Friday, July 31, 2009

Vision Fast, Truth Telling

Its slowly getting dark, and I am afraid. I am sitting in the south gateway, inside the medicine wheel I've built for myself behind my shelter in this aspen grove. Its been raining on and off today, and the damp chill is doing nothing to make staying awake and upright more appealing. I brought nothing except a lighter to make fire, and it seems like tonight is not the night. Its taking a lot of willpower not to just crawl into my sleeping bag right now and get warm, mercifully turn my brain off for the day. I'd like to make it until at least three stars in the sky, same as we tell the students. My feet are pretty cold, and I keep catching myself starring enviously at my citronella candle, burning next to the alter with the last wisps of Utah sage.

A ho, great spirit, I'm calling on you. Oh great spirit, what else can I do. Please open me up, so I can receive, please open me up so I can believe. Oh great spirit, I'm calling on you.

I pray tonight for patience, for courage, and for faith. I pray with all the love in my heart, with all the compassion I can muster, and with the strength of all my ancestors, living and dead, who I ask hold me on this journey tonight. Bless me teachers, be compassionate, for I have troubles.

I keep forgetting that I'm fasting, and semi-automatically reaching out for my p-food. I haven't been that hungry yet, and haven't really had a full meal since Thursday lunch at the office. My only worry so far food-wise is just not having the calories to help keep me warm, and soon not having the energy to move around much to get warm. I meant to eat dinner last night, but the sweat was so crazy intense I kind of didn't have it in me by the time we finished around midnight.

The sweat was strange--thermodynamically, physically, socially, emotionally. Each of the two rounds started out super super hot, and quickly. Then they got intense and beautiful, with lots of music and prayer and a lot of various personal commitment and discoveries. I felt awkward, self-conscious, and uncomfortable sitting mostly naked and sandwiched between Evan and Nicholas. I think the greater truth is I'm not really comfortable naked.

The lower the light, the thicker the mosquitoes.

I don't remember much of the first round, besides it was really long and cold by the end once we ran out of water to pour. I know I was pushed, and said some pretty crucial things for myself, but I don't really recollect the specifics.

The greater truth is in the second round. One that even thinking about writing down on paper makes my body contract and cringe involuntarily. And my mind swivel around looking to see if three stars have appeared magically to free me from this task for a little longer. Sadly, no such easy way out quite yet.

I lay sucking dirt for a while and stewing, while everyone else either seemed to be having these wonderful transformational experiences, or left the lodge in apathy, impatience, boredom, or disgust. I felt for Emily, who got into this huge emotional argument with Nicholas, and then got so worked up she had to leave. The whole time though, my head was telling me how stupid and minor the conversation felt, and my heart kept screaming at me that I had big things to say. I opened my mouth and the greater truth sort of fell right out into the naked darkness.

The truth is I think Noah raped me, that night at the end of freshman year. Given how my body is reacting to the admission, with flashbacks and nightmares and shakes and a whole lot of numb disbelief, I judge it to be true and real. And my vision quest full of darkness and demons got a fair amount larger and deeper last night. I feel a little bitter for it, and a lot of fear and curiosity. I never wanted it to be like this, never wanted rape to be something I identify with, so I convinced myself it wasn't true. That I wanted to sleep with him that night (I did), and that I was in control of the situation ( I wasn't). The truth is I was wasted, drunk and high, and he was sober. The truth is I don't remember if I said no, and I certainly didn't fight very much. The truth is it hurt, and he kept going. Kept going 'till my sheets were bloody the next morning and my neck was so bruised I wore scarves for more than a week following. The truth is I blame myself for baiting him, for putting myself in the dangerous situation in the first place, for not fighting enough, and for lying to myself for five years.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Darkness and Light

Tuesday again. Wilderness therapy has officially ruined Tuesdays for me. I think its funny, I remember this feeling from long ago, I remember the emptiness in my stomach of wanting to sit down and write, and not finding the time and space to do so. I remember this from way way back--in the pink room at Tailcoat, which must have been maybe third or forth grade. Its weird to me how pieces seem to keep falling together, how long lost reminisces which I never even imagined are conspiring to bring me here to the precipice of this journey. I think its also funny how strongly I'm fighting it, how fervently I keep searching out for others to dull the edge of the mayhem I feel, for answers, for direction, for prayers, for protection, ultimately all things I am quite capable of doing for myself. I mean, I just googled "vision quest advice". Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at the bead shop in town making myself a talisman necklace, with the help of our local crystal magic lady. I want so badly for someone to show me the way, to reassure me that I will come out of this with certainty and grace. I want some concrete reminder and explanation, I want somebody to give me the faith and acceptance which I lack.

In so many ways my life has been leading me here for very much longer than this last month. I've been coming to realize how much I sleep through, and what a profound affect that has on my existence. I realized a bit of the greater role of my exhaustion I remember junior or senior year at L&C. How the more depressed I'd get the more I'd simply pass out, turn off. And then the more I'd fall asleep, the more coffee I'd consume, the more caffeine in my system, then the worse I'd feel. Even then though I never realized the sort of greater metaphorical implications--I want to be a woman who is awake--to the world, to myself, to opportunity. It goes back so much further than college, too. I remember middle school dances, being so uncomfortable that I sat on the stage, put my head down and went to sleep. I've always sort of prided myself on my abilities to fall asleep whenever and wherever possible, though now I wonder if its the healthiest of hidden talents.

I'm worried I'll just sleep through the quest. That the weight of hours and the dragon breath of my demon travel partners might just prove too overwhelming and I'll just seep the day gone for the sake of the passage of time. I don't want to waste this experience, I want it to be thick and meaningful, yet I question my physical ability to stay conscious and present when the truth of life is so draining.

I remember reading some of Bill Plotkin's book for that ecopsych class, way before I knew anything about Durango. I remember reading about his first vision fast before starting AVI, and thinking "why in the hell would anybody ever do something like that?!" I am trying to take comfort and some solace in the synchronicity of this experience, how blatantly and clearly it seems that I am supposed to be here, doing this thing. My fears are large and diabolical, and I kind of want to just go and get it over with right now. I know I have the physical endurance to make it through, its just the mental and emotional stamina that I question.

Looking to my darkness still feels really counter intuitive. I spend so much of my energy and will doing the work so as not to be so sad, fighting off all that dark with all the light I can summon. Purposefully looking the other direction, intentionally moving towards that sadness instead of away from it feels like a betrayal of sorts, an abandonment of the battle, a resignation to suffering. I am coming to know that in fighting to get and be well, to pull myself out of that heart wrenching dark space I began to ignore that it ever existed. My greatest fear in life right now is being that depressed again. It scares me so much that I've glued my eyes shut to the reality of it, ignore the possibility of it, and have forgotten the balance inherent within such darkness. I want to face that fear not with the hopes of vanquishing sadness forever, I don't believe that's possible. I want to learn to coexist, and in doing so open myself to a more full expression of emotion without fear of getting overwhelmed.

I take myself to the woods, both the polished and the tarnished. I take my compassion, my curiosity, and my sense of adventure. I bring stars for perspective, my hands for company, and my feet for grounding. I bring my hopes to the woods to birth and hopefully some demons to put to rest. I bring even that persistent fluttering in my chest yelling...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vision Fast, the Beginning

If I could right now, I'd say to myself to sit down, stop distracting myself, and chill the fuck out. My black whole which this swan is circling timidly is all of these emotions that I don't ever stick more than a toe of myself into. Because any emotion invites them all, and that opens me to the sadness and anger that I sense so often boils just below the surface. The undertone that I feel everyday is just enough for me to fight against. My worry for this journey, this adventure is that I can't resign myself to experiencing all of those things, that I don't have enough faith and acceptance to make it safe to go there. Any emotion it seems like is so thickly tied to depression. I know this is supposed to be about going to those dark places, but I can't help but be afraid to let down that final wall. I've known those dark places, that dark almost killed me. I don't trust that I have the tools and the support and the knowledge I need to venture there, and to find my way back.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Straight Joyful

I'm feeling so much joy in this moment. Joy to have slept for more than ten hours last night, to have woke up to sunshine and clear skies after days of rain, joy to be sitting in the sunshine in a meadow full of wildflowers watching elk. And a whole lot of joy and giddy energy for this group of girls right now, all light and committed and hilarious. I left last night to go on break and they were teaching each other breakdance moves. My heart feels excited when I think about the possibilities, and also a little apprehensive when I think about the inevitable crash that will come.

On my mind I'm finding the vision fast, potentially moving to the boys' group, another intake in a few days, our little miss F, and the giant rain cloud slowly gathering off the eastern horizon. I think if working through the winter taught me how to sit with being anxious about cold and dark, then this summer will teach me about cold and wet. Right now the incessant storms leave me with a sense of foreboding and anger, but it also makes me realize the metaphor in it, how very literally the sun will come out again tomorrow, even if I'm pissed off and cranky in the meantime. We are laying over here today to manufacture some kind of wannabe solo experience, and I am still avoiding thinking about my own. Much less the suggestion that maybe I think about a shift into other groups besides the ladies. I mentioned to Ellen how lately I've been feeling resentful of the folk I know working with the guys or the adults for what I perceive as an easier work experience. The reality is, I'm resentful because we've had such a rough go for the last couple of months, and I get angry when I hear about others easy time of it. I've never worked elsewhere really, so a lot of my resentment happens because I don't really have any knowledge of the ups and downs of the other groups. I also don't really know how to handle my reactions to the tough groups of kids, I tend to internalize too much and get way too caught up in the outcome that I want and imagine rather than the process. I'm just not convinced how leaving would teach me any of those things. Though judging by how frightening the prospect sounds in my brain and in my heart right now, it would probably be a good thing, or the right thing.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Future Talk

Its Wednesday and this adventure is slowly winding down. It is both wonderful and super strange. I'm really glad the weather got a bit less fabulously awesome in the last couple of days, otherwise I'd really start questioning why on earth I ever left this place. But its cloudy and cool today and pretty humid, enough of a reminder of the last five winters to make me appreciate Colorado and Durango's 300 days of sunshine a year.

It's not that I miss Portland (I do), but being here after being away for so long has definitely clarified some things that I want in my life. Or, at least whatever turns into my next step after Durango. And I guess the heady realization that there will be a next step after Durango, Durango will not hold the next step itself. My next life will involve public transportation and culture. And I will be involved in culture. My next life will be closer to water, though I wonder how much I'll miss the desert when it's not part of my life. I'll bike regularly and use my car pretty exclusively for weekend adventuring. I will feel that I belong in the next place I live, not like I'm just blending in with the tourists and the transient college kids. There will be opportunities to use my languages, and affordable ways to learn about new things in my next life. There will be better bookshops and libraries and room for life outside of work and work folks. I will feel like I'm engaged in the place and in the process. There will be striking views and striking people. There will be things to do and access to wild places. There will be lots of green in my next life, or at least lots of wild and natural space. I wont feel so isolated.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Public Health

What is the draw?

I want to be doing more multicultural stuff, but with some real meaning behind it. More than just on paper, more than just general race/ethnicity relations with no teeth and no backbone besides just good intentions. I think public health is at the very core--social work. Health care, or inadequate access to it is terrifying, and a huge financial and sociocultural burden. Even more so if the hurdle is linguistic or cultural. Health just seems so much more concrete and basic, fulfilling a basic need on the way to more global understanding and harmony. I think mental health access even more so--and all the more culturally complex. I see that I mean every day even at Open Sky--how inaccessible even our program is if you are anyway outside of what they conceive as the cultural norm.

When I imagine myself years down the road I imagine having worked abroad with refugees, and then being back in the states somewhere doing community development work in public health in some capacity, serving diversity and multiculturalism. I picture being a case worker for someone like Catholic Charities, working hand-in-hand with individuals and families. I picture using other languages and cultural background and experiences to make myself more accessible and appropriate. I picture myself living and working as part of the community, most likely and realistically a Spanish speaking one. I see myself living in a town probably bigger than Durango, with access to culture and to wilderness.