Gathering the Threads

A lot has happened since May, when last my words tread their path across this digital stage.  For the past eight summers I’ve been badly busy, trapped in a raging maelstrom of grandiose proportions, but that’s over now and I get to look forward to a quiet, less chaotic, contemplative time.

I’ve missed this.  I needed it more than I realized.

How do you gather the cloak of your true self around you and pay attention to its folds if the constant toiling exhaustion from a stress-centered life leaves you hobbled?  The answer is, you don’t.  The cloak wears and wears and before you know it, your self is composed of shredded strings holding the holes together.

Right now, my cloak feels like the torn up pieces of a tattered flag after it’s been left in a powerful wind and bleaching sun for near a decade.  But I see that now.  No longer a cloak of invisibility, it’s been carried into a warm, safe place, and is being assessed for repairs.

The wheel turns, the seasons change, and again I find myself the weaver of patches for a cloak that has seen better days.  It survived though–by thread and seam and force of will–it survived.  And from the ragged shell, I’m confident a vibrantly mended cloak will emerge.

I’ve been gently gathering the threads that still hold strong and am using them as a framework to make the cloth whole again.  All that’s left is figuring out the colors and designs of the patches.  That’s a task I’m looking forward to.



The World Is Too Much With Me

Hatcher's Pass, Alaska

Hatcher’s Pass, Alaska
(and yes, it really was amazingly green)

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
–William Wordsworth

I had a really tough time coming to the page tonight (and yesterday).  A tornado of thoughts and emotions are swirling around in my mind and heart.  And while I’ve always thought myself more of a fiction writer than an essayist, writers write, right?  So here I am with my words tumbling and stumbling along like a diaspore waiting for the wind to disperse its seeds so they can take root and grow.

I have to trust that somewhere, at the end of this, a purpose will present itself.  What is life without meaning?  I still haven’t found mine, but I’m trusting in the process.

My soul is heavy with injustices I can’t counter and false blames I can’t deflect.  It’s times like these that I want to run off into the woods, away from people, away from the sorrows and trials of my everyday. I want to be someplace that feels real and honest.

Sky.  Trees.  Quiet.  Stars.
The rich smell of damp earth.
Mountains that make me feel small.

When I dream of a simple life, I dream of these things.

The world is too much with me.  These days I can’t take a step without sinking knee-deep into a pothole.  Is this what Wordsworth meant?  Of course it is.  He saw this coming more than 200 years ago.  I’m just personalizing it.  For this, for everything, we are out of tune…

I want to walk quietly and gently through this world.  There’s too much shouting to hear inside my own head, and too many distractions to remember what’s real.  That flickering light on the TV screen and the screeching of brakes–that’s a different kind of real.

How do I change this?  How do I find the silence in the chaos of everyday?  I’ve tried deep breathing and meditation, acupuncture and exercise, drumming and surrendering myself to a higher power and more, but nothing lasts.

I’ve been asking these questions for 20 years and I may have to learn to be content with the only answers I’ve ever received.  A breath of wind against my cheek.  A sudden storm as I start to cry.

Re-Learning to Dance in the Rain

168028583_a3f906017bSo why start this blog? Why now?

When I was in my early 20s I lived with a group of amazing women who loved thunderstorms (we have some doozies in the mid-Atlantic states). Each of us had our own trials in those years. We were sidetracked by lovers, leavers, stalkers, thieves, and a lot of downright idiots. But when a summer storm rose and electricity streaked across the sky, raising the hair on our arms, we were always drawn out into the melee, as if the unstable atmosphere reflected our own tenuous steps into a world where we tried to balance our dreams with the harsh realities of life.

We’d splash in the rivers running down the alley and twirl about in gauze skirts that clung, sodden, to our thighs and calves. I remember lightning striking only feet from where I danced. It shook the ground–it was so close–and I nearly fell. I’m not sure what, exactly, we ever got from dancing around in the pouring rain, but it energized us and we’d end up tumbling through the back door of the house we shared, dripping wet and laughing–all of our cares washed away for a day.

Those are good memories of what, looking back, seemed to be a happy time. We did have a lot of fun…did a lot of partying…tested the waters to the point where we were in danger of drowning…

So Michelle… what exactly does all this rain dancing stuff have to do with starting this blog?

For awhile now I forgot what it was like to dance in the rain.  Metaphorical lightning has been striking around me so often that this time, it did knock me off my feet. I fell so hard and was hurt so badly that I nearly lost the love of my life–the written word.

I am a survivor of nearly three years of emotional, psychological, and professional abuse by a manipulative bully. One of the bully’s tactics was to verbally beat down everything I excelled at–to take my talents and make me question the validity of those talents by repeatedly telling others of my “failings”. After a lifetime of dealing with different types of bullies, I’ve found this to be a common tactic. This, however, was the first time that I suffered through it for such a prolonged period with so little available to me to escape the attacks or counter them.

My skill as a writer was bashed regularly. If someone puts you down enough, you begin to believe it–even if deep inside yourself you know they are spewing venomous lies. I started to question my abilities. At the core of my being I knew this was what the bully wanted. She took all joy out of the written word for me and her psychological attacks kept me on constant alert like a kudu approaching a quickly evaporating watering hole.

I countered the bullying with everything I had. My dad taught me to stand up for myself and to always fight back (although he was rather literal when it came to the word fight). It’s just not in me to roll over and play dead. I am my father’s daughter after all, and I’m not dead yet.

My nerves frazzled, my health suffered, but I couldn’t allow myself to give up. I couldn’t allow the bully to win. I was strung tighter than horse hair in a violin bow.

My existence distilled down to a few necessary actions. Eat. Breathe. Work. Fight. Repeat. (Notice that “sleep” is missing as well “create” and many of the basic things that give life joy…)

When you walk into each day braced for battle and every word, email, or glance has been  forged into a weapon that is pointed directly at you, you tend to put up your shields. Shields may not let anything in, but they also don’t let anything out. You become trapped in them if you have to hold them around yourself for any length of time, and let me tell you, after three years, I was trapped.

So, again, why this blog? Why now?

I’m determined to hold onto what I feel made me the person I am today. My creativity plays a huge role in that. And this blog is a means to helping me rekindle my creative spark. I nearly lost it for good to years of bullying.

I’m working to reclaim what that bully tried to steal–my love of the written word and my confidence in all of my creative abilities. And this time, I get to do it on my own terms. My sandbox. My rules.

I have a small framed piece of fabric by my desk embroidered with a quote by Vivian Greene.  It says, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” It reminds me that every step I take into the world can greet me with joy or pain, fear or excitement, a lightning strike that shakes me to my core or a gentle rain that washes me as clean as holy water.

I intend to make this blog my victory dance. And if the steps are a little tentative and sloshy and the thunder and lighting shake the ground–I’m just going to keep dancing. Care to join me in a few steps?