The middle-aged woman from Oz

I’ve been doing Martha Beck’s Write into Light course and we have been getting some creative prompts to turn our personal challenges into what Martha (Marty) calls ‘light writing’.

According to Martha, light writing goes beyond wordsmithing – it seeks to transform the reader through awakening, healing and liberation from suffering and pain.

Here’s a piece I wrote recently that I thought I would share. It’s a little long but hopefully entertaining and transforming.

Once upon a time, or perhaps it was yesterday, there lived a middle-aged woman named Annie who lived in a far away place Down Under – they call it Oz for short.

Annie’s existence was pretty dreary.

Her house was grey.

Her husband was grey.

Her daughter was grey.

Her dress was grey.

Her shoes were grey.

Her hair was greying underneath the blonde highlights.

Even her dog Rosie was grey.

One day (still yesterday) a ferocious storm savaged the east coast of Oz and swept Annie away – house, dress, shoes, dog and all (well, except for her husband and daughter who were shopping in Dreary Plaza at the time).

Did I mention the storm was grey?

Swoooooosh!

Then thud!

Annie landed in a magical, mystical and technicolour land without a name. Let’s call it… hmmm… Kansas.

Kansas was nothing like Oz.

The roads were yellow.

The trees were all shades of olive, pear, lime, emerald and sea foam green.

The flowers were red, mauve and pink polka dot.

Even the people were a fleshy shade of salmon.

Annie’s dress had transformed into a golden sequin number with ruby red shoes.

Weird that Rosie was still grey, huh?

Out of the smokiest pink powder puff of a cloud that Annie had ever seen, an iridescent figure in a glitter ball of pink taffeta emerged.

Now many a famous retelling of this story would say that Glinda the Good Witch didn’t have much up here [pointing to her head] and was only good for invoking a transportation bubble and a pair of ruby red slippers, or the occasional extreme makeover of her green-with-envy former bestie, now nemesis, Elphaba.

But Glinda was grossly underestimated. I should know. I am she.

To cut a long fable short – and because the great and powerful narrator, Marty in the sky said we can only write one scene – Glinda set Annie on a deadly and almost impossible mission to find the colourful Orb of Oz.

The story goes that the Orb of Oz had been stolen and lost down a billabong decades ago by some bloke in an Akubra hat who had a mysterious Waltzing Matilda. That’s when all the colour drained out of Oz and caused Annie to be born into her dreary existence.

So Annie set out on foot, with her dog Rosie, and her ruby red slippers, which were not really sensible footwear for a middle-aged woman skipping along a yellow brick road on a treacherous journey to find the Orb of Oz (ouch!). But I digress.

Glinda told Annie to find the Orb she must travel through the Forest of Discontent. ‘Don’t rest in the Forest of Discontent,’ Glinda warned. ‘Or else you will succumb to the Shadow Sleepers and never return to the light.’

‘Seriously?’ Annie thought, wondering if Glinda had read too many J K Rowlings’ books.

Annie and a reluctant Rosie entered the forest. It was dark, really dark and a thick fog enveloped the pair so they could only see a foot in front of them. Annie reached into the pocket of her gold dress. Luckily her iPhone 6 had survived the trip from Oz. She shone the torch into the forest ahead of her, but could only see the menacing silhouettes of fingers pointing at her in ridicule as she passed each towering form.

She travelled for 30 minutes in the forest, her battery already running low, due to the sinister scheming of the tech company that was also said to be responsible for Snow White’s demise.

With each step, Annie struggled with the foreboding of restlessness. She was tired from putting one foot in front of the other. She wanted to stop and curl up in a ball as she had so many days in Oz, allowing the thick fog to settle in her bones and envelope her mind. But she knew if she succumbed, the Shadow Sleepers would come for her and she might never find the Orb and would never return home to her husband and daughter.

Rosie tugged on her lead, spurring Annie on with all the endurance of a marathon athlete, she walked and walked for another 15 minutes until her iPhone died, and the fog finally lifted from her soul. Then she saw the light.

A bright light; brighter than the sun. She reached into her pocket and found a pair of sunglasses and put them on. They immediately changed everything around her to a rosy shade of pink (well except Rosie). She walked further up the road and came across a Gypsy traveller in a tin campervan.

Glinda had warned her to be careful of roadside sellers of potions and promises, but there was something alluring about the jangling Gypsy with her scarves and strings of coins. ‘Fortunes told,’ the sign read on the side of her campervan. And before she knew it Annie went inside and sat before the Gyspy on the rather retro looking pink vinyl padding of the diner booth seat.

The Gypsy waved her hands over the crystal ball and said, ‘You are at a crossroads. You must make a choice to stay with what is familiar or risk everything to find a better life. You will know the answer when you are faced with your own reflection.’

‘Huh?’ Annie thought. Why would I risk what I know? My mother always said, ‘Better the Devil you know’. Besides, her life in Oz seemed a little less dreary now she had some distance. Was it the rosy hue of a different perspective that made her feel nostalgia for her old life, or the gnawing apprehension of the unknown that made change abominable?

Annie reached into her pocket and found some rose gold coins in a currency she was unfamiliar with, and thanked the Gypsy woman for her inadequate reading. I mean, the location of the Orb of Oz or the winning Oz Lotto numbers would have been much more helpful right about now.

Annie walked further along the yellow road until she saw a sign, ‘Short cut’ and a huge flashing neon arrow pointing down into what looked like a slippery dip built into the brick road. Now, Glinda had warned Annie about taking short cuts, saying they might be dangerous detours distracting her from her path. But drudging for miles in the ruby red slippers had given her blisters and besides, nothing bad ever came at the end of a slippery dip except for a few grazed knees.

With all the curiosity of Alice entering the rabbit hole, Annie pushed an even more reluctant Rosie down the slide first, then waited a few seconds (no yelp) before entering herself.

Swooooosh!

‘This is no ordinary slippery dip,’ Annie cried as her head spun with each revolution of the downward spiral. She instantly felt dizzy and nauseous, fighting the rising sensation of this morning’s grey porridge threatening to explode from her mouth.

With each revolution, Annie saw moments of her life flash before her eyes. How she lay awake at night worrying that she wasn’t good enough as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. How she drank too much and ate too much and couldn’t budge herself off the lounge some nights because she was too exhausted. How getting up for a job she disliked seemed easier than trying to follow her dreams.

And she went down and around and down and around, spinning in her own guilt and shame. Was it ever going to end? She slammed her eyes shut wishing she had never taken the short cut.

Then Annie remembered a podcast she had listened to a few weeks ago in Oz trying to get herself out of yet another shame spiral. The woman who had a first name for a last name and a last name for a first name, kept saying to get out of suffering we have to love what is.

It seemed impossible to Annie that she could love this sickening, spinning ride, until she remembered a day many, many, many years ago when she was spinning around, and around, and around on the grass. She would stop and sway and all the world would be mixed up and she would fall on the ground and watch the clouds transform into cows and cats and castles and Carebears. It was the same sickening feeling but somehow she loved it.

So Annie opened her eyes and forced a smile. She laughed and laughed and laughed until she was really laughing. She saw moments in her life, where she danced without restriction, where she raced on the beach and chased after her siblings, where she finger painted with her daughter on the floor not worrying about the spilled paint, where she sang and sang and sang until her heart expanded out of her body and she experienced the most exhilarating joy.

And the ride stopped and out popped Annie with a rather, confused looking Rosie, right in front of the Doors of Illusion. It offered a choice. Left or right.

Annie could see her reflection in the mirrored doors. Two reflections. The one on the left was her in her old existence. Greying hair, grey dress, grey shoes, lifeless eyes. The one on the right was her in her new existence. Golden hair, gold sequin dress, ruby red slippers and eyes that sparkled like sapphires in the moonlight.

She had to choose the Gypsy said. The life she knew in all its drudgery and dreary monotony but with the ones she loved, or the life she didn’t know, the one that offered sparkle and sequins and the great unknown, and the fear that she might never, ever see her husband and daughter again.

She looked from left to right and right to left. ‘Surely the Orb would be behind the right door’, Annie thought. The choice was excruciating. How would she ever decide?

Then Annie remembered what the remarkably wise and charmingly stunning, Glinda told her, ‘Illusion ends at the Path of Acceptance’.

A great calm settled over Annie’s soul and she reached into her pocket finding two golden keys. She fit one key in the left door and one key in the right door, and unlocked them simultaneously.

‘I don’t have to decide,’ Annie thought. ‘I just have to trust.’

She placed her hands on both door handles and pushed down. The doors opened wide into a dazzling orb of light. Rainbow reflections danced around her as her eyes tried to adjust.

She was home. But it didn’t look like home. It looked like Kansas. Every colour imaginable bled into the familiar scenes of her life. Her husband and daughter were there to greet her, vibrant and alive in their fleshy salmon skins. Her home was filled with greens, and browns, and blues, and pinks. Outside, there was life in all its magical expression. Rosie was still grey, but it seemed right somehow.

Annie’s dress had transformed into a white cotton sundress, her feet bare. It was as if she was reborn into a new chapter, a new canvas awaiting the artist’s brushstrokes.

Annie reached into the pocket of her dress for the final time and pulled out the crystal Orb of Oz reflecting all the colours of the rainbow.

She had it all along. She only needed to find it within.

Annie laughed at the magical mystery of her life in Oz and thought,

‘There’s no place like home.’

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