Guest Post by Heidi Fischbach

March 5th, 2010

Stories. Ooof!

Don't get me wrong. I love a good story as much as the next girl. Also, I'm not talking here of wonderful books or stories I see on the big screen.

No. I'm talking about certain stories that run in my mind and keep me from moving about with ease. The kind that put kinks in my back and pains in my neck. Oof!

Oftentimes these are stories that I've been telling for some kind of forever, and over the years, what with all the things I’ve gathered as supposéd evidence and exhibits a - z for these stories, some of them tend to get rather heavy.

I'm also not necessarily talking of stories that leave me sad, because, truth be told I don't mind me some straight-up-sad from time to time. At all: a good cry can clear my heart of clutter, not to mention draining my sinuses, which is not a bad thing these days.

The heaviest stories tend to be old. I might have started telling them when I was a kid. Maybe I even took them over from where my parents or grandparents left them off.

I know I'm in the presence of a heavy story when the canvas of my future feels like it's been washed in doom, and any paint I splash takes on a hue of hopeless.

This winter, an old and heavy story has come to my awareness for some loving. It is long and convoluted and in need of fresh eyes, not to mention an editor who is unafraid to discard anything that doesn't serve what would otherwise be a lovely life plot. I will spare you the details—you're welcome! Don’t mention it—and cut to the gist: "I have a hard time."

Oof-stories have no respect for grammar and so my succinct little 5-word sentence very quickly runs into, "and I have always had a hard time." And then, not to leave out the future, “and I will always have a hard time.”

End of story. Except for how it tends to repeat and go all Star Wars prequel-sequel on me.  Sure, my characters get new names, the numbers in the year flip over, the costumes get changed up, but at some point I notice this story is pretty much following heavily tread and tired mental pathways.

Let me save you time and tell you a few things that do not work on an old oof-story:  bitch-slapping it and trying to make it shape up (it will so mock you behind your back and then sneak down to the kitchen for icecream or drinks in the middle of the night); trying to make it go away (oof stories have serious staying power); going all Spanish Inquisition on it (it can smell your agenda to get rid of it a mile away and tends to stick its chin out protectively); calling in the white light brigades to banish darkness (yes, it might go hide in the closet for the afternoon, but watch out at 3 a.m. Booo!). Even what otherwise can be wonderful practices like prayer and meditation have a way of not working when done with the motive of getting rid of a story.

I started noticing my hard-time story sometime in January, and yes, proceeded to have myself a very hard time about it. Crying, hopeless, insomnia…

And then I called in my favorite superhero, Curiosity, and while he didn’t go all vanquish-the-darkness like other big guns might, things have been shifting.

A few things about my superhero. Curiosity can be oh-so-subtle or orange-bright. He looks different at different times, and yes, sometimes she wears a cape. (And, in case you didn’t notice, she really doesn’t get tripped up about pronouns or gender: he, she, it, whatever.)

Curiosity is never pushy, which doesn’t mean she doesn’t stick with an assignment. She is kind but not at all nicey-nice fake. She will never say something just to make me feel better.

Curiosity also has a kick-ass and irreverent sense of humor. I have yet to find something he doesn’t get me laughing about at some point. (Without ever tickling or poking fun, because that’s just mean, and he doesn’t roll that way).

And when I cry, she is there with the towels, or answering the door to let in friends bringing blankets and flashlights for dark times.

The best part about Curiosity is that it has no agenda other than being curious. Even in the face of a part of me that feels desperate and in a hurry, Curiosity opens its eyes, has a calm Clint-Eastwood-ish look around and without missing a beat rolls up his sleeves and gets on with his reconnaissance.

Thing 1 that Curiosity helps me with is noticing. Especially with old oof-stories noticing is key. Curiosity looks at a thing just as it is, without prettying it up, and without making it worse than it is. Straight up truth without bush-beating.

With my hard-time story, this went something like: yes, I had my first panic attack when I was 10. Yes, I swallowed pills when I was 26. Yes… yes…

Invariably, doing this has the effect of giving me some welcome distance from my ooof story, helping me see that IT is not me. Or in the least, it is not all of me. How can I know? Because I’m noticing it, which means something bigger and wider than IT is here. Sure, the story plays out on the screen of my mind, expressing its plot and feelings in the body of me—images in my mind’s eye, stiffness in my jaw, a sore neck… But now something greater and wider than IT is noticing. And that, dear visitor of my friend Leah’s blog, is big. BIG.

And then Curiosity dons his editor cap and says, “Um, Heidi, that part right there, can you rewind that for a sec? Let’s look at that scene again, right about the part where you are also 10 and your dad is teaching you to dive off the rocks at the lake in Lican Ray. Awww, would you look at you. Gosh but it sure does look like you’re having a good time. And oh my but does your dad look proud…”

And so it goes with the editing of the “always had” part. And today it looks like we’ll have a look at the word “again,” which is seriously overused in most hard-time stories.

As you can see, this oof story has not left, at least not entirely. But it’s changing. And who knows, maybe one of these days the final cut will be released, and when it is, don’t be surprised when the opening credit reads: “To Curiosity, my hero. With love.”


Heidi Fischbach is a massage therapist, writer and potion-mixer. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can visit her at Heidi’s Table, where she and her aardvark business buddy make their virtual home. She looks forward to traveling and writing stories, with or without a hard time.

15 Responses

very nice post

Oh yes, the movie screen in the head, the title usually revolving around the theme “school of hard knocks”… it is all quite familiar. I love how you introduced curiosity as a player in your minds eye films. Thanks for sharing.

This was such a great post and so true to all of us – the Oof-Stories do take on a life of their own sometimes.

I love this Curiosity-as-bi-gendered superhero metaphor. I love this whole post, really. The thing about being good at writing “oof-stories” is you’re also really good at writing yourself into “oh-la-la” ones.

This is a lovely post, so honest and real. And I did notice, yes I did, that the title “writer” was attached to your description. Uh-huh, absolutely!

Heidi, Heidi…What a delight you are! You made me laugh a lot. I totally get you and this story business and the replaying. Right now I’m replaying a story of an injury inflicted on my by my best friend from high school and college because the wound that never healed has been ripped opened by so-called adult friends who unknowingly to them inflicted fresh wounds. How old am I? Way, way past college and high school by decades. But the stories play on (I won’t bore you with the plot). I keep trying to shut down the screen. But they seem to have a mind of their own. Thank you for letting me know that there is someone else in the same theater. :-)

I love thinking of curiosity as a superhero! Thank you for reminding me that when I’m being curious, something bigger than me (it) is in play – that always helps.

What an amazing image! It reminds us how those oof stories can distort history. Perhaps we can learn to look at them again through fresh eyes.

[...] find out on Leah Piken Kolidas' Creative Every Day blog, where I wrote a guest post about my favorite superhero… This entry was written by Heidi Fischbach, posted on 6 March, 2010 at , and filed under [...]

What you are describing is depression and anxiety, and it is the anxiety that first brings on the panic and then it all whirls like a vortex into what is depression. I know about this quite well. Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication can help change this picture in your mind and help you to see what IT really is, and to see the REAL you, the one who deserves love and respect and tenderness, the one that God loves infinitely “no matter what”. You write about what I know so well. I might add that a good “extra” to the CBT and medication is a good massage done about 2x a month. Helps ease the pain out of the body. And depression causes the whole body to be in so much pain. And makes it sleepless and miserable. Of course, I don’t know if you have depression, I just know you have written a great description of what it is like for those of us who live with it. I no longer “always have a hard time”. I’m not cured, but I have learned what I need to do and what it is. But you put it into words so beautifully, I can feel your pain myself.

@kelly !! bigendered superhero! hadn’t thought of it that way, but oh my, you made me laugh! And yes too on being able to write about the hard stuff means I can then write about the good stuff. They seem very much related.

I’m so happy you all could relate to the story-telling thing ;) And laugh with me. Because yes, the hard stuff does also bring me to laughter. Eventually pretty much always.

[...] observation, the poetry, (the curiosity as my friend Heidi calls it)…that was the way out for [...]

I love the idea of our helper traits being super heroes! I’m gonna have to check and see what super heroes might be hanging out around me.

[...] Curiosity is a frighteningly insightful dude. Most of the time he doesn't even have to say anything at all, although he does have this one eyebrow that ventures up ever so slightly when he doesn't quite buy something. But his eyes are always kind and oftentimes they twinkle. And, as you probably know, he's my favorite superhero for the hard stuff. [...]

[...] observation, the poetry, (the curiosity as my friend Heidi calls it)–that was the way out for [...]

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