One day, I was emailing with one of my writing students (from my Craft Your Draft program) and she casually said something like “someday I’ll have to tell you about how I ended up in your class! The Universe was really looking out for me.”
Someday?! Of course I needed to know now. So I replied telling her I couldn’t wait to hear.
And what I got back … was a story. A beautifully written, heartwarming story.
Which I’ve gotten permission to share with you here:
Someday Story for Amy (or How I Ended Up in Her Class) by Cindi Bernat
I live in a very small rural community, about 5 miles “outside of town,” population about 3,000 (including me). There are no stoplights, and very few stop signs, even. It’s the kind of place where people give directions with landmarks instead of street names. “About a half mile past the sheep farm” or “up the hill from the old cannery” or “right past the blind curve.” The main road is referred to simply as “the highway”, and it’s only 2 lanes, one in each direction, no median, just a double yellow line separating east-bound and west-bound. Actual place names are replaced with common names, like “Halfway Bridge”, which is located about halfway between us and the next small town.
“The Library” is actually the school and public library. It’s located on the grounds of the public school and is extremely small. I’ve been in larger 7-11 stores; that kind of small. It serves as both the school library and public library as well as my private haven from the outside world.
In late November 2022, I drive into town, heading to the library with a single thought: I need help. I cannot explain how or why I KNOW that I will find it at the library; I am just so desperate that when the idle thought of going to the library and reading titles until I find what I need pops into my head, I drag myself out of bed and get into the car and go. It is a very specific knowing kind of feeling. So, I went.
At this point, I was one month into an extended medical leave from work. Within the confines of my toxic work environment, depression and anxiety had reached a crescendo, and daily, hourly panic attacks made it impossible for me to do my job. I’d been trying different medications, different dosages, different combinations, different therapists, a psychiatrist, everything imaginable, but nothing was working. My doctor took me out of work, and still the panic bubbled up inside and spilled all over my evenings and weekends and family for no reason at all.
I’m not new to depression. I’ve lived with it for decades, mostly in remission, mostly triggered by perfectly logical causes, like being laid off, or a death in the family, or miscarriage. I’ve read all the books. I’ve taken all the drugs at some point or another. I’ve taken supplements, adjusted my diet, added exercise, and a thousand other things so that I wouldn’t have to take the drugs, because they suck and I hate the way they make me feel. But the panic was new. I’d been at this company for almost a decade, but I’d moved to this job, this department, this small office about a year ago when the panic began to visit: gently at first, a subtle tap on the shoulder. It was new, but tolerable, and I rationalized it—it’s triggered by the new job! By late October 2022, that subtle tap on the shoulder grew into a raw terror that consumed me while just sitting at my desk, a panic that would have my heart pounding, grab me by the throat, squash the air out of my lungs, and set off a ringing in my ears. I felt like I would vomit. I thought for sure I would pass out. I tried everything to tame it. EVERYTHING.
I tried all the conventional stuff, and then everything “not too woo-woo” and when it didn’t work, I just started trying anything no matter how “woo-woo” it was. I tried reiki. I tried chanting. And I tried crystals and meditation with crystals, and reiki with crystals. Nothing worked, but I kept trying. So, when the random inkling to go to the library nudged, I got in my car and went to the teeny tiny library I’d been to a hundred times before, determined to go shelf by shelf and read the titles and find the book that I was meant to find. I don’t know why or how or where this idea came from. I just had to go and get the book—whatever book it was—that was speaking to me.
How To Heal Yourself When No One Else Can. The book that I know my soul or inner guide or the Universe or my guardian angel or whatever you believe wanted me to find. It’s the book that that part of me KNEW existed and KNEW I needed and put into my hands at the exact right desperate moment in my life. But it wasn’t the book that saved me. It would be a very neat and tidy journey to say that I read the book, did the exercises, and lived happily ever after. But journeys are convoluted and messy sometimes. So, the book didn’t save me. The book led me to the website, which put me on the mailing list, which led to the email inviting me to craft my draft.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. I have a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write on my bookshelf, collecting dust there for decades and through multiple moves. I’ve tried, failed, written things and kept them hidden, carefully keeping this dream of being a writer hidden safe safe safe inside a dark quiet corner of my soul. Protecting it. Hiding it.
But then this email burst into my inbox inviting me to craft my draft and every word of it calling me out of that dark quiet corner, every word a kind hand extended toward me, encouraging me to step out into the light and write.
I can’t. I’m not working. I don’t have the money. I can’t. A hundred reasons, excuses, rationalizations…and yet, the kind, outstretched hand, reaching for me. And Amy, replying to my email inquiries almost right away, as if I were a real person, a real writer…as if I were worthy of her time.
I’ll go through my purse and see what’s there. I’ll look in all the pockets and hidden corners and zippered compartments and see what I’ve got. If this is even possible. But it can’t be. I never use cash. I’ll never have enough. I mean, I can justify a little splurge on myself as a Christmas present, but not this whole amount. But if it’s close, then maybe. Maybe. We’ll see how far short it is.
A folded-up bill tucked here for emergency use only. Another tucked there “just in case.” The bills pile up. I count, holding my breath, and I am $42 short. The answer is 42. Everyone knows this. Or at least anyone who has ever read Hitchhiker’s Guide. Is this a message from my guide? $42 is a perfectly reasonable splurge on myself for Christmas, considering what I’m spending on everyone else at this time of year. I take a deep breath, swallow down a lump of panic rising in my throat and sign up for the class. I am going to craft my draft. I am terrified.
I had my final panic attack on January 5, 2023, which was the first day of class and I couldn’t attend live because of yet another God-forsaken doctor’s appointment. It was the beginning of the end. First day of class, last day of panic attacks.
The class heals me like nothing else ever has. There is a shift from wanting (desperately and privately) to being. I am a writer. I am writing. I am writing, and writing, and healing and writing and healing and writing. And healing.
I wrote and life happened, so I didn’t write and then I healed and wrote some more and healed some more. Two months flew by. I left my horrible panic-inducing job and interviewed for completely different, part-time job and when I was asked why I was leaving a good company where I’d worked for almost a decade, I smiled and said, “Oh, because I’m a writer. I’m working on a book right now, and really need a part-time job that will free up my schedule for more time to pursue my writing.”
I nailed the interview. I got the job. And I am a writer.