Space research: fascinating, but not an especially good use of money with our own world full of hunger and unresolved needs. That’s how I would have characterized my take on space research early last year, before I read a couple of compelling posts on its merits.
Thanks to changes in thought and heart rippling out from my reading those posts, I knew enough to stand atop a roof and watch for the space shuttle Endeavour as it passed over my office today.
That shuttle was not so very long ago among the stars. It was among the stars because we have minds great enough to dream up, create and send not only technology but life into space. With minds out there great enough to accomplish these things, I cannot help but have faith that time will see many more wonders worked both in the sky and on our own home planet.
To do things, we must first dream them. As I stood and watched the shuttle fly by, I was heartened by the vastness of human dreams, and by the amazing impacts of our drive to see them come true.
And let us hope that all the other leaders in all the other fields look up into the night sky and ask, “What do I want? Would I be happiest to see the stars from here on Earth, or to fly amongst them?”
– Kristina, “Want Versus Need…Stuff and Space“
Penny (Life Reconnected) began her blog to help cope with a convergence of losses, but it’s grown into something much greater. In addition to documenting her many–and I do mean many!–external adventures, she’s enchantingly forthright about her internal adventures piecing together “a sense of place, purpose, balance and love in this world.” Her blog enhances my own sense of connectedness to this world.
Recommended post: A Month in the Country of Blogging Land
The Power Of Words To Reconnect A Life
‘I’ve Been Blogging Since You Left Me’ was one of the original title possibilities for my blog. Along with ‘Dumped at Fifty‘, ‘On The Scrapheap’ and ‘Better Out Than In’. As I moved through trying to amuse myself to getting to the essence of what I needed to express ‘A Design For Life’ and ‘House, Job, Life’ finally became Life Reconnected. That was one year ago.
Then, I was sitting in a house that I hated. Strong words but it felt like I had a life that I hated then too, one that I couldn’t control, recognize or find any purpose to. I was disconnected. So I began my blog.
It became my lifeline, literally a line to connect my life to something, anything, that felt meaningful. It has all been said before about how writing is cathartic, a way to find meaning and how blogging is the modern way to put that writing out there but like most things until you actually do it you don’t feel all of the power. I had been diary writing for years in that cathartic way but the power of blogging has come to me in ways different to what I imagined.
In her book A Brief History of Diaries, Alexandra Johnson traces the history of writing for and about one’s self through centuries of writing and she notes that some of the most widely read diaries, many still bestsellers, are written by women. Centuries of literary prohibition and inhibition she says, had driven women to diary keeping:
“Safe yet secret. The finest diaries expose the raw nerve of creative ambition. For writers like Mansfield and Woolf, by being able to practise craft, a diary became a first draft of confidence……..At their core, Burney’s (Fanny) diaries involve the deep permission to begin and sustain creative work“
I am just recently back from Amsterdam and I visited the home where Anne Frank wrote what was to become the most widely read diary in history. I had my moments there. That time when the feelings and emotion well up and you embody the connection. Just the day before a friend had told me the most moving part of her visit to the house was hearing Otto Frank, Anne’s father, saying how he had realized on reading her diary that as a parent we never really know our children. So true and my response had been, well, do we ever really know anyone?
I came away from the house with a poster of the chestnut tree that Anne had been able to see out of a window. The attic space had been the most significant part of the building for me; I could just imagine how being able to see the sky and have some connection with the bigger world was so important for her. To be able to see through a gap of any sort sustains hope.
Traveling back from Amsterdam I was sitting in Schipol airport lounge with a friend and I was commenting on the fact that my blog had had two views that day! We were having a conversation around me starting my business and how I had felt such a disconnect with where I lived and how I hadn’t really told anyone I knew about me blogging and having no ‘local’ readers. “But how would you know?” she asked. How indeed.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate how powerful our words can be and how far out the ripples can radiate. In her second day’s entry Anne wrote ‘Writing in a diary is really a strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old school girl.’
As I sit today in the front room of that same house I hated a year ago, I look out at the gorgeous view of two magnificent Birch trees framing a small slice of a longer view to the mountains surrounding Belfast. The newly sprung leaves are dancing magically in the wind. Looking more closely in my frame of view I embrace the newly painted walls, the bobbing blackbird reflected in the shiny mirror, my rapture at the patterns my magnificent light shade make on the ceiling above. I appreciate it all. My lovely house swept white, clean and modern. My life swept white, begun again, healed.
I have effectively swept clean my life. A new and lighter life with small details that bring appreciation, grace, shape and form to enjoy. Each day to admire, to take pleasure from as I begin to use my art, my journey and my expression of it here in my blog to form both a business and a basis for my new life.
I could just as easily called my blog ‘The Power Of Words to Reconnect A Life’. It has given me a deep permission to begin and sustain creative work. This little house, this little blog. This little life. Reconnected.
I give thanks to all who share and express some of what and who we are.
As I type this, I have nearly 100% less hair than I did the last time I posted.
My progression toward baldness began with reading the post “Blissfully Bald,” in which my friend Chris (From the Bungalow) announced that he and his wife, Karin (Pinwheels and Poppies), would be shaving their heads for St. Baldrick’s. Their inspiration, Donna’s Cancer Story, chronicled one girl’s 31-month battle with cancer.
I’d seen references to Donna’s Cancer Story since September, but it seemed like such a commitment to follow a 31-day blog series. Also, really depressing. I couldn’t imagine a more depressing read.
After reading “Blissfully Bald,” I knew I’d have to read Donna’s Cancer Story. That Friday evening, I settled in and began reading about Donna.
I cried. Oh, how I cried. But I also felt barriers between me and others removed by growing understanding. Through Mary Tyler Mom‘s open, raw descriptions of her daughter Donna’s life with cancer, “them” became “us.” “Those parents” became “someone who could be me”; the children, “someone who could be my son.”
My world grew simultaneously smaller and larger.
As a writer, I (naturally) had to write my way toward clarity. I did so in my post “On bald heads & being unending.” I let people know where they could donate to team Blissfully Bald.
On Valentine’s Day, following a prompt from Chris, I joined an abundance of bloggers in writing about the March head-shaving event in which Chris and Karin would be shaving their heads. I knew I’d be in Chicago for the event, as well as to catch up with my old friend Dana, but I had no idea I’d end up joining team Blissfully Bald.
On March 11, Chris sent an email including the following paragraph:
I just wanted to mention that anyone can join our team or Team Donna! If you are/will be in the Chicago area on March 24th, we’d love to see you. And if you decided to join our team as a shavee, well, we’d love you forever.
“Damn it, Chris,” I muttered.
Once thoughts like that get in my brain, it’s hard to make them go away. Typically they’ll only do so if I do something like sign up. Which I did the next day.
I’d like to say mine was a really considered choice, but it wasn’t. There were little fragments of thoughts here and there, but mostly it was a gut choice inspired by a girl named Donna who’s been in my mind and heart every day since I read her cancer story over a 12-hour period.
I wrote about my decision to join team Blissfully Bald here. It still didn’t feel like a huge decision, exactly. Just something I was doing.
Then I started reading the comments, both on the blog and on my Facebook page. I learned about more people who’d fought or continue to fight cancer and was bowled over. What started as “something I’d be doing for Donna in a few days” became something all-consuming. Something that I felt bound me so much more powerfully to this world, and to the hearts of others. Beautiful, inspired, inspiring hearts.
The days flew by. I found myself in Chicago. I was a little nervous, but a lot excited.
I got to meet Katy (I Want a Dumpster Baby), whom I instantly loved every bit as much as I thought I would.
By the time we parted ways, I felt like I’d known her forever. Indeed, my heart continues to insist it has.
That evening, I met my teammates. Like Katy, I loved (and laughed with!) them immediately, and couldn’t believe for a second we’d only just met.
By the time Chris and Karin collected me the next morning, I was feeling anything but collected. I’d had a rough night’s sleep, imagining everything that could go wrong the next day and fearing what I couldn’t imagine–in other words, everything about the event.
As we ate lunch just before the event, my anxiety had a direct line to my bladder, which it used to send me scrambling to the bathroom four times in an hour and a half.
Arriving at the event venue, the very place where Donna had celebrated each of her birthdays, I found my nerves instantly soothed. I looked into the faces of others who’d soon be shaving their heads as well as those cheering the shavees on and knew I was safe. I couldn’t imagine anything bad happening, but I knew I’d be fine if it did.
We met Mary Tyler Mom. I wanted to crush her with hugs and tell her how much she’d changed my life with her words, but instead simply hugged her.
We chatted. We schmoozed. We checked out the haps. We hugged Katy lots when she arrived.
Chris was one of the first to get his head shaved.
Karin followed soon after.
My slot was an hour and a half after Karin’s. I was impatient for its arrival, but needn’t have been. It came quickly.
What I’d built up in my head to a momentous, earth-shattering thing was instead quick. Painless. Hardly noteworthy.
My hair was divided into four ponytails I’ll (hopefully) donate to Locks of Love.
Each ponytail was clipped.
My hair was cut.
My head was shaved.
I beamed the whole time. Just beamed.
When I stood in front of a bathroom mirror a couple of minutes later and took in the change, impossibly, I found myself smiling wider still.
I was seeing me. Me unconcealed.
By the time my friend Dana arrived, fresh in from Ireland, I must’ve rubbed my head 100 times already.
Dana returned my sock puppet Arrrgyle, who’d visited Ireland with her for reasons described here, but demanded a picture in exchange.
Dana, her honey and I left the Candlelite shortly afterward, but we had time for a few more pictures first.
By the time I returned to my hotel around 8 p.m., full up on Indian food, I was equal parts exhausted and happy.
I’d started out the day so anxious I was shaking, only to conclude the day so calm I could’ve given 90% of my calm away and still been feeling just dandy.
In the morning it had seemed like such a huge thing to be shaving off my hair, not just for me but for the people whose loved ones’ names I held in my hands (on a couple pieces of paper) and heart throughout the day.
By the evening, it seemed such a small offering. A token, or one-tenth of one, especially in comparison to all those who’ve lost their hair in the hopes that doing so would allow them to only lose their hair.
My baldness pales by compare, but I hope that someone, somewhere, someday will know greater health because of my small step toward conquering cancer. I wish everyone, everywhere could know that health now, but that’s outside the power of any one individual. Real progress will be in the accumulation of all our small steps, one added to the other added to the other.
My steps were small, but in the right direction, and taken with arms linked through those of so many other steppers, each of whose steps take might different forms, but all of whose steps leads us toward a brighter world less full of needless loss.
It’s thinking of all those steps we’re taking together, with arms and hearts linked, that I leave Chicago not only bald, but blissfully bald.
- Read Karin’s account at My Tale of Baldness, Bliss, Magic, and Cheese Sandwiches.
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.
I wasn’t goth outwardly in my teenage years, but I was all goth at heart. The stories I published in my old e-zine, Cranberry Winters, reflect this. So, too, do the story ideas I collected in a Converse shoe box.
A dream about a month ago prompted me to “dive in,” so to speak, to one of my sunny shoebox story sketches. From the first draft of that YA Urban Fantasy:
Elelu froze. Someone was coming!
He sprang into action as the female voice called out again, “What the hell are you doing, Frank? Next date night, I’m picking the date! Hide-and-seek ain’t no more romantic now than it was thirty years ago!”
He ran back up the hill he had just rolled down. The sand made running slow, but it was easier when he peaked and was moving downhill again.
The female’s cries grew softer as Elelu neared the water. He splashed through the shallows, hoping he would escape discovery. When the water was deep enough, he launched himself forward and called forth his fins.
He raced toward home. As he slid into his sleep-hole, well ready for a long rest, he noticed an arm stretched out of his mother’s sleep-hole.
He was afraid, but not so afraid he wouldn’t meet his fear. He pushed upward and swam toward his mother’s sleep-hole.
“Ana-enu!” he cried when he saw her. She has gone!
His mother was rigid. Her eyes, now turned black in death, gazed simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. She would never see him again, nor he her heart. He wrapped his hands around her outstretched one. His heart was full of mourning, but this was a time everyone knew would eventually come.
“Ana-enu!” he cried again. How could it be that no one was responding? Even in the middle of sleep, it was customary for his people to rise and bury their lost together. He held his mother’s hand tighter and looked up. Like with the sandy hills above a few long minutes ago, the only ripples of movement around him were non-sentient.
He waited. All remained still. He reached out with his mind, attempting to rouse anyone to help him begin his mother’s burial. Neither his ears nor his mind heard a single voice.
He released his mother’s hand, then swam toward his youngest sisters’ sleep-hole. Eana, as always, was wrapped around her just-younger sister, Aena. Both were still. Their eyes, like his mother’s, were shrouded in black. Their small bodies were rigid.
He swam toward his older brother’s sleep-hole. He, too, had gone. On and on he swam. In each and every sleep-hole he visited, he found another person whose companionship he would never share.
I’m excited to learn the story as I write it. I’ve outlined the story, of course, but knowing the CliffsNotes version and knowing the actual story are two very different things! Similarly, I’ve spent enough time in the story’s primary home–Florence, Oregon–to have it mapped CliffsNotes-style in my brain, but I don’t think that’s going to be enough.
Think I can talk Ba.D. into a family “research” trip to Florence, Oregon? His summer hiatus is coming up, so now’s probably the time to start the cajolin’ train!