I’m wondering why I haven’t written much lately. It’s been over 2 months since my last post. Many stories started in my imagination, but after the first paragraph I didn’t know where else to go. My Monkey Mind has been very busy–continually jumping into the future to figure out a plan for me, a path to follow so I don’t have to keep making decisions. Should I buy a house in Darwin? Should I look at more ecovillages? Should I give myself another year to float along this river of unfolding experiences I seem to be on, and see what I’m drawn to? I get a lot of feedback from the outside world suggesting what I should do. I don’t like making decisions, but if someone else tries to make them for me I roar like a tiger inside and decide to not talk to that person for awhile. Or forever. Sometimes I get tired of my indecision. Most of the time I love this untethered life and feel as if I’m living truer to my essence than ever before. Like I’m blooming into the flower I’ve always meant to be.
April presented me with many appealing options for personal growth, so I decided to add some earthy joy in the mix and spent the month living in Wanda, following the prolific wildflower blooms across California, and taking advantage of not paying rent for the month. The first weekend I facilitated a couples workshop with the Hendricks Institute in Berkeley, and the last weekend I joined a three-day writing retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In between I camped out, rented a truck and drove my cargo trailer from Santa Cruz to Darwin, and explored a potential opportunity for offering workshops and creating an intentional community in Northern California. I got totally blissed out following my bliss!
Or maybe I couldn’t resist the wild call of spring…
I sit in my big green camp chair, the comfy one with armrests and cupholders, gazing at a field of dark purple and creamy white lupines spiking up from the rocky soil. Tiny dots of star-shaped brilliant yellow flowers, and even tinier specks of popcorn-like white flowers swaying on top of willowy stalks create a magical background. Wind gently caresses my skin, cooling off the growing heat of the day. A nearby stream rushes over smooth boulders, but I can’t tell the difference between water over rock and tree branches animated by wind. Lupine perfume intoxicates me with a sensuous message from an ancient past. I am rooted in Earth, communing with my relations, feeling peaceful and connected to what is most important at one of my homes away from home–my favorite place for disperse camping in the Los Padres National Forest.
Every day I hike through expansive fields of flowers rimmed by large rock outcroppings whose layers slant steeply toward the sky, creating a mystical sense of sacred ground. Some of the rocks have grinding holes from people whose lifestyles were intimately connected with nature. I breathe in the air they breathed, my skin touches the smooth rocks theirs did, I dip my body in the pools of refreshing cool water they used, and I visualize women sitting together, pounding acorns or other seeds into flour, making food and medicine and useful items for their families. So much wisdom our modern ways have left behind. I long to know, to rekindle that kind of connection to the world I inhabit. Maybe I’m more connected than I realize. Maybe we all can be, if we take a moment to tap in, to wake up and remember. Maybe the sensuous dreams I’ve been having lately were sparked by the alluring perfumes of wildflowers, meant to tantalize fertilizers of many species to indulge in wanton behaviors…
When I decided to take a year leave of absence from teaching to go wandering in Wanda almost two years ago, I was looking for a new community and seeking keys to what I want to do with this next phase of life. I decided to make a curriculum for myself. If I didn’t do that I was afraid the year would pass and there I would be, back in Santa Cruz and still undecided about what my next steps toward living a meaningful life full of joy and satisfying connection would look like. I’d be right back in the grind of working full time, juggling housemates/tenants/airbnb guests, and no closer to knowing what my special gift is to share with the world.
My curriculum included learning to meditate with Davidji, attending a writing retreat with Laura Davis, and experiencing first-hand the work of Gay and Katie Hendricks of the Hendricks Institute. I wasn’t sure how I would pay for all of this, since the rental income I collected barely covered the cost of maintaining and paying bills for my home, but somehow I knew it would happen if I made a commitment. I’ve experienced this enough in my life to trust it, and sure enough, I found a way to do it all. In Davidji’s workshop I committed to daily meditation for a year. With Laura I journeyed to Machu Picchu in Peru where I explored new ways to write, and with the Hendricks seminars I learned new ways to play, how to take responsibility for my experiences, and to create a life of joy that is true to my essence.
Though all of my curriculum that first year was important in setting my new life course, the Hendricks teaching resonated with me so strongly that I decided to join a two year leadership training program. On the first day of the eight day seminar, I was warmly welcomed into the group and my new buddy greeted me, asking if we could have lunch together one day. I saw people laughing and smiling, listening deeply to each other, snuggling together in a pile of bodies supported by backjacks and pillows, communicating clearly and playfully with their bodies instead of telling lengthy stories, and I knew I wanted to be an integral part of this group. Again, I had no idea how I would pay for it, but I knew it was right for me. Later that year a large chunk of money magically landed in my bank account. Really!! I had no idea it was coming my way, and it was through a totally unexpected route. I was able to pay for the entire program up front. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
So there I was that first week in April, facilitating a couples group in Berkeley. Me. A woman who has fumbled through 6 long term relationships. One of my old college friends asked me in an email what I was doing facilitating a couples workshop, and I interpreted that she didn’t think I could call myself an expert in this field. I told her I was there to hold space for the magic that I knew Katie Hendricks would create, and to learn by osmosis how she does it. For the next two and a half days I watched couples play with new ways of relating. I felt inspired, and thought maybe that opportunity will be in my future again at some point. Maybe the flowers are working even deeper magic on me!
Writing What I Can’t Remember
I sat on a cushioned stool in a circle of experienced authors, all of us attending a three day writers retreat where we had the luxury of no distractions so we could focus on our various projects. A few had already published books–fiction and non-fiction, others were working on memoirs, and others on finishing touches, like book jacket introductions and final editing to incorporate themes in a playful way. Wow! Did I belong here? I’ve been playing with the memoir my daughter asked me to write for a couple of years now, and attending these retreats always gives me a big boost in progress. At first I felt totally inadequate and was embarrassed to read my material, but once I convinced my ego to step aside, I took the feedback and suggestions from more experienced authors and re-wrote my stories, transforming them into pieces that became richer and more alive with details. I was back for more–much less afraid of being discovered as an inadequate writer. I really didn’t care about that anymore–I was having fun!
After sharing our goals and intentions for the weekend, we each set up a temporary work space in a gorgeous and spacious house in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Tall windows provided an expansive view of forests, and the hosts’ labradoodle, Annie, accompanied us outdoors to a sunny deck in case we wanted to throw her favorite ball when we took a break for fresh air break or to eat some lunch. Laura provided dinners so we really had nothing to do but write from 9 am until 9:30 pm. Even though I’ve moved away from Santa Cruz, I still feel connected through special events like these. I’ve discovered that some parts of my former life are too precious to let go of.
I decided to work on a couple of stories from my teens. That time in my life seemed incredibly important to include, but was also a time I’m not proud of. I created a lot of family drama when I ran away from home twice, began drinking alcohol and taking drugs, lied to my parents, and took on the persona of a rebel. It was the beginning of the 1970s, and the middle of the mind-altering Hippie movement. A time of personal growth, more independence than I probably should have had, and a strong pushing against everything that was nurturing, cozy, and comfortable in my earlier childhood. Hmmm…. that sounds kind of like what I’ve been going through these last couple of years since I decided to end my last long-term relationship, quit my job, and sell my house. Starting over. Playing 52 Card Pickup with my life.
One story was especially significant, but I couldn’t remember a lot of details, so I had put off writing it. I was walking home from my new school in Palo Alto, California one day when a guy pulled me into the bushes and tried to rape me. I was only 14. I remembered every detail of what he did to me, even the words he used and how I responded. What I couldn’t remember was what happened to me afterward. I wrote what I could, then read it to Laura for feedback. As always, the tears flow hard when I read my own writing about intense experiences, and I felt Laura’s compassionate support in helping me express what happened without digging into the writing skills at first. Then she asked me some questions, like, “How did you change after this happened?” “How did your mom respond when you told her?” “How did you feel when you had to testify?” She helped me see how I left my reader in the middle of the story, and needed to fill in more details to paint the complete picture. I couldn’t remember so many things! She suggested I read accounts of other women who were raped, looking for things that sounded familiar to me.
I returned to my work space and began reading. I only read a couple of accounts, when suddenly some memories came back–I could see myself walking along that overpass, my pants zipper broken and blouse ripped with twigs in my hair, trying to be invisible, so embarrassed at what had just happened to me. I could feel what that was like, and had an image of flowing like an invisible breeze along the overpass. And then I could totally picture what I would have said to Mom. My new-found independent and rebellious one telling her, “Nothing really happened, Mom. I’m fine. I just want to take a shower. I don’t want to talk about it.” And then I remembered the terror I felt when I returned to school, afraid that boy’s older brothers were going to kill me, as he had threatened. I told the cops that picked me up on the overpass, even though his threat exploded in my head. I didn’t know what else to do.
Suddenly I understood the fear of male attention I felt for so many years. It all came back to me, along with fresh tears that flowed all afternoon as the words poured into my laptop. By dinnertime I felt lighter, as if I could float above the floor. Though I was drained from the focused effort of writing and re-experiencing a traumatic time, the secret I had kept for so many decades was no longer weighing me down. I understood myself in a whole new way. When someone asked how it was to write this story, I replied exuberantly, “I had fun!” Now, I wouldn’t say it was fun, but I was in a place where time ceased to exist, more present with myself than I’d been in a long time. I think it has something to do with being in my essence. Sharing my gift, my genius (Do I dare make that claim?!). I think it’s some of the best writing I’ve ever done!
I’m living my dream, flowing in my own essence pace, following the lead of my unique heart and brain. At long last I am not pushing against or feeling pulled by a partner, nor making decisions based on what I thought would be best for my children. This is part of my curriculum, too, and I feel so much gratitude that I allowed myself to face my fears and take a leap into the unknown toward what I heard calling me. I haven’t landed yet. I’m flying awhile instead!
After wandering with Wanda again for another month, I think back about what I’ve learned from living a nomadic life on and off for most of the past two years:
- I love the freedom I experience through being unattached!
- I’ve gotten feedback that I’m glowing. I think I see it when I look in the mirror.
- The less I bring with me, the happier I am.
- I want to learn more about engine repair and how to be more self-sufficient.
- When I have less responsibilities I’m able to be more present and available to others. I’m also calmer and more patient–with myself and others.
- I’m becoming more particular about who I share time with and how I spend it.
- I’m no longer afraid of being homeless–I already am, and it has lots of unexpected benefits!
- Sometimes staying in a home feels really good–spacious and comfy. Sometimes I want to unpack my belongings from my cargo trailer and create a home base.