Happy Halloween!

Dear reader,

Here’s a good little read for Halloween…


Water rises. I careen toward the bridge beneath which, not a moment ago, water raged, and where is the bridge now? A line of sweat forms at my hairline, trickles into my eyes, stings my eyes. I talk to the bridge, Please be intact, I say, as I gun the engine. River rages, swirls, scrubs the planks as if to erase the bridge’s memory. Bridge jabs back at me with a bony finger, much like an ancient grandparent would, You should never cross a bridge in a flood, it admonishes, as if it has experienced this kind of thing before, and it has. 

Weirdly, bits of Simon and Garfunkel float like water on the brain. “Like a bridge over troubled–” Well, you know.  

The song will not leave me alone. “…I will lay me down.” Well, let me tell you something, Simon and Garfunkle, this chick isn’t ready to lay herself down yet, so go trouble someone else’s friggin’ waters.

Before. Yet. Past. Future. Neither matters for the Now I’m in.

For reasons I cannot explain, I don’t dare back out of the canyon, back up that long hill to where strangers warned us not to cross.

“Don’t do it,” they’d said. “Happens fast, Stay here. Hunker down.”

“Drive!” someone familiar urges from the seat next to me.

Observers sit wordless in the row behind me and why are they silent? Why do they stare? I know they stare because I feel it. Go ahead, I say to them, drill holes.

The van is running over a large tree limb and someone has packed thirty gallon drums of gasoline into the third row and who would do such a thing? The van heaves upward. Barely contained gas thumps against curved ribs.

Thump thump.

Muddied water torn down by broken hills seeps into the crack of the driver’s side door. Sqidgy toes, windshield wipers inadequate for torrential downfall might as well not be there. Objects–bikes, cars–fade into the whorl until they are no longer distinguishable.


Without warning, I am not kidding without so much as a moan, too late the front of the van lifts up, the wheels up and off, horrifying, now the back wheels lifting off, and I am a toddler walking on top of my daddy’s shoes light and effortless while he walks me around the room, my fingers locked in his, and I should giggle with delight at great strides made with no effort at all. Instead, I gasp as a newborn for first breath, then cry out. I scream but no sound comes forth. I am rendered soundless by the flood. I am born mute, and who will hear me?

blake-cheek-803253-unsplash-1-drowning-photo-e1539105026316.jpgBrown sepia foam dims vision while blackened trees float by, branches scrape the van, poke bony fingers into windows like great screeching banshees on the hunt for innocents.

He’s laughing now, the one in the seat next to me, high pitched, crazy laughter.

Thump thump


Foolishly, I gun the gas again, as if a gas pedal will prevent our shockingly languid three hundred sixty degree turn. Wheels spin in a galaxy of gas fumes and I become the river…


…By some miracle, water thrusts us to the other side! Wheels touch down, water lapping up into wheel wells. The engine gives a great sputter then it dies. We must get up the hill! I turn the key again, pray, listen to the whine until, at last, a spark catches! We should be cheering, clapping, sighing, spent.

I wake up, before the explosion



If we don’t fix Can Opener Deficit Disorder, then we have the perfect excuse not to try  a new way and we may hurt ourselves, instead.  As a result we may very well miss joy beyond mere survival. That, my friends, is a rut, an excuse, a bowl of leftovers from a poorly set children’s table, a rut lined with excuses…

Why try hard?                    

I can’t.

What’s the point.

My friends, we were made for so much more.


If, at the age of thirty I believed I was worthwhile, I would have also have believed I deserved a better can opener. The same would have been true at the age of seven, but the idea of worthiness was an impossibility given the circumstance. For some of us who survived to adulthood this paradigm runs like a deep fault line beneath the thin veneer of our grown-up lives. By the time we’ve grown up we are afraid of what lies beneath.

I’m gonna give up

We may have heard, “You can’t” or “You’ll never” or “Get your head out of the clouds” or “You’re too sensitive.” Or, my favorite: “Why do you make things so difficult for me?”

I still struggle once in a while with worthiness, purpose, joy, happiness, or fulfillment so, my point is this: when  those of us who come from extreme difficulty struggle from time to time, we may now have access to proper tools with which to open things up–for instance,  a good adviser, coach, or counselor, someone skilled at help you “open up the can.” Or…an actual can opener.

I, for one, am willing to try for a better way to open up that can. Because I believe, inside each of us there’s something good, something hopeful, something worth sharing. And I’m not about to waste it.

We’re not wasters.

So let’s go, get a better can opener, and actually use it.

If we don’t purposefully set out to reward ourselves with proper tools, our lives are bleak indeed. Let’s not fail to understand this: that to strive for something good is to strive for reward-worthy living. We are capable of doing so much good in this world. To strive for more means we believe our efforts are worthwhile.  It’s not too far a leap from there to conclude that we are worthwhile too.

So we get to the core.

We are worthwhile. We deserve a better can opener.

“You Deserve a Better Can Opener” concludes next week.



Let’s talk rewards.

Yes, rewards.

But first, may we talk about Can Opener Deficit Disorder?

I used to suffer from Can Opener Deficit Disorder and I’ll tell you why. For a very long stretch–years–my parents did not own a real can opener. Can openers cost money and therefore were considered a luxury available only to the well-off. My dad reasoned his spare change was better spent on cat food, which I was expected to open for him with the jackknife. Not that I minded, because I had no working knowledge of can openers. Hence, because I had no understanding, no witness to tell me any differently, I had Can Opener Deficit Disorder.

I only wished we could have afforded BAND-AIDS.

But BAND-AIDS belong to another story.

The point of this article is this and I’m not the only one who learned it early: the one necessity in life was the one that demanded we suffer in order to subsist. Forget about a reward. Many of us experienced similar survival events in childhood, and could not have possibly had any working knowledge of what a reward was. We were too busy surviving.

The idea of rewarding oneself may be new idea for those of us who hail from one of life’s bleaker landscapes, a place where a certain mindset, an automatic way of being  may support mere survival. You understand, some of us hail from that place where rewards sit like isolated cabins on far apart hills, rewards hidden in thickets of brambles that hurt too much to get through. It was best not even to imagine bestowing a reward upon ourselves, best not to think about them at all. Besides, if adults in our lives were disabled from teaching us their value, how could we possibly learn about rewards? A decent can opener that might have been viewed by others in a different situation as a necessity in the kitchen. In mine it would have been a lovely reward for a kid working hard to please a parent, but I had no clue about rewards or how lovely they could make my life. Neither did my parents, given their situation. Some may laugh at the saying, “You work hard, and then you die” but, for some of us, survival in childhood under the tutelage of a mentally ill parent was no laughing matter.

The silver lining to Can Opener Deficit Disorder? In spite of a flawed system I learned to work hard and expect nothing because nothing would certainly follow. This reached into my very core for a while, and supported my survival, for which I am grateful.

I was thirty when the light finally cracked open the rewards center of my brain. When someone made the comment, “You know, Eva Stanfield, you could go out and buy a new can opener instead of struggling with that jackknife…” The light of that moment shone on something too-long stuck, unchanged in my psyche. I had a job. I could actually go to a store and buy a brand new can opener for myself.

What an epiphany! Epiphany which took only thirty years to sprout, grow, and break open my earth. Then, another one broke through: I didn’t have to suffer in that way any longer. More epiphanies to come, each gently breaking through those times when my earth softened and I was ready for them.

Life is hard, it’s true, so why make up additional suffering? Why not reward our work with some simple pleasures too?

When the earth beneath me started to shift: I no longer viewed a decent can opener as a necessity. Rather, I viewed the jack knife as the necessity.

You Deserve a Better Can Opener continues next week…