fredag 20 april 2018

The coming of rage

You are the dark song
of the morning;
serious and slow,
you shave, you dress,
you descend the stairs
in your public clothes
and drive away, you become
the wise and powerful one
who makes all the days
possible in the world.
But you were also the red song
in the night,
stumbling through the house
to the child’s bed,
to the damp rose of her body,
leaving your bitter taste.
And forever those nights snarl
the delicate machinery of the days.
When the child’s mother smiles
you see on her cheekbones
a truth you will never confess;
and you see how the child grows–
timidly, crouching in corners.
Sometimes in the wide night
you hear the most mournful cry,
a ravished and terrible moment.
In your dreams she’s a tree
that will never come to leaf–
in your dreams she’s a watch
you dropped on the dark stones
till no one could gather the fragments–
in your dreams you have sullied and murdered,
and dreams do not lie.
-          Mary Oliver

”I am so mother-fucking-holy-shit-angry!”
30 pairs of eyes stare at me as I stand in the heart of the circle, heart racing, hands clenched in trembling fists and anger literally fuming from my body like dew on a hot summer’s day. I have never been this angry in my entire life.

And then it all kind of goes blank.

A few days earlier.

It was a sunny day in the beginning of March and I was halfway through the retreat of my dreams. I had gone on a budget-shattering adventure to California to sit in a circle with my favorite author and 30 likeminded people and ponder the story of the world and re-imagine a more life-sustaining tomorrow for all of us. It was the eclipse of my story-themed year and the highlight of my narrative journey – a journey towards the more beautiful world my heart knew was possible. I was here, I had arrived. I had so many expectations, yet did not really know what to expect.

But I sure as hell did not expect this.

Instead of the bliss I thought I was going to step into, I found myself increasingly agitated, triggered by both people in the group and the exhausting soul-searching ventures into the past, and not at ease with my own emotions. I struggled to find an outlet for this increasingly uncomfortable feeling in my chest and took my escape to the nearby stream. 

I sat down on a log, far away from the crowd of people I had distanced myself from.

I was not feeling like myself, but at the same struggling even with the concept of “self”, thinking that “well, if this is how I am feeling, this is also me, right? But what if I don’t like it?”. Frustration arouse again and I shouted out to the dancing waters “WHY am I feeling this and what am I supposed to do with it?!?” With no answer but the never ending rush of flowing water, seemingly taunting me with its simplicity and ease of being, I sighed and stomped my way back to reality.

And reality was that I needed to reach out. To someone, to anything. I needed to step into my vulnerability, as established love-and-belonging guru Brene Brown would say. I found a guy from the group standing not too far away, a bearded, poncho-clad young man who had been studying with shamans and had offered healing sessions for anyone in the group feeling the need for it. And I thought to myself “well, obviously I am in the need of something.  Here is something.” So I approached him, and law and behold – asked him for something I thought I needed and wanted.
I stood awkwardly next to him and barfed out my question before my “take no space and make no demands” – side of me had a chance to swoop in with frowned eyebrows and a swift hand on my mouth. 

“Could I ask for a healing session?” I interrupt him as he is making nice small chat. He looks at me kindly and smiles. “Of course! We are gathering a group in the yurt later if you want to join”.
An hour later I find myself with three others from my group huddled in a yurt by the ocean. We all sit in a circle and the bearded guy takes a look round the circle. “I thought we all could share a shadow side of ourselves that we would like to integrate into our being”.

“Oh, well”, I think to myself, “here we go”. I take a deep breath and tell them the story of the unicorn with sparkles and sunshine in her hair, who is always cheerful, positive and smiling, cracking jokes at the crack of dawn and always in the pursuit of making other people feel comfortable, even when it comes at the expense of her own integrity. A unicorn who as a toddler was knighted “a ray of sunshine” the day her father died and has entertained the world since, on a mission to turn frowns upside down and to make sure there is enough sprinkles of stardust for everyone, equal and fair.
But this unicorn was seeing that the magical world she was living in, this enchanted fairytale, was starting to rip at the seams. Well, because you see, the unicorn was not always happy. Sometimes the unicorn was uncontrollably sad and gloomy. Sometimes she felt hollow and hopeless. And sometimes the unicorn found herself at a stream screaming at water.

The unicorn had started to realize that her magical kingdom was less magical because it only allowed for a certain kind of unicorn to graze its lush steeps. And somehow it made the kingdom less real. And the unicorn knew that she had to wander into the darker sides of this fairy-tale land in order to fully become queen of these hills.

And this was the story I shared. After taking a deep exhale, feeling slightly uncomfortable to be babbing on about unicorns (and speaking slightly too fast in the true spirit of “oh, do not let me take up all the time and space here now, oh-dear-oh-dear”) poncho-guy looks over at me with an interested look and says “it seem like you need to find your witch in the woods”.

“Well, I guess so…” I say, but leave the healing session slightly baffled. “Well, where does one find her?”, I think to myself as I stroll into the room where our next session is to take place.
The group leader takes his seat and introduces the next exercise, to venture out in nature on a quest for answers. We are to take a burning question with us, go outside, find an object, meditate on it and see if we can bring about clarity in our pursuit of answers.

“Well I know my question alright” I think to myself and head out into the sunshine.
Still feeling like the grumpy cat I have morphed into, I swerve off the path towards the sunny beach and go into the shady woods instead. “I don’t want to go stare at the glittery ocean”, I retort to no one who is asking. I follow the path, looking for something that can serve as my meditation object. A huge tree catches my attention and I go around it to go sit at a bench conveniently placed in front of it. I sit down and look up.

“You got to be kidding me!”, I yell out to the silent forest. “Come ooooon”.

In the giant tree trunk a woman’s face is staring back at me. (Okey, I am not on mushrooms here. The woman’s face is in the form of a metallic art installation, but I mean, you get the hint from the Universe, no?)

I had found my witch in the woods. I start laughing. And shake my head. “This is too obvious”, I think to myself, but sit up straight and take in the sight. Mindfully. Looking for answers.
“Alright, here we have this huge ass tree. It has a giant tree trunk with this fierce woman face on it”, I whisper to myself as my eyes trace the bark of the colossal tree as it spreads out into branches that reach towards the sunshine. Amongst the green leaves the birds chirp, the sunrays glisten and the butterflies swoon (too much?). That is where all the magic happens. My eyes trace the tree trunk back down to the roots again. “But the branches are held up by this massive core, this seemingly peaceful, yet powerful tree trunk that in the shadows lays the foundation to its blossoming”, I say to myself in way too pretentious wording and realize. I need to re-connect with my dark tree trunk.

As I finish my tree gazing I make myself ready to leave, but before I bid tree woman farewell, in an attempt to make this encounter more personal, I stop to ask her name. I hear a slight rumble in the air, as if a storm is coming and I turn to her with raised eyebrows and an amused look on my face. “Really? Storm? That is very ominous, even for a tree lady”. So I leave the tree trunk with the menacing stripper-name and return to the group where we all have a little sharing round before it is time for dinner.

But still, even after having found my witch in the woods, I am haunted by my annoyed, angry demon. It is scratching from the inside and not even chocolate cake seems to be calming it down (and then you know you have an issue). I step outside on the terrace in the cool evening breeze. I am accompanied by one of my roommates, one of the sassier sorts, who after a 15 minute talk already has got me snapping my fingers and bobbing my head with fiery comments like “Heidi, goddamn, let your inner bitch out”. I am feeling a fire blossoming up inside of me and I definitely need to have an outlet for it. I go find one of my other roomies, a charming and no-bullshit kind of girl, who recently told me she had picked up the art of bellowing as a way to release anger and frustration. I grab her and tell her I need to let it rip (and not the smelly way). We go out on a cliff by the thundering waters and yell our hearts out for 5 minutes. With a slight light-headed feeling and a raspy voice we walk back to the restaurant.

“Damn, that was efficient”, I tell her.
“I know”, she responds with eyes glistening.

Back at the door to the restaurant she asks me what I am going to do now. I hesitate. I was going to this lecture, but I also just want to go chill in the hot-tubs (yes, hot-tubs).
“You can always leave the lecture if you don’t like it”, she says, shrugging her shoulders and then catches the panicked look on my face. 

“Oh, you don’t do that, do you?”. 

And she is right. I don’t. That would entail making someone uncomfortable (aka the lecturer) and perhaps upsetting said same person. But I decide that I will do it. 

“I will go to the lecture and if I don’t like it, I shall leave.”, I say in a dramatic fashion worthy of Scarlett O’Hara and make my way to the lecture.

Which turns out to be filmed. Oh shit.

I somehow subconsciously (sneaky subconscious) find a seat IN THE MIDDLE of the audience, still set on that if I need to leave “I am hereby giving myself permission to leave – however awkward I feel”.

Ten minutes into it I know I need to leave. It is not a bad lecture at all and the topic is very interesting, but my adrenaline-filled body is not up for it. It is up for running a marathon or soaking in a hot tub. Definitely not listening to a talk on mindfulness. I glance around and feel hot sweats rising (which does defy gravity, I know). I take a few deep breaths and muster up courage, tell myself that “if the lecturer takes this personally, then that is up to her, I cannot take responsibility for how other people will interpret my actions”. I look at the woman next to me who is holding a glass of wine, wishing I could snatch it and gulp it, but instead I smile nervously and whisper “I need to leave”. She looks at me slightly confused. She is probably wondering why this flustered, pink-faced woman is wiggling in her seat and eying her glass of wine, informing her about her up-and-coming exit. I take another look around the room, at the film camera in the back of the hall and I bolt. I grab my jacket and somehow make my way through a handful of cushion-seated ladies and grey-haired men and burst out into the evening air, feeling victorious. I JUST UP AND LEFT A LECTURE. WHILE IT WAS BEING FILMED. I AM SUCH A REBEL. 

I make my way, victorious, to the hot tubs and float under the stars, sharing lovely small-talk with some ladies and finding myself just slightly re-centered and not as angry and annoyed after having not one, but TWO small victories won for my inner Storm today. I close my eyes and smile.

But the next morning I wake up. Not smiling. “Holy shit, what the fuck is going on with me”, is my first thought as small ripples of anger tingle through my body. But they are soft ripples on the surface, like an ocean awaiting gushing winds. But nevertheless, they are there.

I get dressed and I decide not to go to yoga, because I fucking do not feel like it and no one is going to make me (entering toddler mode). But before I head to breakfast I make my way through the woods to pay respect to the tree woman. Both she and I know that there is something in the air and I feel like I might need some backup.

I find her patient face in the shadows and I put a hand on the tree trunk, close my eyes and whisper: “If there is a space and place for me to express my anger today, I will honor my rage and give it permission to be expressed in a respectful way”. I open my eyes and find myself smiling at the woman’s serene expression. “Oh, shit might be going down”, I whisper to her and head down to the restaurant.

I grab some breakfast and seat myself next to two of my group-comrades. A woman and a man. Both just the loveliest, most empathetic creatures. I am still stewing inside a bit, but put on a smile and greet them with a sunny “Hi!”. The woman smiles back and asks me “How are you doing?”. ‘
“I am doing well”, I respond with faked ease.

But then something crashes inside of me. Just like that. Enough pretending.
“No. You know what? I am not doing well. I am not fine. I am fucking angry.”
She looks at me slightly baffled.

The man leans over, compassionately intrigued (only a few people can pull this look off). The woman puts her head closer to mine. “I feel angry too”, she confides in a whisper.

My hands start trembling and I start crying. Which is what always happens when I try and express anger. Two pair of kind eyes are staring back into my tear-filled ones.

“I hate that I always start crying when I get angry”, I say and get even angrier at my body’s total disrespect for my internal fury. How dare it mask it with tears? Goddamn. GODDAMN.

The man looks at me with a mix of compassion and determination of his face (also a very interesting combination I know). “Heidi, we are going to have a session today that is called Forum, where people in the group can bring up issues and have their feelings and emotions acknowledged and seen by the group. If you bring this anger into the circle I think it could be very powerful.”
He squeezes my hand and gives me an encouraging nod. Then he leaves.

“I, I don’t know. Well, hmm… Maybe… Oh dear”, I half whisper to myself as I take away my dishes and head to the group room. Feeling like something is going to happen. Something needs to happen.

The teacher starts with introducing the Forum, a form of conflict resolution tool used in intentional communities once they realized that everything is not always roses and rainbows.

“Without having a space for this kind of stuff to be brought up, they crumbled” he says and continues with explaining the procedure. Everyone who feels called to express something can enter the circle and give a “performance” while walking in loops in front of the others. And then the other community members (in this case our little story-group) are allowed to mirror that persons performance as a way of giving feedback.

I am sitting in my seat, absolutely on the verge of exploding. I am having hot flashes, cold flashes interchanging (if this is how menopause feels like - then holy shit). I am literally shaking with so much repressed anger, triggered during the workshop but definitely built up over the last 28 years of my diplomatic existence. My lovely Canadian roomie seated next to me gives me a gentle nudge and asks me if everything is alright. “I am just feeling a bit frazzled”, I say, which is quite an understatement.

When the teacher ends his talk, he opens up the circle by asking if there is anyone who would like to go first. I shoot up. And almost startle myself. Usually I am not the one to claim anything that I dearly want by grabbing it upfront. I usually sit and wait for someone else to give me the space, to acknowledge the humble sparkling unicorn smiling brightly in the corner. But this is not the unicorn. This is the witch in the woods.

I realize that there is no turning back now and make my way to the middle of the circle. And explode.
I am pretty sure it was not pretty. Which is not was it was meant to be either. But holy shit it was releasing. After maybe a ten minute rage-fit I calm down and sober up. I look at the space-holders who tell me to be with this emotion and to ask myself what this angry Heidi is trying to tell me. I stand still for what feels like year-long minutes, just being with the aftermath of the Storm.
And then it hits me. Of course. It is Storm. I close my eyes and speak.

“I need to allow myself to express anger in a healthy way, because when I give way for the storm, I also give way for the clarity that comes after it. It is the calm after the storm.”

I open my eyes and look at the space-holders who smile and nod gently. “Before you take your seat, I want to you to walk around the circle and look everyone in the eye”.

So I walk. I see and I feel seen. I stare into tear-filled, compassionate, soft, encouraging, smiling eyes. Eyes who have watched the most vulnerable, hidden part of myself be fully disrobed in front of them. After the session ends, one of the men approaches me to shake my hand.

“It was a pleasure meeting you today, Heidi”.

And all of a sudden the ban of the dark woods was lifted and the magic kingdom just got a bit darker – and a bit more real. And the unicorn learnt she was also a bad-ass witch.