Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm Still Here



When I landed in the Great Unknown, all my mail from the Land Where I Came From was automatically forwarded.

Sometimes I forget that not everyone who sends me messages knows my new address. So I’m caught off guard when I get a random postcard from those who are still comfortably planted in another land with questions like, “Where have you been?” or “What’s new?”

I feel frazzled, tongue-tied. All of the turmoil that is delicately residing just beneath the surface of my soul starts to churn—and it takes awhile for things to settle again.

Even after all of this writing and staking claim to my reality, I still want to pretend—for my sake, not theirs—that nothing has changed. I want to casually reply: “Not much going on with me. How ‘bout you?”

Since I can’t answer honestly with those words, I try to figure out a way for that response to be true.

This is when I wonder if I’m related to the Grimm brothers because I start concocting this fantastic fairy tale about how my time here will come to an abrupt halt because of a great rescue that ends my troubles forever. I can spend hours (or days, if I’m not careful) fantasizing about all the details leading up to a variety of happy endings—each more unlikely than the first.

When I give in to the urge and live in fantasy-land for too long I feel exhausted. And I inevitably get interrupted by the truth-teller in me.

“You really want to get out of here like that?” she asks me squarely. “And what do you think life will be like if you do get OUT? Do you remember why you left your other land? Do you remember why you came here?”

Yes. I remember.

I guess my active imagination was just a variation of an adult tantrum. And I end up right where I started: I’m still here.

A fellow traveler, someone who came here years before me, has repeatedly asked me an equally challenging question in the midst of my tantrums: “Why are you wasting all that beautiful energy trying to change something that you can’t?”

I don’t have an answer. All I can do is file my behavior in the mental folder labeled “Do not repeat.” (Sadly, it’s a well-worn file that I am very familiar with. I often find myself rummaging through its contents with feigned ignorance as I mumble, “What was that thing I wasn’t going to do again?”)

I can also make a decision to use all of that “beautiful energy” for a different purpose. I can use it to propel me forward.

* * * * *

I said yesterday that I feel most compelled to write when I am in the midst of the struggle—but I didn’t really know why.

Questions of this kind don’t often get answered immediately, but this time it did.

Because I am recovering from fairy-tale thinking, I already know how to tell my story when things are going well. I know how to read “hope” into the bleakest of situations. In fact, I’m a little too good at that.

Now I need to flex new muscles. I need to work on the part of me that flees from conflict, pain and the unfinished.

When I’m in a good space, I don’t want to read posts like I have been writing. I just want to stay in the happy, happy.

But when I’m in the happy, happy too long, I get too comfortable—disconnected really.

So all of this talk about the Great Unknown and my struggle through it, it’s not only serving an important purpose for me now, but for my future as well.

I doubt I’ll ever forget what it’s like here—especially when I have scars to remind me—but I know that I may try. And these posts serve as proof that it all really happened, and it was all really that hard, and that I really, really did get to the other side… not because of a fairy god-mother with a magic wand, but because I went step by step, one day at a time, through the hardest terrain I’ve ever been in.

Monday, November 7, 2011

{Pa}in-spiration

I recently watched the season finale of "Project Runway"--a reality TV show that documents the competition to find the next big fashion designer.

The season always end with the top three designers creating a collection that is presented in a runway show. This year the judges were so impressed with the final four that they broke tradition and let them all go to the runway.

While I enjoyed seeing what each of them had to present, I was paying more attention to the story that unfolded. Each one of the final four either dedicated or attributed the inspiration for their designs to a family member who had passed away. Two designers lost their mothers and two lost their brothers.

Hmm....

Why was there such an overwhelming commonality of loss? What is it about pain that propels people artistically?

As I have been writing about my travels through the Great Unknown, I find that when things go smoothly--when the water is running clear, my pack fits right and my feet aren't sore--I just don't have much to say (not in this space anyway).

It's when I slip and fall--and still have fresh blood dripping down my knees--that I feel most compelled to write. It's in those moments that I feel the pull to put pen to paper and make my story known.

I don't have a tidy explanation for this. I only know it's true. Somehow each time I sit down to document the truth of my present experiences, a little bit of the sorrow that has held my soul bound for so long loosens its grip and unravels a little more.