Tag Archives: fear

Thanksgiving, the TSA, and Two Cabbies

Here’s a piece I wrote for the Huffington Post a few years ago, which captures gratitude under duress.  May we all travel safely, and with GRATITUDE this Thanksgiving holiday!

 

Give the gift of VOICE this holiday season!

Haven Writing Retreats:

February 22-26 (a few spots left!)

Talking about your travel debacles is about as appealing as talking about your dreams. So I’ll be brief. I missed my flight yesterday, late night in Salt Lake City, after two prior flights, en route to Montana where I live. They shut the door in my face. There was crying and swearing involved. One of the lovely things about living in a town with a small airport: they hold the last plane of the evening. They know their passengers have paid their dues in high prices and multiple flights to get to that last leg over the Rockies, which will certainly go bumptey bump in the night. And they’re decent human beings about it. Usually.

This was the day before the busiest travel day in the United States. This was after a week of being gone from my family on a business trip in Miami, which is a great place for a business trip so I’m not complaining. Put it this way, I’m just glad that the biggest Book Fair in the country isn’t in Fargo. But if it had been, I likely wouldn’t have been wearing sandals to lunch earlier that day and I wouldn’t have likely forgotten to change into shoes, which I wouldn’t have likely packed in my roller bag and checked. I wouldn’t have been getting into a cab in a balmy 10 degrees with my homemade pedicure showing, heading to a Comfort Inn. I would have been wearing winter boots. Which would have been a good thing, since the Storm of the Century was inching its way into Utah, according to the Haitian cab driver, who seemed to be less worried about being cold and understandably more worried about things like cholera. I asked him if he had family back in Haiti. “Yes,” he said. I asked him how he dealt with it. “Day by day,” he said.

I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I had a voucher and a room waiting for me and the hope of a metal flying machine taking me home tomorrow. “What time is your flight?” he asked. “Two thirty,” I said. I saw his head shake. “Is there a problem?” I said, afraid. “The storm is coming in right around then. You might be spending Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City.”

I started feeling sorry for myself again. Who was going to make the organic bird with the organic cranberry relish and the gravy that wins my children’s hearts every year even though they’re in their disgruntled teen and pre-teen years? Who was going to turn on the Macy’s Day parade and put the cloves in the oranges and set it in a huge pot of apple cider? Who was going to make sure that classical music resounded through the house while the turkey cooked? Who was going to polish my grandmother’s silver and make sure the good linens found their way to the table for their first of three annual appearances? Would they eat at the kitchen table? Would there be television involved? Would they forget to read Truman Capote’s “Christmas Memory” at the table? Would they say grace?

I was NOT going to spend Thanksgiving in a Comfort Inn in a blizzard in Salt Lake City in my frigging sandals.

But then I remembered–cholera. Homelessness. Haiti. My little family would be just fine without me, truth be told. And if that happened, I would have the opportunity to practice thanks for not shining silver and a legacy in linens, but things like warmth and safety.

The next morning I turned on the Weather Channel. I have an obsession with this station, and I promise myself that I will not watch it prior to airplane travel, as all it does is get me worried. Who am I to know what airplanes can handle in the way of wind sheer and gusts and blizzard conditions and winter storm warnings? But I did it anyway. I watched the damn Weather Chanel for a solid four hours, fretting and updating my Facebook Page, wanting somebody to cyberly hold my hand. Should I stay or should I go? The storm was supposed to hit exactly as I was to leave. The plane would be small. The turbulence would be fierce. Two things I loathe–small planes and turbulence. I would have the chance to practice all that I’ve learned in the way of fear-busting and inner calm. I’d use that I’m-a soldier-being-rescued-from-the-jungle-fronts-by-helicopter frame of mind I’d procured in hours of therapy. I would breathe and I would practice being in the moment in gratitude.

But DAMN. “If there’s one place you don’t want to be in the country today folks, it’s Salt Lake City.” The anchor man was, in fact, standing at the airport holding onto a pole of some sort, grounding himself from the wind.

I went into warrior mode. “I have a date with a bird,” I said out loud. And I got in a cab, the power lines and Christmas decorations blowing above the streets of Salt Lake. This time the driver was from Sudan, Africa. His country divided in war. Half his family back home. “How do you handle it?” I said. “One day at a time,” he said. I’m not kidding. Both cab drivers.

So when I got to the airport and I raised my hands over my head at security in the pose that the media has been ranting and raving about for weeks, I said, “Thank you.” I smiled at the security guy–
“That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “It’s a privilege to fly, after all.”

“We haven’t had one complaint,” he said. “People want to be safe.”

It’s true. People want to be safe. And when we took off into the wind, bumptey bump over the Rockies, I gave my true thanks. I didn’t need a bird on the table to deliver it. Happy Thanksgiving.

(stay tuned for my famous gravy recipe…)

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Haven Winter Series #8

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.50.07 PMHappy Valentine’s Day! This is the eighth post of my winter writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? 

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Haven
by Yve Sturman

I’ve always been a little bit strange. I’ll admit it. I was always that kid going the other direction on the school field trip. The kid that was a proverbial thorn in the designated chaperone’s side. If we were in the woods, I’d find my own path. If we were in a museum, I’d wander off alone into exhibits tucked away in dark corners. Back then, I was driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure. Fear was the last thing from my mind. I had this same sense driving down the long winding driveway of Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana in June of 2013. Recapturing that feeling made me grin like an idiot. This was a feeling I lived for, a feeling I loved.

I was there to spend a week writing with eleven strangers and one author of a book that I had picked up in a moment of personal crisis several years prior. In a moment of adventure fueled bravery, I had sent Laura Munson some samples of my sporadic writing. I had kept quiet track of Laura over the years and had read about her Haven writing retreats. They had always been “on my radar”. “Maybe I can do that one day?” I dared to wonder. Now just a few short phone calls and several plane tickets later, I was slowly rolling toward the main ranch house in the steady deluge of a Montana downpour. I was equal parts nervous and excited. “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I thought.

Those five days spent hold up next to a roaring fire as the Montana rain softly fell outside, were to prove life altering. I rediscovered a voice within myself. My voice.  I was writing with wild abandon and I was doing so amongst the company of eleven other adventurous souls. Every single one of us grew in those five days. We could see it in each other. We grew braver and bolder within each other’s company and we became bonded in a way few will understand. I left Montana much closer to the adventurous spirit I once was.

I may have physically left Walking Lightly Ranch, but I carry Haven with me. I still write freely with wild abandon. I sit with my coffee and my laptop and again wander off into dark corners relishing what I find there. I grow and stretch myself with each keystroke and I have found my voice to the point where I have started to tell my own story in the form of a memoir. It’s a story I needed to tell and it’s proving to be quite a journey. A road paved in healing and light. A road that requires me to be brave and work hard. The “writer’s experience” Laura calls it.

I recently returned to Montana. I spent a few days indulging my inner adventurer. I got lost in Glacier national park and emerged with several new stories to write. I reunited with Laura. We talked about many things but my favorite moment was sitting across from her at a kitchen table. As we chatted, I had a moment of realization. We were talking about what it means to write and the trials and tribulations faced by writers seeking publication. In that moment I realized that my fire for writing now burned hotter than ever. I wanted this challenge. I was once again forging my own path. I had rediscovered myself and I was ready for this journey, wherever it led me.

Right Time
by Betsy Gibson

My Haven Writing Retreat came at just the right time for me, and I was certain that I would take what I’d learned and start to examine my life in exacting detail. I’d figure it all out in writing. I’d become more relaxed, more disciplined and more focused than I’d been in years. And if I got lucky, maybe I’d find something interesting in my voice. Profound, even! Yes!! Maybe I could even become the next “OH, I LOVE HER!!!” writer (notice that I am not so presumptuous as to say “author”). Stranger things have happened.

Well, a year has now come and gone, and I have failed to examine my life. I have figured out nothing—or nothing profound, I should say—and I am not one bit more relaxed, more disciplined or more focused. What happened? After all, I had thought about my Haven Retreat every day for the past year. I was still excited about the prospect of “figuring it all out” through writing. So then, How had I not acted on those thoughts? The thoughts that urged me to write. BEGGED me to write. The thoughts that said, “Come on, just pick up the legal pad and start to write!!”

Something was seriously wrong. I started to wonder how and why I had seemingly just thrown away such a wonderful, life-altering experience. I spent a good deal of time furious with myself for not fulfilling my newest “life assignment” (I view the act of writing daily as an assignment- -as a Total Type A, I love having “assignments” and tend to look forward to working on them and completing them in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something positive). At some point, though, I realized that being furious with myself was not the most positive course. So, rather than focusing on how I had wasted an entire year on “not writing”, or on writing things that resembled what I imagined the periodic rants of a very moody teen girl might have looked like, I decided to write something real. Or to try to write, I should say. Yes, maybe that would be my ticket to understanding my dismal failures when it came to my writing life (and my failures when it came to my inability to change from a Type A, always busy, always stressed former NYC lawyer to the completely Zen-like and utterly calm and seeking soul that I had planned to become through my writing). An ironic thought, yes. But maybe it would work.

So I wrote. I started with a lengthy Facebook post. I didn’t mean to, but I just couldn’t stop myself. Yet the post, too, had all of the markings of a teen girl caught in the midst of a rambling barrage of words. It was the worst thing I had ever written, and I (wisely, I think) deleted it soon after I had posted it. Why was I writing like this? What was going on?

When I looked at the Facebook post after its completion (and deletion), I had the answer as to why I had been failing myself in my writing life. And in my “life life”. It was amazing! In my post, I saw a totally overwhelmed woman who was juggling two tremendous life changes at the same time, with other severe stressors lurking in the recesses of her mind. I saw a woman who didn’t “fail” by virtue of not having fully examined her life during the past year, and who didn’t “fail” by not writing (or by not writing like a rational adult would write). No, amazingly enough, I did not see a self who had failed at all!!! I saw a self who simply had not had the time she’d needed to fulfill her goals. Thank God for small favors. It wasn’t “me”, it was the whirlwind of life all around me that had prevented me from proceeding according to schedule.

I realized, for the first time, two things through reading my stream of consciousness, “subject/ verb tense error” filled post. I realized (or was reminded) that I am, first and foremost, human. And therefore, not in the least bit perfect. Not even close. Even more telling, I realized that I am currently, and have been for the past year, fully invested in something much bigger and much more important than myself. The subject matter of my post made it clear to me that I was wrong to bemoan my inability to fulfill my particular goals. Instead, my focus over the past year had been exactly where it should have been: on the people I love and love taking care of. My focus should never have been on myself. Or on any sort of detailed analysis of my life. And I realized, in reading the post, that I hadn’t wanted it to be. That explained it. Instead of working on myself the year after my Haven Retreat, it had been my time to step up my work in the incredibly important job of fully immersing myself in my role as mother, wife, sister, daughter, daughter in law and friend. Other people needed me during that year after Haven. More than ever before. And my focus needed to be on those other people, each of whom I love unconditionally and without hesitation and without whom I would be lost. So right now, thanks to that horribly written, now deleted Facebook post, I understand why I have not been able to reach my (overly lofty) goals. I’m no longer plagued by the daily nagging questions: Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I get all of my various legal pads together and try to weave my story into something cohesive? It’s because it’s simply just not my time yet. But when my time comes,

I’ll get there. And in the meantime, I have decided that I will write what I can, when I can, where I can. If that writing is akin to a teenager’s (or even a preteen’s!) emotional diary entries, then so be it. If it is akin to a Trust Indenture, so be it. If it’s in the form of a Facebook post or an email to my mother or sisters, well, at least I’m writing SOMETHING. I may be working in the “Haven Lite” mode right now, but at least I now understand why. And my time will come. I know it. And Haven will be with me as I put pen to paper and finally begin my journey. Of that, I am sure.

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #1

Every winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

So now I hand my blog over to the first two writers in this series: Suzanne Brazil and Christie Coombs.

Now What?
By Suzanne Brazil

I woke up the last week of March 2014 and checked Facebook from my phone in bed. My talented, funny sister had started a blog. WTF?! How dare she? The big sister in me was proud but the 48-going-on-49-year-old wannabe writer in me was enraged! I was the writer in this family. At holidays, around the lunchmeat and hardening cheese tray, I got to act fake-modest whenever someone asked “when are you finally going to make us all rich by writing a bestseller?”

When, indeed…

Aside from anger, my overwhelming emotion was fear. Had I wasted all my time, all my talent, all my possibilities? I had been writing on and off my entire life but never believed I could “be” a writer. What could I do about it now? Truth was I wrote a lot of different things when inspiration struck but I finished little and submitted less.

I remembered attending a Romance Writers of America conference years ago. I didn’t write or read romance novels but it was cheap and it was nearby. I didn’t attend as a writer or author. I attended as a voyeur, a writing mouse in the corner waiting for a crumb of inspiration to fall from the plate of a “real writer.”

Something sparkly shimmered around the edges of my memory. I realize it’s the feeling I had being around other writers. I threw back the covers and headed for Google. I searched for classes, conferences, magic fairy writing mothers. Then I searched for retreats and Laura Munson’s website popped up. Her name was familiar. I’d just finished her memoir and the part about relying on forces outside her control for happiness resonated with me. I emailed for more information.

On April 8 Laura sent me a personal email. Eating lunch in my car, I read it and cried. I called my sisters and my best friend and read them the encouraging, loving email from a REAL FREAKIN’ NY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR.

On April 15, David, Montana mountain retreat guru, called and described this magical place where I could figure out if, how, why and what I wanted to write.

Then he casually said “I’ll put Laura on…” Again, WTF?! We talked for 45 minutes. I cried, she consoled. I lamented lost time, she pointed out a path forward. I downplayed accomplishments, she uplifted efforts.

I decided in April to give myself the gift of a Haven Retreat. Now what?

April  – Take a one-night writing class in the city. I’m from the suburbs. I don’t drive to the city.

May  – Take a six-week fiction class in the city. Begin a story via emails to my BFF about my mid-life crisis.

June – I now drive to the city weekly for class. Start a website. Start a blog. Start contributing to other blogs.

July – Finish fiction class. Take another. Write, revise and perform a Live Lit piece in the city.

August – Turn emails into a finished first draft of my first novel.

September – Haven… #Heaven….then home.

October – Helpful Haven Mavens critique a story about my mom. I submit. Attend another class. I’m blogging, guest blogging, publishing book reviews, interviewing published authors.

November – Based partly on Laura’s critiques, begin revision process of novel with confidence. Apply and get accepted to Novel in a Year program.

December – Query, submit and publish guest essay on popular website. Today, receive an email from publisher. Mom story has made it to final selection round for anthology.

Now what? Can you afford not to go?

Now What?
by Christie Coombs

My heart was gaping and yearned for distraction.

The hole that was torn wide open with Jeff’s death on September 11, 2001 had healed somewhat with time.  It’s true that my heart will never be completely healed.  I still feel the loss of my husband every day, but I’ve learned to live without his physical presence in my life, not because I wanted to but because I had to.

And I learned to let someone else in — even though it took me nearly 8 years.  I discovered love again.  It was a different kind of love that I felt for Jeff, but it was definitely real love.  I don’t believe love can ever feel the same anyway.  The man I was seeing seemed to understand the trauma I felt losing Jeff in such a surreal tragedy, and that made him special to me in his own rite.

Then in August, 2012, after being together for 3+ years, the man I loved, trusted and felt safe with, ended “us,” leaving my heart wide open once more. The words ‘I can’t do this anymore’  rang through my head like a broken record stuck on the most ear-piercing verse. There I was, left reeling. Alone. Feeling completely empty again.  But I would persevere, because I had to, and this time, because I wanted to.  (Somehow we’ve even managed to maintain a friendship of sorts, even two years after the breakup.)

I was determined to be ok.  I had survived worse – much worse.

So with my “month from hell” upon me — the anniversary of 9/11, my birthday and Jeff’s birthday, all within a week, our anniversary a few weeks later, and facing the empty nest with my youngest having gone away to college – I plunged back into life. I decided to do things for ME, that would make me feel ok with not being part of a couple.  I did it for 8 years, and I thrived.  I could do it again.  To help get there, I searched for an adventure.

I heard about Haven retreats from a facebook friend. I had always wanted to go to Montana, and I needed something to re-invigorate my writing.   So I took a huge leap of faith, jumped out of my comfort zone without looking back, and booked a Haven retreat.

My flight left Boston on Jeff’s birthday – September 18. Mid flight of the first leg I realized that I booked my car out of one airport, while I was landing at another. Ooops.   After some begging to the rental agent on the layover, I was able to fix that snafu. While checking in, I noticed my license had expired … 3 days prior, on my birthday. I prayed the agent wouldn’t notice. I think he did, but opted not to pay attention to it since he knew I was in a bind already trying to get a car. My little travel mess-up meant that I would drive two hours to Whitefish, but I was fine with that. I wanted to see Montana, not just go there. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, stopping on the way to take pictures and soak up the stunning Montana scenery.

Walking Lightly, where Haven is based, was amazing. I was greeted by David, a truly kind soul who walked me upstairs, and told me to choose my room. The decision was easy – I chose the room with a picture window over-looking the small lake. Haven had just become my Heaven. Any nerves I had were gone. I felt my burdens lift. Meeting the wonderful women I was spending the next four days with confirmed that this was just the distraction I needed. Over the course of that time, we wrote from the heart, pouring out the details of our lives that defined us, tormented us, amused us and excited us, with Laura Munson, our writing mentor, at the helm. We laughed, we cried, we laughed some more, we encouraged each other and we constructively critiqued each other’s written word.  We became friends – Walking Lightly Sisters in Writing friends.

Since then I’ve gone on another Haven retreat, this one in Los Cabos, Mexico. It was very different from Montana, but the women, fellow Cabo Wordshakers, were equally inspiring, as was Laura, and the environment. I came home with more new friends and a renewed appreciation for my own writing.

Through Haven, I gave myself the best gift ever, one that I knew I truly deserved – the gift of self-recognition, acknowledgement, and time for myself.  And in return, Haven gave me confidence in my writing, and courage to face, rather than run from, that which we can’t control.

 

 

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Haven Winter # 9

What is inspiring you?  I hope that you can ask, in the dormancy of winter:  what would happen if I took a stand for myself?

This is the last in a series of nine guest posts:   For the last few winters, I’ve offered up my blog as a place for writers to share. I believe in generosity.  I also know how important it is for writers to write.  To that end, I’ve spent a few weeks posting the alive and brave words that people who have come to a Haven retreat are willing to share.  Read these words.  Consider this experience.  Play around in curiosity and wonder.  I hope that my blog will honor all of us who sit in the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.

That’s what I’m doing.  Quietly.  For these weeks.  Please think about taking this time for your heart language.

 

The Power of Taking a StandJacquelyn Jackson

The Haven Retreat had ended just seven minutes earlier.  I could still feel the warmth of the goodbye hugs we shared after breakfast, a gentle Arizona sun at our backs.

At breakfast, I picked at an egg-white omelet while Laura read to the eight of us gathered for our last meal in the Tack Room at the Tubac Golf Resort, 20 miles north of the Mexican border. Laura talked about accepting what was and was not within her control.

“Our happiness,” she read from her book, “Our ability to love, to be in a place of harmony with ourselves and beyond – is not outside ourselves…it’s all here. In us. It always was.”

Tubac offers a haven of earth, air, fire and water: elemental grounding that made it easy to release anxiety and doubt. The sentry strength of the Santa Rita Mountains, rugged and ancient, protects the eastern border. Blue-sky-fluffy-white-clouds, straight out of central casting, demonstrate the artistry of spun air. Candles fired our way each day and water, so spare and revered in the Sonoran Desert, shimmers in man-made lakes and the nature-made Santa Cruz River meandering to the east.  This elemental beauty, laced with Laura’s words, beckoned us to take a stand for our deepest truths.

While we were invited to share our work only when comfortable, Laura mandated to those who arrived with a stuck-book inside a written one-sentence book statement.

I have researched and written extensively on the female body; I executive produced the documentary version of The Body Project, a book by Cornell Historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg.  My writing has focused on the impact of external female body obsessions on internal health and well-being.  The burning question I have pondered for years: How do we revere internal over external and more deeply respect and heed the body’s innate wisdom.

Despite, or maybe because of, my years of pondering some form of “body” book, I struggled to write one concise sentence. Rewriting, striking out, groaning and starting again, I finally wrote this:  My story of overcoming fear and finally and fully returning home to my body and voice.

After the retreat, I mulled my statement, especially “overcoming fear.”  I googled “women and fear” and a litany of collective fears spilled forth: aging, rape, violence, feminism, not being liked, loving too much, power, obesity, leaning in, success, failure. And these from other parts of the world: death for driving or revealing an ankle in public.

In 2011, my life was slimed with fear and anxiety.  On a bright blue January morning, I witnessed the mass murder of dear friends in Tucson when one insane man came gunning for Gabrielle Giffords.  I escaped death by seconds but did not escape watching the gunman kill and maim my friends. Eleven months later my beloved brother went from running 10K’s to dead in seven days. A brain tumor we did not know he had.

I was faced with two choices: survive the terror and feel my way back into my body, or give up.  I chose breath work, yoga and therapy. Writing the book statement helped me see, in one declarative sentence, the heart of my story. Fear, I realized, has been lodged in my body for many years. The acute fears of 2011 led me to unearth older fears that lingered deep inside. The act of excavation strengthened my body and voice.

And now it is three months after the Haven Retreat in Tubac, and one month into a new year, and the courage infused by the Haven Retreat has exploded in my world.  In this first month of 2014, I gave notice, landed a weekly column, sold our house, bought a new, smaller house and got a dog – Benny – a white fluffy mix who was found wandering the mean streets of Tucson. I still have not lost the 15 pounds I want to let go of but I am a bit cocky about the stand I am taking.

I doff my hat to Laura, whose X-ray vision sees within what we sometimes cannot see for ourselves. Her warmth and sincerity are like a gentle flame, luring us out of ourselves.  Her fierce spirit exerts a midwifery force, compelling the creative inside to birth itself into the world.

I am heading to Montana in June for one more slice of the Haven pie.  My advice: take a stand for who you are and what you know – the results are delicious.

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Breaking Point: #15

The robins have come back to our little mountain town in Montana.  Every year when I spot the first one, I feel chosen.  I feel grateful that we are something to return home to or at least something that isn’t considered a threat to animal instinct and migration patterns.  Every morning, I open the door to the darkish Big Sky and take three deep breaths.  After a winter of these mornings where we are frozen into dormancy and my breaths sting in my nostrils, now in March I linger on the front porch and look at how winter is coming apart.  The snow is waning in the grass, pulling back to reveal last fall’s detritus; a lost sneaker…a trowel…a deflated beach ball.  And it’s funny, as much as I have longed for warmth and sun, riding my horse in the woods, and the feel of lake water on my skin, now that I know the freeze is behind me, I drag a bit.  I’m not sure I want to come alive again just yet.  I have a novel to finish writing.  I don’t want to deal with last Fall’s lack of yard pick up.  I’m not quite ready to tend the blooms of my garden which will soon come in profusion.  I just want to sleep a little longer.  One more week.

Today’s  Breaking Point story is about new life.  It invites us to see how we resist it, and in the end, if we choose to live, we must welcome it as gift and even rescue.  Even when it’s scary.  yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Tracy McAlister Mackay, who blogs here.

“Nice Is Not True Anymore”

Sunday:

An impromptu lunch: we drive along a quiet sunlit island road and my life stops. A slow/quick whoosh sound/feeling goes through my body, out of the blue. Then black. The lights of my life are switched off.

“I think I am fainting.” I don’t want to scare my children. “I think I need to go to a hospital” I say to my husband who knows I hate hospitals. I hate needles. IV’s going into my veins, I avoided in both pregnancies. I have fainted at the thought. Intermittently, over the years, everyone faints – right?

We go home. It is disturbingly wrong, this feeling. I lie down.  I know how to relax but this irregular, physical, fearfulness envelops me. It takes too long to subside.

Monday:

“We won’t be long, just going for a few tests,” leaving our teenage children at home at the end of the workday.

I am connected to a monitor in a cardiologist’s office. Within minutes he asks me: “Has anyone ever mentioned…electrical block in your heart?” or words to that effect. Instantly, I feel very small and weak. I feel my husband’s look. I quietly say “No.”

I receive news I never want to hear. Admission to hospital is immediate.

“No,” I say in a voice of distress.

‘NO!!’ I hear in my head. ‘NO my children are at home alone– close family are scattered worldwide.’

A wheel chair awaits us. The movie has now begun; I am a character and audience all in one.

“Things like this don’t happen to Tracy,” my sister says later.

The Intensive Care Unit becomes a hotel suite in my mind, ‘I need this, I have been so tired lately’. The signs on the walls, a blur of Greek and English, are clues but we don’t see them, my husband and I.

The needles and IV’s no longer contain fear. I need to sleep, awakened often by alarms.  The heart rate monitor shows numbers that seem very low. I won’t look. I decide to trust.

Tuesday:

A whirlwind trip begins through the streets, roundabouts and highways of my life for 7 years. I lay with the gentle flow of oxygen caressing my nostrils.

‘What’s that noise, Tracy?” my husband asks from a distance, checking in from work, the school run and hospital visit complete. The ambulance siren answers.

My Swedish friend prays, I know… ‘Be still and know that I am God’ sings in my mind, the soundtrack of my new journey. I see streams of cars halted as we race to Nicosia, the capital. I will not leave until I receive my new normal.

Wednesday:

“Are you ready?” they asked, as they wheel me off.

‘NO’ I shout in my head and think, ‘You should be nice, Tracy.’ I stare at my husband and the medics looking back at me. I nod. A pacemaker implant is the lifesaver, they agree. Nice is not true anymore.

Life has taken a tectonic shift. Wires are placed, through a tiny hole in my wrist, into my heart. I doze in and out of this movie that has now become a reality…

The little titanium object is meticulously placed in a pocket above my breast by a cardiologist who stitches the neatest of lines. Needles and thread no longer have the same meaning for the textile artist lying there. My tools of art become the tools to save my life.

It is finished.

“Hallelujah,” I say out loud to my cardiologist, the stranger who now joins the great men in my life. Hallelujah to the new life I will soon discover.

4 months later we built my “Shed with the Chandelier.”

 

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Breaking Point: #10

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  

yrs. Laura

Today we have two Breaking Points.

One of desperation…

Submitted by: Victoria, in London

Sitting in the hall way of my small modern flat.  Just me.  Although the walls were bright, it was dark with no natural light.  The walls were moving in.

What were my choices, there must be choices.  Swinging my straggly hair and becoming aware of an odour I wondered when I last had a bath.  Did I need to do something?  It didn’t matter.  I could not do anything.  I would sit and wait.  And wait some more. Something would happen, it always did.

I could hear the buses in the road and was aware that life was carrying on outside.  Buses, bikes, cars, people bustling, on the way to and from the shops, the bus stop, the park, the library.  But nothing was changing.  It was still the same.  No one was coming to rescue me.  No one was going to knock on the door and solve everything.  If the phone rang I would not be able to ask for help, again.  I cannot ask.  Who would understand?

And what if I tell?  The look of pity and incredulity at my words would be the last pebble that made the earthquake begin.  And it may never stop.  Not ever and this may be the end of the world. The world which is my world which is the only world that I can know.  How am I supposed to know another person’s world, how is that possible?  Which brings me back to here.  And the walls and my bad hygiene because I have no energy to go the bathroom not 3 steps away.

Get the clothes and bury myself, pile them on myself and hide in them so that I do not exist, no one could see me if anyone was here.  Finally, I am not here I am sorted out and I am just a blouse, or a towel or a piece of fabric and no one can tell that I am in the pile of things so I can stay here forever, un noticed.

But no one is here.  And there is no one to see that I am not here.  I know that I am here and I still feel the same.

Nothing has changed, nothing is better and I cannot do this any longer.

And one of healing

Submitted by: Merris Doud

God helps us in times of need even when we want nothing more to do with Him. In my case, He used my dogs to help me through the days following the death of my daughter, Sarah.  I never blamed them, never questioned their love for Sarah or me, never felt anger towards them. They were the perfect instruments for God to use. In the split second that it took my brain to process the words “Sarah took her own life,” my world lost all meaning.  My husband, Mike, had taken the dogs to be boarded.  When I was able to move – to speak, I asked him to bring them home.  As I lay on my bed, feeling a brand of pain that I could never have imagined, the dogs ran in and excitedly jumped on the bed. They immediately sensed that something was horribly wrong and quietly settled, lightly molding their bodies against mine.   Soon they slipped into their afternoon routine, gently snoring as they napped.  They didn’t move; they didn’t speak; they didn’t cry.  They were just there, warm and alive and touching me. And it was comforting, so much more comforting than being told that Sarah’s death was God’s plan, that time would take the pain away, or that Sarah was now in a better place.

Throughout the months that followed, I moved through my days vowing never to love anyone or anything again.  The dogs were always there, either laying on the bed beside me or collapsed like speed bumps on the floor beneath my desk where I tried to work.

I begged anyone who would listen for an explanation, and it infuriated me when they shook their heads looking through me – offering nothing. I felt no such rage towards the dogs.  I asked them no questions; they gave me no answers.  I didn’t expect that from them.  They looked at me in the same way they always had – no pity in their eyes.  Nothing had changed in our relationship, no awkwardness – no impatience for me to get up and carry on.

One morning I woke up to find Maggie, the abandoned pup that Sarah had brought home, standing over me.  She cocked her head to the right then to the left. I swear she smiled as if to say, “There you are. I’ve missed you.”  And I felt something other than pain for the first time since Sarah died. Encouraged, Maggie bent over me, wagging her tailless backside with such vigor that she nearly toppled over. Then she began showering me with wonderful, wet kisses, her sweet puppy breath warm against my skin – awakening my capacity to love. Watching this action from the foot of the bed, Annie, who Sarah had rescued from an animal shelter, jumped up and joined in, happy that we were kissing again.

I believe that was when I started to heal.  Not then, but now I see that in that moment , God revealed to me that there was still joy in my world – not joy as pure as before,  for it would always be filtered through the pain of losing Sarah, but it was there, nonetheless. Both Maggie and Annie are gone now, their purpose fulfilled.  They were special dogs whose lives began as unwanted strays and ended as the esteemed channels that God used to touch me and give me a glimpse of hope.  For without hope – without love, we’re just passing time – waiting for the lights to go out.

For Annie and Maggie

I miss you guys

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Begging the Bear

I went for the smell of wild roses pulsing in the vanilla of Ponderosas. For the June blues and purples: penstamon, flax, lupine, geranium. I went for the ninety-degree heat and cobalt skies after so many months by the wood stove, wearing a shawl. I went for the view from the ridge, to see what my valley looks like, green. I went to remind my horse that I am his leader in a fence less place. I went for sunburned shoulders.

My horse sees her first. Ups his head, pricks his ears.

“Hello?” she shouts up to me. “Could you wait a moment?”

We wait there on the ridge. You wouldn’t not.

“Say, I was wondering if you might come with me up the trail a bit. Seems like Logan and I can’t ride out here without a bear encounter. Just saw a mama and three cubs. Logan here doesn’t like bears. Doesn’t like the sight of them. Doesn’t like the smell of them. Of course, the whole woods smell like bear this time of year. It’s funny—the bears never used to bother him.”

I take in a clandestine sniff. Smells to me like roses and Ponderosas.

Read the rest here at the Parelli blog

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Wild Horses. Wild Mind.


A few words about fear, wild horses, and a wild mind. Please come say hi over at the Parelli website. yrs. Laura

I used to believe in facing fear head on. That fear was a force built for opposition. That in order to dash it, you had to bust through it. Suffice it to say that I spent many years walking down the dark alleys of the mind and the physical world. Somewhere in there, I realized that just about the best place to face and bust and dash fear was on the page—in the empathetic act of climbing into someone else’s shoes and seeing what life was like outside my own dark alleys. And I dwelled there exclusively for twenty years, cutting my teeth on city mean-ish streets, and then the Rocky Mountains and the reality of grizzly bears and mountain lions. And then I had kids. And then I knew paralytic fear. And then I found horses. …(for more click here.)

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HAVEN Newsletter– November

The November HAVEN Newsletter went out today to email inboxes around the world. It’s so exciting how the internet has us connecting and sharing in the field of heart language. For those of you who would like to sign up to get HAVEN delivered to your email, click here. Sign up is in the left column.

Next month’s theme will be: Pilgrimage.

I’d like to share the heart of this month’s HAVEN with you here. Please share your stories in the comments section. That’s what it’s all about. My guest, the wise writer and therapist, Stephanie Baffone will be there to respond. The subject: HEAD NOISE. The stories we tell ourselves and how we learn which ones to believe…

(More about HAVEN)

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LOVE FEST

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.

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