A Flash of Light in the Forest

Garrison, July 2017.

It’s been six, seven months since I wrote here. And those many months ago, I wrote about The Unmade Me, this peculiar sense I have of being lost in my own life.

I would say I’m still pretty deep in the forest, and that I have walked a lot of lonely miles where no light gets through. I’ve grown tired of the metaphor of “filling in the blanks,” because lord knows, seven years ago I would never have imagined I would still be facing down the empty spaces and trying my best to manifest something that feels stable and safe and…. permanent. Hahahhahah. Nothing is permanent. Not one thing. But that’s a lesson that we simply can’t ever truly know; it would be our undoing.

Part of what has been so excruciatingly difficult for me is that I am wrestling with re-ordering everything I thought I knew about my relationship with my mother, and to a lesser degree, my father as well. And turns out, (1) that’s some heavy shit and (2) that shit makes you feel crazy. Like, literally crazy. Like, everything-I-ever-promised-myself-I-would-never-be-because-my-mother-was-crazy kind of crazy. (And I don’t use the word crazy in a derogatory way. My mother is Southern. In the South, crazy is a compliment.)

I have wonderful friends and support and love in my life, but let me tell you: There are really very few words that can explain to all my well-meaning beloveds what the experience of having two minds feels like. I know that I am a capable, high-functioning adult—even if, yes, I’d like to stop working from home and find a job and sell my house and a bunch of other Big Hairy Things—but now that I’ve opened the door to the Black Velvet Silence, where all the feelings I didn’t want to feel have been waiting all these years, I am often overwhelmed with an absolute and total sense of crushing failure. It immobilizes me.

The past immobilizes me. Even though I get it: it all already happened.

And let’s just take a moment to pause and reflect on this: I think that most of you who know me, who know my writing and my work, who know my being, would say that I am a wholly naked person. I don’t hide my feelings. I explore them, openly, honestly, trying to get to the truest true at the center, separate from my own judgment, wants, needs.

And I have this, this agony in my center?

Just: wow.

So. It’s been very hard to talk about. With my friends. With myself. With my brother. It’s just an impossibly difficult thing to explain.

So when I stumbled across THIS INCREDIBLE PIECE OF MAGICAL HONESTY via my friend Schmutzie on Facebook, I was literally turned to stone. In recognition. In gratitude. In FUCKING RELIEF.

The incredibly talented author Sherman Alexie, who just wrote a book about his relationship with his difficult mother, had to pause his book tour because he found himself so completely whipsawed with grief he was wholly unprepared for. Please, please go read his post. It’s magnificent, with references to his experiencing a string of those strange coincidences in life I call “postcards from the Universe”, sent by his mother. Not literally. But poetically. Go, now: read it.

Thank you, oh random universe, for tossing this in my path! I feel all the hallelujah to have someone so bravely express this experience, even after having written a book about it all. I feel: un-alone, validated, and possibly, like I might make sense after all.

I’m still in the forest, I’m walking my ablutions, trying to keep shedding the cover, trying to merge all those lost feelings from the past into my grown-up mind, into my adult being, the adult being who now can love and comfort and take care of that desperately sad and scared me I never knew. (It’s no coincidence I recently started training to work up to running again and stopped drinking and lost some weight. When the doors open and close and stuff shifts in the attic, the mind and the heart and the body instinctively know.)

I have so far to go, and the road has been wickedly brutal. When I was in one of my deepest agonies, I asked my therapist: “So it really looks like this sometimes? This is actually part of getting integrated, whole, better?”

And she looked at me and said, “If you’re lucky.” A small pause, for effect. Then: “Most people don’t get here.”

We must thank our teachers in this life, the journeys that bring us pain and make us have to evaluate who we are and who we want to be. My mother didn’t mean to hurt me. But that doesn’t matter. I used to think that was the story. But no.

Apparently she hurt me, anyway. And that is the simple truth of it. The story I had been telling myself since I was 9 years old was an entirely different story, the story of our blending, our love affair, the world we created for each other. And it wasn’t true. But it is the story that allowed me to thrive. For that I will always be grateful.

Thank you Sherman Alexie for both writing your book (already tucked into my Amazon cart), and even more, for sharing your experience of what it felt like when the demons reared up and reminded you that there is no storytelling that can heal that kind of pain.

The stories help. But the pain, it simply has to get lived. One way or another.

And for the first time in many, many months, I feel lucky that I’m going to live this pain this way—even though it has had me on me knees far more than I can even yet fully process. I want the pain now, instead of letting it destroy my life in another way some years down the line. I have love I want to live, grounded dreams I want to follow, and yes, books I’d like to write.

The truth always wins. But that doesn’t mean we’ll always like what the truth feels like.

But yes, it sets you free. And today I believe I will get there.

So I write this post to leave it like a little lantern in my forest, so I can bump into its beacon from time to time as I continue to walk my way out of the dark.




About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses. Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
This entry was posted in depression, fear, loss, mother, relationship, Uncategorized, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Flash of Light in the Forest

  1. Margit says:

    Love you friend, you write with such elegance about such impossible stuff. And that Alexie piece is stunning, thank you for sharing.

    • stacy says:

      Ha! I love that you say I write with elegance about impossible stuff, because holy Hannah, that is what FLOORED me about the Sherman Alexie piece. I feel like I stumble through my attempts to explain the experience of two minds, but I love you so much for trying to understand it and staying steady for me and with me when I am falling apart a bit. And sometimes more than a bit. xoxox

  2. Rita says:

    Oh, Stacy. Just a few weeks ago I was saying to my therapist, “I know all of this. I know exactly why and how these experiences hurt me. But I can’t figure out how to get past them, and the knowing isn’t enough to keep them from continuing to affect me.” I love the Alexie piece. Reading it and yours, I found myself wondering if that’s how my children will one day describe me. I hope not, have tried so hard not to be that kind of mother. So many threads are still tangled. Perhaps it’s not that the blanks are unfilled so much as it is that the blanks are overflowing?

    • stacy says:

      “The knowing isn’t enough.” I know — it seems so impossible that we can be fully cognizant of the mechanics of hurt and yet not be able to pull ourself out of the rut. I think of it now like I’m running laps, running laps to create a new groove, a new default. And every once in awhile I feel it, the slight shift in how I stand in myself. And as for your children, obviously I have never lived in your household, but your tender concern makes me think they will have only all the usual stories to tell and wrestle with. Our parents have to shape us, we can’t not leave those impressions on our children, both good and bad, right? Right. xo

  3. D. A. Wolf says:

    What a beautiful little lantern at a time when I, personally, need its light. And this statement rings so true, on pain: “it simply has to get lived.” Yes.

    Thank you for letting us walk with you. It gives us so much.


    • stacy says:

      Wolfie, thank you. Your words mean so much to me. I have felt voiceless and empty for so long; to know that there is still something in value of what I say and share to you is a beautiful gift. xoxo

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