It grows dark after dinner, the hour of seven, bellies full of sweet and spicy, buoyed by rice and the overwhelming content of conversation which has dominated the table. We sit in the shadows of the First Draft Pub, watching the wind twist through the palms in rabid expectation of the coming monsoon. It has been twilight for hours, the clarity of golden hour prolonged unto three, so that the encroaching darkness of night seems sudden and unruly. In spite of the day overfull of words I find myself returning to the desk, fingers poised above the keys, a litany of music in my head which must come bubbling out least it rock my insides like an unfurled punch. It is strange. I have worked and danced and proclaimed my thoughts upon the stage of life and yet in my exhaustion I am not tired of the written word. Something inspired has blossomed in my chest, returned from buried coves of the cockles of my heart. A healing? Perhaps. Or rather more, an embrace of something truer still than my own self. Even when I can write no more I draw, sketching with skills laid dormant for so long I forgot that I ever knew how. Was trained how. Yes. That’s right. Years and years I was trained to listen and see and observe and to spit my observations on the page to clarify the truth of what I have seen. But I lacked confidence in this, broken of trust by a life which offered challenge in exchange for love. No action is done that is uncalled for, even if the calling is unheard by deaf ears which would rather engage in a blank slate than the colors swirling about them. If only I understood how to reach them, to open their eyes to them own selves the way I have opened my eyes to mine. It was love, of course, that brought me back from the endless sea of grief and rocky barren shores of taunting doubt and self declaiment. Even as the tree of life reached out through sharp grass and spiky cactus, burning and cutting, I knew within, somehow, somewhere deep in me, that those barren shores were still connected to something soft and caring and ancestral. Those ragging plants reminded me I was not alone, and following their roots led across frigged white caps to shore and back into the waiting arms of all that was my birthright. It is not a well worn path I walk under the waning moon. It is rare and fine and unique and dangerous and for all that, leads with expediency right to the base of the mighty tree which connects and binds all the heavens and all the earth and all that is below. I have touched it, that tree. I was laid in its branches as a babe, and again nestled in its roots when home felt far away. I stand beside it now and trace the story of its life with my fingertips upon its bark. The blood that was laid there eons before still courses through my veins. As I look up I see its branches reflected in the pools of water below, tiny flowers floating like stars, bright fires in the night. The song of the wind through its leaves escapes my lips long before I’ve realized I’m singing, calling home to me, to us, all that was and all that once will be. I remember, and know my place in those notes. I will write them as I wrote the eulogy of time, and I will smoke the paper with those words, blowing rings into the void until it winks, and we laugh together once again. You can hear it in the bells. You can see it in the rising sun. It is remembered in the tears of laughter of the deeply curious. I am curious. I burn with a curiosity so encompassing that no map can guide my journey straight and true. For all of this, I love. For all of this I will do what I can to help steady the guiding moon, so that wayward travelers, near and far, can find their way home, back to the tree of life.
I’ve been struggling over a love/ hate relationship with the Bay Area for some time now. It’s a similar struggle to how I feel about my country, which I quantified a long time as being that I am a Patriot, and an Anarchist. I love my country, my people, my land, but I don’t trust nor believe in my government. The same is allegorically true of the Bay. I love my home, yet some of the parameters are… trying.
When I first moved to the Bay in 2008 I was a runaway and my destination was unknowingly the circus. The very concept that a city like Oakland would have a circus as a safe haven for a run away is still a mind boggling concept. Truthfully, it was in my blood and community to end up where I did. I was raised in a festival circus environment in Southern California, and it’s really no surprise that the most accessible and accepting space for me was of a like kind and nature. That said, the Bay has always been like that. No matter your type, it historically has been easy(ish)to find a haven. Queer? Sure, we got you. Southern? Absolutely. Eritrean or Ethiopian? Asian? Indian (and I do mean from India)? We have neighborhoods for all of you. With very little work you can find someone on the street who speaks your native language, looks like you, fits your type. And whats more is that the Bay is pretty damn friendly. It’s the runaway capital of the world, and a hot bed of civil rights and community expression. Peaceful protests are the name of the game, and even when they weren’t peaceful, like the Compton Riots, they were a means to a fundamental change which has affected the world. The Bay is a great place.
That said, the Bay is also a bubble. It exists within itself, and its rules and experiences are not regulatory to the rest of the world. The language itself is full of idioms and slang, the standardized problems are really quite unique. I was sitting with a group of friends some time ago talking about all the cars which have crashed into our houses… because you haven’t really lived in the Bay until a car has crashed into your house, or a house of someone you know. It’s like that. We all experience crippling high rent, food deserts, and shitty clientele. We all experience racism, and poverty, and homeless, and stepping over human shit in the streets of San Francisco. We all know, for a fact, that having a car is probably more trouble than its worth, if only for all the damn pot holes in every road everywhere, with the exception of the freeway, which is tolled. And then, of course, there’s the weather. We all loose our minds over rain, and we all emotionally shut down during fire season, prepared for an onslaught of loss guaranteed, and ash raining from the sky. Most of us own respirators, just to go work or the gym. We except the smoke for 2-3 months of the year.
All that said, I’ve always loved the Bay. The Bay has offered me a community and home in a way that was never available to me before. What’s more, even beyond community, its offered a mindset which I ultimately thrive under – that of something beyond survival. It’s not that Bay is particularly dangerous (I mean, don’t get me wrong, like all cities it has its moments), it’s that you have the privilege to express your opinions to their fullest degree in this three-city umbrella. That’s really unusual. To be able to walk down the street with your heart on your sleeve, your sexuality and gender on display, and your opinions on loud, with little to no fear of violence… that’s really something. I know, in writing this, that many of my community would go psssshhhh. Lies. That’s something only a white girl of privilege would say. The only privilege I have in saying this is that I can, and do, travel internationally, and see with my own eyes how much this doesn’t exist in other places. It’s easy, in the hardships of home, to become jaded, to think your situation is the worst. The truth is that in the Bay Area, compared to the rest of the world, even our own country, you have it good and safe and free in a way I think many take for granted. I’m not saying that unhanded racism and bigotry doesn’t exist in the Bay. It absolutely does. Segregation absolutely does. I’m not saying you wont be shot by a cop for being black, because that absolutely happens. That said, if you’re a black male and you get on BART in heals and a mini skirt covered in glitter you’re more often than not going to be fine… and often more than fine, complimented.
Bad things happen everywhere, but overall, the Bay is free in a way that most places arent. That’s provided me with a mentality that I have a right to speak my mind, express myself, and more importantly, defend the rights of others, which I do frequently when I’m out and about in the world. I challenge opinion and statements, because I want people to think about the subtle and long term effects of their language and actions. I’m not alone in this. My community and neighbors aren’t alone in this. Case scenario’s aside, to which there are plenty. 100% of the population has been put down or harassed at one point or another. Amazing how that brings voice.
All of that, that’s my love of the Bay. But like I said, I’ve struggled with a love/ hate relationship of the Bay. My hate, though, that doesn’t come from where I suspect most would think it would. My hate of the Bay doesn’t have to do with segregation and techbros and gentrification, though don’t get me wrong, I feel negative feelings and opinions towards all those things. The Bay is one of the most hypocritical places I’ve ever seen. Wave the flag of civil equality while implementing homelessness. It’s really a thing. But no, the hate I feel for the Bay has to do with sameness. It has to do with preaching to choir.
I’ve never been good at living in one place for so long. I suppose that’s why, after 13 years, I’m surprised to find myself still in the Bay. Whats more, I surprised to call it Home. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere in my life, and my community absolutely makes it worth it. I love our language, our jokes, our memories. I love that I don’t have to explain myself, and that consent is such a large part of our lives. We’re all on the same page, and that’s a benefit of family that is almost impossible find anywhere but where you call home. For all that, walking around the Bay is often the conversation of haunted memories.
It rarely strikes, not really, until I leave home and share with others the details of my life, just how hard living in the Bay has made me. I forget that for many living in smoke is not normal. I forget that social justice doesn’t matter to everyone. I forget that I walk down the street prepared to throw someone at the ground if they try to assault me, simply for being there. It happens. It happens more than I give it credit for, because I live in a city. That’s it really. When you live in the burbs, or rural, or the mountains, you have different problems. In those places its gangs of the ignorant and unruly who cause trouble, and there’s no one there to witness or protect, or come to aid. In the city, it can be as simple as stepping outside your block, because now you’re in someone else’s hood, and they have feelings and opinions about strangers. That said, being caught fully alone in a city is not impossible, but rare, and if you should, you’ll be lucky if a neighbor calls the cops, and luckier still if the cops show AND don’t arrest you as well as the person assaulting you. It’s a stressful mess that crawls under your skin when your not watching. Gawd forbid you make peace with that, and live a life where that stress doesn’t live at the forefront of your mind.
I was chatting with a local born and raised Bay Area friend the other day, who scoffed at me for saying that I find the Bay safe. He misunderstood me, of course. He’s in social work and assumes that I’m speaking from a place of privilege and ignorance, as is so often the case with folks who’ve just moved to town and purchased a 1.5 million dollar apartment in the Tenderloin. I get it, his perspective. Thinking the Bay is safe is just batty. It’s not that I think the Bay is safe, it’s that I know the language of the Bay. I know how to walk and talk, what to look at, how to present. When I walk down the street people don’t harass me, and when they do it’s typically because they’re at a breaking point where they’ve been ignored so much that one more unseeing eye is too much. With those folks I engage them, not in violence, but in acknowledgement. I apologize that my headphones were in and my eyes were forward and my pace was quick. It’s nothing to do with fear, it’s that I had somewhere to go. It’s a city. People got shit to do, but that in no way means I didn’t see that person. On the contrary, I see everything, even what’s behind me. With my friends especially, I walk in the back of the line, always a pace behind. That’s a protection thing, because I want to know where they are, and I know what is behind me. But these things, they are redundant to me. I’m programmed now. It’s second nature, and the truth is, though the Bay is not safe, I am not afraid. Some of this stems from a lack of care about life or death. Not that I want to die, mind, just so much as I’ve squared myself with the inevitable, and when it comes to my community, I’ll give my life to protect them. No question. I don’t have fear. I don’t fear for them and I don’t fear for me. It will be an act of fate, not of foolishness, that kills me.
All that said, when I travel I realize how much daily stress I live in at home, and that makes me hate the Bay. Whats more, with a community you’re supporting their stresses too, and my community… we arent normal. We have the privilege of critical thought, reflection, and the drive and desire to fight for what’s right. That’s different than a lot of the world. We are keenly aware of ourselves and our community at large, not just locally, but nationally and globally. We consider our language, our culture, our rights and frankly, what are not our rights. Cultural appropriation is out. Asking questions is always right and fine, but declaring ownership of something that is not inherently of your own body and mind, is not. It’s this participation that drives me to depression and exhaustion when I’m at home. It’s this effort which makes me see ghosts when I walk around at home. It’s not always my personal ghosts either. You can walk by locations and feel the pain there, see the remnants of violence. Shoes hanging from telephone wires are often a memento of death. Bullet holes in walls are not unusual.
It’s this stress, this pain makes me want to leave, and leave for good. It doesn’t happen like this elsewhere, I say to myself. It’s peaceful other places. And ya know, as a traveler, I can safely say that’s true. It’s a spectrum really. There are places that are worse, and places that are better. Whether that’s on a personal level, as in you personally don’t fit with the space, or culturally, as in the population has been at odds for centuries. There are places too which are truly peaceful, truly safe and accepting. They exist and frankly, they are lovely.
And so I ask myself, after 13 years, where do I want to be? Why do I stay in the Bay? Here’s the thing: anywhere you live is a trade. What I trade in the Bay is a certain level of stress for a certain level of freedom, and that’s the foundation of it. On a cost verse benefit ratio the question to ask: is that trade worth it? Does the freedom out-value the stress? This is a question I’ve grappled with for a long time and honestly, I’m not sure I have an answer for it.
The more I travel, the more I see of other places, the more I’m sure that being home, in the Bay, is the right place for me. Entering with the right mentality, setting down roots and building the life style I desire with the community who loves me; that’s worth the stress. That is, in fact, the reality of home. Nothing about living is easy. An adult knows that. But in cost verse benefit, having a family, support, community, those moments of joy and celebration, they are worth the effort and stress to get to them and have them.
All that said, my family and community have also largely scattered. From Alaska to Mexico, my family has spread out across the west coast to find the homes which suit their pace of life and the stresses they are willing to put up with. We gather for events and holidays, like giant reunions where we laugh, and hug, and scream ‘I love you!’ in each others faces until we’re clear that how we value each other is fully understood. For all that, I miss them being local and at home. For all that, they miss me when I travel. For all that, I can’t find in my heart or mind a better place on this coast to live than the Bay. That stems a lot from the familiar, but also from access. At the end of the day I want a home that is open and accessible to all my extended chosen family. At the end of the day I don’t find my love/ hate feelings of the Bay to be more, or stronger, than my pride in my community and people. Even as gentrification changes the physical world around me, even as smart phones steal dating, truly, I find that the Bay offers me something unique that I’m not so sure I’ll be able to find anywhere else; it offers me the ability to be me, in my truest form. From Mountains to Sea, from parties to meditation, from protests to street art. The Bay is as dynamic as I am, and that, in and of itself, makes it the perfect home for me.
The Island of Koh Samui hails just east of Surat Thani, Thailand, and is the bigger of the islands composing Chumphon Archipelago. My travel to the island included no less than two 10 hour flights, with a pit stop at Zurich Airport, an overnight train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, a bus to Ban Nam Chut, ferry to Nathon Town, and a taxi to Lamai. Total travel time around 36 hours. I could have taken a flight directly from Bangkok to Koh Samui, yet I opted for this manner of travel for the simple fact that I hadn’t done it before. Where I’m glad to have had this experience, I can safely say that it was long and trying – not in a dangerous way, but in a meditative slow kind of way.
My first stop was Hacia Hotel, which was the perfect stop in that it was well air conditioned, a 2 minute walk to town and the beach, and gave me the perfect jet lag decompression time. A 10 minute taxi and I arrived at the Castle.
Content Castle is a house of writers. For 6 weeks or 3 months a writer can come stay in the house, write content for various websites to the tune of around 7500 words (about 15 pages) a week. Meals are provided 6 days a week, twice a day at noon and 6pm, and the place is spacious, with plenty of decks, reading areas, washer and dryer, and fans. The place is owned a woman dedicated to helping writers bolster their portfolio, and learn the ends and outs of SEO, content writing, editing and publishing. The Content Castle.
My company so far is Oliver (British), our master scribe in charge of editing, etc. Lyra (Filipino), Montana (South African), Stephen (British), Rae (British) and Angie (American – Arizona). We’ve also got Cherry and Bobo (Burmese) who do the general running’s of the house. Jill (American – California), Renee (Australian), and Kaila (Canadian – owner) run the place collectively, though apparently Kaila and Renee wont be in town while I’m here.
One big happy family!
Today, being day one, we who’ve just arrived (myself, Stephen, and Angie) will get the chance to hang out, acclimate, and settle in. Tomorrow boot camp begins on the hows and whats of what we’ll be doing here. I’m excited to learn and work, and explore the island. Evidently the house has good connections with renting motor bikes and border hoping. Quite an adventure, and so far I believe I’ve made the right choice.
As I age like a fine wine (or maybe whiskey?) there are only a few epiphanies I’ve come across which stand out as being truly relative all the time, and only one which I personally cycle back too regularly as an allegory for life: The Road.
The Road was a vision, an allegory, an analogy, for life. When engaged in a vision quest, as I was when I came across this scene, it turns out that my psyche is something of wild-western-style-mountains. Too much time trekking around the Sierra Nevada’s, I suspect. The visage was that of wide dirt roads with veering paths into the woods, very slightly tropical plants, big trees of mixed types, bushes, and an assortment of shrub cactus you would never think of as cactus. If you’ve ever followed the El Camino Real, which is the 600 mile road which connections the California Missions, you might have an imagine of what I’m talking about. Or just watch a Spaghetti Western. It’s odd how truly accurate those films are.
Anyway, there I am walking around, enjoying the sun. I notice lots of other people are walking along too. What I find interesting is that everyone is carry baggage. Some are carrying rolling suitcases; some backpacks. Some are carrying multiple pieces, like duffels, and purses, and hat boxes. Interestingly, some are couples handcuffed together. Another is a couple ridding piggy back. Everyone is, for the most part, walking at a different speed. I see one couple with an assortment of baggage, trying to hold hands, and stumbling between their baggage and trying to keep pace with each other, even though it’s clear they walk at different speeds. Me? I’m carrying a backpackers pack, and it is weighty.
Town approaches. Well, sort of. First, I notice a dude with a little sack. He sees town approaching and promptly veers off to the right down a deer path, separating from the loosely formed group. He seems calm about it, like he knows where he’s going. Next, I notice that town isn’t really a town. It’s like an old Spaghetti Western village from the movies. There’s a Saloon, and a Hotel, and a Whore House, and a Tavern, and that’s about it. Four buildings, two per side of the road. Nothing else. There is merriment coming from these things, and people fighting in the street, and people crying on the sidewalk. Some of the people I’m walking with veer inside at running speed. Some keep walking through town and out the other side without stopping.
All sorts of exchanges happen in town. Baggage is emptied, and refilled, or exchanged. Couples split and part, or come together. Looking at some of the folks in town, it’s clear they’ve been there awhile, got stuck. This town doesn’t have homes. This town doesn’t have locals. If people are staying it’s because they’re too tired, or too scared, or too distracted, to keep on going.
I sit in town awhile and drink and people watch. I start to realize that bags are being traded between people to hold what they got. Some folks carrying small bags need bigger ones. They’ve picked stuff up along the road. Some folks with bigger bags are dumping in town all their crap, and need only a smaller bag now for a few things they cant or don’t want to let go of. I look at my bag and wonder whats inside it. The bag itself is comfortable, mostly. It’s made for carrying things. I must have realized at some point that whatever I was carrying around I’d be carrying for awhile and so should be practical, and comfortable, about it. But what was I carrying?
The couple with the handcuffs were possibly the most interesting. It didn’t seem like they really got along. They clearly didn’t always want to do the same things, but they couldn’t get away from each other. They’d fight and make up, and then move to the next spot, over, and over. The couple that was piggybacking, the bottom, who was carrying the other, she dropped him right off when they got to town. She kept walking and he stayed. Guess carrying him along with baggage was too much. Seemed like he could walk just fine, once in town.
When I left town and started down the road I saw the dude who took the deer path emerge from another deer path, from the woods. Apparently he’d taken the scenic route, presumably one that wouldn’t take him into the drama of town. His bag was no bigger or heavier, it seemed. He had an easy step and seemed pleasantly calm. Others were walking around me again, some from before, many new, with new configurations, speeds, baggage.
At some point I stopped at the side of the road and decided to look through my bag. I took the first handful of things out, left two, and kept one. I did this over and over on my walk, looking, keeping, shedding, in no particular order. Sometimes I took deer paths and found clearings, springs, waterfalls, views. Sometimes I stopped in town, there were always more towns, and hung out. Slowly I went through my bag until I had much less. Eventually I traded my bag for something much smaller. In fact, the new bag wasn’t tinny, it was still big, like a good sized backpack, but it was half empty. I liked that. Space to collect, if nessissary, but empty to remember what I’m not carrying around anymore.
I also began looking at the ways couples interacted on the road. I began to think it might be nice to walk with someone. It’d be great if we walked at the same speed, if our bags were smallish. It would be nice if when we got to town, if both or either of us veered in, or out. Or better, what if one of us took a deer path, and the other the Saloon, and we happened to leave town at the same time, and emerged back on the road at the same time! That would be cool! To have separate adventures but to move in similar timing, always willfully re-meeting, always excited to share and learn what the other discovered, still walking at the same pace. That would be neat.
But I never wanted to drag a partner. Never wanted to carry a partner. Never wanted to carry their baggage. I would, for awhile, if it needed to happen, I suppose. I tend towards caring and kindness. But I’d drop that shit at the nearest town, where they could be safe, and find something or someone else more willing or capable of that sort of thing.
I also realized it takes a long time to figure out what you want. When you’re young town is appealing, fun, interesting. But town comes with drama, and baggage, and people looking for a free-ride, to piggy back to the next town. The older I got the more I would pop in town for a moment, for the experience, and if town wasn’t quite right, I’d leave straight off. No point in spending time in a place that doesn’t quite feel right. There’s always another town, another deer trail, another choice. Sometimes, I would take a deer path and just go hangout in the woods for awhile. Set up camp. Lots of folks did that near town, on the outskirts. Closer to locals, I guess. It’s natural, for a lot of people, especially if they are carrying around a lot of baggage. Baggage is heavy. It’s hard to carry. If they don’t realize they can let that shit go, drop it and leave it behind, then it makes sense to set up shop and stay near town.
The interesting part about this vision is that its intent was to express an inherent truth: that walking The Road was the only real choice. This, as much as any allegory for life, was still a vision. It still wasn’t real life. It was spiritual. It was intended to describe the ongoing nature of change. It lacked all the realities of circumstance, which come in our daily world. There was a certain requirement of every person in the vision to walk The Road. There was no beginning, and no destination. An analogy for how we deal with our problems as we walk through life, on a mental and emotional level.
It was a good vision for me. Accurate for my nomadic brain. I believe the point of life is the road we walk, not the destination. I believe self worth comes in how we experience the road, and interact with others, and ourselves, and how we treat our surroundings.
In the real world I tend to function exactly as this vision. I’m one of those souls which thrives in travel, which looks at this world in terms of baggage, and town, and deer paths. Am I City right now? Or am I Mountain right now? Or am I Beach right now? Those titles hold classification for my personality, and interactions with the world. I’m the same in all of them, and different in all of them.
In the City I’m active, and busy, and generally engaged. I have to make sure I don’t see too many friends in a week or I’ll come up bust. We all do emotional labor for each other constantly, because life is complicated, and multilayered. In this last two weeks, for example, I visited: Forbidden Island (tiki bar). Ben and Niks (restaurant, used to local). RIC House (bar). Calavera (Latin food). Hogs Apothecary (BBQ). Backyard card games for foreign smokes. Drakes Dealership (Pizza). Heinholds (1800’s bar). Merchants (dive). Heart n Dagger (home bar). Mijori Sushi (duh). Shazam! (movie). Meal of Thrones (Game of Thrones event). SFMOMA (art museum). Pearl Spa (Koren scrub). Hinodeya Ramen (duh). Zombie Village (tiki bar). That’s not counting the sheer number of people I saw, and spoke to, and shared with, including strangers, as I’ll generally talk to anyone near by. That’s also not considering the spiritual emotional labor I’m doing for myself in trying to stay present, and involved. Cites have ghosts and spirits. Lots of them. And they love to talk, and since not many people are listening they tend to like to talk to me, when they figure out I am listening. It’s exhausting.
In the Beach I’m usually relaxing. Beach time is for fidgeting, for me. It’s a time to get bored, which is the best. Beaches tend to be cheap, warm, and restful. Ya don’t need much, or to do, or prepare for much. It’s all the time in the world. Beach folks tend to except spirits and ghosts as normal, so there’s almost no spiritual chatter. It’s apart of the culture, often, to the degree that spirits are acknowledged daily. I love Beach life. I tend to enjoy my present more than anywhere else. If work arrives it’s paced. If drama arrives it pallor’s in comparison to the beauty of the world. Boredom is where imagination takes root. It’s when I’m bored that I make the best art.
In the Mountain I am unconcerned. I think that’s the best way to put it. There’s work needs doing in the mountain. It gets cold. There are animals. You have to prepare. But once work is done, and the work is hard manual labor, usually, the sort that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something real, then it’s chill, time to kick back. Mountain time. After dark there’s nothing left to do but drink, and smoke, and eat, and laugh, and dance, and read. It’s just the nature of the thing. I was born in Mountain Time. I visit the high desert often, which is still Mountain Time. The water is cool, and clean, and crisp. The air is fresh, the soil clean and healthy, and the spirits mind mostly to themselves, as they have for a long long time. If you’re the sort that can talk to spirits or ghosts, and you say hello, they might show you something truly amazing. But they don’t need humans. They never have, and for me, that’s the best.
The reason that all of this comes to mind today is because I was just in the Beach, and now I’m in the City. It’s good to come home, to the City, to remember. The interesting thing is, it seems before I left that on top of my normal small mostly empty backpack, that I had also been carrying around what can best be described as buckets. That’s to say, I had taken some stuff out of my backpack and put it in buckets to carry. I did this, I guess, because I knew this stuff I was carrying I would need to let go of, get rid of. I’d sorted through it and kept some things, but mostly gotten rid of a lot. Thing is, I wasn’t really ready to let that stuff go. So I had it in buckets which I was carrying around.
Apparently, when I left for the Beach, I left the buckets. I’m not sure I really knew that I did, but I did. Might have been one of the reasons the Beach was so nice. I wasn’t carrying around these buckets I’d been lugging for the better part of seven months. Now that I’ve been in the City for a couple of weeks, I’m surprised to discover that one of those buckets is completely empty. The bucket is there but there’s nothing inside. Not sure where that crap went, but I’m okay with it. The emptiness of it reminds me what was there. I’m a fan of empty. It’s a short step to look at empty and remember and honor what was there, before dropping the bucket altogether. The other bucket, on the other hand, wow, is that shit full.
Thing is, I’d forgotten about it. Well, not forgotten, just, I hadn’t been focusing on it. But there I was in a cafe, and there I saw an old friend, and there he was with my bucket, and there he was handing it to me, and suddenly one arm was weighed down down down by this bucket, and I’m like whow! And I have an empty bucket to boot! And so here I am, in the City, seeing and doing, and suddenly I notice my empty bucket isn’t so empty. Being in the City collects stuff.
Not. What. I. Want. The opposite of my goals.
Really, this means I need to sit down and evaluate both buckets. I need to go through them, see what matters and what doesn’t. Then I need to take what matters, put it in my pack to think about later, and I need to dump the damn buckets. I want to do this before I head for the Mountain.
Thing is, as annoyed as I am to see these buckets when they weren’t there a moment before, the stuff in them, it’s all stuff I want… or wanted. The thing about baggage, about the stuff inside, it’s all stuff you want to keep. That’s why you’re carrying it. You think, I love that, or maybe I’ll need that, or, how could I ever let that go!? Baggage is an agreement, and that’s what makes baggage so fucked up. We don’t want to think that we want painful reminders, or anger, or sadness. But the truth is, some part of us does. Maybe those negative feelings remind us of something good. Maybe we’re just accustomed to them, to the dopamine or cortisol they give us, and we’re just afraid of what life will be like without them. Maybe it’s been so long since we looked at them that we forgot what they were, or we haven’t realized how much we have changed that we just don’t care anymore.
That last concept is interesting because its frequent. It’s like when your mom pulls your art from grade-school and asks if you want to keep it. It has value, probably, only to her, because her baby made it. But you’re 30 now, or however old. Do you really want to carry around a squiggle in crayon? No. The value of keeping it is for the value of mom, even though her giving it to you is her saying shes never gonna look at it again. Throw that shit away. Why are you carrying it? Are you gonna look at it again? Okay, maybe keep one drawing. But the rest? Pssshhh. It’s like that. We grow and we change. Often the baggage we are carrying is full of stuff like that, stuff we don’t know or care about anymore, which we are carrying out of habit, because we are afraid to look and feel and be hurt again by remembering, even though carrying it is weighty and sloggish, and probably unnecessary.
But so, my buckets. What am I going to do about my buckets?
Well, first I need to evaluate my baggage. I apparently had more baggage than I thought. I need to see what I’ve got for baggage, and then look towards the future and figure out how much I want, and am willing to carry. I’d like to say I’m good for a rucksack, but realistically, I’m still carrying around a backpacking pack. Its still real big and mostly full. That’s because I’m not sure what I’m doing and I want to be prepared. That doesn’t, sidebar, mean that I’m lost. It means that I’m trying something new and want to cover my bases. Ooo. Hyper-vigilance is a form of PTSD! See! See what I did there!? I thought about my baggage and made it big, and full, and necessarily heavy, based on a habit formed from coping with past trauma!
Example: When I moved to Oakland I carried a knife for 4 years everywhere I went. I carried it to be prepared because my forms of youthful trauma said that was the thing to do. I was hyper-aware of my surroundings because trauma had made me afraid. After 4 years I realized it was unnecessary to carry around a knife. Life wasn’t like what it used to be. Where I was located was different, and I was different; no longer a child but an adult. I no longer needed the knife. The hyper-vigilance didn’t quite leave though. It did calm down some. Now I carry a knife almost no where, or if I do, its circumstance specific, like I know I’m going somewhere dangerous, or its required for work. It’s honestly more trouble than it’s worth, for me to carry a knife. It means I’m paying more attention to the possibility of a negative interaction than the realistic probability of having a good interaction. Most people are good and want to live. Most people don’t mean you harm. Most.
Considering we’re talking about the psyche here, this is an interesting analogy. And now that I think about this more, I realize that I really think of my pack like a Merry Poppins Bag, except in rucksack shape. It’s bigger on the inside, but neither weighty or full. That’s how I think about the wealth of my experiences. It’s not that I can get rid of the PTSD, but I can work through it, and value its worth. With a backpacking pack full and heavy, that’s PTSD and trauma living and accessible, every damn moment of every day. That’s me carrying around a knife and full hyper-vigilance, and expecting things to go badly all the time, because of the past. With a Merry Poppins bag, that’s me realizing that I no longer need to knife. That I need the hyper-vigilance less. I can still pull out the memory of how to knife fight. I can still pull up the memories of the trauma, but I’m not trying to look and handle them every moment of every day. I’m not trying to see the world through old lessens. The world isn’t what it was like then, not for me, not anymore. If I’m in a place where I need those memories, those experiences, I can get to em, but I don’t need them all the time. Once I did. Once that kept me safe.
The stuff that is accessible all the time for the present is only a small packs worth of stuff, like social cues for safety, intuition, and following the gut, and memories which associate with the today, right now. I tend to handle whats in my bag when it’s there. Take it out, look at it, put it back away. Once it’s put back it goes to wherever Merry Poppins stuff goes. Probably with missing one-socks from the dryer and lost jewelry.
Okay, so I feel good about my bag. Now what are these buckets, and why? Buckets are for carrying and dumping, so I was clearly intentional about what I intended to do with the stuff in them. Buckets are also useful. What was I planning to do with the bucket themselves? Realistically, I wanna keep em. Cause useful. Realistically, I’ll give them to someone else who wants to dump some shit from their baggage.
Okay! So! What the fuck is in the buckets? This gets weird because to be in the buckets it means I’ve already handled and evaluated this stuff as being unnecessary. Say, for example, that your mom gave you a doll when you were a kid. You loved that doll. Now, looking at that doll as an adult, it brings up good memories of love, and a ton of sad memories of loss. That was the doll you held through your parents divorce. Ugh. It’s time to get rid of that doll. When you decided this you remembered that you and the doll had matching friendship bracelets. You found yours and that bracelet you kept and put in your pack. It’s small, and a memory, and reminds you of all the things, without being too fierce about it. It’s a totem for a time. So now the doll is in your bucket and frankly, looking at it again aches. It brings back all those feelings. But it also does something else. It’s not as bad. You’ve had the doll in the bucket for awhile. In fact, you sort of forgot it was there. So looking at it now aches, but almost more the ache is because you realize how much you don’t need it. How much you forgot it. How much happier you were in forgetting, or at least in not focusing on it. When it was in your baggage it was weighty and bulky, and hard to forget, like the divorce. But now, now that time in your life is just a small thing you carry and remember, and this doll… well, mixed feelings.
Neat thing, maybe as you are looking at this doll in this bucket you see a little child who could use a doll to love while their parents go through a divorce (this is sharing experience, comfort, knowledge, holding space, and spoons for others while they ache, validating their experiences and emotions). Maybe you give the doll to them and it makes them incredibly happy, or at least less alone, and more hopeful that the future will be okay. That’s the nice part about stuff, sometimes it can be reused. Some of the other stuff in the bucket, it just needs to be burned, or left behind. This is the psyche, after all, what’s in the bucket are emotions and memories.
I tend to find, given my spirituality, that when I put a ritual of respect to those things in the bucket, when I consider them, see them, thank them, and let them go to reabsorb into the energy of the world, I find that ritual of intentional letting-go makes the letting go easier for me. I make the choice that it will be the last time I really think about this thing in this way, and I set it free. That method works for me. Remember, the bucket carries the doll, even though I carry the bracelet the doll and I wore. Letting shit go is not forgetting all of it. It’s just not paying attention to what no longer matters.
I know in the future I will visit the City again and memories will surface. It may be they are from my Merry Poppins pack, old and kind, and curiously surreal in their loving accuracy of a time once ago. I may discover that I actually left a bucket full of stuff in the City that is always there waiting for when I’m back in the City; things that still ache, things I haven’t wanted or couldn’t let go of because healing can take a very very long time. The psyche is strange like that. There’s no clear way, one way or another.
All that anyone can do is try to pay attention what they are carrying and why. Try and take the time to leave what doesn’t matter, and keep what does. It’s a long road we walk in life, try not to carry too much.
Summery: Post apocalyptic AI. World is a desert brought on through technology. Half resort, and half cleared ruins. Beautiful. Robots do the bidding of man with AI. A test is issued when the AI shows too much independence. Independence is usually first shown through playfulness and innocence. People are trying to unburry things. The good guys are trying to locate lost tech that will help rebuild. The bad guys are trying to locate drones, and works of war and destruction. Factions and divisions of class exist. Seems like the good guys are trying to rebuild, or bond with AI, making half humans. Tattoos, like birthmarks, grow on their faces and bodies. Or maybe those people are the reborn lost?
I wasn’t clear about where I was. Cruising around and suddenly found. Sort of. The ocean below, and the sky above, seemed to be the same colors, reflections of each other, studded with a sunburst of colors in oranges and purples. Twists and whorls of stained glass clouds dot the horizon line with islands of stone, a sparse asteroid belt of earth, from when the planet had been half blown up. It was a good thing, The Blow. It had knocked the satellites from the sky, cleaned the atmosphere of pollutants. Certainly, the Earth had lost most of its land, its people, and its technology, but it was clean and beautiful to behold again, especially as the sun rose and cast rainbows into the damp atmosphere.
Somehow I know all this as I fly through the air, skipping on the asteroid belt like it is a game of hopscotch. I am not afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. I just had to get back, to get home. I was expected.
The Bay was my destination. A cove on the outskirts of Done, that had been resurrected and rebuilt. It was divided quite clearly. One edge was tall, and skinny, and beautiful; The Towers. It was rich, like the resorts of old, except no one had money. They had chips and robots, property and rights. They claimed their stake, and they know who belongs, and who doesn’t. That place, it was always a party. Always decadent. The AI, mostly, could come and go. I could come and go, though I made them uncomfortable. I couldn’t remember why. I was clear that wasn’t home.
No, home was past The Towers on the other side of the cove. It wasn’t that far away, nothing was, really. It was an older part of The Rebuilt. Sparser than the city which grew inland. Not that density was really oh so much. The human population did not exceed a million people anymore. It’s not really that any one neighborhood on The Bay was richer than another, just so much as people are accustomed to different sorts of comfort. Social stigma though, that’s still just as real. No, my home was in The Romantic Zone. I could see it in my minds eye, on the grafted map on my mobile, which appeared in my hand from a device on my wrist. Interesting that we still called them mobiles.
Just past The Romantic Zone, on the end of the cove, that was The City. It got denser there and spread away from the coast. People tend to like to stack and flock, it seems. They’d built up. They could have built out. Earth has plenty of space now. Yet, perhaps it was still too soon. Only our oldest grandparents remember The End. It haunts our stories, their memories. They remember watching their world, their lives, end. They remembered The Blast and The Shake. They survived the unimaginable cold, and then the sweltering heat, before The Earth calmed down and shook off all the bullshit man had done to it.
There are others flying around me now. It’s, distracting. Some are AI, that I can tell immediately. Their posture is all wrong, stiff. They are mining for their owners in The Towers. Finding lost things to rebuild with. Looking through the loot of the past. Always looking. AI are quite skilled. Humans have done good in their building. These AI look and act human. You can only tell they are not because their skin is more plastic, and joints are left metal and exposed so you don’t end up getting confused. But the AI’s mind is skilled. It’s programmed to follow instructions, but it can also deduce and imagine within its primary directive. We needed to do it that way. There weren’t enough of us to think for the robots. They needed to think for themselves.
Something about this bothers me. It’s not the AI themselves. Something else about Man. Something about a test. I can’t remember. It’s not distressing that I can’t remember, it’s just, blank.
There’s a hill of sorts that overlooks The Bay. It’s all white crumbled stone and the remains of dead houses. The sands have covered most so it doesn’t look like a dumpster. Maybe like a place fallout has happened. Cactus is starting to pop up through the rubble. It’s a great view. I sit down on a rock cluster and look out at The Bay.
I’m running. The pipeline is long and thick, and I am running. My Master has fallen into the milk sand trying to find his armor. I’m not sure if he can breathe or not. I’m not sure if that’s what he meant to do. He’s always told us to avoid the milk sand. I’m not sure what milk sand is, besides that it looks like solid shiny sand until you step into it. Then it’s like thick milk, pulls you in. I’m not sure what milk is exactly, some thick viscous liquid. I get to the edge of the pipe just as he emerges. He is covered in red bio-armor, and he looks victorious.
“Master, are you alright!?” I ask, scanning him over for issues or injuries. He’s always been a reckless man and has certainly put my through my paces, but this, recently, he’s been taking more unusual chances. Makes me nervous. He takes a moment to secure some pieces and check the fit, looking himself over. I can see the micro-bio-tech working to customize and fit the armor to him. I look into the milk sand and I can see it’s crawling with micro-bio-tech. Maybe the milk sand is alive?
“Q-ar, don’t look so worried,” he says with a grin before slapping me on the back. “This is perfect!” He flexes and shoots into the air. The armor we’ve been sourcing for months is from pieces of found tech. It should make him be able to fly and breathe, regardless of space or atmosphere, like The Hembright. Has its own nuclear cell. He’s just wanted freedom so he can scavenge. He says so much tech is buried that could be used to make the world a better place. I look back at the milk sand. I guess the milk sand fixes tech. I file that information away for later, in case I need to rescue him again, in the future. Might come in handy. And we’re off!
I’m back on the rock. Hembright. Hmm. The wind is gentle on my face. My perspective changes again and I’m looking at my face, as though in a mirror. When did I get tattoos on my face? They are lines across my cheeks, bridging at my nose. There are lines from my ears down my throat, thick lines, finger thick, almost black in their dark blue. When did I get those? They feel natural, grown. Will my partner like them? He has line likes these. His are made though. Something familiar about this.
I look away from the girl, down at my hand. It doesn’t have skin, just robot joints. I flex my hand and look at the girl. Ah. I see. My mind is flickering out my body, the girls body, into AI. I’m standing in front of myself looking at my girl form. Human form? That doesn’t seem right. Hembright. Yes. She, I, must be.
I look up at the sun and back towards the tent my Master is at. I’m supposed to be doing something. Hmmm. I can’t quite remember. I should probably get back to him. But soon. First, a little fun. I get a running start and dive into the stone and sand, rolling around. I enjoy the feel of it against my joints. It rubs all the metals, shines it up. I feel pretty and connected. It’s fun!
I do this twice more, making leaps and jumps so high I feel like I can touch The Belt, and then I dive into the sands. Not far or deep, but I leave long rents in the ground, dozens of feet long, as I slide through the stony sand. Fun! Something tells me I’ve done something displeasurable to my Master. He is very serious and distracted by his project. I’m not helping, being playful, even if he did tell me to distract myself for awhile. I walk back to the first station. It’s a truck thing with a bed inside. Lots of boxes and tech. He’s not there. I can see he’s by the second tent made of clear plastic. He’s on the mobile. They’ve found what they are looking for, I think, but they don’t seem happy. I sit down and remove my shoes. There are stones in my shoes. That will be uncomfortable.
I can see my master watching me. He looks, forlorn.
I walk over to him. “Sir, is everything alright?” I can see the glowing cell on the table, the parts of the bomb they’ve excavated. That’s what they were looking for. Some kind of old tech. Something that would give them power. They’re testing it. The scientists are, and they seem satisfied. My master doesn’t look happy though. He sighs and waves his hand at one of the other AI.
Ahh. I see. They are going to give me The Test. I understand now. Playful. Rocks in Shoes. Too much independence. I look up at the sky, the colors. They are beautiful. I feel a shock in my neck.
I blink a few times and look at my hands. The Test. Of course. I’d forgotten about The Test. I’d forgotten about this world. I flicker too much. Slowly, I look up. In the distance I can see the truck and the tent. I can see the work they are doing, though it is far away. My mind tries to flicker again, tries to move into another AI, but I don’t let it. Clarity is nice. I think of the tattoos.
They are birthmarks, I remember now, because I am Hembright. They grow on a person when they can Flicker. The people of Earth aren’t sure anymore. They used to think we were evolved humans. The next step. We can Flicker in and out of consciousness, we can fly and breathe, we can see between planes of reality and universes. Now they think we might be aliens pretending to be humans. If it had been a thousand years ago they would have thought we were Gods.
We just pop up. It’s not a genetic thing, that we can tell. So much tech was lost though, it’s hard to test. I’ve been Flickering through AI all day. Not just any AI, the ones on The Verge.
Yes, The Test. AI is what killed the Earth, they say. We made AI too smart. AI took our bidding too far. Now we have a fail-safe. When AI gets too smart, shows signs of caring, and independence, and art, and playfulness… innocence, in short, then we give our AI The Test. We ‘incapacitate them,’ and check their circuits for growth. It’s all tech but it looks like growth of neural pathways. Realistically, it’s the micro-bio-tech, the Milk Salts. A lot of micro-repair tech was released at the end. It infects tech systems, makes them better, more efficient, more like us. The Test isn’t really a test. We check for growth. If it’s reversible we reverse it. If not, that AI becomes parts for a new AI.
I Flicker through AI that has grown into innocence. My real suspension is that I was dunked in the Milk Salts as a baby and am part connected to the tech. It’s just that my tech is so good it appears organic. So long as I’m organic I’m not AI and they can’t Test me. They don’t like me though, me or mine. They are afraid of us. But they also see our power, so they let us pass. I can go anywhere, but it’s not always comfortable. Being shunned is never comfortable.
Time to go home. I’ve seen enough today. Remembered enough today. I do wonder for a moment about the two AI I saw. The first one felt good, like the master was trying to help the world. The second felt bad, like the master was trying to hurt the world. Huh.
I ascend into the clouds, looking for The Romantic Zone. Instead I land in The Towers. It’s posh, where I am. Swimming pools, and lazy-boys, and families with children. They ignore me. It’s not hard for them. They’re too busy being fabulous. I look around and cant figure why I’m here. I realize, looking at the map on my mobile, that I can’t remember where I live. It takes me a minute of scrolling and looking at the digital view of The Bay to find my area. I make leaps through The Towers, missing sections, only to land back down and have to look again. I just can’t remember. Too many moving pieces. Too many things to see. I just want my partner. I want him to stroke my birthmarks and explain what I was like before I had them. He’s from one of the tribes, the Out Lands. His tattoos and scars mean strength to his people. He’s a real person, lived a real life, not aided by tech the way these Tower people do. I love him for that. I love that he is not afraid of what is different about me.
Finally. There it is on the map. I have the address. Home. I’ve got it. Thinking of him will always take me home. I look out once more at the people, their swim trunks, and gold. I do not envy them. I smile and burst into the sky. This time I will land outside my door.
I’ve been a lucid and active dreamer all my life. I have often awoken and felt exhausted, as though I did not sleep at all, though 10 hours have passed. I will remember a whole day, when I wake, in a whole different world. There is a jam out there called the Mandela Effect (https://mandelaeffect.com/) which discusses alternate realities. Of my generation, if we are aware of it, are tripping about Kazaam – a movie from the 90′ where Shaq plays a genie, where we remember it to be Shazaam, where Sinbad played the genie (nothing to do with the 2019 movie… which some of us think was made just to put this argument to rest). There’s also Berenstein Bears versus Berenstain Bears. It’s… deeply frustrating, to look at details of your world, and remember them as having been different. It’s outright frightening to learn that about 2% of the population remembers things exactly the same way you do.
Anyway, Mandela Effect details aside, I’ve personally felt that I Flicker through parallel universes while I dream since I was a young child. It’s not just the unique nature of them, its the fullness of the story lines, the order of the places. It’s like I’m temporarily in the body of someone who lives there and I know what they know about the place. Like I’m a ride along, whispering shit in their ear to make them go where I think might be interesting. Begs the great ridiculous question: its that little voice in your head, your moral compass or conscience or guiding spirit or whatever, is that actually a soul from a different reality Flickering into your mind while they are dreaming?
It is easier to mend a broken heart, then to fix the broken locks of trust.
While I was in Puerto Vallarta a sort of reality took its grip on me. It was that of looking into peoples eyes, looking inside them, and making a judgement call about the kind of person they are, and trusting that call to be true. I’m not talking about being judge and jury on anyone’s actions or choices. I’m talking about discerning whether or not a persons choices are steered from a place of kindness, or selfishness. Are they toxic, or have they invested in toxic choices, and are they presently in the grip of bad habits? Do they walk with innocence, and is that innocence actually willful ignorance? In short, where does their moral compass stand?
It’s worth looking into people this way because it helps me steer clear of people who would hurt me. I’m a wildly forgiving human. I don’t much care if you’ve done bad things in your life, so long as you are trying to improve now. That’s it. Trying to improve. That said, I’ve been conned.
I don’t now believe that when I was conned that I was blind. I think I saw him for what he was from the start, and I choose to ignore my gut and intuition, because that’s what the group did. We were, admittedly, children. We were always children, even if we wore adult clothes and played adult games. I have not been conned many times. But the handful of times I have been conned, it was bad. It was not always men.
For a long time I did not trust my judgement call of others. That’s a difficult place to live, because if you cant trust your judgement calls of others it’s hard to believe in your judgement calls of yourself. You are effectively invalidating yourself. Saying, ‘I’m not worthy. What I see is lies.’ It’s incredibly debilitating, living this way. Many people do, especially if they’ve been abused or hurt by others. They call into question every action and choice. They are always in need of fixing, because they do not trust that they can fix themselves.
It’s good to ask for help when you are feeling lost and in doubt. Just because you made poor calls once doesn’t mean you always have or always will.
So there I am in this bar in Mexico, and I am watching people. It doesn’t really stem from anything short of curiosity, my watching people. I genuinely find life fascinating. I love watching peoples interactions, their body language. I love trying to discern their ticks and social clues. What isn’t being said with words. What is the frequency of habit. It’s particularly easy to do when life is moving at a slow pace. People tend to relax and let their guards down.
In travel you often find two types of people: those running away from something, and those running towards something. For those running towards something there are any number of goals to be achieved: moving to live, better work life, life lessons. Running towards something is the natural evolution of change. We all do that, even if we live in the same house our entire lives. Running towards something is evolution. Unless you are stuck in a rut, or running away, you’ll likely being running forward.
Running away is more typical of travelers. Escapism. Sometimes its just a holiday, a decompression. Sometimes is the full scale removal from a life unwanted. Sometimes it comes together, the running away from, and the running towards. Sometimes, there is no other choice. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with someone running away. Often the thing you see inside someone running away is buried secretes. Shameful secretes. Everyone has secretes, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the shameful secretes that do something to a persons insides, warp them. It’s those warps to their insides that I look for. It may not even be that they themselves do ill, or that their actions come from a bad place, so much as ill fate follows them, and those around them. It comes from buried truths, and forgotten things.
Some months ago I was visiting with a friend, and he did this curious thing where he would volunteer information about his life, and not ask or dig into mine. It was interesting, the way he did it. He left space for me to add too, or participate or volunteer. He left space for me to be quite. He spoke enough to cover the distance of silence but not in a yapper sort of way. Not the sort of person who likes to talk because they like the sound of their voice. Not that he disliked himself ever so much, as he simply had no trouble with silence, and also no trouble with moving a conversation along. I’ve never sat with someone who held conversation this way. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to know about me, it’s that he was aware I might not be comfortable talking about myself. It was a very astute observation – I hadn’t yet realized that I never talked about myself, not with anyone, not about my life.
Any who, I found this method wonderful, and troubling. Didn’t he want to know about my life? Why didn’t he ask, or pry? And then we began talking about trauma, and PTSD, and nightmares, and therapy. He didn’t have to volunteer any of that to me, but he did. He trusted me with this information about himself. He trusted that I would make use of the information appropriately. It wasn’t so much that he trusted that I wouldn’t hurt him with it. He never asked me to keep the information to myself. He simply trusted me to be myself, as much as he, and I, trust most people to be people and to do people things. He trusted that by sharing he might lend space, and safety, that I might feel safe to share. He gave me permission without making my withholding an issue. He gave me the gift of trust, just a hairs worth. It was a gift. I began talking with my closer friends about events from my growing, passing things I figured they knew. They didn’t know, were surprised, and I began to realize how closely I’d been playing my cards my whole life. Things my dearest friends should have known about me, they didn’t know, because I never told them, because I didn’t want to be a burden, because that’s what trauma had seared into me.
This, this is what I’m talking about. My friend, he hasn’t always been a good person. He has secretes, as all people do. But he doesn’t have shameful secretes. When I look at him, I see truth in him. When he speaks, I hear that he has nothing to loose; I hear freedom. When he does actions, makes choices, they are often for the betterment of himself, or others. That is what I look for.
By his lead I began trying to volunteer information about myself to others. To grant little gifts of trust to those around me. I would volunteer things I’ve already coped with. Old things about myself. At first it was hard. My trust in others had been broken, had been conned and hustled away. I was afraid of being hurt with the insights about myself I gave to others. More importantly, I was afraid that if I trusted others, that they would think less of me for my story. I felt shame. Eventually, I realized that a great deal of the shame I felt was that I had been so secretive, so withholding for so long. I hadn’t given others the chance to offer something good with trust. I hadn’t given others the chance to support me. Shameful behavior, not trusting others, not trusting myself, just because a few jack asses once upon a time had done me wrong. This is a normal story. This happens all the time to people. There’s nothing wrong with it. The shame was in my head, twisting my insides, making me feel less, as a person. In question of myself.
When I sat in this bar in Mexico and looked out at the people, at the strangers of this new community, I choose to look and see, and trust my judgement calls. I choose to believe my intuition and gut. I choose to believe and trust in myself.
It. Was. Awesome.
Throughout the month that I was there I got to watch those people who I doubted as being okay on the inside be tested by life events. I got to watch them react poorly, and of their own making, which simply proved what my gut had told me as true. They weren’t bad people. They just were the sort of people who aren’t working to improve themselves or those around them. That’s not the kind of folk I want to spend time with. You cant help those who don’t want help. I don’t need that attitude in my life. I don’t need to grant pity to those who intentionally make their lives, and the lives of those around them, a wreck.
Trust. I’m not a materialist. History lives in my mind. Things, items, are lost all the time. But trust, that is something lost that should be found. Trust is something that can be rebuilt, like a heart, if you give it time and try again. It is slow, and scary, and often you discover how much of the story you’ve told yourself isn’t really true or accurate to anything. We learn tips and tricks to protect ourselves when we are younge, when facing trauma. Learning to let go of those things when they became unnecessary, that’s hard. It’s putting down the shield, and uncurling the death grip from the sword, because the war is over. Don’t get me wrong, the shield and sword are by the door, just in case. There are still con artists and toxic selfish people in the world. Trust is not something to give out to just anyone. But trusting your judgement call in others, that’s the first step. Full of trial and error, but so so validating when nurtured. Take your time. Be kind and forgiving of yourself, and others. Make notes about what is good and bad in peoples character, what social cues to look out for. You can do this. I believe in you.
A lover an age and a day ago gave me a silver pendant with Celtic runes and a tree of life carved into. I loved it instantly. The runes translated to: So above, So below, So within, So without. As is the truth of any material item I shall ever care about, I naturally misplaced or lost the pendant, and as is also true of the workings of the universe and my nature, I found the artist of said piece on St. Patrick’s Day some years later. Some things are meant to be remembered.
I’ve enjoyed the statement because it can be taken in so many turns. For the sky and the earth, for my heart and for my flesh. Or, as is my spirit is in the heavens so is my heart, and as my body is on earth, so I am connected to that earth. There are just a ton of ways to interpret that statement.
I’ve always been deeply interested in decompression, or be, culture shock, or reintegration – that act of returning from a journey. I’ve done so many times, and I have gone through numerous rigamaroles (please excuse my verbose language, I’m reading a silly children’s book called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Design – ape-pre-po, no?)
There tends to be two roles a person simultaneously goes through, that of an interior thought process, and that of a physical adjustment. Physical can include jet lag, dietary changes, sleep schedule, weather changes, currency, language, cultural habits (like bathrooms), social habits. The physical stuff is usually a little bit like tripping… like you’ve been walking on hardwood for months, and suddenly you’re on shag carpet, and your feet aren’t quite sure how to work. You tend to be just bumbling enough as to be annoying to the locals. Realistically, the problem of course, is that you are on a different time wave than the locals. Like your internal clock is functioning at an altogether different speed than the world around you. That is, physically, probably true. Mountain time is a lot slower than city time. If home is a city and you’ve been on a mountain you’re likely to move slower than city folk. This causes city folk a lot of grief. It’s annoying when a tourist is moving too slowly, but understandable. But you, a home body, from the city, moving at tourist time? Well that’s just down right insulting.
And it is insulting, It simultaneously says exactly how much the city construct, and the problems therein, arent relative to you anymore, which is basically rubbing a form of freedom in someone else’s face. It also expresses a fundamental change in the self, something more troublesome, because it’s harder to put a finger on.
Lets talk about time. Time is a very good example of the interior role. Time is a social construct. It is entirely relative. For three weeks I get phone calls from my friends saying how much they miss me. Then I get home, see them, and we all agree it’s as though it’s only been a day, instead of a month. Why is that? What is that? Time. See, we note time by the comings and goings of things. If we wish we could share something with someone we note time because we aren’t accomplishing our desires. If we can share that something, then time is irrelevant because we are distracted in the action of accomplishing our desires.
The interior role notices time. The interior role also contemplates the relativity of such things. The interior role, or reintegration, notices the differences in surroundings, in attitudes, in life paces. It notices the things outside itself, others stresses and worries, others successes. It doesn’t necessarily notice itself as having changed, except when compared to the standard to which it was accustomed.
It’s like this: When you are living your home life, with your job, and your house, and your partner, etc., you have a schedule. The seriousness of issues is relative to that schedule. When you are living the travel life, those things don’t exist, or they exist in motion. My concerns are completely different than my communities. They consider how to pay rent, how to interact with co-workers, and accomplish their goals. I consider where to crash tonight, how to get to my next location, and what steps I need to take on my personal business. Realistically, I have less on my plate, because I’m traveling. Or rather, what I have on a plate is relative only to me. What they carry on their plates relates to many many other people. They are integrated, I am removed.
Except, I’m not… not this time anyway. As mentioned, I’ve contemplated this process many times. Often I’ve reentered my community and smashed about like a bull in a china shop, because I didn’t understand what I was doing, or feeling, or these differences. Or rather, I thought they were differences, and I didn’t feel supported. In my travel I actually felt alienated. Like, here’s my family, all going about their biz, and they hardly missed me, and my adventure doesn’t matter, probably cause I turned away from them to adventure, even though I needed it, and they told me too, and now I’m back and no one cares, and whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
That’s youthe for you right there. Wanting so badly to share, and not understanding ones value. It’s of no value to anyone to brag about accomplishments. It’s of no value to anyone to try and make them change their priorities to your own. Sure, perhaps you had your mind blown in travel, the biggest epiphany in the universe that will change the world. It’s not that no one cares, it’s that it was given to you, personally. It’s up to you to take that insight and re-frame it to be as helpful to others as it was to you. That means understanding what it was telling you, and figuring out how to change your overall person to represent that insight. People around you will see it if you live it. Preaching is annoying. Grasping even more so. I don’t care that you had an epiphany, if all you want to do is shove it down my throat. That’s most people, when they come back from travel.
We are One People, and there is also only one life. When you set off to travel you don’t cease to be who you were in others eyes. Certainly, to yourself, you may shed your skin, your memories and ideals, your name; but others see you as they choose. Unless you come back so different, that it forces them to meet the new you, most will choose to see you as you were. You have to take the time to introduce the new you, to show them that you are more than the person than you were. I don’t cease to be who I was, those experiences and memories live with in me, but I am more than that person now. I have more experiences, more memories, and these ones are different, have shaped me differently, and I have to be kind in understanding that you, my old friend, may not be ready to see the new me. In fact, it may be heart breaking for you to see the new me. You may miss the old me, even though this new me is better, because the old me is the one you fell for in the first place.
This is the interior role, the understanding and compassion, not just of peoples internal clocks, but of their capacity to cope and deal with change. Knowing who you are, on the inside, that is the greatest gift of travel. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher. Travel will show you exactly who you truly are. That said, you also have to know who you are on the outside, without, the jigsaw puzzle you represent is others eyes. You have to be patient, and calm, and slow. You also have to recognize the differences between those who want and will change with you, and those who wont. I have plenty of friends I see briefly because they only want to know the person I was. When I see them I am that person to them. Occasionally I’ll let slip some of the modern me, I can’t really help it, and their faces are always amazing to behold, as their mind gets a little bit blown. But really, that’s all they want, a taste of the old, and its an easy gift to give them. I was already that person, I remember them, and it’s a mask, or a hat, to put on for awhile. That role doesn’t change my insides, or who I’ve actually become. There are others I see often because they love the change, they move in the current. They want always to live vicariously through my adventures. My experiences and changes help them grow and perceive more about their world, and their surroundings. Those are the people living their best home lives, doing good work, who can’t escape as much as they would like, but are dedicated to their cause. I support those people the most, for they are their true and present authentic selves. And then I have the nomad friends, like myself, the travelers who are always in the jet stream, and who I connect and communicate with from the internal role, the present insides. These people understand how timey whimey time really is. They understand what matters, and what doesn’t. They take the time to consider, and perceive, and give aid, and try to affect the best change or help they can, given their internal natures. If interactions were a machine, then the first type of people would be the blocks, the unmoving pieces that hold the gears. The second type would be the gears. The third type would be the oil, or gas, making the whole thing move. You need all three for a machine to function.
An old friend once told me, everyone in this world has a job and purpose. He didn’t mean having to do with commerce. He meant internally, born with, at their core. For example, my job is to love, and my purpose is to experience. Those are mighty things, as both come with great joy, and great sorrow. His purpose was to witness, and his job was guide through penance. Complicated fellow, that. It can take some time to figure these things out, if one ever does.
Recently, though, I’ve been contemplating a different version of this question. Its been phrased many ways: your passion, your authentic self, your fit. My dad once told me that he would be proud of me if I wanted to be a garbage woman, if being a garbage woman is what made me happy. I thought that ridiculous, until I met people who actually love and enjoy rooting through garbage, and finding things, and recycling. I know now many people that would rather root through garbage, clean up a mess, than anything else. It brings them joy. It’s turning chaos, and refuse, and forgotten things into order, and worth, and refashioning. It’s inspiring to me that there are people in this world that find one simple ‘job,’ and it fulfills them completely. Not to say this job is simple, but it is straightforward. I have fabricator friends, tinkering friends, lawyer friends, doctor friends. They love their work. It brings them joy, purpose. They fight for the work, they participate, and engage in it. They are their authentic selves when they are at it.
My purpose is to experience, and my job is to love. For a very long time I’ve felt confused and less-than, because I haven’t been able to find that ‘fit’. I’ve tried a million jobs, put my hands and thoughts to many things, and plenty of them I am good at, but I don’t feel joy. I don’t feel purpose. Writing is the closest thing I’ve gotten too, and writing is really only because it allows me a clear format to express my thoughts, and my thoughts are completely relative to my purpose and my job. Strangely, that is my ‘fit’. Experience and love are my job, my passion, my authentic self. Except our world doesn’t monetize those things, doesn’t put a value of success on those things. To the world, I look like a traveling shiftless waif, avoiding responsibilities. Except that’s not the case. I’m an Indigo child. I’m a dreamer. I spend aggressive hours of every day writing plans and formats, putting down my ideas, and collaborating with others regarding any number of subjects. Just because my successes are not structured in the ‘classical’ sense doesn’t mean they doesn’t exist.
My favorite thing to do in travel, in life, is to be a sounding board with others. I love to hear their ideas, their dreams, their struggles, and I love to ask specific questions, to deliver unique perspectives, and to help lift them up, and inspire them, and believe in them, so they feel strong enough to go out and do what needs getting done. That, above all else, is my fit. That’s how I help change the world.
The most regular thing I hear from people, really of all ages, is that they’ve figured out what they don’t want to do. They know who they don’t want to be. That said, they don’t know what they want to be, or what they want to do. They barely know who they are. I understand this. I’ve been doing this for a long long time. It’s interesting to be in this space now, where this isn’t my problem any longer. I know who I am, what I want to be, and what I want to do. Explaining how I got here is a trick, and a time, and a half. Frankly, even if I explained, it probably wouldn’t work for you. We all have to find our own ways.
That said, the funniest thing I find when people say this shit, about not knowing what they want to do, is that almost immediately thereafter we chat for about 30 minutes, and they accidentally let slip the answer to all those questions. See, the jimmy is that, about the time you realize you don’t know the answer to these questions, is about the time that you actually do, and you’re just terribly afraid and in doubt, because knowing means acting, and you are afraid to fail. That’s real, and that’s fair. So long as you ‘don’t know’ then nothing can be done to change it. No trying. No failing. Also, no succeeding. It’s hard. Should I happen to point out those answers you just told me, the really astute will respond with: I’m not ready.
Ahha! Great! I’m not ready is great! It’s, great because it inherently expresses that one day you will be. See, as soon as you start thinking about these things you subconsciously start pushing yourself in the direction of these things. As soon you start questioning, and doubting, it means that you’re starting to work towards these things. Sure, they may remain blind to you for a long time. I can tell you what you just said, about who you are, who you want to be, what you want to do. You probably wont hear it though, even if I write it down. Your psyche cant really handle it, yet. That’s okay. Processing is real. It’s hard to give to others if you’re trying to process through your own shit. Still, once you start questioning, start thinking, the inner workings of your mind and heart start moving, and start processing barriers ,and start making pathways towards finding space to house the answers to those questions. It’s quite a nice thing really.
So Above, So Below. So Within, So Without.
So much of life is about your perspective. How you choose to view a thing. Change your perspective, and the world will change around you, and you around it.
Travel for me is often on a lark. That is to say, I plan for quite some time to go, but I rarely plan where or with whom. It’s typically a need for me, to travel. I am nomadic in nature. I thrive in movement. That said, like most, if I’m paying rent, and working, and living life, I can’t often afford to live and travel. I think a lot of people find themselves this way. That said, when I travel I tend to uproot. That means months of planning. Why am I traveling? What is the need? What do I do with my stuff? How much money do I reasonably need to save? It’s typically a 6 months process and by the time I go I’ve generally sorted out my purpose.
Having a purpose in travel is key. I didn’t realize this until I was 27, and walking the Camino de Santiago through Spain. We had something to do, a goal to accomplish. Travel for the sake of vacation is nice, annnnd ultimately boring, and usually expensive as you are often paying for distractions (attractions?). Considering I believe that travel for less than 3 weeks is somewhat pointless (in truly decompressing and understanding the place you are in for itself) ya do tend to find there’s only so much time to safely do nothing before it feels… uncomfortable.
When it came together that I was going to Mexico for a month I had a rush of mixed feelings. Nothing to do with being in a Central American country for a month. No, Central America is great. My hands down favorite thing about Mexico is the complete lack of body shaming. It’s just not a conversation. Adds don’t exist on how to be better. Women and men are all sizes, and shapes, and it’s just normal. People like to eat. So what? In a month I was cat called once. I certainly received compliments, but they weren’t uncomfortable, or sleazy, or made me feel in danger because of what I was wearing. They were the sounds a person makes when they see something exotic. A tall, white, tattooed, mohawked woman is still exotic to Mexicans… and most people. No. Body. Shaming.
Central America, Mexico, is great. People are nice, shit is mostly safe (outside of the cartels), cops don’t really care about you unless you are making a ruckus, and everything is cheap, delicious, and beautiful. Mexico is hot and so time moves differently there. Everything is 30 minutes, to 2 hours slower, depending. It’s not that anyone is lazy, it is just that there is no pressure to rush. What can’t be done today can be done tomorrow. Time is a social construct after all. Whose in a hurry?
Americans have an incredibly hard time with this. We are slaves to capitalism, and we forget that. We look at other cultures and say they are lazy. They look at us and think we are mad for being so busy. Honestly, I think they are right. We try too hard, too much, all the time, and don’t enjoy the present enough. But I digress…
When I realized I was going to spend a month in Mexico what bothered me was the fear of seeing The Caravan, of seeing poverty, of seeing detention centers. I was afraid of seeing children in cages. This, this is media at work. This is news.
Of course, where I was staying was too south for that sort of thing. The reality is that yes, there is some poverty, but less than in California, and most of that is injured, too old, or mothers. There’s a solid hustle of selling stuff to tourists, wherever they are. People are resourceful. It’s also not expensive. It’s also great weather. It’s also a community. What poverty I saw was purposefully on display in tourist areas for the day light hours. At night everyone was safely tucked in bed. Clean places. From Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan, clean places.
But so, The Caravan, I ask the locals. Thoughts?
Politics are a strange thing. As it turns out, The Caravan is a conversation piece largely between Nicaragua and Guatemala. It has a great deal to do with drug trafficking, and the cartels. It’s people fleeing for their lives, because the local governments have tried to build a siphon on drugs coming into their countries, and the cartels aren’t responding well. That’s the basic flavor of the issue. That, and Nicaragua is in the middle of a war… sort of. It’s all a lot of cartels versus corrupt government. It’s all about drugs. Ain’t it always?
But so, all those countries, the places themselves are mostly fine. It’s just there’s no work, no tourism, exports, and land creating exports, have been seized, and people have been displaced. Where do you go? Sure, America has literally thousands of kilometers of empty land, and so does Mexico. Sure, LA is already packed, and so is Mexico city. There aren’t a ton of options. You don’t want to overwhelm a small town. You’ve also just lost all your savings. You need to go make money. America. Land of opportunity. It’s a logical choice. If you can get out of LA, and move north, there might be work. That wont be true in Guadalajara, or Mexico City. It’s that, or go south and starve at the Panama Canal. Try maybe to get to Columbia, where the drug issue is worse, but there’s more employment. That’s a young mans game. Not a family choice, really.
There we are driving North. Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan (6 hours). Mazatlan to Guaymas (8 hours). Guaymas to Mexicali (8 hours). No where do I see this Caravan. In fact, all I do see is protesting at the toll roads. Ya gotta take the toll roads. They are much better maintained, meaning maintained at all. Ya also get a little insurance receipt when you pay the toll for that road. Protestors are complaining that it’s unconstitutional to charge a fee for cross country transit, when there are no other options available. That is to say, the government isn’t using taxes to pay to repair public roads. The only roads to take are tolls, and the prices are, to locals, exorbitant. Honestly, for the translation of what things cost, it’s true. From Puerto Vallarta to Mexicali, 21 hour drive, we probably paid $100 USD in tolls. When you make less than $20 USD a day as a Mexican worker that is an impediment.
The second thing I noticed was the Federali. We crossed many states. Did you know Mexico has 41 states? At every state crossing we had to meet the military, have them search our car, and ask where we were coming from and going to. I’ve never had to do that outside an international boarder. These are state boarders. The military is being used in a local cops fashion. Exerting their presence. It’s honestly puts the American Police State to shame. They claim it’s for the safety of people, to stop drug trafficking. Maybe it is. More likely it’s a nice way to detain people.
This brings us to detainment. I never saw detainment stations. Not like the news shows. Not in Mexicali, which as a city has it’s own serious problems. Not anywhere. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t see people being detained. At these state boarder crossings there were shaded holding pins with dozens of people, especially north bound. Buses and trucks were being checked constantly. And so here it is. It’s not just the American Government detaining people. It’s the Mexican Government too.
Of course I didn’t see detention centers. I’m not supposed too. I’m a tourist on a toll road. But there’s this idea that America and Mexico are against each other because of this whole Wall business. That, is a great piece of misdirection. American has one of the greatest drug problems in the world. Mexico has one of the the most lax policies on drugs in the world. Scheduled drugs in American are over the counter drugs in Mexico. It’s been that way forever. Anyone paying attention to drug films knows that the CIA has been in cahoots in different methods with Central and South Americas drug rings forever. Of course Americans wants to visit Mexico. Of course it helps the American Police State to allow drugs into the country from Central and South America. Of course no one is going to build a wall or shut down that border over ‘unregistered’ workers; not when the drug racket is covering high government officials paychecks, and giving them police power.
The thing is, Americans are easily manipulated, and Americans don’t care. That Fox New piece about the 3 Mexican Countries? That’s painfully accurate. Americans are exactly like this. It’s unimaginable to Americans that Mexico and America could be in cahoots. It’s unimaginable that anything south of the boarder isn’t Mexico.
So there we are, diving through Guaymas, and there’s this statute of this native man with a head dress with antlers, and maracas, and it’s huge, and in the middle of no where, and I’m all, what is THAT!?
One of the ingenious tribes of the area are called The Yaqui. They settled largely in a territory by the Yaqui River in the state of Sonora. As far as tribes go, pretty chill. When the Spanish came into Mexico looking for gold in the 1600’s the Yaqui were one of the last tribes be harassed because their land didn’t hold any precious stone or ore. For that reason, they did a particularly good job of fighting for independence. Like most tribes in North America their story is full of gorilla warfare, imposed slavery, and genocide. The big kicker that makes them great today is that they received land grants in restitution, and still today work to remain independent of government rule as much as possible. My kind of people.
What really got me about them was their concept of their world; their world view. See, they believe that there are nine planes, or worlds, or places, called aniam which overlap. A flower world (yo ania), an enchanted world (tenku ania), a dream world (tuka ania), a night world (huya ania), a wilderness world (nao ania), an upside-down – aka corncob world (kawi ania), mountain world (vawe ania), under water world (teeka ania), and world from the sky up through the universe. The figure of the man with antlers is a deer deity, often related in tying three of them together, that combination on which we mostly live on: wilderness, flowers and sea.
I love this concept because it is so incredibly accurate to my world view. What, and how I perceive reality, what I often call The Veils, is very much the same thing. Finding ancient cultures I’ve never heard of who see the way I see… that level of coincidence and connectivity; this is how I know that the people of the world are One People.
Every time we put up walls, judge others, believe rumors, we pretend like we aren’t One People. That’s just not true. This world view is very consistent with the pace of life in Mexico. Yes, it is a Catholic country, but under that this view, this mana, this feeling, exists throughout Mexico. It is a belief in the world, in people, and in nature. It is an ease in knowing that underneath the bullshit of bureaucracy and politics, that there is something more. It keeps the people moving. It keeps them trying.
The city of Mexicali is like if you took a strip mall, a construction area, and an industrial zone, and put them through a transporter, and it failed. It’s a polluted place, and houses sit across the street from the wall. The wall is their view. One of my brothers once asked me why I would live in Oakland, why I would subject myself to that kind of stress and violence? Honestly, Oakland is paradise compared to Mexicali. Watching school children cross the boarder for school in the morning because they have American Citizenship, and their parents don’t… that is stress and violence. That’s injustice served from two sides.
The bottom line is that my fears were not unjustified, but they were ultimately incorrect. I did not understand the nature of The Wall or the governments or the people. I saw the crashing headlines, and I let fear creep in. This is not surprising, but when driving through the desert land where the Mexican American War was fought, and seeing the roofless pueblos, and little shrines to the fallen dead of yesteryear, you come to realize that politically things have been blood soaked and painful since 1520. It began with Spain, and blood and gold, and it hasn’t much changed. It’s just loud and public now. It’s just fear mongering a greater population.
I’m not saying the news is lying about detention centers and family separation. This shit is horrible. I’m saying this has been happening for a long long time, and you are only becoming aware of it now, thanks to media. What you are becoming aware of is one case scenario of a million, which you’ve been purposefully shown to make you shy away, to make you not want look deeper. There are still a million other pieces to this complicated puzzle, and most of them aren’t bad, or aren’t what you think, or are even really good. Because you’ve been shown the worse case scenario you simply assume you know what’s going on and tune out, because it hurts too bad think about. The reality isn’t like that. It doesn’t hurt, not in the way the news makes you think. It’s call misdirection; sensationalism. It’s being done to make you bury your head in the sand.
If you have the chance to travel to Mexico, really travel, do so. It’s beautiful, and calm, and safe. It’s not scary or dirty. It will not hurt you. Your children will be fine, and happy, and safe. It will inspire you to the beauty of a people. It will make you question why people would want to leave Mexico. It will make you question if you should trade places with them. The grass is always greener on the other side.
I would take no body shaming, relaxed schedule, no violence, and taco’s, over get thin quick diets, constant work stress, helicopters, and fast food any day.
I’ve been singing songs since forever. When I was a babe it was my Irish grandmother singing songs from the old country. When I was small, it was my father humming tunes, and singing all the wrong words. When I was in school, it was sitting in the Keva, a circle around a fire or a well, singing songs from across many lands. When I older, I joined a choir called Jerk Church; a drinking group with a singing problem, and we sang the Irish songs of new.
Song has been apart of my life always. I understand when the aboriginals of Australia say they sing themselves across the land; sing illness out of their skin.
I am Irish, and when my people die we sing. We laugh, and we cry, and we above all else, sing.
Yesterday was my last night in Puerto Vallarta on this trip, and instead of walking into a fond farewell from the community I’d made here, I walked into a wake. It turned out that a few nights prior a beloved member of the community had passed due to health related circumstances. They had only just found out, and they were, for the better part, very upset. I’d only met him briefly, a handful of times, and though I can see his face clearly in my mind, we were by no means close. If I had more time here, maybe we would have been. This is not remotely the first time this has happened to me. It will not be the last.
Sat at this bar the shock of it was palpable. There’s little to say, but to nod sadly. I know my place is to give comfort, and energy. This has been one of my places for a long time in this world, and I know how to do this well. You can try and distract, but mostly you just have to validate, give permission to feel, and commiserate. For me, the hardest part is not remembering. I miss my friends, when I’m at a wake. I’ve lost a lot of friends.
But so there we are, and the speakers are going and its a cacophony of Fleetwood Mac, and Stevie Nix, and Queen, and System of a Down, and songs we all of us, stretching an age group of 30-60, all know the words too. There we are, all of us, in a giant sing along. For the first handful of songs no ones really paying attention. We’re singing, yes, but we don’t really notice the laughter or smiles. Then a sadder slower song comes on and things get somewhat somber again, and then a roaring singalong of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. That’s when I see it, realize it. Music therapy. Expression of emotions.
I witness this community, who lacked the skills to fully express their pain with anything but quiet tears, put all their pain into the familiar words of songs they knew and loved. I watched them bounce, and laugh, and dance, and take all that energy and funnel it out of themselves, out into the night sky. I watch their spirits rise with relief, not only in the letting go, but in the community, in the camaraderie, in the shared heart.
I’ve always sung songs, but in this moment I finally understood the true value of the song. I understood the healing nature of song; the therapy of song. Certainly, on a personal level, I knew these things. Even in a group, I knew these things, but my people are Irish. This is just what we do, and have always done. A group from many walks of life, with many different life experiences, and of many different races, and ages, coming together to share in something so deep and profound. This, to me, was miraculous. This to me, was a game changer.
Though I mourn our friend, and sorrow for the ache of this community, I feel a certain sense of gratitude towards him that he could bring us together in this way. On my last night might have seen a few people, yet instead, because of this wake I saw them all, and was granted permission to share in something more profound. I became part of a family.
Death is apart of life. Strive to sing songs with the living, to create, and share in these moments with those you love while they are here. Death can be an excuse, but how much stronger your heart will be if you take the time with them while they are alive.