Oh, beloveds. Today is the first time I went out in the glades last year with Cristina, the day I saw the explosion of white ibis from the mangroves sailing up into the blue Everglades sky from my first airboat ride, and it brought tears to my eyes. This week has been one of reflection and contemplation as I’ve celebrated the anniversaries of moving here, leaving Wilmington, going to the glades for the first time…today commemorates the first time I met Cristina although now it seems impossible that we haven’t been friends since childhood.
Since it’s the end of the year, and I had a fairly spectacular moment last Friday in which the lessons of this crazy Florida year cemented in my heart, I figured I’d tell you the story of what happened to me as a way of wrapping up this wild, funny, outlandish year that has carried me–sometimes painfully–from the old world to the new. I don’t know what is happening to me, but I do know that this year was my passage, and, shower-crying episodes aside, I made it safely home, metaphorically speaking.
I’d gone back to Wilmington last week to square up with the renters, three guys who are good friends of mine and whom I adore, each in his own way–they are beautiful men, physically and in their hearts–and to get the last of my belongings. My best girlfriend in Wilmington is a 6′ tall woman named Hadley, and she looks like a cross between an Italian supermodel and Audrey Hepburn, and she is every bit as confounded by the material world as I am, so we tend to find ourselves in an abnormal amount of awkward situations with random people. We’re both electric freak magnets, is what I’m trying to tell you, and we have both really sucked at marriage, relationships, home ownership, and career-establishment. Which, as it turns out, is fine, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you if you look at the world and think “well, dang. I don’t want any of that.”
Years ago, a few months before I celebrated my first year of sobriety, I drove up to DC to see my friend Scott and I was listening to a cd of a recovered alcoholic talking about living a sober life. For you non-alcoholics out there, I know you don’t understand how utterly magical your ability to prosper without concerning yourself with getting drunk looks to us. Seriously. It’s like witnessing downright wizardry. Amazing. I’d never contemplated a life without booze until I had to, so at that point in my life I was redefining reality with just a smidgen of a sane mind. I loved getting sober, I really did, because that was my first step out of the cages of my mind, and I was ready. Then, I consumed information about the possibilities of life, of freedom, because I’d paid for my passage out with my life. That was the bargain I made with God, and I need you to know that, because drunks and addicts go to worlds that you guys don’t see, and we don’t ever want you to see them, either, because they’re horrid, but in there I got real clear about the kind of person I did and did not want to be, and I also saw the infinite triumph of the human heart and its infinite degradation. So, when I said yes, God, have my life, I wasn’t playing around, and, as I’ve learned, especially over this last year when my head has finally started to run clean, God wasn’t either. The divine force of the universe meant to get me to see myself as I am, and so I did, in a hilarious and awesome moment that I’m about to share.
But, as I was driving up to DC listening to this alkie speak about his take on a sober life (alkies need each other, big time), he got to the end of his talk and said these words that changed the course of my life: “Your sober life is the epic journey to your true self. Your true self.” True self, not the self you invent for the world, and that’s all I was then, hiding inside a character I’d made up to please others, for better and for worse, and I was just starting to figure it out. In that moment, the meaning of my life was explained to me in simple language that pierced my brain, my guts. Get a career, a husband, children, make something of yourself, all that advice seemed like nonsense to me for reasons I never understood, and all I could do was make fun of it because what was I doing here? Well, now I knew. I was on the epic journey to my true self.
Of course, soon I forgot I was on the epic journey to my true self. Totally. Eh, what can I say? The world is seductive. I kept repeating relationship patterns until–as you know–I ended up in therapy talking about dying; I wrestled jobless, emotionally-arrested men into submission until they admitted they were my soulmates; and I bought a bunch of crap I didn’t need–like a house, a new car–because I wanted to fit in with the other adults and, as a result, filled the epic journey to my true self with some expensive and nail-biting life lessons that gave me nightmares and shortness of breath.
I didn’t understand, of course, that the epic journey to your true self was time-consuming. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that my brain writes this epic journey in the theater of the absurd genre, ergo, naturally it wouldn’t dawn on me that the days, months, years in the dark, in confusion, in pain, in shadow are the freaking journey. It’s not all clever riddle games with monsters in which I triumph; not bloody likely. And as I’ve been revisiting the blogs of this year, I began to see, clearly, the path I’ve been on even when, at the time, nothing made sense to me.
Going back to Wilmington last week almost exactly when I left last year was fitting, and being away from that home has made me realize how much love and support I have there, how many people are there whose lives matter so much to me. I didn’t fully understand that until I went away.
Since I’d given Florida a probationary year–and this year has been amazing–going back this time was when I was leaving for good, and I committed to my life here, my wild, free, outlandish Florida life full of tigers and good old boys and Everglades and year-round cut off jean shorts and triangle top bikinis. My spiritual home is here, but I didn’t know that when I gave up my not-quite-right life in Wilmington to follow my heart in the first fully-conscious decision to set forth on my epic journey to my true self. For me, as I’ve watched it unfold in my own words through this blog, the epic journey to my true self is the journey to freedom. Hence, the nature. The animals. The excessive amount of time I spend with predators in cages. The painful failures with men who keep building prisons with me for us to live in, and so I finally see why I’ve been so unhappy.
Over this year, I’ve discovered that my true self is a bit of a freaky deak who happens to admire manners and art; shit, I’m wild, and I have to embrace that, otherwise I am blind to my own possibilities. Now, here is where it gets funny.
So, I don’t truly understand all this stuff about myself that I’m relating to you here–so far, I have vague notions, but no simple language that pierces my brain, my guts–yet. The night before Hadley and I left Wilmington to move the rest of my stuff back to Florida, we hung out with the three beautiful men who now rent my house up there. One, Drew, used to be a former student of mine, and it is with him that the meaning of my struggles on my epic journey came to light on my heart in a simple, thoroughly unexpected, yet beautiful way.
Drew is extraordinary. He is about 25, break-neck smart, reserved, cute as hell–kind eyes and a wicked little grin. He’s funny without drawing attention to himself, and Hadley and I adore him in a way that makes us wish desperately that we could add about a decade onto his age.
“You know,” I said to him as we’re all sitting around a table at Cape Fear Wine and Beer (I am drinking, seriously, micro-brewed ginger ale), “we’re coming early-early in the morning to pack up my shit. You’d better be awake.”
“I’ll be awake,” he said. “If I’m not, you can get me up.”
“Okay,” I said. “How about you just plan on that. Me waking you up in the morning.” I’m not going to tell you that I was feeling particularly spiritual as I was having this conversation. I was not. I was in a full-on human moment here and excited about it. “First thing in the morning, I’m in the bed with you. There will be snuggling!”
He grinned. “Fine.”
“Fine.” And while there was part of me, as his 39-year-old former English teacher, that fretted over what people would think about me crawling into bed with him, the greater part of me, the part of me who has let go of or walked away from almost everything I’ve ever had so that I can be cool with what I’m all about said, who the fuck cares? And when the morning came, Hadley and I drove over with my empty boxes, and I cracked open his bedroom door softly, not to wake him, and saw the lumps of him buried under his down comforter.
“You’re late,” he said, from somewhere in the sheets.
But I wasn’t. I was right on time. Then I lifted his covers and slid beside him, resting my head on his shoulder, my palm on his chest. In a minute, Hadley crept in the room and laid on the other side, her face across from mine, eyes closed, her lips closed in this ridiculous angelic smile, and I swear to you it’s about the happiest I’ve ever seen her outside of the day we played dress-ups at Wrightsville Beach with the clothes from her vintage store and took pictures of ourselves.
I’d bought thick brown velvet curtains for that room before I left, but they were not quite the right width, and so the morning sun outlined the French doors in a thin border of white as we laid with each other in the bed. No one spoke, and even the cat was still. Through my skin, I could feel the heat coming up from Drew’s chest and the pulsing of his blood through his heart, and Hadley had started the deep breathing of someone who was falling asleep. There is hardly anything that smells as satisfying as a man in the morning, that strong salt of sleep and must and muscles, and I closed my eyes and breathed it in, breathed in the heat of his hand on the curve of my waist, breathed in Hadley’s sleepy breaths, and was quiet. I may have dozed off, or perhaps I was just happy, but at some point, laying there on Drew’s chest with one of my best friends in the world and the three of us doing nothing but being still and breathing, something settled in my mind, like a feather dropping.
Everything is perfect. And you are perfect, just like this, and always.
And, honestly, I wanted to start laughing. Seriously? I’m going to get that level of understanding in my current circumstance? No WAY THAT’S AWESOME! I know who was talking to me, comfy as I was on the chest of a young man in my old bedroom the day I was walking into my life in Florida for good, into this next incarnation of me on the epic journey to my true self. I know that is how God sees me, as perfect, like you. Like all of us. Like Drew and Hadley and the cat, Freddie Mercury, who remained still in our little platonic lovenest of who knows what we were doing. I mean, there it was: All I had been struggling to understand.
Everything is perfect. You are perfect.
While I know what those words mean, and for years I have been saying them to myself and to other people to help us along this road, it wasn’t until this wild moment that the knowledge pierced me, and I will never un-know what has been shared with me.
And thus closed this chapter of my epic journey, and it was brilliant, and so much better than I could have written it myself, and I will be more than happy to accept my future spiritual communication in the arms of a beautiful man–just putting that out there.
It’s been one hell of a year, and I have loved it. I made it home.
night night, beloveds. To your epic journey, and to the most exquisite moments of truth revealed. I hope you’re in beauty, or, at least, can see it that way.