I considered writing this letter before I left for my Caribbean Time Out. I considered skipping it all together. And now I'm writing to you from the darkness of my luxury tent, with nothing but the sounds of my fellow inmates snoring and a dozen cruise ships blaring Miley Cyrus and boozing it up.
This is the sound of spiritual transformation, which is also lit by the screen of an iPad. I'm not terribly confident that this is how the saints of yore experienced dark nights like this, but... welcome to the iVerse.
I nearly said that this year started like all of the others, but reflecting back I realize it did not. Rather than the annual walkabout The Ben and I used to take around the lake, sharing our hopes and dreams and plans, this year started with me feeling desperately alone. Too old for the same old party games, too tired to resist, and profoundly lonely (for people trying to get pregnant, that's code for Not Pregnant). It was dreary and The Ben slept in, recovering from a night that was very fun for him and not so much for me. I didn't drink as I held this tremendous hope tightly with two fists. I didn't dare have fun, because I was one day late, which meant This Could Be It.
I am pretty good at spending time with myself, but this was the umpteenth up and down, and it hit hard. Like crying on grandma's bathroom floor hard.
Like Eat Pray Love hard.
(and yes, I still hate the book)
Without the annual check in, I felt lost facing a year with tides of new flavors of loneliness while Ben planned his retreats and travels and I tried yet again to fold my interests around them. His plans included a three week long retreat in Seattle that I wasn't invited to, and I looked long and hard for an international yoga retreat or training on anything during that same three week time frame. There were none. As in: none on Earth (or at least the internet). So I booked something for myself instead. I turned my back on my marriage and focused in on goals I knew I could accomplish, like traveling abroad.
I did. And then my marriage ended. And then my life burned down. My marriage started on the equinox and will end on the solstice, the darkest day of the year. The day when, in years past, we invited friends over to celebrate the coming of the light.
This year I'm spending it in Paradise with Peter.
Despite my intense criticism of my mythical friend Elizabeth of Eat Pray Love fame, I think that perhaps she was right not to try the mega dose of eating, praying, and loving at the same time. Self transformation or purification or spiritual metamorphosis is not sexy, at all. It involves a lot of ugly crying that comes literally out of nowhere. As in tonight, our speaker at satsang was quite honestly the most boring person I've heard speak in public. I felt like I was trapped in a cocktail party in the corner, and this inspired weeping for the lost solstice party.
There's nowhere to hide in a 9x9 tent with a makeshift bed, either
I've never spent Christmas or my birthday away from my family. Maybe that's pathetic, but it is true that on my 33rd trip around the sun, I'm starting to break away. The fact that I've chosen this particular adventure in a minimum security ashram built on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean is especially comical. This island is home to both the fanatical purists of the ashram and the dark temptations of the nearby mega hotels, casinos, and cruise ships.
I'm grateful in many ways for the spotty internet coverage that separates me from the rest of what's happening in the world. For instance, Facebook has just started offering to compile my year in pictures and status updates, and while it's fun to see what your lives have looked like this year, I'm afraid to see how the omniscient biographer that is Facebook would recount my Year of the Wood Horse. Certainly it would pick up on the travel and the changing cast of characters, the gentle transition to those months where I was most clearly observing my feet, and the pervasive, lingering melancholy.
But it would miss the brightest and darkest of moments.... those that should be reserved for journals and those that happen out of view of the camera. It would miss the dramatic irony that my ex-husband's new girlfriend shares my birthday, or the inner turmoil of where to file my boyfriend's mothers' emails.
It would miss moments of realization that should come to me in meditation or deep contemplation, but inevitably hit me at Starbucks. Yes, it's true. There's a Sbx in Purgatory. And that's where I am right now.
Anne Lamott says that God is in the bathroom, and this has been like a mantra for me. I'm doing the work, like daily meditation and karma yoga and asana and philosophy. Every time my mind wanders, I bring it back to my mantra, which is only slightly less sacrilegious than God is in the bathroom, but I bring it back. But it isn't until I set foot in a place that is familiar that I distill the lessons of this spiritual path.
For me, Spirituality is at the Starbucks.
So for this year that cannot fully be described by Facebook or indeed by me, I'll offer you what I can. Lessons that maybe you can take and do something with.
Things I have learned from this:
1. Relationships between two people can only be understood by those two people, if by anyone at all. Anything you see on the outside is an illusion broadcast by the Man Behind the (social media) Curtain.
2. The best moments cannot be captured by anything other than the soul. Like flying kites on the beach under the full moon, or the sweet boy who came to sit with me during Satsang.
3. The worst moments are equally impossible to capture, and even more indelibly burned into the etherial material of the soul. Like the decision to part ways, or the infinite number of times I've called that decision to question
4. There is a Starbucks everywhere.
5. I have a quiver full of yardsticks that I've picked up from other people, and these tell me how quickly I should respond to an email, or how I should wear my hair, or how much money I should make or keep or spend. They also tell me about what motherhood and spirituality look like. This is heavy shit that I keep trying to leave behind, but someone from Lost Luggage keeps paging me to come and get it.
That's it for 2014. Next is Christmas and New Years, my birthday and The Year of the Goat, and maybe I'll find the next step to enlightenment scattered among the stars and celebrations. If so, I'll be sure to share.
Om Shanti, kittens.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.