The Month of September

Below is a post from September 2016. It is 11 years since our car accident, and this September also proves heavy. This entire month I have been dealing with the decline of my dear father. He has been hospitalized and now in a TCU (transitional care unit). It is why I have not been writing as much here, and why I thought I’d reshare this post. The lesson on love, death, change continues to deepen and unfold.

fall

Once, many years ago, while going through a particularly difficult time I got this idea in my head I would die on September 16 (0f that particular year). I was reminded of this today, September 16, on my walk. Suddenly, I smelled something foul. I looked to my right and there was a dead racoon in the grass. Several steps later, once I arrived in the woods near my house, a dead squirrel on the path. The bodies were still fresh. Was this a sign?

I thought: death is all around us. I remembered all the death that has surrounded my family and myself since December. On December 11, just as my kids and I were about to watch A Christmas Story, my dad called. He was not himself. He said, Mary Lou died. Mary Lou was my step-mother. Then, in January my husband’s last grandmother passed away. It snowed in April when Price died alone in his elevator. June took Uncle Mel and then, his wife, my beloved Aunt on September 6.

September 6 is now shared with September 24, my father’s birthday, when my best friend from Kindergarten died in a car accident when she was only 27 years old. Along with September 11 and September 29. On September 29th, 2011 I was driving my white Toyota Matrix on a Los Angeles freeway. My mother and 11-year old daughter were in the backseat, my 19-year old daughter in the front seat with me. We were listening to Enya and playing the alphabet game. Suddenly, a large truck with glaring headlights was in my rear view mirror. Before I could finish my sentence about what I saw, that large truck hit my car. The car flew and flipped through the air several times until it finally landed on its side. I remember wondering, am I going to die?

car

The Toyota Matrix

I have told and written this story many times, and this year, five years later, I notice the story no longer holds the emotions and trauma it once had.  Now, what seems to be unfolding are the lessons and awakenings from that day that changed everything. Death is all around us.

But, what does this mean exactly? And, is it death or just change? Here’s what is becoming clear for me— life. I think I have been so afraid of death and that impending shoe drop (in my case a tow truck that comes out of nowhere) that life has been cumbersome. I noticed this heaviness after I returned from my aunt’s funeral. Prior to her funeral, I sat with her for four days while she went through the process of death, of change. I had never been this close to the death of another human being or for so long.

flo

Me and Aunt Flo

Before I entered her home, I was afraid of what I might see. But, all my fear went away when she opened her eyes and smiled at me (and my dad and daughter). All I felt was love. I knew I loved her, but those four days I felt my love for her. I was able to tell her she mattered. This experience is invaluable to me now.  But there is a physical, mental and emotional price, at least for me, when going through something like this. That price felt heavy. It felt exhausted. It felt sad.

After the car accident, I carried heavy, exhausted and sad for nearly 5 years.

I feel lighter now. Life is becoming more clear, but not because I have figured anything out. But because I’m not taking it all so seriously and maybe because the desire to live life finally outweighs the fear of living life. I am moving, once again, toward curiosity, beauty, wonder and listening. Listening, as I did on my walk today, that I needed to get grounded. This looked like me stopping in the middle of the forest doing tree pose and volcano breath. This means committing to creating a life that will match my desire to stay in harmony with my higher self and nature, and not the day-to-day grind of this current culture.

I also intend to move more toward what my aunt taught me—love. And, believe me, I am a newbie to love. It’s always been inside of me, but it’s the emotion or state of being that I resist the most. At the least, it makes me feel awkward. At the most, it frightens me as if I might be swallowed by it. But, while my aunt was in  hospice I had a new experience with love. As I stroked her hair, held her hand and kissed her forehead as I said goodbye and I love you, love comforted me.

Love is a comfort, not a burden I need to protect myself from. So yes, death, the unexpected, change surrounds us—not to stop us or scare us or burden us, although it can, but to notice it, wonder about it, learn from it and let it guide us to more clarity of life, comfort of love and truth of being.

The Soul Reporter

Crisis

My body knew, for weeks, something was coming. Dreams were foreboding. The Power Path reported- September: Crisis.

I assume what is happening is the crisis. I really don’t want to go into it now. But at some point I will. However, I do want to share some lessons I am learning, not necessarily new ones, but occurring in a deeper and more impactful way.

  1. Crisis points: serve many opportunities for healing and expansion.
  2. Patterns: one of those opportunities is noticing psychological patterning. This is important because some patterns at one time served a protective purpose but eventually can and will destroy in one way or another if consciousness is not brought to them.
  3. Stress: fear/anxiety based programming/thinking only creates stress. The answers/wider paths and perspectives don’t live in this superficial, chaotic space.
  4. A quote from Olivia Newton John: Optimism is a choice. I’m aware of the bad; I just don’t choose to tune into it. I am aware of the fear/worry based thinking. At 50 y/o I am very aware of what it creates. I know it is there, I am learning not to engage with it and instead move into the deeper, wider space.
  5. Acceptance: is an important salve to suffering and anxiety based thinking. It creates space for possibilities that could not be seen in tight thoughts and creates space for grieving and feeling what it is we are trying to avoid.
  6. Writing: it helps me slow down the hits of life that just keep coming, to ground, to process and to share and hopefully help.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Bench

I definitely think I should have a bench on a walking path.

If my family knew me at all they’d do this for me at my death…

Even in death I don’t feel known and loved.

Carolyn has a bench
She fought tirelessly to preserve the land and paths in which I walk today
Thank you Carolyn.

What did I fight tirelessly to do?

Today I walked to keep myself from drowning in loss, in abandonment

My work is internal
I fight tirelessly for something I still believe in.

If I don’t have a bench how will it be known it was because of my walks I kept fighting

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Cascade Trail

Life....
I’m not getting my life right 

Nature.... 
She will keep destroying you until you see what you’ve done 

The Way Back Trail.... 
The Way Back Trail is more
Relaxed and refined 
There’s a calmness to it 
A way of knowing 
The steps slow 
The air breathed 
A smile 
I’m not trying to get anywhere 
I’ve been

A broken tree....
There She is again 
Within Her a touchstone
Circles of life that tell Her Story 
Unburdened now by life, 
A relic of her life 
For me to wonder about 
To receive a lesson 

Back to the Way Back Trail....
The Way Back Trail is a gift I hope all receive 
It tells you more about those layers, those circles within 
So many circles 
They accumulate 
It’s important to sit and rest along this trail 
And listen, feel, understand 
And say thank you 
And ask:
What do I need for my soul?
What does my deepest nature want?


~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

We’re Closing Down Summer

I bought the mums 
and make plans for a plant that’s been outside. 

A man says, how are you young lady
I say alright
He says I’m working too hard— as he throws large logs on the ground— 
But I’ve got to heat the house for winter.

A woman crouches cleaning up her yard 
Soon her Halloween display will turn to Christmas. 

The crickets know what time it is as do the leaves—
ombré then a swath of color. 

I experience the closing down and I’m relieved 
The summer was hectic 
The heat horrendous 
I made it and wonder 
did I prep enough for winter? 

There’s still time. 

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

You Were a Deep Player

Back then you didn't take on the world's problems
You knew they were there
And set out your worry dolls down on your windowsill at night
Sometimes you were visited by an elf 
Who squeezed your hand tight and 
Told you bad things. 

But you also played

It settled you
At day you explored and refined 
At night the worries surfaced 
And you knew what to do. 

If life is about balance for you
Where is the play now? 


~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Photo Source: https://www.wiscnews.com/opinion/columnists/stellpflug-column-worry-dolls-are-for-everyone/article_65717998-8115-5936-b473-d9e47df9290d.html

*Repost of the post with the most views* Now~ a sort of poem about healing the mother wound

Now

my mom greets me like a small child. Her eyes light up and she is filled with such love for me. 

This is what flowed beneath the layers of suffering that was my mom- that was our relationship. 

I hated her a lot. And I believed she hated me the same. 

We must be careful who we deem unworthy of love but worthy of hate and abandonment. We must not dismiss a family as dysfunctional or a person damaged and leave it there as if it/they held nothing else. 

Now

I really know this.

For there were many necessary years I felt anger and betrayal- sometimes rightly so- and the only way I could function in our dysfunction was to protect myself. 

And yet, now…

I feel I am a good daughter for sticking with her- for staying in the process, the journey that is ours. 

Now

I understand I needed to love her but couldn’t and wouldn’t and instead exchanged vulnerability for codependency (unknowingly of course). 

Now

I continue to play this out within my marriage. 

And yet, now

I see the possibility that what flows beneath the wounds of my suffering might redeem me

Maybe not quite now but eventually. 

Stains on Streets

Why do I suddenly care about the origins of stains on streets? 
Can't be water— the sun would scorch it and they would disappear. 

Am I poet like the dream-teller told me? 
I don't know how to write poetry. 
Is this it? 
Does it matter? 

Does it matter where the stains on streets come from? 
Just tells me there was life. 



Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Chicken

Together we play a game of chicken
Russian roulette even—
eventually the bullet kills us
Moth to flame—you say it all the time—
eventually we burn
Bait-and-switch—what are we selling that we won't be giving

Game of Chicken
Your freedom or mine
Certainly not ours together

You go your way
I go mine
Now we collide
Toward death or to freedom
Or are they the same

What gives and when
We are at the edge
Which one of us will swerve
Or will we, at the end?

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Dad

My dad got into my bones
I didn't know he was there 
until he started to fade away 

The other night at Red Lobster he talked about bunnies eating lettuce—
the kind on his plate
He didn't just talk, he mimicked their bunny eating ways

I thought: what is he talking about....
and what does this have to do with anything....

You see, for me, the conversation has changed 
as my dad's brain gets chipped away by diabetes or 
alzheimer's— we don't know. He says it’s spiritual, he's going "higher" so maybe it's that

But gone is the comfort of bringing him anything 
and him always knowing the right thing to say
or when not to
Now I speak and he munches on his salad like a bunny and laughs

Later we sit on his driveway at dusk
There are the bunnies!
They munch on his grass and 
driveway crack microgreens
I see what he means

There are two chairs on his lawn—
two choices on where to sit and watch the bunnies munch
As we watch together the crows caw and he says
the crows crow, the squirrels squirrel and, yes dad, the bunnies bunny
This is his lesson now

He was once an athlete, 
top of his football and baseball game
Then handball
It's hard to see the cuts and bruises on his body from losing balance 
Once a strong, intimidating man—and still so damn stubborn—
he now laughs, smiles and attunes to my emotions, 
even the angry ones about what is happening to him

Lou, my dad's name, is Lou-ing, 
becoming more real
As he fades and goes higher the strength and wisdom of him 
is in my bones. 

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Everything

It’s everything that I love 
Right here in the middle of these trees on a path full of mulch 

The sound of crows above me
A light mist falling upon me
The sound of day crickets in august at ear level 
A cool breeze through warm moist air 
A slate gray sky 

I stand still in it and ask for guidance as I sometimes due lately: what is here for me to know? 

I open my eyes and everything that I love is right here. 

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Evolution

Evolution moves slow and steady. 

I once believed I could clear wounds enough to transcend my upbringing—
To not be my mother. 

What cleared are protections that made me function and survive. 

My daughter said to me: I like seeing you struggle—
A once controlled and efficient mother now stumbles a bit. 

Bring on the staggering
And the unease of failing
And seeing the apple does not fall far from the tree. 

It is true some improvements were made
Maybe I'll see more as I age
But for now I acknowledge evolution is slow
And at least it is steady. 

For we are not efficient machines
We are human with hearts and needs
We store treasures from ancestors and thieves. 

Keep going. 


~Nikki, The Soul Reporter 

Devotion

What’s underneath this madness? Devotion?

I cant see a future without him now that I’m standing at our death door. It was fun to play with the idea of leaving when I was still in a familiar hallway.

Now I am numb again. Familiar only to my pain, and not ours.

But it will return.

Rumi says, keep digging your well, water is there somewhere.

Is it devotion?

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Coveted

I feel coveted and
sometimes admired, but nothing else, 
never held. 

I also don't hold, just space and frequencies, 
probably, also responsibilities
but not hands or faces or 
give hugs and kisses. 

I've a lot to learn 
A lot to give
A lot to receive. 


~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Photo by Raphael Brasileiro on Pexels.com

Indestructible

I wake up wrapped in a hidden grief. A grief so big I’m grateful it’s hidden. The personal losses and changes, along with the national and global might take lifetimes to process and who even knows what is left over from other lives. It truly does seem to be too much and yet, here we are, here I am, here is Life- an undeniable and indestructible force.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Closing the Doors

Might as well find the joy while the world burns, right?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am shutting the doors, I have decided, to where the trauma lives.

I am not shutting the door because I want to avoid what is there.

I am shutting the door because for 30+ years all I have done is open these doors.

Within the rooms I have explored, processed, dug deep and long.

There has been healing and transformation. Incredible insights and connections made.

There has also been torment.

So today I messaged the therapists and the energy workers and said, thank you and goodbye.

I want to enjoy my life for a change, I said. I want to hear my inner voice again.

I have seen hell, so may as well turn around and see what else there is.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Tiny Spurts

I feel like I move through quicksand to return to you
Grasping, climbing again and again...

~

These tiny spurts of running
These tiny words of poetry
They may all amount to something 
A marathon or a book
Or just may be tiny spurts
So I don't sink into the sand
To say at the end I never stopped grasping.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Photo by Diego Madrigal on Pexels.com

Tell Me Everything

A poem.

Tell me how much you love him

Tell me how much you want to leave him

Tell me how he hurts you

Tell me how he loves you

Tell me why you’re afraid to stay

Tell me why you’re afraid to leave

Tell me why you fear you’ve been replaced

Tell me what you still want with him

Tell me how hard this has been

Tell me how this love affair began

Tell me how he holds you back

Tell me how he lets you drown

Tell me how you hold yourself back

Tell me how you let yourself drown

Tell me how you suffer

Tell me everything until there’s nothing left to tell

Tell me everything so we both understand and can move on.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Today is the Special Occassion

What do you do when the world, at least as you knew it, is ending? How do you grieve that?

For me, a white cisgender woman, it started to end globally on November 9, 2016. I went on a bike ride the day after election night to my usual spot— an “island” on the Mississippi River. Before this day, I’d go there to reflect on my personal trials or to escape them. However, there was a new kind of angst— not only the weight of my personal life on my shoulders, but the collective life. It is not that I did not care before, this just felt different.

I wish I could find the words to express where I find myself now, 6 1/2 years later. I’d like a story or fable that would help me frame it, or to write my own if I could focus long enough and stay motivated. What I do know, what I am beginning to feel is there has been, and is, a lot of loss personally and collectively, a collective reckoning and grief process.

Our primitive brain likes to make it one thing because then that one thing can be fixed, managed or contemplated easily. But we are not in primitive times. These are complex times. We are complex and to think in this way is difficult, but necessary. These days, the loss isn’t just A, B or C, it is the whole damn alphabet and then some.

Just in my own life, I am started to comprehend the losses and how each one intermingles and connects to the others, and as they do their capability of fully sinking me is real.

The sinking has been happening. As I reflect I see I’ve sunk many times. As a teenager I wondered how could one person, still so young, cry so much. As a 50-year-old it is starting to make sense as I am sinking like that again and again.

Yesterday I could not find one think to pull me out. Then my husband asked if I wanted ice cream. In the ice cream line I found myself smiling, then I asked him if he tried the frozen peanut butter cups. Later a stranger approached us, happy and friendly as can be, and asked how we made our “love it” treat. Before this, I watched a small child look up at her older brother, saying “again” over and over to pick her up as she squealed. Once we got our dark chocolate with extra peanut butter ice cream, we sat on a bench outside and I saw the sliver of moon. I didn’t really eat my ice cream because the point was not the ice cream.

On the way home, Neil Diamond’s Hello Again came on shuffle. I cried again, a deep, hurting cry as if I was in physical pain. I said to myself: it’s my mom. She was and always will be my first experience here on Earth as me, Nikki DiVirgilio. Nothing will ever change this. And she, my first experience, has dementia and I miss her. There is a hole in me. There are several now, but she is at the center of them all.

It is weird for me to state this and experience it to be true. My relationship with her has always felt like a loss, but what it is now feels like that sliver moon, it is all that is left and what I had with her was more than I realized. She was a best friend, someone I called to vent to, someone I hung out with. Someone who created a million and one beautiful experiences and distractions for me, for us— vacations, cabin getaways, shopping, lunches, going to the “new” place and buying the “new” thing. Over time all of this became hollow for me, but now, sinking into nothingness, they were the things that kept me afloat. These were the days. That was my mom.

When I woke up the next morning, after several days of sinking, I didn’t care much about anything (balance, right?). I wondered what was the point, especially after reading a Twitter thread stating a very real possibility for the 2024 election. It’s not good. It’s bleak, and it seems the world, including my own, is over in the way I knew it. I don’t really know 1) how to navigate these times or 2) how to grieve or if I even can fully. But the sweater I bought was on my front step. I opened it, tried in on to make sure I loved it, and instead of folding it, tags on, saving it for a special occasion, I took it off, cut the tags, put it back on and decided today is the special occasion.*** 🌙🍦

Be well during this time,

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

***snippets from a memoir I’m writing…well, several actually.

The Moon Turned to Snowflakes

The moon turned to snowflakes

The night a woman’s rights were taken. ~ a dream I had

That was the dream the night before RvW was overturned. The sun, to my left, and the moon, to my right shared the same panel of sky. I stood in a boat, on the ocean, near the shore. I was mesmerized by the moon, for the sun was just a faint, dull circle shrouded in gray haze. The moon, also shrouded but not in haze, but within a shiny half black and silver cavern. I could not take my eyes off it. And then the moon crystallized, transforming into giant, majestic snowflakes. A mist began to overtake land and sea, and the tide turned; chaos ensued and I had to get to shore. But the point was the snowflakes.

~

At the request of a therapist, I’m again, picking up the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I reread the introduction. In it she lists symptoms of a woman who has lost her Wild. I have the majority of them, but this one captured me: “…or intertia because that is the safest place for one who has lost her instincts.” I opened my journal and wrote: I have lost my fucking instincts! Last time I truly had those was in my early 20’s. I was with a child, but without a man, and not tainted, domesticated or yet fully reactive to my childhood trauma.

Not only have I lost my instincts, I’ve lost my creativity. It reminds me of season 4 of Stranger Things. Eleven has lost her “superpowers” (of course given and rediscovered to her by “man.”) Like a miner I am digging, seeking in the dark where I lost my superpowers. Was it one event or the slices and cuts of many….? I am also asking, is it too late? In Stranger Things, they keep seeking, digging and fighting and face the darkest spaces and entities just to understand, restore balance and help the people.

The reading of “Wolves” is naming the longing, the awakening of my Wild and also the resistance and push back to what oppresses it. I’m seeing how deeply I have blamed myself for the inertia that caused the weight gain, the depression, the silence, the relationships I am still in and the books I’ve still not written. I’ve been domesticated, altered and suppressed by the patriarchal culture— maybe not specifically and overtly, but generally, collectively and covertly. Inertia, then, was and often still is my safe place.

But I am awakening, beginning little by little to open my eyes, seeing the oppressor for what it is and seeing the impact it has had on me, on everything and everyone. Yesterday on my walk, I took the “short cut”, over a wooded bridge across a marshy area. I stopped and noticed the red-winged blackbirds in the reeds, the cattails bowing like patrons at a queen’s parade and the water, murky with green algae film. On the surface it looks stagnant and toxic— inert. But, who or what but Life itself knows what is present below, what organisms are a vital part to all of Life.

I have become swamped. Heavy, murky, seemingly lost my way and can barely move. Within my own inertia a self has been formed, a self safe and hidden in the murky waters, afraid to move too far from the swamp. Stay too long, naturally toxins, disease and self-defeating behaviors flourish. But open my eyes and really see where I am and start to smell the stink of unmoving water and start wiggling my fingers and toes, and becoming mesmerized, not by something more in some other place beyond myself as I did in my youth, but mesmerized by what I know is already present, and becoming the snowflake inside the moon. 🌙

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Meet Me.

Instead of writing a post that could only come from a place of anger, overwhelm and stress because that is how I have been feeling this week, I will share an article about me from Voyage Minnesota.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nikki DiVirgilio.

Hi Nikki, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I cannot recall when I started my Soul Reporter blog, but I started writing in a journal in my 7th grade English class. Back then I used it to write out all my fears about school, especially swim class. I found that writing allowed me to express my fears, worries, and thoughts, and doing so helped me process my emotions and understand myself. The Soul Reporter, in a way, became a public journal of my process of knowing more about myself, while also hoping to inspire and provide support for others doing the same inner work. I do not write on my blog as much as I used to but in the near future, The Soul Reporter will be combined with my business Soul Work. Soul Work is a space where I provide psychotherapy, and supervision to other mental health therapists and plan to expand into group work, consulting, and creating and publishing therapeutic material and curriculum.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I would say, yes and no. The road has been smooth in the way that the intensity of my commitment to understand myself and then help others has provided support, whether it be financial or otherwise, to allow me to continue this work. It has been difficult because doing deep inner work is difficult, and then trying to convey that inner experience through words often proves challenging. Not to mention how often I procrastinate and tell myself I will write tomorrow.

As you know, we’re big fans of Soul Work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Soul Work specializes in providing therapeutic services, primarily through psychotherapy. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker I help people to understand their internal patterning, process trauma and essentially provide a safe and protective space to understand more of who they really are and also, who they are not. As a writer/blogger I share my own experiences of the deep inner work, I call Soul Work. Soul Work plans to expand into group work, consulting and creating and publishing therapeutic material and curriculum.

We’d love to hear about any fond memories you have from when you were growing up?
My father was a great comfort to me so many of my most comforting memories come from being with him. Some of them that come to mind are sitting on his patio looking up at the night sky and asking him questions about the stars and the moon. Or when he made “A Special Day” for me and cooked spaghetti and picked some flowers for the table. I also recall listening to classical music and Peter and the Wolf on his record player or him reading to me while drinking hot tea with lemon and honey.

To continue reading, and more information, click here.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

*Heat.

Torn. Stolen from protection, the land, the forest tops. Seclusion, like winter but with A/C, not heat. Summer is here and it can feel like a burden, heavy to some, a comfort to others. A mismatch to balance, to life, to relief.

These are just words coming to me about the heat, and the imbalance maybe I, maybe others are encountering, putting us dangerously close to suffering.

Today’s word (Father’s Day) seemed to be suffering. I found myself using it a lot. I felt my usual suffering again, and I believe I can label it now. Before it was only a suffocating experience. I suffer when the (perceived or otherwise actual) burdens of my family fall upon me, brush up against me and cause me to burn and be swallowed. I lose myself in it— a pattern conditioned by the relationship I had with my mother.

I was conditioned to live and breathe, therefore be burdened by her drama, her life, her everything. Specifically, but not only, with her frequent hospitalizations. Each time, I feared and truly believed— this is it. She’s dying. I’m going to lose her. I was shredded by this each time it happened, along with the deep desire to fix her, console her, love her, train her to be more like me and give a goddam. None of this worked. Just the ripping occurred.

Recently, my mom, near 80 and in memory care, caught COVID. She had fallen and was rushed to the hospital with a 102 temp. The ER doc told me he was putting her on oxygen and would be admitted. This is it, I thought. She’s dying. I’m finally going to lose her.

Next day….

Nurse called, “We are discharging her. Oxygen levels are normal. She’s eating and looks great!” Of course, I thought. Of course she is okay. I was relieved, but I also remembered the days when I was angry by the nurse’s words. I was angry by what my mom put me through, and then she’d just be fine or it was just a drug run and meanwhile I was shredded into tiny bits.

My mom called me when she was out of the hospital. “Hi Mom! How are you?”

“I’m depressed.”

“Of course you are mom. You’ve been through a lot. You have COVID, you were hospitalized….”

“No,” she interrupted, “I’m depressed because they told me I can’t leave my fucking room. I have to quarantine.”

Of course….she’s fine.

The Rock

At the time of this call, I was at ‘The Rock.’ The rock is an actual large boulder that sits near the Mississippi backwaters. I go there and sit on it when I need some guidance, stability and security. When I hung up the phone with my mom, walking away from the rock, a flash of insight said: you are the rock. I took absolutely no pleasure in this. Being the rock was a past, sad story I no longer wanted or needed. I pushed back on the insight and said: I don’t want to be the rock. I want to be nurtured and cared for for once.

The next day, and for several days thereafter, I did not leave my bed. I was overcooked. Done. Depleted. Overburdened. Torn. Stolen from the protection of this need to be ripped to shreds by the experiences of my people, because of course it wasn’t just my mom’s experiences that ripped me apart. It was my family members, those I love most and also the humans on this overheated planet. I needed shade and the shade for me was the bedcovers. Under that shade, I shut down and released the heat through my salty tears that fell and fell and fell.

Once I cooled off and could move around again, I understood I no longer had it in me to keep putting my tiny burnt pieces back together again. I had to decide to stay together even when my people, and the world seemed to not. This kind of suffering was all that I knew to do. I did not learn another way. I was not shown another way or was my younger self told me these are not by burdens to bear.

My energy worker Ed, when I told him this story, said, “What if your mom had said to you, ‘I know you are scared, worried and concerned about me but I am not your responsibility. You don’t have to take care of me. I am going to take better care of me so I can take better care of you.’ “

I was so burnt out, so conditioned I didn’t even know those words could be said. But just hearing them from Ed felt like cool water, and calmed me down.

So when the heat of this life, of the people I love and this land I also love, brush up against me too close, I will know I am caring. I am attending. I am listening. And, I don’t have to be scorched to do so. I can find shade under the treetops. #savethetrees 🌳🧊☀️

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

*This is an excerpt from one of the memoirs I am currently working on.

The Screened in Porch

I travel to this space— a retreat space about an hour from Duluth, MN. A place, I heard Cheryl Strayed wrote a part of her book, Wild. It used to be run by nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the founders of my alma mater. Then, they’d prepare simple meals and leave them in your kitchenette prior to your arrival. Now, with the new owners, it is BYOF. Now, it’s less “we are here to acknowledge and support your retreat” to more “you’re on your own, but here’s the same space.”

There are seven cabins to choose from. Over the years I’ve stayed in three— the smaller ones because I always visit alone. Traveling here began as an escape— to run away from kids, my marriage and suburban life. This is the first time I am not here to escape anything (well maybe the instability of our world right now). Since the world events, my fantasy of a cabin in the woods has increased.

I am in an empty nest now and my marriage is more neutralized and maybe not having anything to escape from is why this visit feels different. This time, I chose The Woodlands, a small cabin that is more secluded within the forest. Immediately out of my car, when I arrived, I was swarmed by insects, and after a short hike I picked off at least 10 ticks. This is disappointing because one reason I came here was to hike the several miles of wooded trails. So far they’ve all been short lived and cause more stress than rejuvenation.

This brings me to where I’ve spent the majority of time so far— the screened in porch. It is modest, rustic and cobwebby. It supplies one small round table and a camping chair. But I don’t seem to mind. I listen to the wind through the trees, watch the sunlight sparkle and fade on their leaves and feel relieved when I hear the loud buzzing bugs have no way in. While I sit, I wonder why I am here if I am not escaping something. I don’t quite know but I sense I need to be, even if I don’t venture far beyond the screened porch.

I brought a lot of notebooks, along with my project calendar and my computer with the intent to write and schedule my summer writing projects. But, so far I’ve only opened my computer to buy a book and to watch Netflix. I just finished J Lo’s documentary. Now there is a woman who knows what she wants and go gets it. I finished it feeling slightly depressed. I went back to the warm porch. I’ll journal, I thought. Maybe draw and certainly finish the book I am reading. Then, I got on Twitter….

I’m sure you did what you could, now do what you actually want.

@_moimichelle

Instead of bad news, I saw the quote above and it interrupted my amnesia (the whole who am I and why am I here thought pattern) and I burst into tears. This “tweet” is a two-sentence summary of where I find myself— a crossroad I have been on for quite some time, since the kids left the nest. I said: I still don’t know what I actually want. Seemed legit, but there’s more, another truth emerged both silently and loudly: yes you do. That is true. I do know what I want. But I’m playing like I don’t.

There is a comfort in the longing for what I actually want, but not actually doing it. But imagine if J Lo was only longing. I’ve longed long enough, haven’t I….?

If I actually want what I want, it is time to surrender the longing and relax into the doing, being and expressing. And I suppose, also risking and trusting.

It has been a long road of doing what I could, and it was exhausting. Hence, the retreats. But, now, like me in this one room cabin, there is just me now and the naked truth of what I actually want to do and the opportunity to do it.

The transition from what I could do, and did to what I actually want to do has left me wondering who am I? Where am I? There has been enough life, now that I’m 50, where scrambling to figure that out, making lots of missteps and mistakes along the way, is not necessary. Now I can be still enough to let it all settle— what was, what is and what I might actually still want.

This is why I am here at the Woodlands in June, in the heat with the insects— to settle.

I met a woman here, briefly, that was alone, staying in one of my earlier cabins. She stopped me on one of my short walks. I noticed her when I checked in. She told the owner there may be another person joining her, but when pressed she could give no details to when, or even if. Not long after her check in, she was packing up her car and that is when she stopped me.

“Have you been here before?” I gave her my stay history. She chocked up a little and said someone she knows is in the hospital and she might have to leave. “I’m a frontline worker and this is the first break I’ve had.” When asked if it was family, she said it was a co-worker and she’d have to leave to cover their shift. Seemed believable, but I sensed something more: fear.

It is not easy to go on retreat alone, in a cabin with no TV, where at night it is so dark you can’t see your hand in front of you. In my younger days I came with luggage full of anxiety, along with all of my OCD traits acting up, organizing my retreat and worrying about what was happening at home. Before I spoke with the woman, I watched her start down a walking path by my cabin. She stood there looking down the path, then turned around and walked away from it. I too have impulses to turn around and instead go where it is safe and known. But, more often than not, I listen to the part in me that understands in order to expand I have to keep walking the path, even when there are insects that might give me Lyme Disease. I understand I have to give myself space to stay in a place that is dark and unfamiliar. I need to be here, even if I am not writing or scheduling the writing. Even if I am not escaping anything.

I’m still not sure exactly why I am here, but what I do know is, this time I did not bring as much baggage. I’m unconcerned about what the husband is doing at home. I took a nap at 2 pm without writing one word. I have not OCD’d my retreat, and the anxiety that was once an intrusive roar is now a dull pant.

I’m okay and I am going to be okay. Also, if what I actually want is to create my fantasy cabin in the woods life, there MUST be a screened in porch. 🛖🌲🕷

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Fear of Adults

Did adults teach love or fear?

A few mornings ago, a deeply rooted fear approached the surface of my awareness— it may be a major source of my anxiety— the fear of adults.

Adults— these taller, authoritative and not always welcoming figures who literally, and often figuratively, look down on us when we are small. I guess it is one reason why it has been weird to be one and why, in many cases, especially in parenting, I got it wrong.

Who taught me to adult, and how was I taught?

I tried QNRT (Quantum Neuro Reset Therapy) recently and the practitioner asked— what happened between ages 9-11? Searching, mostly I came up blank, as though this entire span of my life I blacked out. However, what I do recall, an image that also came up in an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy session: little me is standing in line outside Ms. Odegard’s 3rd grade classroom. This image of my small self, being towered over by Odegard, folds inside of itself head first, as if choosing at that moment to go some place no one else would see me— EVER. Odegard was a mean, witchy-looking woman (more witch of the west, not south). She scared me, and away, inside myself, I went and stayed. Early experiences of bullying only solidified my existence there, with the added compounding affect of: I’m ugly and weird. I’m too much and I bother people just by being me. But it wasn’t me— I mean maybe the vulnerability of me likely made me a target, but it was also what I wore.

My mom gave love through buying me expensive things. She didn’t have a lot of money, just credit and expensive taste. Let’s just say I was the first person in 6th grade to have Guess jeans— the infamous triangle on the back pocket I exposed by keeping one part of my shirt tucked in at the back. Every bullying event was around something I wore from the barrettes that were pulled out of my hair and stomped on by dirty blonde-haired Allison, to the pink hat that matched an entire pink outfit that was snatched off my head by Jessica. The next day she gave it back to me in a brown paper bag. My hat was in the bag and a big clump of dog shit was in my hat.

Said pink hat and the outfit to match

I easily learned it is not okay to “show off— ” as if that is what I was doing. I was wearing what I had and loving it, until that happened.

I understand that these stories aren’t about the scary adults, but about mean kids, likely acting out because of the scary adults in their lives. Which brings me back to them, and what they mean to us when we are little.

The source of (pretty much) everything is in these young, developing years, and all around us are adults, these taller people that are supposed to know more than we do. So, we listen to them. We watch everything they do and because we are so spongy during this time we absorb a lot. In a way, we absorb them.

We can absorb their unprocessed and unregulated emotions. We can absorb the actions, behaviors and words that are done and told to us. Therefore, depending on what we are absorbing, we can believe that we are good, bad, worthy or unworthy, not enough or too much….And we can learn patterns of behaviors and thought that protect us and then as adults, harm us.

When there is a problem, there is not something to do, there is something to know.

Dr. Raymond Charles Barker

Many seem to be returning to this childhood time, realizing this is the source of the pain, the repetitive and protective patterns and habits, the suffering. Once understood, which is a process, the more pure, real parts of ourselves can risk showing up and we welcome in a new experience of adulthood. One where, instead of feeling tight and constricted within ourselves, we feel more spacious and free. It is from this spaciousness that we present as an adult that won’t scare and shame away the smaller people.

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

Thanks for showing up,

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Her.

This is a sad place. We are heroes just for being here.

What does it mean to be heroic though? We have been taught, trained, propoganda’d that heroes are 1) most often men 2) must always white and 3) always somehow bold, dramatic, admired and somehow, unworldly.

I’d like to offer a hero badge for the vast majority of us just for showing up, and witnessing.

I woke up this morning and a watched a great-grandfather from Uvalde walking to the memorial site of his great granddaughter. He was crying and speaking to the cops that were following him. You did nothing to save her. Arrest me. Kill me, he cried.

This is where the stream of consciousness stopped. I’m not sure where it is going with heroes and a grieving great-grandfather. But I know I need to go on a hike and come back to this……

On my hike I saw a turtle and goats. The turtle made me coo and warmed my heart to see it walking ahead of me on the “people path,” then hiding its tiny head as it sensed my presence. The goats surprised me. At first I thought I was hearing small children laughing. Instead it was the baa of the goats. Now the electric fencing made sense- the goats were brought to help restore the forest. I watched them graze, run and bleat together.

For a moment I sat down on a bench in the middle of the forest, listening to the wind in the trees, asking for guidance about a vivid dream I had (which I did receive). I started to tear up about how in love I am with nature, and reminded how much She loves me, loves us all. She is my cathedral. She is is what I am in awe of, and She is what I keep returning to over and over again to make sense of a world full of sadness, where great-grandfathers bury their great-grandchildren. In a world where a young climate activist sits on a tennis court at a French Open, wearing a t-shirt that reads: We have 1028 days left. Nature is what regulates me.

Before the goats, I noticed an old tank and maybe a small utility type structure. It looked like something from another era, clearly no longer relevant, and what I noticed is Her, Nature overtaking this relic. She will always over take. Like the goats, she will always restore and take away. She gives life and takes it, always knowing exactly what is needed for balance. She brightens and darkens. She shimmers and dims.

I’m home now, back with Her, sitting in the sunset watching Her leaves glisten, the cottonwood seed fly, feeling like it might be a little late this year, but She knows best. She is the treasure. She is what makes sense when nothing else does and the world is sad. She is the hero that saves.

Are we with Her? 🐐 🌳 🐢

I am,

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Witness

What does it mean to be a witness to the atrocities that surround us, sometimes overtaking us?

In my small therapy office I am witness to the journey of those who go to the deeper wounds, and to the majority who only need to stay on the surface to feel the pin pricks and enormous jolts coming from their lives.

In my personal life I am witness to the wear and tear of a, mostly inactive, body that leans toward comfort and rest and eats what soothes the tender ache. It’s caught up to me now— the medications need a pill organizer.

I witness the decline of my mother and father, and my two daughters making a life outside of the family home.

And then I, along with the majority we, witness the daily, sometimes hourly, onslaught of news stories that haunt, disturb and tempt to take away any belief that life is secure, safe and hopeful.

We bear witness to a lot.

I don’t know that I have a remedy to process what we see, hear and experience, but I want to name it, even so.

We witness a lot.

And what do we do with it matters. A lot. Do we digest it? Internalize it? Ignore it? Deny it? Fight it? Become paralyzed by it? Mourn it? Disease, label and justify it? Politicize it? Analyze it? Mostly we just keep living our lives with it. Some of us wonder what more we can do. Others get out and do it.

A long time ago I went to the circus and witnessed the elephants parading around in a darkened arena while dressed up humans with whips led them. I never again went to a circus. The witnessing of the elephants “living” in an unnatural way was enough for me to make a clear choice not to participate. But I didn’t do anything more. I did not protest at circus doors or go to an elephant refuge. Then, not attending felt enough of a protest.

So why is it then I can continue engaging in a life where I am, along with countless others, parading around in unnatural ways, succumbing to a way of life that is not of us, not of me? Why aren’t I protesting in some way? Why am I not refusing to show up and participate in this unnatural way of living? What happened to me? What happened to us?

There’s words and phrases for it— capitalism, patriarchy, internalized misogyny, colonialism, white supremacy… you name it— we are not only swimming in it, we are drowning. We have lost our way.

I look back upon all that we’ve said yes to, at least since I was born in the 1970’s. Food coloring, additives and processed non-food. Bottled water. Coffee shops and fast food on ever street. Gas. 9-5’s. I could go on…..

As a child I said yes to Oreos and Ho Ho’s. When I got a little older, and was continuously bullied, I said yes—yes, I’ll hide. Yes, I’m too much. Yes, there’s something wrong with me. Yes, you’re better and I’m insiginficant. Then I said yes to alcohol, Newports, boys and sex. Then I said yes to kids, marriage and a mortgage. Some of the yes’s should have been no’s— but it was too late. I’d been programmed, traumatized and neglected.

Now, I’m 50. I got through the pandemic (for now) and I’m witnessing what I have done. I am witnessing our culture and what it has us do. I sense all of it is enough to not only leave the circus but get off the circus grounds altogether— but how, and to where? Which cause will I protest, show up for? Which cultural, repressive institution will I leave?

All I think about lately is a cottage in the woods— fuck it all, eat mushrooms and berries and sit among the trees and the ferns, touching moss— live like the hobbit or the fairy tale old lady I know that I am.

I wonder who I could have been had I not said yes to it all. Who we might have been. What if I had said no, that’s not for me. Or no, we could have cried, this is not for us! This is who I am. This is who we are.

What I want to be a witness to now is a new cultural uprising for us, for me, for we. 🌲🌿🍄

Note: This is the first blog I have written in over a year. I sat down with a pen and paper, planning on writing something else, but instead listened and what I wrote above is what came through. I hope it reaches someone, in some way and I hope to return to this space more frequently.

In gratitude,

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter