The yellow legal pad is open on the table. The opening paragraph seemed pretty good, rough, but I had what I thought was a good opening line.
“What are you afraid of? My spouse practically yelled the words at me from the driver’s side of the car. We were arguing-although as in most of our arguments he did most of the talking and I sat staring ahead, silently, trying to find my words. It has been so long ago now, that I have no recollection of what we could have been fighting about. I just remember the question. The question that has been frozen in time, like a cartoon bubble over my head, a question followed by dot, dot, dot. “What are you afraid of….?
I turn the page over on the pad and draw four columns.1) What was I afraid of as a child 2) What was I afraid of as a teen 3) as a young mother and 4) what am I still afraid of. I smile as I make the first list watching each childhood fear float away like a bubble and pop. Fears that once gripped me, now cause me to smile. My early fears of thunder and lightening, now comfort me as I fall asleep. The fear I had of my neighbor’s rose bush, which grabbed my coat and would not let me go, brings back a fond memory of a childhood home. A fear that turned into one of my passions, gardening and roses. I look at the yellow pad, the words lie there on the paper, the thoughts and memories spin in my head. I stand up and walk to the kitchen to fix a cup of coffee. Why is this so hard? On second thought, forget the coffee, maybe tea will settle my stomach. On third thought, maybe I should get some fresh air.
Standing outside, I see my beloved mountains, so firm so unchanging. Each morning, for the thirty plus years I have lived in Utah, I wake up and walk to a window to look East. With the Psalmist I say, “I look to the mountains, from whence cometh my strength.” My God has changed over the years, but the mountains they have remained firm. This morning, the clouds finally parted and when I looked east to the sky just beginning to turn pink, I saw Venus, Jupiter and Mars-all lined up in a perfect row-the only lights in the pre-dawn sky. As I look down the street, it is in full blown splendor. The reds, oranges and yellows form a tunnel for the cars. The pines the only green left now. It is my favorite time of year, but it always brings a sense of change and uneasiness that only the sound of the geese flying overhead seem to articulate.
I have to get something written. I sit down again. Teenage fears, start swirling in my mind. Fears of embarrassment, embarrassment from not wearing the right clothes, hanging with the right friends, saying something stupid, fears that accompany moving to new schools and new cities. Fears that have turned to strengths as I have sought to be aware of the new neighbor, the new employee, the new kid at school. Fears that have helped me venture beyond my comfort zone. Teenage fears of dating and rejection have been replaced by a long, comfortable relationship. There must be words to express this, maybe I will just write a paragraph. I grab my pen and stare off into space while my hand draws circles, round and round. Tea, yes tea, the tea will calm my stomach.
Focus, Colleen, focus! I am already past the day we are supposed to send in our writing. And this was an easy prompt. “What are you afraid of….? “ I am practically shouting at myself now. Well, I am certainly not afraid of the long list that used to haunt me. Like Dorothy, I have thrown a bucket of water on so much of what used scare me along the yellow brick road of life. Lions, and tigers and bears, Oh my! Satan, and sinning and hell, not really! Dorothy and me, we have pulled back the curtain and figured out a few things along the way. Maybe, I should find a Rolaid or Pepto Bismo. Maybe I will scroll through FaceBook again, then I will finish this! Write for ten more minutes, just ten more minutes, don’t you dare click on FaceBook!
Why didn’t I ever read Alan Watts before? How is it that some people can connect with us over space and time and speak to our very souls? I pick up one of his books off the coffee table The Wisdom of Insecurity and begin to thumb through its pages.There it is underlined with a little star by it. “If we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen and death comes at the end.” It is one of the few books I have marked up. I have always had an aversion to writing in books, maybe for two reasons. My mother always taught me to respect books and treat them very kindly. I had a hard time marking up college texts. Second, you can always tell what “issues” people have in their life by what they underline in a book. I hate being that transparent and I lend out a lot of books! But this book is different, and I won’t ever lend it out! This one is mine! It is now marked and underlined and yes, I have issues!!
What am I afraid of now? Hmmm. Maybe it always boils down to a phone call, the phone call. The one in the middle of the night. The one about “the accidents that will happen.” The one that involves my children. The phone call that I am yet to receive but still haunts me. The phone call my best friend received when my boys found Jeremy’s body at the bottom of the canyon, next to his crumpled car. The phone call Anne received when her husband ran to his office to pick up some papers on his motorcycle and never came home, where “death came at the end.” The phone call to meet my daughter at the hospital where her husband was being rushed with a broken neck. The phone call that requires me to live everything that Alan Watts teaches, the phone call that requires the wisdom to Let it Be, to Let it Go, to Let Them Go. The phone call that I have absolutely no control over. I walk outside again. There are dark clouds over the mountains. I watch them move. The shadows are lengthening. There is an eery glow to the sky, beautiful, black clouds and an orange sunset. It is October. A few roses still cling to the bushes, beautiful bushes with thorns. Oh how I love them, oh how I hate to see them go.
I need to finish writing, I need to get my thoughts on paper. I need to find something to settle my stomach. The phone rings, my daughter is on the other end. “Mom, I had another terrible night, I am so sick, I need to check myself into the hospital, there is a large dark spot on my chest, they are doing a CAT scan, we get the results from all the blood work at the end of the week, I see the oncologist again on Monday. Mom, I think I am going a little crazy. Please don’t tell anyone, yet.” I switch on my Mom voice, “I will come as soon as you need me, We are in this together, this will all work out, everything is going to be o.k., please let me know as soon as you talk to the Dr. again. I love you.” I hang up the phone, today, just today, I know what I am afraid of….