The Forest Fire of 2018

Photo: Heather Jackson

Photo: Heather Jackson

Sometimes, a forest needs a fire. This years series of events were my fire. It was time to let it all go up in flames. Everything. Up until this year, my life had been packed-full of trauma and bullshit. Think of me as an emotional hoarder. Unresolved grievances, resentment, and pain were sitting dormant on the forest floor, starved of sunlight, not contributing to the ecosystem, just taking from it. Cutting alcohol out of my life was lighting the first match.

This was the most transformational part of my 2018 journey. Once I eliminated the thing that allowed me to run from discomfort, the canopy opened up. I used alcohol to deal with my social anxiety and cover up my insecurities that have dug their claws in since I was a child. Usually, it’s unlike me to spark up a conversation with a stranger but give me a few drinks and all bets are off. This wasn’t news to me…I knew in my teenage years that alcohol was my tool for coping with my social discomfort. What I didn’t know was that I could have fun without it. That I could rage and dance (well maybe not dance yet) without it. And maybe a glass of wine helps give me the nudge I need but a bottle dilutes it…to where I wonder,
“Is this really me?”

It was a great challenge for me; not caring what people thought. To avoid the discomfort I would go to bed early, I would miss out on concerts and events, I just couldn’t let go without the alcohol. And this…I am still learning. I haven’t been able to let go of my fear of what others think of me. But alcohol can’t be the tool I use to get there, otherwise I will never be free. And so the work continues.

I had to let go of a lot this year if I was ever going to grow. That first match shined a light on the trauma that was stunting my growth and depriving me of my potential. The #MeToo movement inspired me to finally come forward and let go of something that had been haunting me since I was a kid. This person, I had not realized, had taken so much power from me. This secret, I hadn’t known at the time, was a boulder resting on my shoulders. It had manifested in my body in a way that physically weighed me down. Once I let go of it, I don’t know how to describe it any other way than that I felt reborn. After a while, when you’ve been living with something for so long, it becomes a part of you and you don’t remember what life was like without it. I thought this weight was a part of me, until it wasn’t anymore, and when I dropped it I couldn’t hold myself up. It’s how I imagine the experience of a lion when it’s returned to open space after living in a cage all of its life. It was challenging and scary at first; but I could finally move through this life freely and without fear.

Letting go of alcohol and pain is all well and good but I needed a tool to help me truly understand what I was now seeing. So I lit the next match, meditation. Meditation had the most sobering effect of all. It changed the way I communicate. I began to notice so much more. Becoming aware of my actions and emotions in a way that I had never experienced. Everything in my life began to move slower. So slow I could really take the time to observe it, understand it, appreciate it, and let it go. But I wanted to slow it down even more.

The morning of the accident, while we were on our way to Buena Vista, I told Natali this. I had looked into different Ashrams and was considering going on silent meditation retreat. An hour later an air compressor over-inflated a board and the force from that resulted in a major brain injury and I was taken by helicopter to St. Anthony’s hospital in Denver. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to say,
“Be careful with what you wish for.”

Like a herd of horses being chased to the edge of a cliff my life came to an abrupt stop. It doesn’t get much slower than having to spend days in bed staring at the ceiling while your brain tries to put itself back together. Accidents and injuries have the ability to teach you the greatest lessons at an alarmingly fast pace. And this one was no different. This accident was the gust of wind that spread the fire to the deepest part of the forest and cleared it out. Up to this point I had been testing and challenging myself, doing everything I can to understand my true nature. Now, it was time to look outward and take a deeper look at my relationships.

When you’re stripped down to your most vulnerable state you no longer have the ability to sugarcoat your reality. I felt like I had x-ray vision at times. Able to see through so much bullshit. Before, I could brush things off and not recognize how deeply I was being affected by other people’s actions. But now, I had no bushes or trees to hide these feelings under. It was all laid out there in the beaming sunlight, exposed, and impossible to ignore. Just as I had cleansed myself of alcohol, trauma, and illusion I cleansed myself of unhealthy relationships.

This year I’ve cleared the forest floor. All of the things that had been holding me back have been turned to ash. I’ve made space for the really important people in my life. And am now fully able to offer them the support and unconditional love they deserve. I am wide-open and my soil rich to nurture all the new experiences and people that come into my life. The only way to deal with trauma is to look it dead in the eyes, acknowledge its presence, and let it fade away in your rear view as you continue to move forward. And once you start clearing out that forest you realize there was so much more there that was stealing your light. Plus, there’s so much more room for activities!

Set that forest ablaze! Let’s do this 2019!