The Gift of Vulnerability (an excerpt)

fearIt is Wednesday, it is 1am, it is a time a generally sleep through.  It is a time that instills no fear.  Except tonight.  I pick at my skin, I scratch pre-blood sting.  I fall into night visions of half memories, of being subjected to harsh treatment, held down, screaming out under bright lights and cannot identify – is this me or the ancestral fear of surgery…of death.  Are the bright lights approaching angels, me approaching them…or they me?  Are the stories of my life real or perceptions someone else has told me about how they thought, I was?  Is this what anxiety feels like?

Generalized anxiety, panic.  The quiet family disorder everyone has been afraid everyone else will get and then somehow if someone else doesn’t have….everyone feels anxious about.  That cycle.  I pick my skin.  I remember this.

It is Thursday.  I pick my skin.  I read about how healthy levels of anxiety prepare a system for upcoming danger.  Like battle…or surgery (next Tuesday at noon).  I leave my house with the agenda of vacuuming anything.

It is Thursday, it is 1 am.  I organize my words around last wishes.  When and if I die here are all the good poems-the almost finished memoir-the instructions for cremating my body and throwing the ashes into the high desert.

“No one in this family handles anesthesia well,” mom says.

This is not the story I can afford to believe.

I know my fears:

1.Guns and the sound of gunfire 2. Fast and hasty driving 3.  Free falling from high places 4. Public speaking 5. Needles

But as I compose this list I realize that I’ve another to list.  6.  Being afraid.

Maybe it’s’ the part of the family story, the part colored with family members who took place in some of the awful, ‘innovative’ psychiatric treatments of the old days.  Institutionalization, electric shock, clockwork orangish torment: ‘face all of your fears directly and overwhelmingly at once so that you won’t be afraid of them anymore’ cure.   In fact yes – my nervous system has been programmed directly to mute out and avoid at all cost anything like this to ever happen to me.  Result: never be afraid, never show weakness, never take medication, never….

The trouble with trying to delete fear is that it is a natural, spontaneous and often helpful upwelling of sensation.  And it’s impossible.

It is Friday.  I call my doctor, I call my therapist, I call my friends.  I take a leap (which I am afraid of) and admit that this time the fear is overwhelming.  I hear the internal voices of boo-hissing which sounds something like:

shouldn’t you be able to meditate out of this…what about all your yoga practice….essential oils…spiritual texts….positive affirmations….you’re a health practitioner for gods sake…

All summing up into one belief: You are a failure, especially spiritually, for allowing fear to take hold.

Spiritual materialism has a funny way into unconscious scripting.  My doctor prescribes a low dosage of Xanax, my therapist helps me to allow myself to consider that every once in a while we may need to take some medication to help us through a difficult moment.    I resist.  He replies:

 “You will not lose spiritual points for taking medication prior to surgery.”

It is Tuesday noon.  I arrive to the hospital with meditation music, a bag full of essential oils, a typed wish and resource list (just in case).  I’ve prepared my speech to have the lights low and to admit that I am afraid of needles so please, take it slow.  And, I’ve taken a Xanax

Allison for the PGM



I am the Carolina Coast

Carolina Coast

I am the Carolina coast,
windswept in winter,
sunny by day,
rich in history
and life
and dreams of men
who tire of the North
with its cold, fast ways
of living.

I am skies full of seagulls.
I am sunrises over
an outstretched sea.
I am the siren song
in your weary heart,
calling you home to
new life.

I will wash you clean
with my salty spray,
tan your bare hide
with my hot sun,
stain your soul
with my legacy
of bondage and brutality,
and I will fulfill your future
promise with an endless
shore of soft sand leading
any direction
you choose.


~ Darci Hawxhurst for the Poplar Grove Muse

You Can’t Go Home Again… or Can You?

Connersville Courthouse

Last week when I returned from nearly a week in my hometown of Connersville, a neighbor in my building asked me if I’d been on vacation, I said no, I was in my hometown.

As I rode the elevator to the third floor, I realized that it felt like I had been on vacation, when a vacation does what it’s supposed to do. I was tired, but felt relaxed, refreshed, and happy with how I spent my time there.

Historically, that hasn’t always been the case. Until 2012 I was working and didn’t have as much time to spend there. After I spent equal time with each parent, I needed to get back to Bloomington, which I considered home, having lived there since 1965. Connersville is a small town so most everyone knew both my parents, but they didn’t seem to remember me. I was only spoken to if I went out with one of them. Even after I was introduced as his/her child, I was still looked at suspiciously. When we would walk into a restaurant, I could hear piccolos in the background as if I were in a Clint Eastwood movie when a stranger walked into town

In 2010, I spent a lot of time in Connersville when Dad and my stepmother needed care. I felt isolated from my community and friends here in Bloomington so I began re-connecting with old friends and family members I hadn’t seen in years. I began feeling a sense of place; a sense of this is who and where I came from.

Both parents and my brother are gone now; this means my time is spent differently. While my parents were transitioning, my friend since first grade, Terri Goetz Cochran, opened up her home to me, making it a safe haven where I could rest and recharge. I will never be able to express how much that meant to me and how it got me through some really rough times.

This past week in Connersville was spent with friends from school, my cousin, Connie Smallwood Bright, whom I love spending time with, my aunt by marriage, Barbara Wentz, whose company I enjoy and who I try to help a little when I’m there. It was lovely. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel like, I couldn’t wait to get back home. Another couple of nights spent with my  friend since kindergarten, Sharon Neeriemer Christopher, who after many years of being away, is living in Connersville. We were talking about how the town is changing. Lately, the town is feeling more user friendly. Connersville has been economically depressed for many years now, and I don’t think that has gotten much better. Sharon says the town feels more like it did when we were kids  She is right. So what is the difference? Maybe it’s because the generation before me is almost gone. There is new blood, new ideas. There’s an arts council and open mic nights at Brian’s Bookstore.

On my last morning there, I managed to very cleverly lock myself out of my phone. I went to the AT & T store in Connersville. Their newly appointed 25-year-old manager, Sean Kleany (I believe that’s how he spelled it) couldn’t have been more awesome. I’m sure when he saw an old lady walk in with her iPhone he would have liked to run right out of the building. I told him what I needed and he got on it right away. And because it was taking awhile and I was his only customer we got talking. I think he could tell by our conversation that I wasn’t a total Luddite who could only use her phone with the help of her son, so he relaxed a bit.

Turns out we had writing in common. He’s a composer. He knows Bloomington. We like a lot of the same TV shows because they are well written. It was a wonderful experience, not just because he got my phone updated and unlocked, but because it was a conversation I was meant to have. I left town with a smile on my face, a smile in anticipation of returning to Bloomington and a smile from the enjoyment of a great week.

It turns out you can go home again, not in the old way, but in a new way that feels so right.

Rebekah Spivey for the Poplar Grove Muse