Being alone is heroic, too.

I found a letter that my dad wrote to me after some very bad things happened.

We had reconciled and I deliberately saved it for years so I could read it after he was gone, knowing that one day I would need these words desperately. He had written it and that knowledge was all I needed then as he was still alive.

Reading it a few hours ago, I collapsed in tears on my floor, stricken by the loss and the waste of all those years. Reading it sooner would not have changed anything and especially now it gave me what I needed so desperately.

But still, it reminded me of my loss and my ache and the miles I have to travel before I will be whole again and that I walk that road alone.

But still, it reminded me of my loss and my ache and the miles I have to travel before I will be whole again and that I walk that road alone.

So this video I found reminds me to be a hero for myself because that is part of the mission, too. My heart breaks for all the pain I see around me, but it is so hard to give myself the compassion and love that I feel for others. How do I sit with myself? How do I rebuild? Here are some reminders of real things that I can do.

I hope you like it.

Knives are sharp.

Cut my thumb open trying to create a notch for thumb-guides to practice with the hand-drill. Stupid as that was, that wasn’t the stupid part. The stupid part was after pouring hydrogen peroxide over the cut, I flicked-flacked my hand in the air to dry it off except it was still bleeding still wet and I flicked a thousand bloody drops all around my bathroom which I couldn’t see at the time because I didn’t have my glasses on. Just went to the loo. Sigh.

Fire up the nursing home

Been promising to put up pictures of me creating fire, or at least my fire kit and the positive proof of results, but I’ve been too busy dealing with being angry and running away from my anger.

How’s that for honesty?

(they’re below the fold, if you want to peek ahead!)

When I actually created my first flame on Saturday evening after a long day of wrestling with my demons I nearly cried. I lit the candle to commemorate my dad, and then when that burnt low I lit another one and put it on top to keep it going. I wished he could see it. Having finally discovered a way to get close with him, even simply to interest him in what I was doing, it was so hard that he died and was gone when I needed him so much. The flame made me so happy.

My last visit to him in the nursing home consisted of this: I brought him potato latkes, mushroom and rice stuffed cabbage, potato/cheese and mushroom pierogis, and some jelly donuts. We washed it down with med cups of Ulovka vokda. Afterwards, during the demos we ate bar snacks: nuts, wasabi peas, raisins, crunchy things. I didn’t want his last meal to be fucking cottage cheese, if it was going to be his last meal which it was with me. He didn’t like the donuts. Whatever, dad.

I showed him the fire tongs I had made which I was going to use to burn out my bowl. I showed him the bowl I started in class, a project that would have to wait until after I was able to prove I could create my own fire. I showed him the fishing spear I was carving in my living room, and described the wood chips flying all over my rug as I whittled away to the tv. Master wood sculptor that he was, he smiled. “Yes, dad, I know it’s stupid. I’ll turn it off next time.” His hands absorbed the texture and symmetry, the voice of the wood. It was only my first try, but I think he approved. I showed him the knife I was using, and the knife I started with that he gave me as a teenager whose handle he burned my name into for me. I pulled the cordage I’ve been making from my bag and gave it to him to feel. Having practiced making rope from raffia, cambium, grass from the lawn, and cat fur (combed from semi-willing cats), I had all kinds of textures for him to explore. I took some napkins and whipped together a few inches of rope right there. All of these things he got to see, and though he said little, he smiled.

And then I brought out my bow-drill and its pieces.

My bow-drill kit for making fire by hand.

Yup, I made it. I used it.

Obviously, I’ve been practicing on the same fireboard since then. [Hint: it's so much easier and faster just to create a new spot. Not sure I would bother reusing one if it's not been working for you, or you've already used it. Maybe I'll save that for a later experiment.]

Anyway, so there we were. My dad’s in the hospital bed, basically unable to move. People walked and rolled up the corridor outside of his room and we didn’t have much time because his silent roommate would soon come back. I knelt on the floor, set up the kit and started bowing away.

“Can you see it, Dad? Can you see what I’m doing?” I asked. “No,” he said, “But I hear it.” I laughed. It wasn’t working. He couldn’t see it, I wasn’t doing anything useful, and there were limits on how much trouble I was willing to chance. The spindle got hot, though, which he could feel, and the corner smelled like campfire, reminding me of the family camping trips he took us on when we were kids. His smile was big, and we laughed and I promised him that when I came back in two weeks, I’d show him pictures to prove I could do it.

Three days later he went into a coma and the next morning he was dead, December 22, 2012.

I bent over the bed to say goodbye. His hug back to me was so tight. I asked for a kiss and he kissed me. I awkwardly told him I loved him, and he awkwardly said it back. As I was leaving, I looked him in the eyes, and said, “Dad, I’ll be back in two weeks and I want you to know that the time I spend with you is the best part of my two weeks, and what keeps me going the whole time.”

“More the opposite.” He said. “Huh?” I thought, way to blow a moment, Dad, really? After the snack, the demo, the snickering, the bonding, I’m so moved I’m practically in tears, was he really starting in with the weird?? Now? Again?

“What do you mean?” I waited, tense.

“Wish it was more of this.”

And so I got it. Actually, I got it the next day, but that doesn’t sound as good.

He wished we had more time together like this, and less of what we had had which was mostly not pretty. That was how I learned that my father truly did love me. For that, I am so grateful.

It could have been otherwise. It’s possible that he could have died without my learning that. It’s possible he could have died without learning to love me, too. Certainly I spent most of my life thinking he did not. But now I know that he did, for however long that he did. Now that he is gone, part of my mission is to accept what I have without measurement or judgement, to let myself love and be open to more love, to let pain and rage show me my own soft heart so I can see those of others and above all, to breathe, to live and to shine.

This is for you, Dad.

the candle I lit with my bow-drill

I love you. I wish so, too.

Good days and less than..

Today I participated in a chat about meditation. Someone brought up the subject of negative feelings and I got all excited sitting at my table. Hell, negative feelings? Now that’s my topic! I don’t mean to be flippant, but one of the reasons I find it difficult to hang with the ooga-booga crowd is all the emphasis on positive feelings. Sorry, but my last few years fucking sucked. Don’t tell me about the fucking Law of Attraction. Don’t talk to me about embracing positivity and letting go of negativity. Just. Don’t. Don’t talk to me about God never giving me more than I can handle. Don’t talk to me about support systems and people being there. Just. Don’t.

What all that really says to me is: “You, your feelings and your experiences don’t have a place in my world, I don’t understand anything about you at all, you kind of scare me and I want you to go away and stop talking.”

Which, you know, is perfectly ok for all those people who said stuff like that to me. Except it didn’t do me a whole fuck of a lot of good. What did and does continue to help me is remembering this: It’s ok to feel like shit when things are going shitty. Even superheros need a nap. It’s ok to cry. Eventually I’m going to stop. Everything changes even if just a little bit. Yeah, they can get worse. I’m not an idiot. But they can get better, too. And since I can do things to make a difference in both directions, what am I going to choose?

Even when the only thing I could change was my outlook, I had to ask myself: what am I going to choose to think? That I can control. That’s in my power. What am I going to do?

But what about what I’m thinking right at this moment? All that talk I heard about embracing the moment, living in the now. My now sucked sweaty monkey mooseballs. What was I supposed to do about that? I didn’t and don’t hear a whole lot from the positivity “love your now” crowd about that other than “Let it go.”

“Let it go.” What the fuck does that even mean? Who was the privileged asshole who even came up with that? I mean, my standard was pretty low. I envied everybody. Let’s cut to the chase. Got legs? Able to make no less get your own food? How about hitting the toilie without being afraid you’ll crash down the steps with a 50 lbs of scary metal crashing on top of your head? That was fun. Taken a bath or shower recently? Seen a human face somewhere other than a screen? Sometimes the platitudes of the ooga-booga crowd seemed laughably precious and out of touch.

Finally, unable to ignore the realities of my every day experience, I simply and terrifyingly, gave in. Yes. Everything sucked. Yes, it was unfair. Yes, I hurt everywhere and in every way. And it was ok for me to feel that way. And so I cried. A lot. Then I cried some more. And when I thought I couldn’t cry any more sometimes I cried again. No one heard me. No one knew. I went through a lot of rolls of toilet paper that I really needed to save because there was no one to go buy me more tp for what it’s supposed to be used for, y’know?

And each time? I stopped. I dried my eyes. I wiped my face. And strangely every, time though I didn’t realize it until later, I would within an hour go on to do something small that moved me forward or that made me feel better or that I thought I could not do. I found the energy or discovered the pathway. New agey jargon aside, I created room for me to breathe and a sense no matter how small that I was not completely as helpless as I had thought or felt. Even though my material circumstances had not changed, by embracing and acknowledging how I felt about them I was able to release myself from the stranglehold they had over my heart and mind. Bad things may have taken over my circumstances, but that didn’t mean they got to own my heart and mind, too. And that meant – I won. Not them.

That little tiny victory just in my own heart, that no one knew about, that I didn’t want to talk about, that didn’t mean anything to anyone except for me, meant everything in the world to me and still does. Sure, my life is so much better than it was. I got my legs back. (Some of the people I met back then never will. Talk about perspective and privilege, huh?) But it has not been so long ago and many of the challenges or their fallout still surround me. So, I fight this battle every single fucking day. Some days I do well, some days… not so much.

The metaphor of the superhero is my joke with myself. If I have to go through all this shit I might as well make it meaningful in some positive fucking way that *I* define, and no one else. No one gets to determine my story. The cool things about the subjects I’m learning and teaching now: yoga, meditation, martial arts, adventure sports, primitive skills, and diy science are all about taking ownership of your own life, becoming at home in your environment, and taking responsibility for your corner of the planet. There’s an old saying, “Saving one life is like saving the whole world.” Ok, so one person may not literally be able to save the whole world, but you can start with yourself. If enough people start saving themselves, maybe we can all come together save each other and we really will save the whole world. It’s gotta start somewhere, and I think it’s only going to start by recognizing the way things are right here right now even and especially if they suck.

I achieve ember. Twice.

I nearly peed myself when I realized there was a decent amount of heat coming from between my feet. Stopping my sawing on the bow, I peered down and frantically started blowing on the tiny ember cradled in the tinfoil. I didn’t think I’d get this far and there was no tinder substitute near me. I pulled open my lumberjack drawer and pulled out what I thought was a tinder bundle I’d made earlier just in case. No, it was some of the fur I’d combed off my cat and was twisting into yarn. (More on this later). Cat fur doesn’t smell much better than human hair when it burns, or fizzles, in this case.

Despite all my efforts, I couldn’t get it to chirp into a teeny flame. Not even a small one. And then the rest of the evening, nothing, barely even any smoke, mostly just the irritating squeaking. And I had to drill a couple of new holes in the fireboard, too, as well as new spindlepoints. At this rate, I’m going to run out of spindle and fireboard before I ever create anything that could light a candle.

Last night I tried again, and this time achieved a nice big ember. And then nothing. I fed it proper tinder (over my sink, for safety), I blew on it, I talked pretty to it, and nothing. It split in two, shrunk, darkened, split in two again, darkened and went out. As it was late, I sharpened up the spindle, again, in preparation for the new spot on the board I’m going to have to drill, again.

This project is kind of the cornerstone of my moving forward. Making fire from nothing? Come on. That’s like magic even if it just reclaiming technological skills that are everyone’s birthright. I’m telling myself this is the part of the superhero’s story when her training just sucks and she can’t think she can do it. Sucking at it doesn’t mean you stop. It just means you wipe your sooty hands on your pants and keep going.

The house smells nice!

Where there’s smoke..

“Where’s there smoke, there’s fire.” That’s bullshit. Thus far, my tenacious sawing in my apartment has brought me smoke, and a pleasant campfire and s’mores aroma that makes it quite the pleasure to come inside. But not all the time. Sometimes all I get is a high-pitched “ee-ee, ee-ee” sound that I’m sure is driving my downstairs neighbors crazy. They didn’t appreciate my occasional hammering with my rabbit stick when I was working on my fishing spear (pictures to come), and I’m guessing are even less pleased with the squeaking. Assuming they can hear it, I’m not going to guess what they think I’m doing up here. I wish.

A couple of friends said, “You’re trying to start a fire? In your apartment?!” Yeah. It took me two weeks to learn how to get smoke. It still doesn’t even always work. Even Jeremiah Johnson (my pseudonym for my teacher) looked awfully nervous performing his demo and when he finally did, miraculously, create with slow care a boisterous fire it was only after considerable time and many steps. Me, I just want to get an actual flame and so far, it ain’t happening. My drill kit looks cool though, and I made it myself. (pictures coming)

In which I begin

I didn’t want to start this blog. I didn’t want to be known as “The girl who…” and I didn’t know what else to talk about because the managing the ongoing fallout consumed me. My story scared people.

But it was past. It was over. Why would I want to rehash it? In public? I don’t remember it being so great the first time around.

Working with my yoga students, we talk about being ok with this moment and the next and the next, not reaching backwards or forwards. We don’t forget the past, but it’s gone, folks. It’s done. And the future? The future is just an idea. We live now. The only way I made it through the past two years is by reminding myself of that over and over again. No matter what happened: the past recedes (thankfully), the future is out of reach, just deal with this second. Only right now do I have a choice, no matter how very very small personal or hidden. It mattered then, and it matters now.

It worked and because of that I have something to say, which is that it works. If my past is going to define me to any degree let it be by who I choose to become and how I choose to behave now. Thinking about it this way then gives me something to write about…now.