Whew! Everyone across the board is adamant that 2016 has been a terrible year.
I’m in agreement for the most part. It’s so sad to know that there’s an assembly of supervillains prepping to take over our country. People are dying right and left, one of my lifelong best friends left unexpectedly, I know another friend who lost both parents this year. Many people are upset about all the celebrity deaths, which don’t upset me too much unless there is a personal connection. We have their bodies of work to enjoy, and I believe they’re fine on the other side. I think that death means getting out of this difficult and accelerated school of life and getting to go home for the spiritual equivalent of summer vacation, shoes optional. Honestly, that sounds awesome to me. Also, there is so much going on in the world with the living that I want to keep my focus there. Bowie doesn’t need me. Living girls in hijabs getting hassled on the train need me. I will admit that I would have liked to see Carrie Fisher hang around for a little while longer though.
There is so much to discuss, but I can really only speak of my own personal stuff because that’s what drives me to write. My goal is twofold: I hope the little bits of illumination that come my way can help others in similar situations, and I look to sort out my own thoughts and feelings by putting them down.
My upheaval started in 2015 and continued through until exactly December 24, 2016, when the fog dissipated and the emotional load lightened. I posted this on Facebook already, it’s an interesting article on numerology that is very close to exactly my experiences of the last two years: http://astrostyle.com/9-universal-year-numerology/
I have had a hard time blogging over the last two years because I wish to protect the people I love and I haven’t been clear on what to say. I haven’t understood my own motivations, my decision-making abilities, my ability to love, my self-worth. I experienced creativity-crippling self-hatred, which was mirrored in a few negative messages that came my way, mostly from strangers. I did a lot of escaping, a lot of drinking, a lot of socializing. Storm Large (my friend and partner in drugs, sex, and rock and roll for 30 years) and I both marveled at the way we regressed after decades of working on maturing. There has been an attitude of fuck it, we’re always going to be messy and never properly tamed no matter how hard we try, so let’s die if we must, let’s live it up while we can.
There can be a lot of fun in that, and I’ve got some entertaining photos on my phone that will never see the light of social media. But the downside to escape is that you never really do, especially when you’re over 40 and you know better. You wake up the next day and assess the damage to your middle aged face, then suffer the work day with a recriminating hangover. In the end it’s undignified, depression-inducing and counterproductive. And most importantly, it’s wasted time, of which there is a finite amount.
This was the first holiday season in 13 years that I would not be following a list of happy traditions with Drew. He has his girlfriend now (I call her “The Nose” or “Number 2” because I’m a jerk) and I am with Sam. It’s strange and new, it’s been difficult at times, emotional, confusing–it is what it is because I made my choices. Sam is Jewish and so much younger than me that Christmas is different for him. And even if it wasn’t, you can’t just pop one person into another person’s place and expect to continue on unchanged. It’s not fair and it’s not realistic. So for me this season has been tentative, one of examining and embracing the newness. Change can be good, but with that comes a mourning of what was, which was, for the most part, lovely. I felt that I had an inner home with Drew, and for better or worse, that is gone.
Storm and I spent hours on the phone dissecting our lives and our feelings, and decided that it was time to go with the weirdness flow and do something life-affirming and healthy. She picked me up a few days before Christmas in a rental car and we drove to the Kripalu retreat, a lovely place located in a former monastery in the middle of mountains, next to a lake, replete with gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. We were determined to rejuvenate our livers and find enlightenment: four days of yoga, no TV, very little phone or internet, organic, mostly vegetarian food, and seminars on things like gratitude and Ayurvedic healing.
The trip exceeded our expectations. It was both inspiring and life-changing, despite the fact that we were our usual dick selves. We became immediately obsessed with the meals, which we called feedings, because the food was so good, healthy and plentiful that we could stuff ourselves without guilt. We planned every day around when we would eat, then sat in corners together, forking into our mountainous plates while whispering a running commentary on our fellow guests. We laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe.
Storm: “Look, there’s rapey McDowndog. Avert your eyes.”
Me (referring to a couple who were supposed to massage their own feet in an Ayurvedic seminar, but instead she sat on the floor and rubbed her husband’s feet while gazing up at him in what could have been either fear or adoration)—“The foot people are here. I think they’re terrorists. Don’t they look like terrorists?”
Storm: “You know they’ve been screwing all night, look at her hair.”
Me: “Eeeeuuuw…oh wait. There’s no way she’s a terrorist, her name tag says ‘Cindy’.”
Storm: “I need more soup. Do you want more soup?”
Me: “I think I saw cake. I’m gonna go look.”
Okay, so more full than fully enlightened. But we tried. Storm is much nicer than I am so I worked on following her lead on opening my heart to strangers. Or at least to not be rude to them when they tried to engage in friendly conversation. By the end of the four days I forgot to be quite so shitty and even chatted to a woman about the eggs, very inappropriately during the silent breakfast. She snickered and elbowed me. Shut up, yoga butt.
We got massaged, sat in the sauna, meditated, did a ton of yoga, and ran on the treadmill. I tried to take off a tight hoodie while on said treadmill and got knocked off in a spectacular display worthy of youtube. Both of my knees are skinned and I’m covered in bruises. My whole body ached, but I didn’t care, we just kept going.
On Christmas Eve, on a whim, I signed up for a tarot card reading and that was when something deep shifted for me. I didn’t ask any questions, just told the reader to give me a general overview. I liked her; she was no nonsense with warm voice and a hawk’s gaze. She flipped the first couple cards, pointed, looked at me and asked, “What is this grief?” She flipped one more and tapped it and said, “Broken heart.”
My eyes got hot. I felt exposed. And surprised at my immediate visceral reaction.
I shook off the looming tears and told her a little about my situation. I told her I caused the dissolution of a long-term relationship with a very good man. I told her how it was my fault, my confusion, my instability that had caused pain to others, not just to him–my family, his family, our friends, even our pets. She continued to set cards down quickly, glancing at them and moving on. She looked at me and said, “You are carrying a heavy burden of guilt that is keeping you from moving forward. Let it go. This is not your fault, it is 50/50. He wasn’t hearing you. You could have handled aspects better, we always can, but you did your best. You are doing the work you’re supposed to be doing. This is necessary.”
A great weight lifted off of my heart. A weight so heavy I didn’t realize how much of it I had taken on. I have heard this same thing a number of times from friends but I didn’t believe it. You know that thing you carry where you think people don’t really see your secret inner awfulness? Deep down I believed what I’ve always believed–that I am a bad girl, a bad person, a destroyer. This is why we can’t have nice things.
She told me to eat warm, comforting food, to wear silk pajamas, to watch movies I love in soft blankets, to be quiet at home and simply be nice to myself. Pretty basic advice, but I needed it. Do we think to do that for ourselves? Most of the time I’m festering on how I need to lose 10 lbs or running out the door to handle the 20 things I’ve got to do that day. I am far more unkind to myself than I am to the strangers I not so silently judge while stuffing myself on the dinner menu.
She told me a lot of other things too, about Sam, about my friends, about my future, all good. But these are things for another day.
After that I had warm oil drizzled on my third eye center until I was spacey and fully basted like a Thanksgiving turkey. I flopped around the endless halls with my oil-soaked hair matted to my head, no makeup, sweat pants, slippers, banged up knees. I felt like a little kid, for once unbothered with my appearance, snickering with my lifelong pal over our dumb inside jokes. I felt loved by her, by every experience. Everything on this trip kept steering me to be gentle to myself, to take care of my psyche and my body, to feel the love that was being handed to me freely, and to at least try to be gentle with others no matter how weird they are with each other’s feet in public.
So I was given a huge gift this Christmas–to feel healthy, free and loved. It’s been a long time coming. I know how lucky I am to have had the opportunity, so if anyone is curious about what it entailed, the tarot reader’s name, anything like that, feel free to email me. I’m happy to pay my good fortune forward.
And as a special holiday gift, I’ll leave you with this photo of Storm, who was beyond pleased to discover that our shower had a glass wall facing the beds. You’re welcome, internet.