The Scars Make the Lakes and Mountains: A Story and Poem By Author Andrea Sheldon
There's never an “introduction” that I feel is worthy of the story that follows.
It always falls short, but every time I’ve tried not to. That I’ve opted out, I feel that I am (be it selfish) missing out on what drew me to it, to this “heart talk,” in the first place.
And maybe what brings you here, too.
As we all show up for different reasons. We all gravitate towards the words we need to hear and conversations yearning to be had, in that very moment and on that very day. You can’t explain it, it just is; that little (or often times not so little) aching void is now filled and comforted through the words of another. Words that might have already been there, we just needed a gentle nudge or little reminder to make room enough for them to come to the surface.
But it takes time. It takes time and patience and forgiveness to build a loving relationship with ourselves. With how we feel most comfortable sharing our story, and though we have no control over how our voice is absorbed, showing up, even if it’s in the pages of a journal no one but yourself will read, is enough; when we show up in this way, unveiling our heart and our thoughts to the world, it’s a gift like no other gift. It’s lasting a connection, community, understanding, togetherness, and wholeness.
So, the words may fall short of what we hoped them to be, but that doesn’t mean that it’s worth is somehow less, as our worth is something we get to decide, and I thank you, Andrea, for reminding me, for reminding us all, of just that.
Here is her story.
For so long I shied away from sharing my story.
I told myself I couldn't find the words. I told myself nobody would relate. And I told myself my story had already been written by others. I'd visit the More Than Lyme blog and read other people's stories and felt bolstered by the shared experience, and at the same time left out on the fringes as if the community was closed to me. As an introvert who is also terribly shy, I didn't know how to connect, to reach out. I became fearful of trying after becoming so isolated from the world around me, as friends stopped relating to the pain I was in, as they defined me by the disease, I started to define myself in the same way - by my lack, by the pain and isolation, by the trauma. I love reading everyone else's stories, and still feel that mine is somehow invalidated - that I always have words until it comes to this chapter - the lyme chapter. I stand in frozen terror. I want to take my power back, to take my story back, to connect, to change the narrative.
I’ve written a book of poetry. It is called Hunter, Gatherer. It is complete. The artwork is done. The editing is done. The idea for the cover design is formed but there has been no follow through. Some days the pain and fatigue get in the way, but not always. Mostly, I stand in my own way. Afraid to move forward. Afraid to reach out beyond myself. I’ve become so accustomed to the inertia of this illness that some days I wonder if my body aches out of habitual pain. And I wonder, how can I move forward from here? How can I stretch my spirit?
I drew Hunter, Gatherer together from a patchwork of poetry from my youth onwards through the years of undiagnosed pain, fear, illness and added new writing, new poetry about how I’ve experienced my body, my power or lack thereof, and my relationships with the world around me. In the process of doing so, I had moments where I was free from identifying with my dis-ease. Where I was just a writer, writing. A creator, creating. Doing what I came here to do. At other times I’d go through another flare of symptoms, the fatigued would set in like thick fog and I’d suffocate. Unable to think. Unable to create. They were dark days indeed, because I’d grieve all over again the life I’ve had to let go of. The life I could have had. During those dark days I become harsh with myself about my limited capabilities, the speed at which I could hope to complete my projects. And the perfectionist in me pipes up to remind me how far I’ve fallen behind my peers, both in the arts and in healing. As if either could possibly be a race.
I often have a remind myself I finished the book. I completed my project. And though it is currently sitting coverless in my documents, I am getting there. I am getting back to it, after a long flare lasting several months. I’m opening up to the poetry in my heart again. There is a lightness there. The slower pace of my journey gives me a chance to open my eyes, look up, look around, really see the world around me. And I can see that it is such a luxury in today’s world.
I’ve been drawing my focus away from isolation as loneliness, away from identifying with pain, and into using the pain as I use all experience when I identify with my art and writing. I've been using the isolation to connect with my deepest self, to fall in love with my self again, and find my worth blooming from the inside. I've removed the word ambition from my vocabulary when it comes to my wellness practices as well as my art.
And by removing ambition as much as possible, I'm learning to play again.
I'm coming into my heart, into my compassion, into my art. Perhaps this is why I'm beginning to reach out again. I'm finding that through creative play I'm cultivating the self-love and self-worth that I'd lost as I became essentially disabled in an ableist world. I'm no longer defining myself or allowing myself to be defined by outer standards. Compassion and play are making me whole again as I look at my life as a whole process rather than focussing on the broken pieces. The scars make the lakes and mountains. The scars are life.
into the blue
Into the blue mist
of ancient mountains
monstrosities that lie
from the distance.
Those hazy blues,
those lazy hues,
in the spring
where magpies perch
way way away up
the blossoming limbs
of trees I cannot name.
And I curse my ailing body
when I long to climb high
up above the streets and
the houses, the cars and
the people in their best
Thursday threads because
I'd love to observe from
above in the mind of a
sulphur crested cockatoo
who flew too close to the sun.
But I'm so weak from the fall.
From the tumble through
the blue mist that's only blue
from a distance. And you
can keep your illusions
if that's what you'd prefer,
but I've seen the true colours
of ancient monstrosities
as I fell to them,
as I fell through them.
As I was buried from within
and watched in my wake
the illusions we cling to
because hypocrisy feels
so much safer than truth.
is a writer and artist healing late-stage neuro-borrelliosis and co-infections.
Her work orbits themes of chronic illness, solitude, womanhood, spirituality, mortality, mysticism, and mythos.
Andrea was born in Montreal, Canada and is currently based in a small town outside of Perth, Australia with her husband, Sandy, and their blue cattle dog named Cohen. When she isn’t tucked away in a room of her own absorbed in her latest project, you can find her eating plants and walking with Cohen on the beach.
Her debut book of poetry “Hunter, Gatherer” is a journey inwards, exploring the experience of pain and illness, violence and abuse, love and loss, belonging and alienation as a young woman learns to claim her power and emerge from the flames transformed. You can connect with her on instagram @andreasheldon_ as well as @gaiaspiritmedicine.
Hunter, Gatherer. A book of poetry by Andrea Sheldon
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