Mending Walls, by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,

One on a side.  It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

‘Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it

Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’  I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself.  I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’


By Robert Frost


Whom will you cry to, heart? More and more lonely,
your path struggles on through incomprehensible
mankind. All the more futile perhaps
for keeping to its direction,
keeping on toward the future,
toward what has been lost.

Once. You lamented? What was it? A fallen berry
of jubilation, unripe.
But now the whole tree of my jubilation
is breaking, in the storm it is breaking, my slow
tree of joy.
Loveliest in my invisible
landscape, you that made me more known
to the invisible angels.

By Rainer Maria Rilke
(Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Things that are NOT awesome.

When I got home tonight, I tried to set my purse and things on the kitchen counter, but instead of any grace or decorum, empty water bottles scattered everywhere.  I almost cried, and I would have excepting I knew I would tattle on myself blogging, so I pretended I was tough.  This was how my evening was, like empty water bottles flying everywhere, just so there is one more thing for me to chase down and pick up.

Here is my list of things that are NOT awesome…

Seeing the gorgeous sunshine day from an office window instead of from the river.

But you have a marvelous office window, and spent the evening driving from house to house
So you still got to experience the sunshine, even if little moments.
Little moments are the rays of hope.

Getting home from work at 9pm.

But you have a house to come home to, and you worked hard for that house.
And you are working hard so you can have the weekend off.
And there are puppies to greet you, and they make you laugh.

Spending money on things like toilet paper.

Toilet paper is better than leaves.  Just saying.

Realizing you are paying more than $3 for gas.

At least you are able to pay it.
Transportation is so easy here, so accessible, and you try hard to be careful and organized with all the driving your job requires.

Realizing you are old enough to remember pay 85 cents for gas when you got your license.

Your age is starting to show, with wrinkles on your face and grey hairs peeking through.
You earned these wrinkles, in the tears of youth.
Each grey hair is a mark of survival, a scar of wisdom you will wear proudly.

Having hair that looks like a poodle.

Poodle hair beats no hair, and is better than chia pet hair.
The Year of Ugly is nearly complete, and in the warmth of the sun you feel your sackcloth and ashes melt away like seeds of the new beginnings now unfolding.

Catching the real poodle chewing up the carpet.

It isn’t his fault, not really.  Maybe puppies will be better behaved if you learn that days are for play, not only work, and that nights are for rest, not only sleep.  Puppies are a protective factor against the children that would have been otherwise neglected.  Learn to take care of you, and you will learn to take care of puppies.  Learn to take care of puppies, and you will learn to love.

The bottom falling out of your grocery sack.

Such a symbol of doing too much, carrying too much, of not asking for help.
Slow down.  Take your time.  Be gentle with yourself.  Ask for help.

Missing your friends.

Missing them means you love them, no matter how independent and tough you pretend to be.
Your heart is soft because friendship is valuable.
Treasure it.  Find them.  Love them.

Being alone.

You are not destroying others lives or distracting from your own, and you have seen the miracles created from this non-destruction, from this loving a life enough not to ruin it.  It has been worth it to do things differently.  This is good, and as it should be.  You needed time alone.  You needed time to heal.  You needed time to be.  You needed time to become.

Having a job full of terrible secrets you aren’t allowed to tell anyone.

You love your job, and you know better than to hang on to the negative aspects of it.  Go run, go play, go dance.  Sing it away, pray it away, dig in the soil until it is all buried and new life is cropping up.

Spending all day everyday watching other people self-destruct.

Most people are doing the best they can with what they know.  Learn from them, and let them learn from you.  They have the right to agency, just as much as you do, and it is learning to exercise agency appropriately that will lead them to truth and healing, just as it did for you.


Grief hurts because there is meaning.  The tears of grief are warm.


All things physical are also spiritual.  Letting stuff eat away at you destroys who you are.  Let it go, forgive, and love.  Choose peace.

And THAT is why I write, and why I blog.

I think maybe I should quit asking questions that I don’t want the answers to!

That is what I learned on this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that was kind of awesome after all.

To Blog, or Not To Blog?

I have been studying the up-and-coming issue of therapeutic professionals being on social networking sites, such a facebook and blogs.

There are two issues at the forefront:

1.)  How the professional is using social networking in relation to patients, and

2.)  How the professional is using social networking in relation to themselves, but by doing so giving patients access to what they normally would not.

It’s a fascinating debate, on all sides.

There is a clear difference between the perspective of the young professionals, who grew up with the internet, and the older professionals who had the internet introduced into their career.

There is also a clear difference between the two arguments.

For example, the first has the continuum from professionals who refuse to participate in their patients’ online endeavors to those professionals who creep on their patients to check up on them.  I fall in the middle, in most cases, in that I do not mind patients sharing their personal sites if it is useful during a therapy session, but I do not have time to chase down patients after hours and do not think that is helpful.

The second argument has to do with how professionals use social networking sites themselves.  The continuum is, of course, from those who do not use them at all to those who put everything out there.  The middle of the continuum includes three groups: one group that utilizes social networking for professional networking only (to meet other professionals), one group that utilizes social networking only to promote their practice or business or field related topics, and one group that utilizes social networking for personal expression but limits access to their sites.

It’s good and important to consider these issues, as any of them could affect the precious relationship between therapist and client.

I feel that I have come a long way in learning about disclosure, developing specific boundaries, and improving my life skills in general.  This has been very public, as I blogged the whole journey.  That was important to me at the time, and I think it was important to those who learned with me along the way.  A big part of the population I was writing to needed that journey, and needed the experience of also learning along the way.

That’s one thing I liked about it, and one reason I was so open about some things.  I felt it was a way to share, a way to be an example – not just of the good things in life, but also how to deal with hard days, recover from losses, how to keep moving forward.  Not that I know so much, but people learned as I learned, even in their own lives.  In turn, they taught me.  In that way, it was helpful and productive for us all.

But also, the more I learned the less I needed to write.  I will always need to write, for writing is a part of me.  But my writing found other venues in speeches, presentations, books, talks, and journals.  Blogging was no longer the only source for me to express my writing.  This opening up of the writing-ness was good for the development of writing, and combined with a healthier Emily made blogging less of a necessity.  A hobby, which is fine, and an easy way to share with many, which is a fine thing.  So it is not that blogging was bad, or that I no longer enjoyed it, but it did take a significant shift.

But I also feel a responsibility to write, in some way.  It is a way to reach people, a way to share, a way to reflect and ponder and think and consider.  It develops tolerance and educates and celebrates.  But as this research points out, those good things are still positive influences that were not available before.

And of course, when boundaries are crossed or if terrible things were written, it would no longer be a positive influence.

And always, the first rule of therapeutic professionals in any field is “first cause no harm”.

So it really gives me a lot to think about, in this shifting world, as technology unfolds and is no longer exclusive.  A lot depends on the population with whom you work, and my “population” is very specific – two minority communities – which means they already have way more contact with me “in real life” and through related connections than what I would normally have with other patients.  So is utilizing social networking sites just a difference between “then and now”, or is it really a trend that needs taming?

I can write in other ways.

My few friends that do read the blog could still text me or email me, or we could go the old fashioned way and write letters.

And, with the busy days I am having, I would rather spend the real-life time with my friends themselves rather than blogging at them.

So is blogging and other social networking a way to connect with others in a busy world?

Or something that protects and pads that space between us?

I already gave up tweeting and those sites; I could tell early on that was a disaster waiting to happen.  It did make me sad because it was just such FUN.  But such instant access with little impulse control and no filter could easily make a mess of things.  I perhaps would be more “ready” for it now, but I don’t want to go there.

Facebook is the only social networking site I use, and right now I am required to keep it for my mission because I am one of the moderators for some of the church pages on Facebook.  I mostly just do status updates that are either silly, class Emily World, or blog updates that are public things anyway.  So for now, that is resolved, as it is, though people have to work really hard to go find the page and “like” it in order to get my updates.  I have found that few people work that hard on facebook, so it actually weeded out a lot of people by default.  So I feel like the Facebook issue is settled, for now.

But the blogging question remains, especially as my life becomes less and less blog-able.  I know that I will always want to write.  But these are interesting arguments to consider, both for and against blogging in a public setting.  There are still privacy options, like adding a security passcode to the page or requiring sign-ins or complicated things like that.  But there is also the option of just letting it go, which I think I never before could have considered – but now can, I think, for the first time.

It is not a question as a plea for “votes” to keep blogging, no do I mean to isolate my audience by bringing this issue up.  But it is a valid and important clinical question that is coming up, that some organizations may even pass regulations about that answer the question for me.  And always, the doing-no-harm is most, most, most important.   So.

To blog, or not to blog?  That is the question!

The Great Divorce

Just finished “The Great Divorce” by CS Lewis again… here are some quotes!

“… (the belief) that mere development or adjustment or refinement will somehow turn evil into good without our being called on for a final and total rejection of anything we should like to retain… this belief I take to be a disastrous error.  You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys…”

“We live in a world where… every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision.”

“It does not move towards unity, but away from it and the creatures grow further apart as they increase in perfection.  Good, as it ripens, becomes continually more different not only from evil but from other good.”

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.”

“I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernal of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him…”

“nothing in the past can be altered.”

“They won’t like it at a all when we get there, and they’d really be much more comfortable at home.  It’s different for you and me.”

“Capitalism did not merely enslave the workers, it also vitiated taste and vulgarised intellect.”

“What’s the trouble with this place?  Not that people are quarrelsome – that’s only human nature and was always the same even on earth.  The trouble is they have no Needs.  You get everything you want (not very good quality, of course) just by imagining it.  That’s why it never costs any trouble to move to another street or build another house.  In other words, there’s no proper economic basis for any community life.  It’s scarcity that enables a society to exist.”

“What’s the sense of allowing all that riff-raff to float about here all day?  Look at them.  They’re not enjoying it.  They’d be far happier at home.  They don’t even know what to do.”

“Everything here is for the asking and nothing can be bought.”

“You weren’t a decent man and you didn’t do your best.  We none of us were and we none of us did.  Lord bless you, it doesn’t matter.  There is no need to go into it all now.”

“Do you really think there are no sins of intellect?… There is hide-bound prejudice, and intellectual dishonesty, and timidity, and stagnation… The beliefs are sincere in the sense that they do occur as psychological events in the man’s mind.  If that’s what you mean by sincerity they are sincere, and so were ours.  But errors which are sincere in that sense are not innocent.”

“There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them.  Become that child again: even now.”

“You’re going in the wrong direction.  It’s back there – to the mountains – you need to go.  You can lean on me all the way.  I can’t absolutely carry you, but you need have almost no weight on your own feet: and it will hurt less at every step.”

“What are we born for?  For infinite happiness… you can step out into it at any moment.”

“Don’t you remember on earth – there were things too hot to touch with your finger but you could drink them all right?  Shame is like that.  If you will accept it – if you will drink the cup to the bottom – you will find it very nourishing: but try to do anything else with it and it scalds.”

“It depends on the way ye’re using the words.  If they leave that grey town behind, it will not have been Hell.”

“ye cannot in your present state understand eternity.”

“Both processes begin even before death.  The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven.  The bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness.”

“Hell is a state of mind – ye never said a truer word.  And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own min d- is, in the end, Hell.  But Heaven is not a state of mind.  Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly.”

“There is always something they insist on keeping, even at the price of misery.  There is always something they prefer to joy – that is, to reality.”

“Every one of us lives only to journey further and further into the mountains.  Every one of us has interrupted that journey and retraced immeasurable distances to come down today on the mere chance of saving some Ghosts.”

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “thy will be done.”  All that are in Hell, choose it.  Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.  No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.  Those who seek find.  To those who knock, it is opened.”

“That is what she once was.  That is maybe what she still is.  If so, she certainly will be cured.  But the whole question is whether she is now a grumbler.  The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble.  If there is a real woman – even the least trace of one – still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again.  If there’s one wee spark under all those ashes, we’ll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear.  But if there’s nothing but ashes we’ll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever.  They must be swept up.”

“They repelled every attempt to teach them, and when they found that nobody listened to them they went back, one by one, to the bus.”

“For to be afraid of oneself is the last horror.”

“Those that hate goodness are sometimes nearer than those that know nothing at all and think they have it already.”

“I have asked you to forgive me.  What we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved.  In the main I loved you for my own sake: because I needed you.”

“I am full now, not empty.  I am in Love Himself, not lonely.  Strong, not weak.  You shall be the same.  Come and see.  We shall have no need for one another now: we can begin to love truly.”

“Stop it at once… Using pity, other people’s pity, in the wrong way. We have all done it a bit on earth, you know.  Pity was meant to be a spur that drives joy to help misery.  But it can be used the wrong way round.  It can be used for a kind of blackmailing.  Those who choose misery can hold joy up to ransom, by pity.  You see, I know now.  Even as a child you did it.  Instead of saying you were sorry, you went and sulked in the attic… because you knew that sooner or later one of your sisters would say, “I can’t bear to think of him sitting up there alone, crying.”  You used your pity to blackmail them.”

“Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light.  No, no, no.  Come to us.  We will not go to you.  Can you really have thought that love and joy would always be at the mercy of frowns and sighs? Did you not know they were stronger than their opposites?…  you cannot bring Hell into me… I am in Love, and out of it I will not go.”

“The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.”

“Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it: or else for ever and ever the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves.”

Blogging in Braille

Anytime I fly somewhere, my boarding pass has a place that says DEAF on it. I don’t know how I got on the grid as the Deaf passenger, and I know other friends who have been Deaf their entire lives – even with no oral skills or desire to communicate any way other than through sign language – and their tickets have never said Deaf. I don’t know how it got on mine, but it is always there.

This is helpful because it makes it easy to ask for help. I rarely need it, but there are times with sudden gate changes or such, when you realize your whole waiting area just got up and started moving down the hall like a herd of cattle. You don’t know why they are leaving the gate everyone has been waiting on, but you know they are moving to some voice overhead that you cannot hear. In those times, it is helpful to have a ticket that says Deaf and get extra help knowing where to go and why.

It is also helpful because it means all airlines, except one, take the time to hand me the pictorial guide of what to do in an emergency on the plane. I don’t really need them to hand it to me, because it is always right there in the seat back pocket. But it is sweet of them to take the extra moment in their busy flight preparations to make sure I am okay and that I understand. I always thank them very kindly, just to encourage them to be so very nice to the next Deaf person… because maybe it will be their first flight, and they might want to know how to turn their seat into a floating device.

But it isn’t always helpful. There is one airline, which I will not mention at this time, that consistently messes it up. So consistently, as in every time – EVERY TIME – every time I ride that one particular airline, they mess up so exactly in the same way that it makes me think they must be trained this way, which means someone has really botched up their training. Seriously botched up their training. This is the airline, as I have blogged (including pictures, as proof of the ridiculous-ness) before when it has happened… this is the airline that gives me the safety information card in Braille.

While I honor and respect Braille, and even studied it as a child in my mother’s libraries, and while I even know so much of it as to be able to recognize a few letters here and there and a few short-cut-code-words, and even know about the different styles and types of braille, and always feel the letters and numbers on the elevator buttons or the hospital signs… as a general rule, braille doesn’t do a lot for Deaf people.

But this one airline, every single time I fly with them, they give me the Braille version of the safety card.

I am glad – even proud – that disability awareness has come so far that the airlines have the safety card in braille. That’s great. It really is.

But it doesn’t do any good for Deaf people.

We like the pretty pictures that are already there in the seat back pocket.

Many Deaf people would really be offended if the airline gave them the braille version, and throw quite a fit – even file some complaints. They would have every right to do so.

I just think it’s ridiculous. I don’t mind the braille card, and it is interesting to see and hold and touch, and sometimes when they just drop it off with me and leave it with me for the whole flight, then it is fun to play with and see how many letters I can figure out and practice the tiny bits of what I remember. It gives me and whoever is sitting next to me a good laugh, and I get an opportunity to share a little disability awareness with my seat partner – educating both about blindness and deafness, and clarifying how most Deaf people don’t need the braille card… which usually leads to a great conversation about blind-deaf people, and I hope in some way I get to change the world a tiny bit through more accurate education. We all learn a little, and we are more aware and more sensitive and more understanding by the time we get off the plane.

Excepting the few times the stewardess has stood there and refused to leave and refused to allow the plane to take off until my fingers had gone over every dot on the page. She didn’t care what I was trying to explain about Deaf people not needing the braille safety card, and she didn’t care about me explaining my language or what I myself voted for as to what I needed. She was just following her rules, without listening to me, and forcing her system on me whether it was helpful or not.

It’s like when I blog something in French or Swahili or Italian or some other language, or when I write about church things. It may not make any sense at all to some of my readers. My patient friends who know me well might enjoy it for the experience, or the cultural exposure, or the historical context, or the appreciation of what is important to me even though it is not part of their life. Other friends may have no need for it, and skip right over it, knowing that sooner or later I will write some silly thing, or some wordy thing, or blog a more fun picture, or whatever they like better. And that’s okay.

There are no friendship requirements for blog-reading.

The blog does not define friendship.

My friends are my friends because we are friends “in real life”, not because of the blog. The blog is just a place, a way, for me to express myself, to practice writing. It is a way for me to write because I need to write like I need to breathe. It is a place for me to journal, to track the unfolding of my life, to document my experiences scrapbook-style, so that I can come back to them later.

Some of my friends read my blog, and some do not. That is okay, too. Some people read my blog but never talk to me in real life, and others read it whom I have never met. A few comment on the blog, many email me privately in response to blogs, some talk to me about them later, and some read but never respond.

It’s up to them. I am not the stewardess forcing a reader to feel every dot on the braille card, and then be held accountable for something in another language. But in Emily World, you never know what might get thrown into the mix, on this adventure for the search of truth, in effort to experience life for all it has to offer.

My blog, over time, has been its own unfolding that has reflected the unfolding of my life. I love that.

I think what I have learned most, in my search for the Truth and for to experience life so fully, is that I have had to redefine both Truth and Life.

I have learned that Life always begets more of itself, and anything that takes away is not life-ness.

I have learned that Truth always sheds light, and anything that brings darkness (or takes away from or limits knowledge) is not truth-ness.

I have learned that you cannot create Life or Truth, if you drown people in braille cards. You can show, and expose, and educate. But you cannot command or force or oppress.

Life and Truth are always invitations.

That is what I have learned since my first blog, back in 2003.

This week celebrates my 8th year blogging!

It has been eight years of writing to find me by expressing me, eight years of the journey that defines Emily World.

This is the second year that I feel like my original questions (about who I am, how to be me, and what this life is meant to be) have been answered, and that living now is about the unfolding of the layers of those answers.

I love that the answers came in year seven. That’s just fun.

This is year two of having the answers, and learning to live in tune with them.

It’s the tuning in that makes all the difference.

Any in-congruence, any dissonance, anything that causes static… is me working against, or away from, myself.

And working against myself, or pulling away from myself, always is destructive instead of “life-giving and strengthening”.

And when I am not life-giving, in the verb sense, when I am not creating, then I am destroying.

And there was so much destruction.

I was so far away from me that it took seven years to find me, and it took the entirety of that seventh year to “coax my spirit back” as they say in South Africa.

Since then, I have found that what I need to do to take care of me, to be the me I was created to be, is actually so very simple despite how complicated we try to make it and despite the distractions thrown at us constantly.

I wrote a few months ago:

When I am very tired,
I still write, as if to hold on to my own survival.
But my writings then are dry recitations of events
knotting together dots of time.

And I know that this is usually a symptom of destroying, instead of creating, or a red-flag that I am not nourishing myself (usually that I need rest or play).

And I know that anytime I am destroying instead of creating, this pushes me away from myself and outside of God.

It pulls me apart, instead of gathering me together at-one (the atonement is at-one-ness, the embrace of the prodigal son and his father, the integration of selves, the agreement of id and ego, the becoming at-one with God).

This pulling-apart is always destructive to me, always leads to some form of bondage.

I do not want to go back there.

I know the life from which I have been rescued, and I do not want to go back there.

I know the destruction I caused back then, and I dare not cause further damage.

I have just coaxed my spirit back to me, and I dare not look back.

It’s how Orpheus lost his wife.  There’s a Valentine’s story for you.

Orpheus was a real person, so everyone thinks except for Aristotle.  Plato wrote of him, Virgil wrote of him, all the earliest writers included him in their tales.

Like the waters of Noah, every culture in every part of the world includes some version of his story.

The ancient Greeks called him Orpheus.  In Japan, he is called Izanagi, in the Sumerian version it is the story of Inanna, to the Mayans he is Ix Chel.  Native Americans know him as Coyote.

He is the archetype of music, and a charmer at that.  He loved his wife more than anything.  Everyone agrees on that much.

The myth part of his story comes in when you read the different versions of the story about what happened to his wife.

She died, and each part of the world has a different version as to how or why she died, but then the story says he went after her.  He played his music to charm the underworld into letting her come back to life, and they agreed.  The only condition was that she had to follow him back, and neither of them could look back until they both had escaped the underworld.

And so he led her, one step at a time, all the way back to life.  He was so excited and relieved to have escaped – and rescued her – from the underworld that he turned around in his excitement… forgetting the agreement was that she, too, must reach the top before they could turn around.  He had turned around soon as he reached the top, but because she was following him, she had not yet reached the top.  He turned to embrace her, and she vanished.

Here is the beautiful music of his story, this piece composed in 1762:

Now THAT is a love song, to give such comfort to a spouse while helping each other escape the underworld.

That is a lot of love, to put out such fear and to ignore such danger and to focus only on each other and helping each other to the top, to help each other back to life again.

The story of Orpheus reminds me of the story of Lot’s wife.

There are times to look back and to see how far you have come and to recognize your progress and to appreciate the unfolding of what has brought you forward thus far.

Progress is good and right and should be celebrated.

Any moving forward-ness means you are creating your life, and that is to be commended and honored for the progress that it is, even the tiniest baby steps.

But there is another kind of looking back that is not helpful, or even dangerous.  It is a more wistful looking back.  It is the kind of looking back that halts your progress forward.

It is the kind of looking back that stops you from moving forward.

It is the holding on to what is yours, despite being told it is dangerous and to leave it behind.  It is like when Rachel stole her father’s idols instead of trusting she would be well and safe and provided for, holding on to the past instead of embracing her new life.  She wasn’t happy in her marriage until she trusted him, trusted God, thinking that somehow holding on to the past would keep her safe, that keeping secrets would give her a backup plan, that holding on to what was (the past) would help define her future (instead of letting the future planned for her unfold).

Many years ago, my friend Laura – who now lives in Colorado with her sweet husband – my original and only friend that I have had since the very first days I ran away from home and off to college – introduced me to the Irish song Caledonia, and I think it has been the theme of all these years of blogging, a symbol of the journey I have lived – with all its ups and downs, with all its amazing memories and deepest of pains, with all the harsh realities of growing up and the healing balm that has come since.   For me, it was a song that was very hard work and expressed the deep grief of letting go of trauma-drama and the destruction I had caused, and finding my way back home again.

Here are the lyrics:

I don’t know if you can see
the changes that have come over me
in these last few days I’ve been afraid
that I might drift away
I’ve been telling old stories, singing songs

that make me think about where I came from
and that’s the reason why I seem so far away today

Let me tell you that I love you
that I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me
and now I’m going home.
If I should become a stranger
know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia has been everything I’ve ever had.

I have moved and have kept on moving
proved the points that needed proving
lost the friends that needed losing
found others on the way.
I have kissed the ladies and left them crying
stolen dreams, yes, there’s no denying
I have traveled hard, sometimes with conscience flying
somewhere with the wind.

Let me tell you that I love you
that I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me
and now I’m going home.
If I should become a stranger
know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia has been everything I’ve ever had.

Now I’m sitting here before the fire
the empty room, the forest choir
flames that couldn’t get any higher
they’ve withered, now they’ve gone
but I’m stead thinking, my way is clear
And I know what I will do tomorrow
when the hands have shaken and the kisses flowed
well, I will disappear

Let me tell you that I love you
that I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me
and now I’m going home.
If I should become a stranger
know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia has been everything I’ve ever had.

I think I knew eight years ago that I had to say goodbye to the world I was living in.  I had entered that world because I had run away from another world, and I couldn’t be what that world needed me to be.  Much of it was very good, and helped me along the way.  Much of it was not.

When I ran away from home at 17, I had to leave because I could no longer save the world.  I had tried my whole life, and in desperation those last two years had gone as mad-Jesus as I could, as if I could force things to right themselves, as if I could keep the plane from taking off until everyone had read the braille safety card.  What broke me, what crushed my spirit, was nothing my family did to me.  The breaking point was realizing that I couldn’t MAKE it happen.  The breaking point was realizing that singing songs couldn’t force other people to be happy, and quoting Bible verses didn’t make other people want to go to church, and my smiling chipper self no longer made people get out of bed in the mornings.

I had thought that was my job.

Since I was a baby in my crib, that was my job.

I smiled, and it made the day start.  It made my mother happy, it made my father happy, and it made my brother happy.  It’s what I did.

It was my job.

But then, my father was gone.

Then my brother grew up and had real life teenage stuff to sort out, just like the rest of us.

Then my mother got ovarian cancer, only nobody knew it yet.

Smiling didn’t help any more.

Smiling didn’t save the world.

That was the only job I had, and it no longer saved the day.

I thought I had failed.

This is all over-simplification, of course, but it is why I ran away.

I could no longer save the world.  I didn’t have the answers anymore.  What I had to offer was no longer useful.  Who I had been, my whole life, was no longer needed (not that I was not needed, I know that now, but at the time what we needed was more than simple smiles) and life’s problems were bigger than what I could resolve or relieve or help.  Not only had I failed, but in this role-ish kind of way, I had ceased to exist.  It was like the Nothing was eating me away.

And so I left.

I had to leave, to survive.

I had to leave, to find the answers.

I had to leave, to find help.

Except all this was in my own teenage head, and so I know it is a God thing I even survived these years.

And because I left – really still only a child – what I found was danger, not answers.

I was Gretel, and birds ate my breadcrumbs.  I could not find my way home again.  I never intended on going so far away, of losing my way, of not finding my way home.

Because I was not with my family, and because I was in a place of not believing I existed, I let other people define me and bounced from one substitute family to another – all of whom wanted something from me when I was already in a place of having nothing left to give.

I wanted help and answers, but had to find them through layers of dung.

It’s no wonder that we all caused so much damage to each other.  I could not be what they needed, and no substitute can replace what should have been or what was meant to be.  It was a sad mess.  I needed to grieve what had been, and what was not.  I needed to deal with the past and move on, not keep digging it open and trying to find ways to re-create it… with each recreation being far more damaging than the last.

This is how I nearly turned to salt, like Lot’s wife.  I forgot that I had gone in search of answers, and instead kept trying to recreate a childhood that no longer existed.  Instead of getting help for now, I got lost in looking back.  Instead of finding answers, I got tangled in other problems. Instead of saving the day, I became the problem.

Writing, I think, helped me find my way out.  Writing helped me gather bits of truth I found along the way, and these bits of truth became my breadcrumbs.  I had wandered far, but slowly found my way.  Each truth led me to the next one, each breadcrumb fed me just enough to be able to find the next. This was my journey home.

As each truth fed me, it brought me life.

As I began to be nourished, one breadcrumb at a time, one friend at a time, one truth at a time, I began to exist.  I began to learn to love and to be loved.  I learned what gave life and what destroyed it.  I learned what strengthened me and what grieved me.  I learned what brought me air, and what stole it.  I learned what freed me to be me, and what oppressed me.  I learned the difference between the damaging nature of secrets, and the empowering nature of the sacred.

I learned that the mad-Jesus of my youth was a perverted invention of man, twisting truths into something else that was not of God.

God is love.

And it was Love that tutored me, ever so patiently, despite myself.

I learned who I was, and who I was not.

I learned who I am, and who I am not.

And Love showed me the way home.

My mother was there.  Not just there, but waiting.

Like the prodigal father, she saw me coming home from a long way off, while I was still far away.

Once I was home, my brother came to see for himself, but then he also welcomed me home.

For me, that was a moment of atonement, a moment of at-one-ment, the night my brother and I talked all the way on a long drive home and then into the late hours on the porch, the moment when we cried and hugged and something bigger than us made us friends again, and gave us the answers we had searched for since we were children.

This is what came of eight years of writing, no matter what was published or not, no matter what was presented in some fancy workshop or not.  Writing brought me home.

I have written my whole life, keeping a journal since the time I was young.  I have bits of these from when I was in first and second grade, though ALL of my journals from second grade through college were lost when I stored them at a piano teacher’s house (she threw them away, long story).  Those are my lost pages, but still I write… though my writing has changed, as I have learned to hold some things sacred.

Because not everybody knows braille.

Today is significant to me in many ways.  It is 16 years since I ran away from home.  It is eight years since starting to blog.  It is one year since really, fully, finding my way home.

16 years.  It is as if I needed two sets of “perfecting”, eight years each, to find my way out.  I needed eight years of wandering to discover I still had a voice, and another eight years of practicing that voice to discover who I was and what I wanted to say.

Never have I said anything in brevity.

Next week I will be 34 years old.  It is the first birthday that has felt “old” to me.  No birthday has bothered me before, but this one is different.  I have grown, somehow.  The last year was spent living, not running away.  The last year was spent being, not reconstructing.  The last year was spent becoming, not remembering (in a Lot’s wife kind of way).

Gordon B. Hinckley said, “We are the product of lives who have touched ours.”  I love this quote, because I feel so many that I loved and that loved me brought me to this point of life-ness.  Even when I did not want to be fed, they fed me.  Even when I did not know how to be led, they led me.  Even when I was very lost, they were kind to me.  Many I had to leave because I was on a journey home, though I didn’t always know it, but I knew to stay in the forest would deprive me of the light and running water of the clearing.  Some people or experiences were outright destructive to me, and I learned how to hold my own, to stand my ground, to define me by who I knew I was and not by what others said or by what happened to me.  These lessons were as valuable as the rest.

What I learned was that home was not some fairytale place in a clearing.

Home was creating my own clearing in the forest, finding my own stream of water, clearing the brush enough to let sunlight through, and filling my walls with bookshelves.

Inside, there is stillness.
Inside, there is peace.
Inside, there is light.

What I learned is that God is Love, and Truth, and Light.

From my journal, before Christmas, before the last surgery:

There is something real about Him, something more than what I have known thus far. He unfolds who He is, this mystery of Being. When I am broken and humbled, when my Lord atones for me so that I am safely covered, when His Spirit makes me pure again, it is in that smallest moment that pulls me close to Him, that unites me with Him, as if I could feel His presence on my skin beyond seeing its whiteness with my eyes. There is this at-one-ness that is as physical as it is spiritual, as if I can see the very math of both priesthoods united in one equation, in one movement of Light.

When I study and study, diving in layer after layer, and wait and pray and ponder, when I ask and pray and look for more, it is then that I find that stillness in the middle. The power of it pushes the storm further away, creating space around me, space that fills with Light from above. When the light comes, He teaches me the same again for it is what I need to know, over and over, because I am so weak and miserable without Him, without His power, without His Spirit. But always, there is more. Time stretches as it unfolds like a scroll, the walls of the storm around me becoming like screens upon which the whole world plays, and I know that I am in a place between time and space. I am tutored then, in what I need to know. Some things, which I have asked, He does confirm and teach me more, granting layers and layers until their is substance to what was only an idea or question. Other things He does deny, correcting me and expounding upon the truth of things, not letting any piece of it vary from how He has said it to be. Sometimes there are people to meet and lessons to take. I cannot speak of these things, not even to write them to myself. All of it is in the other language, which I write down notes of as I remember them, a few words a time granted to me for remembering, for earning it is the proving ground, and helps me treasure them and become more than I was. Other things are more physical, not just ideas, but worlds on the poles and cities in the skies, even now, where physical eyes cannot see, but already they are there, still they are here. Other things are tasks which must be done, and sins that must be prevented for the destruction I would cause. This is not just any world of everyday life, but it is – truly – His world, which He has created for the purpose of even my life to become who He wants me to become, to accomplish some tasks for Him… and this is not to be mocked, not to be taken for granted, not to be wasted.

Any time in this state does make it painful to return, this same squeezing my spirit back into my body as after the illnesses and surgeries of the past. He touches my heart, and He touches my head, that my body can continue for it has already fought beyond what is possible. My body would be finished already were it not for His gift of time, of life. And so the pain of squeezing back into this body does make the pain of my healing head compare to nothing, and I know it heals because He has touched me. And I know He has touched me, because there is work for me to do still yet.

Days and weeks and months and years away are only half a day, and I feel now as if to move through molasses.

Yet what I want to write slips through my fingers like water, and I wonder at the responsibility of my own tiny life, barely anything, and how I will endure yet more (except what easy battles I have had) – and I wonder even of how to remain worthy of His help, which I desperately need, for without Him I can accomplish nothing. I am just a girl, but yet He has called me to be a light.

I can still smile.  Smiling is still my job.  There is still purpose in my existence.

Like a candle on the table, He said, which I just read in 3 Nephi, and reminds me of the New Testament. Do not hide the words, or stop, but share them boldly. Wake them up, fill them with light.

I know that I cannot do this, and I know I do not know how to do this. But I do know that I can stand firmly in the middle of the storm, and that I can hold the storm at bay, by His power, and that I can kneel and pray open an ever widening circle, where His Light and Spirit may come, and that this Light, by His Spirit, can wake them up and help them to see again, to remember, to find their way back to the Light.

But they must look UP, at Him, not me.

This is what will help them keep walking along the rod, to keep moving forward, because we are so close to the Tree.  So close.

Maybe that reads like Braille to you.  That’s okay.  It was for me.

But to you, I say thank you.  Thank you for reading, thank you for being a part of this eight year (or some of you, sixteen years or more) journey of writing.  Thank you for walking alongside me, or before me, or pushing me from behind, or just participating in the sharing of this journey, the adventures of Emily World (despite website problems and changes along the way, and in spite of blogs longer than this one).  Thank you for being breadcrumbs to me, thank you for nourishing me, thank you for giving me life.

For I am, truly, very glad to be alive.

I am glad to be home.

These Are the Words We Dimly Hear

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

~ Rilke
(the German poet, not the puppy)

Repost by Request: The Symphony

When I finished Christmas with my family, and they were on to other things, and there was no stalling left to do as they all went along their way, I said a precious goodbye to my baby puppies and started driving home.

Before I got very far, I received a message that my little (now grown-up and professional) friend Whitney Campbell got a an extra free ticket to the PROFESSIONAL symphony she was playing in last night!  Since I was still close to where it was anyway, I just turned my car around and met the Campbell family there for Whitney’s concert.

It was the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, a professional group in Northwest Arkansas.  This means Whitney is professional and everything!  She got paid!  She was ASKED to be in the orchestra, and was the only Bass Clarinet they had, and so she had tons of solos!  I was so proud of her! They performed in Bentonville, the ritzy cultural center of the home offices of Wal-Mart and JB Hunt and all kinds of gazabillionarie-ness-ness.



The first part included several classic Christmas pieces, including arrangements with a hand bell choir.  It was so beautiful that I wept.  I cried and cried and cried.

I cannot explain, do not know how to explain the layers of sound that I heard.  As soon as I discovered one sound, something else was already happening.  It was like flying through a rainbow while being thrown into the sea, all at once.  It was music-tastic.

The bells are still the most distinct sound I am able to hear, the most clear and crisp, like the flash of a camera.

But the other pieces of the orchestra – the sounds of a band are still blurry to me – just beyond what I can capture, but so close – but this orchestra last night, oh!  It was like voices in a conversation, different instruments talking back and forth to one another, and yet so subtle.  The voices of the orchestra were pure and soft and lingering, beyond any Jane Austen imagination, so… romantic, but sacred.

It was, by far, the most powerful experience I have had outside of the Temple.

It was, absolutely, one of the most sacred experiences of my life.

And when I closed my eyes, I could still hear it.  The sound was still there!

That is when I began to cry.

I do not understand how sound can become like the slip of silky sheets or the melting of sweet chocolate.  I do not understand how that sound up on the stage becomes as close and sweet as a kiss inside of me.  I do not understand how it got from there to here.  I mean, I understand the physics of it.  I could draw it on paper.  I have always know that.  But I have never known THIS.

I kept reaching toward my head, almost unconsciously, for because the music was so tangible to me.  I have never experienced anything like it, and before music has been accessible to me only on paper – in some silent, visual, mathematical dance behind my eyes, or through touch – with different sounds familiar to me based on where and how I felt them in my body.  But this was an entirely different dimension, and entirely different experience.  This was music that flowed into me and over me and through me, like a river that was only mist, like a vision no one else can see.  It was so TANGIBLE, and my hand, without me realizing it, kept reaching up to touch it, as if it were an object near my head that I could catch, as if it were a magic bubble I might be able to touch.

But I could not touch it, and yet it was that real.

I sat in a chair to LISTEN to music I have read and studied and known on paper, and yet it came alive as much as if a real person had stepped out of a fairytale book.  The notes I have known on paper became 3D, changing from black and white dots to the color of sound.  I was in awe, and it poured over me like waves.

This was our favorite last night, Stille Nacht, by Franz Gruber, as arranged by Davis & Custer, except instead of the voices it was a cello.  I have always loved cello because that is a sound that I can feel in the deepest parts of me, beyond my bones.  Yet to hear that sound, the depth of its haunting, it was as the voice of God.

The more lively, quick pieces were just as astounding.  Hearing specific notes, distinct pitches, noticing the spaces between notes – I could not even breathe!  I was so moved and caught up!  I have been practicing my “music program” on my processor, and listening to Christmas music as they told me to do.  So I have been proud of my progress of becoming familiar (digitally!) with Christmas songs and trying to hear and understand and learn the words of the songs… but to listen to these songs, pieces I know as one voice or one instrument holding the melody, become a 60 piece orchestra, with the melody dancing around different voices – it was like a ballet of sound!  It was as if there need be no ballet, for the melody itself was the dancer!  I cannot explain how incredible this was, and what a miracle to follow the melody around from voice to voice!

It was way better than Baa Baa Black Sheep on “Sound and Way Beyond“.

Except you know what?  Without the hours and hours everyday of listening rehab, without learning to tell the difference between Baa Baa Black Sheep and Happy Birthday, without studying each note of the scale, without studying the sounds of different instruments, without all those months of painful daily practice, I never ever would have experienced the symphony the way I did last night.

It was a miracle that totally topped snap, crackle, and pop.

The second half featured selections from “The Nutcracker”.  Excepting instead of just playing the classical pieces by Tchaikovsky, they played each selection the classical way, and then a jazz band played the Duke Ellington version!  It was incredible!  What a gift to me, to hear professionals play the same classic pieces in two different ways, so I could learn what the differences were!  It was AMAZING!

I loved it because the jazz band kept featuring different solos, which the orchestra also did, except in jazz band, it was a small band instead of a large orchestra, and when they played a solo, they stood up!  So I knew who was playing the solo!  And I could really, really watch and listen to that specific instrument!  It was incredible!  Again, it was way better than “Sound and Way Beyond”, of listening to which instrument is which.  Except without that practice, I never would have understood what was happening with the jazz band!

The band is still more “blurry” a sound to me, and they played so much so fast that I really could not listen that fast.  I tried hard!  But it was so much so fast, I just couldn’t catch it like I could the long, vibrating sounds of the orchestra.  But it was delightful, and it did make me bounce.  And it just makes me want to practice more.

I think I could hear the trumpets and the soprano sax the best, though both played so many notes I could not keep up.  But what fun it was!  What a chasing adventure it was!

Oh!  The whole evening did fill my soul and lift my spirits!  The sounds I heard are too new for me to hold – they have slipped beyond me already, for they are too fresh and too misty for me to be able to hold them in my memory.  Isn’t that a funny thing?  But oh!  I remember the experience of it!  And the experience itself is impressed upon my senses, like seeing stars after looking at the sun too long.

It was a miracle to me, a most amazing experience.

It was not about hearing.  I have studied music always, and have loved the feel and experience of all kinds of music, for always.  I really have.  But this was different than anything before, this was access like never before, this was a whole new dimension.  I was not even on planet Earth.

The symphony last night made every bit of the cochlear implant process worth it.  From the physical recovery to the HOURS of DAILY practice and listening rehab, to the private speech instructors, to wearing the stupid microphone for six months… Even the staples.  Even the staples, that’s how serious I am.

It was worth it.

And it made me want more.

It stirred passions within me, and made me hungry for more.

Selfish perhaps, yes.

Or maybe it was just the very gift I needed to be ready for surgery on Wednesday, to be ready to go through this one more time for the other ear, and then to do the work to make both sides work together into one sound.

It will be like 3D technicolor HD AMAZINGness.

It will be stereo.

Can you imagine the symphony in stereo?

Can you imagine that music pouring into your soul from both sides?

I might melt to the floor.

Next year.  Next year it’s a date with the symphony.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that
the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is

~ Emily via Sidekick 5 LX

Lorenzo Snow

“Lorenzo had no difficulty bearing his testimony. But he did, however,
struggle with the idea of traveling without purse or scrip. He said,
“from the time I was old enough to work, the feeling that I paid my way
always seemed a necessary adjunct to self-respect, and nothing but a
positive knowledge that God required it not, as He did anciently of His
servants, the disciples of Jesus, could induce me to go forth dependent
on my fellow creatures.””

~ Emily via Sidekick 5 LX