Wind Feather Dancer: The Journey

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She came into this world, shedding tears the size of small peas.  She came into this world with such passion for the passage of life and death, that the doctor, unamused, handed her over, afraid that his own longing for truth would come out of his wells to haunt him.  He informed her mother than normal newborn babies never produced tears.  Form the very beginning, normal was something that she wasn’t.

Her mysterious connection with animals made her a peculiar child to all.  She spoke in tongues that only those with heavy fur, solid hooves, or feathery wings could comprehend.  She eagerly learned from their ways of being; how to shake off, and release fear, how to use her body and senses to adopt best to all situations, how to love fiercely, and how to trust the currents of the world completely.  She saw in them an innocence she could not always see in her own kind.  And yet, she craved human connection, and would crawl up into any available laps, even the smallest, and boniest, if only accessible.  Like a cat, wanting to be held and touched, on her own schedule, and to her likings, she asked to be seen in all of her dimensions.  She wished to invoke a feeling in others that she herself experienced from the wild ones – a true sense of belonging to the world, as if every cell in the universe held its righteous place.  And so she apprenticed to those with fur, wings, claws, scales, and feathers, becoming unruly and feral, with an etiquette of a proper young lady.

Dreamtime was her time to thrive.  Was her time to fly.  Was her time to morph into the being that she understood with the greatest fabric of her longing.  She traversed realms familiar and foreign, meeting those from times past and future.  Animals spoke to her, inviting her to their nests, their dens, their burrows, presenting themselves as her guardians.  Others hunted her savagely, giving her opportunities to taste fear and raise above it, offering a chance to connect to the preciousness of her own existence.

When she traveled in the time of night too far for too long, her sister would awaken their mother, informing of an incoming state of a potentially dangerous fever.  It became a rhythm, these ritual occurrences, like the beat of a drum, forever changing the pace of life, blurring the boundaries of waking and dream, leaving her unaware that there was any difference.  Memories of both parallel realities, left her swaying, like an intoxicated fool, somewhere in between.

Mostly, she had a sunny disposition.  Her laughter rose from the animal residing in the pit of her belly, while her smile infected even the grumpiest of her neighbors.  But her wells ran deep, and when she felt moved by the beauty or the suffering of the world, the fulness of the moon, or others’ capacity to feel emotion, those around feared that she could drown the village with her tears.  Tears that, with time, grew to be the size of grapes.

As a naturally curious being, she liked to see just how deep she could go, testing the murky waters, each time holding her breath a little longer, until eventually she learned to breathe on her own.  She loved exploring the darkness so much, that at times she would forget that the world of light and air existed.  And so the old women with sharp chins and awfully crooked noses, who boiled chicken feet in their heavy cauldrons within obscure underwater caves, would call upon the bravest of creatures to swoop down and pull her back up.  The wise elders could not allow her to lose sight permanently, but strongly encouraged the mastering of lessons in navigating through absolute and utter darkness.  The unexpected visitors came and went; the owls, hawks, eels and snakes, and even the courageous fawn on those rare occasions when she would get stuck in the muck for too long.  Once she met again with the light of the sun, her spirits would rise to new heights.  She learned quickly that the deeper she could go, the higher she could soar.

When the mother went to inquire about her daughter’s fate from the ones with glossy eyes that could see into the future, they would tell her that her daughter was a child of the wind and that the stars alone had a grand plan for her destiny.  They predicted that she would find her medicine from the scorpion that stings her, and travel to the lands where only those ones with permission could enter.  As her mother’s face contorted with worry, the wizards, sages, and magicians, ensured that her daughter was protected and would always be safe, as she was quite a skillful dancer.  They promised that the heavens would guide her, even through most challenging times.  Confused, exhausted, and perpetually worried, the mother would return home, trying hard to protect her little one from the hardships of life and the dangers of the world.  She would lock her in her room, and hide the key, until the angry, relentless winds would arrive, and knock down, not just doors, but walls, summoning the dancer to fly far and wide.

She loved to adventure, and feared very little.  One of her dearest places to explore, was a clearing in the birch, oak, and pine populated forest, on the West side of her little village.  The lively meadow was a home and a place of refuge to many of her other-than-human friends.  It was situated directly across a dirt path from a grand staircase that led to an unknown place.  She was warned from the time she was first able to decipher whole sentences, that the stairs led to a forbidden world, and she was never to go down them.  Even the most experienced of the village elders, the most courageous of the village protectors, and the strongest of the village men refused to step foot on the first crumbling step.  At times she witnessed familiar faces dropping off a bundle at the top of the staircase, then quickly running off.  She also saw her wild companions take their last breath under the Great Grandfather Oak, which stood tall and grand where the stairs began their descent.

There were rumors and stories among the village youth that one never came back from the darkness of the mysterious world that the stairs led to, that goblins who devoured human flesh ruled that frightening world, and that a vicious dragon guarded the staircase somewhere in the middle.

She would silence those who knew the truth, whenever she inquired about this terrifying place.  This, in turn, would make her more curious, restless, and even suspicious.  As time went by, she visited the meadow frequently, and watched as more and more bundles arrived, then simply vanished by the next day.  She was also refused the answers when she questioned the contents or the significance of the bundles.

Then, came a day, when her best human friend disappeared.  She searched for her in the hills to the North where they used to discuss plans for their future on frosty Winter mornings, on the banks of the East river where they often played their silly games amidst the early Spring wild flowers, and in the dense forests South of the village, where they used to catch fish, leeches. and frogs with bare hands in the many clearwater creeks, and escaped the dry Summer heat.  With no luck in finding her beloved companion, she retreated to the clearing in the West, where her friend used to keep her great company, watching the impressive trees shed their leaves of many brilliant colors in late Autumn.  As she sat there, looking ahead at the forbidden staircase, anxious about her friend’s whereabouts, she saw a bundle being dropped off by her friend’s weeping mother.  Before she could run over and ask the questions that deserved solid answers, the old lady ran away.

Defeated by her unsuccessful search, and tired from running around, she quickly fell asleep in the comfort of the late afternoon shade.  She was awoken at dusk by the familiar screech of her friend, owl, who felt it was finally time to shed light on her deepest inquiries.  He pointed to the recently dropped off bundle, and told her that it was the bundle of her darling friend.  Bewildered, she asked owl what would happen to the bundle during the night.  Owl shook his ruffled feathers, screeched three times, and  advised her to descend the stairs on her own, to find out.  Before flying off towards the rising crescent moon, he assured her, that those from her dreams awaited her there.

She looked towards the terrifying mystery before her, and began to tremble.  She was concerned that if she went down the stairs, she might never return.  And so, she ran back towards the village, and dove into the salty waters of one of her wells, where she swam for some time again, before one of her allies came down to retrieve her.

Years went by and she watched the bundles appear and disappear – a few of her neighbors, her grandparents, and one of her first love.  As much as she wanted, she could not bring herself to cross the threshold and follow the bundles, for the fear of the great unknown was not an easy one to shed.  She felt she was not yet ready for the big journey, until the day, a tiny bundle of her baby appeared.  She looked at the precious little bundle and longed to know where it would go.  But the waters kept calling, enticing her with their unexplored depths and various shades of dark.  Knowing there was more to discover, she turned her back on the stairs once more and dove into a new well she had never before explored.

That time, no-one came to her rescue for a long, long time.   She went down so deep, that even the eels could not find their way towards her.  She soon began to forget of the world she adored so much.  She could not recall the beauty of the place where the sun made glitter on the water surface, and sweet birdsong was carried on the tickling breeze.  She forgot her friends and family; the shape of their handsome faces, and the sound of their resonating giggles.  She began to forget that a different world, from the one she was swallowed by, even existed.  On the day she almost became a fish, she noticed white owl feathers floating all around her.  With a childlike curiosity, she swam upwards, to see their splendor more clearly.  The further up she swam, the more she began to remember.  She recalled the very existence of owl, then of other birds, and finally of all the other beings she cared so much for.  With each stroke, new memories of loved ones, colors, and joy returned, until she pierced through the surface and was met by the bright, vibrating world of light.  She fell madly in love with life, once more.  The wilderness of her laughter returned more mature, the zest for adventure more pronounced, and the fondness of light stronger than ever before.  Life was sweeter than she’s ever remembered, but the tiny bundle kept haunting her dreams.

The wind blew hard on the day she could no longer ignore those dreams.  Somehow, mystery had lost its threat, and began to summon the brave animal residing in the pit of her belly.  She took with her only one feather of owl to remind her of the beauty of birds, and flight, as she walked West, away from the village, towards the threshold of the unknown.  Trusting she could breathe underwater and float back up, she began the descent down the forbidden staircase.

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The Journey

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“You are ok,” was what my therapist told me during my next breakdown at the second emergency appointment, a year or so after sweet Leif left my womb. I looked at her unblinking stare through the thick dead-fish glaze that was hovering over my eyes, and then around her office for something to throw at her face. One of her many psychoanalytical books she quoted way too often. That’s how ok I was. Clenched jaw and fists, violent thoughts, and unpredictable outbursts of anger were becoming my norm. But maybe it was ok to want to hurt others and to cry, on and off all day, everyday. I was the definition of bi-polar, oscillating between my maniacal love for existence, and my “I-want-to-die-what-is-the-point-of-this-fucking-life” states. She had the tendency to say things that really pissed me off, trying to shine light in a room closed off, dark, far away from any chance of luminosity. She told me I was strong when I felt so fragile, I thought I could shatter to pieces if someone breathed too hard. She pointed out that I was still alive – young, bright, with a promising life ahead of me. What she didn’t know was that I actually played dead because I was terrified of life. When I would cry some more because I wanted to claw at her uterus, and didn’t know why I came to see her in the first place, she would hold immense space for me. She didn’t judge me or tell me that I was supposed to be something other than what I was. She allowed the storm to rage and pass. The space was often terrifying; too big, and too small, all at once. The world outside would explode, while my internal universe imploded, and always, at the end of each session, like all the others, I felt a bit better – all cried out and empty. Calm. The emptiness was somehow fullness. I was all Zen-ed out.   And then she would say that it was only going to get easier, that these storms would start losing their intensity, that I would be and feel right again. That’s how I would survive yet another day, another week, until my next breakdown.

I drank a lot because somehow my conscious mind was convinced that wine could drown out the pain. Little did I know then, but I missed my blind spot entirely. I drank and raged like a wild animal disillusioned by the deceitful thoughts that urged me to simply disappear. Nothing was ever drowned except for my liver. Alcohol brought up the 500-year floods of tears, the shame that I was burrowing in my intestines, and the thunderous anger I felt for life. It eventually, slowly, became clear, that I was actually trying to flee from the dullness. Some very twisted part of me wanted to drink up the pain.  Boozing brought back the visceral experience of emptiness. How can we comprehend this loud, echoing call of emptiness? Why in the world would I want to hurt? Part of myself was asking for one thing, but really wanting, and needing the opposite. Feeling was much better than not feeling at all. But my mind didn’t think so. I was torn between my own life and death.

Pain turned to fear. What could I lose next? How much would I have to swallow to never again spit back up? I grasped to those close to me so tight that I suffocated them. I imagined my loves ones dying at every moment they were not in my presence. I played the game of push and pull to see just how far I could get them away from my frantic, dangerous mind, only to desperately pull them back in. I hungered for love and security, fully knowing that both were illusory. But still, I hung on to deception.

I realized how things have changed when others asked me how I was doing. I would really feel into my answer, saying, “I’m alright…” I used to be “great,” and sparkly eyed and then the dead fish glaze set in. I rarely went into dissecting my “ok,” because I knew I would fall apart. I was ok with being ok, but really missed being alive.

Light shines in dark places to create life. Life finds itself, no matter how small, or lost. The Universe wants to evolve, move on, create, and become. It took many, many months of therapy, pain, and isolation to witness the path of unfolding. To feel the point between dying and rebirthing, the small space separating one from the other. Vast.

There is no exact time that these shifts began to take form. There was no intimate play with the witness. It was too gradual. You don’t just wake up one day and feel blissed out, like nothing ever happened. I mean, you could, but you would be hiding. Grief is its own entity; timeless. The beautiful crone.

Every experience of my life makes up who I am today. Sure, I would take some of those back, especially from the years where I was tiny and not able to remove myself from disserving circumstances. But this…I don’t know. A big part of me would not change a thing. It’s all part of the divine plan and I trust that. It altered my path and opened doors that would otherwise remain close. But the Mother in me is mourning. Always. She would take it all back.

It’s strange to write about this other Ania who I know still resides deep within, but is not present in this moment. At least not in this dimension, as I know it. I hold her in my heart so tenderly because I know all that she has gone through. And when I have a flashback, a relapse, or identify with the sadness of her soul, I hold so much compassion for her pain, because I know it far too well. But who am I now in relation to who I was back then, and what separates the two? Am I the progression? What is this unfolding?

I believe I am stronger in some ways, wearing my battle wounds with a mix of pain and pride. I am fascinated with death and birth, like never before. I see it happening all the time, in me, in those around me, in Nature. One experience swallows me up, only to spit me back to what was never before imagined. Energy moves, onward, only to be reborn again. I witness that in my garden when I rip out the roots of precious “weeds” to make space for the seedlings I planted. How is that any different from extracting a baby to create room for something greater and more inclined to flourish? I feel that I have been initiated into something deeper, darker, more transparent. I am learning how to surrender to powers greater than what my limited mind can comprehend. I am learning to give my heart away, trusting in its loyalty to never really abandon me. I trust in Life.

And I trust in Death.

This has been the greatest and most intense journey of my life. Putting it into words seems like it’s cheating the experience. But I try anyway, because somehow that is a gift I have been given, even in its limited form.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since those therapy appointments, and I can look back and not only feel right again, but also see that I was OK even then. Because the truth is that we’re always ok, even when it seems like the world is crumbling down. Even in the darkest corners, light penetrates, eventually. Creation wants to shapeshift, to keep on creating. How else could we experience the essence of light if we don’t experience the darkness, in whatever form it manifests?

In the end, my wise therapist was right. I was dunked under and came to resurface to witness Life anew. To find a purpose that’s awaited me. To let go of a vision not yet ready to be manifested. To miss and love the child I never got to hold in my arms alive. To dive deeper into the mystery. To be in awe of existence and trust in its coordinates. To open, and close, only to open again. To laugh and cry, seeing one as the necessary step to the other. To breathe in life. To breathe out. To die. To tell the story.

Gratitude

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I am grateful.

For all the people in my life who so tenderly supported me through this difficult journey.

For the anger I did not know existed that transmuted into explosive creativity.

For my partner who never gave up on love, and stuck by me throughout my madness.

For the mysteries I unveiled within the contours of my grief.

For my sister who flew out to hold me while I birthed a breathless being into the world, then cleaned, cooked, and held the most sacred space.

For my inner strength that kept me driven to come out on the other side.

For my best friend who was next to me when I found out the worst news of my life, and for driving my car back from California to be with me.

For the messages I received from friends and strangers, encouraging me to keep going.

For my therapist who kept insisting that the storms would eventually pass.

For  my heart that broke a hundred times over to let me know that I was alive.

For loving a being I grew and never really met in person.

For realizing that I am not in control, and learning how  to surrender.

For the darkness that could only show me the light.

For the questions I would not think to ask.

For the hope that rose out of the ashes of despair.

For being able to share my process and lift the spirits of others.

For vulnerability that otherwise would remain hardened.

For being thrown into the underworld where so much wisdom resides.

For the beautiful stories of others that somehow made it all ok.

For witnessing the societal fear in the transparency of death.

For surviving the unimaginable.

For just being with it.

As I sat at the Thanksgiving table with my lover’s family, I came to really ponder what it is that I am appreciative of.  I felt the throb of that deep scar in my heart as I watched the kids run around, wanting so much for Leif to be there, playing with his cousins.  It’s a sharp ache that returns in those moments, one that brings forth tender emotion and lucid remembrance.  I welcome it, for it speaks of love.  And for that, too,

I am grateful.