‘A man never rises so high — as when he knows not whither he is going.’ ~ Oliver Cromwell
And learning to trust over and over and over and over and…
On July 23, I was invited to come live in Sonoma, California, at a retreat center. I met the owner of the place during the journey of reconnecting an adopted Navajo man with his birth mother. She was apparently taken enough with me and the unfolding story that she immediately arranged a session for a friend, gave me a turquoise necklace and healing gown that were her mother’s (who was also a healer), and said, “We have a vacant rental at the ranch. Come. We have a place for you and the community will support you.” Conversations over the next day included her habit of being the ‘mothering, nurturing type’, the importance of being open-hearted & following the path that is often laid out right in front of us.
It took me a couple of weeks to make the decision to get rid of what wouldn’t fit in a Mini Cooper and move those things that meant the most to me across the country. At the time, I’d been homeless for just under a year. After making the choice to be so in October 2013, I’d been wanting a place where people could come to me and to try being me in a community that supports this kind of work. And it had shown up on a silver platter. Helllllloooo, honey! A retreat center no less. In a supportive community? Wooooooooo!
I timed the move to coincide with a four-day Native ceremony in Helena, Montana, and scooted across the Continental Divide with a sense of excitement, hope and an awareness that the ‘vacant rental’ had morphed into a ‘we’ll just find a corner to stick you in’ during a string of email communication. I arrived in Sonoma on October 2nd after 5 weeks on the road spent in spare bedrooms, no-tel rooms, and 4,225 miles in the driver’s seat. But I’d made it ‘home’. I was introduced to friends, employees, shown the space where ‘you’ll be doing workshops’, and given a very comfortable corner to stay in. Energies were weird, intentions vague, and possibilities endless.
I was informed a few weeks later, though, that ‘since you’re only 45, there’s plenty of time to get your shit together instead of following these guides and spirits around’. You know those moments where you really don’t register what the heck has just happened until later? Yeah. That was one of those. The comment came during the course of regular dinner & wine conversation and I didn’t have the wherewithal to say something nifty in the moment like, ‘Can you tell me what you mean by that?’. Especially after I’d been the body for her deceased mother two days before.
We people have bad habits. We smoke, drink, pick our nose, ceaselessly tap out In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida with the pencil in our hand, chew with our mouth open, mostly unaware of how we impact others with those habits. Sometimes, though, the habits and their impact are much more than annoyances for others. When the habit is to offer home and hope to others, using the same bait-and-switch tactic, followed by discarding them and dashing those hopes when they’ve been used just enough? That’s a what I call a prollem.
This prollem was becoming evident through conversation with people who have been around her for years. “You’re lucky, though. You’re self reliant. So-and-so wasn’t even from this country.” “Oh, yeah. She does that.” “Yep, that’s how she operates.” However, whether I couch my response in eyebrow up curiosity or an openness to watching things unfold (all while unpacking what things I didn’t need to do work on the Navajo reservation), I did what I do and went wide open. I let the ground pull me into her, I saw a few clients, I met the Apache connection to the First People’s work and signed up for local yoga classes. And the night before I left for New Mexico, I was informed that the ‘vacant space’ would be waiting for me when I got back. I’d have a place of my own, paying rent and all that, until I left for Australia in February.
Then I arrived in New Mexico and one recent morning was greeted with the email very politely dismissing me and rescinding the invitation to live there ‘with love and big hugs’. After I’d left the few, most important belongings to me over 1200 miles behind. And, that kids, that is a prollem.
Those of us whose formative years were comprised of regular, repeated and systemic abuse each have developed a way of feeling safe as we move through adulthood. Some develop great skill at creating order & control of behavior. Some channel those survival skills through artistry and working with others who share similar backgrounds. Some escape all the baggage that comes with it through self-medicating in a number of ways, some learn how to trust incrementally and others choose not to.
I learned long ago that I was never going to feel safe in the way that most people define it. Whether I consciously chose particular paths, I don’t know, but I created space for others to feel safe, I put myself into jobs that let others know they were not alone, I wrote about the disappeared as if I could reappear them, I fell into the criminal justice system and found myself surrounded by guns and uniforms and strength of character and courage that wore off on me, that grew into my own badge of integrity and honor for all that around me. All the while being led to this very particular in-spirit path in spite of the attempts at escaping through the alcohol, the suicidal bouts, the triumphs of responsible adulthood and creating meaningful change in a system that often chooses to ignore that option.
The knowing that I can move about with something resembling freedom despite not feeling safe is because I have both a sense of curiosity, a crowd of invisibles around me, ancients within me, and a Ruger P95. I’ve also been in a position to know the cruelty that people do to one another. I lived it for eighteen years, I feel it in the bodies & emotions of others when they cannot, watch it evolve around the world and usually know when it’s headed in my direction. This prollem was one that I didn’t feel coming. What I felt was welcomed, safe and actually invited to lovingly connect.
Until I wasn’t.
That sent every aspect of my nervous system & psyche into a tailspin of epic proportions and left me with a short inventory of choices. Where there had been physical security & potentiality of community, there now was none. Where there was possibility of income and a way to engage that with giving more freely, there was none. Where there was home, there was none. Yet again, I’d been disappeared. Just like I had been for my first eighteen years. Just like I’ve done myself this past fourteen months. Stay in a place and leave no visible trace of my being there. Like camping but not.
A couple of the things I teach others are: move even if you don’t trust and then trust even when you can’t move. Finding myself again in that position has been a strange one. I’d been made homeless as quickly as I’d been rehomed. It’s no longer part of my being to be bitter and anger serves no purpose here. I’ve wondered if that’s because I’m so numbed to it all, so detached or just so bloody used to the fact that humans can be shits and that all this may morph yet again when the wind changes direction. I can’t get to bitter but where I do go is to second-guessing everything. Second-guessing my own need for community, trust of others in the skin and not; questioning the guidance to people & places, the intentions associated with them; doubting the inner voices of mine & the outer voices of others. All while my mind and body are trying to dance through the inner conflict. Broken heart, broken spirit, and a bull terrier nature seem more tangle-d than tan-go these days.
I try to remember and share with others, always, that we’re in this together–to behave and engage as it is the only universal truth there is. I find myself, though, wondering how true that really is or how it can be when folks don’t know how to do this ‘thisness’ together. Or, frankly, if I want to be part of it if I’m merely an independent agent floating through the universal flotsam of humanness. Or why I want those few things–my elephants & Buddhas & baskets & African art–tucked into the back of my car rather than in a garage 1200 miles away. Why any of this is important or if it is at all.
At the end of it all, we have the same capacity to love & welcome as we do to cause harm. And we get to choose. It’s a short menu.