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home : columns : columns October 21, 2018

2/6/2018 2:13:00 PM
Deep into the Outback

Two weeks in a cabin alone. Just me for a roommate. Facing the past head-on. No cell service or Internet connection. Now that's a recipe for upheaval - or possibly epiphanies. That's where I'm headed and that's what terrifies me.

When I applied for a residency at PLAYA, near Summer Lake in Oregon, (not Mexico, as some of my optimistic friends surmised!) I really didn't think I'd be accepted. I looked at the people on their website who had received residencies and they all sounded hip, courageous and well-educated in their craft. Not me. I applied anyway.

By the time this column is in your hands, I'll be there. Hopefully, I will be settled in my little space, writing, remembering and sorting the last eight years out. I see myself dumping a box of puzzle pieces on a table and slowly sifting, turning over and finding the connections that bring the picture into focus.

There's fear in the process of discovery and recollection. I'm hoping morning meditations, shivery walks and the preparations I've made beforehand will keep me on an even keel. I grew up sailing on San Francisco Bay. The memory of our boat, Symfony, tipping precariously from high winds and her rails dipping into the cold water filled me with both fear and excitement. We always made it safely back to the dock. I'm telling myself this will end the same way. But there are real things to worry about.

Trauma that happened in a mainly idyllic childhood infected me with night terrors. I still wake up screaming. People stand at the foot of our bed, or hover above me.

Most of the time, they're not even menacing. My brain is spring-loaded to choose terror over safety.

The sight of a man's dark shape or an old woman in a green dress get the same response. Most of the time, I don't remember these episodes, but my poor husband sure does!

The next morning, sometimes I'll have a vague recollection of screaming or seeing someone. Other times, he has to tell me what happened. I know why this started; I just can't figure out how to make it stop. I know I'm safe. I'm an adult and I'm way less vulnerable than when I was 10 years old. My subconscious still hasn't gotten the memo.

The slow unraveling of my story will hopefully, shore up my psyche. That's the reason for this residency. To sit down and write what I remember and discover what was hidden.

I'll take it slow, but I will keep going.

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