Saturday, January 30, 2010
the black hole
I arrived there in a state of indecision and observation. I was standing outside myself and looking in with a confusion so deeply rooted I had a hard time differentiating my likes from my dislikes, my wants from my unwants. The confidence that used to be so innate in me was diminishing before my very eyes.
It was an experience the palm reader called “a black hole.” She said it was a scary place to be. That it would happen to me several times over the course of my life. To mediate it, she said, I should spend time with cows. To just sit with them and have them look at me.
“Can you go to India when you leave here?” she said in a most direct and assuming way, “There are many cows in India. They are sacred there.” She said it in a way that made me wonder if she had already booked me a ticket. Or maybe as if I had already planned it all out and she was just checking in to get the details on my itinerary.
She made it sound awful, the black hole. Black holes are pretty expansive and so I wondered how on earth it fit inside me and how it got there. I wondered how I had managed to get myself dressed and fed that very morning with such a thing inside myself. I wondered how I had managed to get myself across the country all by myself and into the very cushion I sat upon while having my palms read.
I had managed to make it there in 3 days time, actually. I had packed my bags and loaded my car, stocked up on a week’s worth of micro-brewed beer and drove dazedly over the plains. I had driven through road construction and cornfields, over the Mississippi and through Chicago traffic. I had done this all to get to this place. A square mile in the Michigan woods where there were no bathrooms and no men. Of all the seven thousand or so women there, I only knew one. I was equipped only with my essential belongings and now, a name for the thing that drove my need to get there: the black hole.
I had spent a lot of time over the last couple of years saying things to myself that made me believe untruths. I made myself believe I was incapable of loving and unable to commit. I made myself believe I was heartless and mean, insensitive, controlling. I had made myself believe I didn’t deserve a better job, a free weekend, a family that could love me for me. Most damaging though, was that I made myself believe I didn’t deserve to want anything at all, let alone anything different than what I had.
These things were all eating away at me. And they were eating away at my health too. My physical body was becoming more and more damaged. I was telling myself more untruths about the world and my body was fighting back. My skin was reacting to my lack of boundaries, my head hurting from all the anger I held toward myself, my stomach always churning in a million directions to make up for the lack of movement anywhere else in my life.
I kept trying to be content with the way things were without really changing anything. My beliefs in all those untruths kept me stagnant, always in a dialogue with myself about contentment. I kept trying to find peace with the way things were, the things I thought I could not change. Unfortunately, my body knows the difference between real and fake contentment, even if my mind is still confused.
Trying to be at peace with what was outside myself definitely did not bring me to peace within myself. Let me tell you something: ‘Being at peace with what is’ is a great mantra for many things but it is not meant to keep a person in a stagnant place with stagnant emotions and stagnant desires. It is not meant to make a person commit to things that are not productive or representative of who they are and what they want. There’s no way that ‘being at peace with what is’ should inhibit a person from wishing for what they deserve.
I’m pretty sure it means – at least to me, in the current mental state – that I need to be at ‘peace with what is’ on the inside - in my heart. Then it will flow outward to the rest of my body so that it may heal. Contentment comes from integrity and truth. Living in gratitude of all the great things I have within myself. Kathlyn Hendricks, of the Hendricks Institute says, “Integrity is not a set of moral standards; rather, actions you take to align with your wholeness.” So, instead of trying to figure it all out in my head, I started by doing things, starting with a drive across the country. I literally moved things outside myself to calm the things within myself.
On the first day, I was terrified – of course, because I am afraid of everything.
“What if I actually do find something new about myself and I really hate it?” I thought for sure I would feel the guilt of years past - and not be humbled by it, but bulldozed by it – bulldozed into a great depression of remorse and shame. I stayed in my tent all evening and ate by myself to prevent such an event.
By the second night, I was more relaxed, but I still hated the idea of opening myself to the experience of opportunity so I drank whiskey. That helped only temporarily. Whiskey is great at a one-day long cure, but then there’s always the next morning.
I woke on the third day to new excitement – not to mention a bit of a hangover. I had a want in me to experience something, but I was still scared to act. I had gotten that far, hadn’t I? So, what’s the point in going any further? I wondered, “What’s the point in going to the workshops when I can just sit and write?” So, I spread my wings a bit, but not too far. I walked all over, explored. I met new people. I worked. And then I wrote anyway. And then I felt miserable about my lack of confidence and was hard on myself the rest of the day.
I’m not sure how exactly things started happening or when, but they did.
All week, big fears came up, like “Will I ever succeed as a grown up?” or “Will I ever really be able to love?” And then little fears crept in. One particular day, my fear was as simple as a schoolgirl’s. I was scared of being accepted by all the cool girls. I wondered if they would like me enough. If I listened to cool enough music or wore cool enough clothes. I wondered if I was too tall, too femme, too butch, not spiritual enough, too spiritual, too prude, too wild, or if I was just plain boring compared to all the really eccentric or outgoing or all-knowing women who came from all over the country.
It was not until six days had gone by that I was able to completely unbolt myself and release some parts of the darkness within the black hole. I began to cry. And cry and cry. In front of one thousand women on a small hill facing a stage. The women on the stage were singing wonderful hymns of support and encouragement. It was surreal, really. The kind of thing that happens in movies (if anyone ever is to make movies about conscious healing and new beginnings in a feminist camp). All the things from my past came flying to the surface and were shooting out my eyes, gasping from my chest and heaving into my stomach. My mind went blank and the black hole came pouring out without words to explain its existence. I had found something and it was being uprooted.
The palm reader had said each black hole in my life (yes, she said there would be a couple) would either signify great change or great sorrow. I had arrived there in great sorrow, so this release was the evidence of great change. And I was not the only one to see it.
Other women saw it too. They surrounded me. They gave me comforting words, each hugging me, each assuring me that it would all be ok. That I was safe and I could be repaired. They each reached inside of me and pulled the strings that held onto the black hole. Each woman there, plus the trees and the earth, the sky and the air. They were all conspiring to get it out of me. They pulled and pulled and out came the things that were lost inside of me. I could not look, could not watch as the parts of me that were held so dear were tossed into the woods and stomped into the ground. Those parts of me that I thought for so long had made me who I was. The things about myself that made me act in certain ways and believe the things I knew. It was coming out of me so suddenly and felt so strange. It felt like nothing else before and I did not know how to understand it and so I just sat there. And crying was the only thing I could do.