doubling back

All those many months ago when my life coach asked me what I would do with my life, were there no earthly barriers to my choice, I told her I'd return to my dad's house, to grow herbs and wander in the woods.

Since then, we've focused heavily on the herbalism part. I've rediscovered that it's a true passion of mine to grow plants, exist with them, and then have the knowledge to use them in cooking and medicine. All of this has helped to fill a void I've been feeling for years.


It was only recently, however, that my coach and I have started to explore the second part of my ideal life: wandering in the woods. At the time, I assumed I meant that I wanted to be with nature, for the purpose of growing and finding plants. Which made sense, and we both went with that for a while. Now I'm starting to realize that I was trying to express a deeply hidden longing for spirituality. I've always associated the woods with god. There was a time when, as a child, I'd wander through the woods, feet bare, just quietly being. I'd stop every so often and make a pentagram out of pebbles, talk to the wind, or just listen.

This wasn't a long period. It was late middle school through early high school. And, like most kids, there was a lot going on for me. I was struggling with coming out as gay, and at the same time, I was finding myself closeted in another wayI felt like I had to keep my beliefs and ideas about god and nature secret, because it was obvious (to me) that wasn't the most socially acceptable way to deal with divinity. I remember hiding books I bought, for fear someone I loved would think I was stupid. (Where does that idea come from? What experiences did I have in my life to make me associate my belief system with being heckled? What are we unknowingly teaching our kids?)

Through college, my beliefs and longings slowly waned. I was completely swept up into the academic and professional world. I learned that if I politicized basically every aspect of my life, I could go anywhere and do anything and live in all the huge houses I could possibly dream of. It honestly never felt totally correct, but, being a college student, I had the misguided idea that I could sneak into power structures using my political acting skills and then literally tear down all the walls and pedestals with my knowledge of women's studies and gender theory. (Because, you know, no one has ever considered this before). I thought I could have the best of both worlds. The thought of that made me feel accomplished and important, but also cold and unfulfilled—and I tried to like that. I read The Fountainhead and identified with Ellsworth Toohey, the soulless bad guy, and aspired to similar identity-killing feats as the character.

And then I had a gender-free orgasm and my brain broke.

With one simple breath and energy orgasm, this facade of "Nick-the-business-man" crumbled and fell away. But, there was nothing left underneath it. Or, if there was, I couldn't see it. I dropped out of college and I moved in with my mom. And, essentially I started the cycle over again. How could you blame me? I didn't know anything else.

Fast-forward to today. I dropped out of college because I realized I was in the wrong place and I had to leave. Was dropping out really the right plan? Well, I don't know. I do know that it felt like starting over, and I didn't much like it. This time around I'm making an effort to not just leave my job and be jobless. So I'm slowly rediscovering things about myself. And it's so wild to discover that the person I really am is so different from the person I've been trying so hard to be.

I've had an altar set up in my living space ever since my barefoot forest days, but I've never done much with it. It's always just felt like something I need to have. There's been an altar in at least one room of our apartment for the entire time we've lived here. For most of those years, it was the elephant in the room. I assumed that if I never told anyone it was an altar they wouldn't notice it.

But I've been feeling this pull. I find myself walking over to my altar (now in my bedroom) and just standing there. If I feel lost or upset, I find myself looking at it or thinking about it. So, I took this as a sign. Over Valentine's Day weekend, my partner had to go out of town. I, for the first time in who knows how long, decided to hold a full-moon ritual. I moved my altar into the living room (onto the coffee table) and went all out. I used a 6' staff instead of a wand, I lit every candle I could find, I even put on a black hooded cape (which ended up being acrylic so it was too hot)! I just performed a simple ritual, repeated almost verbatim from one of Scott Cunningham's books.

do you like my trendy Liberty of London altar cloth?

And it just felt right. It just felt fucking right in a time when so many things have felt so not right. I read some tarot for myself that night, which is how I've been communicating with my spirit guide (Eliza, I had thought, but using a pendulum the other night, I discovered this was wrong. Sorry!). I meditated and just sat in my circle. It was amazing.

After that, I've been craving that feeling. That feeling of love and connectedness. I wasn't sure how to find this, however, since I've only ever experienced my spirituality alone. Well, I guess I should say that in my adult life I've only ever experienced it alone. I never felt anything but loved and connected all those years ago in the woods—but it doesn't feel that easy anymore.

More than once, the "c" word came up.

I'd been to church as a kid. Never with my parents, ironically enough. They were more agnostic than anything else. But even as a kid I wanted to go to church. I wanted to learn about religion. I unfortunately spent a lot of my church-time in very conservative branches of Christianity (and don't forget about that summer with the Mormons!) which, to say the least, not only left me spiritually wanting but turned me off of church entirely.

My coach encouraged me to try going to a local Spiritualist church. I had been, once, a few years ago, and I really liked it. But I never went back for fear of being one of those church-y people. She reminded me that I didn't need to sign up and become a full-time member; I could go on my own terms and make it work for me. So I went.

And guess what? IT FELT FUCKING RIGHT. The entire time I was there, it felt right. It felt like the closest I'd been to god in quite some time, and I wanted to stay there. As the service drew to a close, I was fortunate enough to receive a message from my Nana via one of the mediums. After having validated her identity (or at least her connection to me), she reminded me of my intense childhood empathy. She reminded me that I was so connected with nature and the universe that I'd cry if someone killed a bug. And, most importantly, she reminded me that this is an essential part of me, and I shouldn't try to close off my big open heart. I didn't want to leave.

Since then, I've taken her advice. I've listened to my intuition, and have begun the process of trusting it. I've begun to notice signs and symbols and voices and feelings and smells and I've started to trust them. It feels good. It feels like I'm moving in the right direction. I'm reading more tarot, and swinging my pendulum, and talking to spirit. I want to do more.

I painted this on what used to be a cheese tray. Très fancy.

And guys, listen. I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do with this. That isn't the point. I can't plan out my life and livelihood around something I don't fully understand. That's OK! I don't need to. I did get what I've been wanting: to have a direction to move in. As long as I can go forward, I'm sure I'll get to where I need to be.

It's about finding your passion. That's the whole point.


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