Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Ayahuma was flickering around my ears this morning during my drumming session. Ayahuma! A Titan of a teacher plant, not for the faint of heart. I’d be honored. I will keep it loose for now though, no decisions. We will see what plant steps forward in my pre-dieta consultation, or maybe in our first ceremony.
Poppies outside of Budapest. Budakeszi, Hungary. June 2021.
And now, a reflection paper.
If I were to reduce this relationship class to its core concepts, they would be twofold.
1. LET GO FASTER
“Let go. If this person doesn’t make you feel good, then they’re just taking up space where someone you do feel good with could come in. Feel your hurt and disappointment and move along, faster, faster. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, it doesn’t matter why, no one cares. You can try talking about it once or twice but if it’s not working, say goodbye and keep going. No hard feelings. Practice saying it: “Thank you, this doesn’t work for me.”
It’s like Tinder in real life: No, no, no, no, oh maybe, you seem pretty coo…actually no, no, no, next.
How old are you, 37? You’ve got a little over half your life left. You want a partner. Do you want kids? No? Ok, well you have projects you want to birth into the world, that’s the same. Do you have time for these games?”
This was my therapist in a recent session. Some version of this has been a steady baseline since we began, and I practice on loop. It’s so hard, when it seems like this time it could almost, maybe, be just right if only this or that were different. If only I do this or that to make it different. Of course, I can’t. I try to stand my ground, stay focused, not spin out.
I wrote the kickboxer a letter and sent it on the day after my birthday. Letter writing came years ago as a kind of medicine practice for me, which has slowed as I learn to stay in my own circle, to let go, let go and write more for myself. Or, to connect with people who actually want to be connected.
The letter is to him and to the same man I have often found myself writing to, that spectre trailing me through the years, he of a thousand faces. I make small shifts against his backdrop through hard-won lessons. He remains unchanged, eternal.
The letter was about two pages and ended with this passage (December 30, 2020):
“…I considered for the millionth time yesterday if I could be ok with how you want it. Walled off, like how so many of you always want it. I’ve got things to do, anyway. The answer comes from my gut, from my body, not mind: it won’t work. Whether I’m right or wrong about you, the continuous small hurts and extra anxiety I feel aren’t worth it. Mental hygiene is already a challenge under these circumstances. Relationship should add joy to my life, not make it harder.
I suppose we could try to talk things through again, but you seem like you’d rather chew off your own leg than do that. I’m tired of “we need to talk”, too. What I say’s not getting through, you prefer to duck and weave. It’s a lot of angst for not much return. I imagine you might feel the same.
Believe it, that I’m disappointed there doesn’t seem to be a way to meet at some kind place for both of us.
It’s a new year and for me at 37, here’s one of many opportunities to reinforce new ways of being in the world. Accepting too little is an old story for me. Performing all the mental contortions to convince myself I’m happy with what I’m being given, when really I need more. Hanging on to what’s not working, not clearing space for something better. I’ve battled it plenty, guess I’ll keep doing that. Maybe we could have talked about it and many other fascinating things about our inner lives, actually become close. I had wished it to be so. For me, that’s friendship. I don’t know what kind of friendship you mean, this “friends with benefits” that looks suspiciously like armor to keep the Other from getting too friendly, while not having to feel too alone either.”
I wish for something to break open. I want out. I keep practicing, continuously adjusting my inner posture.
Don’t give up, says my therapist. She quotes a mantra from a wise woman in our dance community: “When it’s meant for you, it will not pass by you.”
When it’s meant for you, it will not pass by you.
2. CLAIM YOUR ROLE
That letter didn’t slow my spin cycle and I was hard up for some stronger medicine, so on New Year’s Eve I cleared my schedule and took myself into ceremony. I stayed at home with candles lit, I danced. Mostly I sat and let this experience work through the layers of my psyche. When my feet touched solid ground, I walked to St. Stephen’s Basilica in the heart of the city. I sat inside for a while, then joined the people strolling the square. I remember feeling empowered and a profound relief from pain, like I could breathe again.
The next day I wrote a second letter.
If he’d wanted to reach out after I would have received him, but I knew he probably wouldn’t. This one was really for me. It was a setting of a broken bone, a cast to heal into. I hope it was also a balm for him if he needed one. That’s his to say.
January 1, 2021.
I’ve been feeling sorry that the other night got ugly. It seems like I really upset you.
I want to apologize, I mean it.
My emotional state hasn’t been amazing (yes, like everyone) and it just got so unbearable I decided it’s my birthday, screw it. I’m going to give myself a break from being a mature adult Handling It All, with questionable success anyway. No acting about anything to make anyone else comfortable, especially not you since our thing has been a main source of the discomfort. I was looking for a fight, or a painkiller. I thought about telling you not to show up, but then decided not to care how you felt about whatever happened and either way I’d probably get what I wanted.
It’s fine to give myself permission to feel what I feel, even have a mini-meltdown. It’s not fine to aim it at you or to expect you to be either a fight or a painkiller for me. In making demands about being seen in my humanity and being treated with kindness and respect and all that, I sometimes forget to do the same for other people.
It happens, I just try to say I’m sorry when I’m wrong and correct posture.
I took my heavy emotions into a ceremony on New Year’s Eve, seeking insight and healing. Here’s some of what I received.
For me the world only has one rule that matters: reciprocity. Everything is relationship, and you get what you give. Living in the flow of reciprocity is a constant practice, improving at it is never over. I think about how the last months have gone with you (and with others, too) and am seeing myself demanding a lot of things. Give me this, do it like that. Wounds with words speak.
The other letter still has truth in it for me, and my needs do matter. I also see ways I can give more and take more responsibility for myself. Shift my stance from pain and anger towards generosity and grace.
In the question of what friendship is, I have criticized you but haven’t looked inward to see how I’m not living up to my own standards. How can I more fully live what friendship means to me?
The parts of us that are hurt become hard sometimes. Dating again, I have been afraid not to draw hard lines because I’ve had my trust and generosity taken advantage of. I’m afraid to be used as you said, yes. But, feelings aren’t facts. Just because I’m feeling it, doesn’t mean you’re doing it. It’s all of our own responsibility to get to know ourselves and soften our hard bits.
I want to offer this to you, as a piece of medicine from my ceremony. You’ve already been in this process with me for weeks but not really as a person, more like a projection screen for some of my old ghosts. I want to see you more fully as you. I would make space for you to be here with humanity of your own.
There are always two sides to a conflict. I can’t control your part but I can do better for my part, so I’m asking myself: how can I communicate what I feel without making you wrong? Where am I failing to give to others what I want for me? How can I provide love and care to my own hurt places, create a healing environment within and radiate it outward, rather than being pissed off about how no one’s doing it for me?
I want to be seen for who I am and heard when I have something to say. So, how have I not been seeing you? How can I hear you more clearly?
I want spaciousness, I know what that means for me. What would feel spacious to you, in relationship with me?
I want connectedness, to feel energized by relationship. What would feel energizing to you? What are boundaries that feel good?
I want to feel valued. How have I not been valuing who you are? What do you need to feel more appreciated?
I want mercy for my wounded places and patience for my healing. How can I give these to you better?
What else is important to you, what else do you need to feel good in relationship with me?
I don’t know if our needs can intersect or if I can give you what you want, but I would like to ask, listen, and understand. If I can give it, I will. It’s not a questionnaire but more an orientation, conversations to be had over time. An attempt to be a better friend.
This is offered with no expectations on you to accept it. I do feel better after allowing this emotional overwhelm to release and burn down a bit. Feeling emotions (more responsibly, mostly) is foundational to all the medicines I practice, I’m on a jailbreak from the prison of no-feeling we’re all expected to live in. It’s definitely an interesting ride; from the peak of high emotion, you can see many things about the landscape. I’ll take the lessons learned with me whatever you decide to do.
Happy New Year, hope it’s a good one for you <3”
In some of my proudest moments in relationship, this voice from the past issues from my throat in the present. How much healing I received, how much more grace I had after that journey.
This is Claim Your Role. What hand do I have in creating the dynamic between us? What healing, what support, what new information do I need to be able to do better? Am I adaptable, open? Am I maintaining a sense of the other as a human being who is equally as important as I am? Am I listening, and really hearing what the other is saying? Am I reaching out, inviting connection in a way that works for this person? Asking the right questions? Putting in the effort to understand and give what they need if it is ok for me, rather than trying to manipulate the situation to get what I want?
“Be really careful of the part of you that puts yourself in relationships like this” she said, also recently, “so you can prove to yourself that men are bad. He didn’t do anything to you. He’s just being him, and you’re being you. You chose, you are choosing. See the ways in which you have also exploited him.”
I did not, until two days ago, at all remember having this ceremony or writing these letters.
If someone had asked me specifically about it I’m sure I would have remembered, but I hadn’t included this part of it in the memory narrative on my own. There was the fight. There was the decision maybe a week or two later to take the relationship topic into therapy and the months of Tinder practice (and also a really great dance workshop on relationships by my therapist and another Movement Medicine teacher, plus a lot of podcasts), but no ceremony on mental record. No writings.
Telling the tale about the kickboxer reminded me that these letters were saved somewhere on my laptop. I always mine old writings for new ones, so I dug them up to see what I had to say to this man. Lo and behold, these two pieces. As I see it they are exactly the two pillars, once seeds, of what I’ve been working on for the last eight months. I was already writing about them in pieces out of order here before I saw them again. The letter referenced the ceremony, it all came back and became contextualized within the larger process. Integration, baby. This is how it works.
Sometimes people ask me: what even is ceremony? This is one way to understand the medicinal potential of it, whether with substances or other methods used to access the altered state like dance or drumming. You loosen the grip of gravity and get an elevated perspective. The body’s healing mechanisms kick in. You can access deeper states of empathy and compassion, get some space from oppressive thought patterns, connect emotionally with others, receive divine guidance – or, just receive a more networked, expansive set of information from your own brain and body if you prefer to think of it like that. You become open to insight about course of action in your life, a goal can be communicated, maybe a message. Then the ceremony is over and the work of manifestation begins. Then you bushwhack the path forward, step by step in real time.
MIND Foundation Psychedelic Integration Workshop. Cluj-Napoca, Romania. August 2021.
This piece is a one of a series of four writings I did as part of a dieta in the Amazonian Plant Medicine tradition. The first three served as preparation, examining the psychological material most relevant for me in the moment so I could bring it consciously into the dieta space. The fourth is a piece of integration work, to begin to understand what I received and how I see applying it in my life moving forward. Writing is a big medicine tool for me, and I’m happy to share this window into my personal process so it may inspire others in theirs.