I've been guiding a fair amount of walks lately. Both for Medina County Park District and at my place. I'm starting to get more gigs here and there on the side as well. It feels good.
But, I keep coming back to this notion that the more I'm granted the opportunity to guide others the greater my own deepening needs to be, as if I need to journey more. In addition to this, there are possible opportunities bubbling that are intriguing to me that could actually change things for me in a significant way. The way I've wanted but didn't know how to go about on my own.
I've learned too much at this point in my life to ignore signs and signals, or to flounder an opportunity, assuming that what's below my skin isn't something that brings others peace, or for at least a short amount of time, wonder. Not the silly kind of wonder, but the kind that makes one drive home and hold their children tighter. Kiss their significant other just a bit longer.
One thing I will say that I find almost universally touching, is that almost always after a walk, one or two of the participants offer to help me clean up and pack things into my car. There is still kindness in this world, and I've found that even though we're all capable of it, sometimes it must be gently plucked into being. And although this is a kind gesture on the part of my my guests, I explain to them that that's exactly what they are, my guests, and the person who throws the party usually is tasked with the cleanup.
More importantly, it's the energy that needs to be settled, to cooed back to sleep, so that I can move on and live my life. I have a family to nurture. A business to run. There is a matter of practicality that cannot be ignored in this life. How, had not the stages of the world been built without sound planning? And had not the electrical devices that we enjoy our music with been created and brought to us by mid-sized blue vans with smiles on them almost hours after we've ordered them online shine as a product of practicality?
Everything that we know is built upon practicality. And in fact, I do like it. It grounds me against constantly floating in my own thoughts and fantasies. And most importantly, my past. I learned some hard lessons in my younger adult life where I tried to put all of my energy into those fantasies. And I got burnt. Very badly. As I got older, I felt that perhaps the grace of my humanness was to find ways to stitch things together in a meaningful way.
I would hope.
I recently went on a trip, perhaps one that needed to be had. One into dangerous and liminal psychic spaces that I left somewhat unresolved for many years. I'd played in bands for long time. Most notably in my mid to late 20's, I played with a band that featured complex speed metal/punk. The whole goal was to play as fast as possible, and to party just as hard and as lavishly as we played.
The drummer in this bad had planned his bachelor party in a beloved city called Louisville, Kentucky. I couldn't miss this. I had seen so many battles with this long-time friend, who's archetype to me is like an old friend you'd meet in a dark and scary wood who would simply pick you up, and literally carry you to to the edge of that forest, set you down and say "you're alright. But man, you went crazy!"
He is that kind of friend. A good one. An ancient one.
And so, passing through cities used to be exciting to me. The lights and the energy of so many people packed into small geographic places. The possibility that I could evaporate into anonymity and not be held to account for my rejection of the notion I had to grow up. Having now been married for 14 years, with two kids and a ton of responsibility has changed how I feel about that energy. And my problem was that I left the Cleveland area and headed down I-71 around 2pm on a Friday.
It seemed that the world was on the road with me, moving in the same direction at 85 mph. Rush hour through Columbus. Rush hour through Cincinnati. Such that I didn't dare look at the skylines of each or I would smash into the vehicles around me. A weekend rush emptying into the Kentucky hills that didn't subside until I made it to Louisville, where I magically parallel parked in front of the Air BnB that my friends had rented. My fingers gripping the wheel as if I was hung from some ledge.
That night alone was a blur of what I used to be able to accomplish in my 20's. Ending with me crashing on a couch at 4:30am with the room spinning about me like a bad carnival ride. But this time was different. Even though the result was the same as it always had been, my intent had changed. I watched people. I observed the feeling at the bars we hopped along to; the sadness of the women at them, the brazen cut-throat-ery of the men, my friends. What I used to think was fun.
It was strange to observe in this way. But also a relief that it wasn't in my head any longer. And then, something struck me as I drifted into an alcohol infused haze.
Years ago, when I met Shannon, I decided to take a trip to Louisville on my own. I don't know why, it was just something I felt I had to do. I knew she was different, and if I was to be anything close to someone decent for her, I wanted to spend some time thinking about it before I rushed in, like every other relationship I'd been in up to that point. I didn't go for the bourbon, or the nightlife. I went to see the caves in the area. It sort of hit me as the thing I needed to do.
I'll never forget, on one of the tours, of which I was the only participant, the guide turned off the lights and I stood there in silence with him for about two minutes. It felt like an eternity. When he told me that he was about to turn the lights on, I asking him to leave them off for just a bit longer. I wanted to be healed. To have the rocks absorb every shitty thing I'd ever done or said. Every time I'd ignored myself and my calling to help people heal.
I wanted to be swallowed.
And so, driving home then and driving home recently, I cried. Having been swallowed by the inevitable way of things. The brutal and graceful way this earth teaches. How circles mend their own wounds when the time is right. When we've listened.
In a way, spirals play at our lives in ways we just can't even comprehend. Coming home in the early dawn, Cincinnati felt like a strange pair of shoes I used to wear. Shannon was actually born there, and it is the place of my first memory. My mom still disputes this but I remember the stadium bleachers and rivets of the University of Cincinnati in flashes, and the shoulder of of my grandfather holding me in the cold, on the day of my aunt's graduation.
And then, Columbus, my next step along I-71, where my mothers grandparents met...when Shannon called...
She'd had a strange and circular experience of her own. An old friend had gotten weird with her, for the second or third time, and as I was navigating the ever-present construction of the Ohio interstate through Columbus - the big city where nothing happens in my opinion - she says, "I just don't have the energy for this anymore."
A simple statement, yes. But one that perhaps echoed where my own soul has been hanging in the balance for a while. What do I have the energy for, really? The funny thing is...nothing. I am exhausted, and can barely make it through a single day at work. I give my boys what I can, but like most parents, attempting to match the energy of young ones is a fool's errand. And I've never slept well, which is a whole other ball of wax not to be delved into here. Eek.
But, when I guide I simply give myself over. Like standing in that cave with the lights off. I embrace that sense of abandon. That feeling of possibly never coming back. But, out of practical responsibility, I must. Integration is the only way forward for me. And maybe, for the world.
And the funny thing is, whenever I'm truly ready to tell myself that this guiding stuff is all crap, and that I couldn't possibly help people feel better and connect with their own blueprints, they start saying the most profound and simple things. And then they offer to help me gather my stuff. It's like they know I need to move on to the next portion of my journey of that day, which is home and family. The loud, lush and complex song that I was truly built for.
Perhaps this is all in the cards, I wonder at times. This notion that we travel, inwards and outwards. And that we are never satisfied, lest we find simple comfort in the smell of beef stew on a football Sunday, or the way people get real quiet when they realize the forest is the one calling the shots.
I've learned that constantly finding ourselves in dark woods, and running with wolves and old friends who know just a well as you that nothing is worth anything unless there is a story attached, is okay.