It occurred to me while meditating today that this pandemic is kind of like a psychedelic trip for the planet. While my experience with psychedelics is limited to one mushroom trip in college, I saw and felt enough to draw this comparison.
First of all, we’re seeing on a visceral and undeniable level the interconnectedness of all people and the earth. Here we are. So many of us are social-distancing in order to protect ourselves and our fellow humans, those immunocompromised and falling within the most susceptible groups. We see how what we do affects individuals and the whole, from the other side of the world to our own families.
While we’ve been hunkered down, we have also been reaching out to each other more, if you’re like me. I’ve been Marco Polo-ing with several close friends and staying in touch with family via text and telephone. We have technology during this pandemic, which wasn’t the case with most other past pandemics.
Just yesterday I was on a Zoom call for a course I’m taking and one of the women’s enthusiasm about the paradigm shift we’re experiencing was more infectious than the virus. I felt instantly better and vowed to lean into people and myself more and reach out and share.
We have to get grounded in ourselves first and foremost. This, for me, has been an inward journey – which really just continues an inward journey I’ve been on for years. I’ve gone inward, yes, for my own benefit, but also so that I can be more effective in serving and being a balm. (She’s a total balm balm ;-)) This thing is gonna last as long as it's gonna last and we are along for the ride. We're going to keep with it and each other.
I dreamt this morning about being on a rollercoaster with my besties. It was a rollercoaster that went all through the theme park. We were, however, paying more attention to each other than the rollercoaster and what we were discussing, which was music. We were talking about the gentle way Trish Keenan delivered her vocals and the overall message of her band, Broadcast, and how she didn’t hit anyone over the head with it. Their music is an invitation. Trish died of pneumonia from contracting Swine Flu in 2011. This seemed appropriate to the dream and the situation.
In the dream, every once in a while, we would scream, about to ride into a family getting ice cream or a wall, but the car we were in always righted us, even though it was scary. So we’d scream and then we’d go back to talking about music and how healing and amazing art is. We’d link our arms and focus on each other. And we'd scream again when we needed to.
This seems like an important message for me to remember and share. There will be twists and turns, like an acid trip or a rollercoaster and we do not know what’s coming yet and our eyes are open pretty wide, like pinwheels, and we just need to ride it, keep connecting, and take care of ourselves and each other. Nobody is going to turn into a glass of orange juice.
When I took my mushroom trip in college I remember my roommate was really scared. I saw her sitting on the ground and she appeared to be cloaked in the darkness of her own fear. I invited her to sit with me and we talked about her fears precipitated by growing up Catholic. As the Charlatans UK played on my stereo, we rode out the scariest and most emotional parts of the trip together. I felt what she felt, she felt what I felt. I held tight to the feeling that we were good, things were OK, and wanted to share that vision with her, which she took in sip by sip. Eventually we arrived at a place together where we saw the divine feminine and it was pretty beautiful. Now, I’m not suggesting COVID-19 is going to take us to the divine feminine, though I do think we feel the interconnection of Mother Earth. So, yeah, in a way, yes, it is doing just that. And it’s all through our connection with each other. Our systems are broken but we are taking care of each other.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer some years ago my sister sent me a psalm. And being actively not religious I was like, “A G-D PSALM?!?!” She also was like, “Hey, this is a psalm, not trying to push religion on you, just thought this might help you where you’re at.” It did. It was about how we should not look up ahead at the mountain range and worry about how we will traverse it. We should keep walking, know that there might be a way around it or through when we get to it and to trust that instead of going the whole way in worry. It doesn’t make sense to freak out about what is to come potentially and try to figure out how to handle that now emotionally.
OK, of course on a practical level we are being as prepared as we can and, like, checking in on each other, paying attention to numbers, doing the World Health Organization’s Five:
“1 HANDS: Wash them often,
2 ELBOW: Cough into it
3 FACE: Don't touch it
4 FEET: Stay more than 3ft apart
5 FEEL: sick? Stay home”
Also, we get to be scared and we get to be strong. What I have been noticing is how bolstered I have been by friends, family, community, etc. So let yourself off the hook. If you’re scared, lean on someone, if you’re feeling strong, offer your steady energy for people to entrain to. Breathe and laugh with your people. And know sometimes you’ll cycle through feeling sad or scared or strong at any given time. That is OK and the way things are.
My wonderful acupuncturist back east, Sheila Fay, was so helpful when I was doing radiation.
"Sometimes I feel like I'm meeting this huge, yang hospital machinery energy as a warrior queen," I told her, "and sometimes I'm just like the softest, squishiest incarnation of a tired, tender woman," I told her. "How should I meet this energy? How do I go in there for my highest healing? Which way should I be doing it?"
"Both," she said. "However you feel on any given day and that gets to change even within a day. Be the warrior queen and the soft, squishy yin body. Whatever feels right."
OK then. And that is exactly what I did.
I was talking with my friend Emily Taylor (one of my fellow dream-rollercoaster riders) a while back about my mushroom trip and she brought up the fact that how in American culture, we don’t have guides for our psychedelic experiences. That we often have to step up as those guides for each other. It occurs to me we can do that now, too. As our “leaders” are inept we are now more connected than ever, and I see so many of you stepping up as leaders and sharing where you are. It is so valuable.
However you're doing is great. You don’t have to use this time to be super productive. I would invite you to go inward, get quiet, listen for the stillness, and, as Glennon Doyle puts in her new book Untamed (and Kristen Bell sings in Frozen 2, Emily also brought to my attention): Listen inward and do the next right thing.
We’ll ride this together. We’ll do our due diligence. Keep on truckin’.
Thank you for reading. And I'm here if you want to talk or need a hug from afar. How are you? How's your heart?
In light of my blog post yesterday about my/our creations being babies, too, I want to be clearer and more inclusive/expansive and say that my/our creations, in fact, do not need to be remotely compared to babies at all in order to be valued. There are similarities, yes, and if it helps us to look at things that way, great. BUT ALSO, we do not have to look at it that way either. We make what we make and completely separate from the idea and reality of children those things get to exist, be valued, be celebrated. I do not have to put a headband with a flower on it on a record I make in order for it to be valuable. So…continued nuances.
More importantly, though – just get in there and write and make stuff and sing if you can (I do not take lightly the tremendous privilege it is to do any of these things either). I could pick at the intellectual machinations of it all day and I could be instead writing/tickling the plastics at the Rhodes. So, off I go. XO
My OBGYN has a zillion pictures of babies he's delivered all over his office (his practice is called "Idaho Stork," after all, as he is very birth-centric). I think my pic should be on one of those boards, too, since he'll be removing my uterus and I'll be pregnant with my own creativity from here on out.
Our best friends from Boston were here for a week in January and we savored every moment. We recorded songs we’ve been writing together back and forth (in our band, East Witch West). We had friends over and everyone played music and we deepened our sense of community. We often birth cool stuff together. We foster tremendous growth and healing whenever we’re together, too.
On the second day of recording, I had a transvaginal ultrasound in the morning because I have been having breakthrough bleeding and the medication (tamoxifen) I’m on can cause uterine cancer, so I always get very anxious whenever this occurs (and my doctors say I have to get it checked out EVERY. DAMN. TIME).
So I discussed with my (much-adored) Nurse Practitioner and decided to have my uterus removed April 3 (send me love) because I have fibroids that are most likely causing the bleeding. Abby drove us and Emily went to the office with me. And then we had lunch of chicken confit and went to record. It was a big day of big choices about my seat of creativity.
What’s interesting to me about the timing of all of this is that I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about how writing and music are my children. I am not having biological children of my own. And I believe there will be even more room for my energetic children, if you will, without a uterus that gives me a lot of trouble and pain and anxiety. (Smooches, uterus, don't get me wrong.)
When Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic (which I love) came out she was on a show talking about how she doesn’t like when people call their books babies, and threw her own book on the floor, saying you can’t do that with a baby. This sat funny with me because as women our creations are often automatically downgraded in importance, culturally, unless those creations are, in fact, children.
Also, you could throw a baby on the floor, but you shouldn’t. The beautiful book you put so much time and effort and vulnerability and tears into also shouldn’t be thrown on the floor. And, in my opinion, nothing called Big Magic should ever be thrown on the floor. I have reverence for my and your creations even if they did not come out of our wombs of flesh.
I mean, sure, you won't be jailed for throwing your book baby on the floor. But still. Maybe a touch more reverence? (There are some things of which I'm reverent, it's true.)
And here's the thing, too: motherhood is redunks amazing. I am in awe every day of how my friends and family mother and how they give birth and what they go through to adopt. It is truly a huge accomplishment on an earthly and cosmic level for which I have a hard time finding words. But also, I think women's accomplishments that aren't children are so often devalued. And to that I say: NOPE!
So I am looking at my hysterectomy as further stepping into my own power and who I am. I am also privileged to be able to make this choice.
I am grateful that I’ve been able to follow my heart to Boise, even though it hasn’t always been easy, and I haven’t always known what the eff I’m doing. But I’ve wanted to play and write music since I was a child, and I don’t think I’d have written and recorded so many songs of which I’m proud without being here. I can see a chain of events and choices that led me to this moment, including my friends who are family visiting and writing with them and birthing our creations.
It is some of the biggest magic and I would never throw it on the floor.
What is also pretty damn special is that my friend Emily who was here in January is coming back to help me during my surgery and make me broth and hold my hand. It just occurred to me that she is a doula. The part of me that's been repeatedly poked by feminine conditioning and the messages about "what women are for" and, and, and...just took a deep breath and straightened her spine. I get to have a doula for my hysterectomy.
What are you pregnant with? I'm sending you love for that.
Also...ha! This cracked me up:
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.