The Autumn Storm

Oven belly churning,
heating the kitchen for
currant cream scones.
Outside, gales knock leaves
to the wet dark earth.
Blue sky hides behind the storm.
Standing barefoot on tile,
I, half cold,
half smile–
dreaming of wool scarves and snow
and white plumes of breath
at the bus stop in the morning.

Anxiety in the Mountains

Today I went snowshoeing up Artist Point in the Mt. Shuksan/Mt. Baker area.
It was absolutely gorgeous and we had lovely weather.

1

I love being in the outdoors, moving my body, and seeing new perspectives of this massive, breathtaking world. Being in nature is something that usually calms me and gives my life meaning.
However, I have struggled with panic attacks and severe anxiety in the past, and I felt a bit of it come back today.

2

I was completely calm until we reached our destination, sat down, and surveyed the expanse of snow and rock before us. We could see for miles. All at once I felt utterly exposed, vulnerable, and up too high in the air to be safe. My heart began to race and my chest seized up.

I haven’t had a panic attack in years, but the old fears quickly rushed back into my head. I’m going to have a panic attack and lose control, I’m going to faint or cry or throw up in front of everybody, I’m going to die up here on this mountain. Yes, it escalates that quickly. And it feels so real and terrifying in the moment. When I begin to panic, I feel as though I’m on the edge of a cliff and I’m slipping off. I don’t know what will happen if I fall off the cliff, but I can see the precipice as I lose my footing and tumble towards it.

3

I forced myself to take deep breaths, to close my eyes, to engage in small talk with the person next to me as a distraction. These are the steps I’ve practiced many times before.

Then a powerful thought entered my mind entered my mind:
Only I am causing myself to panic, nothing else.

When this popped into my head, I realized how silly it is that I’m so afraid of panicking. Panic is something that originates in my body, is contained in my body, and ends in my body. I’m not necessarily saying that the key is to control it. Rather, it is only a feeling and an experience, and it will pass. And no one dies from panic attacks. Seriously!

Also, If I had to die– and it happened outside, on a beautiful mountain, I would not be unhappy with the location of my demise.

So I calmed down, breathed in the mountain air, and told myself everything would be okay.

4

Little Things

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People always say It’s the little things. It really is.
The little things give us the will to survive.
It’s the pink marmalade glow above the bay against the dark forest I walk through
on the way home. The frozen dirt beneath my boots is hard as concrete,
tap tap tap. Dripping icicles that dangle like fangs in the mouth of a cave.
The things like a child’s cherub face split wide in a grin or
a lilting melody that catches me off guard. The fire dancer swirling his flames in circles
and loops, igniting the air. People will stop to stare and applaud.
It’s the crunch of leaves beneath my sneakers, announcing autumn.
The birdsongs of dawn as I walk to school, alone on crisp mornings.
It’s the emptiness of the beach in winter, snow meeting sand.
The wind howling its favorite tune, bending around the boards of my house.
It is me clasping a mug of hot tea, a cat nestling into the lap of someone
talking soft into the phone. The flash of a stranger’s smile.
Sometimes I forget these things, but it seems that they always return.
They return when I need them most.

The Nights of White and Dark

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Yellow and orange trees have given way to
so many brittle skeleton branches bowing down.

I can see my coffee breath steam out over the table,
dying near the vase of drying flowers.
Last night we had to pull on extra blankets,
because the pinprick stars danced above
in a way that relayed, Summer is gone.

So pull out your warmest overcoat and wrap your
body in scarves and gloves. The frost has come
to claim your skin. The snow will settle between
your eyelashes, the wind will spiral tight around your spine.

Prepare yourself for the nights of white and dark.
No thermometer can relate the chill that will slip
into your bones. So let it suck the marrow out, use you
up. Surrender yourself to the freeze, let it reduce you.

You will be paralyzed. You will not understand why.
Sink into the earth, beneath the icy crunch of dirt.
Death is part of life. This is only a change of season.

Cold in the Doll Bones

Last night I became a paint-eyed doll with a broken leg.
You can fix human limbs but not doll limbs,
because we are only made of porcelain, which doesn’t fuse back together.

We stood in the drunk crowd, tired, and listened.
Angel songs of passion, drugs, and God spilled into us.
I swayed against you to the melody, asking for love in the only way I know how,
fumbling for something to take my breath away with its sheer beauty.

I listened to save my life, or to give me reason not to.
We dreamed of lighting cigarettes against the persistent wind,
of driving to the coast and watching the city lights flicker like a mirage.
At least that’s what I was dreaming of. Were you?

My leg broke in place of my heart, because I needed something tangible,
and I fell hard on the concrete when life shoved me.
No hospitals or casts or prescriptions for me.
Eyes glazed over emerald and my body hardened like glass.

Perhaps You Should Consider a Pet (a poem)

Today I played hooky. I wasn’t that sick

but I was sick enough to want to stay home

Pouring cups of lemon ginseng tea with honey into my scratchy throat that feels like anaphylaxis but it’s just the common cold

I read poetry that ignited a need to spread out my thoughts before me like an inventory of all the stones I’d picked up at the beach

 

Today I sat wrapped in layers of blanket and sweatshirt and tried to feel warm

I wasn’t lonely watching the wind rip the yellow leaves off the trees outside

No, today I felt fine, sketched a map of my future on the flipside of a bill I should have paid and mailed last night

 

Today the sun came down on the roof in slices like candy

And walking made me notice the hollowness of my own bones

As if each step sent an echo through my skeleton

I wasn’t lonely but I was alone

 

Today was made for wandering sidewalks and squares

Protected from the cold in soft coats and knit hats

A good day to wander alone and ponder

My therapist’s comment that perhaps I should consider a pet

If I’m so damn lonely