#MondayBlogs – Fear is a Health Fuel

“My ‘fear’ is my substance, and probably the best part of me.”

– Franz Kafka


For about a few weeks, I had been living in thoughts fueled by fear. It was an old fear, one that I had already faced, buried deep, and moved on. Unfortunately, I had to face it again. It was unavoidable, and if I didn’t face it head on, I knew that many people would have suffered. My fear had light. It had substance, and the only way I could face it again – back from the dead – was to speak my story, under oath and on record.

Without going into the depths of this litagation process I had to endure, I was able to survive it. I face it head on. I had people at my back, encouraging and supporting me. I had people’s faith, love, and warmth surrounding me. I had power, from my Creator, and from my own just ideals. I knew I had goodness and truth on my side.

I can’t lie; it was scary. I was afraid for days leading up to it, and I was afraid in minutes that carried on through it. I was afraid, but I had to speak up and tell my story.

The scariest part came afterward when it was done. You’d think once it was over and I made my deposition that I could sigh in relief. I could not. Fear was still in its raw form, whispering things in my ear, filling my bones with uncertainty and future ordeals. I could not be comfortable. I worried, I fretted, and I thought of the worst to come – all products of this fear.

It’s such an unpredictable energy, one difficult to harness. It left me immobilized some time after it happened. I had reassurance from my loved ones, but I was not appeased.

The fear that had been sleeping had resurged with new life.

I wish I could say I woke up the next morning feeling better, that all was behind me, but the fear still stays like a sleeping dragon.

How can I use this fear into something good? How can I take such dark energy and transform it?

I’ve been reading a lot of books that deal with a woman’s journey to the Underworld. Most of these books are philosophical as well as spiritual based, but I find they have a lot of merit.

I need to travel to my own underworld and face my fears. I need to strip all that is worldly, all that does me no good, and leave it as a pile of clothes, ashes and debris at my feet. I need to strip even the things that are important and find just me – my whole self, not just a body, but the essence of me, and find a way to transform myself, to take the bad and leave it behind, and be reborn into something new.

The New Moon is just that time. It has passed weeks ago, but now the chaotic energy of reflection, of my own darkness, is a chance – a new chance to move on and begin new things.

The old fears still sing with residual energy, but I know what’s waiting for me, what I have ahead of me and what I need to achieve. I can let fear consume me and do nothing. I can “give up” and I can let it cripple me, or I can face it. I can USE it.

That energy, as fickle as it is, is entirely mine. It is in my head, my bones – like fuel, and I can use it to overcome. It is a motivation point. It does not serve me as a monstrosity to steal my energy and leave me vulnerable.

But it can define me as someone who takes fear and rises above it – Uses it to stomp through my own doubts and demons and prove myself wrong.

My fear is fuel. It’s daring me to be better, to change it, to transform into someone else. My fear leads me into the Underworld of my own darkness.

And I’m the only one that can use it, break it as it encases me, and strip the energy and change it to something else. It’s only up to me to come from my journey from the Underworld back into this world ready for change.

I’m ready for the next journey. If Fear is my companion, then it only makes me stronger to fight harder. Nobody can do that to me. I only have myself.

END

HK Rowe

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Nonfiction Wednesdays – Of Pets and Family

The storm here in Chicago-land has once again delayed my evening schedule, and after a busy night of catching up with bills, I didn’t get a chance to write something new. So please enjoy a piece from my past.


Originally written 4-10-2002.

Of Pets and Family

As long as I can remember my family has always included pets. When I was a baby we had a black poodle named Korky and a long- haired gray cat named Misty. When I was eleven, I got another kitten named Butterscotch. Pets have been an integral part of my life. However, they have shorter lives than me, and I had to go through times where I had to lose pets. All the pets in my life were dear to me, but some were harder to lose. Despite the fact that these were just animals, some people may not consider this important, but I cherish all these animals part of my family.

Korky, a half poodle and half terrier, would always protect me when I was a baby. Mom adopted the small, awkward looking mutt from the animal shelter before they could destroy him. Inviting Korky into our family was a good decision. Not only did my mom save his life by bringing him home from the pound, but also Korky added love and entertainment to our small family. He was the typical dog who loved to play and goof around, but he had some quirks that made him very memorable. His favorite food was pizza, and would bark like crazy when the doorbell rang. He loved to play in Mom’s vast back yard, chasing blue racquetballs until they were in pieces. Sometimes when he would fetch the balls, he’d bring us only pieces, covered in his slimy dog drool. When Korky died it was a great loss to us. He was ten years old, and he peacefully died his sleep. We buried him in our back yard with one of his racquetballs. I was so young when he died, so Mom told me not to cry because Korky would be chasing those blue balls in heaven.

Misty was one of the animals we had that I most disliked. Mainly, Misty was around when I was just starting school, and I didn’t like the attention Mom gave her instead of me. I would pick on Misty relentlessly, to the point where she hated me later in her life. Misty was a beautiful long-haired gray Himalayan cat. Mom found her as a stray on the highway when she was just a kitten. Misty was half-starved when Mom found her, and Mom nursed her back to health with eyedroppers. Mom took a special interest in Misty because she found Misty around the same time I was born. In my Mom’s eyes, she was nursing two babies. Misty and I grew up together, and she put up with my infantile outbursts and games. Somewhere before preadolescence, I started to treat Misty horribly for intentions I don’t recall. Perhaps I was just being a troublesome child, or maybe I was jealous because Mom would pay more attention to her than me.

However, Misty was getting old, and I couldn’t grasp this concept at twelve. I didn’t pick on Misty as much, I had my own kitten I paid attention too. But Misty’s health was failing. Her hair was falling out and she could barely walk anymore or control her body functions. She lost a lot of weight and looked very frail. It was difficult for Mom, but we had to put her asleep, just as we did with Korky. It was harder for Mom because she raised Misty like her own, and she had to have my Grandfather take Misty to the vet instead of her. I was relieved to get rid of Misty actually, and the whole ordeal didn’t affect me much.

When it was over Mom was reminiscing about Misty’s full life, and she said to me, “Misty always protected you and watched you when you were little. Sometimes she would sleep with you in your crib. You should be sad as well.”

Before Misty’s death, Mom had gotten me an orange tabby kitten for my 11th birthday. She even let me pick her out. That night Mom and I got into the car and took a drive outside of Freeport to a farm that belonged to a friend of hers. We drove up the gravel driveway to see a small one-story house on our left and a huge barn on our right. This was a dairy farm. But besides the cows that were on the farm, this farm had an infinite number of cats. As Mom drove up the driveway, I was afraid that she would hit some because so many were scattered and painted all over the yard leaving a trail up to the house and over to the barn. I expected to pick one of the cats outside, but I was shocked to discover that there were about fifty more cats inside that small shack!

We walked inside and the place reeked of cat urine, food, and animal smells. Cats were lounged on the tables and appliances. They ran under my feet and scattered in fear when we walked in. Cats occupied every corner and cranny in the house. They were all different colors and sizes. Some were fat and thin, and some were sick and healthy. I looked at them all, trying to make a connection with all of them. None of them appealed to me. I wanted a cat that I could have a connection with, like the connection that Mom had with Misty. I gave up and asked them to take me to the barn to check the cats out there. As we traveled to the barn, the cats seemed more wild and sickly. I felt sorry for all of them because I love cats so much. I wanted to take more than one home, but I couldn’t. I walked past the wild ones as we were led to the barn. Still no connection.

Inside the barn, it smelled of cows and fertilizers. Cats still scattered throughout the barn in frenzy, curious to whom I was, or scared that humans were entering their territory. All the cats seemed similar in the barn. I saw a family of orange tabbies, and many of them looked a like. Most of them ran from me, except one. She looked up at me with intense yellow eyes. She had dirt in her tear ducts and her left ear was brown and crusty from frostbite. She had interesting markings on her back. Amongst her light orange hair, she had thick vibrant organic shapes of a darker orange covering her back. Out of all the orange tabbies, she did not run away.

“I want this one, Mom,” I said.

I picked her up. She was shaking from the cold. I started to pet her, stroking that fascinating mark on her back. She started to purr. She looked up at me; her yellow eyes began to close in relaxation. She stayed in my arms the entire drive home. I knew I had school the next day, but I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited to finally have my own kitten. I loved her already. I laid with her under the covers and got up periodically to show her the litter box. I watched her purr, and I loved to feel her warm fur against me as she slept. I named her Butterscotch, because she had that color of fur. It was a simple name given to a well-loved kitten from an eleven year old.

Butterscotch would grow up with me during the most tumultuous time of my life, my preadolescence. She was company for me when I cried about hard times at school. If I came home from a rotten day of junior high school hell, I would bury my face into my covers and cry, but I didn’t feel alone entirely. Butterscotch would gently walk toward me, already purring without being touched. She didn’t meow. She didn’t have to. She sniffed me as I cried, rubbed against my hand, and make sure she was touching me when she laid next to me. He rhythmic purring and warmth helped to subdue my cries. I would pet her and feel her silky fur under my dry hands, and I would feel better. I didn’t know exactly how I could feel better, but Butterscotch did this for me. She was more than a pet. She was my best friend.

Butterscotch would be a constant source of support and love for me whenever I was down. I was so happy with her I forgot how fragile a cat’s life was. Most cats live long lives, sometimes as much as fifteen years. But Butterscotch was not so fortunate. When she was about 6 years old, she began to have some terrible seizures. She would spin and convulse uncontrollably for long periods of time, during which she couldn’t control her bodily functions. She would try to control them, huffing and yowling, trying to fight with her mind when her body would not listen. After such a horrific struggle, she would weakly try to stand on two legs, and she was unpleasantly soaked in her own urine. Every time she had these seizures, it would pain me to see it. These seizures, as horrible as they were initially, would get worse. The seizures that would eventually kill her were the ones that involved terrible convulsions that took most of the room, and walls and floors would be splattered in blood.

My parents did the right thing by putting Butterscotch down when I was away on a school event. I knew the entire day she wouldn’t last much longer. I woke up early to catch the bus, and I checked on her in her failing state. She was too weak to stand, and when I started to cry, she tried to be strong for me and wobbled on her two bony legs. I don’t think she wanted me to cry, I could tell. When I came home to find her gone and put to rest, I cried all afternoon into the next day. I had lost a part of myself, and it would take me awhile to get used her not being physically there. It sounds crazy, but I think sometimes she visits me in spirit, just to check on me.

Today our family still includes animals, but the ones before them will never be forgotten. Mom and I love to recall the entertaining times our late animals had given us during their lives. We tell the stories over and over again about Korky’s blue balls and Butterscotch’s silky fur. Our eyes light up and we become moist with tears just for a second. Each individual pet made an impact on us; they were family.

@ HK Rowe 2002-2015

Flash Fiction Friday – The Playroom

The Playroom 

I dream of an old house, and I’m always afraid of it. Yet, I travel there and wander through the vast rooms, changing forms and designs.

I once grew up in this house. It is the house of my patchwork childhood, where my mother lived with a man she grew to hate. Where their arguing echoed throughout the halls, leaving a mark of their frustration as a thick black residue on the thin walls.

Where I lived with a man that used to be a father, an abuser, and later – a stranger.

The house still exists today, but it does not appear like it does in my mind. The landscape is mutable, evolving and warping through the raindrops of my memories. The rooms are familiar but I dwell in them as alternate versions of myself. I wake up in the rooms of this house sometimes – as if I’ve always lived there, only growing through the fine lines of spider webs of different lives.

One room used to be my playroom, which had spilled out from the kitchen. I remember a picture of myself in this room, sitting with my legs tucked under my knees in a schoolhouse desk, gripping a pencil and trying to see through my long brown bangs. I’m smiling at whoever is taking the picture – probably my mother. I’m wearing light purple pants and a white shirt with matching purple sleeves. I’m happy, and one tooth is missing in the front of my mouth. I’m waiting for the picture taking to be over so I can resume my drawing. In the background, a late afternoon sunlight trickles through a dark curtain, making the room look orange and gold.

I remember the room being scattered with toys and pencils and crayons. Occasionally, a cat would hide inside the room – finding solace in a toy box or window sill.

In my dreams, the room is never like this. It reshapes itself into other forms, in other lives, but I’m still there.

It always smells like cats, and I’m afraid of what’s underneath the carpet. Something is underneath the carpet. The floor’s not clean. It smells like urine and old messes. I feel like it will never be clean. Each time the room changes, the carpet changes, but it is never clean underneath.

In the high corners of the room, a black mass is always hovering above me, circling the ceiling.

The room sometimes seems longer, like an addition was built onto it – making the blackness out of the corner of my eye appear endless and hungry.

Other times, the room is small, and I’m encased in a box, always worrying about the old stains of the past hidden under a pristine new carpet.

Sometimes I’m a young girl. Sometimes I’m almost a woman. Other times, I’ve returned, still living in the house as an adult. Still worried about the old stains hidden from everyone’s eyes.

I can still smell the past. I sit in the room and hunch over, running my fingers over the carpet expecting to find a wet stain.

There is never a bed in this room. My schoolhouse desk is gone. Sometimes there are things littered on the floor: food wrappers, tissues and broken pencils. Pieces that embed into the carpet and stick to your feet when wet. Other times, it’s an ordinary room, and my mother is telling me that they redid it, that it’s ready to show so the house can be sold.

Once – the room had dark wood paneling on the walls. It felt cheap and flimsy as I scratched my fingers over it. That part never changes. I can still feel the cheapness of the walls. I still see the dark wood blending into the black mass that coils in the corners like a snake, waiting to wrap around me and draw me into another corridor of the room. Another changing place that used to be different in my childhood memories, but returns to my dreams like a distorted film reel.

I pace around this room like a ghost. I’m alive but my spirit travels here, seeing only what it thinks it remembers – pieces of a tattered painting that aren’t coming together as it used to be when it was whole.

The room will always draw me nearer to why I’m always coming back – promising to reveal secrets but only spiraling with an old fear.

(A memory can scab, but sometimes it scars. A thin white mark reminds me of what was.)

Today the room looks different. I’m not sure what the current owners have done to it. It could be expanded. It could be knocked down and changed into something new. I won’t know.

There is no reason for me to intrude on the current owners of the house, no matter how much my curiosity cloys. Knowing wouldn’t satisfy me anyway. It would be a stranger’s house, with a stranger’s energy into it. Mine is long gone by now. The room is inviting in my dreams, and I only recognize it by my unreliable memories.

Instead, my dreams paint me different pictures, trying to guess at what it used to be, filling in the blanks of yesterdays with the absurdities of my own mind.

Will I someday release the room inside my dreams – the room that once was my playroom when I was little? I don’t believe so.

Something is still lurking there. A secret that must be told. A shield is protecting me from whatever really happened in there, and why I keep coming back to it, why it draws me from the real world into a mad world of phantoms and fears.

The room is an open invitation, but the language is all wrong. The message is tangled and tattered. Maybe the truth is lost forever.

But I keep returning to it. I keep existing in a room that is gone from time, but never gone beyond the waking world.

Part of “The House of Wasps: An Unreliable Memoir” which is a new project of mine.

©2015 HK Rowe