Tag Archives: courage

Robin Williams Lived

There by the grace of God go I….this could have been me, this is me. By posting this article, I reach out my hand to another person with mental illness, a brain disorder, trauma or depression. It’s time we make our families and neighbors talk to us. We won’t survive in silence.

Please take my hand and hold on,  stay with us. If you can, please stay.

We can share this together, the dark and the light, eventually circling the world with love and the new definition of who we are.

We will circle the world until we are whole and dancing again.

Sarah Griffith Lund

Robin Williams lived a life that brought laughter and joy to millions through his comedy and acting.

He died at his home from suicide on Monday, August 11, 2014, at the age 63. He battled a brain disease that included severe depression. Even with treatment, support from loved ones, and a successful career, mental illness still can be a deadly disease, especially when paired with addiction to drugs and alcohol.

I remember when I first learned that Robin Williams had a mental illness and I was encouraged by his openness. I loved his work in Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and his role as Mork from Mork and Mindy. My favorite work of his was stand-up comedy.

He had a brilliant brain. And he had a brain with a disease. He richly blessed us with his life.

May all of us find ways today…

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Godspeed to Your Running Soul….

Maurice Sendak -Where the Wild Things Are

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little boy comes to me with stifled tears, head bowed, chin jutted out, lips pursed together to keep in his words

I lie down behind him smoothing his long graying hair off his neck

He fights so hard; not to feel, not to disappoint, not to let the little boy get too far away from the only place he knows to be safe

I ache for his longings; his undiscovered freedom, stifled passions, joy without limits

I hold space for his gentle heart even when he can’t

He silently slips into sleep as I place a butterfly kiss on his salty neck and watch him come alive in his slumber, leaving tormented consciousness behind

Slowly at first, then with urgency, his legs start to twitch and run

I pray for godspeed to his running soul

and to please find my husband and bring him back

 

Photo credit:  Image from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

 

 


an unexpected moment of peace…..

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Photo credit: An’ Marie at callmeanmarie.com

Peace and joy are elusive to survivors.

We have to learn and re-learn these types of experiences, cultivating the beautiful aspects of life as if we were students in school grasping a new skill.  I’ve usually been able to be kind of a joy parasite (not to be confused with a joy sucker) who gravitates toward frollicking animals, playful children or any group or individual who is just laughing unabashedly.  I watched and learned what this beautiful emotion was and then set out to mimic it.  These situations always felt right and kind to my heart although in direct conflict with my upbringing.  Kindness and love weren’t taught or shown but pathology and self destruction was handed out freely and often.

Survivors as a general rule haven’t learned how to play well or experience peace.  If we did learn to play, what we were probably experiencing was destruction in action disguised as play;  i.e. out of control drinking/drug/food/anger (fill in your favorite addiction or crazy shit here), driving recklessly, giving ourselves hearts and bodies to men that were undeserving of that sacred gift.  So many behaviors were masked as “a good time” that it took decades for me to truly figure it out.

During my high school years, I usually found myself gravitating toward healthier families.  I certainly can’t take credit for this action for it wasn’t conscious.  But I’ve come to believe that living things; plants, animals, people will gravitate toward health and love and I base that belief on some serious reflection upon my past behaviors.  I wanted a better life and in many ways, set out to get one even as a child.

One family I attached to had two parents, 6 children who were blissfully crowded into a tiny house with a tiny kitchen.  Many families grew up in this fashion in my day, no one owned a McMansion or rarely had a bedroom to themselves.  It was customary to share a room and even a bed with a sibling.  And this was the way it was at C. J.’s  house.  She, myself and several other friends grew up in that tiny house; from junior high girls, into high school girls, to brides, then mothers and now grandmothers.  We’ve buried parents, sent sons to war, survived cheating husbands and celebrated our re-marriages. We’ve lost touch and reconnected many times, rarely without missing a beat.  They are my ya-ya’s, my sisters.

I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with C.J.  It’s always an easy kind of experience to spend time with friend from long ago, who knows your stories and your quirks.  We’ve transcended needing to explain things as we just know each other that well.

It was the usual agenda; yard sales, thrift stores, food, playing with the dogs and cats, naps, late night talks with the girls.  Yeah, girls….56 year old girls. All the good things in life.  My last afternoon was marked by C. J. hosting a dinner (and she’s a fabulous cook by the way) for me before I left for home. Her modest farm home was full just as her childhood home was and served as a playground to many activities that day. After an afternoon of swimming with the grandkids, I plopped myself (temporarily of course) on the living room couch where I soon found myself snuggled in and stretched out.

I can’t exactly describe what happened but whatever “it” was, I’ve managed to hold onto “it” for weeks, even sharing the feeling with other friends. Sitting on the over stuffed couch, I found myself sinking in deeply, letting my tension float away and began to absorb the energy of this household. The sheer comfort of the environment gave way to me lying down putting a throw pillow over my face.  I became so relaxed and peaceful that I couldn’t resist  the temptation to surrender.  During the most blissful two hour nap I’ve had in a long time,  I floated in and out of the commotion of the grandkids playing and eventually crying, the miffed off weiner dog’s continuous bark to get back into the house, doors slamming, the phone ringing, the parental and grand-parental units shushing the kids to be quiet as to not wake me and the most delicious smells of garlic and anchovy coming from the kitchen.  It was a sensory delight.  And it was heaven.

The more that the everyday, normal family life noise increased the more peaceful I became.  A thought came to me as I grinned under my throw pillow; this must be what its like to be a part of a family.  It was okay for me to relax, to feel peace, that loved ones surrounded me, even cooked food to nourish me after my nap.  I recalled a long forgotten dream as a child to belong to a nice family.  And that simple gesture on C. J. ‘s part became a truly, magical afternoon for me.

I left for home that evening, after my nap and dinner, accompanied by my yard sale treasures and fresh tomatoes from their garden.  My most treasured gift was the lightness and peace that I felt.

During the 2 hour drive home, I think my heart actually smiled.

An Marie 1ecc9394106646b69ed2a35e726cecc5

Photo credit: An’ Marie

To view other works by this artist, visit www.callmeanmarie.com


love story in there….somewhere….

girl and dragon

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

I seem to have made it through the latest chapter of dark times.

Hopefully.

When I started this blog, I felt lost.  Then I found myself through writing and gave myself a voice that I’d never possessed before, at least for myself.  I’d been championing for others for decades; animal rights, women’s rights, diversity, environment.  It had become painful apparent to me that a great deal of time had been spent advocating for others and not myself.  That was a game changer.

Writing this blog has enabled me to find my voice through writing but look several issues squarely in the eye.  Honoring myself was one.  A simple bumper sticker noticed by the artist, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts.  Honor Yourself.  Simple words that were nearly impossible to integrate.

The next issue was that I couldn’t wrap my thinking around the fact that someone, anyone would want to read what I had to say.  In my mind, my words had to be profound, a literary masterpiece before putting them out for the world to see.  Shouldn’t I get a MFA in writing or something or some sort of artistic approval before being so bold as to put my words, my life, my history into words?  Well, that answer came soon too.  Survivors trickled in, slowly at first, some stumbling and fragmented, some already having honed their beautiful craft of expression.  All were worthy and I felt so blessed to be a part of a counterculture emerging for survivors, men and women, who were taking back their power.  I wanted to be a part of that.  For me, it was coming home.

My most recent absence is due to my utter confusion and re-entry into that dark place.  You see, I thought I’d been through it and had emerged complete, or at least complete enough.  I thought I was finally, finally in that safe cocoon where I could share my story of abuse and survival with the clarity of hindsight.  I was wrong, at least sort of.

This summer I separated from my husband.  My fairy tale crashed and I felt that I was a fraud.  How on earth could I write stories of hope and love when I had failed at my own love story?  Slowly, I moved through the hazy days of summer with my tool bag (purple of course) of rest, solitude, meditation, reading and dark chocolate.  I cried when I felt like it, wandered through the library, raged at Grandmother moon in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, slept any time I felt fatigued and tried, oh how I tried, to find joy anywhere I could.  I picked flowers and herbs from my beautiful garden and gave them to anyone I could think of; my church for Sunday morning service, the women at the convenient mart on the corner who are always so kind and make me laugh every time I’m there buying chocolate, my dear friend’s mother who was passing this summer, a friend who works long hours and commutes into the city each day.  I gave them just because.  Just because in the absence of my own joy, I needed to create that precious spark of joy for someone else and live vicariously off of that until I had my own.

Many, many people supported me though this passage, you will find them on my blogroll and Facebook page.  I simply couldn’t have weathered this without logging on to see their daily posts on love, writing, poetry, painting, nature, food.  I traveled with several as they made major changes in their lives too and hope that I provided them a wee bit of support also.

Slowly that spark began to burn again.  Now I have more words and more insight into myself.  I tip my hat to the dark side, purpose well served.

I still live a love story.  Really, there is a love story in here somewhere.  One that, once again, must begin with myself.  With or without a partner, my daughter, my dogs, my house.  I can write words of hope because now I’ve lived them again.  I’m not a fraud but an innocent person who stumbles and trips often, sometimes sitting in the mud puddle I fell in, squalling and crying.  But then there are times, when I laugh and dance around with a soggy tutu.

It’s all good.


So the woman who has danced out of control….

So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet...has a special and valuable wisdom

 

Thank you Jackie Robinson for coming to the rescue today.  This is the beauty of connection at its best.  One of us puts wise words out in the world, another friend finds them and passes them on.  And so it goes.

As I combed through my inbox, I found this jewel just waiting for me to find at the perfect moment.  From Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves

‘So the woman who has danced out of control, who has lost her footing and lost her feet and understands that bereft state at the end of the fairy tale, has a special and valuable wisdom.’

Wow.

I would consider it an honor and privilege to rise to this occasion that Dr. Estes illustrates.  It would be a personal challenge to take those life challenges where I’ve lost my footing and turn it into my own fairy tale. First, I have to fully grasp and accept the feelings that arise from losing one’s footing.  Each time I do, I believe it to be the last and final time that I’m faced with such challenge that completely knocks me off my feet.  Yet again and again, I’m plunged into that dark place where I must face once again the end of the fairy tale.  But now, I’m starting to understand that there is more than bleak, painful acceptance.  I can use the opportunity of the darkness to rest, spin a beautiful, silky cocoon around myself and re-invent myself, my soul and the fairy tale.

This really got me thinking hard again.  There is much dancing to be done.  Dancing with wild abandon.  Dancing out of control.

I would encourage you to visit Jackie’s site, A Heart’s Whisper and especially Sacred Circle Retreats.  These women, among others, in person and online have kept me afloat during those “bereft” times.

They dance with me out of control.

 


a day of questions….

a day of questionsIt is indeed a day of questions. This particular day of questioning has been followed by weeks of questioning.

Its an awkward junior high dance of where to place my feet, what do I do with my hands, how can I stop sweating each nuance of my being?

I suppose each day brings me closer to my truth.  I’m not sure why my truth has been so buried.  Who decided that it was to be my life’s journey to dig through the muck and proclaim my findings a treasure?  Why is it taking so long?  My post it notes that line the area above my desk say to practice acceptance.  They also remind me that I’m entitled to make mistakes and that I can’t start the chapter of your new life if you keep re-reading the last one.  I wonder if I’m not assimilating the lessons of my life or if I just have too many post it notes?

Today’s biggest question is one of my voice.  Usually my biggest questions are regarding my voice; where it is, how loud is it, how do I use it to the greatest good?  But underneath those questions lie the deepest challenge I face today.  What do you do when it is apparent that your voice and message make those in your life uncomfortable?  Where is the line of discernment between how the individual should proceed when they form a part of a larger  group and what is their responsibility to the greater good? Should one compromise the group for personal benefit?  Does one pray for the fear to be released from the family/community/church/friends with whom you’ve made a life with or does one practice a life unspoken or better yet, a life carefully spoken to those only ready to hear?  And if so, how does one know the difference?

I’ve been quite drawn lately to the plight of the gay person who struggles with whether or not to come out.  I find this a struggle that is similar to mine in the sense that neither can reveal the story truest to themselves without wondering how detrimental or incredible the outcome might be.  How does one make that final, irreversible decision and action?  It’s a long standing fantasy of mine to be able to tell the story of an abused and compromised child only to break the shackles of shame and liberated by the act of coming out.  It seems as if it would be freeing beyond belief.  Not taking the steps toward fulfilling that fantasy is a sort of slow emotional suicide.  That scenario involves lots of pretending, not stating the obvious (well at least the obvious to me) and leading my life with as much rhythm as a flat line on an EKG.  A basically unappealing and empty existence.

Is the solution a matter of re-framing one’s thinking to accommodate only thoughts of gratitude and a positive nature?  Isn’t that denial?

Could the whole matter of avoiding the tough subjects in life some sort of grace that I’ve yet to develop?  Isn’t that fear?

Should I practice more acceptance of what is and isn’t in my life and resign to a life without unabashed celebration of my total self?  Isn’t that numbing and settling?

I’d love to hear from anyone who not only has had the same questions but any solutions to this personal crisis as well.  Wishing I had more answers than questions, I leave that to you.


gonna kick the demon in the ass today….

4006206a3e604e4d8860122730daf432Unlike my usual self, this will be short and to the point.

No graphic, triggering details.  Just the facts.  

Haven’t slept well in days, watched the clock go from 2 am to 3 am to 4 am….Tons of body sensations on my skin, in my brain.  I’ve gnawed at my fingernails and took my anxiety meds.  Practiced DBT and trauma release exercises.  I’ve been through this enough now to know what is happening and how it will play itself out. I’ve identified it, named it and tackled it.

In other words, I’ve got this covered.  I have tools and support.  The memory still came in my sleep disguised as a writhing rattlesnake in my mouth.  That’s what I woke up to was the feeling of it in my mouth and that’s what I’ve spent the day shaking off.  Doesn’t take an expert in dream interpretation to figure out this awful phallic metaphor.  

But you know what?  Its okay.  Today, I can hold onto my soul and refuse to let you have it.  I’m gonna kick the demon in the ass today and let it know who is really the boss around here.  

I’m the alpha bitch and that’s just the way it is.


More than 5 things to do if you’re gonna be a writer….

Thank youSeveral years ago, while in the shower I had the compelling epiphany to write a memoir.  A book based on my life’s story; the traumas, the journey, the healing.   I would lay out a quilt, steep some tea and write myself whole again.  Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it?

That epiphany took form slowly by becoming a few stories, then a blog, followed by a few timid submissions and a Facebook page.  I’ve lovingly cared and developed my craft by doing things like learning what the heck it means to increase your social media presence and tackling Twitter.

Well, today I just want to scream.  No beauty here!  What the hell was I thinking when I started a monumental project like writing a book?  Really, my life story?  What do I know about writing and publishing?  Actually, more than I think when I finally simmer down and let this pass.

Here’s my not so tidy list of things that have done to help move this project along…

  1.  Realize that any movement is good.  Taking a formless idea and transforming it into a tangible, readable book or story is a huge undertaking that needs to be done in small manageable steps.  The more support you have for this, the better.
  2. Read.  Especially authors whose stories resonate with your story and even more so, the authors whose framework and storylines appeal to you.
  3. Do something to identify yourself as a writer.  I made a Facebook page, joined the National Association of Memoir Writers and She Writes.  All of these actions add energy and identification to your role as a writer and author.
  4. If you don’t have any formal training in writing, that’s okay.  Teach yourself.  We live in the information age graced with the internet and libraries for information we need to hold in our hands.  Use both extensively.
  5. Make the time to write.  Find the time to write.  Tell your family to make dinner.  Leave your phone off.  Write seemingly meaningless stuff or post on other people’s blog but keep the flow going.   This is exactly what I’m doing at this particular moment because I can’t seem to write on my book so I’m thrusting my frustrations out on this blog post.
  6. Align yourself with virtual writing projects like NaNoWriMo and Novel Writing Winter.  These keep you in touch with others who are waging The War of Art.
  7. Give yourself permission to scream.  Its cathartic but make sure you don’t scare the children or the dogs.

These last weeks have really sucked.  I don’t feel my creative flow and my muse has headed for the hills. I lost several days to a sick dog and ultimately a dog that passed away.  Everyone should be given numerous sick days for when you lose a beloved animal friend.

My therapist lost her father so there’s no group this week.   I gave her my condolesences and hid my neediness for wishing I could be with my pals tonight.  A friend lost her father so there’s more casseroles to make and more stuff eating my time from my book.  My husband had to leave town for work and I needed to stay behind with the sick dog.

Things happen.  Schedules change.  People and animals die.  Support isn’t there like you had planned.

Big deal….go scream, get the chocolate then sit down and write.


What a novel idea….Novel Writing Winter!

263601384409890714_o2Xloiyz_bThis incredible concept is one I stumbled upon accidently but fortuitously.

A blog post from Sarah Potter came through yesterday describing her concept of Novel Writing Winter.

I happened to be one of those writers who signed up NaNoWriMo after completing it last year and crossing the finish line with a completed 50,000 words.  It was awesome as was the afterglow of my accomplishments but for several reasons it just didn’t work out this year.  I got 6000 words in and that was it.  Sure, now its my responsibility to slay those inner critics as I read I should do but there’s a whisper in my ear about why I didn’t go further with the one month writing deadline.

Enter Sarah Potter with serendipitious timing.

I learn a lot from other writer’s reflections on their writing path and why it sometimes might take a different twists and turns.  Sarah offered an opportunity to commit to a gentler climb rather than dashing up the steep slope of NaNoWriMo.  Now this was an approach that I can wrap my head around.

I’d actually been envisioning a scenario similar to this after realizing that November had come and gone.  I hadn’t met my personal writing goals yet the long winter still loomed ahead.  Why not make the best of both situations?  So that’s what I shall do.  It would be even better  to have any of my writing pals who are contemplating a novel to join in as we tackle the dark season of winter together.

Then there is this other reason.

Once I heard this idea of NWW, I realized I could also use this as an absolute excuse for snuggling up with my beloved and aging friend Rose.  As she approaches her 14th year, I’m not sure how many more winters we’ll have together.  She is my best muse and constant companion.  There are no words to describe the depth of love I have for this dog.  She’s seen me through more tough times than I can describe and is as fine tuned to me as another being can get.  I’d love to mark this passage in our lives with a winter of quiet space where can just be.

We’ll do this together and it’ll be great.

In fact, I will do my best to make it extraordinary.

Look out….Rose and I are writing a book!


why i’m unusually comfortable with death….

Last night, I turned on PBS and caught a show about the suicide assistance program, Final Exit Network.  I wasn’t really looking for a program to get interested in yet I found myself oddly attracted to the high emotion of this episode giving options to end one’s life with dignity.  In a nutshell, Final Exit Network provides support and guidance to candidates looking to end their life because of extreme circumstances of intolerable illness.  They have been lauded as compassionate by scholars in ethics and heretics by religious groups and physicians who oppose an individual’s right to choice to the timing and implementation of a dignified death.  As I’m watching this, I clearly see both sides.  There are many issues at play here and it is a complex subject that few even wish to visit.  Those special individuals who are willing to extend their compassion to a person who asks to die, are clearly in touch with the sensitive and personal issues involved as to why someone would seek out the means to end their life.

I got it immediately.

Their stories spoke directly to my heart.

Until one directly deals with madness and horror of pain; emotional~physical~spiritual~relentless~daily~mind bending pain that isn’t relieved even though one has exhausted their finances, resources and partners.  Because until a person deals with this pain on a day to day, minute by minute way of crawling through life, I realize that the “unaffected” won’t get it.  And that’s fine, because the “unaffected” are living productive lives with good enough health to not feel the burden that the “totally affected” person does.  It isn’t a place that one visits until they have to and once they have to, one doesn’t waiver as much.

I recently had an “episode” brought on my the perfect storm of triggers.  It put me in a place that most would call mental illness.  Since I don’t thoroughly subscribe to that label, I did something entirely different this time upon the suggestion of my friend Heather.  I surrendered to the madwoman.  Blindly, I charged into this event with a headstrong, full of steam and hope approach, calling in all the divine helpers I could find.  Basically, I told it that I was in control and taking over from here.  I told it to FUCK OFF and walked straight into the madness.

Now here’s the really interesting part.  In this swirling anxiety ridden mania that I felt, a story emerged.  I actually took the wheel of this runaway train and channelled it into something productive.  And for the first time, I think I’m really onto to something here.  The outcome was a story I’ve known my entire life and one that I lived and almost died through.  But this time, I was my mother.  I became her, feeling her feelings and seeing the exact places that she was.  I have some thoughts and explanations for this but that is an entirely different post.

There was a time when I censored myself heavily regarding these mystical occurrences but not any more.  They are simply part of me. I now let them flow and even have the nerve to write about them.  A force greater than I is wanting to come through, a story is begging to be told.  Once I rode through the mania and channelled the story, a peace ensued and I share that story with you now. And finally, I’ve come to understand that embracing the dark doesn’t mean succumbing to it.

Her heart leaps from her chest when the kitchen phone rings harshly, shattering the silence of her usual household day.  She must have drifted off to sleep when she sat down to rest for a moment and wait for the coffee pot to finish percolating.  Her day is usually peacefully quiet, save the occasional phone call from a neighbor friend or the dog barking to announce a truck passing by the road out front.  She blinks and tries to steady herself as she waits for her pulse to resume its normal beat, shaking off the images of the place she just visited while asleep in her mother’s sturdy rocking chair.
The phone has stopped ringing now but she knows it was Doris.  Doris is the only person that will let the phone ring for at least 15 times full well knowing that any respectable farm woman would have to put down her dust rag or put down the pan of beans she was shelling before making her way inside to the kitchen.  
She’s fully awake now and glad that there is some hot coffee waiting for her.  She yanks the plug from the wall and lets the percolator relieve itself with a puff of steam.  Damn coffee pot.  How many years is this damn thing going to go on, she’s had it since her wedding which was a full 25 years before and would certainly love to get one of the modern ones that she’d spied in the Sears Roebuck catalog.  She adds a jigger of milk and a spoonful of sugar, stops a moment and dumps another one in.  Its that kind of day that she feels she needs extra sugar.  She goes to the porch and lets the screen door slam behind her.  Today she doesn’t care. Usually when the kids are home, she painstakingly makes sure it doesn’t slam because she knows that she can’t fuss at them without setting a good example.  That’s just the kind of woman that Louise is.  
Her coffee is steamy and sweet, just the way she likes it.  There isn’t a care about the excess sugar intake or the mid morning nap.  There is no never mind about the future, what her kids will do this summer soon as school lets out or whether she’s staked the tomatoes good enough.  All she can think about is tomorrow.
~~~~
The doctor said it was a uterine mass.  It would need to come out and soon.  
His words played over and over in her head.  She wonders if she should have asked more questions in the doctor’s office or if there was more to what he was telling her.  All she can see is the bulbous man coming into the exam room after she’d finished getting dressed and put together.  He sat down with a harumpf, fished in his shirt pocket for his Lucky Strikes, put one between his lips and lit it.  She sat there proper in her good dress, legs together, nylon hose sticking to her and the garters making an impression in the back of her thigh that would last for hours.  
Good god, would that man at least turn the window fan on.  She doesn’t object to the smoke because she’s a closet smoker herself.  Plus everyone she knows smokes; young, old, pregnant or not.  Its a breeze she’s aching for because she knows herself well enough to know that she gets woozy in the high humidity and she’s barely holding it together anyway.  He grunts when he reaches forward and clicks the fan on, letting the steel blades start their acceleration.  Finally the breeze reaches her and she feels like she can finally stop holding her breath, that she isn’t going to fall out in a dead faint.  
“Mrs. Hauner, can you get in here next Monday for an operation?  You have a uterine mass that I felt during the exam that we need to get out.  This is why you haven’t had your monthly cycle”.  He stops for a moment to take a drag from his cigarette while he glances at his clipboard and some notes he’d written outside.  He shakes his head and says, “Nope, pretty sure this isn’t menopause, just the mass that is messing things up.  We’ll know more after the operation”.
With that he stood up, paused briefly as if to see if she wanted to ask anything or have a reaction.  When she didn’t, he continued to tell her that the nurse would be in to make
the arrangements.
~~~~
From her porch seat, the conversation didn’t seem very eventful.  When she replayed it over in her head, she liked to reassure herself that the doctor didn’t seem upset, therefore, she shouldn’t be either.  He’s done this kind of operation many times before and from the appearance of the new hospital at the edge of town, it would seem that they had things under control.  But why then, has she been in a cold sweat since the words were delivered to her that morning?  Was she reading something into it like her husband had told her that night when she gave him the news?  No matter how many times, she replayed the words, there was a cold, eerie feeling that crept up the back of her neck and grabbed her around the throat.
She finished her coffee and stood up to go back into the house.  For a moment, she paused to look, as she always did, at the front yard flowers that she so lovingly planted this spring.  They look good.  Her gardens always looked good.  
Plopping the coffee cup down on the kitchen table, she continued on to the back of the house to her bedroom.  She admired her freshly smoothed bedspread, put into place hours before at the crack of dawn.  The breeze was blowing nicely in through the back bedroom windows and she wondered how long she could leave the windows open before the humidity made it impossible.  
Louise slowly opened the door to the closet and gazed at the beat up brown suitcase.  She hated the sight of it.  To her sister in law, “the world traveler” it meant adventure, escape and respite from all things Southern Illinois.  Theresa jumped at the chance to travel and any man who would take her.  In her eyes, the god forsaken town they grew up in deserved to be left behind and she fulfilled that every chance she had.  Unfortunately the last husband left her as quickly as she had left town and the suitcase became available.  Louise didn’t travel or leave the farm except to visit a sister that lived several hours away, mostly when she’d just had a baby and needed some help with the kids.  But even then, a paper bag and her overnight kit always sufficed.
She was relieved that the kids were still in school for the day and the house was quiet.  She didn’t want to have to face that suitcase with all the daily hubbub going on because she found herself barely able to think even with no distractions and dead quiet.  Louise grabbed the handle and set it down on the bed without taking her eyes off of it.  Her reality was sinking in and the more it sunk, the heavier she became.  As if in slow motion, she reached down and popped open the two snaps and lifted the lid.  As it opened, Theresa’s perfume and cigarette smoke wafted out, causing her nose to wrinkle for a moment.  Her wooziness hit her and the room lifted and started to spin a bit, she tries to settle herself down by speaking out loud to herself in a scolding sort of way.
“Okay, I’ve gone this far.  I’m getting ready to go the hospital and I’m going to be fine.  I don’t have to think about my kids being left motherless if something goes wrong because it won’t.  And the doctor didn’t mention having the cancer that her neighbor ladies are always talking about taking someone unexpectedly.  And even though I don’t know anyone personally that doesn’t have their uterus, I heard about Arlene’s sister who couldn’t have children because of this same thing and she’s just fine”.  
She takes a deep breath and wills herself to believe everything she’s just repeated to herself and begins to fill the musty suitcase with a nightgown, slippers, cold cream and other essentials for her week long stay.  With her task completed, she lowers the lid and snaps the suitcase shut, setting it beside the bed.  One step closer, one more thing off the list until tomorrow.
~~~~
The early morning sun cuts in through the venetian blinds of the hospital admitting area and emphasizes the green linoleum floor and how clean the Sisters of St. Joseph keep it.  She smiles to herself thinking how those gals do take pride in their work and momentarily understands why her sister Helen might enjoy being a Catholic.  She spies her husband outside the window having a smoke with the groundskeeper who is also a drinking buddy at the local tavern and a cousin.  Briefly, she imagines what it would be like if she were viewing her life without her in it.  Would her husband and children continue on like before only with one less place at the dinner table?  Would her absence even be noticed?  And like it or not, Louise realizes that she’s been thinking more along the lines of dying than living through this.  
The light from the center of the ceiling is blinding her. So bright that its burning her eyes.  She squints and tries to shield her eyes but the nurses tell her to leave her arm stretched out so the IV doesn’t get kinked.   They also tell her its necessary for the doctor to see what he’s doing and give a little canned laughter of “you sure do want him to see what he’s working on down there” which doesn’t comfort her a bit.   They are robotic in their movements and she’s feeling the full effect of the pre-op shot they gave her in her room.  Louise doesn’t like this feeling at all which is why she doesn’t drink except the occasional snort of Mogan David that she keeps in the back of the Frigidaire.   
She feels the medication working against all of her coping skills.  She’s losing control. Until this very moment, she has steeled herself against the bad news. Her intuitive feelings of impending doom were screaming. Louise tensed her body hard and fought to regain her centeredness, slamming down every ounce of emotion and stuffing it down her throat.  From there, she didn’t care where it went as long as it went away.  She figures it feeds that uterine mass but would have to deal with that later. 
But the grip is loosening on her self control and she doesn’t like it.  It is unfamiliar and unsettling and harsh.  The cold metal table underneath her has chilled her to the bone and she realizes that she is not only shaking, she is almost convulsing in her movement.  Every word that she’s wanted to say her entire life of silent servitude is now stuck in her throat and she can’t breathe.  A panic spreads over her and in a fit of uncharacteristic behavior, she finds herself trying to escape.  She notices that they notice her.  Her periphery is suddenly full of nurses heads with white pointy hats holding her down as she feels a pinch of another injection in her thigh.  A white cloth comes down over her eyes and stops over her mouth. She takes one frantic breath of the toxic smelling anesthesia and the world goes dark.

the baby floats.  floats in darkened, buoyant bliss.  a little girl.  transitioning from the heavens.  growing, floating, connecting to her new world with every breath and heartbeat of the mother that carries her.  she wants to feel nothing but the beat of her own heart and the arms of the Divine spirit that is lovingly embracing her.  but a primitive feeling, too much for the infantile synapses of her nervous system spreads through her.  she learns about danger from a cellular level.  she is not safe now nor will she be for a very long time.

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