Is it dangerous to feel this good?

Here is a post from January 2009. Yes, I’m still importing old posts from back in the day, in order, and I will eventually catch up to myself. So yeah, this is from five years ago. Funny to read myself talking about applying to go back to school and all that. Seems like so much more than just five years ago. Here it is:

adventure-sports-14hAm I tempting the fates here?

A complete 180 from last month, but I only continue to feel better and better. Tonight I feel downright ecstatic, not for any good reason, but there’s movement coming in my life, and it’s overdue. I’m psyched for my trip to India, and psyched for my trip to SF to fly out – not only will I visit schools (and all my visits are totally all confirmed and lined up), but I will stay with my friend Tracy, who is one of my favorite people ever, then stay with Elynn, one of my best Orcas friends who’s moving south (who I just had the best evening with), then hopefully I’llsee my friend Kelly, and then see Luke C (BTW Luke if you read this, I think a new episode of House will be on while I’m there in SF and OMG that’d be fun to watch together, I never get to watch with anyone who’s super into it, so, let’s make that happen) and Maryam. It’s going to be a wild adventure before I even get on a plane to go overseas!

And I’m just feeling stellar about this college application stuff. I mean, I am just rocking it. It’s a ton of paperwork, but shit, I’m just working my butt off and getting it all done and sent off, and it feels like it’s starting to come together, getting those recommendation letters and transcripts. The financial aid stuff was the most daunting, it can feel overwhelming with all the forms, but I pretty much rocked those all in two days (not even full days). Now it’s on to scholarship applications. There’s still tons to do. I am leaving in less than three weeks, but it really does feel like it’s all coming together! I’m psyched about that. I’m just feeling great.

On the other hand, I am having really freakin’ bizarre dreams. Apparently my malaria meds for India can cause strange dreams, and I can only imagine, since they’re already so weird (and currently really rich and vivid), once I start taking that stuff I’m going to feel like I’m on acid! Well, except I wouldn’t really know.

The only thing I wonder is, with all this feeling awesome and hopeful and confident, am I tempting fate? The last time I felt this euphoric on life turned out to be the beginning of probably the most difficult year of my life, full of heartache and struggle and poverty and struggle, struggle, struggle. It was also at the start of adventure, much like now I am about to leave for India and embark on that journey as well as return to school. So it worries me a little. I want the euphoria to last, for things to pan out, to have shatteringly cool life-changing experiences in India. It was interesting, I went over to the big island for writing class today, and this writing teacher went to India four years ago (she was actually there during the tsunami, though not near that area), and I asked her, b/c I’m worried about the culture shock, which was harder, to get used to India, or to get re-adjusted to America after India? She chose the latter, and I would have put money down that she’d say that, which actually made me feel better about what I’m doing. It’s going to be a huge adventure. And I do hope it turns my world upside down. I just hope it’s not quite as challenging as the last time around when I chose adventure. When I look back, that difficult time was so, so, so rich for me, in terms of growth, in terms of emotional richness, in terms of making me see my own strength in so many different situations, and in terms of feeling vibrantly alive. But it was really hard.

But still, I’m worried about this euphoria. I don’t want to crash. Funny how when things are good, it’s like, oh don’t get too happy, don’t get your hopes up, it won’t last, and it’s hard to keep the same awareness of impermanence when things are all fucked up. In those dark places, it’s easy to think I’ll be there forever. So maybe I just want to ride the euphoria, enjoy it as long as it lasts, and realize that a lot of it comes from the fact that I’ve felt sort of stuck in my life here, much as I really do love the island, and that actually doing stuff to move things forward is making a huge difference. Taking action can be the best cure.

A friend today mentioned something about tipping points, how in any change there reaches a tipping point when you know the change will happen. In this case, she was talking about our local food bank (which she works with) moving buildings, saying that there’s still some things to sort out, different ideas, but it’s passed the tipping point, they know it will move (which is great, the way it is now, people have to wait in the freezing cold). I started thinking about how that applies to the story of my own life and reflecting on that. Because very few things are momentary decisions, and even the things that seem to be have usually built for a long time, perhaps burbling below the surface, before the actual change.

I’ve definitely passed the tipping point about leaving Orcas. That has definitely been brewing for a long, long time. I’ve thought about it off and on for years, especially starting in the summer of 2005, after I left camp for the first time, and more importantly, moved off the property. I loved that land so much, and the island wasn’t the same for me once I lived somewhere else, and I knew it immediately and ever since. I’ve thought about going back to school for years too, and in many years, started applications, then got to a point where it just didn’t feel right for one reason or another. I wasn’t done here, I wasn’t ready, I didn’t totally have my heart in it, I couldn’t get excited about it, I wanted to stay and save up money, and the like. A person has to be ready for the change to be right and meaningful, and now I feel like I am.

As for India, I don’t know if there was a tipping point exactly, partly because I never fully believed it was real. I’ve been putting this together for probably close to five or six months now. I just did what I needed to apply, and then after I did, and got in, I sent in my deposit, but even then it didn’t feel real. For the next two months, I was having serious second thoughts, to the point where I really thought I wouldn’t go. Then one afternoon, I left to go to the post office, which is about a five minute walk each way. I had been checking my email all day, doing nothing, watching Grey’s, and actually something on the show got me thinking (actually it was Meredith’s shrink, hahahahaha) about being a quitter, b/c in some ways I feel I have been (in other ways maybe the extreme in the other direction), but then walking up to my apartment I said to myself, “I am not a quitter. I am not going to be a chicken. I am going to India.” I opened my door, came inside and checked my email and that’s when I found out about my scholarship, which just blew my mind. But it’s interesting how those things happen, isn’t it? I guess that speech to myself was my tipping point.

Which reminds me that a lot of times, a tipping point can be very subtle and internal. When I was living in Seattle and jobless and soon to be w/o a place to live (like in two days), it just was amazing the way that the morning I made the decision that no matter what happened, I would not go home, no matter how dire my situation was, and within a few hours I had the job offer here on the island with the camp. I had been keeping a postcard of the camp in my room, afraid of how much I wanted the job, wanted to live in this beautiful place. All of this reminds me of that old famous quote:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manor of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”

~W.H. Murray

I retrieved this quote from Derrick Jensen’s Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution, which is one of my favorite books. He uses it at the beginning of chapter on falling in love with writing. This is a book I treasure and something I want to reread while in school, because it always reminds me to go to the root of what my passions are, dig deep, dig into what’s terrifying, into what’s real, into what’s the questions, who are you? Who are you, really? What do you love? What do you want? There’s also such a different approach to education in this book, an approach I feel that all the schools I’m looking at are (to varying degrees), in alignment.

It’s all about taking the leaps that our inner voices whisper about, leaping and waiting for the net to appear. I always think that in so many cases in my life, if I really had any idea what something would entail, I wouldn’t start it. Reflecting back to any sort of innocence always chokes me up, it’ so tender looking back on the self that just had no idea what she was in for. But it was also totally necessary for her not to know, b/c again, then it never would have happened.

Okay now I’m going to divert, because this totally reminds me of a moment in a book I read as a teenager, which was called The Starlight Crystal by Christopher Pike. I was a huge fan of his books, and would probably still love them if I re-read them as an adult. This one though, was difficult. I wasn’t so sure about it the first time around. It later came to be one of my absolute favorites. Some of his books, though they’re YA, just have soooo much depth to them. It was about this girl Paige. At the very beginning of the book, she comes out of the library and has a strange moment with this stranger, who she thinks for a moment might pull out a gun and kill her, but doesn’t. Almost immediately following that, she meets and falls in love with this boy Tem. They have this beautiful once-in-a-lifetime connection but she has to leave on this spaceship (it takes place in the 23rd century) that is traveling at near the speed of light, which means she’ll experience time dilation (I love a book that incorporates relativity), so while only a small amount of time will pass for her, centuries will pass on earth, meaning he’ll die on Earth while she’s out on her journey through the stars. So she’s on the ship, and all these things happen, and it’s been about ten years so my memory’s a little blurry, but she is a teenager in love and grieving, and then a lot of other stuff happens, I believe she and the spaceship crew watch the earth die as well. And if I’m not mistaken, I think it’s her father or someone else on the ship, actually maybe everyone else on the ship, also dies. I remember there’s this great part where she’s between the death of the universe and the birth of a new one, and I just remember that part being gorgeous, but painful. I mean our heroine here has experienced loss the scale of which we can’t really imagine. And she watches things circle back around, till she arrives again in that place in the 23rd century outside the library. Except this time, she’s the stranger, and she’s looking at her younger self, the innocent self, that has no idea she’s about to meet Tem or the loss she’s about to suffer, and she is thinking of pulling out a gun, sparing her younger self that pain. But she doesn’t do it, she can’t.

There’s a lot more to the book, I’d even say it’s got spiritual undertones, and it’s really gorgeous in a melancholy way, but the point is, whenever I think of myself in a time of innocence, of not knowing what I was in for, and there are many, I get that feeling like the stranger outside the library in a way, like if I could go back and talk to myself before I moved to Seattle, before I first left for college, before, before, before, what might I say? Probably nothing. I just have to have a tenderness towards that sort of not-knowing, that Fool (as in the tarot card) quality, wise yet so innocent, because without it, no great journeys would ever happen, and every journey in some way is a hero’s journey. And in the end, I don’t really regret them. Even the really hard ones. Even the ones I probably should regret a little. I can’t, because the journey always has some value in itself. We each have several in our lives, I believe. And I think the key is to just be open to it, to realize you really can’t prepare yourself, you just can’t. That’s what I came to today about India. My writing teacher Janet was showing me pictures from her trip. I was hoping to ready myself, to somehow brace myself against the culture shock I’ll feel (come on I’ve never left the US except for brief visits to Canada, that if you ask me, don’t really count), and I felt like as we looked through these pictures, we both realized there was no way for me to really do that, and in a way it might even be better not to, to just be open. And scared too, I can’t help that. But also to embrace the Fool archetype energy, and leap.

So, be the fool. Have the grace to be a beginner. Cross those tipping points. Go for what has passion and meaning and juice – that’s what I always focus on in writing critiques, which at least one of my readers can testify to, I’m always wanting the writing to go deeper, to find that lightning electricity, find what is really alive. Be bold, with all its genius and power and magic. Err on the side of audacity, because even when those journeys lead to the darkest depths, I think they also give us the most riches. And it’s pretty much always worth it.

I did not expect to end up here at all in this post. I didn’t expect to talk about the fool, and definitely not about a Christopher Pike book. But that’s the other thing about starting things, and leaving yourself open, you end up in unexpected places.

Currently Listening:
“Alive” – Jeff Buckley – His voice is sooooo good on this song, and I can’t stop playing it to death. It’s a live track, and in the beginning, he talks about how 96 is going to be a great year, how we’ll have Newt Gingrich’s head on a plate and put the fear of God into Bob Dole. And then he says, “Freaks of America unite.” Sweet. I must play this a hundred times a week, it’s pretty poignant. Here are the words:

I feel the time is coming
I walk into the night
Oh, I don’t mind if the clock is turning
Cuz I’m going to the other side
You either die or you keep on burning alive

And I am burning
And I am burning
And I am burning
And I am burning

I walked a long, long distance
I’m feeling sore inside
Oh, I don’t care if the sky is falling
Cuz I’ll never get to see the light
You either die or you keep on burning alive

And I am burning
And I am burning
And I am burning
And I am burning

You either die or you keep on burning alive

One thought on “Is it dangerous to feel this good?

  1. “But still, I’m worried about this euphoria. I don’t want to crash. Funny how when things are good, it’s like, oh don’t get too happy, don’t get your hopes up, it won’t last, and it’s hard to keep the same awareness of impermanence when things are all fucked up. In those dark places, it’s easy to think I’ll be there forever.”This is something I wanted to write to you about after that last post, but you’ve obviously realized it for yourself. It’s vital to not become attached to feelings of either euphoria or depression, to always know that it is impermanent. I know your concerns about de-tachment, but this is not the same thing. To be non-attached is not robotic or unfeeling. Detachment is turning away from feeling. Non-attachment is the freedom to feel without desperately grasping to hold onto the emotion. You should feel every experience deeply, but always know in the back of your mind that what you’re feeling now will shift and change and evolve into the next experience and accompanying feelings. Whether it’s a singing joy or black moroseness, if you feel it without clutching at it then you can be better prepared for the shifts.That W.H. Murray quote is great. I’ve only ever heard the last few lines of it, so thank you for posting the whole thing. Hold on to this post, Chrys. It’d be a great thing for you to come back and read for yourself the next time things go black :)

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