Detour Stories, Part VI (Day #56)

Posted in: Thinking Big

I still haven’t figured out what to do with all the detour stories I’m collecting.  I want to assemble them somehow, maybe make them printable.  I dunno.  But in the meantime, I’ve decided to keep sharing them.

As long as I have stories to post, Friday will be detour story day.  So if you haven’t sent me yours, please do!  I’d love to have enough to keep doing this until I reach Day #100.

Email them to lauren at embracingthedetour dot com or just use the contact form on the sidebar.   And if you want to read the stories that were posted during Embrace the Detour week, click HERE.  I’ll keep updating the page, which you can always access by clicking the Embrace the Detour Day button on the sidebar.

Wednesday’s House (1998-1999)

by Katie Sturm

This is possibly the hardest detour to capture, because it encompasses so many others.  At this point in my life, I still had no idea who I was, who I wanted to be, or anything even remotely looking like a plan.  I had made it back into school, was recovering from a truly difficult relationship, and found myself wondering aimlessly.  It was almost a neverending detour, and I kept reminding myself that not all who wander are lost.

I began healing in strange places.  The first was an old coffee shop that now no longer exists:

Wednesday’s House

From my house, you drove down San Vicente Blvd towards the ocean, then turned left on Fourth.  You took it over the 10 freeway, then turned right.  Drive past the bowling alley, then left again.  Drive down a bit, and there, on the left-hand side, was a small shopfront, complete with smoking tables outside.  You walked into the place, and were greeted by a couple tables and chairs, but then were assaulted by the clothing racks and second-hand goods for sale.  Walking up to the coffee bar, Jonathan waited to craft a perfectly brewed mocha – three shots, chocolate syrup in shapes on the top.  Grabbing the steaming mug of wonderful sweetness, you meandered back to the den of solace.

There were a few comfy couches – and by comfy, I mean that you were sucked into them to the point where I fell asleep numerous times.  Hanging on the walls were numerous velvet paintings – never a velvet Elvis, to be sure, but the one I bought at the end, it was a masterpiece of velvet darkness and swirling fabric and colours.

On Wednesday night, there was an open mic night, for all the budding singer-songwriters.  Over many weeks, these people would become my closest friends, fellow artists, and bohemian beloveds.  The music swelled around us like a symphony of pain and sorrow.  The joy of the dance erupted in spontaneous evenings of creative process.  Coffee flowed like wine, and our spirits worked together to create love and peace.  I was still in a state of darkness, wearing all black and red, chain smoking.  I spent time with my loved ones, enjoying company and commiseration.  Then the seizures started.

I didn’t understand at first.  I would get dizzy, then wake up to people looking at me like I had died.  Apparently I was experiencing grand mal seizures.  I remembered that the very first one had happened back in Oregon – during the troubled times – and that I had gone to the hospital.  I refused to go to the hospital again.  Instead, I went to a GP and had numerous scans and tests done.  I can remember staying up all night, fasting, no water, and going to have a “sleep-deprived-EEG” to see what was wrong with my brain.  And the result? Nothing.  Absolutely nothing physically wrong with me.  I was horrifically broken, with absolutely nothing to show for it.  I had no scars. I had no tumours.  I just apparently needed to go into horrifically terrifying blackouts in which my body would spasm and thrash about like it was being electrocuted.  And then the worst detour I could ever imagine happened.  I lost my driver’s license.

I had been doing road trips since the day I could drive.  Santa Barbara, Oregon, San Francisco, Berkeley, San Diego, Vegas.  I would drive almost anywhere.  For me, driving was freedom.  Driving was escape.  Driving was safety and solace and one quiet place where no one and nothing could take anything or anyone away from me.  I was safe in the driving seat and had more mix tapes than I could imagine for listening as I drove.  The only time I felt truly free was driving away.  We called it my gypsy spirit, but I needed to wander in order to wonder.  I needed to be driven, just as I was driving.

And all that was gone, taken away from me.

The doctor assumed it was residual trauma from either violence or a physical manifestation of PTSD.  We never once considered medicating it, there was no point.  I either would heal, or I would have seizures.  There were no other options.  In therapy, these were points that kept replaying in my head.  I’m extraordinarily grateful for the woman who worked with me during that time – for her role in helping me learn the roots of these things.

But I had lost my freedom, my life, and it felt as though everything I had ever loved and needed to survive hung in the balance.

I needed to learn to ask for help.  My friend Roger emerged as a true rescuer during this time.  He would pick me up every night, take me to Wednesday’s House, and wait for everything to be done, then he would take me home.  Occasionally I would bus down, but in general, Roger just took care of me.  I was unemployed for the first few months, and for a season, he just paid for everything for me.  I didn’t know how to receive, and kept promising to pay him back as soon as I could, but he always told me to pay it forward – that one day someone else would need the same thing from me.  And to this day, I keep paying that forward – buying someone coffee who needs it, driving people around from place to place, helping someone nervous and afraid keep sane and stable.

And I continued throwing myself into everything, trying to stave off the pain and desperation of failure, bondage, and fear.  I thought that the more I abandoned myself to the things of worldly life, the more I would come alive, but I found that it just brought more and more darkness.  I can remember dating the most inappropriate guys, and being completely unable to commit and connect with the one other person who treated me like royalty.

I still have a crystal clear memory of him – Patrick.  Joyful, full of vivacity and laughter.  One of the only people on the planet I trusted enough to write music with.  And the day of my last final, Patrick picked me up in his car, and he had moved the swanky uber-massage seat cover to the passenger seat.  He took me out for burritos and told me that he thought I was amazing.  And I trusted him – but I couldn’t believe those words at the time.

This detour that I was in, this time of utter dependence on the kindness of strangers who had become neighbours, then gradually friends, was too much.  Too painful.  Because it made me see how broken and weak I truly was.  I wanted to be independent and strong, but instead learned that I was incapable and literally a spaz.

I decided during this time to record an album.  I began writing songs that might one day tell the story of what I had been through, but it seemed a fruitless journey.  I was still wondering and wandering aimlessly.  I had lost my soul in Oregon, and had no idea how to find it again.

I was clean from drugs, which was a start.  But I couldn’t seem to remember who I was.  I didn’t want to remember God, because it hurt too much to think of his abandonment of me.  I couldn’t understand why all the things that had seemed to matter to me had been stripped away and taken from me.  And I was heart-breakingly alone, mainly by my own choice.  I spiralled further and further into darkness, and couldn’t seem to emerge.

Then, one day, we received word that Wednesday’s House was having to close.  It was the end of an era.  The end of a circle of friends whose pictures and memories will never leave me.  The very last photos of those days remind me of a laughter that somehow penetrated the deepest darkness and feelings of helplessness that I can remember.  My memories of that place fade over time, but the heart of Wednesday’s House never will leave me.

Because of that place, I know that there will always be a place of love and beauty.  There is a hope that love and harmony flow out of the symphony of the universe, from the great Composer.  And above all, that not all who wander are lost…at least not forever.

(Katie’s life has been filled with difficult detours, but they’ve brought her to a beautiful new detour in Ireland.  Check out her blog, Falling Forward Into Grace.  Her posts are meaty, reflective and wise. This one is no exception (and no, it’s not one of my favorites because it mentions me.  It’s one of my favorites because, as usual, Katie is spot on).

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by Sharon Leevy

Courage was: moving across the country with my 1 ½ year old daughter (and separating from my husband) to a city where I didn’t know a soul. It was divorcing a man I thought I knew, thought I loved, but could no longer trust anymore. It was moving across the country again so that my daughter could see her father on a regular basis. It was moving back across the country to be near family after her father left the country to avoid paying child support. It was forgiving him for abandoning her and leaving me in financial ruin.

Courage is: raising my almost 7 year old daughter on my own and looking back at the past with surprise at how fast it has gone and how strong I have become. It is waking up each day with a thankful heart for my good health, my daughter’s good health, and for the blessing of owning my very own home. It is looking toward the future with a smile, knowing that no matter what comes my way, I will make it through. We all find courage deep down, when we need it the most, although at times we don’t feel we can take another step or live another day. We are stronger than we think we are.

(Sharon’s blog is only open to friends and family, so I was honored that she sent me this post and was willing to let me post it here on ETD. No matter what the detour, embracing it takes courage. Sharon has that in spades.)


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