Sep 15, 2008
These are the letters I wrote the Esq while I was on a Vipassana meditation retreat in Oregon.
I've only been gone 8 hours, and already I've cheated on you; I've fallen in love with Breitenbush, and I will not be coming back. Today I heard my mother say the F-word and the P-word; normally I would write those words out completely, but ladies don't say words like that, and my mother is a lady. That being said, she DID say them out loud, and this place fucking rocks.
It's hard for me to describe Breitenbush. Words that come to mind are: liberating, comfy, bizarre, open, happy, challenging, natural, raw, and cocooned. Other words might be HIPPIE COMMUNE and WHAT AM I DOING HERE. But I like it--I felt grounded the minute I saw the place. You know how I was rambling on the other day about how I needed a change? This feels like a good jumpstart.
The group is being led by Julie, who is, for all intended purposes, our spiritual guide. She's like a hybrid between Glenda the Good Witch and Yoda, but she looks a bit like Merriweather, one of Sleeping Beauty's fairy godmothers; I expect her to start levitating tomorrow. It only took 49 minutes before she implored us to TREASURE OURSELVES, but everything else she talked about was very useful, without being cheesy or disingenuous. Not that treasuring myself isn't genuine, it just sounded kind of masturbatory. Maybe I'll treasure myself later.
I'm really enjoying hanging out with my extended family. It's easy to find things to talk about since I'm generally trying to avoid talking about how naked we are. YES, I DID IT. Luckily, we hit the spiral tubs after the evening meditation, so my first foray into public nudity was only witnessed by those in the dark. It was really nice to be naked, staring up at the stars, and not really caring. I also quite fancied how buoyant my hooters are in water; I wish they resided closer to my chin all of the time.
As for the meditation, nothing brings on Restless Leg Syndrome like sitting still in the middle of the woods. My mind is like a cross between a pinball machine and four Pomeranians: in constant motion and totally annoying. The spinning mind never ends.
Dinner was not disappointing: the spanakopita hit the spot, although I thought it might have been better with a bong hit and 28 slices of bacon. I'm tired from the drive and everyone else has passed out. I'm sleeping in a bunk bed with Mom, and so excited for my massage tomorrow; even though I'm sleeping in a tiny twin bed, it still feels empty without you. I hope you're lonely and miserable without me; by the time I get back, there'd better be a Widow's Walk built in to the outside of our apartment building, and you'd better be walking it. In a black Victorian dress. SOBBING.
Today during morning meditation, I couldn't stop thinking about you. Learning how to be quiet and still is hard; it would be easier for me to grow my own penis, simply with the powers of my mind. But I've had brief flashes of stillness--minutes, really--where I've felt... calm, like being in the eye of a storm. See, this place really IS transforming; I'm using crappy metaphors already.
After meditating, I felt like hugging my mom, and we just sat like that for a long time. The last time that happened was right before heading off to rehab; I guess when I'm ready to surrender to something, my mom acts as a gateway. A weeping, loved-up, emotional, 61-year old gateway. Your favorite kind. And can I just say, with the conviction of a thousand white, middle-to-upper class hippies: FUCK WRITING MANUALLY. I feel like I'm 13 again: writing furiously in my journal, feeling very confused, and resisting everything. Which is great, because 13 was so much fun the first time around.
Women use a lot of Oprah Jargon here--LIBERALLY--but this is the right setting for it. Although one woman said she was dropping a plum line down from her third eye, and I spent the next 30 minutes feeling around for my own third eye. I finally found it in my handbag, along with that pair of socks you've been looking for; everything gets lost in there.
I've braved the tubs twice already today (IN BROAD, CELLULITE-LOVING DAYLIGHT), once before my massage and once after. The spiral tubs are pretty cool; there are 4 hot springs tubs of varying degrees--Warm, Hot, Really Hot, and Oh My God Are You Fucking Kidding Me Hot--and one cold tub that rips your nipples off the minute you get in. Being naked isn't an issue anymore; there's a brief psychological breath I take right before stripping, but everyone is naked--BIRTHDAY SUITS GALORE. And WOW, what suits! Big, small, young, old, and nary a Heidi Klum in sight. It helps that there are no supermodels here. I say that like there IS a silent meditation retreat where supermodels gather to wander around naked together; if Hell exists, surely that must be mine.
My massage was 90 minutes long and totally boss. This itty-bitty, teeny-weeny thing walks up to me and talk-whispers to me in a voice like Tinkerbell; I thought, how in God's name is this 12-year old going to work me over? She looks about as powerful as a half-stick of Nag Champa. We went upstairs to her room, which was AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME, and she proceeded to prove me wrong. Much like Nag Champa, the massage was overpowering and long-lasting; in other words, perfect (even though I hate that incense more than anything on Earth). The big rushing river outside was our soundtrack, and my body felt very present and awake. Speaking of 'present', I will continue to talk like a vegan self-help brochure for the next two weeks. Happy Early Birthday.
I daresay my massage therapist--whose name I can't remember, but it was probably something like Falling Rain or Wisdom--opened up my elusive third eye, and probably my third nipple, too. I feel unbroken again.
Breitenbush is run by the river people, or that's what I call them. They live across the river, off the grid, and they help keep the retreat running, in the real spirit of community. I saw a chalkboard where the river people signed up for duties; the few names I saw were Mark, Treya, and Amber Jade. I seriously can't imagine being named something like that. I mean, who would name their kid Mark?
Tonight, after dinner, we did another 45-minute meditation, and I was a MEDITATING CHAMPION. I was all NEENER NEENER to the other newbies, which just shows how far I've come in the goodwill department. It only felt like 15 minutes had passed, probably because I fell asleep. (Not really! I was just in the zone.) I've noticed that I hate being silent--or maybe the better word is 'quiet'--because it's harder to avoid the things I've been desperately trying to avoid. With all of the things that I am "supposed" to be worrying about right now, it's very hard to clear my mind of them when I'm just sitting still. Definitely a learning experience.
I'm off to bed, so I can keep reading this book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter; it's the true account of Sue Monk Kidd's journey into spirituality (from her Southern Baptist roots)--it's the spiritual equivalent of YOU GO, GIRL. Mom loaned it to me and I was all EWW SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS EWW, but then Julie mentioned it in her dharma talk tonight and I thought, what the hell. It's just like in high school, when my mom would say, take a coat outside, it's cold! And I was like, whatever biatch. And then my boyfriend would say, it really is cold outside, you might want to wear one. And I'd be all, Oh really? Well if you say so! Everyone ignores their parents; I majored in it.
Since it's an all-women retreat, the men's bathrooms/showers are open to everyone. Mom and I went to take a shower, and while washing my hair I said, "This is a blog." Mom asked, what is? Me: "So I was in the Men's restroom at a silent meditation retreat, showering with my mother...." She agreed.
I was on the bottom bunk last night, but tonight I moved to the top; if you've made it to 62-years old, you deserve the bottom bunk. Also, I was freezing last night and Mom was too warm, so the switch seemed like a win/win. That being said, bunk beds are not for plus-size people, thank you very much.
I'm laughing a lot here. That's good. I miss you!
Today I dipped into the cold pool five times! The cold one is called The Awakening Pool (isn't that lovely?), but I call it The Holy Fucking Shit Pool. What, this place is pretty holy. My old friend, Sara (and daughter of India, who you've met), showed up with her six-week old baby, Reese, and AWWWWWWW OOOOOOOH EEEEEEEEEE. It made me want five just like her! She looked so...edible. Baby love is a wonderful thing. I was amazed at how instinctual it was for all of the women in our group to lose their shit over a wee bebe, and I was no different. Don't worry, though, I'm still on the life-long No More Babies Ever track; I'd rather have herpes, or a dog. Maybe just the dog.
The Holy Fucking Shit Pool works only if you do the other tubs first--even the Oh My God Are You Fucking Kidding Me Pool--because you have to raise your internal temperature high enough for your brain to melt. After it melts the first time, you have to dial it back a little bit so you have something left to think with. I haven't been able to grow that penis yet, but when I do, I can quit thinking with my brain and switch to thinking with my penis, just like you--then I can melt my brain all I want. Once in the cold pool, you have to sit very still, so that you can watch your heart beat out of your chest. Literally. I was all, GAH I NEED THAT! and pushed it back in. The space around me--about an inch off of my skin--became a strangely warm cocoon, so if I didn't move, it was delightful. When I did move, it felt like ten thousand little people stabbing me with ice picks. Wait, do they want to be called 'little people', or do they want to be called 'midgets'? I can never remember.
At one point, I wrapped myself in a towel, and walked out into the field that fell in between the tubs and the river; there were flowers and river rocks and tall grass in the field. I sat on a platform in the sun and thought, never in my life did I think I would be doing this. Never in my life did I think I could be comfortable in my body in front of other people. Never in my life have I felt so free! India and my mom brought everybody these neat dragonflies back from Southeast Asia, made out of some kind of hard material, acrylic maybe; they brought them to us because of how spiritual dragonflies can be. I remembered a dragonfly story told to me by a Native American dude, and I'm going to try and remember it in order to illustrate a point:
Dragonfly used to be Dragon, covered in beautiful shimmering scales, and possessing a deep inner strength. He could change form at will, and lit the darkness with his fiery breath. One day, Coyote tricked the Dragon into changing form forever, and into believing he was actually tiny Dragonfly. Dragon got caught in the illusion of his own making and caught up in someone else's influence, just as we can find ourselves forever mistaking our facades for who we really are; we forget that we, too, can change form at will, and wield great inner powers.
I was sitting in the sun, reflecting upon this story, and feeling really good. I decided the dragonflies hovering around me were a good sign, that they were supporting the New Me. Then I stood up, and realized I had somehow SAT ON A FUCKING DRAGONFLY, killing it in the process--those dragonflies were probably getting ready to attack me, so they could save their fallen soldier. I'm sure I have amazing inner strength, but it's nothing compared to the power of my ass.
I've been having a great time kicking it with Lista, another 'cousin', who is like my soul twin or something. I don't know if it's because we have the same fucked-up issues or what, but most likely. Her mother, however, brought Diet Coke to the retreat, and every time she's imbibing, I want to French kiss her just to get a small taste of that which I have forsaken. If I had to choose between a cold Diet Coke and amazing sex, I would probably choose amazing sex with a Diet Coke. My relationship with Diet Coke started way before you and me, so don't be jealous.
Tonight after meditation, we had a Kali fire, and made an offering to Kali, goddess of death, destruction, and transformation. We asked her to help us transform something--each person got up in front of 50+ people and talked a little bit about their offering--and then threw it in the fire. It was pretty weird (though very cool).
Kali liked my offering, which was a small house I made out of paper. After talking this afternoon with Mom and Emily, I realized that I've never felt like I deserved a home. Not, like, OWNING a home (although if Kali would like to send me a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house, fine by me)--but a home, and everything good that can come with it. I have never moved anywhere and actually unpacked everything, EVER, because my relationships have always been so chaotic and impermanent. I have never cleaned and organized and made my home MY HOME, because I felt it would be pulled out from under me. It also doesn't help that I've been essentially homeless (I say this with much gratitude to Kim and Autumn, who let me couchsurf for 3452389472 years), making the term 'home' feel like something alien, something that other people deserved. When we started talking about whipping our apartment into shape, I was excited because I thought--finally, I can feel like I live somewhere. And so I began the process, and it was very therapeutic. Then I started thinking about it as OUR HOME in CAPITAL LETTERS, and I stopped. Because I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop with you. I keep waiting for you to be someone that you're not. Namely my ex-husband.
I made my offering; I asked for transformation, and threw our house in the fire--so that we could build a new one, together, and so that I could have a space for me to be ME. And I've cried and cried and cried and cried (and cried and cried and cried and cried), hoping that I can get past this shit, so that I can quit being uncomfortable with how happy we are. Leave it to me to say Fuck You to happiness. It's the same old story.
Anyways, this letter is much longer, but filled with more purpose, methinks. My brain is going a million miles a minute. I'm exhausted from all of the stuff we're doing here, even though we're also doing nothing. Doing nothing is a lot of work. I hope I can sleep tonight, but if I can't, I will just think of you and hope that you're having fun with Joshy.
I meatloaf you!
I get to see you today! I got exactly one hour and 45 minutes of sleep last night; that melted brain was spinning all night long, thankfully about good things. I've almost forgotten what you look like, but my memory tells me you look like Johnny Depp. If, when I see you, that isn't a reality, don't be disappointed when I'm all WHAT THE FUCK, MAN. It's difficult when a fantasy dies. Just bear with me.
I'm wondering what you've been a-blogging about. If I know you, I'll bet you only blogged for 1-2 days and made it really cerebral, but I'm betting I'll love it, even if no one else does. Today is the final day, and I feel so different. I really like meditation, which didn't ever appeal to me before (is this a sign of maturity?--doubtful), and revealing myself to whoever, whenever (physically, emotionally, what-have-you) was easy once I asked myself, WHO FUCKING CARES?! My one and only pep talk--the one I had with myself--consisted of: MARIKA, TAKE THE GIANT STICK OUT OF YOUR ASS AND GET THE FUCK OVER IT. And so I did. It was easier to show up and participate. Do I feel transformed? Yep. Do I feel a little silly for it? A little, because HELLO--I never saw a Vipassana retreat in my future, especially a semi-silent naked one. But the main point is: I feel better. I feel like the best version of myself. And I also feel like my relationship with Mom is 900 billion times greater, something my old friends will consider very interesting (and a long time coming).
I talked to my roommates (wonderful women, all--Mom, Emily, and Pat) about how I've never identified myself as a woman before. I heard a lot of talk here about "The Sacred Feminine" and was like, ENOUGH WITH THE HIPPIE BUZZ WORDS ALREADY, but I find I'm in agreement. It's not a common practice to teach your daughters what it means to be a woman, how powerful it can be, or how to harness your female energy into something that's fucking epic--and Mom said, "Well of course you don't identify with being a woman, because I never did, either." How could she teach me something that wasn't taught to her? I only identify with being an employee, a parent, a girlfriend, a daughter--and if I was being really honest, I would probably say I identify with being a bad employee, an absent parent, a shitty girlfriend, and a screw-up daughter. I've lived with these labels all of my life, but never once thought about being a woman. That is so odd to me. Maybe I should stop trying to grow a penis with my mind. Just a thought.
As I said to Julie, this has been the best weekend of my life, because I feel freed from pain I've been carrying around for years upon years upon years. That doesn't mean there's no work to do, only that I can finally work on something else, and then move on to the next thing.
The only thing I hated about this weekend was being attacked by these tiny little mosquitos that my mom calls Noscia's (*this is spelled wrong, but I can't find them on Google*), but I call them Asshole Motherfuckers. I was eaten alive by them--I counted how many little bites I have, and I'm into the mid-twenties, and still finding more. I've been branded by Breitenbush in more ways than one. I'm free, and I'm itchy. I'll bet that's a turn-on.
Of all the labels I enjoy the most, I love being your shitty girlfriend. :) And I can't wait to see you, so I can tell you this heartwarming tale of love and acceptance, all the while ripping your clothes off.