What does it take to stay in a relationship? What makes it really work?
Here’s my thoughts on the short version:
1. A strong initial spark,
2. a willingness from both people to explore and see if you respect and care for eachother
3. The desire to consciously work on it and be completely honest and vulnerable in the process of healing the subconscious,
4. Do that, and become new people together.
5. Dedication to nurturing your love,
6. A strong shared vision to keep your paths aligned and moving forward together towards a shared future.
Beyond that… I’ve never been in a conscious romantic relationship long enough to know… lol
But I would guess that it involves repeating 3-6 over and over again and continuing to choose each other.
I’d like to say that as a conscious being, with conscious communication tools everything is peachy and pollyanna in relationships. But in reality, it can be hard. Especially when you’re dealing with romance, travel and social survivability.
Of course, all relationships have challenges, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. The relationship experts tell us that the more “in love” we fall at the beginning, the more resonance of our deep subconscious pain/trauma there is underneath it all. They call it Imago Love.
When I work with couples, you can sense this Imago love immediately. Even if they are experiencing challenge, you can feel the connection deep underneath it all, the underlying love. In some couples, it’s obvious it’s not there, and probably never was. Although learning conscious communication tools can be helpful to any couple, and there are hacks to ease communication and rekindle passion, to be totally honest, for those couples who don’t have that Imago love, it’s really hard to rekindle that spark, when it wasn’t there in the first place.
I had a real-life experience of how important it is to have ALL of those things in place when Max and I were in the process of dating and splitting up. Looking back on it, we had 2, 3, and 4 down pat, and both became much more awesome people from the process but by the time we hit Spain around this time last fall, things were on the decline…
Here’s a story from the soon to be released JoyGasm Book (Go to JoyGasm.me/book to get the first 15 chapters, and updates on when it’s being printed)
“Traveling together had been difficult for a few months, and it was seeming like our desires and dreams for where we wanted to be were very different. He wanted to be in a big city, dancing, going to chic cafes and fancy restaurants, adventuring to a new city every month. I wanted to see more of the world for sure, but I also wanted to hang out in small beach towns, preferably speak Spanish, and explore local culture in a deep way, getting in with the locals, eating cheap and dirty, and exploring what life was like in that place. I wanted to be able to get to know people, and after a few months of a new place every month, I had realized that more than anything I wanted to stay someplace for 6 months or more.
Obviously, we had a massive clash in future/present vision going on.
So with that challenge hitting the fan, what do we do? Well, as two people fluent in non-violent communication, and committed to working on our relationship we both look at each other and try and state our needs, find a compromise, work it out. Easier said than done.
Using the statement “I feel” is meant to turn the communication back towards you, your feelings your needs, and keep that projection in check. But with my sense of freedom being curtailed by our shared travel plans, my emotions were flying high. Both of our basic needs and desires are not being met for how we wanted to live, and more often than not we find ourselves slipping into “I feel like YOU…” insert subconscious pain based accusation here.
After a few weeks of this, we realize this is bigger than we could handle ourselves and seek help from a friend and facilitator of communication. He calls us both out on the improper use of the NVC format and we move deeper into being as conscious with our communication and projections as we can. We commit, again, to owning our crap, and moving through it together. Both of us have been feeling stuck, and frustrated, but we are willing to work it through, together.
Newly committed we drive back into the work, a few weeks of this go back and forth, and I’m exasperated.
It’s so challenging to speak with him. I get SO angry. We’re working together, and we spend days and days (it seems) trying to find peace in our interpersonal/romantic so that we can actually have a working conversation in our work lives. On top of that, the work isn’t working either (aka providing revenue) so it seems pointless… deep to the core of my pain.
One day after a particularly frustrating conversation, I sit down with myself to figure out why this all so challenging, and why the heck this is happening.
As my thoughts wander around, I realize that I’ve been trying to leave the relationship for a month or so now, and every time I start to have the conversation he says “But you can’t threaten the relationship, we have to work on it together.” I hear you Max, and if I wanted to work on it…fine. If I don’t then fuck it. Well.. okay. Not fuck it.
Because I’ve been through this “relationships transition with a boyfriend” a half dozen times or so in the last few years, and I know what it takes to get closure and release someone in a loving and healthy way now. I’ve had lots of practice. There’s no need to be as uncomfortable in this as we are, if we just get clear on what’s happening and be honest with each other about what’s next.
I had thought when we started this thing that since Max was a spitting image of my “list of things I want in a partner” that I might not have to go through this whole relationship transition thing again… But now it looks like it’s staring me in the face. Fuck…
So I start to ponder. What does it really take to stay in a relationship, if this isn’t it?
Here’s my thoughts:
1. A strong initial spark, (nope)
2. a willingness from both people to explore and see if you respect and care for each other (yes, except I don’t respect him sometimes)
3. The desire to consciously work on it and be completely honest and vulnerable in the process of healing the subconscious, (got that one)
4. Do that, and become new people together. (Been doing that)
5. Dedication to nurturing your love, (sort of)
6. A strong shared vision to keep your paths aligned and moving forward together towards a shared future. (I don’t want to live like he wants to live)
I think back to when we met. Co-Boat in Thailand. I remember meeting him and feeling he was interesting. Well… “at least, more interesting than everyone else in that small boat.” We’ve laughed our way through telling that story a dozen times to people, and I remember what he said about me.. “I saw her and thought, who is this crazy woman with a kid, she’s weird.”
Not much of a spark there… in fact, if it wasn’t for the wild adventure of capsizing, bailing out a dingy and almost dying on a day trip, I’m not sure that we would have ended up in a relationship. If we hadn’t “happened” to be going to the same island and co-working space afterwards, he would have disappeared from my life without a look back, and I from his.
Not much of a spark then.
I think back to the times that I’ve fallen madly in love…. That Imago Love the Guy and Katie Hendrix speak of. The sparkling fire within our bodies, the certainty that this was something special. The feeling of being drawn, and inescapably desiring that person. I remember feeling that with Derek, Rafiq and Daniel… I know from the memory of the feeling with the other men, that this time, that spark just wasn’t there…
In fact, after the whirlwind drama and pain, I’d just had with Daniel in Bali, I’d specifically asked the universe for something calmer next boyfriend around. Got it!
So the core of our relationship is “happenstance, similar visions, mutual support, and a willingness to give it a go” and having run with that for a while, we now had “entanglement of emotions, logistics and ‘cuz we said we would” added into the mix.
I think wistfully of falling in love with Daniel, the kind of love that swept me off my feet, how I couldn’t help but walk over to his house, the poetry that had spewed forth from my heart, and the magic and love permeated the field of our moments together. The start of this relationship had none of that.
If I am completely honest with myself, it is a relationship of social survivability. Having moved from Bali to Thailand, and new to a place, Max was the most willing and interested person there, he wanted to hang out with me. When Alex called him Dad 3 weeks in (something he’d never done with any of my other boyfriends), and we’d both blushed and hoped for love that ended in like that, it had anchored it in, and made it more real than it maybe was at that point. On top of that, Max was willing to be loving and kind to me when many of the other Digital Nomads around me looked at the fact that I had a kid and excluded me.
Not really the foundation of a long-term love relationship.
In that moment I know we are over, and I know that moving forward I will make better decisions for relationships. No more dating men I’m lukewarm about.
I know from him and other lovers, that by 6 to 8 to 9 months in, the love and connection, the novelties of getting laid regularly most often have worn thin and the challenge begins in earnest. The challenges are all there to be seen, right from the get go, but the love and oxytocin high blinds you for a few months. Max and I had even named this from the start of our relationship, we knew exactly what we were getting into, and here we are in the middle of the challenges.
I realize deeply that I have been contemptuous of him from the start, I’ve been learning to accept and love the aspects I find challenging about him, but the contempt lingers and underlays everything that we do together. No wonder it doesn’t work.”
I can’t take back or change the time Max and I spent together, nor would I want to. The love we shared, though not Imago love, was a deep and committed friendship and romance that we supported through strength and determination. I became a much clearer and more loving person through the dedication we had to working out our stuff together. It’s beautiful to see now that Max and I were able to transition our relationship, still maintain a friendship, and co-support each other in understanding our challenges as we work towards moving closer to our vision for what our dream lives look like, even though we aren’t romantically together anymore.
I decided that in the future to merge my life on that level with someone, I would really need to care at the core about who they were, what they wanted, and how we could be together.
When Dan and I met up again this spring and sparked like crazy, again. I thought. “This is what is needed at the core of it, this is the feeling to come back to, to try and find again if shit hits the fan.” A part of me relaxed and loved deeper. We still are. I could tell you stories for days, and…. Dan and I are still navigating how much and what I share about our life with the world through FB. I’ll share more when we get clearer.
What I didn’t realize at the time of the insight with Max was that I needed to apply this to my friends too. To all the people in my world, the ones I was dreaming and creating and visioning with as well. To be meticulous about the quality of the connection. This is strange for a woman who is used to figuring out who to hang out with by “social survivability standards”
1. do they look/feel dangerous, no.
2. Do they look/feel reasonably like-minded. Yes.
3. Are they leaving the country tomorrow or in the next week? No.
4.Do we like each other enough to spend time together for a couple of hours because we have nothing better to do as travelers. Yes.
Okay now we are friends!!!
It’s a new ball game for me to figure out what long term friendships can look like.
When I arrived back in Calgary, I connected with the people around me. I reached out to the people I remembered being helpful, kind and supportive in my life. The people I really liked last time I was here. Some of them replied, some of them had moved on. Great. Got support network. Whew. Social Survivability is taken care of.
As the new year comes closer, there’s a feeling of checking in, how is this whole “having longer-term friends thing going Elena?” Add in some recent relationship challenges, and it seems more important than ever to ask the question…. is the core, the spark, the feeling of it all strong enough to maintain the love through the times of challenge?
Questions I’m asking myself about my relationships…
Is the spark there at the core?
Even if our shared vision never happened, would I still want to be around this person?
Do they demonstrate the skills needed to work on the challenges that may arise?
Do our dreams for the future align?
Six months later, the community has expanded, At the potlucks I see others connecting together, friends forming, connections moving deeper. It’s beautiful, heartwarming, and loving. I notice that I feel the spark with some people, it’s got that Imago feeling, that feeling that it’s amazing just to lay in their arms and be warm and silent, or talkative, or whatever together. The feeling that my heart sparks when they walk into the room. I’ve noticed that I don’t have that with others. Some are interesting to me even without the spark, and some are in between, and some people I’m happy to see, but may never really get to know. Only time will tell. I’m learning that’s okay.
I see people I spark with connecting deeply with others. I watch them go super deep into conversation or cuddles, and that’s great. My heart is warm for their love, whatever brings them joy. I want them to follow their hearts and explore where seems most interesting. I see new faces, and I’m curious about them, wondering who they are and what they be. Some of them spark with me more than others. I’m learning that’s okay.
Maybe we see each other once a month, once a week, never outside of potlucks. Each relationship is different… With a new awareness for some of the projections I’ve been putting on others, and some of the ones I’m finding have been put on me, I find it more and more important to get clear what are the expectations around the friendships I have. Do we want to get together more? Do we have the time? Is it enough to see each other in passing once a month, share some cuddle puddle, and food, and know that we’re still around and still showing up to the same places? I also want to check in, are there places/people with whom I may have miscommunicated, or have I been unclear on what I could give, or needed to receive?
I’m committing to sitting down and checking in on who and how I want to nurture in friendship, love, and collaboration. I’d encourage you to do it too.
Your thoughts, questions, comments, clarifications are always welcome.
Sometimes people don’t get along. I’ve had several people in the last weeks come forward and say “I can’t come to the potlucks anymore, because I’ve had this/this/this happen with some person, and I’m not sure I want to face them. I feel uncomfortable to be in the same room as them.”
It hurts my heart every time, and I encourage them to work it out.
It hurts so deeply, and it seems so simple to just sit and talk and work it out.
And I get why they don’t want to come.
It sucks to be in a room with someone you have unresolved issues with.
It clouds the whole room, and it can wreck a whole party.
So for most people, they just stop going. In fact in our culture of pain, isolation and addiction, it seems easier than not to just tune out, move on, not call back, not show up, and say goodbye to the people who we disagree with, or who have caused problems for us. Sometimes saying goodbye to whole communities, relationships, and friendships along the way.
I know the pain of this.
I’ve travelled, a lot.
I travelled as a way of escaping from really caring about anyone,
or avoiding getting so entangled that anyone would really push my buttons.
I’ve had a lot of 2 week best friends.
What I found was that no matter where I went in the world, the people around me showed up in the “archetypes” of my subconscious. A new best friend, a new lover, a new difficult conversation, and new greatest subconscious pain, showed up where ever I was and made me face them anyways.
It made it easy to see,
and easy to ignore,
as “Maggie” showed up in country after country,
asking me to heal the wound I had with her.
A different face, a different background,
but the underlying pattern the same.
While anyone who I didn’t like could be done in 1-6 weeks,
and with friends changing all the time anyways,
it was simple enough to just move along,
find a new group of friends.
When I returned to Calgary this year it was to stop that pattern, to move through it, and to find friends who I really really loved, people who I cared about deeply, and who I cared about so much that I was willing to do the work, to stop running, and really experience the depth of relationship that comes with pain and finding a way to love again.
I’ve found that in the love I experience with the people at our IVN community potlucks and it’s beautiful.
And today it’s my turn to face my own version of that moment
and stay “let’s sit and talk instead of splitting up”.
It’s scary, and painful, and vulnerable,
and sometimes I want to run and hide from it,
and give up and form my own group,
or go back to being alone.
The kind of healing I’m talking about takes DEEP vulnerability, it takes a willingness to feel pain, it takes a need to look at ourselves, to see where the pain is, how that causes us to point fingers, and to heal the deep pain inside of unworthiness that made us want to lash out or ask for help in the first place.
The beauty of that reconnection, the passion of love long lost and rekindled, is a beautiful thing. Captured so gorgeously in this short film… and in the experiences, I hope will happen tonight.
Valerie Shakti Bottazzi and I speak about leaving abusive relationships, the ability to become a new person (in this lifetime), being businesswomen and mothers, the experience of post partum depression, and the difference between meditation, visualization, and imagination.
Valerie generously offered us a few of her guided visualizations, and if you’d like to learn more about her offerings overall you can visit her website here valeriebottazzi.com
Get the Goodies
Ps. Valerie’s meditation, life wheel, and morning ritual tracker are all gorgeous and super effective at improving your discipline with your daily practices.
“Suicidal ideation, the act of thinking about committing suicide. Is normal. A normal healthy response to an overwhelming, unrelenting, inescapable emotional pain.”
The words drop into my mind like a hammer. I’m normal. It’s okay. “I wish someone had told me that 5 years ago.” I laugh a little bit, but it’s not funny. I think of the years I’ve spent hiding this part of me, the hours I’ve spent ruminating and pondering what makes me so fucked up that my first thought when something goes wrong is “I want to die.”
The pain I’ve felt at the voice that said,
“I want to die,
I want to die,
I want to die.”
All of this is normal.
“When you get a chance, go with a friend to the place where you wanted to drive off the bridge, be the passenger, and talk to them, share with them what you felt, what you experienced, what your world was like then.”
“I can do that.” I think immediately of the bridge as it crosses Fish Creek park on 22x. How many days of driving that cursed yellow school bus did I think about turning the wheel just enough? Hundreds of times. Today, a question I had never thought to ask rises to my mind.
How much shame did I internalize from feeling there was something really wrong with me for thinking about it?
A few hours later I’m a passenger in the car, on route south to a family dinner. I’m dressed up and excited to be going towards my beloved’s families house to spend time with them. The traffic slows, but it’s the wrong time of day for rush hour. It must be an accident. We wait in traffic for a while, and as we pull slowly past the scene, I see clearly, the side of a car smashed in, the back passenger seat, where Alex would sit. It fills my stomach and my heart with dread, I hope dearly there were no children in the back seat. I feel deeply “I would be so sad if my son died.” This in itself is a relief to the cold hearted “It would be a relief to be free.” a few years back that was my internal response to moments like this.
As we pass by the accident, we both get quiet. The car is filled with a clear sense of the frailty of our mortality, the real possibility of losing the people we love on short notice, and it brings it all back to reality really fast. I squeeze his hand, and we sit in silence for a while.
A few KM later, as we exit onto 22x, I realize that this is the moment of speaking my thoughts to die on that bridge.
That moment is happening today.
That opportunity to be listened to
is happening today.
I quickly check in with Dan. “Are you able to hold space for me while I share about this place that I have been suicidal?” He says yes, and I am so greatful.
As we drive forward my voice starts speaking, and it feels not quite like my voice, but the silent repressed voice of all the times I have driven here. I speak in the present tense like it’s happening now. Like I’m walking through my thoughts.
“This is where I start thinking about running off the road. Before the bridge, so the bus would land in the water, and we’d drown. Less chance of survival. But the angle is tricky. Some days I speed down that off-ramp, feeing into the speed build, I’d need to be going fast to break the median. I remember feeling the courage it would take to take the plunge. Somedays it was exciting to feel the excitement of getting close to that moment.”
I can feel my body tingling all over, there is a visceral sense of relief, of being seen, heard and felt. I understand why I was invited to do this. I know I will do it again in other moments of pain.
“I feel I am useless. I feel I am helpless to change it. The kids I am driving are so far gone off the autistic spectrum, they are incapable of living normal human lives, I would be doing their parents a favor to end their lives and the suffering of parenting a child like that. But Alex was on the bus most days, I didn’t do it because I thought out of all of us, he might have a future. I couldn’t take that away from him. I couldn’t take him away from his grandparents like that. ”
My body starts shaking, and deep tears flow to my eyes. I wonder at the pain I must have been in all those years ago. I see my pain through a new lens.
“Suicidal ideation is normal.” I think to myself. Time to REALLY let it go.
“I hated that job, I hated the kids I drove, I was filled with contempt every day. I hated waking up early every morning and slogging through the cold weather to pick them up. So they could sit like lumps on the bus, and sit like lumps at school. They had no future. The bus never really got warm, even with three pairs of pants, and a big jacket and scarf and hat, and big mitts and the heat cranked. I was always still cold.”
I remember the strictness of my playlist. Only happy tunes, happy words, happy themes to the songs I listened to. No sadness allowed. I clung to joy like it was a life preserver in the middle of a choppy sea. I forced myself into it all winter, being the most upbeat person on the team, I stuffed my pain. I remember the joy in my heart when spring started to come that year, and I finally felt the sun on my skin again. I remember thinking “I thought I would die, I thought the winter, and the cold would kill me. ”
We pass the bottom of the bridge and head up towards the next offramp. We are passed the point of no return. I whisper. “This is where I was always silently relieved that I had decided not to do it.”
He says nothing, but I can feel him there. Listening to my pain, heart open.
I get quiet again, and sit with my feelings, with the tingling sensation in my scalp, hands, and spine. I know I’ve just healed that time of my life, and that desire to die on a deep level today.
It’s time to return to the lovely conversation we were having before this moment started. I shake my whole body and make a silly noise. I take a deep breath in.
“I’m complete. Thank you.”
He squeezes my hand, and we sit together in silence for a while before returning to our conversation. I hold his hand, watching the city lights sweep past us, and into the night, as we enter the countryside. It’s beautiful to be here, alive and enjoying the drive.
**** If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts. I wrote this today to let you know that you’re normal. It took me a lot longer to ask for help than I’d like to admit, and I know that it’s hard. But asking to be heard is one of the crucial steps in recovery, along with learning to love yourself. I feel I did it backwards, I feel it might have been easier if I’d know how to ask for help but it might also be a chicken/egg type thing.
If you need support in learning to love yourself, check out the 60-second depression recovery/self love hack I created in the darkest of days to help myself find the courage to keep going. JoyGasm.me/LOVE
The plane journey to Bali is surprisingly easy with Alex. A timeless 26 hours of adventures through long hallways, lineups and watching movies on the airplane. The snacks I brought from Canada last us all the way through Taiwan, and we are spared from airplane food until our last flight. I’m able to find him plain rice at the airport without too much trouble. I much on a strange noodle soup thing I couldn’t possibly pronounce but at least doesn’t have shredded cow intestine in it.
We arrive at the Bali airport, and it’s as gorgeous as I remember. Our ride to Ubud has been arranged already, and I search the crowd of taxi drivers for one holding a paper with our name on it. I stare out the window the whole drive there, taking in the sights, almost familiar. As we get closer to Ubud I recognize some of the statues, and I feel the excitement bubbling through me. It’s real, Alex and I are starting a new life together in Bali. This could be our home. This could be our new life. Alex fidgets and wines about the heat, he’s not remotely interested in the wild landscape or endless rows of statues and temples outside the windows. Weird and uncomfortable is more normal to him than anything an average Canadian kid would ever dream of, and so he eventually falls asleep in my lap as we drive. We arrive at our new apartment and I’m so excited about our new life about to unfold. The apartment I found on Facebook as a sublease from another woman who designs yoga clothes. The landlords don’t speak English, but the taxi driver does, so he talks to them about getting keys and fills me in. The apartment itself is a bit nicer than the pictures. Most importantly it’s cheap as dirt at $150/month, which is what I need it to be right now. I could have rented a nicer spot closer to town for $3-400, but I spent the last of my cash on getting our flights here, and I’m just trusting that another client will show up before the little cash I have runs out.
What I hadn’t realized is that the appartment is also on a main roadway, and the sound of motorbikes starts at 5 am. I know they start that early because for that first week Alex wakes up at 3am every day. I’ve heard that jet lag can be brutal to the system, but when I arrived in Bail solo, I stayed up too late, slept weird for the first day, and then moved easily into a new rhythm. Not so with Alex, for the first week, every morning at 3 am I am awoken by an indignant, sweaty and fully awake child. It is not pleasant, and I begin to regret my decision to move us to Bali. I find myself staying in the house longer and longer each day, and by 1 pm its a sweltering 32 degrees in the house and there is nothing to be done about it, no amount of fans can rescue us from the heat.
Of course, we could just leave the building, but somehow leaving our apartment just seems like too much. I’m still trying to find time to do my work, I can’t bring Alex to the co-working space, even if I could afford it. Plus I’m struggling with re-adjusting to the challenges of being mom again. After 3 months of being only responsible for myself, the feeling of providing for the needs of my child is so challenging. My newly independent self doesn’t want to bow to his will, and I find myself resisting helping him with simple things that I used to do all the time. My healthy eating falls off the wagon, as I start eating his leftovers again. His uneaten pancakes go into my stomach instead of the garbage. “Don’t waste food Elena” my mom’s voice echos through my subconscious. Even if they are disgusting, I still eat them instead of throwing them out. The things I would never make for myself, and feel so guilty about making for him become the mainstay of my diet.
The delicious tropical fruit I’ve been reveling in is rejected by him. His only restaurant staple, white rice, and pancakes are fortunately available pretty much everywhere, but even then he sometimes doesn’t eat it. Money is tight, and the experience of paying $5 for pancakes I don’t really want him to eat, which he then doesn’t eat, which I then eat because I spent $5 on them is soul-searingly painful every single time. Eating at the superfood restaurants becomes impossible, and I just become used to taking banana and cucumber with us everywhere we go so I can feed him even if he won’t eat from the menu.
I miss Daniel dearly, and I wake up early to speak to him every day. The emails that pour out of us are the sweetest poetry, and I live for the moment when he writes to me.
By the end of the first week, Alex and I are competlely toxic. The healing of “this place of resentment I carried towards my son for stealing my life” is right back where it was when I left him in his dads (semi-capable) hands 3 months ago. All the healing I did, completely reversed and I’m right back where I started.
I can’t leave the house, for fear of how he will yell at me in public for not meeting his needs NOW. I can’t truly pay attention to him, because my mind is consumed with the need for making ends meet, and completing the design work I have to do. And on top of all of it, I get an ear infection. Burning, screaming pain in my left ear. When I tell Daniel about it, he sends me a copy of a few pages from the Gut and Psychologyy book, as well as a suggestion of garlic in my ear, cutting dairy and flour, and a few other things to do to care for myself.
I’m so grateful that someone who understands the holistic has offered a deeper solution, and as I sit to read the pages of the GAPS book. It slowly dawns on me. The chronic ear infections of my childhood, linked with the binge eating sugars and flours in my teens, with the recurring ear infections as an adult, and the massive depression. All of them are linked. The guilt around feeding Alex flour and milk pancakes crystalize as I realize that my mother poisoned me as a child. Not intentiontionally, not maliciously. But with her love and good intentions, of passing on traditions of baked goods, of lovingly cooked buns, flour based bread, and cookies, homemade muffins. All of them now feel like poison in my mind, and I reel at the thoughts of the all of the pancakes that I have been feeding Alex. I am literaly posioning him.
My body collapses against the wall and I begin to sob. I am consumed with the guilt of having injured my child, the anger at my mom for doing the same, and my complete incapacity to do anything about it. I am bound by the bacteria which rule my sons gut. The same ones that make all the yummy nutritious things here delicious to me, make them repulsive to him, and he’s stuck that way. I think about a how we have lost a food every time we switch countries. I think about how his anger flares, and how much I’m in crisis and I can’t fucking handle it right now.
I start to think about escape plans. I can’t handle it. How do I get out of here? I can’t abandon my kid, but I could get a nanny? Part of my body reels. Although this is actually part of why I came to Bali, it is a whole different ball game to actually do it. I think about the babysitter in Mexico, and how the baby boy was murdered. What if I am putting my sons life at risk? What can I do? I’m watching the free and independent woman who feels she can do anything, I’m watching her not so slowly, die under the burden and trauma of being with her child every day, day in and day out. I love you Alex, but you’re killing me. I know I need to find help. I put a message on the Ubud facebook page. I’m sweet, appropriate and choose a good loving picture of us. Don’t let any of the desperation leek through. We’re looknig for a caregiveer. I get two replies back, and my whole soul softens. The first woman comes, and I tearfully give Alex into her custody. I go out to meet a friend, guilty that I’m not working, but I so desperately need a break. When I come back, Alex gives me the biggest hug and says he misses me. My heart softens a little more. Maybe we’ll be okay.
Today I write to honor the season’s changes. The changes in our lives. The death in preparation of rebirth that is the “fall”. This is a moment to celebrate, a new beginning.
I have been a traveler for many years. I have traveled far and wide, and it was in my travels that I met Grandma Kaarina, on Christmas day a few years back, we were both there soaking up the Mexican sunshine. I had run away from the Canadian winter that year and many before. In fact, it has been 6 years since I’ve done a full winter. 10 since I did it on a regular basis. When I was 21, I did my first full year of summer, traveling to Australia, and when I returned I knew that I would not return to that cold, I had no desire to return to winter.
Yet this year I am choosing to stay. To embrace winter. Why?
The death, that is at at the heart of winter, is something that is a source of renewal, a source of connection, a source of life. This is a necessary part of life. A part of the natural cycles of life. Each plant dies and is reborn, each generation has its time. Yet in my life I have denied this seasonal cycle for many years. I feared the darkness, the cold, the isolation in a basement suite that the winter threatened. I feared seasonal depression, suicidal thoughts unchecked, and the pain of being alone.
It’s not surprising, having been raised in a culture that embraces the youthful face, and rejects the elder. In a culture that isolates in little box houses, and keeps us churning in consumerism. It is not surprising when the media tells me that the new is to be cherished, and the old discarded. If I was not productive in those winter months, I was without value. To be discarded. Of course, I would run away. Of course I would avoid that death. What value would death have to a culture that praises baby faces and the newest fad week after week, after week, after week.
But I have not denied the symbolism of death totally, for I have had some wise teachers, and I have learned to create my own deaths and rebirths, separate from my journey with the seasons. Seeing each country, each city, each moon time as a moment of death and rebirth. A ceremony to celebrate becoming reborn.
So when I returned to Canada in the spring, I knew that I would die. Not physically die, but to metaphorically die. To die as an ego. To die to the part of myself that need to do it ALL ON MY OWN ALL THE TIME. To die as an individual, and be reborn as a collective. The energy these past few weeks has been so strong there were moments when I wondered how would I even know what to do, without the kind voices and faces of those who live and love around me. How I would have survived without a friendly face who I knew was on my side. The collective is strong.
Yet I have spent the better part of the last few years being the embodiment of aloneness. Loneliness. Alone. Not peaceful and alone like the monk on the mount, but fearful. Fearful and alone. Not fun. Isolated. Socially rejected, but by my own choice and habit. Always the outsider. Always the minority. Traveling, with me, myself, and my son.
He and I have known change more than stability in our lives, and in this time of massive change, maybe we are more poised than others to deal with the instability of these times.
Now having returned to Calgary, now it is time to anchor into a community and become WE.
Not me. We. We can save the me. Me is lost now without the We. We are a collective soul, a collective evolution, a collective tribe. Spanning far further and wider than most could imagine. Every country I touched, I found people, young and old, seeking the knowledge that they were not alone in having woken up. Seeking community, a return to the land, and a hope that there is a better way to live. This is not only my journey, or your journey, but the larger journey of the soul of our time.
“The next Buddha will be a Sangha,” said Thich Nhat Hanh. It is time to learn to open up to the tribe. To share the pain, the burdens, as well as the joys and the celebrations, and to rekindle the village. To relearn what the village is and can be for me. Who I can be in it, how I can be of service in it, and how we can share the bounty and the challenges of life together.
The challenge for me now is to love myself so much that I can finally accept into my life, heart, and soul, the friendship which was torn from me at 10 years old when I moved and created the TRAUMA of relocation. To honor the intergenerational nature of this trauma, as see also that I am the one that passed on deeply to my son by bringing him to 11 countries in 5 years. To forgive me in that, and to find peace within. To allow the winter to bring its death, and to let it wash over me, to rest deeply in the darkness. To huddle closer to those around me, also in search of the light. And when the time comes, in its own time, to find ourselves, the tribe, the village, the community, peacefully budding into blossom in the spring.
Have you ever bit your knee until it bleeds?
Or punched yourself in the face?
Have you ever struggled with the vicious thoughts in your mind?
Have you ever wanted to die?
So…. Have you?
I invite you to comment below with your YES or NO now.
Both valid and wanted in this moment.
If you have… Let us know, and Keep reading.
You may find understanding and peace.
You may find tools to help.
If you haven’t.. Let us know and Keep reading.
This topic needs eyes and compassionate hearts,
It needs to be seen in the light.
We would ALL be safer
saner, and more
sober if we
Will you let me
hold your hand?
I’d also like to preface this by saying that I’m probably the least suicidal, and most balanced I’ve ever been in a depressive state, and that talking about it is part of me healing it more fully.
AND.. If you are actively super depressed or suicidal, please ask for help. I wish I had sooner, and there’s a cool exercise at the end that can help you move through and shut those “I want to die” voices up pretty quick.
AND.. I’m collecting stories. If you’d like to share you can do so here. https://joygasm.me/story/
*** Blood Warning: This next paragraph is gory. Maybe skip to the next stars… ****
When I heard he’d died at a festival, my first thought was overdose. Fentanyl. When I heard he’d killed himself, I immediately thought gun. A head splattered around a tent. Gross, terrible, disturbing, but I’ve seen worse on TV.
When I found it he’d slit his throat, the visual filled my mind. The blood gurgling through his neck, a dagger perfectly poised through the heart of his throat. Maybe his head is lolling back, no longer fully connected to his body. I can’t know for sure, but my imagination can give me a hundred different angles, and it did.
*** Safer Here: Just emotional pain… ****
My mind reals with the brutalness of the visuals,
and my emotions cower in a corner.
But as I ponder the brutal scene of suicide,
the overwhelming feeling is surprisingly of admiration.
Admiration is a weird feeling to have over the death of someone you’ve never met.
But I’ve been haunted with suicidal thoughts since I was 15, and never found the courage to take the action, to do it. For him to make that decision, hold the knife to his own throat and take the plunge. What courage it must have taken. To do it that way.
I’d never found that force. I am not one of the ones who has the scars on their wrists. But I have seen them, have yearned to be them, and when I see them I know their pain. I have experienced that silent moment when you see and you just don’t ask.
That is why I am writing.
To lift the “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t speak”
It was a late night, I was up until 4, 5, 7 in the morning as I often was at that age, hunched over my laptop writing poetry. The words were the only way to capture the pain of my heart, and the darkness of my soul in those deep winter nights.
As I get up from my creative despair, I move to the shower. Maybe I will find some reprieve there. As the shockingly hot water touches my body I feel relaxation, relief, I lay on the floor of the shower, the water pouring down onto my belly and breathe the first big breath of the day. But it’s not long though before the thoughts return and I find myself rocking back and forth in the shower, the thoughts pouring through me.
It’s not worth it, you don’t belong here. (Shut up)
No one likes you. (You’re mean)
You’re stupid. (Not fair!)
Everyone thinks you’re a fool. (I hate you)
You’ll never be loved. (You’re right)
I hate you (I hate you more!)
It would be easier to die. (what?)
Click. It would be easier to die. (what?)
Easier to die. (yes)
That stops the voices,
but it doesn’t stop the pain.
I wonder if I could have the courage.
I wonder if I could take that leap.
The sane and wanting to live part of me clings to a few thoughts.
I think of my parents, of the brutalness of finding their daughter dead in the shower downstairs. Who would find me, my mom or my dad? They would be traumatized forever.
I think of the mess, and my mom’s need for order and cleanliness. More Trauma.
I think about how destroyed my best friend was when she had found out that her friend had called her the night before she’d tried to kill herself (at 15), and she’d been too busy with school work to talk to her. Her friend hadn’t had the words or the courage to ask for what she really needed or how deep in she really was. She would be destroyed.
It never occurs to me that I could go upstairs, wake my parents up, and say “hey, I feel like shit can I have a hug?”
It never occurs to me that other people might struggle like this.
Or that this might not be normal or okay.
It never occurs to me that I might struggle with these thoughts for the next decade or two…
There is only the moment,
and the pain inside.
After Alex was born, I thought about how impossible it would be to leave my child without a mother in a foreign country. It’s part of why I traveled. We weren’t safe, didn’t have a support system, so I had to keep it together, to keep us safe. I thought about how much of a hassle it would be for my parents to come and get him from wherever we were, that there would be no one to take care of him.
When Max and I dated and he was being a really supportive as a father figure to Alex those voices flared again. “Now you could do it. Max would take care of him, at least get him back to your parents. Alex is safe now. You could do it now.”
Now I’m settling into home,
Allowing myself to trust people.
Finding a space that feels safe.
Because, all the reasons not to do it,
All the people who care.
None of it stops the thoughts.
None of it stops the incessant whispering.
“It would be easier to die”
“I want to die”
“Kill me now”
“If you got the angle just right you’d skip the guardrail and go right into the river. The chances of survival are so small.”
“There’s no one else in the car. This is your chance.”
“You don’t have anything to offer the world”
“You’re a failure.”
“No one would miss you”
But I wonder most of all if I would have the courage.
The thoughts are debilitating. Cyclical. Brutal. Destructive.
Sitting in the bottom of the shower. Cycling through for hours.
Unable to stop it. At 16, not even knowing there was a choice.
Not even knowing that I could watch it, or stop it if I wanted to.
If I could exert enough will.
“I fucking hate you”
“No one likes you”
“No one would notice if you were gone”
“I hate you”
Finally, it’s too much, and I can’t bear the moment.
I scream, and my fist flies through the air.
Pounding into the side of my face.
Smashing into my temple, over and over again.
“I hate you” “I hate you” “I hate you” “I hate you”
It feels good, to be honest in this moment.
It feels good to use all my strength,
to really give everything I have to it.
No words, no voices, no thoughts.
Only action in alignment with feeling.
And the relief of having finally done “something”
About the voices in my mind.
That was not the last time I did that to myself.
Nor was it the first time I had sat in that despair.
As I moved further into the journey of recovery, I realized that it didn’t serve to punch myself or to hurt my body like that. That the part of me that wanted to die was really a part of me that needed to die. An old aspect of self, a part of me that didn’t like me.
So I started to kill those ego parts off. Ritualistically, symbolically, energetically.
And it has helped.
It hasn’t stopped the thoughts.
But it gave me something to do in response
That was less damaging than punching myself.
And knowing I had something I could do
was a breath of fresh air.
Over the years I realized I’ve learned to deal with it better, had longer and longer stretches of time when things are happy and in a good flow. The voices are quieter, easier to spot early and start in on preventative things. The JoyGasm Core Practices have helped a bunch. Loving myself, sharing the stories with you guys, working on the book, love letters, gratitude, daily self care, letting people love me.
It’s been the most terrifying thing coming back and finally having a support group around me. Realizing that I’ve been living on adrenaline and dopamine high from new places as I traveled for years. Really seeing that the travel was running and that I had kept myself in an evolving state of stasis around certain issues. Realizing how deep and how untapped the pain I thought I’d “mostly healed” really is. Realizing how unwilling I’ve been to have friends or support or people who care about me (who I actually let myself care about back).
You can add JoyGasm alchemy on top of it by noticing which part of yourself wants to die, and using this opportunity to purge it out of your body.
When we listen from the inside out..
When we listen to the heart that beats inside our chest,
when we listen explicitly to the inner wisdom,
the beauty, the knowing, the power of the divine that is inside of us.
We create. As I am doing now, as I have been doing.
As YOU have been doing.
We are 100% responsible for our own lives. We CAN, have and will, find 100% joy for all our creations.
We will find ourselves crying on the bathroom floor, and smile inside or outside, at the passion of it.
Our most beautiful life is created here in each moment.
It rankled at me, and made me frustrated, that he could not see the illusion of tomorrow that was pulling him.
I feel that lots of people, including myself have fallen under this illusion of “work now, for reward later” I am proud to say that I am now successfully living for now, while rewarding myself now, while also creating a beautiful future.
See I don’t believe you can get to a beautiful future by worrying. I know from my experience, it doesn’t work.
People have called me self centered, people have called me hedonistic. I don’t care. My life is more delicious to me than anything anyone else has ever presented to me, and I dig it. 🙂
I love for every single person I meet to feel as inspired by their own life. To realize that every moment they are alive is completely of their choosing and that it’s beautiful in how it serves.
Sometimes it’s “negative” and then serves as a reminder. A reminder to be present, to love, to be at peace with the moment.
And each and every moment is true, is beautiful, is whole and it’s own. And so you too feel true, beautiful and whole.
And what else have I wanted but that. What else do any of us desire but that. (and a new bikini! to show off the hot bod I’m finally proud of!! lol)
I Love you!
With inspiration and Bliss!!
Ever felt like you were stuffing your emotions?
Ever felt like you got lost in telling the “story” of how you’re feeling?
Ever wondered if there was a better way to process and move through what you’re feeling?
How do you even begin to learn how to feel safe to express your emotions?