For the last year and a half I have been obsessed with the violence in Mexico and the cartel-fueled drug wars.  There is a character in my new novel named Violeta.  She lives in the midst of the blood drenched chaos and I felt I had to be familiar with the horror of her day-to-day life so that as I could write her story.  I have spent a lot of time down on the border, interviewed people whose lives have been affected, visited the sites of savage brutality.  I start each morning with the Mexican blogs where I read about unspeakable atrocities and look at gory photos.  Mass graves keep popping up all over the country in which 20, 30, 70 tortured bodies are discovered.  At first I was able to keep my boundary intact.  The crimes committed against innocent people in Mexico were upsetting but they were happening in a foreign country—not here in my life.  I was safe.  But slowly the reality of Violeta’s life started to color the way I looked at the world.  Everyday I viewed pictures of headless bodies and crying families.  I read accounts of barbarous torture and saw that the cartels were engaged in a monstrous competition, each group trying to  out do the other in order to prove that they were most fierce and therefore most powerful.   I got depressed.  Was this the end of western civilization, as we know it?  Had human nature devolved to such a level that we were slaughtering each other over drugs and money?  I decided to take a look at history in order to put things in perspective.

I am freaking right out.

The news is coming at me from so many directions, I can hardly absorb any of it. It’s like drinking water from a fire hose. As soon as one story runs, three more update, clarify, and supplement it.

And no, the subject is very likely not who you think it is.

It’s Christina Aguilera.

You see, she had too much to drink.

On Fear

By Erika Rae

Memoir

I must not fear. 
Fear is the mind-killer. 
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. 
I will face my fear. 
I will permit it to pass over me and through me. 
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. 
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. 
Only I will remain.

– The Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear / Frank Herbert’s Dune

It is a couple of days ago. I am driving in my Jeep down the mountain road from my house. The sun is shining. The aspens are twinkling. On the side of the road, little sprigs of wildflowers are glowing yellow and purple in the sun. With the exception of the unfortunate necessity for the use of fossil fuels, it is all very Zen.

I must not fear.

I have everything I need. Fresh air, warmth. Anna Nalick is breathing holistically through the speakers. Through the seatbelt, my giant whale belly pokes comfortably. I sip occasionally at the latte my husband made me before I left and replace it in the cup holder beside me.

Fear is the mind-killer.

I am thinking about how everything is going to be OK. In spite of the normal life troubles; in spite of the financial strains. Any day now I will face the all-consuming pain of bringing formidable life into this world and all of the responsibilities that act entails…and I am not afraid.


Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will be a ticking time bomb, or perhaps more accurately, a ticking water balloon – poised to explode dangerously without warning all over carpet upholstery mattress freshly polished bank floor …and I am not afraid.

I will face my fear.

I will be doubled over with pain, internalizing an agony so deep and indescribable that it will find its way out in the form of primal grunts and groans, well befitting a Scottish torture chamber circa 1650… and I am not afraid.


I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

At some point, I will be led to a large tub filled with warm water, in which I will be obliged to attempt to push a human being through a space the equivalent of a cantaloupe through a nostril…and I am not afraid.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. 
Only I will remain.

There will be the breathless moments in which we all watch and wait for that first cry. Will the baby breathe? Will the baby be healthy? Will the baby have the appropriate number of appendages at the ends of appropriate numbers of limbs?

I am not afraid.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Driving alone in the car, I breathe deeply of the fresh mountain air. Everything is going to be OK. I take another sip of coffee and pause in my self-congratulatory thoughts as I detect something rough on my tongue with that last sip. I reach up to extract and hold it in front of my eyes for examination.

It’s a dead spider. Drowned in sweet, milky brown elixir.

…and what do I do?

I freak out.

I am such a chicken shit.