The Elephant in My Head

I’m trying to push through some wicked writer’s block by, ummm, writing.  Novel idea, eh?

So.  Here I am.  Writing. 

Anyway, ya,  I’ve got nothing.

Which seems pretty fucking unusual given the  Week of Very Bad Shit I Can’t Control I’ve just been through.

Strange things must be afoot….

It seems likely that there is some big stuff that would like to be written about, or at least seriously acknowledged, around here (i.e., in my head)  Like, for example, the “I’m scared!”-ness, the “Life will never be the same”-thing, and, the ever present, “I’m totally not ready for my Mom to die”-sadness.

My guess is that those things — which are very big, very scary and very strong — are dying to get out. But they aren’t.   So whatever is stopping them in their tracks must be a big ass powerful thing.  It doesn’t feel Godzilla-like, i.e., big and evil with a bad temper and a taste for human flesh.  It feels more like an elephant.  Big, powerful and stubborn, but unlikely to go on a killing spree.

I guess if Iwant it to move, and I totally do, I’m going to have to talk to it.  This should be interesting:

“Hello Elephant, I couldn’t help but notice that your big ass is in the way…”

Me: “WTF?  I’ve got some serious, life-changing shit going on and I need to write about it.  You need to move.”

Elephant:  “Look how cute you are, trying to talk to me.  Maybe you haven’t noticed how big I am.  I’m very big, and very comfortable where I am — right between you and your keyboard and/or pen.  Do you have any Diet Coke?”

Me:  You’re an elephant, you don’t drink Diet Coke.  Stop trying to distract me.  I want you to move.

Elephant: “You do know that I’m not a real elephant, don’t you?  Well…let me clarify that, I’m very real,  I’m just not an actual pachyderm living in your head.”

Me: “Don’t patronize me.  I’m fully aware that there is not, in fact, a real, live elephant  inside my head.  I’m not crazy…”

Elephant: “Dare I point out that you are writing about a conversation you are having with some part of yourself that you “picture” as a benevolent but stubborn elephant living in your head?”

Me:  “Point taken.  Can we talk about why you are here?  And by “here” I mean between me and my creative genius.”

Elephant:  “That seems fairly obvious.  I don’t want you to write.  If you start writing anything, it will turn into something about  what is going on with your Mom, that is a fact.  If you start writing about that mess, you will start thinking about the things you have been too scared to think about, and that will make you upset, uncomfortable and probably miserable-like.  Why would I let you go through that?  I would rather maintain the status quo of bouncing along the surface of all things scary, sad and remotely related to grief.  No writing.  It is the safest thing to do. ” 

Me: “Oh, so you aren’t just another asshole elephant trying to thwart my Brilliant Writing Career?”

Elephant: “First of all, dear, there are very few elephants who are total assholes.  We are complicated creatures though, and, I admit that sometimes we don’t clearly say what we want or where we came from.  In which case, yes, one might conclude that a particular elephant is an asshole.  Second, I’m not an asshole.  I’m just an elephant who is worried that if you open the door to writing at all then a whole tsunami of stuff will push through and overwhelm you and sweep you off your feet and carry you away with no hope of finding the ground again. Am I getting through to you that this could be a Very Bad Thing?   Better to avoid it altogether.”

Me:  “I understand that you are a worried elephant.  I hear that you are afraid that I will lose myself if I try to look at any of the stuff that comes up around Mom’s situation.  That is a valid fear.  This kind of stuff did overwhelm me and I did lose myself and my ground for a very long time.  And it was a Very Bad Thing.  Thinking about it happening again is super scary.  Thank you for trying to protect me.”

Elephant:  “It’s my job.”

That was Then, this is Now.

Me:  “It was your job Then, but this is Now and a lot of things are different.  I’m stronger now.  I found the ground again.  I know now that not looking at the scary things makes them more scary and living with that scary-ness and constant vigilance is really bad for me.  I get depressed.  And depression steals me away from myself.  I don’t want that to happen again.  So, trying to look at all the scary things at once and letting it flood over me is Bad.  Ignoring the scary things is also Bad.  We need a new strategy.”

Elephant:  “I’m not comfortable with change.  I don’t know how to not worry.  Your crazy-talk is scaring me.”

Me:  “I know.  Change is hard.  Not-worrying is hard.  I know you can do it though.  How about this for a strategy – I will start writing again – because I need to, it’s the best way for me to work things out – and I will be super-careful about how much scary stuff I address/think about at once.  AND, I will be ninja-aware of threats to my well-being.  AND, I will do everything in my power to protect myself, even when that means I have to say scary stuff like “No, I’m sorry, I can’t do X” or, even more scary, “I need help!” or “I need to be alone, and I totally don’t want to explain why.”

Elephant:  “Do you really think you can do that stuff?  Those kinds of things have been hard for you in the past.”

Me: “Yes, I think I finally value myself enough to make taking care of me a priority.  It does feel strange, but it also feels right.  And, ummm, non-negotiable.”

Elephant:  “You’ve changed.  I’m glad.  I will cooperate, but I’m going to be right here if you need me.  Trying to not-worry.”

Me:  “Thank you.  I will be careful, I promise.”

The End.

So, that is the plan.  Thanks for all your support!



p.s.  Mom had brain surgery Thursday.  Just got out of Neuro ICU yesterday.  It is rough going.  Her right arm and leg were totally paralyzed after the surgery, today she had a little movement in her right arm.  Yay for a little progress!  There have been some cognitive issues – generally around speech, but those seem to be resolving themselves over time.  Not surprisingly, Mom is having a hard time emotionally, especially as she becomes more aware of the issues she is facing, on top of the ongoing concern re: the disruption in her ovarian cancer (which is alive and well in a big, painful tumor in her abdomen) treatment regimen.  We are trying to take things one day at a time.




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6 responses to “The Elephant in My Head

  1. Thanks for addressing the Scared Elephant in all of us – well, at least in me — I’m sending love and hugs to you, your Mom, your family….

  2. I think that dialogue assignment/avoidance has given you just the tool you needed to take the leap.
    May you (Kim, Kimmy, Kimberly, & the elephant) continue to find the light of your true nature and let it shine.

  3. Sue T

    Thank you for writing this. This post made me thnk about the sources of my guilt about my Mom, which is always available, although typically hiding; and the things I did well, too, which are a little harder to remember. If I had it to do again, rather than writing it all at the time (couldn’t have, it was too close), I would have written notes to myself like: “Remember when you did this [wonderful thing] for your Mom” and “Remember why you chose to not do [a particular something] for her you thought you should at the time, and [why you chose] and [what was the guilty feeling].”
    I just wish I had that list now, now that I’m ready to write about those things. I think my time with her during her last years was a gift, but reconstructing that list is a much harder way to understand the gift and what I’m meant to do about it.
    Happy to hear you have lots of family around.
    Kim, love and blessings to you and your Mom.

    • kim


      I think what is important to remember is that we all do the best we can at the time. I completely understand being too overwhelmed to write about things as they happen — this writing is very new for me as I turned away from myself for years and felt too exhausted/overwhelmed/sad to even pick up a pen and write. There are so many things that I think I “should” be doing right now for my Mom, and only a few things that I can actually manage to do. In fact I woke up with a wicked migraine today and haven’t made it to the hospital yet and I am feeling a ridiculous amount of anxiety and guilt about not being there, even though I know, for a fact, that she is having a good day. Anyway, Sue, I don’t think you need to reconstruct what happened with your sweet mom, just write from where you are now and be loving towards the you that took care of her mom and then lost her. She needs you to appreciate her and love her even if she made “mistakes”.

      Big Big Hugs!

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