It’s 3 am and I’m up with a case of heartburn so bad it feels like a heart attack. I’d blame the blackened red fish I ate for this wretched agony but it’s not that. Nor can I blame the Sazerac that complimented it. No, this is borne of frayed nerves and fear.
It is my last night here in The Mansion, an 1850’s monstrosity of a home in the heart of Mobile, and I am afraid. Afraid that I will always be scurrying to catch up. Afraid that I will never realize the person I am trying so hard to become. Afraid of the journey ahead of me.
Tomorrow, today, just a few hours from now, I will begin the long drive North. 1,800 miles back to the oilfield. Again. Stupid mouse to cheese trap. I have beaten the odds for a dozen years and managed to get the cheese before the trap clamped down on me. One day it will break my back and I’ll stare with glazed eyes at the molding cheese and wonder why I kept coming back for more.
I wish I could roll over and hold you close to soothe my nerves but the bed is empty. It is always empty. There has never been a woman in this bed.
That thought makes the heartburn worse so I throw the blankets back and scramble to the bathroom, sure that I’ll soon lose that excellent meal. The surge subsides before I get there but I’ve had enough nights like this in the last week to know it’s just a small reprieve so I down a handful of antacids to head off the inevitable follow up.
This is not the norm for me. I have been in situations that were far more stressful without suffering any kind of physiological effect.
So why now?
Writing, for me, has become a form of therapy. Visual meditation. A way to explore the thoughts that constantly ebb and flow with a life all their own. So I sit down and begin to write, casting my net with each stab at the keyboard until I snag that one random image that defines what it is I am feeling.
In this case it is the image of the empty bed and what I am feeling is lonely. No, not lonely. Alone.
Big surprise. You’d think I would have caught that as I wrote the cryptic poetry I posted earlier. I guess it was too obvious. So I read the poem again, something I really should do at least a few times before publishing. Write once, edit a hundred times. That, I’ve been told, is the set rule of writing. I should probably try it. The poem is horrid. It has potential, but it really is horrid. All over the map. I don’t recommend reading it. But it tells me what I need to know; I am never alone.
Right now there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people all over the planet feeling exactly the same thing I am feeling.
I close my eyes, slow my breath, and reach out to them. To assure them they are not alone, to let them know that they are loved, that I am here with them and in doing so I offer those same things to my Self and receive them from others and those thoughts, or the combination of those thoughts and the antacids (credit where credit is due), begin to slow the burn and the frayed edges of my nerves begin to mend.
Still, I wish I could get back into that bed and hold you close.
Photo by Josh Applegate
Life regularly spins out of control, beyond my ability to keep it in check. Road blocks appear from nowhere or I look around my self and realize that I have no idea where it is that I am going.
The truth is that I am so deep on my path that much of my future is already decided no matter what I do. Knowing that will not prevent me from continuing to alter that path by taking careful steps that improve life. Not just my life, yours, and truly, all life.
Maybe that’s expecting too much from myself but it is what I am working, and most often failing, at.
How easy it is for some people to do those things. Some seem born into it. Gifted from birth and then guided through life while I seem to always be restricted. Prevented. Partly because of decisions I’ve made in the past and partly because I was simply born into a world that lacked proper guidance. Most of the guidance I have received has been either internal, and therefore slow to process, or divine and therefore impossible to interpret.
But maybe that’s the plan. Maybe I’m supposed to learn slowly and to exert myself rather than have it made easy, to focus my efforts in the wrong places along the way in order to learn by mistake rather than by success.
I don’t know.
Honestly, I don’t care.
Why should I?
Life is a steady progression of difficult decisions for everyone. It would be delusional for me to think that I might be exempt from that fact and it would be a loss of faith to believe that I will ever be let down or led astray by the Divine. She has never done either, something I am always grateful for, so I have no loss of faith.
I’m human. So I am bound to doubt myself from time to time or feel completely unworthy of the goals I have set for myself or have fears. Human. Go figure.
In the end I know, despite the fact that I have very little control over what happens, everything will work out exactly as it should and I will guide positive change as much as I possibly can and accept whatever it is that is beyond my sphere of influence.
I may not control the ocean that heaves this ship with waves the size of mountains to force it in new directions, but I man the rudder.
I will always steer towards home.
blown on the wind
or carried by bird or squirrel
in fertile soil
a spot perfectly suited
for its specific needs
with fragile fingers
to reach the moisture
that feeds it’s spine
to sprout tiny limbs
which slowly reach out
from the warm blanket of its birth
towards the warm glow of Heaven
in such slow
that its progress is marked in decades
in the rings of its trunk
and its family is generations
that carry its seed
to other fields
to claw and scrape and sometimes
long enough to become home
to their own generations
until one day
hundreds of years
of lives later
it is in the way
holding up progress
it is hacked and sawed
and burned for a road
or a home
or a hotel
or a parking lot
and I am reminded
that in life
there are no take backs
I can’t go back to where I began
reach out into the world
in a different direction
the paths I took
that got me here
or retrace the steps
that carried me to this point
sitting naked in a hot tub
and sipping rum
and allowing the events of my life
events that led me to a walk down this most beautiful avenue
lined with oaks
planted with purpose
full of peace
brothers and sisters
destined to live their lives
to their very end
still digging my roots deeper
my limbs higher
have every opportunity
as a gift from the Divine
to expand those roots at will
to places of my design
of Her design
I can never go back
and at any time
though I am still just a seed
Picture taken at Avenue of the Oaks.
I wonder; will I ever become the man I have tried so hard to be? Will my past ever let go of me? Can I ever truly break free from it? Move beyond it?
I don’t know. I really don’t.
Most of my successes have been built on the back of my failures. I didn’t learn to be the man I am by getting it right but by screwing up, epically, and then learning from my mistakes and becoming proactive instead of reactive. To always be mindful. To listen to what it is I am feeling, understand it, then express it productively.
There are times when unexpected reactions bubble up and I become toxic. Reaction takes over. Erupts.
Is this failure? While “failure” is not a word I often apply to anything, it can be considered a failure if those reactions affect those I love.
It happens. I wish it didn’t, I wish to God it didn’t, but it does and when it does I can not help but feel as if it is the last mistake I am allowed.
Then I remember something I told a friend of mine, “It’s not the last fight until it’s the last fight.”
In treating one of those volatile reactions as the final act that drives the nail into whatever it is I am doing I literally provide the nail, and the hammer, and the force that drives the nail home. I manifest my fears by believing in them.
What I am doing is worth the effort. Where I am is worth the time to adjust to. Who I am with is worth loving and believing in. We are worth believing in.
I will not believe in anything but those things which further my path, our path, and our place in the world.
Yes, I will make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. There will be times that the events of my past, a past I have spent so much time learning will come back to haunt me. The reason for this is simple; I have dealt with those things alone.
I am not alone. Not any more. I have a whole new set of lessons to learn now.
I look forward to the learning with the knowledge that it never ends.
There’s a full moon tonight. It is a moon of introspection. A time when impulse gives way to doubt. Doubt gives way to resistance. Resistance gives way to rebellion.
If, however, we are able to separate our feelings of rebellion from a need for change we open ourselves to new ways of communicating because it is also a time of inspiration, security, steadfastness, and loyalty.
If you find yourself ready to bolt today, from whatever it is that feeds that resistance, whether it be work or a relationship or yourself, then stand back. Take a breath. View the situation in its entirety. And be grateful.
I spent a couple hours at the beach earlier. I felt alone. Truly alone. I wanted to run. To hide. I was balled up tight and wondering why I would feel that way in the presence of such shear power and beauty.
I straightened up. Put myself in a meditative position; back straight, palms upwards in my lap, shoulders relaxed, jaw loose. I breathed in that amazing energy. Connected to those feelings of insecurity. Embraced them. Listened to them. Loved them.
In loving myself I released those feelings and found that sense of security that lay just under the surface.
I wish I could share this with you. The feeling that everything will be okay because I feel those same doubts coming from you.
Relax. Breathe deep. Feel yourself connect to the earth through your feet and the base of your spine. Breathe deep and long, filling your lungs from the bottom up. Then release the air, squeeszing it out from the bottom up.
Focus on a point in front of you. Just in front of your eyes whether slightly open or loosely closed. Imagine a white dot of light there. The light moves and when it moves it makes the slightest sound. Listen to it. Feel it. Let it expand. Allow it to envelop you. When your thoughts stray listen to them, release them, then return to that point of light.
That light is surety. Stability. It is the strength of the Universe that lives within you. It is your divine spark. It is you and it is telling you everything is going to be okay.
Tonight the moon is full and so are you. There’s nothing to run from.
I’m not sure when I scribbled this poem on a loose sheaf of note paper (now in the “Final” file along with empty cans and banana peals as all illegible scribbles later clarified end) that suggests there was at one time more to it. Still, it stands on it’s own as a contemplative piece.
Catching on the web of it
Hurtling through the thick of it
In to the past
Hanged on every word of it
Passing through the heart of it
By the act
Bleeding with the pain of it
Shooting past that part of it
To someplace better
that stepping to the side
of the ongoing ride
to watch it rolling by
frozen in a space
about the size of nothing
at the slowly melting something
leaving just the core
while the unreality of it all
just makes me want to smile
Image: “Orion” by Liu Yu
Sometimes Life with a capital “L”, that interruption to our usual routine, can be an intrusion, unwanted. The car breaks down. The job I do becomes unstable. New bills. New hassles. Life getting in the way of Living.
Other times it can be a most welcome gift from the Divine. Unexpected and welcome. Invited. Life and Living working together to create new paths.
The last seven days of my life have been just such a gift.
Seven days of smoky skies and noisy rides and sunsets and of rediscovery and of joy and of meaning. Of long hikes and sweet nights and endless sunrises and hard laughter.
I have doubted myself many times over the years. Doubted that what I have been working for could be accomplished. Doubted that my constant calls would ever be heard. Doubted that I am who I present myself to be. Doubted even my faith in the Divine that I have devoted so much time to.
A trip to Black Elk Peak, that sacred place in the Black Hills of South Dakota where the Divine always stands with outstretched hands and a compassionate heart that I have visited before when seeking answers, was made at the end of the seven days and this time the Goddess herself granted me an outpouring of blessings with a delicate rain from her very hand that crossed my face and mixed with my own tears of loving gratitude. An undeniable message that my path is true, my footing sure, my future promised.
There are times when Life gets in the way and there are times when it opens a doorway to a lifetime of meaning and purpose and of love. Be ready. Do the hard work now so when that door opens you can spread your wings and fly through it.
In the Tarot the Hermit stand alone on the top of a mountain with lantern held out to see and to illuminate. He is both student and teacher and he tells us that the answers we seek can be found within.
The card has two basic meanings;
First; the need to withdraw from society to become comfortable with himself.
Second; the return from isolation to share knowledge with others.
Several years ago I decided to withdraw from the world. There were many reasons for doing this. Some of them were valid. Most were not.
One of the biggest reasons I did this is because being alone hurt. It hurt so much that I became a hermit. Funny animals us humans; we withdraw when we feel alone.
I’d like to tell you that in those years I became wise, all-seeing, all-knowing, but I did not. What I did do is learn much about myself. Where I came from and how that affected who I am. How to reconcile my life experiences with where I was physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
When I raised my lantern on those things that shaped me, there were things that came into focus that made me uncomfortable and though they initially made me want to remain in isolation they also became the things that drew me out of it. By examining each act of rage or insolence or passion or love or joy or whatever, without passing judgment, neither good nor bad, but simply as a thing that happened or that I did, I was able to gain a clearer image of who I was and, more importantly, who I was not.
In that process I learned one simple truth: If you want to be who you are meant to be you must first stop being who you are.
Once I gained that clearer view I began the excruciating and liberating job of dismantling who I was and recreating who I was meant to be. I say “recreating” because I have come to believe that we are born exactly who we are meant to be and life, doing what it does best, getting in the way of living, rewrites that person. We may be raised or live in a way that is destructive and damaging or make mistakes or have experiences that reshape that person, but that original person, the ego-free infant with no concept of time or space or tragedy or love or hate or pain, remains at our core. Always there vying for our attention. Waiting to be realized.
This process is never ending. I am complete and whole but my work, examining and re-examining and freeing those parts of myself locked away and learning to become a better person, will never be done.
I chose to release myself from the isolation last fall. For me the process took seven years. It was long and painful and lonelier than I can possibly express but it was worth it. I am beginning to realize that person I was born as. Become the person you see now. I like this person.
This is not the only way to become a fully realized human. Not even close. It was my way and the methods I chose ran a high risk of failure so I won’t share those methods but for me they were worth the risk.
What I will tell you is that it came down to this one thing: Courage.
If you are not who you want to be all it takes is the courage to forget who you have pretended to be. There is nothing more liberating than being yourself.
I hope your own journey brings you home.
A little piece I wrote this seveal years ago when I was facing the necessity of rejoining “civilized society” after being off-grid and pretty much off the map for a time.
It’s interesting to go back in time and find these little sparks that encouraged the flame within that burns so bright today and to recognize the dark places they came from.
The lesson for me is clear; embrace my past and be grateful for what I learned. But never go back.
Here, at the edge of the world, I find contentment and chaos. Old friends, both. Neither expected nor warranted.
I find myself frozen in this pivotal moment. Momentum gathers with the clouds that seem determined to follow.
Not long ago I sent them back to spread their seed of malcontent upon the shoulders of those who manipulated. The cries of their masters, now quelled by the wind that always lives in the canyons where I take refuge, were never heard. I cry instead for them.
Here, where the Universe Herself sings with such beauty that my soul aches to touch Her just once again. Such things may not exist.
Here, I am at peace.
Here, standing at the brink, I wonder; Stand or Fall.
Beyond here lay the rest of the Pack, ferocious and cunning and ready. I will join them for now, but they will know; I do not belong.
My guise will last, my purpose will be fulfilled, and I will flee to the Refuge of Love with Life renewed and Balance, at long last, achieved.
I will stand.
Love and Life beside.
The view at the edge really is not so bad.
Image by J.M.Greff