I could easily wait until I’m in a more uplifted mood to write, but that seems kind of cowardly or concealing. This is what I’m feeling at this moment; tonight.
A lot of people seem to be going through a hard time right now, or maybe I’m just noticing it more. I’m in a flux of being heartened, despondent, fired up, beaten down, empty, full, confused, assured. Perhaps it’s always been this way, but I feel more aware of whatever is present and willing to follow through. Every bit deserves attention, and I try to give it. It doesn’t always work. At that point all I can do is call myself on it.
Just over an hour ago I was feeling completely overwhelmed, screaming into a pillow in my car. Mostly angry at myself for falling into my own phantom emotional traps, but a number of different facets are involved in that, which I won’t delve into. I can’t seem to remember in the moment, when it counts, that what is going on right then is not it, that something totally different is right around the next tick of the clock, the next beat of my heart, the next exhale. At least the near-next. If I look in someone’s eyes and see nothing, it doesn’t mean something’s not there. If I lose my joy or love under hurt, it just means it’s been buried, not disappeared. And unearthing takes a good deal of core strength. Of course that’s all discovered soon, but not soon enough for my ofttimes flummoxed, impatient bones. The reality is that my gut says I’ll learn from these experiences. But the feeling is here now so I feel it. Through that awareness, I feel more myself every single day that I live. And, as it turns out, I’m pretty okay.
But I look around at other people and observe what they do to themselves and others, how they deal with their emotions and react to others’. And I realize we’re left without a good model. I’m doing something wrong…we’re all doing something wrong, plays through my head. I’ve strung together various forms of inspiration but not locked into anything, like knitting a scarf without using the same pattern or color throughout. It might seem ugly at first but it’s unlike any other and is strewn with authenticity throughout…it’s trying to be a scarf, and it is, people just want to accept the clean thing, the tied up and neat. I’d argue that the gnarly stretch of material I’m crafting is stronger than those others. I’ve found no one model that I agree with 100% for processing emotions, developing relationships, nurturing children…I just don’t think anyone ‘has it figured out’. Faith in myself keeps me trying, but days like this are hard. I’m tired- tired of fighting my body, resisting injurious habits, making efforts, planning, talking, everything. There’s only enough energy left to write, surrender into sleep and try again tomorrow.
Things are about to get a whole lot harder.
In just over a week I leave for Africa for two and a half months. I leave Portland in under a week. Tonight I also feel anxious about the time and effort it’s taking to wrap everything up here before I take off. And that I’m traveling with so little money. It’s a lot.
Limbe, Cameroon is my first overseas destination, where I’ll stay for a month volunteering with Limbe Wildlife Center, a sanctuary that houses and cares for primates and other wildlife of Cameroon and surrounding countries that have been orphaned by bushmeat hunters or confiscated from the pet trade. This is something I believe will not only satisfy my existing passion for caring for threatened and endangered primates but command entirely new efforts from me. And I can’t wait.
After that will be a flight to Dakar, Senegal, from where I’ll be backpacking solo to Freetown, Sierra Leone. There are plenty of areas in between those destinations that I have reckoned I should avoid for safety’s sake, plenty of peculiar things that I have learned could go wrong, plenty of chances for me to get sick or hurt or make a poor choice. But the same, to a degree, could be said about staying right here in the US. (And as I’m sure most would agree, the US is involved in some of history’s most bizarre, embarrassing fuckery right now. We have a chance to clean it up a bit, and I’ll be back in time to vote this November, but damn do I wish everyone could just try to love each other because anger does not and has never produced justice, never progressed equal human rights.)
Seven months in the making now, I’ve composed this excursion, too, without much of an example to follow, and certainly not any set by women. I’m stepping into something that I feel I’m about as prepared as I can possibly be, yet I know anything can happen despite that preparation. That’s what excites me; the spontaneity and mysticism of it, the challenges, the confrontations. But those are also the things I fear. It’s a strange state of affairs: fear and hope don’t have to negate each other if we walk openly into the fear. I’ll never feel ready to do what I’m about to do, or ready for much else beyond it. (I didn’t feel ready to perform my music in front of people for the first time ever at an open mic two weeks ago, but I did. Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and fluff my feathers here and say it went amazingly and I’m going to be so ready to return and dive further into my music. I played a few songs from my SoundCloud if you haven’t heard them and are curious.) And that’s it— if we wait until we’re ready, we’ll remain ever stagnant, complacent about ourselves and our potential, compromising in our desires. And probably wondering why things don’t ‘go our way’. But it is really, really bloody hard. We’ve all been hurt before, sometimes for taking a risk, and we know how much hurt we’re capable of– it’s heaps upon heaps, in case you haven’t yet realized, and I’ve only lived for 28 years, so undoubtedly I’m still merely ankle deep. But going the route of shielding ourselves, not thrusting into the potential of hurt is so cripplingly depressing. A life worth living isn’t defined by its security. I recognize that there are far too many people (and other life) living in this world who don’t have as much of a choice to be safe or not, and I know I’ll encounter some of them in my travels. But I’m talking less of infringements upon human rights and more of personal integrity. I want to know who people think they are, what matters to them, what they want, how they feel. Hopefully some of this I can find out so that I can have more tools in my arsenal to keep digging for myself. I like digging; getting dirty.
So now all that’s left is to bear into the wonderfully filthy fear with my steadily sharpening shovel of perception. Attentively. Conscientiously. Honestly. Unashamedly. That’s the idea, anyway.
I’m not so naïve, I know that this trip is just the beginning. Whatever comes of it will inspire me onwards to the next thing. Taking more time with my writing and music will come first, I can already glean that. Work is wearing on me, more creative undertakings beckon. It’s difficult for me to not always be planning for the next endeavor. Hard to stay still environment-wise and experience-wise (covered this somewhat in previous blogs). I just don’t understand any other way to be. At least two chambers of my heart are nomadic. Beginnings are what I love. Bring on the new people, places, everything. The plan at present is to upgrade to living in a converted van and traveling after I will have been living in a Subaru Forester for five months followed by trekking West Africa followed again by probably five more months of the Forester digs. Who knows the kinds of places I’ll sleep in Africa, what food I’ll eat, how I’ll get ill, who I’ll meet (ohhh, and I can’t wait to meet people) or what I’ll learn, but I wouldn’t want to know before I do it. Surprise me, Africa. Go ahead.
And you all too: lay it on me, throw it down— for everyone. Ask big questions, demand something new of yourself, say the thing you’re terrified to, be kind when it seems painful to be, see through the masks we all don. I’m going to try, I hope some of you try too. C’mon, it’ll be terrifying and gross. But worth it.
So, there’s that string of words. I’ll be writing when I can from Africa, but I’ll be sans laptop and writing longhand then transcribing when I get to functioning internet cafes.
Till then, wish me luck. And good luck to you guys, be strong, but try and love yourself when you’re not. We need reminders sometimes, so there’s mine.
AM update: Last night’s rest and this morning’s meditation were so vitalizing. But there’s plenty of battle ahead yet. Thanks for reading.