Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shimmer

It is dusk and I'm sitting in the Quail House working for the first time since I arrived here at our retreat. This is the first time I've felt relaxed since we got here. Well, maybe not the first time. When I was doing healing work for my dad and for other people, I was relaxed. I was in the flow. Felt like I was doing something. And no story was knocking on my subconscious demanding to be written. No character was whispering in my ear.

It's not that no stories are coming to me. Stories always come to me. One on top of another. Sometimes I think that's why I worry so much. My mind, or my imagination, jumps from the fact of what is happening this moment to what could happen. And usually it's not a happy ending. I do that when I go see a movie, too, and when I read books. It's not a lot of fun. Because in the movies and books I'm usually right. Thank goodness in real life I am often wrong.

But who cares about that right now. Right this second the sun has plunged into the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles away and the splash is painting our desert sky first lavender and now rose. And the desert is so quiet I could hear a feather drop. Now it's adding gold to the structures near and far. The tree trunks which hold up the roof of the Quail House are black tinged with gold. In this light, they looked edible. Dark chocolate.

Everything shimmers.

I had an epiphany about my father yesterday. It's one I had to have before I could work effectively with clients. My dad's journey is his own. I couldn't direct it. I couldn't fix him. I couldn't make it all better. If something happened to him, I would be devastated, but it wouldn't be my fault.

I have always thought it was my job to fix the world and everyone in it. Yes, people have told me that takes a lot of hubris. Maybe. But it didn't feel that way when I was a child. It just felt like that was my job. Especially since I was so empathic. I've mentioned before that when I was about twelve I saw the Star Trek episode "Empath." As I watched it, I was horrified and excited. I whispered, "That's what I am." (Horrified because she had to sacrifice herself in order to heal others.)

Oh my. The inside of this tiny studio is now golden. The sky is pale blue except in the places where pink clouds stretch across the sky like a horizontal aurora borealis. The cactus crowding the windows all seem to be reaching up, up, trying to tickle the belly of the sky.

I don't believe in suffering for sake of suffering. I have never seen any benefit to being empathic. In fact, it often felt pathetic. I always wanted to be tough. Tough but loving. Fierce compassion. Fierce love. The other day my husband told me he saw me as tough. "Really?" I said, "but I have so many fears." "You get knocked down and you get back up," he said. "You keep going through it all." That was not how I viewed myself at all. I often chastised myself for not overcoming my fears. "So what, you see me a kind of Clint Eastwood character?" I asked. "Yeah, kind of," he said. I laughed and thought, "But he's a Republican."

I didn't want to be sensitive. I didn't want to be empathic. So many people seemed to go through life successfully without ever having a clue to the suffering all around them. Or to the beauty around them.

Ah. It is almost dark. A raven just flew by. Where the sun was is now a spray of scarlet. No, darker red. Bloody red. I feel that shiver that comes at twilight. Do I go out now while it's light to make my way back to the house. Or do I stay here a while longer, until it's dark, and then make my way through the possible javelinas, cougars, and coyotes.

Doctors used to tell me that I was like a canary in a mine. People like me got sick or were sensitive to things others weren't but that didn't mean others weren't in danger. I never liked that analogy. I kept imagining those poor bright yellow canaries dropping dead and then the miners running for their lives to outrun toxic fumes. What good did that job do the canaries? I did not aspire to be a canary.

Now I know that being sensitive and empathic is not a weakness. I just notice more things in my environment than other people do. That can be a pain in the ass for me and others around me. I used to hate it. Now I just realize it is a part of who I am.

I started this post to write about something else. Instead the shimmer of dusk brought me to this. To this question of identity. I thought that people went through identity crises when they were teens. Or young adults. I have seen myself as a writer almost my entire life. Since I was five years old at least. I was defined by that part of who I was. A friend of mine once told me he was afraid of what would happen to me if I couldn't write.

When I first got sick, I couldn't write for over a year. I let go of the idea of being a writer. I went to school for another career. But then the stories returned, and I was able to delve into my imagination without my brain twisting in the wind of anxiety. Now I know I am still a writer but there are other ways I can be in the world. In my stories, a lone woman is always finding community. That's my theme. That's my search. A search for home. More and more I am finding home in nature again. In places where words aren't needed.

Maybe we invented words to try to celebrate Nature. It was a kind of art, this invention of words. To recreate the beauty all around us. To praise it. So we formed words to emulate life, the way a painter forms colors on her palette.

And now sometimes words get in our way. They're used to obfuscate rather than clarify. They're used to bore rather than enchant. They're used to lie, rather than truth tell.

Today someone gave me the word "shimmer."

It sent a shiver up my spine.

It is an enchanted word.

It opened a door and a story walked through it. Or rather a group of characters did. Now they're sitting all around me, waiting for me to listen. Then I will try to invent words to recreate what they tell me. Invent words to praise what they say.

It is completely dark outside now. Inside, the golden tail of the tiny ceramic mermaid on the window sill glitters in the dim light. I know it is time to step into the darkness and see what is out there.

4 comments:

Emma D Dryden said...

Thank you for this, Kim. I cannot begin to tell you how much of what you've said I feel as well about my journey. And as long as there are a few of us out there in the shimmer, well, that feels so good. It's wonderful to have company once in a while on the long journey to wherever it is we're going to find home.

Joanna said...

Beautiful, beautiful Kim.

Kim Antieau said...

Thanks Joanna! And thanks, Emma. That means a lot coming from you.

Pat said...

Kim, I always find your "vision" wondrous and synchronistic. Thank you for being so open and sharing. For me, the journey become much easier when I turned around and stopped running from who I truly am. Now, I welcome myself with open arms.

 
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