************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Change is in the AIr

An indecisive messenger
Delivers unintelligibly
A pounding, crucial melody
The opposite of clarity
A turn, a stop, a quick look back
At costly held security
And up ahead
No clear way through
A path lost in obscurity
The Journey’s strange polarity
The drone of time supplanted by
A new refrain’s sincerity

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Kitten's Prayer

In a breath, I’m there. 

I’m wearing the striped jumper with the uneven hem. The teacher stands at the front of the room, her blue eye shadow raccooning her eyes. I’m too fascinated with her long, red nails to be bothered by the squeak of chalk against black board. We are to write a poem, she says. We are to write it from the perspective of an animal.

I pull my yellow pencil from between my teeth, noticing the marks of my uneven bite. The skin on my small hand is smooth except where it’s bitten to the quick, around each stubby nail. I write my name at the top of the wide-lined page.

“Try to get inside the animal’s mind,” she suggests. “What is it thinking? What is it feeling?”

My mind skips over all the most interesting animals. There are elephants and rhinos and ostriches... no, how about dinosaurs! They're extinct... but they still count. They were animals, once. 

I write a word, but immediately erase it, leaving a gray mark on the once perfect page. Suddenly, I know I don't want to write about dinosaurs. I want to write about one, very specific animal - a little kitten; all black except for one irregular spot on the side of its small face. 

To me, the little blotch was interesting, but I wonder if it was this one, tiny imperfection that kept the small being from being chosen. He stayed with his mother, in a towel-lined box beside my bed, long after his siblings had found other homes.


Tabby, an experienced mother, purred proudly as the last of her litter snuggled in for a snack. “Why can’t we keep him?”

“We can’t have a male cat and a female cat in the same house.” Mom looked at me like I was crazy. 

I didn’t understand what the big deal was, but I didn’t pursue it. "I don't know who else to ask." Already, I'd carried the litter, secured in a shoe box, all over the neighborhood. "And besides, Tabby always seems so sad when her kittens are all gone."

“She’ll get over it.” 

That much was true. This was the third time my cat had managed to get outside and get pregnant. I knew that when all the kittens were gone, Tabby would comb the house, searching with a pitiful mew for a week or two, but eventually she would go back to her pre-maternal self. That part of it baffled me as much as any of the rest.

Is it really that easy for a mother to move on?

"You need to find a home for that kitten before we leave for vacation, next week." Mom turned her attention to her ironing, closing the subject for the night. 

The week passed quickly. I played kickball with my friends and watched The Brady Bunch on TV and scavenged refrigerator boxes from the new condos that were going up on the next block so we could build forts, but I did not find a home for the little kitten. Even that last night, as I tried to fall asleep with both cat and kitten in my bed, I avoided thinking about how I'd failed. In the morning, it was impossible to ignore.

It was my fault the cat was pregnant in the first place. I was responsible for making sure she didn’t get outside. I don’t know how she got out, but since I was responsible, it was all my fault, and so I was supposed to find homes for the kittens, and I had not done that either. 

I hoped the little kitten might be forgotten. My father was busy loading up the station wagon with everything he could fit inside and on top. My mother was cleaning out the refrigerator and leaving last minute instructions for my brother. He would be home, watching the house and going to summer school. He would be taking care of Tabby. He wouldn’t hardly even notice another little kitten in the house.

My father was always in a foul mood when we were getting ready to leave, and this was no exception. I stayed out of his way, hoping to avoid any trouble, and also thinking that if he didn’t see me, he might not think about the kitten.

"It's time to go!" Mom's voice rang out from the front hall, and I thought, it worked! We all headed out to the car on that hot, July day, and the kitten was still upstairs, in my room. Once we were on the road, we wouldn't stop for anything and it would be too late, by the time they remembered and maybe, by the time we got home, Mom would change her mind.

“Where’s that kitten?” My father’s impatience was clearly audible in each word.
I fidgeted.
I swallowed.
In a very soft voice, I asked, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m not going to do anything. Go get it and bring it here.”

“But… why? We can't take him with us... can we?”


I went.

When I returned to the silent car, Mom looked at me in the rear-view mirror, from her usual spot in the driver’s seat. I wanted a smile, but her eyes and the gear shifted simultaneously into drive. The tiny, terrified kitten dug it’s claws painfully into my arm as the car moved forward. I held it against me, tight enough to prevent it from scratching me again. Its heart tapped a staccato rhythm against mine.

We drove down the alley, then turned the corner and drove only two blocks before my father said, “Stop here.”

Mom, ever obedient, pulled to the curb next to Baker Park. This park was a little further from my house than the one I usually played in, but I’d spent many winter days here, when they flooded the field to turn it into a skating arena.

In Summer, it was like a different world.Mothers pushed toddlers in baby swings, while slightly older children scrambled up the slide and jungle gym. Bigger kids chased each other around the large field, which was covered in thick, short-mown grass, except where it had been worn away around home plate and the other three embedded, rubber bases.

“Put the cat out on that field.”

My throat went dry. “What? What do you mean?”

“You heard me. Put the cat out there, in the middle of the grass. It will be fine.”

The kitten, sensing my panic, struggled against my grip. “I can’t just leave him there...” 

“You sure can! You were supposed to find it a home. Now it will be up to one of those kids to do that for you.”

I searched for Mom’s eyes, in the mirror. I saw the glassy look which told me she was not going to be of any help. I opened the car door.

I crossed the street, the pavement hot under my flip-flops, the kitten clutched to my chest. At first, no one paid any attention to me, but then a boy looked to see what I was holding. I knew that boy. It was David Horner. He was in my class, last year.

"Hey, where'd you get the kitten?"

I blocked him out. I blocked them all out. I hurried to the very center of the field, disengaged the kitten from my shirt, and placed his tiny body in the grass.

“What are you doing?”

I turned and ran back to the car, the image of the black spiky tail sticking up from the grass, etched in my mind.

“She just left this cat here!” 

"You can't do that!"


My eyes and throat and the scratches on my arm all burned as I slammed the car door.


A poem. 
From an animal’s perspective.

I stare forward, as the poem forms in my mind. David Horner is in the desk in front of me. Although it might appear as if I'm looking at the back of his head, my eyes are actually out-of-focus. Do I have the same glassy-eyed look I saw on my mother's face, in the rear-view mirror? The title comes to me, first, and the rest fills in, of its own accord.

A Kitten’s Prayer
Do you hear me, God?
I want to be loved.
I’m a good little kitten.
I keep myself clean and I never scratch anyone,
Unless I’m afraid. 
Do you hear me, God?
I need a good home,
With a little girl who gives me milk
And sometimes pulls a bit of yarn
So I can play. 
Isn't she there, somewhere?
Someone as lonely as me?
If she finds me, I’ll be very good
And I’ll never ask for anything else 
Except, please, God
Don’t let my mother miss me too much
And if you would,
Please, bless all other purrers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Taking a Bite Out of Life


My life is an orange – not a tiny tangerine or a misshapen clementine with its peal practically sloughing off on its own. Oh no, mine is one of those large and thick-skinned varieties.

For most of my life, I turned this orange over in my hand, studying its nearly impenetrable peel with a sense of hopelessness. I studied the bumpy surface, searching for any accessible point of entry. At the age of forty-seven, I finally stuck my thumbnail in and pried the first little bit away. It took me over four years, but a few months ago, the last bit of peel fell away. Finally, its ripeness sat naked on my palm. I reveled in the sight and smell of it, as it rocked heavy and full, in my hand.

The juicy taste still awaits me, but before I can pull a bit off and pop it into my mouth, I see that there are yet the veiny, white remains of the past still clinging to each section. While they are much thinner and less bitter than the coarse skin I’ve already removed, I know I will enjoy the sweetness of the fruit much more without the sinewy chords getting caught in my teeth.

And so I continue. 

I haven’t known what to make of the last several months. It’s been a time unlike any other in my life. Most noticeable is the sense of calm I’ve felt most of the time. Next, is how easily and quickly I seem to be able to return to my peaceful state, even when I’ve been spinning out pretty crazily. After that, what stands out to me is how little need I’ve had to share my creativity with anyone.

This last part concerns me.                 

Since I was a very small child, I’ve felt driven to create. I first played piano when I was three, started lessons at Northwestern University at four, and composed my first music when I was less than eight years old. After the traumatic and sudden departure of my piano teacher, when I was twelve, I never played again... but this did not squelch my need to create. I turned my attention to other things which had often been equally interesting to me. 

Throughout my later childhood and teens, I spent every spare moment drawing, painting, and writing stories and poetry. I shared my creations with anyone who would give me even a cursory glance. My head was constantly overflowing with visions and concepts I needed to express. Images would appear in my mind, representing whatever was going on in my life at that time, and after creating them to the best of my ability, I felt compelled to share them with others. It has been THE driving force in my life, and has always been equated with the words “life’s purpose” in my head.

Then, a few months ago, everything just stopped. I woke up one morning and had no desire to draw or write anything. 
The next day was the same, and the next week… 

Finally I said something to the therapist who I've relied on for so much over the last four years. I tried to explain what was going on, but it wasn't as clear in my mind as it is now. What I said was, "I'm not doing anything," because that’s how it felt. 

When we talked about it, I realized I was actually doing a lot of things… just not anything creative. She suggested that I’ve been pushing very hard for a very long time, and maybe this was just a much-needed break. 

I went with that for a while, but as the weeks passed concern hung in my head like cobwebs.

Is this who I’m going to be, from now on…? And if so, who am I, now?

I’ve always created… it’s who I am… who will I be if this is not me, anymore? 

To prove I could still do it, I forced myself to write something every day. I tried to commit to posting here, daily, but failed at that in short order. What once was a passion had become a chore. More and more, I was wasting time on facebook or other websites, distracting myself in anyway I could from something I obviously did not want to do.

But why?

I can still write. I still have things to say. The images and concepts I’ve always found in my mind are still there, waiting to be given a place in the real world. Yesterday, I created one of those images, just to prove I could still do it. The image I posted here, yesterday, has been in my mind for some time, and I've taken great pleasure from it. I thought sharing it would bring me the same joy it always has, but in reality it didn't feel any more real than it did when it was only in my mind.

What I just realized, last night, is that there is something else I’ve not been sharing. For four years, I shared almost all of my journals with my therapist. Day and night, the thoughts in my head would spew forth onto pages and pages of journals and blogs and posts on other websites. Since there was never any guarantee that anyone would respond or even notice the words I put out into the world, I would also send it to my therapist, so she could—

So she could what? She was possibly the first person I ever met who was willing to look at all of it, read through everything I sent her, and who also seemed to understand everything I said. But, why did I feel that every thought in my head had to be shared? 

The reason seems to be that nothing I thought or felt or knew felt valid until I shared it with someone else. Not one experience felt real until someone else knew of it, and the reason for that is that I did not feel I had any value. I didn't feel real or valid so I needed to be validated by others. My sense-of-self came only from outside of me, and not from within.



Friday, November 18, 2011

Never-Ending Life

Do the leaves that lie broken in a falling snow know that Spring will follow?

To me, the shift from night to day and back again, the phases of the moon, and the continuous cycle of seasons are like a promise of what awaits us, beyond this world. Like the buds on a new branch, we see only the snow, the spring, and the leaves that we bring forth. We watch as our creations grow and change, their full color emerging and ultimately fading, and then that for which we've struggled drops away... turns to dust.

Staff of Life                        ~Shen 11-18-11

Saturday, November 12, 2011

One Soul - Two Ways of Being

My oldest child – a married daughter of twenty-three – recently said of my new-found spiritual acceptance, “People start looking for God when they get older because they’re afraid of death.”

I smiled. I told her, as I’ve said many times, “I’ve been where you are, but you have yet to be where I am.”
She returned my smile – and it is my smile, from the slight down-turn at the corners of her mouth to the one front tooth that is not entirely straight – and she waited for me to go on. This patience for me to explain things, even when she doesn’t agree with me, is one of the things I most love about her.

I told her that it wasn’t fear of death, and informed her that I intended to be around for a good long time, yet. I thought for a moment, and she let me. Then I said:
When we are children, we’re learning how to be in the body we’re given, and how to live in this world. As adolescents, we focus very much on our relationships with our peers. This leads to the years when we have to get everything in order for our adult lives – finishing education, choosing a career, marriage, children, etc.
At a certain point, we have established our place in the world. For better or worse, we are pretty well set on the path we’ve created. It isn’t fear that brought me to this opening; it’s a sense of peace with where my life is, now.
I believe it was necessary to move completely into ego - into the personification of my spirit – in order to have and raise children, maintain strong relationships, and push forward in educating this physical mind in the things that seem important here, on Earth. If I had always been aware of the Great Connection, the Oneness of the Universe, I might never have fully invested in this life. I feel very strongly that there is a reason for us to be here, learning what we learn and evolving as we do. I believe it’s important and necessary. I don’t need to know why.

I’m glad I had a chance to have this discussion with my daughter, and I hope that one day, when she’s had all the children she’s going to have and has fashioned the life she is putting together, she will remember this and smile. For now, it’s her turn to be firmly established in this world. I hugged her, embracing the connection I still have to the here-and-now of existence, and at the same time I intentionally kept one foot firmly in the place I sense, just beyond this physical room.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Trust Life

One of the most commonly believed misconceptions is that we are supposed to be happy, all the time. We think that sadness is something that needs to be cured, as if it was a disease. Many of us strive to live a life free from judgment, yet we harshly judge one emotional state over another.

Feeling sad, angry, or even just plain bored are perfectly acceptable states of being. If you feel sad, be with the sadness without judging it as negative. It isn't negative unless you think it is. It's simply a reaction to life. Trust life to take you where you are meant to be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Greatest Good

While envisioning a positive outcome may seem right, defining any outcome as positive is not really my job. Only God knows what outcome leads to the greater good.

Instead of this kind of metaphysical belief, I've considered the idea of praying only for “God’s will," but that seems to imply that God is somehow going to be swayed by my humble wishes –as if God would not move forward unless I ask it.

So, what connection can I seek?

I can ask, “What do I most need to know, in this moment?”
I can say, “Guide my actions so that I may move forward in the best possible way.”

Then, I can be open to that guidance, without any knowledge of the grand plan. I can be thankful, accepting whatever comes, safe in the knowledge that everything is always in the interest of the greatest good.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Forest Wisdom

I walk in a nearby wood, surrounded by the rich, full color of autumn and perfect “Indian Summer” weather. Recently, a friend of mine told me about a question her five-year-old grandson  asked.

"Do the trees know what color their leaves are gonna' be?”

I smile at the innocent wisdom and wonder, too.  Does a tree miss its green newness as its leaves shift to crimson, orange or ochre and then to brown? When the last of its covering is blown away on a strong November wind, does it mourn?

They say it’s darkest just before the dawn, but it also seems things can be at their most beautiful just before the end. The strong, resilient trees nod in the wind, but also whisper, "There's nothing to fear."

I lift a spotted leaf from the ground and hold it up to its mother. Branches sway above me as more bits of color rain down. I lay a hand on the coarse bark of its massive trunk, and listen as it explains. 
 “It’s okay to let go. It’s safe and right and really, it’s all you can do.”
I turn in a full circle, searching maples and ashes, saplings and ancient oaks. They all agree..
I turn around again, and stare accusingly at the steadfast evergreens, who remind me that while they will keep their all- season trimmings, their final summers will one day come.
"But," they say, "in this moment we are as we are."
A breeze pushes my hair back from my face, allowing the sun to speckle my face as it trickles through the leaves.  Eyes closed, I inhale the loamy musk of optimism.
"Yes," I tell the trees. "I understand. Whether or not I'm about to flame into splendor, some form of Spring awaits me after the sleep of Winter. Thank you for helping me to know, and trust that it will be exactly as it’s meant to be. "

Sunday, October 2, 2011


As eleven-year-old Vera walks home from school, she passes a convenience store in which all kinds of candy is sold. Assuming a casual attitude, she strolls down the candy aisle. Stealthily waiting until the clerk behind the counter is busy, she slips a candy bar into the pocket of her coat. Hands in pockets, she heads out the door without a backward glance.
A few days go by before she is once again perusing the wares of the small store. When it seems the coast is clear, she turns down the candy aisle, spots the sweet she wants, and grabs it. She never even slows down on her way to the door.

A third attempt at stealing candy doesn’t go so smoothly. Vera is feeling pretty confident in her abilities, by this time. Before she even reaches the store, she’s imagining gooey caramel and chocolate melting in her mouth .  When she enters the store, the man who works there is restocking the shelves behind the counter. Since he has his back to her, she heads straight for the candy.

Just as she's sliding it into her pocket, she hears, “Hey!”

Terror rushes through her veins and nearly from her bladder. She never realized how big this guy is. As he makes his way around the counter and closes in on her, she sprints towards the door. It's very close, but she reaches the door first. She opens it, turning to watch her assailant, and throws herself backward through the doorway.

She hits something soft but solid. She turns to see a stocky - and thankfully sturdy - old woman  who has met Vera’s flying form at the door. A loud and breathy “Hhmmmff” erupts from the woman as she hits the ground, hard. As Vera watches, the woman's stunned expression darkens to fury.

“Oh-my-God-are-you-all-right?” the store clerk blurts from right behind Vera.

She runs.

He yells, “Don’t you ever come back here, you little thief!"

She turns the corner and blasts past two more blocks before slowing down. Blood pounds in her ears and her red face as she catches her breath. She studies the squished, half-melted candy bar in her trembling hand, and then surveys a scrape on her elbow she’d been too frantic to notice, earlier. She eats the candy, feeling her fear dissolve into relief.

For a day and a week and a month, she takes a different way home from school. She completely avoids the street on which the convenience store is located, even though it means going three blocks out of her way. She isn't happy about the longer walk she has, and as the days go by, anger flourishes.

It's that horrible man. 

Vera sees the store clerk's large and looming form in her mind.

It takes me twice as long to walk home, now, and it's all his fault.

Weeks pass, and winter arrives. At the same time, the seeds of fear and anger grow into an icy crop of hatred. The cold wind inside and out make Vera's walk home nearly unbearable.

Come on, it was only a candy bar. What's the big deal?

Even so, she takes the long way around for another week, and then another. Each day is colder than the last, and with each frosty breeze resentment builds.

Does he really think he can stop me from walking by the store?

He can't do anything to me. I'm just a kid.

I can go there anytime.

I'll prove it!

The day comes when she is heading down the familiar street, once again. She slows down when the storefront comes into view, despite the whipping wind. A young mother and her two children cross the street in front of Vera and hurry towards the warmth of the store. Vera rushes up, smiles at the mother, and pops into the store between her and her children, as if she was part of the family.

It takes a few moments for Vera to get the courage to glance at the counter. When she does, she sees someone new, there. It’s an older man, someone she’s never seen before, and he takes no notice of Vera. Why would he? He doesn’t know she’s a thief.

Smiling to herself, Vera peruses the candy aisle, taking her time before pocketing her selection. She heads nonchalantly to the door. Before she can open it, a firm hand holds her shoulder. She squirms with fear and fury, but a second hand grabs her other arm and there's no escape.

When the man turns Vera around, she is ready for battle. She glares up at his face, but to her great surprise, the man smiles.

Her breath catches in her throat. She's speechless.

“I know you took that candy," he says.

Her eyes dart back and forth between his, but no sound will form in her throat.

"It’s wrong to steal, but I forgive you.”

And then, he lets her go.

For a moment, Vera is too astounded to move. She stares up into his eyes, confusion and adrenaline mingling in her mind. Finally, she gets enough hold of herself and takes off into the snowy afternoon, with all the speed she can muster.

Behind her closed bedroom door, Vera looks at the candy bar. She could eat it, now, but for some reason she doesn't. She hides it in her sock drawer and tries to push the whole incident out of her mind, but she has a whole weekend to think about it and that's exactly what she does. Over and over she pushes the pairs of socks aside to view the dishonorable secret nestled at the bottom of the drawer.

Why did he let me go?

Each time, she buries the evidence but always she knows it's there.

Monday afternoon is the coldest this winter has presented, so far. As Vera heads out of school, sleet pelts her cheeks and her icy fingers tingle in her pockets. She wants to go the short way, but walking past the convenience store seems almost impossible. What if that new guy was there, again? What if he saw her? She isn’t afraid of him. She isn’t angry, either. She's... well, she's not sure what she is. This feeling is something entirely new.

She knows it's just too cold to walk the long way. Mustering all the courage she has, she heads towards the convenience store, her heart beating fast. She has her head down against the wind as she approaches the store's entrance, but she can't keep from looking in as she passes.

He looks right at her.
He smiles.
Awkwardly, she smiles back.

The next day, she puts the candy bar in her backpack, before school. All day, she's aware of its presence, safely tucked in a front pocket. All day, she wonders if she will be able to do what she's thinking of doing. When the bell rings, she swallows hard and then pushes her way through the snowy streets, straight to the welcoming warmth of the convenience store.

At the counter, she can't look at the clerk as she pulls the candy bar from her pack and places it on the counter. It takes a moment or two, but finally she whispers, “How much for this?”
He scans the candy, tells her the cost. and takes her money. As he hands her the change, she finally looks up, into his eyes.

He says, “Come back soon."

And she does.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Breathing Light

Created in Photoshop, using drawn images.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beauty in the Darkness

Created this afternoon using drawn images in photoshop

I'm trying to find the beauty in the darkness.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I've been coming to some very important realizations in the last few weeks. Our soul's journey is a line with no end. Following a wise leader only works as long as they continue to lead. If the leader stops, the followers stall as well.

When you realize you are leading, stay focused on the path ahead. If your thinking of turning around to enlighten the world, you've lost the ability to lead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Do you feel it coming? Change is imminent. It’s the cool breeze on an otherwise hot August day. It’s the colorful ripeness of harvest. It’s the sale sign in department stores overstocked with backpacks and loose-leaf paper; trendy jeans and sports gear; this-year’s-Disney lunch boxes and impossibly slim calculators with incongruously thick instruction books.

Chicago has only two seasons – Winter and road construction. Phase one of this summer’s road work is yet to be complete, but in a familiar mad-dash attempt to get every street and highway up to the level of functional, thousands of new orange signs and cones have appeared in the last week. This coincides with the increase in traffic which accompanies the sudden/obvious realization that the kids are going to need new everything for school.

The lazy pace of the “dog days” is overlaid with detours, stress, and apologies to the dentist, the barber, the woman who gives the sport’s physicals so the doctor can do more important things, and the coach who has set up practices every day of the two weeks leading up to the first day of school and who can’t understand how - when he is giving up HIS summer – we can’t just get there on time.

I stare through the sliding door, noticing the faded colors of our deck furniture as they sit under the same intense sun they’ve enjoyed (endured?) for months. Beyond them, the sky is summer-blue, the trees are dark and full, the bushes are overgrown, uneven, in need of trimming (again) and the determined weeds are thriving while the flowers in my garden are waving a white flag.

The nearness of the coming shift is blaring in my head, much like the car alarm which erupted yesterday, in the middle of my session with C. My sons are heading back to college – one for his second year and one for his last. My younger daughter and the exchange student who lives with us will be heading back to high school. My older daughter – who has gone through changes of her own this summer - is a married woman now. Tomorrow I will head up to see her for the first time since the wedding.

This goes on around me, seen through new eyes – more focused, more certain, more aware. Emotions come to me so much more easily now. They engulf me like the humid August air and I succumb to them in a way my lilies give in to the milkweed. Okay. I'll make room. You have a right to be here, too.

Feelings wash over me. I wade into anger, tread sorrow, dive into fear and come up for relief. I wonder at their intensity and then again at their brevity. Before I'm used to one state of being, another is on upon me.

Nothing lasts forever – not anxiety, not despair, not the hundred-and-twenty-dollar-guaranteed-for-life backpack my son has loaded with six-hundred-dollars worth of textbooks (bought used, online, at a fraction of the original cost – what a deal). The cyclical nature of everything is proof that when I find myself in the darkest places, I know I will find my way out.

Nothing lasts forever = hope.

I will find the light, immerge, and once again pull peace/joy/gratitude gratefully into my lungs. When I come up from the depths, the air will always be there.

Change is the constant, yet we imagine life in stages, in the spaces in-between. We pause in the calm that exists after one breeze and before the next, in the momentary stillness when one waves has crashed over us and another is approaching, and we think this is life. For all the songs we've sung and poems we've written about the journey, we still think the destination - the stopping point - is where we're meant to be.

The reality is the opposite.

The pendulum’s swing between day and night
The rotating seasons of each year and each life
That's the meat we are meant to chew and savor in the breakroom of life.

Those moments in between are merely an offering from God to step back, to take in what we’ve learned before it’s time to move forward again. In that stillness we live outside the change that is life and have the opportunity to connect with the eternal. Motionless instants – few and elusive – hold within them the reality of our souls.

Illusion = a stagnant pond
Truth = the river of life
Lessons swirl around us and promise is only a ripple away.

Yesterday, C loaned me a book by Dr. Christine Northrup. The book is called, “The Wisdom of Menopause”. The book holds promise. It speaks of new beginnings, of goals and focus of a different kind.
Change is scary, but the fear is fleeting and making it through can bring valid and worthwhile gains. When I look at change as opportunity - as movement toward and not away from – I'm able to wait with anticipation for the next wave to come.

When I “entered womanhood” (this phrase in itself an ugly misnomer as I am fairly certain I am not now leaving womanhood) I was angry, fearful, and sad. I felt the loss of some piece of who I am as a veil of instinct fell over me. I grew used to the idea that this is who I was. I was here to create life, to nest and nurture. That was how I was meant to find fulfillment… and I did. Having and raising children has been an incredible ride and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Without that very necessary instinctual drive I would likely never have brought these amazing people into the world.

With that work nearly done, a growing sense of loss has had me searching for myself once again. I felt pulled in other directions, but also felt guilty. It seemed wrong to be focused more on myself than my children and my husband. I was confused. What was my purpose? Who was I if I was not taking care of others?

I stand in that space, in-between - in that little bit of peace before the next wave crashes, and I feel lost. I feel the tide's aproach, the strong undertow giving it away. I plant my feet, legs wide, arms outstretched, to steady myself as best I can. I’m pulled, swayed, lifted, kicking and flailing and finding the ground again and again.

It's hard work. Gradually, I stop fighting. I lift my feet from the sandy bottom and float, bobbing.

Eyes closed, I let it come. I connect with the universe, the terror of the unknown quickening my heart. Inside - deep, hidden - I search for that eternal stillness and when (not if) I find it, it calms me like a drug.

Deep breath.
Hold it now.
Eyes open.
Letting go,

I know who I am. I know, and it’s amazing. I realize that I'm the only one who can be this person. It’s an awesome responsibility to know that no one else can be what I am. I can fill this space that’s made perfectly for me AND
there’s time – so much time –
AND there’s nothing else I have to do.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Intimacy and Hope's Mountain

If you want to get the most out of your twelve-step-program, become a Sponsor.

Last night, I met with one of my Sponsees after a CoDA meeting. On the phone, she’d said she has some questions about step eight, and from her tone I gathered that she was struggling with something.

We settled into the old-but-comfortable couch in a back room of the Alano Club where we our meetings are held. I noted the furrowed lines between her eyebrows.

She talked a little about the work she’d been doing as she produced a small stack of papers. On the top sheet was a list of names. Some were highlighted. One name - that of her ex-husband - had a big question mark next to it.

She drummed her index finger on the question mark and said, "I can’t do this. I’ve been anguishing over it for weeks."

I said, “This step is not supposed to be painful. It can be scary, but if it's bringing up this kind of intensity, there’s a good reason."

We talked about her ex. He's an alcoholic. He was emotionally abusive, extremely controlling, and sometimes shaming during their long marriage. He’d cheated on her. He had a history of saying things to their children (who are now all adults) in order to sway them away from her.

And, she'd made some mistakes. She was trying to come to terms with them. "I'm really over him. I mean, what I really ought to do is thank him because if he hadn't been who he was and done what he did, I never would have become who I am, today."

"That's great. I think gratitude is the opposite of anger. Progressing that far is a big deal."

"But... do I have to make amends to him?"

"You don't have to do anything. This is your program."

"Yes... but I feel like... I don't know. I should do something. I can't just let this go."

She can't let it go. That seemed to be the important part. That's what I felt we needed to work on.

"Okay... let's remember to take this one step at a time. Right now, that means working on step eight. This step only asks us to make a list of everyone we've harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. You don't have to be willing when you put the name on the page. Becoming willing is part of the process."

There was still doubt on her face.

I went on. "In the next step, we're asked to 'make direct amends whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.' Whenever possible. That tells you that sometimes it isn't possible."

The tight line of her mouth began to relax. "How do you know if it's not possible or if you're just avoiding what you should do?"

"Well, it says not to make amends if it would be harmful to anyone. YOU are included in 'anyone'. If it is going to be harmful to you to make direct amends to your ex-husband, than it is not what you should do."

She looked right in my eyes, as if searching.

I made a conscious effort to hold her gaze, feeling a connection. This kind of connection still intimidates me, a little bit. In the past, I was terrified in moments of closeness because of my own history. Just in the last year, a door has been opening within me. Intimacy – elusive, longed-for and feared – is slowly coming into my life. Eye contact is a piece of that. I’ve been testing it out in my sessions with C, sometimes daring to make eye-contact even in very emotional moments. It can feel very intense, but I'm learning that intensity is not always a bad thing.

I said, “Sometimes we feel bad about our part in things, even when the other person has hurt us more than we’ve hurt them. Some of the people on your list may stay for a long time. Some may stay there forever. We can only do what we can do. We work towards becoming willing, but when it isn't possible to make direct amends, we can make them indirectly."

Her relief was palpable.

"So, in this instance, how might you make indirect amends?"

“Well, admitting it to myself is a start. Admitting it to God? Letting it go? Making sure I don't do it again?”

I smiled. “You’ve just summed up steps four through seven."

As I've come to understand them, the steps are all about ownership. Throught the steps, we come to own what’s ours. We own our pasts as we write our fourth step. In step five, we share what we’ve written with another person, which brings it all home in a new way. It’s much harder to pretend the past doesn’t exist when someone else knows.

From there, we move into owning our faults with God – first just by admitting them, and then by turning them over, and finally in asking for help as we move forward so we won’t make the same mistakes again in steps six and seven.

Steps eight and nine are the final stage of ownership. We own our mistakes with those people who were directly affected by them - with those we’ve harmed. It can be the scariest part of owning our humanness. It is also the most rewarding and entirely necessary if we want to be all we can be.

It’s only in removing all the debris of our pasts that we can be ready to move into the last few steps, which are (in my opinion) about intimacy with ourselves and with God. Like any other relationship, it isn’t possible to have true intimacy without complete honesty.

I said, “Sometimes what we need is a ritual of some kind to help signify the transition from one state to another. For instance, I have a friend to whom I feel I owe amends, but she passed away twenty years ago. Logically, I know that is a long time to hold on to my guilt. It's obviously not hurting her, anymore. Like resentments, the guilt we hold onto only hurts us. It doesn't affect the other person. That's why making amends is really about us and not about the people to whom we make them. If we are making them for other people, we really aren't getting the most out of it."

She nodded.

"As far as this friend of mine goes, I’ve written out what I feel bad about, I’ve shared it, I’ve meditated on it, but it’s still there. I can't completely let it go. I need to do something. I've been thinking about how to make indirect amends to her for more than a year and I've finally decided to plant a tree in her honor. It’s something she would love, and I believe it would symbolically help me move out of the past. It's like walking through a door. The tree would remind me that I've let it go and am now on the other side.”

She made a note next to the question mark, and then folded the pages. As she thanked me and hugged me, I felt a great sense of gratitude.

It was very helpful to crystallize my understanding of this step by sharing it with someone else. It's also wonderful to feel as if I had the right words to help her find her way through. The connections I've made with her and others who attend my CoDA meetings have enriched my life in ways that were totally unexpected and are too numerous to count.

One other thing we talked about, last night, was how different it is coming to meetings now than it was in the beginning. At first, every meeting seems to hold an abundance of growth. After a while, it's harder to see progress.

I think this is because we come into the program with a deep hole. Gradually, we fill it in with shovels full of strength and experience. Over time, it becomes a mound. I'm still climbing up onto the progress of each shovel I empty, it's just harder to notice them from up here on this mountain.

The view is spectacular.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Profound Thoughts of the Day

My brother sent me a link to this video and as I watched it, I got the same feeling I had when I did a labyrinth meditation with about twenty others, last Summer.

In a labyrinth (unlike a maze) there's only one entrance, which is also the exit. We took turns entering the labyrinth, waiting about five seconds between each person. At first, I was aware I was following and being followed by someone on the path. It became less clear as I made turns at different times from the people in front and behind me. At times, others seemed to be going to the wrong way - it felt as if they were moving in the wrong direction because they were in the next aisle going the opposite way I was.

The slow pace and the left/right movement of my feet induced an interesting meditative state. It's a sensation like the world suddenly becoming very small, but also clear and sharp. Asudden profound sense of revelation came over me.

We are all on the same path. Some seem to be ahead and behind me or going in different directions, but, really, we are all moving on a predestined path. We started and will end in the same place.

Watching the pendulum, the same sensation came over me. It seemed as if this pendulum might illustrate the feelings I could not adequitely describe fromthe labyrinth experience. 

All the balls were given the same push into life. They are all moving according to the same predetermined rules. They are going the same way within their own set track, but in so doing they create an illusion of fascinating patterns and rhythms.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Risks and Gains

For me, this has been a week of risk-taking.

Driving out to meet a friend, on Tuesday, was really scary, for me. I knew I had to make amends. I knew I needed to go into the meeting without expectations. I knew I could lose the relationship if things didn't go well.

In the past, I would not have set up a meeting like this. I would have walked away from the relationship; given up without trying. I was so constantly overwhelmed, in the past, that it was impossible to consider adding anything more to the enormous, invisible load I carried.
Tuesday’s risk was well-worth it. I went into it with the thought that even if things didn’t go as I’d like, I would have done what I could to salvage the relationship. As it happened, things went as well as they possibly could. I didn't lose a friend, but instead I gained a new kind of closeness – one which comes when two people work together to get beyond an obstacle.

With that under my belt, I felt as if I could say yes to an invitation I’d received for Thursday evening. I wrote about this in my last post. It might not sound like much of a risk - going to someone's house, but my first inclination was to say no.

In the past, I never looked at why I said no. I just automatically assumed this kind of interaction was not for me. It’s a little hard to explain why, but I thought of this analogy:
If you lived in the water all the time, you wouldn't know you were wet. If someone offered you a towel, you’d probably say no. What would be the point? You live in the water! You couldn’t even know what it was to be dry because wet is always there.

You have to be dry once in a while to even know what wet is… and I would have to be comfortable with others once in a while to know how uncomfortable I was. It was so constant before - this feeling of being overwhelmed, of having to watch everything so carefully, of judging every thought and word and action so critically - I couldn't even see it.
So, in the past, the idea of spending the evening with women who were nearly strangers would have been impossible to consider without a lot of anxiety. Those feelings were so intense, it would override any possible positive outcome. This time, I was able to stay with the boundaries I've learned in CoDA – don’t put up a wall, but also don’t spill everything that’s ever happened to me. At the same time, I wasn't overly self-conscious. By the time I’d been there a few hours, I was laughing and talking openly without having to think about it much at all.

I felt comfortable. Another risk. Another gain.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writing Exercise Submissions: A Future Free of Fear

The writing exercise I posted on Sunday came from Day Three of the Twenty-one Day Consciousness Cleanse. I've been working through this book for about a week, now.

When I was telling someone about the book, recently, she asked , jokingly, if it was like the Twenty-one Day Colon Cleanse.

I replied, “Yes, but without the diarrhea.”

Actually, it wouldn’t be hard to compare the two concepts. In both instances, the idea is to clean out the old in order to more easily absorb what’s coming in. Debbie Ford describes the purpose of the consciousness cleanse as emptying the vessel we bring to God. Spirit can only fill the space we bring. If we only have a thimble-sized gap to fill, that’s all the God we get. Purging the resentments and unresolved conflicts and emotions inside us is the way to create that space.

All of the old emotions and experiences we have refused to acknowledge and work through are debris which fill up the container we each carry with us. By looking at our feelings – identifying them, allowing them, and then turning them over to our higher power to hold for us – we not only gain the wisdom and lessons of each experience, we also make more room for God and connection in our lives.

The writing exercise was:

Write a short story about your life free from the toxicity of your past. Allow yourself to dream an easy, carefree future filled with fun and frolic. Be creative as you describe you walk, your sense of well-being, and your deep gratitude for life. Give yourself the gift of dreaming a new future.
I received one submission, this week, from Gail at “Know Your Its”

Here is Gail’s entry:

As I look back over my life I can honestly say that each experience is part of the fabric of my design. For years I tried to deny parts of my tapestry, going to great lengths to rid myself of myself. Over time I came to realize that each square of my life's tapestry has purpose, meaning, and value despite its, at times, harsh, very harsh truth. I no longer see any of my past as toxic because to do so would mean I am toxic and I am not. In order to love ALL of myself I had to accept my past as part of me, not all of me, but part. Blended with so many other life-giving experiences. Today, I can honestly say I have arrived. I am at a time in my life where I am preserving all of my world as it is - I have no great goals or projects to complete. That is not to say that I am not open to learning new things and experiencing more of life, but rather I am content in my place,my space, my world which includes all of my past, all of me. I have surrendered to my truth, embraced my past, and I am in charge now, not it. There is nothing to run from or hide from or deny - and no desire to separate myself from myself. I am whole. Amen.

Thank you Gail! I can see the hope and peace of your future. I know you are already finding it, in the present. I especially love the line "trying to rid myself of myself". That's a great way to describe the impossible task we set out for ourselves when we deny our experiences and emotions.
Here is what I wrote:

My past is a gift. Every experience I’ve had has made me who I am, right now, and I feel like a gift: to the world; to God; to those I love; and to myself.

I’m a gift waiting to be opened by those people I’ve yet to know – and they are gifts to me. Knowing this, I can walk confidently into new relationships, waiting to see what we bring to each other. Every relationship will bring me something. Those that bring love enrich my spirit. Those that bring conflict teach me about myself and the nature of all things. Those that bring me both are the greatest teachers of all.

I’ve expressed, acknowledged and walked through all of the old experiences and feelings. I’ve surrendered to them and then surrendered them to God. In so doing, I’ve gained the wisdom I was meant to gain and now I have room for so much more to come my way. Because I no longer judge fear as cowardly, tears as childish or anger as wrong, I can feel each emotion as it comes up. Because there is nothing left inside to be triggered, I am not overwhelmed by my feelings and pass through them easily, confident that I will come out the other side with more understanding and new growth. Because I allow myself to know sadness, fear and anger I can easily find the other side of each of these emotions – Joy, peace, and gratitude.

There is so much room inside me, that I am open to each experience in a new way. I am present to the moment, taking in the sights and smells and other physical sensations right along with the feelings they bring with them. The more connected I am to life experiences, the more connected I feel to who I really am. My true nature - the spiritual being inside this body – is consistently awake and connected to the great power of the universe.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who I Really Am

Nothing Can Touch Who I Really Am

Image created to illustrate one of the two "desires" I chose to focus on, in my twenty-one-day consciousness cleanse (book by Debbie Ford). I want to consistently know that what happens around me is not that important because it can't touch who I really am.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Co-Consciousness and Integration: New Thoughts

It's Day Two of the Consciousness Cleanse. I did my morning routine and read the exercises, which I will do this afternoon. For anyone who’s been in a twelve-step program, you can understand the Day Two exercises as a mini-fourth-step. My only concern with this is that I need to be able to do it in a reasonable amount of time. My fourth step took months. Debbie Ford suggests thirty minutes for the exercises. I’m going to try for an hour and make myself give up the thoroughness that I am sometimes obsessive about. (sometimes?)

I’m excited to be doing this process, and already feel shifts taking place inside me, just from reading the book and remembering to connect first thing in the morning. That said, I have something else, which is pressing on my mind.

I’m talking about the eight-year-old.

In my obsessive way, I've been exploring co-consciousness and integration for the last several weeks. I have been looking all around the internet and re-reading old message board comments I remembered seeing years ago, and writing long journal entries about these concepts.

This morning, I'm a guest blogger at author/therapist/blogger Mary Armstrong website. an excerpt from one of my blogs about the eight-year-old, on her website. The post is about the concepts of co-consciousness and integration.

Over the past few years, I’ve gradually been integrating lost pieces of myself, into the whole which I think of as “me”. This is not an easy process. It’s stressful and confusing, time-consuming and disorienting. It’s also well worth it. To have access to these parts-of-self which were previously closed off to me, is amazing. To be able to function from a place of wholeness instead of from only a fraction of who I really am, brings me a kind of peace I didn’t know was possible. It is allowing me to be more active and less reactive.

In any given situation, our actions and reactions are not only based on the current circumstances. In an instant, without effort, our minds take in our situation, categorize it based on past experiences, and then offer possible courses of action. If this didin't happen, each experience would stand alone, there would be no connection between what happened yesterday and what's happening today. It's necessary for us to exist in a time-line to have stored memories and use them in our decisions about what to do now.

For the most part, we aren’t aware of the process. In fact, it takes a great deal of effort to become conscious of this process, and even more effort to look at the suggested courses of action before moving into action. Moving forward without making a conscious decision is living reactively. Looking conwsciously at the situation and then deciding whether the messages from the past are warranted or should be ignored and then moving forward is living actively.

The more emotioanally charged your past situations are, the stronger your mind’s "suggestions" of action will be when they are triggered. If your mind categorizes your current situation as the same as something traumatic from your past, the “suggested” course of action may feel more like a demand.

For instance, if you are aware that there is something extremely hot in front of you, your mind is going to say, “don’t touch that.” If you move closer to the fire, your mind may begin screaming at you to move away. It may take a great deal of will and self-talk to override this message. If it was necessary to touch the flame – say to rescue someone else, or to keep something important from burning – you could override the message, but it would cause you a great deal of inner turmoil.

If you’ve experienced trauma, there may be unusual links inside you which trigger this same kind of turmoil. Personally, I am uncomfortable thinking of sunflowers, or dolls with eyes that open and close, and I panic if I think of something covering my face. (I actually drew in a deep breath just writing that sentance.) These may seem irrational on the surface, but because my mind has linked them to danger, it feels the same as the 'don’t touch it – it’s hot' message.

Before I began integration, I stayed in one aspect of myself most of the time. This aspect was unaware of a lot of the trauma and the links my mind had set up. I knew I didn’t like dolls or sunflowers or having my face covered, but I didn’t know why.

Because denying my past was a survival strategy I'd become used to, I didn’t look too closely at the why. I sometimes wondered about it, but the memories were not available to me and I moved quickly into another strategies. It is not possible to override the messages without looking at them closely, and that seemed impossible, so instead I would go into panic-mode. It left me feeling out-of-control, as if the world and my experiences had power over me and I had no power of my own.

As I’ve integrated the pieces of me which carried the memories attached to sunflowers and dolls and the hand over my face, I understand where the messages are coming from, I’m not afraid to look at them, and I can take that moment to decide how reactive I need to be. I calm myself down. I think, This isn’t really hot, at all. Eventually, I am able to put my finger right on that imaginary flame, and when I do I find that it can’t burn me, anymore.

So integration is the answer. Right? Well... it has been the answer that's worked for me, thus far, but then, we come to the eight-year-old.

I’ve lost count of how many pieces of my past have integrated into the person I think of as me. I thought I understood what integration looked like, for me. Although each one has been different, there were certain givens I’d come to expect.

The eight-year-old has been different from the beginning. She is much more complex; more complete. The other parts I’ve integrated were connected to specific memories, or specific ages. Despite her name, the eight-year-old is really not just eight. She seems to be made up of all the ages up until eight.

I think she is who I was before I became “me”. I’ve been trying to integrate her into me, when in reality I may have to integrate into her… and I’m not even sure what the distinction is. It feels very different in my head, but when I try to explain it, it doesn't sound different at all.

I feel a bit like I’m the infecting virus.
She seems to be the one who was here first… doesn’t that make her more worthy than me?

The things which are triggering for her are the exact things I still can’t look at closely, and consequently the messages they bring up for me are very hard to override. When she is angry, I feel angry and the anger doesn’t easily subside even when I know it is about something from the past and not about what is happening right now.

When she feels slighted, I feel an intense sense of failure but at the same time, I feel very defiant. Her message may be, I need. Mine is, I have to meet that need but I don’t want to.

I know this eight-year-old part and I have to be completely open with each other if we are ever to get past these old trauma-based triggers - and I'm not the only defiant one. She is fighting this as much as I am, even though she is pretending that it's all my fault.

I haven’t really been discussing my obsession with co-consciousness versus integration with my therapist, until today. It may seem like a surprising oversight. So much other stuff is going on and I send her so many emails but sometimes I just don’t seem to get the right pieces out there and she will say, in the kindest way possible, "you should have brought this up sooner." Unfortunately  I don't always know what is most important, and that’s probably because I am reacting to the messages being triggered by current situations.

You see why I need a consciousness cleanse?
I see that I’ve been reconsidering my position on co-consciousness, but I am aware that I am doing it out of fear – which is exactly what I’ve seen in others. I’ve felt as if integration was the more functional choice and avoiding it in favor of some kind of agreement between parts-of-self was going to be confusing and distracting. It’s interesting, to me, that now that it feels like I am the one who may be lost in the mix, I am much less willing to move into a full integration. And this feeling - this fear of being lost - is not based in reality because as I've gone through this process nothing has been lost!

The idea that she is the "real me" is bringing up a lot of stuff from the past, and so I am aware I am being reactive in not moving forward with integration. Logically, I understand that we are both real. I know that we need each other and that we are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emotionally, I feel as if my sense of being real or valid is being threatened, and this is something that's come up again and again, in therapy. Although I've worked with old messages of "I'm not real" or "I'm not important" quite a lot, it still seems to be screaming in my head, right now.

So, I am trying to override this particular “don’t touch-it's hot” message. I’m trying to get myself to walk into the fire, and accept integration with the eight-year-old, whatever that takes. I am also allowing myself to hold back until I feel more comfortable. I've had many years of separateness. I am still here, and so is the eight-year-old. I can give it time to unfold.

Holding back rather than pushing my way through is a huge step for me. It shows that I am looking closely at what's happening and so when I do proceed it will be actively and not reactively. Patience is what I need right now - for myself, for the eight-year-old - for the “us” which I'm hoping will one day simply be me.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fall From Trust's Tower

Butterfly bestowed
Upon a Shining Scarab
A lovely gift
A deserved gift

A gift I wanted for my own

Deplorable and useless
Brings a stormy dream in which
Butterfly and Shining Scarab
Laugh at me behind my back

With great difficulty
I turn away from the delusion
Spoiled leftovers of the distant past

I come to understand
The issue is only with myself
And I think Now, I can confess

But before that
Shining Scarab
Loved and gentle one
Happened upon my anger

From envy’s nightmare
My wounded child screamed,
Why does Butterfly choose you?
Does she love you more?
Does she see something in you that is lacking in me?
Does she only pretend when she tells me I’m worthy?

I claimed disappointment while knowing I was disappointment

Hope’s companion
Without it, I existed safely inside my barren cage
So familiar
So empty
I ventured to hold it's extended hand
And let it carry me high

How far I fell

Still, I held hope
That at least Butterfly was spared

But Scarab
Shining Scarab
You told Butterfly all about
My fury
My ugly envy
And my claimed disappointment

And Butterfly, in turn,
unleashed on me
Her own angry child
A torrent of projections
And unrelenting preconceptions
Sending me
Into the abyss once more

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writing Exercise Submissions: Random Topic Stories

Sorry I didn't get this up yesterday, as promised. Thank you to Desiree and Gail for their really wonderful submissions to this rather difficult writing exercise. For this exercise, we randomly chose from lists of topics which included what would happen to whom, and when, and where the story was to happen. To read the entire exercise, CLICK HERE.

Submission One:

He had just turned 94 years old. His routine was still the same simple tasks; get up, eat, take a crap (hopefully), shower, shave and walk to the corner to wait for the bus. Today was quite muggy but that's to be expected in early summer. He adjusted his red bow tie as he sat in the glass enclosure waiting...

Mrs Jenkins arrived as she always does, with her stockings rolled below her knees, scuffling along in her orthopedic shoes, sporting her bright blue hat with the peacock feather. We nodded and smiled, then she bent own and kissed me on the forehead.

"It's my birthday, Mrs Jenkins."

"Oh Mr Sawyer, Happy Birthday." She kissed me square on the mouth, 'mwah'!!

We waited patiently and then, right on time, the bus arrived. We sauntered over and carefully climbed aboard, stopping to drop our coins in to the slot.

"Oh let me pay Mr Sawyer - it's my birthday gift to you."

"Why thank you Mrs Jenkins, I accept your generosity."

We smiled and found our seats, across the aisle from one another. The bus drove off and I saw Mrs Jenkins close her eyes and surrender to the rhythm of the bus. I did the same. And then I heard a weird sound - like indoor thunder - and I realized it was me, passing gas!! I was so embarassed - and hoped no one noticed although based on what I heard that was probably not the case.

Mrs Jenkins was jolted awake and looked over at me and said, "Mr Sawyer, are you allright?"

"Better now Mrs Jenkins, better now"

We both laughed heartily and Mrs Jenkins sang "Happy Birthday" to me, and the entire bus joined in!


Thank you Gail! That left me with a smile on my face. I can just see the two old dears. :-) I want to say that when I receive these in the comments, there are never any paragraph breaks, so I insert them as I see fit. I hope this hasn't thrown off the pace of your piece.


Submission Two:
It's a perfect, early Summer's morning. The sky is clear and the birds have just set up their chorus to greet Meg as she reaches over to switch off her alarm. Even though she got to bed later than she'd planned last night, she's feeling bright and ready to face the day. She doesn't always feel as enthusiastic on a winter's morning when the weather is cold and bleak at this time.
Being a fire-fighter is a new adventure for her. It was only recently that her local Fire and Rescue Department voted to enlist their first three trainee women. Meg has always been fit, having participated in several of her school's sports' teams. At first, she'd toyed with the idea of being either a physiotherapist or a veterinary surgeon, but mathematics was not her strong point and so her applications for both were tossed out. She took a year off to travel the world, on a hugely confining budget, but came back to her hometown eager to set down her roots and to do something worthwhile for her community. When the option of fire-fighting came up, she jumped at it.
Meg has been in training for six months now and is loving it. Today is going to signal a significant turning point in her career, but she is as yet unaware of this. Cheerfully, she leaps into the shower and emerges feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. She grabs her bag as she hurriedly exits the door, but forgets to pick up her whistle, which she must wear at all times.
She has barely touched base at the Fire Department Headquarters when the alarm bell sounds. Pete has a debilitating migraine and it is decided that novice Meg should take his place with the crew going out now. She excitedly scrambles aboard and before she has even had time to think, they are racing off to the newly opened shopping mall a few blocks away. Apparently, a fire broke out in one of the eateries, presumed to have been caused by a gas leak.
This early in the day, there are fortunately few shoppers about, but they need to make sure the fire does not spread and that no one is trapped. When they arrive at the scene, it's all systems go. Meg is tasked with going through the shops and passageways closest to where the fire errupted, while the longest serving members are assigned the more hazardous task of putting out the fire and ensuring no one is unnecessarily injured. Meg heads straight indoors and follows her prescribed drill, heart pounding with the first surge of adrenalin. This is her first time 'going solo' and, although a little nervous, she's feeling confident in the knowledge that her routines are now well-established habits.
She reaches for her whistle and then suddenly realises her error. It's still hanging on the hook beside the frontdoor! Without her whistle to alert anyone who might be unaware of the fire, she realises she has made a grave error. She cannot run back outside to ask her supervisor for a spare as time is crucial. She has to face the smokey passageways without her trusty whistle. Not only is it crucial in alerting her colleagues of her whereabouts, but it is often the only thing that can save the day when someone is trapped. In a building of this size, shouting at the top of your lungs is ill-advised.
Apart from the real danger of inhaling too much smoke yourself, it uses up vital oxygen supplies. You need to get in and get out as quickly as possible, but having ensured you've covered all areas. This is where the whistle really comes into play.
Thank you Desiree... I want to know what happens next? I hope she makes it out of the fire....


And finally, my submission:
She pulled her ragged shawl tighter around her small shoulders against the early morning chill. A sharp pain sang out on the back of her upper arm. Sitting on the damp ground, she brushed at the thorns and sticks that fairly covered the coarse cloth of her shabby clothes. Having removed as much of the forest from her garments as was possible, she warmed her bare feet, first one and then the other, in her hands. Touching a tender cut on her cheek, she scowled at the memory of the men who’d chased her through the darkness, the night before, forcing her to crawl into thick brambles to hide.
It was a savory scent that had brought her to so much trouble. She’d followed it for a long way, as it wafted on the wind’s waves, the familiar fragrance bringing back lovely memories…. the soft touch of her mother’s hand... a warm fire behind them and a bowl of lamb stew on the table in front of them… she could almost taste the chunks of meat and bits of onion and carrot and - oh potatoes… yes, there had always been potatoes and the yeasty taste of hot rolls, fresh from the oven… the large form of her father smearing slabs of butter across his bread before making it disappear under his dark mustache.
But that was before her father – a distant memory – had gone off to war, and the influenza had taken her mother away. Her throat was clenched with grief, but her endless hunger drove her on towards the wonderful smell of food and a little cottage, at the edge of the woods.
Through an open window, she’d seen a loaf of fresh, hot bread, still steaming, on a table. No thoughts, just an instinctual force had driven her towards the food. She’d tried to grab the bread through the window, but her arm was too short. So, she’d climbed up on the sill, and just before she had the bread in her hands, she’d toppled inside the cottage, landing hard on the wood floor.
She’d wanted to cry out, but voices and movement in the other room filled her with panic. Quickly, she’d found her feet and started towards the window, grabbing the bread almost as an afterthought. Diving out the window, she’d thought she was free until strong hands seized her ankles. The only way free was to squirm out of her shoes and run barefoot into the woods. Her shoes – the lovely red shoes which had belonged to her mother – were gone.
There had not been time to grieve that loss.
Wait! Stop!
She’d run, shoving pieces of the bread into her mouth as she went, ensuring that she would at least get to eat it before she was caught. The brambles had saved her from being caught, and given her cover while she scarfed down the rest of the bread.
It had been delicious, and worth it, and now she would live to see another day. She got up and walked carefully across the leafy ground, towards the edge of the woods. Her feet were bruised, cut, and still chilled to the bone. She peeked out from behind an enormous oak tree. There was the cottage. There was no sign of the men.

Sticking to the edge of the tree-line, she made her way past the cottage, keeping a watchful eye out in case the men returned. The wonderful fullness of the night before was already wearing off. If she’d known she wouldn’t be caught, she’d have saved some of the bread for morning. She began to watch the ground for the signs of morel mushrooms or a wild strawberry. A little bit of red, up ahead, caught her attention and she hurried towards it, and could hardly believe what she saw.
There, at the edge of the woods, were her mother’s red shoes. They’d been cleaned and left there with a note. She put the shoes on, tying them tight as they were too large for her small feet, and then studied the note for a moment before putting it in her pocket and heading towards the cottage.
She wiped her dirty face with her hands, and brushed her fingers through her scraggly hair before knocking on the door. When the door opened, she turned her face up and there he was. His mustache was a little gray, now, but his eyes were exactly the same as they’d been the last time she’d seem him.
Her father swept her up in his arms, sobbing with joy and relief. He told her he’d returned from the war, had found out that his wife had been taken by the influenza and had been searching for his little daughter, ever since. He’d been in the cottage, speaking with the owners, asking if they had seen or heard of an orphaned eight-year-old girl in the area at the exact moment she had fallen onto the kitchen floor.

Thanks  for submitting, you two. If anyone else wants to try it, you can read the original exercise and post your story in the comments. It was fun, and it was a much needed distraction for me this morning.

Now I need to take a shower and head out to my appointment with C. I'm nervous. It's kept me up the last couple of nights. I'll let you know how it goes.


Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
Together they make up the tapestries of our lives.