When Your World Comes to An End

“Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with a feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end, because it is…When we can free up our sense of needing to arrive in a certain place, we lessen the weight of being lost. And once beneath arriving and beneath our fear of failing to arrive, the real journey begins.”

–Mark Nepo

Describe in detail a time you had this experience.

Comments

  1. Fran Stekoll says

    I have always been supported. Support to me means someone has always taken care of me.My parents supported me. My two husbands supported me, My education supported me. My good health supported me, My body gave me good service if I supported it.

    When my parents divorced after 50 years of marriage, I went through a painful transformation. Realizing that tradition wasn’t a good reason to keep on keeping on. When I left my first husband after 46 years, I felt my world as i knew it was crumbling all around me. it was like an earthquake or a tornado that completely destroyed my foundation. How would I ever survive?

    Somehow each of these setbacks made me more resillent and able to cope with whatever God or the universe had next in store for me.
    I found myself going through a silent transformation. I realized I had given my power away during my entire marriage and it took that wake up call to allow me the insight to find out where I’d been. Eventually I found my true self .

    My children, friends, and co-workers welcomed the old Fran back with open arms. It’s as if I were an ostrich. Existing but not really living as my head was in the sand.

    This new renewed me was blessed to meet Matt. He was my rock, my salvation, everything i always wanted but didn’t know I could ever have. Hesupported me for 15 years in a manner I didn’t even know I could become accustomed to.

    Then the bottom fell out of our finances. We were forced to live on Social Security after living in luxury for 12 years. I fell to my knees, was humbled and afraid I’d never ever be able to face not only my life but all those in it ever again. Talk about being humble? This was the hardest, yet most important lesson I had to learn. I realized what was really important. it wasn’t the support of money or another person to support me, rather it was health, a roof over my head, my family, my faith in something more. I became, for the first time in my life, a total, genuine, real honest person. No frills, no fancy cars, no trips around the world. I was faced with my face every day in the mirror and I got to see the real me.

    When Matt died in March of 2012, I had another transformation. It was as if part of me left with him, except this time I knew who I was and who I had become because of having him in my life and somehow all would be well.

    It’s been over a year of being alone; but not lonely, of living; but not just existing, of learning how to let others love me; but not being too set in my ways so everyone feels important.

    My daughter and husband moved in with me 6 months ago and I feel blessed. They lost everything, their jobs, home, cars, etc. Now I can be the pillar of strength to them and know that through their loss, transformation will take place and they will come through stronger and able to find their inner strength. They have both begun their own businesses and seem happy.

    Life, as we know it is like a raging river. There will always be debris, boulders, storms, turns and challenges. I guess it’s up to us to survive. I remember a book my Mom always referred to when times got tough. She would say, “Don’t Push The River”. Let life flow the way it’s supposed to. Go with the tide. I think I finally understand what she meant.

    • Laura Davis says

      A beautiful tribute to the transformative power of change and adversity. And resilience. Thanks for sharing it here with us.

    • cissy says

      Wow. You described such huge changes and though they kept coming I love how the writing got stronger and stronger, and more wise and centered despite all of them.

    • Patti Hall says

      Wonderful words about your hard transformations, and now you go through the next ones while helping your family through theirs. A strong circle being built. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hazel says

      What a great conclusion for this piece of writing: Life, as we know it is like a raging river. There will always be debris, boulders, storms, turns and challenges. I guess it’s up to us to survive.

      Thank you for this piece of powerful writing. Watch out for rolling rocks.

    • Judy says

      Thank you for sharing this, Fran. I always enjoy your writing and this paints a vivid picture of your as strong woman and loving role model to your family and friends. Love your mother’s philosophy.

  2. Adrienne Drake says

    I am falling, and falling and failing and flailing, and falling and falling some more. This is no dark night of the soul. A black hole is sucking me down, down and more down. This is a bottomless pit. This, I know, is depression.

    I am journeyless now. Having always been a goal oriented, achievement driven and save the world type of person, I have lost my compass. I have no clue where I am, what to do or where I am going.

    Oh, believe me when I tell you I was beyond burnt out when I retired. The dry unattended brush that had been insidiously collecting at my feet, the decidua of an unattended personal life, finally, in the heat of menopause, kindled and flared. The entire forest of my being went up in flames.

    A series of illnesses predated my retirement. A blood clot in my leg could have killed me. But I didn’t slow down. The excruciating pain of frozen shoulders kept me awake night after night. I drank ever increasing amounts of coffee. Cardiac arrhythmias lowered my blood pressure. I just took care to stand up more slowly. I was a doctor and physical illness would not, no, could not stop me. But the wisdom of menopause was unconquerable.

    I did not choose to leave my first love and only true home, my solo private practice of medicine. It was not a conscious decision. I was not listening to inner promptings, nor was I taking care of myself physically as my health continued in its inexorable downward spiral. In final desperation, my body simply walked away from the one true thing it had ever known, and left my soul behind.

    That was over ten years ago. These past ten years have been the hardest of my life. Medical school, residency, and establishing myself as credible among my peer group of predominantly rigid male physicians were all a cakewalk compared to the inner journey I am now on. Being told I couldn’t join a group practice because I would run off and have children, or that patients wouldn’t come to a female physician were rejections I easily tossed off. Fighting for my patients and the integrity of my profession were nothing compared to learning how to fight for the integrity of my own life. It has been the most important journey of my life.

    There are no beginnings, middles, and endings here. There are no roadmaps, guideposts or compasses. There is only ones internal gyroscope. But we must take the time to stop and listen. It was my body that finally spoke to me. We can not define ourselves by how we were neglected or by what was done to us as innocent children. It may take a lifetime of compassion for others before we realize, as the Buddha said, there is no one more worthy of compassion than ourselves.

    The skin, when sliced has a way of knowing how to heal. We only have to change the dressings and allow the process to happen. It is a miracle. But the soul, when sliced also has its own knowing how to heal, its remembrance of its true nature.

    So what have these last ten years been about? They have also been a miracle.

    Physician, heal thyself.

    • says

      Adrienne, this is a such a raw and intimate and honest piece. I was deeply moved. Thank you for sharing so much of your spirit and your deep inner struggle with us. You are a brave warrior!

      I especially loved these lines: ” Fighting for my patients and the integrity of my profession were nothing compared to learning how to fight for the integrity of my own life. It has been the most important journey of my life.

      “There are no beginnings, middles, and endings here. There are no roadmaps, guideposts or compasses. There is only ones internal gyroscope. But we must take the time to stop and listen. It was my body that finally spoke to me.”

      Though actually, I loved the whole piece.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Laura,
        Thank you for the validation, and more importantly, for giving us all this incredible safe place to share and let it all hang out. There is so much healing in that!
        Adrienne

      • cissy says

        I was hungry for more of your story after reading this piece. All of it, the work in the past, the journey of the last ten years, the retirement and how it was prompted. The writing brings me right in and I feel so invested in what you are experiencing. Thank you for sharing so honestly. I know I am inspired by the writing and your example..

        • Adrienne Drake says

          Dear Cissy,
          Thank you for such positive and encouraging words about my story….
          Maybe this essay will be a prologue of sort for more writing! Until your comment, I hadn’t exactly seen it that way!
          BTW, I loved your story of adoption last week, and finally found the time to comment upon it today.
          Yours,
          Adrienne

    • Patti Hall says

      Wow, what a powerful message you’ve shared with us! I felt your strength build as you moved down the essay. Thank you.

      • Sheila McGinley says

        Thank you for writing this. Your words made it all so alive to me, and the honesty just burned me clean.

        • Adrienne Drake says

          Dear Sheila,
          I am thrilled that my story had such a viscerally profound impact on you! I hope what we pull from our souls can do just that for others.
          Thanks for letting me know,
          Adrienne

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Patti,
        I am glad you felt the strengh build as you read along. I think I relived a lot of my life in a few short paragraphs here, and was not aware I was portraying a strenghening self-portrait as I moved the piece along. And yet, that is exactly what has happened in my life. I am getting so much stronger and I find it so interesting that you picked up on that in this piece.
        Thanks for sharing this insight,
        Adrienne

        • Patti Hall says

          Adrienne,
          This is such a wonderful circle here and I’m touched by you sharing your story. It feels good to know my reply had a positive impact. Looking forward to more.
          Patti

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Patti,
        I posted a reply and posted it under Sheila’s reply, below, so I hope you find it! ;-)
        Adrienne

    • Hazel says

      WOW!

      Thank you for the reminder: the Buddha said, there is no one more worthy of compassion than ourselves. So much of the time we forget to look after ourselves, to be kind to ourselves.

      Thank you for sharing this powerful piece of writing.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Hazel,
        Simple wisdom is sometimes the hardest to grasp, isn’t it?
        Thanks for sharing,
        Adrienne

    • Judy says

      What deeply felt raw emotions. This line resonated so well I shook, then reread it several times: “There is only ones internal gyroscope. But we must take the time to stop and listen. It was my body that finally spoke to me.” Thank you for this beautifully written and honest telling, Adrienne.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Thank you, Judy for sharing your reaction to my writing. Such validation lets me know that perhaps my journey can resonate with others as well.
        Adrienne

    • Ilana says

      Adrienne- Thank you for sharing your pain so honestly and eloquently with us. My favorite part was “The skin, when sliced has a way of knowing how to heal. We only have to change the dressings and allow the process to happen. It is a miracle. But the soul, when sliced also has its own knowing how to heal, its remembrance of its true nature.” I’m going to really think about that piece. IM

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Ilana,
        The lines you liked are not my original idea, but come from Depak Chopra. For me, too, this has always been a very healing piece of imagery.
        Thanks for sharing your throughts,
        Adrienne

  3. Dianne Brown says

    Transformation as We Speak

    I am at this very moment going through this transformation process. All that I have known for my whole life is falling away like autumn’s golden and red leaves. As I sit here with warm tears drizzling down my cheeks, I feel and know that the world as I have always known it is coming to an end—because it is!

    I turned sixty-seven last week. I have always worked making other people’s businesses better. Even after retiring at age 62, I continued to work part-time and sometimes two part-times to help make other’s successful and to make me feel a contributor. I always have been lauded and generously compensated for my efforts.

    Today I got a text to not bother coming in tomorrow as Emmy, the twenty-two year old college graduate that I trained and taught everything I know, had already handled everything today.

    Is this not the handwriting on the old proverbial wall? I feel I must bow out while grace is still possible in this situation. But I have always worked and been a valuable asset. What happens if you are no longer a valuable asset? I have to think that it is only in relation to this one little thingy—I have several other cookie jars besides this seemingly empty one.

    I too, am grateful for this arena in which I can blubber and process this very painful transition. I cannot help but feel that my REAL journey is about to begin. After all, I have arrived thus far, and after taking my vitals, I seem to be quite able to undertake yet another adventure into the unknown.

    One thing I know for sure, creativity seems to be enhanced upon retirement—must be because all those stringy strings no longer hold us captive to a paycheck.

    • says

      I, too, am glad you feel like this is a place where you can share this monumental letting go–and opening up–that is happening in your life. I especially loved these lines of your piece, “I cannot help but feel that my REAL journey is about to begin. After all, I have arrived thus far, and after taking my vitals, I seem to be quite able to undertake yet another adventure into the unknown.”

      And we’ll all be cheering you on.

      Even though the limbo in-between–the empty place, which is the most fruitful–may well be the hardest to bear.

    • Patti Hall says

      I love your “stringy strings.” I’m so sorry you are hurting. Your writing is full of a unique voice that I enjoyed. Maybe that will be among your new adventures? Keep writing! Thank you.

    • Hazel says

      Dianne,

      The adventure into creativity can take you to some strange places, especially if you just go with the flow. Enjoy, now that you don’t have “all those stringy strings” holding you captive.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      Wow. Hooked on this from the beginning but this line “I have several other cookie jars besides this seemingly empty one” tells me you are a survivor. Here’s to your next unknown adventure, Dianne. And, to your creativity.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you, Dianne, for this very honest portrait. It seems to me that the text you got is a tribute to your gifts as a teacher. I think you’ve got a lot more to give. The arena may be changing but not the act of “making others successful and being a contributor yourself.” That will be the same for as long as you want it to. IM

  4. Tony del Zompo says

    Love is a four letter word. And vulnerability terrifies me. Well, it did anyway, until this past weekend.

    My daughter and I had been estranged for ten years. In 2010, I saw her for the first time in a decade. It was a difficult, painful, and necessary step for the two of us. For the past three years, we have been slowly rebuilding the relationship I had destroyed behind my addiction.

    We had come so far that I was able to fly her from her home in Pennsylvania to San Francisco to surprise my mother for her eightieth birthday. Mom hadn’t seen her granddaughter for ten years either, and I was thrilled to show up on her front steps with Jess this past Saturday. After the shock, the tears, and the hugs, the three of us shared twenty-four hours of profound tenderness and healing. But it wasn’t until I dropped Jess off at the airport the following day, however, that I learned my greatest lesson in love.

    As I said goodbye, I hugged her tightly, and said, “I love you Jess.” Her grip tightened, and I added, “So much.” She didn’t say, “I love you too.” She couldn’t, or wouldn’t. She simply held onto me tightly and cried.

    I understand entirely. I can’t know the damage I caused by my absence, and I can’t expect to undo the harm of ten years in three. But the fact that she didn’t say “I love you, too,” doesn’t change my love for her at all. All that matters is that I love her. Fearlessly.

    Up until that moment, “unconditional love” was a theological abstraction, and, in my mind, something human beings were incapable of experiencing or expressing. I know now that unconditional love does exist, and, while frightening, I believe myself blessed in this knowledge.

    A friend of mine told me recently that his goal is to love fearlessly. I believe this to be a worthy ideal.

    • says

      Tony, having tracked the recent steps of this journey with your daughter, I’m so delighted to read this latest installment. It is an amazing story. In this piece, I particularly loved the line, “I know now that unconditional love does exist, and, while frightening, I believe myself blessed in this knowledge.”

      • Tony del Zompo says

        thank you, laura. i’ve been completely stunned since saturday. it’s awesome, quite literally…

    • Hazel says

      Tony,
      Been there, done that and there is no feeling like it. To find a child you thought for sure you had lost and find love to, is beyond words.

      Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience.

    • Ilana says

      Tony- This piece really hit home for me. I have not spoken to my parents in two years. They have been present in my children’s lives but my husband makes all the arrangements. Communication with them is too painful for me at this point. I do miss them and hope to reconnect but I cannot do that until it is the right time and a healthy connection. Thank you for the hope your piece has given me. Thank you! IM

      • Cissy says

        Tony,
        This made me well up. It’s beautiful. It’s hopeful. It’s real. As a daughter of someone ravaged by addiction who disappeared it is wonderful to hear a different ending. It makes me happy for humanity so that’s pretty powerful writing and my favorite kind to read. Thank you!
        Cissy

    • Terry Gibson says

      Tony, I am so happy this worked out for you and your Mom to see your daughter. Especially for what it did for you both.You all deserve that.

  5. Patti Hall says

    Lady in the Cave

    Life strikes another blow and away I go:
    back to the cave to sleep, read, write, dream,
    soothed by rocking chair therapy,
    spend hours on hours looking at photo memories,
    lighting incense and candles,
    crying, howling out the injustices smothering me.
    Deluge myself with sensory comforts that cradle me;
    without these I am among the ashes of the dead.
    Not fit for the nurture of others;
    their sympathy shatters the broken pieces of my heart-
    the pieces I’m trying frantically
    to glue together with Gorilla glue mixed with tears.
    There’s a lot of hard work to do here;
    leave the lady in her cave.

    I wrote this a few weeks ago after the death of my 3-y-o grandson, and after having lost my dear sister & husband over the last 3+ years. Writing is saving me. Thanks for reading.

    • says

      Dear Patti, I’m so sorry about the horrible, cascading losses in your life, each one compounding the next. I’m glad that writing is offering you a way to express your grief. And feel honored that you’re sharing this with us here. Welcome.

      • Tony del Zompo says

        i think it takes tremendous courage to put the pain into words for others. laura has taught me that writing is a gateway to healing. please stay with it. thank you, patti…

        • Patti Hall says

          Thank you, Tony, for reading and commenting. I’m not sure about healing yet, but writing allows me to make it through another day. I’m in for the long haul.
          P.S. oops, posted Laura’s reply in your space. Will be more careful next time.

      • Patti Hall says

        Thank you, Laura. Your words “cascading loses”
        truly hit the mark. I feel honored to be here.

    • Dianne Brown says

      Patti, I also love your unique voice and your poetic style. I know about that cave. I’m going to put a plate of warm-out-of-the oven chocolate chip cookies just outside. Thanks for your o-so expressive words–keep writing, that and chocolate chip cookies go far to promote healing.

    • Judy says

      Patti, It is a great honor to read this piece–it is beautiful. I am so sorry for your losses and hope you will return to this safe, comforting community often.

      • Patti Hall says

        Judy,
        Thank you for the warm welcome here. I too, am honored by being a part of this caring circle.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Patti, please let me extend my condolences to you on these huge losses to your life. I also hope that writing is helpful to you. It helped me, however sporadically, survive the deaths of my parents, stepfather, and three brothers. Nothing short of amazing! Take care and thank you.

      • Patti Hall says

        Terry,
        I thank you for your sincere note, and I sympathize with your loses also. Wow, how do we do this? Writing is the warm pair of arms that hold me close, yet push me to rejoin the world.
        Best Regards,
        Patti

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Dear Patti,
      I feel so much strength in your grieving process. Sometimes I wonder if our strength is only as strong as our ability to grieve our inevitable losses.
      Take good care,
      Adrienne

      • Patti Hall says

        Adrienne,
        Every time someone says I’m strong, I want to lay in the puddle of tears their feet. For some strange reason, that is what sympathy does to me. It makes me fall apart. Maybe, allows me to fall apart? I don’t know. I feel as weak as a newborn.
        This place Laura has created feels safe and I’m okay to feel what I feel.
        Thanks again,
        Patti

  6. Michael Dorenzo says

    I woke up this morning and padded sleepily into the kitchen, my movements automatic, bare feet on hardwood and worn linoleum. I stood at the espresso machine, and waited, padded back to the computer, sipping the foamy, milky liquid with its dark swirl of coffee extracted by steam and pressure. My mind was already working, my emotions registering pain and some part of me, telling myself to sit with it. I hate sitting with it. I prefer some action, cathartic, out of control, destructive or willful. Anything. I hated sitting with it. And then, opening my mail, I find this quote from Mark Nepo about transformation.

    For the last 20 hours or so I have been trying to hold onto this notion that it is transformation I am going through and that there is something on the other side of this feeling that the world, my world, is coming to an end. It feels right now as though I am hurtling through space at a speed that is beyond my ability to navigate, that I must somehow let go and be with this discomfort and trust (trust?!?), that I can let go and survive, somehow. That what feels like death, and is a kind of death, will pass and there will be a life afterward that I will either recognize or adapt to, that I will still be me, that I will possess the creativity and love that has sustained me thus far. Every part of me wants to believe this, but I hurt and my mind wants to unravel, solve, disown, bash, fix, mend, and ultimately, to escape.

    My sister and I are fighting. Yesterday when I went to see her, she paced off in the dusty corral and stood facing me at a distance, the waves of anger shimmering in the air between us, as she let me know she was done with me. She stood and faced me down, jaw set, boots in the dust and let her anger burn for almost a minute of silence. I’d hurt her feelings and violated her in some way and she has been running with it for a week or more.

    I’d gotten annoyed and imprudently let her know it in the moment. I’d allowed annoyance to build in me, too, and it came out more than the sum of its parts, and blindsided her. I’d done something foolish, an unwitting rash act that, in retrospect, was not what she’d wanted me to do. I hadn’t understood what she’d wanted. I don’t think she knew at the time. I took the bits and pieces of information she gave me and to organize them into what I thought I thought would benefit us both. I was wrong. I was trying to make room for myself in accomplishing the task and it simply didn’t work out the way I wanted. For me. I felt slighted and trivialized.

    She was not willing or able to hear it, not willing or able to take care of my feelings and rightfully so. Has instead allowed the old feelings between us, the wounds of our past, the feeling of insurmountable loss and blame to return, and I am feeling them now. And in my petty anger, I fear that I’m the one who opened that door. I have felt her fighting me, fighting against me for dominance of her own life when she feels constricted by the role of younger sister, daughter, in the small unit of family that somehow we have both tried to hard to sustain. This is not my fight. She is also a mother and a grandmother. I honor that and I support her in those relationships, but I don’t think she always believes that. We are both guilty. And mom. My sister, sixteen years younger than I am, has let me know that all bets are off. I’m on my own.

    “Who made you mom’s keeper anyway?” she spat at me with disgust. Who indeed.

    The tension of being in our mom’s life more fully as she ages has taken its toll on me as well and she has let me know that she will not take on any of the pressure that I feel. The truth is, sis is better at walking away than I am. I need to get out of the way there, too, and let her have her own relationship with our mother. I get it. I think. I don’t own this process nor do I want to. Both of us have been making hard decisions–imperfect, consequential ones and each of us is her mother’s daughter, which in our case, means demanding, fun loving, hard working, idealistic, creative and let’s not forget, narcissistic. I have issues about my sister’s selfishness and guilt about my own.

    She does not like confrontation, nor does my mom and both are fiercely independent. They both are in some ways more “good natured” than I am, less inclined to discuss things to find resolve. I continue to feel like a freak of nature with each of them when I attempt to bring my needs, my vulnerability to the table. We are each cut from the same cloth, yet I feel different, and unable to grasp how or why. Standing in the dust facing my angry sister, it feels that we are less at an impasse and more at an ending and it doesn’t feel very good.

    All three of us are in this passage together, this chaos, in the wake of grievous, shared loss. We have survived the losses of our dad and husband, brother and son whom we have each outlived and with which we each struggle in our separate ways. We have huddled together in a small ad hoc unit during this first two years after my dad’s passing and now the center no longer holds. There is a vacuum at the center of our lives and it requires a lot to keep that vacuum from filling with old pain, old behavior and conflict. We are each struggling for breath, each for getting her life back and failing to realize there is no going back, only forward. Each of us is emerging a different person, as people do, and there is a certain amount of fear and anxiety each has about who she has become.

    We three women are at different stages in out lives and I don’t think we can expect or pretend that all stages are the same. Sherman Alexi asks so eloquently in his poem, Facebook Sonnet, Why can’t we pretend every stage of life is the same? Why indeed.

    Perhaps that’s what we have each been doing and it’s now time to individuate as best we can and get on with it. To recognize our differences and make more room for them. My sister is moving on. Maybe it takes anger and blame to do that. It hurts. Her way is different than mine. Ditto mom. There has been tragedy in our lives and we have each been shaped by it, each in her own way and there have been hurt feelings. There will likely continue to be. Mom forgets now how we got here and that is a good thing I think.

    My sister is changing, changing men, friends, her sense of herself, experiencing her power in the world in a different way. I am moving as well. I think we are all feeling judged. I know I do…especially every time I express my boundaries, my feelings with either of them. It’s all scary. In my family, we are taught not to show vulnerability.

    I dream of my sister and I doing something together in this life—both in our family and outside it—my mom’s care and support, a business, a direction that we would embark on together and we are not there. I feel loss and fear in the onslaught of her anger. She has expressed a need to cut and run. From my bumbling vantage point of uncertainty, it feels like she has been putting this into place for a long time. I feel my wolverine temper, also a family trait, gathering, lurking. I was angry too, last week, but now I’m mostly sad and a bit panic stricken. It’s hard to stand opposite her and face down the anger but I don’t even think of crying until I leave. I don’t accept being the fall guy; I don’t expect that either of us needs to be that.

    We have all three relied on one other and will likely continue to. Can I be someone who can be relied upon? I have been as reliable as I have been able to be and so has my sister but every once and a while, it’s a shoddy effort. It isn’t always easy and there are sacrifices and compromises. It’s the best we’ve got and it’s mostly pretty good– for us humans, a messy lot, at best.

    We are each strong women and we can each be our own worst enemy. We are different from one another. We are of different generations. Our family has an even younger generation of women to support and nurture. We each have deep eccentricities, passionate desires. My sister and I stand at a crossroads now. Each is outgrowing the role she previously assumed, each refining an individual paths of her own design and as designed by chance and history and need. No one is at fault. We have each been our own woman to the degree that is possible and will likely continue to be “beneath arriving and our fear of failing to arrive” on a journey that each of us essentially must make alone.

    • says

      Dear Michael, welcome to the Roadmap blog. I was glad to see your name appear here today. Thanks for sharing this challenging sibling challenge with us. The phrase, “bumbling vantage point of uncertainty” really struck a chord with me. Also the heartbreaking question, “Can I be someone who can be relied upon?” Isn’t that a question we all have to face over and over when we facing the people we love? Especially when we are triggered. Especially when the relationships are complex (and what intimate relationships aren’t?).

      I hope you keep coming back. We need your voice here.

      • Sheila McGinley says

        The article was a small one on the back page of the local newspaper, a throwaway filled mostly with ads. I had thrown it in the trash, only to dig it out during a break when I wanted to stretch out with something to read. On the back page, my eye caught the word “Adoption”: an adoption conference was opening the next day at the local university, a session for single parents was first in the morning.

        I felt an astonished surprise at the suddenness of my heart racing and I recognized the sound of desire pulsing through me. All the while, my rational mind reacted with horror, trying to shut down what felt like my impulsive stupidity. I knew right away: I was going to go. My feet might not feel a part of my body as they walked me there, my fear and embarrassment might shout at me, but I knew that would walk without feeling the ground. I would go.

        I had given up on the idea of adoption years before, given up on the children I had always assumed that I would have. After the latest loss of some I loved, I had given up on finding someone to have those children with. I had a good life, I had a career that I loved. I would be fine. In fact, I hated the idea that there was no fine without a child, without a man, without that normality thing that always eluded me.

        And yet here I was, right now, calling clients to change their appointment times, planning how long the drive would take, buying a small notebook to hold the notes I would need to take if I could manage to come back into my skin. I was going to go.

        When morning came, an early winter storm was raging, and with it the shouting chorus of shouldn’ts followed each footstep. The shame of being alone, of wanting something that no one wanted to give me, nearly turned me away. I had learned not to want as a child, not to think of desire, or beauty or love for myself. I learned not to listen to someone making fun of my awkward body, not to expect to see beauty in the mirror or desire in someone’s eyes. Love what you can have, want what you already have earned. Don’t walk into this hall filled with others, couples, more ready and more deserving than you. Want only what you already have earned.

        I found the small room with a hand-written Single Parents sign at the door. I nearly turned back until I noticed that the room was half-filled with babies and little kids, black haired and brown-skinned, beautiful deep brown eyes, their eyes and brown beauty so like that of my friend in the polio ward, the only human hold I had on living for much of two years as we both tried to breathe in our nextdoor iron lungs. Her mother, would visit when mine could not, stopping at my machine to wipe the hair away from my face, placing a rose in my hair and kissing my cheek. I took a gasping breath that morning at the arrival of this sudden memory, and turned into the room, the room filled with mothers looking as surprised at themselves being there as I was, and toddlers climbing their moms’ legs or resting in their arms.

        I listened carefully at first, making sure that there was really ground under me if I decided to land. I heard Texas and too many babies, Hispanic babies, unwanted by white parents, more babies than they had homes. I heard the words single parents and a real need and social work interviews and lawyers and costs and a year’s wait. I walked up to the social worker and asked for her card, looking in surprise at my hand as I reached for it. I could not feel my fingers or any of the rest of me as I placed it in my pocket, walking blindly then out of the room and out into the stormy weather.

        The rain poured on me as I walked, and I felt it washing away all of the can’ts and shouldn’ts that had been so carefully built into a wall of not wanting. I was helpless in the face of it. My life as I knew it, what I thought was enough for me, was washing out of me as I breathed in the wet air of the storm. I stumbled into my car and turned on the heater, sitting back, wet and shivering, feeling the warmth of the heater replace my chill. I closed my eyes and slumped back in my seat, overcome with surprise. I was going to be a mother. I was going to have a child to raise. I was going to learn to desire, to risk. to love.

        • says

          Sheila, welcome to the Roadmap blog. This was a beautifully rendered story of a huge turning point in your life–always my favorite subject–they have such heat and power and intensity. You slowed down and captured the day and your inexorable journey toward motherhood so vividly. I was there with you every step along the way.

          I particularly loved your whole last paragraph. It was pure poetry: “The rain poured on me as I walked, and I felt it washing away all of the can’ts and shouldn’ts that had been so carefully built into a wall of not wanting. I was helpless in the face of it. My life as I knew it, what I thought was enough for me, was washing out of me as I breathed in the wet air of the storm. I stumbled into my car and turned on the heater, sitting back, wet and shivering, feeling the warmth of the heater replace my chill. I closed my eyes and slumped back in my seat, overcome with surprise. I was going to be a mother. I was going to have a child to raise. I was going to learn to desire, to risk. to love.”

          Glad to have you on the blog. I hope you keep coming back!

        • Hazel says

          Sheila,
          Thank you for sharing.

          “I closed my eyes and slumped back in my seat, overcome with surprise.”
          I worked for an adoption agency back in the early 1960′s and we were the first agency in the country to allow single parent adoptions. It was amazing how some of these first single-expectant-parents reacted after being turned down so many times. Good for you for your perseverance.

        • Judy says

          Shelia, this took my breath away. Sheer poetry as Laura and others have said. Your last sentence is amazingly beautiful. Thank you for this honest and heartfelt telling. We look forward to others.

          • Adrienne Drake says

            Sheila,
            Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story…you scaled the “wall of not wanting”… to learn to desire and risk and love. How uplifting for all of us who have had that same wall to scale. Congratulations!
            Adrienne

        • Patti Hall says

          Sheila,
          You walked us along each tip-toe step of your journey. Your soul-wrenching thoughts kept us close by your side. You are a wonderful writer. Thank you!

    • Patti Hall says

      Michael,
      Who knows themselves so well, to be able to tell on themselves for their character flaws, in such a that your reader really sees you? You do. You paint such a solid picture of this human, flawed and obviously, loving family. Your introspection is a gift.
      Thank you,
      Patti

  7. Liz says

    My world has come to an end: fourteen years of living in a gonpa. My monk life is over and I certainly did not plan for that. Now I am a civilian again with out any of the habits of adult life that my peers, my neighbors all seem to possess: no house, no job, no income, no kids. Even the lesbians my age I’ve met all have teenage children, vacation homes in Yosemite, friends writing litigation against Proposition 8 in Washington DC and head cardiology departments at the local Kaiser hospital.

    Like a top or a dreidel at Hanukah, I keep spinning towards another gonpa or my old gonpa, but those doors are closed for now so I wander in the cemetery, wishing for each one of the dead I see all the happiness that can be found in all universes in all times. And I assess my “skills” for the marketplace.

    My precious girlfriend, Iris, has had two failed back fusion surgeries and rides the daily waves of pain from 4 to 7. She can sit up to two hours a day. I love how bravely she grits her teeth and beats the clay until the Buddha Akshobhya emerges with all the pearls of his necklaces in a perfect line. He is the size of a book. Now, all that is left is the head. The eyes are the hardest part, she says.

    • says

      Dear Liz, Welcome to the Roadmap Blog. You did a beautiful job of elucidating the challenges you face in returning to “the world” after a deeply committed spiritual life. I lived in an ashram for five years; my brother for eleven–he for his most formative adult years–so I do understand some of what you are facing. Thanks for sharing your struggle with us. I hope you keep coming back.

    • Hazel says

      Liz,
      Yes, learning to live in the “real” world is certainly a challenge. If you figure it out, can we talk?

      I can seriously feel for your friend. Their is not much pain worse than a spinal fusion. I wish her relief.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • Liz says

        Hazel, if we can figure out how to see through that spinal pain or any pain, we will have figured out a lot about living in the real world and that would be something to talk about, write about. I guess that’s why we are here with Laura — who knows much about that.

    • Judy says

      Dear Liz, What an amazing experience, powerful telling and piece of writing. Thank you. I’ve had to rewrite this several times and can only offer this prayer to you: May Quan Yin, Laura and this community hold you and your friend until you leap to the next wonderful thing that await you.

      • Liz says

        Dear Judy,

        Since you’ve wished for the next wonderful thing, it must be here and with Quan Yin-Tara-Laura, you and this community.

        .

    • Patti Hall says

      Liz,
      Your words came to me like a haiku, that is; you began with your own loss and confusion, and then turned and faced the pain and suffering of another. In 3 short paragraphs, you transformed.
      It is so heartening to see you turn from your own troubles, to reach out to another suffering human. I think it is a magical solution. I think it is why I’m staying here, in this circle.
      Holding you up,
      Patti

  8. Liz says

    An ashram for 5 years?! Your aspirations and prayers have manifested into far-reaching healing for so many. (I was deeply affected by your “Courage to Heal” when we were about 31.) And you’ve continued to be there for so many….like here where we can find you. Thank you for your one thousand arms of compassion.

    • says

      Liz, you’re very kind!

      Oh, the stories I could tell. Hopefully, I’ll get them all down on the page. It was funny–last night, I took my daughter-in-law out to dinner and started telling stories from that time in my life. Her eyes were wide and I could see that she was very surprised at some of the things in my past…

      • Liz says

        Yes, you must write. And the story is something like those realized beings who left the monastery and who “disguised” themselves as caregivers for those nobody cared about, feeding them and bathing them…

    • Deb Mansell says

      I too had your “courage to heal” it was my bible, my reference, my survival, like many survivors I’ve met along my journey your book has played an important part in our healing process. Thank you

      • Cissy says

        Ditto for me Deb. When I could travel without taking it with me, knowing I finally had some inner resources, it was a huge turning point in my journey. But to have, til then, such a resource and a guide, I am so grateful.

    • Patti Hall says

      Laura,
      That book. Among my “cascading loses” was the explosion of my family several tears ago. Your book led to other books. I know I earned a degree on the topic. I not only had to help “save” my daughter, but I had to educate myself, family & friends. I had to understand. Your book was my first and it helped me go forward.
      Thank you!
      Patti

  9. Hazel says

    All my life I had been unknowingly been moving toward, transforming into this moment . . .

    As a child I had struggle with school and socialization outside my family. All my family loved me and thought I was a “good child,” Grandpas and Grandmas, aunts and uncles, Mom and Dad, and cousins. I never quite new what was going on and they could tease me, and then say, “oh, that was a joke.” and I never knew for sure. I would do anything for anybody. When I became a teenager I rebelled against everything and everyone to find myself very alone. I met some men and made some wrong choices, but that’s fodder for another story.

    I made it a point all my life to travel as far as ever I could go, on the gas and the money I had at any given time. I took in all the places from the eighty miles back and forth to ocean, before I could drive myself, and all the hills and valleys between them. Then when I was eighteen I got on a bus by myself and went to Los Angeles. I took in all the sites and sounds of that area at that time. I went to school and became a switchboard operator; I went to the beach at Malibu; I went to the horse races at Santa Anita and Del Mar; I went to the Joshua Tree National Forest to watch the complete eclipse of the moon; I went to Palm Springs for my birthday. I traveled up and down the West Coast, Tijuana to Vancouver, B.C. I traveled from Seattle to Salt Lake to Galveston and back to Monterey and Big Sur. I have lived on Martha’s Vineyard, in Canada for eight years, and in Seoul, South Korea.

    I have had two children both healthy and wonderful. I have gone through washing diapers, to starting school, through the terrible teens. Through rejection and reunion (and I can tell you reunion is by far the better of the two, if you have a choice.)

    I lived in a 24 foot Airstream travel trailer for fifteen years. Working my way across the U. S. to Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River to enter Canada and on to Quebec, back to Salem, Oregon then on to the San Francisco Bay area and back to the South West in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

    Throughout all of this travel was the living of it. I have taken in all of the sights and sounds and smells; the dialects and inflections of the English language; the cultures of the different places. I have gone to college and received a Bachelor of Science Degree. I have read hundreds of books and written four and working on the fifth.

    Severe depression, illness and accident seemed bent on wiping me out but I am still here in spite of their attempts to end my life sooner. Depression continues to slink behind me and nip at my heels. My body will never be beautiful ever again so now I live in my head remembering.

    And, where has this brought me to? It has transformed me into the person I am now well over seventy-five, with eighty so close I can almost touch it. Here I am sitting in front of my computer with all this stuff in my brain, looking for a coherent way to scribble it out onto the page.

    I am more than the sum of my parts, I am me transformed.

    • says

      Hazel, thanks for this heartfelt description of your life and where you are today. I love how vivid and alive you are today and how much you still want to write, and express and grow. You inspire me!

    • Patti Hall says

      Hazel,
      I think we are kindred spirits. Your story resonates with me. I’m amazed how you wrote so much in such a short essay, yet it was filled to the brim with feeling. I’m not surprised you’ve accomplished so much with your writing. Please keep sharing and writing and pushing your nose above the waves.
      Holding you up,
      Patti

  10. Hazel says

    BRICKS IN A WALL

    A wall I built inside my head, one brick
    upon the other. Names of everything
    that’s known to me cemented in quite thick,
    will not dislodge, not even with a pick,

    nor wash away in showers that tears bring.
    Each brick reflects the color of some mood,
    a feeling strong of person, place or thing,
    of flowers’ smell or melodies you sing.

    There’s narrow wall when on the brink I stood
    debating­ close to losing all my grit­
    the times I felt that no one understood,
    yet sorting through, looking for some good.

    Now time into this wall each brick has fit
    and I, grown old, must sit in front of it.

    2/04

    • Dianne Brown says

      O how I love poetry! Just imagine those bricks as glass bricks (you didn’t specify what kind of bricks) and the light and love of the night sky flickers and flackers your life-light and the reflective sunlight on you as you sit there….no ultraviolet rays to bother about, just gorgeous moon-glow to add even more beauty to your seasoned soul.

      Thanks for the poem Hazel, The universe loves poets the best!

      • Hazel says

        When I wrote this piece I was imagining all kinds of bricks – some glass bricks thrown in for sure, letting in some ambient light, but not all of them. By now many have moss growing on them with those tiny little red stems with the greenish red seed things on the top, some have tiny ferns growing on them with some of those teensy-weensy lavender flowers and some have poison mushrooms I’m sure. Then some are just there gathering dust, like me.

    • Ilana says

      Nice job, Hazel. I especially loved the last line. It felt like a peaceful acceptance, as my Zander says, “It is what it is.”

  11. Judy says

    When Your World Comes to an End

    When my eldest son called to say his wife was gone– had died in his arms at home just moment ago after eight years of on-again-off-again cancer treatments–our families’ knees buckled and hearts cracked. How does a mother help a son, not yet 34 years old, with the loss of his wife of 11 years?

    I remember the day Anna and I had lunch. She invited me to go ‘antiquing,’ and as we walked arm-and arm past a mother with a toddler in a stroller, Anna squeezed me, looked at me lovingly and said, “I’m so sorry I can’t give you one of those.”

    Tears filled our eyes as she told me the cancer had returned. As we sat on a bench she said the outlook wasn’t good and she didn’t want to hear my litany of alternative eastern research successes. Blood came to my bottom lip as I said I’d honored her request and never again suggested she see my Chinese qi gong healer.

    That was in the last autumn of her young life. This 5’1” brunette powerhouse was built like the actor/singer, Kristin Chenoweth. Anna was strong and brave beyond comprehension and continued to work as a waitress at a long-established deli. Her clients adored her and would wait patiently for a table to open in her serving section rather than sit someplace else. With her wry humor and alto voice, she won over a once grouchy, short-tempered, demanding customer who roared when she served his breakfast asking, “Do you want this served with or without a smile?” He never sat in any other station but hers and became her best tipper.

    By winter, things had changed dramatically. The weather was especially difficult—huge snowstorms blanketed the Midwest, seemingly one after the other, making it difficult to travel to and from chemo or radiation treatments. She insisted on going alone, which made our son, Sam, her mother and my husband and me very nervous and unhappy. After being stopped by a traffic cop for swerving and erratic driving, she saw the wisdom of not continuing to drive alone to treatments. Her fiercely independent spirit kept her going, so when she had to give up driving and her job in one fell swoop it plunged her into depression.

    When suggested she join Gilda’s Club, she declined. Asked if she wanted to journal her experiences, feelings and thoughts, she laughed and said, “Why?”

    She would come to life when she returned to her two loves: dessert making and watching Turner Movie Classics. She once surprised me with a magnificent chocolate ganache cake a la Julia Child. And, she could match up actors, their films, their lovers and spouses in a blink of an eye—the hands-down master of Trivial Pursuit, Pop Culture Edition, at family game night!

    I felt as if I’d slipped into a daze during that winter, becoming as numb to my emotions as to the chill off Lake Michigan. I was on auto pilot at work and had trouble focusing on daily tasks. Holiday joy arrived when my husband greeted us with tickets to the Joffrey Ballet’s annual Nutcracker performance. He got one of those fancy schmanchy side boxes for the four of us. Without skipping a beat, Anna, flashing a great smile, mimicked the ‘queen’s wave’ to the crowd below after settling comfortably into her chair, bringing a belly laugh to us all. Sam was loving, attentive and tended to her every need. Her stamina that day was at a rare high, and all the way home she chatted about the various performances, costumes and music. It was a heartwarming day filled with the things we loved most: family, music and a little silliness.

    Anna was a great admirer of Charlie Trotter, the world-renowned restaurateur. For years, she said she was going to surprise Sam with an anniversary celebration at Charlie’s restaurant. Asked if she’d like to go for her birthday she grimaced saying, “I don’t think I can sit that long, but thanks.” When we learned that Trotter had a high-end carry out style gourmet shoppe, we surprised Anna with her very own catered meal, complete with a handwritten note from the master himself.

    By April, Anna was in home hospice. Her mother, sister and nephew arrived from up north to alternate care shifts. Anna’s medical staff told me privately that they had never seen so much growth in a young man as they had seen in Sam. His compassion and love for her became a beacon for us all. At the memorial service, nearly 250 people, including Anna’s physician and hospice nurse, were in attendance. Sam’s work colleagues sent food and drink. During the sharing of memories—most of us were crying through our laughter or laughing through our tears—not sure which. Sam tended to each person’s grief like a minister or social worker. We worried that he was tapping down too much of his own pain and grief as he said to us, “I’m doing okay, I’m just worried about you, Mom.”

    When my sister, a natural stand-up comedian, told of Anna’s introduction to the annual family camp-out and described Anna’s triumphant win in her first EVER watermelon seed spitting contest, the audience laughed uncontrollably. This set the tone for the remainder of the service as person after person regaled us with “Annaisms.” It was a warm early summer day filled with love, tears and laughs. A bittersweet time surrounded by children, siblings, cousins, grandchildren and life-long friends, none of whom wanted to leave without one more hug or kiss as we lingered outside the funeral home’s parking lot. But, return home we did.

    In the Midwest, we laugh and say there are two seasons: winter and winter’s coming. Summer came and went. Fall came and went and blended into that dull ache, ping-pong ball colored sky as waves of sadness, waves of loss slowly diminished. Time heals all things, my Nana used to say. And after oceans of cleansing tears, our lives began to return to normal: whatever that is. We still chopped wood and carried water.

    And, over time I came to answer my question, how does a mother help a son, not yet 34 years old, with the loss of a wife of 11 years? As she did when he hit a home run or struck out at a little league game many years ago; be available and know when just sitting with someone is enough.

    Footnote: At the encouragement of Anna’s physician, Sam spent time counseling hospice families. Typical of Sam, in his healing he gave comfort to others. He remarried several years ago. Nancy is a lovely woman with a college age son. Family game night continues with WI and Scrabble replacing Trivial Pursuit. Oh, and the camp-outs: Nancy has become the champion of the water balloon tossing contest enhancing and maybe providing new meaning to the family tradition of chop wood and carry water.

    • Sheila McGinley says

      Your poem captures how hard and important it is, when you can’t just keep moving anymore, to sit and look at your life. I am right there, a little behind you, but looking clearly at it all. Thanks for writing.

    • Laura Davis says

      Judy, this was a beautiful piece and a wonderful tribute to Anna, to your son and to the strength of your family ties. Thanks for sharing this intimate portrait of a family pulling together through illness, death, grief and moving on.

      • Judy says

        Thank you for the kind words, Laura. Joining this community and responding to the weekly prompts has helped release and explore so much (I also take my writing to therapy). And, of course, the validation means a great deal. J

    • Ilana says

      Judy- This is absolutely beautiful and so inspiring. I loved the picture you drew with the words, “crying through our laughter or laughing through our tears—not sure which. ” The most amazing part, though, was the footnote. I have often wondered how someone who has lost the love of their life can remarry and be truly happy with the second spouse. You explained it all. Nancy was her own person and clearly loved in her own right. Thank you for sharing. IM

      • Judy says

        Ilana, Thank you–it has truly been a ‘family in transition.’ I’m so proud of my son and his growth and very lucky to have he, Anna and Nancy in our lives. Everyday is a winding road, right? (thank you Cheryl Crow)

  12. Polly says

    Laura, what do you do when you can’t see through the rage to get to a good piece of writing, when things are coming up for you? Has that ever happened to you and do you have any concrete advice? I have a draft that I started on Tuesday and I haven’t been able to look at it since. Thanks …

    • Laura Davis says

      Polly, I’d just let yourself vent on the page, just let it rip, pour it all out without the pressure or plan to share it here or with anyone else. Not all writing is meant or needed to be shared.

      If you can’t bear facing the piece again, I’d give yourself time. You may simply not be ready and that’s okay. I don’t think you need to force yourself.

      If you want to, one strategy you can use is to write about a time before or after the scene you want to write–sometimes if you back away from the really heated part, you can approach the subject obliquely and get some traction.

      • Polly says

        Thank you. I think letting it rip is more my style, so I’ll try that first, probably this weekend. Those are all really good tips, though, so if one doesn’t work I’ll move on to the next.

        • Laura Davis says

          You may also need to process the feelings that come up elsewhere (like in therapy or however else you process strong emotions) and then come back to the page.

      • Lorna says

        I like that idea of backing into a scene. That just might help me figure out how to get going on some of my projects. I get started and I know the ending but the middle parts sometimes elude me.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you both for sharing these thoughts with us. It is very helpful both to see that others struggle with this and to see how others deal with it. IM

  13. Ilana says

    It Was The End of The World As I Knew It

    “I hate this class. It’s so confusing.” I groaned inwardly and wrote down the lecture that made little sense to me. “Oh well, I’ll do what I always do. Dig in and do the best I can. Graduation is only a few months away. Somehow I’ll get there.” This thought process went through my head every Tuesday morning while I was sitting in my program development class.

    After class I had a quick check in with Michael, one of my group members. We had agreed that I would do the preliminary work for our project because I was not good at procrastinating. So I filled Mike in on how far I had gotten, put my sweatshirt on and pulled my long hair out from the collar, pouring it down my shoulders. Only when I got into the car did I realize that I had put the sweatshirt on backwards and must have looked like an idiot. Oh well, Mike was a good guy. He probably wouldn’t hold it against me. I stopped at the grocery store for some VO5 conditioner and went home to study.

    I was a newly married graduate student and this was my world. Got my Mrs. Still working toward the MA. Homework, study, stress over my grades and excited anticipation about graduation. My husband, Zander, had graduated a year ago with his BSN. He’d gotten his RN and worked for a while as a nurse in the ICU and then the “telle step-down unit”. It wasn’t enough for him, though. Two months ago he’d quit working at the hospital to go back for his MS and become a nurse practitioner. We were both in school again, studying for long hours at Village Inn and enjoying well earned study breaks. That morning I tried to force myself to study even though, for some reason, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. After only a little while I set an alarm clock and treated myself to a quick nap. I remember the oddest details from that day; the sweatshirt, the color of the hair conditioner, even the white bikini panties I was wearing. Little did I know, it would be the last day before my world came to an end. The life I knew was going to disappear forever.

    At 11:30 that night I had just finished brushing my teeth and was still laughing at my new husband’s jokes when blinding pain filled my head. My knees collapsed under me and instinctively, I ran to the bed to avoid hurting myself when I fell. It was a cerebral aneurysm. A blood vessel in my brain burst. Zander called 911 and I was taken to the same hospital where he had worked only two months before. They did emergency surgery the next day and the day after that I came out of the coma.

    My hands were tied to the bed, in restraints. I had tubes coming out of every part of me. I couldn’t talk, see clearly or move the left side of my face. Even after they took the intubation tube out of my mouth and I could speak, I felt completely powerless. As the days passed my condition slowly improved but I was in constant, intense pain. They had me on several different medications with terrible side effects. And I would be in the restraints for another week. From that helpless and terrified position it was hard for me to see any of the small improvements in my condition. I didn’t understand that I was going to make a complete recovery. The first time Zander had to brush my teeth for me I was sure this was how my life was going to be. I would be helpless and dependant on him to take care of me for the rest of my life. My world of studying, playing and anticipating graduation fell away. I was nothing now, nothing but a drain.
    That moment did not last forever. As soon as they took the restraints off Zander insisted I begin taking walks around the hospital. I set about my recovery with intense determinaiton. He wanted me to walk ten feet, I walked twelve. He wanted me to take a walk in the morning, I asked him to take me out again in the evening. One small goal at a time, I found something to focus on, something work toward. It took me seven months to regain the ability to read, open my mouth, move my face and all of the other normal things I now take for granted.

    Eventually, I did go back to school and going very slowly, I graduated. It was a bitter sweet victory. My friends had all gone years before. I was the aneurysm girl who had to take twice as long to graduate as anyone else. My life did start over but it was never the same. The world as I had known it on February 13, 2001was gone forever.

    Sometimes I look back and mourn that life. It was the innocent time, before I faced my own mortality, before I was different from other people. It was a time when I took so much for granted. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like now if I’d been able to hold onto that freedom for a little while longer. I try not to dwell on it too much, though, because it’s useless. I’ll never be that girl again. There’s a scar that starts an inch above my left eye, arcs into my hairline and ends at my earlobe. I’ll always have it and most of the time it feels like I always have. The scar, the story that goes with it, they’re all a part of me. This is my world now, the only one I’ve got. Looking at it that way, though, I am forced to wonder how long I will get to hold onto this world?

    • Laura Davis says

      Thanks for this powerful story about mortality, something we all share, whether we know it as deeply as you and I, and all others who’ve faced a life-threatening illness do. Thanks for the vivid, gripping account. You can tell this story a million times in a million different ways, Ilana, and I’ll always want to read it.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Laura. I had been afraid that I’d told the aneurysm story too much but the truth is your prompts often inspire me to learn even further from the experience. I finally gave up fighting it and welcomed the new lessons.

        Feeling much freer this week :) (huge smile of relief- life somehow seems so simple now) Thanks again for your support last week. IM

    • Judy says

      Truly, this piece took my breath away, Ilana. You write with such depth of emotion and paint vivid pictures. It is always an honor to read your work and hear of your life. Thank you for posting this week. J

      • Ilana says

        What an honor, Judy, to be allowed to share my writing with someone who appreciates it the way you do. Thank you. Ilana

        • Judy says

          Ilana, :) What a dear you are. I have to post this piece for you. Hope you think it’s fun and silly.

          Spring 1974……..Eager to make delicious foods, new to me and the boys but familiar to my new husband, I called his sister and said, “Okay, all the ingredients are here in front of me. I got the chicken, the stock, the spices, and flour. What do I do first,” I asked.

          “What’s the flour for,” she asked. “The matzoh balls,” I said.

          A long pause, then a giggle before she said, “You silly Scottish shicksa, you don’t make matzoh balls with flour. You make it with matzoh meal.”

          “Ooooohhhhhh,” I said looking at the clock. “I’ll call you right back.”

          I dashed to the store. Picked up the matzoh meal. Charged back home and dialed the phone while taking off my coat. Glancing at the matzoh meal package, I read the instructions and said to myself, “I can do this.”

          She answered immediately, asking what time the ‘guys’ would be back from baseball practice. We had a full 90 minutes so we both started laughing, shrieking so loudly the dog joined in. Stretching the phone cord as far as it would go, I opened the Irish Girl, our setter, into her dog run, while thinking, “Oh gawd, will I ever get this meal prepared on time?”

          “Okay, got it. What do I do now?”

          We were laughing so hard I could hardly read the measurements on the matzoh meal package. After opening the package, I just listened to her instructions, which finished with, “Okay, now drop the balls in the boiling water, use a glass cover on the pan, don’t pick it up and wait about twenty minutes. When you see them rise, spoon them out and put them in the soup.”

          “Got it,” I said, proudly plopping the balls in the water and setting the stove timer. We went back to family gossip, a cousins’ wedding rehash, how my sons were doing and compared notes when to plant the veggie garden—when the timer rang.

          “Judy, have the balls raised yet?” Looking through the glass pan cover, I said “No, how long did you say, again?”

          Long pause.

          Hummmm, was I supposed to use the entire package?

          Silence on the other end. Then we both burst out laughing uncontrollably.

          I’ll call you right back, I’m off to the store.

          A sigh and then, “Judy, save yourself the energy, do what my mom, sisters, Aunt Ida and I have done for years: buy readymade.”

          Sheepishly I asked, “But what about the gafaltdafish? Next week maybe?”

          All I heard was—-Click!

    • Lorna says

      We need to tell our stories again and again until we learn everything we need to learn from them. We also teach others with our stories. We just want to avoid letting our stories limit who we are today. You didn’t do that you exceeded expectations. Your story was so vivid I was surprised when you said it happened years ago. It could have been yesterday. The first part reminded me of when I was in a class last winter and I hated it. My girlfriend told me that I was resisting the experience because I was fighting a growth experience. She was right and I pushed through and I am better for it. I thought that was what this story was about. It was but not in the way I expected. I like writing that surprises me.

    • Patti Hall says

      Ilana,
      However long it is that you get to “hold onto this world” I’m sure you’ll hold on even longer!
      I’m new here so I haven’t read your story before, but I know I won’t tire of it, no matter how many times or ways I read it.
      Thank you,
      Patti

  14. Deb Mansell says

    I’m sorry I cannot read other peoples work and pain. I cannot write about transformation now as I am right in that process of stripping everything away, I have lost 4 stone plus in weight, given up smoking, stopped expecting my my family of origin to be there for me and have gone back into therapy to get to the root of all this anger and pain. I want to be a whole person , I want to be me, I need to have surgery but can do none of this until I go through this.

    • Laura Davis says

      Hang in there Deb. You’re just in that place where you can’t possibly see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s too far away, but it is there.

      • Deb Mansell says

        Thank you all for your kind words of support and concern. I am in a dark place at the moment, although today is a little brighter, the tears and pain are close. When I went to see my counselor, on Friday, she asked me what the silence was about, what feelings were there, and I really couldn’t answer I didn’t know the words it was like I’d been silenced again. I was shocked and stunned to feel how powerful that silence could still be after all this time.
        When I had my first lot of effective counselling 12 years ago, I spent a long while trying to find the words; I had spent the previous 22 years in and out of therapy trying to say what had happened trying to talk, being too scared to say anything. I first had counselling when I was 15 (still being abused). Then with Liz’s (my counselor) help I started to open and talk about how much it hurt and how angry I was. I saw Liz for 4 years till I decided I could tell no more.
        I remember the silences, the splitting, making myself so small that I could fit in a crack in the wall, but then I found my voice and it all came tumbling out, or so I thought, or so I hoped. I suppose I always knew there was more but had to do it in stages or I’d really fall apart! I’m remembering 4 abusers now, from the age of 3 to 19. No wonder its dark here. Good job I only have 48 hours til counselling again.

    • Ilana says

      Deb- You will get through this. I know that feeling of not being able to imagine when the pain will end or at least ease up some. During my emergency phase I said used to say, “If the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train I’m fine with that too.” I wish you all the best and am sending positive energy your way. Please keep posting when you can. You are in my thoughts. Ilana

      • Cissy says

        Oh Deb, My mantra in my own emergency stage was, “I won’t feel this way when I don’t feel this way,” and it was my way of accepting that I DO feel this way right now (and all the thoughts that went with those feelings) but also to remind myself it was transient. Then, when it came up again I’d remember telling myself, “I won’t feel this way when I don’t feel this way” and knowing I had successfully navigated it before. I’m not trying to give advice as much as to say your pain is palpable and you aren’t alone even though you may very well feel alone. I know we’re not supposed to give advice I guess I just wanted to say hang in there.

    • Judy says

      Deb, I’m so sorry to hear how you are feeling. Be kind and loving to yourself and post when you can.

      • Judy says

        PS: My sister and I used put on a headband flashlight, let it shine on the ceiling and wonder what was beyond the light When the battery ran out, we’d pretend that our third eye would manifest ‘the beyond’ and just let our minds just ‘go.’ Always made us smile. :)

    • Terry Gibson says

      Deb, I’m sleepless tonight but so happy I dropped by here. I’m sorry you are in such a rough and vulnerable time. I relate in a few ways these days too; changes (including new memories, for e.g.) used to come at me so fast, I just couldn’t keep up! Even seeing our body’s change — I’ve lost four stone as well — can add to the overall feeling that somehow we’re failing and that everything’s going out of control. Please don’t worry about what you can or can’t read. Wishing you will treat yourself with a child’s gentle loving touch as you deal with what’s ahead. This fine, caring, and nurturing group is here even if all you can manage is,”I had a rotten day!” Please take good care of yourself.

      • Deb Mansell says

        Thank you Terry, your kind thoughts really do help me. I have counselling in the morning and I really do need it, I went to singing tonight ( I’m in a big community choir, 110 in the house tonight!) and that really did me good, I have good support there. And all the deep breathing is loosening the grief. Perhaps I will sleep tonight, I manged 3 hours last night, so I know what it’s like to suffer insomnia too. Last night I kept jumping awake.

        • Terry Gibson says

          Deb, I’m so glad those two things today were nurturing and helpful for you. I wish us both–and all insomniacs out there–a deeply rejuvenating sleep tonight! I’m going to try every trick in the book but first … to Relax. I’ll start with a spot o’ tea. ;)

          • Deb Mansell says

            Terry, here’s hoping that you slept last night. I managed a good while, even if I was awake at 6:15 with the alarm.

            Counselling today, I have an hours bus ride to get me there which helps me prepare a bit. We have glorious sunshine here in the uk and that definitely helps lit the mood. :-)

  15. Lorna says

    I’ve sat down at this computer reading the prompts I signed up for weeks ago in an effort to force myself through this transition. The falling away of all my reasons for being where I am, is gone, she is gone to heaven. I am crying reading the other comments, tears welling up in my eyes and trailing down my face. Tears for my Mom. She passed away in April on a beautiful warm sunny day. Oh she had a beautiful death. The last few days of her I saw her smile more than I remember in my life. I know it was the morphine that loosened her up. It freed her in a way she had never been freed in her life. She smiled at everyone who entered her room. A smile so big it lit up her whole face.

    My mom is the reason I live where I live now. My daughter is the reason I came back and then never left again. I wanted my child to know her grandparents. I didn’t know my grandparents. My parents were older than most of my friends’ parents. My dad twelve years older than my mom. He died thirteen years ago. Now they are both gone. My only daughter moved away five years ago. She and I were so close. We finished each others sentences. Now she has a phone number she will not share. She has a husband I have never met. I’ts been five years, I think, I stopped counting after three. We email once in a while. I stayed here for her, then I stayed for mom. I stayed for me too. I loved my mom. I learned so much from her. I didn’t realize till now how calm she always was. At least on the outside, on the inside, her mind kept turning right up until the end. Her last words to me were “I love you all so much.” I love you all. She didn’t want to leave anyone out.

    My transformation is to be, beginning again with new insight from all those experiences with them good and bad. I have mom inside of me now. She is in my heart. I want to keep her there and absorb all of her calmness and kindness inside of me. My child has always been in my heart and I take her wherever I go. Which means I have no reason to stay here not now, unless I want to, just for me. My world has been turned sideways. I don’t know which way to go. Do I start what I never finished when I was young and pregnant, then divorced and a single mom, with an elderly mom? Do I pick up the dreams where I dropped them or do I find new ones? I don’t know. I know I have no excuse now to not try to finish what I started.

    What is ahead of me I don’t know. I do know that I can choose again a path and I choose to write. I have no one to please but myself. The innocent child has fallen away, the young maiden and the young mother are gone too. The woman, the sage, the crone are being born. I couldn’t have gotten here without them, my mom and my baby girl. I am really on my own now. The world I knew is gone. Its a whole new world opening up to me. This time, go or stay I take mom and baby girl with me, they are in my heart, they go where I go.

    • says

      Dear Lorna, Welcome to the Roadmap blog. Your first post is full of so much grief–but also the hint of promise and a new road opening up before you. Thanks for this honest, heartfelt sharing. I hope you keep coming back.

    • Ilana says

      Lorna- This is such a bitter sweet story, filled with mourning but so much hope for the future. I hope you will write and look forward to reading your work here. Welcome to our community. IM

      • Gayle says

        Beautiful tribute to your Mom, carrying her with you in your heart, as well as your daughter, in this world but not for you. You carry them and become the crone. It is your time.

  16. Gayle says

    I knew the relationship was wrong when my friends started disappearing
    Yet I stayed
    The house became cold and tense
    Laughter fell away, spontaneity gone
    My children grew and left home
    only returning for obligatory meals
    Family photos were banned
    Cherished objects disappeared
    My writing hidden
    Yet I stayed

    He talked of moving to a beautiful island getaway
    Isolating me from everything I knew
    I mourned the home I left
    I felt lost without my work
    that grounded me for over twenty years
    No more holiday gatherings
    No phone calls
    Alone with a crazy man

    Pneumonia gave me a reprieve
    three days in the hospital
    Then months in a dark room…
    I thought I’d die on that island
    I woke up one day and said ‘NO’
    In my first response to Laura’s prompt
    Then I said ‘YES’ to my life
    Went to Commonweal
    Saw worlds of wonder
    Outside of my island prison

    When I lost everything, I finally left,
    I am still falling
    Money gone
    Possessions in storage far away
    No job at 63
    Deserted by ‘my best girlfriend’
    No idea of where I belong

    And yet,
    I am joyful
    Joy-filled
    At being alive
    Finding beauty
    Everywhere
    In everything
    In everybody
    I am a nomad
    At home in myself

    • Laura Davis says

      Gayle, thanks for sharing this harrowing and amazing and liberating and still-evolving journey with us.

      • Gayle says

        Thank you, Laura, I am looking forward to coming full circle at Commonweal this year. You were my first lifeline.

    • Patti Hall says

      Gayle,
      I loved this best: “I am a nomad At home in myself.”
      I love your sense of hope,
      Thank you,
      Patti

      • Gayle says

        Patti, thank you for your comment–I got in just under the wire and thought it too late for anyone to notice. I read everyone’s posts and often have a difficult time commenting, but I know how important it is to get feedback and feel heard.

  17. Carla S says

    My phone rang one July summer morning at 4am. I was asked if I was the mother of Paul. I began crying, shaking and feeling intensely nauseous by just one question. The dreaded phone call that every mother cannot imagine coming.

    The caller requested a visit within the next hour. I became light-headed and filled with this horrible dread. When my doorbell rang, I could barely turn the knob to open the door. I was in complete slow motion with a trembling and cold body. As I managed to get the door open-I asked this unexpected visitor not to speak: “I cannot bear to hear what you might say. Please go away.” I begged.

    With his head completely bowed- he stepped into my home. There was no one else with me, I lived alone. My whole world was about to come to an end- I just knew it. I am a mother and this moment will haunt me for the rest of my life. “Your son was killed tonight by a drunken driver.” I was informed. I refused to believe it and called his cell phone over & over- begging him to answer me. He would never again pick up to answer me.

    It has been 7 years now. Paul and I were as close as any mom and son could possibly be. He was a gifted young 29 year old man- who cared so much about the issues that plague our world, wrote to Hillary Clinton about his fears over his younger brother in combat in Iraq. Volunteered on his weekends off from college for Habitat for Humanity and gave his bicycle away to a homeless man. I grieve for the gifts he had to offer our world and for the future he so deserved. His life taken in a split second. I was changed forever in that second, I will forever hear the voice of a visitor that I only had 30 minutes with before watching him drive away. My fear factor is almost non-existent, what is left to fear? I honor the legacy of a life of 29 years that I know should have been the other way around. I found strength that I could have never imagined having, yet not quite sure where it comes from.

    And one day when I smiled again, I knew there would be no doubt about how he would have wanted me to go with my life, to live for both of us.

    • says

      Carla, welcome to the Roadmap blog. This piece tore my heart. You so vividly and poignantly describe the moment that changed your life forever, the moment every parent dreads. I was standing with you receiving that phone call and opening that door. I had that same sick feeling in my stomach as I read, knowing as you did, that something horrible was about to happen. Had already happened. That’s powerful writing–and I’m glad that you were able to write it and that you chose to post it here with us.

      I loved these lines in particular, “My fear factor is almost non-existent, what is left to fear? I honor the legacy of a life of 29 years that I know should have been the other way around. I found strength that I could have never imagined having, yet not quite sure where it comes from. And one day when I smiled again, I knew there would be no doubt about how he would have wanted me to go with my life, to live for both of us.”

      One more note–because this post is on a prompt that is not “current,” there probably won’t be much traffic here and therefore you won’t get many responses. That has nothing to do with the power and strength of this piece–of people’s desire to welcome you, it’s just that people don’t tend to go back to old prompts, but respond to the current one. So you might also want to post there if the topic–aging–inspires you.

      • Carla S says

        Thank you for the feedback and for this blog.
        I look forward to reading and sharing with others on my road to healing and learning.

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