POWERLESS: DEFINING IT ONE LOOP AT A TIME
BY: TAMI HARPER WINN
Have you ever stepped off an amusement ride and felt the feeling of Pop Rocks exploding the taste of vomit in your mouth with the feeling of sparklers flashing within your brain combined with the feeling you get when you first step off a treadmill, like the world is still moving? There I was stepping off the largest rollercoaster at Disneyland where I had been just fine until that last upside down loop with all of those feelings rushing me. It was the complete description of what my life had felt like these last few weeks manifesting itself in a physical form. I was completely powerless on this crazy train called life and I’d never felt more alive than I did at that very moment. I had no control over one thing in my life except how I responded to it.
I am only hours away from my home town of Las Vegas as I begin writing this. I have swept through a wave of emotions within a two-week time frame and there is no doubt that it will be crashing down all around me very shortly. For now, I feel as if I am on autopilot. I am sitting on the lawn chair near the pool outside the hotel we are currently staying at near Disneyland in California. Fear threatens to consume me if I even stop for just one second. I know today that it is the disease of my alcoholism talking to me, feeding me its cunning lies. I breathe and feel the warm Anaheim air envelop me.
I am transported in thought to just a day prior. I am on my way to California and we stop to see my best friend Tricia. Just few short days before, a terrible tragedy ripped through my hometown. The street that I am driving on, Las Vegas Blvd., was lined with bodies. Now, seeing the ghostly sway of the curtains in the wind as they flowed from the shattered windows of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino sent a chill down my spine and stirred me to nearly vomit. I choke back the feeling as beside me my precious daughter of only eighteen years sobs uncontrollably. The chilling feeling that the residue of evil was splattered all over this very ground we walked upon was all most too much for either of us to bear. All around us were FBI agents and their trucks, shrouds to block the view from the streets into what the media now called the “killing fields” where over 500 people had been the victim of a madman’s vicious death dance less than three days ago, and memorials lining the streets - resurrected to honor those struck down in cold blood. The scene smelled like the acid of bitter pain-filled tears and shattered dreams. So much to comprehend. I feel so small, so powerless.
The faint smell of the fires burning in the not so far off distance snaps me back to my present place in life, beside this pool. I dip my toes, sip my Coca Cola, and lean back. The stars above me are infinite, even surrounded by all these bright lights, it is crystal clear. I am but a grain of salt on the beaches of the universe. Who am I to think I can ever make a dent in this world?
It is thoughts like this that can keep a recovered alcoholic from living free. It keeps us condemned to the cyclical pattern of self abuse. On the one hand I am looking at the rhinestone Mickey ring and remembering that tomorrow I will be leaving the world of today behind for the make-believe world of Walt Disney, in the other I am only minutes away from devastating fires that are ripping through the hills at alarming rates and taking homes and lives with it. In one hand I have the beautiful tender moments of a being with old friends for a class reunion in Las Vegas and in the other hand a stranger tearing through the hearts of all of us in my own hometown. In one hand I am getting ready to give my daughter to my higher power to help others and in the other I am letting the last child I have raised leave home with me left alone. Life seems balanced if I look at it that way. It just doesn’t feel that way. Because with each beautiful moment, it stands in the shadow of a very brutal truth – the truth that am utterly and completely powerless over everything and everyone in my life.
I have waited all my life for the day to not have the responsibilities of raising children, only to see that day come and realize that’s not what I wanted at all. I then stood waiting for over a month for a letter to come that would decide the fate of my daughters next two years of her life and realized that maybe I wasn’t as prepared for this as I thought I was. That day was here. With a world so filled with hate and hurt, with uncertainty and evil, with natural disasters coming in at alarming rates I am now going to give my precious child away to it, to serve an LDS mission. Her prayer is that she will touch others lives in a positive way and offer others an opportunity for hope in the world I just described. I reek of powerlessness.
Now as I swirl my toes in the warm water poolside, I make the decision to end the day. I stand as puddles of water form around my feet. Hell, I’m even powerless over gravity. I hang my head and sigh. Is this what defeat feels like? I search my mind for distant memories of a time when I felt similar to this. I couldn’t find them, but I did find times that I consider worse. So I shrug it off. Years ago I would already be passed out in a drunken stupor trying to run away from these feelings. Today, I get to experience each and every one of them.
I say a small prayer and head out the gate back to my room. I slip in quietly so as not to wake my daughter and my best friend. I snuggle up in bed beside my not-so-little angel anymore and lay my head on my pillow. Just before dozing off I have a thought that brings a sprinkle of fairy dust to my eyes and a smile. I am sober. I am laying down, in Anaheim California with my daughter, preparing to celebrate her and her achievements in a very exciting way. Everyone I love is accounted for and healthy. I am safe, fed, clothed, loved, and needed. I am blessed.
So, maybe life is like the rollercoaster at Disneyland. Maybe it can fill you with anticipation and anxiety at the same time. Maybe it can fill your blood with adrenaline and make you feel more alive than you could imagine. Maybe it can fill you with such fear that you believe you are going to die. Just maybe it will crash you one way, then another, and without warning do it all over again. Maybe you catch a loop or two and in the process feel completely sick. When it is over, if you survive, you will walk away with a newfound appreciation of it. You will stand amazed at what you just experienced. Maybe life is just as magical as Disneyland and as real as life outside its gates. Maybe you were always meant to experience both worlds. Maybe you were meant to feel powerless to get the full effect of the ride you were on. Well, isn’t that a crazy thought?
I kiss her forehead and head off to Never Never Land.
~ Tami Harper Winn ~
The story written here is solely the work of the author’s. Any use or reproduction of this article is prohibited without written consent of the author or credit to the author.