I want to speak very plainly about my mental illness.
I feel that my previous writings have hit on points of pain but have always ended with some sort of strength.
This is not always the case. My everyday existence is always something I have to overcome, but I do not always do that successfully, or with the confidence of the warrior I so often portray in my writings.
The truth is, I have been out of the house for pleasure once since June of 2018. My days include school, home, and if I have the energy (which I often do not) the grocery store.
When I did go out, to my beautiful cousins gallery opening, it was the most amazing experience. I talked to people about art, adoption, mental health, coping, spirituality. I talked to a perfect stranger about not feeling good enough and was validated for feeling that. I went home literally vibrating. I had the biggest smile on my face. I called my mom and dad to tell them I had left the house for FUN!
And then, an hour or so later, when the buzzing feeling in my head and body had not yet subsided, I disassociated. The happiness I was feeling reminded me of using cocaine, the drug I was addicted to for years during and after my abusive relationship.
I live terrified of everything and nothing everyday. You know the feeling you get walking in a park at night after watching a million episodes of a crime show? That pit of fear in your stomach, chills on your body, on full alert. Every part of you is ON, is ready to fight or to run. That is how I live, every single day. It harms my body, everything aches from being so tense. It harms my confidence, I am extremely paranoid that everyone I encounter just pretends to be nice and then talks about me behind my back, or somehow knows that I am a bad person and all the bad things that I have done and they hate me. These are things I have to battle every second I am in contact with another human. It’s why I opt to stay home so much of the time. But in my little hole in the ground, or on the ocean I should say as I live in a boat, I do not grow. I sit here and write, and knit, and cook, and find anything at all to keep me entertained so I don’t have to leave. It is safe. But I do not grow. I grow around people. Experiences and places. There is this constant tug and pull inside me. To be myself, to grow, and smile and have all the kinds of fun I love to have.
Then there is the PTSD side. And more often than not, that side wins.
It has been almost a year of this. And more than five years of symptoms that have accumulated and created more trauma.
I feel stuck. I feel like I am nothing.
and that doesn’t feel like something beautiful anymore.
Coming to terms with relative “okayness”.
The first thing I did upon arriving at the lodge we were staying at for my birthday, besides make excited exclamations about the heated bathroom tiles, was to cry. Tears fell from my eyes onto the goose down pillow, like a hard rain on the windshield, driving away from loneliness. The tears, at first, were just a rapid rush of emotion, built up from weeks of working hard at school and not doing much else. But as the pent up feeling crumbled away, one remained, prevalent as it always has been in my aching heart.
I took a rasping breath and said
“I don’t think I’ll ever be ok”
Of course, my loving partners first response was to say
“Of course you will sweetie, things always change.”
This is true, I smiled under the squish of white pillow.
True as North, but my arrow points to a melancholy that echoes through my bones. I have known this sorrow for so long it has been wrapped up into my cells, my marrow. I breath it. I excrete it. One day, after I’m long gone, body decayed and some scientists excavate and look under the scope at what’s left they would say
“Yup, this is loneliness, put it with the others” and of course this would be a joke on the part of the scientist because loneliness is just that, alone.
And I sob and gasp and laugh into my pillow. Tears streaming, spit slobbering, as feathers puff up when I squeeze and shift my body. I’ve always had this ache, even in my happiest moments, if you stripped away all the joy there it would be, my pain. Maybe that in itself is okay.
Maybe instead of rescuing sick cats and farm animals, I’m meant to provide a soft space for hurt, ache, pain, sorrow. Everything needs a home and perhaps that is my purpose. I certainly feel like myself with it all running through my veins like a creek or a brook that’s nearly overfilling from the rain but manages to stay in the confines of the earth.
I could live with that. Relative okayness.
But see now, I feel as though I’ve put my pain through a factory, saw it coming down the line, and gave it a huge fat stamp labelled “purpose”. With a smile on my face I can walk away with a job well done under my belt, but it feels false. False as the bright white lights of the factory and of heaven.
So that won’t do. I wipe the slate clean and am left with all I had before, a lot of love surrounding a gaping hole, like a roadside memorial.
Maybe I can be okay with not being okay. Maybe I can claim it’s “for my art”, and get a tax return on it.
Make some money off of it, gain some level of recognition. Exploit it, turn the tables on it. Use it, abuse it. Chain it up as my captive, lead it around where I need it to go, putting on a show.
The problem is, I’ve done that before, it exhausted me before it even panned out, before I’d even made my first million. It was like betting on a horse that visibly wasn’t winning.
Back to square one, back to me and this pillow and my darling husband rubbing my back looking concerned and sad and I reach up my hand, touch his face, feel his warmth and say
“Cheer up, it’s not all that bad”
When things get really stressful, I mean out of control stressful, I crave being controlled. It’s the most unnerving feeling, to want something that’s caused you so much pain, thats tormented and twisted you into the fragile being you’re trying to build on.
As I’m waking up from another restless sleep filled with nightmares, driving from one place to another fulfilling errands before heading to school, my mind begins to wander into the dangerous zone of “all the things I need to do” and “how will I accomplish them all!!??”
The obsessive thoughts begin.
I pull up to a red light.
A moment to stop.
How can I put my mind at ease?
There is no other way but for it to be controlled by him.
I miss it.
I crave it.
I don’t want to think for myself anymore.
It’s too much.
Take me back to the mindless moments.
Take me back to when the only thing that mattered was making him happy.
The heartbreak of always failing was easier than this.
Because I could internalize it.
This present stress is different, it’s out of my control. It’s out of reach. His abuse I could hold tight to my heart. I could use it to feed my own sadnesses. I could use his anger towards me as something to fixate on. To take the focus away from everything else.
Dull the pain.
The light turns green.
The nostalgia slips away.
I am left feeling ashamed. Guilty. Confused.
For missing something I cannot have and should not want.
Reflecting back on the initial vision for these writings.
To be nothing.
To explore the meaning, or lack thereof, within that.
To see and feel what it is to be a person, a living organism with no identity to use as a life raft in a reckless sea.
And I have come to find that I have let go, and added on, let go, and added on.
Molded and reshaped, merged together and broken a part.
But identity is still very much there, more of a faint glow than a pulsing orb as it once was.
I feel a lot less spark inside me to make claims about just “who I am” when first meeting people. I have a much greater trust of my own being, my own energy, to either tell them so, or not, it doesn’t matter. Now, when I say that it doesn’t matter, Im not being nonchalant, brushing off human interaction as a simple, meaningless act. What I mean, is that energies will either understand yours, or they won’t, and that either way is wonderful, so, therefore, it doesn’t matter. That is not to say of course, that the paranoia I feel due to fighting PTSD does not inch it’s way up into my aura and expel a warning of wrath to potential friends, because it certainly does. I find myself, more often than not as of late, walking backwards until my back hits a wall and I am safe. Safe to look upon all the dangerous persons in a crowded room.
See them there, crossing their arms, dangerous. See her, laughing with her friend, they are laughing at you, dangerous. They feel angry, dangerous. And so on and so on. My brain reacts like this to the world as my feet move forward into another day.
So it’s hard to let go of identity when mental illness is included in the picture.
I have to act, live, behave, in a certain way to keep myself “safe”. I am breathing through the identity of sickness. It possesses me in a silvery warmth that offers only a sliver more of solace than the regular world.
How can I be nothing, when my mind insists that I am in fact, just that.
The world around me doesn’t change, doesn’t move at all, but there is a sudden shift in my mind and I am back in a moment that no longer exists.
I feel. I close my eyes and I see it very clearly.
The weight of an unwanted body beside me.
I smell. the musky scent of a man who has just used another person’s body for his own pleasure.
I taste. The chemical drips of cocaine down my throat, I pray it burns away the failure that has built up, making me unable to speak.
After all this time, after all that has happened, I still feel as though I failed.
I failed to be the woman he wanted me to be. I failed to support him how he wanted me to support him. I failed to behave the way he wanted me to behave. I failed to make him happy, even though I gave him my body night after night.
I was never enough.
I was a whore.
I was too spontaneous.
I was too outgoing.
I talked too much.
I didn’t wear the right things.
I didn’t fuck him enough.
I didn’t fuck wildly enough.
I was annoying.
I was too sensitive.
Everyone thought I was stupid.
I tried for so many years to change these things about myself to fit into his expectations, but I was never enough.
And I still feel that failure deep in my heart. I still feel like I failed myself because I couldn’t make it work, couldn’t marry the first person I ever loved like I had planned all my life. Couldn’t keep him from punching walls and screaming at me in disgust. Couldn’t hold his attention long enough for him to even know who I was.
It didn’t matter to him who I was.
It only mattered that I was his.
The first time you get drunk seems to be a sort of “right of passage” in a small town. I don’t know about anyone else’s experiences, but my night started with 7 shots of Jack Daniels in the span of a minute, which led to me playing pool with a golf ball and laughing hysterically, and ended with me puking rice in the toilet with my pants down after being sexually assaulted for the first time.
The 15 year old newfound “cool girl” laughed it off, making jokes about the state she was in, and turning her friends off of eating rice forever.
Underneath that facade was a kid who was totally mortified, humiliated, and confused.
I have brief recollections of being in that bed. I don't know how I got there. Someone was speaking to me. A male. He asked if I liked it. I groaned, I was passing in and out. He took that as a yes.
All I know about that night is that he took pictures of whatever he did. I never saw them, but sometimes I think about what they might have looked like, and I feel like I’m going to throw up.
I didn’t know a single thing about consent back then. But now I know, that I didn't give it.
In my fifteen year old mind, I had put myself in that situation by drinking. I had been thinking about losing my virginity, so I must have wanted it. That is how I justified that night in my mind for years, until one day, that story just didn’t work for me anymore. And that's just what it was, a story.
The truth is, that night, I was sexually assaulted. I don’t even know if I was raped because I only have vague recollections of what happened, the mumble of a male, the soft glow of lights above me, the world spinning, and the cold floor of the bathroom.
I have no idea what anyone else knows because I have always been afraid to ask. The deep sense of shame that that moment instilled in me has manipulated the way I view sex, the way I view myself, and the way I view others and the world.
Since then, my self-esteem has been tightly linked to my sexuality. I didn’t view sex as a choice until I was 23 and with the man who will soon be my husband.
From that point on, sex was something I owed men. Something that they would take no matter what condition I was in and without any regard for who I was as a human being. So if that was the case, I figured I might as well numb myself to it.
That incident marked that day I was first sexually assaulted, and the day I became an addict.
I began drinking heavily, and regularly, setting up a mini bar in my closet that consisted of a 2/6 of raspberry vodka and a variety of coolers. Tucked neatly in a pile of socks is where I kept my weed, pipe, smokes, and prescription pills. I was drinking around 2 2/6's a week, alone, in my bedroom, listening to nirvana and snorting crushed up codeine. But my favourite combination became weed and ecstasy. Mixing the two together is like a fucked up rollercoaster ride for the mind. You start to hallucinate, lights dance in and out of you, you become them, and other worlds start to appear which you dwell and live in for extended periods of time during the high.
It became a weekly ritual to go visit these other worlds, one that didn't stop until I met him. Him; the one who would affectively change my life forever. The one who would tell me I didn't need drugs, and then later provide the groundwork for my cocaine addiction. The one who sucked me in, bundled me up like a lost kitten and did everything in his power to make sure I was dependant on him. The one who emotionally, sexually, and psychologically abused me. He became my other world, one that I was afraid to leave, at first because I was so desperate to love him, but eventually because I was so desperately afraid of him.
I recently went back to the house where we met.
A run down, tiny shack on the outskirts of town, surrounded by fields of green and herds of cattle. I pulled over and stared at it for a while. Feeling my self . . . connect back to who I was and who I am.
I felt very sorry for that little girl who went to that party that night. She was so sad and so lost that the only time she didn't hate herself was when she was drunk or high, and, at the beginning, when she was with him.
A predator sees the weaknesses of his prey, and will use them to gain trust in order to manipulate and control them.
I do not think that he did this with intent, but with instinct. Instinct to own. Instinct to exert power. Instinct to destroy a beautiful thing to fill his own gaping void.
I smudged myself and the area with sage. Holding my favourite crystal (spirit quartz) and breathing as deeply as I could. I drove away with a small smile on my face, somewhat forced, but with a feeling of being - just a little. bit - lighter. Just a little bit more in control of my own self.
That was the beginning of this journey I am currently on, a journey to find the real truth behind my story, my history. PTSD has riddled my mind with falsities and cover stories in order to keep the pain away. Now I dive into its dark depths and find that instead of pain being in the murky waters, there is strength and purpose.
I am happier than I have ever been, finding my truth. My hope is that by continuing to share it with you in such an open way it will help you find yours, help you find support in whatever you are going through.
Here we go, I am back.
Back from an incredible journey of confronting faith.
Back from the bowels of the darkest parts of my existence.
Back from the delicate hold of deaths hands.
In mid June, after travelling to the mountains of Kluane to recoup after a depersonalization attack the day before, I found myself suddenly confronting every hopeless, lonely feeling I have ever held inside me.
Thinking myself worthless of love, my mind truly believed I had driven away yet another person to be brave enough to get close to me.
This overwhelming feeling off loss opened up a deeply suppressed wound caused by self loathing, self blame and abandonment, gathered up like a bouquet of prickling weeds and vine inside me, delicately scratching my insides for many years.
Under the hot sun, I began to hyperventilate, and before I could stop it, the queasy feeling of an approaching depersonalization attack came over me. Panic ensued, and I ran to the car for cover. Once inside I opened the windows slightly, gulping the small stream of air in desperation.
“Not here, not here, not here. I am too alone here. No one will know if I die here.” My mind raced, violent images of my empty body floating through my head, surrounded my flies and deflated by heat.
“Not here, not here.”
I turned on the car, felt air on my face as the ac had been previously cranked, but couldn’t tell if the air was warm or cool. The human ability of the senses was beginning to fade away.
My hands begun to go numb. Then my forehead and eyelids, an unusual and unpleasant reaction of the body during the beginning stages of a depersonalization episode.
It was coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
But damn it. I was gonna try.
I sat there, for a moment of time - I cannot be sure how long as time becomes irrelevant in the world of depersonalization - drawing the scene in front of me, and writing poetry.
The sweat on your back
The tingle in your hands
That is life
Although it feels like
The verge of death
You keep going.
I scraped vague lines, pen on paper, representing the curvature of the steep slopes and mountains in front of me, I gave up on drawing as my vision began to blur around the edges, hurriedly writing “the silence is killing me” across the page in an effort to release the torturous agony I was feeling.
I leaned back, eyes closed, body twitching and vibrating in a pain that felt both like I was burning and freezing to death simultaneously.
I searched deep for my rational mind and found it.
“You have two options” it said
“There was a visitors centre down the road, you could go there and ask for help, or you could drive to the hospital, judging by the kilometres, it will take about an hour to get there.”
After brief consideration, my (anxiously) rational mind decided that it would be safer to drive to the hospital, rather than leave my fate in the hands of people who likely knew more about the mountains than mental health.
A deep breath, a sip of water, and I began driving, begging my rational mind to maintain just enough control over my body to be able to make it safely to the hospital.
The drive was painstaking slow, and breathtakingly fast all at once.
To keep myself alert and focused on the road (something nearly impossible when everything in you is trying to shut down) I repeated a mantra I will never forget:
“You are here, you are okay, you are close to Haines Junction, they will help you, they will call your mom, she will make sure you are safe.”
The say soldiers call out for their mothers in the arms of death.
I breathed deeply and mindfully the entire way, reassuring myself that what I was feeling was my minds way of protecting me from pain, and that my mind didn’t know that it was actually making things worse, it was just trying to help. I smiled at the thought, my mind, my ingenious, innovative, beautiful mind, was simply a misguided helper. A toddler throwing kerosine on a fire to put it out.
“You are here, you are okay, you are close to Haines Junction, they will help you, they will call your mom, she will make sure you are safe.”
I passed mountains, grand and looming, offering protection of both earth and sky. I mentally assessed the state of my body, hands still here, legs, knees, thighs all present. Heart. My heart was heavy. Literally. I could feel it. Too heavy. Oh god it was too heavy. I could feel the shape of it, the slippery slow pump of it. Fuck, fuck, make it stop. I don’t want to live feeling my heart like this. Was I even living? Perhaps the reason for my hypersensitivity to my bodies ticks and twitches was that I was passing through the realm of being human. The in-between. Dread flashed hot, then violently cold through every part of my body. Breath. Was I breathing? I began to “Om”, the ancient sound of past and present so wonderfully human and God-like that it helped ease the stress of dying. I was going to die human at least, between the earth and sky, not in the in-between.
Keep your eyes open, keep your breath even.
An inn. The no-vacancy a literal sign of civilization. You’re almost there.
you are okay, you are close to Haines Junction, they will help you, they will call your mom, she will make sure you are safe.My body and the outskirts of town collided. A jolt ran through me. chased the green and white H’s until I landed in the parking lot of the small-town sized health centre of Haines Junction.
Two hours and a couple ativan later I was strapped into a bed and hauled off to the Whitehorse hospital to be under watch for suicide prevention and for further psych evaluation.
Fast forward many kilometres, a prescription of Zoloft, and one psychiatrist later, and here I am.
Back from an incredible journey of confronting faith.
Back from the bowels of the darkest parts of my existence.
Back from the delicate hold of deaths hands.
I am a survivor of rape. I am a survivor of physical and emotional abuse. I am a survivor of addiction and self harm.
And one day, I will be a survivor of PTSD.
There is a feeling, when the golden light hits your skin. A moment, where your eyes glow dark in contrast to it's healing light. 11pm. Midnight was around the corner and the sand at the top of the mountain glowed red under the just setting sun.
We were surrounded by lakes, dark clouds parting to emit a softness upon the world. The small mounds of earth ahead of us radiated peach and pink, the trees surrounding ranging from a bright yellow to a deep turquoise.
A slap of a beaver tail echoed through the valleys on either side of us, a warning of our presence, or perhaps a celebration?
We climbed a short, steep trail, our voices escalating in excitement and brief exertion. We reached the top and were stunned into momentary silence.
We were surrounded by lakes on either side, reflecting the beauty of their shores. Warmth of the receding day touched our skin, tinged with the coolness of the approaching midnight air.
The silence retreated as we proceeded, winding our way down to the still water.
I immediately, and excitedly, stripped naked, skipping towards the water with the free spirit of a child on the beach for the first time. Skin shining pink and warm under the light of golden hour. Everything was pure, everything was right, in that moment.
Everything was ours, handed to us on the waves of the Northern summer breeze.
It was then that I felt like gold.
Body insecurity can extend beyond physical beauty, or ones idea of it. The disconnect a womyn* may feel between her spirit and her physical body often stems from more than just idealizing a beauty standard.
There have been a few times I have uttered the words "I hate my body", with the immediate response of my partner (or whoever is in earshot) being "What! Why?! You are beautiful!"
And while I of course appreciate the sentiment, (and the enthusiasm and truth behind it when stated by my partner) I tend to roll my eyes in response as I mutter a quick thank you, because my disconnect to my body does not stem from feeling that I fail to fulfill some standard of beauty. My disconnect, my feelings of "hate" stem from chronic pain that has plagued me since I was young.
I watch people climb trees, ride bikes, lift anything of substantial weight and I feel jealousy. I feel a tinge of regret for my soul being inside the vessel it is in. I feel the desire to leap and jump and do cartwheels, but I can't. Chronic pain and inflammation has left my body weak and my muscles underdeveloped, and while I push through and maintain as healthy of a lifestyle as I possibly can under the circumstances of sickness, sometimes, I just hate my body. Sometimes, I just hate being in my body.
Being a wild womyn with chronic pain can be difficult, as my body often cannot operate in the ways in which I crave to express myself.
When I photograph myself, it is empowering, as I am often photographed naked and in movement. Playing outside with a camera and no clothes is one of the ways in which my body can express itself . It is one of the few ways I feel my spirit and my body connect on this physical plane.
I am grateful to have found this way of connection, as I am sure many womyn living with, and working through, dis-ease may not have found a form in which to mend the broken bonds between body and spirit.
To them I say,
Darling, you have strength beyond measure. Feel the hate for your broken vessel, let it fuel your love for your ethereal being. Your presence is felt and is honoured and your pain is here to help you, feel it, but do not feed it any more of your energy than it has already taken from you. You are beautiful because you are here and taking on more than most people can even imagine. It is possible to transcend your pain into peace, even for the briefest of moments. Close your eyes and go beyond everything that is here every once and a while, but do not forget that you are here to experience the human existence, and that my dear, begins with the body. The pain of it is not the end of you, nor does it make up who you are. You are so much more, nothing short of perfection as you are.
My dream is for us to move beyond the topic of beauty when discussing the body, and to move beyond the idea that we have to be in love with our souls vessel 24/7. Sometimes, it is OKAY for a womyn to hate her body. Sometimes it is more than LOOKS that create the feeling of disconnect between soul and body. Supporting womyn and girls in a healthy body relationship doesn't always mean complimenting, and when a female complains about their body it doesn't always relate to what it looks like.
More womyn suffer from chronic pain than is realized, than is talked about. And you know what, you do NOT have to LOVE your disease. HATE it. TALK about it. And show your body love and support in the majority of moments between the fires that fuel you.
*this spelling has been used to express the feminine spirit without the implications of the patriarchy and masculinity.
On being nothing
On my quest to being nothing, I have found one challenge remains; "who are you?"
This is a question that the people you encounter ask with their eyes, body language, and, more explicitly, with the expected common questions one says when encountering a new person:
"So, where are you from?"
"What are you studying?"
And most importantly
"What brings you here?"
All of these equate to the one, big question: WHO ARE YOU
To which I find it hard to answer.
My instinct, says "Nothing."
My mouth says
"Oooh I am Alberta born and raised, but have a travelling heart, I AM a nomad"
"I am studying Visual Arts, with the hopes of getting a masters in counselling, I WANT TO BE an art therapist"
And most importantly, what brings me here is the desire to be nothing, to have nothing, to be clean, to be clear, to be free. But I say:
"I've just always wanted to see the Yukon"
Why is it that I fear telling a single soul about the purpose of my trip, of myself, of my being?
I will tell you why, it is because I have never learned how to not have an identity! I'm making it up! I have no idea what I am doing!
So, in moments where I am put under the microscope, I TELL the person what they are seeing, instead of letting them just see it, because that is the human thing to do.
And while I am completely okay with the humanness of my claim to an identity, that is not the point, of my being here, in this space and body.
The point, is that I truly have no idea. The point is that I am trying something out, seeing how nothingness fits, just, you know, trying it on for size. And I am finding that it fits so incredibly well that I am in a state of shock, a shock that is so overwhelmingly underwhelming that it scares me.
To be nothing, is to be here so very presently that it is almost a state of unfeeling. Who knew, that peaceful nowness was simply what is? Wow, extraordinary! And yet, it fills my heart with fear. BECAUSE I will tell you, the very important because, it is because when you are nothing but here, there is nothing to DO and this sensation of nothing to DO, nothing to BE, nothing to WORK towards BEING seems SO UNNATURAL, and yet, that feeling of unnaturalness is unnatural in itself.
So now, I sit here laughing at this beautiful game of being, and am realizing that there is no such thing as being nothing, because whatever form you are in, you will be something.
However, letting go of a connection with identity can free you up for so much living, when one thing dies, another grows. And so, I let my "I AM's" become a nurse tree for my life. In other words, I let the IDEA of LIFE, that has grown on the shaky dust of the identity concept, fall to the earth, and from it grows actual, tangible, EXISTENCE.
So, who am I?
I don't fucking know!
What brings me here?
And I don't believe I need to find those things out to fulfill the qualifications of existing. I am already doing that simply by being present, by being nothing, and by feeling the beauty in that radiate through all my humanness.
Day 15, May 11th
Mountains surround me. It is morning and the light reflects it, something that it an unusual occurrence in this land.
This land, where the sun sleeps for only a few hours, gaining it's strength to shine full and strong all summer long.
This land, where the dirt of the Earth turns to sand, sage and spruce sprouting from it's gentle hands.
This land, where I now live, where I roam, where I see memories of home and feel the exhilaration of something, someplace entirely new.
I am waking with the Mountains. They boast their boldness in every direction, and radiant softness into my soul.
I have barely had the time to get to know them, completing my first day of work yesterday, and getting all my shopping done the day before. Today is my second day of work, and before then, I am going to do what my card reading suggested and simplify my life, get rid of any and all clutter, organize what is left so that I can move forward into each moment without the weight of possessions and ideas of identity.
I find that to be the greatest challenge in my life presently.
After relinquishing identity and emerging through the void without one to hold onto, I am finding this world one that is completely new to me and I am at a loss of how to navigate it.
I didn't realize how much I said and did before because of its relation to my perceived identity.
For instance, I went to the Desert (a large sand dune outside of Carcross) yesterday morning and began doing yoga. I found myself not fully engaged with it and realized it was because I didn't know how to do it just for me. I had only ever done it before because I liked who it made me (and for the health benefits!). But I had never really done it on my own for my own sake, for a spiritual experience, or even just to relax. There was always the intention of identity behind every movement.
So, with the sand and spruce surrounding me, I felt out what this all meant to me, I questioned if yoga pertained to my reality, or if it was something I just did for the sake of being able to say I did it.
I finished my practice and felt, well, a bit off, but in a surprising pleasing way.
I feel that so much of what I have done has been for identity, a check list of personality, and while I do not regret doing those things, I am happy to now be living with an open heart.
Living without identity is a little lighter, there is less to carry around, there is less worry of others perceptions, but it is strange. It is like going into a war without weapons, just with the faith that you will be okay no matter what happens.
& that has been my mantra; nothing can harm you, nothing can touch you, you are invincible with all your love.
Day 13, May 9th
It's been a full twenty four hours in the land of the midnight sun. My body, mind, and spirit are rejoicing, as absolute freedom has entered into this realm in which I exist.
There is so much love here. Love for the land, the people. I have already met so many beautiful souls wanting to show me all of their favourite places and sacred spaces. I have been invited to learn traditional beadwork, pick medicines, and go bear watching. I have been told I am adorable and everyone here will just love me. I have been warned (numerously) of the wildlife, and have learned A LOT about bears (did you know that province to province bears react/act differently??)
Most importantly I have RELAXED!
I spent the better part of the morning naked in the forest, playing, and the better part of the afternoon getting my final shopping done (bear spray, bear bells!)
I am now off to find a space to engage in a ritual and card reading, as I start work tomorrow and want to bless this moment and this feeling so as to carry it forward into the following days.
Day six/May 2
The past few days have been filled with this stunning knowing. A very intense feeling of being in the right place at the right time, which is something I had never experienced until now.
How lovely is it to know, to truly feel, that you are in a moment that you are supposed to be in. It is quite relaxing, although my heart still beats so fast sometimes I worry it will stop completely, like a fast talker halting conversation mid-sentence. But I put my faith in it regardless. Trust it.
That's why I am where I am, why I am doing what I am doing.
It wasn't that long ago that in response to my engagement announcement I was belittled and degraded by someone who hadn't even taken the time to know me, but rather, had chosen to assume dreadful and terrible things about my character. And I took it, wide eyed and sore hearted. I took it until (and it didn't take long) the spirit of the white wolf inside me no longer remained docile, but soared to the occasion, snarling.
The brief moment of conflict was like wolves in the wild, fighting over their young, spittle flying from their mouths and the look of pure death in their eyes.
I left before I could kill.
I had done it before and I wasn't about to break the promise to myself to never do it again (metaphorically speaking of course!)
But I left wounded, moaning, a wolf turning human after a full, and violent moon.
The consequences of this brief moment, which I must admit, had tremendous build up, was that my wolf spirit took over my being completely. I was left untrusting of everyone and everything. I was prepared to leave and be alone and angry forever. I hurriedly made plans to go to the Yukon, ready to escape the drama that had suddenly consumed my life.
I felt totally and utterly betrayed by my partner, who had watched helpless as two of his loved ones growled and snapped at each other, eventually drawing blood.
I felt it was partly his doing that we were in the situation in the first place, blame which he gracefully accepted. But that acceptance was not enough to achieve my forgiveness.
I spent the next few weeks in the most angry state I have ever experienced. I punched walls. I yelled. I screamed. I hit my head on the steering wheel over and over, trying to get the sound of my persecutor's raised voice and accusations out of my mind. I felt hate, rage, a desire to cause pain.
The wolf was out, she had a thirst for blood.
Thankfully, this all transpired during a time in my life that I was fully supported by friends and my family. A time where I was engaging in an elemental therapy program which was changing my life and my ability to live it with love in my heart.
The wolf was out and snarling, but all she really wanted was to roam free, and enjoy the world around her.
At this time, she was running through the dark forest, blind with lust for revenge, totally oblivious to her surroundings that she was getting lost in the woods she called home.
So, the human in me did all that she could do.
Before my meditation I asked for guidance, I asked for the ability to forgive, I asked to heal my wounds so I could stop hurting others.
I closed my eyes.
I saw the falcon (Gavin's spirit animal which has visited my dreams on more than one occasion, usually as a protector of me). He was still, resting on a large stump which was halfway out of the ocean.
The beach we were on was small, dark rocks were beneath us, wet with rain. The forest behind me smelt fresh and was thick with deep green lush. It was sunset.
I looked at the falcon, he had so much pain and sorrow in his eyes. I wanted to bite him, I wanted to gobble him up. Instead, I growled, low and menacing. The vibration of it made him flutter his wings in shock, almost as if he was about to take flight, talons directed towards my piercing blue eyes.
Instead of attacking, he relaxed and lowered his head in apology.
I huffed, turning away from him and running, fast and hard into the depths of the forest. I ran and ran, unable to stop, unable to even really see. Darkness came upon me and I stopped. Huffing white steam into the black night. I realized I had no idea where I was. I had been running and my anger had made me blind. I very much wanted to have a fire, to have the falcon with me to play with, to have fun dancing under the moon with my love.
There was a moment of deep regret. And then a sound in the forest snapped me back into my fury. Just an owl. He looked at me, yellow eyes bulging, I realized he was scared of me and I didn't like that. I sat down, letting out a whine, curling into myself to sleep.
Images flashed through my mind.
Me, white, pure, blue eyed, gracefully plucking my way through the forest, exploring and expanding my wolf mind.
The falcon, depressed, lonely, guilty, waiting for me to return to the beach I left him at.
Us, together, a fire blazing between us, dancing with so much trust between us that we glowed brighter than the flames.
I woke then, and knew what I had to do.
I had to use this time apart to focus solely on myself, to work on my trust with myself, my body, my emotions, the earth, and all connection. To trust that the falcon was doing the same. To trust that it would be enough, more than enough, to allow it to work between us. That our love was stronger than anything and that it lit us up so we shone brighter than stars.
I did so, and three months later I returned to the beach.
The falcon cried out to me, pure happiness lifting him from his resting place and we embraced, merging as one.
The wolf was still not human, but she was happy, and she was right where she wanted to be.
I opened my eyes.
Smiling, as the wolf faded from memory. I absorbed her into my skin, knowing her medicine was what I needed to get through this.
I got up, went to my journal, wrote it down, called the falcon, and told him everything would be okay.
Day three/April 29th
I woke up feeling nervous. My veins tingling beneath my skin. The sound of footsteps creaked above me. Dad was awake, 1/2 down. I got up and slowly got ready, trying to calm the butterflies in my stomach, but they continued to flutter nonetheless. I went to my bag and put on the dazzling blue topaz ring, looking down and beaming at it. My pup was on my bed and I snuggled up to her, showing her the ring.
"See Kona, I'm engaged"
She looked at me and burped softly, putting her head down to go back to sleep.
Well, now just to tell me parents, and hopefully they would be slightly more enthusiastic than Kona.
I paced downstairs, brushing my teeth, hair, washing my face (twice), and finally getting dressed. I put on my necklace filled with crystals and sighed, nothing left to do but go upstairs.
We had been engaged for three months, keeping it between us until we were ready. The announcement hadn't gone as planned with his parents, so, although in my head I knew it would go well with mine, my heart pounded with anxiety deep in my chest and the butterflies were bouncing around so fast I felt sick.
I cursed my tendency for panic attacks under my breath and kept trying to calm down, succeeding just enough to go upstairs.
I sat down on the couch across from my dad, making a coffee and some small talk. It felt like hours before my mom finally got up, coming into the living room with a brief "Good morning" and heading into the kitchen.
"WAIT! I practically jumped up onto the couch when she started to walk away.
She laughed at my strange burst of enthusiasm and stopped. They were both looking at me like I was slightly mad (which wasn't entirely unusual) when I blurted "I'm engaged!!"
The looked at me for a moment in stunned silence then my mom said
"To Gavin right?"
Her joke immediately made my nerves go away and we all laughed and hugged, my mom saying how she wasn't surprised at all, and was really excited for us.
We started talking wedding plans and calling family, and this huge relief washed over me, making me so relaxed for the first time in weeks I felt suddenly exhausted.
It feels so real now. I am engaged to my soulmate, to the person I believe came from the same star as me. We are a family, we are building something together that is beautiful, and strange, and makes us both so so happy.
There are no words to describe the love between us, but our engagement is a symbol of our deep connection and commitment to one another, and now I get to share that with all my friends and family and my heart is so full.
So now, the story of HOW it happened.
Gavin and I were at a park taking photos together. We were laughing and being silly as usual and this sudden feeling washed over me that was just like "I can't move forward from this moment until I say how I feel." How I felt was entirely at peace, entirely in the place I was supposed to be, and it was because of this human that I was with that I felt that way. I wanted it forever, and I wanted to give him all of me forever. So.. I got down on both knees, hugging him at the waist and (awkwardly) asked for him to marry me. He responded "of course!" but I didn't think he realized still that I was really proposing so I tried again,
"Yeah but, like, would you wanna be engaged now?"
He stared at me slightly shocked, the moment passed as quick as it came and we were kissing and hugging, I think he was saying yes but it is all a blur of happy fuzzy memory!
We are using the ring that my birth father bought for me when I was born; a blue topaz stone that matches my eyes. He passed away when I was young and I have had it, waiting to be worn for years. When I was 16 I had it sized for my ring finger, and now it is a symbol of everlasting love, as well as the only thing I have from my birth father. I'm so lucky to have such a special ring to use for my engagement. I am reminded of two amazing men every time I glance down.
I told him there was a storm inside my soul, he told me he’d never seen lightening strike so beautifully.
Day two/April 28
The morning came quickly, I woke once before light fell upon the earth and again when the sun rays just began to creep onto the pavement. Without even brushing my teeth I began to drive, putting more distance between myself and home.
I only meant to go a short distance, planning to stop at a park along the road to freshen up and eat. But my stomach felt full and I felt this weird sort of emptiness, so I filled it with fuel and drove for hours.
It was just me and a large truck on the road, it felt like we were partners in isolation. The small towns scattered along the mountain sides added to the feeling of a sweet sort of desolation that seemed to occupy this part of the world. We drove through little gold mining towns, once lush with tourism, now turned ragged and haunting. Dark against the light of the approaching day. Mothers and their children waited alongside the road for the school bus, their homely trailers behind them, so full with hoarded belongings that they had burst onto the surrounding lawns and trees.
The landscape was getting drier and drier, I licked my lips, feeling a sudden need for water, the kind that drips from cedar boughs after torrential rain. I shook my head, no time for missing my physical home. I breathed, trying to go within.
My spirit drifted in and out for hours, bobbing in waves of strange melancholy. It was only upon seeing the smiling face of my friend Jamie that burst me out of this bubble. Her beautiful light cast out all dread I had been holding onto since departing from my love the day before.
We drank orange juice and frolicked around the "God loves you store", a bustling place where one can find cheap second hand clothes and listen to their favourite gospel tunes all in one go.
After finding some keepers, including some, what can only be dubbed as grandma pants in a shade of baby blue, and a 1976 floral and lace dress, we lined up, chatting amongst ourselves about, well, our hair.
"Oh, I love your hair" a voice behind us said. We turned, and were met with sparkling eyes and a smiling face, bottom teeth completely missing.
"You girls are so beautiful, and smart, I can tell you're smart" the woman said, making Jamie and I exchange knowing glances and beam.
"Common sense just isn't so common anymore, and I can tell you two have it" she winked. We chatted with her in line for the next several minutes, agreeing that the spiritual revolution was indeed happening, thanks to our generation. She wished us luck on our journeys and gave us a both a big hug, she smelt lightly of cigarettes and dog hair, we then dubbed her "the wolf mother."
After saying goodbye to my dear friend, I went on my way, heading East towards the mountains I once called home and still held dear.
Besides being stopped for an hour at an avalanche blasting site, in which I used my time to paint leisurely outside (causing many of my traffic companions to stop and chat with me) the drive was fairly unremarkable. My concentration was heavily applied to staying on the bumpy road, that had no dividing lines, the mountains passing me almost went unnoticed. That is, until I reached my favourite spot along the side of the old, worn out highway between Canmore and Cochrane.
I pulled over, heart racing in anticipation.
The lake was still and silent, reflecting huge mountains, tinged with the pink of the setting sun. I got out of the car and got to work. Tripod set up, clothes off. The next hour was one of creation, of earthy ecstasy, of complete and total beauty.
I raced home after my mountain lake dip, revelling in the familiarity of this old road I used to travel on everyday to go to my sacred spaces.
I pulled up to a dark house, familiar, a place that was once home.
I opened the door.
A blur of black whizzed around me, squealing in excitement. Kona. My puppy. I picked her up and felt instantly at peace, my wet hair dripping onto the floor next to my bare feet.
This is happiness.
Day one/April 27
I woke up this morning from a dreamless sleep. I had tried so hard to stay awake, to memorize every last part of him. Looking over at the sleeping body beside me, I bit my lip in attempts not to cry. My hand reached out, soft skin meeting soft skin. He moaned in sleepy ecstasy, feeling my touch in both the dream and physical plane. I didn't know what time it was, around 6 am by the look of the pale pink sky and the silence, left over from the night. His body shifted beside me and he turned over, a flash of golden eyes looked and me and closed again. My heart swelled and sank, making me feel slightly motion sick. I tried so hard to keep away the "this is the last time" thoughts, and had been making good progress through the week until the final night, when the sound of his soft snores suddenly charged me with a chaotic longing to be with him forever. Now the last moment was everywhere.
This is the last time you will blink sleepily at me in the morning light.
This is the last time you will sigh and stretch, reaching out to touch me.
This is the last time your head will find my chest.
I sucked in these last moments so deeply, so as to hide them in my chest cavity for later when the simple fact of missing him made it hard for me to breath.
We stayed tangled up for a long time, but not long enough. Too soon came the time when he scrunched up and stretched, his naked body creating shapes that looked like strange sculptures. He got up to make us coffee, it took everything in me not to protest, not to make a scene. I simply gulped in that last time, putting it away with the others, and got out of bed.
Hours later, after many trips from boat to car, I was packed, organized, and already quite exhausted. The excitement was starting to build up as I drove away from my home, it started to fade as I approached my love's work for one last goodbye.
I waited in the parking lot, wanting time to move faster so he and I would be together sooner. Wanting time to move slower, so we never had to say goodbye.
Time stayed the same, and before long we had ten minutes left.
Knowing you have ten minutes left with the person you love most in the world is indescribable.
It is the space between heaven and hell.
Heaven, because you are with them, hell, because you know that heaven is fleeting.
We embraced, we cried. I watched him walk away, and he watched me drive.
Now I am here, by a small park in a small town.
And although I feel a small part of me is missing, I am happy to call him home and to know his heart is there to keep me safe and warm when I am ready to come back to it.
Leaving behind your love is not easy. But the right choice, the choice that gives you experience growth, and the opportunity to explore the world and yourself, rarely is.
I may miss him with all my heart, but I am not empty with lonely, rather I am full of his love and support, and there will never be a last time that I will receive it.
So I go to bed, the sound of a river running near my head, nearly drowning out the distant highway. There are no stars in the sky tonight as I look up, but I see them when I close my eyes.