I have found different ways of protecting or shielding myself at certain periods of my life. As a chubby faced, dimpled little girl in a constant state of fear and turmoil, there was no physical place to run to for safety. My mind was my escape. In a way that I will never understand, my ‘spirit’ body would break free from this mistreated physical body and soar to a place to forget.

In just a few short years my mother would kidnap my sister and I to take us to Idaho to live with her and my grandmother. It was during this stage of my life that my ‘port in a storm’ became the bathroom. I had a daily ritual of climbing up on the small white stool to stand on the sink to open the medicine cabinet to find the razors on the top shelf. I would slice down my thumb just deep enough to feel the stretching of my skin and the oozing of my warm, bright red blood down my arm. Then run to an adult to get my prize, a band-aid.

In first grade we would find ourselves boarding at an all-girl Catholic school with a completely different set of problems. There I learned a new word, ‘retreat.’ We had to take a lunch for our silent climb up the grassy green hill behind the school that led us to a small, dear, chapel at the top. Everything was quiet. Nobody talked. We took walks to see the beauty of God’s world, looked at the small creatures, frogs, birds, and lizards, and we enjoyed the sweet church, my new sanctuary. The other girls complained of the walking and lack of conversation. But for me, this was a perfect place.

Now at this stage of my life, my hideaway, my amazing oasis from chaos is my room that I had built shortly after my husband died. He had such an imagination with some brilliant ideas for what he wanted to do to the house. He went to China whenever he could and brought back paintings, tapestry, scrolls, hats and knives that would eventually be in our room. I did it the way that I thought would please him. It is now a wonderful bedroom suite, just as he had planned. This is where I write, I remember who I was then and who I am now, and I learn to separate my past from the present and the future. This is my perfect place now, my oasis.