Friday, October 17, 2014

Travel: It’s Not Always All It’s Cracked Up To Be


 The traffic rumbles by outside, and even though I can smell the ocean, the anxious ball in my chest has only slightly diminished since I stopped trying to navigate Ensenada’s streets. 

You want an actual confession from a travel addict, invisible audience? Travel can be terrifying and hard. 

I spent more than a month in Washington, getting myself psyched up for an open-ended trip to Baja, and spent a blissful three weeks meandering down the west coast, camping in State Parks, staring straight up at monstrous Redwood trees, and stopping to spend time with friends and family. 

As I got closer to my date to head to Mexico, I started to waffle. I pushed it back. I dragged my feet. I couldn’t bring myself to look into where I wanted to go. And then in one day I bought Mexican car insurance, booked a place to stay in Ensenada, and left, a ball of anxiety blooming in my chest even as I enjoyed the meandering road that took me out of San Diego and inland so I could cross in Tecate, a smaller and less intense border than Tijuana, I decided.

I literally drove across the border without speaking to a soul. I’d been told this was the case. I didn’t believe it. It’s true. It was easier than crossing into Canada, but our ideas of Mexico, even to a seasoned traveler, are pretty firmly entrenched. I got stopped in the middle of nowhere by a cop, who shook my hand, asked me to remove my sunglasses, asked where I was going and what I did for work and shook my hand as he wished me good day and waved me along. 

I drove through Mexico’s wine region, a mix of rolling hills and flat, wide valleys filled with vineyards and olive trees, and I was reminded of home by the dust and the slow, determined walk of the farmers. I made it to Ensenada as the sun started to set over the Pacific Ocean, and looked down on the glimmering bay catching the late afternoon sun.

I was too freaked out to head completely into town before I stopped at a hotel on the side of the freeway.

Why am I so nervous? Perhaps because I’ve never road tripped in a foreign country before – not when I was the only driver, anyway, and not including a long arduous trip along the Pan-American highway to take my friends to Panama City and jet back to Boquete in the rental car. That time I was so lacking in sleep and reeling at the loss of my friends that I didn’t have time to contemplate it much, AND I’d been in Panama for more than a year at that point.

It’s been a long time since I was in Mexico, and Mexico and I have both changed since then. Not only that, but this part of Mexico is utterly unfamiliar to me, even as I find familiarity in the people who smile, say nothing of my Spanish and simply welcome me as they would anyone else into their restaurants, their houses, their country. 

The parts of Mexico I adore have already surfaced to remind me of what I missed: brightly colored houses cascading down the hills in no particular order, colonial architecture, large smiles, food so good your eyes roll into the back of your head, the comforting lull of a dialect that was the first I learned and the one I struggle the least to understand, and just a little more disorder than we allow in the States – enough to feel like there’s still room for growth, love – for me. 

And yet I drove like an idiot through town this morning, terrified I was running stop signs and red lights because traffic lights are in different places, trying not to get too interested in all that was going on around me when I should be focusing on whether or not I could take a left – was anyone else taking a left – OH GOD IT’S A COP AND HE’S PASSING ME ON THE CURB OUT OF NOWHERE.

Let me just get one thing straight, invisible audience. I am NOT fearless. It is true that I can move forward despite fear, but that is completely different. And sometimes, by calling me fearless, or capable of conquering the world, or independent, you can make me feel pinned into a box that I often don’t belong in, nor do I want to. 

Something is shifting. It is not necessarily that my adventurous spirit has deserted me, but I have found myself craving something different lately, and it may or may not manifest into something different than what I thought I would do when I got to Mexico. I am craving a tangible community in a way I never have before. I do not want to start completely from scratch again. Call it what you will, but suddenly I am more interested in the adventure of deepening relationships than I am in the adventure of new faces. 

Where will this take me? I have absolutely no fucking idea. And that – plus the fact that I am looking at my travel bug, what’s comfortable and familiar, and perhaps deciding against it – is enough to make me terrified all over again. But even if I cannot claim fearlessness, I can claim the ability to walk into and out the other side of fear, and that feels more helpful in this case than fearlessness would. 

So tomorrow I will get in my car and drive again, because forward motion is the only goal here. There’s no destination in mind, only a direction, and all of those roads -- regardless of length, time or detours -- will inevitably lead me toward discovering my own version of home.

Love and forward moving kisses

Friday, September 12, 2014

Letting Go Part 2: for Barbara


Dear Barbara,

The anniversary of your death snuck up on me quietly this year. I didn’t feel it as consciously as I did last September, but when I suddenly remembered two days ago what was looming ahead of me, I had an aha moment. Although I can pinpoint many of the reasons this week has felt tough, there was something else that I couldn’t pinpoint, and it was you: it was remembering you – what little time I knew you – at some sort of cellular level.

Eighty dollars. Five whole pies from the Stehekin bakery, plus tax. Two round trip tickets to Stehekin. A tank and a half of gas.

Eighty dollars was all that it took to throw away the rest of my cookbook stock this week. I loaded it into the back of a friend’s truck, took it to a transfer station, and hurled the boxes from my knees from the back of the truck into a huge pile of refuse.

Eighty dollars was not enough. It did not accurately portray the massive amounts of time and energy that I poured into creating those cookbooks, nor the subsequent hours of trying to sell them, nor the muscle it took to move them from place to place as I myself moved locations. It was not enough to encompass all the work of creating my first published books, even if they weren’t what I had first set out to publish. It was not enough to give credence to the hours, days and months of researching to get them made. It was not enough to show both the victory and the defeat in a writer’s first venture into publishing.

Eighty dollars is much less than the storage fees I paid on them; much less than the cost to insure them. Eighty dollars is less than I’ve paid to have Amazon keep them in their warehouse so they’d be an item that qualified for free shipping. 

Eighty dollars brought me to tears over chicken strips and French fries after I had made it out of the transfer station without a backward glance, as if what I had done had not felt like it nearly ripped my heart in two.

Even before you died, Barbara, I wanted those fucking cookbooks to disappear. I wanted them to sell on their own. I did not want to have to push them into the faces of tourists for them to fly off the shelves.  I did what I have been dreaming about since before I left Panama, but it still hurts, and it represents a death of another sort this week, besides the anniversary of your passing. They were certainly not the same sort of death, but their loss is still important. Getting rid of the weight of those books meant the death of old me that holds on even when everything in me is screaming to let go – and the growth of a new me that knows that that in letting go, I will find more freedom than in holding on.

I told someone what I had done later that day. I tried to name all the reasons why it was a good thing as my voice cracked and my hands shook. She nodded and smiled and said, “All that can be true Morgan, but it’s also ok to just admit that it was a really shitty moment.”

I’ve given up over and over again, Barbara, and each time I give up it becomes easier. I give up worrying about what people think on a daily basis. I gave up on trying to fulfill every role that someone put in front of me because I very simply could not handle them all, and very few of them are actually me. And I gave up on my cookbooks because it was time, because I hated them more than I loved them, because it is much harder to hold on than it is to let go, even if the process of letting go is painful.

It reminds me of my last minutes with you, actually. Anyone I spoke to who had any sort of spiritual awareness after you died told me that they could feel how ecstatic you were having left your body behind. All I could see, though, was your last struggle for breath – your attempt to stay in your body, how you didn’t want to let go. Even right after it happened I marveled at the soul’s connection to this life, which is where my thoughts always turn when I’m faced with death. Why do we hold on so hard if so many traditions teach us that what’s on the other side is so much better?

Perhaps it’s just human nature – perhaps it is just the human side of me that wants to hold on for dear life when the rest of me is begging me to let go. Perhaps in those moments the fear overtakes the peace. Perhaps it is just one more piece we’re supposed to learn. 

Or perhaps, as you most likely know by now, the struggle is just a small one in comparison to the rewards reaped on the other side. 

Perhaps letting go includes releasing the tears that have to be shed to complete the process.

Love and released kisses

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Ache: Stehekin

--> I felt it on the way uplake. I felt it as we laid out the tent on the dry dirt, smelled the cottonwood and pine mixed together, when I felt my breath whoosh out of me when I plunged into the icy water, and, especially, when I saw the sunburned, muscled bodies bearing up under backpacks on the shuttle up to dinner.

Hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail often make a detour into Stehekin, a community of 75 year-round residents and a lot of seasonal tourists strung along a single 12-mile paved road at the far end of Lake Chelan. I’ve been told that the cinnamon rolls at the Stehekin Pastry Company (usually referred to as The Bakery) are well worth the extra mileage to a calorie-starved hiker…or anyone else, for that matter. Walking in over mountains and valleys is one of only three ways to arrive – the other two are float plane, and boat.

There is no road to Stehekin from the outside world. Wifi is limited; cell service does not exist. Instead you are at the foot of blue craggy mountains, the foot of the glacier-fed Stehekin River, and the foot of the deep, clear crystal blue Lake Chelan, at its coldest here near its source, where the stars glitter like diamonds above the lightless road. In Stehekin, it’s not surprising to see rusted out cars with tabs that haven’t been updated since 1980…because, you see, there’s no law here, and no need.

Stehekin is my childhood condensed. I did not grow up here, but the things I liked most about growing up on Lake Chelan are here: a small-town feel, little that has changed, friendly waving people driving slowly by, an orchard to wander through, a garden to stop in, and the smells of water and pine and cotton wood and earth: dry, dusty, summer-baked earth.

 I went to Stehekin because it seemed like the thing to do after two years away, and it was all that I needed, but it also gave me an ache that would not dissipate for the three days I was there. I ached because it felt like going home, but also because it was not a home I could sustain. I ached because I want very much to carry the peaceful warmth of an endless Stehekin day with me wherever I go, but in the few weeks since I’ve been back in the States, I’ve found it harder and harder to be able to find that endless summer day space in my everyday. Even if it wasn’t Stehekin, I had found that peace in Panama, and I want it again. I want it always, just a shut laptop away, just a bike ride from the front door.

I ached because I looked at the Pacific Crest Trail hikers and I wanted what they have: endless nights in a tangible world, where their feet take them the distance they need to go, their backs carry what they need to live, and their smiles shine out past their courage and connect with anyone who carries the same badges: the same willingness to leave life as it is to go seek life how it could to be: closer to the source and further away from the fear and powerlessness that can cause paralysis and stagnation.

It is a slower existence, and one I feel often: on hiking trails, next to monstrous roaring waterfalls, and last night, by myself. I shucked off my clothes on a still-warm rock in the darkness and swam out into where the moonlight was illuminating the water. I looked down and saw own legs below me under the surface, as clearly as if they were illuminated by daylight. The moon shone straight onto my skin through glowing liquid, as if to say, “You see? You are here, too – I see you. You are as much part of this water as I am part of this sky.”

And it is in that water that I will always live, regardless of where I am. Chelan – deep water – nourishes me, reminds me that my roots need not hold me stagnant, and that I can float out past the shore and into the moonlight, where I belong.

I ached there because it was home, but not because it is a home that I have to stay in to live in. I ached because it reminded me of how far I have come since my first time swimming up into Rainbow Falls. I ache because my highest self sees herself in the surroundings here – she sees the courage she writes with, the strength she walks through her days with, and an inner beauty reflected outward in these tall craggy mountains and a lake so deep it’s hard to find the bottom. She is at home here, but then again, she is at home everywhere. The only the thing I need to know I’m home is the feeling I found here: a familiar, deep, soul-touching ache. 

Love and aching kisses

Friday, August 22, 2014

Counter Culture Shock: Nothing Is Different But Nothing Is The Same

Hello Invisible Audience,

I have just added an option for automatic monthly donations to my blog, and realized I have only written one post for August. That probably doesn’t inspire people to want to donate, now does it?

But what do I have to tell you? So much, and not much. I am sitting in Wenatchee, in the house where I lived before I left for Panama in the first place, and barring the strange traffic ‘updates’ to Wenatchee’s roads, there is little that has changed in the 18 months I have been gone. By that, I mean that much feels the same, even as much is different.

It is both comforting and confusing. It suddenly seems like my life has accordioned – that the two years I was gone and all I have accomplished have become a closed chapter, and a single memory, made more apparent at the health food store today.

“You were in Panama? How long were you gone?”
“Two years.”
“Wow. What were you doing there?”
“Uhh…I was writing a book.”
“How inspiring. Did you finish the book?”

Did I finish the book? Oh Jesus, invisible audience. I have written novels in journal entries, gone from 10,000 visits in five years of blogging to 21,000 in a year and a half. I have written, rewritten, edited, sobbed, laughed, shared my book with a few people, and then, ultimately decided not to publish it. The last time I looked at it, I found myself brought back to a painful, stuck place that I was writing to get out of, and writing it accomplished its task: I finished the book, accordioned my life and closed out a chapter of daily rainbows, sweet tropical fruits and honking and whistling when I walked anywhere, because that is how it works when you’re a woman in Panama.

Back in the U.S., I stood for whole minutes in a health food store, reveling in the joy of being able to find pretty much anything at my fingertips. I have eaten spinach by the handful, texted friends from Panama about the rediscovered wonders of Mexican food and gushing, constant hot water, and tried in vain to summarize what was an amazing couple years that is now over in a way that conveys the value that time deserves to have.

How was it? It was amazing some days, and awful others. The food was often exotic, and other times mundane. The people were amazing and also crazy. It was life, invisible audience, but a different one, with different rules and caring people, although that rarely translated into great customer service.  

This is counter culture shock at its finest. I am enjoying the friendships that picked up right where they left off, the new babies I get to see in real time, the kids that have grown like weeds in my absence, the hot dry summer days of North Central Washington and the beauty of Seattle on sunny days. All this, and yet I still find myself thinking, “it hardly feels different to drive down this road, although the last time I did feels like a lifetime ago.”

And as much as things feel the same, they are different – I am different. People have already commented on it – on this new me, who is less rattled and less capable of being rattled; glowing, still, and not just from my Central American tan.

I want to hold onto it, this new me that has come back to the old me. I want to capture my happiness and hold it close to my chest, and when people ask me, I want to let it burst out at them, without needing to explain in words how different my time abroad has made me. Because from now on, it’s all time abroad: all my time needs to make me more me. I have left the old me behind, and the new me is much more interested in staying new. Glowing, without any of the old fears I left behind when I left here, before my now-finished time in Panama. Time may feel like it has accordioned, but it is still there. I don’t have to be able to explain it for it to be obvious. 

Love and new old kisses

Friday, August 8, 2014

Finding The End of the Rainbow

Oh geez, Invisible Audience,

So much to say…so hard to summarize.

I’ve been making the rounds and saying goodbye to all the people I’ve known in Boquete before I leave, and it suddenly feels like almost two years has gone by in a flash. That, or I’ve been here for a lifetime. It’s all wrapped up in one.

I have passed houses of friends that have moved on, smiled at memories in restaurants, at swimming holes and up hiking trails, and stood on the bridge where I stood on my first day here, bathed in the light of a full moon, and felt something that had been wound too tight inside me start to release and unravel. 

In daylight, many, many days and memories later, I put my hands on the railing, heard the river rushing by below me, and looked up the valley, a completely different person than the one who arrived.

Every piece of the puzzle I received here has felt monumental and essential, and it is hard to believe that I was able to pack all I have learned into such a short time period. I have met so many people who taught me so much: so much about myself, and also about the world and how it could work, if I just got out of my own way -- out of my own head -- and let it.

Linda, my chiropractor but also my friend, may have summarized it best: 

“I am not going to say I will miss you, because that indicates that I will feel the absence of your presence. That’s not true. Instead I will say that I will never forget you, because that is far more accurate. You will always be here with me. It has nothing to do with physical distance.”

I will never forget you, Panama, nor all the people you have brought me. I can’t remember every rainbow anymore, but I will always remember and talk about living in a place with a whole season of rainbows. More than one taxi driver has told me that he has actually driven THROUGH the end of the rainbow, something that science and our Western thinking tells us is absolutely impossible. Then again, many things I thought were impossible have come to fruition here, so it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that the end of the rainbow is something you can find here -- that the proverbial pot of gold may be a metaphor for many other types of treasures that are reachable if you simply let go of the idea that they are not.
“So, you just didn’t like it here enough, huh?”

A lot of people have asked me this question. And the true answer is very simple: I loved it here, until one day I didn’t. And that day stretched on into another and another, and, because it has happened to me many times before, I knew what it meant. I came here to learn something, although it is only now that I know what it was: I came here to rest, rejuvenate and find myself. I spent a blissful couple years here, and now it’s time to go. I have done what I came to do. Whatever is next in this ever-changing and ever-evolving journey, this wild crazy adventure called life, it will happen somewhere else.

I guess that’s all for now. I have a lot to say, but a lot has to go unsaid. When I lived in Spain in my early twenties, I told the people I was studying abroad with that I hated the idea of having to summarize an experience into a sentence, because it could not possibly encompass all the joy, the ecstasy, the grief, the tears, the growth, the laughter and the smiles. So it wouldn’t matter if I wrote volumes about it, invisible audience. As much as words serve me well, they can only describe what happened. They cannot replace it. So just imagine having lived at the end of your own rainbow, perhaps, and then realizing that you can carry that rainbow with you wherever you go. Maybe then you’ll understand what I’m trying to convey. Maybe then the words will be enough.

Love and rainbow kisses

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dear Panama: It’s Time to Move On

Dear Panama,

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m sure you hear this a lot, and it is true in my case. I don’t want you to feel like you have failed me in any way, but not all love affairs are meant to last, and for as wonderful as you have been to me, for the last six months or so I’ve found myself feeling like something was missing, and that’s not fair to either of us.

I’ve been hesitant to say this out loud because I envisioned a lot of protestations and a lot of people (besides you) who wouldn’t understand. I’ve realized, however, that if I want others to accept the authentic me, I have to actually BE authentic with them and let them decide what to do with the information from there. So here it is, in all its glory: I head back to the States in two weeks for a wedding, I’m not coming back, and to be honest I’m not sure where my next stop will be.

It will not be Washington. It will not be Panama. I’m leaning somewhat toward Mexico, but the truth is that I feel much more comfortable letting my future play itself out than I am in deciding before I’ve actually made it anywhere that that will be where I stay. I was trying to figure out how to explain this the other day, and decided the best analogy I can come up with is to compare my living environments to romantic relationships: if I have to find the next one before I get out of this one, I will likely stay too long in a relationship that isn’t working or leap into a new one without knowing whether it will be a good fit.

You have given me SO MUCH, Panama: wonderful friends, a great community, any spiritual and healing resource I could have possibly imagined, a casita with a large yard and an unfettered view of the stars and the sunrise, and a place to rest with a whole season of daily rainbows. There is no hatred or rancor in our parting, rather simply a recognition that what we had that was so great has passed, and there are new horizons somewhere that are begging for my attention.

Goodbye, Panama. And good luck. I know you’ll offer your warm embrace to others, and I’m glad. Your gifts are too many to be hoarded by just one person.

Love and eternally grateful kisses,

Sunday, June 29, 2014

De-Pathologizing the Human Experience


There’s been an article floating around Facebook lately, that I’ve found myself afraid to link to it, even though reading it was one of the most gratifying things I’ve done for myself lately. I’ve been gathering courage and other necessary emotions, so here it is:

Although some of what is referred to in this article rests on a more serious side of the spectrum of mental illness, something clicked when I read this that I hadn’t really been able to articulate until now.

Yeah, I thought. What if there’s nothing wrong with me and there’s actually more RIGHT with me because of how I feel -- and how much I feel?

As far as “mental illness” goes, I’m not even on the radar. Yes, I’ve dabbled with depression. Yes, I know and have dealt with addiction and mental illness in others, and a lot of even deeper shit of my own that I’m not interested in getting into here. But to the average person looking at my life, I look pretty normal: I am a 32-year-old freelancing woman who is building a life that can be as nomadic or stationary as I wish, battling demons both quietly and out loud here on my blog, and dealing with—I have discovered – many things that many people feel. I know this because very often an invisible audience member will peek up briefly to tell me that what I write applies to them, and that they admire my ability to say it out loud.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog at all has probably noticed some themes. Please don’t hate me for being different; let me try to explain why I do this is one of them. The deeper root of this is an even simpler sentence: please tell me I’m not crazy for being this way.

There’s a lot in my head. But you know what? There’s a lot that’s NOT in my head, invisible audience, and that article pointed it out. I have thought I was crazy because I could not make myself happy with the things that we’re told we’re supposed to be happy with. In our society, there must be something wrong if you have everything anyone could ever want — shelter, food, family, relationships, vacations, even! — and yet you still find yourself restless, nomadic, deeply introspective and unable to rest within the role you’ve been given. But what if — WHAT IF — that lingering depression, the melancholy that comes after spending an evening with people discussing things you don’t care about is your entire being telling you not that you’re crazy, but that your real responsibility in this lifetime lay elsewhere? What if those niggling feelings of doubt and fear and restlessness were your psyche trying to tell you that there was something more for you out there, outside of the existence of “having it all,” when "all" is a predefined notion set by someone else, with no regard for the yearnings you have in the middle of the night, when everything is quiet and you're exhausted beyond all belief and surrounded by all you've created, but you can't help but dream of something different?

This is where I have arrived, invisible audience. I am done arguing. I am done explaining. And I am done trying to justify my actions in a way that makes them sound not crazy. Because there is no fighting the cloud that makes me feel crazy. It is a non-entity just as invisible and strong as gravity, and the trick is not to fight it, but go dive into the ocean, where the rules around gravity are different; where I have always known how to float when others sink.

I have been really angry lately. And that anger is a new feeling. It’s not polite, you see; it will not follow the social norms I have been taught about respecting my elders and not interrupting. It would make me look crazy if I let it erupt out of me, but you know what? As far as that spectrum goes, my craziness is already established. I burned some shit in a pile in my yard the other day just for the hell of it. I’ve been standing naked in the rain a lot. I have shut the door to my bedroom for more privacy in a house I live in alone. I’ve been singing loudly and badly on purpose on walks, and I have given up on trying to explain my reasons for anything. Because sometimes I don’t have reasons, invisible audience. Sometimes I am simply sad, followed by being simply angry, followed by being simply and profoundly grateful that underneath all this gunk, I have found that feeling ME is not as crazy as I was led to believe. 

So instead of scrambling around trying to rid myself of the half of the feelings on the spectrum that I learned were signs of a problem, I’ve decided to acknowledge that they are signs from myself that something needs to change: something is not working, and something else can take its place. When I’m tired, I take a nap. When I’m angry, I snap at people. When I’m happy, I whistle, sing and dance in my yard. And when it’s all over, I am me, all of me: all a human is supposed to be. 

Love and wholly human kisses

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Psychic Pain Scale

Ally Brosh’s pain scale is perhaps one of the best ones I have ever seen; it certainly makes me laugh, which has definitely been proven to help. It occurred to me, however, that while we’re pretty good at talking about physical pain, psychic pain is not something anyone talks much about, at least in the same context.

If I break my foot I wear a cast. I hobble around and people get up to let me sit down, carry my groceries and hold doors open. If I am pale and tell you my stomach hurts, you will either offer me food or not, depending on what might help me feel better.

What would you say, however, if I wore my psychic pain scale number on my face?

I have a pretty simple existence here, and I did that on purpose. The sort of digging I’m doing into my beliefs, ideas and life takes up a lot of energy and a lot of time, and though I can see the micro steps making monumental differences, I know that many people don’t see much more than a 30-something without a car working part time and hanging out watching the World Cup at the local bar.

“What have you possibly got to worry about?” someone asked me the other day.

“I’m surprised. You should be further along than still believing that shit,” someone else said.

“There’s always something you have to go through. You can’t just run away every time something comes up,” someone said when I moved to Panama.

Would they have said the same thing if I were lying in a hospital bed, recovering from a broken back? Would someone who came to visit have said, “Gee Morgan, I thought you’d be walking by now. You should be further along than this.”? Would anyone be giving it a second thought if I had cancer and were sitting in a rehab facility, taking it easy, eating healthy food, working part time or going to physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that had gone weak around the bone that broke?

What have I got to worry about? Well, you just don’t know, do you? Because we are a society that does not talk about its psychic pain, its symptoms are harder to spot and talking about how you’re really feeling isn’t actually ok. If I don’t tell you the exact nature of my pain, it can’t really be that bad, can it? If I can't tell you I shattered a femur; that I'm on mountains of pain killers; if I am not pale, limping; if I am able to eat and enjoy some time out with friends, does that mean I don’t have anything to worry about? You wish. We all wish. We all act like that’s true. We’re all in motherfucking denial that this very real yet invisible thing exists: that it has weight, body and gloms onto the soul.

Like physical pain, psychic pain can come in waves, and it’s easy to forget when the pain ebbs. For a little while, there’s a profound feeling of NOT being in pain, then it quickly fades into normality until the psychic pain ratchets itself up again. That means I – thankfully – have minutes, hours and days where I can focus on the beauty of life around me. Those moments buoy me when the other moments feel dark, when I am confused because the pain I’m feeling cannot be ascribed to a certain part of my body and will not be soothed by ice packs or heating pads, ibuprofen or casts.

What does help is pressure: a good strong hug; the weight of the sun on my back; cold water and gravity pushing against my skin; the edge of the paper against my fingers when I turn the page of a good book; and laughter pressing into my ears, especially when it’s my own.

You can’t ever know, invisible audience. And they don’t have to tell you. But the next time someone says something about how tired they are, how sick they feel for no reason, how they’re going through something tough, maybe just reach out and take their hand. Because the words weren’t created for describing this sort of pain, and the culture wasn’t either, but the pressure of human touch can transcend all that. Maybe, just maybe, it will lessen the pain somewhat, without any need to know its cause.

Love and psychic kisses

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beyond the Agony and the Ecstasy

They talk about broken hearts like they’re a bad thing; like they’re only something that can happen in a romantic relationship. I have found neither to be true.

Instead, I have found my heart breaking over and over again, having little to do with romance at all, and everything to do with finding myself with a deeper capacity to feel inside my broken heart than I ever did when I thought my heart to be whole. Whole, or, perhaps more accurately, wholly closed.

There’s another word that we’re missing in this language, invisible audience. It is the word for whatever lies beyond the limits of agony and ecstasy, when suddenly you find that your heart has split nearly in half. It is like fresh road rash exposed to the air: it hurts more than you can imagine to allow oxygen to brush against it, never mind anything tactile. It hurts that it is open to air, and it also hurts to know that air is what will make it heal the fastest and with the least amount of scar tissue.

In the case of emotional road rash, it’s not actually pain. It’s something else. It’s not love; it’s not hate. It’s closer to grief, hangs next to anguish, but also near to the ecstasy that comes from deep passion, connection – orgasm, even. It rides a tightrope between agony and ecstasy and feels like a delicious terrible concoction of both at 100% potency.

It, well, it feels far more than anything else, and that is what it is. It could feel like pain, but it also feels like change. It’s scary, messy, causes tears to well up and overflow, and an ache in the chest. It is a deep unnamed feeling that leaves everything beyond and outside of it pale in comparison.

What is it? It is heartbreak. It is the nerves exposed to air, measuring the humidity, the heat, a better barometer than anything manmade, and it is also completely inexplicable, try as I might to explain.

Oftentimes, in a moment of profound pleasure, be it sexual, emotional or physical, I find that a lump appears in my throat and my chest begins to ache. It is not pain, necessarily, but it is certainly not all pleasant. Instead, I think, it must be the feeling of my heart expanding: cracking open over and over again, each crack creating more space, more room, more heart.

And that is where I find myself this week, invisible audience. I am heartbroken, in a way that causes me to weep openly, to shy away from touch as if it burns on the nerves laid bare within my skin, although the wound is invisible. It feels as if the bandages I have wrapped around myself are unraveling, and my pores are drinking in the air as if they have been starving and deprived.

Although there is pleasure in this feeling, there is also a lot of pain. Although it is growth, it is also a shrinking of an old self; a withering of old ideas as new ones burst forth to grow something wild and different.

I can’t say it hurts, but it sure as fuck doesn’t feel good. I suppose that all I can say is that it feels, invisible audience, in a way, a depth and a mixture of burning hot and icy cold that it has never felt before.

Though it is near impossible to explain without having the word, it is there nonetheless, like a scar peeling away from the inside of the skin, finally allowing the air to come in, the lungs to fill to capacity, and the world to burst into vibrant, violent color before my eyes.

Nothing in the world has changed, except me. And in me, everything is different.

Love and ecstatic agonized kisses

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Breaking the Silence

“Hi Litty. I'm going to walk around the table now. Here I go. I’m coming toward you.”
“Hey there Litty. Nice to see you. I’ll just be over here if you need me.”
“Hi Litty. Are you hungry? Here’s my hand. Don’t worry, I won’t come any closer.”

Litty is one of four cats I’m petsitting for the week. I was warned that it would take her awhile to warm up to me. Litty – Little One – was a rescue cat – rescued from two kids that were torturing her.

Litty came halfway down the stairs to stare at me while I was working at the dining room table. She was skittish and skeptical, and at first any movement I made was enough to make her bolt up back upstairs. Slowly she grew accustomed to me, moving out of the way when I came near, but only far enough that I couldn’t grab her if I tried. That was ok with me -- I've known enough cats to know not to try. The more I talked to her, though – the more I told her I was coming out of a room so I wouldn’t startle her, the more I started talking before I started moving – the more she relaxed.

I’m a lot like Litty, I think: I need someone to tell me they’re about to try to get close before they do, or I’m likely to bolt, expecting the worst.

Since I don’t need a babysitter, the real world version of this is a little different. I have learned through much trial and error that I stoke silence into a growing wildfire of dark thoughts, fears and rejections, and the easiest and best way out is to break the silence myself or ask someone to break it for me.

I have a friend who shows me in countless ways that he cares about me. I also know that he only checks his email once or twice a week. Remembering the ways he’s shown me I’m important to him feels about as easy as trying to grow a third arm when I’m waiting for a reply to an email whose contents make me feel vulnerable. Even when I’ve just forwarded him some benign piece of information, my mind is much more likely to leap to the most terrible option available instead of to what is most likely the truth: he hasn’t read the email yet.

The same woman I wrote about last week, Jeanne, pointed out to me that I need to hear it: I need people to tell me how they feel, because, well, because the words are important to me. I’m a writer, after all. Although I can say I write for a living, I actually call myself a writer because writing is where I turn for understanding and legitimizing my feelings: I write when I am happy, sad, afraid, vulnerable. Writing is where I go to feel more alive, and the words are what bring it about. Yes, recently I’ve found many holes in the language and I have been searching for a way to describe what does not exist in the words I have been taught, but I’d rather you bumbled the words and tried to say it loud than simply show me.

This is a new discovery for me, invisible audience, but an important one. Now I know that I need the words to feel safe, and that’s changed something: it means I can’t be silent anymore. Now, when I’m starting to feel skittish and like I want to bolt for the door, I gather my courage and say, “What do you think about this?” OUT LOUD to the other person. And where before I always feared the rejection in their answer, now I am finding sweet relief in hearing the silence be broken, regardless of what words they use to break it. By breaking my own silence, I have managed to ask others to break theirs around me, and I’m finding that the sound of their voices, regardless of message, was all I needed.

Love and broken silence kisses

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Truth of the Matter

Her: “Who told you that you were a big woman? You seem pretty normal sized to me. You might want to consider letting go of that idea, especially if it isn’t serving you.”
Me: “I wish we’d had this conversation much earlier.”
Him: “Why?”
Me: “Because I somehow had the idea that you would be critical of what I believed or thought if my ideas weren’t based in science, and it kept me from telling you things about myself.”
Him: “I tried to disabuse you of that idea. More than once, in fact.”
Her: “I don’t believe in THE truth. I believe in MY truth, and that my truth is going to be different from others’ truths, even if we’re recalling the same situation or moment.”
Oh Jesusfuckingchristonastick, invisible audience.

So it turns out that reality IS what you make of it, and over the last couple weeks that’s become so apparent, it’s like someone has taken a baseball bat to my reality and beat it repeatedly until I saw stars through the cracks of what I always believed to be true.

I’ve talked about this a lot, but it turns out that I’ve actually been injecting meaning into conversations that wasn’t there, because finding proof of the reality I had built was much more important than hearing the truth of what the other person was saying.

I recently sat down with a woman who asked me to tell her my story – my life story; what had brought me here, to this point in time. What I told her was basically what was in the book I’ve been writing, in the same way I told it in the book -- a book that I now could care less about publishing.

She listened, quietly and respectfully, and said, “You did a great job. Now, I want you to tell me that story again, but I want you to retell it so that, ever time you chose something different, you claim responsibility and credit for it instead of claiming you were a victim that was forced from one part of your life into another.

“For instance," she said, "Instead of saying, ‘I was drowning in depression and felt like my only option was to move to Panama,’ what if you said, ‘I chose to break a pattern that wasn’t working and move away, and because I am adventurous and resourceful, I knew that it would work out and I’d be able to take care of myself, because I’d done it countless times before.’?”

I thought a long time about it. She sat patiently and waited.

The new story that came out was jilted, lumpy, and hesitant. It took me four or five times before I could say it with any sort of fluency. I could actually feel the new pathways trying to form in my brain; trying to pull out of the paths they’d been in for so long -- paths that had cast me as an unwilling player in this game of life -- and reform me as a courageous woman who had managed to make a monstrous change despite deep fear; a woman who somehow knew under all the other chatter that the unknown held much more freedom than the predictable.

That new story has freed me, invisible audience. Not only that, but many subsequent conversations have made it clear how deeply I had subscribed to the reality of the victim, even as a braver, wilder part of me would sneak out every now and then – but with more and more frequency – grab the reins, and yank them to a new, thornier and incredible path, away from everything that had ever been and into uncharted territory.

Now that I can own my story, I can see that that person was me.

I have realized that I took the words out of peoples’ mouths and twisted them into stunted little beings that would better fit into my idea that I was worthless. I realized that I have discounted the many, many ways I have been shown that I am loved and sought signals of my mundaneness in others’ eyes, looking right past the sparkle that came over them when they looked at me. I refused to see the magic, invisible audience, because there was no way to explain it, and it didn’t fit into an idea of reality that I’d picked up from others; a reality that has nothing to do with how the world actually works for me.

I have a magical existence. What I need shows up when I need it. The people I love show me that they love me in the ways that they know best. When I keep that in mind, I see huge, fragrant gardens where before I only saw dead, barren landscape.

All because someone helped me see that my story was writing my reality, instead of reality creating my story.

Love and choosing your own reality kisses,

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Give Up.

I give up.

I say it in my head a lot. When I’m shaky, exhausted, owing things to people or to myself, I let myself think it. Riding on the tail end of that thought is always another one: you can’t give up.

Let me clear: I’m not talking about ending it all; about pouring my blood out onto the floor, or swallowing something to make all the hurt and the pain go away. When I say I want to give up, what I mean is that there’s a deep, dark part of me that wants to just fucking let go – to say screw it to all I understand to be right, good and moral in the world, pick it up like a piece of electronics, smash it on the floor multiple times until both the tile and the apparatus are no longer recognizable, and then heave it out the window in a fit of rage.

I want to give up. I want to give up the socialization of my gender, of my age, of my role, of my humanity. I’m tired of being told why I’m the way I am by people who can’t hear what’s racing through my head; who have no idea that I have not just taken their words to heart, but swallowed them into the nuclei of all my cells, where they have multiplied like poison into my innards, soaking their way through my flesh.

I can name them like dark eyes in the night, peering at me from the darkness, waiting for my guard to be down so they can run at me full-tilt and tear out my throat, destroy my peace of mind and feast on my very self. They are the rules that I have tried to push away from: the ideas that you must be either mother or career woman; busy or lazy, driven or a failure. I want to chase after them with my sword and my warrior war cry, but the minute I get away from the shelter of my own sanity and run out into the dark after them, their eyes wink into blackness and there is nothing where they once stood, as if I was imagining their stench; their laughter, their very existence.

I want to give up. I want to rip away the fabric of what I have learned and discover what’s underneath. I want to stop taking it for granted that bloodletting kills the infection, and see what feeding the flesh does instead. I want to find the brave, courageous part of me that stands wide-legged with her sword and yells, “Who fucking SAYS that’s the only way to do it? I want you to bring them to me,” and waits, patiently, smirking, as no one is brought forward.

I want to give up. I want to stop gnashing my teeth and wailing that it’s not fair, that I don’t want to do it anymore, that if only someone would listen to me they’d see that I’m not crazy; that world can, in fact, be different than what we are taught that it is. I want to give up needing someone else to tell me I’m right, and just know that I am – know that I know what’s best for me, and if that is threatening to someone else, that actually has nothing to do with me at all.

I want to give up, and I think I’m almost there. Knowing is half the battle, after all, and now I know what it is I want to step out of. I know what expectations I will no longer buy into. I know what ideas I’m casting aside. I am tearing at the scab and willing to see the blood welling up underneath it. I am ok with sporting a scar, if it is one I can show with pride as I say, “See this? This was a battle won. This was a messy yet successful escape. Without this scar, there would not be me…the me I am today, the one that finally gave up.”

Love and given up kisses

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sandbagging: Planning for the Worst & Missing the Best

When I was working at a sales job in Bellevue, my manager asked me if I had any floss.

“Why did you ask me?”
“You seem like the kind of person who’s prepared for anything.”
I pulled a travel-sized floss out of my purse and handed it over.

In college, one of my friends gave me what she called a “shack it brush,” a toothbrush I could carry in my purse in case I ended up “shacking up” with someone. She didn’t need to, though: I already carried a travel toothbrush with me, not for shacking up, but simply in case I ate or drank something and felt a need to brush my teeth afterward.

Here in Boquete, where I am usually without a car and dependent on taxis, rides and buses to get me to and from home, I carry snacks with me to ensure that if I get hungry I have a choice of something healthy to eat.

Maybe floss, travel toothbrushes and a bag of almonds are all a good idea in the long run, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg as far as my preparation is concerned. I recently started to realize how often I do this with everything: how often I am anticipating the worst and spending all my mental energy trying to plan for that eventuality instead of letting myself live in the moment.

I call it sandbagging because sandbags are heavy. They take energy to move around and set up. They require thought and planning to put into place, and they are supposed to help keep out the floods, the natural disasters and inclement weather.
They also only work if they’re placed at the right place at the right time.

It’s definitely ok to have a contingency plan; an escape plan or an understanding that things may go wrong. However, I have found that I’ve been sandbagging so many parts of my life – planning for so many disasters – that I am so caught up in future could-possibly-kill-me-moments that I forget to look up and see that there’s no flood, actually, just sunshine and chirping birds. I call it sandbagging because of the energy it takes, and yet it’s ridiculous to spend all my precious energy planning for a future that may not come; to take all my valuable resources and put them toward protecting myself from an unlikely torrential downpour.

When I sandbag, I don’t just pick the most likely place where the water will come through. I sandbag the whole fucking house, because if I’m already expending the effort, I may as well work a little harder and make sure the whole structure is a fortress. Oops, I forgot to leave an entrance for supplies, and for me to get in and out. Oh well. For now it’s safe in here. I’ll just hunker down and wait for the flood that will never come.

I spend a lot of time and effort anticipating an attack of one kind or another, so I prepare myself for the worst. I expect people to want all my time and attention, so I automatically limit how much of myself I give to ensure they can’t take it all, regardless of who they are or whether they’ve shown themselves to be psychic vampires. I expect I will eventually run out of money instead of trusting in my own ability to make it (despite years of proof otherwise) so I hoard what I can while I can and beat myself up when I can’t. I expect one day the bottom will fall out of the work I have done, so I live in constant fear that it will be taken away. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, invisible audience, and it means that every good moment looks like it has a shadow.

There are going to be terrible moments. There are going to be unexpected tragedies; unexpected expenses; unexpected emotional turmoil. However, what if instead of sandbagging, I simply let myself remember that I have the resources and the capabilities to handle any problems that come my way, and instead of spending all my time building defenses, I simply let myself enjoy the good that came my way?

Well, my life would be much better, wouldn’t it? I’d be less stressed out. I’d have a lot more mental energy; I’d be a lot less wary. If, instead of hiding behind my sandbagged defenses, I stepped out into the world, what would I find? Probably a lot more wonder; a lot more love and a lot more space.

They talk about how worry doesn’t actually help anything. Anticipation of potential problems and outcomes is helpful in planning, but actually worrying about something makes not one damn bit of difference to its outcome. It’s easier said than done, but I want to let go of the worry: the parts that make me feel like there’s nothing I can do but spin the worst scenario out in my head over and over again; that imagining how it won’t work is somehow useful.

More than anything, I want to be able to put down the idea that I failed if I was unable to see the outcome of a situation before it happened. I want to be able to not just forgive myself for not seeing a potential failure, but dismissing the idea that that was ever my job. If I had known that ultimately I would end up with a bunch of cookbooks in a storage unit that hadn’t sold, would I have done anything differently? Damn straight I would have, but I had no way of knowing that the books that had been selling so well would stop selling. I had no way of knowing I would run out of steam; that other things would take precedence in my list of priorities; that one day I would realize that I had to choose between my own happiness and future and those damn books.

I couldn’t have known. I have no reason to keep beating myself up for not knowing that. I have no reason to beat myself up for not knowing relationships were going to end before they started; for not knowing that the longer I stayed away from the States the less I would want to go back; for not knowing a year ago that one year away would really only be enough to scratch the surface of the new path my life is taking.

The sandbagging hasn’t worked. Not only did I build dykes in the wrong places, I beat myself up for not realizing where the weaknesses were, without knowing what they would be. I have beat myself up for not knowing what I didn’t know, instead of having the experience, learning from it, accepting what I’d learned and moving forward with that new knowledge. I tend to beat myself up a lot, invisible audience, but now is the time to stop.

I can’t know what I don’t know, and spending my whole life trying to anticipate every last possible outcome not only takes the fun out of it, but it also negates all the lessons I need to learn along the way. Now that I know, I treat my business interactions a lot differently. I divide the money I make into different categories: living expenses, savings, paying off debts, and business expenses. I never would have learned to do that if I hadn’t done it differently when I was selling my cookbooks. I never would have learned what doing what I loved felt like if I’d never done what I hated for money instead. I never would have known what happiness was without experiencing real sadness.

When I sandbagged, I not only wasn’t letting in the flood, I was also holding back the sunshine. It's time to step out of the fortress and know that there's a lot more to anticipate than just a flood.

Love and sandbag free kisses

Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Matter of Choice

“So what, you want a sugar daddy or something?"
“No, that’s not it…what I want is to feel like I have a choice in the matter…like I get to pick whether I want to work. Right now it seems like no matter how I feel or what’s going on, I have to work.”

It’s true that I make choices every day: what to wear, what to eat, whether to stay at home or go out, whether to call a cab or go out to the road and walk until I’m either picked up by a neighbor, a cheaper cab or a bus. It’s true that on some superficial level I feel like I have the right to make choices in my life, but suddenly it’s also clear to me how much I have felt like I have been led around by the things I did not have a choice about, and how that has shaped my perspective.

I didn’t have a choice about growing up in an alcoholic home. I didn’t have a choice about which babysitter I was taken to as a child. I was told that I had no choice but to behave; that rewards and love came to those who followed the rules, and because I desperately sought love and acceptance, I didn’t feel like there was a choice for anything different.

I didn’t feel like I had a choice when I developed an eating disorder in high school. Everyone told me I was fat, including my own family, and although now I know I have hypothyroidism and a wheat and gluten intolerance that were surely big factors in my inability to lose weight, all I saw was that I could eat the same as others and balloon up when they didn’t. I didn’t feel like I had a choice: I just stopped eating, because if I wanted to be loved, I had to look like I deserved it. Fat thighs aren’t loveable, you see. In fact, sadly, after all I have learned, all I know and all I have worked through – not to mention the fact that I weigh less than I have at any other point in my adult life, outside of my stint with anorexia – I can still look at my thighs and catch myself thinking, “who on earth would love those?

When I first wrote this, I railed about how without choice I felt, and I couldn’t find any of the choice in what I was doing. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that there was one place that I had found a choice and taken it: I chose awareness.

When I went to Mexico and found my way into my first Al-Anon meeting, I picked up a torch and started looking around the dark cave where I had been living. I saw how angry I was; how hurt; how completely unable to feel my way out of that dark dank hole from the place I was in. That first summer of Al-Anon, everything I read in the books gave me clues about my life and how I’d gotten to that point, and it was an immense relief because I finally saw how much I had been led around by factors outside my control. That summer I chose to try something different. I had already quit a corporate job and been willing to try on becoming a writer, but in Mexico I decided that I wanted out of the emotional box I’d been in. I could see there was much I could learn and a whole different person I could be inside this awareness, and I stepped in fully, with the help of many people, a lot of literature, and a blog that I started writing more frequently, and a little more bravely.

That was my choice. Much is outside my control, and there is no way I would have known what choosing awareness would have brought me: the highs, the lows, the friendships gained and lost. It was one summer that changed my life forever, and knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t go back. Awareness has brought me more choice as time has gone by: the more I am aware of, the less I am driven by unconscious ideas and understandings, and the more I feel in control of my own life.

I chose and I’m glad, not because I have an easier life, but because I now have the ability to pick a more authentic one. Not everything that brought me here felt like it came from my own volition, but saying yes to awareness did, and picking awareness over and over again continues to make me feel even more me.

I have started to be able to name the machine that kept me imprisoned. I have started seeing the walls of the cage where before they were invisible; I have started to be able to wonder what’s outside of them. In the past year especially, I have found myself challenging some basic rules that I have lived by all my life, and found that they no longer have to apply.

It could be that the mechanism I’ve always had to break things in the past – terrible jobs, terrible bosses, failing businesses – is related to a deeply held desire to break through the idea that I am without choice. It could be that I was trying to twist out of a straight jacket of rules put upon me that have told me that there is no other choice – that I can run, but only so far; that I can let myself come close to failure, but there is no choice, really, and therefore complete and utter failure is not an option, but neither is success, if I’m not following the rules. Instead I stop just short of it: just short of failing because I don’t even know how to do that; there is no room for failure when that was never offered as a choice, and no room for success outside the rules.

Up until this point, invisible audience, I have not felt that I’ve had a choice. Not one. Not ever. Not in anything important, anyway. Yes, I choose to live in Panama, but that was because depression threatened to overtake me in Washington before I left. Yes, I choose to not eat wheat, because otherwise I spend weeks lying in bed. Yes, I choose to be alone, because when you feel like there is no choice in the matter of whether human interaction will ultimately take all your energy away, you’d rather choose to be alone than be railroaded by people whose ideas for what is good for you is based on what is good for them and has nothing to do with you at all.

When there is no choice, there is no celebration available for making decisions that are based on my own best interests. If I don’t choose to leave but feel like I have to for my own survival, I don’t feel like I can own my own volition, because it never felt like mine at all. Something else was driving the boat that picked me up in the middle of the night and whisked me off to another land; if I haven’t felt like I had a choice, how could I claim that was me?

This fucker is big, invisible audience. BIG. Suddenly it’s clear why I couldn’t own them: my own decisions, because they never felt like they were mine. When I needed out of a situation, I’d get sick, because simply saying no never felt like a choice I could make. So that’s the part I have to reconnect with: the part of me that feels like she has a choice in the matter and in this life. 

When I first wrote this blog post, I wrote the following section without feeling like a had a choice in any of these things. Now that I've realized how much awareness has brought me, I cna see that I can choose a lot of what I listed here, but it still felt important to leave the original list in. 

If I had a choice, how would my life be different?

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be working, that’s for damn sure. I’d be paid to enjoy myself. I wouldn’t be dragging my feet to answer emails to people I don’t care about or whose own needs don’t mirror my own. I wouldn’t worry so much about whether I fit into a specific size. I’d get to choose who my partner was instead of waiting and hoping for him to choose me. I’d write my goddamn book because I had something to say, not because I thought people would think me yet another person who claimed they were writing a book that they never finished. I’d spend more of my money on good beer. I’d stop acting like I like wine, because I don’t, not really. I’d stop smiling when I felt like I wanted to cry. I’d tell more of my friends that I love them and miss them, and also that I don’t have it in me to have to explain to them why I’m different, because I have no idea why I am...and that as much as I love them, I am most likely never coming back. I’d tell people to fuck off when they ask me why I’ve traveled the world alone, because I think the real answer should be obvious: I’ve never found anyone who would travel it with me, and that thought makes me feel unlovable, and even more isolated.

I’d stop worrying about what people thought if I had a choice. I’d stop trying to justify my decisions, not just to others, but also to myself. I’d stop feeling like I should be able to give up coffee, especially because I live in one of the best coffee producing regions in the world. I’d stop saying yes when I mean no. I’d have more meaningless sex, and let it mean more. And more than anything, I’d hate myself less for all the ways that I am me: the bookworm, the language geek, the pagan, the girl who can only rarely stay up past 10 p.m., who would probably get laid more if she could stay awake until the bars closed, the analytics nerd who thoroughly enjoys balancing her checkbook, even when there’s very little in the account.

If I had a choice, I’d dance more. I’d sing more, and try to blend in less. I’d slap more men who think I can’t understand them when they talk about how beautiful they think I am, but I’d believe them, too.  I’d stop wondering so much if I’ve hurt my family by choosing my own happiness above being near them. I’d stop berating myself that I can only write deeply and introspectively; that my ability to write humorously has long since evaporated.

If I had a choice, I’d be able to own that there are many people that I’ve helped already in my lifetime, and that sharing my story will inevitably help many more. I would choose to stop listening to people when they tell me that owning my gifts and my skills signifies that I think my shit doesn’t stink or that I’m egotistical.

It may seem like I’ve had all the choice in the world, invisible audience, but the truth is that the world is only as free as we see it to be. I’ve seen a prison, so that’s what I’ve lived in. I’ve seen rules that I had to find ways to live with, instead of simply dismissing them completely. I’ve seen my own fear reflected in the faces of others, and I’ve allowed it to stop me instead of questioning whether that fear was reason enough to stop move forward. I’ve cried and fought against what I thought was inevitable, and it gave the life I live here an impermanence: an idea that despite all I have built and all I have done in my own defense and on my own behalf in the world I have made in the land of eternal spring, it will all be taken from me, because there’s only so long you can escape before you’re found.

 And that’s what it’s felt like: like I was living on borrowed time; like all good things must end, like I may have thought I had a choice in the matter, but sooner or later my choices were going to lead me to ruin, and I’d have to go back to the world I hated full of rules that I don’t want to apply to me, and I’d have to buckle down and get rid of this idea that the world could be anything -- absolutely anything  -- that I want it to be.

So now I can. Now I can take all those things that I thought I couldn't do and do them. I can make different choices than the ones that my unconscious would have driven me to. I can live a more authentic life because I chose an aware life, and that awareness has made all the difference.

Love and aware kisses