Tag Archives: fear


a beautiful vintage mirror in a dark room

A shadowy glimpse from the corner of my eye

In every reflection I pass by

I feel you lurking, following me

But there is nothing when I turn to see

Present in the dark of night

You disappear with any light

I know that you are always there

That shadowed visage, I feel your stare

I spied you just at my shoulder…

I fear you growing bolder

Behind me I beg you to stay

What are you doing when I look away?

I fear one day you’ll break free

Ignoring any sensible plea

Embracing malice with unholy glee

The monster just there, inside of me…

Blocked in…

For quite a number of days now, I have been getting little reminders. “You haven’t posted anything in X days…” or “Hey, we haven’t heard anything from you in a bit. Are you ok?” This is probably a testament to the fact that I had managed to post more or less weekly since the first of the year; and that there must be at least two people on the planet that read the mad ramblings of my brain. That all came to a rather screeching halt a little over two weeks ago. It was a cluster of events and emotions that ended up creating what might be called THE MOTHER OF ALL WRITERS’ BLOCKS. I literally have a half finished post that I started a couple of weeks ago, and I just felt it going nowhere and my heart just wasn’t in it.

That’s the problem with writer’s block, though. The words don’t come. Even when the words come, they don’t look right. Everything that appeared on the screen just sounded, in my head, like so much meaningless drivel. I know. You all are now saying, “So, how is this different that any of the general crappola that you type out?” Well… it just was. Nothing seemed worth the time and energy.

The problem was that I lost someone dear to me. She was too young and too vibrant for me to understand why someone like her is gone. In truth, all of this year… 2016… has seemed to be a great gaping hole of grieving and rage about loss. It seems astounding to me that the world continued to turn and people went on about their business when all I really wanted to do was stop. While people are watching the spectacle that is our political machine (honestly, it’s a circus I tell you… I may have to join my friend Tess for a big thing of popcorn), are fighting about bathrooms, and watching with feelings of impotence while more and more of civil liberty is trampled by laws that have blurred beyond recognition the original separation of church and state… I’ve been grieving and aching for a time when people seemed to be kinder and happier and able to take a joke. I have been thinking about the loss of talent and gifts of joy that we are now missing because of the people who have left this world just in a few short months. I have been avoiding writing because I was afraid the the voice screaming in my head in anger would flow out my fingertips and keyboard onto the screen in hurtful ways that would only add to the very phenomenon that was agonizing to me.

On top of it all I had surgery. Oh, nothing major, you understand, but as they say “surgery is surgery and there are always risks.” (Don’t you love it when they say things like that? They like to speak in ‘odds,’ too. Do they not know that I make it a personal goal to break curves?!? Seriously, don’t challenge me…) So, along with the demonstration of life being fleeting, I was also required to do the stuff they suggest when you have to have general anesthesia… I had to face my own mortality. That means thinking about what you want done when you are gone: Advance Directives, make sure finances are taken care of (sorta), put things where people can find them. It means talking to people you love and trust to carry out those wishes and then try to convince them that you aren’t “just being morbid” and are instead being responsible… and that you will be OK… that they shouldn’t worry. It’s just a worst case scenario. Except that for most of the people I love and trust… it wasn’t. We had just experienced that direct knowledge that tomorrow is not a guarantee. We suffered a loss that was too soon and shouldn’t have been. Suddenly, I was also a little afraid; afraid that I would somehow cause that pain to someone I loved.

As it turns out, all the responsibility stuff was, in fact, just a precaution. It was good to have it. I’ll hang on to the paperwork and file it, and update it just like I should. And I’m still here… Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing (not being morbid… believe it or not there are probably more than a few people that might wish me out of this world), I am here.

My words, it seems, are still a tad stuck. This is my attempt to get them back out. I’m one of those people who have to push through things. Not everyone is the same. Some people need time to recover. Just give them space and time, and eventually they come back out into the light. I can’t do that. I get stuck. I get stuck so hard that I have trouble finding my way back out. So, I have to push through. I have to force myself to exist in the light and ignore the shadows while they wait to reclaim me later when I least expect it. This is me pushing through. This is me sharing my process. It doesn’t have to be the same as anyone else’s process. If you actually do share this tendency, then, I’m here. I know the feeling, and eventually you push out to the other side. For now, I’m relying on positive posts from people I know and love. I drink in their non-judgmental, optimism like a man dying of thirst stumbling on an oasis. If you are one of those people with hope and optimism that you share, know that I appreciate you (and probably others do as well).

Because for now, I’m still a little blocked in, perhaps a little less than when I started, but still blocked… trying not to get stuck.

The Breakfast Club


I apologize to my loyal few for the delay. I will only say that I have experienced some internal resistance recently. I will warn you that this entry departs strongly from my usual style. It may also feel a bit more intense than my usual entries.

Walking into the waiting room, it was subdued, more than usual. It was not that the day was gray and sullen, though it was. It was not that it was early, but it was. There was a difference in the mood. It was the same room where I had been spending mornings periodically with varying frequency for going on half a decade. The room was familiar as was almost every face. But today, something was different.

I signed in and took my seat. Occasionally, the loud clear announcement from the phlebotomist would request the presence of one of the occupants of the room to provide their blood sacrifice into the plethora of vials and tubes that would be delivered to the lab for quantifying and assessing. One of the volunteers came through the room stopping and asking “How are you doing today…?” to all in passing. Occasionally, she would spend a bit more time with this person or that because she had some knowledge of their personal life. However, the question seemed on this day less of true interest and more the mechanics of habit.

I lifted my eyes to scan the room. Closest to me, a frail, fragile lady with immaculate white hair and bones so visible that they appeared to almost cut through the skin sat next to what appeared to be her daughter. The daughter kept up a whispered commentary, but her delicate companion fidgeted with an antique gold and diamond ring too large for her right hand with the left hand which sported a tiny engagement and wedding set, the kind that was favored in the days when a tiny chip of a diamond would have been the equivalent of a crown jewel. I could only imagine that the giver of these treasures had long since passed. Beyond this pair was another lady, skin bruised and slack on the frame of her bones. A cane balanced against her knees indicated the possible source of all the purple patches marring the skin of her extremities, but it could also be the result of intravenous punctures for any variety of causes.

Across the room, a new couple sat close together. By their physical behaviors, it was evident the wife was the patient. She appeared resigned, holding her records, but next to her, the husband hovered protectively and uncomfortable, in truth unable to protect her in this instance from her attacker. The door opened to admit two ladies. In my head, I’ve always called them “Dorothy and Rose”. The one is tall, almost masculine but stylish. Her build would have once been athletic. Her friend is of a more petite stature, with curves and more femininity. It is “Rose” who is the patient, but “Dorothy” always accompanies her, and they always bring their coffee, purchased from an expensive franchise. While it is possible that neither lady would miss the cost of a latte, it is also likely that this is the weekly carrot that rewards the acceptance of the stick of treatment.

An elderly gentleman, who has a volume control issue, wears overalls and an engineer’s cap. He is back for his third round of our shared experience. We are all aware, as he is not shy about sharing, but we are all also aware that this is likely his last chance. His attitude is always positive, and his loud voice is never raised with complaints, though I know how often pain is his companion, as much as the younger man seated on his left.

Resuming my scan of the room, I mark an absence from our morning gather: An elderly gentleman who had been present every Wednesday since my initiation to the club. He was always cheerful, despite evident discomfort and occasional shortness of breath. He was usually accompanied by his daughter, and they always sat in the same seats. We all did. It was if by general consent we had assigned seats. Their seats were empty, and no one sat there. Even new people avoided the chairs as if there was an invisible barrier preventing it. Perhaps he just recovered, I told myself. I understood now the change in the atmosphere. I had seen it before. None of us asked the question, but we all knew what the absence meant. The subdued tones of the staff confirmed our suspicions. We all just sat quietly and waited.

Loudly, startling everyone in the room, my name is called. I walk back to be installed my recliner. The room is always so cold. Scattered about the room, others have taken their places. One elderly man dozes under a blanket while the IV monitor continues to pump the toxins that are meant to prolong his life. I patiently await my own turn. The nurse comes to my side and goes through the ritual of verification. I prepare myself for the sting and pinch as vehicle of administration is inserted into the crook of my arm and the bags of pharmaceuticals hang to pump into my body. I can feel my arm going cold and slightly numb. The feeling of fatigue and nausea begin, and I attempt to distract myself with reading or social media on my phone. Across from me, the fragile lady sits in her own recliner waiting for her own treatment. She sips on a cup of some fluid and begins to choke as the liquid, due to her weakened physical state and damaged swallow reflex, attempts to enter the wrong pipe. Her daughter attempts to assist her. Staff quickly assemble equipment to help with the oxygen deprivation. The woman meets my eyes, and I see her panic like that of a drowning victim. I forget about the discomfort in my arm and disorienting feelings caused by the chemicals. I can only see the terror in those eyes as she struggles to cease the spasms in her throat and get enough oxygen to her body.

What makes it all worse is looking around to others who, like me, want desperately to help, but we cannot move, tied to our own seats by the tubes and needles that connect to the bags of chemical assault upon the diseases that have overtaken our bodies. So, instead, we sit impotent and weak and watch the struggle.

How selfish and self-centered am I? Having my private pity-party with my discomfort and anger. I watch as the woman clutches at the breathing mask and tries desperately to get the spasms to quiet and oxygen to her system. Slowly, the terror recedes to exhaustion and slight embarrassment at being the center of so much attention. The activity returns to normal, and conversations start up around the room, softly at first and then increasing to normal volume. They talk about travel and family and hobbies. No one talks about the nausea and the night sweats and the hair that comes out in greater amounts with each passing treatment. We all know. It isn’t important.

Life is what is important to these few. The people they love. The people who love them. The daughter now carefully watching her frail mother breathing more comfortably now, and the son who sits quietly beside his dozing father. The friend who crochets a newborn’s skullcap while her friend slips in and out of consciousness to the ticking and drip of the IV. And the solitary woman who sits quietly and observes. Is it better to struggle against futility to extend the hours of life upon the earth merely for the sake of existence, or might it not be better to spend the time more wisely in the pursuit of a worthwhile goal though it shorten the span of time? For these, the choice is made. Every extended moment with those they love is worth the fight. And with that, I find that it is remarkably easy to let go of a lot of things that take more energy than I have to give. I find that there is only so much room in my life for the petty and self-important. I have enough drains on the energy that sustains me, and I feel that my time and activities are spent better with those who fill that void rather than further drain it.

The following is not my own creation, but I found it to be extraordinarily poignant, appropriate, and wish to share it with all of you:

She let go.
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

~ Rev Safire Rose
via Devi Moksha

Monster Spray: For Things that Go ‘Bump’ in Your Life

9 Chickweed Lane

Many people talk about being an optimist or a pessimist. They talk about drinking vessels with various descriptions of their contents as an assessment of being one of these. I’ve tried my hand at optimism, and I have been accused of being a pessimist; but in truth, I prefer to think of myself as a realist. I try not to expect the worst. I always try for the best outcomes, but I prepare myself for negative outcomes because I just want to have a fallback plan. Does that make me the harbinger of gloom and doom? Am I a Negative Nelly? I hope not. I certainly do not want to be.

In the course of human experience, I have found that my involuntary, sometimes unconscious response to events in my life, positive or negative, is to expect the worst and take what I get. If things turn out to justify my expectations, I’m never pleased with the results, but I use the outcomes to reformulate a plan to address the situation from a different approach. If things turn out better than I expect, I am relieved or elated. I worry that this approach is more negative than I would prefer, and knowing that negativity can actually serve as self-fulfilling prophecies in a neurolinguistic way, I have spent much effort attempting to change my way of thinking. The best I’ve been able to accomplish so far is to take a neutral stance in my expectations without giving bias to my fears or my wishes. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, though. I still find myself frequently looking over my shoulder and waiting for that alternate piece of footwear.

This is where that “expect the worst and take what you get” philosophy has really been the biggest detriment to my own peace of mind and happiness. While there may be some logical premise in expecting a negative outcome so that I am not surprised or disappointed, the side effect of this attitude is that I am not always able to relax and enjoy the positives that occur.

Perhaps it is a holdover from years of childhood superstitions and folk wisdom that became so ingrained that I cannot seem to shake off their lessons. Perhaps it is a result of traumatic experiences that have indelibly written their warnings on my memory to never get too comfortable with the good times of my life. No matter what the etiology, I find myself (like many others) when things are going too well looking under the bed for the monster, around the corner for the mugger, or over my head for the anvil. I know that I am not alone in this particular human frailty. There are many of us who cannot seem to enjoy life when it seems to travel smoothly avoiding the usual potholes that liter the road. It almost seems that we are tempting or cheating fate when all the stars and planets align to make the path we tread a bit too gentle and pleasant. We expect that other shoe to fall from the sky and squash us like a bug under one colossal heel.

I think it boils down to Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs. Anxiety generally stems in some part from the lack of these needs being met. The first tier is the basic needs that each person has for living, in other words biological necessities. The second tier is safety, shelter, and access to resources. People who have threats to meeting these basic of all needs have no energy to expend on other tiers, which involve things like social interaction, belonging, and achievement. For people who have experienced these threats and overcome them, the fear of falling back to that level is sometimes so real that it is difficult to shake off the constant thought that at any time, all could be lost. For others, the fear of losing the respect and love of family or other social supports may be as overwhelming as the idea of wondering where the next breath or morsel of food might be obtained. We fear being defined by our mistakes with the tarnish of failure marking not only ourselves but anyone with whom our lives might be linked.

What it all boils down to is that regardless of what tier we manage to attain, most of us never reach the pinnacle of self-actualization (especially in the current economic and social climates) because like toddlers struggling with learning to walk presented with a staircase, we cling to our highest achieved step looking down with fear that we will plummet back to the bottom. Any rock climber will tell you, “Don’t look down!” To ascend to the top, it is important to keep eyes on your goal, not where you have been. It is easier said than done. The fear of failing, falling, and losing the tenuous ground we have worked so hard to achieve keeps us from risking whatever progress we have been able to attain, but it traps us in the lowest levels of mere existence.

For some, this can become a debilitating depression or anxiety that paralyzes action and activity, isolating us from friends and family or making us such a misery to ourselves that we even shun the company that misery always loves. I have often wondered why this trait plagues some more than others, or if there is some way to inoculate our psyches against such attacks as you might vaccinate yourself against epidemic illnesses prior to a trip to undeveloped territories. Why shouldn’t we have monster spray to ward of the evil unknown lurking in the closet of anxiety? Why can’t we arm ourselves with the Acme Anvil Umbrella (which also protects against falling foot fashions)?

So much of what happens in our lives is a matter of choice. I am not necessarily saying that we choose everything that happens within our experience, but I am saying that choice has a much bigger part in how we approach the life we live than we might realize. This isn’t a philosophy welcomed by many. If life is a choice, then we have to take responsibility for the bad that happens in our lives as well as for the good. Too many of us get caught in the trap of relegating the responsibility for the bad stuff happening to us to the realm of evil or other people who carry out the evil. That is why I have avoided even using the phrase “happens to us”; it implies an external locus of control and puts all the responsibility outside of ourselves. The contradictory part of the philosophy, for me, is that the same people who talk about things happening to them will usually be the first to claim the victory and success in their own actions. Now, before some of my readers start calling “foul,” I know that there are people who attribute all success and goodness in their lives to their higher power. That is very generous of them, and it shows an element of piety that precludes pride. However, I still think that is giving over to an external locus of control that does no honor to human spirit and dignity, and yes, even to the higher power to which you ascribe merit but deny the free will given to humanity by same. For without free will, what is piety and goodness. If it is not by choice, where lies the merit. However, I did not intend to go off on a religious or metaphysical tangent. So, I will try again…

We live by our choices. Consciously or unconsciously, it is true. By saying this, I am not (with intentional emphasis) saying that we choose the negative aspects of our life or the occurrences that impact us in less than positive ways. Our choices are limited to our own responses and actions. We cannot choose for others (with the exception of the relatively brief period of parenthood or some aspects of other types of guardianship and political decisions). We cannot choose the behaviors of others or how they will treat us, but we do have the choice in how we respond, react, and behave.

Our lives are a series of choices that we make. While there are contributions of physical and biological directives that compel some of the actions that we take, we are unlike the rest of the animal kingdom in the development of a prefrontal cortex in our brains that provide us the cognitive benefit of decision. We can decide, maybe not so much what occurs by the choices of others, but we have the power to choose our own emotional and behavioral responses. This may not seem like much of a superpower to some, but it’s is one of those “sleeper” powers that have more impact than you realize. If you believe in evil or a spirit of antagonism, the inability for those choosing to act against us to impact our spirit, will, and emotions greatly reduces their powers.

So back to those monsters and shoes and such… We do have a built-in monster bane that we just need to activate: The power of our choices. We may not be able to entirely dismiss the monster under the bed, but we have the choice of whether we allow it to prevent us from taking actions of our own. We have the choice of whether to allow the fear of loss or failure to paralyze us. I think that I will start making some active choices in my life about how I respond and what (and who) I allow in my life to impact my emotions and self-concept. Will I be free of the monsters and anvils, probably not, but I can try to reduce their perceived control.

9 Chickweed Lane is a daily comic strip by Brooke McEldowney. It can be found at http://www.gocomics.com/9chickweedlane