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shifting drishti

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December 2016

Unexpected JOY 

The Holidays.The expectation for this time of year is unbridled JOY and gratitude.

Don’t factor in that we’ve barely seen the sun in months, that we will be financially strapped for the next few months because of gift giving expectations, and we must attend party after party with people we would barely associate with otherwise.

But hey, there are free booze.

And big signs in bold letters and lights saying, JOY. 

You will be filled with JOY during this taxing time otherwise you aren’t doing it right. And by “it” we all know that means life.

A few years ago I more or less removed myself from the holiday season. Living in abject poverty I was unable to afford gifts for others and my nomadic nature had taken me off anyone’s holiday shopping list. The last Christmas I participated in was spending it with friend Cynthia’s family to watch them open their gifts with none of my own. I love them but it oddly left me not filled with the JOY I am to be experiencing this time of year. 

My 2016 seems to be on par with most people’s year. It’s been a year of crushing disappointments, set back after set back, and trauma. Ya know just another typical year. 

As I try to ride out the remainder of this year I have taken to hiking all over the country. Seeing what America has to offer. One of the main things my mom and I have been able to bond over is that “nature is very healing.” It’s what we say as we wonder off into the woods with a book instead of going to the doctor.

So, it’s just me and my pup. I can go days without speaking to anyone, which for an extrovert like me first felt taxing. Now it is beginning to feel… still slightly taxing. I freak out and tell people my entire life store in 2 minutes when someone engages me. 

Today my pup and I are in New Mexico hiking a trail around a man made lake in the desert. The path isn’t well marked, I have lost my footing a couple times, my lack of depth perception has made some uneven steps difficult and slow going, and I’m constantly having to step between my pup and cacti. This isn’t suppose to be a difficult path, yet we are finding it to be so. We are too deep on the path now that we find ourselves continuing, in-spite of ourselves.

We round the bend to the lake and stop. 

No.

No fucking way.

A pelican. A big huge pelican just chilling in the water.

Pelicans bring me such unbridled JOY. They draw out feelings of pure happiness that I rarely feel as an adult. I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those things. Pelicans in the wild, they’re my happy place. 

Towards the end of my marriage my ex-husband, and what I would later find out, his girlfriend would make fun of this pure JOY. I was mocked so throughly I stopped celebrating every pelican sighting I had. I would quietly bottle up the feeing to the point where it wasn’t eliciting the same joy, because it had to be ramped down and controlled. 

When my marriage lay in rubble and I was piecing myself back together I had a pelican tattooed on my forearm. I wanted to remember to never let someone steal my JOY again. I can have all-caps JOY whenever it over takes me. 

It sinks in that I was staring at a pelican, in the desert- a place I never would have expected to see a pelican, I let myself be overcome with JOY. Real JOY. Not forced. Not demanded. Not pressured into it. Not controlled. We had trotted down a path on a cold and windy day and were rewarded with pure JOY.

That’s the thing about JOY, that really all-caps kind. It’s not always yelling at you from signs put up by your local government or favorite store. 

Sometimes it comes rip roaring into your life because you did what was challenging and you were graced with finding JOY in the unexpected. 

And unexpected JOY can create its own light inside of you, a light that is hard to extinguish. 

A forced joy, because this is what you are suppose to be doing right now can leave you hollow and empty. 

Take that path. Stutter step down the slippery parts. Protect your loved ones. You never know pure JOY might be around the bend. 

You aren’t crazy

“I’m not crazy, I’m wild.”

My friend Ally has taken to saying this. It has become, in a way, her mantra.

I’m not crazy, I’m wild.

I’m not crazy, I’m wild.

I’m not crazy, I’m wild.

On sight, for me, Ally embodies the essence of a Wild Woman. 

Her sharp, cutting, icy, grayish blue eyes. Her long blonde hair that drapes over her like armour. Her smile, that when she paints it in the brightest and most daring reds, stops traffic. 

I love Ally.

I love her strength. That survivor spirit. Her boldness makes me feel empowered.

Ally and I moved from casual acquaintances to sisters when in the same week we both went through personal tragedy. We bonded as our feelings spilled out onto the floor and we attempted to pick them back up and make sense of them. We’d blast Britany Spears and dance for hours. If an audience was available we’d ask (*make*) them to watch us crush showtunes. In particular Rent’s Take me or Leave me. 

While very different women, with different backgrounds, views, and beliefs; we were women cut of the same “crazy woman” clothe. 

We care too much. We push too hard. We talk too loud. We are too passionate. We voice our opinions too freely. We are too clever. We dance too recklessly. We have comebacks ready too quickly.  We love too fiercely.

The elements that create who we are, that truly are the essence of our beings, were what have (and are) pointed to as making us crazy.

I had resolved myself to this narrative. Boys and men have been calling me crazy since I was a child. I had been married to a man that convinced half the town that I was crazy. I had been told that having feelings made me crazy so many times, and I couldn’t figure out how to switch them off, that I believed I must be crazy.  Because I care, I really care. 

It wasn’t until Ally looking over at me with her cool eyes responded to a joke I had made about us being crazy with, “nah. No. I’m not crazy, I’m wild.” that I started to look at this wording so many men have offered to me my whole life. I didn’t want it. I didn’t accept it anymore.

See crazy to a certain level can be tamed. It can be controlled. Locked up. Medicated. Manipulated. 

Wild. Now wild, on the other hand, is unpredictable. Free. Not held back by the desires of others. Wild is scary and unknown.

As women when we are told that we are crazy for being passionate, for caring, for loving; it’s used as a tool to control us and keep us in line. Being wild means nothing holds us back from loving fiercely, from caring wholeheartedly, from pursuing our passions. 

When I discuss with men my recent upheaval of my life, to pursue the unknown, to live a wild and free-range life, I am often met with one of two responses.

“I’m so jealous.”

Or.

“You’re crazy.”

What’s crazy about it? I lost everything this year, ranging from an eye to my reputation. The last three years, were the only time anyone had truly dared to tame me. The challenge was too enticing to one man and it nearly killed me. The men who tell me it’s crazy know that I can’t be controlled, so it becomes easier to dismiss me. 

I’m not tamable.

I came alive again once I was set free. 

I have my pack, my sisterhood with other strong and wild women. They shelter me and hold me up when I’m injured and weak. Then they send me back on my path, but let me know I can return anytime I need. I can return as I am, no need to change. 

They allow me to stay wild, while being loved. 

When you are told that you’re crazy, change it to wild. When someone tries to control you with their words, remember words aren’t chaining you to anything. When someone tries to destroy you, remember your wild strength can over come anything. 

Sisters. I see you. And as my beloved friend Ally will tell you:

You aren’t crazy. You are WILD.

New Chapter: Vanderlust Yogi

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A tree’s story

When I picture hikers my mind conjures up images of willowy Scandinavians. Their perfect blonde hair, subtle but glowing tan, and immaculate khaki shorts cut high enough to show off their toned and muscular thighs. 

This image I have for the perfect hiker isn’t based on any life experience. The handful of dedicated hikers I have met and known have all been men, slender but moving towards gaunt, and to say they are “grizzled” might be an under sell. They often have gone through some stuff in life that they have no intereste in talking about, however their life experience still sits heavy in the sparse words they do use to talk about their lives. 

I don’t identify with the reality of the hikers that I have known or the perfetly perfect image I have created in my mind. A woman in her early 30s, bubbly, chatty, chubby, and I have never been able to pull off khaki. That is part of why I aggrandize “The Noble Hiker.” A man in the woods, one with nature, a rules junky for how one is to connect with nature and life. I have recently taken to the trails for some short hikes, but to my untrained body feel like epic journeys. I have found myself here, because after years of dreaming of being a hiker and adventurer I have been left with nothing to stop me from pursuing the trail. 

My year was one that tore me apart and left me with little of what I had perceived to be my life. Most of it was built on a false illusion of trust and loyalty. When my marriage dissolved in April I did my best to regroup quickly and move onto a path of growth. I wasn’t going to be this naive again, I wouldn’t feel that my worth was dependent on someone saying that I belonged to them,  and I would show myself compassion for being a flawed individual. 

By early August. I was in a good space about everything. I was at peace with what had happened, that my life wasn’t going to be what I had imagined. I was open to the new possibilities. Truly, for the first time in my life I was showing myself self compassion. I’m not perfect or where I thought I would be, but as long as I keep growing I am moving in the right direction.

Then early in the morning of August 14th I was stabbed multiple times, once in the right eye, as I entered my apartment. This haulted everything, again. I thought I was moving towards something bigger, I thought I was going to go on an epic journey in Africa, I thought I was going to be getting in great shape and take control of my life, I thought…

It didn’t matter anymore what I thought, my life was now on hold. I had to heal. While I healed physically fairly quickly, the internal struggle was taking longer. I no longer felt safe.  I felt isolated and alone, unrelatable, and directionless. 

As my lame joke goes, “I’m one eyed, unemployed, homeless, and divorced. Six months ago I was none of these things.” I decided to take to the road, to get out of town. Try to be that hiker, attuned to nature, woke woman I had always envisioned for myself. The realty is I have nothing more to lose, so why not keep growing.

I keep trying to put all of this last year behind me. Quickly.  No one wants to hear about it anymore. Its time to get it together and be the person I’m suppose to be. Move on Carol, you’re fine.

On my recent training hikes I have found myself having this arguement with myself as I trudged along. Just be better, now, Carol. The only way to snap out of these talks with myself would be to stop and force myself to take in the nature I had been so desperate to surround myself with. On my hikes I kept noticing trees that had run into and grown around boulders.

The tree was on a clear path of growth when it ran into the boulder. Instead of its growth coming to a quick and untimely demise the tree grew around the boulder. Not went around or avoided the boulder, but actively grew around the boulder to the point where it is incorporated into its make up. The tree would not stand the same if it hadn’t incorporated the boulder into it growth. I have seen trees that just lightly brush against the boulders and those that have seemed to spread out and comsumed the boulder. Lingering around its hard surface.

These sights have become calming reminders to me when my spirit grows tired. Some trees have all the right ingredients for growth, they sit in a spot with a wealth of direct sunlight and plenty of space to grow straight and narrow towards the sky. These aren’t the trees that stop me in my tracks to take them in. It’s the ones that twist and turn as they fought for their space, for their light. Its the trees that collided with insurmountable barrier and grew around it. The barrier that they out grew became a part of their story.

These are the stories of the forest that keep me on the trail. 

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