moments from which memory creates life!
Sparks are the beginnings that light a raging fire. In our hearts and in our souls.
2009 was a year with many sparks and many fires - these are the blessings that will light the way - my way into 2010.
Caleb ignited parts of me that had been hidden behind a brick wall created to shun abuse. He tore down those walls leaving my spirit more exposed yet truly alive. His suicide shattered the foundations of my world.
The goddess or the spirits have seen that sparks were needed to re-ignite this once-passionate soul. The individual words, actions and healing thoughts of many have finally coalesced into a recognizable whole, finally shedding light for the future. The gratitude I feel for the small, yet meaningful interactions over the course of this past few months is immeasurable.
I had lost my way and though the exact path is not certain, there is light.
My burner family expanded ten-fold this year to include Caleb's real friends and many new ones. My Inbox saw many take a moment when it was needed to send a brief note to ask me to question my path and to send a healing thought with love. Dick and Becky, Risky and the whole eplaya gang allowed me moments of fun and laughter. Tribe's Radical Life Institute gang gave me meaningful purpose. When the banter became too much for this darkened spirit, individuals reached out to me. fko, UberSatan and Lonestoner know their role. Soon, I'll be back to send sparks into that virtual world again. The playa will be my home again this summer too.
I am sustained by the burners in my immediate camp: the Black Rock Beacon. Our purpose and our devotion to it may seem like a speck of dust in the storm of these troubled times but they are real and they are my chosen family.
Stewart, a friend and mentor of Caleb's, shared my deep sense of loss and knew it was right to bring me to Woodstock to work again. It was a safe place to be in October. I couldn't work well but the exposure to journalism at that moment was critical to show me where my passions lay. I wish I was at Sundance at this moment but I am not ready to work quite yet. There are other parts that need to heal. Thank you Stewart - you were the right dose of medicine at a turning point. Ilene and Gabriel and new friends at Joe's Cafe reminded me of the professionalism I need to harness again. Tong reminded me of the backbone to life - our vocation is our gift and our touchstone but it is not everything. I will write again. I will love again.
At home at last, and alone, I fell into the open pit of despair. My companion: the black dog. My connections to the community severed by long months of neglect were unable to realize or comprehend where I was.
My children, long since grown into emotionally vibrant and healthy young men, were suddenly afraid of this stranger in their midst. As I reverted to an old almost-dead pre-motherhood set of tapes running in my mind - they knew not how to react. As most of us do, the path they fell into was unconsciously chosen. Robert became the caregiver, Jason the emotionally distant disciplinarian. As I now begin to come out of the dense fog, I hope they can also grow back to their real selves and consciously chose their path. Fog is a dense thick soup that envelops, even mires those closest to us. Even when hurt is unintended, they cannot help but be affected.
A chance meeting with regimental friends in November, held up a mirror showing me that despite my best efforts to pretend all was well or would be soon, I had more to learn. I cannot be the dynamo I was, not anytime soon. Every time I try really hard, I fall flat on my ass and the black dog jumps me again. My friends of long ago have lived with this daily for a couple decades - the Balkan and Somalian war experiences shattering their youthful faith in peace which we learned together in the 70s.
My idealistic views, having only recently been shattered, were still calling me to change the world. The blank, hollow spirits I saw reflected in their eyes showed me that humanity really is as ugly as it sometimes seems. The visions they have seen snuffing out our shared view of the basic goodness of human nature. Yet, they carry on fired by that youthful spark of peace-keeping. Their worlds are purposefully shrunken to include those closest to them - its the most they can manage on a good day with PTSD ever hovering near. It is likely that my world view needs to shrink too and that the circle I can sustain will be smaller.
Many people are hounded and a holiday party put me in touch again with the counsellor. A man who has suffered yet can harness his experiences to share when needed. Brad is not the only square peg in the burner community, there are many of us. He has plumbed the depths of his experiences to find a way forward to build his dreams - a vibrant young family and a consultancy to sustain them. Some days you can do more, some days less - face the facts, he counsels. Taymar too, shares his hard-earned wisdom. As do Kerri-Anne and James. Our core values need to be nourished by sharing with those who know the depths to which the pit of despair can envelop one's spirit.
Flying Spaghetti Monster can throw havoc into a well-ordered slide downward. Grasping at me to participate and haul me back to reality, friends planning a pastafarian party tried really hard to suck me back from the further depths. Briefly and within a single day which was a flurry of activity, I finally fell over the cliff and into the bottom of the pit hitting my head on the way down. Arriving unconscious, days later with a recipe for Flying Spaghetti Monster cookies in my hand.
Introversion is a productive place for me. I find myself when I'm alone but the world needs to kick me hard to draw me back sometimes. And kicking is what this world is good at. The suicide of another burner's partner pushed me further and more deeply into a virtual world I had joined during these lonely months of wanting nothing to do with humanity. I chose to spend countless hours slaying dragons. Occasionally, I would be able to respond to the real world through FB chat. Unfortunately there is an off button so you can shut it out completely at your choosing. Many attempts to reach me have gone unnoticed or unanswered.
Your chorus of "flicking bics" has jolted me on occasion. Realizing that there is a world beyond castles and dragons, I am awakening from the hit to my head and the blow to my heart from Caleb's death.
There is an infallible truth that wherever you go, there you are. Even in the virtual world, you are who you are. I don't entirely understand but in that game, I found parts of who I am. When building a character, suddenly there you are. Parts of me, long forgotten, emerged. I love to teach and this game offers that as one of its foundational paths to success. Building an active, engaged and vibrant army of supporters is a path to success in that game as it is in life. I found a way to succeed there and share some parts of who I am that have been hiding lately. My character is a dynamo who helps, nourishes and does battle against evil forces.
In that virtual world, I have nourished my self - giving myself permission to be who I am. I developed a circle of loyal friends to fight the forces of evil in Valeria. We have shared laughs, delightful victories, moments of sheer panic in battle and bitter losses.
But there came a moment when I lost myself in that virtual world too. The old tapes crept in there too. I have a fundamental character flaw that has affected parts of my real life and now are visible in my virtual life. For some reason, I have an appallingly low self-esteem which is jarring for people to realize given my capacity for dynamic activism. I am capable of giving everything that I have - all my time, talent and treasure away to the point where I am completely incapacitated and unable to give any more. This is true in real life and in this virtual world.
Fortunately in this virtual world, I have nourished friendships from the game to engage with people in chat about real life. Even when I was unable to respond to the sparks from real life friends, some virtual friends could get through. There are four who have shaped my recovery and these are not unlike my real life guides. In fact, it is as if, the spirits knew who I needed to attract.
Dia is a wise woman capable of the most frank conversation I have ever experienced. She reminds me of Janet - one who is a real life guiding force and who is pissed at me for not responding to an email that was buried in a flurry of dutiful emails from the pack and only found just now in a moment of light. I will be in Seattle someday again soon to see Phil and E'ireen and will purposefully seek out Dia to thank her in person for the gift of clarity she has brought to my virtual world. I will reconnect with Janet through this story and again next week after my pending adventure.
Mitch is a man of very high standards who has an angry streak that shook the virtual world with the force of his truth speaking. Mitch and I have battled together for months trying to raise the standards of education, cooperation and smart battling among our armies. I consider him a brother. When he resigned abruptly from the wolf pack, it made us all realize the unsustainability of our volunteer efforts there. Truth speaking has made us all re-evaluate not why we contribute but how. Anger is a valuable tool when it sparks corrective action.
Father Wolf is the spirit leader in Valeria. His gift is grace and wisdom and a delightful humour which shines through all too infrequently. His real life burdens are immense and yet he guides the way and gives when and where he can, especially to teaching. He reminds me of my real life minister in many ways. One of the first calls I made when Caleb's blood was still fresh on me was to Father Pat. His words ring in my mind giving me the strength to carry on. "Your emotional love for Caleb was vibrant enough to allow him to share his highest highs with you but also he trusted you to share his lowest low. Caleb loved you enough to leave this world for his next experience in your presence. Violently yes, but you will recover."
And last but certainly not least, is Chris, a Valerian general with a loyal army of clickers who assisted on many important battles and rescues. Our facebook chats became the highlight of my days and nights and hours when I could not participate in real life at all. I actually was unable to tell night from day and any aspect of real life could not penetrate. Just now noticing that my phone has been disconnected sometime recently!
One day about a month ago, I had a conversation with a new character, introduced as Chris' nephew in real life. That character and I shared an interesting chat but my emotional need was at a critical point that day. When, at the conclusion of that chat, I asked for him to contact his real life uncle, he agreed. That contact didn't happen for three weeks which felt like an eternity.
During the last three weeks I was truly plumbing the depths, only briefly taking notice that real life friends joined the game to find out what had absorbed me. And until Chris contacted me on Tuesday with his confession about the nephew being him, I was truly at the point of being completely lost.
No, I was completely lost.
My breaking point arrived last week when I was asked to relive a moment-by-moment recounting of Caleb's death. This "professional" is a proper ass and incapable of comprehending the damage done by that simple enough exercise. Even my capacity to perform in the virtual world vanished abruptly in my return to that state of shock that I was in on April 17th. For brief hours or minutes since, I was able to summon my skills to the task at hand in the virtual world - collapsing in confusion at my exhaustion. A mirror image of my real life.
But the bottom has one saving grace: it shatters that mis-guided pride in self-reliance and allows a scream for help to emerge from the lips or keyboard of the troubled soul.
Finally, the spirits that guide this world brought me the assistance I needed. Dia and Chris joined forces to wake me from my destructive path. Each not even aware of the other but relating the same story to me using the same words. How can that be? One on the east coast and one on the west, neither even directly connected in Valeria and yet both shook me with the same words. Do spirits really communicate to us? Are guides sent to us? I have witnessed it. I have been awoken.
Now as I prepare to depart on a real life adventure to meet a virtual Valerian general, Chris, in person*, I know that I have been awoken. I have done more for myself and my own future preservation in the last four days than the last four months. The clarity of my thoughts is becoming real not virtual. I'm engaged in a new adventure - part virtual, part real and I will return next Friday to finish some important business in real life. My online involvement for the next few days will be sporadic but focussed. I'll travel with the pack when I can get a connection.
I'm baaaaaaaaaaack! Keep flickin' your bics, the messages are getting through and the fog is lifting.
* friends, I'm not insane, a safety plan is in place although I have an absolute certainty of thought that it is not needed. And my damaged brain is working again so I am capable of making that statement responsibly.