you coming back to you

you coming back to you


My therapists words were lightning to my heart, “This is you coming back to you.”

I hear Christopher Cross stream into my consciousness, sing along:
Well, it's not far down to paradise, at least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
Believe me.

Even in the midst of this period of jubilation, inside the accumulation of the no-longer-familiar inflation in my activities, I’ve been feeling lost. Cloud cover leaves me with no bearings. Dark as a cave, I can’t see my hands in front of my face. What direction am I headed? The point of existence, the shore I’ve been sailing towards, has been to manage the pain.

There isn’t a shade of body or soul or acceptance or relationship or physical realm that escapes the sweltering heat of complex pain, that might soothe the throbbing mind from a searing and sorely out of tune chorus. A jump into cool water, distraction, maybe lay along a floor of secrets and look up. Trailing the movements of folk, dancing on the surface through wave and distortion, unable to determine if they laugh or cry. In my muffled cocoon of briny blood, I don’t know if I laugh or cry.

It's not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
Believe me.

How could I possibly feel lost under the slow rustle of sunrise, inside a gentle breeze lacking force of breath to wilt and steam, misting a matter only felt? And it feels like spring. And it smells like autumn. Birth and death roll between my fingers.

Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

The absence of that weight over all enterprise, the admin of anticipation of how this moment injures my next, would seem exhilarating. And it is. I’m the cannonball of excitation barreling, arching through the air, most likely to crash land any second. The spinning hails disoriented surround sounds awakened by my movement.

Two years ago, I landed upon a shore of surety. Long at sea, in choppy waters, I crawled upon a shore of thanksgiving. In reverberation of purpose and sense of self, I began more actively parsing my pain journey while also amassing the cartography tools to chart course for new voyages. I published my guide on how to fish well, you’ve got to eat on this long journey, and set my sights towards these new directions.

Pastor Coby’s message on a recent Sunday, was the tinge of electricity amassing in soft hum, my hairs standing on end, a tinglingly pulse washing over my body. Something is about to happen, can you feel this? Simultaneous happy and sad, exuberance and confusion, all the fodder. The shipwreck of this past year has left me reeling. In my lostness, I have felt worthless.

Fantasy, it gets the best of me
When I'm sailing
All caught up in the reverie, every word is a symphony
Won't you believe me?

This past year, pain returned in confused fashion. It was eventually sourced to be a 2016 fusion screw in my SI that had moved into my spine, super not supposed to happen. I’ve written about this pain and its ushered return of depression.

Also the grapple of a fifteen year pain journey. Fulcrum remember: Prepain me, as in a bullet hurtle. The energizer bunny on steroids. Leslie Knope meets Kimmy Schmidt meets me, all us Hoosiers, though minus the whole underground bunker story arc. Speed and high spirits my strength, my ability to stand out, contributing to my successes along with some pretty epic failures. Prepain me attacked at my goals. Twenty directions in tandem, the chaos and excitement and possibility of all that could unfold an intoxication. The thrills of troubleshooting, touchdowns, not actually football folks, promotions, atta-girls, and approval dopamine hits that our egos disguised as identities get all giggly-gooey-eyed over.

Youth. Nature’s invincibility cloak.

Unawares, for good reason, also the time Life starts to sow her seeds of wisdom. Seeds that may take years to germinate and mature to produce greater understanding of our human condition, revealing our more same than not. If you’re like me, those seeds came packaged in pinecones and took burning down the whole damn forest to begin to reveal her insights and gain the capacity to foster and cultivate the compassion and love that shakes and transforms our souls through this Life.

Prepain me, a headstrong specimen full of fear, full of adrenaline, full of dreams, and full of determination. So, exactly like all youth everywhere ever.

Youth collects lessons and time and I’ll be 39 in a month. One such blossom from a wisdom seed changed my whole game, and this is where Data Points comes in. My refrain to my children, teaching them, reminding me, is that our failures, our successes, all of it, are simply Data Points. We can get so stuck-in-muck-before-we-even-start, hyper focused about all the things that could go wrong. All the reasons we aren’t good enough to try, qualified to try. Hands wringing in the dark, what if we fail?

But what if we learn? Discover? Create? Express? Locate fellow swans? Find purpose? Explore meaning? What if we don’t even try for those things? Our hesitations — our hype of fear and judgment of the somehow elevated voices in our lives, bestowed with unquestioned thumbs-up-or-down power to govern our thoughts and dreams — can stymie the necessary and curious adventures of our lives. One would think our collective anecdotes, since time immemorial, would help us see none of this is quite that serious. But we batten down the hatches and look up and out over some sea of faces, am I doing this correctly?

You know they’re looking back at you wondering the same thing. It’s time we truly realize our power.

What do we talk about when we want to express something immeasurable, meaningful, fascinating, breathtaking and with tremendous magnitude of worth and beauty? We look up. We speak of stars and mystery and design.

Friends, every single one of us are already breathtaking beings. Stunning stars. “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” ― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Believe me.

It’s what the mapmakers helping us navigate this life, are conveying through their crafts. In their song and book and message. They assert and ask for our trust in the truth.


So what if we fail? FAIL!!! Do that. Loads of it. We use too many exclamation points anyway. “So we cheated and we lied and we tested, And we never failed to fail, it was the easiest thing to do.” How much in our lives, benefiting us to the point we don’t see their marvel anymore has become expected, common, and inconvenient to not find, have come from ‘failed’ attempts to do something else, say like WD-40? You’d be surprised.

Postpain me, of pinecone wisdom and figuring out Curly’s One Thing, is slow burn. My phone in the next room. I get to things and I read during the day … during the day! Joe and I joke about my daily constitutionals around The Green, but I take them, I need them. I mosey, like Mitch in the wild west of City Slickers, “I was just ropin' over there. Thought I'd mosey on over. You know, I've never moseyed before. Hope I did it correctly. I've walked, I've ambled. I even sashayed once.I catch untethered moments, steps not tracked by an app. I hang looped line around the dock and float aways from the shore of crowded cyber waves. Centering in creation, I remember I am part of something astonishing. Of stars. Sometime it feels like peace.

Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

And soon I will be free

All this has been the eddy around loose sandy banks of my mind for the past month. The removal of one of the screws in my spine has awakened me from a deep unsettled sleep, squinting inside a sunlight so bright. I leapt for joy and when I landed, the glare was blinding and everything just went dark.

That’s when I saw one of my therapists.

I talked about my bubbling up of restlessness and energy I didn’t know where and how to direct, “I feel like I’m waking up from a coma. Muscles I haven’t used in ages, mind and body, they ache. But the hurt is different and it feels good. It’s like I don’t know how to adjust to the lack of having to hypervigilantly guard my actions and movements. I’m still waiting for it to settle back in and wreck havoc. The pain coming back like a storm a year ago, had triggered pain PTSD. I am trying to figure out what to do with my hands again, my legs, my mind, my body, my dreams, my forward motion. I mean, I walked outside a week ago and ripped out all my landscaping because I could.”

We kept talking.

And now I have to buy some flowers.

See, I’ve been here once before. After the pain-reducing, life-re-altering surgery of ‘16, I went through a similar rainbow ride. It was glorious and sunbeams at midnight. As I digested and got my feet back on solid ground, in my coming back to life after those years filtering through pain, the misery that clarifies, I knew what I had to do.

First, I could never return to workaholic, hustle bustle anything.

Second, I would no longer discount, cram in, or shelve my lifeblood. I wouldn’t wait until I was too tired in the evening and go about it half-assed, or drop it down the queue for more pressing matters over the weekend, like cleaning the house. I would prioritize the time this time. The way I did before pain hit me hardest to the point I could no longer hear my thoughts. The way I’ve done since the moment my Grandma Shively gave me the yellow journal with golden trim and lock for my tenth birthday.

We touched upon pre and post me’s and how my healing journey after my ‘16 fusion was another such fulcrum of sorts. It is upon that divide I now focus.

What I loved about Prepain me was my endless champion of the underdog. I was the underdog, have been the underdog many a time. In one instance, I quit school the last semester of college. Sure, there’s a story. In all gigs that followed, I worked hard to quickly rise to lab lead or project point of contact or manager or whatever. Youth-me felt that my tenacity and gogetumness was being recognized and rewarded. Not-Youth-me knows, as we humans are oh-so complicated and never a linear mapping of cause and effect, that it had way too much to do with proving to them? or to myself that I was WORTH it. Because somewhere along the way I equated selfworth with actual quantifiable coin.

What else did I appreciate about Prepain me? My insatiable desire to face my fears (click for a copy), to collect Data Points. The constant gospel refrains of my heart, You got this. I got this. We got this. In my design lab, I had a poster hanging, “Everything can be figured out. We just have to figure it out.” If you're googling for the reference, it was me.

I was a ping-pong with wrong notions of worth and all that was not healthy, but my posture of risk, or willingness to fall flat on my face however many times and stand back up and try try try again was something quite prodigious if not a glutton for punishment. Let’s climb this mountain and jump off that cliff. Seems fun. Not, I don’t really know how we’re going to land. Did you bring any gear? We’ll just figure it out. Also stupid.

I like to think the bottleneck from years of pain has helped strip away what may have, most definitely probably for sure, taken even longer, and heaven forbid the need for more forest fires, and we can’t have that, the parks budget is already in shambles, and folks if you know me, the me who went to college to be a park ranger, to study creation and her beautiful connection to all things, who would live in a treehouse if Joe didn’t have to have good wi-fi, I say that in support of my passions, not for political purposes, for me to understand and grow into where I am, who I am today. Moana and How Far I’ll Go is my Tracey-Theme Song (Ally McBeal anyone?). I’ve put in tremendous, intense, tough work towards know thyself. And for real, one can never have too many theme songs.

I’ve been in a pose of deep exhale as my new gains course through my neural pathways spreading the news of less pain, three out of ten. In the whoosh of restless-grateful-for-change-now-what energy, I landed back onto a question I thought I had answered, a shore I had thought claimed.

What is my worth…to me?

Yes there is a head answer, child of God [hand batting at an invisible bug] I know what I’m supposed to say. Head knowing and soul knowing are very different. We need a canvas of visuals, like stars, to really get it.

As my therapist and I talked, I recounted the qualities I loved, and ones I less than loved, about youthful Prepain me and about not youthful Postpain me. I arrived at the realization that for this past year, I have indeed, been shipwrecked. And engaged in too much anxious analysis of all the reasons I couldn’t try anymore. Everything became heavy and I let the weight drag me into the undertow.

And then came that gears turning, neurons firing “A ha!” moment of therapy. That moment where one of my therapists used to get goosebumps and show them to me.

My sense of worth-lessness has been largely connected to my pain. As a former biker, when your helmet is fitted correctly to your size, it’s a cushiony sense of security. Not robust per se, I still may shred my skin along asphalt if my motorcycle wrecks, but here’s hoping I don’t crack my skull. Point is that pain messes with your sense of self, of acceptance. Less than robust in worth and ability and point of existence. It’s the rumor weed virus that gets into your blood and infects your thoughts and processing. First, there are minor glitches. Annoyances but you learn to deal with them. The crack in your phone screen. Then comes the day the memory gets full and you no longer remember easy things and it hangs up trying to locate content or search through past references for help on working through the overwhelm. System overloads and you tell your husband, “Nine years of therapy and I am still in this place.” He says a lot in response but basically that you are full of shit and to speak no more untruths.

When I woke from my coma that first time, in ‘16, I had absorbed the life-force of surety. When I felt like I was finally truly wakeful and living my own life. The perfect pitch on a tuning fork, the frequency aligning my thoughts and my actions. When the music is that good, that potent, that is when I get those goosebumps. See? No, you can’t. But they are there.

But this encore of pain this past year had sunk my surety like Artax in the Swamp of Sadness.

And no, I did not handle my new pain with grace. I just stopped mid …

And back to spinning the wheels of worth. Whipping up the doubts in my ‘identity'.’ All my insides churning, running to stand still. I’ve been dropping anchors.

Feeling good for me can kick things into high gear. Mega. Hence launched cannonball in motion? This thing is still falling.

Sitting on the couch, talking with my therapist, following words where they will go, seemingly non sequiturs, carefully tiptoeing through Farmer Bob’s corn stalks to save a mile on our way to the creek, and we’ve been talking about worth and facing fears and failure and flowing with the river of life this whole time. Huh? We’ve been talking about my answer to my question. We’ve been talking about what grounds me in truth and what lifts my sails.

Then came the jolt of my therapist’s soul-defibrillator. Her spoken words took shape and we watched with our eyeballs as they floated on the static current from Pastor Coby’s message across the room and absorbed straight into my chest.

She said, “This is You coming back to You.”

Well it's not far back to sanity, at least it's not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see.
Believe me.

My soul songs, cathartic siren choruses refined by pain: passion, purpose, data points, slow burn, self-care, compassion, grace, endurance, persistence, finite breath, I shall not live in vain, and living not just existing. I will tune them with my fingers until I am no more.

Me as me

Sailing takes me away to where I've always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

Rainbows and Reality

Rainbows and Reality