This time last year, 3.3.14, I was in Bali, Indonesia, relaxing after having spent two intense months trekking in Nepal, and care-taking my beautiful sick newly-wed husband, in India. Sean joined me in Bali on the 1st of March, after staying on in India for two extra weeks so that we could have some intentional time apart. On my birthday, we spent an excruciatingly hot and humid day running around the narrow dirt paths that lead like a maze through the endless rice paddies, racing to catch a gorgeous sunset reflected in the watery squares of rice in its various stages of growth, we found ourselves at a dinner table surrounded by momentary friends. People I’d met during my solo two weeks in a little town known for its artistic, and healing elements, called Ubud:
– an Argentinian who wrote for the Economist I met while eating a crepe
– a lovely woman, painter and contact dancer named Ethel, from Estonia, who hosted me for my first week
– Kate – a motivational coach and fabulous redhead from the States whom I met while in downward dog at the Yoga Barn
– Rain – a friend we’d met in Portland and bumped into while in Ubud
– John, in his late 70s, a retired actor, director, friend and colleague of OSHO and now avid (daily) painter from Britain whom I was getting to know over our morning breakfasts together at my guesthouse
– Squishelle and her partner, two beautifully eccentric Burners who helped save our relationship in a state of turbulence by the light of fireflies on a dark night amongst the rice paddies.
Click here to see a photo of this crew.
I was missing home, my center, my sense of place and community that day, and though I was without my familiar friends and comforts of home, it was actually a surprisingly delightful gathering of eclectic and international beings that helped make my 30th birthday unique and special. The dinner conversation, though sometimes awkward, was enjoyable, especially for me who took delight in asking strange and penetrating questions like, ‘what is the purpose/importance of vulnerability’ and ‘what do we do with our inherent privilege’ and one favorite that I learned from Sean, “what’s it like to be you right now?”
After Bali we flew home to Portland and dove immediately into a time of great questioning. Our relationship had been through some mighty challenges since shortly after our wedding on October 6th, 2014 and one wound in particular needed to be made more raw before we could move forward. Sometimes things have to get messier before they can become more clear and clean. I will purposefully leave this one vague, as most of you who know me remember, and those who don’t, well, let’s just say my core fear of abandonment was being powerfully triggered/re-stimulated. So while adjusting to return-home-culture-shock (it’s been said this is more intense than the culture shock of being in foreign places), we were also treading unstable ground in our relationship. Our connection was tenuous, and our marriage looked like it might not survive.
Some things broke. Some things shifted. Some things ended or at least took at hiatus. We chose to stay together at least until fishing and sought the support of a long-time-married couple who supported us as Mindful Relationship Consultants. Over six sessions in April and May with them we managed to piece together enough of the broken pieces and attend to the Garden of Us. Literally and figuratively. Slowly but surely, we found our way back to one another, renewed our commitment and our garden began to show signs of life again. They helped us get to a place where we could at least see ourselves fishing together, which at the time felt monumental.
In May, Sean took a 5 week-long storytelling workshop with the Portland Story Theater, and performed the potent piece on stage in May which you can watch here: Escape from Bliss
Since we had previously always fished on different boats, we knew that we wouldn’t be getting our built-in (and actually quite useful/balanced healthy) apart-from-each-other time, so we decided to head out simultaneously on 2-week-long solo adventures. Sean used his thumb and a couple of trains to explore Wyoming and Colorado while following the continuation of the above mentioned story, while I attended an art and music festival, called Enchanted Forest, held on the Yuba River near Tahoe, California, where I rediscovered my sense of independence, personal fulfillment, and individual identity, made new friends that changed my life in delicious ways and danced danced danced like only god was watching. It was just what the doctor ordered before heading up to Alaska for season #14.
Fishing together for the 1st time proved both beautiful and challenging. Sean truly blew my mind with his extraordinary work ethic, running circles around me getting things done, taking care of the engine, picking fish out of the net with lightning-fast hands, and for the vast majority of the time, supporting me in my evolving endeavor to be the Skipper. We ‘shelved’ our relationship turbulence for two months while fishing. Sometimes tempers flew and unkind words were voiced, but overall I actually felt grateful to be sharing my fishing experience with my beloved and we shared many magical moments in and amongst the stressful times.
Upon our return from a successful fishing season, in August, we volunteered at our 3rd Beloved, another music, art and community festival in Tidewater, three hours SW from Portland. Here we discovered new music, collected a few more fantastic people to add to our growing circle of extraordinary friends and deepened our established connections to each other, and to our selves.
Caravansary was Burning Man #4 for me, #3 for Sean and believe it or not, #1 for MY MUM!
My Mama joined us after driving 16 hours south from her gorgeous gallery in Southern, Alberta, and after a couple intensive days of prep, we hooked our pop-up Joyco tent trailer to her Nissan X-Terra and had by far, the smoothest trip and entrance onto the Playa. We danced wildly, rode our bikes beyond bliss, shared meals and art-exploration-adventures, spent lots of time in the temple and nurtured our bond in ways I previously thought unlikely to ever happen. A dream come true. My favorite Burn so far, especially after the near-disaster the year before. Glad we leapt back onto the horse. A spectacular ride indeed.
In October, I began a year long non-traditional counseling program in San Francisco that I am currently half way through and has been living up to it’s motto of “Change yourself, change the world”. Truly a significant and life-changing program in which I am so grateful to participate. The methods, skills and tools for consciousness and personal growth that I am learning directly apply to my life as well as to my work in the world.
Also in October, I took the same 5-week long storytelling workshop with Portland Story Theater that Sean had attended six months earlier, in May, and you can watch the video of me performing my story on stage at the Alberta Abbey, ‘Fishing for a Living’, HERE.
The late Autumn months proved to have some significantly dark struggles, yet also brought some powerful clarity and inner knowing. For Winter Solstice, I consciously chose to head toward the light, mirroring the lengthening days. I’ve been more happy, content, motivated, inspired and connected to my purpose, my passions, my people, and my beloved than I can remember in a LONG time.
I thoroughly enjoyed re-wiring our brains as to what the holiday season could be, and Sean and I had our first ‘real’ Christmas at home, just the two of us. We had a trimmed-Spruce-branch as our Charlie Brown Christmas tree and shared meaningful moments and thoughtful gifts. For New Years 2015, we attended our 2nd Inspire Truth event that takes place in the Portland Art Museum, we made more friends, danced for hours, helped bring in the Magical Midnight Moment and started the year off in a state of genuine delight and communion with loved ones.
January and February have already flown by and that is in part, due to how much I’ve been enjoying them. I am deep in my Interchange Counseling program, as well as an 11-week Compassionate Communication course and am currently enrolled in a year-long Business Coaching course that is giving me the practical skills and helping light the fire in my being for doing what I love most and carving a path that simultaneously helps other and sustains me!
Sean and I just got back on Monday from a week away where we were putting our supplies on the barge to Alaska, followed by a weekend of stories, songs and poetry at the 18th Annual Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. Over 1500 people attended and Sean had two 15 minute sets/readings, one on Friday in a rowdy pub, called The Wet Dog, and one on Saturday at the Astoria Event Center. Both times he blew the audience away and I was bursting with joy and pride, watching him merge his passions for fishing and writing in such seamless and artistic ways.
Because we knew Sean would be working on my actual birthday, on our way home from Fisher Poets, we spent Sunday celebrating and frolicking at Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon, climbing volcanic rock, exploring caves, suckling the dripping water from mossy rocks, watching minuscule snails make artistic trails in the tide pools, admiring the geology while exploring our inner and outer landscapes in our typical curious and penetrating fashion. I feel more enlivened and in love, more trusting and safe in my relationship with Sean than ever before. He’s been showing up in extraordinary ways and I am thoroughly ecstatic to be doing life with such a soulful, talented, big-hearted, creative, loving, curious, sensitive, intelligent, strong and expressive man.
This year, on 3.3.15, I turned Thirty One-derful surrounded by some of my favorite people eating delectable food, sipping Puerh tea, cuddling and listening to more stories, songs and poems – this time though, in honor of me. The joy I feel to be alive and experiencing this much outpouring and reflections of love, it is beyond words.
I feel a fabulous year coming on. So, thank you 30, it’s been profound, intense and excruciating at times, and I am ready to release you and move with grace and ease into this next circle around the sun, as I continually become more ME.
Thank you Karen Joy Gimbel and Mark Allen Hall for making my life possible. I am forever grateful.