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walking through fire

It’s a little past 7, my dim flame of a soul awake compelled to compare that light to years ago waking up at 4 to write, running at 5:30, smoothies at 7:30, meetings and clients all day.  Yet, somehow, sleeping 8 hours mostly through the night and waking up before 11 has become my biggest accomplishment of summer.  It reveals how I’ve mistaken my schedule as me, my work as me, my good deeds as me.  Yesterday, the Mullen fire west of town turned the sky orange by noon and time became like resin holding everything captive and intact in town while beetle kill and brush woosh in flames out of town.  Some have become sentimental about the fires claiming environmentalists created the perfect kindling by not logging etc.  I am of the mind that it had to burn sometime.  The forest must burn to create. Perhaps the soul does, too. 

Forest fires release seeds and encourage growth creating fertile soil.  The flames clear dead trees, leaves, and other vegetation from the forest floor so new plants can grow.  Nutrients are broken down and return to the soil while disease-stricken trees leave space for stronger trees.  The thinning of trees increases sunlight which increases growth both of trees and wildlife habitat.  Soul fire releases new ideas of how to cope with life when old ways aren’t working.  The destruction of self and old patterns creates space for new wiring of the brain, synapses finding new paths with no former brain crispy leaves in the path.  Relationships are broken down to create room for new relationships and meaning.  While the smoke of the soul may be dark and ominous during the fire, the sunlight comes back in through new venues, new ways of seeing, new hope.

I find myself 6 hours into a 10 hour audio book wondering if I would have read it quicker through seeing instead of listening.  Then I remember, my sight isn’t getting better.  I’m getting older.  My body is changing and I find it sometimes hard to get out of the bathtub with shame thinking back on 6 hours of exercise a day.  Its hard to compare the two, both extremes of activity and while I feel like a crust of myself I have learned the lesson of moderation and realistic expectations.  This does not preclude goals of yoga, running, lifting weights, healthy diet.  This fire, however, is only 11% contained and the main objective is to save the structures of my life that are important.  A job, housing, working on the relationships I do have.  I’m setting the control line and holding boundaries and sometimes the fire may jump these lines.  Start over.  Dig, water, clear the brush again.

I wonder if this latest existential crisis has less to do with simple mental ailments and more to do with the shifting of my soul to accommodate who I am.  Am I a gypsy wandering every mountain town I encounter only to find while I’m compatible with the mountains I’m not compatible with its friends?  Or am I professional who realizes no one wants a former gypsy in shiny cubicles in surface talks about politics of service that are held up only in theory?  I seem to be emerging as both and I cherish my experiences in a boat, on a mountain, in a cubicle, speaking in front of a classroom.  In talks with my Uncle I realize that its not the achievements or the acquisition of a new position—its finding peace in the slow burning of the fire knowing that the terrain is too tough for me to fight and does not make sense for containment.  I wait then, and watch, and prepare the boundaries that I can knowing the fire may shift in any direction on the dovetails of the changing wind.

I am told by some mentors to keep certain information off of my resume and others tell me to hold true to myself.  As I drive by Fox park and some areas in the San Juans its obvious the forest has burned.  I wonder if my own fire leaves the scars just as visible and suppose it may be foolish to think I can hide the fires that molded the projection of myself.  I am told to keep a plant for a year, a dog for a year, then try a relationship.  The rebel in me says I’ll do things in anyway I want, I’ll start a fire in a stage 3 ban and watch my resources wasted on another preventable course.  I’ve been hiding very well this summer only letting a few folks know my whereabouts as I flit around from the San Isabel forest, to Holy Cross, and Medicine Bow, to end up at Roosevelt and Arapaho.  If I name where I am going maybe I can tame the outcome.  I dream of yoga in the morning, running in the afternoon, weights at night then swaddled in the tiny belly of my studio apartment to read, write, and reflect. 

Fall has always been my favorite time and is now the time of fires.  I anticipate the neon red sun in fall and the soft blanketing of snow that puts the fires out.  Snow is an insulator and when sound hit the small pockets of air on the outer surface the sound is absorbed reducing volume and reverberation.  All becomes a bit more quiet, the tongue of the flames finally put to rest with steam rising from the forest floor as the cycle begins again.  Cycle meaning circle—perhaps I circle in and out of the “good” and “bad” times in my life to learn something new each time I’m on fire.  This cycle I learned that I am a flake.  I set my lines and I hop them.  I create a strategy and the fire changes.  I’m not sure if I set goals around this tendency or I take the process as the goal itself—saying no one day at a time.  Apologizing or forgiving one situation in its own way despite the time it may take.  The fires are still burning and I’m still using all I’ve got to put them out, until they come again.

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”    

-Charles Bukowski

Addiction, Archetypes, character study, Colorado, Community organizing, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Family, Gardening, individualism, introvert, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, poetry, privilage, PTSD, Relationships, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Wyoming, Yoga

fire flowers

I’m back! I set my site to private back in October after realizing I may have a few folks watching my every move not hoping for the best outcome. Screw those folks. I always undulate back and forth between being discrete, quiet, and professional or loud, boisterous, and flashy. Perhaps I can be all these things but also be myself. I read a review on Couchsurfing describing me as a firecracker. Bang, bang—I’m here to make you feel all the feels!

Life has been tough and tender lately. I’m sitting in my home wondering if we will get another foot of snow and hoping that I can maybe not eat pizza—just for today. Belly full, mind starved of the interactions that I thrive off of—interactions having to do with politics, stars, recipes. I made my site private because while my thoughts are my own, they became ammunition against me. The fireworks started becoming roman candles shooting directly for my heart. And in matters of the heart, I’m still learning and growing.

I went home last week to Wyoming and met up with a old (new?) flame. I wish I could stand all of my flames in a line in the same place and write a poem about each of these former lovers. All these flames, sparking into a huge fire of words and thoughts about how I experienced them all. Ahh yes, that is J, he really loved metal music just like me. Oh there is T, he was so handsome that I would mistake him for a James Dean lookalike in the corner store. And then B. He was his own worst enemy too far in his own head to climb into my brain. And the infamous S. If he could string together just a few days without calling me names or shaming my body, perhaps I would try to be what he wanted.

But the snow, the pizza, the boys—they seem like such distractions compared to my life’s work. To be outside. To learn about the snow. To learn how to eat food that I grow and food that grows me. To learn to be less reactive. I’m always so affected by my time with my family. We are from the same tree. Nervously sweeping the floor and picking up empty water bottles from last night’s conversations. Becoming sullen and sleepy on the couch thinking of life. Shutting the doors to our dreams to take another nap because damn this life is a lot to take on.

So, here I am. In words, in fluffy flesh, in transition. I know I will shed the pizza belly as soon as I resolve to do something—it is in stone. I’ve written some words in sand and now they are gone and I can begin to carve out who I really am. I don’t need to spend time with stinky boys who are lost in the trees, lost in the snow, lost in their own ego. I need to spend time with the freshman girl who walked into her first writing class not knowing she would be the best freshman writer that professor had instructed. And now, its not about being the best. Its about being me. Being real. Being here. Now.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

― Harvey Fierstein

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the remaking of life

“How were you able to get over the fire?” She tells me that she took sage and ceremonial tobacco and cleansed the place of the fire and that it all just melted away–sugar in a hummingbird feeder. Twirls of smoke intertwined with the intention of hope after cleansing by fire mix with the hot, humid air of July while I think about these words in August. I speak of sweet grass which is not indigenous to this area but I know how to find the shiny long leaves in between 7,000 and 9,000 feet in Wyoming near a special ranch in Elk Mountain. The Latin word for sage, salvia, means “to heal” and the intent is for spiritual healing, wisdom, clarity. Sweetgrass represents positivity, strength, and connection to that which binds us together–God, Creator, the stars. And so I invoke sage and sweetgrass of the mind.

I wake up to another email citing my decision to create some really clear, healthy boundaries as a step in a feeling, non-logical, direction. Lots of feelings to be sure–pain, hurt, confusion, anger, nostalgia. I pick up a braided rope of sweetgrass in my mind and say the words “positive, persistence, patience” and feel the wisps of smoke surround my synapses. I’ve been practicing setting boundaries with the ACT method–acknowledge the feeling, communicate the limit, target alternatives. Before I speak to some folks, I write down exactly what I want to say. And then I prepare to communicate the limit over and over until its no longer a line in the sand. There is tons of anxiety in holding the limit–I want to be liked. Even better to be loved. But this can no longer come at the cost of my basic sense of self. I unraveled more fully this year than any other time I can remember.

When I was younger, I was in 4-H and learned all the trades that seemed manageable in my city slicker existence. I went to a crochet class and learned how to make tiny loops with fuzzy blue thread. I couldn’t figure out how to hook into the second row and so I just kept looping over and over and showed up the next week to class with one long chain as evidence of my efforts–I tried. I tried this year to loop into the second row of my heart creating a long chain of repetitive actions–the same fights, the same hurtful words. I don’t know if my anger is from anxiety or from pain. I rule out borderline because I miss the second diagnosis criteria in every section: stable identity and goals, plenty of empathy most of the time but lots of hostility towards one person. The teacher of the crochet workshop laughed at my long chain but I wasn’t upset–I did the best I could. I spent the remainder of the class pulling the thread, undoing each sweep of the hook and was left with a pile of blue yarn in a brain on the floor.

I used to be a projectionist–I thought I was a movie theater worker but realize years later there are only a few old school theaters left in the country. Spools of film would arrive in orange boxes inside the duct taped door of the Wyo Theater and I would pick up the boxes one by one to carry into the projection room. Spool one sits on a nail by the projection platters and I turn on the machine waiting until the tail of the first spool starts to spin and flap. The platter is turned off and I turn to the splicer grabbing the head of the second reel and press the splicing machine firmly into tail and head. Repeat until the platter contains the entirety of the film. The hardest part was turning on the machine–one wrong move and the film might spray everywhere. “Braining” happens when the projectionist isn’t quick enough to pick up on an error and the film piles up on the floor resembling a brain. These mistakes are always fixable but with one film in particular we had to splice out about 18 inches. It’s usually just a small blip in the film with bubbles on the screen where two sections are melted together. This blip was a big one.

A long chain of soft thread, a long line of film with each picture containing just a milisecond, lines of smoke lingering in the air. There may be a time when I regret my decision to set a boundary–but I don’t regret never learning how to crochet or entering a blanket into county fair. I don’t regret quitting my job at the theater and skipping the anxiety of the projector bulb burning out over and over and having to refund the $3 entry fee at the “cheap seats.” Sweetgrass smells so lovely and lingers in the air for days after its burned. Every once in a while I get a whiff of the smell here in Colorado where I havne’t met anyone that burns sweetgrass. Sage grows here but not like in Wyoming when after a rainstorm and entire field smells of the earthy, pungent plant that I pick and rub between my palms to smell as I run. I plan on heading back home sooner than later where I can reflect on my move to Colorado and the events of the past year. I don’t know why I was never that good at meticulous tasks and perhaps those are the tasks I missed in trying to create a relationship that was full of still pictures of lies and deceit. And so instead I act. Acknowledge the feelings of anger and pain, quit hurting myself, and choose to grow instead.

“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of life.”
-Anne Roiphe

 

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all life will love

I’ve written on oppression this week.  Philosophy.  Relationships.  Diving into my thoughts and feelings on where I am, where I want to be.  And I’m sometimes amazed at what I’ve done—created exactly what I want in my life.  And like clockwork, every time I leave a certain situation that is feeding me somehow, yet not nourishing my spirit—really good things happen.  Will I start to listen to the universe?  I’ve been so elated lately to make friends and be more social than I’ve been in a while.  I’m starting to test as an extrovert again (ENFJ) and its exciting to be around others and hear what’s important in their world.  Get out of my own head.

There are some subjects that I find utterly boring and want to be defiant just to show others there are different ways to live.  My diet, for example.  I’ve lost about 30 pounds in the past few months, mostly due to what I’ve been calling the sorrow diet.  I do the ketogenic or low carb kick and try to limit whatever carbs I take in—and rarely eat sugar in its pure form.  Strawberries and yogurt in the morning give me a little energy for the day and then its whatever hamburger patties, coleslaw, chicken wings, brats, etc. that I can shove down my hatch.  I secretly laugh hearing others around me talking about cleanses, recipes for low calorie cauliflower whatever, and I head off to Mick Deezers for like the seventh time this week for two hot and spicy chicken sandwiches.  I use the chicken patty to scrape the mayo off the bun and squeeze the paper wrapper around the discarded pieces making a ball of refuse.

I miss my running club folks and take my daily run wishing for the one quiet runner girl I admired so much watching her body maneuver down steep trails and try to move my body in the same way.  Building repetition, confidence, lung capacity.  I bug others to go on mountain bike rides as I’m learning and have none of that competitive streak yet.  Just enjoying the feeling of wind on my face and always surprised when my bike follows my front tire in exactly the way I direct it. A metaphor for life, front tire always going where I need but sometimes pressing that back tire brake too hard and spinning out for another crash.  After any crash I always get up first, look around, and then assess the damage.  Who saw me mess up?  I’m okay, I’m okay.  Aye, a scratch!  After every fall I hop on again a little nervous and scared of a shaking back tire but confident I’ll be right back where I need to be.

We went on a stroll the other evening and Pagosa is beginning to be a real neat place for me where I encounter folks I know everywhere I go.  We pass a certain yard and see a couple doing yard work and I comment on the teamwork and then the Stepford wife looking scenario.  Turns out, we know this couple although I don’t remember meeting this woman at astrology group.  She leads us into the backyard to see this wonderful patio-room she has created by the river like a scene in a romance novel with a huge four post bed, brown mosquito netting hanging above and special rocks and objects all around.  I think about what it might be like to sleep in the space with the sound of spring run off crashing in the background.  She mentions they tried to sleep here one night and the rushing water was just too loud.  Perfect for me, I think.  River water matching the high waters of my soul carving mountains.

My work with clients is feeding my soul in so many ways and yesterday I started to realize that I am changing right along with my clients.  Clients have chosen to terminate, clients have chosen to take risks.  And I live for that moment whether in sorrow or utter contentment when we look at each other in the eyes and our souls touch.  The healing nature of the relationship is working!  When I set the intention that I must work hard in a relationship—I make it completely functional.  So, I’m still perturbed at any failure in my relationships but understanding that some corner of my being knows I shouldn’t work as hard because this is not for me.  I remember struggling profoundly with loneliness in Laramie with the paradox of so many friends around, I couldn’t settle on who to hang out with.  There’s a music festival in town this weekend and while I remember my hippie dancing in college very fondly I know now that this won’t feed me.  And so I think of who wants to hike Pagosa Peak with me, who wants to camp.  Who wants to see the ongoing festival of trees right in nature-groomed backyard of Pagosa.

I am so, so, content.  I’m right where I want to me.  I am not a bad employee.  I’m not a bad girlfriend.  I’m not a bad writer.  I’m not a bad counselor.  I’m doing the very best I can, always shamefully aware of my shortcomings but learning to just let that stuff bubble to the surface to figure out to swim through the foam.  If you want to be around me, know I’m intense.  Advocate for your voice to be heard and tell me to simmer down and I promise I will correct myself.  I become so much better at things when I fail first.  And maybe that’s what this is all about.  Failing gloriously to reflect on the junctures when I could have made a different choice and the junctures where poor choices turned into personal growth.  I am an introvert, I am an extrovert, and I want to seek to connect to all around me.  No matter if I can’t quite understand the pop culture of cleanses and small talk about the weather, I can appreciate everything secretly laughing at the absurdity of it all.  This one, wild and precious life.

 

“If you Love all Life you observe, you will observe all Life will Love.”

― Donald L. Hicks, Look into the stillness