Still ’round the corner there may wait a new road or secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
The day will come at last when I
Will take the hidden paths that run
West of the moon, east of the sun
For those who don’t know, I am in the habit of having JRR Tolkien quotes tattooed on me. I got my first one shortly after my 60th birthday, “Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” This, of course, was a reference to age, and my presumed/desired/hoped for ability to escape the less desirable aspects of it. My second Tolkien quote is pictured above, “Not all who wander are lost.” For the Tolkien purists, yes, I know that the word “those” is left out of the quote. This quote accompanies an already existing tattoo of a cross on my arm, the very first tattoo I ever got. Of course, it refers to my wandering soul, and also to the fact that God always brings me back to the path. Now, the quote above is speaking to me, about the new road, the secret gate, and I am trying to figure out if there is a place on my body I can put it.
What is important, though, is not that I am thinking about getting a tattoo. What is important is that this quote is speaking to me because lately I have felt abso-frickin-lutely stuck. Paralyzed even.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD enough times by enough different professionals that I am beginning to accept the diagnosis. The PTSD stems from my daughter’s still unresolved kidnapping 27 years ago, but also from some other things in my life that I might talk about one day but don’t want to right now. I think spending 27 years wondering if my daughter is dead or alive, and trying to reach out to her just in case it is the latter, is probably sufficient for anybody to understand. The thing is, I can’t completely understand it myself. And that is the crux of the problem.
I have realized recently that my imagination has been turned off. I read somewhere that anxiety is a misuse of imagination, and that makes sense. That is the initial thing that occurred to me, because goodness knows I have suffered from enough anxiety in my life. Turn off imagination, turn off anxiety, right? It took a little longer for me to see the real truth of the matter, though. Of course it did, because it always takes longer to see something to which you have closed your eyes. And that is the dark, dark place my imagination wanders to when I think about my daughter. From that first horrendous night after she was taken up to today, what might have happened to her, what might be happening to her, how might she be suffering. Nobody kidnaps a nine-year old girl to be adopted by a nice, childless family. They only kidnap them for nefarious purposes of one sort of another.
There is nothing worse in the world than for your child to be suffering, and to be unable to do anything about it. In my imagination, this lives every day, has lived every day for the last 27 years, 4 months, and 17 days. Of course this had to be turned off, or I would not have had PTSD. I would have been a complete, drooling basket case. If I had known the truth, if I had known she was no longer alive, I would have been able to imagine the terrible things she had endured, I would be able to imagine that she was no longer suffering in the present, that she was at peace, and maybe, just maybe, I would have been able to be at peace also. Maybe. But that’s not the case, and unless I close my eyes and squeeze them tight, a whole entire lifetime of suffering for my child fills my head and my heart. It is not something I could survive. And this, or course, is totally apart from the fact that her case is still active, that we will get leads, that things still happen … often with the speed of molasses flowing uphill. This has happened several times just in the last few years, and it is probably what caused the final shut down, because the months I have spent waiting for resolution of these leads, with my imagination sparking around its edges, were just plain torture.
With my imagination, my creativity has taken a nose dive. You know those coloring books for adults, the ones that are supposed to help calm you and bring you peace? Yeah, I can’t do those. I tried, and I got so stressed out over what dang colors to put where, it made me feel as though I was going to crawl out of my skin. Then I wanted to draw something, so I got a book of drawing paper and some pencils. The book is still blank. I got a journaling Bible, with room in the margins to write or draw. I write.
But it’s all gone beyond that now. Now I have come to feel paralyzed. My roots have gone so deep, maybe the frost can’t reach them, but neither can the light. Dozens of intentions pass through my head, things to do, from the smallest to the greatest, but nothing gets done. Things just seem too difficult, from picking up the phone to make an appointment, to going to the store. I have dozens of books here that I want to read, but I have trouble getting them read because I can’t decide which one to pick up.
There is a concept that has been part of me since college at least, and probably before, and that is the Road of Life. Just keep moving, keep on the road, and you will get to your destination (your destiny), that place that you are meant to reach, where you can become the best you that you can be, can accomplish what you came into the world to accomplish. It is the Road cycle of poems in Tolkien that calls to me. Life as a journey. Life is a journey. How could I be so far along it now, and still be wandering in the wilderness?
I am not going anywhere. I am sitting here, paralyzed. I feel the cement in my limbs that keeps me from moving, from stepping forward, from reaching out. And time is just passing by. Soon another day has ended. I have done nothing. I have gone nowhere. I have not put one foot in front of the other. I am no closer to the end of the wilderness.
And that is not what I want, not what I have ever wanted. I want to shake myself by the shoulders and say, “Hey! New road! Secret gate! Hidden paths! Get moving!”
Except for my mother, who died in her seventies of emphysema, all the women on both sides of my family have lived into their nineties. I have a long way to go yet, if I don’t allow this paralysis to kill me, literally or figuratively, either of which is a real possibility. I have not accomplished what I want to accomplish. I have got to break free.
If you would like to read more about my missing daughter, please visit my website at http://www.dearmichaela.com.
Thanks always, for your prayers.