“Sometimes I feel like a tiny island, floating in the sea……..”
Today is the 77th birthday of one of my favorite guitarists, the inimitable Leo Kottke. And on such a day, I figured I would write a bit, and center it on a theme of a song he had on a record called Greenhouse 50 years ago, a cover of an Al Gaylor song called Tiny Island.
In my mind, I often find myself stranded on tiny islands. Feeling like I am stranded in a place where the only person I truly have is myself, a place hundreds of miles from those I love and cherish. A place where dark clouds and stormy gales are moving in, and I can do nothing but watch, and maybe put my hands over my head and curl into a ball for protection, if I can think clear enough to do so. And I write to you this day, September 11, 2022 from one of those sun-baked and lonesome islands in my head.
These tiny islands manifest themselves as feelings of smallness, forgottenness and abandonment, and feeling as though I’ve been placed on the shelf to collect dust. I know where this stems from. When I was 7 years old, I lost my mother, Nancy, at the all-too-young age of 44. My rock, my safe harbor from life’s great storms. The solid ground I walked on as a child. My sunlight and the North Star in my sky at night. Gone. At the all-too-young age of 7, I had this first taste of loneliness, forgottenness and smallness. And it’s a taste that has only grown more bitter to me over the long arc of time.
In the 18+ years since that day, I have been fighting those feelings tooth and nail. And like kudzu, they spread, wrapping their choking vines around friendships, relationships, creative partnerships, etc. Always feeling like I’m one comment or missed call away from a dissolution of said friendship, relationship or creative partnership. Always walking on eggshells with my view on certain things within my creative work or elsewhere. Going down dark rabbit holes and snapping off at people I love and care about, because I feel they are forgetting me. Being too clingy and overbearing, and slowly having those things drive a wedge between the folks I love and care about. Always having hellish and insanely unrealistic scenarios about friends and loved ones. Fearing I will wake up to bad news about someone I love and cherish. Feeling 50,000 pounds on my chest when someone I love and cherish does have bad news in their lives, knowing I can’t physically be there to help. Projecting my fears and concerns on those around me, and my mind trying to pin those fears onto those around me, and trying to paint them in a bad way. People pleasing. Losing sleep. Backsliding in my mental health. Shutting down. The loneliness and need to feel accepted has cost me dearly, and very nearly cost me everything a couple of times.
But, on those tiny islands I find myself on, I am finding something I’d not noticed before now: Bottles washing up on the shore with messages inside them. Messages of folks relating their experiences to mine. Messages of love, hope, care, and help. Messages of support. Messages I desperately needed to hear. I have had it in my head for so long that I and only I could fight my way off these islands and swim to help, even though the waters are infested with sharks and the waves are high and whitecapped. But I am no longer alone in these struggles. I finally have a viable, healthy and loving support system in the many who have stepped up to help me in my fight, including one Em Farwell, one of the founders of this very site. In these kind, loving, sweet and wonderful people, I have a team who are willing and ready to roll up their sleeves and chop wood and help me build a boat to sail off these islands with, toward calmer waters and islands with my friends and loved ones on them.
Though it doesn’t come without those friends having a healthy dose of patience and VERY long fuses. Even with the support team, I still find myself having to weather storms that move in. I have to sometimes encounter parts of my path forward that are flooded. I have to sometimes cope with the fact that my torch lighting my way gets put out due to the rain and wind. But at least I have these friends to turn to when storm fronts move in over me. In their friendship, kindness, patience, love and understanding, I have a home with impenetrable and unbreakable walls. I have a home where the bonds are strong, the love runs deep and has solid roots, the foundation is sturdy, and the roof over my head provides cover from all that life may throw at me. Sincerely grateful am I, for these people that are willing to share my experience and help me in my journey, and are not afraid of getting rained on and getting battered by the wind at times.
I hope this blog has inspired you to reach out and find your team that will be a home to you, and will be boat-builders and shelters from the storm in your life!
Much love, all the best, and may God richly bless,