Sensory Overload

The last couple of weeks have been brutal for both my daughter, Mariah, and I. So much so, that sensory overload, or what I thought was sensory overload, has taken place. For the first time in years, I have been experiencing something I never anticipated. I have had writer’s block.

Last Saturday I finally picked up the phone and called a fellow writer.

        “Don’t over think this Misty. Just write from the heart.”

        “But you don’t understand, I have nothing for my new article that is coming up. I have tried to write but I cannot. “

Frustration was pouring through the phone as I was talking with my friend and confidant.

        “I have never been in this position. I can always write something. I have a bad case of sensory overload, which has lead to writers’ block, and less than 36 hours to produce a story. What am I going to do?”

        “Like I said, Misty, don’t over think this. You have a story, I know it is there. Take the time to decompress, relax and calm your mind down. You can do it. I know you can.”

I hung up the phone, poured a cup of coffee and went to sit on my front porch. As I was sitting there I glanced over and saw the Lilac tree. It was a tree I transplanted about 10 years ago. Several times it looked like the tree was not going to make it. The deer had cleaned it out. They love the tender leaves.  My cats had sharpened their claws on the trunk, which caused some trunk damage, and of course the dogs had periodically used the tree as a  “fire hydrant.”

After a few years of battling the animals I finally came to my senses and put a fence around it. Why I did not do that earlier is beyond me, but at least it is done and the tree is thriving.

As I gazed at the purple flowers and sat in my chair soaking up the sun, I began to remember why I had planted the tree, and the person the tree was planted for.

His name was Danny. He was a close family friend from high school. Danny loved Lilac trees. In fact, when we lived in Lebanon he brought 2 lilac trees to my mom and helped her plant them in the back yard. He was so proud of those trees, but more importantly he loved my mom’s response.

A few months later Danny drowned. I never had the chance to tell him how much his friendship meant to me, or to my mom, maybe he knew. I hope he did.

At that time his death deeply impacted my life. I had not faced death like that before, and I decided that when the day came, and I had a son, I would name him after my friend, and I did.

Little did I know that because I had not faced his death, and processed it correctly, 35 years later that grief came knocking on my door.

This morning, as I was speaking with my brother on the phone, we began to talk about my perceived writer’s block. During the course of the conversation Mitch stated,

        “I am not trying to get Freudian on you, but I don’t think you have writer’s block. I think you have some unresolved issues that need to be addressed. Did you ever really grieve his death? That may be the reason why you can’t finish any story you are working on. Just my thought kid, but I think it is a valid thought to consider.”

After we completed our conversation I began to think about what he had said. I thought about the number of people who had died and realized there were two deaths I never really grieved over. One was Danny; the other death was my younger sister Katye.  Now, all these years later, I had to come to grips with the fact that I had been angry with God for allowing them to die.

Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as a blooming Lilac tree can bring up such a memory and such a revelation?

I sat on the front porch and wept. I wept for the fact they are no longer in my life, and I wept over the fact that I missed them. I wept knowing that I had been angry with God for so long, and realized I may never know why he let them die, but life needed to go on. It was time for me to let my anger and grief go. I needed to feel peace and I needed to feel confidence in the fact that their deaths were part of a greater good and a greater plan.

As I sat on my porch, after the tears were done flowing, I began to look at the other plants and memories surrounding each plant, and realized that without knowing it, I had planted about half of my flowerbeds in memory of those whom I had loved and had passed away.  The “snowball tree” is for my Grandma Pete. The Iris plants remind me of Old Man’s wife Betty. The rose bush with the white and red variegated flower is for my cousin Rhonda and the Rhododendron plants are in memory of my younger sister Katye. She loved rhododendron plants.

Once I had taken the time to weep, and taken the time to acknowledge my anger my heart began to settle down. I began to think about writing again, and the words began to flow once again.

Life is complex isn’t it?

By allowing that hour of grief I was able to see life clearly again. I was able to see the joy, the pain and everything in between.

I wish I could say this story had a funny ending but it does not. What it does have is a revelation with an ending, and a time for a good cry.

With that said, I miss you Katye and Danny. Some day we will see each other again.  Until that day your memories will live on in my heart and with a Lilac tree and a variety of rhododendron plants.



  1. Susan

    May 9, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Is this story about my brother?

    • Misty Peterson-Thomas

      May 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Susan: yes it is. I hope I honored your brother. He did mean a lot to me and to my mom. He was a good man. Sweet hearted and a man of character.

  2. Pam

    May 11, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Beautiful story Misty. I don’t think I ever realized….or I had forgotten….that Daniel was named after Danny. I too have great memories of Danny, Toni, Susan, Janet and the rest of the family as we were growing up.

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