Healing Steps

Fear is insidious; it creeps into the psyche and buries itself deep without any conscious effort.  It manifests in anxiety, stalls progress, and threatens to define its host.

Today, I did something I haven’t done in well over four years; I went for a walk in the woods, unattended.  I took my camera and my cellphone, donned a jacket in case of rain, and headed for the trails here at Living Forest Oceanside Campground in Nanaimo, B.C.

skullrock.jpgOf course, I was not alone.  Fear taunted me at every bend in the trail.

“What if someone comes along,” it hissed.  “You are defenceless.”

“There are people nearby,” I countered and kept walking.

“Listen to how quiet it is here; doesn’t that alarm you?  What if there is a bear or cougar nearby.”

Gulp. I kept walking.

“You could fall.  These paths are treacherous, and then what?  Who would save you?  Ric can’t walk in here.”

I took a deep breath and slowed my pace, carefully choosing my steps.  “I have my cellphone.  Ric can call for help from the office.”

Fighting fear can be a step-by-step process.  I thought about my childhood and how the woods were, for so much of it, my home.  Was I not afraid then?  I certainly spent hours alone, exploring.

“The child hasn’t had the life experience necessary to develop these kinds of fears,” I thought.

LivingForestflightThe trails are well marked here.  At every junction there is a map and while I am not normally good at following directions, I made myself study it and concentrate on where I was in relation to where I wanted to go.  At the far end of the trail was a place called Eagle Point.  I wondered if I could make it there.

I would try.

The next map warned of steep slopes and dangerous terrain.  I decided to be cautious and headed instead for a break in the trees, so that I could see the water.  It was so quiet that my footfalls sent the ducks swimming below scattering.

I decided to head back, not wanting to push my luck.  I had come out without a walker, and there was no obvious place to sit and rest here.  Following the map, I took a different route back – perhaps not the best idea as I encountered a steep hill.

3trilliums.jpg“Slow and steady,” I told myself.  My heart pounded and I felt breathless, but I made it, and while I waited for things to calm down at the top, I took in my surroundings.  This forest, like so many on the island, is a contrast of the dead and fallen limbs and trunks, and varying shades of green.  White trilliums dot the velvety forest floor.  Apart from a black squirrel and the odd bird that flit by in a blur, there was little other movement.

Being independent, even for a short time, felt wonderful.  How long had it been since I had the confidence to go out on my own?  Too long.

blacksquirrel.jpgThe end of the trail was now in sight, and not quite ready to go back to the RV, I lingered a bit longer, noticing the buds on trees and bushes, trying to imagine what this place will look like in a couple of weeks.

My ankle snapped just as I hit the main road.  By the time I reached our site, my right leg muscle spasmed too.  I would head in and hit the bed, pleased with myself.

I thought of other possibilities, wondering when I’d be able to drive the car again.  Maybe even going to the grocery store alone.

Fear slapped me in the face.

Sigh.  One step at a time.

It’s Happening!

We have done it!  Bought and paid for:th-1

A 40+ foot, diesel pushing, home on wheels, whom I affectionately call:  Hoo Gnu.

If you knew me at all, you might be a little shocked (see the post RV Kidding?)

It was late last night when we got it set up, so while we had electricity and heat, we did not manage to get the water hooked.  I guess the dealership assumed we wanted it winterized – clearly they didn’t know us.  We’ve settled into a local RV park to get the lay of the land, and fix any glitches before we think about hitting the road.

No definite plans yet, but I’m sure you’ll hear about them when I do.

While my friends and family reactions extend from deep concern for my health to wild enthusiasm, my husband and I have decided the whole thing is excitening (a combination of exciting and frightening).

Whatever the outcome, this is one heck of a way to break the monotony of so many years of illness.

So for now:  th-2

A Day to Reflect

Taking a moment to remember
all whose lives have been sacrificed
that there might peace in the world

to remember my father, his brother,
my grandfather and the countless
men, and women who fought for

the right to live in a democratic
country; for freedom of speech,
and right to religious practice,

who dared to dream of a world
free of hate, and dictatorship,
with opportunity for all –

taking a moment to reflect
on how fragile peace is, and
that it takes conscious effort

and sadly, sometimes lives,
to secure peaceful boundaries
and ensure hope for the future.

Taking a moment to ponder
how to teach our children,
the nature of harmonious

co-existence, that acceptance
reaps richness, and kindness
joy, that this is not a struggle

for personal gain, but a joint
endeavour to end poverty,
strife, oppression, and hate.

Today is the day to remember
let reverence for all life guide
your heart and hands this day.

Cars and Faith

Assuming my faculties have regained some semblance of functioning, I will drive again.  I don’t anticipate the first run will be without incidence – traffic is known to snarl, and accidents are a regular occurrence – but I have faith in my ability to respond appropriately.

th-3I’m reminded of my first car and that one intersection where the road dipped just before the traffic lights to accommodate an overhead rail line.  My 1967 slant six Dodge Swinger had a cracked engine block and liked to stall out whenever moisture hit it. It would be okay as long as I was motoring along, but the moment I stopped, it was trouble.  Nine times out of ten, it would be in that dip, and  with traffic honking angrily around me I would have to restart the engine without flooding it – usually two-footing the pedals, ready to rev the accelerator the second the engine ignited. That car taught me a lot about patience and determination.

I was also driving a car the first time my mind snapped.  It was an old Firenza that my then husband had refurbished and souped up.  I hated driving it because the brakes could barely contain the torque and it also stalled out th-4easily (is there a theme developing here?)  The day in question, I had all three kids aboard and found myself suddenly lost in traffic in a city that I’d dwelt in all my life.  I was in the left hand turning lane when I realized that I had no idea where I was nor where I was going.  Sensing the tension, the kids started screaming and crying in the back seat, and as traffic grew into an angry hornet’s nest around us, so did I.    A baby-faced police officer, who stopped to help, directed me through the intersection to our home, which was embarrassingly on the street I was attempting to turn onto.  He waited kindly until a family member showed up.

My brain paralysis lasted only six weeks back then – a product of ‘acute depressive anxiety’ the experts had labelled it.  Harnessing that determination I mentioned earlier, and using my children as inspiration, I pulled myself out of that abyss one step at a time, having to relearn many life skills, including driving.  th-5

That’s how I know I’ll be able to do it again.  The body, the mind, are mendable when the spirit is resilient.  I have faith.


Simplicity of Childhood Faith

The tiny crayfish slowly made it’s way over the rocky water bed, climbing in and out of crevices, antennae constantly moving.  Perched on my haunches, trying valiantly not to move and startle the small creature, I watched in fascination.  His translucent body moved with such tenacity over what must surely be a challenging terrain for him.  The wind shifted, creating ripples in the water, and he was gone from my sight.th-1

I lifted my head to listen.  There it was again:  a sudden, slight shift in the wind.  Mother Nature was gently tugging me from my reverie and beckoning me homeward.  I stood and shook the kinks out of my muscles, heeding her kind warning.  Time to go home.

As I made my way through the tangle of trees, stepping over fallen branches, and being wary of uneven ground, I noticed the wind shift again.  Her voice was more urgent now, a warning.  I decided to stay off the beaten path, and stick to the cover of the trees.  Noises ahead told me people were coming.  Boys!  As they approached, I noticed there were four or five of them, carrying something like sticks.  No, not sticks, they were carrying snakes.  And they were looking for someone.  Me!th-2

I ducked behind a bush and held my breath.  Elbowing each other with bravado, the boys failed to see me crouched nearby.  Birds and wildlife scurried out of their path, sensing as I did that they meant only harm.  “She’s got to be here somewhere!” I heard one shout.  “Probably by the creek.”

They stepped into the woods, and not trusting my luck, I made a dash for home.

“There she goes!”

I fled along the path, until I saw the opening to the farmer’s field that bordered my backyard.  Breaking out of the woods, I caught sight of my best friend, Scott.  He knew as soon as he spotted me that I was in trouble.  Hailing his brothers, they met me just as my pursuers were catching up.

“You have a problem here?”  Scott’s oldest brother stood, towering over the tallest of the boys.

“Uh no.”  The boys turned on their heels and disappeared back into the woods.th-3

“What were you doing in there all by yourself, young lady?” the older brother demanded to know.

I shrugged.  How could I tell him I was never alone when Mother Nature was looking after me.  I opened the gate and stepped back into the safety of my own backyard.

“Thank you for the warning,”  I said to the Wind.  The trees before me bowed gracefully at her command, and I knew my gratitude had been acknowledged.

At five years of age, it was easy to trust that life was guided by a loving presence, and I lived my life accordingly.

At fifty-eight, I only wish I had such innocence to guide me once again.

(Originally posted in One Woman’s Quest, September 2012.)

Change is Risky Business

At one time in my life, Saturday nights were reserved for Trading Spaces and a glass of white wine.  th-1

I owned a bookstore at the time, and looked forward to unwinding at the end of a long work week.  Two out of four Saturdays per month, I would be alone, while the children visited their father.

Burned by a string of bad relationships, I had sworn off men, and thought my life was quite satisfying, until my then teenagers filed in one Saturday night and confronted my routine:

“Mom!  You can’t just lie on the couch every Saturday night and watch renovation shows!  It’s depressing!”

“But I like this show….”

“Seriously, Mom – if you don’t make a change, we’re not coming home anymore!”

Had my life really digressed so pathetically?   My children’s reaction made me take a closer look.  As a retailer, I worked long hours, which consumed much of my life.  When I wasn’t watching TV, I tended to have my nose in a book – mostly self-help oriented.  Perhaps my life did lack colour, but change is so difficult – where was I to start?th-2

I decided that for real change to occur, I needed to take a risk.  For eight years I had been carrying around a business card in my wallet with the name and number of an improv company who did Murder Mysteries.  Not even certain if they were still in business, I dialed the number and found out that they were holding auditions the following Wednesday.  Scared as I was, I decided to go through with it.  The audition was two hours long and within a week I found out I was in.

In the meantime, I had always wanted to take dance lessons, and I learned from a friend that a local bar was offering free salsa lessons once a week, so I put that in my calendar.

Being in a relationship was not an option for me at the time – it was a commitment I had made to myself – however; I did miss some of the things that came with being a couple, so I decided to start up a friendship club with the single men and women that I knew were not into dating at the time.   Amazingly, all it took was a few phone calls and my weekends were filled up with potlucks, movie nights, and bowling.  th-3

My kids had been right:  my life had become depressing; I just couldn’t see it.  Thanks to them, and the willingness on my part to take risks, life turned around.

Sometimes, when life starts to stagnate, we need to make changes.  What things have you done to break out of complacency?