I was both laying the foundation to change my life and becoming more and more ill from the tail end of this most recent phase of my life (which I absobloomin'lutely needed to change).
At this moment, it's a few minutes before 9 pm on the last night of a four week retreat in the mountains. I want to finish the laundry, go sit in the jacuzzi under the stars and maybe watch one more episode of Madame Secretary.
One of my several goals on this retreat was to start blogging again. I did post a couple of watercolors I made on my original blogger site that I've used primarily as a watercolor artist since 2006. Wow. That now seems like ages ago. So much has changed and changed again. What radical swings in the world!
It's vitally important to me to get this site up and running again. I think that I'll just paste here most of what I re-opened that blog with. Just a recounting of sorts. It both honors my limited time and last, unchecked goal.
Start where you are. That's Pema Chödrön's wise advice.
I'm in Asheville, North Carolina. I am sitting on the covered deck looking over the railing past the gurgling jacuzzi though the tall, delicate trees at the not so distant mountain top.
I've been planted in this comfy, heavy, sturdy armchair with my feet propped up on the square, heavy, sturdy ottoman since my arrival on 11 June. Just to be out in the fresh air, listening to bird song and allowing the days to pass has been enough to make this trip worthwhile. But the value of this long retreat is incalculable.
The last eighteen months of my life feel as though they've evaporated into thin air. Without going into details of why and how, late last November (2018), I started putting changes in motion. I made a radical decision about my finances, had eye surgery, and made long-range plans to end my weekly teaching job. The stress of my finances and teaching situation and my coping mechanisms were killing me. My primary coping mechanism would be alcohol. But more on that at a later date. Also, right, In October, I was pulled off my feet by a very strong dog and, for the first time in my life, was in excruciating lower back pain for many months. Almost forgot about that.
As a result of the lower back pain, I discovered that I have a herniated disk and osteoporosis. More on that at a later date, too.
I went through the lengthy, highly detailed process of addressing my finances in other words filing Chapter 7 and acting as my own attorney. When the last straw broke the proverbial camel's back at my long-term teaching job, I gave notice.
No sooner had I given notice than indoor chain smokers moved into the two apartments next to me.
I've lived in a relatively charming but poorly maintained 1940s garden apartment. The walls are paper thin, the roaches are indomitable but I've had the end unit of the best spot on the property, overlooking and partially sheltered by a grove of willow oak out front and a beautiful and productive garden that I've built out back. I appreciate most of my neighbors and have been centrally located in the absolute best neighborhood in town.
However, the city has changed dramatically in my six years here. Growth without planning. Clear-cutting lots, building new penitentiary style "luxury units" smack up to the edge of the sidewalks along two-lane roads never designed for the sudden influx of traffic. Plus, there's a new fire station catty-corner to my property that will undoubtedly withstand a tornado. Easy. I can only imagine the noise and energetic change when that thing is up and running.
I tried (really, really hard) to mitigate the second-hand smoke issue and after my doctor wrote a letter to the management describing the damage to my lungs, eyes and nasal passages, they kindly released me from all obligations to my lease and all the excellent references I might need.
With nothing and no one to hold me to this place that has presented me with a string of mighty challenges over the past six years, and no real idea of where I'd want to move or how I'd go about that, I thought, I would just like to house sit for a while.
So, after some research and work on the process, that's what I'm doing. Indefinitely. And this is my first stop.
I had no idea how burned out, weak, and ill I was until I arrived here. It took me about two weeks to just land and understand what condition I was in, to deal with the exceptionally neurotic (let's say) homeowner, to discover that I had an infection, and to completely let go of the alcohol.
I dealt with the homeowner, took antibiotics, daily jacuzzis, have stuck like glue to my morning yoga practice and meditation, and have taken the darling (very strong) dog for morning and late afternoon walks straight up the mountain road and then back down again with a round of fetch in between. I am also now on my twelfth day free of alcohol with (I am compelled to say) stretches of 3- to 6-days AF in the first two weeks.
In the last two weeks, I have made four pages of drawing and watercolor work, strung two necklaces of semi-precious healing stones, re-read a book (The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard), given notice at my apartment, started blogging again, and booked a few more housesitting situations. Check, check, and check (I am such a Virgo).
That's it in a nutshell. Except for a mysterious stretch of September into early October, I am booked for mostly long housesits through the end of November. I am also covered with bug bites but really don't care.
Wow. Well, that's a start. My goals were too many for what was really in order... a vacation retreat. The freelance life is stupidly stressful, risky, and fraught with uncertainty. I completely burned out. I lost my self. My soul. I am en route to rediscovering and honoring my soul.
For the public, I'm calling this my long-overdue sabbatical. At least, that's the elevator pitch.
It's dark now. The stars are out. I'm going to go gaze. Arcturus awaits.
Back at'cha real soon.
At the moment, I'm teaching a class called Introduction to Astrology and the Tarot.
This afternoon, we were going over the cards in the Minor Arcana and their traditional meanings. As we touched on Pamela Coleman Smith's Four of Swords from the Waite-Ryder deck whose standard meaning indicates rest (possibly after suffering). The setting is a church and the hands of the resting knight are in prayer pose. Today, I looked closely at the stained glass window, perhaps for the first time.
The window shows either Christ or some other spiritual being blessing a kneeling supplicant. This window and image are rarely described in interpretations of this card.
Fresh on yesterday's post about relaxation, I was keen on the image in the window and intuitively (but, of course) arrived at my own interpretation (which is exactly how the Tarot should work).
In the Four of Swords we have a figure at rest above what is commonly called the "Sword of Truth" with three additional swords hanging at rest on the background wall. Taking into account the stained glass window image, I realized that this image is the archetype of turning a problem (or our suffering) over to a higher power.
To me, this card clearly describes the mechanics of asking the universe for help and then resting with the sure knowledge that help is on the way.
Most things are beyond our control. Why not ask the universe for help, hang up your swords and surrender to a snooze on the Sword of Truth?
The best thing to do is nothing.
You're natural tendency is to act. Distract. Do something! Say something.
But honestly, when you don't know what to do next...
Sit tight. Stay in bed if you have to. Stop. Sit. Breathe.
Whatever it takes when you don't know what to do next, don't do anything.
That's the ruling, experienced wisdom. Take heed. Follow it.
Tomorrow is another day.
You need more sleep.
That's the name of a book on the shelf in my bathroom. It's a bunch of good advice to humans from cats. Plus, it's well written and funny and who doesn't need a good laugh now and then.
A lot of people experience problems sleeping in early recover. I certainly did. It's a problem because we really, really need both sleep and rest in general while we're recovering.
Have you ever been so tired that you cannot sleep? That's how I felt at least through the first ten days without alcohol. Like the walking dead. Though some things would revive me like talking, walking, swimming, and other activities that forced my lungs into motion.
It did not help the quality or quantity of my sleep that I continued to drink coffee and that I binge watched just about anything on my laptop and iPhone when I climbed into bed. I kept telling myself, one thing at a time. However, my nervous system (amongst other things) needed healing from the coffee and screen time almost as much as the alcohol.
When you decide to start your healing journey, refer to this brief sleep check list to help you get the much needed sleep and rest that your body, mind and soul need to recover.
Things to help you sleep.
Prepare to be brainwashed!
Did you know that, with a good night's sleep, your brain is actually washed? I forget where I first heard that but don't take my word for it, read this NPR article.
I'll bet you've had that common experience of going to bed with a problem and waking up with the solution. Well, that's a perfect example of it all coming out in the wash. The brain wash! (Just writing about it makes me want to conk out right now.)
Allow yourself to fall into dream land. Look forward to it. Breathe deeply and release the weight of the world. It's not your's to carry.
Everything will look different in the morning.
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