"My second day of not having to go anywhere or do anything...and suddenly I have time to feel both grief and relief...."
How would you fill in the rest of the statement? I hear the echoes of rapid fire answers as each of you thinks back to a time when life demanded that you keep putting one foot in front of the other past the point of exhaustion. And still, you kept on going.
The facebook status update stared back at me. My friend finished the sentence reflecting back over her recent walk thru the valley of the shadow of death. Her status set off a series of emotions in me that were nothing short of dominoes racing to see which one could fall first. Her journey has been far different from mine. But, I know that sense of, "Uh-oh...I've been still too long!"
When I learned that I had a diagnosable case of PTSD's close cousin 'severe trauma reaction', my counselor soon helped me see that I simply couldn't be still. She asked me to do one thing. Sit in a rocker for 15 minutes a day and just rock. Don't map out a grocery or to do list. Don't read. Don't use the phone. Just rock. I tried it once. I made it to 3" and started to feel like I might hyperventilate or cry. No siree Bobbie...no rocking for me! I jumped up and started folding a load of towels.
Next session, I hung my head in shame. I had failed rocking chair 101. In sharing this detail, I feel as if I need to start faxing you copies of my counselor's disclaimer: "She AIN'T crazy, I promise!" Just a little prone to mild panic attacks. Which she's been having for years without knowing that is what was happening because she never stopped moving long enough to know.
I'll tell you how scary life was. When I was preparing for the trip to the writer's conference, I went to what I now laughingly refer to as the 'pre-game warm up'. It was a meeting with other first timers to find out how to best approach the week. It was here, 6 days before D-day that I learned it would be a good idea to think about dressing business casual and carrying a clutch of business cards. If that weren't enough, I had to think about meeting 1-1 for FIFTEEN minutes with professionals in the Christian publishing industry.
Hey! I did NOT sign up for that. I signed up for the invisible fly on the wall class audit plan. Next year I'd move up to wall flower status of attendance.. If the stars aligned right, I might sit on the front row of a class by the 3rd year! Talk to someone about work samples? These people are crazy!
Suddenly, the truth dawned on me. I had been catapulted into the stratosphere and would finally have to believe in myself as a REAL writer...and act like one. I broke into a sweat and began to do the math. What was I thinking to get myself into this mess, and how could I get out. The short answer was--I couldn't. The week had been paid for in full by a brother who had sacrificed to do it. I heard golden handcuffs snap shut and knew my fate was sealed. I was a goner (who would eventually lock her keys in her car upon arriving at the hotel).
So, I did what most fraidy cats do. I kept tap dancing so expertly that they never noticed me break out into a heart pounding, hyperventilating fit! I held myself together and tried not to tremble and cry in front of everyone. I got in the car with my stiff upper lip and swore I'd make it home before I fell apart. The take no prisoners, never stop moving me snapped into action. I started making calls for moral support at the same time mapping out a battle plan.
I efficiently began to work thru my list. Cards--check. Clothing sales--check, CHECK. Then, wouldn't you know it, I hit a traffic light on red. Oh no! I'm only 4 blocks from home! I almost made it! But, it was too late. The tears began to roll. In the past, I would have thought I was just taking another ride down the horMOANal roller coaster. Now I know you can't blame everything on those little suckers. The panic I had been outrunning since I burst out of the door of Panera headed for my car caught me at the light. By 2 blocks from home, I was a blubbering idiot.. I reached over awkwardly to try and fish a tissue or fast food napkin or piece of paper out of the glove box to corral the tears. And......lifted my foot off the brake just enough to rear end the car in front of me! WHACK! What a fraidy cat!
A mere week later, I did the unthinkable. There was a break between sessions. I had a choice. I could mingle and mix and stay on the move. Or I could go back to my TV-less room and be still. I rode the elevator with a delicious sense of anticipation. I went into my room and looked around trying to decide if I had done the right thing to choose to be still. I walked over to the bed and plopped down. I stared up and the ceiling and felt utter calm wash over me. And for the next 20 minutes, I stared at the ceiling and never once felt the urge to make a list, do a chore, squeeze in a phone call, map out the next class. The fraidy cat in me had stopped running. And, it felt good. And, that rocking chair? It is looking better all the time. Stay tuned. Film at 11p!