It’s Just an Illusion

Constance and I worked for two days this week via Face Time. It was the next best thing to her being here in my sunroom, where we usually write. Here’s a snippet, from yesterday’s efforts, of the many pearls of wisdom I collected over the years from my counselor, Pat.

Pat explained that we’re attached to the illusions we’ve created for ourselves and our families; how we’re supposed to look to the outside world. Thank God I didn’t have to face the Pinterest boards of adorable families in their clever houses–back then. Whether it’s a Fall football tailgate, linen napkins (monogrammed) or a blue blazer, these outward symbols of shiny-happy-familyhood are imprinted in our DNA.

We look around us for signs that we’re on track. In our culture, kindergarten starts at five or six, college at eighteen and marriage hits somewhere in the late twenties. These milestones fall under our cultural consensus. We’re in tacit agreement about this timeline, how and when a young life is supposed to unfold. But when addiction enters the picture, all bets are off.

I saw very early that Sam wasn’t going to hit the marks on our cultural timeline; but I spent years trying to keep him on track. In time, I felt shame that he wasn’t walking in lockstep with his peers. And wondered if the other parents had noticed.

But after a while, my arms got tired of holding up this whopping illusion. The burden got heavier and heavier and finally, I just let it crash to the ground. Exhaling, I relaxed my torso and let the blood rush back into my extremities as I stood solidly in my own truth.

As painful as it might be, ‘doing your work’, as Pat calls the emotional chore of facing your reality, means challenging the illusions that you’ve held, for so long, in a white-knuckled grip.

The ‘work’ is to confront your own reality with the most awareness and availability you can muster, on any given day.  Some days, you’ll be more clear-eyed than others.

“So you wake up and you drift back to sleep. And you wake up again and you yawn and stretch, but then you fall back into a deeper sleep. It’s a process, Lynda. Two steps forward, then take a nap. Reckoning with your own truth takes time.”

“Why is that?”

“Because if you woke up all at once, it would just kill you.”

Sunny Day Revision

What a difference a day makes!
The weather report and our attention to detail has improved.
Below is an excerpt from our book, revised from the rainy day version.


I launched into a rant that came from Lord-knows-where and Pat, God bless her , didn’t flinch.

“You know that automatic ball machine on the tennis court?”

Pat nodded.

That’s  how my life feels right now! And the balls keep firing from the chute. And I’ve got lobs, and drop shots coming at me, and they’re smacking  me in the head. And the freaking things keep coming,  Pat.”

I was wild-eyed.

“And dammit,” welling with tears, voice wavering, “I’m wearing  flip-flops and all I’ve got is this warped Christ Evert racquet I’ve had since eighth grade.

I paused. Then the flood gates opened. I looked down, sobbing in front of this poised, put-together woman and stared at her perfect ballet flats, catching my breath.

Pat studied me for a moment, then said softly, “Lynda, look at me.”

Mopping my cheeks with the back of my hand, I reluctantly met her gaze.

She placed her palm over her heart, in a gesture that signaled acceptance. Right then, I thanked God – and Amelia for scribbling her name on a napkin.

Like a patient guide, setting out over terrain she’d covered many, many times before, Pat took my hand and led me back to the trailhead that day. For now, she held the compass and I would have followed her anywhere. In the weeks to come, Pat’s office would become the safest place I knew.

Probably because Pat was in it.

Rainy Day Writing

Yesterday’s deluge was the perfect white noise  for hunkering down on my porch and getting into the writing zone. After a long day on both of our computers, Constance and I gave the keyboards a rest and re-read some of the work we’re doing on the book. She laughed (out loud) at this tennis court scene, so I’m sharing. We’ve all  been on the other side of that net.

                                                                                        * * *

You know that automatic ball machine on the tennis court? That’s how my life felt. And the yellow balls keep firing from the chute, blinding and blistering. And some are lobs, and some drop shots, and some smack me in the head. And they keep coming. And dammit, I’m wearing flip-flops and all I’ve got is the wooden Chris Evert racquet I had in eighth grade.

Pat took a deep breath, like a patient guide setting out on a long journey over terrain she’d covered many times before. With nowhere else to turn, I’d surrendered to her. Even though I couldn’t read her map yet, I would have followed her anywhere. And in the weeks to come, Pat’s office would become the safest place I knew.

Probably because Pat was in it.