The Climb

The Universe always knows how to throw one’s life into chaos. The result is a tumultuous fall into a deep, dark prison.  The landing is jarring, and one is left broken, not knowing what to do next. Does the fallen stay in the prison staring up at a pinprick of light that is the way out, dreaming of freedom? Or does the fallen take action to climb hand-over-hand up a vertical, crumbling wall that threatens to fall apart, but never quite does, and they eventually make an escape?

We are all held prisoner at one time or another in our lives. After the fall, we are presented with two routes where only one can be selected to follow during our imprisonment. The first route will be rough and takes a lot of work, patience, and energy to traverse. You will slip along the way, skinning your knees or banging your head. Yet, with perseverance, you’ll be able to escape to a place where things are better, and you reach a higher point in your life. The second route will be simple. You’ll climb easily along through a haze in an endless direction that leads nowhere and is without  escape. There will be no growth for you, and you’ll stay in the darkness forever.

The second route must never be chosen. No matter how hard the first route is to ascend, choose it. Show the Universe that you made it out of that prison alive and overcame whatever chaos the Universe hurled your way.

This has been a year that where I reached a new summit of growth after years of stumbling along a precarious path to escape my darkest prison. A little over four years ago, I fell from a high place where things seemed to be going incredibly right with my life and I was becoming known in the writing community as an author. When the fall happened, I landed in a deep pit of darkness. I laid at the bottom, shattered for a long time, trying to figure out what to do. I had felt like I lost everything – including my writing. For almost a year I wallowed in just staying steady – not falling any deeper into the darkness, but not getting any further out. There was a moment where I did find a tiny spark of light while I was in my prison, but a few months after finding it, the light went out and I was back to where I had initially fallen. It took many, many tries to climb. Each attempt got me closer to escape, but then there was always inevitably a fall. Yet, with each fall, I didn’t fall back as far down. I was making progress towards my escape, surely but slowly. It was not until the beginning of this year that I grasped the edge of the pit and pulled myself out into the light, into freedom. Now I’m at a point where I am sitting on the edge, my feet are dangling in the pit, but I am looking towards the sky.

This year has brought me insight to a newfound strength that I never knew I had. Three major events happened for me in 2019 and I sit in awe of these accomplishments: I survived the stress of building a brand new home and life with another person, I’ve become a triathlete with a goal of completing an IronMan in the next few years, and the major accomplishment, I have finally finished my first novel, My Brother’s Keeper. This is the novel I started in 2014 right before my fall, the one I spoke about on Martin Lestrape’s podcast. Now the novel is in the wonderful process of editing, which excites me as this process will only make the story stronger.

I can now see that the future is bright and there are so many more accomplishments that are stretching far front of me and there are higher summits to ascend. The road forward will be in no way perfect or easy, but my steps are off with the right start and I now know how to better maneuver when the Universe hurls its chaos. I’ll take the blows, get knocked down and stumble, but this time I’ll keep my eyes firmly locked on the bright sky.

Farsickness.

‘Not all who wander are lost’ -Tolkien or anonymous

One foot in front of the other. Step-by-step-by-step. Progressing forward towards a destination that may be known, may not be known. The lay of the land stretches far out before and bends below the horizon. Footprints trail behind from where you had once been. What lies on the other side of the horizon is unknown, but there is a pull of curiosity. A natural thought for one who is a wanderer. A soul who is never content to be in one place for very long. Nomads, gypsies, transients all have the will of wandering in their blood. It’s their drive to rise the next morning, to sate the curiosity of what lies beyond the reaches of sight.

Those who wander are never lost. Wanderers may not always know where they are going, but the travel is not so much in the destination, but the journey itself to reach the destination.

The journey may be easy, it may be tumultuous, it may be exciting, and it may be horrific.  The venture may not always be a positive experience, yet it is the act of travel that entices the wanderer to continue on to ‘the other side of the mountain’. A journey is like a high. Adrenaline pumping adventure. A constant experience of learning and exploring. With each step the wanderer grows. They become a different person shaped by their travels. An enlightenment. Those who wander are less lost than those who stay sedent for life.

Wanderlust. Merriam-Webster’s definition is a (n) strong longing or impulse toward wandering. Breaking the word down further, ‘wander’ (intransient verb) to move about without a fixed course, aim, or goal; to follow a winding course; to go astray (as in from course or morally) / (transient verb) to roam over. The word is derived from the Middle English wandren and Old English wandrain. ‘Lust’, while there are a couple of definitions, we are just going to stick with (n) an intense longing. Derived from Middle English and Old English, possibility this word derives from the Latin word lascivus.

Quite a complex word is ‘wanderlust’. Saying it aloud does stir within one the urge to move, to just aimlessly move towards an undecided destination. In its purest form, wanderlust is what is in the heart of every nomad, gypsy, and transient. People who are never settled in on place. They see that the world is so large and they are so small, thus they are constantly being pulled to see what is on the other side of the forest, the mountain, the sea.

‘Wanderlust’, quite poetic, is it not? Great authors over the centuries have brilliantly captured the passion that is exuded from the word. Jules Verne and his adventures to the bottom of the sea, to the core of the Earth, and around the world (in only 80 days). Tolkien and his myriad of hobbits, elves, dwarves, and other magical folk are always afoot, meandering the great realm of Middle-Earth. While all of his characters may not know where they are going, they know that they are on the correct path. ‘Not all who wander are lost’, it is said that Tolkien had coined that phrase, but I don’t think it is quite definitive. Whomever first said it first is quite brilliant. Those who wander are truly never lost. The destination is unknown, but wandering is never fully about the destination. It’s about the journey to the destination. It’s about the adventure and experience that one has along the way that defines the reason for the wandering. Those who wander should always cherish the journey and see the destination as a break until the next journey begins.

The word ‘wanderlust’ has always captivated me. It’s a word I do hold dear to my heart; yet, the word has never fully satisfied me. While I do always feel a longing to wander, the phrase ‘longing’ just doesn’t have that punch. ‘Lust’ for wandering is not a strong enough definition. There are times that when I am too sedent and become physically sick. Think of it like the exact opposite of homesickness (which is something I have yet to experience). My mood becomes irritable and I’m prone to daydreaming when the point is reached where there is a severe lax in travel. The term wanderlust is too soft for how I feel when I am at my crux of non-adventure.

As most know, words define the world for me. Thoughts, emotions, actions. I needed to name how I feel in regards to ‘wandering’, but could not settle upon the correct term, until I haphazardly stumbled across a new word.

In first seeing the word, it caused a flutter in my heart — without knowing the definition. The way that it was written instantly drew in my attention. It evoked the sense of a lush wooded trail winding through a dense forest full of tall trees. The ground covered in ferns and moss and rotting tree debris. Saying the word out loud and suddenly I was breathing in the scent of the deep woods. Musky, dark, earthy, balanced. A world beckoning to be explored. The word just felt just right.

Then I read the definition and my soul was at such ease. The epidemiology of the word is German. The translation literally means (n) farsickness / (v) longing for far-off places. The antonym is heimweh: (n) homesickness / (v) longing for home.

Farsickness. Feeling ill when not traveling, when not journeying. Oh how I know that feeling as it often rocks my core. My sights are always on the horizion, constantly wondering what lies beyond. The pull of that curiosity is so strong that I feel sick to my stomach when I know in reality, I cannot take the steps forward to see. Real life sometimes stands in the way — but not always…

While wanderlust will always invoke the passion of traveling, it is ‘fernweh’ that truly defines what I am feeling when I long to journey.

Fernweh – the longing for far off places.

Life was never meant to stay in one place.  Go out there and see the world. All the wonders out there are waiting. Discover them.

 

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On the path to the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge on the Antrim Coast (c) Amanda Headlee, 2015

In which I wake up.

At 3 am this morning, I woke up and stared at the blank canvas of my bedroom ceiling. An allegorical reflection of my life. In a week and a half, I turn 34. Life has passed in the blink of an eye. There is a feeling that all this time I have just been staring out the windows, watching the world pass by. To date, I have one short story published that is in need of a 2nd edition, 17 short stories that are in an array of discord, one novel poorly half written, and the second novel is a silent film that continually plays in my head and has yet to be scripted. All the adventures that I long to take remain as scribbled words on a bucket list. I’ve only cross off 6 out of 297.

In the wee hours of this morning, something inside snapped awake. A tiny voice whispered in my head, In life there are no dress rehearsals. This morning, I realized that the state of hibernation that I have been suffering for the past two years was finally over.

This very moment, the one we are existing in now, is the only one that we tangibly have. We can plan for the next moment to come, hoping that it appears. Yet, it’s never guaranteed. Take a breath. Exhale. In the next breath, one of us could be dead. A life instantly terminated. We are only promised the moment we hold right now. And if we allow this moment to pass unfulfilled, we may not get the chance at another.

Since 2015, I have been dreaming of what I want to do, but lacked the propulsion and motivation to achieve those dreams. An era of dormancy was maintained until I took a trip to the Baltic states last summer. While wandering the remnants of a Cold Ware era prison in Tallinn, a spark of inspiration involuntary began a transformation within the core of my soul. The spark was so tiny that I barely felt the burn, but there was a slight movement on my part to extinguish the infinitesimal flame as the fear of failing crept into my heart. However, the nostalgic warmth of my former self reflecting in that flame was captivating. The flame was allowed to burn. It took several additional months before the flame was fed and ignited into a wildfire.

The appeal to become physically stronger, to eat healthier, to travel more, and to enjoy life intensified in January.  Suddenly, I found myself exercising everyday, gorging on vegetables and fruit, signing up to run a 5K & 10K race in April, organizing an excursion to New Mexico for May, and eyeing up a September 125-mile bike ride that begins in Quarryville, Pennsylvania and ends in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (those closest to me know of the ‘saudade‘ of the ride’s finish line location). And, I decided to take the final step in committing to train for a triathlon – today I bought swimming gear and made a pact to swim laps 2-3 times a week… at 5 am…

Oh, and the words! The words! At moment of my full awakening this morning, when the inferno of inspiration was set fully ablaze in my soul, I realized that the words were back. My muse rose out of the embers and all the motivation that I had for creative writing once again burned brightly. The new novel that had been brewing as a silent film in my sub-concise showed its purpose. Today, there is direction. During breakfast, the plot was feverishly started. Then an inkling began that my blog was in dire need of revitalization.  And so, here I am.

As insane as all of this sounds, it is like the ‘light switch’ on a transformation to become my true self finally flipped ‘on’. The most amazing part of this awakening is that a change elicited in my writing style and perception.

Dark fiction is a ‘genre’ that I’ll continue to enjoy.  Fear, which is evoked in characters who are placed in harrowing situations, is quite captivating as it is an emotion that reveals a character’s true nature. Yet, it is in that moment when truth is exposed by fear that I now want to leverage as a seed for strength and purpose, as opposed using fear as a tactic to break and destroy characters with a purpose to deteriorate their will to live.  I may still base a few short stories off this trope; however, going forward, I want to convey that one’s strength and purpose are revealed when one has lost all hope. And a will to survive overcomes fear.

These past two years have changed me. For a lack of better words, the time was a cataclysmic whirlwind. Personal negative situations aside, I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted with many opportunities to travel the world. I’ve seen wondrous sites, met the most soulful people, and sampled delectable cuisine. In these experiences I found renewed creativity and inspiration to thrive.

Life’s an adventure, and our next moments stand on precipice of excitement and wonderment! Reach out, take hold, and never let go.

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This picture was captured whilst visiting one of my dearest friends, Michelle Muller, in Tallinn, Estonia. She knew Patarei Prison would captivate me. She wasn’t wrong. This mural, which was hand painted outside of the ‘hanging room’, triggered the start of my transformation. The mural directed me to continue the journey of wandering and wondering. (c) Amanda Headlee 2016

 

Definition of ‘saudade’:

Saudade is ‘the sorrow of not having enjoyed that which was there to be enjoyed; it is the vehement but resigned desire to enjoy a thing we were deeply attached to; and also the yearning to see, or be in the company of, someone from whom we have reluctantly been parted.

(Quoted in Dalila L. Pereira da Costa & Pinharanda Gomes, Introdução à Saudade: Antologia Teórica e Aproximação Crítica (Porto, Lello & Irmão, 1976), p. 10.)

What is your #cherished object?

Last month, the #CHERISHED blogfest was born. This weekend, bloggers across the world are invited to share stories about one little item that they possess which brings them joy. My little cherished item is a turquoise charm that I bought one year while traveling extensively all over the US. During my travels, I became worn out and sick. A dear friend of mine, out of deep concern, suggested I carry a piece of turquoise while traveling. She, being one who believes that nature provides all we need to heal, indicated that the stone’s properties are for protection, healing, and grounding. All aspects that I needed in my life at the time.

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Not owning any turquoise of my own, I stumbled across a little gem at the Baltimore airport during a long and unexpected layover. I was exhausted, cranky, and wanted nothing more than to just curl up in my own bed. As a distraction from my exhaustion, I decided to kill time by walking through one of those fancy jewelry stores that airports use to entice one to spend money… because one has nothing better to do while waiting for their connecting flight. Upon entering the store, I was immediately drawn to a little blue stone that seemed to emanate some kind of energy. A beacon that instantly drew me in.

I am usually not one to spend money on jewelry, but there was something about the blue of the turquoise that captivated me. Something inside my head said to splurge, and so I did.

As much as this necklace is a symbol of protection and health, as my dear friend Susan says it is intended to do, the stone actually means something more. I obtained this piece of turquoise in the midst of an eventful year traversing the US. And as such, this charm serves as a reminder. A reminder that there is a huge world out there, and I have only seen 15% of it. A reminder that I need to stop letting time pass by and achieve those dreams that I aspire to reach: Travel, publication, enjoying life to its fullest.

Everytime I look at this little blue charm I see our world, Earth, the planet that I yearn to explore and to write about.

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Are you taking part in the Cherished Blogfest? If you are, this weekend (24-26 July) please post about your cherished object, and visit others on this LINKY LIST. Share on all social media with the hashtag  #CHERISHED. If you haven’t signed up yet, you still can. The linky list is open for two more days. What is an object you cherish? What sort of memories does it bring back? What does the object mean to you? Write about your #CHERISHED object in 500 words or less!

Uncovering Literary Obessions

I never obsess over anything. Oh, um, I should probably rephrase that. My friends are rolling their eyes. OCD is something that I slightly suffer from. Some days it really causes havoc in my life. But this isn’t a post about my neurosis in making sure that when locking a door I check it three times. No, this is a post about an obsessions of things.

A minimalistic life is one that appeals to me. I can happily live the remainder of my life with what I have at this very moment in my apartment. I don’t have a lot and I don’t need a lot. So imagine my surprise that during my recent move, I uncovered something absolutely horrific about myself.

A few weeks ago, I moved into a new place. All boxes were packed by yours truly and about 85% of everything was carried with my very own hands (I am only so proud to state this because I spent the following week in utter pain). The first things to transition was kitchen stuff, then clothes, then cycling gear, and then random stuff from the basement.  At this point everything was gone but the furniture and 14 boxes. When I packed these specific boxes, I did not think there was really that many of them. It was just 14 boxes. And they only contained my most prized possessions, so this amount was not bad. However, when I went to lift the lightest box, and nearly snapped my back, it was then I realized I had a sickness–a secret obsession.

I am fatefully addicted to books. No! Cursed to be fatefully addicted to books.

They draw me in with their eye catching covers, earthy paper smell, and delicately inked pages. When I see a book, it whispers “pick me up… take me home”. There has never been a time when I’ve walked into a bookstore and walked out empty handed. It is a rare trip when only one book is purchased.

What a sickness. A heavy sickness (but I can’t give it up–I won’t give it up).

So to move these boxes, I had to break the 14 big boxes down into 20 smaller boxes, which I could still move on my own (but they were still dreadfully heavy).

I went through hell for my books and I would gladly do it again. I know I will do it again because I am a habitual mover. The only bad thing is that with each move, my obsession only hurts me more. The next move will be worse because there will be even more papery tomes to schlep to a new abode.

And before a single one of you asks–no, I will not switch fully to digital. Even if I move halfway across the world, my precious books will be at my side. There is something magical about cracking open the cover and smelling the pages. Inhaling the literature with your nose as well as your eyes. It’s addicting.

Now that I have admitted my obsession, there are four facts you should know:

  1. Don’t lend me a book. If I like it, you won’t get it back. If I hate it, I will probably still keep it and pawn it for a new book that I like.

  2. Don’t ever touch my books. Ever. Never Ever. I will break your hands and steal your fingernails.

  3. I have actually thrown away clothes on a trip to fit several newly purchased books into my carryon luggage.

  4. I have 4 boxes of books left to unpack and need to buy another bookshelf. Pictures of ‘Shrine 3’ are forthcoming.

 

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Shrine 1 – An ode to horror and comics (and The Walking Dead)

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Shrine 2 – My life long collection of literature