I Am On Fire

Monday, April 16, 2018

I've lived in Phoenix for nearly 5 years and I've loved every minute of being a desert dweller. That is, until 6 months ago when my husband and I took a short weekend trip to San Diego. We were there for a Coldplay concert but we spent the majority of our time at the beach. Since then, I have been craving water.

It was early October when we visited so the weather didn't really accommodate swimming and sunbathing but that wasn't what I was there for. The ocean has always been a place for me to heal. It had been 10 years since my last visit to a shore and I had forgotten how deeply I craved salt water medicine. Once there, I walked in the waves. I watched the sun set into the sea. I closed my eyes to listen and opened them only to behold, cry, and write. I thought when I left the shore I'd carry a piece away in my heart, but what was tucked inside the folds of my soul was a real, visceral remembering - a call. It is April now. When I breathe deeply I inhale the coast's dense, savory air. Miles of mountains, rocks, dirt, dry sand, and cacti lie between us but the roaring waves still speak to me.

So dry, the sea says.

She is talking about me.

I have been acutely aware of a sense of emptiness inside me for some time. Its showing up in every possible experience. My skin has started to react to every material that touches it with a persistent and unbearable itchiness. My hair is frizzing at the ends. I've been more ill than usual. My voice seems shrill, both when I talk and when I write. I am acutely aware of my tendency to talk about myself in social gatherings. I am reaching and straining to tap my well of creativity. I told my friend a few days ago, "I am not enjoying being a mom right now." My panic attacks have lately centered around the thought "I do not want to be in my body anymore." It seems my experiences, both past and present, make living inside my physical body unbearable. All of these strangely unrelated symptoms have intensely increased and I have struggled for a solution. Trying to treat them individually has garnered no healing.

Then, in a quiet moment a few days ago, I heard the call again.

So dry, she said,

and washed me in waves of remembering.

The ancient science of ayurveda teaches that each person has dominant and (sometimes) secondary elements that govern their physical and emotional makeup. This makeup is called a dosha. You can click here to take a test to find out yours, but the three elements are kapha (earth & water), vata (air & ether), and pitta (fire). My primary element is fire, with my close secondary as air. These elements, when balanced, make for a passionate, creative, active, and social person. When imbalanced, they create an overwhelming sense of dryness.

I realized that I've been wandering in an inner desert and exhaustion is starting to sneak in. I have loved the cacti here for so long that I think I've tried to become one of them. Cacti have an amazing ability to shrink or expand depending on the availability of water and can go months with no rain, but I am not a cactus. I am a woman, and I am on fire.

When contained fire brings people together. By its warmth, heart-to-heart connections are forged. Its heat cooks food to fill bellies. Its light gives sight in darkness. But without boundaries it overtakes the earth, burning fuel faster than it can be replenished. It burns homes, takes lives, and feeds on fears. Instead of rain, the sky cries ashes.

I look around and see the signs of tragedy in the faces around me. My husband no longer reaches for me in darkness for fear of burns. My children do not come to my lap for stories or snuggles because there is no warmth here for them, only licks of heated anger and sparks of impatience. I wonder why, for all my reaching for company, friendship, affection, attention, I feel empty. Perhaps I've exhausted and burnt through all the fuel they can offer.

I have felt unforgiving, unyeilding, impatient, and proud. My eyes are critical, my heart cynical. And for all the good I may have put into the world recently, most of it has come from a place of burning, festering, all-consuming anger and pain.

I did not heed the ocean's message in October. By consequence, I am a forest not just dry but now completely burned down.

But the promises of spring, of Easter, of Ostara, are rebirth. Fertile ground from which to grow. The rain for my soul seeds will not come from outside - who am I to ask for love, kindness, acceptance, and friendship from those who I burnt and ate up? It must come from a well-spring within.

I am being called to the scariest journey I can imagine:
to turn inward,
find the well,
flood this body and soul,
and be ocean, lake, rain, groundwater.

I must learn to love myself, this body in which I live, and from that place I must learn to love others again.

I have the bones of ideas of what that journey looks like for me.

  1.  Water will play a strong role in my healing, so I will work to incorporate it more into my life. I will take more baths and in cooler water than I am used to. I will seek out natural sources of water around me and travel to them if needed. If I can find a salt water pool I will swim more. I will drink more water and tea and cut out juices and soda, which I know leave my body dry. Instead of processed and dehydrated options I will choose more natural and nourishing foods, and I will try to make those foods "cool". I will eat regularly instead of continuing the destructive cycle of daily starving myself and binge-eating. 
  2. I commented on a friend's post about self love with ideas of what I think a good self-love practice would look like. I will act on my own advice and participate in journaling, mirror-gazing (I made this up for sure), meditation, self-massage, positive out-loud talk, and simple-but-mindful care routines like brushing, cleansing, and moisturizing. 
  3. I will participate in physical activities and exercise that are slow, meditative, and foster self-awareness. Yoga comes to mind first and foremost, but instead of attending the fast-paced, heating vinyasa and flow classes I will choose the coolness of yin, restorative, and nidra instead. I would also like to get involved in hiking. 
  4. I once heard of something called a "silence fast", in which one refrains from speaking for a set period of time as a form of meditation. I would like to try this out and see how it makes me feel. My friend Mandie also encouraged her Instagram audience to try to say nothing mean or critical for 24 hours. I'm going to attempt this also.
  5. I will stop participating in my own over-consumption cycle of compulsive shopping. I will stop buying unnecessary things to make myself feel better. I will stop buying clothing, jewelry, fast food, plastic crap, and extra toys for my kids. It may sound silly but I am deeply aware that my compulsive shopping a huge roadblock to my healing. 
Friends, if you've felt too much heat around me to stand close by, its okay. I understand. I can't bear it any longer either. If you've been burned by my anger or criticism, that "Its me, not you" thing totally applies here. If you feel like I'm not a good listener and only talk about myself, you're not wrong. For all this, I'm sorry, and I'm sad it took me so long to see I was burning out of control.
© Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.