Suggested music accompaniment to this post: Eminem & Rihanna “Love the Way You Lie” – Instrumental with Hook (thanks to 2010EminemRecovery on YouTube)

Monday, February 12, 2007:

Death by fire. I dream of dying in a burst of flames. Searing heat traveling from my feet, up my legs, swirling around me. I throw my head back to see a black sky scattered with stars, extinguished by a cloud of white smoke. It’s just burning, just a sensation, deep heat, just heat, only heat. A full scream, unrecognizable as my own; the pain rises to a final precipice.

Hot, dry, release. My soul purified by fire—a quick, dramatic death, nothing left but ash. The antithesis of my life. By day, I barely tread water, barely keep afloat. Perpetually behind, perpetually overwhelmed, stuck in a whirlpool going round, round, and around. Life by drowning.

Laying in bed, startled awake by the flames, my breath shallow, my heart racing, I throw off the covers to feel cold air flow across my sweat-soaked body and stare through the darkness at shadows haunting the ceiling. My mind returns to the safety of my bedroom, my husband’s even breathing beside me, my penchant for analysis. How does one interpret dreaming of death by fire? Past life: witch.

Then, as I relax into the present, it happens: my head fills with nervous thoughts: worry. Once turned on, the engine of my brain accelerates ahead. Work. Money. Lagging tasks. Unfulfilled commitments. Inadequate excuses.

My husband stirs in his sleep, prompting me to stealthily slink from our bed and navigate my way around furniture and into my office down the hall. Closing the door quietly, I awaken my computer and sit down facing it. What to do at 3am?

There is a yearning deep inside me, stretching from my very core; an angst. I want to write. But, I don’t. Seven years of university education in English Rhetoric, twenty-five grand in student loans, countless writing assignments, but I don’t write—not what I yearn to write. I write empty words to fulfill other people’s desires: marketing materials, corporate newsletters, website copy…all submerging my will to write my own story.

The glare of the blank white screen offends my eyes. What if I just started writing and didn’t stop—surrendering to the story? I picture myself seated comfortably, long after midnight, a cat asleep beside me, my fingers effortlessly tapping out word after beautiful word onto the glowing screen. My mind fearlessly opening to the page, revealing my deepest thoughts faster than I can type them. What would I say?

I open a blank document and sit with fingers poised over the keys. I could write about my inability to write: ironic…or pathetic? How do writers lay themselves bare—covered only by words, exposing their innermost thoughts to the world? Like peeling back their skin with a can opener and revealing the bloody inner core for all to scrutinize. If the sculptor’s chisel reveals their art, how many layers must I peel away to reveal my story? Raw, naked, exposed. They say, “The truth will set you free”. Or get you into a shitload of trouble.

My baby girl cries from the next room and I’m up like a shot to her bedside. Untangling her from the covers, I tuck her back in, and head back to my own bed. Distracted again—the story of my life.

Phoenix Slouching
Preface: Birth of a Story
Life by Fire Book logo.

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