My Inner Worlds
John Denver’s song never made much sense to me when I was younger. At one point someone mentioned the high was from drugs, but I didn’t grow up in an environment that explained drugs and didn’t understand the connection. My family listened to John Denver because the lyrics were clean and safe for our conservative home.
Now that I’ve been in the Rocky Mountains for over 24 hours, I understand what John referred to—altitude sickness. I’m weathering it better than Matt is, but I still have to catch my breath if I walk too quickly while wearing my backpack. Last night I woke in a panic unable to breathe, but after realizing it was just the lower oxygen level creating that feeling in my body, I fell back asleep. Matt barely slept and isn’t handling the high very well.
This morning we drove down to Longmont to meet a friend for lunch at Sakura Japanese Cuisine (amazing food and wonderful owners). We were amazed at the difference in mental clarity and the ability to breathe. Estes Park, Colorado lies 7,500 feet above sea level. Longmont is at 5,000 feet. My precious husband and I are used to oxygen levels found at an elevation of 315 feet—a huge difference.
We are supposed to hike in the morning with another friend. I’ve already warned her that we need to enjoy a nature walk or a mild hike. Matt thinks we can handle a real hike, but I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ll get to post pictures of one of us fallen to the dirt trail or having to be fed oxygen in the back of an ambulance.
Four years ago we successfully climbed the Alamos Vista Trail near Santa Fe, New Mexico, a hike that began at 10,000 feet above the sea and ended at 11,100 feet. So what has changed? Does age make that much of a difference? Are we really that out of shape compared to our 44-year-old selves? My goodness, but this makes me rethink my lifestyle choices. I work at a desk (and love my job), I write in a comfy chair, I play Dungeons and Dragons once a month—again in my comfy chair. And I practice yoga two to three times a week. Possibly I don’t have enough cardio in my physical activity.
Tune in post-vacation to see how I mix it up exercise-wise. Something has to change if Matt and I are going to hike Machu Picchu next spring. We have seven months to kick it into gear so we aren’t passing out in the Andes.
When Hurricane Florence became a real threat to the Carolinas last weekend, I pretended to not care for one whole day. Then a deep-seated panic gripped me, and I joined the throngs at the grocery store to find only empty shelves. We were still over four days from predicted landfall, and supplies had already sold out. I returned to the store every day at different times, buying what little had come in from delivery trucks since my prior scavenging. Were we prepared enough? How could you ever prepare for the unpredictable nature of a storm? Do we need to evacuate? We live in a flood plain and everyone says we should leave, so why doesn’t Matt seem affected? My incredible rock of a husband told me I could lean on him—that we’d be fine. And we are. My fear drained much of my energy this week, and I’ve determined it’s just not worth it to live like this anymore.
For the past four years, I have consciously worked on facing my fears. I stopped writing creatively at that time because a gripping terror waited for me two paragraphs into a new story. In order to embrace my writing, I had to leave it for a while. During this break I’ve used various tools to delve into my psyche to understand why I freeze in terror, like I’m that little girl again who can’t control the dangerous environment she hides within. Each method of self-exploration has been deeper, grittier, and has taken me to places that I couldn’t have touched without the previous tool that got me to the next level. I’ve made phenomenal progress in 2018 with integrating parts of myself that either fractured when I was a young child or that I just couldn’t have reached without doing my inner exploration. So why did I still feel crippling terror this past week even as the sun shone overhead in a clear blue sky?
My friend Sherrie Dillard posted the following on FaceBook two days ago:
I took the invitation and determined I would use Hurricane Florence to overcome this fear of inclement weather and storms. As the hurricane made landfall, a realization came to me that storms are like the void where I create. I’ve panicked for many years when I see that darkness where my writing takes me. It really looks like a void, an emptiness that is actually filled with possibility. The paradox where my creative being yearns to free herself, but my conscious self fears to enter, much less linger and play with the potential that exists there.
Knowing this creative void is truly what I have feared, and not a weather scenario, I hope the next opportunity to experience ice, a flood, or whatever else Mother Nature brings, will find a calmer Me, a more accepting emotional place. Maybe I will learn to channel the ferocity of a storm and weave a beautiful flow of delight and tension into a fictional place where many may find refuge.
Last week I took vacation time from my day job to visit Denver, Colorado for a consulting assignment. I had a blast doing my normal work in a different environment, making new friends and experiencing a potential I’ve not yet explored—being an independent consultant and traveling for my work. (Note: I’m not saying I’m going to do that. It was just fun to feel the possibilities as I wore that hat.)
The eight-block radius I experienced downtown was amazing, and yes, that’s about all I saw for four days. My colleague and I worked long, hard hours, and we accomplished a lot. It felt great, but was intensely analytical, as you would imagine for a CPA. So I’m devoting this week to my fun side.
Most of you know I’m a gamer chick—formerly into Neverwinter Nights and World of Warcraft. Now my gaming consists of monthly Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing sessions, hosted in my living room for the past six years.
As you may imagine, I take my CPA skills seriously. At work, I’m good at my profession. In play, I will organize a group until people beg for mercy. Last month my adventure notes were six pages long. Typewritten, single-spaced. It was actually a feat for me—normally my notes are only four pages. This past Sunday I spent the entire day editing those notes down to six pages and collating all our stuff into a massive Excel workbook I keep so we all know what the heck is going on when we play.
And what do we play? Pirates! Who knew you could dungeon crawl underwater? My character was voted captain of our ship a year ago, and I wasn’t happy about it. I game to get away from life, and being a pirate captain seemed too similar to being a manager of people. How would that be fun for me? After a while I found my sea legs (ha-ha) and now play Captain Lia as I want. Lia acts like there are three captains on board ship, much to the annoyance of my two friends who remind me there can be only one. I don’t care. I’m the captain and get to do what I want.
Speaking of getting to do what I want, I am exploring a barbaric, physically strong nature. In real life I’m your typical CPA, although I’d like to think I have some personality. On gaming days, I’m a barbarian and hear me roar! Literally. Lia roars and intimidates the crap out of those who need to surrender. Our crew family doesn’t like to kill anyone we don’t have to, so Lia gets a lot of opportunities to improve her scary voice.
Which is quite helpful to me. I’m learning how to let myself be heard. Using Captain Lia as a sandbox, I can explore that side of myself in a safe environment with friends. If you are looking to grow certain aspects of yourself, I’ve found my many years of Dungeons and Dragons transformative.
Now off to plunder…Arrr!
Before my morning yoga class I found seven feathers in the parking lot. I gathered them with care and gratitude. Feathers often come to me, and I see each as a gift from the unseen world. I treasure them all and keep them in a special blown glass vase. Since my heart is filled with blessings and thankfulness, I’d like to share that energy.
One year ago I began my yoga practice at Raleigh Yoga Company and have transformed my body and mind into something I wouldn’t have imagined back then. I’m far from where I want my physical and spiritual forms to be, but I’m on a path that works for me.
One year ago I also began writing this blog, starting the journey to find my voice and let myself be seen and heard. It’s been scary, and I’ve had to struggle with the whisper in my head that tells me I’m not good enough, I’m not clever or interesting enough, or—you get it. Each of us has a voice or two that says different things depending on who we are and what we want to become, but the effect is the same. We can listen to it and not break through our imagined limitations, or we can fly free and see the world through new eyes.
Almost six years ago Matt and I started hosting a monthly gaming day with a group of friends I’ve grown to cherish. Not only has our friendship blossomed and intertwined among the five of us, role-playing Dungeons and Dragons characters has helped me break out of the Sarah construct and explore new ways of expressing who I am and who I can become.
Ten years ago Matt and I traveled for the first time to the United Kingdom and Ireland with two of our dear friends. Since that initial voyage, the four of us have traveled twice more to those magical lands. We are now planning our next trip, to hopefully occur in spring 2019 to the mystical site of Machu Picchu.
These are four of the gifts for which I’m grateful, yet I found seven feathers. Does that mean I have three more beautiful things coming into my world? I certainly hope so.
Thank you for being part of my journey. May the feathers that bless me also bless you and your path in life.
Karl and Eleanora Wolf, Matt’s beloved grandparents, have left this world in the same manner they lived life…together. Sweet Poppa held Nana’s hand earlier this week and told my mother-in-law they would go at the same time. Twenty-six hours after Nana transitioned, Poppa followed her.
I met them during the summer of 1992, a week before Matt asked me to be his bride. Over the following 25 years they became my surrogate grandparents, offering me love and warmth since my own had passed. Nana listened when I needed to voice thoughts and feelings most people would feel uncomfortable hearing, and I treasured her compassion.
I thank these two wonderful people for helping Matt become the beautiful person he is. They supported Matt and his mom during his infant and toddler years, showering him with love and affection in the critical time a child develops his base for who he will be in life. May Matt and I be blessed with long life, a long fulfilling marriage, and the opportunity to leave this world as they did…together.
One day we’ll all raise a glass on the other side. Until then, you will never be forgotten.
The integration workshop last month kicked me harder than April's module. While I can't write about it—still processing the awesome things that happened—I can post pictures of the natural beauty Matt and I got to experience in Sedona and the surrounding areas.
While in Phoenix for training, I noticed a red poppy theme and captured photographic evidence:
We spent five nights in Sedona after the workshop, not realizing we would need the calm, healing space that Red Rock country provides. Matt and I were both hollowed out when we arrived, and we benefited from quiet hikes and not being in our normal environment.
Below are two friends I met during our hike in the Secret Mountain Wilderness. I enjoyed quiet meditation next to both of them.
Two weeks ago I realized I couldn’t live with my frayed purse strap any longer. I bought my current handbag three years ago around my birthday. I had splurged, not really needing a new one back then. I probably don’t now, but I feel like my professional demeanor is called into question if my accessories are less than perfect.
I spent a miserable hour in the mall looking at ladies bags and the gaudy trend some of the really expensive ones have this season (or maybe it’s always been that way). After much obsessing, I purchased one black purse a little bit bigger than what I want, and one deep red wristlet that just looked too cute to pass up. This is why I don’t often shop—I base my decisions on “cute” and “I could use that for this one random event I might go to in the next year” instead of using my trusty logic.
When I make a decision, I usually feel good that I can click a task off my list. Not so with this purchase. It opened a pandora’s box of insecurities within me. This purse will represent all that I am to strangers. My professional competency will be judged based on this black shoulder bag, and you know what? I’m better than this Coach Chelsea cross body.
So I pulled up multiple browser windows and spent an entire week searching for the bag that represents all of me. Matt watched my crazy, frenetic behavior from the sidelines as I ordered yet more purses so I could judge them side-by-side and get their feel. Is this one me? Does it say, “You just hired me for a consulting job and paid a bunch of money to fly me cross-country and I’m worth every penny?” Sadly, no. The purse didn’t. Because purses can’t.
Matt, my beloved husband, an incredible therapist, and a deeply intuitive man gently asked me one evening as we walked the dogs, “Have you thought about what a purse might represent?” I gave him the blank stare. No, I obviously hadn’t searched my soul for a deeper meaning as my OCD reigned. But dang it. As soon as he said that, my little inner voice flashed a picture of the creative space deep in my belly that’s just waiting for me to put my valuable stories, words and energy into it. I saw the orange fire casting a comforting glow in what I named my “creative cave” a few years ago when it presented itself in cold, dark gray. It now has an incandescence that somehow has grown despite my inattention.
The compulsion I’ve felt to find the right purse was a misplaced need to put my treasured gifts and talents in the safe and nurturing environment of myself. My inner confidence and ingenuity represent who I am, not a fancy leather bag to heft around crap I don’t really want with me.
I’ve decided to train myself to use a clutch purse that barely fits my phone, sunglasses and keys. I returned the large shoulder bag I bought and gave the red wristlet to my sister, who oohed and ahhed over it because she needed a new one (and it really is cute). A perfect ending to a story about a woman finding and accepting her personal power.
Do you have a happy ending to an issue you’ve struggled with? Are you still encountering blocks or denial on your journey to wholeness? There are plenty more in my bag of tricks, but this one is enough for now.