Resistance

It was a blur of calls to clients, making sure the checks were cut, the bills both corporate and personal paid, instructions left with the helper, the assistant, provisions made for the care of my canine children, duties distributed to employees, bags packed, passport in hand, and currency enough for one week carefully stashed in safe and secret places.

For the past few weeks – perhaps even months – I have operated on fumes as fuel quickly burned off from my last replenishing vacation.  So much strived for, battled against, lost and accomplished.  My mind and body and spirit screamed at me as I reamed out first gear.  Begging for a time in PARK.  Rest.  Stop.  Quiet.  Nothing.

And so I got on a plane knowing rest would not be available to me at home with the needs of friends, family, co-workers, employees, animals ever present and pressing.  I was delivered safe and sound to Kingston airport by Cayman Airways, stood none-too-patiently for an hour and a half ot get my passport stamped (thinking all the time I would FIRE the person who scheduled five flights at once!) and was collected lovingly by my brother and his girlfriend.

Rest is what I came for.  But fear is what I came with.

It has been 48 hours and already I’m going crazy.  I am a ball of pure unreasonable resistance.

There is no rest in my weariness, no relief in my repose.  Today I tossed and turned as my tummy twisted in turmoil – perhaps a tummy bug but more likely the fear that if I succumb to this quiet I will lose something.  Or find something I don’t want to find.

But instead it found me.  The predator long of tooth and sharp of claw has waited for my quiet to make his presence known.  He takes the thoughts of my mind and roughly yanks them toward himself, a part of myself, the part I run from with my meetings and engagements, my sushi and coffee dates, the problem solving sessions for the problems of others, my busyness and business.  He is the part that is left last to fall asleep at night.  I push myself daily to breaking point to make our nightly encounters brief so that when my head hits the pillow I am too exhausted to feel his bite into the artery of the neck of my soul.  This piece of my soul called by the male gender for his ability to hurt me, known best by the smell of lonely tears about to burst, and fears of childless and loveless futures, is most dangerous when his presence prompts regret and self doubt.  Never have I left behind a love that did not need leaving and my brain knows this but this animal asks me like a spoiled and nagging child over and over and over and over… “are you sure?”  “would you not be better there than here alone with me?” “are you sure?”.

Already on this quest to rest this bastard has wrung tears from my dry eyes.  My challenge is to find peace and not be won over by the compulsion in my nature to work myself to the bone and into a state so distracted by tiredness that his voice is lost in the babble.  For tonight I must lose myself – especially this hungry, febrile, visceral part of myself – in the peace of simply BEING.

Pray for me.

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4 Fears: What is stopping you from writing?

1. You are afraid no one will want to read what you write.

You know it but will probably never say it out loud – what other people think does matter to you!  If they think your writing sucks it will hurt you and you will probably be convinced to believe it.  But does it really mean it does?

Conquering this fear:

Come on.  You have friends.  You have someone you talk to.  Someone who listens to you.  If a person finds what you say worth listening to, even for entertainment value alone, they will listen to you.  Writing is another form of speaking and those who listen now will read then.  It is another form of speaking yes, but in many ways a better form – you do not stutter, you do not reserve, what is written is written and not whispered or muttered.  So much more clear for your listener-turn-reader!

For those of you with no/few friends – this is an even more advantageous place to come from.  Your perspective will be new, fresh, different.  Your writing is probably going to shock those around you with the newness of your voice and your opinion.  But the friendless are more likely to fear #2 than #1.

2. You are afraid someone will read what you write.

Say, the friends you wish you had, the ex boyfriend of step-father your villain is based on, the person who you know will disapprove of your ideas – for instance, my conservative, Bible-thumping, far-right republican grandmother will probably bury me quietly in a shallow grave were she to read a hot romance scene I had written.  It may be far more general a fear than that – a fear of your own success, a fear of your own power to reach others, a fear of the responsibility that goes with that power. 

Conquering this fear:

Think of your favourite writer.  Imagine the world of books without them.  Your reading life would be bereft, your idea bank would have a much lower balance and be perhaps overdrawn, and the album of images you store in your head would be missing some particularly profound moments. Think back to when they sat down for the first time with a pen and were hit with this particular fear.  What would you say to them?  How would you cheer them on? 

Now go say these things to yourself.  This is much bigger than you are, you poor puny potential writer.  You are someone’s favourite.   It is part of your purpose as a human being to fill the space in their library, guide their thoughts on a journey through your ideas, and provide for them the choice between an idea that was once only yours and their own way of thinking.  Their future will be bereft without you. 

3. You are afraid to reveal to others what you really think. 

We glean from our own experiences the characters and circumstances that make up our stories.  Our characters have a root in reality, their weaknesses and their strengths come from real places in what we perceive of the people around us.  Our opinions, our agendas and our emotions colour who they become in our books – FACT.  Another fact is that we  write from secret places within us.  We write from love, from respect, admiration, desire, but also (and just as often) from guilt, hurt, anger, pity, annoyance, and vengeance.  We find in writing it is easier to face down our villains and confront them than in life.  But in writing these things out we expose ourselves to the realities of what happens after they have read the story.  We all have our secret thoughts and we reveal them very carefully.  Writing can make us less careful and this is what we fear.

Conquering this fear:

The solution lies in living a life and writing from the same place – a place of authenticity.  Censorship of your writing is not the answer.  Honesty in your living is.  Maybe your writing can help lead you to this place of authenticity.  Maybe this is the bridge that will get you to being the real and the best you.

4. You are afraid to really think.

Not only do we fear revealing to others what we really think, but really thinking is in itself a fearsome task.  There are issues each of us has shelved and refused to face, memories that have been repressed and hurts that have been ignored.  The catharsis that writing can push you through is something many of us are not ready for.  And so we write around subjects and push out mediocre works in place of masterpieces of triumph.  For instance, in my own life I face issues of race.  The impact race has had on my family life is one I struggle to face and to write about.  I don’t want to face the harm that the actions of my loved ones has put me through.  I don’t want to face blaming them and then forgiving them.  I don’t want to deal with their self-righteousness and open myself up to being hurt even more when they decide they don’t want to be forgiven because they have never done anything wrong.  I don’t want to face it, much less reveal the way I see it to these same persons.

Conquering this fear:

There are some towns there are no roads around, only through.  We can get stuck in them and make them our final destinations, or we can push through them and get to the destination we were made to journey to.  But in order to undertake the journey we must face what it is worth to us.  Does defining yourself and your path and creating your own space to be authentic have enough value for you?  What possibilities would you create by taking the steps to write?

I hope this inspires you to pick up your pen today.  Pray I find the value in my final destination enough to conquer my own fears.

A tear for your love… a tear I will forever cry…

So many bolero, so many tears.  The latin world is awash with them and each one has its home in truth.

Today I met two little boys.  One is two years old and silent, his brown hair cut like a bowl and his eyes big and rich cups of café con leche.  Monkey tried to draw him out to play with her blocks and her toys but he wouldn’t move.  He wouldn’t come to me when I tried to tempt him from his grandmother’s knees into my warm jacket despite obviously being quite cold there in Nena’s living room.  His older brother is four years old, protective and independent.  His will be a very big job and already he has assumed some of the manhood he has inherited in tragedy.

Four weeks ago these little boys bore witness to their father’s murder.

He was twenty-seven years old and a hard worker.  He was so hard a worker in fact that he had begun to taste the illusive flavours of success.  He drove a new car and bought property out in the country in a town where a sister of his lived.  She was warned to tell him not to come out to the land but he didn’t get the message in time.  His mother recounts to me the story of her grief.

On the day he died he took his wife and two children together with his father and cousin to the land.  They worked from early in the morning until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  Bunches of bananas were cut and crops of all kinds readied to load into the vehicle.  The family was sat on a blanket spread in the field eating when one by one men appeared from out of the brush surrounding them.  They numbered around 30 and the first to speak said “we mean you no harm”.

“No, no, no, no, NO” protested a man from the outer edge of the circle.  He elbowed his way in toward the family and the woman would remember that his eyes were red with blood.  “You are ALL going to die today.  Because I am huuunngrry to kill.”

The woman held her children to her tight and the men were trapped where they had been sitting, more than twenty automatic weapons trained on them.  The killers wrested the little boys from their mothers’ arms and held her back.  Their father went ballistic, struggling to his feet screaming “Leave my children alone!”

The man of the red eyes said to him with a nasty smile “Because you cannot behave yourself, you will be the first to die.”

The killing began and three men lay dead when it was over.   The father died in horror and fear believing his family too would be killed.  When the shooting stopped suddenly there was an eerie silence and the deafness of guns shot too close.  The returning birds, skittish with their own fright, would behold the sight of two boys, aged two and four, clinging to the bloody corpse of their father as their mother held him in her arms helpless.  Finding no fun in the prey of a distraught mother and two young children, the killers moved on to the car, sitting in it, opening the hood and going over it like a prospective purchase, their laughter ringing out to meet the hesitant renewed birdsong.  Weapons slung easily over shoulders now, AK47s and pistols.  The dead man’s gun was propped, useless, against a tree far away from the killing circle, where it would be found later by investigators.

“Una lágrima por tu amor… Una lágrima lloraré” ~A random bolero on the radio the day I was told this story.

When the police arrived to collect the bodies, they were met with enemy fire.  One officer fell that day, leaving another woman widowed and more boys orphaned.  It would take seven truck loads of police and security officers to reclaim the bodies of the four men who had only hours been fathers, loving and hot-blooded, the fierce protectors of their children.

As the grief-stricken grandmother recounted these atrocities in Spanish, repeating parts I did not understand in English, Nena wept, her own tragedies forgotten.  The youngest boy with the coffee eyes would not leave the grandmother’s familiar knees.  I looked on the beautiful child and saw a story too often true.

Just Friday night a young doctor was killed outside a discotheque in Tegucigalpa.  He was from La Ceiba and visiting for the graduation of his younger sister in the nation’s capital.  In San Pedro that same night a friend of my family too was gunned down.  Then there was the cousin a few years ago who was kidnapped by the gardener and murdered, another who was assassinated on the highway, and still another that was murdered on his boat on the high seas.

This is a land where tears are shed and moments of life are treasured, guns are in pretty handbags and waistbands and life taken for cheap.  It is the land of beautiful orchids, fierce faith and delicious food, the power of friendship and the orphans of tragedy.

The four year-old with a growing gravity to his carriage told his grandmother days before our visit “Nana, I know my Daddy isn’t coming back.  I know where he is sleeping.  Don’t worry Nana, I understand that his body is here asleep but his heart is with God.”

Bravery v Fearlessness

This idea hasn’t formed completely and I will probably bleed into the Singlestream as I write today.  This has been a week of bravery.  But I realize that what is said of the concept of bravery is true – Bravery is not an absence of fear but action in spite of fear.

Today I expressed this to a girlfriend at lunch and mulled over it.  I am exhausted, I haven’t been eating well or sleeping well or doing anything well this week.  Spent out on bravery.  And I realize, in truth, although I’m brave, I would love to be fearless.  My question to her was can you imagine what that must be like?  To have no fears and need to conquer and prove nothing at all?  What a freedom it must be to walk into a room full of people and own it.

She said it takes multiple acts of bravery to reach a place of fearlessness.  That shut me up for some time as my thoughts swirled.  Indeed it’s true!  Repeated facing of the same fear makes you lose your fear of it.  And then you’re on to the next one.  But surely it must be a great freedom to get there.

And then the thought struck me – it is a journey.  There will always be something to fear, a new terror to face, a new accomplishment to feel.  If you are fearless you must be crazy.  And you must be made crazy, if not by the absence of fear at least by the absence of the sense of accomplishment that comes with facing a fear and obliterating it.

To be fair it’s me that feels obliterated right now and not my fear.  Not so accomplished today.

Even the thoughts as best written as the crowded mind can handle are exhausted.

MAN IS FEAR

Writing class homework from last week – show don’t tell.  The title Man Is Fear.

The phone’s vibration springs his eyes wide.  Gunshots in his dreams fade away as he lies corpse-still, the only movement in the room his eyelids blinking, once and then quickly three times.  The shutters on the windows have slapped an extra coat of darkness on the pre-dawn hour of his waking.   Hearing nothing, he stretches his right arm overhead slowly.  And then his left.  Never two at the same time – one must always be near his defense.  Rolling half-over to the right at the silent sticky pace of a snail he reaches his hand to the night stand for the reassuring touch of cool steel.

Placing one booted foot and then another, feather-light, beside the bed, he tests the worn wooden floor for creaks with a little weight at a time.  Jeans soaked from the night’s humidity cling soggy to his legs as they extend to standing.  Reaching tall he rises out of a bed as fully dressed as he, and casts  the light from the screen of his phone over to the corner for the suitcase.  The cold blue of his eyes cannot be seen but their gaze connects with the object, in its place in this room, identical to its place in the room of his last rest three hundred miles behind.  There had been five rooms in the last fifteen days for a few hours at a time.

Relief and disappointment flow in quick succession through the worry lines on his face.  It was a face full of valleys that once was handsome and carefree.  Now he avoids the dark mirror on the cheap bureau.  Dousing the light of the phone in the darkness of his jeans pocket he lets his skin adjust to being awake and runs a shaking hand through hair that has begun, in the last fifteen days, to show signs of gray.

The room, heavy with the scent of mothballs and sweat, is adorned with a window air condition unit and a small fridge with the sign “Minibar” in cracked adhesive letters.  He saw them the night before and can find them easily in the darkness.  The unit would have been far too loud for him to hear any of the sounds of the lodge and the alcohol would have dulled senses that overnight might have been needed to save his life.  But in the sticky  darkness of another restless dawn he reaches into the cool fridge and pulls out a finger.  The bulb inside has long needed a replacement and he is unable to read the label but it doesn’t matter.  It is the calm he is after.  And something to take the edge off this infernal shaking.

He throws the bottle mouth back with his head.  Deep breaths are sucked in as the liquid fire slides down his throat.  A slow count to ten.  Not enough he closes his eyes and counts another ten.  When they open again, his eyes register that the room has grayed slightly and shapes have begun to take form.  It is time to leave.

The night before he had walked to the desk, cash in hand.  The attendant had avoided looking at his hooded face and would not be able to answer any questions later.  He would be gone before sunrise in any case.  There were enough fifties handed over to buy some time, some silence, and a quick untraceable exit.

Taking that exit now, he transforms.  No longer stiff in slow motion, he is now a feral cat with the hair on the back of his neck standing on end.  Every sense comes alive as he takes in the dank smell of the corn-scented mist drifting toward the lodge.  Claws of light have scratched lines into the horizon across the street and over the fields.  Soon they will grip the lodge and already his form can be seen silently closing the door.  Mere seconds stand between him and the grasping light.

The car was chosen for speed and stealth, not for beauty.  He pours himself into the bucket seat without a sound, sinks the case in the hidden compartment beneath the floor and rests the weapon in its place.  Only now, as the starter turns over with a whisper, does he exhale.  Black tint on glass floods the interior with the airless blackness of a tomb.  But calm is shattered by the scream of a rooster in the grip of new light and his head crashes,  startled, against the ceiling of the car.  With an aching scalp and chills running up and down his spine he flings the stick into gear and tears out of the parking lot.

Another day will pass on the open road.  He will not stop to rest again until three hundred miles lies between him and this morning.