Of Here

It’s difficult to hear someone you admire say something that is, or seems, contradictory to all of the things they’ve said before. An author and spiritual mentor wrote this week that, because we feel pain in this world, perhaps it means that our spirits are not of this place, but of elsewhere.

This, from a teacher of Earth Medicine, whose writings and teachings are of the medicine of plants and animals, the magic of the soil, the air, of nature.

It’s not so much that I completely disagree with the sentiment, that perhaps our essence is not originally of here. But, the idea flies in the face of all that I’ve admired and learned from this teacher.

It feels like she’s changed her tune. Which we’re all free to do, at any time or place, but perhaps an introduction to a new idea, a preamble to a complete change of heart, a warning that everything has changed, would have been a gentler way for the student to learn.

The concept that my spirit, my soul, my essence, whatever I choose to name it this week, is not of here was a very difficult and damaging, and long-held, belief for most of my life. I clung to my Christian faith, in its many forms, ferociously, desperately, and forced it to bleed me dry and empty in its not-of-here-ness. It was a cop-out on my part. If I was not of here, I could simply rely on the “fact” that, some day, there would be an escape. And sometimes, I wanted to make that escape come sooner than it should.

I’ve had several suicidal times in my life, and still think of death in rare moments. However, it has been Earth Medicine, my faith in nature, that has brought me the farthest from the precipice, and has kept me away from swinging out over the edge. I consider the doe. What does she do? She survives. Her absolute purpose is to survive. Why? It doesn’t matter. It’s just what she does.

She is of the earth. She is earth. She survives.

And that is the belief, the knowledge, that has changed me. When I feel desperation slipping into the cracks of my fragile peace, I look to such things as the doe, the rabbit, King Prawn. I look to the sun and the moon, to the stars, the darkness, the breeze on my face. I pick up a pretty, round stone, pluck a sprig of wild sage, a cornflower, hold a twig of just the right size.

And these pieces of the mundane, these bits of silence and birdsong, these things that circle around, season through season, remind me that it is the simple things, the basic and earthly things, that are my sustenance and my refuge. A pink wildflower reminds me of my beautiful daughter. A leaf, grown so large it seems unreal, reminds me of my wildly ambitious son. A buck in velvet tells me tales of my loving husband, my best and most faithful friend.

The moon is my mother, the sun my father, and the world in green and sea blue is my realm, a place of every possibility, every emotion, every wish and desire and dream. I sit on my patio chair, watch the hummingbirds drink scarlet juice, see the ants busily and endlessly about their work, watch the clouds float by through a curtain of aspen leaves. And I am home. This earth is my home. It’s where I come from, and to whence I’ll go.

Yes, I am fully of here. It appears I am my own teacher now. And that is a story of evolution.

 

The Feels

The way one FEELS may be directly indicative of the way one feels.

The physical feelings…uncomfortable, stiff, slow, restrained, queasy. But wow, the worst of it is this neck pain, starting at the point behind my hear, extending down my neck and shoulder, and into the area of my shoulder blade.

I can’t turn my head to the right, can’t tip my head back, and it’s actually difficult to hold my head up at all. I feel like my head is huge, and my neck is too weak to support it. The pain comes and goes, but its coming is frequent these days.

In her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Christiane Northrup writes about the connection between physical pain and emotions. She states, “For example, instead of ‘My stomach is hurting,’ say,’What is it I’m having trouble stomaching?’ Emotions such as anger, or any other emotion that you may consider unacceptable or that you may find difficult to experience directly, will often affect your body instead.”

So…I ask myself, “What is it that I am feeling too weak to support?” And “What is it that I find sickening?” And even, “What situation am I uncomfortable with, and which I may be avoiding?”

I am a well-educated woman, and have worked full-time for over twenty years. I am about to accept a part-time position in another town, for a fraction of the pay, but in an office that is calm, friendly, and…yes…air conditioned.

I am leaving a job that makes me feel sick in my skin, that requires me to act in ways I would never act in my everyday interactions away from work. A job that sickens me with the dishonesty and lack of loyalty I see so many of my clients’ family members and representatives exhibit. I am leaving a job where the only clients I have (sometimes as many as 800 at one time) are helpless, and sick. Very sick. I have several clients per week pass on, due to aging, with new clients coming in to replace them. A revolving door of illness and death.

But the pay is great. And money is security. And I’m supposed to want to advance, and make more and more money, right? Isn’t that what is supposed to make me happy and healthy? Oh wait…but I’m not in the best health, and I’m not as happy as I know I could be.

I can shoulder the responsibility that comes along with less money, fewer hours, and happy people. I can shoulder the demands of one more move. I can shoulder the financial restraint I’ll have to exercise when my salary shrinks. I can shoulder the transition period.

I can help to support my family financially, even with a lower wage. I can support my family even better by having the time to maintain our home, take my daughter to events, grow my own vegetables, walk my dog.

I can leave the discomfort of draining hours, of exhausting client needs and demands, of the burden of an extremely heavy workload. I can leave the discomfort of feeling out of place in community, of worrying about living out the rest of my life in the same job that I have never, ever truly enjoyed, and that at times I have hated, and that has led me to anxiety attacks, depression and even one solid nervous breakdown.

I can stomach change, when it leads down a road of sunshine and fulfillment, even if my pockets will be emptier, and my bathroom shelves will be stocked with fewer lovely and expensive skin care products.

I can take a deep breath, enjoy a walk in the morning, and it will all be ok.

Money talks, but most often its words are so very dirty.

Let the hunt for happiness continue.

Wild and Blue

I moved to the country fully believing I was already a country girl. I grew up in the country, had chickens and rode horses as a girl, loved the quiet, secluded life, and always attended very small schools.

I love my little house, my beautiful view across the empty sagebrush valley, the wildlife, the silence, and the opportunities this rural life offers my daughter.

I expected a few bumps along my new country road. I didn’t expect to fit in with the locals. To be bluntly honest, I didn’t come here to make friends. I expected to experience a little culture shock. But I didn’t expect the intense feelings of overwhelm and inadequacy, the feelings that tell me, loudly and without reservation, that I am no country girl.

I am just a woman from the burbs, with a storebought chicken coop and five mismatched chickens in the back yard. I like my expensive skin care. I like shopping. I like smoking a Marlboro on the back porch while perusing Facebook on my smartphone. I like my yard to be right proper and pretty. Prettier than everyone else’s, I might add.

I don’t like country sports, how the whole county rallies around the high school football team. I don’t know how to hitch a horse trailer up to the truck. I’m afraid of horses. I like art and music and rebellion. I like academics. I like big libraries. And reliable internet. I like a fucking Starbucks frap with soy every now and again.

But, here I am living my dream of county life, and I do adore it, and don’t regret the move. I miss many things about the burbs. But I love solitude, I love watching the storms roll across the skyline, unobstructed by any man-made structures whatsoever. I love how black the nights are at the new moon, that I’m seeing stars I never knew existed.

I’m ok that the nearest Starbucks is two hours away. But I am not a country girl. And now I move forward, yet again, to try to figure out what and who exactly I am. I can’t seem to get the universe to divulge that little secret to me yet.

So far I just know I’m wild and blue and the only pagan in the county. Maybe I don’t need to know much more than that.

We Are

So many things I wish I could be, wish I was, wish I wasn’t.

My mind often tells me I’d be happy if I weighed 120. 127. 135. 140. Even 150. But I once was lighter, and once was at each of those weights, at one or two or three times or another. And I wasn’t happy.

I wasn’t happy, because happy doesn’t depend on weight, no matter what the weight loss commercials, magazines, and diet books tell us. Happy doesn’t depend on weight.

My mind still replays the old monologues, still hurls the old slams and insults. Fat. Frumpy. Lazy. Disgusting. Pathetic. Old.

My mind still tells my stomach, my upper arms, my neck and my chin what they are, and what they aren’t. What they should be, what they may never be again.

And then my Spirit steps in and says, whoa, Mind. Chill. Remember we’ve been through this before, and you were wrong last time. Everything you said, turned out to be wrong.

Happy looks a lot different than I used to believe. Happy isn’t about whether my skin is saggy or not, whether I have wrinkles around my eyes or not, or whether there’s a bit of a muffin top above the waist of my jeans. Happy isn’t about white furniture and clean kids and dinner on the table at six each night.

I’m finding that happy is actually much simpler than I ever realized. Happy is about getting a little sunshine, sitting on the back porch, being in the right place, and being here, right now. Happy is this moment, a deep breath, the sweet, pungent smell of sage, and remembering that this is sacred. I am sacred. You are sacred. 

Happy is holiness, and gratefulness is bounty.

I am here. Here, I am. Be here now.

Hush, breathe, and let the sweetness of the air sink in.

How the Light Gets In

391202_2278046668545_1489483160_nMotivation. Why do we do what we do? Guilt can be a powerful motivator. But it can lead to a mountain of anger and resentment.

I’ve been resentful for a long time. Sometimes at certain people, nearly often resentful of myself, often at “God” (back in my Christian days), and frequently just resentful toward life, in general.

My reasons for completing the mundane, everyday household tasks carried with them a lot of martyrdom. I cleaned the cat box because “no one else will.” And always with a wad of anger in my throat.

I washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen because “no one else gives a shit.” And the dishes would clatter into the dishwasher a little more loudly than necessary.

I did the laundry and swept the floors because “this place is a pigsty, and I am the only one who cares.” And tears would often flow as I dumped the contents of the dustpan into the garbage.

I helped my kids with their homework because “no one else in this household gives a crap if the kids are successful in life.” And I’d fall into bed with a knotted up stomach after helping my eighth-grader with math.

I’d mow the grass and weed the flower beds because “what will the neighbors think of me if I don’t?” And I’d apply the lavender essential oil onto my scratched fingers and arms and fume over the fact that everyone else had been watching tv.

Did I ever ask for help? Rarely. Because “I refuse to beg.” Did I love and enjoy my evenings, my weekends, my life? Rarely. Because “I’m alone in all of this. Nobody cares but me.”

Martyrdom. Anger. Resentment. Bitterness. Anti-depressants.

My family and I moved out into the country a couple of months ago. It’s been a dream of mine for years. Decades, even. I have my birdsong now, my peace, my view, my serenity, my bright stars, my silence.

And in all of this quiet, under the influence of the clouds and the meadowlarks and the night calls of coyotes, something in me has shifted and softened. Something inside of me is opening, and is learning to observe the hardened parts of my inner world. Not to hate those parts, or to feel guilty about those parts, or even to try to deliberately force those parts to change. I am just learning to look at them. To see them. To hold space for them.

I don’t have a name for what is really happening. I don’t yet know what it is, or how it will affect my future well-being, my depression, my outlook. I don’t know how much more work I have to do with it, or how far it will take me. I hope that it takes me far, that it takes me to happiness, to contentment, to balance and centering and peacefulness. To a natural state of gentle being.

But I do know that now, when I clean the cat box, I clean it because I love my cats and want them to have a clean, healthy place to poop. That was quite the revelation to have over the litter and clumps, with the cats waiting patiently behind me. It felt pretty fucking profound, actually.

Magic is afoot, I think, as I watch the early Spring storm clouds roll from one end of these mountains to the other. I will let this land tend to my heart, and I will accept each new revelation as a gift that takes me farther along a path of self-healing.

Let it begin with me.