Category Archives: Insights, the Greatest Gifts
Twenty plus years of working as a therapist in various settings has allowed me to meet hundreds of people in all walks of life. What they teach me is often profound. These are but some of the gifts I have gained.
“You cheating son of a bitch! Muriel screamed at him. .. This is the first line of my novel Death in Disguise…. It took me ten years to get that on paper to my satisfaction. Why? Not because I had writer’s block, no I actually wrote the first rough draft in several months – ten years ago. It was because no matter how many times I changed scenes, sentences, fleshed out characters, I was AFRAID it was not good enough. So it sat on a shelf.
Everyone talks about writer’s block, but not many talk about writer’s fear. Perhaps one is a sub-category of the other. It was fear of rejection that kept my story on the shelf. Not fear that some publishing house would reject me. That is part of the process and I didn’t mind that. It was fear of… this is my first attempt out the door and if it is not a proper representation of what I think I can produce, what I want to produce, I’m screwed.
Over the past ten years I’ve written profusely and have a lovely array of binders containing double spaced, red inked, drafts of novels no one has ever seen. There was a problem with this, envy. I was, still am, envious of musicians who perform, artists whose work hangs somewhere, anywhere. Basically, anyone who creates and the public, even just their friends and family, gets the opportunity to share their creations. A writer does not have such availability unless they are read somewhere. Usually, that means by being published.
Yes, there are probably thousands of people who write and have no desire to have anyone’s eyes see their final product. That’s great, but that’s not me. It took taking a series of classes called, Writing from the Heart, a class designed to decrease if not eliminate fears holding writers back, to propel me through a quagmire of my design. What was it that bound me? Perfection.
I was a performer growing up and if you have ever been a performer or athlete you know the importance of doing better than your best to stay alive. Somewhere along the line, doing better than my best became doing it perfectly. Either no one ever told me perfection was not possible or I did not listen. I believed that perfection was obtainable if I applied myself accordingly.
When I performed, if I didn’t win top award or get audience response like I thought I should, I could review what went wrong, rehearse and practice more, harder until I got the results I wanted. In writing this is not so easy. In the first couple (hundred) drafts, I was the only eyes looking at the work. There was no coach telling me the weak points, the boring points. Sure, I could have hired an editor, but I didn’t have the money. Not having extra money, in my mind, meant it better be the best it can be before a professional editor saw it.
I thought, I could get family and friends to read and just tell me what they think. Give me constructive criticism. Some said they would, but never did. Others went as far as to take a copy or download the file, but forgot they had it. It was devastating and I took it personally. Thoughts like: is that all I mean to them, they really must think I write horrible, they don’t support my passion, they don’t care. The depression that followed was sometimes unbearable. The depression was caused by ME!
It took me years to relax and say, so what. The people not wanting to read or saying they would and choosing to not read, that is something with them, not me. Most of the time I doubt there was anything malicious to their behavior. I made it malicious and I allowed it to affect my relationships and thoughts. There are many reasons a loved one or friend would choose not to be involved or read something a writer has written and I had to learn to respect that and not see it as rejection.
I got lucky when my parents asked to read one of my drafts and …. loved it. I think to their surprise. I gave them another one. By the end of the year they had read all the drafts on my shelf. I eagerly listened to their critiques and chose the stories they enjoyed the most. One of my daughters came forward and agreed to do some edits. She read the story and said, “Mom, I couldn’t put this down.”
I guess it is along the lines of what Jesus said. Something about a person needing to leave their home in order to be recognized and listened to. I’ve heard this in various ways, not just writing. Nurses telling me their families don’t listen to them because, they know them, grew up with them. How can you possibly know as much as this stranger who has the same or less experience. I digress.
What this has taught me is another lesson about myself and my desires with my writing. It was not enough for me to have others read my work. I wanted people in my intimate circle to be a part of the experience. If you don’t write you may not understand this, but writing is such a passion, such a part of the soul of the writer. Writing is like screaming in the forest at night and hoping someone hears you. “Listen to me! I want to share this with you!”
Once again, I had to reassess this. Family and friends can be supportive without reading. I came to realize they do this all the time. I could relax again and move on. I decided to publish the Indie route. Not because I didn’t think I was good enough for a large publishing house, but I wanted to have complete control over the process. It was a steep learning curve and I wanted to know it all.
I created this baby, why not be there to design the nursery and do the actual delivery? I guess by nature I am a DIY (Do it yourself) person. Expand the brain cells and learn new skills. Challenge myself and face making possible mistakes. This was a big jump from harboring in my room afraid of not being perfect.
I can still hear a certain writing mentor in my life’s journey poo pooing an x-student when their first novel was published. There was a scrunching of the nose, a wave of the hand and the comment, “Well, she could have done better.” Each step of my journey I heard those words. Ah yes, wanting to impress the mentor, the coach. Make them proud! Bull shit!
Those words spoke volumes about that mentor’s frame of mind. It was not about celebrating another writer’s victory over fear and pushing his/her self to release their creation to the world. Once I realized I didn’t have to impress anyone, I could release those words and be free to create and share.
That is where I am now. My E-book Death in Disguise by D.Hill just came out on Kindle and will be out on Amazon in paperback in 90 days. It’s a murder mystery that takes place in the 1950’s. I’m ecstatic! I think. Now I face a whole new set of demons I place in my own head. Is there ever an end? Sure, If I make it so.
If you write or want to write, my advise to you is evaluate the thoughts you tell yourself about you, your writing and your expectations about people in relation to your writing life. Then write! Just do it! Remember, there is no such thing as perfection.
Here is the back cover synopsis of Death in Disguise:
Kelly Anders is a beautiful woman with a secret that kills. When she disappears from the scene of a 1955 brutal murder everyone is stunned. Especially her boyfriend, Al Brodrick. Her disappearance spawns a gruesome spree of sexual assaults and mutilations leaving the small police force of Highgate Falls baffled and town’s people terrified. Accusations fly as Highgate Falls realizes things are not always what they seem. Al Brodrick joins forces with retired FBi agent, Ira Jonesson, and the local police to stop the predator from killing again and to find Kelly Anders – if she is alive.
I have a demon that sits on my shoulder. Its name is They. I’ve had it on my shoulder for more years then I can remember but didn’t realize it was there. It is insidious, cunning, charming and just malevolent and I have been listening. The result, I often reformat my thoughts, actions and feelings about me and the world without any real examination of what I am doing.
You may know this demon. I have seen it on many of my friends, family and clients. I’ve learned to recognize its influence on others and find this easier to do then prevent myself from being blindsided by the demon that haunts me. You can recognize the affects of “They” when you hear yourself or others make comments like: They told me to do it. They won’t like it. They think I’ll fail. They told me so-and-so does not like me. They think I’m boring. They won’t care if I disappear. They said it can’t be done. They think I’m horrible. They think I’m not worth the ground I walk on.
“They” is a really interesting demon because it can play both pitcher and batter. For example, let’s say you and your significant other are having a disagreement. Not only can the demon “They” on your shoulder tell you things like; he doesn’t love me, he doesn’t understand me etc.
If there is a demon, “They”, on your significant other it might coax your SO to say things like, I think you’re a moron. You are wrong. Everyone things you are an ugly piece of sh-t. …. You get the idea.
Notice the insidious of this… The demon “They” when playing ball with another of its kind can change forms to be I or You or He or She.
The good news is that demons CAN’T force you to think, do or say anything you don’t want. So how do you go about protecting yourself? No, it’s not as easy as just saying, in the name of Jesus be gone…. Why?
I give you this modern day parable.
An old man is in a row boat with oars floating aimlessly about a mile from shore. He is a survivor of a horrific storm that blew him too far from shore to return. If he doesn’t make it back he will die from lack of water, heat stroke or maybe he might capsize and be eaten by sharks. So, he prays for help. In 99.9% of cases that prayer will strengthen the will power of the man. Give him guidance, endurance, perseverance to aid him in accomplishing his task but it won’t self-propel the craft to shore.
The man has two oars. He has to do his part. Maybe he’s rowing along and a ship appears. Or the tide shifts and he find oaring is easier or he moves through the water faster. We can call these acts of grace, acts of God, the Universe, Karma. No matter what, the man is still doing both rowing and praying/meditating on the desire for assistance and a positive outcome.
Now back to our demon problem.
First we have to identify that we have evil inclinations around us, trying to influence us. You can’t have positive energy without negative. I don’t care what name you wish to give this negative energy, words are words. What matters is the effect this energy can have on us. So, identify when you hear yourself thinking, acting or feeling something (especially all of the sudden) in the ways discussed above. Identify the negativity exists and you are buying into its reasoning.
Second, tell yourself you don’t have to listen, don’t have to act on what you are being told. Check the facts, pray or meditate about it, invoke the name of a deity, but take a stand. I’m not going to listen.
Third, replace those horrible messages with mindfulness, loving messages. Directly reverse what you are hearing. Shout them loud if you have to. Write them on post-it-notes and display them around the house. Do this often on a daily bases.
Finally, if you do assess the situation and find you are involved with someone or people who usually listen to the demons on their shoulders and act in accordance, you have two choices. Make yourself demon proof and stay involved with those people or shake the dust off your shoes and move on to healthier people who will see and encourage the goodness in you.
We hadn’t seen each other all summer. For the past two years we’d taken a writing workshop at a place called Write from the Heart run by Melissa Green. It’s designed to encourage writers to put behind the critics of the past and learn to listen to their inner, creative voices.
On a whim, I asked my friend to check out an Irish Pub in Lancaster and she agreed. We got lost, driving literally in circles for over an hour saying things like, “Didn’t we pass that pizza place before?” Yes, we have.
Out of the blue, my friend says, “You know, there is some reason we’re supposed to be going in this circle. There is something or someone in the center of this circle that’s going to become very important to us. Isn’t that exciting? I wonder what it will be.”
A day later, both of us have talked to and signed up with Melissa Green’s Write from the Heart. Her place is located smack center of the circle we forged the night before. This event is not surprising to my friend and intriguing to me.
Melissa’s studio is an hour from us and I quickly find that the conversations to and from are not only affirming but spiritually awakening. My friend and I have had near death experiences and are on the same wave-length. Together what blossoms are beyond what either of us could ever accomplish alone.
Life happened and each of us had to stop attending the workshop for various reasons. That was the beginning of the summer. Although both of us stated we felt spirit was taking us in new directions, to build on the journey we started with Write from the Heart’s wonderful experience, it was saddening.
The summer for me was plagued with death, multiple surgeries for my daughter, trying to run a new business and learning to live minus one income. Every week when time came for our normal rendezvous for class, I could feel my heart and soul ache. Yes I missed the class, my writing buddies and Melissa. But what I really missed were the conversations on the drive to and fro.
It hit me, this was ridiculous. Call the woman and get together. We don’t need to drive to Lancaster to have spiritual conversations and enlightenment. We can go someplace else and talk. Gettysburg pops into my mind but I dismiss it. I want someplace spiritual, not historical. I think The Grotto.
The Grotto is a Catholic shrine to Saint Elizabeth Seton. It’s a fabulous place to relax, pray, meditate or just enjoy the mosaic art works and mountain environment. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl. This is one of the places I normally hit in times when I need to clear my head.
I gave her a call and find out she’d been experiencing the same longing. So we eagerly set a date, her house for dinner with her family then a drive to The Grotto.
Just as I’m getting in my car, a horrendous storm hits but I keep going. The main road leading from my house to my friends surges with rising flood water. Cars stall, truck-made waves wash over entire vehicles. I pull into a parking lot, pull out my cell phone and call her. There is no way I am continuing. It’s too dangerous.
She tells me she is only a couple miles ahead of me on her own way home. She is looking at blue sky. I look out into the distance and see a small patch of blue. Okay, I’ll keep coming but I tell her The Grotto is no longer an option. She says, “Let’s wait and see which way spirit takes us.” I agree and head out into the flooding street.
By the time I get to her house, the sky is blue, the rain gone and the roads just wet. We have a great chicken potpie dinner with her family and she says, “Well, what do you want to do?”
“I want to go to The Grotto,” I tell her. I’m looking out her kitchen window at the soggy ground. I don’t even know if The Grotto is open at seven o’clock on a Thursday evening. What the hell? “Let’s do it.”
We get in the car and drive the half hour to The Grotto while catching up on our summers. It’s a quick drive to the Catoctain Mountains. We climb the narrow road up the mountain and stop short. There is a gate across the road. The Grotto, situated at the top of the mountain, is closed.
“Now what do you want to do?” She asks me. “Where do you think spirit is leading us?”
Gettysburg pops back in my head. I am reluctant to say anything because I feel like I’m obsessed with Gettysburg Battlefield. But the feeling is strong enough to speak. “I keep thinking Gettysburg.”
“Oh my gosh! I’ve been thinking about Gettysburg all day! When you called I thought, Gettysburg! We need to go to Gettysburg. That is why The Grotto is closed!” This, in an odd kind of way, makes sense to me. I turn the car around and head to Gettysburg.
There are several exits into the borough and town of Gettysburg from US 15. She didn’t care which one we took. She says, “Clear your mind and head in the direction you think we are supposed to go.” I took the Taneytown exit and wound up on the battlefield.
It’s now 6:45 pm. As we enter a main thoroughfare of the National Park grounds my friend says, “Whenever I come out here, I get this feeling that says stop. There is something about that location that I’m supposed to experience.”
“Okay, well, if you get that feeling, tell me and I’ll stop.”
“Stop.” She immediately states so I pull over. We are about one hundred feet from the old Cyclorama overlooking the high water mark of Picket’s Charge. “Did you see him?” She asks me.
The park is surprisingly busy for a Thursday night in September. The series of bad storms rolling across the county would have fettered any daytime visit. It looks like a lot of out-of-town guests are taking advantage of the evening’s clear weather. Among all the cars and people wondering in and around canons sits an older man with a very large, Irish Wolfhound. Yes, I’d seen him. He and the dog were hard to miss.
We get out of the car and wander over and say hello. The dog’s name is Tanner. He stands seven foot four inches on his hind legs and weights two hundred and forty pounds. He is without a leash and his owner informs us it’s not necessary.
The name of Tanner’s owner is not reveled to us. This is okay because we are also nameless. We spend a short amount of time exchanging niceties. He lives in Gettysburg and routinely walks his dog around the battlefield looking to meet interesting people and soak in the spiritual nature of the location. Normally, he states, he sits on Little Round Top but tonight he was called to sit where we found him.
The conversation takes a turn. The man has had a near death experience that changed his life. We haven’t told him we share this trait and my friend shoots me a look of, see I knew there was a reason we were supposed to stop here. For about an hour we talk about crossing over, God, the universe, life as we know it and this place called Gettysburg. The whole time we are talking, I keep looking over at several cannons and ammunition wagons positioned where original cannonades resonated across the field.
Tanner’s owner has not experienced anything he would call paranormal on the battlefield but definitely has at his home. He sees the battlefield as alive, as spiritual and it calls him here. My friend shoots me another affirming look.
I have experienced things on the battlefield and I tell him so. This prompts him to talk about a friend of his who writes books on ghosts in Gettysburg. He’s questioning some of the stories his friend has written which I think is funny considering he just told us several personal, paranormal stories. I start telling him about my experiences with unexpected things in photos, voices and sounds I’ve heard, odd smells and apparent apparitions on or around the battlefield.
It’s nearly, completely dark. Tanner’s owner looks over at the cannons I’ve been eyeing off and on and says, “Don’t they look lonely? I often think of them as animated. They spend all day being touched, having their pictures taken with people, telling their story. But by night, they are lonely sentinels on this sacred ground.”
This hits me, really hits me and I take a photograph of with my cell phone and send myself a message that reads, lonely cannons. It’s profound in my mind, but I don’t know why.
The conversation comes to a natural conclusion and we get in my car. Tanner and his owner get in theirs. We beep goodbyes and go our separate ways never having exchanged names. We are just three people drawn to a place in time for an unexpected conversation.
My friend has never been on the battlefield after dark. It’s a profoundly sobering time to visit. There is a minimal amount of visitors. The place is quiet, shadows deep and the mind can better attempt to sink in what happened on those three horrific days in history. It’s incomprehensible. No matter how many times I visit in an attempt to understand it won’t sink in.
I deviate from the Auto-tour route to show her several of my favorite monuments and end up beside the area known as The Wheatfield. Our car windows are down. The air is different here. I’ve been here many times and I’ve never experienced this feeling. It’s a tingling on our skin like static electricity, our throats feel tight making it hard to swallow and my friend feels a bit queasy.
I have no intention of stopping the car. We round the bend and the feelings stop – for both of us. I pull the car over and we try to process what happened. It was damn odd and not pleasant. Both of us have experienced heightened energy before. Times when the air is charged where there are high magnetic fields, standing near large electrical towers or during lightening storms. That’s what this felt like.
I pull the car back onto the road and we drive through the woods and end up at Devil’s Den. To my surprise there is only one other car here. Usually, at night, I find this is the most popular place to find other visitors.
I stop the car and we get out. Using the light from my phone as a flashlight, we wander past the granite megaliths known as Devil’s Den and walk up the road around to the back of the rocks. In the not-to-far distance we hear the sound of a rumbling explosion and stop.
“Thunder?” She asks.
“Too low,” I reply and we stand quiet waiting to hear it again. We don’t and I tease, “Its cannon fire.” Then add, “Maybe there is a reenactment nearby.” We shrug it off and return to walking up the darkened hill.
At the top of the hill, directly behind Devil’s Den is a very tall, lone tree. It stands very close to the location where my hubby captured a white form of what looks like an apparition of a soldier. My friend identifies the tree as a place where she and a cousin spent several hours sitting and soaking in warm, positive energy.
Devils Den is made of granite. This entire area is granite and quartz heavy. I know both stones hold and radiate energy. That’s why we use them in computers, watches and why they don’t want you to use granite as a counter top. It emits radon. I’m not surprised she feels energy here.
I get several feet from the tree and get a sensation of disorientation. I can barely keep my balance. Before I can say anything, my friend tells me she feels odd, her stomach is turning over and she smells something metallic. I don’t smell it but I immediately think of blood. I unfortunately know very intimately the smell and taste of large amounts of spilled blood. It’s metallic. I don’t tell her this. I don’t think she’d understand but I could be wrong.
She reaches over and places her hands on the tree. I don’t want to go near the tree. Every time I get too close the equilibrium problem hits again. She says, “Take a picture here, how about here?” I do this and nothing shows up but darkness, a shot of her with the tree and one that has some fog.
I really feel like the world is spinning one way and me in another. “We need to leave,” I tell her.
We start heading down the hill and she grabs me. Both of us are having a hard time keeping balanced. I think this is nuts and tell her I want to do an experiment.
I walk away from the tree until I feel normal again. Then I turn around and walk till I start to feel ill. I do it several times. I have her do it. It makes no sense. I wish there was some meter or devise we could use to measure any static electricity or high magnetic current. Prove one way or another that what we are feeling is nothing more than being in near-darkness on uneven ground with over-active imaginations and low blood sugar. We don’t have anything like that so we head back to the car with more questions than answers.
We get in the car and head up to Little Round Top. Normally, I love to look out over LRT. The view is stunning and it‘s a favorite place for many people to lay on the large granite rocks and sunbath. Sunsets from this point are beautiful no matter what the season. This time, I slowed down but decided not to stop. Something didn’t feel right and besides, it’s dark, what was there to see?
My friend sighs and says, “I’m glad we didn’t stop, I don’t feel well.” Another oddity? I think one of us really has an over-active imagination, ESP or something. We stop at the stop sign and continue across the road.
Almost immediately, I feel like I’m going to vomit. My chest hurts like its being crushed (I actually know what this feels like) and it’s hard to breath. I get a sharp pain in my eye and a vicious headache making my eye water. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I was having a physical flashback of the car accident where I was partially crushed in my car, medevaced and endured medical torture before I died of shock. The flashbacks come on that fast and are horrifically painful. Only I never damaged my eye and I have not experienced anything in the past couple minutes to suddenly throw me into a flashback.
I drive the van forward several hundred feet and slowly, the feelings subside leaving me with a mild headache, a watering eye and some mild agitation. My friend tells me her stomach is very upset and wants to leave. So do I.
The road ends up across from the old Cyclorama where we had met Tanner and his owner. I look over one more time at the lonely cannons and am glad they are not as animated as Tanner’s owner imagined. They look tragic, lost, shocked and filled with pain, fear and disbelief. They remind me of the me no one sees during the day and only a select few have seen at night. They remind me of my PTSD and my seaming lifetime of struggle to survive and thrive.
Those cannons are sentinels to the souls of thousands of men never identified, buried and forgotten, witnesses of horrific screams of agony and death. They are the watchers of a history we should never forget but continue to repeat. They are the lonely watchers of the ghosts of Gettysburg surviving through time, telling their story.
As we leave the battlefield I am reminded, there are some things that can’t be explained. Other things even if I could explain very few people would understand. But I’m not alone. Like my friend, like Tanner’s owner, we are a regiment of people having experienced something on the fringe and yearn for understanding. For this reason, we come to Gettysburg.
My uncle is terminally ill in a Florida hospital with a do not resuscitate order. He is a father figure to me so this is very important. I live 900 miles from Florida’s sunny gulf coast. This plays horribly with my mind.
9:00 am: I get the phone call telling me to expect the inevitable at anytime. Notify the rest of the family on Facebook, keep my phone charged and with me, Mom says.
I’m sitting with my daughter, who is in her second week recovery from spine surgery. We are home, finishing breakfast and morning showers when the call comes in. Immediately, I realize the problematic nature of the timing of everything. I feel I need and want to be in Florida. My daughter needs me home. She can’t do this on her own. Not yet.
Fourteen years ago, my parents, brother and several aunts and uncles heard the calling of the snow bird at the retirement capital of the country – Ocala, Florida. They sold their homes, packed their things, bought RVs and waved goodbye. Ending what was a very close knit extended family system with all the trimmings. This left me with my own little family.
It’s been difficult to maintain close relationships across the miles. Responsibilities, expenses and health have all played havoc. But we have succeeded with only moderate feelings of loss on my part, especially during the holidays. This is not a holiday, but like a holiday, I feel the pangs of not being in the same location as the rest of the family and it’s taking its toll.
I’ve spent most of my day trying to figure a way to juggle taking care of my daughter and her cats and still fly to Florida. I realize I not only want to be near family, I need to be there for me to nurture them and for them to nurture me. I want another chance to say goodbye to a man who will always be my other father.
It’s 5:00 pm and my phone rings. It’s my mother. I ask her if my dad can pick me up at the airport if I figure out the logistical nightmare.
She hems and haws and says, “Let us go to the hospital and see what’s what. Then we’ll have a talk and call you back between 10:00 and 10:30 tonight.”
Not a problem, I have class in an hour and I still have not figured things out, so this gives me more time. I take care of dinner for my family, take the dog out another time, another glass of ice water and an ice pack for my daughter and leave for class with my assignment left behind on the table. I have my fully charged cell phone in my hand in case the call telling me it’s over happens.
Class ends and I get back in plenty of time for the mom’s call. The phone does not ring and this is where insanity set in and never looked back.
By 11:00 I’m concerned. My daughter asks if there is any news – no. 11:30, I get this odd feeling of relief.
Enter crazy thought #1. He’s passed away, no longer suffering and this is the relief I feel.
I tell all this to daughter who says, “Why do you think they didn’t call? Why don’t we call down there to see what’s going on?”
Enter crazy thought #2. They are so busy with Uncle’s death; there is no time to call, too distraught to call. Who the hell am I to call them during this horrible, intensively challenging time? I’m not a part of the family anymore anyway. I live 900 miles away! They had a family portrait taken several months ago, of all of them – without me. I’m really abandoned and on my own.
Enter crazy thought #3. I flash back to my sister’s death when I was seven. I didn’t get to say goodbye then either. She died; they whisked me off to Grandmas while things settled. When I returned, all my sister’s things and pictures were gone. We weren’t to talk about her, it was too painful. As an adult, I get this. As a child, I did not. Sitting in my room alone waiting for a call that was not coming, perhaps the adult is not too far removed from the child.
Enter crazy thought #4. They are doing this again. Arranging everything with me out of the picture because they don’t think I can handle it. Just like, I couldn’t handle my sister’s death back in 1968. I was seven years old then! I tell my daughter all this.
She wobbles over, gingerly sits down on the side of my bed and puts her arm around me. Our roles have reversed. She tells me things I would have told her in a reverse situation. The leaves don’t fall far from the tree.
12:00 midnight. Enter crazy thought #5. I tell my daughter, “Well, if I can’t be there to say goodbye, I’ll be expecting a visit from his spirit. At this point, he can probably get to me easier then I can get to him.”
She looks at me to verify I’m serious. I am. I’ve heard of many people having death-bed visits from loved ones. Family finding out someone died before the police or hospital called to tell them. Why not have my uncle come to me to say goodbye?
1:00 am. My daughter is back in her room leaving me and my over active imagination to run amok. I’m writing the next chapter of a manuscript while sitting on my bed. Behind me is a double window that overlooks a second story balcony. There I have a rocking chair where I drink my early morning coffee. The windows are open. I have my I-pod on a speaker stand set to shuffle. The music is anything from tribal to Bach, Incubus to Frank Sinatra.
The writing is going well until I hear a noise. I shyly look up from the computer screen half expecting to see the materializing form of my uncle. I see nothing out of the ordinary. I continue writing, fighting back sorrow. I can’t believe this is finally the end.
The I-pod stops playing and I stop typing, startled by the sudden silence. A sign, I wonder. Cautiously, I turn to see what song is listed on the screen. Was it Edelweiss, the song we danced to at my wedding? No, it says D00045.
That is the code for a series of voice recordings I’ve made. One of which is a lengthy conversation with my uncle where he tells me about his childhood. I rummage through my computer to find the original clip convinced it is that recording (I-pod will not play it). It’s not. It’s notes about muses in the Peach Orchard in the Gettysburg battlefield. Not my uncle.
I laugh at myself and turn off the I-pod. The room grows still with the exception of the tip tapping of my fingers on the laptop keyboard. Behind me, I hear the sound of my rocking chair on the balcony moving. Is it the breeze? I don’t feel a breeze on my skin.
I want to turn and look but find myself griped in fear. What will my uncle look like? What if it’s not what I expect? I get up the courage to look but it’s too dark to make out the chair. Stealthily, I move closer to the screen, cupping my hands around my eyes to block out the ambient light.
Before my grandmother died, we got possession of her rocking chair and my father placed it in our clubbed-in basement. After she died, that chair rocked on his own for several minutes on many evenings. We always said it was grandma. Many a night, I would hear the creaking of the chair and sneak downstairs to watch it slowly move back and forth for just a few moments and then come to a stop.
The rocker on my back porch was empty. A swift breeze pushed back my hair and I sighed. It was the wind after all.
I return to my laptop. My nerves frayed and my mind on red-alert. The auto fan in the far window clicks on and the anxiety makes my skin feel it’s being peeled off my muscles. I push off the laptop, bound out bed and slam shut the windows, locking them and pulling the blinds shut.
If my uncle is going to visit, it’s not going to be through the window or in the rocker! He can visit but only on my terms. Whatever those are?
I go out to the bathroom in the hallway and return to my room, shutting the door behind me. I pick up the laptop and return to chapter three. Something outside my door bangs once, then twice. Everything goes silent except my heart.
I slid out of bed and mosey up to the door. I outstretch my hand to the glass door knob debating if I really want to see what is going on. I think, why in the hell would my uncle try to scare me like this? Followed quickly with the thought, maybe, he doesn’t have many options.
I’m the one that wanted to say goodbye and here I am cowering behind a door. I open it to find the empty hallway which does nothing to calm my nerves. Across the hall is my office.
I listen and notice the outside street sounds are louder than normal. I walk over and find the window open and several paperback books scattered on the floor. Lightning flashes and I assume the wind has knocked the books off an end table. I shut the window and return to my room thinking I’ve read too many Stephen King books and seen too many episodes of paranormal television programming.
3:30 a.m. and my stomach is growling. I need something to eat.
To get to my kitchen I have to go down the stairs and through the living room and dining room. The staircase is completely enclosed with a heavy wooden door at the bottom. I don’t like the staircase at night. In fact, I try to avoid it.
Tonight, my stomach says we’re moving forward through the darkness and down the stairs (there is no light on the stairs). I tell myself my apprehension is ridiculous. I reach the glass door knob and stop. On the other side of the door will be my living room partially lite by the porch light coming through the front windows.
In my living room is my late sister’s Chatty Cathy doll. It is my most prized possession. This doll is also a very special memento for my uncle and ties all of us together. I tell myself (enter another crazy thought) if he has any ability to communicate with me, it will be with this doll. Now I’m afraid to go into the living room for fear I will find the doll moved or moving, maybe talking. It is Chatty Cathy for goodness sake.
I chide myself again for thinking such crazy thoughts and bust through the door. Keeping my eyes firmly on my feet, I quickly work my way through the living room, dining room, slam on the kitchen light and sigh in relief. Everything is normal. Everything is going to be fine. Uncle is not going to pay me a middle of the night goodbye call. Mom and dad will call later when they are able. I’ll figure what to do at that time.
I pull out a plastic bowl, the box of Lucky Charms cereal and some milk. I wonder what the family is doing now. Are they still up like me? Are they making arrangements for Uncle’s cremation in the morning? Why haven’t they called me? Don’t they know I’m worried sick?
A dark shadow whips by my feet and returns prowling towards me. I scream, dropping the milk, tipping over the cereal filled bowl, spewing Lucky Charms all over the counter, down the cupboard and onto the floor.
I clench my heart in absolute terror, convinced the world is coming to an end when the dark, shadowed creature speaks to me – Meow.
My uncle’s spirit, if it could, did not visit me because he was still alive. My parents didn’t call because they thought it was too late. Never thinking I’d be up all night in grief then terror because someone I thought had died, hadn’t and was coming to visit me but wasn’t.
“Why didn’t you call?” They asked me. A good question and I don’t have an answer. I need to figure that one out.
If this isn’t an example of the power of our thoughts and what happens when we let them run amok, I don’t know what is. I need to ask myself some serious questions about my mental behaviors. I can throw in, yes, I was tired, I have PTSD, and I’m grief stricken and feel helpless. I think while all those things are factors, they don’t negate the fact; I let the whole thing run crazy. I didn’t reality check. I didn’t use the resources at hand to help myself.
It’s 11:30 pm and I’m sitting here on my bed typing this blog. My window is open and there is a slight breeze from the balcony brushing through the rocking chair slats. I wonder if my uncle will make it through another night. If he doesn’t, I wonder if he’ll come visit. Perhaps, I’ll sleep with the light on.
Uncle died at 1:30 a.m. My daughter and I were in my office reminiscing through old photos of us with Uncle when it happened. The call from my parents came in directly after that. While there was no ghostly apparition, I still got to say my goodbyes in a much healthier way. Through all the fabulous years of memories that will last not only myself but my children as well. Thanks Uncle Joe, I’m missing you already.
Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary celebration kicks off June 27 and lasts through July 7th. For all the official information concerning reenactments, concerts and other events go to: http://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/150th-anniversay-faq.htm Or http://www.bluegraygettysburg.com/ Or http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org/. For everything unofficial, stay here.
I am a self proclaimed history buff, paranormal enthusiast with extensive history studying trauma. What would be more natural then for me to gravitate to Gettysburg, especially on such an epic occasion? These days, I am in Gettysburg at least once a month. Usually, you will find me wandering around areas of the battlefield with a camera. I try to capture in photos the moods of July 1863 and now for me as I walk across the once blood soaked fields.
These fields speak; the trees wail with woe, the buildings are still scarred from cannon fire. The battlefield is so vividly re-conditioned to its original state that I can literally walk where great and courageous men made split second decisions that saved many, killed thousands and helped bring a turning point to the Civil War. The history of the town, the people and the soldiers have been so painstakingly researched, preserved and presented for the next generation to remember.
Why do we still harbor strong feelings toward a war that ended over a hundred years ago? Because it is the one time where our own people turned and divided. Brothers fault and killed brothers. Neighbors killed neighbors. I come from Maryland, a state divided in the war. We were neither Yankee nor Confederate and yet we were both. So, there are many stories of families being ripped apart over the issues and ultimately burying their dead.
I used to find it hard to believe that people could turn on each other the way they did before and during the war. That is until recently when I started to hear rhetoric about taking up arms, parts of states wanting to succeed from the country over this issue or that. At times the vocal violence was so lethal, I found it frightening.
I don’t think most people have it within themselves to kill a family member or neighbor over politic differences of opinion. I’d like to think not. I know for sure, most people have never taken another person’s life and have no clue not only if they could, but what that would be like.
I’ve worked with enough veterans and police officers who do know. It’s not pretty. It’s easy to spout at the mouth about wanting internal war. I don’t think people realize if there was an internal war, we, all of us, would be the ones fighting. Not just enlisted people or trained militants. It would be our children, elderly and disabled injured and potentially slaughtered. Our food not able to be harvested from destroyed fields. Food that is harvested, not able to reach its destinations. It is our socio-economic system completely collapsing. There would be no, forgetting we are at war because it does not affect me unless I catch a glimpse on what we currently call the news.
We all need a dose of calming down and a reality check. Gettysburg, while now a thriving tourist destination, being home to one of the most explored, if not the most explored battlefield in the world, is one powerful reality check. For 150 years she’s been screaming at us. Don’t forget!
So, if you come to Gettysburg this year, especially during this celebration of remembrance, don’t’ forget. But at the same time, don’t’ let it swallow you whole. Depending on your own experiences and empathetic abilities, it can do that. Have some fun. There is a lot to take in.
I’ve decided to give you the, if I was a Gettysburg tour guide this is where I would take you, agenda. If your favorite haunt is not listed, well I couldn’t list them all. This is just my list compiled over forty years of visits to town.
Must Haves When Coming to Gettysburg:
- Patience! Crowds will be intense this summer and especially during the 150th anniversary. Remember, this is a walking town; pedestrians have the right-a-way. In the traffic circle, the cars inside the circle have the right-a-way. You can only go in one direction. When you get to your street, veer off to the right. Watching for traffic around you.
- Sunscreen, lots of sunscreen, hats and or parasols. If you are going to the re-enactments, there are few to no trees. The sun gets intense. Remember to shield the kids!
- Water! Bright sun and intense July heat equals dehydration. There are venders selling drinks all over town and at the reenactments. Lines can be long and many venders do not sell water. You can’t drink enough water.
- Bring cash. Most places accept credit cards, but some venders, again, especially if you are going to a reenactment, may only accept cash.
- Time. Give yourself plenty of time to get from point A to point B. Traffic will be difficult. The main historic district of town is located on two cross streets meeting at the traffic circle. Parking is limited.
- A map of town and the battlefield. The re-enactments are not on the battlefield. The battlefield is not one large land mass. It surrounds the town and if you are looking for a particular battle location or monument, a map and or GPS is a must.
- Sense of humor. Everyone is in town to have a good time, learn new things and experience a piece of history. There will be short tempers, babies crying, people walking into traffic, lines for restaurants and port-a-potties. Accept it and go with the flow. The park service is expecting over 20,000 re-enactors and half a million visitors this summer. Smile!
- A place to stay! Don’t come to town expecting to find a place, even if it’s camping. Be smart; get your lodging ahead of time. I’ve heard people are staying in York, Hanover, Chambersburg and Harrisburg for the re-enactment weekends.
Must Dos (According to me):
- Get in town early and have breakfast at one of the many restaurants. I’ve eaten several times at The Avenue Restaurant on Steinwehr Ave. across from O’Rorke’s Irish Eatery and Spirits. The cost is family friendly, food good and lines not too bad. OR
- Go to the National Park Service Visitor’s Center and Museum. They have a 19th century eating establishment on site. See the film, cyclorama and the museum. The museum displays give a wonderful, easy to understand presentation of pre, during and post Civil War information and life. Visually stimulating, occasionally interactive displays allow for even the most museum skittish to benefit.
- Buy the two hour Battlefield Auto Tour CD from the National Park Service bookstore before touring the battlefield. Stops on the CD correspond to the tour signs on the battlefield. The CD not only gives logistics about sections of the battle but re-enacts stories from the perspective of soldiers, town’s people and generals.
- When on the battlefield tour, get out of your car and walk around! Check out the vantage points, variety of monuments and the stories they convey. There is a book you can purchase at the National Park bookstore called, So You Think You Know Gettysburg, by James and Suzanne Gindlesperger. It is an easy to use book giving GPS locations and stories behind some of the parks most memorable statues and monuments.
- Rent a horse, Segway or book a bus to tour the battlefield. There are over 6,000 acres of battlefield with out-of-the-way roads and trails.
- Have lunch.
- Take a walk down Steinwehr Ave. Watch fudge being made in the Chocolate, Fudge and Ice Cream shop on Steinwehr Ave. Dress up in Victorian clothing and have your picture taken. Have a home-made ice cream cone, take in multiple gift shops, art galleries, book shops and souvenir venders.
- Veer to the right at the corner of Baltimore Street and Steinwehr Ave. There are several bed and breakfasts, private historic collections and museums with minimal admission fees, candy shops, period clothing shops, restaurants and ghost tours.
- Have dinner at either the Farnsworth House or Dobbins House Tavern. There are many great places to eat in town but for me, these historic locations with their ambience, period menus and service can’t be beat. Farnsworth House is located on Baltimore Street. Dobbins Inn is located on Steinwehr Ave.
- Take in a ghost tour. Warning, there are several to choose from and one is not the same as another. Some take you directly in front of the building or location where the story takes place. Others only walk you around a circle, stopping here and there to tell a story. Some claim to promise seeing a ghost via orbs on your photos (orbs most likely to be dust, bugs, dew or other weather related element). Some tell stories with minimal to no factual back story. While others give factual, historical information behind the stories and town’s people’s antidotes of unexplained events. You can have a great tour but a minimally effective tour guide and visa-versa. Guides expect a tip after the tour.
My favorite ghost tour is Ghosts of Gettysburg on Baltimore Street. The author, Nesbit wrote the series Ghosts of Gettysburg and runs this operation. Reservations are recommended. I prefer the longer tour as they take you down to the train station and college as well as around town.
- End the night head down to the Lincoln Diner at 32 Carlisle Street for a great piece of pie. Located across from the Railroad Station, this college diner is known for its large, scrumptious deserts.
If you have a second day in town, check out the Jenny Wade house on Baltimore Street. Take a carriage ride. Check out the Lincoln Train Museum on Steinwehr Ave., Soldier’s National Museum on Baltimore Street, and Hall of Presidents also on Baltimore Street. Talk to some re-enactors stationed in encampments about life as a soldier. Pay your respects at the National Cemetery and location of President Lincoln’s famous address.
At the end of the day, find a large rock on the battlefield at Little Round Top and watch the sunset over Devil’s Den. This location, where thousands lost their lives in the Valley of Death is oddly serene and quiet in the rays of the setting sun. While you are there, don’t’ forget the message these hollowed fields deliver. Find peaceful resolutions. War is not the answer and it’s never what we expect. Once started, it’s hard to turn back.
Enjoy your time in Gettysburg!
I went to the Goodwill store looking for a lamp to re-purpose. I really enjoy combing through flea-markets and second-hand shops to find elements of objects discarded to make something new. Something I create to be meaningful or purposeful to me.
I found a lamp, bought it. That afternoon I water colored the shade in hues of green. I realized, this object transformation was symbolic of my life and what I help others do – Re-purpose their lives. Life will always give reasons to step back and ask questions like: What the hell just happened? Why did this happen to me? What am I going to do now? Who am I as a result of this? Re-purposing helps bring answers to those questions.
My journey with Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) catapulted me into demanding answers to those questions. I didn’t think I could function without them. Luckily, a person does not have to endure severe traumas demanding immediate attention. Anyone can have a desire, a spark to find their authentic self and live a fuller, happier, more balanced life.
People change slowly over time being enhanced or torn down by life’s challenges. Most appear to view this change as outside themselves. They don’t care or they fear looking inward and asking the hard questions. Finding the answers and stepping out into the great unknown. They accept life as it is. The result is often bitterness, anger and depression. This does not have to be. Life happens, yes, but what you do with it makes all the difference in the world – your world.
Re-purposing takes time and usually happens in stages. As a person learns more about them self and the universe around them, there is an aha moment. My experience is that this is followed by a stewing process. The mind soaks in the information and applies it to everything it knows. The person acts on their new awareness and then it hits.
New questions arise! Well, if that’s true, then what about this situation? Why did I act that way when I could have done this? What else have I believed about life that suddenly is not true? What is truth? The questions become less about the person and more about the world, the universe and the spiritual.
It might be helpful to look at the journey in terms of cooking or food. At first, it probably seems similar to peeling off layers of an onion. I picked onion because pealing an onion can bring tears and at times not very pleasant. Thoughts and memories, who we have become over time has built around our core like the layers surrounding the core of the onion. The larger the onion, the more changes, adaptations or layers a person has developed.
There should come a time when a person can see beyond the onion metaphor and see layers as welcome opportunities for re-purposing, bringing enrichment to their lives. Life’s journey now becomes more like layers of string cheese, baklava, lasagna, or some other pleasant concoction you can think of. Not as threatening or uncomfortable if done in moderation. It is good to note, that even with pleasant or desired elements of change, too much too soon can cause distress. I really would not recommend sitting down and eating en entire family size lasagna! All things should be done in moderation, which includes re-purposing.
After a while, the person may no longer find total enrichment and the questions asked of the self changes again. Using the cooking metaphor, questions might revolve around the concern, how can I improve on this recipe? The types of questions are as vast as the grains of rice in a box of Minute Rice.
Re-purposing time varies from person to person. Some only strive for feeling slightly better, like putting on a band-aid and waiting. Others, like me, spend a lifetime joyfully exploring, learning and becoming. At this point in my journey, the questions are no longer the ones stated above. Some of my current questions are: Where do I go from here? What does this say about me? How can I turn this into something good for myself and others?
My lamp is now painted, trimmed and assembled. Another human-made element re-purposed for a new beginning, a new life. Aren’t all our experiences in some way, human-made? It’s up to us to do the re-purposing to make our lives the best they can be.
I offer a challenge to you. Start re-purposing your life. The results are worth the journey. Below I offer some first steps to get you started. If you would like some help, you can check out my e-mail counseling/coaching services. If you are in the area, make an appointment or attend a class. Have a great journey!
First Steps to Start Re-purposing Your Life:
1. Get a notebook or journal.
2. List as many qualities about yourself as you can think of. Ask others for their impute. What do you think/feel about your list?
3. List things, people or events where you feel/felt: 1) happy: 2) accomplished: 3) loved: 4) experienced freedom: 5) had fun. Are there any areas where you had a hard time listing things? Some needs that you are falling short in having fulfilled?
4. What movies, characters, TV shows, music, artists, books do you relate to? Why?
5. Make a timeline of your life – the goods, bads, neutrals, accomplishments, regrets. Why did you label these in the categories you placed them? Example: Why is difficulty in 3rd grade math a good thing?
6. Answer the statement: If I had a magic wand, my life would look like… (be specific). Why would you want the elements you picked?
7. List and evaluate areas of your life where you feel out of balance or unhappy. Why do feel this way about this area? (Try to be inward focused and not “because he made me…”)
8. Ask yourself, what role do you play in number 7? We always play a role, even if it is not doing anything.
9. Continue to ask yourself, what do I really want? (see my blog, Life’s Little Instruction Manual, Healthy Relationships Part 4)
10. Review everything you have written. See if you are starting to understand who you really are, how you got here, the role you play, and where your life is unbalanced. You can’t formulate any goals on making improvements without this base-level structure.
Congratulations on taking the first steps in re-purposing your life. Job well done! Drop me a comment and let me know how it’s going!
Go ahead and shake your head but to create is to live. It does not matter if its writing, sculpting, painting, dancing, music, drafting, engineering or finding a new way to make pot roast. We all create. Yes, even those of you saying, I don’t have any talent or a creative bone in my body. Yes, you do. It’s in your code, your DNA.
Think of what the world would be like if there was no such thing as being creative. You can’t because the world as we know it would not exist. Animals create, plants do and what’s that word… procreate.
Okay, that’s a stretch. The point is, we all do this, need this and yet so many people are under the impression that “to create” is a frivolousness activity outside productive society. They are wrong. It is the very fabric of society.
According to many studies, children who are encouraged to use their imagination, who are involved, exposed to creative endeavors score higher on tests in school and do better at seeing options in life others miss.
Creative thinking utilizes imagination, exploration of options, reflection and critical thinking skills. In an article, Art in Schools Inspires Tomorrow’s Creative Thinkers, Without the arts, education’s grade is Incomplete, by Jeffrey Schnapp, he discusses how creativity and the arts are essential to reading, writing and arithmetic. They are all interconnected like the spider’s web, the fabric of life.
Creative people ask the hard questions such as, how can I get ideas, information and communication from one person to another. What would happen if I stepped aside from the familiar and public confirmatory? What new thing or idea could I imagine and create?
Without this, there would be no internet, computers, cell phones, televisions, radios, cars, refrigerators to name thousands of others. Not to mention all the entertainment we use daily from music, television, books and games (like Candy Crush, which I am currently addicted). And don’t forget the photographs, paintings, textiles, clothing, furniture and house styles we use.
So, tell me, where don’t we use creativity, our talents and the arts? Isn’t it odd that when you look at creativity this way, how silly it seemly to take money away from the creative endeavors in schools and choosing to put kids in competitive venues and watching test scores instead. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to the individual and society to have balance between the three?
According to Schnapp, Nazi Germany and the Taliban both tried going the route of eliminating creative thinking and art. I think we know the rest of their stories.
My writing coach, fiction, song writer and poet, Melissa Green, runs a non-profit organization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania called, Write from the Heart. Her goal is to inspire the creative spirit and to support those who have encountered resistance or fear when trying to express their creativity through writing. As I meet other writers under her wing, I am often amazed at hearing the insidious ways many were drilled from childhood that being creative was wrong. Being artistic was not appropriate. I, thank goodness, came from a very creative, artistically supportive environment. I can’t imagine growing up in that kind of environment.
Last evening, Melissa presented a short quote from Hugh Prather’s, I Touch the Earth, The Earth Touches Me. It is: “There were seventy five people in the lobby and only a seven year old girl was finding out what it felt like to sit on a marble floor.” At first this seems absurd. But think about this. What if everyone took the time to explore and contemplate the merits of sitting on a marble floor? What if Orville and Wilbur Wright hadn’t explored the merits of travel by air?
Today, be extra creative! Even if it means putting an extra potato in your pot roast.
More information about Write from the Heart, http://www.writefromtheheart.us/
I’ve been asked if there are any axioms I use to ground me when life tries to blow me away. Yes, there are. I use the below axioms all the time when life is sunny. When life gets blustery, I sometimes have to remind myself that they exist. If I remember and fall back on these axioms, things always turn out for the best. It might not be the best I would have wanted, but I find myself relatively unscathed or able to bounce back quickly. Kind of like the wizard in the Oz, The Great and Powerful or another well known film, The Wizard of Oz.
Restlesswanderer61’s axioms for surviving and thriving:
1. The only person I can change is me.
2. No matter what life hands me, ultimately I choose how it effects me long term.
3. Everyone has the same basic needs, only in different degrees. Love people including myself, even the ones hardest to love.
4. Everyone’s behavior is purposeful. They are the best choices I use or have used (whether healthy or regrettable, knowingly or subconsciously) to find balance. Don’t judge others or myself.
5. I am energy at my deepest level and a spiritual being that can connect with anyone and is only limited to the constraints I place around me. Even if I doubt or don’t believe, I can’t be disconnected from the creator or all of creation. It is no more possible then living without taking in oxygen.
6. My brain is a creative and amazing devise. I will strive to develop what is not and prevent my thoughts from running amok.
7. People have the most amazing resilience and overcome the incredible horrors. So do I.
8. I am not perfect and never will be. There is no such thing as perfect.
9. The answers to my problems will ultimately come from me even if I can’t see them currently.
10. I have an amazing talent and gift, even when I don’t think so. Everyone has a talent or gift to be tapped to fulfill themselves and the world around them. Let others shine, take the back seat and clap thunderously at other’s accomplishments no matter how big or small whether I know them or not.
11. Never lose my childlike wonder, imagination and desire for play.
12. Resistance to issues is futile. Deal with it, don’t repress or pretend it does not exist.
13. It’s okay to reach beyond my comfort zone. In fact, I will grow from doing so.
14. Strike a balance between being self-absorbed and other-focused.
15. There is usually no such thing as the no win scenario. It’s only how to win and what “to win” really means.
16. I don’t have to be correct all the time. Pick my disagreements for when it really matters and let the rest go.
17. Everyone has baggage and crap. Mine is no better or worse than someone else’s, only different. Accept it.
18. Treat others the way I want them to treat me, even if they don’t.
19. Unless I have no food, shelter or loved ones, I have nothing to seriously complain about. My life is fine, no matter what is happening. Be grateful for every person, everything I have and everything that happens to me.
20. Be amazed by little things, joyful, laugh often and hard.
21. I can make a difference in everyone’s life I meet. Even if it is a small one.
22. Have patience. There is a reason things or people are as they are. Watch it unfold and learn.
23. Dream big, make goals, explore, learn and strive to make those dreams a reality.
24. Be proactive not reactive. This is my life, the only one I have, don’t get to the end and have regrets. Make each moment count.
Do you have a list of axioms you follow? If you don’t or are not sure, it might be something to think about. If you have a code you follow that is true, there is no telling the wonderful places it will take you. You are your best and worst enemy. Find balance and find peace not only in times of sun but when the tornado’s in life blows your balloon off course.
I got up this morning with an agenda of a doable level of goals. Then I saw a water stain on the wall which reminded me the house needs painting. More specifically, since I’m turning the upper floor into an office, that wall REALLY needs painting. It all went downhill from there. It went like this:
Time: 7:30 a.m.
Me: Well h-ll, not only does that wall need painting but so does that one and that one and sh-t, look at the ceiling! I wonder what colors I should pick? What mood, what message do I want to send with my paint color choices? I know, I’ll do an internet search.
Time: 9:00 a.m.
Me: Oh crap, look at the time and all I’ve done is look at paint colors on the internet and wait, I did watch a YouTube video from Dr. Oz on how to lose belly fat. I’m not sure what I clicked to get there, but it was very interesting. Okay, I’ll just pop over to Lowes and get a gallon of paint and spend the day painting. (Forgetting the original goals completely)
Time: 10:30 a.m.
Me: Okay, there are way too many colors to pick from. If I get this one than what if… If I get that one that oh man…. Satin or semi gloss? ….. Quart or gallon. Wow, look they have Lilly of the Valley bulbs. I love those! Wouldn’t they look awesome next to the fish pond! And look at all the perennials! Wait a minute; I think I need a paint brush or something. Why is my stomach growling? Did I eat breakfast?
Time: 11:30 a.m.
Me: This is great. I’ve got my paint. I’ll eat a piece of left over pizza which I am sure is not on Dr. Oz belly fat busting program. Oh wait, I think the paint roller is in the garage (which is behind my house, not beside). Let me put this pizza in the microwave and then I’ll just go out and get it
I go outside and see the partially dug hole I started last week for a fish pond.
Me: Crap that looks horrible. I really need to get on that. Let me put down this paint roller and pull out the rototiller and shovel. It won’t take that long to finish rototilling the hole.
Rototiller hits massive granite rock. Go back in garage and get trowel. Now sitting in 4×5 foot by 1 foot deep hole.
Me: Wow, this is like when I worked as an archaeological excavator. I wonder if I’ll find anything? … This is a lot more enjoyable that the rototiller. Better make sure my 4×5 walls are straight (an archaeological thing not needed for digging a hole for a fish pond). Check it out! There’s a marble!
Seven marbles later…..
Me: Okay, that’s apropos that someone once lost their marbles where I’m going to open a mental health office. D-mn I’m thirsty. Okay, just rototill another small section and I’ll go inside. Sh-t, I’ve got painting to do!
Rototiller has hit a long piece of steel wire and it’s now wrapped around the blade axle. I’ve flipped over the machine and am trying to get the blade off. It ‘s stuck. I have to go to the basement to get the WD-40 and a hammer. I’m now in the basement having traversed through my clean kitchen floor with dirt caked shoes.
Me: There’s the WD-40. That was easy enough. Oh look, I forgot to put the clothes in the dryer. Let me just wash my hands and take care of that.
Back outside with the rototiller.
Me: You know, maybe this is another of those examples of the universe telling me to slow down. First I hit a rock, I get a steal wire hopelessly wrapped around the axle and now I can’t get the blade off. I should take a picture of this and blog about it.
I leave the WD-40, the rototiller and go inside tramping dirt all through the house. Get the camera, pen and paper and go back outside.
Me: I wonder what angle I should shoot this? You know, I should take a picture of the fish, because they are the real reason I’m out here in the first place. They managed to make it through the winter in an above ground pond. Least I can do is put their picture on the internet.
Okay, so perhaps, only getting three hours sleep last night is a contributing factor in this morning’s escapade. If I’m honest, probably not by much. So, I think I’ll make some coffee and slow down. I have the rest of the afternoon to finish. Hey, maybe I’ll paint! But first, I think I’ll re-heat that piece of pizza I put in the microwave a couple hours ago.
Loosen up; she says with a chuckle, you’re wrapped way too tight
With a grin, I know this but can’t stop
With extreme highs and lows I eat and sleep this
Loosen up, she says, and I hear her wisdom though she does not know
With regret and remorse my body won’t let me rest
Sisters laughing and pretending to be the fab four
A Hard Day’s Night left us screaming in the aisle
A hard day’s life when she suddenly died
Sisters at a cemetery, one of them reposed in the ground
A hard day’s night becomes a hard day’s life
Blonde on a kid’s show freezing in front of the camera
Sets that fall down and costumes that rip
Sets bright with large splashes of blinding light
Blonde kid so shy she hides in a dark world of her design
Sets up a place for an insidious void that convolutes
Universal horror monsters alive on TV late Saturday night
My first role, the fat witch on a flying machine
My attempts to memorize lines and moves
Universal applause and laughter when I fall off the stage
My parents smiling, happy, it’s all for my sis
Twirling a baton, I’m the youngest in the group
Talent and determination turns heads
Talent keeps everyone too busy to think
Twirling, is life’s temporary amnesia from blood and death
Talent, cursed or blessed, we still have Sundays at the cemetery
Learning to skate, meet Peggy Fleming, I’ve decided my path
Bruises, practice, auditions, rehearsals
Bruises, sprains, get up and do it again
Learning to tough it out, I’m the youngest in the show
Bruises, box dinners, homework and life in the car
Costume calls, pins and needles, hat is too big
Dress rehearsal is very boring
Dress is too tight, it’s the wrong size
Costume seamstress yells at me for getting taller
Dressed and made up by strangers
Homework on the run, another rehearsal, another dinner in a bag
Quick costume change, pushed out on stage
Quick roar of the crowd, flashes of light
Homework, remember how to stop skates from catching costume
Quick thinking prevents Ziegfeld Follies’ hat from toppling
Another day, another show, skate broke, costume ripped
Lead male skater is so dreamy
Lead female skater is such a bitch
Another dress rehearsal three hours too long, tempers flair
Lead me home, too achy and tired to think
End of the show, time to return back to the baton
Start at five and practice till school
Start homework on bus, practice till bed
End another day with drums pounding rhythms against my skull
Start tomorrow drum line pounding, choreography to learn
Stand before the directors, while they choose this outfit not that
Coaches for percussion, music and dance
Coaches for choreography, military baring and baton
Stand before the manager showing the upcoming schedule
Coaches not buses to carry all our crap
Run around and date actors, dancers, musicians and performers
Practice till my fingers blister and bleed
Practice till I can physically practice no more
Run around and find the most outrageous things to do to feel alive
Practice equals louder applause which equals perceived love
Awards come in a landslide of marble, gold and ribbons to many to count
Audiences bigger and applause profound, I want more
Audiences demanding greater feats, I’m willing to give
Awards for outstanding entertainer, how much higher can I go
Audiences are a fickle lover, self centered and giving
More, the press says, can we have your picture, please
Little one wants to grow up to be like me
Little one wants a hug; a group photo would be nice
More insanity, I love this but I need to find a release
Little pieces of me fly off into space, spirit catches giving me grace
Harder practices, demanding routines and radical ways to cope
Applause now an addiction, I can’t stop even if I wanted
Applause is drowning water, no longer quenching my thirst
Harder demands on my body, mind and soul, but I can give more
Applause has become the only way I feel alive and loved
Left, right, left, your positioning is not quite right, do it again
Redo the entire concepts of acceptance, love and peace
Redo the bandages on my bleeding blisters and take another pill
Left lying on the cold practice floor to fall asleep, nirvana
Redo the muscle rub while remembering the death that started it all
What do you mean you lost your step in stanza four
You call that making love to the audience
You call that a top notch performance
What’s wrong with you, we all have something at stake
You need some kind of help, something’s not right
Judges pass bribes, try to mess me up and get into my pants
Friends listen to my suicidal rants on the phone
Friends say I’m arrogant and need to pull in my ego
Judges demand more of me because I’ve been around
Friends back away, some say goodbye, they can’t relate
Dreams in dark music, applause, self hatred and death
Survival says be one with the stoned guy on the bus
Survival says join him and never look back
Dreams full of rage and remorse; I’m not good enough to last
Survival is swimming out to sea and never coming back
Ambulances are always ready at the end of my performances
Pain, strain and exhaustion, I collapse
Pain and hospitalizations, weekly events
Ambulance drivers joke, here she comes again, poor kid
Pain is having blown veins from too many IV pushes
Cemetery where my sister rests is inviting, I love to sleep there
Terror fills my soul, soon the applause will end
Terror is a free fall with no one there with a net
Cemeteries are great places to recover when in withdrawal
Terror is raging out of control and no one knows why
Rage is what I felt destroying my bedroom, leaving trophies in the wall
Traveling to Africa gave me new purpose in life
Traveling taught my internal camera how to see
Rage is what I felt about human suffering in the world
Traveling made empty audiences transform into humans in need
Begin college studying radio, television and film production
Fall into the world of anthropology and social work
Fall into finding paranormal ways to get my rush
Begin filming documentaries and stills for museums
Fall in love and make passion the new addiction
Digging in the dirt as an archaeologist assistant and living in a tent
Filming documentaries and stills is not enough
Filming and showing bizarre personal creations stirs my soul
Digging round for any evidence of my sister, the paranormal
Filming detaches me from my pain and shows others its gore
Deadlines for films, photo shows, exhibits and pass the popcorn
Give us just one more set by tomorrow
Give us a rough draft, get it right
Deadlines take the place of coaches and managers
Give me an audience to entertain, some caffeine, a pill
Drunk driver eviscerates my life, decapitates my friend
Medical torture, no time for anesthesia, you’re going to die
Medical surgery not going well, I see the monitor flat line
Drunk driver gives me a Near Death Experience and new birthday
Medical trauma fuels my rage and an addiction nothing will quench
My experience teaches me much including the delicate nature of time
Flashes of performing memories past embrace me
Flashes of my past performing show me a universal stage
My uptight nature gets in the way of spiritual awakening and growth
Flashes of my mangled body assault me and I rage again
Now I embrace, explore my surreal reality and help others find theirs
Education, degrees and life aid my helping those in emotional pain
Education, writing, photography and outreach in constant production
Now If I can only loosen up and not be so wrapped tight