This will be one of those sessions where I just let my thoughts flow.
Inhale, Exhale. I’ve had to sit here uncomfortable, already deleted a few sentences that just did not feel right. To hell with it, I think, something needs to come out and I won’t get there unless I explore this without critiquing myself. So…
On the night of our fourth ceremony, I sat up on my mat, crossed-legs, rapid heart. Deep within my chest reaching up into my throat I felt unease, tension, discomfort. I began trying to untangle what this meant, beyond the trepidation of the forthcoming medicine space, and so I sat and observed my “anxiety”. I felt it moving, slowly. I felt my breathing pause every few breaths, my chest tighten, my diaphragm tense and release, tense and release. I did the best I could to watch this, and not react to it, but listen to what it was trying to tell me. The art of observing bodily sensation as opposed to reacting to them is a new practice for me, one that was honed and necessary in the Maloca; as I sat and felt this presence within me move from my throat to my chest to way down deep in my gut, I was given insight not to participate in the last ceremony.
I did have hesitation as to whether I would do it, during the day, prior to this insight, but it was that moment – trusting myself, that was pivotal for me; the previous three ceremonies had downloaded so much, stripped me of so much, and I felt I had more than enough information to be satisfied with my experience. When nightfall hit and we each took our seats under that thatched wooden structure, I knew that this sensation, this message, was given to me for a purpose. And so I did what was right for me, I listened. I managed to motion to my husband across the Maloca and he and I briefly discussed outside that I would not be taking the medicine. I told him, ‘I know it in my gut, I am sure’. Right before ceremony began, as the facilitators emerged with the Shaman to begin the evening, I asked if I could not participate. At this time, I was shaken up, because I was worried that others might think I was abandoning them, and I was also not accustomed to listening to my intuition, especially to say no to such a sacred experience, so it took courage for me to ask to sit out. The facilitator was kind, and understanding, and asked if I would be comfortable staying in ceremony even if I did not drink. I did, and I am so thankful I got to be a part of that. (What happened in the Maloca, our last ceremony together, is not the point of this story – and it is sacred to bear witness to that while you’re lucid – all I will say is, it was magical, beautiful, and a great privilege to sit with my Soltara family that night).
This experience of trusting my “gut” – most especially because it was so uncomfortable, taught me so much, and I carry that with me today as I sit and try to write. In this present moment, I have what might be considered severe anxiety in my chest. It has been coming into focus every few days, and I have been trying my best just to sit with it. I can feel it travel almost as if it is its own energy, spending time in my throat, my jaw, my chest – moving from my heart to my right lung. Observing it takes some of the pain away, but I am sitting here now trying to unfold, see what is hiding there…
Several periods of my life have been riddled with this sensation, and it has no doubt crumbled me to the floor, sobbing, begging for it to end. I’ve seen therapists, I’ve tried pharmaceutical medication (albeit one pill, never again). I’ve even just tried to “cope” as I moved through the world solely focused on this burning in my chest, trying to hide it and pretend it isn’t there.
See through it, this voice in my head keeps saying. To the other side, to the message – see through it. (If you build it they will come just now popped in my head and made me chuckle – shit if James Earl Jones starts narrating my thoughts then I have bigger problems than I thought!)
I am afraid I’ve disappointed my father; he is the only parent I have and expressed deep displeasure for how I live my life and the things I’ve done, and I am not sure how to fix it.
I am afraid the world judges me for the decisions I make and that I cannot be authentic or else I will be pushed out.
I am unsure how to integrate the things I learned over the past year – spiritual truths, big things – with my faith in the God of my youth, my childhood; the faith of my roots, when so much is changing inside of me. I am afraid I could lose my salvation, because I was taught … I was taught, well, what most of us are taught. How can I explain there is cohesion between my beliefs about who God is, my faith in that, and the things I’ve experienced with alternative medicine?
I am unsure how to balance myself, or sometimes even how to present who I am, in a society that is so focused on things I want to get away from: Pop culture, material things, status, even the news because it is so damn negative – I want peace, nature, harmony – yet now I cannot even walk into Target without feeling like I am drowning in a sea of nameless faces, groaning through life, working just to buy unnecessary shit without so much as a conscious thought that this is not the way we were meant to live. I am not saying this as a judgment but rather observing what we have become – taking the time to make eye contact with a stranger, so often you can see it, you can feel it; not many of “us” are happy in this modern chaos we call progress. I cannot say how many times I have wanted to throw my phone out the moving car window because then I wouldn’t have access to Instagram and political podcasts on YouTube and Brothers and Sisters on Hulu and The Office on Netflix (how much time do we waste, really?) … I want to unplug completely; I think about it ALL THE TIME, but this world we live in now just does not work that way, so I am an outlier.
I have a newfound respect for the eventuality of death, and I am certain that topic is understood by only a select group of my friends; it has been challenging during this integration to feel alone in the aftermath of such a harrowing ceremony. What it showed me, how it felt; the complete and utter dissolution of my self, to where I had no form and was growing into the earth with roots and flesh-eaten by crawling insects… To go from that to the voices telling me all I ever knew, believed in, thought, felt, understood was gone – there was/is nothing but death and decay and darkness, and why am I suffering so much pain? I was shown my darkness, and deep down I asked for this, but it demolished me completely. I begged for help, I writhed and fought it, surrendered to death and collapsed into my mat, this repeating 7 times through each different incarnation of death. It was physical, it was mental, it was emotional – it was hell. I have this inside of me now and it has made me aware of, and terrified of, ever going to anything like “hell” ever again ever no matter what EVER! So the questions that come from that, well beyond the disappointment that it is hard to even articulate that to anyone, or why it even matters to me now, is that I believe and feel and understand so much deeper how little control we have in this life, and death is the ultimate lesson of trust. What do you trust about what lies beyond this realm, when the first time you see it, it takes you straight to your own personal hell? Yeah, that’s a big one for me presently.
I have a newfound appreciation for my role as Mother and Wife, though even these ventures have drained me recently more than I can admit; I wish for time alone, I wish for one day with a newly mopped floor free of spills, no laundry to put away, no errands to run… I understand that I am integral to the success, health, and wellbeing of my family, but I am tired and would probably sleep an entire day for a reboot if that luxury presented itself; integration is a beast if you take it seriously, because the insights keep coming, but I also have a busy life and five other people counting on me. I am good on my toes but this is indeed quite the balancing act.
The tension in my chest is easing a bit… That is a welcome reprieve. Perhaps these words are helping, but I know I am not “there” yet.
There is one part I am avoiding – one part with two segments, really. . .
Love, and Letting Go.
I began writing about my romantic history, i.e., my first love, in 2013 in this blog, and I’ve considered often taking the entire site down in hopes of starting fresh – not publishing at all but instead focusing on an actual book about it all… Way back in 2009 I completed roughly 15 chapters of this same story, but I never shared that with the world. This blog has mostly been dedicated to the story of he and I, and so too it was back many years ago; I know this story so well because I have written it a hundred times.
It was a narrative I’ve nursed well, a tale I know by heart backwards and front, and it fueled my words unlike anything else I ever tried to write about: First love, and what it felt like to lose it.
I have written thousands upon thousands of words about him, about our story. I’ve detailed those two years in vivid color – how it felt to fall in love, how it felt to simply hold his hand in mine, how it ripped us both apart to eventually separate our lives, and even how it feels now, to know I will never see him again.
For years, my “work” was about this story, but I see now that my story has moved on.
Tears just flooded from my chest, up through my throat, into my sinuses and from my eyes – you know when you feel that rush? Instantaneous.
This is why I … This is it. The source of the anxiety. This is what I needed to write. God damn it when you know you know, and there is zero subtlety to tears streaming down my face at a mere notion …
My story has moved on.
“See through it” – when I began writing I kept hearing those words.
I need to reveal the heart of it, that I always imagined our story would have a different ending. I imagined one day we would be walking through the same hometown on the same summer day. My husband on my arm, his wife on his. Children darting this way and that, fresh flowers in my hand from the street market on a Sunday. He would smile at me from afar, bittersweet, wordless wave with one motion and turn around to walk the other way. I imagined I would meet him on a shoreline, the same Columbia river meeting the sand where we used to lay together when we were young, just he and I, and we could finally talk about life again. He would smile at me and wrap his arm around my shoulder, and we would both know it turned out all right even after our love had once upon a time sent us straight to hell.
I never comprehended the notion that I could indeed move on, move forward, and let this story go – accepting the truth of the end: This boy I used to love calls the other side of the world home, there will be no chance encounter, there will be no stroll along the riverbank… There won’t ever even be a proper Goodbye. Yet I held onto him fiercely all these years – the grip on my soul is what constricts my breathing, tightens my chest, closes my throat. It is the source of my unrest, unease, anxiety… Love. And Letting Go.
Shedding the old story – it goes so much deeper than I knew, and this is painful. Though, so is living with a longing I can never satisfy, living with the regret that I could have changed it, living with the disappointment that it did not in fact go as I always believed it should had darkness not intervened – that is worse.
For years, this story kept me alive and so I fed it willingly. It was a fire that stayed lit despite any relationship I entered, despite times when I begged to let go hearing my own words rushed, in vain, because I believed deep down it would always remain. Secretly I nurtured the fantasy that our story had to be so much bigger than its culmination – I dreamed it to be so much more full of love, that we would get the life we were building back, and ours would prove the timeless tale of tragedy finding redemption with true love as its central foundation. How am I to snuff out the flames, douse the smoldering coals with cleansing water to remove all trace of a fire entirely, when for all these years our love kept me safe, warm, and made all the monsters run away? Who am I, can I be safe, without this?
My children just got home from school. Time to remove this hat, The Writer, for now. . .
Breathing is a bit easier now, and thankfully the sudden and spontaneous tears have dried, while I yet still feel it looming, the anxiety has subsided to a more comfortably observable level. Hopefully I can find equilibrium as I continue throughout this day, holding space for myself to explore the sensations, thoughts, and feelings in my body, and learning from even the painful things.
This, after all, is “living” and if nothing else today I am grateful for this moment, to just Be. Anxiety side-by-side with peace, a beautiful dance… And all the words. Finally at it – all these beautiful words. From me, to the page.
A big exhale, I think I will give myself two minutes to just sit here, eyes closed. Right outside my door my family awaits, and there are floors to mop, mouths to feed.
Hopefully I will be back here tonight, where I belong. To all the words I’ve contained finally ready to flow out. . .