Hello, Fear

Musings

“Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.”
-Cheryl Strayed

A lot of things frighten me: car wrecks, losing people I love, my hair thinning out to the point where I need a comb over, never getting married, being mediocre, not really succeeding as a writer, old houses—while I am very charmed by old houses, I always assume they are haunted with either soldier ghosts or miner ghosts—, being lost in the woods at night, going to prison for a crime I didn’t commit…

Obviously, I included some highly irrational fears in there just to show that I don’t always use my rational brain while in the midst of being fearful. In fact a couple weeks back I spent some time at two of my best friends houses. Both women have perfectly lovely homes in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and there is nothing remotely sinister about either locale.

However, both houses are very old and so I was scared at both places. The first house—my friend Emily’s—I had been to many times before and had gotten used to sleeping in her spare room, though almost every time I had spent the night prior I would wake up in the night and squint my eyes, surveying the room for ghosts. I hadn’t encountered anything to date. But this most recent time, I went to place my things in the spare bedroom, just as she stopped to inform me that was now the new nursery and the spare bedroom had been moved upstairs.

I left my things in the nursery anyway, informing Em that I would be sleeping on her couch. I simply had no interest in sleeping upstairs away from all the adults, should a ghost try to smother me in my sleep or something. No, no, the couch was much safer. My sister even spent the night with me one night and instead of sleeping on the Lazy-Boy, she—who is an even bigger scaredy baby than I am—insisted on sleeping sandwiched next to me on the couch. It was wildly uncomfortable with her pressed against me, but nonetheless I was wildly comforted with her there.

At my other friend’s house, I was to sleep on the pull-out sleeper sofa downstairs as her and her children’s rooms were all upstairs.

“I am sleeping down here by myself?!” I squeaked nervously as she and her husband inched away from me toward the stairs, having gifted me with blankets, a pillow and the remote to the TV.

“Yes,” Ashley laughed.

“But what about ghosts…” I ventured, skittishly looking around at all the objects in her living room that could potentially look like a ghost in the night.

“We don’t have any ghosts!” Ashley exclaimed.

“I may need to come sleep between the two of you in the night…” I warned.

Ashley told me I would have to fight for space with her son Boone, who already crawled into her bed in the middle of the night. “You can sleep in Boone’s bed,” she offered.

“I don’t want to sleep in Boone’s bed,” I grumbled mostly to myself, “I want to sleep with you guys…” Once as a teenager I had slept over at my aunt and uncle’s for the weekend and they had me sleep downstairs on the couch. I, of course became out of my mind with fear and had to crawl into their room in the night, embarrassingly informing them I was uneasy downstairs. They got an air mattress for me, placing it at the foot of their bed.

But naturally I got over it at Ashley’s. I slept with The Office playing on Netflix, a light on, and one eye repeatedly open for paranormal phenomena. By the second night I was convinced—by my diligent ghost watch—that her house was indeed unhaunted.

This is all to say, facing your fears aren’t always comfortable folks. Being nervous that a ghost could get me or that I could be unjustly incarcerated are fairly irrelevant fears, especially the latter. Dealing with the more real fears of making it, pushing myself outside my comfort zone, landing interviews with cowboys, or even landing a cowboy period, are well… heady to say the least and enough to cause me to sleep uneasily. Perhaps even more so than when I am on ghost patrol.

But here is the thing about all this fear: sleeping with lights on and with one eye open, even though you’re scared and nervous instead of crawling into bed with your best friend and her husband, means at least you’re there in the scared nervousness facing it head on—Annie Oakley style, staring down the barrel of a gun—instead of awkwardly ruining any chance at your married friends having sex that night—although from what I understand marrieds have infrequent sex anyway… so…  I kid, I kid! I just have to tease you smug marrieds, because I am single and having no sex—I digress, but that is my favorite thing to do. Go on wild off-roading tangents. Especially about Annie Oakley and sex; why wouldn’t I? Both of those topics are wondrous to no end.

But do you see where I am going here? I hope you do. Because while I mostly write to myself and for myself, because it helps bring clarity to a life that is often rife with wild turns and doubts, I happily offer up my life circumstances that they may help shed any light or hope onto yours. And the hope in this instance is being better than the fear. I can overcome it, regardless of the spooks in the night or the dastardly notion that I am incompetent when I know deep down I am not.

Incompetence would’ve never landed me where I am today, which is in a world of wonder and new opportunity at every turn: like the world is holding its breath with me waiting to see what will come of all this newness.

And I don’t have any logical clues what will come of all this newness, this untethered, mountain filled life. But I know that I cannot lie down with my fear. It is simply nonsensical and not me. Well it is a little bit me, because I am currently fearful over how sweaty I have gotten while writing this post—honestly I don’t know why I sweat so bad—and if the fetching hipsters all around will judge me when I raise my coffee cup, showcasing all the sweat stains under my arms. But alas, these are the consequences of writing ever so feverishly.

Anyhow, the always uplifting and wise Cheryl Strayed said a couple wonderful things about fear. Like so many brave writers before her have done, they’ve bared forth their pain, their strife and their struggle through their words, open in their fear anyway. And with this they’ve made it possible for writers like me to feel emboldened in my struggle, in my fear and in my uncertainty, allowing me to believe there is quite possibly still a way through it all, fearful or not.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. That nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.”

So maybe first acknowledge your fears (at least the ones that urge you to be better) in that they do have some power in directing you. And then from there, tell the fear to go fuck itself and go forth being madly in love with your life—including the wild turns, because those offer better scenery anyway—and your life purpose. At least that’s what I am going to do.

Drunken Relaxation

Musings

Be Drunk

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

-Charles Baudelaire

I’ve decided that I am going to be the Eloise of the Sheridan Inn. Okay so I don’t have a rich father and mother who jet-set and leave me in the hands of a somewhat capable but negligent nanny while I run amok in a fancy hotel. No. But I do have a waitressing job in which I work twelve hour days, six to seven days a week and a pocket full of dough’nt rain on my parade; one night at the Historic Sheridan Inn would have to suffice. At least until I figured out a way for the staff of the Inn to look the other way to my squatting in their luxurious Western quarters and sipping coffee on their expansive covered porch.

I had read in one of my Hemingway books that my beloved Ernest had stayed at the Sheridan Inn on August 3rd, to work on a Farewell to Arms. Naturally I got it in my mind that I too needed to stay at the Sheridan Inn on August 3rd to work on my novel… errr, or blog… or play checkers. Okay fine mostly to lounge, drink wine, eat brownie skillets, take a bath in a clawfoot tub, look for ghosts, drink coffee in rocking chairs and use up vast quantities of wifi. To be fair, Hemingway had noted that he didn’t get much writing done at the Inn during his stay due to the hustle and bustle of the Inn and its proximity to the railroad. So I was in fact in good company.

But I didn’t care. I had to see for myself and also see if I could conjure some of his energy or perhaps writing prowess while ensconced in between the Inn’s historic timbers. I left work after a 72 hour work week that had sapped me of my will to live. Alright mostly, it had just sapped my will to serve another God forsaken pancake, but same dif. Upon arriving at the Inn, the vacant eyes of stuffed elk, bear and Buffalo Bill stared back at me from the surrounding walls while I waited to check in.

When the front desk gal arrived I excitedly told her that Hemingway had stayed here on August 3rd. She nodded politely.

“Do you happen to know what room he was in?” I asked mentally crossing my fingers that she knew and that the room was also available. Of course I hadn’t planned ahead, because that is sincerely unlike me and I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to snag August 3rd or 4th off from work, much less sleep where Hemingway had laid his beautiful word-filled head.

“I don’t know. Also we re-did all the rooms, so it would be hard to say.”

I was instantly a little disappointed that she didn’t seem to want to go to any investigative effort on my behalf and find out what portion of the hotel Hemingway’s writing spirit lingered in. But I didn’t push. I was here on August 3rd and that would have to be enough.

I asked for a spacious room with a large bed.

She said the Esquivel Brothers room was exactly that.

“I’ll take it.”

“That’ll be $199 plus tax.” I didn’t bat an eye as I handed over my Visa. I would probably pay any amount to hunt for Hemingway if truth be told. I had planned on this Hemingway stay to be a solo trip. One for self-reflection, writing and sheer drunken (reference the poem at the top if you’re confused) relaxation. However, my baby sis Kia had arrived in town and had the day off and when I told her of my plan, she looked at me with hopeful doe eyes that she could join in my overnight adventure. I couldn’t say no of course and so Kia and I carted our bags up the grand wooden staircase to the second floor.

The room was perfect. It was fully decked out in Western décor: leathers, Native prints, reds and browns, but in a subtle and non-tacky Western way. There was a checkerboard table with a leather satchel holding the game pieces. Two windows overlooked the bronze dancing couple statue, teepee and railroad. There was a loveseat and oversized chair for lounging which I felt I had earned. And then there was the bathroom. Oh but the bathroom was the kind of bathroom that other bathrooms aspire to be.

The floor was white with miniature black diamonds. The double sink had two oval mirrors. The bathroom was wide and open with a window to let in sunlight. And then. Then, there was the claw foot tub, as deep as it was wide, perfectly sitting like a regal queen in the middle of the room, with a wraparound curtain. Deep enough where all the water would account for my height and hips. Deep enough where I could perhaps do a little snorkeling.

Kirst and I had this kind of tub in our apartment in New York City and it instantly flooded me with happy memories and swells of gratitude that I had the kind of life that allowed me simple pleasures like claw foot bathtubs with wraparound shower curtains.

At any rate, the room was a dream. There wasn’t a television in sight and for a solid hour I mostly lounged on the loveseat or flopped about on the high and deeply cushioned bed, before my stomach began to growl and I lazily decided food would be a good idea. Nay a grand idea, because I adore food almost as much as I adore beds with extravagant amounts of pillows.

Kia and I ate outside on the porch. The summer breeze was warm and we shared an appetizer, then dinner, and dessert. I sipped on chardonnay and then switched over to coffee with my brownie. The breeze picked up and the sun disappeared. I had to take off my belt to make room for my over-full stomach. I discreetly placed it in my purse and then Kia and I rocked in the rocking chairs until the blue sky darkened to bruise proportions.

Kia and I took turns pruning in the bath. We had read about how one of the proprietors of the hotel, a Miss Kate had lived and worked there for 64 years and now was rumored to haunt the hotel. I had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before and had foregone my usual after-work nap in hopes that my sheer exhaustion would wave my paranoia over ghostly run-ins.

After my bath I texted a friend about Miss Kate but had forgotten her name and instead called her Miss Kitty as that sounded more Western to me anyway. I noted that I had put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door and would that seem like an invitation to Miss Kitty to in fact disturb us? Was I being too cocky? Should I take the sign off, so Miss Kitty could roam freely?

He replied that I was too easy of a victim for Miss Kitty and not to worry.

I convinced Kia to draw on my back to woo me into slumber, but I still had slight unease over Miss Kitty’s presence even with my overwhelming exhaustion and the sedative that was back drawing. I woke up a few times in the night, eyeing the room suspiciously for Miss Kitty. I didn’t see her and eventually dozed off to have a deep and restful sleep.

The next morning after breakfast in the Ladies Lounge, coffee on the porch and a day spent perusing shops in town, I lingered in the overstuffed easy chairs of the hotel’s third floor wishing to write and never leave. That’s when I decided I would be the new Eloise of the Sheridan Inn. I just needed a way. Or a pocketful of rubies. Or maybe a Hemingway-esque bestseller.

Well there would be time. I now knew that Hemingway was right about the distractions of the Inn. It was perfect for decadent baths, crisp chilled chardonnay on porches and ghost hunts, but if you were in need of drunken relaxation, perhaps no real writing would get done.

But like Mr. Baudelaire said, “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

Or be drunk on clawfoot bathtubs, old Western hotels, plush beds, rocking chairs, brownie skillets, Hemingway, back drawings, and unbothered and un-hurried sister time.