Take Your Shoes Off, Stay a While

 

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The front entryway in the little house that couldn’t

Home. The word is filled with so many connotations and expectations, many contradictory. For me, the idea of home conjure up feelings of security and belonging, which march hand in hand across my internal landscape with feelings of desperation and isolation.

 

 

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In my hammock at the Frog’s Chillhouse Hostel, Huanchaco, Trujillo, Peru

Looking back over my life I can see the times I’ve built a home, most notably with my former husband. We bought an adorable 1900’s era Craftsman about a mile from a developing downtown neighborhood. I loved that house, and for a while, I loved the life I lived in it. Dinner parties, two adorable cats, a husband I’d pledged my life to.

 

Not long after we moved in, however, the cracks around the seams began to show. They’d always been there, of course. The enormity of owning a house just made them a lot more visible.

 

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Next to the Ganges River, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India

I have a nomadic spirit. I have a troubled and deepening relationship with that spirit. For a long time, I told myself I needed a solid, stable life. Once I got that, happiness and peace would blossom. What happened, instead, was that my need for travel, newness, and adventure got wind of my plans for living in one place for the foreseeable future and started throwing fits.

 

At first, this manifested as a sense of diffuse heaviness. I would walk around the house, touching the walls, looking at the art we’d so lovingly hung, and wonder why I felt out of place. Then came the depression, sneaky for a while, until I found myself sobbing underneath my desk at work, frantically dialing a hotline for help.

I went to therapy after that. That morning had shown me, without a doubt, that something was seriously off. I couldn’t fix it by myself. My husband was opposed to the idea. He took the mindset that we could figure out any problem, with either of us or the relationship, together. I persisted. Unfortunately, my therapist decided the cure for all that ailed me was for me to return to school.

 

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In the kitchen at the MWH community, Taray, Cusco, Peru

I stopped going after four appointments.

 

Eventually, my marriage ended, in large part to that pesky nomadic spirit. I crave not just new destinations, but new people, new relationships, new experiences. My former husband craves security, guarantees. It’s not wrong, I think, just different. We needed different things.

Going back further than the marriage, the house, I can look at my childhood. I never felt at home there, either. As the youngest child, sister to a pair of twins, I didn’t feel like I had a solid place in my family. I grew up in a city I never loved, never really wanted to be in. Colorado Springs was too cold, too dry, too narrow-minded, too full of big box stores and four lane streets for me to feel at home.

So, what does home mean to me, now? It’s hard to say with any certainty. As I travel, people ask me where I’m from. Outside Seattle is my default answer. If they probe further, which they sometimes do, and start on the subject of home my answer is always—given quickly—India. It is the place I felt most at peace in, most myself.

 

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Dirty, dirty feet in my apartment behind Goody Goody’s Cafe, Arambol Beach, Goa, India

This afternoon I stopped in San Blas plaza after I ate lunch to smoke a cigarette. I sat on the wall in front of the fountain and slipped off my hiking boots. When I was in Arambol, I hardly ever wore shoes, preferring to dart around town and hop on motorcycles with my feet exposed to the earth. I felt a glimmer of this connection as I sat there, enjoying the sun as it faded behind a threatening rain cloud. When I finished my cigarette, I picked up my boots and walked to my hostel, the soles of my feet eating up the cobblestone roads. During those few minutes, I felt taller, more confident, more connected than I have since I got to Peru.

 

So maybe that has something to do with home, for me: it’s where I feel comfortable taking my shoes off.

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The Shape Of Fear

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A pair of lovebirds in Pisac

What is the difference from the fear our mind creates to stop us from pursuing what is good (albeit challenging), and the intuition our hearts give us to avoid something that truly won’t serve us?

It’s a question I’ve been looking at a lot over the last few weeks. Living in this community has given me the opportunity to make myself vulnerable in a lot of ways, including entering into ceremony with ayahuasca and huachuma. I have persistently avoided many of these opportunities. Sitting out on meetings of the members of this community where they talk about whats going on in their lives, traveling to the hot springs for a ‘vacation’ instead of going into ceremony, isolating myself in a dozen different ways so I can keep myself protected.

In many of these cases I’ve made the choices I have out of a lack of trust, and faith. In the case of just talking, it’s a lack of trust that my thoughts and feelings will be valued, or even heard. Or, very closely associated with that, a lack of trust in myself that I will have the courage to say what I mean, and articulate it well. If I do go into these situations, manage to summon up my courage, then manage to say what I mean in the way I mean it, having those thoughts overlooked or scorned would be (it feels) more heartbreaking than keeping them inside.

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Lares, the hot springs I went to instead of entering ceremony

With the case of the ceremonies I sat out of, it was a lack of faith in the medicine, as well as the community. Going into the space of ceremony is a huge step towards vulnerability. It means opening myself up to powers beyond my control, way beyond my scope of understanding, in an effort to connect with them and learn from then. The thing with learning, though, is realizing that what I already know may be false. Sometimes very, life-changingly false.

Brene Brown is a social researcher who has focused her research on shame, guilt, and vulnerability. You’ve probably heard of her, and if you haven’t I highly recommend checking out her TedX talks on YouTube. She emphasizes the importance of vulnerability, and its ability to connect us with ourselves, our loved ones, and the world at large.

“Through my research I’ve found that vulnerability is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the magic sauce.”

I agree with her, in many, many ways. Yet, I find it increasingly difficult to live by this belief, to practice it consistently, when the act of being vulnerable opens me up to so much potential pain. It is difficult to feel invisible. It is far worse to try to be seen, try hard, and feel like I’ve failed.

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A bit desolate, the external mirroring the internal

So, in many cases, I stop trying. There are a few exceptions, a few relationships in which I consistently feel seen. I treasure those, and do what I can to nurture them. And the rest? Well…oftentimes I don’t even give them a chance.

I finally entered into ceremony a few days ago, with ayahuasca, and lived through one of these experiences of trying to put myself out there and getting knocked back. Through the whole ceremony I felt ignored by the medicine, ignored by the sacred fire, and apart from the group. It seems, to me, that it was a clear sign telling me what I’ve felt from the day I arrived: That I don’t belong here. I shouldn’t be here. I have other things I need to do, people I need to meet, places I need to see.

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A tarot reading Steven and I did, not long after we arrived. The question was: What is each of our resistance, and how do we move through it? The answer to moving through? Accepting Divine medicine. I have yet to take the reading much to heart, but…

Is it fear talking? Fear that if I try, again, to put myself in that place of vulnerability that I will once again be knocked down? Or is it my heart, my gut, my instinct, and the Universe telling me something? The two voices sound eerily similar sometimes.

For the time being, I know the choice I need to make: I listen to the voice telling me to leave. Perhaps it comes from a place of fear, perhaps a place of instinct. I low it is colored by the need to establish my own, deeply personal reasons for being or not being here, not just because Steven is here, or Pumpkin is here. I have to know I have made the choice for myself.

If I return, I want to do so coming from a place where I am willing to be vulnerable. What point would there be to come from anywhere else?

I Guess You Gotta Treat Pleasure and Pain the Same…

Yesterday I was in a black, black mood. I woke up with my neck in so much pain it was hard to turn, my head full of disappointments and broken expectations, and a wounded ego that just wanted to stay in bed under the covers all day. Being in the middle of a heat wave, that option wasn’t on the table, but the whole bed=good, everything else=suck equation was definitely in full force.

So, I did. Stay in bed, that is. And I used some of that time to cry, because that’s how I express strong emotions. And I used that time to smoke pot and watch TV, because that’s how I hide from my emotions. (Seriously, though, Grace & Frankie is surprisingly fucking awesome.) and I used that time to try to figure out what the hell was going on inside my head and my heart to bring me to this place of drawn curtains and ice cream cravings.

In the past, I’ve let these moods sink me for days. I’ve let them take root, falling into the idea that what I’m feeling will be what I am always feeling. When I extrapolate out like that, the future seems very dim indeed, but that is how it feels. Pain, pain, everything is pain. It’s an oddly comforting place to be, I think at least in part because that would mean I know what to expect. Even if it sucks. Like going to McDonalds: you know what you’re going to get.

Except life doesn’t work that way.

Life flows. Life moves. And we move along with it. Sometimes with grace, sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes without even realizing we’re along for the ride.

The journey brings pain, as sure as breathing. If I like, I can zero in on that pain, nurture it and let it blossom like a black, fetid rose. I can choose to ignore, or even fight, the pleasure and happiness that comes my way by being so intent on my misfortunes. In this way, I bring in pain twofold— by cultivating it and welcoming it into my life, and by struggling against any happiness I might find, often because I think I don’t deserve it, and the rest of the time because I think it’s fake.

But as sure as my heart aches, it sings as well. I’m all about cultivating happiness, nurturing the beauty in my life and pouring out gratitude for every awesome thing that comes my way. Maybe this brings me more happiness and joy through attraction, or maybe I’m just more aware of it, or both, but these practices lend a brightness to my life which I find invaluable.

Taken from a slightly different perspective, though, the enjoyment of pleasure can turn as ugly and limiting as an obsession with pain. This comes when I choose to chase pleasure. When I choose to grasp it, and hold on for dear life even as it slips from between my fingers, smothered by my desire.

When I glorify pleasure and in turn demonize pain, I lose the ability to appreciate any of it, because I’m too busy striving for one and avoiding the other to just be. It becomes a state of fear. Fear that I’ll lose my precious joy, and fear that I will have to experience that wicked pain. Thing is, pleasure and pain are the same thing. They’re emotions. They’re experiences. They do not define me, they do not define my life.

Above all: They are transient. As ephemeral as the clouds. Sometimes it rains for days and days. Sometimes it feels like it will never stop raining. And sometimes it feels like this great golden sun shining down on me couldn’t possibly pale or hide itself away, and yet it does.

This, too, shall pass.

My perspective has shifted significantly in the last year. I’m moving towards the point where I can let these emotions into my life, enjoy them for what they bring and how they enrich my humble journey, and let them pass again. I’m not there, yet. Not sure I can ever truly get there, but I can sure as hell move in that direction.

We all can.

I lovelovelove you all,

Sarah

Two Months of Transitions, Chaos, Loss and Love

Author’s note: My other blog, Courage at the a crossroad, appears to have been eaten. Perhaps by my host, the gator. Who knows? I’ll take what the universe gives me, and use what I can. Which means the new blog is the current blog! Until further notice, at least. I’ll work on moving old posts over here when I’m not quite so annoyed with the whole thing.

Photo used under CC license from Paul Noble
Photo used under CC license from Paul Noble

It’s been over two months since my last entry. A lot, as is often the case, has happened. To sum things up a bit:

• I was ‘replaced’ at my place of employment. Which, honestly, was the best thing for both me and my employer. I hated it there, and while my boss was no cupcake either, there are certain types of people who will enjoy working for him. So, more power to them.

sarah me• Due to my newfound lack of employment, I moved out of my cute—if distressingly concrete bound—apartment, and in with Ina, in a great big house on some of the most beautiful land I’ve seen out here. Living together has been challenging, and incredibly rewarding, as we learn to communicate with each other, navigate space together, and recognize and establish personal boundaries necessary for our individual health and well being. (It’s very difficult not to just spend all our free time hanging out, despite knowing we need alone time and work time, as well. I know, terrible problem to have, eh?)

IMG_0490-0• My sweet Pi baby is missing, presumed eaten. Tomorrow marks the third week of her being gone. Moving out here, I made the decision to let both her and Pumpkin become indoor/outdoor cats, like Ina’s cat, Shadow. I knew the risks. I grew up with cats, some of which frolicked in the great outdoors. A number of which didn’t come back. I didn’t think I would have to face that risk so soon, but I console myself with the fact that she was fucking ecstatic to have had the time outside. That little girl brought down shrews, moles, mice, rabbits and at least one bird. I’m holding hope she’ll stumble home soon (any day, love, would be great), and I know that if she doesn’t at least she got a chance to live. I’d rather have that than wrapped-up safety, any day.

3563297783_1b5368fb35_z• Which segues nicely, if a bit morbidly, to my next bullet point: yesterday morning, still bleary eyed and needing coffee, I opened up an email from Hipmunk and found myself facing the lowest fares from Seattle to New Delhi I’d seen in weeks of scouring the internet. Twenty minutes later, I was booked on an Emirates flight to the Capital of India, arriving ten short days before my thirtieth birthday. Whoosh. I keep waiting for it to feel real. The closest thing I’m getting is a million tiny freak outs, every single day.

 

Dear reader,
I am terrified.

Not of India, necessarily, though pickpockets, inscrutable train systems, food poisoning and dodgy toilets aren’t exactly comforting thoughts. No, what I’m most scared of is myself. More specifically: can I do this? Without, you know, going crazy or buying an early return ticket or holing up in an ashram until it’s time for my flight home. Can I, physically and emotionally, keep up with the demands of my yoga teacher training course? Can I navigate through four months of culture shock, essentially alone? Most importantly, can I fit enough souvenirs in a 40L pack? Ha, yeah…

Look, I know this is something I want to do. In the deepest part of my heart I want to travel. See the world, experience as much as humanly possible of this insane, beautiful, out of control place we’ve been blessed with.

None of which makes me any less scared.

But it does make it possible.

Lovelovelove,

Sarah