I thought I’d do something a little different today and post a little Food Memory Prompt for your perusal and writing practice :}
–>What food memory from a trip you’ve taken comes directly to mind? How do you remember this, through your senses?
For me, I’ll share about “Cornish Cream Tea”– a scone basted with clotted cream and jam, accompanied by a cup of the strongest of milky black tea.
Way back yonder, a friend and I ventured on a trip to Wales and England to research ancestry and geek out on Beatles and King Arthur hotspots. After traipsing around the green and rocky crevices of Tintagel Castle looking for gnomes, we found ourselves in a small cafe in the village eating this delectable meal. I think there were doilies everywhere. I still can remember the feeling of my teeth biting through the cloud of clotted cream, into the layers of jam and finally sinking into the doughy denseness of the scone…heavenly.
I’d love to hear about a strong food memory related to your travels if you’d like to share :}
PS. Just a short ways away from Cornwall is Devonshire, where they have “Devon Cream Tea.” Basically the same dish, but they insist on the jam topping the cream vs. the other way around. Both factions are pretty serious about the “right” way to do this topping!
This weekend, I assisted in a powerful rites-of-passage wilderness workshop for young women in the mountains of Santa Cruz. To see these 10-13 year old girls learning primitive skills, tracking, fire-building as well as inner strengthening exercises like facing fear, darkness, challenges was more than inspiring.
One night, we took the girls into the dense forest and in pitch black, blindfolded them and let them try to find their way to a distant drum beat. Their knowledge of listening, feeling the earth beneath their feet, grounding and calming themselves, and facing their fears helped them make their way through this darkness relatively unscathed. Adults were of course surrounding it all and there in case someone was going towards danger, but for the most part their skills got them where they needed to go. At the end we all circled by the fire, faces glowing, and shared how the experience affected us, and my heart was moved by the depth that these young ones shared amongst us all. We sang songs of embracing light, embracing darkness, we spoke of finding the “true drumbeat” to listen for and follow in the dense forests we must walk through ahead in life.
I wonder what my life might have been were I exposed to something like this before my journey with the eating disorder and depression began…would my psyche have taken me there anyways? Would it grab some of these young women too, initiating them in the ways I was? Or would it have prevented the need for such intense initiation? I’m so curious how these girls will turn out as a result of being involved in such powerful rites-of-passage work.
Today, sitting at my desk I faced my fear, my own rite-of-passage. I was inspired by these girls, walking so bravely into the unknown night, trusting the drum, trusting the journey it would take them on. Today, I wrote a letter to the professors of the study I mentioned last week, asking if they might be interested in connecting and talking about ideas, possibly in reviewing my memoir. I wrote the letter pretty easily, but it was in pushing the send button where I faced my own darkness–putting myself, my ideas, my relatively “unknown” status as a writer out there in the wider field. Putting these things out there to possibly get rejected, ridiculed, shamed, all the fears that a writer or any creative has in putting out their heart to the world.
My finger trembled above the enter button as I steadied myself, like those young girls did in that forest. I breathed in, sent my roots down, and listened for the drum–the sound of my heart’s desire to share my story–and braced myself for the unknown that may come of this contact. I have had much practice in self-soothing, in courage, in trusting and daring, but for some reason I really felt the energy of those brave girls affecting me, urging me, to hit that button. So I did, and with a whoosh it has flown into the interwebs to do its magic. We’ll see what happens next.
I’m overwhelmed. There is a certain similarity to the process of research and sales necessary to pitch my book to publishers that reminds me of the process of dating, which I am also overwhelmed by. Here I need to primp up my words, sourced from the depths of my soul cauldron, to make it look presentable enough, attractive enough, to be looked at and considered by companies with thousands of letters and requests to ruffle through each day. Hrumph. I don’t like doing this for dating purposes, and I’m certainly not enjoying it for publishing purposes either.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I am enjoying the research process–looking at comparative literature, seeing how they market their wares. In fact, the other day I found a group of researchers that wrote an article basically calling out for stories like mine, the need for a new paradigm of seeing illness and “recovery” from Anorexia https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5116854/. I even surprisingly found my thoughts and experiences mirrored in a book I chose for this process, one I read many years ago and was unimpressed by then: Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. Although I still think the mass of the book is triggering and not related to my journey, the afterword completely mirrored my experience, of Marya’s challenges with the ideas of recovery, at least the linear expectations of it, especially in hindsight after years away from the intense periods of her struggle.
These boons are making the process worthwhile, and exciting in a way, that there may be less of a need for me to completely strip my deep soul message to get “picked up” by a publishing house. That there are others out there that are “credible” I can refer to as having similar messages. That perhaps I can find a balance in representing my work professionally but in a way that doesn’t lose its message…and that a house will actually value that message, not look past it or ask me to make it more mass market friendly.
Yet it still reeks of the social game of dating, of looking pretty for attention, and it feels so ironic that I would be drawn into this process in my search to get my memoir out. My memoir focuses on the difficulties of extreme alteration to accomplish culturally popular goals, acceptance, love. How do I make this effort not that, which it basically is? I’m trying to see this process as a refinement, a conscious and balanced use of self-esteem and soul image to engender a pathway to expression in the wider world. I’m trying to see it like jazz–keeping my scatting, but presenting it in a way that makes its way into fine dining establishments and infuses the listeners with its real, raw and yet undefinable message.
Like dating, jazz is a hard genre to describe, full of complexities. Like both of these, so is the process of trying to market my book. Its uncomfortable, thinking of words I’ll use to impress publishers and readers to consider my book. Yet I’m up for it, mainly because I wonder if this process is exactly what my soul wanted me to engage in as I took on the process of writing and releasing this book. I’ve got hopes that I might learn some things, be surprised by some things, maybe even encouraged and lifted up by the experience.
a VERB meaning to steal (an occupied car) in a violent manner.
That’s where I’ve been for the past two weeks, dealing with the aftereffects of going through this experience. I missed a post in there, and surprisingly in the midst of all of the drama, I thought of keeping to my regular Monday posting schedule. I’m beginning to like this platform so much that I thought about whether I could fit a post in whilst juggling Oakland Police Department report filings, tending to bruised arms and cranium, and in finding creative ways to transport myself to vehicle impound lots hours and hours from my home!
The experience taught me many things, and this was one of them–that my commitment to writing is strong and that the urge pierces through the most intense of situations. I learned a number of other things too. I learned of my unexpected fighter’s response–although it could have gotten me killed, something in me knew I had to at least put up a fight to these buggers (and I physically paid for that, but am thankfully alive).
I also learned that there is support all around me (as long as I yell into the night like a banshee for it, lol), as a whole gaggle of women came to my aid as the bandits made off with my car. Two of these women invited me, a complete stranger, into their home, brewed some tea, made up a bed for me. They stayed up late into the night talking out the situation with me, and in the morning made me breakfast and drove me nearer to my home so public transport would be easier. The love and care these women provided me was beyond the trauma I had just experienced–although I was banged up and carless, I was just overtaken with their care, graciousness and concern. They also happened to be in the fields of rite-of-passage and intimacy counseling, two career paths I’ve considered for a while now, and it felt like on some symbolic level that I was being pulled from my old mode of getting around in the world (kind of wandering, somewhat purposeless) and welcomed into theirs. I am now exploring these fields with new interest and focus.
I also learned that once again, I can never really know what will happen, and that I have mainly two choices to make with that information. I can either live in fear or embrace the learning and rite-of-passage like energy of the experience. I choose to embrace the latter, and to keep writing.
I chose this topic as a result of the WordPress Daily Prompt exercise https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/recite/ , which led me to the word Recite. And now I am here, questioning. I want to choose a new word, one with more seeming drama. Solitary? Visceral? Unfurl? Recite whirls in my head, emptiness at the thought of it. What do I have to say about this word?
Here comes a memory of me, on stage, at about the age of 11. I was dressed as the Town Crier (how ironic that is, lol) and “reading” off of a scroll to the townspeople. “Hear ye! Hear ye!” I proclaimed, and then suddenly…everything was blank. For whatever reason, be it nerves from being in front of the whole school on stage, or something else, I just totally and completely went blank. I had rehearsed this, and even performed this role many times with no issue. But that day, I went silent.
The only thing I remember after that moment was my co-actors scrambling to make it all seem like it was part of the play. I also happen to remember something about a “popular girl” that seemed to have it out for me at school being in the crowd, her eyes peering at me. Nothing else remains in my memory, only the sense that I somehow left my body during that moment and didn’t return for a while.
Up until that point, I had great joy in acting–reciting lines with friends, participating in monologue or acting contests–it was all such play for me. I loved dressing up, I loved it all. Yet from what I can remember, after that performance I stopped acting completely.
At the same time at home, I was in the constant aforementioned confusing chaos of my mother’s unpredictable expression of her rage and grief. I was becoming a teen, and I was fighting to become an individual, pushing away her intrusive pummeling vibrations. Around that time, as I mention in my soon to be published memoir Food Memories, I had another powerful experience with my voice. One night as mom was going on a rampage in the living room, and I felt myself get so frustrated, so angry that I burst out of my room and walked right up to her, mid-rant. I grabbed her and yelled at her to shut the hell up, shaking her violently in my strengthening teenage grasp. I remember the look in her eyes, of terror, and of the guilt I felt for seemingly having caused this reaction in her. I remember she was frozen, and silent, and then me crying saying I was sorry, sorry, sorry. I remember her walking away in a daze and me running to my room to hide from what I had just done. I had never done this before, I was the “good child” and had no idea what had taken over me to behave this way. Again, after this situation, it was very silent in the house. We both stopped expressing completely.
How that all ties into the eventual descent into depression, Anorexia, and the psych hospitals seems pretty obvious–without a place to express myself, and being immersed in my mother’s cauldron of repressed emotional intensity, something had to break. That something was me. My innate talent and joy for reciting, playing, singing, expressing my voice and thoughts and emotions broke down like our old rusty Pinto often did, sputtering and collapsing in the middle of the intersection of my life.
Its taken me a long time to re-find my voice, to speak it, and with that the practice of being with the feelings of terror it caused was necessary. Shaking, trembling, heart racing and a cold sweat quivering at my brow, each time I challenged myself to recite, I had to weather these reactions I was feeling inside. Each time, my body was transported back to staring into my mother’s petrified glance, her cold skin in my hands. Each time, I was back on that stage, pierced by the eyes of hundreds of judging eyes and laughter.
I laugh at myself sometimes, reflecting on how something that seems so insignificant in light of others’ horrifying traumas could have shaken me so much. But I can’t deny my body’s consistent reaction to speaking my voice, regardless of how silly I sometimes think it all is. The feelings are still really there and seemingly in my way. Yet by now, I have enough awareness to know that these are old feelings, not ones relevant to the current experience of recital. I know that I have to ride them, holding myself through it all, even through my own self-judgmental laughter.
Recite. I guess the prompt did have something to say through me after all :}
Continuing on the theme of how heavy metal served as a major assist to me is the topic of rites of passage–or rather how absent such intentional rites of passages are in western culture and how metal met that need for me. Driver’s licenses, the ability to vote, smoke, drink, and graduation from various levels of education form the bulk of a young person’s transition ceremonies in our country. Later on, its marriage, promotions, divorce, and of course the big one of death of loved ones and oneself. Yet none of these “ceremonies” really focus on consciously, intentionally, helping a person realize that they are leaving one state of life and going into another. Its a byproduct if anything of the action.
For me, as mentioned in Part One, attending that first concert was one of the first events where I became aware that I was no longer “that” and was now “this”–I was no longer a quiet child playing in the forest, the child who meshed with whatever was happening, or who tolerated and swallowed the toxicity of my family home–I was now a “metalhead,” and one who would express what I felt.
In many earth-based cultures, youth are encouraged to embark on a group or solo activity known generally as a Vision Quest. Part of this quest is intended to help them move from the state of youth to adulthood, as well as for them to start to forge a relationship with Spirit and what Spirit wants for them to do with their lives. It is also quite intense, often brutal, in ripping young ones away from their parents, or requiring grueling challenges for the individual to survive. Many times it was literally life or death–if you survive, you become an adult, and if not, well you’re just dead.
There are generally three stages in a Vision Quest: severance, threshold and incorporation. Going to that concert was like this quest, in that I ignored my mother’s warnings and went anyway (severance), then merged with a group of helpers into the unknown realms (threshold crossing into unknown), and finally as a result of experiencing the complete vibrancy of mosh pits, communality, crowd-mind-body-merge-cheering-and-screaming-as-one, I returned back home with a completely different way of wanting to be and show up as in the world.
It is not as intense each time, but I’d have to say that every concert I go to is in its own way a mini rite of passage for me. Even though the terrain is pretty familiar by now, it never fails that some intense learning experience will happen for me during these concerts, some awareness or understanding comes through. I always seem to enter a concert one way and emerge with a totally new understanding of something. Sometimes it is experiencing myself sob uncontrollably at the beauty of seeing thousands thrash it out in the pit, the tribalness of it all. Sometimes its losing a shoe in the middle of a raucous crowd and having to dive into the possibility of serious injury to retrieve it, to come out realizing my strength and the brother/sisterhood that helped (or provided resistance) in my forging of a stronger self. Sometimes I’m not sure what it is that’s changed, but I know for sure something has.
Breaking The Law–Judas Priest
I’ve never been a particularly willful person, evanescent if anything would describe me. I just kind of floated along in my youth, melted in, hung out in the periphery. I never really had a sense of being a certain way, wanting to represent myself as a certain style, etc. I remember much of my clothing in my youth came from my mother’s housekeeping clients, they’d give her bags of hand-me-downs and I’d delight in trying whatever came to me. Albeit this did not make me popular or the least bit cool, just kind of strange. When I found myself in therapy as a result of severe insomnia, I was given a label of “someone with depression,” so in a sense that was my first identity. Not long after when I stumbled into an eating disorder, I found yet another identity. Yet both of these were rooted in being someone with a disorder, not an incredibly encouraging thing to represent in the world.
Which is where heavy metal came in. The first time I started going to shows and being in the crowd with other fans, I felt for the first time a resonance with a way of being that was based on strength. It was based on something to be proud of, something to connect with others about that wasn’t rooted in sickness. It also had somewhat of a specific dress/look code that I found I really resonated with too–this was where I found that I really liked costumery that focused on dark matters, and it was totally exciting and fun to figure out ways I would present myself at each concert. The range of expression here was sort of limited to darkness and sexuality, but at the time these were areas I really hadn’t been able to represent with my clothing or looks, and at concerts it was like a free-for-all for me to do this experimentation.
Can I Play With Madness–Iron Maiden
Tribe is a closely related topic, and I’ve touched on it a little in this conversation. As a young child it was almost as if I didn’t really find most people interesting enough to want to connect with, or I found them confusing and overwhelming to be around–so I spent most of my time in nature or with animals. Especially as I started to have these intense and stigmatized experiences of depression, losing a loved one, Anorexia–the typical teen human didn’t really have much to contribute in relating with me except either fear, pity or some type of judgement. Yet in the songs of my favorite bands, I heard my experience mirrored. What they were singing about was what I was going through.
Oddly though, after the loss of my boyfriend and his tribe of metallers, it was difficult finding actual individuals I could relate with about the music, as I wasn’t particularly interested in partying, having sex, etc. I was pretty shy, traumatized and still pretty overwhelmed by the expectations of the social scene, so rarely knew how to make connections. Yet I knew that if these people liked this music, they could on some level relate with me, and that felt comforting despite my inability to make individual contact. A sense of “tribe” for me was felt more archetypally and with the bands themselves, and was what kept me attending concerts solo for decades. I am now only recently finding individuals that relate to my journey, want to discuss the depth, meaning and sacredness they feel in the music. It also feels like more bands are also starting to approach these themes more openly and I’m curious to see where the genre continues to evolve.
Regardless, over the course of my life, without this music and the reflections it gave me I’m not quite sure how I would have survived. In a world that would label my “symptoms” and feelings as a diagnosis, heavy metal seemed to tell me that what I was going through was completely human, logical even. That of course I was angry, of course I was depressed, of course I was confused or felt lost or what have you–as a result of living in our society, or going through traumas, having terrifying premonitory dreams/visions, or dealing with uncontrollable mind/body manifestations–that it was NORMAL to feel as I did. It also seemed kind of “cool” to be insane in the world of metal (again, we’re talking as a concept, not that the average concert goer really wants to stand next to or talk with someone that’s batshit crazy). Nevertheless, this way of seeing things, and myself, was a lifesaver.
In closing, I’m not sure how many more associations will come forward to share about heavy metal’s life-saving qualities, but I will share more as they come. I know there’s something in my head about how heavy metal gave me a place to explore my fascination with all things occult, we’ll see if words come to describe that!
If you’ve made it to the end of this post, thanks for reading. I’d love to hear how metal saved your ass, if it has.