Meanderings

Losing a best friend

I remember when I first saw him in high school. His sister, a good friend of mine, pointed across a campus yard and said, “That’s my brother.”

He looked a bit like Harry Potter with his backpack and glasses and the way he trudged to class.

I met him later at their home and it was an immediate kinship where an invisible bond within the both of us blossomed to life. It was one of those instant friendships that deepened quickly over a short amount of time.

My deafness was actually familiar to him because his sister was deaf.

We were a band of brothers, the two of us. It was a versatile combination – we were troublemakers, pushing the limits to see what we could get away with. We were deep thinkers, talking long into the night on humanity, life, and of course girls and sexuality.

We were also practical jokers and there were many nights where we’d laugh our asses off at ourselves or whatever crazy situation we got ourselves into.

As we got older we stayed close. He became my best man at my wedding and later a godfather to my daughter upon her birth.

It was one of those forever high school friendships. We were soulmates.

Back then I was still hot headed at times and not always thoughtful with my words. I would make judgemental comments about others, even him and his family.

It was borne out of a lifetime of insecurity growing up deaf in a hearing world. For the longest time I didn’t always feel accepted or up to the standards of hearing folk so I’d take it out on those close to me and bring them to down to bring myself up.

That’s how I lost him.

I crossed a valley with my words and when he tried to talk to me about it I doubled down, basically saying he was making a mountain of a molehill.

I thought he was being foolish when it was I that was the fool, cratering the foundation of our friendship.

I didn’t realize the damage wrought and kept thinking he would cool off and come back around.

He never did.

I tried to circle back around a few years later and apologise but it wasn’t honest because I still didn’t realize exactly what I was apologizing for and I think he knew that.

Twenty years later I don’t know the full extent of my damaging words because my memory fails, but with the grace of growing up over those long years, I understand now he was setting healthy boundaries.

He did what he had to do and it was the right thing after I kept breaking those boundaries.

For many years after he broke our friendship off, I kept running into people who taught me the value of healthy boundaries the hard way by walking all over me.

That’s how life works in its own graceful way of giving me the hindsight to see what I did to our friendship.

It was one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever hard to learn — along with learning the value and necessity of healthy boundaries in one’s life.

In a sense, his parting of the ways was a lifelong gift of learning.

I love and miss you, brother.

“You’re too solitary”

Forest and mountains in northern Oregon near the coast

An old flame once told me I was too solitary when I spoke of the need for alone time in the woods and how much I relished being by myself.

She understood to an extent but didn’t quite get the depth of it. She called me her lone wolf.

Maybe it has to do with being born deaf into a world of total silence. When I was fitted for hearing aids a couple years later, mom would write in her journals how I still dwelled in my own worlds, lost in oceans of imagination.

Whatever the cause, it’s deeply ingrained within.

I wasn’t a social outcast and I had my good share of friends. Most honored my penchant for solitary time even if they didn’t always get it.

Wanting to be alone didn’t mean I didn’t value their companionship. It’s like love… Just because I love something or someone else doesn’t mean I love you any less.

Going nomadic a couple years ago was the ultimate plunge into aloneness. I would go weeks without communication, virtually disappearing into the ether.

It was where I found my true joy, being all alone in the wilderness. And knowing I was never alone all along.

It’s where my self melted away into the trees, rivers, mountains, and clouds. There was nothing left of me — I lost my true nature and became nature. An embrace of the beloved. It was ecstatic.

It was meant to be. Embracing aloneness into a merging of soul with nature and immortal beloved.

We all have paths to follow that bring us ever closer to our own divinity, our souls. To the great loves of our lives.

Mine is to walk the trails of solitude and get lost in all that is.

Love,
Your lone wolf

College daze – where I ended up a happy failure

Some say your college days are supposed to be one of the best times in your life.

I guess I was an anomaly. I was dazed through my college days and not in a pleasant way.

It’s odd because I thrived in high school — honor society, near the top of my class, quite popular, and so on. For some reason it didn’t translate to college.

I first went to New College down in Sarasota. I thought it would be a great fit – small (like my high school), unorthodox education methods that stressed independence, and students that were generally rebels and misfits outside of mainstream society.

That’s me.

It didn’t work. I had no passion — it was as if a switch had turned off and I was done. Doubly odd because I’m a passionate learner.

After less than a year I petitioned to withdraw. I was surprised when the New College folk encouraged me to stay and keep trying.

Surprised because by then I was slacking with classes and homework. My grades merited probationary status, the campus police had issues with me (too many friends sleeping over in my dorm, roomies rats escaping from pet snake, a friend drove drunk across campus into a ditch, etc., etc.).

Maybe they wanted me to stay because I was being a true rebel.

Still, I declined.

Thinking I needed to go to a college with a strong computer program to stoke my passion (once a computer nerd, always a computer nerd), I gave the University of Florida a try next.

Things didn’t go any better there.

Once again I was skipping classes (but not Gator football games!) and homework, had dorm issues (mostly from having a military brat as a roomie — baaaad fit), girlfriend problems (I couldn’t decide if I loved her or not), I was annoyed with professors insisting I learn outdated computer languages, etc. etc.

Somehow I managed to accrue nearly two years worth of credits but by then I was a goner — I bolted out of my dorm early into my own place, my grades were riddled with the letter “I” (incomplete, which is exactly how I felt), and I was thoroughly burnt out from anything to do with education.

One day I simply stopped showing up. I was done.

A silly decision in retrospect, perhaps. But solid for me at the time. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore and it didn’t make sense to keep throwing money away doing nothing.

Thinking back, what I remember acutely was very much feeling like an alien on campus. I never fit in as much as I tried. Was it my deafness? I don’t think so – it’s never been an issue. I simply was a fish out of water gasping for relevance and passion.

The whole thing was living a repetitive dream I couldn’t wake out of. I’d keep repeating shit over and over and nothing worked.

Not long after I walked away, I found my passion again by finding a good job with my computer experience (although I was eventually passed over for a promotion because of my deafness — that’s another story for later).

I started thriving again and even bootstraped a computer consulting business on the side.

The fog went away.

Because I was happy.

That was the crux of it all: I just was not a happy camper in college.

I guess it’s not for everyone, even a computer geek like me.

Melancholy

Every few weeks I get a regular visitor named Melancholy. At first she slips in ever so subtly until I begin to feel her weight in my body.

I used to fight her presence, running from her or doing whatever it took to keep her from taking ahold of me. I didn’t like the way I felt when she was around.

No matter what I did, she held steadfast.

I eventually learned to open the door for her when she came knocking.

Through her heaviness she slows life down and quietens it. Her weight prods me to plumb the depth of my feelings and soul. To stop and listen and feel deeper. Like the moon, her tides pull me within.

She enriches me in those depths, sinking me deeper into myself. Soulful creativity emerges in a manner of expression — poetry, writing, art, and so forth.

She is the ocean and resisting the ocean is futile. Acceptance is letting her tides ebb and flow into and out of me, allowing her wake to bring gifts of deeper insight as it scrubs raw.

She is also life, the way it breathes in and out of you and the way it is full circle in all things whether you like them or not.

I remember to open the door on the other side so that she eventually leaves before bogging the soul down.

Like the exhale of a grateful, deep breath.

Re-learning the language of limits

A lesson I’ve learned from Mr. Lyme is knowing my limits.

I’ve been a rebel since my childhood days where I have a propensity to push boundaries as far as I can to see what would happen.

Constantly pushing and probing has been the modus operandi of my life — I didn’t know how not to push because I feared being limited, a lack of expansion in mind or body. To push is to survive and thrive. To not push would be to die and stagnate (esp. growing up deaf in a world that didn’t think I accounted to much or could do what ordinary hearing people did).

These days I can’t push like I used to, thanks to Mr. Lyme taking over my body. When I pushed I’d crash hard and knock back my recovery progress.

I had to re-learn the art of listening to my body’s limits — correction — honoring my body because in the past I’d ignore and push anyway. Subtle signals heard within are now clearer.

I’ve also learned that there is a value to having some limits. Literal healthy boundaries, you might say.

Nowadays when my body feels tired or weak, I’ll back off even as I want to keep going, to feel like I’m healing via movement. Stopping, resting, and doing nothing is also an act of healing.

In some ways, Mr. Lyme helped forge a deeper intimacy between myself and my body.

It’s hard to stop after a lifetime of pushing and powering past limits. Maybe I’ll be able to do that again (and knowing me, I probably will).

At least I’ve found the language of limits within to help guide us now and in the future.

Dreams of running

These days I often have dreams of running. I haven’t been able to run for a good while since being knocked down by Mr. Lyme. The last time I ran was the day I crashed hard afterwards and knew something was seriously wrong.

The running dreams are usually beautiful. I’m running effortlessly with unlimited energy and I’m just running and running, landscape flying by.

I dream of it because I loved running in real life. I don’t seem the running type and I never thought I’d run on a regular basis, I just didn’t like it well enough.

One day I decided to try running a trail in the woods. That was a game changer — there’s something special about bounding around amongst trees and other things of nature.

Then I decided to go barefoot. After some adjustment, it became bliss. The feel of raw earth under my feet was ancient, a harkening to our past when bare feet were all we had. It felt so familiar and so grounding, connecting directly to Mother Earth in her essence.

It’s a meditation but of a more alert kind because one has to be aware of where their feet is landing when going bare. I’ve still bloodied my toes once or twice on hidden roots and it was a surefire way of bringing me back to reality.

(When on rough (or unfamiliar) trails or when I really want to zone out I’ll throw on a pair of old boat shoes. They’re thin, flat, and have a couple holes — as close as it gets to being barefooted.)

Nature and/or barefoot running sold me and I started doing it on a regular basis, really looking forward to it at the end of long days. It makes me breathe deeper, not just in the lungs but also in my soul.

I also started feeling even better and stronger over time, old pains and issues falling away as my body became more lean and agile. It was further motivation to keep going.

In my last dream, I ran and ran until there was nothing left of me, body gone, just my soul floating away.

As I walked a trail this afternoon, that’s what I thought about — how I missed running, the feeling of flying over the ground. Running until there’s nothing left but the purest essence who we are in spirit.

That’s what keeps me going, slowly climbing the recovery hill until I can run again, soul free once again. It’s my goal to get back into the best shape of my life and stay there.

Maybe after all, I was born to run… in the woods.

Bad days

I didn’t feel so hot when I woke up this morning so I knew I was in for a long day.

My acupuncture physician has reminded me even though I’ve turned a major corner in my healing process, that there will always be an occasional bad day due to the nature of the beast.

It was a refrain I’m intimately familiar with from my Meniere’s disease days. Although those are a distant memory, due to damage to my vestibular system, I’l have what I call off-balance days now and then.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with bad days in your own worlds.

This was one of those days.

When it happens, the world becomes a distant, foreign place to me. Hostile even, as I want to retreat into a cocoon to minimize all extra-sensory input and just quietly recuperate. My balance system has to work extra hard to make up for what it’s lost so it’s more of a toll on the body, esp one yet at peak efficiency.

It’s even more a drag mentally and it piles on top the physical. I try to stay positive, meditate and do little things to keep my mind away from my body. It’s not always successful because when your body isn’t all there, you’re not all there.

Yet I have to function in the world — get food, keep medical appointments, do the stuff that keeps life going. It’s like plodding through a not-so-great dream where you wished you could just wake up and it’d be over. I’d wish the day would speed up and be over so I could go back to sleep and hit the reset button for a new, better day.

At the end of a weary day I sat out at the lake to feel better and it wasn’t easy to sink into the beauty like I usually do. There’s a pale glaze over everything, a heaviness upon all you see with your eyes. Being too tired to feel good, in so many words.

Fortunately those days lately seem to be fewer and further apart as I continue to heal so there is always tomorrow to look forward to.

I share this because I want to write about both the good and bad, to share a reflection of a life lived in all dimensions.

And writing is therapy for me — I almost always feel a bit better whenever I put words to what I’m feeling on paper, as if turning it over to a higher power.

Here’s to a better tomorrow, not just for me but also for you.

Rest you gentle, sleep you sound.

Lesson from the egret and the wind

The other evening I was sitting at the edge of Newnans lake soaking in what was left of the light. The wind was blowing harder than usual, whipping waves out of the surface.

A solitary white Egret came into view, flying into the wind as it tried to cross the lake. For a few seconds it wasn’t going anywhere, held still by a force of nature even as wings flapped.

Rather than struggle the Egret changed tack, veering sideways and utilized the wind to push it across the lake in a roundabout way. Much like sailboats do that zig-zag thing when going against the wind.

Newnans lake is big and it was a long way across. I watched the Egret until it became a tiny white speck nearing its destination on the other side.

The whole thing piqued my curiousity because it was nature (the wind) within nature (the Egret) existing seamlessly within conflict. The bird could have kept on struggling into the wind until exhaustion, but it knew to change tack.

Witnessing this was a reminder of one of nature’s maxims: Know when to go with the flow.

Yay for more small victories

Today was a good day in terms of big little milestones in my ongoing recovery from Lyme disease…

I was able to drive around 60-70 miles without any fatigue, very promising for being able to get back on the road in my little camper-home.

Also managed to walk nearly a mile this early evening in 90 degree weather without my energy plummeting or feeling sick. That’s a big one for me because until recently I couldn’t even go outside unless it was below 85 and only for about 20 minutes at that.

That brings a lot of quiet joy because I very much miss my jaunts in nature. She is my true love, my forever love, and my soul. Without her I am nuttin’.

I celebrated with a sunset view on the shore of Newnans lake, here’s a short video of solitude below for you.

Thank you for following me on this journey — I truly appreciate it.

-Ray

Dancing with Indian spirits

Campobello island

Crossing over Maine into Canada, I ended up on Campobello island which is an international park (named Roosevelt Campobello International Park and it’s jointly run by the Canadians and Americans). It’s famous for being the summer home of the Roosevelts of presidential fame. You can tour their home which is preserved as if they still vacationed there.

The also island has a deep history as a home for native Indians for hundreds of years until present. It’s a beautiful location surrounded by nature and water.

This was where I camped for the first time in Canada and also the first time I dealt with native American spirits on this journey.

They showed up the very first night. I was sound asleep in my camper, wiped out from a long day of hiking the island. A few hours later, I was awoken from a deep slumber by the vibration and sound of powerful drums pounding away.

Groggily, I got up and looked outside to see where the party is. I opened the door and looked around — complete darkness and silence. Everyone was apparently asleep and there was no party of drunkards making noises.

I went back to bed, figuring it was just a dream or something.

The drums started up again after I fell asleep, camper walls pounding. Was someone playing a damn joke? I got up and looked around again.

Nothing. Nada.

Fuck this, I said and slid back into my bed.

Fuck no said the drums, as the pounding resumed.

Finally it hit me… Those drums… They sound awfully like ceremonial drums the Indians used. Maybe they know I’m receptive to spirits and are calling out to me?

I closed my eyes and deliberately fell into a half-sleep half-meditative trance.

The drums became louder and louder to where I felt them pounding inside and all around me. Then the Indians appeared, they were dancing all around in their ceremonial gear and paint.

They beckoned to me, dancing and waving me over. Swallowing my initial surprise, I tossed all semblance of normalcy away and jumped right in. (Yes, I may be crazy but I may as well join in the fun.)

They placed a beautiful ceremonial hand-woven robe over my shoulders and I started dancing away to the tune of their drums, following them around their land and around their campfires.

Not a word was said — it was all dance, music, drums, and smiles and laughs. All night.

And it was so very real.

I don’t remember how long I was out, but by the time we were done and I fell back in my bed with joyful exhaustion, a few hours had passed and the drums were finally silent.

I woke up late the next morning, but dang, I slept so well and felt rejuvenated. The first thing on my mind upon waking was the Indians and pondering how the hell it happened. It was too real to deny. I even looked around a bit for maybe some momentos from the night lying around but nothing.

I silently thanked the Indians for a beautiful night and a wonderful welcome into their land — I know they heard me because they’re still there in spirit, it is their home after all.

Crazily enough, it was one of the best times of my life dancing through the night with them, real or not.

I plan on returning for another round of dancing and drumming on Campobello island soon. : )