fear and scrolls of [just enough] healing.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will have noticed by now that I’ve developed a hard-core writer’s crush on a blog called The Tool Shed. I have no idea who this man is, but I love the way he writes and the things he writes about, and I often feel compelled to tweet links to his posts with a shouty Oh-my-god-read-this-now tagline. I’ve only been following him for a couple of months, so there’s a lot of backlist material on the blog that I’m reading as I have time. This week I read an older post from February that rocked me and made me grateful and put a bandage on a very difficult day.

It’s been a week of rapidly cycling highs and lows for me. My paternal grandfather died on Tuesday. I loved him immensely, and to say that I’m sad to say goodbye is a ridiculously inadequate statement. But I’m also grateful that the last five months of pain, exhaustion and confusion are over for him, and that he doesn’t hurt anymore. I’ve experienced a lot of joy in sharing memories of him with my family and friends, and I will be doubly grateful to continue that celebration and goodbye in person when I travel to his funeral next week. 

At the same time, my own life and plans have developed something of a limp. I’m struggling with that and trying very hard to stay focused on moving ahead and not losing my shit. For the second time in two months, I’ve had to drain my moving fund back to a big fat zero in order to do something that’s important to me. The constant two-steps-forward, one-step-back of this moving process is making me a little hysterical, and I don’t think I’m dealing with it very well. I’m short-tempered and myopic and I’m neglecting my friendships and hurting people. I’ve spent the last eighteen months doing things that are too hard for me and pursuing things that scare me – but they’re things I want and I want to keep going, even when my emotional reserves get knocked back to nothing. The constant fighting with myself is hard and I have required a lot of forgiveness from other people lately.

I play an online game that has a health-regenerating gimmick called a Scroll of Drastic Healing. I love using these, not just because they fix me up and let me keep playing, but because they accomplish something in-game that I can’t achieve in real life. My character gets beaten up and flat-lines and can go no further and I use a scroll and voila! She’s back to full health and feeling scrappy again. It’s hugely satisfying, and I spend a lot of time farming this particular supply. For one thing, I need a lot of them right now in-game, but in truth I have more of them than I need because they give me a pleasant, if totally irrational, sense of security in real life. The feeling goes something like this: I may have to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. because I can’t deal with myself any more today, but at least my character has lots of Scrolls of Drastic Healing. Completely irrational, and weirdly comforting.

Where this all ties together is in the things that bring me healing in real life. Although I know that all of this is temporary and there will be a time when I feel whole and joyful again, there isn’t anything right now that heals me entirely. But there are, miraculously, things that arrive in time to keep me from flat-lining in hysterical despair. My scrolls of just enough healing have come in the form of letters, a series of clever and funny tweets, dinner or a movie with a friend, making a piece of jewelry that I really love, hearing that something I’ve written has helped someone else. Sometimes just playing the game is enough to put me back on my feet for another day, because it’s hilarious and challenging and doesn’t need me to be a responsible adult. 

On Wednesday, I was running dangerously close to empty, and then I came across this post on The Tool Shed. It ties into any number of things I’ve been thinking about in recent months: the deficiencies of attention and intent that naturally occur around a life lived online; how to retain humanity, decency, a coherent sense of self and awareness of other people; facing fear and fighting for authenticity because the alternative is not tolerable. It’s a great piece of writing, and it’s been my bandage for this week. When I wanted to close all my doors and draw my borders in tight around me, this post became a doorstop. I’m tempted to paste huge chunks of it in here, but it’s complicated and I think wouldn’t necessarily serve my purpose in this post, so I’ll stick to the central bit that turned my lights back on. (I will insert the obligatory oh-my-god-read-this-now, however. The inspiration for the post itself derives from a lecture by Charlie Kaufman, and you should read that, too.)

Here’s what I love:

“I have for years heard an inner voice urging me to open my heart wider…and it’s mostly gone unheeded, because of fear and being completely uncertain about how to start. One doesn’t just start a conversation with “I’m absolutely fucking terrified”.
But one can start an essay that way, and so I’m here and I’ll just go ahead and kick it off. [There’s a list here in the post that I’ve omitted because it’s not my list, although I could easily cosign almost every point on it.]
Why the list? Because I think I’m finally getting to the point where my exhaustion with painting over that wound is outweighing the fear. At the ripe old age of almost-thirty-seven, I might actually be growing up. And I’d rather we talked about stuff.”
Hell, yes. Those last two sentences echo almost word for word something that I said several months ago when I was talking to a friend about this blog and what I want to get from writing it. I’ve had blinders on lately, though, and have been in danger of losing sight of that goal: “I’d rather we talked about stuff.” I still find it terrifying to talk about stuff, but he’s right – the alternative is exhausting and doesn’t serve the project of becoming the person I want to be. That reminder was enough for this week. Thanks for the dose of just-enough-healing, @middleclasstool. You kept the doors open and the lights on this time around. 

Updated Sunday afternoon:

This just arrived in my inbox from my friend Susan, who is wonderful.

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One thought on “fear and scrolls of [just enough] healing.

  1. Sosae

    I love your blog, Kateri. It’s refreshing in its honesty and intent. It’s so funny – reading this post I’m reminded of how we go through cycles: desperation out of a need to communicate and be heard, and also desperation out of a need to shut out everything and everyone and just incubate for a while. (I’m totally in the latter phase right now, despite this comment.) 🙂 And for what it’s worth, I think the periods of severe tumult in our lives are stages of breaking out of a former self, into a new one. This has been true for me. The former self – with the former beliefs and ideas and perceptions and actions – is no longer sufficient to move forward in this life. So the metaphorical shell must crack and break. And that hurts. Like hell. And I’m sure we have to go through this repeatedly throughout our lives. I don’t think there’s an easy way through it. Just let the breaking happen and embrace the changes in yourself. And if it helps, know that you’re totally not alone.


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