The Magician

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Once upon a time in a land no one knew existed, there lived a young girl. Deep down this young girl was very sad. But her cries were not heard because the young girl would silence them. The young girl had a gift, in this way, for she could swallow her own voice. Yes. She could open her mouth, scream, and then suck the sound straight down her throat and into her belly. For this reason, everyone around believed her to be a cheerful, exuberant child because all her unpleasantness she was able to simply digest.

Now each night the young girl’s father would kiss her on the forehead at precisely 8pm and she would slink into her cold, drafty bedroom. When the she would lie atop her straw cot, resting her head down on her feathered pillow, she would dream of giant trees. Perhaps it was the smallness of her room, the closed in feeling she got when the curtains were drawn and the candles were extinguished that caused her to dream up such enormous creations. Never the less, the trees were huge, larger than the eye could fathom. No top to be seen and their trunks were as immense as the great lake marking the end of the land and as wide as the two most distant village streets. The trees were painted a deep plum and a rich emerald. There leaves were cotton balls which fell like snow as the trees sung aloud to the sounds of the winds. These trees were magical. Anyone who had the courage and stamina to reach their tops was promised be taken to another world.

One day while skipping along the gravel road on the edge of the village, the young girl met a shadow. Startled, the young girl screamed. But no sound was heard because she used her gift to swallow the scream.

“What do you want?” the young girl demanded.

“I want you to grow me a tree?” the shadow whispered.

“Grow you are tree? There are plenty of trees all around,” the young girl exclaimed gesturing to the forest behind her.

“I want you to grow me a tree,” the shadow’s wispy and menacing voice repeated.

“Well, I can’t do that,” the young girl said smugly, “I am a poor farmer’s daughter and I haven’t got any seeds.”

The shadow laughed, crackling like a roaring fire. “Well, child you must or else I am going to steal all the light from the coming months.”

“You can’t do that!” the young girl yelped. “It will be too dark for the harvest. Father’s crops won’t grow and we will grow hungry and die.”

“You must grow me a tree then. A giant tree. One that will take me to another world.”

The young girl ran home and locked herself in her room. Trembling and conflicted, she ignored her father’s call for supper. Instead, she sat on her straw stuffed cot, waiting for the sun to set. Once the light had faded and she herself could be seen as nothing more than a shadow, she slipped out of bed. Out of fear and desperation, she snuck silently through the night and stole her father’s special seeds. The ones she was instructed never to touch. The ones that were hidden in a wooden crate in the cellar. But it was the shadow’s unsettling laughter that proved the motivation ringing in her mind.

“I have to,” the terrified young girl thought to herself, “I have to.”

The dark hours of the night passed with ungodly slowness, but when the first signs of dawn began to glisten on the horizon it became apparent the nightmare that the young girl had created. The seed she had planted in the night had already become a sprout and a rapidly growing one at that. The sprout was growing rapidly and crazily. Twisting and turning, becoming a long and suffocating vine covered in thorns. The young girl nearly fainted in the horror, realizing the seed she had been instructed to keep away from was a killing weed. In a matter of hours it would spread and kill all of the crops in the village’s fields.

The rest of the morning was among the young girl’s darkest memories. As the villagers awoke to their strangled crops, cries of dismay filled the whole land. Helplessly ashamed, the young girl saw she could do nothing. So she stayed inside her bedroom, swallowing her own cries as her ears were filled with the sounds of sorrow.

Around midday, the young girl could take no more and ran away to the forest to try and distance herself from it all. It was here that the shadow returned.

“Where is my tree?” the shadow asked, looking out in the distance at the barren fields.

“I couldn’t grow one,” the young girl said with sorrow.

“COULDN’T GROW ONE?” Just then the shadow, in a fit of rage, did just as he said he would and stole all of the light from the land. Complete and utter darkness fell over everything.

Standing in darkness, hearing the village cries of dismay, and with the notion that the young girl had failed not just herself but the whole land, she found she had no energy left to digest her own cries. And right there with the shadow lingering somewhere in the darkness next to her, the young girl allowed herself to truly cry. And as the saltwater tears, heavy with sorrow and shame leaked from her eyes something mysterious began to happen. Each teardrop that hit the ground jumped upward with a dazzling light that danced across the fields.

Startled by the sudden light, the young girl stops crying for a moment. But upon doing so the light ceased and darkness engulfed the space once more. She realized that it was the water leaking from her very eyes that offered the light. So, the young girl sat down, made herself comfortable there on the damp, forest ground and thought of the years of cries she had swallowed, of all the sadness and grief, confusion and embarrassments. It was in these memories, current and past, that released a steady stream of tears from the young girl’s eyes. And one by one, as each tear met the ground, little, dancing lights jumped across the forest. Blue, sparkling, and magnificently charged lights. The more the young girl cried, the larger the tears became. Buckets of water were pouring off her cheeks. And soon the light of her tears was bouncing all the way from the forest to the barren fields to the sky above.

“Impossible!” the shadow gasped. “This cannot be happening!”

The young girl continued cried and as the moments passed, the sun in the sky that had been stripped of its light began to fill up once more. Daylight slowly was restored. But the young girl did not stop crying. She could not stop crying. A lifetime of sadness had been tapped into and there was no chance of turning the sobs off. Once the tears completed restoring light to the land, an act of rebirth began to come from them. In the distant barren fields, it could be seen that little sprouts were springing up from the ground. But they didn’t stop at sprouts. Rather the seedlings grew and grew and grew. Until they were giant trees that no eye could find the top to. They were the trees of the young girl’ dreams.

“Yes!” the shadow exclaimed. “This is what I wanted all along!”

The shadow then parted from the crying young girl scurrying towards the fields lined with the magnificent trees. He began to climb one, up the wide trunk and got lost somewhere in the canopy of leaves and branches. And, the shadow was never seen again. Perhaps he was one of the fortunate ones to reach the top of the tree, to enter another world. Or perhaps he came to find that the top doesn’t exist. That these trees continue upward forever and ever.

The young girl doesn’t wonder about him though. She is too busy providing for the village. You see the tears of the young girl are vital now. She has learned how to channel them into performing certain tasks. She can grow and water crops with her tears. She can light people’s way at night. She came bloom wildflowers. She can dot the lake with lily pads. She can do many things, wonderful things. All along, the young girl had the power of growth and beauty, but she had been swallowing the magic inside of her. She had been slowly extinguishing the very purpose in which she was given. But the years of digesting her cries are over and done. Never to return to.

The villagers more than forgave the young girl. And not long after the giants trees sprung up, the young girl was given the land’s most sought after and mysterious title: the Magician.

Inner Monologue

I wrote this from the point of view of one of the character’s in my most recent short story, but upon looking back at the monologue I realize it was inspired by my personal experience of being deep in the caverns of an eating disorder.  When you are in an eating disorder you loose all sense of self, all sense of humanism… all sense of safety.

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I don’t know what safety is anymore.

Even my reflection makes me scared.

My long boney limbs are twigs waiting to be snapped.

They hang by my sides like slacken ropes.

Swaying as I walk, nothing more than cooked noodles attached at my shoulders.

My sunken cheeks are empty caverns.

My cheekbones are etched out stones, jagged and sharp.

And my purple eyes are beady and unresponsive.

I stare at myself and don’t know that I am staring.

Unaware of who I am, where I am, or what I am doing.

My pale skin is a translucent gateway into the inactivity inside me.

My soul has died inside my chest

and I am slowly freezing from the inside out.

Icicles are forming around my lungs

and my cold breath is fog when it meets the warm, humid air.

My blood is solid and my limbs have turned to stone.

My hands hardly move.

No matter what I may tell them to do they won’t move.

Frozen in fear.

Paralyzed by circumstance.

I am a sculpture of ice as fragile as glass

that with my next attempt to move

will shatter into a million hollow pieces.

I am a Cracked Pot

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“A water bearer in India has two large pots. Each hung on the opposite ends of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other was perfect. The latter always delivered a full portion of water at the house. The cracked pot arrived only half-full. Every day for a full two years, the water bearer delivered only one and a half pots of water.

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments because it fulfilled magnificently the purpose for which it had been made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its imperfections, miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After the second year of what it percieved to be a bitter failure, the unhappy pot spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you,” the pot said.

“Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?”

“I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half of my load, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion, he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path, bright in the sun’s glow, and the sight cheered it up a bit.

But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad that it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, not on the other pot’s side? That is because I have always known about your flaw, and I have taken advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day, as we have walked back from the stream, you have watered them. For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have had this beauty to grace his house.”

(A Cracked Pot: A tale for anyone who is not quite perfect.)

Accomplishments

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I am just going to take a moment to notice something really significant.  This week marked the halfway point in my school semester.  Now historically, I have never been able to make it through a semester remaining healthy and “on track”.  But this week I am able say that I am in an even better place that when I started this semester.  What a thought! This semester is getting better as it progresses and not worse!

I started off this school year with a few goals in mind.

-One, to complete IOP treatment and move to Outpatient. This is well is the works.  I am down to two groups a week and the conversation of moving to outpatient has been started with my treatment team.

-Two, start volunteering.  Did that a couple weeks ago. And I love the place I now work.  It is an artists collective for adult artists with mental disabilities.  They are all wonderful people and are teaching me a lot about how to care for others.

-Three, produce art.  This has been well succeeded.  I have been continually working on projects for a couple months now.  It seems as though the ideas that I have are endless now that my body and mind are beginning to work together.  Each night before I go to bed, I have to write down the million thoughts in my mind so that I don’t forget.  My only problem is not having enough hours in the day to complete all the projects I want to.

-Four, enjoy my time.  This can look however I need it to depending on the week.  But really what I mean by this is stopping to notice what I am doing.  Stopping to actually experience it.  Stopping to actually make real, genuine memories this semester.  Which again, I have been doing.  Last weekend I celebrated getting into a film festival, this weekend I am going camping for my birthday, and next weekend I will do something full filling as well.

Needless to say, I am working recovery.  I don’t say that often because I find it much easier to criticism myself that compliment.  But I have to say that this week with my insane midterm workload, I was forced to step back and appreciate how far I have come.  From last semester to now, I hardly recognize the person I staring at me in the mirror.

Medicine

The battles that are constantly taking place within my mind seem nearly impossible for me to express.  I sit in therapy and fail to find words powerful enough.  I try to explain to friends, but struggle to verbally make any sense.  I stumbled around what is happening inside me like a blubbering fool.  That is because words alone cannot depict the all consuming nature of mental illness.  Mental illness is a sensation, a feeling, a state of being. It is a constant war with different parts of one’s self.  It is the exhausting effort of putting on of armor and taking it off.  It is a too much and simultaneously too little mentality.  Mental illness is everything and nothing.  As it is a battle with one’s mind silent to those around and yet debilitating to the one experiencing it.  Everything and Nothing.

So tonight as words would, yet again, fail to illustrate my experience.  I turned to other sources.  This video brought to light my deprecating thoughts as it depicts a love story entangled in addiction.  When I saw it I immediately thought of any loving relationship in my life and how, whomever it may be, the two of us are entangled in my addictions and illnesses.  Viewing the dance through this lens was humbling and eye opening.  Addiction steals and steals and yet people who truly love me have remained to offer hope in the replenishing my depleted mind and body.

Stability

In adrenaline, I thrive. I am addicted to it. I appreciate it. The beating in my chest, the sweating of my palms, the racing of my thoughts, the thrill of risk and chance, all remind me that I am alive. If my brain is connecting solutions, thoughts, movements and my senses are simultaneously stimulated, only then do I know that I am fully functioning, fully living. Adrenaline, in the sense of adventure-diving, bungee jumping, zip lining, cliff jumping-offers experiences on the opposite side of the pangolin from every day life. So, sign me up because I get bored with life, with routine, with the “grey” area. I love the activities that people around might shrug away from and precisely for that reason. I love proving to myself that I can experience these extremes, that I can feel fear and excitement, uncertainly and overwhelming joy all at the same. That I can do what scares me and enjoy it, love it actually. This rings true for many of my behaviors as well. Cutting, running for miles with numbed legs, purging despite chest pains, all bring that feeling of stimulation. They are behaviors that people may associate fear with, that I associate fear with.   And it is in that element of fear that I find them painfully alluring. I know fear. I understand fear. I grew up with circumstances that forced you to learn to welcome fear. To sit with it. To hold it. To smell it. Perhaps my fascination with fear derives from my personal opinions and the idea that in doing such things I am, in fact, announcing to everyone that “those situations did not hurt me.” I liked them. I held them. I thrived on them because I thrive on adrenaline. My past and my behaviors are just like the sports I love. Just like diving with sharks and zip lining in the mountains and bungee jumping in Peru and cliff jumping into a rapid river, they offer an extreme experience. A stream of sweats and heart palpitations and dizzy thoughts. An adrenaline rush.

In chaos, I live. No problem. Doesn’t faze me. Routine, normalcy for all I am concerned. But that is just outwardly. My insides, on the other hand, get pretty affected. I can feel my chest tighten and my heart start to race. Then when my emotions rise and I work to suppress/ignore them, the shaking internally ensues and now this internal shakiness translates externally as well. (Meaning my legs shake a lot and I can’t control them.)

Chaos, this I have learned to welcome it into my life, to make room for it, to change what I need/want/feel in order to allow for it to rest beside me. In the same way that fear was forcibly present in my life, chaos made a permanent residency. Chaos was, in fact, the foundation for the fear, the platform on which it rested.  It is in the crashing waves caused by the initial eruption that the fear became a tangible force in the equation. Something I could touch and hold and, yes, smell.

But what if these two dominant factors of my life were to dissipate? What if chaos and fear took a back seat to, say, stability? What kind of a person would I be if my environment were no longer dictated by the dysfunction of my extended family or the fear instilled in my mind? What would my life look like? What would I look like?

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In stability, I thrive. Initially I laughed at myself for even writing this. Stability sounds like such a dull and boring state of being- nothing rapidly changing, no risk, no fear, just allowing things to be. But, also somewhere deep down inside of me, I found a rush of peace flood my mind as I thought of being stable. So much could be achieved if the ground on which I walked wasn’t constantly shifting. I would know where I was going and have control of what I did. My body. Yes, my body. It wouldn’t be changing all the time. I would have time to see it, listen to it, and get to know it. What a terrifying thought! Getting to know my body. Without the constant rise and fall of my weight there are no medical concerns or distracting behaviors to hide the shame I feel inside. It is there. The hurt my body has experienced is out and raw and not protected by fear or adrenaline or chaos or anything else. If I were to rest in a place of stability then my body would as well. And if my body were to rest there, then I would have to confront the pain that comes with being in my body and why it disgusts me so much. I would have to enter into the headspace that sends me spiraling downward. I would have to confront the truth about my weight. That it is what it is and I cannot/should not do anything to change it.   Every time I have had a conversation around my weight with anyone, especially my treatment team, it nearly always brings me to tears. Nothing else has quite the effect that the idea of weight and stability do to my thoughts. Something deep inside my gut leaps into my throat and says no no no no. We cannot stay here. We cannot stay in this body. Help! Let me out! I am scared.

And there it is again, this topic of fear. Could it be that I am fearful of stability or am I fearful of what I do not know? Because it is true, I don’t know what stability looks like. Every time I have gotten near to a place of stability I have run as fast as I could in the other direction. Stay here? No thanks, not a chance. And why is it that I don’t wish to stay in that place? I don’t know that I have a clear answer. After all, I feel like I am in that place again. Where I am getting fearful of staying, where I am thinking of leaving the nearly, but not entirely, solid ground on which I am standing. And my intention right now for even inviting in that possibility of fleeing is to comfort myself in knowing there are other options, that if it gets too unbearable I can choose chaos and adrenaline again. I can choose to push my weight around. I can do all those things, yet I know where they end up. This path, this path of supposed stability is the only one I have not found the courage to keep walking down. I have walked by it. I have thought about it. But never, until now, began down it.

To me this path of stability means monotone. It means blasé. It means nothing exciting will happen this way. I will be alone in my body and my thoughts.   I found some sense of comfort in the fear of my mind. An adrenaline rush in the chaos. That felt good. It felt like home. Then, I translated that chaos into my own body with behaviors and self-destruction because I felt familiar with the idea of erupting volcanoes and dangerous situations more so than contentment and consistency. Abuse was reflected in my health. My unworthiness was reflected in my size.   All these factors made sense. They all served me in some way.

How then can stability serve me? It can in ways of knowing. Knowing I have choice about when I get up, what classes I choose, who I see and who I don’t, what I eat, what I wear, what I say or don’t. Knowing that my body is okay, that I am not shrinking or expanding, that I am going to eat today despite emotions or my overwhelming sense of unworthiness, that I won’t work my body too hard or neglect to work it at all, understanding the body in which I live. Know, also, that my environment is subject to shifts. That meetings may change, that classes may be cancelled, that groups will gradually decrease and that those changes are okay. They are not grounded in fear, but grounded in contentment. Content with myself and how I will react. Stability does not mean I have to become monotone or unexciting. It does not mean that I can’t also thrive on adrenaline. For, adrenaline and adventure can be a part of a stable life. But in a stable state of being, self-destruction will no longer be a factor of adrenaline. Rather, it will solely consist of extreme sports and activities that allow what I call body awakenings (The fleeting moments, in which I connect with my mind, body, and spirit.) to happen. After all, in awakening my body and knowing my body perhaps I can continue on this path of stability that I have previously found little strength to venture down.

Some of us are like Frodo

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“My mother once told me that trauma is like Lord of the Rings. You go through this crazy, life-altering thing that almost kills you (like, say, having to drop the one ring into Mount Doom), and that thing by definition cannot possibly be understood by someone who hasn’t gone through it. They can sympathize, sure, but they’ll never really know, and more than likely they’ll expect you to move on from the thing fairly quickly. But that’s not how it works.

Some lucky people are like Sam. They can go straight home, get married, have a whole bunch of curly headed Hobbit babies and pick up their gardening right where they left off, content to forget the whole thing and live out their days in peace. Lots of people however, are like Frodo, and they don’t come home the same person they were when they left, and everything is more horrible and more hard then it ever was before. The old wounds sting and the ghost of the weight of the one ring still weighs heavy on their minds, and they don’t fit in at home anymore, so they get on boats go sailing away to the Undying West to look for the sort of peace that can only come from within. Frodos can’t cope, and most of us are Frodos when we start out.

But if we move past the urge to hide or lash out, my mother always told me, we can become Pippin and Merry. They never ignored what had happened to them, but they were malleable and receptive to change. They became civic leaders and great storytellers; they were able to turn all that fear and anger and grief into narratives that others could delight in and learn from, and they used the skills they had learned in battle to protect their homeland. They were fortified by what had happened to them, they wore it like armor and used it to their advantage.

It is our trauma that turns us into guardians, my mother told me. It is suffering that strengthens our skin and softens our hearts, and if we learn to live with the ghosts of what has been done to us, we just may be able to save others from the same fate.”
– S.T. Gibson

Gravity

Sometimes words simply won’t do justice the power that addictions, eating disorders, and mood disorders have over us.

A Meaningful Life

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Standing on a shoreline, waters teasingly crash in and out, in and out.  Sand fills the space between my toes-rough, discomfort.  I feel it. I know I am here. Clear skies, a bright deep blue.  Their color is a gift.  My lips turn upward and my chest is heavy.  I am static wishing to leap forward.  I try but the sand, is like cement.  It grabs at my ankles.  It is unbreakable.  I am locked in it, trapped.

The waters are speckled with a thousand diamonds. The waves rise and fall with opportunity and promise.  Out, far among, far within the depths is where possibilities unfold.  I know because when you are surrounded, thrust into a place too rough to stay afloat, it is there that one learns to swim, learns to survive.

Then a great wall of water rushes towards me.  It rumbles like thunder and flashes with lightning.  Not the deep blue that the waters once were but now dark and menacing.  I want to run, but I am trapped.  I want to scream, but I have no voice.  Then, with an intensity words cannot describe the wall crashes down on me.  It suffocates me.  I am pulled outward.

As quickly as the impact came, it ends.  The wave, once so dark, so strong dissipates and I am left in the depths where I always wished to be. Never been out before, I began to panic.  I began to sink.  Down. Down. Down.  Things begin to get dark once more. Still no voice, I cannot scream out.

A hand,

Powerful, calloused, large appears shining above me.  I reach out and find a rush of peace. Upward I am pulled and I break the surface.  Until I can see the blue diamond waters all around me, until I can bask in the brilliance of the sun above.  Now at the surface, the waters move with me, not against.  Up and down I rise and fall. One by one I am now able to invite other, the one’s I love still stuck on shore to join me.  Together we begin to live in the depths where possibilities unfold.

Intuition becomes me guide and acceptance keeps me afloat.  I keep a firm grip on that strong hand and never let go. No longer does hate and darkness control me.  No longer am I a prisoner to the sand, a victim to the waves. I am able to speak again, feel again, hear again, and find within me to truly love. Life is starting to have a direction, a purpose, a future.  Each moment I have the choice between light and dark. Peace is slowing finding me.  Peace is slowing filling me.  These things show me, I am beginning to know my meaningful life.

Minefield

Close your eyes and let me take you to the world I know.

Dead grass of a stark, barren field,

Black crows, an emblem, cooing over nothingness.

A vortex of cries, endlessly reverberating over your shaken bones.

Digest the darkness before taking a step.

Swim in the darkness.

Hold it as it pierces your searching hands.

Suffocate in the blood soaked fog.

Swallow the remains of once was.

Where you are standing is a minefield.

One step could signify the end.

Walk on glass, breathe in crimson, listen to the orchestration of danger’s call.

Everything becomes nothing.

Nothingness becomes your shield, to hold it is to never loose.

Shield in hand, a breath tasting of invincibility propels you forward.

Unfortunate as the single step activates the darkness to pierce your every part,

A minefield of unpredictability,

The one step holds the one thing you still own- your existence.