|synonyms:||pregnancy, development, incubation, maturation, ripening; More
|synonyms:||development, origination, drafting, formation, evolution, emergence, coming into being, materializing|
I had so many experiences in numerous places in 2018 that it felt like a nine-month gestation period.
l began my journey from my home in Bali nine months prior.
First trimester; U.S.A. Las Vegas to visit family. They are the only redeeming quality I can think of in that place. A couple weeks of connecting, catchup and going through things left behind in a closet last year, is enough to keep me busy for two weeks. Note to self: skip summer visits in Las Vegas from now on, November made the trip much more pleasant and I vowed I would only go there when the weather was bearable. Hugs and kisses to my loved ones and an hour flight took back to my former stomping grounds in San Diego.
I’d had agreed to take care of my friend Barb, who was recovering from breast cancer surgery. We had met in acupuncture school thirty years ago, she’s a dear friend and an integral part of my community. I’d lived in that same beach town for over twenty years before I began my experimentation with living in South East Asia.
As the consummate caregiver, I drove her to and from numerous hospital appointments, shopped, prepared and served nutritious meals, cleaned her house, massaged her sore muscles, gave emotional support when needed, and walked her dog. Non the less, her incision stubbornly refused to heal, baffling her highly qualified surgeon and wound doctor. It was an emotional rollercoaster for her and I admired how she handled it all with grace, accepting what is, not what she wanted it to be, one of the main tenets of her Buddhist practice.
Relieved of my duties to coincide with her sister’s visit from New York, I spent time with other close friends for a week, returning to be her caregiver after her sister left. Barb continued to heal slowly when I left a few weeks later.
Second trimester; Tulum, Mexico
I wanted to research a piece of land I had bought in Tulum eleven years ago. Should I sell it? Build something on it? I check on it occasionally and some infrastructure progress has been made in that area since my last visit. After meeting with my lawyer in Playa del Carmen and the bank in Cancun that holds the land trust, I wasn’t any closer to either one of those choices, so I decided to keep it and choose an option later when I had more clarity.
After taking care of property business, I rode my bike to the beach each day, ate loads of juicy tropical fruit served with a sprinkling of lime and chill powder, swam in the turquoise Caribbean.
Third trimester; The Amazon jungle, Temple of the Way of Light, Iquitos, Peru.
I had signed up for a three-week immersion into the study of shamanic plant medicine. I had heard about that particular place from a couple of admired and respected friends and was immediately drawn to learning the indigenous practices there. I adhered to a special dieta (diet) two weeks before, three weeks during and two weeks after, to internally prepare my body to receive the plant’s medicine. Learning about the properties of the plants, ingesting them and using them externally were all part of the immersion program. Equally important, I practiced yoga and meditation twice a day, had numerous self-inquiry sessions and danced ecstatically with twenty other participants from many countries. All of this was seamlessly woven together by knowledgable facilitators while we navigated the known and unknown belief systems we carry within us. Our masks fell away as we went deeper into our group sessions, revealing more intimate aspects of ourselves each day. The deep bonding we felt with each other supported us during and even after our time there. The shamans sat with us individually during ceremonies, while we navigated our psyche after the medicine was ingested. The program confronted my old belief systems and opened my heart to be more compassionate, changing me emotionally, physically and spiritually. During my ceremonies with the medicine and the Shamans I felt like my molecular structure was realigned, my entire system rebooted.
This three week period was set in a remote jungle with no wifi, running water or electricity. The stars shone brilliantly above in the black sky, no light pollution to disrupt my natural cycles and inhibits the observation of the planets. No lights competing with the stars anywhere and the absence of digital screens allowed me to be in the present moment with myself and others. The wooden cabin I slept in had a simple bed with a mosquito net, a desk, chair, and a closet with a lock. The luxury of swinging in a hammock daily, listening to rainforest birds and watching a blue morpho butterfly flit outside my screened in porch was palpably delicious. The longer I live, the less I need. The medicine, shamans, facilitators and the Amazon jungle supported my process to look deep into myself from a different perspective. Everything in and around me aligned to help me during this gestation period of what I was about to birth. I had read enough self-help books for decades to know the most important first lesson is to love yourself. Good advice, we’ve all heard it before, but easier said than done for many of us. I had many aha moments during that experience, but the most profound one was to love myself and accept myself as I am for the first time. Simple, I know, but it took me thus far to get that piece of the puzzle.
Three weeks later we walked out of the jungle, climbed into boats taking us down the Amazon back to civilization in Iquitos. Before we left we were instructed to integrate what we had experienced by taking it easy, physically and emotionally, and to adhere to the dieta for a couple more weeks. Some flew home the next day, some of us stayed to explore more of South America.
Machu Picchu was on my bucket list and it seemed too close now to pass by. Flying to the ancient city of Cusco was the way I chose to integrate. Several of my new friends from the jungle were there, we shared meals, talked of our recent experience, upcoming travels and explored Cusco. At 11,150 feet elevation, the altitude of that beautiful colonial city kicked my butt. The oxygen tanks in the lobby were no joke and a reminder that altitude sickness is real. I had always imagined that I would hike the Inca Trail to see Machu Picchu, but I soon realized that wasn’t going to happen. I had previously scoffed at those that took the easy way, labeling them wimps. Now I had a different perspective on a lot of things. I accepted that I didn’t need to trek and camp for days to enjoy the experience. I traveled in luxury on the dome train instead of the adventurous, more difficult ways I had always preferred. I learned that difficult is not necessarily better, just different. The passage on the train to the ruins showcased views of the mountains around and above us. “It’s not so bad to be a wimp,” I thought, from my comfortable seat and my new perspective. I could sit and enjoy the beauty around me, instead of looking down at where my feet were taking me so I didn’t slip off the trail! A gorgeous day, combined with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide made the ruins come alive for the entire day. A truly memorable bucket list experience that didn’t disappoint.
Back in Cusco, I needed to deal with loads of mosquito bites on my legs from the Amazon. They love my blood and I’m a scratcher. I considered seeing a doctor but I avoid antibiotics, so I bought a homeopathic remedy instead. Besides, two people I talked with told me they went to the hospital for minor stuff and were kept overnight. I definitely didn’t want to chance the possibility of missing any flights, so I didn’t pursue it.
My flight from Cusco to Lima was diverted when I arrived in Lima to catch my connection to Los Angeles. I was told I was too late even though I could see the plane on the runway and the screen flashing boarding. This flummoxed me and the one other passenger headed to LAX. LATAM Air insisted it was impossible to board now and personally I think they gave our seats away before we arrived!
We were treated to a taxi, an overnight at the Novotel, meals, and a flight the next day to Los Angeles.
Third Trimester; Next stop, San Francisco, where I stayed with longtime friends and enjoyed the heart of the city for a few days. After completing my very first walk across the Golden Gate bridge, my legs looked red and swollen. I went to Urgent Care, got the antibiotics after all and two days later, returned to show them it wasn’t any better. “You have to go to the emergency room right now!” they insisted. Once there, I experienced a ring of interns with clipboards surrounding my bed looking at my legs and taking notes. I felt like I had a role on Grey’s Anatomy. Staph infection was the diagnosis. A PICC line was inserted in my arm and I was given antibiotics on a drip every four and every six hours, woken up every four hours for vitals, a couple ultrasounds scans and caring nurses poking and prodding me for the next three days morning and night. Hospitals are a complete unknown subculture to me. The food wasn’t too bad; the nurses were friendly, and to be honest it was all pretty new and interesting.
I ended up doing the two things I had tried to avoid the entire trip; missing a flight and taking antibiotics. A good reminder that life always happens when you have plans.
My big concern was that I would miss another of my bucket list check-offs; a month in Big Sur at the Esalen Institute overlooking the Pacific. https://www.esalen.org Big Sur is on National Geographic’s list of one of the hundred most beautiful places in the world, also one of my favorite places on earth. I had applied and been chosen to study and work there for one month with Ann Randolph, a writer and performance artist who I was fortunate enough to spend a week with, in the same place, seven years ago. Her month-long workshop teaches improv techniques and how to take writing from the page to the stage. I would miss my opportunity and lose money if they kept me too long in the hospital. Fortunately, my begging and pleading to be released worked and I left the hospital loaded up with more oral antibiotics, instructions for proper dressing changes and a promise not to soak my leg in Esalen’s famous natural hot springs, due to the possibility of infection. I had to be there the next day!
Standing outside the hospital, I ordered an Uber, then took a couple BART trains and went back to my friend’s condo in the Bay Area. direct from three days in the hospital bed. Coincidently, all my friends there had left on vacation while I was in the hospital. Feeling vulnerable, tired, and hungry, I repacked for colder weather and slept fitfully. Was I doing the right thing? Should I just skip it, lose the money, miss this opportunity?
Were my legs going to fully heal? My brain went into overdrive that night. The next morning I felt certain that going was the right thing to do. I did the Uber and BART again to meet an arranged ride share for the three-hour drive to Esalen. Did I mention I’m resilient and determined?
The writing and improv of the twenty-two participants in the work-study program revealed deep trauma, hilarious, sad and poignant memories of family, travel, love, life, and loss. We laughed, cried, felt out of our comfort zone numerous times, and experienced support all the time. I’m so grateful to have that experience of back-to-back deep connections, first in Peru and then Big Sur, all with people who were strangers just days before. When not in a class, we worked our butts off twenty-six hours a week, planting, harvesting in the organic garden, prepping food or washing dishes in the kitchen, cleaning cabins or working in the bookstore. I ate delicious vegetarian meals three times a day, indulged in dessert most nights and soaked in the hot mineral baths, overlooking the Pacific, with my left leg wrapped in plastic hanging over the edge of the tub.
At the culmination of the program, were instructed to each do a four-minute performance for the entire Esalen community. We could read something we had written, perform a monologue or test our improvisational skills on stage. I chose to do a monologue about the dream life that I’m living. Minutes before show time, amid nervous jitters and slight heart palpations, I asked myself, “why am I doing this?” The reward was a standing ovation for our courage to put ourselves out there, front and center stage, way out of our comfort zone. I think I understand how performers put themselves through hell for the applause, it was a bit of an adrenaline rush. If you want to view my four-minute monologue form that night, click on the link below.
Nine months after my journey began, I gave birth to the 2.0 version of myself. (Video About me IMG_4012)