I find myself again at this maplewood bar, a tizzy and a thousand thoughts are teeming and telling me stories about who I am. The acoustics in the pub create a symphonic cacophony, and my ears are happy. Clinking glasses, chatter and laughter echo outward from the bar and stifle the trill voices of the young, drunk girls near the dart board.
The jovial man at the end of the bar speaks loudly with his hands then casts his attention lovingly toward his date. Their eyes have love in them. They are interested in one another. It's incredibly sweet to witness. It dawns on me, seeing them together, that what I want most is for a lover to find me deeply interesting. I want to find him interesting too. His very livelihood, his art of being, will inspire me. I want to do the same for him.
All this mushy revelation comes to an abrupt halt, and my next thought: I don't find myself interesting at the moment. How was I ever interesting? I danced, read books, climbed mountains, baked with applesauce in place of oil, and I kept a harmonica in my pocket. I am in a different place now, but I find myself mysteriously longing for these old attributes, ignoring the glaringly obvious gift in front of me. Everything is new. I've changed. I still climb mountains, but I make my cookies differently. My harmonica is in the key of C now, whereas before it was F. I don't want to be a shell of my former self.
What do hermit crabs do? They abandon their shells and move into new ones. They are still the same sentient being, still the same crab. They just look different, and their circumstances are different. I don't know how often they change shells, or why, or what the adjustment period is but I think it's neat to consider the metaphor. I am a hermit crab, sitting at the bar, loving the love that surrounds me, and sinking deeper into the colorful shell that I've acquired.
I must have become insane and sane again at least 100 times since my last post. I must have covered 10,000 miles of countryside in my beat-up, but beast, of a Toyota Corolla. The last eight months can be summed up in three-thousand gallons of gas, six broken hearts, three flat tires, a few white lies, countless hours of doubting my purpose, hundreds of photos lost, a good hard lesson or two, a kiss here and a kiss there, sweet goodnights beneath the moon, mornings in dewy mountain meadows, and an innumerable surplus of love and new understanding for the way world is and the way I am in the world. The expansiveness of my experiences blows my mind, and I am grateful.
All of the sudden despite all these beautiful occasions in my thirty-second year, in the hot, thick of an impending Arkansas summer, I find myself grasping at a mirage of stability and happiness, of a grounded life in love and purpose, and I wonder candidly, "What am I doing here?"
The more one searches, the less one finds.
Perhaps the lesson for me now, and maybe for you, is that there is no lesson. There is only the process of becoming. There is never a definitive why, a definitive means to an end, and there is no where I need to be other than right here, right now, writing my thoughts which may ultimately be absorbed into a vast sea of information, the black hole of cyberspace.
I am okay with that.
The skin I wear has not always been comfortable. I wore it crooked and inside out, wrinkled and sometimes backward. Every morning, I stepped into whatever integumentary armor I needed to walk through the valley of shadows. Forging the path of personal truth, I found myself in a seemingly perpetual purgatory. Limbo was a game to taunt and tantalize the better parts of me. There in the gray, I wistfully lingered albeit not without indomitability. Almost as if in an instant, like a flash, I became aroused by the sensual nature of existing in this space and this time. This skin, this guise of my soul, houses bones of valor, an essence of love, and these celestial cells which are teeming with life. It is ridiculously inconceivable to embrace the heart of darkness without acknowledging its dichotomous nature. Where there is darkness there has been a light removed. The skin is the external vessel to contain our souler spectrometer—the innate instrument by which we can discover and measure our luminosity. Life is a dance with light. This body—your body—no matter how big or small or short or tall or wild, is the cosmos’ way of exploring itself. All melts away in the radiance of pure light. All that remains is you, undisguised.
Art by DELA
Do all my writings start with a cup of coffee, emotional complexity and a low-laying blanket of clouds and mist from the sea? Very well then. There is a half moon rising somewhere among the clouds. The half moon always leaves me feeling dazed and confused. I feel the polarity of fullness and emptiness, and I'm moved to tell a story.
I woke up with a man this morning in a treehouse perched in a friendly, old cedar tree high above a small, green, quirky village. He had sap in his hair. I giggled as I wiped the sleep from my eyes, and I smiled to be near him. I had sap on my pants. I felt a quickening in his presence, and my mind could scarcely keep up with the concepts and topics of our late-night conversation. I pushed pause on my scattered mind, and I silently thanked the cedar for its contribution to this day. Smile. Then breath. I love the way Earth always brings me back to center.
I believe in Divinity, like that in the cedar tree or in him, that draws all things into Oneness of being, but it's hard not to feel pulled toward one thing over another when we live in a material expression of Truth. From the quaint, little Hobbit window of the treehouse I looked down in the yard and saw a large deer—a buck with four points and scraggly fur. He was majestic. As he took a step across the lawn, I noticed he had a limp. It looked excruciating, and I was almost drawn out of the treehouse to help him in some way. Instead, I watched him pass through the village green and into the dahlia fields in the next yard over. I wondered if he would survive the impending winter.
I set out to write a metaphor—I am the wounded deer—or something incredibly prosaic. I feel like the deer at times, tired and weak even in my pertinacious resistance to giving up. This story isn't about me, though. It is simply in honor and reverence to the Spirit of the deer. He, like all sentient things, deserves attention. Let this be his memorial, and may you be reminded of your place in the family of things. As the naturalist John Muir observes, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
"THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over."
Hunter S. Thompson
Eight days before the anniversary of poet Sylvia Plath's tragic suicide, five days after my friend Brett's heartbreaking hara-kiri (his samurai sword) and one day after Academy-award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found with a syringe in his best heroin arm, and I am perpetually sad. The sadness is paralyzing. I am not particularly tormented by the missing of a physical presence, so much as I am deeply empathetic. I know the EDGE. There is a great precipice. We stand, often teetering, on the brink of reason and insanity, and it seems to be perpetuated by a certain sort of genius; and if not genius, then the madness stems from an ability of the inquisitive brain which ferociously and relentlessly tries to process external stimuli. Over time, these external factors we tirelessly process inevitably embed themselves in the soul and turn to a thick, black, tenacious sludge.
We see more, we know more, and we are of the generation and among the most spiritually adept to hold onto it all. Brett was this way. Sylvia, dear Sylvia, she had so much on her mind and heart, as many of the tragedies that came after her did. I'm sure all who chose to end the pain were in a similar mind space. Whether we check our pain in as over-sized emotional baggage, keep it stored under the bed as crumpled up yellow legal pads of written shattered dreams, or we spew unprocessed verbal vomit all over an unsuspecting subject who turns his ear for a moment of compassionate listening, we all can share our deepest discomfort and our greatest mission. Share your reality. Share your truth. Embrace the pain for a moment.
Can we learn to sit with the discomfort? My therapist would ask this of me after a day of agonizing emotional turmoil. Can you sit with the discomfort in non-judgement and gentle compassion with yourself? Can you remain just on the edge of reason and insanity without falling into the abyss of no tomorrow? It's a scary place, and it is important for anyone who feels deeply in these ways to find their center point and fight like fuck to get back to it. See more, do more, and love more. It is the prescription to rich life experience and acceptance of what is. In this seeing and doing, though, there is risk. Your heart may break.
Your mind may contain a chemical composition not quite built to withstand the intensity of truth, love, and the like. You may come to a breaking point. There is always refuge. There is always hope. There is always a way through the thick, tenacious sludge, the swamp of sadness, that we may have to walk through. Travel to the edge of reason, and don't be afraid to feel. Someone near you feels the same. Find solace in peace. Keep your head in the game. This too shall pass.
Familial relationships, especially biological ones, have an impact in deep-seated ways--psychosomatic, spiritual, physical, and emotional. We go through the early stages of life trying to relate to this fateful union of souls. Brother, sister, father, mother. Our blood. At the onset of adolescence, we realize our individuality. Eventually, we accept it and begin to lean into the life we are willfully and deliberately creating. We are continually unfolding.
For me, this unfolding and self-realization seemed to be absent of any validation of my womanhood. All the women in my life seemed to be preoccupied with their own matters. My mom had me young, at the age of twenty, around the same age I had my children. Ages twenty through thirty are tumultuous years, everyone knows that. Kurt Cobain, Janis, and Jimi didn't make it out alive. Hell, I barely made it out alive and that's the truth. Whether you're muddling through college striving for a degree, child-rearing, struggling with an addiction or vicious eating disorder, trying to be a great, or simply trying to find your place in the world, the work is hard and I was doing it alone.
I know my mother was battling her own demons as I was navigating the rough waters of adolescence. Today, I have immense compassion for and a newly found, loving understanding of my mother. She did the best she could with the resources and self-awareness contained within her. For many years, nearly all of my twenties, I grieved the absence of the mother-daughter relationship I craved and needed so badly. Today, in the dawn of thirty, the new light has set me free. Through it all, I turned out okay. That counts for something.
My mom gave me a ring. It is the last relic from her mother and father's engagement and subsequent marriage. Her father died of complications from alcoholism and her mother by lung cancer. When I put the ring on my finger, and it fit absolutely perfectly, I began to release years of tears--for me, for my mom, and for my grandma I barely remember. Their pain was great, and I felt it in the deepness of my being. We are in this together; especially the women. I am saddened but grateful for their pain that paved the way for my strength and freedom.
I look forward with great anticipation to the challenge and suffering of the years that will grow me into the refined and wild woman I've been dreaming of since sixteen candles were on my cake.
With this freedom ring, let me be wild in love, and may each day bring new joy, healing, and remembrance of where I have come from.