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  • In the few short months that I have been a member of this community of storytellers, I’ve stretched my emotions, my writing skills, my comfort zone and my trust. I’ve faced my fears of intimacy, rejection, and change. When I arrived in this virtual world, I was prepared for none of this.

    The first time I hit save, I had a random feeling of the sudden inadequacy I always felt before giving an oral report in grade school. My last meal would somersault up and down my stomach while my throat would catch and I’d erupt into uncontrollable hiccups. I was a tall, gangly puppet collapsing on myself, hoping someone would gather up my strings and guide me through the next step. Although I usually got A’s, it was never enough to take the fear away. I inevitably lost my balance or stumbled on the way back to my seat. My fear of public speaking lasted well into my thirties. It was so crippling that I turned down professional positions that required me to give any type of oral presentations. It was the audience eye contact that frightened me. I was certain that they all knew everything that I didn’t and that they would find me pathetic and laughable.

    The attraction of Cowbird was that I wouldn’t have to look at any of you as you read my stories nor would I hear your mocking laughter or bored sighs. I didn’t understand the whole audience thing or being “loved.” This was a virtual rabbit hole I could stuff stories into. Then someone loved one of my stories. Pictures of other storytellers showed up in my audience. I didn’t receive an email from Annie after my first story saying a mistake had been made. Please stop submitting. Instead, I received a supportive email offering assistance and expressing pleasure that I was participating. I was so happy and excited to have found this little Gilligan’s Island for writers that I didn’t even notice that I was no longer invisible. Day by day I found myself looking forward to the stories, to becoming familiar with the storyteller’s names, to looking for the love. I was grateful that the only feed back was to love a story. There was no space for critiques or rants or well meaning life advice. There was just love. I’d never experienced that before. Months went by and I was referring to you as friends. I was thinking of you when I was away from the computer. I felt like I was in a master class and I started writing to a higher standard. I noticed an improvement without a tear being shed or a challenge to my budding self-esteem. I was sharing topics so intimate and stories so deeply buried in my fabric of forgetting that I didn’t notice we had become shadow travelers on the slow road to friendly. The virtual world of Cowbird was a vaporous, positive presence melding into my daily reality. I could count on you. Whenever I needed you, you were there at the touch of a button. It was good, very good.

    One day, I signed on to notice a couple of people missing. Several days went by and still no stories. I felt sad. I missed them. Then I realized even virtual worlds change. I’d never considered it. People move on and just as in the real world I was powerless to change that. What was disturbing was that I felt a loss and I couldn’t change that either. I’d done more than let myself out, I’d let you in. Some people are comfortable saying goodbye, giving a little closure. Others just disappear. Who knew that one of my most troublesome “issues” would creep into my safe little virtual world? Abandonment, loss, being powerless over what ends and when. Cowbird has, in its usual gentle way, reminded me that life is messy, people are complicated, endings bleed into beginnings, and while I always have choices, I rarely have control. It’s good. It’s very good.

    How wonderful to be moved by something so simple as someone’s words. Each story teaches me to listen for the life beneath the language. The changing rhythms of the virtual world remind me that movement is mystery and loss is an illusion.
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