58. Checkmate with Ourselves

BLOG 58: January, 2000—I remember now where I was on the eve of this millennium. Do you? I was in Taos, New Mexico, in the mountains somewhere far away from civilization as the entire world braced itself for what we called “Y2K” (when all computers would possibly shut down, and the world as we knew it).

As we all prepared for a Y2K disaster, I was in the middle of nowhere, drumming in the new millennium with my friend Eric Perry and others. I barely remember that time, other than the fact that I had flown out to San Francisco, CA, from my parents house in New Jersey, to pick up my car (I had left it there a few years earlier because I wasn’t physically up to driving it back East after becoming injured). Eric came out to California to drive my car—with me lying down in the back—on a journey East, or at least halfway to New Mexico, where he lived.

When Eric and I arrived in New Mexico, I helped him decorate his room and we visited Acoma Pueblo, a native village on top of a cliff set up for tourists to visit. Due to my long term injury I wasn’t able to walk  much, but enough to see this village and befriend a stray dog who followed us to our car. After the dog looked at us with longing eyes and a guard told us to take him—he didn’t belong to anyone, he said—Eric, who could barely take care of plants, became a dog owner. We named the little one “Acoma.”

By the time New Year’s Eve approached,c31d532e140f6c8af13c69ef86fc2705 the three of us were drumming away in Taos. Despite being out in nature, I remember feeling disconnected—even in Albuquerque where the Sandia Mountains that had once called me were. My body was still struggling to walk, and my soul questioning why I had stopped in the middle of the desert on my way to California almost four years earlier only to break myself and still be struggling. Why had I followed a spiritual call only to be broken and to feel disconnected from all that had initially connected me?

That year, 17 years ago, my father had called me to tell me he would fly out to Albuquerque to drive me and my car back to New Jersey, to my parent’s home.  I accepted and soon my car and I were back with my parents.

It was a strange place to be—in the same place, or worse, than I had been four years earlier. It was only later, when studying with one of my spiritual teachers, Martín Prechtel, that I would understand that space I was in. We’ve grown up inside this “empire,” he’d say, and we’ve learned to live with the empire mind. Yet, he’d explain, there’s another part of us, “the barbarian,” the one who’s wild, free, connected to nature, our nature, that wants to come home.

In a world where we have continuously fled, especially West, there comes a time when we’re forced to stop, he’d say, where we face “check mate.” Neither the Empire mind nor the Barbarian can move as they are in stalemate, seeing the other for the first time and determining how to make peace w540ab52e39f2f19b2fea568f2462612aith one other since both are a part of ourselves (my apologies to my teacher for not sharing this as eloquently as he did!).

As I look back, I see now, that I was in a place of checkmate, unlearning the parts of my mind that had imprisoned me while getting to know this Barbarian part of me that had rarely had a voice. Relearning a way of being, and making peace with what has been, can be long journey—one that isn’t just about this lifetime, but many before, tied to our ancestors and this long earth walk we’ve all made, I later realized.

Today I feel at peace, and I’ve become a beautiful woman who honors her soul’s path. But, I realize that this place of checkmate, this slowing down, and even being stuck for a while, is always with us. We live in a world that demands we keep up while drawing our attention with endless technological inventions and constant marketing. So coming home to the Barbarian part of us, to our freer, more connected nature, requires daily mindfulness. It requires we know that following our soul’s voice is a commitment, and a muscle we must exercise so we don’t become lost inside the hustle and bustle of this empire we live in.

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of checkmate, of coming home. Check it out on Amazon: Amazon Page  or at www.michelleadam.net. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

Honest Journey on Wings of Grace

Why go back in time? Why recount what has come before, when I am here, on the wings of grace with my novel Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit and its sweet reception?

Since January, I’ve been telling my personal story behind my recently published novel. Going back 20 years, I’ve been recounting the strands of thread that, bit by bit, wove the tapestry of my story of a magical girl in Spain, and another who finds her way back home through supernatural vines. But why go back in time?

I find the answer to my question when I offer storytelling events and gatherings where we can share that part of ourselves that longs to fly on the wings of grace and with a passion that is innately inside us all, even if only in the form of embers.

This past week I shared my story, both personal and of my novel, at a local New Mexico bookstore, Bookworks, and was not only blessed by a large turnout, but by people who told their own stories. They were stories of anxiety, pain, and feeling intensely. While we live in a culture that often seeks a light and happy tale, I have found that it is the ache and pain of being alive–and our willingness to feel it along with the joy–that allows us to ultimately to fly on the wings of grace.

So, as I prepare to continue my blog from where I left off-in California, broken and in pain–I bless every inch of this journey that has brought me to this place of freedom and aliveness. As I share in my storytelling and talks, and through my novel, it is “duende,” the spirit of the earth inside me, that has broken me into many pieces, so I could finally embody my life more fully and be the grace that I am. Thank you for all of it.

23. Freedom of Imagination

WHAT IS YOUR SOUL’S STORY?

BLOG 23: August-October, 1997“I was born in the back of a shadowy house, and grew up amidst ancient furniture, books in Latin, and human mummies, but none of these things made me melancholy, because I came into the world with a breath of the jungle in my memory…”

Isabel Allende’s words, her soul’s magical expression from her novel Eva Luna are with me now, years far beyond my father’s country, Argentina, where I had first read her story of the imagination. Now I write my own story, here, on the computer, in my home in the Oakland hills of California. I write with no clear beginning, nor end. Just an urge to give form, to create, to release words that long to find their way to my fingertips.

“I was born inside white-washed walls where ivy crawled, and where flowers sprung along the southern coast of Spain. On that day, the same day Spain’s dictator Francisco Franco died, freedom permeated the air. Yet, the earth waited, and not a branch dared break ….”

“I was born Spanish inside a German family. Somebody had made a mistake…”

“I was born…”           

My encounter with “Archie” on the plane ride home from my family reunion reminds me now that I am a storyteller, and that it is time to write my tale. And this time it’s fiction, and not magazine articles or poems as I’ve always done. My imagination gets to play, page after page, with words that amount to little, yet matter.

My writing becomes the dance I can no longer be. With my hips and legs in such pain, and no job and place to go, my limitations have become my wings. They have offered me a retreat from the pressure to become someone, and now anything is possible. My hands, which once held a pen—and in my ancestor’s hands were quills, the wings of a bird—now grant my inner world the freedom to be as I choose her to be.

I write, I start again, I play.  I am not writing for anyone, not even for myself. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be useful, or correct, or creative. I am like my dreams, free to roam the entire universe, only to come back to myself and discover the joy of being alive inside my body and imagination.

WHAT IS YOUR SOUL’S STORY?

 

22. A Flight of Inspiration

WHAT SERENDIPITOUS MEETING INSPIRED A PASSION OR WORK?

BLOG 22: July, 1997—Debilitated from having pushed myself dancing in California, I travel, armed in crutches, to New York State, to our annual family reunion at my uncle’s house. I haven’t seen family for more than a year, and never in this condition I’m in.

Everything I do at my uncle’s house and on his pond is an effort. At one point, my mother gives me a hard time for not getting up to fetch something I need, but I’m in pain, and I spend most of the time longing to lie down or sit to alleviate my condition. I can’t explain what I am going through with my family, because I myself don’t understand why my groin pull injury from last October has weakened me this much. I’ve had tests and have seen plenty of doctors and healers, but nobody has been able to help. So my family seems to create a simple diagnosis: either I’m lazy or I’ve lost my mind.

blog.privatefly.com

Later, I begin to cry heavily in my sleeping quarters. My oldest sister walks in at that moment and I share with her my struggles—not just the physical ones, but the emotional ones that have been coming up for me around my family. She listens and consoles me. It’s probably the first time in my life I’ve reached out to one of my sisters like this and it feels good.

On the flight home, I sit next to a man my age who calls himself Archie, and whose personality seems a comical combination of Jerry Seinfeld and Woody Allen. To top it off, he’s writing a screenplay on his laptop. His real name is David, he tells me, but he changed his name to Archie when he wrote a screenplay a few years ago, as a film student at New York University, based on three months spent in a trailer park in the Dakotas. The premise of his screenplay was to discover if David, as Archie, with a completely different history than his own, could, in the middle of nowhere, become the person he wished to be.

Did David become Archie? I ask him, while laughing the whole time at his self-deprecating humor and story. No, he tells me. I laugh so hard that it actually hurts, and Archie, who seems to be flirting with me, tells me he wishes he could be could as bold as Archie—and not David—and just walk up to an attractive blue-eyed woman like me and talk to her. I tell him the key to overcoming his fear is to begin dancing.

The magic of our encounter is this: I go home and begin writing a novel. I don’t know it’s a novel yet when I begin, but Archie’s great story-telling for hours on our flight home made me realize I too was a storyteller (not just a journalist), and it was time to tell my story. Plus, I don’t have the capacity to dance, so I might as well put this hunger and passion somewhere. Meanwhile, Archie goes home to Los Angeles, puts music on, and dances. Later he takes his first dance classes, and I begin the novel that just two weeks ago I finally published!

WHAT SERENDIPITOUS MEETING INSPIRED A PASSION OR WORK?

20.Perched up High,no Wings to Fly

WHEN DID YOU FIND PEACE IN THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACES?

BLOG 20: July, 1997—I am sitting in my bed in the livingroom of my home in California’s Oakland hills. I have nowhere to go now, no matter what I want to do. I am no longer working and I’ve applied for temporary disability. It’s a strange feeling to be in such a beautiful place with a gorgeous view of San Francisco, the bay, and mountains all around. I am a bird perched up high, on a bed of all things, and yet with no wings to fly. I’m only able to watch and to be still. I am strangely feeling a sense of peace with not moving. I have nothing to prove, nothing to become, nowhere to go. I am here, just me, with permission—possibly for the first time in my life—to be with me.

Prior to coming out west, and before living in New York City for a year, I had spent a summer at Omega, a holistic retreat center in New York State. I had lived in a tent and was first introduced to dance, shamanism, and earth-based cultures then. I used to stay up at night, reading Federico García Lorca’s poems in my tent under the rain, and I felt the preciousness of those moments where art and nature held me in their embrace. Back then, I tried meditating under the trees, but I kept hearing my father’s voice, telling me to be useful. It was a challenge being still, being with myself. This meant defying how I had been raised.

But here I am, and for the first time, I am not hearing my father’s voice, or maybe that of my ancestors, telling me to keep moving, to keep making something of myself, to be tough. I’m broken here in my bed, surrendered in my brokenness. There’s space for me to listen. There’s peace for me to be. During the day, my downstairs neighbor plays Roberta Flack on his record player, and rather than ask him to turn it down, I yell down for him to turn it up. Roberta Flack’s voice resonates “Killing me Softly with his Song” over the hills as my neighbor enjoys a moment of spontaneity. I make the most of life that happens around me, since it’s all I’ve got. And I stop for once in these hills of Oakland.

WHEN DID YOU FIND PEACE IN THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACES?

19. Crawling on my Knees

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

 BLOG 19: July, 1997—Life has never been the same since my ballet class in San Francisco. I’ve been in perpetual pain, despite the help I received from the chiropractor. When I walk, my hips swell up, becoming inflamed and making it too painful to dance, let alone move around. My injury that began as a groin pull when I stopped in New Mexico for eight months on my way to California has now become a chronic hip problem with little remedy.

Given that I’m in Northern California—the land of every kind of healer—I try them all. From regular doctors, who claim that my x-rays and MRIs are perfect, to the most out-there psychic surgeon visiting from the Philippines. I receive no relief, and in many cases, I only get worse with each treatment I try.

At one point, an orthopedic doctor explains to me my problem: “You’re too strong,” he tells me. You were able to push through your pain and not feel it, he says, and then goes on to explain that most bodies can handle up to 80 percent not working before hitting a tipping point. At that point the body breaks down completely and it’s hard to turn any damage around, he adds. I had done too much to my right hip by ignoring my groin injury, and this doctor, who works with professional football players, amazingly tells me that my biggest downfall has been that I’m too tough. I have never been accused of that!

I don’t consider taking drugs of any kind to lessen the pain, and instead, I begin living out of my bed, which my housemate suggested I move into the livingroom, one floor below my bedroom in our shared house in the Oakland Hills. It hurts so much to move that I crawl from one room to another—a sight that devastates my friend Jane, who, when she sees me, tells me I remind her of beggars she saw in India who crawled because they had no legs.

I do what I can to survive. I try working, but sitting for more than an hour is extremely painful. The muscles around my hip tighten so much that I want to sit on a small tennis ball all day to break up the tension in my butt.

The man who lives in the loft across from my work sees me in my new crutches and pain and gives me a piece of his Martial Arts wisdom. He tells me that any time he gets injured he gets real still with himself, for days if needed, and becomes clear on the lesson he needs to learn. Once he does, the injury heals. What is my lesson? he asks me. There may be one for me, I think, but either I’m too oblivious, too determined, or it just too late for awareness to change my fate.

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

18. The Last Dance: The Last Straw

WHAT WAS THE LAST STRAW THAT BROKE YOU (or said “enough!”)?  

BLOG 18: June-July, 1997—I am sharing dinner with my friend Jane and her girlfriend on the patio of my new home in Oakland, California. With good wine, food, and a view that looks out over the entire San Francisco Bay, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be. We are living in paradise, I think. The water and the outlying mountains feel like a tropical Asian land far away from the Americas.

I am excited to have finally made it here after an eight-month hiatus in New Mexico. I am back on track with my original plan to relocate in this dynamic area of the country. Despite my injury that slowed me down in the desert lands—and my calves that feel as hard as surfboards from having moved all of my belongings up four flights of stairs—I’m now taking modern dance classes in San Francisco and Berkeley. I surrender my body to the music, and move through the pain and tightness in my body, and my limited training among dancers with many more years of experience.

I begin my work as at a temporary agency for artists, helping artists find jobs in creative industries. It’s a nice part of town, along Berkeley’s bay, and in a loft area shared with other artists and residents. When I’m not working, though, I’m in dance studios where, especially in San Francisco, I feel out of my league. Fit, trim, elegant dancers move across the floor with much more grace than I feel I have (or a lot more training to make it look easy).

My passion for dance inspires me to keep going, though, until I take a ballet class. As I am lifting up my right leg and pivoting it around my body, my legs begin to weaken below me. It’s only one movement, but just the perfect one to break my innate strength and stubborn disposition that has kept me going so far since having pulled a tendon or ligament, possibly off the bone, in my inner thigh eight months ago. When I finish the class, I sit on the studio floor and stretch my legs along with other dancers. But I feel it. My body is crying what my eyes dare not show. This was the last straw. My body has had enough.

For weeks after that class, I walk as well as I can. But something is wrong. I feel as if I am walking over my right hip joint. My femur is not moving correctly in my hip socket. The more I walk, the more inflamed my hip becomes, and the less I am able to move. I begin walking with crutches and become desperate to find relief from my pain. I seek out healers, but little helps until my friend Geri drives me out of the city to a highly recommended chiropractor. After looking at my condition, the chiropractor jerks my right leg and returns the femur bone to its correct position.

I was out of alignment; the bone was stuck in the joint. He fixed the issue and my hip feels better, but it seems it never quite returns to the hip I had taken for granted for almost thirty years of my life.

WHAT WAS THE LAST STRAW THAT BROKE YOU (or said, “enough!”)?