I have been surrounded by insecure love, fake people, situations that have to be forced because there isn’t instantaneous soul connections or the bond of having ridden the waves of ugliness and beauty – the history of years to support the friendship; and, I arrive in a house filled with love for my very being, dogs trampling over each other to lick my hands and babies that fall asleep in my arms during our first meeting. I am surrounded by the reminder that I am okay, that it takes being around people that you love as genuinely as they love you to remember that comfort comes from being in spaces that feel comfortable to you. You will feel love when it is there and it doesn’t matter how much time you spend away from each other because you will always be the same people. They rejoice for me on my journey and open up about the trials and tribulations of their confusing relationships. I hold space for their pain and fear and our hearts grow bigger.
He has always been a hapless dreamer: bouncing after fairytales and pursuing fantasies of passion; selling freshly baked bread at the park; traversing the countryside playing songs to the world while living out of his car; falling madly in love and winding his way to Brooklyn; flying to New Zealand to explore the wild beauty for a month; and questioning his own privilege along the way. As he reaches his thirties and witnesses a dead body in his apartment in San Francisco, he feels an urgent desire to pursue something of “substance.” I am, ironically, taking on the carefree wonderment of being a pixie in the wind, writing poetry for strangers on the street and creating impermanent art pieces as I dance along the streets of random cities with my typewriter.
We laugh as we get swept up in the revelry of a sunny day at Dolores Park and eat homemade orange marmalade on freshly baked buttermilk biscuits. We have this little moment of wonder and I bust out a poem about the nonsense of the world through the lens of public urination for a drunk passerby who marvels at the strangeness of it all.
“I have just been drinking all of the time to cope with the sadness,” says my friend and I look back at him with love because that is what we all need. I am grateful for him showing up in the midst of earth shattering revelations to spend time with me at the park; this is all I could ever hope to do with my life: a collection of moments, creating poetry for the world and laughing about the ridiculous nature of growing up.
“If I’m writing a poem every day, then I know I must be doing something right,” says his friend. “He writes litter poetry and just throws it around with all of the garbage on the streets!” he tells me and I laugh. We create artistic garbage to balance the universe and to acknowledge the shit that rides along inside of our utopian ideals. We are growing the only way we know how and we are doing the things that feed us. He wants to be an architect or an engineer, but he already is one, just like I am already a poet because these are the things that we are doing with our lives; that is what makes them real.
We take walks out into nature to remind ourselves that we can be calm in the face of insurmountable chaos. The trees sit in quiet majesty and we can laugh at all of the tragedy that troubles our souls. There are all of these people that we cling to as we feel increasingly more desperate and scared of the unknown. “Why are you doing that?” we wonder and judge as we do what we believe to be right, in the losing battle of trying to make everything look like the fantasy. The heaviness of our expectations of reality can weigh heavy on the soul until we have become the ugliest of monsters. While attempting to soothe our own savage beasts, we take on the expectations of the people around us, until we are so exhausted that all we have left is anger.
We need the support of like-minded spirits: the nurturing of genuine community. We need to share our story with a friend who understands, so we can feel normal again. We need to control our own actions by accepting our own destiny and by quitting things that aren’t feeding our spirit.
I thought I had to take care of you, but really I just had to take care of myself; letting go of forever was a necessary wave in my evolution as a human being. If I am trying to make this fit into a box of my own delusions, then I am not letting it be itself; everything needs space to grow into the unknown. The world surprises us and that is the scary part.
(the exciting part)
Whimsy comes along for the ride, offering up suggestions like, “You should go to Loveland, Colorado! That sounds like fun!” And I drive out of my way because I am an explorer and I believe that magic is real. Thoughts comes to us as inspirations for future exploits: magical possibilities. We can tell when we are supposed to do something or when we are meant to avoid it; that for some reason we want to turn left or right and that the universe offers up the impossible on a daily basis.
Magic has many names and faces and shapes. It can look like a coincidence, synchronicity; it can look like a butterfly or a sudden knowing. The fact that we have a body and are able to breathe and walk around the planet is a miracle; it is magic. The fact that our minds can come up with anything and turn it into something tangible is proof, like a magical sea queen that flies through our daydreams and takes over our thoughts.
We can go inside and build our psychic powers. Each and every one of us. We are all powerful and capable of changing the world with what we choose to think about; but, it isn’t easy and that is why a lot of people choose not to delve into their psychic landscapes.
There is light and dark magic and we have to be careful how far we dwell in either one. Our doubts and worries can bring about some fatalistic happenings in our lives and our refusal to acknowledge our darkness can leave us spinning out of control, unable to understand how to maintain our power in scary situations. The world is filled with powerful people, just like you! Some of these people will try to penetrate your brain and will try to control you. They might try to steal your energy because they don’t know how to find their own source outside of people. It is important to stay strong inside of yourself, to spend time alone with your mind to maintain that sense of self, to know that inner voice saying, “Get away!” or “This person is good.” It is important to be aware of the kind of magic that you are putting out into the world, the kind of magic that you want to see in the world. It is important to believe in yourself and in the potential for anything to happen. It is important to let your wings unfurl and to work your magic.
I arrive at the homeless shelter for refugees seeking asylum in the United States with a cluelessness that comes with being born into white privilege. My white skin has afforded me the luxury of being naive. I arrive in the middle of the night to a situation that is completely unknown to me in El Paso, Texas. I had continued to second guess the idea up until minutes before arriving because I was scared to be somewhere new in my emotionally fragile state. I had sold a story of confidence in my journey to propel me out of my doldrums and now I was questioning my decision to come somewhere new. I had projected a swagger that I didn’t fully believe and wanted desperately to find again: the desire to run was just a part of the process. My friend, who was interning at the shelter, had encouraged my trip because she recognized my flavor and we had found magic in the midst of trauma some months earlier at the eco village where we had both lived; me forcing myself to maintain my writing regimen through the chaos and her reaching out over my walls to explore art and writing with me. We fell in love, but I wasn’t sure if or how that would transcend the space and time that had elapsed since our last interactions. I was scared that our bond was false because we had been forced to find some kind of camaraderie in order to survive an intense situation.
Once I was there I became aware of the true roots of my terror. I was re-entering a social work space after leaving that world behind me when I quit teaching in the public schools. I know what giving your life to something feels like and I saw my friend being a superhero in this space and not giving herself time or space to process her own grief and trauma. I tried to get her to open up in the midst of needing to put on a strong face and heart for people in need. The fact that I judged myself and still do for “not being strong enough to handle teaching,” or “not being able to cope with my mental health in order to help the future,” makes it so I look at other people as stronger than me if they are working with people in dire circumstances. I saw my friend giving selflessly to a cause and I felt miserable for my frivolous choices; judging myself for not being hardcore enough and for taking the easy way out. Meanwhile, my heart is broken and I am going through a mental breakdown because I became enmeshed in a codependent/toxic/abusive relationship that left me feeling isolated and helpless. My rational mind knew that it had to be over, but my addictive brain was thrashing around inside of my skull and berating myself for my choices.
My problems soon were compared to those of the people around me, who had fled their countries’ despite the trials and dangers of crossing the border into the United States (a terrorist war zone) because they were in fear for their lives. “There’s no trauma-shaming,” she said and I heard her, but I still didn’t quite believe it all of the way. I know that my pain is real, but I also know that my pain isn’t alone. The whole world is in pain. And people everywhere are living through it because that is what we have to do in order to survive. There is a tragic beauty to that realization; when you look around at all of the souls moving about their lives despite and because of the pain that they have endured; and how their presence in front of you proves their desire to live. We are in this together. We are connected. Our struggle is a part of everything.
My dad had to undergo heart surgery a few years ago, replacing a valve and inserting a pacemaker. Now he has to take medicine every day and he is more aware of his limits. He doesn’t want to risk it because it has forced him to see his mortality, to see his humanity, and to recognize that he has been doing too much. He has been acting like a superhero, trying to do everything without help and for all of these people that he loves dearly. Maybe it is his way of showing love and maybe his heart is screaming because there has been no space for letting love back in, no time for spending with all of these people that he has been doing all of this work for.
Now his body has forced him to slow down. His body can’t always keep up with his mind or desires or fantasies for work projects. He is having a hard time seeing himself slow down because he has always valued his ability to work quickly and to get things done on his own. There was so much pressure to be productive and support our family, and he did that while also renovating our house singlehandedly to create the dream house they always wanted. I remember wanting more from him; more time, more attention, more love. When we played together it was magical. He was the octopus on the bed and we were getting trapped in his legs. He lifted me up in the air on his feet and I was flying. In all of this play, we never got to talk about life.
Since his surgery, I have been able to spend more time with him leisurely sipping lattes or tea at coffee shops and talking about the world and love and what it means to be a human being. I have had the privilege of sharing my love and appreciation for his being. Our eyes well up with tears and our hearts swell at the opportunity to connect with each other and spend this quality one on one time. He talks about regretting not spending more time with his dad before it was no longer possible; and, I want to tell him that he is wasting his time on regret when we are experiencing that bonding right now and isn’t that beautiful? I want to shake the regret out of him so that it doesn’t weigh his heart down, so that it doesn’t keep him from enjoying what we do have in our own father-child relationship.
Maybe this is part of the slowing down process; going through these old tapes, revisiting this hurt and sadness and releasing it again and again so that it doesn’t hang as heavy on the soul. We have to revisit the parts of ourselves that need the most healing so we can understand who we are. This is part of who he is: a father and a son; part of getting to know him is listening to his stories and seeing him as a human being. He likes living in the past, he loves his father, and I love him for being able to express that and feel that with me. I love that he has been forced to slow down by his body to acknowledge his heart because it is teaching me how to appreciate the time that I have with the people that I care about and it is giving me more time with my father.
It is so easy to get caught up in the validation of other humans and to desire that same affirmation from someone else every time that you come back; but, I can’t believe it, can’t see it, can’t know it unless I find it in myself first. I have to remember how much I love being by myself. I take myself out to the movies and to coffee shops. I get to stay as long as I want and wander the halls of my mind without worrying about anybody else. I sing to myself as I walk around looking at architecture and smelling flowers; admiring the world and my inner landscape as I go. Sometimes I will make a new friend because I am out in the world and completely open to anything, with nothing to distract me besides my surroundings and my own monkey mind. I will think of an idea and then I will be able to spontaneously act on it right in that moment, or later, depending on how I feel. The only person I need to check-in with is myself. I can wallow in my darkness and sort through my negative self-talk, finding my way back to being okay. I am free to be whatever I want in each moment and to find where I am in the kaleidoscope of feelings for that day without someone else’s energy to consider. I get to see and remember who I am.
I understand that I am dramatic, so I give myself leeway to come up with ultimatums and then laugh at myself when they are always over the top, “You don’t really mean that!” I’ll say to myself and I’ll end up smiling because I can see through myself when I am alone. I am always inside of my own head, so I am the only person I will ever truly get to know. Even when I am surrounded by people I am still just hanging out with myself. I am in charge of my own mind and I have only ever been able to understand my own experience, which is how I am able to relate to other people. I keep picking up new experiences and trying different things so I can understand what it’s like, and then I am able to share that with other people and see if that is how they experienced it too. I can only speak for myself and I have to be my own best friend; my own support; my own strength; my own voice; my own hero.
Sometimes it feels like an act, like I am just pretending to love being alone but am secretly waiting for a kindred spirit to come jumping out of the woodwork, so I can get wrapped up in someone else’s life and ride their energy into the sunset on some new, wild adventure. I will feel desperate and bored with myself because I have lost my spark or willingness to follow through on ideas that I come up with in my brain. I will feel scared and I will wish that there is someone there to cheer me on. But those are the moments where it is the most important to be alone, so nobody will show up and nobody will answer my calls because I have to find my own love again. It is the same as with anything; when you are lost in your own sea of self-love and following your own spirit to whatever suits your fancy, you have the potential to be interrupted or joined by a like-minded spirit in your mutual party of selves. And even then, it is still just a distraction that is entertaining; an opportunity to see if you can still love yourself and hold space for yourself; to see if you continue following your own path; to see if you can risk being rejected by being true to who you are.
It is easy to get lost in other people, to start thinking that they are the reason that you feel happy and magical. I start to think that other people are the ones that are bringing all of the magic, but it has always been inside of me too. We are each bringing our own type of magic into these lives. We are the wizard behind the scenes, orchestrating this whole show!