Confusion-ville, Missouri. 1993

Chapter 1.
An excerpt from our book: Stepping Off the Edge, Part I – The Scenic Route.

By Marilyn Harper


Something changed, transformed, big time. Others noticed it immediately. Yet, at the time, I didn’t have a clue as to what was happening to me.

My transformation didn’t occur because I was suicidal. It didn’t occur because I was at a loss for what to do with my life. At the time, I wasn’t depressed, living in a funk or afraid for my future. My soul transformation happened simply because I, Marilyn Harper, was done with one part of my life and ready to embark on another.

In retrospect, I realize my soul transformation – or “Walk-in” – is something that I chose because I was ready. All of the skills, talents and qualities of the “walk-out” would now be combined with the skills, talents and qualities of the new soul, or the “walk-in.” The two souls, literally, exchanged to combine and make me who I am today.

The term Walk-In really resonated for me between 1993 and 1996. I instantly recognized it yet I didn’t understand why. Maybe you’ve experience the same thing… Yet, during those three years, after the exchange occurred, I also thought I had lost my mind.

It all began following complications after a simple gall bladder surgery in April 1993. Suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, I didn’t care for the activities I had loved to do prior. I had a dramatic shift in preferences for my friends, my clothes, my appearance, and my focus in life. Prior to that April, I loved counted cross-stitch and would often spend hours doing it. For me, it was therapy.

I had also been a professional costume designer and adored to get “dressed up” in high heels, and acrylic nails. I was one of those “high maintenance” kind-of girls and I preferred a wardrobe of red and black. Prior to the surgery, my friends actually counted 14 days in a row that I only wore red or black.

April 1993, I returned home after the surgery, opened my closet and was shocked to realize that not only did I not have a desire to wear anything red or black; it was weirdly emotionally uncomfortable. Without a whole lot of thought, I went shopping and was only interested in pastel pink and pastel green, two colors I never wore prior. In fact, up until then, I didn’t even own anything pink or green, let alone pastel.

I went to the nail shop to have my nails done in acrylics like I always had before only to get home and literally rip the brand new acrylic nails off the face of my fingers. I couldn’t stand the “feeling” of the artificial nails glued to my own.

It was all interestingly confusing for me and for my friends and family.

One day, shortly thereafter, I began to lay out a pattern and fabric for a blouse on my dining table. I had purchased it the month before the surgery. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to do it… an activity I had done countless times, in my sleep, prior to the surgery. Putting the seams together was a complete mystery to me, and once finished, the blouse was virtually un-wearable.

I sat down to work on a new counted cross-stitch project and it was as if I’d never done one before. I couldn’t read the pattern; I didn’t understand which thread to use, let alone purchase. It began to occur to me that maybe I had a brain tumor and somehow my memory was radically disappearing.

Before the surgery I was an accomplished writer, essays easily flowed from me. At the time, I was in a Master’s program for Theatre, an A student, and an English teacher, in fact. After reading the first chapter of my thesis I was horrified. So was my professor! It had been written after my surgery and the word structure of the sentences were all messed up like a person speaking English as a second language. My professor let me know that the quality level of the writing was more like a child’s journal than that of a graduate student.

I’d lie awake at night wondering… What was happening to me? Am I insane?

Insanity would have been easier. It has a definition broadly understood. Most people don’t have any place in their brain to register “soul transformation” or “walk-in”. I certainly didn’t, at first.

A stroke would explain my loss of skills as a writer, a speaker, a teacher or a costumer. A mental breakdown has a medical explanation attached to it that pays dividends in the form of disability compensation. It gets you: time off; rest and relaxation; help; empathy. I was getting none of that!

At the time… it never occurred to me that instead of a breakdown… I was actually having a breakthrough.

I asked God for a sign.

Tell me what is happening to me, God. Why has everything in my life changed so dramatically? It was me, prior to that April 1993, that would be dancing and socializing at every possible opportunity. If anyone was going to be dancing on a table it would be me, Marilyn Harper, thank you very much! Suddenly, I was nearly reclusive, a homebody. If I did have to attend a party, I was incredibly shy and uncomfortable. My thoughts were mostly of “how can I get out of this”?

It was a weird three years: 1993 to 1996. I continued to ask God for answers. I thoroughly expected God to speak directly to me in a loud voice, just as he did to Moses with the burning bush. I was on the lookout for that burning bush, constantly.

Give me a sign, God… something my logical brain can understand what the heck is happening to me. Please? God?

Finally, in November and December 1995, I received answers. These answers came through loud and clear from a few people I was very close to: my mother; “Big Bill” – a cross between Gandhi and Hoss from Bonanza; and finally, my friend and peer, John Schulte.

Stepping Off The Edge is part of our 9 book series: GPS for Your Soul.


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