Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Zealous Zetetic at the Zenith

Within the span of 72 hours, I only slept 8 hours. Why? Because the other 64 were spent dancing, laughing, drinking, smoking, loving, holding hands, talking, walking, reverberating. This past weekend, I was what is called a "Wheatie": a first time attendee of the magnificent Wheatland Music Festival.

It's been several days since I crawled out of a van, ate the most fantastic steak (thanks to my darling husband), made the most emotionally freeing and pleasurable love with previously mentioned husband and passed out for over 12 hours. The next day, I scrubbed the dirt, blood, sweat and tears from my body during the most orgasmic shower of my life and slathered lotion all over my sunburn. Finally, I plopped on the couch and despite being unable to speak (I may have screamed "Happy Wheatland!" more than my vocal cords would have liked), I realized I was completely happy with my life.

For those of you who have been following this blog since the beginning, you may remember that nine-ish months ago I was incredibly miserable. Panic attacks every day, afraid to leave my house, convinced that I had some sort of horrible illness. My life seemed like a parade of terrible occurrences far out of my control and the only reaction I could muster was to crawl further into my shell and hide from my troubles. The future was a bleak, distance thought, riddled with impossibilities and pessimism.

When I began writing, I had made a conscious decision to return to the one reliable outlet I've loved all my life. That first step began a difficult but rewarding journey to rediscover who I really am and what I'm living for instead of obsessing over my eventual demise and keeping myself from reaching for the people and things I really love.

This summer, I began taking Lexapro and found that I was able to exist without crumbling into an anxiety attack at every turn. I remembered what it was like to just do things because I wanted to without being paranoid that everyone was laughing at me, that everyone hated me, that I was no good and would collapse under any pressure. At first, I took small steps. Looking strangers in the eye. Talking to the checkout clerk. Calling and scheduling my appointments myself. With every success, I grew a little bolder. I started to wear things because I felt like it, only fretting slightly about whether I looked weird or fat. I made plans to hang out with people even though I was intimidated. I spoke honestly with my husband about how being raped was making it difficult to be intimate instead of bottling it up and refusing his touch without explanation.

When I discovered that it was possible for me to attend Wheatland, my knee-jerk reaction was paralyzing terror. With Nicholas delivering newspapers every night, I'd be going without him. My friend Chaz, who was offering me a ride, was planning on surprising someone and I knew he'd be with them most of the weekend. Being alone is not my forte. I hatched a genius plan to pick up my best friend Brandon who I hadn't seen since he moved and my gratitude that this was something my friend was willing to do moved my heart immensely. An additional three hours added on to the trip, I was reassured that I would have someone with me that understood my anxiety and wouldn't be annoyed by my hesitation.

Blasting music, going back after hitting half an hour out of town to get a ticket, Burger King coffee and peeing in a cornfield punctuated our drive to our very first Wheatland Music Festival.

The surprise was launched, Brandon was stoked to be whisked away to Wheatland (I told him we were going back to my place), and Chaz's friend Kathleen was thrilled to see him. After setting up in a torrential downpour (after the hot and sticky drive, it felt like being baptized), and lacerating the back of my heel on a tent stake, we were settled in and had already made friends with our neighbors. Despite the warm and fuzzies bursting inside Chaz and I with every wish of, "Happy Wheatland!", I remained oblivious to what a monumental change would be taking place within me over the course of the next three days.

It started slowly. Meeting Kathleen and Dilana was such a bizarre experience for me. Two absolutely stunning girls who radiated kindness and wisdom without ever an ounce of irritation or judgement. I told Chaz that they seemed unreal to me, that it was impossible for people to be so kind and openhearted. A childhood of neglect and abuse had battered into my skull that all people will hurt you if you dig deep enough and yet I detected no trace of such malignancy. Only pure positivity.

Kathleen and Dilana
Walking through the woods, it began to sink in, pressing against my pores and pulsating through my veins. The substances in my system augmented my sensitivity to the energy around me. Each person who passed radiated happiness and love. Though most of our time this night was spent wandering, desperately lost, feet aching, Brandon and I witnessed spectacular moments and as we went on, our bubbles seamlessly crossed paths with others and every encounter was beautiful. Just before we found our way back to our campsite, we had paused in the middle of the road. A group of three asked us whether we were having a moment, then offered to take a picture. This simple kindness touched me.

That night, I slept poorly. Accustomed to a memory foam mattress, the lumpy ground I had thrown my tent on made me toss and turn all night. When I woke fourish hours later, it took me an hour to shake off my grogginess and become exhilarated for the day. Refueled, we joined Kathleen and Chaz in meeting up with their friends who camped in a beautifully wooded spot.

Nicotine and granola bars: breakfast of champions!

Reconnecting with people I thought I knew well in high school after so much personal growth opened my eyes to how people change. If a person is a tree, then their roots are their childhood. The trunk is adolescence and high school. Everything after that? The branches. I was given an opportunity to examine the foliage they had bloomed since I had truly spoken to them last. We shared a fantastic breakfast of blueberry pancake sticks with sausage in the middle and sometime after parted ways to follow whatever whim floated our way.

At first, I struggled to let go of instant gratification and technology. The beginning of the festival was wrought with me texting my friends furiously, trying desperately to get a hold of them and make plans. By this point. my phone was dead and I had little intention of charging it other than to contact Nicholas. Having run into so many people already made me think maybe what everyone was saying was true, that we needed to simply trust in chance (or fate, whatever you prefer), and let go of making things happen. I was beginning to allow things to happen and expecting positive results instead.

Brandon had been bugging me about tripping for some time now. Apparently, he had given up when I decided I would. My last trip was a horrific experience and nearly two years had passed in which I was riddled with panic and could hardly smoke let alone do psychedelic drugs. Yet something felt right - the voices around me all said different things yet the message remained the same. Only do it if you feel comfortable. This is a safe place. Wait for the right time. All at once, when basking in the sun and moving my hips to the music around me, I knew. This was a safe place, the right time, within my comfort zone. I had someone with me who I knew I could trust and in these woods I felt as secure as I had in years. The only thing holding me back was my fear and I realized that were I to let go of it, take the plunge, I would emerge unafraid of anything.

This moment defines a great deal about me. I knew it. First a half. We wandered aimlessly for an hour, maybe two, stopping for delicious ice cream and dancing to jazz. A stop at the campsite prompted me - another half. I was cruising smoothly and I was ready to take another step down into the rabbit hole. Time started to speed up, the daylight lost in a haze of running into old friends, new acquaintances and holding hands. Suddenly, we ran into the very people we had been searching for this entire time, having only just realized where they were camped. Finally, I accept that you will find the people you need when you are ready and that being lost isn't a bad thing. I expressed this feeling to Brandon later that night when searching for something in our tent. "I don't know what I'm looking for," I told him, "but I'm having a good time looking for it."

Following the twisting trail back to their campsite, glowsticks lit the ground under our feet. We passed a number of other campers seeking solitude in the shade before we reached the home they had made.

It was clear we were dealing with professionals here. A new realm of opportunities opened to me and I began to really understand why people came back to this place year after year after year, even bringing their children with them. The local crew gathered around, preparing for the night out when the ringleader arrived. He had brought more acid and offered us some. At this point, I'm beginning to vibrate a little and my mind is twisting pleasantly. Still no fear. Another half.

At this point, things become a bit fuzzy around the edges. I believe this is when Brandon, Brad and I announce we will be back after we show Brad where we're camped.

Somehow, we ended up back at Brandon and I's campsite and Chaz, Dilana and Kathleen are there. I announce my mental state and I am given the most calm, intelligent advice I've received in a long time. Kathleen looks into my eyes, the shade from her flower crown bringing them a dark light, and tells me softly, "Remember your base needs." I consider this, moving my mind over it carefully and realize she is right. As I was, my mind was trying desperately to pull me deep into it's depths, forgetting all else. We share music and laughter, then remember we told our friends they were not allowed to leave until we returned. Again, we part ways, knowing our paths will cross again.

My trip starts to sink as we walk, walk, walk, and I'm sucked into my skull by the thoughts I previously spent so much time trying to repress. Typical existential crisis stuff. What is my purpose? Do I even know who I am? How long have we been here? Is there a point to any of this? I'm punctuated occasionally by Kathleen's gentle reminder - remember your base needs. This pulls me back up, and when I've accomplished peeing and eating and hydrating, I cling to Brandon when all else fails and he brings me back to earth.

He and Brad toss nonsense back and forth until I break down and collapse on the ground in front of someone's tent. I have been promised clementines repeatedly, which is literally the only thing that has sounded good in hours. I cry to Brad, "Tell me one true thing." His answer is not at all what I expect and my heart collapses into itself. I stagger to my feet. We continue walking and I drag my bag behind me. Throughout the course of the night, whenever we passed the campsite I removed items from my bag. "It's a metaphor," I told Brandon matter-of-factly. "This is my baggage. I have to let some of it go."

It's a metaphor, you potato with eyes

By now, my very light bag still seems so heavy. Feeling the need to explain it, I tell Brad and Brandon, "It doesn't matter how light your load is. If you carry it long enough, you're going to get sore."

And finally, I snap, my trip crashing in around me and a million answers rushing to my heart at once. This time, I really understand what I've been squawking all night really means. Sobbing, I choke out, "It's a metaphor."

I laughed so much my ribs and throat hurt. Sometimes, this insane laughter would degrade into strangled crying. My companions would check with me, ask if I was okay and I would nod helplessly. The amount of emotions I had failed to express or sometimes even allow myself to feel erupted out of me all at once and I felt relief above all others.

After I was depleted of giggles and tears, I crawled into the back of my friend's van and was given the most ridiculously fuzzy-warm blanket of my life by Brad. After freezing for what seemed like an eternity, I lay in the bed in the back and cried silently as I felt myself fall into darkness.

I remembered Nick and I tripping together, laying coiled in the fetal position on a blanket we threw on the floor, missing half our clothes. We clutched each other like scared children. I could feel him, terrified and clueless.

Desperately I wanted to remain on that bed in the back of the van. I remember Brandon and Brad's voices becoming distant. My stomach hurt, remembering what I was, and I let out an insane amount of gas. I made a joke of it, unable to try and express what I was being haunted by. My defense mechanism was to push them away but they kept trying. Reminding myself that one of my base needs was companionship, I reached out to them and we returned to our friend's campsite.

When we returned, there were a great deal of people there. Very quickly, the world erupted into chaos around me. A small group of people I knew in high school appeared. The sun has set and it's time to move out. Running out to get so-and-so, bouncing back for beer, pee stops and drags off of a cigarette being constantly passed around from who knows where.

The group lags and runs, the strings stretch and eventually break. I'm relieved that we have lost Brad, who amplified my emotions to the breaking point and caused me a landslide of personal revelations. Despite how he exhausted me, I ended up looking for him the rest of the night as we traveled about but never seeing him. I accept, yet again, that we found who were were meant to find.

Now we are with Lauren, Tori and Seneca. I know them from high school, having shared a few bad encounters with some of them, but I am open to getting to know how they have grown since then after my tree realization earlier in the day.

It turns out to be perfect and joyful. We wandered to corners of the forest I had yet to discover, held hands as we danced through a Cajun tune, swayed and bopped to wickedly good string picking and stretched our sore bodies with a few repetitions of yoga.

By this time, we were getting tired and sliding down our peak. We headed back to their campsite to break bread and bathe under the moonlight as we shared secrets. New companionship kindled, we agree to meet the next day so we can all try to catch some sleep.

At some point, I realize my husband must be anxious about how I'm doing since we're ill adjusted to spending time apart. I attempt to charge my phone, smoking a cigarette as I eavesdrop on a conversation between my neighbors next door.

The loudest gentleman is Zinc, who asked us if we wanted to "blow a doob" when we were heading to our tent. He's definitely a baby boomer and has a lot of interesting ideas about the world. One voice is Joe, who I haven't spoken to much and have only encountered briefly before this. The third voice belongs to a woman I don't know.

They are discussing marriage and friendship. Zinc tells them of his first marriage at the age of 23 to his then 19 year old wife. They had two kids together. To this day, they're still best friends but it simply wasn't enough for the two of them to stay together. Now he's married to a woman who he says isn't his best friend but his WIFE - which he explains is above his best friend.

Joe and the woman disagree with this detail. You should be best friends with your spouse, they say. All three of them essentially agree that your spouse is someone you should laugh, talk and love with and hold above all others.

After I finish my cigarette, I tenderly tip toe from the van to their tent.

"Sorry, I don't mean to interrupt but I wanted to tell you guys that I was listening to your conversation and it's given me a lot to think about," I tell them. It's true - when I first went out to the van to try and charge my phone, all I was thinking about was Nicholas. I had decided when I couldn't find my phone that I would write him a letter. Then I heard what they were talking about.

They're taken a bit aback by my statement. I go on to tell them that I think they are saying pretty much the same thing but semantics are getting in the way. They reveal that they just love a good debate and understand what the other person is saying. I smile, realizing they're just like us, that they love to poke and prod their friends and shoot the shit and philosophize about life.

I sit with them a bit and get to know them better. The woman, whose name I can't remember, is outrageously intelligent. We discuss a myriad of topics, one of my favorite being livable wages and debt.
She tells me about her children, who are a bit older than me. "I don't know what to tell them!" Leaving schools with loans over $30,000 while being unable to find a job in the field you studied for is far from news to her. "I've been at the same job since 1983 and I still make the same amount of money."

Our conversation branches to being young and wild. She tells me about how she was backstage at the AC/DC World Tour in 1980 and how they called her parent's house. I cackle as she imitates her mother, "Who's AC/CC?"

Joe is warm and listens intently. I discover he carried her back to the camp when he found her stumbling around earlier, the two of them not having seen each other in what sounded like years. His handshake feels like an embrace and his embrace feels like being lifted gently by a cloud.

Zinc is rambunctious and hysterical. He accurately guesses my age and tells me about his 23 year old ginger daughter. The three of them together bring warmth to my heart and words can not express my joy when the beautiful RN offers me her cellphone so I can text Nicholas.

"I'm super into love," she tells me. Then she asks me our birthdays. "Oooh, a Gemini/Taurus cusp and a Leo, huh? That's a good match."

Relieved that I could finally reassure Nicholas I wasn't facedown in a ditch, I thank them all for their wisdom and generosity. In response to me asking if growing up is cool, the RN answers, "All those little things about your body that you don't like now? Let them go. Appreciate it. The best things in life are free, like back road drives and laying around in bed. Even if you don't have a lot of money, you've got a good man that loves you and that's what really counts."
I slip back into the tent, intending on catching some rest. One of the sometimes less desirable side effects of doing psychedelics is the duration in which you're incapable of sleeping. Although we were exhausted, Brandon and I ended up flailing around the tent for several hours after we laid down, switching how our sleeping bags were angled and talking about just about every topic under the sun. After we became too tired to even talk, my voice rasping and mind drowsy, he played music and we only spoke occasionally, enjoying our closed eye visuals.

When I go out to pee at maybe five or six in the morning (without phones, no one ever really knows what time it is), and there's still a quiet rumble of activity in the distance. Every now and then, the quiet is punctured by a far off shout of, "Happy Wheatland!" and I'm wrapped in it's joy all over again. The sky more gorgeous than I've ever seen in my life. Every star is perfectly bright and clear, even though the moon is luminating everything. Softly lit grass whispers under my feet and I see a peak of the sun over the horizon. For a moment, I consider staying out to watch it slowly climb over the treeline. Then I remember so many people telling me that it's the absolute best thing to see when tripping because every individual shade and hue becomes visible, even those you didn't realize were there. I decide I want to share this with Nicholas when I return next year and creep back into the tent.

At last, I sleep, Maybe four or five hours later, I wake, warm from the sun hovering above our tent. I unzip it for ventilation and roll out into the world.

Everything is different. Yet it's all the same. It comes to me that it is me that is different. I have grown a new branch and all I want to do with it is reach out.

Our final day is spent lazily. We alternate between breaking down our tent and socializing with Lauren, Seneca and Tori. We pass around waterbottles filled with Sunset Blush and sit in the searing sun. After everyone getting a steady buzz on, it is time for us to do one last lap around the woods. The fields seem queer with so many open spaces where trucks and campers pulled away and left their spots as if no one had ever been there at all.

Where'd all this grass come from?

We bump into Brad, Cierra and the gang as they're driving the van out to leave. We all exchange hugs and I leave a piece of my heart in their hands. A plan is made for Halloween and already I'm jazzed for when we next meet. Post goodbye lap we sit around for a bit, not wanting to leave this magical place. Stories are shared and we let go of our inhibitions, being exactly who we are inside. When it comes time to part ways, we all hug and make promises to drive safe, see each other soon.
Chaz returns and it's time to go home, back to the real world. Most of the drive home is quiet, other than sharing stories of our weekend and mulling over discoveries we all made. Other than a lost apartment key, the trip is uneventful and we all make it home in one piece after having been a bit disassembled not too long before.

This massive post only scratches the first few layers of what a profound effect Wheatland had on me. It misses so many stories - seeing the old gang from drama, meeting a man who knew all about Stump People, the tutu dude with dicks on the back of his shirt, me attempting to do a beer bong, getting henna painted, making friendship bracelets, playing with bubbles, hula hooping, performing improv songs on ukulele for strangers and being interrogated by children about what I'm going to be for Halloween. It leaves out having an item of mine returned by someone before I had even realized I lost it, being offered drugs and drinks by every kind of person, delectable sausage gravy, the eight commandments and the puddle with caution lights and glow sticks. Even if I wrote all of these things down for you, my words would be unable to make the atmosphere of unconditional love and acceptance clear. It is one of those things you can not comprehend without being immersed in it. Yet this is what makes it possibly more amazing. Wheatland is like smelling something from your childhood but being unable to place it. Intangible yet somehow linked intrinsically with happiness.

As of the moment I woke up Sunday morning and every moment since then, I have been happy. I love my life. I love my husband and friends and all the gifts I receive on a daily basis. As with my trips in the past, I did not find God. Instead, I found the sacred pieces of this world inside of the people I met and nature that surrounded me. And within myself, as well. We are are divine. We all deserve joy. Deciding this freed me and the life I will be living from here on out will be a reflection of this decision's impact on my soul. Peace and love to all of you who read these words from my heart and for one final time: Happy Wheatland.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny reading this now. I really did start to bring little pieces of Wheatland into my everyday life, trying to remember to keep my heart open and release judgment. It certainly wasn't a panacea for my depression and there's only so much Wheatland you can inject into daily life but this weekend reinvigorated my belief that I really could be happy and that there were things out there worth going on for even when it seemed like there wasn't.


Say it, don't pray it.