Updated: Oct 17, 2019
- Cutting ties and saying goodbye -
Supposedly, air signs are highly adaptable. Supposedly, astrology is also bullshit. While I’ve always found some truth to it, I have to admit this is not one of those times. As an Aquarian, I’d hardly describe myself as adaptable. In fact, I hate change. Probably more than anything, and I ascertain I’m not the only one.
Letting go of things is hard, especially when it comes to something you love that’s offered you a sense of comfort and stability for years. That’s why, at nearly 34 years old, I still sleep with my childhood blanky… occasionally. But, just as I know that negatively effects my dating life, I know we hold onto things that are as equally harmful to other aspects of our lives as well.
After seeing a friend’s play earlier this year, I couldn’t help but relate to the main character, feeling as though I had also been stuck on repeat without any sense of direction, confused about my individual purpose in life. With every new year I seemed to reset the needle on an album I’d just played, expecting to hear different songs. I never did, of course, and the monotony of playing the same record over and over again was beginning to drive me crazy. I knew something needed to change. I just didn’t know what - or how much.
By the time by birthday rolled around a month later, I found myself wanting to be in accompanied isolation. Basically, I wanted to have my birthday cake and eat it too. You see, I had this burning desire to go to Joshua Tree and try mushrooms for the first time. And while I had no interest in doing them alone and unsupervised, I didn’t exactly want to experience them for the first time with just anyone. So, instead, I planned on spending the weekend with my dog and my journal at an Airbnb “galmping” site located near the national park.
As the date drew nearer, I extended the invite to a few close friends. Since it’s hard enough to get people to drive over the hill to have dinner in LA, I had little expectation of any of them driving two hours to meet me in the desert. As it turns out though, the magic of mushrooms goes beyond ingesting it.
When I mentioned I was toying with the idea of taking them to a few of my friends like Emily-
Emily: Oh, man! I wish I wasn’t going to Mammoth this weekend. I would totally come and do mushrooms with you.
Mark: In the desert too? It’s going to be so nice.
Emily: Yeah. And it’ll be good for you too, Rachel. Whenever I have tough decisions to make or if there’s people you want to clear out of your life… mushrooms are great for that.
Mark: Yeah, they are.
Emily: Yes. Actually … (sound of her opening her freezer then grabbing something in a wrapper), yes, I have one! Here. (freezer closes behind her as she offers something to Rachel) Happy birthday. Now you can have fun without me.
Mark: Is that one of those chocolate bars? This is going to be so great, Rachel. I’ll dose you out.
Oddly enough, my friend Mark has always been there whenever I partake in any kind of drug related activity. He kind of accidentally established himself as a sort of drug spirit guide after getting me home safely when I was roofied at a club in Manhattan seven years earlier. He’s continued to prove himself a reliable and trustworthy guardian ever since. That’s why I found it odd once I began to have second thoughts about our scheduled itinerary, after Mark and his girlfriend met up with Lillian and me in Joshua Tree that weekend.
Rachel: I don’t think I want to take them now.
Rachel: I just woke up this morning feeling like maybe I don’t want to alter my brain’s chemistry? Also, it’s my birthday. I really don’t want to spend it throwing up.
Mark: Why would you throw up?
Rachel: I dunno. Because everyone keeps telling me that’s what happens when you take mushrooms.
Mark: Yeah, the shitty kinds that aren’t prepared properly. (then) You brought Erin’s bar with you, right?
Mark: That’s like the best stuff you can take. It’s totally controlled and I’ll only give you what I know you can handle.
Rachel: I dunno…
Mark: When I have I ever given you a reason not to trust me?
He hadn’t. So, while I’m not usually a likely candidate for peer pressure, I defaulted. Mark tore off a few nibbles before distributing them out to his girlfriend and me, then took some himself. Lillian passed, offering instead to be the DD and the audience to what was sure to be promising entertainment.
I suppose I thought all edibles, regardless of their infused drug, would be similar to the medicinal marijuana ones I typically end my nights on. I figured I had about an hour before I’d feel them kick in - like the familiar hum of florescent lighting before the bulbs fully illuminate. That’s why I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with me once we reached Arch Rock just ten minutes later.
Mark was setting up my tripod on a boulder across from the picturesque backdrop while the rest of us did our best to come up with a pose that mimicked the cover of a rock band you’d forgotten about.
Katie: What if we did something like this?
Lillian: No, no, how about you go there, Rachel goes there, and Mark can go right here?
Woman: How about you let other people through so they can continue the trail?
I turned to see a middle aged woman in a fishing hat, leaning over her hiking stick trying to catch her breath. I wondered if maybe that’s why a group of overly aware individuals like ourselves, would have missed an otherwise seemingly obvious social cue. Or, maybe we were must too preoccupied with the beauty around us to notice things with energy that wasn’t.
Despite the fact I didn’t appreciate this lady’s demeanor, I was taken aback by how I chose to address it. I registered all the space around us, referring to it when I replied with childlike simplicity -
Rachel: You can go ahead. No one’s stopping you.
(we hear the woman passing them an annoyed sigh)
Rachel: All you had to do was ask.
It was strange, as if my body had been abducted by someone far more wise and all knowing. All the characters from Inside Out had been strapped down in the passenger seat of my control center, forced to bear witness while some other entity conducted myself in the best version possible. Although, the characters of my consciousness weren’t willing to relinquish their power so easy. Any time they found a hole in my stream of subconscious, they came up for air, immediately addressing their judgmental observations for me to asses. As in this moment, where I was transfixed by the leaves of a desert plant.
Rachel: It’s so pretty… oh, (laughs at herself) I see what’s happening here.
By now, I was aware the drug had kicked in, which of course gave the consciousness reason to panic.
Rachel: Mark, it think I’ m going to throw up, I think I’m going to throw up.
Mark: No, you’re not. Just breathe. It’s mind over matter. Your body is reacting to the poison. You just have to tell it it’s not a threat.
Mark: Yeah, that’s what mushrooms are. What do you think makes them so magical?
Rachel: I don’t - I just, I feel, really, really uncomfortable. Like, I’m separate from my body or something.
Mark: That’s good.
Rachel: No, I mean like I feel trapped inside it. It’s really really hot in here. I can feel the temperature of my blood and I want to get the fuck out.
Mark: What are you talking about? It’s a cool 98.6 degrees in there.
Rachel: Yeah, if it was that temperature out here, I don’t think you’d be walking around in a sweater. Only, this is my skin. I can’t take it off!
Whether I ultimately became too distracted by a need to pee, or the realization that I’m really quite funny when I’m not unconcerned with acceptance, the feeling eventually subsided and was replaced with a sense of euphoria and wonder. Wherever I’d arrived, things were simpler there, and I liked it.
Rachel: Oh, my God.
Rachel: I get why they call it the gift of life.
Lillian: Um… what?
Rachel: Look at the world around us. It’s legitimately a beautiful gift we never take the time to marvel in or appreciate. We’re too wrapped up in ourselves and our stupid little lives to see the bigger picture.
Lillian: (laughing) Um, speak for yourself.
Rachel: …I am.
Just as Emily had promised, the mushrooms had given me razor sharp clarity. It was like I suddenly had x-ray vision and the ability to see past all the bullshit in my life. Furthermore, I immediately recognized I had the power to avoid all of it. The only thing that was missing, was courage to do so.
Moving is scary, especially when it’s linked to moving on - from people, places, experiences, ideas. But, in that moment, I couldn’t see how the unknown could be any scarier than the comfort I’d known for the past ten years. That’s why, underneath a bright pink florescent sky on the first day of my thirty-third year, I knew I had to move blindly toward it. Though the drugs wore off a few hours later, it seemed the woman who’d taken over was there to stay.
Over the next few weeks, I watched what felt like someone else pretending to be me, make decisions I never would have imagined making. With a force bigger than me dictating my actions, I found myself saying goodbye to a long time business associate, a building that had housed me longer than any other in my entire life, friends I’d spent over a decade forming relationships with, and a guy I’d thought I’d be with forever. I didn’t want to do any of it, but I felt I’d given my consent to someone to sift through my emotional hoarding, and the permissions to throw out whatever they deemed was in my best interest.
As I watched movers I’d hired pack up my things, I counted out ten drops of CBD oil to temper the anxiety fear and emotion were generating. I wasn’t sure if I was in the process of destroying my life or finally starting to live it. It was easy to assume I’d been impulsively overreacting to what may very well be the new mid life crisis in your 30’s. After all, I was making major life decisions based on a drug induced epiphany I had only a couple weeks prior. Yet, there was another feeling as equally present inside me so calm, I couldn’t help but revere it.
Like a tether ball rod that had been staked securely through my body, I felt completely secure at my core. My intellect may have been the ball, swinging back and forth in various, chaotic directions, as dictated by fear, but I was still very much still attached to something solidly in place. The only thing I could do was trust in it’s strength, give in, and wrap myself around it’s anchor.