Thursday, August 21, 2014

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

I sit here alone tonight sipping my tea, after a powerful two-hour Skype call with a wonderful friend. It had been a couple of weeks since we had last spoken. We thought we knew what the topic of conversation would be, but after about 5 minutes the conversation took an unexpected turn. 

Instead of smiling all pretty and saying "I'm doing great. Life is perfect!", like so many of us want each other to believe, we both openly shared how we were feeling: afraid. Our lives are very different, yet, underlying it all is a sense of insecurity. An uneasiness. A feeling of disconnection. A feeling of unclarity. We ask ourselves: Who am I and why am I here?  Why is our society generally focused on all of the wrong things? Why do so many of us have hundreds of Facebook friends, but yet we feel isolated and alone? Why do we go to jobs that we don't love? Why do we feel like we need to prove ourselves to the world? Why???

From 150 Love Notes by Sugarboo 
We both shared stories of ourselves and others we know who are in a current state of what I would best describe as bewilderedness. People of all ages and races, both sexes and in various life circumstances are feeling lost. People are feeling trapped. People are feeling depressed and some are panicking. People are feeling hopeless and helpless. People are all around exhausted.

We, at least in the "developed" world, are all faced with endless daily personal challenges: health, family, work, debt, rent, mortgage, fitness, looks, material possessions and of course, keeping up with the Jones's! None of this is what really matters. We have forgotten how to connect with one another, how to listen and be compassionate. Humanity's ship is sinking and no one knows how to swim. Is this even possible?! Where are the life rafts? Well I'm here to say we ARE the life rafts. For each other. We must all hold hands and together we will stay afloat.

As my friend and I talked, we both allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. We cried. We cried hard. It was sad, but also somehow so comforting to know that others understand what we are experiencing. We are all in this together. This turbulent time in history as human beings.

We lamented about how devastating it can be to watch people we care about self-medicating to numb the all-consuming overarching discomfort. People are over-shopping and over-eating. They're using all manner of drugs and alcohol to calm their nerves and bring themselves back to a state of being able to cope with our current global crises. There are workaholics and sexaholics, neat-freaks, hoarders and even exercise-aholics.  We all have our own way of coping. But the truth is that none of these things are getting us closer to the real answers. They're just band aids to cover up the wounds. If we fill our brains and time with stuff and substances then we don't have to think about the stuff lurking in the shadows.

After two hours of connected conversation, we hadn't solved any of the worlds problems, let alone our own. But...we both felt incredibly grateful to have a close friend that we can share so openly with and not feel ashamed or embarrassed that we are experiencing being fully human. 

I told her that I have recently discovered that I have an over-active adrenal system as a result of excess stress (some self-administered) for the last 30+ years. Being a highly sensitive human compounds it all, too. Even though I no longer live a very stressful lifestyle, my body has been thrown out of balance and I am determined to rebalance myself. The hardest part for me has been the lack of knowledgeable healthcare professionals. I have probably consulted with a dozen doctors of various backgrounds over the last two years. The latest doctor whom I consulted told me she didn't know how to help me, but she offered to "go home and google the symptoms tonight on my computer while I have the other eye on the TV". I told her thanks, but don't bother, I can use google too. Seriously. It's safe to say that my faith in the western medical system is hanging by a spiderweb strand (and that's even being kind). So back to the drawing board I go. I will be experimenting with my own ideas from here on out and following the paths that the universe lays down before me. If anyone has any amazing ideas, please share. 

My partner is currently at his first Ayahuasca ceremony for the remainder of tonight. He's on a mission to gain a clearer vision of who he is and why he's on earth at this time. I eagerly anticipate hearing all about his otherworldly experience. Maybe plants hold the wisdom and answers to our human questions and concerns in this age of chaos....

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Red Road

We take a short ride up-island to visit a cousin. While there, we walk through some forest trails to a pub, where cousin's girlfriend is working, to bring her some homemade supper. We don't intend to stay long, but end up grabbing a seat on the ocean view patio in the warm summer sunset air. I don't drink at all, but the evening is pleasant and I'm in good company. After a few minutes, a waving arm catches my eye. It's a middle-aged Native man sitting alone, kept company by some colorful wooden carvings. I will call him John

I instinctively stand up and walk to John's table. We shake hands and I sit down for what turns into a two-hour life lesson. I knew immediately that I was at this pub just for this encounter. He sips a mug of beer and smiles as wisdom pours continually out of his mouth. He hands me a carving. It is a large eagle feather, about a foot and a half high, chiseled by his hands and painted with the traditional red and black colors of the northwest native art. I already know that it's coming home with me. (And most people that know me know that I rarely purchase much unless it's edible or wearable.) I ask John how long it took him to make it. He says about a week start to finish. I remark on how flawless it is and he tells me that he's been honing this carving skill for 33 years. It's how he makes a living, and as he points to the pink clouds over the coastal mountains, he tells me that when he can spend his time in this place using nature as inspiration, he can't possibly imagine going back and working a 9-5 job. He says he's been a logger, a fisherman and everything in between from age 16. He left home and school early to help pay for his family to survive. 

Do you sell at craft markets?, I ask. He lets out a big belly laugh and shakes his head no. Tourists got old pretty quick and I was always being asked to pose in awkward photos as "the Indian guy". I didn't like the way people seemed to view me as a kind of exhibit, instead of just a person selling beautiful art. 

I smiled at him and said good for you for respecting yourself, and said that I promised that I wouldn't ask for an awkward tourist photo.

He says he's 54 years old but I wouldn't  guess he is a day over 40. I ask what his secret is to looking so youthful. He smiles a big grin and says UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.  He tells me that no matter what life deals him, his love for his children, and grandchildren and the natural world, paired with his creativity in carving are what make life so wonderful. This makes perfect sense to me.

I ask him more about this carving. I point to the black and red stripes on the quill end and ask what they mean. He explains that his people believe that the two black roads represent darkness and anger, the Red Road down the center represents balance, spirit and divinity. He points to the line of pink clouds in the fiery sunset and tells me that the red road is visible twice every day and that we must all take a moment to be grateful for the miracle of life. 

He beams as he talks about his 3 daughters. He mentions his ex-wife and how ugly their relationship became. He looks at my fiancĂ© (who has now joined in the conversation) and I and says very seriously that communication is the most important thing in any relationship. Keep all of your cards on the table at all times. Don't hold any emotions back. Share your gratitude with each other. Share, share, and share some more. He urges the two of us to live our passions starting now, because nothing else matters. Support each other. What you have together is sacred. None of this outside stuff matters. 

I learned all of this a bit too late, he sighs, and sips his beer. He tells us that he knows that he drinks alcohol to numb the sadness, even if it's only for a little while. Self-medicating, he calls it. John says he's been to too many counselors and therapy and it never helped him much. He had a rough life as a youngster, including attending a residential school, and it has carried on with him through the years. My heart ached for him and for all of the native people around the world. 

I finally realize how late it's getting and tell him that we have to head home. I also say that the feather is going to come home with me and that it will remind me of this great meeting. He says that his phone number is written under the base of the artwork and that if it happens to get damaged that I should call and he will try to repair it. He also mentions that he makes custom art for wedding gifts and that we should call him to come and paint a wedding piece together to symbolize our unity. 

We thank him for his wisdom and he sheepishly nods his head and slips into the pub. A few minutes later he comes back out onto the patio with another beer and a big smile. I put my hand on his shoulder and say, remember the Red Road and take it easy on the beer

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Gift of Life: Part Two

Meanwhile, while I was completely immersed in my teenaged mutant ninja hermit phase, my family was sure I was going crazy (and some days I wondered if they were right...but now I know that I was totally fine!). So they took me to numerous specialists and eventually, after testing half a dozen meds, had me put on a one called Effexor XR. It numbed me to a place where I was neither excited or sad. Just a steady dullness enveloped my every waking moment. I even stopped having dreams at night for years on end.  I remained on that medication for nearly 7 years. I think that while under the influence of its spell, I didn't have the wherewithal to realize that I was being totally compliant with leading a very dull and unexciting existence. 

During that time, at age 22, I unexpectedly conceived with my partner. I consulted with several doctors who said that my original prescribing doctor (or any other doctor at all???) should have explained the severe risks involved with pregnancy and this medication. I was furious. I felt so uninformed and totally abandoned by the western medical system that we all accept as "normal". After weeks of strong encouragement from doctors, and with mountains of sadness and guilt, we decided to end the pregnancy. That choice still brings up many strong emotions for me. Throughout the years, I have done counseling, journaling and healing work to forgive myself and everyone else involved in that life-changing event.

THEN...eventually I had a spark of awakening and inspiration in 2007, at age 25, and weaned myself off of Effexor, which took me nearly 6 months of pulling one more micro bead each day out of the tiny capsules (my own idea). I learned what patience meant. It was very powerful stuff and the withdrawal symptoms were horrific when I tried to wean off of it the way that the doctor instructed me to. I still wonder to this day what long-term effects it may have had. Anyone know about this??

In summarizing this info, I urge you to avoid unnecessary Rx medication of ANY KIND.  INFORM YOURSELF AND SEEK  NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO PHARMECEUTICALS WHEN POSSIBLE. They may save lives as a last resort, but please, please do your homework before handing over that little Rx sheet. There are dark sides to many, many common medications. 

Since those Rx days, which ended in 2007, I have been excitedly rediscovering my special gifts and skills as if for the first time. I liken it to relearning to walk or talk, or use motor skills after a severe injury. I had squashed them down in a deep, guarded compartment for many years and tried to pretend that I was "normal".  

In fact, until a month ago, I still didn't fully realize the full extent of who I really am and what I have to learn and share with humanity. In early June, I attended a workshop that I happened to see advertised locally titled "highly sensitive children". It was geared toward parents who are raising kids with special abilities such has telepathy or clairvoyance. I knew immediately that I had to attend. All I can say is that the day was a huge game-changer for me. I spent at least the first hour in tears from a wild combination of reassurance and disbelief that there are probably millions of others on the planet who share a similar experience of life with me!

By the end of the workshop, I was full of excitement and eagerness to learn more about this human phenomena and to build connections with others from the group and beyond. 

I have since been asked to host some workshops on this topic myself, which was an unexpected turn of events. I have heard numerous times that whatever our deepest hurts have been, that these are the things that we can share with others to help change the world. My calling seems to lie somewhere between guidance counseling and supporting fellow HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE.  

Do you or someone you love share similar experiences with what I have described? Please pass this on to those who may benefit from reading this. I  am always happy to work with anyone who is interested in learning more.