I have a twisty history that maps out like a rutted mountain track. There are switchbacks, washouts and turnouts with a view; there are experimental forays into wilderness with dead ends and cold camps. Rarely does my road slide gently across an easy meadow. It refuses to be paved. Travel is seasonal and somewhat perilous.
Over time, I've learned the technology to cut a much simpler, more direct route through my terrain that could care less about water sources or contour-hugging. I've developed an arsenal of coping skills that I can call upon--a Transformer-like ATV with climate-control, advanced weaponry and armor. Boulders in the road? Trees in the way? Canyons opening up? No problem. The most fragile inner child could take on the worst conditions, the most horrendous emotional storm in relative ease, locked inside an impervious skin...
It is an option. I suppose building such a thing is sometimes necessary for survival, in the long run. But here's the downside: the virtual, two-dimensional vision I must use to peer out at the world from my fort-on-tracks is limiting, to say the least. All my other senses are rendered useless in the recycled air. When I speak, my voice stops at the padded titanium walls. I can only pretend that there's nothing out there to hurt, that my determined speed is my only concern, that the offerings left along the way by animal, vegetable, mineral or stardust are worthless to my cause.
When conditions get difficult, I sometimes climb into this thing where it's parked (top secret location) and play with the controls. It's so nice and safe, in there! I have a certain fondness for the skill--no, the incredible ingenuity that went into the implementation of my mobile bomb shelter, my ultimate freeze-out weapon. Yeah, go ahead ruthless world, rotten people, sickness, divorce or death--give it your best shot! Can't touch me!
A similar skill has me flying through a sterile dream, high above any topography--observing with a mental lens that burns to the bottom of life with breathless accuracy. This is how one goes to the stake with dignity...when it is understood that absolutely everything is yet another concept thrown up by left-brains on crack. There is, in this scenario, no me to touch--a valuable (but partial) truth, a mask so finely rendered that it really looks like the face of serenity. In this way, while I am busy tying my hands, I can place my gaze far, far away from the heat, from the present moment, from any kind of pain.
There are, of course, many other emergency fallback measures--less sophisticated, but effective in a pinch--such as wrapping myself in the barbed wire of anger or cynicism, or the poison ivy of self-pity. Hurts more, but creates a good distance.
At the beginning of this summer, I made a conscious decision to abandon these skills, wonderful as they can be, and just walk...through fire, ice, whatever. I wanted to go deep into the wilderness of myself, the mountains, the oceans, the unexplained craters so old that they are visible only from inner space. I took my real, physical body--the soft and vulnerable one, the one alive to touch. I had no plan, no map, no radar. My watch stopped. My expectations, when I tried to use them, turned out to be a pile of rust. My approval ratings took a dive. The inner voices screeched in fear, as if I was an astronaut heading for a new galaxy without my spacesuit. In a way, that's exactly how it felt. I didn't take a helmet, knee pads, mouth guard, oxygen, bear-spray or aspirin. What an idiot, said my inner parent. You will catch a disease!
As I headed out, I threw back over my shoulder, I am the disease. (I only half-believed it--but it sounded good!)
So, what happened? Are my dream-theories, my meticulous safeguard-methods all wrong? Did I forget where I parked that tank? No. My inner child is just as whiny as ever, and her parent just as strictly concerned...but wait a second...I have to catch my breath from all the laughing, wipe the monsoon off my face from all the crying, and sit down because my feet hurt. From dancing, not running. The mark on my forehead is where I planted it on the ground in utter humility. The inside of my soul is abraded, and healing into something not-quite-familiar, but good.
The stuff simmering over there on the fire is a brew of gifts that I want to share...but they need to cook a little longer, I think. Meanwhile, have some tea, some wild mushrooms, a big hug. I love you all. :)