Washing Away Fear


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.


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