self portrait2

Self portrait

Crystal Reflecting is my nom de plum and my writing journal.

If there was a lottery for awesome family origin stories, then I am a winner. But like winning the lottery, the real test is how to make meaning of winning. For five years, I have been writing a book-length memoir/work of creative nonfiction, exploring the double disaster/double miracle of December 20 – 24, 1977 – my father’s commercial fishing boat sinking, our house reduced to ash, Dad’s survival and his rescue 300 miles north and four days later. I was two and a half years old. My earliest, most vivid memory was from the day after the storm. In it, I stand in a coffee-colored mud puddle, my toes warmer than they’ve ever been in a winter puddle inside the new, brown, chunky, foam rubber-insulated boots that were donated to me by a local mercantile. The magical spell I had lived under for the first two years of my life was broken. I was on a new adventure.

In this blog, I stay dead center on the content of my book at times and at times I wander. I draw too! Through reflection, I seek to find crystal clarity in my understanding of my story. And trough my nom de plum I have the anonymity from my professional life to “go deep”. 

Crystal Reflecting

The chunky crystal point, a gift from Dad, was smooth and cool in my hand. It had a nice heft. I opened my palm.

“It’s perfect for you,” My neighbor, a crystalphile, said. “See the lack of clarity.” I hadn’t noticed it until then. It was milky with inclusions, blemishes, a narrow iron intrusion two thirds of the way up.

My thoughts grew hazy. The urge to lash out in some undefinable way welled. My ears rang. My breath grew shallow.

I willed deeper breaths, then my thoughts settled. Her words weren’t cruel, they were generous and honest, the truth she witnessed. My truth.

In 2007, after completing grad school, in part, for better pay than my previous work as a public school teacher and social worker, I moved to Boulder, Colorado for a low-pay nonprofit job. We, my husband and I, made the move as a quid pro quo for the two years during grad school we had spent living in an area of the country that, while beautiful, lacked the mountains my husband valued.

And so, I had moved to Colorado conflicted – told by grad school peers that I was insane, investing in my education, then launching my new profession so unspectacularly. I knew it myself. But this was us as a couple circa 2007. Growing up, I was the first to surrender what I wanted, from a lick of my ice cream cone to any say in a major move. I was good at moving through chaos, comforting my family when it was needed, lacing up my running shoes and knocking out the miles to exorcise the frustration. Growing up, my husband was bullied by peers, his parents, unhappy in their own lives, didn’t have the understanding or gumption to help. Two broken children had decided it was his turn to *win*.

The work was relatively unskilled. I was barely making enough money to pay my hefty student loans. The affordable housing industry I was serving was crashing in the run up to the Great Recession. The two visionaries who had convinced me to move out had left the organization. Six months into that nonprofit job, I gave notice. I had taken a new job with better pay.

Weeks after I left, in January 2008, snowboarding in Vail’s back bowls in a pissy mood, I collided with a tree. I was wearing my helmet, but still suffered a concussion.

In the dark of our apartment in the hours and days that followed, light sparks danced in my vision. Waves of mild disassociation passed through me. My ears rang. All of this transported me a decade back to the place of terror I had lived in for several years – not well, wondering if I would recover enough to have a *normal* life, at the worst moments wondering if I would live.

I was angry. It wasn’t fair.

I cried. Why me?

My breath was shallow, waiting for the other shoe to drop and what it would bring.

The concussion was minor. I healed in a week or less. But it left me rocked to the core, back in the hole I had crawled out of a decade earlier, lacking clarity.

2018 is drawing to a close as I write this bio. That crystal point sits on a bookshelf next to a bronze elephant incense burner I was given in high school, my grandmother’s delightful, pudgy, stylized pottery ram, the pink rose teapot Mom gave to my cousin for her wedding a year or so before my cousin died.

The crystal no longer saddens me, because it no longer represents me. Instead, it represents my journey. I have covered much interior territory to become the partner, mother and person I am today. My husband has too.

We share our home in Lafayette, Colorado with grade school-aged children, a dog and a bearded dragon. I began writing and through the process and my writing community, have gained greater clarity in my thoughts. Deep reflection – Crystal Reflecting – will bring me forward.