Okay—I’m back.  Suitcase still sitting in the corner of my bedroom.  Mouse droppings all over my office.  River birches flaxen.  Dark cool mornings.  Silence at night save for coyotes and the occasional logging truck down-shifting out on the road.  Ahhhh…home sweet home.


My New York, Hartford, and Chicago area events were all a success, and by that I mean that I felt the love.  From high school students at my alma mater, to the women who helped raise me, now in their 70s, to friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years, to the many supportive fans who came out and said hi…it was quite frankly, a love fest.  And love fests are a good thing.

But they don’t necessarily cure claustrophobia.  As many of you know, I took a stand for myself recently in this regard, knowing that I was going to spend the next little while in elevators and airplanes and subways and buses.  Things with doors that close and don’t provide easy answers to opening them.  It was getting in my way and I wrote about it here on my blog.  In short, I was limiting myself.  I was spending hundreds of extra dollars to not have to take small planes or stay in hotels that required an elevator.   And when I couldn’t find one, I was walking up and down 15 flights of stairs in business attire, trying not to trip over my boots on lonely, dirty stairwells–and arriving to every meeting in a full sweat.  I was carrying around anti-anxiety meds just in case.  It was exhausting.


I was embarrassed and fed up and I called on the help of my new friend the wonderful therapist La Belette Rouge to share her wisdom.  She told me about EMDR, and after hearing her success story, I promptly scheduled four appointments with a local practitioner.  I wasn’t sure if it was working at the time.  Though I recalled intense early childhood memories including crying in my crib and what it was like to actually be stuck in the elevator in the John Hancock building at age five.  I didn’t do much research before I signed up for the sessions, mostly because I didn’t want to walk in a doubter.  I just wanted to get “better.”  And I’m happy to report…that I think I did.

Here’s what happened for me:  in every re-processing of my traumatic memories with the bi-tonal sounds in my ears and the vibrating paddles in my hands, I was able to see that nothing contains you.  You contain you.  Life is no better on the outside of where you are.  And short of a lifetime in prison, you can usually get out, eventually, from where you are.  And when you can’t, I’d hope for the grace to call upon the container that is me, and find solace there.

What I really got to see and feel is the amount of exhaustion that comes with drama, not unlike the driving forces of my book.  The payoff to engaging in the drama is thin compared to the freedom of non-reaction.  It’s less spiritual (though I’d like it to be moreso) than it simply is self-preservation.  It’s easier to sit on an airplane and not be staring at the door wondering when they’re going to close it, thinking about how hard it would be to get them to open it again and let you out.  It’s easier to stand in the elevator and think about what the woman next to you is wearing, or how your next appointment is going to go, or what you want for lunch, than invent and indulge a 70s horror film that has you in a blackout, stuck with a birthing woman and an axe murderer.  It just is.  I spent $500.00 to figure this out.  Well worth it.  I recommend it highly.


But here’s something else I learned.  I’m not particularly nice to myself.  In watching those mental movies they ask you to re-live in EMDR as you re-program your mind, I wasn’t often that able to be my own gentle mother.  I told myself at every turn to buck up.  Suck it up.  That there are far worse problems.  And guess what:  it doesn’t do a damn thing but make matters worse.

Mostly I was okay on this trip. I got into elevators and small planes and subways without incident, and when I started to engage those old patterns of thinking, I was gentle with myself, using the methods they teach you in EMDR. But more than being a spokesperson for those methods…my larger message is to be gentle with yourself.  If you need to take the stairs up nine floors, oh well.  It’ll be good exercise.  If you need to talk the person’s ear off next to you in the airplane, so be it.  They’ll survive.  Go gentle into that dark night.  And call it good.


Filed under City Hits, My Posts

20 Responses to LOVE FEST

  1. Oh, Laura! I am so happy that it helped. Mostly okay is progress. And what sounds even better—even more important—is that you have learned that being unkind to yourself is not helpful. That is BIG. Having compassion about your needs and finding ways to get those needs met is a lesson worth paying more than $500 to get.

  2. Welcome home Laura. This is a wise post. I agree with you that giving it up takes less energy than the drama. I am glad EMDR was a good choice for you.

  3. Donald J Stifler

    Thanks for the blog. I am very claustrophobic and will look into EMDR. You continue to teach.

  4. Laura,
    Thank you so much for sharing. I love the reminder that drama takes too much energy and being gentle with oneself. I’ve heard about EMDR and am glad to hear it helped you.

    Sorry I didn’t get into Chicago to meet you. Sigh. You offer so much in this blog.

    How is your new book coming? I wish your other books would get published because you write with so much heart.

    These blogs are so refreshing and generous. Are you making your way to be a life coach yourself in addition to the writing?

    All good things….

    • lauramunson

      That’s a major compliment, Katie. A life coach? I’m just a writer/seeker/woman who wants to understand and share. And write it all down. So probably not a life coach. I’m too obsessed with writing. You just made me smile. Nine hours back in the writing seat again today after 2 wks on the road and I’m going to take a walk with the dogs. Thanks for the fuel. yrs. Laura

  5. Hi Laura,
    Welcome home!

    I laughed reading this post because I would have done the very same things you did. I’ve gone to great expense in years past to avoid small places I can’t easily escape. It’s really comforting to know I’m not the only one.

    If I got “stuck” sitting next to you on a plane, I’d lend you my ears ’til you felt better. For years I was afraid to fly and after lots of therapy, I now love it but for a period in my life, I was the passenger who would talk a blue streak because I was scared.

    As always, your transparency helps so many people!
    Hope you come out to the Philly area in April!

    • lauramunson

      Hi, Stephanie! I SO hope I’ll be in Philly on April paperback tour. Have you tried EMDR? It’s really really cool stuff. Glad you got over your flying woes… yrs. Laura

  6. Janis Schmier

    Welcome back home to Montana, Laura.
    Thank you for sharing more of your soul. Even though I am not claustrophobic, I do have my issues. When they rear their ugly heads, I am very hard on myself. I appreciate your way of explaining that the only person in control of you is you. It’s difficult to keep Sheila’s sad song from playing, but I continue to work hard to think positively and you are a great inspiration.
    Thank you.

    • lauramunson

      Hey, Janis. Thanks for saying hi. Sheila gets really loud when she knows you are afraid, I find. A great time to kick her out. I really mean that. To envision a place where she can’t get near you, and put her there. Sometimes we have real live Sheila’s and we would be good to do the same, though not always possible. But we CAN control the inner destructive thoughts. We just have to prize freedom. yrs. Laura

      • Janis Schmier

        There’s a great resource for ridding myself of the evil Sheila on my bedside table: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is… I am on my second reading, complete with note tabs.
        I thank you from the bottom of my heart for telling your story in a way that has helped me to finally find control of my thoughts and work through a difficult time.

        • lauramunson

          Janis, you have no idea how much that means to me, especially today as I work through the regular ups and downs of a day with a teenager, a friend waiting for test results, and another in the throes of divorce. We all need lifelines. Our best one being ourselves. yrs. Laura

  7. I’m glad your trip was good! This is such a great message. Most of us are our own critic and the idea that we also should be kind to ourselves escapes us when we’re in the midst of anxiety.

    • lauramunson

      It’s pretty schizophrenic, (in laymen’s terms) when you think about it. Our worst enemy and our inner mother duking it out. Working on the inner mother…work in progress. yrs. Laura

  8. Laura,

    Good for you for overcoming the anxiety. Was wondering whether you were back and also thinking about the chaos that I would come home to if I were gone for 2 weeks. The coat closet would look like a dresser drawer, the food would be collecting mold in the frig, and I would have to change my answering machine to “I’m sorry I am buried under a pile of shit. Will call you back once I reach the top.”

    I wrote a column about your visit and the love that surrounded you at Melinda’s. It was a night that I won’t forget. Check out the picture. Glad you are home safe!

    • lauramunson

      I saw it, Wendy. Thanks so much. Love the photo. I wrote a comment, but maybe it didn’t go through. It was great meeting you and I loved your writerly presence in the room. More soon I hope. What a phenomenal evening! And yes, I am literally under a pile of shit– but it’s mouse shit. Otherwise, hubbie did a remarkable job holding down the fort. yrs. Laura

  9. Laura- this is good. I thought of you last week when I let Vance stay in his crib while I finished something. He was whining for me, but I made him wait. When I walked in and looked at his face, he burst into a great big belly laugh like only babies can do. I couldn’t help but think of the baby in your crib and wondered how it would change things if she was laughing when you went to pick her up. xoxo- Brigetta

    • lauramunson

      Brigetta– I hear that Vance has hair! Maybe that’s why he was giggling. Thanks for that image of the happy baby. Especially THAT happy baby. I’ll try it and let you know how it works! ox Laura

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