Tiny Spark Series: End Of The Rainbow

Today’s Tiny Spark comes from Lisa Kramer, the word-wielding woman behind Woman Wielding Words. Her readers love her for her honesty, lyrical way of looping words into big thoughts, and her absolute sweetness. I had the pleasure of meeting this ray of sunshine over the summer. She was exactly who I thought she’d be: brilliant, warm, and a champion in living a full life. Today I’m thrilled for you to catch a glimpse of her special light.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

LOOKING FOR THE END OF THE RAINBOW ONE DAY AT A TIME

            When Tori first asked if I’d be interested in writing a guest post for her special series on Unexpected Good, my first thought was “Hell ya!” I mean, this is Tori we’re talking about; the woman who amazes me on a daily basis with her wit, her sass, and her powerful ability to take mundane language and turn it into something living and breathing, dancing off the page to kick you in the butt and make you laugh out loud or have some other dramatic reaction.

But then, I began to think about what she actually wanted—a story about surviving the dark times in life, about having hope even in the bleakest moments. Suddenly, I doubted my ability to do that. I doubted the value of my story. My dark moments are nothing compared to those struggling after Hurricane Sandy blew through with no regards to human needs. My most challenging moments are small compared to my friend Cathie who valiantly battled breast cancer while watching her own daughter fight and succumb to an even more vicious form of stomach cancer. My most difficult years seem like mere minutes in comparison to those who struggle on a daily basis simply to feed their families.

What story could I possibly tell?

Then I realized that life isn’t always about the dramatic dark moments. Sometimes, resilience or hope come from how we maneuver our way through smaller obstacles—the tiny, dark private moments that nobody talks about but we all share. Those moments when life seems so overwhelming that we just want to curl up in a ball, cuddle with our blankets and teddy bears, and yell “make it stop!”   But we can’t stop, because somehow each of those moments turns into something else. We learn to transform our darkness into light and keep moving.

How do we do this? I can’t answer for everyone, but I seem to find my way by keeping a few clichéd thoughts in mind:

1)      “This too shall pass.”

2)      “It always gets done.”

3)      “You can always write about it later.”

Allow me to elaborate.

Turning an Attack into Strength

            During my first year of teaching in Japan, I was called into a meeting with the boss/owner of the English Conversation School and told that there was evidence that my work was not satisfactory, that I was the worst teacher in the group.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked as I tried to hide the tears and fear.

“Well . . . I don’t have any specifics, but . . . “

Okay, let’s forget about the fact that this turned out to be someone trying to get me in trouble, for me this meeting was a crushing blow. I pride myself in working hard and always doing my best. I seek to learn, grow and improve whenever I take on a new challenge (and teaching at that point was a new challenge).  I spent much of the rest of the day crying by the river, writing pages and pages in my journal and watching the few remaining cherry blossoms drift down in melancholy.

I could have taken this report and returned home in defeat, escaping a challenging year in a foreign country and writing it off as a failure. But I didn’t. I chose to stay, to work harder, and eventually was invited to extend my  stay by the same employer, and moved on to become a Head Teacher/Trainer at a bigger (and better) English language school where I spent the next two years.

For me, being told I’m not good enough makes me work harder to prove someone wrong. The lesson I learned from that small incident served me well later in life: when my graduate school advisor tried to fail me because I didn’t do a favor; when a power-hungry woman tried to destroy my life and my family by manipulating the system so Nathan didn’t get tenure. With each of those events I worked harder, I wrote more, and eventually I moved out of the dark into the light.

From Loss Comes Blessings

            Many years ago I realized that I needed a little help trying to find balance in my life. I found my emotions out of control, and would feel debilitated by the highs and lows of my personality. I talked to my doctor and we mutually decided to place me on an anti-depressant to see if that could help me regulate better.

Two weeks later I learned I was pregnant. I immediately stopped taking the pills as whatever prescription I had at the time wasn’t recommended for pregnant women.

A little over six weeks in, I lost that baby. I can’t describe the devastation I felt. I blamed myself for the loss of that child, and that of course simply spun me deeper into a hole of depression from which I was unsure I would be able to climb. I felt alone. I felt guilty. I felt like I had nobody to turn to who understood. I couldn’t tolerate the sympathy and placations. The “I’m so sorry” or the “Perhaps this is for the best.”

The only way I got through it was by writing. I started a course in writing for children and young people and began to find my voice.

As soon as I was physically able, we tried again. This time I kept the pregnancy secret for much longer, only revealing the truth  after a tumultuous (vomit-inducing) elevator ride at  a conference (but that’s a whole other story).

I could have chosen to give in to the depression and give up, but I found my way out through words. I could have said, “I don’t want to try again,” out of fear that I would lose another, but I found my own inner strength and Sarah was my reward.

sarah

Facing the Beginning in the End

            Now I face another challenge as I watch my father slowly fade into the horrors of Alzheimer’s. Someday in the near(ish) future I will have to say goodbye to him for good. I will have to watch Sarah as she loses her Papa. I will have to be strong for my mother who has already said that she “feels like she’s missing her other half.” I will have to be supportive of my brother who is going through his own struggles that aren’t limited to his need to be there to help my parents. I will have to help my sister as she mourns. Suddenly, I am faced with the reality that we all face—that children eventually grow up and have to take care of their parents. I don’t know if I have the strength to do it, but I really don’t have a choice. How will I get through it?

I’ll do it because I have to, and meanwhile I’ll write of course.

Hopefully, despite the loss, I’ll find a new way to tell stories so that it helps others find the strength to face their own. I think that would make my Dad proud.

My story began as all stories do, with the hopes of a child who perceives that life is lived in a straight line; that we will achieve our dreams and goals without glitches along the way. But we all know in reality life doesn’t happen that way. We know the beginning (birth); we know the end (death); but the path between those two points is anything but straight.

The best we can hope for is that the path we choose ultimately leads to the end of a rainbow.

lisarainbow

“& this is for colored girls who have considered suicide/but are movin to the ends of their own rainbows.” (Ntozake Shange )

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 How have you handled those small, everyday obstacles that feel so BIG?

Upcoming Tiny Spark:

Jamie Shea

Monday, December 10th

sparkheart

About these ads

75 thoughts on “Tiny Spark Series: End Of The Rainbow

  1. Lisa, Tori was right when she introduced you as the Woman who wields words. Your story was so touching and I felt in a lot of ways I could relate. Depression seems to still be the hidden skeleton in so many closets, so many suffer in silence when we should be banding together to give each other support. Thank you for giving an opportunity to help others free their skeletons.

    • Michele, Thank you for reading and your kind words. It’s very sad that so many people face depression alone, which just makes it worse. If my words help in any way, then I’m the lucky one.

      Tori, thank you again for this series. I am truly honored and touched by your intro. I wish we’d had more time together this summer, but that will just have to happen in the future.

  2. Pingback: Visit Me at Tori’s “Tiny Spark Series” « Woman Wielding Words

  3. Gosh, darn, Tori–another of my favorite writers! I couldn’t agree with you more, Lisa, that it’s the everyday moments that truly test our resolve–that it’s the everyday graces that add up to a life well-lived. At the same time, I dont know if some of the struggles you mention here are exactly small. In fact, your father’s illness seems huge to me. As usual–a moving and heart-felt post, my friend!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • My father’s illness is huge, but the real struggle with that belongs to my mother. I am part of the sadness, I am part of the support, but my life will not change as drastically as hers even though it hurts.

      Thanks for reading and your support Kathy. you are one of the sparks that inspired.
      <3 Lisa

  4. Maybe it’s because I’m up earlier than I was ready for, but that one brought tears to my eyes. So true that we all face various struggles and losses along the way that challenge us to push through. A good reminder that although we tend to measure our pain against the pain of others, no challenge is too large or too small. it’s all significant and affects us/alters us somehow or another. Beautiful writing and a great post.

  5. I felt angry for you as you retold the story of the boss who so clearly was trying to undermine you. But good on you for digging deep at that moment, and at the others you presented.

  6. Thank you for sharing these moments. Your understanding that we all have little moments where we want to curl up in a ball and say, “Make it stop!” really resonated with me. I think all too often we compare our dark moments against huge, monumental disasters that others face and it somehow invalidates how we feel. But it’s not a competition. It’s life. We all have our ups and downs and don’t need to measure them or quantify them to make them important.

    • What a cool comment. I love Lisa’s post because it highlights what you spoke about, that feeling that our problems are comparitively BIG enough to deserve a bad day. Every single person struggles. All those obstacles, hardships, dark times look different but they feel the same. And the great part about it is that the spark or light, silver-lining or help looks different, too. Despite the varying ways it shows itself it’s always, always some kind of grace.

    • Thanks for your response. I love you comment, because it hurts more to feel like your dark moments are valid.. I hope that maybe we can all find a way to support each other’s dark moments, and acknowledge that sometimes it just helps to give the gift of a smile and acknowledge that nobody is happy all the time.

  7. Thank you for being vulnerable and open with the things you have gone through. My heart broke for you as I read, but your victory in each situation was so encouraging. “…resilience or hope come from how we maneuver our way through smaller obstacles—the tiny, dark private moments that nobody talks about but we all share.” Yes. Just yes. And thank you.

    • Thank you, Kaela. I didn’t really realize, as I was writing it, that I was being so vulnerable and open. I guess I should have, since I wrote it with tears pouring down my face. I’m glad it touched you.

  8. Lisa, I sense in you a bit of a kindred spirit, that of the determined – if not downright stubborn – spirit. Yes, I’ve had my own little stumblings, and I did indeed take 2 years “off from life”. But sometimes life won’t just move past you, and sometimes it runs head-on into you. My way out was similar to yours, during your time in Japan – head down, push harder, and prove the naysayers wrong. Sometimes, when life gives you lemons, you have to skip the lemonade and saw that dang lemon tree down – by hand! It might take a while, but you’ll see the view on the other side looks better. Even if that rainbow stays just as stubbornly out of reach.
    Well written, Lisa, and well done.

    • Thanks John, I think that’s part of the magic of rainbows and the challenge of the journey. Times might get dark, but there’s always a way through, even if it means cutting down the lemon tree. And, you never really can catch the end of the rainbow, but reaching for it makes life worth living. I remember driving in the mountains of Colorado once, and this magnificent rainbow appeared just in front of me. I’m going to find the end, I thought, but the rainbow traveled with me moving just ahead of my car. It was huge and I ‘d never felt so close to a rainbow before. If I’d actually found the end, what would I have discovered?

      • Well, most likely, a small black hole or other hyper-gravitational mass sufficient to bend the refracted light of the rainbow to one location in space-time. ;)
        Oh – I bet you were looking for something more romantic and less, well, NERD. Okay, let’s see …. how about “a field full of frolicking unicorns”? Wait – that’s in North Korea. Dang Commies, stealing our unicorns! :D

      • Hey, I try to take care of everybody. Unfortunately, like I said, the dang North Koreans are bogarting all our unicorns! Would you settle for some dragons? I think the folk of the Island of Berk could spare a few! (Yes, as a matter of fact, I AM hooked on a kids’ cartoon. Hey, I need SOMETHING to replace my “Blue’s Clues” addiction. “We are lookin’ for Blue’s Clues/We are lookin’ for Blue’s Clues”. Oh great, now the song’s stuck in my head! Are ya happy, Tori? I’m gonna git ya fer this! ;) :D

      • Lisa, I love you for two reasons! One, you share my love of dragons. And second, because even though I left myself open for a thorough drubbing, you passed on the chance to laugh at me for liking children’s cartoons at the ripe old age of 49.99. :D
        (Hear that, Tori? I’m WAITING…… ;) )

      • John, my friend, you clearly know very little about me. I play with puppets and stuffed animals on a regular basis. I choose to watch children’s movies whenever I need some comfort. I am, supposedly, a children’s theatre specialist.

        I would be a total hypocrite to turn on you when I am a 44.75 year old child.

        As for Dragons, THEY RULE!! I always lived the Dragonriders of Pern. If I could have a pet dragon, I would.

      • Seriously, have you caught “Dragons: Riders of Berk”? It’s aimed at kids, but they do a pretty good job both of staying true to the movie “How To Train Your Dragon” (I haven’t read the book yet) and keeping enough stuff to keep adults interested. Obviously, not of the same scale or scope as the Pern stuff. There’s also a show that pops up on Discovery’s various channels, that worked out the science required to make dragons actually work. (Part of it states they are acidic in their digestion, so they eat rocks – why they live in caves – and the reaction forms hydrogen they store in “flight bladders” so they can fly AND breathe fire.) It’s a truly interesting take, far better than the “handwavium” explanations offered in so many other sources, not least of which D&D. If you don’t get Discovery, let me know and I’ll catch it next time it’s on and burn it to disk for you.
        Oh, and I have two stuffed dragons staring at me as I type this. They are a true minority, surrounded by all the stuffed dogs, bears, moose, and Eeyores. (Yeah – he’s my animal totem. :D )
        Insanity isn’t necessary around here – it’s MANDATORY! ;)

      • Ain’t no shame in the cartoon thang, sir. I spend my days watching Team Umi Zoomi and Mickey Mouse and Doc McStuffins and- if things get really wild and crazy- Dora The Explorer. Swiper No Swiping! I’ve been in animated mode so long that last time I watched an episode of 20/20 I had to turn it off. Barbara Walters is offensive :)

      • We don’t have cable, but I did catch a little Dragons: Riders of Berk at my Mom’s house over Thanksgiving. It looked good. How to Train Your Dragon is one of the movies I revisit all the time. (In fact, on a rainy day like today, I might just pop it in. That Discovery channel show sounds interesting.

        Eeyore is the best. My favorite song, House at Pooh Corner

  9. The whole concept of this series is wonderful. Sadly I have been so lost in the shadows wondering around me myself that I have neglected the wonderful world of Tori, not to mention yours. But as always a moving and eloquent pice from the mistress of words you are. I am inspired to try and make a contribution to this as well, but I am not sure I have it in me these days. But well done … as always!

  10. Pingback: Mary, Mary, Quite Quoteworthy « the ramblings

    • I’m still around. I don’t post as often, but I have been posting. It seems, however, that I’ve disappeared from some people’s feeds for some reason. (Andra pointed that out to me last week). I’m sorry I haven’t been commenting as much, but the good part of that is part of the reason I’m not commenting as much is because I’m working so hard on finishing my WIP. I’m nearing 65,000 words and I think I’m finding my way to the end. That’s something, isn’t it?

  11. Lisa, for some reason your recent posts aren’t showing up on my Reader! I was just thinking that it had been so long since I had read something from you. I loved this. I have just finished an 8-year-long journey through grad school, and your post was incredibly well-timed. :) (Coming from an entirely self-centered place, of course. ;)) But really, this was so helpful and necessary. Thank you for reminding us all that 1. our personal crisis points are valid, even if they aren’t on the scale of Hurricane Sandy, and 2. we can still overcome, in spite of it all. So inspirational!

    • Amanda, I thought you deserted me. ;) Your journey, with all its ups and downs is just as valid and important as anyone else’s. You know I empathize and sympathize with every moment.

      I think I’ve lost a lot of readers recently, by disappearing from their Reader. I suggest you unfollow me and then refollow. Maybe that will work? Come to to think of it, I haven’t seen posts from you either, recently. I’ll be by to check and try the trick as well.

      • Ha! I would never desert you! Okay, I just tried the unfollow/follow thing. It wasn’t very nice to click that unfollow button, just so you know. ;) I am looking forward to catching up! :)

        And it is very likely that I haven’t appeared in your Reader for a while because I haven’t posted in a long time. But now that I’ve graduated, I think I’ll be able to find more time to write. Hooray!

    • I really loved that about Lisa’s post. I find myself feeling foolish for calling my bad days bad. They seem pretty good compared to other people’s hardships. But they’re bad to me. The plus side is that as small as my dark times might be, they can be fixed with the tiniest of good things.

  12. Pingback: Kindle Up « the ramblings

Ramble on, little rambler...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s