The confusion…a strong sense of confusion has walked with me for two years. Elder Becker informed me that “I am not confused, it’s just a thing I do”. Shadowwalker has suggested in my therapeutic work with him that “confusion is just a defense mechanism that I utilize when I’m failing to see the truth of what is before me”. But none of those land deeply within me, they don’t strike an absolute chord consistent with the result of an internal discovery. The confusion heightens in the moment’s I try to make premature movements in the world, just as I am about to move into the decision, the confusion rears beckoning me to allow something to be heard. It’s almost impossible to just walk through it. It’s as if you are walking across a tightrope between two spaces, and as you get into the middle the two ends connected to the opposing solids break, and all that remains is the center part that you were walking along, but you can’t just stay there because the stability of the rope is missing, ‘nor can you go back because the road to your starting point has disappeared and you can’t go forward because you don’t have anything pulling you there, in the moment before you fall, what do you do?
The space in between is what I refer to as the abyss. The abyss is sort of like a void, not black or light, just there. There is no real particular passion or attachment to anything, no real opinion on matters, goals, desires or dreams. It’s more like an open space where you’ll take whatever happens. But my mind wants something to happen, but because it doesn’t feel any real desire, intention, path or goal all it puts out is a sense of urgency about a place your needing to get to. “I’ll go, where you need me to, but I just don’t see where I am to go” comes the desperate voice from within me. This voice is also the voice that gives an emotion of helplessness is prone to panic and anxiety and insidious attempts to maintain a negative self concept. This is quite possibly the victim. Then another voice makes itself known, this one a taunter. She reminds me of how useless I am and berates me for considering the honoring of my truth. “You have a daughter to support, stop entertaining your childish fantasies, your making up a story to give you more hope and inspiration rather than face the reality of your life”…definitely the critical judge. The artist comes in whispers. Small whispers not of a particular path but of the necessity to pay attention to my creative expression, that ends up accompanied by a full bodied hunger for chanelling out the continuous river of reflection and the magnificence of it’s individual parts through, dance, painting, writing, singing….flowing with it. But just as it rises up, critical judge flies in with avengeance….”artists are struggling while being expert at their craft. You my dear, don’t even propose a practiced skill, and to start one now and than expect to make a living is sheer madness…oh and once again..you have a daughter to support”.
At this point the artist is no contender of the judge, wise and well versed in the ways of rationality and common sense. They will begin bargaining for their parts. The artist, says therapy is my craft, that is my practiced skill, I can actualize it through there. Out of somewhere in the corner, another voice breaks through.. “but how can you do that? Where is room for creativity, healing and self expression?. Your work there has always been stifled and you spend more time fighting for the permission to grow, rather than doing what your doing anyway”. The judge returns “listen to you, creativity healing and self expression, look at the world out there, who has room for that, are you really that privileged?”
That war has been in existence for awhile. The what used to be dense unconsciousness to the internal world has now become a battleground. I have choices about how to engage that battleground. I can get real busy doing people favors and sorting out their lives, I can get wrapped up in a romance that is doomed from the beginning, I can eat a bunch of junk food, smoke a lot of pot or watch a bunch of movies and finally..bury myself in a frenzy of mind blowing sex. All of these, drown out the voices of the internal world. In fact as I write it, I am aware that has been some of what has made this particular part of my path so excruciating. I have done so much work, in building up my capacity for independence and separating myself from what other people think I should be doing, but the capacity to make those decisions for myself is still such a small seed, trapped in the hunter’s snare. Fear kicks in, and I go back.
When I finished my Master’s Degree in Aboriginal social work, the final requirement was completion of a vision quest. I spent four long days and nights in the bush. No food, no water, a little cedar tea one day, no distractions, just me, my tent, some sacred items clothes and the bush. I fasted for guidance. The dream about moving to BC continued to nag at me. My opportunities for work were here, but everything else felt so suffocating. But who was I kidding, trying to solve a restless continuous internal angst by moving across the country. When I left the fast, I had bargained a deal with the inner churnings. I would take two weeks to go explore out west and feel out the land in my heart. Then I would return to Ontario to begin my practice. There was just enough money left in my student loan for 16 days of backpacking, buses and trains, carpools, hitchhiking, ferries, sheds and couchsurfing, so I went. I had never traveled alone, put my trust in strangers, or dared independently venture more than two hours from home. This was the perfect opportunity to test myself, and though fear reared its head, it felt like the right thing to do.
It was a beautiful experience, refreshing models of community and ways of being, that made me feel ordinary, but more comforting than anything I had known. But the locals of the small communities in which I encountered this ambience spoke of the same things I wrestled with in Ontario. People moving in with money, turf wars between the hippies and the rich, lack of housing and work…..some becoming touristry and loosing their once natural way of being that made people visit in the first place. The cities I went through, weren’t a whole lot different from the places I’d known in Ontario and offered little pull. But the landscape was amazing, it wasn’t a relationship like in Ontario. I wasn’t watching the beauty within the landscape as I do at home, I was one with it. Daily it took my breath away. I visited with diverse and interesting people and expressed myself in fearless ways evident when traveling in landscape you don’t call home. I was refreshed and set home energized to begin my practice.
Everything worked out how I had envisioned it. I would come home, claim a position in the downtown coffee shop with a soothing yet festive atmosphere so close to the lake and work at building up my practice. There would be lots of paperwork, a lot of initial fees and a necessity to keep a stable income while doing so. I worked forty hours a week in the coffee shop and worked at developing my groups and designing my programming. I created brochures, designed forms, consulted a variety of my colleagues and mentors in establishing. I took a business course (which I didn’t complete) arranged a space between three clinics that adored me and gave me the space to do whatever I needed. But everything felt like a struggle. Like I was dragging myself through the motions of something I no longer wanted to do. I couldn’t imagine myself any other way, so I persisted with trying to argue myself into going back into the work and doing it. My friends, colleagues and supervisors mentioned they saw my fear and wondered if my lack of commitment to it may be a fear of success…a fear of inadequacy…a defense mechanism. I continued to work though the research and necessary tasks needed to build a private practice in social work, while plummeting myself into Radical acceptance mat trips on the weekends, therapy once a week, a healthy balance of inward time and socializing time, mindfulness, journaling, seminars and talks by medicine men, authors, shamans. I learned lots about the internal struggles, the voices that lived inside of me, the ways in which my body notified me of it’s knowings, but I grew less and less passionate about what I was trying to build. A long but slow sense of suffocation was setting in, something that just wanted to break free.
The voices began to war again. “Who the hell do you think you are, entertaining “what might be” from your soul? Don’t you see the suffering all around you? The wars? The poverty? The fights for freedom on political, physical, social, legal levels? You vowed to fight this war, you spoke against people who turned their backs on these struggles, and now look at you, walking away on the childish basis that it doesn’t “feel right”.” It’s mocking ran through me. That is terribly selfish and at best surreal, people don’t understand you even in the conscious circles you lack the ability to communicate what your feeling. Maybe these are your fears of success, get out of pixieland and build that career, I thought to myself. But the waves would just not let me rest. The small subtler, quieter background voice returned “following the call of your soul, which now pulls you west for reasons you can’t explain is not an independent act. You do it for the collective. You are teacher, you must follow your call in order to help others, it is the actualization of your gifts”. But what fucking gifts says the frustration in me. My gift is as therapist, in Dr. Blair’s words… “in ten years Erica, you’ll be the best of the best”. And here I was abandoning it all with not one clear thread in sight.