Its been a long while since I last posted, and the stories below will attempt to explain the last year and the events that helped pull me away from the internet and go deeply within. I am thankful to be able to share all that has happened and hope that it contains some wisdom for all.
2018 wrapped up and has undoubtedly been the biggest, most surprising, and difficult year of my life. I have not woken up on so many consecutive days with an anxious knot in my guts asking me to investigate deep inner truths. Unbearable emotions come wafting through the side door. I lost all my grounding, and was as vulnerable and wide open as one can be. Inner child trying to run my adult life, grief spilling forth into minor and major meltdowns, stuck in a job that sucked my soul through a keyboard, and the largest sense of not knowing what to do with my life. I then threw a deeply committed new love relationship on top of that just to make sure I was well covered on inner work.
I want to highlight some wonderful things I did, before I get into the heavy stuff. I learned how to paraglide and now have my license. My father had his pilots license and flew planes. My personal aircraft is just a lot smaller and cheaper, but perhaps even more fun. I also managed to make it to Harry Potter world for my 33rd birthday. I absolutely love the magic of the Harry Potter universe and for that it really touched my soul. Too bad it never feels like winter in Florida, which I always associate with Harry Potter, or that would have been extra magical. I traveled through India, Canada, Cuba, Ireland, and Scotland. I moved to San Francisco for half a year and checked out the pacific northwest on a long road trip. Everything was extremely beautiful, if not rather expensive, and I made some wonderful new friends along the way.
My 2018 started out in India as usual, flying into Pune on new years eve, after missing a flight to Hong Kong. The celebration was extravagant as usual, but having just arrived, I didn’t feel quite settled and ready to party at that level. I was in India again to staff Path of Love and continue to work on myself. I arrived this year leaving behind my girlfriend in Canada where she continued her winter work. Pune is usually the place to find a girlfriend, but this year I tried out the reverse, my heart longing to be back with her while exploring my spiritual freedom. Path of Love was incredibly powerful and I learned many new things from watching the facilitators work. Enjoying time with my family and making some new friends as well. I would cut my normal travels short after six weeks to return to her and for a big surprise change in my life.
I traveled to Goa India for a second try this year. Last time I went three years ago it was an energetic disaster and I struggled so much being in the party atmosphere. However this time I managed to stay inland with a good friend, rent a scooter to commute, and this combination worked wonders. I was able to visit the beach and enjoy for a few hours then escape back to my quiet abode to sleep soundly. I was able to connect with all the Path of Love staff and continue to grow in the work and friendships. I found a nice rhythm to this beach life and came to enjoy it. My next stop would normally have been Rishikesh to sit by the Ganga and meditate, but I returned to Canada to visit my girlfriend.
Something was not right from the very beginning. We had been conversing very well on the phone and all seemed well, but when I arrived I could sense something deep was off. Over the course of the next rough week, many conversations would be had, and many tears shed. For whatever reasons, I may never really know, she closed off and walled up her inner world to me. My belief is that suddenly the intimacy and reality of a relationship got very real and scary. That to change and grow at this level became too much and she wasn’t ready.
I felt it coming. That familiar experience when my intuition starts telling me that someone is going to leave. I could have just kept quiet and let it be, but I decided to be vulnerable. I decided to share everything like it would be the last time I would ever see her. I didn’t want to leave with anything unsaid. I didn’t want to look back later with regret that I didn’t try everything. I wanted to know that I did everything possible to stay open and connect. It was a deeply humbling experience to share myself that way. To share all my fears, including that I felt she wanted to leave. She wasn’t able to open with me while I shared, but I continued to just share myself, not needing anything from her; this was for me.
When I left, I was a bit lost and sullen. I didn’t know where I was standing in my life with her. She needed some space, which I offered, just that she keep me informed if she was going to disappear from communication for a while. I had planned to be in Canada for much longer than a week, but it didn’t work out. So in my suddenly free schedule, I went for a trip down to Santa Fe to visit my good friends and therapist’s Nirodha and Mushkan.
Upon hearing my story, three books where plopped in my lap, and the greatest understanding of my life, about relationships, was handed to me on a silver platter. Its called attachment style and very simply put you are either Secure, Anxious, or Avoidant. In my own words, the question is this: When intimacy gets real, and the fear comes, what is your tendency to do? Anxious people like me feel their love is at risk and move towards the other person. In extreme cases this is the classic needy person. Avoidant people feel they are being consumed and need to take space to feel safe and feel themselves again. They disappear for a while, physically or from communication until they feel safe again to connect. Secure people are able to be with their fears and aren’t bothered much about it. Everyone thankfully is heading toward secure.
The problem comes when an anxious and avoidant person get together. They create a vicious cycle of triggers. The anxious person needs the other to confirm their love and support, and this causes the avoidant to run away, which only worsens the cycle. Even when the avoidant comes back after the natural time, the anxious person may then crave them so much that the cycle starts again rather than becoming secure, and the trigger cycle begins again.
There is much advice in the books about effective strategies to work with a cycle like this, but the authors were all very clear; if you aren’t already committed to a relationship like this, NEVER date an avoidant person if you are an anxious type. Find a secure person instead, because they will be able to offer security when your insecurity gets triggered. This seems to have been the exact dynamic I was in with my girlfriend and seeing it clearly at this moment changed my life forever.
After a few days of play in Santa Fe, including visiting Meow Wolf, and Ten Thousand Waves Japanese spa, I went to Florida to visit my dad as per usual when I don’t know what else to do. Florida is not really my cup of cultural tea, but it was winter so the weather was still enjoyable for me. My dad had moved into the home of his lifelong best friends and so would I. I would pick up the habit of having drinks again, since this happy group likes to eat and drink and converse. I would also get to check off a bucket list item and see a rocket launch into space. In fact I got to see three, but the one at night was beyond beautiful.
As I arrived, my father was experiencing some pretty bad back pain from a few days prior which was now causing him to stay in bed. We went to the chiropractor as he had been doing, but it was getting worse. I was driving him every day it seemed to a doctor or appointment to find out what was going on. I gave my dad his first taste of my massage skills since I became a licensed therapist, but it wasn’t helping either. Eventually we found the right doctor, but with the wrong outcome. His throat cancer which had been successfully overcome had spread to his spine. He had been having his blood checked and scans taken every two weeks and it was completely missed by everyone. This is also why it took us so long to find it as well, because we thought it was being managed.
The next two and a half months were incredibly difficult, but also beautiful in a way I had never experienced. I became my fathers full time caretaker, a role I didn’t know I could do so well. I learned what many parents probably already know, how to put someone else’s life before your own. I would end up having some time alone to myself each day, mostly at night, going for endless walks around the apartment complex. I am so thankful for those last months with my dad. We got to bond in an even more special way, and had many conversations while he was still present. Of course talk about relationships was a highlight. In the end my girlfriend decided to ghost me, a modern term for when someone just disappears from all forms of communication, effectively becoming a ghost. Some of my last conversations with my dad were advice about finding a loving partner that is able to form a lasting relationship.
After a month of waiting and trying to reach her, I gave up and wrote an email ending whatever we had left. I wanted that closure, just a simple conversation would do, but I felt I had the answer already with understanding attachment styles and the rest was just a painful human experience. I would have loved to have shown my father that I finally found a loving partner that could embrace life with me. Having had three marriages himself, it seems to be a shared topic of how to embrace love and what makes a relationship work. Of all his advice, to find someone who adores you, seemed to be the most truthful and to the point.
The transition of my father was really the turning point in my year, and life. The end of childhood finally set in. I never realized how much support I took for granted until it was no longer there. It was more than the constant knowing that someone had my back in every way. Energetically I used my fathers base of support to go out into the world while feeling totally free. Without my beloved father there to always turn too, I now have to learn how to create that support for myself.
This inner revolution is about consciously stepping away from my inner child and into my true adult. Giving up ones childhood is never done by choice. Either through initiation or by life circumstance do we finally come face to face with what makes us adults: knowing that we are going to die. As Stephen Jenkinson writes beautifully in Die Wise, it is in learning to live with the knowing you are going to die, that gives meaning to living and loving yourself and others. I came face to face with this lesson while helping my father pass through death’s door. I have always been safe and secure in my personal knowing that death is just the next step, but having it open me so profoundly into learning to love myself was a surprise. From death came life and love and I have been learning how to build a container for both. When my child was supported by my father, I could breeze through life without needing this skill set. Now I need to own my inner power by giving my playful child some adult boundaries. It has been the greatest challenge of my life so far. Nothing really prepared me for this, but I have been learning well as they say.
Relationships became a focus topic for the year. As I learned to live without the longest and most important relationship in my life, I began a new romantic one. The passing of my father coincided with the ending of one romantic relationship, but also opened the door for Ayna to enter my life. As I needed a break from the death studies, I went to Utah two months later to learn to fly a paraglider. At a chance meeting in ecstatic dance, a beautiful Turkmen woman walked in that I had never seen before. I heard a voice in my head say something I had never heard before: “You are going to marry that woman”. Striking me immediately as someone I felt a strong connection with, as if I had known her all my life, I tried to get closer. My invitations to dance were kindly turned down and so I resolved to approach her after so we could speak. Crossing paths in the shoe room, my hello was met with more shock and avoidance than expected. I could have left then missing my chance, but decided to approach her again and properly say hello. Within five minutes not only had I spoken about Path of Love and Fasting for two weeks, but we had a tea date for a few days later.
In the three hours that vanished in conversation, we poured all our stories and hearts onto the table it seemed. I know neither of us intended to do this, but as the words flowed, and as our hearts connected, we both found the mutual recognition and what we had been looking for in a partner. Communication, the desire to work on oneself and continuously grow, and really wanting to know ones self and share that with another were all apparent. She had just left a partner of three years, and I had just left mine. It was a surprise for us both to even be entertaining the idea of a relationship. Tea turned into a sunny hike a few days later. Stopping to refresh alongside a stream, we broached the subject of a relationship. What unfolded was a solid YES, and a beautiful path for connection opened my heart fully toward Ayna and she I. This entailed me moving to San Francisco to jump full on into the most important and engaging relationship of my life.
Before we could connect any further, my travels would take me to a weekend workshop in Colorado, to learn about my inner child and what struggles he faces as I begin for the first time to let my adult run my life. My father held such a place of support that I never truly needed to grow up all the way. I could let him cover my back while I traveled the world freely and easily, knowing I would always be supported if I failed. It became time to own that power for myself and as such, my quest to become a Man began.
The clarity that arose out of this process made it clear that I should visit Ayna in Oakland for a few days before heading to Ireland. It was excitingly wild to honor my feelings rather than follow my linear thinking and continue straight to Ireland. We shared a beautiful three days together, connecting and reaffirming our feelings. To be so spontaneous was new territory for me and asserting what I wanted felt good. We ate and explored and blossomed in our new love for each other.
Shane-man, as my father called my best friend, met me in Ireland in the midst of a big football game. We both had never seen this part of the world and had some exciting plans up our sleeves. Dublin, being our first stop together since traveling Iceland a few years ago, was an easy entry back into backpacking. We grew tired quickly of this busy city, but enjoyed the fun atmosphere and of course the Guinness brewery tour. Belfast was more our cup of tea, making some interesting friends for the night and enjoying a full night on the town; drinks, stories, pizza, and much tipsy sauntering through the streets.
Every so often you get one of those perfect days where everything aligns and you feel taken care of by existence; this was our trip to Islay in Scotland. Islay is the home of Laphroaig and lagavulin distilleries which make peaty and smoky types of whisky (not to be referenced as scotch because you are in Scotland and its just whisky of course). Planning this excursion was endless hours of internet searching. We had the hardest time finding inexpensive accommodation, ultimately securing the last possible bed on the island for $200. The bus that would take us to the ferry had a cool 5 minutes gap for transfer. Then we had just a few hours to secure our spot on a tour and accomplish our mission. The ride back was even more in confusion as you couldn’t even book a bus due to a world cup event shutting down roads in the city. Trust, and with some planning, we set out early in the morning. Everything went on schedule, we hitchhiked easily, got special perks on our tour, accomplished our special mission, found a good dinner, and in the end our accommodation was top notch and felt like pure luxury. A day worth living over again and again. Blue skies, good friends, good food, and feeling taken care of by existence. What more could you ask for?
Our special mission was to deposit my fathers ashes in the holy land of scotch making. Shane owned one square foot of beautiful Islay property that had come as part of a special with Laphroaig. We printed out the GPS coordinates, donned our mucking boots, and walked out through the golden grass to plant our flag and claim this land for ourselves. I eventually dug up a square foot of grass to place a picture of my father and I, his ashes, and to bless the whole area with scotch. Shane and I said our tearful thanks to a man who had changed both our lives, and were glad to have delivered him to a place he had never reached. For someone who enjoyed at least one scotch a day, for his whole life, I couldn’t think of a better location to leave a part of him, one we can all come back to on pilgrimage in the future.
We rounded out our trip in Edinburgh, right in the middle of fringe month. The city was alive with performances of every kind, posters lining every wall, and tourists cramming into everything. Not really our cup of tea, but the few performances that I managed to see were all amazing. My longing for my romantic connection encouraged me to leave travel 3 weeks earlier than originally planned, and then once we tired of Scotland, I cut even shorter my travels to rush back to my new beloved. This became a flurry of flights and last minute tickets to make it to San Francisco and not waste a minute more. There were canceled planes and stormy weather, but I ultimately flew to London, visited platform 9&3/4 for a bit more Harry Potter magic, flew to Chicago, and then bought the last seat to SFO, arriving just when I wanted, but with much hassle and expense. Not my normal laissez faire attitude to cheap travel.
A whole new chapter was about to begin in my life. I arrived in a new city, with a new love, in a totally new place in my life. Everything felt up in the air and moving along without my needing to do anything. I felt to be in the right place and knew some deep transformation was coming for me. The next half a year would certainly bring many surprises, but much love and connection too.
To be continued in Part Two.