From the Ashes, Episode 9: I am so fucking grateful.

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From the Ashes, Episode 9: I am so fucking grateful.

[Episode Duration: 19:08]

Description: Back in the States, Becca owes hellllllla people lots and lots of gushy, sentimental love.


Hola!

The sun has set on 8 incredible, life-changing months in South America. I am back in the States ... for now.

And as I was returning home, I realize that I owe so much to all the people who touched my life while I was away.

These thank-yous don't even come close to what I owe, but I want to send them out into the universe anyway.

Enjoy the love.

-BB

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From the Ashes, Episode 8: How the fuck did I get here?

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From the Ashes, Episode 8: How the fuck did I get here?

[Episode Duration: 22:31]
Lying in a puddle of her own rancid body smell following two days of cycling with pneumonia in Chile, Becca answers the question, “How the fuck did I get here?”


Hello!

Welcome to the first episode of from the ashes where we delve deep into what I've come to think of as "The Beforetimes." The timeline of this post reaches from 2013 until May 2017.

In this Episode, I mention a few things that I thought I'd provide some links to, in case you're curious.

The first is last week's episode. I make a mention in THAT episode about the bike tour that is discussed in this episode. 

The second is Chip and Dan Heath's "Decisive." It is a phenomonal, phenomal book about decision making with practical tools that I use all the damn time in my life. I highly recommend it.

Other than that, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the surprising story of how I ended up in a puddle of my own nasty body stank.

-BB


PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

My name is Becca, and this is From the Ashes, Episode 8: How the fuck did I get here?

If you listened to my last episode, you know that I started a bike tour.

Three days into that tour, I got helllllllla sick. Like knocked down, laid out, couldn’t move kinda sick.

There was a moment during my illness where I asked myself the question, “How the fuck did I get here?”

Because I couldn’t really do much else, I delved real deep into that question, and I wrote what you’re about to hear.

Sometimes when I write, I surprise myself with what comes out, and this is definitely one of those pieces.

I really, really hope you enjoy it.

 

It’s 4:15 in the afternoon on May 27th.

The tip of my left pinky finger is numb, I have pneumonia, I am breathing in the stench that 3 days and 187 km worth of unshowered asshole sweat has leeched into my rented bed sheets, I am freezing, and my right knee doesn’t feel great.

I am wondering if I’ve made the right decision.

As the smell equivalent to a young, gooey french cheese wafts into my nostrils, pungent enough to make it’s way through the face mask I am wearing, I can’t help but ask myself, “How the fuck did I get here?”

 

It started sometime in 2013. I can’t pinpoint the date.

I am in New York . I’m living with partner. And for the first time, I’m not sure that things are going to work out for us. We are in the aftermath of one of our many terrible fights. Across the country from all the people I love, I feel really, really alone.

I contemplate breaking up with him for the first time in our relationship. I know I won’t stay in Brooklyn if I do. I start to wonder how I’m going to get back to California.

I love to cycle. I fantasize about shipping all my stuff back home, hopping on my bike, and riding all the way from Greenpoint to San Francisco. Away from the struggle of being with a man, who, despite being inherently good, is not inherently good for me. I do the research. I’m almost ready to do it.

Instead, he and I make up. I’m not yet ready to see that we aren’t meant for one another. I know he is good. I knew he is decent. I know he feels love for me. I know I feel love for him. I want for us to work. I open myself to that possibility that we can. The dream of cycling cross country fades into the background.

 

Fast forward. December 2014.

My partner and I are living in California. During the inevitable meditation that happens for me during long bike rides with awe-inspiring views from the mountains, I decide I could be with him forever.

I ask him to marry me. I tell him I want kids, monogamy, a house, a stable life.

Everything he ever dreamed of. Nothing I ever have.

He says yes. We set our wedding date for June 2016.

 

Fast forward. October 2015.

I realize that no matter how hard I try to convince myself I could do this for him, I know deep down that I don’t really want this.

I especially do not want to bear children. I do not want grow nor push a child out into the world.

On the eve of my 32nd birthday, made bold by the advice of my friends, I tell him this is the case.

I tell him, half-heartedly that I would consider adoption.

That doesn’t work for him. Bearing children doesn’t work for me.

We talk and we fight and we can’t hear one another.

Three weeks later, we cancel our wedding.

Three days after that, our relationship is over.

We cancel the flight we booked for our honeymoon.

I now have $1200 for a flight that I need to take by the following September.

 

Fast forward. December 2015.

I am attending SIYLI (pronounced “Silly”) and am learning about how to use mindfulness to become a better leader for my job.

I do an exercise that asks participants to imagine their lives 5 years in the future, and answer the following questions: Where are you? What are you doing? What are people saying about you?

The hook? That life has worked out better than you possibly can have imagined.

I write down a lot of shit that will never, ever come true. Human beings are notoriously shitty at predicting the future. That being said, the idea of cycling cross country is still with me, even if my ex is not.

In that moment, the idea evolves. Instead of cycling to flee a relationship that I wasn’t meant for, I am now free to cycle cross country simply for the grand adventure of it all.

I write down in my notebook that in five years time, I will have biked across the USA. I share it with two random people also attending the workshop. They seem impressed.

The sharing makes shit real. I share the dream with more people.

My deadline is 2020.

 

Fast forward. June 2016.

I am pulled into the head of school’s office for a ridiculously early meeting the day after graduation.

I am told that, despite the contract I signed for full time work in April, my position is being cut in half. I can come back and work as a 50% employee, or I can pull a golden parachute, get 3 more months of full time pay and leave. I am given three days to decide.

I walk out of the head of school’s office in tears. My respiration is beyond my control. I can barely breathe. I see a colleague and inform her that I may never see her again.

I do not agree with how this was handled. I will never condone the way I was treated.

However, after two days of contemplation. I take the safe path. I agree to return.

This is my dream job, after all. I mean ... isn’t it?

 

Fast forward. July 2017.

I use the flight voucher from my canceled honeymoon to go to Thailand.

While planning the trip, I think back to Chip and Dan Heath’s “Decisive.” One of their tips for making a big decision, a decision like, say cycling cross country on your bike, is to dip your toe in the water first. Try something small before you take the big plunge.

I decide to dip my toe in the water by doing an 800km (that’s about 500 miles), fully supported bike tour from Bangkok to Phuket to see if I actually like long distance cycling. It’s the right price and the right distance. And it’s fully supported. If I can’t hack it, I’ve got backup.

I decide that if I’m flying 30 hours to get halfway across the world, I might as well stay for a while. I book a cultural immersion tour to do some trekking in the northern mountains with a hill tribe.

On my second day of trekking with my tour guides from the hill tribe. I meditate for 30 minutes by a waterfall.

For the first time since I was pulled into the head of school’s office, I let myself fully feel the pain of being undervalued.

As I think about the series of events that led to my reduction in hours, I accept that the responsibility lies with me. I was honest about what parts of my job I did not like, and believed my supervisor when she told me I did not have to worry about those parts.

I was frank about which parts of my job I felt others were more qualified to do, and believed my supervisor when she said that we could transfer those responsibilities and create a new job that was more suited to my strengths.

I take full responsibility for blindly trusting my supervisor when others told me explicitly not to trust this person.

I am adult. I accept that this turn of events happened because of decisions that I made and actions I took.

Tears still stream down my face. My tour guide approaches to tell me that we are going to continue to trek. And then he sees my tears. He walks away and says that we will stay instead.

I turn back to the waterfall. I decide to quit my job.

A few days later, my guides and I are partway through the hardest leg of the trek, and I realize I am happy for the first time in a long time.

In the woods, out in nature, I feel free.

I leave the mountains, travel to Bangkok, and start my cycling tour alongside three Aussies.

Together, we cycle up crazy mountains. We cycle through rain so strong that it hurts when it hits my skin. We cycle up incredibly long climbs. We cycle past monkeys. We cycle along beautiful, deserted beaches. We cycle next to highways. And we cycle 148km in one day. This 92 miles is the longest I’ve ever ridden.

Most of the time, I am firmly in 3rd place, except for one perfect day. Queen’s “We are the champions” is the first song that blasts through my speaker. I take off like lightening. I am in the zone, and I lead the pack for a solid 10k. In the grand scheme of the tour it wasn’t a lot, but it was enough.

At the end of the tour, I feel like a fucking ninja.

I consider my toe fully dipped.

Someday, I am going to ride my bike across the United States.

 

Fast Forward. August 2016.

I feel happy. Relaxed. And because of one last mindfulness training before the school year starts, I decide to honor my word and return to my job.

There is still good work yet to be done for kids I care about alongside brilliant colleagues who make me a better professional. I make a decision to forgive, and to work hard despite the unfortunate circumstances.

I feel at peace with the decision.

 

Fast forward. November 2016.

I am miserable and stressed and feeling highly undervalued. It is impossible to do my job at the quality I desire in the time that is allotted.

It took only 2 months for the healing and recuperation of the summer to wear off, and I have been living fully in misery for 1 month.

I face the truth.

This is not my dream job. I have not “made it.” This is not what I’m meant for. This place is not the pinnacle of society or education, no matter what stories we tell ourselves. The stress in this place is manufactured and unnecessary. And the self-congratulation is so fucking empty.

And most importantly, we are harming young people.

I realize the issue is systemic. Not just the school but the entire system of school in the US.

The whole damn thing is broken and this school is a big part of that broken.

I have no desire to participate in nor fix the broken anymore.

So I decide to stop teaching. Forever.

I decide to shift my gaze to environmental sustainability. I look up places to volunteer in South America that I do not have to pay for.

I find a place whose philosophy speaks to me.

I fill out an application.

I do a skype interview with The Founder in a lactation closet while I am at work.

I like The Founder’s vibe, I dig his message, and I tell him that I’m not sure. It would be a huge leap for me to make. I would have to quit my job and leave my life behind.

The only thing he tells me to be honest with me and with him. If I want it, there’s a spot for me.

 

Fast Forward. December 2016.

I’ve decided to give the job once last chance. I go to one last conference.

While I deeply love my colleagues and I feel closer to them as people as a result of going to this conference, the narrative being spun is not my narrative.

The opulence of and waste at this conference – and, actually, every conference I’ve been to as I think on it - is nauseating.

Absolutely nauseating.

While I agree with the desired ends, I do not believe that the dialectic being used is the proper means.

I face my truth. I am tired of this world. I do not thrive in it.

I contact the volunteer coordinator of the farm in South America. I tell her that I’m coming.

I send a resignation letter to the one administrator I still respect. It is the middle of the school year.

I willingly pull the trigger and commit career suicide.

It has been a wonderful 12 years. It is enough.

I book my ticket to Chile and I think about riding my bike.

I research traveling with a bike. It seems like a lot of fucking work, especially considering the journey I would need to take to get this particular farm.

I say fuck it and decide to leave my bike at home. Maybe I can buy a bike when I arrive.

A few weeks later, I hop on a plane.

 

Fast Forward. February 2017

I’m a few weeks into my rebirth. A very attractive man rides up on a bike, fully outfitted for touring. I find out he has ridden this bike all the way from Santiago – a bus ride that takes more than 13 hours.

He looks exhausted. I think this is extremely badass.

The next morning, I tell him so.

 

Fast Forward, March 2017

After one and a half months on the farm, I am happy again. Myself again.

Becca, again.

I have healed in a way I could never have predicted when I first stepped away from my life.

I have met incredible people with whom I share so much love.

I know I am going to leave soon. I am thinking about what comes next.

I casually mention that I’ve always wanted to cycle tour cross country. That I was thinking about bringing my bike to Chile, but that I didn’t want to because it was too much work.

The Head of Construction overhears me. He asks me if I knew that the man who rode from Santiago to the Farm was selling his touring bike. The Head of Construction would’ve bought it himself, if he hadn’t fucking destroyed his knee a month ago.

I hadn’t known he was selling the bike, but it feels like destiny.

That badass man actually ends up returns to the farm. I buy his bike right away. It, some pannier bags, cycling shorts, a lock, and many other things are waiting for me in Santiago.

 

Fast Forward. May 2017.

I’ve just spent my months following my time on the farm engulfed in deep love and community,

I’ve also spent time watching serious travelers travel.

I know how to find spots on the side of the road to camp.

I know how to stretch money so it lasts.

I’ve learned that I really enjoy living in a tent.

I am comfortable with body smells in a way I never imagined possible.

I have seen the depths of human kindness and the generosity afforded after a simple request for help.

Although it breaks my heart to leave the loves I have made over the past four months, I feel ready to travel alone.

I hop on a bus, finally pick up the bike I bought, take over a friends living room, upgrade my gear, do a test ride to see if I can handle the weight, help take care of a puppy, plan my initial route, and then I leave.

 

Fast Forward. May 24.

I load up all my gear, I finally get on the bike and ride.

As I ride, I’m trying to conserve water and food, even though I am riding through cities. I’m trying to prepare for the hard times ahead.

Even though I can easily resupply literally anywhere, I don’t eat enough, I don’t drink enough, and even though it is cold outside, I am stubborn and I don’t wear enough.

At the end of my ride, I come across the hardest climb of my life.

It is 4 hours into the ride, and I am depleted. I have eaten nothing but oatmeal, two tiny empanadas, and a handful of peanuts. I learn that hard way that climbing on a bike with 35 kilos worth of gear is not the same as climbing on a bike without that much gear.

Only 1/3 of the way up the mountain, I pull over, I flop down on the side of the road, my bike tips over on it’s side, and I feel a deep sense of despait.

I’m not sure I’m going to make it to the top.

Where I sit, it’s big enough to set up my tent, and I contemplate doing so even though the space isn’t the safest place.pp

Then, I think of my father two years earlier in Nicaragua. I think of the strategy he used to get up a 2km hike with a bad hip.

Thinking of him doing that, I know that I can get up this mountain. I know I can do this.

So I get back up and I use his strategy.

I struggle. I stop. And when I can, I restart. I zig-zag up the mountain to cut the grade.

I struggle. I stop. I restart. I zig-zag. I struggle. I stop. I restart. I zig-zag.

And finally around the bend I see the sun, and I know that I’ve made it to the top.

As soon as I get there, I snap a triumphant photo, I push my bike up to the top of a really steep horse trail, and I set up camp where it’s safe.

As soon as I set my tent up, it starts raining.

And I’m like, “Fuck.”

 

Fast Forward, May 25th

I wake up with a cough and it is still raining.

I wait out the rain and I assure myself that I will bike the cough away. Nothing like riding for 5 hours to boost my immune system, right?

The rain finally stops, I pack up my wet gear, and I ride.

The downhills are sweet, but any time I exert any effort my lungs burn and my chest hurts when I breathe deeply.

I think to myself, “Fuck, this can’t be good.”

I still ride as long and as far as I can.

I pull over, exhausted, with just enough sunlight to set up camp.

I find a horse trail. It is covered in shit, but it’s also far enough off the road where cars can’t see me, and it’s wide enough to set up my tent.

I move the shit aside and I set up camp.

To be honest, I feel like the shit I just brushed to the edges of this small space.

It’s 6pm. I take a nyquil. I can feel the layer of sweat created by 10 combined hours of cycling on my skin.

I feel swampy. I definitely have a fever and the chills.

After two hours of struggling to find sleep, I sleep for 13 straight hours.

 

May 26th

I wake up. My cough is definitely worse.

I contemplate staying right where I am for another day. I have enough food and water.

I decide not to. There is just too much fucking shit here.

And in any case, I just need to reach the next town. It’s only 15k away.

I pack up my stuff, and I ride.. As a middle school parade in the middle of a square provides background music, I research what to do next.

There is a campsite in a small town. It has hot showers and wifi, and is reasonably priced. I just have to get there by 7pm.

I look at my watch. It is 12pm right now.

It’s only 60k away. I calculate that if I am efficient, I can make it.

I buy water, ibuprofen, cough drops, and some bananas.

I hit the road. I climb up major hills, I ride over dirt trails, I accidentally trespass and ride through private property.

I reach the campsite at 6:30pm, just as the last beams of light are winking out over the mountaintops.

The lights are off. The gate is closed. The campsite is closed for the season.

Fuck.

After a brief moment where I think about throwing my shit over the wall and breaking in to the campsite, I go next door to an empty restaurant instead.

In tattered, exhausted Spanish, I ask them where I can sleep for the night. They direct me to a residencial. It’s only 2km away.

I roll up and there is a man in a red sweater who speaks English and assures me that I am in the right place.

He feeds me an Empanada, Ensalada Chilena, and warm tea. He discusses his life as a traveler.

After 90 minutes, I can no longer stay awake. I want to shower and go to sleep.

I thank him, and excuse myself.

My room, that is the definitely the right price for me, is freezing. I begin to shiver.

I dream of hopping into that hot shower.

I turn the hot water knob and wait for the water to warm before I step in.

My shivering is getting more and more violent.

As the water gets hot, the pressure reduces to a trickle. I turn the knob. The pressure returns, but the water is cold.

Fuck,

My shivering is now full-body, and I can no longer stand it. Even though the smell coming off of me is almost visible, I give up.

As the shivers wrack my body, I barely dry myself off, I run to the bed in my room, and I create a cocoon under the sheets.

As I shiver violently for another 5 minutes, my brain finally shuts off my capacity to smell myself.

I thank evolution for that particular survival strategy.

Now that I can no longer smell myself, I realize that this is the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in since the foam mattress I owned with my ex in California.

After a time, I finally warm up, I stop shivering, and I fall asleep.

 

May 27th

I wake up and the smell is suffocating. I think to myself, “Fuck, Who knew my body could smell so fucking foul?”

I have to shower. I have to. But it is a struggle because my room is still freezing, I’m still hella fucking sick, and I know the shower is crazy.

I talk myself out of bed.

I try the shower again. It is not satisfying, it is not warm, but I scrub the gnarly smell off my body.

Again, I am still sick as fuck.

My room is still freezing.

My pinky is still numb.

My knee still hurts.

And despite showering, my sheets still smell like the rancid shit that comes out of a cyst.

I fall asleep in the smell for another few hours.

When I wake up, I walk around the small town to get food, and I can barely walk three blocks without feeling exhausted.

I come back and curl up in the bed after the man in red sweater is kind enough to feed me lunch.

And I wonder, “How the fuck did I get here?”

I put on a face mask to protect myself from my own rancid smell.

In this bed that is the most comfortable bed I’ve been in for a while. I write. For hours.

I look over the crazy journey that led to this one moment in time.

I reflect upon how most of my decisions have been the right ones.

I chuckle to myself as I realize that I’m not sure if this bike tour is one of those right decisions.


And you made it!

That was Episode 8 of From The Ashes.

As an update to this story, I decided to sell the bike.

As I was recovering from pneumonia, I thought really deeply upon what I wanted from my travels.

I realized that I wanted time with people more than I wanted to cycle.

So I sold the bike to the Head of Construction who was the person who wanted to buy it in the first place, and I cannot wait for his journey to begin.

As always, if you like the podcast, I’d love for you to share this with one specific person who you think would love it too. If you want to really help a sister out, when you share this with that one person, give them the reason ‘why’ you think they’d love it! Or even better, listen with them!!

And remember, as always, I fucking love all of you!

 

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From the Ashes, Episode 7: Sexual violence is fucked up for everyone.

1 Comment

From the Ashes, Episode 7: Sexual violence is fucked up for everyone.

Duration: 16:52

In this episode, I share some real-ass shit that happened to me, my emotional reaction to that real-ass shit, and then my rational response to my emotional reaction. Please listen from beginning to end, y'all.


Hey Hey!

The piece speaks for itself, so for today, just the timeline:

The original incident happened on April 19th, 2017.

I wrote the original piece on April 21st, 2017.

The rational commentary was written June 1st, 2017.

Thanks for listening.

-Becca


 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

My name is Becca and this is From the Ashes, Episode 7: Violence against women is fucked up for everyone.

So, this is an episode you need to listen to all the way from the beginning, until the end.

If you’re not committed to listening to this whole thing, just go ahead and stop right now.

If you’re not committed to listening with an open heart, I recommend you stop right here.

Come back when you’re ready.

 

Here we go:

To My Dearest Nephews,

You’re too young to understand this now, but now is the time to write this to you.

Two days ago, I was dancing. The beats running were through me, and the beats were making my body move.

The dancing wasn’t for anyone else, it was simply what was in me. In a room by myself, I would’ve danced just as hard.

But I wasn’t alone. I was in a large crowd, and a man asked me to dance. I was in a country that wasn’t my own, in a small pueblo with values completely foreign to me, crashing a party that wasn’t thrown for me in any sort of way.

When this man asked me to dance, I was curious. I wanted to dance with him. See, we didn’t share a language, I couldn’t speak with him, but we could share the language that is dance. I wanted to learn his culture.

At first, it was fun. It was different. It was exciting. The way he danced was not what I was used to, and I smiled and twirled to the beat. I followed his lead.

And then. The same story. The same tired story that has plagued women for far too long.

This man. This fucking stranger. This person who did not know me, who could not even speak to me, who did not even know my name felt that he had the right to run his hands over my breasts.

Before this moment, I had been having the time of my life. There had been hours of fun, hours of laughter and dancing and movement – and in one gesture, in one assumption, and in one small action, he ruined my night.

I walked away, I walked back to the protection of the group I was with.

I made eye contact with this man over the crowd, and he seemed confused.

I tried to brush it off, I tried to be okay.

Could’ve been worse, right?

But no. fuck that. It was terrible in its own right.

In one small thoughtless movement, that man made me feel fear for the first time in this trip.

See, mis sobrinos, in a few days, I was planning to leave the comfortable bubble of my road family, and begin to travel alone.

I had apprehensions before this moment about traveling alone. I know that I am a woman in a time where it isn’t really safe to be a woman who is alone. But when that fear was just a theory, I could tame it. I could overcome it. I could think past it.

But in that one gesture. When that man touched me without my permission? When even the smallest manifestations of that fear became real?

I was impacted. In a real way. In a way that affected my real life.

My night was ruined. My next day ruined. And I sit here two days later in tears, wondering if I should fulfill my destiny to ride a bike north through the Americas as far as I can go.

Because I am a single woman. And simply being who I am puts me at risk for men thinking that they have the right to do what they want to me, even if my permission isn’t firmly in place.

This is not a happy story, My Nephews, but you need to hear it.

Because when you grow up, you be will be faced with a choice about how you see women. How you talk about them when they are not around.

You may not think that silly words and jokes about women have an impact, but they do.

I know because the grown boys with whom I travel have become less safe for me now.

They make jokes about women. They say things about women that they don’t feel are disrespectful.

They say things about women that I can’t imagine they would ever say to these women in real life. They justify what they are saying by claiming they are releasing the thoughts that need to be released so that they don’t act upon them in real life. They call themselves feminists and say they respect women.

“Raised by single mothers” they say, as I wonder what those single mothers would think about the words these boys use to discuss women behind their backs.

I love these men that I am traveling with. They are good men. I love them knowing that the way they speak about women will not change simply because I protest and express my sense that what they are saying is disrespectful.

But I cannot help but be saddened by the fact that even good men speak about women the way that they do.

That good men can justify these words, thinking that their words have no impact simply because they are spoken rarely in front of women.

Saying that, “This is just the way young men bond.”

I am telling you now, mis sobrinos, the lights of my heart, the most beautiful men I know, you do not have to bond this way with other men.

Don’t get me wrong, I want you to grow up talking about sex openly, honestly, and with gusto.

I want you all to have positive, beautiful sex lives. With men, with women, with anyone!

There are ways to talk about sex that place the objects of your desire in your words as people and not simply as objects.

You can talk about women using words and sentiments that do not exist on the same spectrum that would enable a person to believe that they have the right to touch someone sexually without their permission.

I think it is too late for the grown boys with whom I am traveling to understand this. They are too set in their beliefs.

I believe it is not too late for you.

Perhaps one day, when you’re old enough, you will come across this story. I hope that you will be angry.

But I hope that you use this anger for good. I hope you’ll use it to motivate you to learn. I hope you use this anger and come to me to ask me how you can talk about your desire in a way that breaks the perpetual cycles of violence.

I will always have time to talk to you about sex, Mis Sobrinos. I will never judge you for your questions or what you want. And I will definitely have time to help you understand how to be dead sexy AND respectful.

And I promise, that when you are capable of rising above the immature and disrespectful banter, if you so happen to grow up and want to fuck women, you will get more pussy than the grown boys with whom I am traveling.

Strong women can smell respect from a mile away, and it is the greatest aphrodesiac on earth.

I love you. I miss you. I cannot wait to see the amazing men who you will become.

Much, Much Love for You,

Your Tia Becca.

 

What you just heard was written after I spent 48 hours pretending nothing had happened.

You see, my friends had had a fucking epic night … their night was so amazing, and so I spent 48 hours not wanting to tell them because I didn’t want their memory of this epic night to be tainted.

I spent 48 hours rationalizing that what happened wasn’t really that big of a deal, anyway.

I spent 48 hours telling myself that I was fine, even though (obviously) I wasn’t fine.

What you heard was 100% emotion, poured out over 2 hours. There was no filter. There was no pre-frontal cortex. There was no rational thought. All of that was just how I was feeling at the time.

What you’re about to hear is all the rational thought that has since filtered back into my life.

What you’re about to hear is how I feel now that I’ve had enough time to heal and think.

 

We have to start here.

Violence against women is fucked for everyone, and the piece you just heard is an example of that.

Let me go ahead and break down why that piece is unjustified, and why that piece is not only fucked up for me, but for the boys. For the grown boys that are mentioned.

Let me start by saying that those grown boys who I mentioned are actually men, and they are the best fucking men I know. Regardless of what I said about them in the moment that I wrote this piece that you just heard, I know damn well that these men respect women.

I’ve seen the way they engage with women, and it’s legit. And as a woman, they have engaged with me, and it’s very respectful.

Rationally. When I sat down with these men the morning I wrote what you just heard, I knew that. But the morning I sat down with these men … I was hurting.

For them, it was a morning just like every other morning, And just like every other morning we had spent together, they were having candid conversations about sex and sexual attraction. I had been listening to, participating in, and enjoying these conversations for weeks, Most of what they said - 99% of the shit they said - was absolutely harmless.

And so in this morning that was an average morning for them, what they were saying was actually really, really harmless. When I think back to the actual things that were said, it really wasn’t disrespectful. It wasn’t as crazy as that piece I wrote made it out to be.

But I was hurting

But they had no idea I was hurting. When they asked me how my night was, I didn’t want to ruin their memory of the night by being like, “Well, some motha’ fucka groped me.”

So instead, I had been like, “OMG, I had such a good time.”

And I don’t think these guys would’ve held back on their sexual banter completely had they known that this happened to me, but I’m pretty sure that when I spoke to up them and was like, “Hey, what you’re saying is pretty disrespectful...” they would’ve been way more mindful of my feelings.

I don’t think they would’ve come at me the way they came at me.

But I didn’t tell them. And so they had no reason to modify their behavior.

And so they acted as they always acted. They were shooting the shit and bantering about fucking.

And usually, I would’ve joined right in, and I tried. That’s why I sat down with them. But today I was hurting. And because I had been holding in the fact that I was groped without my permission, I was really hypersensitive to everything they were saying.

It all felt like violence to me. I couldn’t feel it any other way. And so I told them, and I confronted them. I told them I thought that some of the things they were saying were disrespectful.

And they defended themselves. And they gave some of the rationale that you heard in the piece that wrote.

And because I was hurting and because they weren’t hearing me and because everything felt like violence to me ... I lost control. Not in a crazy yelling screaming way, but in a way where I finally lost control of my capacity to pretend like what had happened, wasn’t bothering me.

When they ran through their list of justifications for why their banter wasn’t disrespectful, and why it was okay for them to say what they were saying, I broke down in tears. Once I was crying, I fucking let myself cry. And as I was crying, I finally let myself feel the impact of what had happened to me two nights before.

I let the fear run through me fully.

I let the anger manifest.

And then I wrote down what I was feeling in that moment. I captured it. I recorded it. I made it real.

It fucking sucked.

Because after doing that, I had to get back in the van with these guys who, at the time, I was not feeling safe around.

Throughout the course of the day, these guys noticed something was wrong … because they’re good compassionate guys. They asked me – each one of them asked me - if I was okay. Each one of them asked what me what had happened. Everyone gave me long, genuine hugs, and each one of them told me that if I needed to talk about it, I could talk to them. They were genuine in their concern, and yet because I was hurting ...

I couldn’t trust them. These men who had become my family … I couldn’t trust them.

Allowing myself to feel the emotions of what that stranger did to me separated me from the people I loved. Looking at them was painful, listening to them felt awful. It wasn’t even close to being their fault, but here I was, feeling very, very alone … taking it out on them, basically.

It fucking sucked. This one act of violence had a very real ripple in my life for like three days. And I knew that I was pulling myself away from being able to be in the present moment, enjoying the people I love, enjoying being traveling, enjoying … everything.

Because I couldn’t separate myself from this really painful thing that happened … you know … just 48 hours ago.

Luckily for me, a couple things happened that snapped me back into the present.

One, was that I was reading an Eckhart Tolles book and there were some passages in there that really helped me to reframe the story I was telling.

And then … a very sexy Australian man on bike showed up in my life, and the thought of being able to consensually seduce someone where both they and I were willing participants in a sexual encounter?

Let’s just say there’s nothing like consent to pull someone like me right back into the present.

So. Over the course of the day, over the course of the evening, I worked to forgive the guy who groped me. I reconnected with people who I love, and I asked the Aussie to come back to my tent.

 

The following day, about 72 hours after this random dude groped me, I re-listened to what I had recorded.

One thought returned to me over and over and over:

The impact of sexual violence is never just limited to the person who was violated.

I fucking love the men I was traveling with. Deeply. I feel understood by them, and feel that they are of my same spirit. I care about them deeply and know that they return this care for me. I feel lucky to have spent almost every single hour of every single day with them for over a month.

And to be honest, If my nephews end up having half the charisma, intelligence, people skills, linguistic skills, sense of adventure, or courage that these men have … I will count my nephews lucky.

Because my nephews will be successful, happy, awesome, independent, free-thinking human beings.

And yet, the men who I love were the men that bore the impact of my anger and fear when I sat down to write. They bore the impact of my anger and my fear when I was around them.

In the moment I finally let myself feel what I was feeling about being groped, I wasn’t able to channel my rage only toward the man who violated me. Like an atomic bomb, the negative energy that that guy catalyzed in me took them out too.

It was so irrational. So unfair to them. In that moment, I wasn’t strong enough to meet the negative things that had happened to me with love. Because that is the only way to break the cycle of violence.

Instead of breaking it, I actually perpetuated the cycle of violence by lashing out at them and by not trusting them and by separating myself from them and by calling them bad people.

And while I still wholly believe that my nephews can grow up bonding with other young men in a thousand other ways than the objectification and sexualization of women, the way in which I expressed that sentiment was fully out of pocket. It was wrong. It was straight up wrong.

I almost decided not to release the beginning recording. To put it away. To pretend it didn’t happen. To pretend I didn’t say it. To pretend that I didn’t pass the violence that had been done to me forward.

But then I remembered the story of a woman who I met in a different rural argentinean town a few weeks previously. She is a fucking powerhouse of a woman who told me a survivors story that I will never forget. And she said that it’s important to tell these stories so that they stop happening. Her courage fuels me right now. If she can tell her story, so can I.

This story is one that needs to be told because I do not think that I am even close to being alone in experiencing what I experienced. And I also don’t think that I’m alone in reacting the way that I did.

I don’t think that I’m alone in taking out my rage on those who where close, instead of taking out my rage on the perpetrator.

I don’t think that my experience of not being able to feel safe around those I love for a little while is something I’m alone in either.

And it’s only now that I’m really able to meet that man who violated me with love.

I hope that someday, someone teaches that guy the joy of asking. The joy of mutuality. The amazing power of consent to make sexual contact electric, instead of confusing and weird.

I am sorry to the men I love for taking out my anger on them. For thinking for even a moment that they weren’t good men. I hope they understand that I was momentarily swept away in violence. I hope they can forgive me. I hope they know how much I love and respect each of them.

I also hope that someday, I don’t have to wake up and say that I’m lucky because I “only” got groped.

I hope that my niece never has to fear traveling alone just because she’s a woman. I hope that when she’s old enough to travel she can go out and dance and come back with a smile on her face instead of fear in her heart.

I hope that you tell this story to your nephews when they’re old enough to understand. I know I will.

 

And you made it! That was episode 007 of From the Ashes.

Thanks for listening all the way to the end of this one … it was definitely an emotional one.

As a post-script, I just want to stay that I did not allow one man’s actions to stop me from living my destiny.

I started my bike trip.

I will not live in fear.

Before I go, I’d just like to say that you’re digging the podcast, I’d love it if you could drop a review on iTunes!

I fucking love you all!!

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From the Ashes, Episode 6: I Fucking LOVE My Mother

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From the Ashes, Episode 6: I Fucking LOVE My Mother

Three stories from life after rebirth that remind Becca of how much she loves and is grateful for her momma. Shit gets real sappy. [Duration 09:24]

 

Hello!

I love when I get the chance to bring together things that on the surface, are unrelated.

Today, I'm bringing together how traveling often reminds me of how much I love my Momma.

I'll be honest in saying, I cried a LOT while composing these. There is no one in the world quite like my mother, and having to articulate my feelings about her really brought a lot of the feels to the forefront.

Even though traveling is what I am destined for right now, I miss her a lot, and I hope that she enjoys the fuck out of today's piece.

I'm sharing three short stories here today. Here is the timeline breakdown:

Story 1: Literally all 2 months I was at the farm. So between January 16th and March 17th.

Story 2: Hard to say, but sometime around February 11th.

Story 3: April 3rd, with the road family who would become Punto G.

Thanks Mom, for everything.

I love you!!!!

-BB

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

My name is Becca and this is From the Ashes, Episode 6: I fucking LOVE my mother.

It’s mother’s day!

And, in honor of a woman that I love so, so deeply – I thought I’d share three stories from my travels that specifically remind me of how much I love her.

Mom, I hope you hear this. I love you so much!
 

One

I was washing dirty dishes I did not create. Dishes that someone had carelessly left out and forgotten.

In the beginning, I did these forgotten dishes with resentment. I wondered how people could be so careless, and so selfish. I wondered how people could walk all the way to the sink, dishes in hand, put the dishes in there, and not take the two minutes it took to actually wash them. I was especially confused considering the reminder to wash dishes happened literally every morning.

And then, Momma, I thought of you.

I thought of you dinner after dinner, meal after meal, day after day, week after week, year after year, washing basically every single dish I ever used.

You washed my dishes when I moved back in at the age of 21 after graduating from university. You washed my dishes when I moved back in when my life fell apart at 32.

And when I asked you if I could help, (even though I admitted I hated washing dishes) you always smiled calmly and said, “I don’t mind. I like doing it.”

As I scrubbed what seemed like the 500th mug left out after breakfast, I wondered how you did it.

How you could wash other people’s dishes for more than 30 years, and enjoy it.

I put the clean dishes I had just washed into the dry rack, and then I walked away. I couldn’t figure it out how you did it. I was still really frustrated.

Day after day, I walked through the barn that the 45 of us lived in. I washed forgotten mugs, abandoned dinner plates, carelessly strewn utensils, everyone’s everything.

And one day, as I washed, I found myself humming. Moving the sponge in my hand to the rhythm of a song in my head, and I realized I no longer resented the task.

It was an easy task. It was simple. Meditative. And it was a way to consistently help people I had come to love. And I knew that those in the community who didn’t wash dishes contributed many other things to the harmony and joy in our collective experience.

I felt you within me in that moment. In my mind, I saw you at the sink in our kitchen, and I felt connected to you. Like I understood you just a little bit more than I had the moment before.

I thought about every dish you’ve washed for me – for our whole family – and I basked in the immense amount of love you’ve given – just through this one simple task. I felt lucky to have a mother like you. I felt lucky that you turned something that could’ve been a battle into something that you simply took responsibility for – out of love.

 

Two

I was riding in The Founder’s red pickup truck. I was on his team that day.

Being on his team meant a long day of mindless hard labor, and it also meant the privilege of riding around in the truck with with him.

Today, The Founder and I were alone in the cab of the truck. I had been at the farm for a month, and I had been doing little else but hard physical labor. He knew I had more skills than swinging a shovel and stomping on grass, so he challenged me to think about my contribution.

“So Becca, when are you going to use your skills here?”

After some short discussion on what I felt my skills were, he asked me to consider being house mother.

I responded with some serious emotional defense “Listen man. I destroyed an engagement because I don’t want to be a mother. You’ve got the wrong person.”

At the time, I obviously was not into the idea of being called a mother. But now, as I look back, I think again of you, Momma.

When I describe you to people, one of the first things I say about you is that you are immediately everyone’s Mom.

It doesn’t matter who a person is, where they’re from, how old they are, or how I know them. Every time I have introduced you to another human being in my life, you have immediately welcomed them. Warmly. With a huge, genuine hug and a big smile.

You’ve listened to the people I’ve brought into your life with rapt attention, you’ve given advice, and you’ve shared yourself with them as well.

As much as I always talk about how I am my father’s daughter, this love that is a part of you is fundamentally a part of me.

The founder of the farm saw that in me. He saw the legacy of your love.

As I look back on the moment he asked me to be house mother, I realize that he wasn’t asking me to be a stereotypical mother. He wasn’t asking me to be someone who disciplines or someone who keeps the kiddos in line. He was simply asking me to use the gift you have given me to help the farm to thrive.

The gift of loving unconditionally. To care for others, even when they are near strangers. To make anyone feel welcome and loved immediately. To planting the seeds of innate belonging so that eventually people will blossom into living authentically, and as themselves.

He was asking me to give the love I have basked in my entire life because of you.

You have such a beautiful gift, and as I move further and further through this world, there are no words to really describe how grateful I am to you for having given me this gift.

It is the reason I am who I am, and I consider the way that I love one of my superpowers. I have it because you have it, I have it because you gave it to me.

 

Three

We were sitting around a campfire. It was our first night together, and we didn’t yet know that we would eventually become family.

A brilliant boy posed a simple question asking about the greatest lessons one of our parents have taught us. We shared deeply that night, myself included.

I told Emily’s story.

How she had gotten sick.

How you had sat by her side night after night as she endured treatments.

How she hadn’t lived long.

How the experience had changed our entire family.

And then, Momma, I told them what you told me, so many years ago after attending the sharing session with the other adults at the bereavement camp.

I still remember it, and still impacts me to this day.

You can’t live in your pain, Becca. You can’t live in your past. You can and should remember her, but you can’t stay there. It’s not what she would’ve wanted.

You have to move on. And you have to live your life.

I told them about how I watched as you transformed what happened into something meaningful.

As you turned this tragedy into strength.

As you created a story around the death of a child that ultimately helped to empower me. To empower yourself. And To empower us all.

Every bit of strength I have … every small ability to move on, to move forward, to power through after tragedy, to keep my chin up, to see the opportunity in endings, to pull the silver lining out of the darkest of storm clouds, is because you showed me how.

So much of my resilience is because you are resilient. I learned how to bounce back from hardship by watching you do it. So much of my ability to churn out a positive story from a tragic tale is because I listened to you spin tales of tragedy that always ended with how you came out better on the other side.

In a word, you are a survivor. And because you are a survivor I know how to thrive. Because you made it so that my life has less struggle and hardship than yours did, these lessons that helped you to keep going are the lessons that help me to live my life brightly and with endless, untempered courage.

 

Right now, I am more than 6000 miles away from you. We are far apart and yet because of these experiences, I still feel like you are right here with me.

Although I have always felt so lucky to have you as my mother, halfway around the world, that feeling has gotten much, much deeper.

Thank you for making the choices that you did when I was young.

Thank you for following me around with a camera and supporting me literally every step of the way throughout my life.

Thank you for holding me up when life got too heavy for me to support myself on my own.

Thank you for loving me and trying to understand me, even though I am not meant for a normal path through this life.

Thank you for teaching me how to love myself without makeup, without artifice, and without a filter.

Thank you for never withholding your truth, and for teaching me how to live mine.

Thank you for showing me the importance of constantly learning, growing, and never sitting still for too long.

Thank you for boarding down that volcano in Nicaragua with me, and for teaching me that being a badass doesn’t end just because you’re pushing 60.

Thanks for getting drunk for the first time at like 55 just because I asked you to.

And thank you for showing me how to dance without reservation, and with the full strength of who you are.

You are the literally the best mother in the world.

I am so glad I will always be your child, and that you will always be my mother.

I fucking love you with all my heart.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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From the Ashes, Episode 5: False Starts Are Okay

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From the Ashes, Episode 5: False Starts Are Okay

When Becca decides to try hitchhiking with an experienced hitcher … shit gets crazy. [Duration (24:35)]

Hello All!

Life on the road has been extraordinary, and here is a tale from the very end of one of my recent chapters.

This whole experience started on April 25th, 2017, and ended the next morning on April 26th.

Enjoy!

-BB

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

My name is Becca, and this is From the Ashes, Episode 5: False Starts Are Okay

Today’s story really speaks for itself, so I don’t have much of a preamble other than to say this was one hell of an experience.

I’m glad to have experienced it. I’m glad to have survived it. And as always, I hope you enjoy the story.

 

The Charismatic Catalyst was sparking at his highest intensity. At this strength, he willfully infected all of us with his need to leave. That night. No matter how late it was. He didn’t want to have to pay for another night at this campsite.

For the 25 days previous to this moment, seven of us had miraculously crammed ourselves and all our backpacking gear into a Volkswagen T3 Kombi named Margarita. Over the more than 3000 km up the infamous Ruta 40 in Argentina we had become family. A rowdy, beautiful, sometimes drunk, sometimes high, always adventurous, often dancing, hippy family. We also made terrible, atonal, arrhythmic music together. Music that we only performed twice in public, and for very select audiences.

We called our group Punto G.

Despite a collective understanding that this trip had been one beyond the scope of our imaginations, despite the immense amount that I personally learned about how little one really needs in this life, and despite coming to experience the depths of human kindness, generosity, and connection … it was time for Punto G to split up.

Four of us were headed into Chile, and Chile was not a place where Margarita could go. If she went back to Chile, our Irreverent Captain might not be able to get her out again. And then he would never make it to Alaska, the hopeful end point of his journey.

For the four us breaking off, the initial plan was to make our way north and then west. The Complex Dynamo, the Philosopher Chef, and the Charismatic Catalyst were all going to to hitchhike.

As for me, I had announced to Punto G a few nights before that I was going to stay at an AirBnB for a few days, and then get on a bus to make it to our next destination. After a month of sleeping in a tent without regular showers, I wanted a small respite before beginning the next chapter.

But, as is often the case in traveling, new opportunities consistently present themselves when you least expect them. At some point following my announcement, the Charismatic Catalyst invited me to hitchhike with him.

He is a catalyst. And in me he catalyzed some really deep thoughts.

This whole trip. What I’m doing. The whole reason why I’m traveling. It’s for discomfort. It’s to step outside what I know, what I’ve done, and who I’ve been … in order to grow closer to my truest self.

The idea of hitchhiking is wildly uncomfortable to me.

I wouldn’t ever just do it, no matter how many successful stories I’ve heard from those I’ve met during this trip. I just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of taking a ride from a stranger. However, the catalyst had been traveling for 4 years. He’s an experienced hitcher. He speaks amazing Spanish. He has a righteous camping stove and a pot. And he had a knack for getting what he needed when he needed it.

If there were ever a person with whom to start hitchhiking, I knew it was him.

So, I made the choice to scrap all my plans and hitchhike with him.

Because of my decision, I had wrapped my plans up with the Charismatic Catalyst. Which made the day of our departure a rollercoaster of emotion for me.

In the morning, I had spent time my time away from Punto G. Writing. Editing. Getting a podcast up. This thing is in me and I needed to get it out. I am trying to live more for me, and so I thought it would be okay to spend that time alone. I opted out of all discussion regarding future plans. For some reason, I thought we had at least another night at this campsite.

During my productivity, the crew that was staying with Margarita laid a plan to go into the city to recruit for more members at Hostels. They needed 4 people to fill the spots that would soon be empty.

The crew planning to leave Margarita and break off toward Chile decided that they were leaving today. They went shopping in order to cook a big meal to fuel their plans to hitchhike out of the city.

When they returned, the Philosopher Chef got to his last task of trying to pump out one final dank-ass meal in Margarita. This Philosopher Chef was from Texas, but had very very proud Italian heritage. Over the course of our time together, he cooked with limited ingredients using limited materials, and had still churned out meal after meal after meal of delicious camp cooking.

His one nemesis this whole time had been this cheap-ass pasta we bought for 6 argentinean pesos per bag at the Argentinean equivalent of Costco. (6 Argentinean Pesos is about $0.40 at the time of this recording). When it was cooked, this pasta would absorb 100% of the water used for cooking and It would glob together … and when you ate it, it’s was like eating pure starchy gluten blocks.

Don’t get me wrong, it was filling as fuck, but not super enjoyable. The Philosopher chef had avoided having to use it as much as possible, but since we were splitting off, today was the day to use it.

Luckily, a woman who lived at the campsite had a pot larger than the small one we were used to cooking in. The extra space in the pot gave the pasta more room to cook, and the Philosopher Chef put together a meat carbonara in cream sauce .

It was dank as fuck. He had finally conquered the pasta, and I was super stoked about it.

It was restaurant quality, and so I went back for a hearty portion of seconds, wiping the plate clean with bread I had been given.

When it appeared that I was going to stop, the Hedonistic Climber, knowing we were about to hitch hike recommended I go back for thirds. “Becca, sometimes you don’t know when your next meal will be. Eat some more.”

Even though I was already full to bursting, I took another half-portion and crammed it into my body. I would be uncomfortably full the entire afternoon, but later that night, I would be glad for the Climber’s advice.

Very shortly after finishing our meal, the catalyst started sparking. He wanted to leave. Right then. To get a jump on hitchhiking while it was still light outside.

The Philosopher Chef, the Complex Dynamo, and myself were all getting caught up in his spark, and we understood that he was right, logically. Even though we knew he was right we still resisted at first.

We had been on the road with Punto G for 25 days. We had lived some serious adventures. We had become family. And you can’t move on to the next chapter without taking the time to say goodbye to family.

But the Charismatic Catalyst continued to spark. He continued to want to leave. He kept expressing his need.

The Hedonistic Climber earned us some time. He asked the Catalyst to help him get his long board fixed. Being super loyal, the Catalyst agreed.

While they went out to get the long board fixed, the rest of us stayed at the municipal campsite, reading, lounging, slowly packing, and trying to figure out when our Irreverent Captain and the Unassuming Artist would return so that we could say goodbye.

We still had no word when the Catalyst and the Climber returned from their journey. They returned to us with a tale of riding around in a cop car with the police force, being given an impromptu tour of the town, and being taken to a mechanic who could help with the Climber’s broken long board truck.

Once the retelling of that tale was over, however, the Catalyst’s attention turned back to leaving.

He sparked again making bold declarations, “I love these people, but I will not wait that long for a goodbye, for something that takes 5 minutes.”

I sent a frantic message to our Captain, letting him know that we wouldn’t last much longer here. That I had tied my fate up with the Catalyst, and that even though I wanted desperately to say goodbye, and that when the catalyst left, I would have to make a difficult decision to maybe leave without doing that.

Our Irreverent Captain finally responded. He was at the bus terminal. He would come back to see us off. He just needed 30 minutes to get back.

I announced that our Captain was returning. Knowing that the Irreverent Captain was returning mollified the catalyst, but his energy was still anxious. He was pacing, packing, and it was obvious that his mind was no longer with us in the present. It was on that next step, on the side of the road, on what had to be done next to get a ride where we were going. On returning to the style of travel that brought him the most joy and satisfaction.

Our Irreverent Captain and the Unassuming Artist finally returned, and we gathered for a final goodbye.

We engaged in a a ceremony to mirror the place in which we all had met:

The Charismatic Catalyst, the Complex Dynamo, the Philosopher Chef and myself formed a ring, our Irreverent Captain, the Unassuming Artist, and the Sweetheart Climber slapped their knees, let out a cry, and rushed in to hug us.

The hug transformed into a group hug, we jumped up and down in a circle and chanted Punto G, Punto G, Punto G, Punto G until it naturally tapered off.

We exchanged individual hugs, the three members of Punto G remaining in Margarita walked us to the gate. Our Irreverent Captain gifted us with his standard goodbye, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, boys.”

While I was glad for the goodbye, it felt rushed. It felt a little off. But the catalyst was sparking and pushing and we had to go.

By the time we took our first steps, it was 630pm. The darkness was starting to creep over the city. And the forecast was for rain. But the sparks of the catalyst were pushing us to act, so we collectively decided that even though it was late, even though it might be wet, our best chance for hitchhiking was to walk out of the city center, find a good spot to hitchhike, find a spot to camp nearby, wake up early the next morning and start our process.

With the exception of a few stops to ask for directions to a good place to hitchhike, and a few moments where my smaller size put me at an advantage for weaving through the crowded city streets, the Catalyst led the way.

While I was enjoying the pace, there were a few grumbles from members of our crew.

Since I was the closest to the catalyst, I asked, just once, “Do you know where we’re going?”

“No. But this is the way I like to travel. You get to see the city at night, get to see the pulse of it. You walk and you walk and you walk, and find what you need as you need it. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

I liked his style, but I also kept that information to myself. While I was into the idea of the unknown at the end of the journey, I didn’t think sharing that fact would help the rest of our group with morale.

After about an hour of walking, we reached the edge of the city, just beyond the bus terminal. We shucked off our packs, took a break, and the Catalyst walked off into the distance without explanation.

That’s when the phones and the creeping doubt started to come out. Are we going the right way? Should some of us just take a bus? How much further do we need to go? Isn’t there rain in the forecast?

The Charismatic Catalyst walked back up to us. “I just talked to a police officer. He says that 2km from here it has a police station where we can camp.”

Despite a bit of hesitation, our entire crew kept following the Catalyst. We walked up a large hill, and I watched as the Catalyst put his thumb out, trying to see if we could get a ride to where we were going that night.

We walked at the same frantic pace, and then all of a sudden the catalyst froze at a gated off field.

The catalyst suggested we could camp there. “It’s private property, but we can always play the gringo card.”

It was too close to the side of the road, and most of us weren’t into the idea. There was only 1.5km left to walk, let’s just make it to the police station.

So we kept walking. The catalyst kept asking locals questions.

We paused and saw something dark in the Charismatic Catalyst’s face.

“So. It seems that the police officer was bullshitting us, guys. The people here say it’s another 5km to where we need to go.”

My far too heavy pack was starting to bruise my hips, and I had chosen to wear my vibrams. I had stepped heavily on a rock, creating a heel bruise that fucked every step I took. The too thin soles made it so that the balls of my feet were starting to get rubbed raw from walking with the weight of my pack. The news of needing to walk another 5k was not good news.

But at this point, we were committed. If not to finding this police station, then at least to finding somewhere to make camp. We sighed a collective sigh of resignation, and kept following the Catalyst.

After 2 hours of walking, the highway came into our view. It was a huge relief. This would be a prime place to hitchhike in the morning. All we needed was a place to pitch our tents for the night.

We all dropped our packs, and the Charismatic Catalyst walked off into a nearby neighborhood. I pulled out my wool socks, getting ready to pull on my sturdy hiking boots if we needed to keep trekking. After just a few minutes he returned.

He had talked to some people in the neighborhood, and they said we could camp in front of their house.

With extreme joy and relief, we all grabbed our packs, walked over to a really uneven plot of grass, and happily made camp next to the highway. It was 8:30pm.

After pitching my tent, I laid down. Bone tired. Weary from the trek, but glad that I had taken the advice of the Hedonistic Climber. Without that extra portion of carbonara, I would not have had the energy to make this journey. As I felt fortunate for the care of this boy almost 10 years my junior, I drifted off into a doze while the Catalyst cooked us rice for dinner.

I listened to the sound of conversation, the laughter, the whir of gas as it heated our meal. As I lay there, the sound of the slowly intensifying rain on my tent pulled me deeper and deeper into sleep.

I have a hazy memory of conversation about there being another camping option. An option to move into a house. But it was already raining and moving our tents would mean wet tents. As I dozed, the group made a decision to stay. It was what I wanted too. I was grateful to not have to move.

And then some indescribable amount of time later, shit hit the fan.

The Catalyst shook my tent. “Guys, we are moving. If we go quickly, they will drive us.”

My half asleep brain was not computing the situation. Why were we moving? Where were we moving? Why was there a rush to move? It was 11:30 … what the fuck was going on?

Instead of going outside to get answers those questions, I lay there confused, and I decided that the most important question to ask was: “Is there dirt where we’re going? If there isn’t dirt I can’t pitch my tent.”

The catalyst didn’t understand. I wasn’t sure if it was a language barrier, or if I had been unclear. So I persisted.

“Tierra. Dirt. I can’t pitch my tent without stakes in the ground.”

The catalyst responded, urgency in his voice. “There is an extra spot in my tent, you can sleep in my tent if there isn’t dirt where we’re going.”

It was enough. Even though I had no idea what the fuck was happening, I knew we had to go quickly, so I stuffed my sleeping back into its sack, rolled up my sleeping mat, crammed my stuff into my pack, pulled on my shoes, threw on my waterproof jacket, and finally exited my tent.

When I looked around, there was a police truck and three officers. I knew now why there was urgency in the Catalyst’s voice. I immediately realized how ridiculous my question about dirt must’ve sounded.

The Catalyst had asked three neighbors to pitch our tents. One of the neighbors had called the cops on us anyway. Although most of us had been dozing, we still apparently had too loud.

I rolled up my tent and put it into it’s bag. It was soaked. I knew all of our tents were soaked at this point. I wondered where the cops were taking us.

With the rain pouring, we threw our stuff into the back of the police truck, and then all 6 of us piled into the cab.

The 4 of us from Margarita crammed into the back bench, and the 2 other travelers that had been traveling parallel to us sat on top of one other in the front seat. 7 people occupied 5 seats. In a cop car. Needless to say … no one was wearing a seatbelt except for the officer driving.

We asked the driver where we were going, and he told us that there was a campsite about 5km back into the city where they were taking us.

My mind tingled. Just before I had drifted off to sleep, I had calculated how far our trek had been, and at first had mindlessly calculated driving directions instead of walking directions.

That distance? About 5km back into the city.

As my mind was tingling, someone else voiced my thoughts, ‘You don’t think they’re taking us back to the campsite where we were, do you?”

I told them the news of my earlier calculation. I also recalled that when looking for campsites near the city, it was the only campsite that popped up. I predicted that they would be bringing us back to where we started.

The rain poured down on the squad car, and we pulled up to a police station.

We had to switch cars.

We piled out of one truck, moved all 6 packs into an identical truck, piled into that truck, and began driving. Our direction, initially, was back toward our campsite, but then we veered off track.

“I don’t think we’re going to the campsite.” said the Charismatic Catalyst hopefully. He had been telling the officers about how our tents were wet, how all our clothes were wet, how the women were tired, and about how we would all get sick if we needed to camp.

He had also confirmed with the officers that wherever we were going, we wouldn’t have to pay for where they were taking us, so he was trying to get us rooms with beds.

We finally reached our first destination, and it was another police station.

The Charismatic Catalyst asked if we were camping at the police station. The officer shook his head. We had left a bag of food in the other police car, and we were just picking it up.

The Catalyst shook his head in disbelief. The Catalyst had put that bag of food in the first truck that we had entered, and I had been sitting next to it. When we switched into the second police truck, I had completely forgotten about and so had he, apparently.

We thanked the officer for taking the time to get that bag of food back to us, and then the Catalyst asked the question we had all been wondering the whole night, “What campsite are you taking us to?”

And then the officer confirmed our suspicions. We were being taken back to where this whole night had begun.

After a day of emotional turmoil, after a too quick goodbye, after 7km of trekking at a breakneck pace to an unknown destination, after getting our tents up just in time to be protected from the rain, after getting soaked taking down those tents, and after riding around in 2 police trucks for the past hour, we would have gotten exactly nowhere.

We laughed. There was nothing left to do but laugh.

The Catalyst was shocked. In his four years of travel, nothing like this had ever happened. And it was weird because he had spent the morning with the police as well. He also talked about how he had a weird intuition when saying goodbye to our Irreverent Captain that it wasn’t the last time the Catalyst would see him. This was crazy.

The Philosopher Chef expressed full lack of surprise. The goodbye had felt weird to him, the route we had taken too haphazard.

The Complex Dynamo just sat, having spent our entire 25 day trip learning to be unsurprised by lack of efficiency and the results of haphazardly made decisions.

As per me, I found myself grateful, again, that I had eaten that third helping of Carbonara. Grateful for the kindness of the woman who had let us borrow the pot, grateful for the philosopher chef’s dank cooking skills. Grateful that even though it had been 10 hours since the last meal, hunger was only just beginning to creep in.

I also found myself grateful that I had decided to take a risk. Although I wasn’t sure I would hitchhike the next day, having made this decision lead us to this crazy adventure, and I was just grateful to be a part of it.

As we pulled up toward the campsite – the exact campsite we had left in too rushed a fashion just 5 hours earlier - the officer asked reception if they had received word that we were coming. The receptionist had not, and was even resistant to allowing us to come into the campsite. They were closed. He did not want to allow more people in, even though there were almost no people camped there.

After a small struggle, where once again the catalyst tried to get us rooms with beds, the receptionist would only allow us in if we were willing to pay and willing to set up our tents.

Without any other recourse, we had to agree.

And I chuckled inwardly to myself about the irony. In trying to avoid paying for a place to camp for the night, we had gone so far to go exactly nowhere and we had to pay to camp anyway.

And the funniest thing is that the price we were trying to avoid paying was 40 Argentinean pesos per person. The equivalent of $2.60 in America.

As we slunk into the campsite, soaked, with kilos of sopping wet gear on our backs, our Irreverent Captain, the Unassuming Artist, and the Hedonistic Climber wobbled toward us.

“What the fuck!? What are you guys doing here?”

They were drunk. Drunk as fuck, cheeks rosy, and planning on going to a folk concert to try to pick up two more passengers. We relayed the short version of the story as we walked toward the quincho under which we would sleep that night.

Our Captain and the Artist brought us cups of wine from the 5L jug bought by one of the new travelers that would be joining Margarita north through Bolivia.

We excitedly told them the details of our adventure, but it was late. There was another tent set up. A short, “Please Shut. Up.” was shouted and we hushed.

In whispers we continued talking, we put wet tents up to dry, and with the resources left to us we figured out the driest possible sleeping arrangements.

At 1:30 in the morning, the catalyst finished cooking the meal he had started cooking 4 hours before. Rice with sauce, supplemented with some bread generously given to us by our Captain, the Artist, and the Climber. Not enough for all of us to feel full, but enough to cut the edge off the hunger. We chatted into the night a bit longer, and then I felt the exhaustion hit me like a brick wall.

I excused myself from the crew, and lay down between the Complex Dynamo and the Philosopher Chef. Because our tents were wet, we were sleeping in a borrowed tent meant for two, and the Philosopher Chef recommended we sleep head-toe-head in order to maximize space.

In a night where I thought I was going to begin the journey of discomfort in terms of hitchhiking, I finished the night with my head in between the very used feet of these two men. With the hood of my grey sweatshirt wrapped tightly around my nose protecting myself from the smell ... I was thoughtful about the night’s end could be much, much worse.

I drifted off to sleep pondering how false starts are totally okay.

The next day, we all woke up, and the Catalyst immediately started the day sparking. He wanted to leave. Now. He wanted to get a jump on hitchhiking. I had a sense that this was a journey the Catalyst needed to take alone. He needed some space to move and to adventure at his own pace.

I let the Catalyst walk away without me.

I walked to the bus terminal.

 

And you made it!

Like I said, this was one hell of an adventure.

Even though I didn’t end up hitchhiking in the end, I’m so glad I made the initial decision to at least try it. I don’t know. Being a part of this is what traveling is about.

It’s finding yourself in crazy ass situations and surviving your way through it.

And! In case you’re curious about how this turned out in the end, the Charismatic Catalyst did end up successfully hitchhiking to our next destination.

And because there were limited bus schedules from where we were to where we were going, he even made it there before I did … so hitchhiking was actually more efficient than taking the bus.

Which is all good. I was still very happy to be on a nice comfortable bus trip.

 

And that is it for Episode 5 of from the Ashes.

If you liked this story, or any of the stories I’ve told, it would be fucking awesome if you could take two minutes to write a review on iTunes!

I’d love and appreciate any support you could give on that front.

I fucking love all of you!

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From the Ashes, Episode 4: Revolution in the Microcosm

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From the Ashes, Episode 4: Revolution in the Microcosm

In this episode, Becca reads a letter she wrote and read that encapsulated what it felt like to be on the oppressed side of a class division within the microcosm of a volunteer farm in southern Chile.

 

Hey Everyone!!

Sometimes reality is fucking crazy and surreal.

Late into my time volunteering at a farm in Southern Chile, following a blissful 6 weeks of slinging a shovel on the construction team, there was a microcosmic revolution that I took some part in.

On the grand scale of revolutions, the timeline for this was incredibly swift.

Although the conflict had been slowly building for weeks, the catalyst for the explosion of emotion began on March 5th. The letter you're about to hear was written on March 8th, read to the people on March 9th, read to the founder of the farm on March 10th, and read to the volunteer leaders on March 12th.

I'm sharing this because I believe the approach is one example of how the beginning of conflict resolution can occur in way that puts love at the forefront.

The image for today's post was taken moments before the third reading of this letter.

As always, enjoy!

-BB

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

My name is Becca, and this is From the Ashes, Episode 4: Revolution in the Microcosm

Before I get into the meat of today’s episode, I feel like you guys need some context.

When I left the US, I was leaving behind an entire lifetime of teaching. I’d been teaching for about 12 years, and I realized I was done. In trying to figure out what to do next, I was dead set on environmental sustainability. It was really heavy in my thoughts.

Now. Here’s the thing. I had been in the US education system … my entire life basically … in various forms. Both as a student and as a teacher. I had taught at community college, at high school levels, basically all over the education system.

And I fundamentally feel that the US education system is fucking broken beyond repair. So, I knew that this chapter wasn’t going to start by opting back into a system that I thought was fucking broken.

Which basically means that I wasn’t going to do this through grad school.

FUCK THAT.

I had done grad school once, I wasn’t going to do it again.

So, I got a little creative and I was like, “Without grad school, how am I going to start this new life?”

I was like, “I’m going to volunteer somewhere. I’m going to get practical experience. I’m gonna give away my time. I’m gonna start there, and I’m gonna figure out where to go from volunteering.”

So, over the course of my research, I found a farm that had an ideology that really spoke to me.

It was about Human Reintegration with nature.

The idea was that you find healing, you find human thriving and wellness by returning to some of the conditions under which humans evolved. Things like: Living in nature. Eating from the land. Working in communities based on egalatarianism, stuff like that.

Now of course, there’s always the marketing, and then there’s the reality.

When I arrived, some of what was promised was totally, totally there … but eating off the land wasn’t quite ready to go yet. The gardens weren’t up and running, and we definitely were not eating off the land.

And practically, what that meant for us was that the founder of the farm actually had to drive into town 2 – 3 times per week to actually buy food to keep the 40 – 60 volunteers that were there … eating.

Now of course … in order to buy food, you need money. So, two long term volunteers actually created a center dedicated to inner healing that people paid for. Their was a capitalist element to this farm.

While I will say that I totally understand the intention of why this was introduced and why these volunteers created this center, the capitalist element at this farm created class division on a microcosmic level.

Over the course of my time at this farm, it became more and more apparent that those of us who were not directly involved with this healing center, were on the oppressed side of this class division.

Tensions just mounted and mounted and got worse and worse and worse. And the founder of the farm recognized this and opened up the space and asked us to talk about how we were feeling and what was going on for us.

After to listening to how we were feeling and what was going on, he asked us to come up with solutions.

It had already come up that I have years of facilitation experience, so I stepped up to the plate to be like, “Okay, I will facilitate the process that helps us to come up with these solutions.”

Over the course of this process, it became really apparent that the first thing we needed to do was really just address the emotions, address what was going wrong, address how we were feeling.

And do it in a way that was honest. And raw.

Through facilitation, I basically helped the community to voice the collective emotion ... the collective experience of what it felt like to be on the oppressed side of this class division.

So I’m going to go ahead and read you this letter.

And after reading the letter, I’ll talk a little bit more about what the reaction was after the readings.

Without further ado, here we go.

This is a letter I entitled, “A letter of reconciliation.”

We want to begin this letter by thanking you for the work you put into the retreat center, and the intention behind the retreat center’s creation. Healing is one of the many great powers of this farm, and we respect your desires to put energy and passion behind spreading this healing.

We recognize the immense weight that is on your shoulders, and the frustration you must experience when it appears that volunteers either do not understand – or do not care – about what you’re trying to accomplish.

The purpose of our writing to you is healing this community, and the following is how we arrived at this moment:

After a conversation where we tried to come up with concrete, practical solutions to improve our community, it became clear that we cannot yet move into a state of constructive creation. There is a deep hurt that needs to be healed that is directly related to your leadership of the retreat center. There is an emotional and philosophical roadblock that we cannot move past. Our community is injured, and we need to intentionally heal our wounds.

As one of our community member’s knee can tell you, moving forward and continuing to work without healing simply prolongs the pain of injury indefinitely. As a community, we’d like to learn from this knee pain, take the time to stop, and work on what we can do to rest, recover, and recuperate. To only move forward when we are well and truly ready to do so.

We believe the best place to begin this healing is to share with you our our collective vision for the vast potential this farm has to be a harmonious, productive, and an example of what the world could be.

Based on what we know of you, we think that in this vision, you will find much crossover and commonality with the vision you have for the retreat center. We know that our vision may not exactly mirror yours, but we truly feel that our missions are linked – that what we want and that what you want are not so different.

We discussed, as a group, what the farm would look like if, 5 years from now, the current divide was overcome, and the farm began to thrive beyond all imagination. If it was the the farm we all wished it were right now.

Here is our collective vision:

The farm has become the envisioned Utopia.

The farm has become a worldwide example of an integrated, mutually supportive environment where people of all backgrounds can come and share their experience with others without being judged by others. Guests, administrators, the founders, and volunteers work, live, learn, and play side-by-side on the property. People from all walks of life create the kind of unifying connections that can only be cultivated with time, interest, and close contact. Regardless of the “why” for someone’s stay or the amount of money in their pocket, The farm is a place where anyone can come to feel a sense of personal value because they learn the value of giving and taking in equal measure.

Because of a large push to use our volunteer resources to plant gardens, create the necessary infrastructure for productive livestock, and organizing year-long systems for harvesting, we are eating fully from the land. Permaculture has moved to the center of our priorities. As a result each day, every person on the farm wakes with joy and purpose because there is a collective goal that everyone understands their part in. We are dedicated to working constructively in the local community, learning as much from them as they learn from us.

The basic human needs of the volunteers is something that we no longer have to talk about because there is now an ideal living situation (like working plumbing, electricity, enough beds and blankets for all, and adequate nutrition to sustain all forms of work). When it comes to all the necessary tasks that comprise our days, there is a set of priorities and key people in the community that ensure everything flows smoothly, operates seamlessly, and is communicated transparently. When there is conflict, it is resolved in a way that is mature, rational, and without reactive punitivity.

Through these means, volunteers, guests, and long-term community members find healing – sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. By working collaboratively with others, by spending time in nature, by cooperating with local communities, by attending workshops and by finding that unique inner light – the inner healing that is the goal of the retreat center becomes accessible to everyone. Through this inner healing, we create the circumstances that enable us to heal the outer world in which we all live.

There is incredible alignment amongst the volunteers on this vision, and yet we feel that with the structures in place as they are, this beautiful future is not possible. And so we are writing this letter to express how we’ve been feeling. Without this transparent expression, no healing can occur and neither your vision, nor ours, will ever come to fruition.

There is anger, frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment in this section of our letter. We own that these emotions are ours, and in this ownership are sharing them so that something can be done. We no longer wish to hold them. We recognize that holding them has been destructive for our community. We apologize that we did not have the courage to express our collective emotions much, much earlier.

Although we understand is not your intention, the impact of the actions and sentiments of the past several weeks has made it so that in our hearts and minds, the retreat center has become the farm’s metaphor for the elitism, separatism, and economic segregation that has created the conditions for today’s crumbling earth and increasing human division. The retreat center has become the ironic antithesis of permaculture – and permaculture is the system we believe will heal the world. And the retreat center is an expensive antithesis that now requires more than 500 human hours per week to cultivate and maintain. While we understand that retreat center is here to feed us, we can’t help but wonder how much food we could grow if 500 hours per week were spent planting, harvesting, and maintaining gardens and livestock.

We also feel that if we do not fit into the narrow ideal that you have created for the proper ‘energy’ at retreat center, then we are not wanted nor welcome. Although you may be disconnected from it, there is a great deal of healing that happens quite naturally at the farm. And the healing that happens at the barn is the capacity to live one’s true self, vibrantly, and out loud for all to see – some of us for the first time in our lives. Once found, we find it disheartening to be told to hold it back because there is someone with a dollar bill in their pocket who finds it distasteful, or a volunteer who sees enlightened self-discovery as only a silent, serious process. We find ourselves feeling alienated and awkward and uncomfortable when we are told this self-discovery does not fit and is not welcome.

We also see that we are expected to cook and clean for the volunteers who live at the retreat center, when many of those people do not engage in these activities themselves. If we are truly a community of equals, then all of us, regardless of volunteer status should contribute to cooking and cleaning the spaces in which we live. This exemption from contribution from the community and the division it creates, in conjunction with the aforestated sentiment that we should not be our true selves when at retreat center makes us feel like chattle. It is not empowering for us, and it is why so few of us look forward to taking on work at the retreat center.

In addition, we feel that there is a great deal of assumption of ‘how farm people are’ without actual knowledge. The few in the community who take advantage of this place and take more then they give are not representative of the majority of us – many of us work far more than the 5 hours expected of us. Most of us help others even when it isn’t required of us. So many of us do projects in our free time that contribute to keeping this community going. It is unfair to judge all of us based on the irresponsible actions of the few, but we do feel that we are judged this way.

As mentioned, we are angry. We are sad. We are disappointed. Disillusioned. Feeling misunderstood, misrepresented. Scared. Jaded. And we are writing to you directly because some of this comes directly from our interactions with you, or the interactions that happen within the culture you are creating at the retreat center. This is the barest, most transparent truth we can offer, and we know that it won’t feel good. We need you to hear us anyway.

We are unsure where to go from here other than to hope you will take our words seriously. That you will hear us, and that you will consider the chasm between your intentions and your impact.

We also believe that you want a great deal of we want, and so we don’t want this to be the end of the conversation. We need to hear you understand us, and then we need to hear how you’re feeling. We need to hear what you think of our dreams and our pain. We have a need for you to work together with us to heal this, because we want the farm to become the Utopia we all imagine, not just the Utopia imagined by a few.

We are sorry we let this build to the point of breaking. We are sorry that we didn’t express this before the community broke. We are sorry that we allowed anger and fear to get red and swollen and debilitating, instead of treating it right when the wound started to open.

Thank you for listening with an open heart. Thank you for hearing us.

We look forward to healing this, with you, together.

-The People

I read this letter three times. Once to the people, once to the founder of the farm, and once to the volunteers who were the main engine behind the retreat center.

It was amazing to watch how this letter moved through our community.

It wasn’t necessarily easy for the people to hear this, but the reaction was with openness and love.

It was extraordinary.

I mean … the people … it was easy. Because this was their words and they agreed.

The founder was really touched. It was really difficult for him, but you could tell that he was really impacted, and that it really meant something to him.

And the volunteer leaders, when they heard it, they took the message with an extraordinarily unexpected grace. I was blown away by them and how they were able to really hear this with an immense amount of love.

At the third reading, those addressed were given a chance to speak, and overarchingly they did what leaders were supposed to do.

There were no promises to fix it, and there was no pandering, but at the same time, I did feel that the letter had been heard. That the impact we needed to have by writing this was made.

The air was cleared. Everything ended with a group hug. It was beautiful!

There were also may individual hugs after this and something that is really personal to me is that the founder of the farm called me a panther. And he made sure that I knew that the healing wouldn’t have been possible without me. And I’m not sure how to take this, I’m not sure why I’m sharing it, but I just feel it’s really important and I want him to know – if he ends up ever listening to this – that I’m grateful for his words. And maybe someday, the full impact of those words will make sense to me.

As is the case with the community built I was volunteering with … there is no end to this story.

I left the farm 1 week following the reading of this letter. At the time of this recording have no idea what has transpired at the farm since I read it.

That being said, the experience of being a part of this gives me a deep sense of hope. A very deep sense of hope.

I just feel like through mutual respect, a drive to understand one another, and with commitment to working together, and working towards unity ... we can heal some of the real life chasms that are out there.

I just feel like if we put love at the forefront; maybe, just maybe, we will heal this fucking earth.

 

And you made it! Thanks so much for listening all the way to the end of Episode 4 of From the Ashes.

As always, I’d fucking love it if you could subscribe to this podcast or send this podcast to a friend you think would fucking love it!

I also want to let you know that at the time of this recording, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling, and there will be stories from outside the farm coming at you at some unpredictable time in the future.

With that being said, wifi is not always easy to come by on the road. So! I promise I will NEVER have a regular update schedule. You’ll just have to subscribe to the rss feed so that you get updates when they come about.

Thanks again for listening! I fucking love all of you!

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From the Ashes, Episode 3: I am NOT a Poet.

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From the Ashes, Episode 3: I am NOT a Poet.

Episode Description: Becca reads the first poem she ever wrote as an adult. It encapsulates all the most important lessons she learned over the course of her 12 year teaching career.

Hola!

Today's episode is very short, and very sweet.

I wrote this poem on March 9th, 2017, and read it to an audience on March 10th. I read it in the common room of the barn you see in the photo for this post. 

It touched some folks and I thought it may also touch you. (In that good consensual way!)

Enjoy!

I fucking love you!

-BB

Podcast Transcript

My name is Becca, and this is From the Ashes, Episode 3: I am NOT a poet.

In today’s episode, I’m going to share my very first poem I wrote as adult. Probably my very last poem (with the exception of Haikus. I fucking love haikus.)

At the farm I volunteered at for two months in Southern Chile, there was a tradition where one person would read a poem to the entire group every morning during a ritual called “Morning Circle”

When I arrived, the expectation was clearly explained to me that each and every individual would, at some point, read a poem. The poem could be one that you wrote yourself, or it could just be a poem that you really liked.

I am not a poetry person. I don’t read poetry. I don’t write poetry. (Again, with the exception of Haikus)

But I am definitely a person that respects and lives up to traditions. So, I signed up to read poetry in the morning circle that I thought would be my last one.

I have done like 10,000 presentations, performed in front of stadiums of 70,000 people, and I taught people about fucking for like 12 years.

I think this was the most nervous I’ve ever been speaking in front a group.

I was definitely way outside of my comfort zone, and I remember my voice was shaking as I began to read it, and my eyes were just fixed on my computer screen because I was afraid to look up and see people’s reactions.

As I went through and I read I got a little bit looser, and when I looked up, I got a pretty good response from it. The feedback I got was pretty positive, and a few people even thanked me for how much it had touched them.

So, I thought I’d share this “poem” with you all as well.

So, here it is, the first and last poem I will probably ever write as an adult.

 

I am not a poet.

I am not a poet, but I do know this.

The ratio of happy interactions to unhappy interactions in any relationship is 3:1. If for every 1 shitty interaction, you have 3 or more that bring you joy, that’s a sign of something healthy and positive.

I am definitely not a poet, but I do know this.

The more the groups of which we are a part thrive, the more likely it is that each individual within the group can thrive. Therefore, making the thriving of the group your goal is actually making your own thriving a central goal.

I am not even close to being a poet, but I do know this.

Serving others creates a sense of happiness that lasts longer than any other material possession. The value of something material depreciates immediately upon purchase. Service to others, on the other hand, is an experience that you can draw upon for happiness for an entire lifetime.

I can’t imagine being a poet, but I do know this.

You become the 5 people closest to you. Choose those who wish to bask in your innate, unique, inner light. If anyone close to you wishes to control your light for selfish purposes - cut them out of your life immediately. They’re not worthy of you.

I straight up am not a poet, but I do know this.

Leaders go first. If you are unwilling to be the example in regard to what you expect in the actions of others, you are not a leader. People will not follow you.

I don’t have the skills to be a poet, but I do know this.

A meaningful life is not always happy. Purpose can be painful, but purpose also enables you to be strong and resilient in the face of that pain.

I tried to be poet and totally failed, but I do know this.

Gossip isn’t inherently bad. In fact, true gossip is the sophisticated mechanism by which humans have evolved to limit someone’s influence. If you are being gossiped about, it means you have done something that the community considers to be antithetical to the greater good.

I lack the imagination to be a poet, but I do know this.

Power is not taken by the powerful, but rather given freely as a gift to those who work toward the greater good. Power, however, is fickle. Once bestowed, humans feel the rush of power and can fall into the trap of using it selfishly and impulsively. If you use the power you’ve been given for selfish means, the gift will be revoked.

I can’t even poetry right now, but I do know this.

There is an emotion that is the opposite of jealousy. It’s called Compersion. Instead of experiencing envy at someone else’s joy or accomplishment, you experience joy for their joy. Compersion. Joy for another’s joy. Try it sometime.

Poetry is obviously not my thing, but I do know this.

Love is not enduring, it is something that needs to be constantly maintained. In fact, love is a fleeting chemical response that only lasts for moments to minutes. In these moments, your nuerochemistry connects with another human, you begin to mimic their body language, and you feel as if you are one with them. In order to sustain long term love you must repeat these moments over and over and over again, in person, until you form a bond that lives in your emotional memory.

I don’t understand how to write poetry, but I do know this.

One of the great ironies of learning is that our best learning happens in moments of discomfort AND in order to learn there must be some measure of safety and security. This simply means that if you ever hope to succeed in teaching another, you must work to get them to love you and those they are around first. It is only through love that they will allow you to push them into the discomfort necessary for learning.

I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not a poet. However, I do know this:

Falling in love is equivalent to being on opiates. The drug rush of love only lasts anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. After that, the experience of love moves to a different part of your brain. It’s why nothing feels quite as good as the beginning of a romantic relationship.

I am not a fucking poet y’all, but I do know this:

Attention is the most valuable capital of the individual. You are what you pay attention to. What do you spend your attention on?

The truth is, I didn’t try to be a poet, but I do know this:

If a teacher tells you your dream is impossible, find a new teacher. If a friend tells you that you are not perfect just the way you are, find a new friend. If a lover tells you that no one else but them will love you, find a new lover. If a job tells you that you are not good enough to work there, find a new job. If the path that you’re on feels like you are following in the footsteps of millions of people who you don’t want to become, find a new path.

 

If you’ve made it to the end, you get some bonus information!

All of what I just read, minus the exception of the very last stanza, is based on research. I didn’t make any of this up, it’s all just things I’ve learned over the course of my career before my time at the farm.

I think when I wrote this, I was looking for a way to encapsulate everything that I had known from before. I wanted to capture all the most important stuff in a way that was short, concise, and would help me to remember.

Even though I was really nervous when I initially read this, I’m so glad I was able to touch a few people with my words. I hope there a few more of you out there that find some hope or some healing in what I wrote.

So that’s it for Episode 3 of From the Ashes.

If you enjoyed the poem, subscribe, send it along to someone else, or just listen to it again!

Also! If you’re listening on iTunes, you should know that full transcripts of the podcasts and some added commentary are often available on my blog at SmartHotFun.Com. That’s s-m-a-r-t-h-o-t-f-u-n.com.

Thanks again for listening. I fucking love all of you.

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From the Ashes, Episode 2: To Hell And Back

1 Comment

From the Ashes, Episode 2: To Hell And Back

Hello Hello!

Have you ever wanted to know what ayahuasca is like? True story, you'll never know until you try it. And you shouldn't try it until you're ready to confront some serious emotions.

This is my story of my second ayahuasca ceremony. This experience happened on March 15th at 8pm, and the story was written the next morning.

If you missed my first ayahuasca story, check it out!

I fucking love all of you!

-BB

Podcast Transcript

Hey Everyone!

This is From the Ashes, Episode 2: To Hell and Back

My name is Becca and today I will be reading an experience that I had taking Ayahuasca with a group of 10 people at a farm in southern Chile. I wrote this the day after my second Ayahuasca ceremony, and the story you’re about to hear is completely true.

Before I begin, I have two really important disclaimers. And. Just so that you know, these disclaimers are exactly the same as those in episode 1.

Here we go anyway.

Disclaimer #1: Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug.

In this episode, I discuss the very real effects of ayahuasca – an ancient plant-based medicine from Peru. I cannot stress to you enough that ayahuasca is not a recreational drug. It’s not something that you do if you’re looking for a fun high. I can tell you from experience that this particular medicine should definitely be done with an experienced shaman, and only when you’re really ready to confront serious emotions in your life.

Disclaimer #2:

I did Ayahuasca in a group of 10, and the actions of other people are described in this episode. What you’re hearing is not an objective judgment of these people, but rather how my brain interpreted the actions of these people while I was on ayahuasca. My sober judgment and my ayahuasca judgment of these folks are not the same, and nor should yours be.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s go ahead and get started.

 

From the Ashes, Episode 2: To Hell and Back

The first night I took Ayahuasca, the Shaman warned us that even if you’ve taken ayahuasca once, you can never predict the outcome. Ayahuasca is always a surprise.

In preparation for my second ayahuasca ceremony, I have to be honest in saying that I didn’t take those words to heart. In preparation for day 2, I basically did the same thing as before, just bigger. I wrote in the morning to completely clear myself of the previous ayahuasca experience, I fasted, and I harvested blackberries and sang at the top of my lungs. Although this time, I harvested for the whole community, not just myself. I thought of it as an offering to Abuelita, and as penance for harvesting only for me the experience before.

As per setting an intention, I came dressed for battle. I was wearing what the brother of my heart called my nature warrior outfit. A pair of camouflage pants gifted to me by my predecessor of scheduling, my gray base layer with hood and thumb holes, a green wool jumper I bought at a local farmer’s market, and two socks that say, “Be Fearless.” Because there was no more I could conjure in terms of need for healing, I opened myself to the possibility that I would unlock what needed to be done to heal the earth.

Fuck was I wrong. Tonight would not be about beauty or joy. Tonight, I would go to hell.

I could tell something was different about the energy this night. My spot from the previous night had been taken before I got there, and so I moved one spot to the left – right next to the fire. For the previous session, the fire had been inside a rocket stove, but I remember wanting it to be outside. So the day before, I hauled wood for 90 minutes and then set up stones so that the fire would be visible. I was so happy that I was going to be next to my hard work during the ceremony. I thought it was a good omen.

It wasn’t. This spot would become the inferno that lit the backdrop of hell.

I also knew the energy was strange because of the Shaman. The Shaman was tired, he was yawning, and he told us he had to wake up early for a presentation. His preamble was short and to the point and it didn’t feel as sacred as the experience before. After taking the Ayahuasca, he vomited what felt like right after taking the dose. He was silent for the entire beginning of the ceremony, minus the sound of emptying his guts into a pail.

As I lay on my back, waiting for the large dose he had given me to kick in, I remember the visual changes starting to occur. At first, it was just visual and body, and I thought to myself, “You know, I did a fucking lot of healing last time, maybe today I just get to feel high and get to enjoy the ride.”

Never underestimate Abuelita. She will punish you for your hubris.

I watched the reflection of the firelight on the roof, felt the heat of the fire, and all of a sudden everything went dark. The roof looked haunting and dead. I remember vividly understanding that there were dark spirits with us this night.

And that’s when it began. As the light from the fire was replenishing itself, atonal keening filled the air. Not beautiful. Not melodic. But screeching, high pitched, painful.

I breathed.

And then the false prophet began to speak. Babbles of psuedo-spiritual garbage washing over my ears, accompanied by the screeching melody of the wailer. It was the worst song I had ever heard.

I breathed.

And I prayed for them to stop. Hoped that it would end quickly and that they would retreat back into themselves so that I could enjoy the high in peace.

I breathed.

It didn’t stop. High pitch wailing. Psuedo-spirtual trash. High pitched wailing. Pseudo-spiritual trash.

I turned on my side toward the fire, my vision hazy, seemingly looking through a cloud shaped like a sleeping fox and I whispered softly to myself, “I am in hell.”

I cowered in my sleeping bag, eyes wide open, and it felt like the world was closing in on me. I distinctly remember thinking of the movie “What dreams may come.” I was caught in that hellscape, trapped in my own personal hell. Wondering if I could endure the wailing and the spiritual ephemera long enough to keep from descending forever into the pits of this madness.

The Wailer kept wailing. The False Prophet kept regurgitating. People were literally vomiting. I was in hell.

And then, as I felt the madness almost take hold forever, my sweet boy appeared. In his green jumper and his shorts. He said no words. He just flashed his radiant smile that always extends all the way to his eyes. He held his hand out to me, and I followed. He saved me from hell, and I was able to let go.

I died.

While the wailing continued, the word vomit of pseudo-spiritualism continued, it all became far away. I lay there on my side, and felt my body slowly become one with the earth.

I could feel myself decomposing into the ground, the earth covering me, the cycles of life continuing, and I was just still. While the world continued around me. I no longer mattered. I was gone.

And then. I came back, and I was no longer on my own journey, but connected to the healing of others.

I wasn’t with me. I was with them.

My favorite was the Force.

The force is what woke me from my death and brought me back to the land of the living. She was powerful, she was radiant, she was unapologetic, and she was wearing my shirt. She knew how to fucking heal the earth, she knew how to fucking heal herself, she knew her name. She would not be silenced, she would not be cowed, and I was with her in all her radiant fucking power.

Behind me, was the Commentator. He vacillated between disbelief of the grandmother, and being with the Force. She would shout her battle cry of righteous indignation, and the Commentator would back her up for a moment before asking himself what the fuck we were on. I fucking loved the Commentator. He made me laugh all night. I must have shouted my love for him 20 times throughout the night because it was true.

Then there was the soul singer. Deep, resonant cries. Something primal. I listened to her song, and sent love to her. I didn’t get her name right when I whispered my Te Amos, but I loved her deeply for her song. For a time, I joined her, but the pitch of her voice was too high for me match. As the force shouted over the din, the soul singer inspired me to add a low, calm hum to the bottom. At least for a time.

The Force continued, the same cycles of resistance. The same words of healing over and over again, she knew her voice! This refrain had been happening for a time and from the forest came the voice of the silent one. “And your voice is fucking monotonous!” I loved the force and I didn’t want to her stop, but I loved the silent one in that moment, and I shouted to him, “I fucking love you, man!” I did. I loved them both.

The force continued to cry out her power, and there were those in the crowd who tried to get her to come to peace. To eschew her violence. She stood strong and it was at this point that I sat up and looked around. Because of my death, my eyes were both lucid and high as fuck all at the same time.

The Force was being held, being tended to, and she looked to me and said, “Don’t Hide Becca!”

I responded by saying, ‘I’m not hiding, I’m basking in your power!!” She went back to her endless cycles of telling the world how powerful she was, and they kept trying to get her to come to peace and I couldn’t stand them. “Let her be angry!!” I shouted. And I meant it. There is healing in Anger just as there is in non-violence. They are equals, and I was angry at those who would wish to silence her. To calm her. She had a right to her anger, and the voice of men trying to silence her was something I could not stand by silently. “Let her be angry!” I said.

At this point I was in a strange dual state. In the hands of Abuelita, inside myself, but also connected deeply to the Force, and to the Commentator. I rode the waves of their journey, laughing with them, loving them, hoping for their healing, and hoping for their liberation.

At some point, the False Prophet told me that he loved me. I told him to shut the fuck up because I didn’t know him. Inside, deep down, it was because I knew the False Prophet didn’t yet really know himself. How could I love someone who didn’t know themselves? Despite him being the soundtrack to my personal hell earlier, and despite telling him to shut the fuck up, I even loved the False Prophet that night. I knew that he hadn’t really found himself, and covered that with a large mask. We are all healing. We all deserve love.

As I started to come down, the Shaman gifted me with a blessing. The False Prophet sang along, challenging me to block him out so I could bask in the Shaman’s gift. The Shaman sang to me, blew tobacco smoke on my head, hands, and chest, and sent me on my way. He would later put the last of the wood I had collected onto the fire, and I knew that my journey with Ayahuasca would end when this fire burned out.

I had died and been reborn, it was time to start living again.

 

All right, you made it!

Thanks so much for making it all the way to the end of Episode 2 of From the Ashes.

If you really enjoyed the story, it would be such a gift if you could subscribe to From the Ashes on iTunes. If you’re already a subscriber, it would be amazing if you could pass this story forward to somebody who you think would enjoy it.

The whole point of me doing this isn’t just to tell my story, but to connect to others who have stories of what it’s like to leave their lives behind and transition into something new.

Thanks again for listening, I fucking LOVE all of you.

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From the Ashes, Episode 1: Ayahuasca's 4 Stages of Deep Healing

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From the Ashes, Episode 1: Ayahuasca's 4 Stages of Deep Healing

Hello!

After a long hiatus, SmartHotFun is back, and this time, with a podcast!!

The following story is about my first experience with Ayahuasca - an ancient Peruvian plant-based medicine.

My podcast is going to be non-chronological, but I will do my best to post the dates of when shit happened here at SmartHotFun.

This particular experience happened starting at 8pm on March 13th, and the story you're hearing was written the next morning.

I've never had an experience that equals this in any measure. Thanks for listening.

I fucking love you all.

-BB

Props Where Props Are Due:

Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.Com 

His tutorial on starting a podcast made my podcast possible. All his tutorials are on-point, and he's a shining example of what good business looks like. Check him out.

Music Credits: http://www.bensound.com

 

On Location Shot: Today's podcast is brought to you by this sick view in Valparaiso, Chile.

Podcast Transcript:

Ayoascah, Part 1

My name is Becca, and you’ve found, “From the Ashes”

From the Ashes is a non-chronological, mostly autobiographical podcast series chronicling what it’s like to leave friends, family, and a 12-year career behind. There will be tales of travel, tales of common humanity. Tales of joy. Tales of struggle. And I absolutely guarantee that there will be some sex stories along the way.

I can’t wait to share all my experiences with you, and I want to thank you for your interest and attention.

Hello everyone! This is From the Ashes, Episode 1: Ayahuasca’s Four Stages of Deep Healing

My name is Becca and today I’m coming at your from a rooftop in Valparaiso, Chile.

My name is Becca and today I will be reading the experience I had taking Ayoascah with a group of 10 people at a farm in southern Chile. I wrote this the day after I took Ayoascah, and the story you’re about to hear is completely true.

With that being said, I have two really important disclaimers.

Disclaimer #1: Ayahuasca is not a recreational drug, and should not be treated that way.

Ayahuasca is an Ancient plant-based medicine from Peru. I cannot stress enough that Ayoascah is not a recreational drug. It’s something that you do if you’re looking for a fun high. I can tell you from experience that this particular medicine should definitely be done with an experienced shaman, and only when you’re ready to confront very serious emotions in your life.

Disclaimer #2: My perceptions are not true to life.

I did ayahuasca in a group of 10 people, and the actions of some other people are described in this episode. What you’re hearing is not an objective judgment of these people, but rather how my brain interpreted the actions of these people while on ayahuasca. My sober judgment and my ayahuasca judgment of these folks are not the same, and yours shouldn’t be either.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s go ahead and get started.

From the Ashes Episode 1: Ayahuasca’s 4 stages of deep healing.

“If one hour into this, you aren’t experiencing anything, you can come for a second dose. If you are already dizzy or lightheaded, don’t take a second dose.”

I had been fasting all day in preparation for the experience of going toe to toe with the “death vine.” Supposedly, I should’ve cut out all sugar, salt, sex, alcohol, drugs, meat, caffeine, onions, garlic, spices, and a whole list of other shit out of my diet in preparation for this. They said the vomiting and diarrhea could be pretty intense if you didn’t. Despite the warning, my willpower to cut everything but caffeine and alcohol out of my life waned after about 2 days.

In the days leading up the ayahuasca ceremony, I ate delicious apple bread and a sugar-coated apple dessert baked by a charming, intelligent, and always slightly offensive polish boy who discovered the joy of cooking by my side. I watched a lamb slaughtered, peeled back part of it’s skin with my own hands, and honored the sacrifice of it’s life by enjoying the rotisserie-roasted, crispy, salty meat cooked by friends dearest to my heart. I made a lamb stock soup from the bones with onions and salt and spices that I devoured with delight. I ate a weed brownie. I partied with friends soon to be departing. I danced wildly by a fire. And, I made love to a tender, wonderful, surprising French boy.

I did all this despite the fact that I was told ayahuasca was not drug to take lightly. So, in penance for my inability to abstain for a week, I did all my abstinence in one day (minus 3 blackberries). In engaged in a 24 hour fast to appease the grandmother. (“The grandmother” by the way, is the colloquial name used by the Shaman to describe ayahuasca).

In the hours leading up to the ceremony, in the field where almost 2 months previously I had begun the journey of letting go of my past, I sang the songs my heart needed to sing at the very top of my lungs. I soaked in the sun, I moved, I tangled with blackberry vines, and I filled an entire coffee can with sweet, ripe fruit. Before moving to the sacred site where I would meet the Grandmother, I knew I had used my last hours wisely. If I were to die to tonight, I would’ve died connected the earth, singing my final refrains for the universe to hear.

“The medicine will heal you. Some will cry. Some will laugh. Some will join me in song. This is their journey, worry not for them, they are healing.”

One hour after taking the first dose of ayahuasca, the dose was still a bitter tang in my mouth, and there was light burning in my esophagus, but there was nothing. No effect. Just physical sleepiness from a day spent moving without eating, and an emotional exhaustion from saying goodbye to all the friends who had become family in my heart.

So I stood up and took the second dose, surrendering to the possibility that the grandmother wasn’t meant to visit me this night. That I would swallow the bitter concoction once again, lay back down, and simply drift off to to sleep.

Just as I was accepting that this drug would not work, I was staring at a reflection of the fire in the plastic sheeting that covered the quincho under which I was laying, flat on my back. The shaman was singing, and his voice became a dark melody to accompany the dance of flames in the reflection. I had a distinct moment where I was like, “Fuck. I’m about to trip balls with this crazy fire caterpillar right now.”

Never take the grandmother lightly. At any point, she will bring you into your deepest self.

As the fire caterpillar danced and I was rationally contemplating what the fuck this drug was doing to my consciousness and how it worked, I began to think of my plans to become a traveler.

The face of my brother, my flesh and blood brother, flashed on the roof of the quincho, just above the caterpillar of fire. As I saw the face of my brother, I felt his two sons in my heart and saw them in my minds eye. That is when I covered my head with my sleeping bag, curled up on my side, and began to weep.

These boys. My best friend. My three fiercest loves. In making my choice, I knew I would have to let them all go. Let them live without my light. Let them go on, knowing I won’t be there for them, to love them.

In that moment, I felt the depths of heartbreak. Of despair. Of loss. Of sorrow. In choosing me, I cannot choose them. I cannot take them with me. I have to let them go. The pain was unbearable and all I could do in the face of it was sob, uncontrollably.

I cried and cried and cried until I could no longer breathe out of my nose. I wanted to be able to breathe, I needed to be able to breathe. So I sat up. I grabbed some tissue. Blew my nose. Rolled onto my stomach, and then I heard a voice from the woods echoing the song of the Shaman. Thinking of the owner of that voice, wrapped in a sleeping bag that to me made him look like a spaceman, made me laugh and it broke me out of my sorrow. It enabled me to sit up, clear my sinuses, and then roll over on my back.

“Medicina. Medicina. Medicina. Medicina.”

Having survived that wave of emotion, I checked in with my body. It was at this point that I told the grandmother that we were equals in strength, she and I. There would be no vomiting, there would be no diarrhea. I had fasted for her, and she would not take any more from me in trade. There was a peacefulness for a time. Just watching the lights dance in my vision, listening to the Shaman chant.

That is when the second part of my journey began. The reflection of the fire on the roof of the quincho began to dance wildly, frantically, and with a frenetic energy. My breath began to quicken, and in me a deep, intense, throbbing desire, overtook all my consciousness. I wanted to fuck, but not in a trivial or flippant way. I felt as though this was a desire that was deeper, more primal, more essential – a desire at the depth of my very soul.

I could think of only one person, and as I held this person in my thoughts, there was a golden brilliance, visual tracks, and sparkles that rose and intensified. As the Shaman’s song crescendoed, the light grew brighter and filled me completely. I knew that what I felt for this person was true, and pure, and right.

Love.

A love that I’ve never experienced before, and may never experience again, but it was such joy to know that that love was possible within me.

As the Shaman’s voice decrescendoed, so too did the desire. So too did the joy.

“Be yourself. Practice what you preach. Let your inner light shine. Practice what you preach. Be yourself. Gracias! Gracias!”

In what had been pure silence or silence broken only by the refrains of the Shaman, the others began to awake. To expel their demons. To heal. And they were fucking loud and annoying in that moment. Whereas the singing had helped me to move beyond my pain, I couldn’t stand to hear these other people.

How selfish of them to be so loud. How self-centered to vocalize so uncontrollably knowing that others are on a journey of healing. I lay for a time, seething. Angry at their lack of self-control. Upset that I couldn’t focus on my inner journey.

Which is when I realized I didn’t have to stay where I was. So, wobbily, I stood up, I grabbed my sleeping bag, I grabbed my bag full of fruit, I strapped on my head lamp and I set an intention to go back to my tent to finish this trip. I was not bound to this circle, and I started to march toward the fringes.

“Becca. You must stay near the Shaman.”

I didn’t want to. I couldn’t listen to them anymore. But I sat right where I was stopped. Headlamp illuminating a grandfather tree, and I was pissed. As I sat, the cries of the others quieted for a time. And I was alone.

So deeply alone. The depths of a lifetime of feeling alone. Feeling that because of how I am in this world that I never quite fit. That I am always on the margins. Did I create this for myself? Or is it my destiny to never be fully integrated? Is this the necessary pain to prepare me for who I am to become?

I wept for myself. For the knowledge that I will always be just a little bit separate. The weeping intensified and I asked the grandmother how she bears it. As a grandmother, she knows my loneliness. Cherished, respected, needed for healing, but nearly peerless.

“It is not hubris grandmother because we have established that you and I are equals this night. I need to know how you bear it alone.”

There was no answer from the grandmother. I wept for the weight I know I will someday bear on my own. Even though I don’t know yet for what I am chosen, I wept knowing that when it comes, there will be cruelty and there will be hardship.

Why have I been chosen for this? How was I supposed to bear this burden alone? I am just a person.

But all of a sudden, I wasn’t alone. A hand on my shoulder. The hand of a near stranger, reminding me that I am never alone. His strength allowed me to be vulnerable. His hand on my back carrying me for a time so I could let go of my strength. I descended into full body, drooling, snot pouring out of my nose, tears streaming from my eyes, sobbing. Tears for a future of pain. Tears for a lifetime of weight on my shoulders. Tears for the impending end of childhood.

I asked the grandfather tree how he withstood it, and I remembered that he was just a fucking tree. It was easy for him. I asked the grandmother again, “How do you bear it?” And again, she was silent. And in her silence, I realized that I will withstand it in the same way I have withstood hardship my whole life. I stopped crying, opened my eyes, and with force I blew all of the snot that was blocking my breathing. I wiped my face on my hands and wiped everything off on my pants.

It is only pain. You beat pain with strength.

I turned to face my stranger, and it was the friend I knew it would be. I hugged him and thanked him in my heart. I threw off my headlamp, I cried on his shoulder, and he reminded me to breathe simply by breathing. I knew he was sent here for me, a bright light in the darkness. A reminder that there are others who will help. As we breathed together, I was almost ready to return to the circle.

And then…

“Practice what you preach. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Be creative.”

The never-ending record of self-affirmations tore me away from the peace of knowing how to withstand a life alone. My annoyance returned. I broke away from the near stranger and turned my back on the circle of people nearby.

How grandmother? How do you withstand this? The selfish children. How?

No answer, so I breathed the breathe given to me by the bright near stranger.

This time, the grandmother answered simply, “With love. You have to learn to love them as they are.”

As the singing rang out, cutting through the woods, I knew the selfish children were here to challenge me. I turned my heart toward love. I knew this ear-splitting refrain came from pain. From hurt. From a deep wound that needed healing. That it was a cry for attention that hadn’t been delivered early in life.

I calmed.

“I’m ready to go back.”

I returned to the circle, feeling peaceful. I watched the children walk around, sit by the fire, smoke tobacco, and eat apples.

It was then that I remembered the blackberries in my bag. It had been my intention to share them, but as I watched the children, I remembered the words of my lover, “Take care of yourself sometimes.”

So as the singer continued to interrupt, and the quiet one silently ate an apple, and the pensive one’s fingers danced in the front of the fire, and the poser … posed, I ate blackberries.

And I listened as the healer sitting next to me wept. I wanted to hold her. To give her the strength that had been gifted to me by the near stranger. I wanted to offer her blackberries to ease her pain. But somehow, I knew that she needed to cry this one out.

For a time, I knelt over her, placing a hand on her leg. Long enough for her to calm for a moment, long enough so that she knew she wasn’t alone, but not so long that I would co-opt her healing. I took my hand away and she resumed her crying. I contemplated how even healers need time for deep healing.

I ate blackberries until I couldn’t anymore. Until what was left in the bottom of the coffee can was a squishy mess that was difficult to handle. The singer sang one last refrain of “Practice what you preach,” and this time I laughed.

At the absurdity of that being her refrain. At the fact that she was still high. Out of the understanding that she has healing to do, just like we all did.

I lay down in my sleeping bag, closed my eyes and tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I rolled up my blankets, took the journey to my tent, ate one perfect apple, and finally it was time to pay the price to the grandmother.

I squatted in the woods, squirt out a tiny watery shit, wiped my ass, told the grandmother we were even, and went to sleep.

 

Alright you made it! Thanks so much for listening to my very first episode of From the Ashes!!

Before you go, I have two really important things to say.

The first is that I need to give Pat Flynn an enormous Thank You!

Pat, this podcast exists because of your extremely detailed step-by-step guide on how to start a podcast.

For those of you who don’t know who Pat Flynn is, I’ve used his wisdom and advice about everything having to do with online stuff for years, and I highly recommend checking out his work at smartpassiveincome.com. That’s s-m-a-r-t-p-a-s-s-i-v-e-i-n-c-o-m-e.com

I’d also like to say that if you are interested in seeing how impactful kindness, caring, and full transparency can be on a business, I highly recommend you check out his income reports. I fucking love you Pat!

The second thing I’d like to ask is that you subscribe to this podcast! Next week, I’m going to be taking you through the second part of my ayahuasca experience, and I have to tell you it is a whole different story.

So, you can subscribe how you normally subscribe to podcasts, or you can just check out my blog at smarthotfun.com.

Thanks so much everybody!

I fucking love you all.

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