I think I’ve been scared to write this.
Afraid that by putting the words on the page I might bring it all back to life.
And yet that’s the very reason why I need to write this.
So that I remember
to never forget.
I guess you could say the story started… well the story started from the moment I was born… but I’ll tell it from when I got back to Seattle from Sri Lanka.
Between the extreme weather change and flying for over 48 hours with the flu, from the moment I walked in the door I went into hibernation. I bundled myself in blankets in a bedroom without any windows at the back of my mother’s basement.
My time in Sri Lanka was illuminating. While amazed and enchanted as I always am by new land and culture, my body resisted the transitions and I spent most of the time just trying to get myself comfortable enough to heal. My body didn’t care that I wanted to try on the role of “backpacker.” My body wanted home.
So when I got back to Seattle, I found the closest thing to a cave to retreat in.
It was hardly the first time I had been sick while traveling.
Sick was a state I came to know well in bathrooms in Bali, dorm beds in Colombia, and long bus rides through the Sahara. Sick slowed me down when nothing else could. Sick asked me to be with myself instead of just being with the world.
And sick brought me back to Puerto Viejo again and again.
When I was physically sick from traveling the world I would return to the jungle’s embrace and let myself heal with the land. When I was mentally sick from the stress of the Western world I would return to the jungle’s wildness and set myself free. When I was sick of anything or anywhere I would return to the jungle’s magic and remember my childlike bliss.
But the jungle wasn’t ever easy on me.
Quite the contrary, the jungle often bashed the shit out of me. The jungle often showed me my deepest wounds by breaking open my heart; then she’d deliver me the very balm necessary to heal. Like a vine with spikes that slice you but whose leaves will sanitize and clot your blood.
I loved the jungle for this, and for so many other things. In fact, I loved her so much at times I wondered if I could survive without her.
Whenever I’d go off and travel the world she would call to me as the solution to every sickness. She was the place I called home even though my passport proved I was in fact a homeless gypsy.
Just before I went to Sri Lanka something started to shift though.
I watched her slowly disappear as government workers shaved her sides while putting in a new road, locals cleared her wild floors for development plots, and storms thinned her drapery along the coastline. My heart broke like it had never been broken, so afraid that I would lose the one I loved most of all. It made me want to leave before she left me and fear that I would never find home.
While grieving the loss of the jungle (my home, my mother, my lover) I also received the message from the man I always confused and understood as the jungle herself, that for him it was never me and never would be.
Despite creating my own life and path here for so many years, I somehow could not seem to separate him and her. If I wanted to free myself of this love story that held me back in so many ways, I decided I had to leave.
That’s when I said goodbye to Puerto Viejo and made my way to Thailand, not knowing if I would ever come back. Ready to begin a new story and a new life.
Except, it didn’t really go that way.
At least not the way that I thought it would.
The distance was good for me, healthy, I gained new perspective, I healed a lot, I understood acceptance, I nurtured compassion, but I was far from ready to let go. In fact freedom from it only arose when I fully accepted that I might never let it go.
What I let go of instead, was the traveler identity I had carried for so long. I finally accepted that I wasn’t the same woman who wandered around Southeast Asia years ago.
I wasn’t a backpacker anymore.
Over the years other things became more important to me than my wanderlust. My creative projects. My healing journey. My spiritual community. My gifts. And of course, my health. I knew I needed some kind of home to focus on those things, so I wasn’t so distracted with basic survival.
Having just released my home of the road and uncertain about my home of the jungle, I went to my birth home of Seattle, to take care of the only real home I’ve ever had: my body.
I realized quickly that despite being health conscious, super physically active, and dedicated to natural wellness, my body needed a lot of restoration from how hard it worked for me on the road all of these years.
Despite exercising for hours every day and eating a pretty restrictive diet, I seemed to be steadily gaining weight and always had digestive issues. Young coconuts couldn’t make up for all the times I had food poisoning and an hour of yoga couldn’t undo all the hours I carried my home on my back.
For the two months I spent in Seattle I devoted myself to nurturing my body back to health. I cleansed and detoxed and nourished and alkalized.
Frustratingly, I didn’t lose any weight and my digestive problems didn’t go away. But I continued, because I knew that I deserved to take care of myself whether I got the results I wanted or not.
As I removed this old physical debris I had collected over the years of being a traveler, the emotional debris naturally rose to the surface.
I began to feel the wounds of my love story and fear my return to the jungle. I rode the waves of anger, sadness, rejection, aversion, desire, and the many colors around inside between, reflecting on the characters who played my lovers on my journey.
I used these confrontations as opportunities to heal.
In my meditation I called in every story and memory I had ever shared with the man I loved in the jungle. The stories that I liked to remember and the ones I really would have rather pretended away. For every interaction that arose, I repeated the prayer: “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.”
The stories began to disappear and I filled the new space with words of loving kindness. I caressed my body because she deserved to feel it as deeply as I thought it.
As I tenderly touched myself, a new thought emerged. “It was me. It was always me.” Clarity flooded me like a waterfall. All of those fantasies, all of my desires, everything I ever wanted from him, it was always me.
The love story I thought I had with him was actually the love story I had with me. It didn’t matter how significant or insignificant my relationship was with him or how much or how little I’ve ever meant to him, because it was never about him.
It was always about me.
I was the one who woke me up out of the slumber of my old life of monotony. I was the one who broke myself open and healed myself whole every time we came together. I was the one who made me feel sexy, alive, desired, primal, spontaneous, and wild. It was always within me. Because it is me.
I am the wild. The jungle. The jaguar. The hibiscus flowers. The ocean. The heart shaped vines. The blue morpho butterflies. The hummingbird. The sunshine. The storms. The beauty. The rawness. I am all of it.
My fear of letting him go and letting this place go were one in the same.
My fear was of losing myself.
It dawned on me that this was exactly what the last year had been teaching me in various but always intense ways. From revisiting all of the men of my past to ripping myself apart in The Tantric Way to quitting blogging and destroying the ego of This American Girl to bidding farewell to so many parts of myself…
I was releasing all of my codependent relationships.
Soon after that realization, I returned to the jungle.
Which is where this story actually begins.
(stay tuned for part two next week…)