Tag Archives: fear

Lillian and Me

Standard

One of my favorite writers is Lillian Ann Slugocki. Full disclosure – she’s also a friend, and we’ve worked together to promote her latest book, The Blue Hours. So yeah, I love her work because I know her, and I helped her with some late stage edits, so I feel really connected to the piece, as though there’s a little bit of me in there, too… but beyond that, and before that, I loved her work. Before I even met her. She wrote some unbelievably raw material in a book called The Erotica Project, along with writer Erin Cressida Wilson who was an old college buddy. Yeah, again… the personal connection.

But over and above and besides that, I love her work because Lillian is fearless. Not in life! God no… who the hell is fearless in life??  That doesn’t really exist. We’re all afraid of one thing or another or many things at once. I’m talking about in the words she commits to on paper. The prose she signs her name to, and puts out there for all the world to see. She talks about things that I want to articulate, things I know and feel and have experienced or would like to experience or am afraid to experience. She goes there. Past thoughts of judgement, past ideas of who she “should” be or what she should or should not be allowed to say. She doesn’t give a shit.

Here’s what I’m thinking:
I have staggered into my writing, unsteady, lurching forward and then cowering in anxiety and paralysis. I have choked it down, then spit it out, laughed and cried it into existing, and then, once emptied of my words, shaken with the emptiness of expectation. I care so much about what you might think that I have to will myself to not care, just to protect my heart. I am not afraid to say this anymore, because honestly, I want to care less, and maybe this will help.

I want to write about things that make you uncomfortable. I have written stories that make ME uncomfortable. I’ve heard it said that if you aren’t making someone uncomfortable, you’re not really writing. Well then. I guess it’s going to be a battle between fear and discomfort. Which one wins??

I write a lot. All the time. In fact, I’ve begun to develop some chronic discomfort in my lower back and groin from sitting, cross legged in front of the computer for hours at a time. Curse my natural flexibility! It’s not working in my favor right now. I’m stretching out muscles that should not be stretched so much, in service of stretching others that have lied taut for too long. I am still trying to find the balance. My body is confused by the rapid unraveling of my mind’s freedom. I’m in transition.

I write different things for work than I do in my blog, and in the secret notebooks I keep near my bed. I joined a private fiction site where I share fragments of stories with writers much more accomplished (read: published) than me. I gladly accept the random bits of praise that come my way, and I dutifully read the works of the other writers, offering my generous comments whenever it feels genuine. I want to be a good community member. I want to be part of the club. I want to be – no wait, I AM a writer, too. We just talk to one another, because this is so.

The walls between my different kinds of writing are coming down. All of my identities are merging into one self which is me. Complicated, putting my issues out there for all to see. Turning a smart phrase on behalf of clients on the one hand, opening up my heart and sharing my fears, fantasies and visions on the other. Turning the difficult thoughts and feelings into characters and situations several steps removed from real life, in order to make them into stories I can view with some degree of perspective. I just want to create journeys. I am preparing myself to put more of my work on the line and receive not only the praise but the criticism of many sets of eyes.

I see my future, and it contains me, writing, afraid but doing it anyway. No wait. That’s my present. It’s already happening.

Photo courtesy of Eric D. Weiss

Slender fears, shadowy memories, hidden treasures

Standard

Earlier tonight my 9-year-old son, who is obsessed with video games, told me about a new one called Slender-Man. He described it as a man with a blank face who chases you and when he catches up to you, he grabs your face off. Honestly, without knowing any more than just those few, bare facts, I was entirely creeped out, and even as I’m writing this, I’m getting chills up and down my spine.

So of course I had to investigate it. It’s possible that what I imagine is much worse than the reality, although a cursory investigation revealed something reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project. I remember seeing that movie, and it was damn scary.

I think it’s the idea of a blank face and the sudden reaching out and grabbing my own face off… conjures up thoughts of stifled screams and anonymous threats coming out of the dark. That’s enough to scare the shit out of anyone, don’t you think? Stimulates some primal fright gland. Early morning nightmares of epic proportions – the kind that have you waking up shaking and crying and grabbing for your mommy, teddy, nearest warm body, pillow, whatever!

I remember the nightmare years of my childhood. Literally, nightmares every night. Skeletons, gorillas and shadowy figures, tickling me, hovering over me, doing other, worse things to me. Lying in bed, afraid to go to sleep, afraid to stay awake, afraid of being afraid. Dreams were also a playground for my imagination – an opportunity to experiment with flying, discover hidden treasure, explore forbidden sexual acts and other untoward behavior. I learned to hope for the best before dropping off to sleep, and how to wake myself up by prying my eyelids open when scary things began to happen.

slender-man nightmare pic

There are places I’ve visited over and over again in my dreams – hotels, shopping centers, school buildings, big houses that may have been owned by me, and neighborhoods of homes turned inside out on rolling hills, with rooms of furniture on full display outside, on their front lawns, and then cityscapes filled with tall skyscrapers, and (in an eerie premonition of 9-11) strange aircraft swooping down far too close over our heads, and giant buildings toppling over all around me. Dark, foreboding submarines hovering at an ominous distance under the murky waters where I floated, unprotected in the deep.

Life has often felt overwhelming like that. Long periods of time watching my parents succumb to their respective bouts of depression, and later, prolonged illnesses and finally death… decades partnering with my husband as he battled his own chronic and ultimately fatal illness. The grooves of forbearance worn so deep, until I’ve forgotten how to tell how I’m feeling, what I need or want.

Sometimes we merely reproduce our past – painful and unproductive as it may be, we continue the ancient patterns, unless something forces us to change, unless… are you tired of it? Have you had enough? What if you just decided to do something different?

When I look past the storm of memory, I see an entirely different future – a place where the shadows don’t reach nearly as far, and possibility looms large and evident. Where I jump head first into deep water, because I just want to be wet. It’s getting late, and maybe we’ll connect if I stop caring what you think.

Because the more times you get hurt, your world starts to shrink with caution – maybe, just in case, what if, might happen, watch out, hesitate, be careful… oh my, I’m reeling with doubt and confusion, and I crave the certainty of my bravado, consequences be damned!

Better stuff

And really, don’t you just want to go out of your mind? Literally, get out of your mind, and lose yourself in a whirly, swirly world of pleasure and feeling good, loved, cherished, adored, cradled, comforted, held and kissed and caressed, and all manners of pleasured?

Oh shit. I do.

Who doesn’t?

Fear be damned.

Washing Away Fear

Standard

Warm water is so soothing on my hands…. I have grown to love washing my dishes. I haven’t had a dishwasher since i was a kid living at home. Maybe once or twice in random dwellings since then, but never for an extended period of time, and certainly not in the last 25 years. (And yes, it’s still amazing to me that I can say the last 25 years and be talking about only half of my life.) The water calms me. The gradual clearing of the surfaces of all grease, grime, dried particles of food, leaving only smoothness, and that sound and feel of squeaky clean. It soothes my spirit.

Yesterday morning I awoke from a very disturbing dream. I was in the subway tunnels with (my good friend and writing partner) Lillian, and suddenly a woman with a familiar face came up to me and said “hi.” With a deep sigh, she leaned her elbow on the railing next to me and looked up at me with a mournful expression in her eyes. I recognized her instantly, and turned my gaze to Lillian, who of course did not know her.  Damn, I could not remember her name.

Knowing that I needed to introduce them to one another, I said, “I’m so sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name.” She looked at me, shattered, and did not reply. I said, “Are you going to tell me your name?” At that point she started to unravel, her eyes filling with tears, and her lip quivering. She just could not believe that I didn’t remember. I said, “Well, if you aren’t going to tell me who you are, I’m afraid I can’t help you.”

As we walked away, I heard the sound of the woman wailing, and I said to Lillian,”C’mon let’s get out of here,” and started flying down the stairs, two or three at a time, her voice getting louder in the distance. When I looked over my shoulder, I realized that I had lost Lillian, and that’s when I woke up.

Who was that woman, whose fate seemed to rest in my hands? How could my inability to remember her name render her that undone?

I wonder if this is some kind of metaphor… you think?

My brain has become very crowded with the thoughts of past, present and future. I am trying to keep them straight, but they seem to converge on me with ruthless intensity, without regard for my schedule. I have a list. They ignore it. I have priorities, some defined by me, some defined by others. They don’t care. Half the time I’m not sure who’s driving the train, me or the others, but somehow I manage to guide us through the tunnels and overpasses and curves and straightaways. Despite all the noise.

I try not to get too caught up in this notion of “my path.” Even though I know we’re all ultimately alone, and we have to figure out which way we’re going, it seems so narcissistic to make that the sole focus. I try to divide my time and energy between thinking about my own goals and desires and contributing to the lives of others – my son, my boyfriend, my sisters and the rest of my family, my friends and colleagues, and other people in the world who could benefit from my energy focused in their direction. In other words, I try to be helpful. And yet, I know that I ultimately come back to me.

And yesterday, I started off feeling very scared. Frightened of things that are happening in my body that I don’t understand – strange aches and burning sensations that have been plaguing me lately. In my mind I don’t believe it is very serious, but still, I have been so scared, and not wanting to embrace that fear. There is the idea that we create our own reality, and I don’t want to carve out an ominous future, so I’m trying to stay positive… but for me, that often entails cutting off from myself, and when that happens, my boyfriend says I disappear (he is right) and then that relationship comes into question and I lose a prime source of support. So I have no choice, really, but to be with this fear.

Something is burning inside me. I don’t know what it is. It’s hotter than warm water on my hands. It’s as frightening as forgetting who I am. It’s related to leaving my past behind and moving into the future. Yet confronting it has me racing down deeper into the depths of who I am. It’s not an original story. We all have to go it alone, ultimately. Yet there is something in the sharing of it that makes it a little easier to handle…

Perhaps you can relate.