Words for Survival

It was 1996, the Summer from Hell.  In February I had tried Paxil for 5 days while my terror shot through the roof & got worse & worse until the 5th night when I didn’t sleep at all.  So I stopped taking it.  I was fine for a while, didn’t feel depressed at all, but gradually I began to have trouble eating and sleeping.  In the hot weather I began waking up in terror, soaking wet, after only 90 minutes of sleep.  I would be able to sleep again, but for no more than 90 minutes when I would wake terrified again.  My weight went down to 105 lbs.  I was in a pretty constant state of terror.

I went to a week-long writing retreat with Deena Metzger in the summer of 1996.  I was hoping it would be intense enough to help me “forget” my terror.  Instead, I continued to have a hard time.  I had no idea that what I was really dealing with was PTSD.

On Wednesday, November 9, this year, I started to clean out my art room  A friend was helping me in my preparations to move to Kendal. She found a piece of paper with a computer printout on it.  I realized it was essentially instructions for how to get through a very hard time.  Because of Deena’s name I knew it was from the summer of 1996.  I hoped I had typed it up, and found it in a folder in “Journal Archive” labeled “unfinished.”  The reason I was afraid it might not have been typed up is a story told in a blog post.

O Great Compassionate One, I ask you to gently remove whatever has been getting in my way.  I don’t know what it is.  I’m tired of thinking I have to know.  I’m tired of trying to control.  I’m willing to be willing to surrender, but I am very scared.  Please be gentle with me.  Please help me.  Please heal me.  That’s all I know how to ask for: healing.  I don’t even know what healing might look like.

O Great Compassionate One, please help me to receive the love that is available to me.

What do I want to preserve, to take with me?
The song of the thrush.  Daffodils.  The Moon.
The sacred circle dances and chants.
The knowledge that love is the only thing there is.

What visions do I want to put in my seed?
of a gentle green world, where people act with patience and reverence,
where babies are welcomed as new beings without any expectation, and given space and support to grow into their authentic selves,
where people do their work with care, and with satisfaction, and have a sense of its spiritual dimension,
where people care for the earth, grow their food, enjoy their bodies and the natural world, in a spirit of reverence and gratitude.

This is the piece of work which I am trying to do both for myself and for the planet.  I am trying to heal from a wound that’s very deep and very early.  I am trying to treat my baby self with the same kind of care and compassion that one would treat a baby they had rescued from some awful disaster and who was terribly wounded.  I want to do this work in the spirit of painstakingly, reverently, patiently, persistently working on a task that one knows will take a long time but that is of infinite value.  I don’t know what healing is or what it might look like.  I ask for healing, I ask the Great Beings of the Universe to help me.  I acknowledge my helplessness, my inability to heal myself.  I offer myself to the healing process of the universe.

I will continue to do what work I can, to be kind and gentle to my wounded baby self, to be patient and persistent, I will stop trying to look for quick fixes and resolutions and breakthroughs, I will stop pushing myself to be different than I am.  I will just try to do whatever actions I can during the day with patience, gentleness, and reverence.



Breathe softly.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be patient.  This is going to take a long time.  We are trying to heal the planet through this body.  How can you imagine that it would be fast?  On the other hand, it will get easier.  Respite is possible.  There was respite yesterday.

The winter wind whispers there will be spring.  Love will keep us alive, help will finally arrive, there are so many ways to survive.

Deena said of my doll that she was such a sweetheart that you want to take care of her.  Not just a duty or a responsibility, but something you want to do.  I’ve had that feeling occasionally, the gush from the heart — “O she’s just a baby” or “O she’s been so badly hurt,” but too often I feel it as duty, a hard task that I must do because I’ve been called to it, despite my wish to turn away from her pain.  Deena also reminded me of Caroline’s story of the pinpricks in the curtain and said that in this painstaking, patient work, it’s like making pinpricks.  First the darkness is absolute, then you make one pinprick.  The next day perhaps there are two.  She said one way to do the work was to remember my skills and tools — she said my chant last night was beautiful, my voice was beautiful, not to encapsulate that moment and forget it.  She said I could write, that I knew how to craft a sentence.  That I had my voice and my writing and could use them everyday to keep making pinpricks.

The Song of the Thrush, the Moon, and Daffodils represent the three most beautiful things I know.  When I could not find any spirit of god in the universe, and needed to pray, I prayed to the one who had created those three things.

The “seed” was part of a ritual we did during the retreat.  The day was August 13, the Feast of Hecate, the Dark Goddess, and the retreat house was on Long Island Sound.  So we picked an object to represent our “seed,” and filled it with things that we wanted to see  happen in the future.  Then we went down on the wharf, at night, where a wind was blowing and there were strange lights on the shore.  We chanted and sang, and held up our seeds, and then went and planted then somewhere on the property.  My “seed” was a beautiful little shell, and I planted it in the flower garden of the retreat house.

The words “the winter wind whispers there will be spring…” come from a song I heard a woman sing at Kripalu.  It was a song she had written about the Holocaust.

The “doll” that Deena comments on was a doll I had made for a workshop to represent my “inner child.”

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