~ This was originally prepared for the Wild Woman Community, a website to help guide and support Wild Woman through the sharing of stories. Check out the website at www.wild-woman.com, or connect with the group on Facebook. ~
I’ll warn you that the story I’m about to tell often isn’t pretty. It’s not a fairy-tale or romance novel. It’s complicated, confusing, racy, and raw. This story isn’t pretty but it’s the only story I could ever tell, and it’s the only story I could ever live. This story isn’t pretty, but it’s my own.
This is my story.
I traveled the country in a teal, 7-person minivan that could never be large enough for two fighting parents and four competing siblings headed south for family vacations to Civil War sites, presidential palaces, and the occasional amusement park that offered a 2-for-1 deal.
I smoked Marlboro cigarettes with my adolescent friends inside sewer tunnels, behind abandoned buildings, and outside Wednesday night church services.
I dyed my hair white and pink and black and blue in an attempt to rebel and break my farming community’s expectations for well-behaved youth.
I proudly and arrogantly wore the title of Class President, Cheer Captain, and Homecoming Queen candidate.
I was raped in a walk-in closet by a large, terrifying man with skin a color very different from my own. I made futile attempts to push his weight off my weak teenage body, quivering with pain and crying with frustration. I didn’t tell my friends because I felt ashamed and guilty and gross. He told his friends to call him Cane.
I stood in a stainless steel-laden emergency room and gazed at a twinkling diamond adorning the ear of my dead friend who passed away at 17 in a naive yet heroic attempt to save her drug-dealing boyfriend from a life behind bars, only to then inhale a white line up my nose, without remorse, just days later.
I encouraged a young Chinese child to block out the bustling city around us and offer me a sign of peace and comfort in a smog- and construction crane-filled Beijing already prepping for the Olympic games.
I sped through the streets of Switzerland, singing and laughing in a car filled with as many nationalities as there were seats. I then had one-night stands with a Portuguese 20-something named Casper and a teenage Canadian hockey player still holding his v-card until I took it.
I helped run a bakery in the lush hills of Puerto Rico during a hurricane, just moments after a friend and I did shots of Dynamite and danced in a bar packed with a few-too-many dangerous men.
I was robbed by a gangster who caught me catch him dealing drugs in a ghetto, only for his lips to insist I smoke a joint with his friends inside a stone gazebo just minutes later.
I dined with dignitaries and soccer players and European models while caring for a young Senator’s son who was blessed or maybe cursed to be born with an Italian silver spoon in his mouth and a too-busy-and-pretty socialite as a mom.
I befriended a burka-wearing woman in a hotel hot tub on a quaint island coast just east of Madagascar. We discussed religion and the roles of women in our polar opposite worlds and then she used perfect penmanship to craft the script still adorning my wrists. Freedom and life are two things we both longed for, two things we both loved.
I spent a week in Amsterdam cleaning for an exiled-IRA member in exchange for supplies of brushes and speed so I could paint a psychedelic mural on the stone street-facing wall of our shared squat which got running water from a garden hose hooked to the apartment above.
I felt the strange sensation of being dreadfully alone in an endless sea of people as I prayed at the pantheon and listened to Pope Benedict preach to thousands in the Citta del Vaticano.
I waited for a war to subside in an Israeli bomb shelter for a week, wondering if the dozens of young people I shared my summer with would ever make it home to their countries thousands of miles away, to friends and families anxiously watching CNN, in fear another bomb may have fallen in our area.
Fueled at first by my lack of funds and sustained by my insatiable curiosity for Christ, I mingled with the monks and brothers of Taize in a small monastery in the south of France. I cleaned toilets with teens from Lithuania as a tradeoff for living there, and then I unsuccessfully attempted to silence my speech with a Swedish girl adopted from Sri Lanka.
I hurt a kind man very cruelly while he fought for my heart and battled heat and utter brutality while also fighting for my country, thousands of miles away in a Mideast desert city doing damage to its people and to the mind of my very own soldier.
Clothed in a plastic Ghostbusters suit and armed with a toxic chemical concoction and a cheap plastic spatula, I picked and peeled the bloody brains and splattered remains of a man who took his own life in a knotty pine, northern Michigan bedroom.
I flirted and toyed with a pair of cops while I clutched an underage-drinking ticket in my hand, drunk and desperate, upset not that I’d broken the law but that I’d have to ask my parents yet again for rides to work and money for fees and lawyers.
I witnessed the violent suicide attempt of a lover, horrified and helpless as I watched the pulsing blood spray from his neck and splatter on mid-February snow. I felt the weighty power of guilt and regret, somehow managing to carry around a big bag of what-ifs for years afterward.
I lived in a sorority-style party house just blocks from the coolest campus in our state. In two years, I drank and danced more than any human body is designed to handle in a lifetime. I made friends with snobs and junkies and artists paying for their college from trust-funds, drug deals, or, like me, an endless supply of unforgivable debt from our nation’s biggest bank.
Using an anvil of felt-covered speakers, I regretfully broke the nose and spirit of a girl who defended a guy who pompously attempted to display his dominance over me in a crowded, techno-filled basement bar. My friends rushed me into hiding and handed me a shot as I watched her get whisked away by bouncers.
I devoted my nights and weekends to a chaotic newsroom, learning the process and payoff of passionate work with a few dozen underpaid but dedicated journalism students, some of who would publish in the New York Times and Washington Post just a few years later.
I felt piercing pain and awe-struck disbelief as the man I planned to spend my life with cheated and lied, and then created human life with another while the two of us fruitlessly clung to our crumbling life together. I continued to work the reel of my romantic film, frame by frame, before it unraveled, tragically, as some blonde bimbo with little teeth squeezed me from my starring role.
I embellished my body with glitter and gold as I made a weekly appearance at the gay bar next door and the blackout ballroom in my mind, stopping at the eyepatch-wearing neighbor’s house on more than one occasion, who would hit on me then pass me blunts with a black, pistol-holding hand.
I ingested the poison and madness of monotony as I pushed open heavy metal doors and walked past security guards at a safe, secure, government job for five soul-sucking years. I befriended the Indian data geeks, using them as my sole method for cross-cultural immersion in a building strategically set for mice in a cage.
I twirled barefooted to the sounds of squealing guitars and dynamic drum beats in summer’s sweltering Tennessee heat, high on life and hallucinogens with my very best friends. I let go of my corporate composure after re-finding freedom and center in a field of hula-hoops and fire dancers.
I helped take away the only positive things remaining in my best friend’s life, two young, beautiful children, after hearing her reveal that she’d given her life to heroin and meth. What I perceived as a call for help may very well have been her last attempt to open up.
I defensively explained to judgmental ears why I felt called and compelled to sell half my belongings and pack away my life and relationships in an attempt to finally find purpose and peace in the jungle, and then relocate without prospect to the best west coast city there is, Portland.
I learned the connection of mind, body, and spirit as I woke at 5 a.m. each morning, committed to letting the sun drive my days that were filled with communal cob building, rainy afternoon yoga, and waterfall revelations.
I felt the gnawing teeth of a parasitic worm living in my leg, feeding on my muscles for nourishment and strength, somehow convincing my psyche to let him stay a bit longer… Others told me that if this child of mine were to die while still inside my body, I very well may die, too. I spent a week drinking, developing the courage required to bear the pain of his death…
I made love to a bohemian gypsy musician whose birth name I didn’t know, on a beach lit by a bright white Nicaraguan full-moon. He led me to a spiral in the sand where we handed me hash and asked to join me on my adventures northward. I kissed him goodbye, telling him I’d see him someday, a day that has yet to come.
I sat in lotus beside a stone totem for wisdom as I listened to my future unfold from a Mayan shaman. She told me I’m destined for partnered creation but that I must keep dance and change in my life… We looked across the magical, mystical lake at a plume of smoke rising from the Vulcan de Fuego.
I forced myself to move back home, still my steps, and intentionally create space, making my mind endure the pains of my past and reflect on the lessons learned through years of avoidance and attempts to escape whatever uneasy situation I found myself in at 15, 20, or 25.
I submerged my soul into ice-cold uncomfort, day after day, week after week, willing a release that would finally free my mind from the torturous, unfulfilling cycle of my own social butterfly life… of the butterfly who never grew wings but instead chose to fight nature and continually rebuild a warm cocoon of relationships or substance-filled anonymity, time and time again, and never truly fly toward her fate.
Then somehow, for some reason, I stopped…
I let go. Of plans. Of will. Of regret.
I shattered my walls of control already cracking with the pressure of freedom’s roots, fighting to grow through crevices created by flashes of vulnerability and softness.
I surrendered my life to the artist in the sky who’s been prepping the paints and palette for my life’s work, who has been giving my hands necessary practice with each pitfall and each triumph, giving my heart inspiration from each traveler I encountered who was either adventuring in the physical world or in the endless Universe of the mind…
I took a breath… Then another… And another…
And suddenly, I saw my life as it truly was.
I saw my dreams coming to fruition in my mind’s all-knowing eye and I saw my talents propelling me forward toward beauty and grace and wisdom…
I knew then all I needed to know.
I realized I’ve always had all the tools I’ll ever need inside my head and inside my heart.
I understood truth, and what it means to be free.
I decided to cocoon for one final time, but instead of creating a chrysalis for protection, I created a chrysalis for lasting, genuine change that would create the butterfly I was always meant to be.
I rested inside the cocoon for a while, just enough to catch my breath and let wings form beautifully around my body…
Then, I emerged. Materialized. Manifested.
I became willing and ready to work toward wisdom, impassioned to find and share truths, and inspired to paint my life in such a way that my canvas may inspire others to do the same.
Now I am here, grateful and honest and always open…