Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Losing my mind...finding my soul

"Losing my mind...finding my soul"
Originally published on April 22, 2014

I'm really struggling with writing a synopsis for SEVEN GENERATIONS this morning.  The old one I used to pitch to literary agencies feels stale and stiff.  The one I edited last week doesn't work either as it's too wordy and watery.  I can't find the right tenor, the most accurate way to describe a novel that reflects the experience of a woman who struggles with ongoing feelings of abandonment and rejection.  Who pushes through to the other side, albeit while making choices some might think are simultaneously reckless and circumspect.   
How to find the right words that describe one ordinary woman's journey into consciousness?  Ten years after writing this one, you'd think I'd have a grip on it by now.
But no.

For years my dear friend and former teaching colleague, Sandy, traveled every summer and I was fortunate enough to take care of her house and yard, which included a gorgeous circular in-ground pool.  For over a decade I spent many wonderfully warm afternoons hanging out in her backyard.  Floating in the pool.  Editing early drafts of my novels.  Wondering when my life would start moving forward.
Still for much of that time, I felt like I was losing my mind...literally.  I was in flux between teaching first grade and building a yoga business.  In the middle of ending therapy and beginning a different way of being.  To help the process along, every summer I'd schedule a series of Rolfing sessions.  During the time between putting the dates in my planner and actually getting on the table to endure the often painful work of transformation, my psyche always seemed to split wide open and out poured a host of unresolved personal issues.  Cyclic relationships ramped up their drama.  I became bored with everything I knew to be true...everything that was slowly, but surely revealing itself to be an illusion.  
One year I turned into a complete klutz and within a few weeks' time, fell down the stairs, fell out of a headstand onto a concrete floor, then fell off a ladder while cleaning the gutters.  I didn't sleep or eat well for long periods of time.  Teaching yoga was often an agony and I couldn't clearly articulate what I was enduring.  At one point out of frustration, I said to my Rolfer, "It's like my body feels as if someone rearranged all the furniture in my living room without telling me and I'm walking around in the dark in an unfamiliar space."
Tony nodded.  "That sounds about right.  When you're ready to get rolfed all your stuff comes up from the center of your spine so I can see it."
"Well, if you can see it, let's go to work," I replied.  "Turn the lights on, will you?"
With every Rolfing session, I got better.   Became more integrated.  Was able to move forward with calm assurance that the inner psychic housecleaning was worth what had been hiding beneath the layers of dust and dirt.\Every summer I returned to the Rolfing table while Sandy traveled.  Every season a horrible blessing of going through a dark tunnel, not knowing if I would make it to the other side.  But I always did.  And by the time Sandy returned, we had lots to share about our journeys-- both inner and outer.
Once, after a trip to Custar State Park, Sandy returned wearing a light blue t-shirt with the quote, "Lose your mind" on the front and "Find your soul" on the back.  I loved that shirt...coveted it really.  It represented for me the jewel in mining the dark recesses of my consciousness in order to be able to hear my soul speaking more clearly.
Sandy wore her shirt through the last years of her teaching career.    Through the first few years of retirement.  Through her plans for moving to Alberta, Canada.  Through the sifting and sorting of her own life as she prepared and packed and practiced patience while waiting for her landed immigrant status to arrive. 
As moving day approached, I was helping with the final house cleaning as new owners had just closed on their escrow.  Sandy stuffed a box into the trunk of her car, then turned to me.  "I have something for you."  And with that she came back into the house and went into her bedroom.  Moments later she returned with the "Lose your mind" t-shirt.  "I've made it to my journey now," she smiled.  "It's time you had this."
Gratefully accepting it, I wore the shirt during my own transition from Ohio to California.  I wore it as a work shirt when I hoed and weeded in the gardens at Esalen.  And when I returned, I wore it to practice yoga and when I sat in silent meditation.  Every autumn, I carefully fold the shirt and store it with my spring and summer clothes. 
Just last Sunday night, after a warm Easter evening, I went downstairs to pull it from the bin to wear as a night shirt.  For weeks, I have been feeling my inner moorings shift and the untethering of my mind.  Of course, Rolfing sessions have been scheduled for July so this is no surprise.  Still, I'm familiar with the process of losing my mind.  Now, at this point in my life, finding my soul is something more important to focus on as I once again navigate the murky waters of unseen changes.  
Sandy and I had lost touch over the winter as she's been traveling to places here, there, and everywhere and I've been writing and teaching and learning lessons of my own.  Still I felt Sandy's presence in that shirt, in the awareness of how much she's been a witness to the past twenty-six odd years.  Who has given me the space and support to continue this journey of discovery.  So I wasn't surprised at all to find a long and lovely email from her in my inbox on Monday morning.  Perhaps tangible things can more readily send a prayer of love to a friend...a thought of Thanksgiving for someone who's touched my life in ways I cannot clearly articulate.

So maybe that's why I'm having trouble writing Grace's synopsis today.  I'm not quite sure how creating her story has changed my life or allowed me to integrate more fully the healing of past hurts.  The opening of new doors of awareness.
Maybe I need to not think about it for a while...to lose my pre-conceived ideas of what it's supposed to be.  How it's supposed to sound.  What it's supposed to convey.  To let my mind relax and simply enjoy this lovely spring day.  
To trust that when I'm meant to find the words, my soul will wisely whisper them into my ear. 

With Sandy on a trip to Yellowstone National Park, 2010