilles) as I was reading. Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      I love where you take us by the end of this piece…as well as your raw honesty about your choices and how much they were based on fear. I can relate so much–especially about choosing a mate who should have been a friend out of fear of real passion. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hazel says

      Cissy,
      Thank you for this. From the definition of what freedom is not, through “I want to suck on passion, pray to uncertainty and hug myself steady so I’m brave enough to take risks,” to determination: “I’m going to learn to take my hand, be my own parachute opener so I’ve got support enough to jump, air enough to breathe and legs to catch the ground beneath.” you held our attention. Solid resolve resonates through this piece. Good solid writing. Thank you for sharing.

      • Kate Samuels says

        I loved how you began:
        “Learning how to cope, cover and control symptoms, affect and impact is not the same as freedom.”
        This sentence really can be universal and draws the reader in- to your experience and to their own. I also loved this: ” And yet, my life is a sculpture dedicated to fear.” How many of us live in a fear-based life, no matter what the issue- I loved again how you connected with the reader while telling your story.

    • Judy says

      Cissy, I love this piece. It is raw, powerful and captures us immediately with word couplings like, “Avoidance was the exacto knife’ and this image, ‘some fears have expiration dates….’ Wonderful craft. I will read it again. Thank you for sharing.

    • Polly says

      Cissy, thank you for showing us both your vulnerability and your strength. So much of this piece rang true for me. It really flowed well, too. Beautiful.

  11. Terilynn says

    Great topic, Laura. I am dealing with the bill collector right now. It’s a bitch – taking responsibility for my own life. I’ve gotten quite efficient at playing the Blame Game. Uh, how long can I truly get away with blaming everything past? Oh but it is such an easy out!

    Then comes my proficiency at scanning for potential roadblocks, projecting them onto a situation. How neat! I’ll avoid the situation, due to my drummed-up worst-case scenario. And where does that get me?

    The word “responsibility” feels like a badly stretched out four-lettered word. I forget I’m a grown up and have control over my fate. I forget that I already am making my impact on this world. I forget that it starts with baby steps when endeavoring a new project.

    Then I remember. My writing group looks forward to each new story. My cats trip over each other when I come home, or pull out bowls and canned food. People call me for help, or for advice.

    I guess I need to start thinking like the valid person I turned out to be.

    • says

      I love this piece–how you are having to re-envision yourself so that your self-image catches up with who you’ve become. Isn’t that something we all have to do from time to time? And your last line–just priceless.

    • Hazel says

      Terrilynn,
      Nice bit of writing here, hear?

      At 77 I’m still saying, “I guess I need to start thinking like the valid person I turned out to be.” So I’m saying, is to stay young in mind even though you have to act like a “valid person” sometimes.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      Terilynn, Great opening, ‘I am dealing with the bill collector right now. It’s a bitch –’ Here’s the really good thing: you got it. You got that you an adult with choices who makes an impact. Nice job in so few words. Thank you for sharing.

    • Polly says

      Yes! Taking responsibility for our lives can be a bitch. Well said. It’s clear that when you stop and think about it, you know how worthy and capable you are. Thanks for posting this.

  12. Fran Stekoll says

    The truth I can no longer evade= I’m going t0 be 79 and I’m no longer Daddy’s little girl.
    He took me on my first train ride from New York to California
    He took me to the beach
    He always gave me wet kisses, hugged me and told me he loved me
    He was my best friend
    I still miss him and have tried to replace his love, respect and truth with my
    husbands; but to no avail.
    No one can ever take his place.
    It’s time I realize I must take these wonderful attributes and covet them in my heart and move on knowing I have the ability to share them with those in
    my world for the rest of my life.
    Being diagnosed with breast cancer has brought me to my knees and the
    reality that life is a temporary position. I am turning away from western medicine and relying on the holistic approach to value myself.
    My Mother did this and defied death for 14 years. I know I can achieve this
    because of the powerful love I received from my Father.

    • Cissy says

      It is wonderful to know that the enduring love, positive, can be so long lasting. Thank you for this piece. It inspires me as a parent.

    • Hazel says

      Fran,
      Thank you for sharing.

      Love is so powerful. I don’t know who measures out love but one can never get too much of it, not true love. Being my Daddy’s little girl, I know: “No one can ever take his place.” I miss him to. I like to think he still takes my hand and walks with me.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Fran, I relate to loving my Dad! So I hear you loud and clear. I am glad you made up your mind to pursue the treatment regime best for you. Also, I know love cannot prevent death altogether but your Mom’s record was stellar. One thing it can do though–is transcend it. Those days with my Dad–as you reflect in your piece–are the best memories of my young years. Please take good care of yourself.

    • Polly says

      Fran, that’s a big lesson. Some people never figure out what you managed to about their relationship patterns and what they were really seeking, so well done in that respect. I hope the path of treatment that you have chosen works well for you. Thanks also for letting us in on that. I hope you will continue to share this leg of you’re journey. We’re here.

  13. says

    Dear Roadmap Community Members,

    I’ve just learned that the Writer’s Digest annual 101 Best Sites for Writers is generated by reader-submitted nominations.

    I would LOVE it if all of you would take a moment to send an email to the address below telling them why you value this website and why they should definitely include it in their next compendium of listings of great websites for writers.

    Send nominations to writersdigest@fwmedia.com with the subject heading “101 Websites.” (You’ll need to cut and paste the email address from this page.)

    The address of the website you should recommend they include in their listing is:

    http://lauradavis.net/roadmap

    Thanks for your support!

  14. Terry Gibson says

    The Truth I Can No Longer Evade – A Mashup of Points

    (Disclaimer – Please understand: I mean no disrespect to men. I love them too.)

    When I look back on my life, I still wish I were born male. As a man, in my 20s, I believe I would have been safer while travelling, not hurt as much as I was. In addition, I would have quietly–keeping with my personality traits–enjoyed the sense of entitlement inherent to being male; the confidence that comes from knowing everything is possible, and commanding a respect the world-over because I had a penis. Many times in life, I have held back on something I wanted to do because I am female. Agreed to less pay because I am female. Accepted living in fear because I am female. Been scared I won’t be taken seriously in business, because I am female. Have no confidence in myself because I am a woman.

    I am a free spirit, dreamer–who makes things happen–and wanderer, who would just keep travelling and writing until the day I died, if I could.

    In Scotland, when I was not in pain or preoccupied, I was so deeply in my skin that I read, yacked, and quietly joined the group who sang on the bus. Blissfully, I was one of the girls (and guy). I have an as-yet undiagnosed issue with my throat, so I even wanted to share a risk with our writing circle. Yes. I wanted to sing a song. The plan was that people would join in, but not before I achieved my riskiest goal–making a serious stab at it.

    I have still been struggling with my moods. Today was a tough day but I pulled it around three times, twice with unexpected help. Finally, after receiving good news about someone, I sunk. Why? I love her and am genuinely delighted for her! I felt a stab to the heart: I could hardly breathe as I felt my own deep longing for accessibility, to things never meant for me. I am ashamed of being envious; I am ashamed that I should ever want more, when I have so much!! I have yet to master these pangs; they hurt and bewilder me every day of my life. But knowing that just isn’t good enough. I vow to work HARDER to learn about and nurture other opportunities out there. I will do that or die trying! I’m good with hope … for now.

    Menopause will be a severe challenge for me. I know every woman goes through it. For me, it is threatening because of the depression I tackle on perfectly good days and my isolation in Vancouver. It has been a battle and continues to be. I am mindful of this but occasionally forget. I think the hormonal fluctuations are gutting me, sending my thoughts and feelings spiralling downward. Synthetic hormone replacement is out of the question (cancer-causing) of course, with the only alternative I know about, natural compounds, unavailable to me.

    Finally, I still think about suicide but work through it minute by minute when necessary. I don’t say this to worry anyone; it felt awful to know I worried people I care about. Yesterday, however, after spending hours in bed unable to move, crying, and finally sleeping, I awoke, musing about this:

    My depression bed, it rests my head,
    it cools my jets, sinks me like bread.
    Sometimes it gifts delights instead.

    Like two fine books to be held and read,
    Tea with a friend whom I once wed,
    Dreams I can’t live if I am dead.

    Thanks for your patience and reading. I appreciate it so much!

    • says

      I appreciate the way you gave yourself permission to go wherever this prompt took you. I’m so glad you’re with us, hanging in there day by day, and sharing what’s on your mind and heart. Loved the poem.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Laura. It’s still about internal processes but I am aware of it. Have retained–miracle of miracles!–all I learned in Scotland during the classes, I issued myself a challenge right then and there based on a quote you shared. Something to the effect of how not writing the book is killing me; it brought me to tears in class. Depression Bed is a weird little poem but it seems to be sprouting another stanza since I last watered it. :)

    • Hazel says

      Terry,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your poem was such a nice ending to this piece. No thanks needed as I enjoy reading what you have to say. It is important.

      • Terry Gibson says

        I appreciate that, Hazel. A lot. You inspire me by how you write on and on. Never stopping for anything. I love that; you are a great role model for me.

    • Karla says

      I love the use of the word “mashup” for a title– it fits perfectly with what you were intending to do. I also think that your disclaimer was an effective tool to allowing me to hear what you were saying in your opening point. Personally, I don’t have much of an issue with what other people might call male-bashing, because I think that women are allowed to say what their experience has been with men. But I think that your disclaimer lowered my defenses in a way that was really positive for me as a reader, and I think your sensitivity shines through as a result. And, finally, on this first point, I think that one of the truths for many women is that life would have been different if we had been born male, and there is wisdom and peace is speaking that truth. Thank you for sharing.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Karla. I am glad the Disclaimer helped and appreciate that you stayed open, despite some guardedness. I wince at the thought that anyone would see my words as male-bashing; in the context of my life and upbringing, those beliefs (which is the operative word) are pure fact. Not just in the sense that if born male, life would clearly be different. But also in that, if born a guy, I would’ve immediately been elevated to human and loved at my house. With everything else the same, that would’ve changed how I felt in my own skin and how I projected myself, which could’ve dropped my chances of my brand of victimhood a whole lot, possibly by three rapes. If I could’ve avoided even one, that would–in Terry-math, at this moment–have amounted to at least five years returned to me. My degree. A career. A son or daughter. Tangibles all lost to me. I also believe women and men have the right to share their life experiences and I am not a perfect listener but a respectful, compassionate one. We all deserve at least that and, wait, a whole lot more too.

    • Polly says

      I like that you started out acknowledging the privilege you would have enjoyed as a man – throw in straight and white and, statistically speaking, you would probably have had it made. You probably would have been safe. As it is, you are a survivor and you have survived at every turn. That is nothing short of inspirational. I want you to know that you blow me away and you are very important to this community. Thank you for sticking around with us. Be good to you.

  15. Hazel says

    This is a second post for this prompt. I don’t know why this makes me so angry – mad even; but here it is:

    “But someday the body will present its bill,” and I will declare bankruptcy. I will list all the doctor bills I have paid to maintain this body and it still fails me. It was supposed to work; it will soon be recalled by its maker and then what will I do? It has never worked correctly, has been broken down almost as much as it has worked. It has wasted so much of my time, time that I could have been dancing, walking, or playing. Now that I am old I have no more money for upkeep so I will expire and in a little while no one will remember that I was ever here, because it has failed once again.

    I cannot figure out what it is about my childhood that I could be repressing, I was never molested, I was for the most part happy. Were there times that things didn’t go my way? Of course! Was it traumatic well, not really. But I have always had a fight with my body. It is just not right. I have never worn it well; it seems foreign to me. What body would I rather have had? I don’t know, but I would have wanted one that didn’t let me down, one that would let me take a walk when I wanted to; one that would let me dance easily not like a clumsy cow; one that would let me play with my dogs on the lawn.

    Am I angry with this body? You bet! Because it has been a waste of time. I really hate wasting time, my time. This is my brain speaking. Maybe I should have been a computer, but then again, they become outdated and are thrown away as well. Damn, it! Guess I can waste my time being angry at it or just submit and get on with being.

    It’s time to make peace with my body so okay. It has brought me this far sure. How much further could I have gone with a different body? Well, I guess we will never know until the next go round.

    FLOORS

    I dream of bare wood floors,
    waxed, where gleam runs
    with the grain as I stride across it.
    Where bright rugs are scattered
    for decorative effect,
    but they pose an uneven path
    for these unsteady legs
    told long ago they would never stride again.

    Stride?
    No, they sort of waddle
    across carpet,
    on pile with many twists,
    nylon and wool,
    plush thick foam beneath
    placed on plywood
    puts “cush” in my step.
    No pain in hips puts a smile
    on these lips and many trips I make
    from room to room before
    hurts consume my energy,
    momentum slacks, and I
    am driven back into my chair.

    02

    • says

      Hazel, your poem really grabbed me–it put me right in your shoes or should I say your painful uncomfortable body.

      I loved the flow of this piece–the anger, the rage, the dissatisfaction that finally let to the realization that without your body, “you,” the mind that is seating observing and spilling out her rage wouldn’t be here. Finding peace with your body when you feel your body has failed you–that is a huge mountain to climb.

      • Hazel says

        Thanks Laura. I’ve been trying for a long time to figure out a way to feel comfortable in this body but it just doesn’t work. So I continue with my poetry . . .

        • Emily Bitton says

          “Where bright rugs are scattered
          for decorative effect,
          but they pose an uneven path
          for these unsteady legs
          told long ago they would never stride again.”
          One of the most simply beautiful metaphors for aging that I have ever read. Bravo, Hazel, and keep fighting! Your body may disappoint but your spirit is ever strong, and many of us remember that you are here…

    • Terry Gibson says

      Hazel, thanks for this piece including the poem. I feel that anger with you! I wish you could stride, even flit, the length of your cheery carpet. In fact, I wish there were rent-a-body shops. Nothing a propos, but where we can trade up for a week. I would like to feel the power of my long and strong arm and leg muscles and spend one to six days dancing til sunrise and then starting a fresh full day right after a latte. Hell, I’d like to have long legs, not the short and stubby chicken drums I do not so proudly harness for power. Your story reminds me of an incident with my Grandma which I am happy for another perspective on. Maybe one day we’ll meet, hug and gab our way thru a pot of tea, as well as rage later in the wide open spaces of NM until our lungs or voices fail us. By then we’ll be sure to yell, “Take five” to the goddesses who wore earplugs to humour us, while feigning attentiveness. Take good care, Fran.

      • Hazel says

        Terry,
        I have always thought we should be able to trade in one body for another. I’m glad someone else agrees with me. It is obvious that the world is being run by a patriarchal god because the Goddess would understand. I know the Gods all laugh whenever I let loose and attempt a bit of dancing, in fact I’m quite sure they laugh for days or weeks even. It’s very humiliating!

        Thank you for your comment.

        I used to live in White Rock,BC if you have to live in Canada that is the place to do it.

    • Polly says

      I appreciated the honesty in this piece – how you spoke about your pain, anger, and frustration at not having your body work the way it should or the way that you would like it to. That sounds difficult. If it’s any consolation, I am a horrible dancer.

      I enjoyed the variety in this piece – the move from prose to poetry. I always like reading what you have to say. Thanks Hazel.

    • Judy says

      Hazel, you write of pain, anger and rage with honesty and force and then fold it into a poem that has us right there with you sinking back into the chair. May I nominate you the Poet Laureate of your state and this site. Tomes have been written on the aging process and its accompanying pain, but you nail this prompt with writing I so admire. Well done.

      I echo Emily’s comment: Your body may disappoint but your spirit is ever strong, and many of us remember that you are here…

  16. Terry Gibson says

    This is a second post for When the Bill Comes Due. If if it’s okay, I must include it because I had FUN writing it. This is the me who will always reign, despite this period of life. A letter to …

    Dear Scotland Co-Retreaters,

    It is so nice to hear about people! I wasn’t going to write as I was thinking, ‘Everybody knows about my messes already.’ Let’s just scratch that but, given this is a two-minute writing assignment I just gave myself, I can’t.

    So damned sexy!

    Adjusting has been like hitting a stone wall–without the buffer of a couple Scotch whiskies and a beer chaser. I’ve been falling and flailing, bra over bootstrap, head over toe, yelling ‘WTF’. Unfortunately, as I repeatedly yell ‘Help!’, my request appears in a thought bubble above my head; there is no attached sound byte. I keep cranking my neck back to see above me, to catch when that changes, and now have whiplash, sunstroke, and an acute sense of lauded invisibility.

    Oh yeah! Visibility too. I can’t get rid of those damned yellow floaties hanging over me. Yesterday, on the bus, a petulant child read aloud my every single synapse-fire and then proceeded to edit my grammar and over-wordage. One construction worker, two nuns, and a little old lady–a dead-ringer for TV Ellen’s mother–were highly-amused. They snickered and applauded the lad, while I tried thinking of a writing prompt and constructed the piece, just before knocking it and myself down. I supplemented that musing with ‘I’m so sexy!’

    DAMN! HOW DO I STOP THIS? I’m looking like a pervert here! HELP!

    I don’t think you write that, Terry. Smokin’ and sexy!

    Anywhoo. That’s me.

    I love and miss you All! Plus, I wouldn’t have wanted to spend those glorious, rich days with anybody else. Please be safe (not a condom ad), healthy, happy and astute.

    Write on!
    Sending Hugs, Terry.

  17. Judy says

    The truth I can no longer evade or What to do when the bill comes Due

    Angst, jiggy, nervous and edgy comes to mind when I think that my body will someday present its bill and I won’t be ready. Lately, I’ve been awakened at night with this thought as my mind rolls over the past eleven months.

    Last October, my younger son’s mother-in-law was killed instantly in a tragic auto accident on her way home from church. It was our grandson’s thirteenth birthday and he often accompanied her to church. But on this day, thankfully, our grandson stayed home to prepare for his arriving birthday party guests. When my son called with news of the accident he pleaded with me to have ‘everything’ organized in one place. He later told me that he and his wife spent days searching for documents so the burial and estate could be finalized. It was a mess. Not only were they grieving but utterly and helplessly at the mercy of state laws. I explained that our living wills, medical power of attorney, financial pieces were in a red three ring binder in my office. Adding that soon, other details would be folded in, like the obituary, prepaid disposition of the body, a script for the service, and luncheon plans.

    Two months ago, my older sister’s fourteen year old grandson went missing and it was suspected that he had a gun with him. His school was put on alert and the campus shut down for a few hours. Within 24 hours, the TV reported that he was found dead in a friend’s front yard–he had committed suicide. We were nearly inconsolable at this loss. He was an amazing young man with academic and athletic gifts. He was scholarship bound to a big ten. His father and older sister are creating a 10K run to raise funds for education on teen suicide prevention.

    Earlier this month, my younger sister’s ex-husband (he had just turned 70) died after a five week diagnosis of liver cancer. The family was thrown into grief and chaos not just because of his death, but the discovery that there was no will (living or otherwise); no power of medical attorney; no end of life wishes expressed; no obituary written; no ‘do not resuscitate order’ or advance directive. Nothing.

    After torturous discussions, haranguing soul searching, and finally a meeting with a palliative care counselor, his two adult daughters made the painful and difficult decision to take him off life support and let him die. He was cremated in a private ceremony two weeks ago.

    My sister and I agree his gift to our family is: be prepared. And, may I add — make friends with your eventual death. (Dr. Amit Goswami, Ph.D. influences the thinking on this one)

    So what is this general anxiety that often awakens me in the middle of the night?

    My husband and I are very lucky. We are both healthy, except for the aches and pains of growing older. But, do we have things in place for ourselves and our children? If not, why not?

    When I look to Nature as life’s model, I find grace and comfort in the cycles: birth, death and regeneration. When my juicy old crone friends gather, we laugh at how we tend our gardens—whether flower and veggie gardens or the seeds planted in our marriages–especially the really big conversation about finishing “The Exit Plan.”

    In our house, it seems a kind of dance–collective denial style. Who takes the first step to complete the To Do List?

    Okay, here goes:
    Set the date for completion (goal: by year’s end);
    Decide and prepay disposition of the body (burial? cremation? donation to a teaching university?) Aye, there’s the Rub;
    Write our obituaries;
    Write and prepay our own memorial service and luncheon;
    Develop list of doctors, medications and family contacts and post on the refrigerator.

    In China, it is said, “No wise woman ever wishes to pre-decease her husband.” Indian women, especially Hindu women, hold an annual prayer service for the long life and protection of their husband. I think on these things—and find life and its departure the great mystery.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Judy, first off, I extend my condolences to you and your family on these huge losses in only eleven months. No doubt, you were exhausted after writing this out! Having lost many loved ones too, I learned a fair bit about POA, Medical POA, what happens when there is no will (‘intestate’), DNRs, etc. It’s a messy business I want little to do with. Your suggestions are spot on. It is so easy to keep putting such matters off. I am glad you and your husband will follow through, given it is so important. Take care, okay?

    • Laura Davis says

      Judy, thanks for this all-important remind to have our affairs in order. I’m going to have to take a look at what I haven’t and haven’t done–I’ve actually done it all, but it’s no longer neatly organized and all in one place.

      • Judy says

        Thank you, Laura. Writing this piece was truly exhausting. However, the check list is now on the fridge and that means headway. One of the juicy crones just sent a link to something called Smart911 https://www.smart911.com/
        Congrats to you for having it all done. I hope to report back the same soon.

    • Hazel says

      Judy,
      I thought you presented the information in an interesting way by bringing in all the deaths that have occurred in the last eleven months and the problems these events have caused. I like how you have shown us the list of things that need to be done. “In our house, it seems a kind of dance–collective denial style. Who takes the first step to complete the To Do List?” In our house I have completed the list but my husband is in complete denial, not only of his own eventual demise, but his mother’s, mine, and he still has not accepted his father’s death 3 years ago. So, I am attempting to sort out his feelings and prepare papers and just tell him to sign them.

      See there, by sharing this you have made me realize again how important this truly is. Thank you, my friend, well done.

      • Judy says

        Hazel, thank you for your dear comments. This weekend, I found myself saying, if you don’t get this done, the last one standing gets to make the decisions and you might not like mine. That was an attention grabber.

        So, today, we were able to laugh when I broke into recitation of the Abbott & Costello’s routine ‘Slowly I Turn, Step by Step.’ It’s worth the Google. (our trigger word was Exit Plan)

    • Mary Carlson says

      What a gift, and so eloquently spoken! You should send this to 100 magazines: AARP, More, any magazine with a readership of those over 50. Denying death is the Great American Way of Thinking. When it comes, not only are we left without tools to process, but often the mess of not knowing how to handle the details. I’m guessing in China, all wise women want to predecease their husbands because they, like a lot of American women, have no clue where the insurance papers are stored. Thank you thank you. I turn 60 next month. Time to get my affairs in order not so I can die, but so I can live knowing my 14 year old daughter doesn’t have to make unbearable decisions.
      My heart goes out to you and your wave upon wave of grief.

      • Judy says

        Mary, you are so kind in your comments. Like you, I believe a loving discussion of death, dying and all those details are the best gift we can give our kids. Hopefully, when completed we will have more time to be in the moment and fully enjoy life. It’s all an amazing journey, yes?

    • Polly says

      Judy, I’m impressed by your organizational skills and the fact that you’re so proactive about everything. I’ve never really taken the time to plan in any official/legal sense. I like to think it’s so far away that it won’t matter for a long time, but you never know. Also, I work at a law firm, and could probably have a will and power of attorney done for free, so maybe I should get on it.

      You listed several tragedies, and I’m sorry for those losses. Your strength shines through, as always.

      • Judy says

        Polly, truly had to bite my tongue as I read your comments on being proactive. Some might call it more like being…well, let’s just say it rhymes with rich. Give yourself a huge treat and take advantage of your work environment’s skills to get that ‘stuff’ done or at least ask questions of what’s best for you at this time.

        So good to see you here again. Sending you hugs and support.

  18. Mary Carlson says

    Tonight my daughter looked at me with tears in her eyes. “It’s my birthday weekend, and you humiliated me!” I could only tell her that my decision to not let her watch a horror movie with friends was based on years of pain and regret. I tried to explain that the world is full of enough evil; we don’t have to invite it into our lives. It took a lot of talking to get to the heart of things.

    “I want to be a better parent to you…than my parents were to me.”

    I told her how I spent the afternoon making a call to Child Protective Services. I told her that in Syria, children were being killed by poison gas. I told her that today, men in India had been sentenced to death for raping and killing a young woman. I told her that the movie she wanted to see was peddling evil and horror as entertainment…and that it minimized true evil.

    And then I told her about the day I found myself in the back of a truck with a group of preteen boys. I had been hitchhiking on the road from Santa Cruz to Los Altos, where I lived with my family in the South Bay. I was 17, and hitchhiking was common for me. The boys couldn’t have been more than 12 years old. There must have been seven or eight of them, all in the bed of the pickup. I sat in their midst. And then, as we drove north on Highway 17, winding our way over the mountains, each boy, one by one, unzipped his pants. Each boy then held their trophies and waved them at me. Some of the boys touched me with their little boy penises. And they laughed.

    I looked straight ahead, expressionless. I knew at any moment they could overcome me. At age 12, these boys, this senseless gang, had the power to rape me. They could even kill me, and I thought how easy it would be for them to throw me out of the truck and onto the highway.

    Instead, they continued to play their little game until the driver stopped. I got out of the back of the truck and it sped off.

    I did not let my 14-year old daughter watch a horror movie with her friends tonight because there is enough horror in the world. I looked at her with tears in my own eyes, and said, “I’ve never told this story to anyone before.”

    This is a truth. I haven’t been evading it. I’ve just never put it into words. Until tonight.

      • Mary Carlson says

        No, I wasn’t desperate. I was so overcome by the day’s events, especially my role in hearing a young girl confide in me about her own torment, that I felt compelled to do something positive. This memory has been rolling inside my head for some time now, and the circumstances seemed ripe for the telling.

        From a literary perspective, I’m glad to hear, Hazel, that you were captured by the first two sentences and held till the end. There are so many things that compete for our attention…I struggle to find the words that will engage readers enough to commit to a reading, clear until the end. I appreciate your precise feedback, both in content and in form!

      • Mary Carlson says

        Thanks, Laura. I’m an elementary school teacher…and see the power of the gang every day on the playground, in the classroom, in my own daughter’s predisposition to go along with the group, even when she disagrees…

        I aim to raise a powerful, thoughtful, independent-thinking young woman. Right now, she kind of hates me a little.

        Thank you for your affirmative thoughts!

    • Hazel says

      Whoa, Mom! “And then I told her about the day I found myself in the back of a truck with a group of preteen boys.” You must have been desperate to make your point. But I’ll bet she was really in awe of you and felt that you trusted her when you said, “I’ve never told this story to anyone before.” Great courage both to tell her the story and to post it for others to read.

      Thank you for the trust and for a courageous story. Thank you for sharing. I was captured with the first two sentences and held to the end.

      • Mary Carlson says

        Hazel, I’m hoping you read the comment above…it refers to your response. I’m still having trouble posting correctly!

    • Karla says

      Mary, I really like the way you wrote about this story of the boys in the back of the truck. I think that you told it from the perspective of neutrality in your word choices, pacing, and set-up. The advantage of this kind of “restrained” telling is that I think it makes it easier for the reader to hear. I think about this in my own writing, and thank you for demonstrating this so beautifully.

      My son is a couple of years younger, but I think I get the parenting choices you are making, and your child’s reaction to them. I think that no matter what she says, your daughter is watching you tell her who you are, and how you make the choices you do, and I think it is so, so important to communicate with kids about the “why”, not just the “because I say so” and I think you did this admirably. Thank you also for this!

      • Mary Carlson says

        Boy, I needed this! Thank you, Karla, for reinforcing my instincts on parenting! The “why” of our decisions is so critical. I remember when I was a teenager my father once demanded that I change out of a pair of 13-button wool sailor pants that I found at the Army Surplus Store. He didn’t explain why, and his rage was palpable. My mother later told me that when he was a sailor in port, the prostitutes would advertise by wearing these pants. Sometimes we need to explain even our irrational moments…. Good parenting to you!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Mary, thank you for sharing this scenario and tale with us. I am so happy you did! Though it doesn’t need to be spelled out, I will anyway. Not for your daughter’s naivete, and vulnerability to the madness out there. Although I appreciate it and applaud your strength–not for your second telling of the experience in the back of that truck. But for this quote, “I aim to raise a powerful, thoughtful, independent-thinking young woman. Right now, she kind of hates me a little.” At 14, I would’ve given Anything for someone, especially a mother, if never to be my own, to care enough (or at least a little) to tell me about such things. How to protect myself. That there is evil out there and that gratuitous violence and sex make kids unflappable, totally desensitized when it comes to the non-fictionalized versions you and thousands of us lived. The power of rape culture … something even girls learn. What am I saying? I did too! They could do anything: it was already too late for me, but I’d never let them hurt another person in my presence–female or male. Your daughter may kind of hate you right now … but she’ll understand some day and love you even more. Me? I think you are the best!

      • Mary Carlson says

        Wow, Terry. Thank you! You articulate so well what I was feeling–that “gratuitous violence and sex makes kids unflappable (and) totally desensitized…” Yes, yes, and yes. I hope you are finding ways of caring for yourself. Not having a strong mother leaves us vulnerable. I did not have a strong mother; I am making up for that now. Sounds like you are, too.
        Take care.

    • Polly says

      Mary, I’m sorry you went through that, and I applaud you for having the strength to open up about it. It must have been so traumatic; I’m glad you made it out there as physically unscathed as you did. What a terrifying ordeal.

      As difficult as it must have been, you had the courage of your convictions and the insight to share that experience with your young daughter. That is extremely impressive.

      This piece flowed extremely well. It was gripping and vivid. You kept me on the edge of my seat. Nicely done.

    • Judy says

      Mary, strong opening lines that held me through to the beautifully crafted last sentence. What a chilling experience you’ve held so long. The telling and writing here are breakthrough events–thank you for your open honesty and bravery. One day your daughter will greatly appreciate that you shared this story and she will admire you for the strong woman you are.

      PS: Teachers are s/heros!

    • Debbie says

      Mary – thank you for the honor of receiving your story. How difficult to live with this memory – and yet it has led you to be careful and loving with your daughter.

  19. Polly says

    Secrets and Truth and Lies

    The flashbacks started a year ago this past week. My brother emailed me in September of 2012 to say he would be coming home for my mom’s 70th birthday, and that he wanted to stay at my place so that he could go to the bar and “bliss out” (get drunk) and pass out on our couch. There was a catch: he said it had to be a secret.

    I had witnessed his unacceptable drunken behaviour a number of times in the past, and I hated it. I had kept secrets for him for my entire life – 32 years at that point. Something about his request made me extremely uncomfortable to say the least. I wanted to set some boundaries with him but was scared to. I didn’t want to disappoint him or hurt his feelings. I felt I owed him a safe place to sleep. Then my body gave me all the information I needed.

    I felt things happening to me – things I had forgotten about, things that were long buried. Every time I thought about the prospect of his coming to stay with me, I froze, and then felt the terrible experiences. I was confused by this. I thought perhaps I was losing my mind. After a few days, I had to ask myself the question, “Was I ever molested?” Then came a terrifying jolt of reality when I literally heard his voice – I felt as though a tiny being were running up from the pit of my stomach, up through my esophagus, through the base of my spine, and into my head, where a voice that sounded like a combination between my brother and a monster screamed “Shut the fuck up!”

    I brought this to my therapist a few days later. I had already drawn my conclusions and I wanted to know if she would reach the same, so without telling her what I thought of it, I presented the situation and my symptoms. I told her exactly what I was feeling in my body. I spoke about my fear. Finally I asked her, “What is happening to me? What the hell is going on?” She asked me if it was possible that he had done things to me. My voice shook. I said yes. The truth I could no longer evade was that my oldest brother had molested me.

    In the last year, I have dealt with some of my anger, but there is still so much more of it. And I need it. I don’t want to let go of it. I am finally allowing myself to get angry. In the last year I have been so scared, almost constantly. Two professionals (my therapist as well as the therapist who is facilitating a survivors’ support group I just joined and am about to start), have indicated that I have a lot of symptoms of depression and PTSD. This year I told the truth to many individuals even when the thought of that filled me with sheer terror.

    I told one of my sisters a few weeks ago. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. She is supportive so far, but she is not ready necessarily to cut him out of her life, (which I never asked her to do, and wouldn’t ask anyone to do) because he is currently in crisis, and needs the family as well. I suppose it’s not going to be as black and white for the rest of them as it is for me. Not associating with him beyond when I eventually have the opportunity to confront him is quite possibly the easiest big life decision I have ever made. I’m just glad to have her there right now.

    When I told her, the thing I hadn’t prepared myself for was how the news would affect her. I had never seen her cry so hard. My therapist was able to clarify for me at my next session that it wasn’t my actions that made her cry or that hurt her so deeply. It’s not really because I told her. I’m not responsible for how truly sad it made her. (I felt as though I had done the worst damage by telling her.) It’s my brother’s actions – it’s the fact that he abused and raped me – that brought my sister to tears when I told her. It’s him. It’s not me. That’s a big lesson. I’m still trying to fully internalize it.

    This past year has been an enormous learning curve. I have learned so much about myself. I have learned things about my family that break my heart and also things about them that I love.

    All along it has felt as though once I remembered the sexual abuse, my old life and my old self were simply gone. My childhood was not what I always believed it to be. I have been unbearably depressed and I have resisted urges to harm myself, countless times. All along, this has felt like the end. It occurs to me now that maybe it’s not the end. Maybe this is a beginning … it’s time I start to get in touch with my authentic self. I need to ask myself what I want and what I need, and then start to provide those things for myself.

    I don’t know if my family will still be part of my life once I tell them. I hope they are. In the meantime, I want to be in a safe place. I want to ultimately be okay, regardless. As time goes on I will find out how to be truly happy again.

    The truth I can no longer evade is that it’s time to start loving myself, from that innocent little girl to the 33-year-old woman I am now, to the person I was all along in between. It’s time.

    • Mary Carlson says

      Dear dear Polly:

      You are so brave for confronting the truth! The price of repressing or forgetting or minimizing is soul-killing depression. It hurts like hell to say those words out loud: I was molested. But saying them, or writing them, in the presence of others, is the way you can stake a claim on your own life. You honor us with your words, and challenge others to say: You are worthy! And you are!

      My abuse was not sexual. It was physical and emotional, but it has left deep deep scars. My family does not want to hear it, and has cut me off. Some of your family members might, too, especially if they were aware of your brother’s molestation and did nothing. I pray you find a wellspring of support in your friends, your therapists, and this writing community.

      • Polly says

        Mary, thank you so much. I have a solid, growing support system, and I love counting this community as part of that. In that way I’m actually pretty lucky. I appreciate your words and feel honoured just reading that kind of feedback.

        I know you could very well be right about my family’s potential reaction. It’s one of the main things that has kept me from spitting it out so far. I’m sorry to hear about how your family reacted to your disclosure. That’s not fair and it must have hurt. I’m sure you know this but you are so worthy as well.

        Thanks again.

    • Karla says

      Polly, I will echo Mary’s well-placed statement about the bravery involved in speaking this truth, and breaking silence from the lies. I think the way you wrote about your experience was very effective, taking us through what happened from the impetus to remembering to where you are now. I hear healing in this piece, the healing that has already happened, the healing you are intentionally seeking for yourself, and your faith in yourself. It’s inspiring and touching.

      • Polly says

        Karla, thanks! That’s so good to hear. I’ve been so all over the map lately, emotionally speaking, that this piece would have been entirely different (much more negative and lost) even earlier this week – and could be different tomorrow. I guess it’s fair to say I have done a bit of healing now. Trying to take it all as it comes. Thank you for your kind words.

    • says

      Polly, I’m so glad you have this space to share the incredible journey you’re on. It’s a healing journey to be sure, though it doesn’t always feel that way. And in the beginning, it rarely feels that way. It just hurts and feels as you so aptly said, unbearable.

      In this piece, I loved this section: “This past year has been an enormous learning curve. I have learned so much about myself. I have learned things about my family that break my heart and also things about them that I love.”

      And also this: “All along, this has felt like the end. It occurs to me now that maybe it’s not the end. Maybe this is a beginning … it’s time I start to get in touch with my authentic self.”

      That is indeed the journey of healing–and we will be rooting you on as you take this courageous, life-affirming journey.

      • Polly says

        Thanks, Laura. That means so much. I’m still terrified, but for the moment anyway, I’m starting to feel like maybe I can handle my life in smaller pieces. Not sure if that makes sense, but for example, I told one sister and got through that, and I don’t even have to worry about what comes next for a little while.

        I’m really glad I have this space, too. Thank you for providing that!

    • Judy says

      Polly, you write with great strength on this healing journey. There are many good lines but this one is warming and wonderful, “Maybe this is a beginning … it’s time I start to get in touch with my authentic self. I need to ask myself what I want and what I need, and then start to provide those things for myself.” Take the time to pamper yourself because you are so worth it. Hugs.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Polly, it took a lot of strength to write this down, let alone to detail and explore the complex puzzle pieces you’ve been working on. Three things jump at me: you listened to the many cues your body presented to you re: your brother (so hard to listen acutely to ourselves!) and two, you were caring enough to feel responsible for your sister’s reaction, but stayed open to what your therapist told you. Finally, I quote from your last paragraph: “The truth I can no longer evade is that it’s time to start loving myself, from that innocent little girl to the 33-year-old woman I am now, to the person I was all along in between. It’s time.”

      It is your time, Polly. Please pace yourself. Know you can do this. This loving community and I are here to listen and share with you any and every time. Sending love.

      • Polly says

        Terry, thank you! It means so much to know I have all of you here. Thanks for your feedback and your encouraging words. Take care.

  20. Jess says

    The truth…

    The truth is, I don’t really know anymore. The world seems to contradict it self. Nothing feels the same, yet I feel as though nothing’s ever going to change.

    I smile when I’m not suppose to, and I cry when everyone else is laughing. I’m in limbo right now. I’m just there. I’m real and existing in every physical way, but I no longer feel alive.

    Everything feels so ordinary. The days all seem to blend together.

    It’s like the safe happy little bubble I lived in growing up is still there. It just follows me around. Making me question what’s real and what’s my own illusions.

    That’s my Truth. The truth is that I just don’t know anymore. I don’t know how to feel right now. I don’t have all the answers. I’m half here and half there. Existing, but somehow not fully existing.

    I’m living in the in-between.

    • Polly says

      Jess, the in-between is a difficult place to be. Thanks for letting us know. I could feel the deep sadness as I read your piece. You’re brave to be sharing that. Please keep writing.

    • says

      I know that “not knowing” can be very uncomfortable, but if you can stay open to it, it’s often one of the most nourishing, creative spaces to be.

      If you can sit in that limbo or “not knowing” without covering it up with busyness, addictions, doing, etc. etc. sometimes your life cracks open in a way that opens you to new possibilities.

    • Judy says

      Jess, this is such a powerful line, “Nothing feels the same, yet I feel as though nothing’s ever going to change.” You have written so clearly and vividly of times and feelings I have had in my life. Strangely and wonderfully, when we relax into the feelings, stay with them awhile, a shift arrives, the world looks anew, and healing begins. Stay with it and keep posting here.

  21. Ilana says

    Hello all,

    To those if you who read my post last week, I just wanted to fill you in on my test results. They diagnosed me with vocal cord dysfunction resulting from a few different issues. They put me on medication for those issues and I’ll start speech therapy next week. Because it helps the doctor told me to break into song whenever I have trouble breathing. She said “If anyone looks at you funny just tell them it’s doctor’s orders.” I’ve done that and embarrassing as it is, it helps a lot. Thank you all for your support. I’m still having trouble writing but I have begun a response to this week’s prompt. I’m going to take my time and post it when I am able to. If I fall behind, so be it. Thank you again, for your support.

    With deep gratitude,

    Ilana

    • Polly says

      Ilana, thanks for letting us know. I just had to google that to find out more, and it looks like lots of treatments are available. I’m keeping you in my thoughts.

    • Judy says

      Ilana, so good you posted this update. Love the doctor’s recommended therapy… ‘break into song whenever I have trouble breathing.’ Perhaps, without embarrassment, we should all just ‘break into song’ more often in our lives. Wonderful to hear you had results from the modality. Thanks you, dear friend, for the update and look forward to reading more posts.

      • Polly says

        Ilana, I hope you can be there in November, but on a purely selfish note, there’s always July! … no reason :)

        And yes, I agree that you should just sing proudly. Get well soon.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Do you remember singing to me, Ilana, at Land of the Medicine Buddha? I will never forget it. I cannot imagine a more beautiful voice to burst forth in song, anytime or any place. Take care.

  22. Hazel says

    Ilana,
    I’ve missed you and am so glad that you are on your way to making your voice work again. Now you can sing your way to health. What a wonderful prescription! We all hope you will be able to pick up your writing once again and look forward to seeing you here.

    Sending you love and healthy thoughts.

  23. Debbie says

    “Your biography becomes your biology”
    Carolyn Myss

    I discovered Carolyn Myss, a medical intuitive, almost twenty years ago as the mid-life journey to become a nurse began. I read voraciously all kinds of medical literature about integrative and alternative forms of treatment for our physical bodies. Those that impressed me the most demonstrated the inexplicable link between what we feel, experience, think and what happens within our internal chemistry. The quote above quite literally changed the way I looked at myself and any physical manifestation from within my body. While I can’t say what rings true for anyone else, I know this axiom “Your biography becomes your biology” resonates to my very core.

    So, then, Laura’s prompt catalyzed me. Stepping back a bit, turning on all the lights in the room, I turn to face the mirror, to receive the truths I can no longer evade. It is hard for me to stare, objectively, at my physical form.

    Even disguised underneath brightly colored fabrics that flutter lightly with my every movement, I can see the evidence of neglect. There before lies the evidence of a history of stuffing emotions along with the accompanying calories in frantic attempts to fill the void. The abyss that was center of a black hole. The scars from my youth formed a prison of self-deprecation. A prison that took me decades to escape.

    And my reflection confirms that, while I still may carry the extra flesh, I am free of that dark place. Finally, finally – I am free. I see eyes that shine with life not tears. Hair no longer blonde yet highlighted by experiences, still remaining soft to the touch, still a tousled mess most of the time. There are fine lines around my eyes, deeper when I smile, which I do a lot more these days.

    The exquisitely smooth faces of youth, of those just beginning their journey, remind me ever so much of lovely, blank sheets of paper lacking the stories that intrigue. I much prefer to let my gaze wander lightly about the face of experience soaking in every line, wrinkle and extra hair. Contained within that biology lies a lifetime of struggles, successes, pain and love to be shared.

    What must be squarely faced, today, are how the choices and coping mechanisms of the past have impacted the present. I am fortunate to have good health and still able to accomplish most every physical task desired or demanded of me. Still, I am trapped by my body. Ironic, isn’t it – I ask the women in the mirror.

    When I was younger, I was trapped in a body that men desired. I was confused by my lack of experience and betrayed by the orgasmic seduction of never before experienced physical pleasure. It did not take long for physical intimacy to become mated with psychological pain. Soon after I began constructing my fleshy armor for protection from passion, mine and theirs.

    Now, half a century later, I have finally made peace with physical desire. I know those feelings are not the enemy. Looking back in the mirror I have to acknowledge, though, passion is still mostly hidden from view. Now trapped in the overweight body of an aging woman whose libido is only just now feeling safe enough to let loose. In many ways still naïve, heart and soul scarred yet still beating. Passion courses through my veins only to find sublimation into more acceptable forms of expression.

    There are not many things on my bucket list, so blessed has been my life. Yet there is this – to desire, to caress, to lose oneself in the sensual while sober, and in broad daylight accompanied by the soft laughter of a seasoned lover sharing the humor and exquisite bliss of our union. That is the truth , the longing, that can no longer be evaded.

    • says

      Deb, this was so powerful for me. I loved every word, but these paragraphs really grabbed me:

      “And my reflection confirms that, while I still may carry the extra flesh, I am free of that dark place. Finally, finally – I am free. I see eyes that shine with life not tears. Hair no longer blonde yet highlighted by experiences, still remaining soft to the touch, still a tousled mess most of the time. There are fine lines around my eyes, deeper when I smile, which I do a lot more these days.

      The exquisitely smooth faces of youth, of those just beginning their journey, remind me ever so much of lovely, blank sheets of paper lacking the stories that intrigue. I much prefer to let my gaze wander lightly about the face of experience soaking in every line, wrinkle and extra hair. Contained within that biology lies a lifetime of struggles, successes, pain and love to be shared.”

      And this…wow, you had the courage to say this out loud. I’m sure that is the first and most important step in you getting your heart and body’s desire:

      “Now, half a century later, I have finally made peace with physical desire. I know those feelings are not the enemy. Looking back in the mirror I have to acknowledge, though, passion is still mostly hidden from view. Now trapped in the overweight body of an aging woman whose libido is only just now feeling safe enough to let loose. In many ways still naïve, heart and soul scarred yet still beating. Passion courses through my veins only to find sublimation into more acceptable forms of expression.

      There are not many things on my bucket list, so blessed has been my life. Yet there is this – to desire, to caress, to lose oneself in the sensual while sober, and in broad daylight accompanied by the soft laughter of a seasoned lover sharing the humor and exquisite bliss of our union. That is the truth , the longing, that can no longer be evaded.”

      Your courage in writing this, and your exquisite use of language, rock!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Debbie, this piece is exquisite. Your choice of words, detailed images, and in depth, unflinching honesty, makes this story soar! Your strength and vulnerability make me, as a reader, relate to you and your truth–and me, as a friend, so proud and wowed by your growth and healing. I am so inspired! I quote, “Passion courses through my veins only to find sublimation into more acceptable forms of expression.” (Don’t I know that one!) “Yet there is this – to desire, to caress, to lose oneself in the sensual while sober, and in broad daylight accompanied by the soft laughter of a seasoned lover sharing the humor and exquisite bliss of our union. That is the truth, the longing, that can no longer be evaded.” Bravo.

    • Karla says

      Debbie, this was such lovely, wholehearted and full-bodied writing. I loved the beautiful language and phrasing you chose, sentence after sentence filled with lush imagery. And I loved the ideas behind the words used. I thought, this is what acceptance feels like– you brought me into your experience of being courageous enough to acknowledge everything a body is meant to be and do, including your hopes and dreams. It feels like a wonderful place to be, I found it moving to see you get there, and find it so inspiring as a piece of writing. Thank you so very much for sharing, and please write more!

    • Polly says

      Debbie, this was exquisitely written. I’m so glad to hear that you’re free from that dark place. This piece was written from a perspective of self-assurance, awareness, knowledge, experience, and empowerment. That’s what I got from it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  24. Judy says

    Deb, amazing writing. This line especially, ” I can see the evidence of neglect. There before lies the evidence of a history of stuffing emotions along with the accompanying calories in frantic attempts to fill the void. The abyss that was center of a black hole. The scars from my youth formed a prison of self-deprecation. A prison that took me decades to escape.”

    And, then this one, “. I much prefer to let my gaze wander lightly about the face of experience soaking in every line, wrinkle and extra hair. Contained within that biology lies a lifetime of struggles, successes, pain and love to be shared.”

    And, then the last two graphs, stunning, absolutely stunning.

    Thank you and a toast to you and all those old ladies who rock and to Carolyn Myss.

  25. beverly Boyd says

    When the bill comes due. Roadmap prompt Sept 10, 2013

    The bill came yesterday. Although the page was clearly stamped “THIS IS NOT A BILL”, I couldn’t help the hot grip of panic at the $103,476 amount even if it read “you are not responsible for…” . It was the bill for a five-day stay in intensive care when my body presented me with the aspect of paying the BIG bill.

    My heart was in “a-fib”, almost flat line, and blood count so low even severe anemia was an understatement. There were other things to consider: low liver and kidney function, lung congestion. I was in congestive heart failure. What was causing the loss of blood loss?

    The first two conditions were addressed with transfusions and amiodarone, which I learned later was a drug to be administered only in a hospital in “life threatening emergency, because it has side effects that could be fatal!” My vital signs began to improve; the lungs cleared up, and as I went through a battery of tests and scans, things looked normal. I did have a mild ulcer and gastroenteritis, which were the identified culprits for the blood loss. I believe that if I had waited one more day I might have been lucky if someone found me in time to call and ambulance!

    So why had I, a healthy woman, for my age (76) come to such a state?

    In the first week of June I stabbed myself with a tiny knife while trying desperately to open one of those @#$%% tough plastic blister packs that flash drives come in. I tried to make it bleed and applied an antibiotic Bandaid, but it became infected. A few days later my extremely painful hand looked like a boxing glove. A trip to urgent care; antibiotics took effect, but it was three weeks before the pain was even tolerable, which added to the chronic aches and pains led me to take more of the OTC pain relievers than I was accustomed to. I longed for the seventeen Vicodin someone. who had broken into our house, took along with computer, cash etc.

    I found ways to explain all the symptoms I was having: sleep deprivation explained feeling tired and depressed (drink more coffee), tummy discomfort, (I wasn’t really paying attention to my food; too much fiber one day…too little the next, not to mention that ill fitting dentures make it hard to chew food properly.) Even my chronic pain was worse. I was becoming alarmed at how rapid the aging process had become.

    I began to have painful coughing and difficulty breathing, I could not explain that away; I had not had a cold or flu that I could remember. When I came to a dead stop at the third step from the top, not from chronic body pain but lack of breath I knew I needed to get help. Believing I had walking pneumonia or bronchitis, I drove myself to the nearby urgent care expecting to leave with a prescription for antibiotics in my hand.

    The doctor seemed very concerned as he looked at my vitals on his computer and listened to my heart and lungs. “This is not something we can treat here. You need to go to the emergency room immediately! Is someone with you who can take you there?” He was aghast to hear I had driven myself. Driving is the least painful thing I do these days, as I am not putting stress on my lower body. On a trip to Dallas a couple of months before I had driven the 1800 mlles home in 36 hours!

    I assured him it was only a few blocks. “ Well, you aren’t driving yourself! I don’t even want you driving back home. Is there someone who can take you to the hospital? If not, we will need to call an ambulance!

    I called my daughter’s boyfriend (actually “ex”) knowing he worked from home and usually answered his phone when my message started. He agreed to come and get me. The doctor said we had time to pick up Kate.

    It was so comforting to have Kate and Bruce there. Kate sat with a clipboard, taking notes and asking questions. Even though I was aware all the time, I was too exhausted to stay focused and remember. Bruce even canceled his plans for the evening to stay and support us and take my daughter home when things seemed to be over for the night.

    After five days they let me go home. For four weeks I was housebound, except for Doctor’s appointments. The first week or so Kate and my granddaughters took wonderful care of me, making sure I was fed and took several medications on time.

    One day I looked at her. “Kate, you look so tired,” I said. “Oh, Mom,” she answered. “I am so tired!” It had only been a few days being a caregiver and already it was affecting her. Fortunately, little by little, I was able to pick up taking care of myself. It is only this week I have felt normal again, though I am trying not to over extend myself.

    Now I realize how tenuous a hold we have on life and how quickly it can be taken away. Someone in response to this prompt referred to the importance of having our affairs in order and I have to admit I have items on the list I need to take care of and I am trying to put my attention to that. I realize that even though I feel like I will live well into my eighties as those before me have done, life could be taken away in a minute and my family would have a puzzle on their hands. Even as I write this I realize that the only copy of my will was in a little gray box in my dresser that the Vicodin thief also took.

    I’m off Excedrine and Ibuprophen as well as caffeine. Fortunately, five weeks of low physical demands helped me past the energy need that always led me back into my caffeine addiction. (I don’t recommend this a program for this a s program for recovery!)

    Now I want to put my attention to getting those affairs in order and writing!

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