[These excerpts are from BURNOUT, Book 1, Burnout to Bliss series.]
From Part IV, Going Home:
You Really Can’t
Go Home Again
Not wanting anything to spoil my lingering glow from the vision quest, I spent most of June quietly at home alone, considering all I’d learned and wondering what my next step would be. After the year from Hell with Nemesis, I was not eager to return to my once-beloved job at Mount Purgatory. My little piece of heaven had turned into a daytime nightmare filled with ugliness, mostly from her unexpected and always unwarranted outbursts. I felt trapped, stuck like a beached whale, just as Virginia had said. Only a miracle could save me now.
Mere days later, I got one.
Out of the blue, Catherine, a former student, phoned and asked if I would accompany her to California. Catherine had taken one of my courses several years earlier, and I found her to be intelligent, refreshingly independent, and spunky as hell. She had majored in geology at Mount Purgatory and was now working in Denver. Whenever she would come back to Purgatory, she’d call or stop by. My cats loved her, and I considered her much more than a wonderful former student. She was my friend.
Catherine had an interesting offer. She was quitting her job in Denver and relocating to California to be nearer the man of her dreams, whom she had decided to marry!
I love that about Catherine. She knows what she wants and goes for it. No fear. When she called and asked me to come along for the ride, I jumped at the opportunity. It would get me out of Purgatory, give me a breather, and being in her powerfully positive presence would be a refreshing vacation for about a week. I could also be of service, help her find her new home.
I joined Catherine at her parents’ home in Grand Junction. We drove out the next day in her Toyota station wagon, fully loaded down. I left my vehicle parked at her parents’ house.
We traveled on the “loneliest highway,” and we laughed out loud. Oh how I love to laugh! She guided me as I gave myself an expert pedicure with her toys while she drove. We talked about her new job in Sacramento and squirted each other with our poor man’s “air conditioner” – a plant-mister filled with water.
We stopped half-way at a campground near Ely, Nevada, to sleep under the stars. Except for the vision quest in Mexico, camping alone under the stars anywhere was not common for me, but it was for her. I continually marveled at her ability to decide what she wanted and then do whatever it took to get it, expecting nothing but the best, maneuvering around hassles as effortlessly as water flows around boulders in the river.
That she was becoming my teacher was evident even to me, even then.
When we reached Sacramento, she bought a newspaper with ads for rental houses. I played navigator with the map while she drove to all the listings in her price range that would be close to her job. She settled on a two-bedroom house and then dared me to move there with her.
“I can’t just take off like that,” I said.
“Why not?” She asked.
I sputtered a slew of excuses.
“You’ve served your time there,” she insisted.
“They’ll never give me a leave of absence.”
“How do you know?” she said. “Have you asked?”
“No,” I admitted. And just like a thunderclap in a summer rainstorm, I realized this was the test to see if I had actually learned from my camping with shamans. Did I still believe my job was the source of my good? Or was I ready, finally, to trust that all my needs would be met before I even knew I had them? Could I actually break away from that job, trusting that I’d be okay with no plans, with no clue what I’d do when my last paycheck ran out?
I returned to Purgatory, asked for the leave of absence (unpaid) and got it! Yikes! But could I really leave, now that my position had been made crystal clear? “We can’t promise that we’ll hold your job for you,” the dean had said.
On my drive home I noticed that I wasn’t actually surprised. Why wouldn’t they give me leave? I was doing them a favor. Enrollments were down, so they wouldn’t have to replace me. They would save money by not paying my salary for a year. But the assertion of power over my life made by the dean with his final comment lingered in the air and really forced the issue: “We can’t promise that we’ll hold your job for you.” Oofdah!
So which is it? Do I have faith or not? DO I have faith? CAN I live in FAITH?
And the answer came just as quickly. “I DO! I do have faith! And I CAN! I can live in faith! Because the lizard talked to me! And because I believe what he said was true for him! And if it is true for him, then it also must be true for me because we are all ONE!
Hell, yeah! I’m going!”
While I was making plans to leave on my amazing adventure, a woman called to invite me to a going away party she was hosting for a mutual friend, who also was making a life change; she was going back to school. I went and was delighted to see some of the musicians I’d followed from bar to bar in my drinking days. My trip came up in passing, and one of the guys, only a few years younger than I was, was aghast.
“But what will you do?” he asked.
“Don’t know yet,” I said. “I’ll figure it out when the time comes. I can always wait tables.”
“But you’re old!”
Old? Forty-four is old? I laughed out loud and asked if he’d looked in the mirror lately.
I was laughing at his concern for how I was going to support myself for more than a year without working. But when I remembered that I had only one paycheck in the bank, ironically, I laughed all the harder. Because that’s when it really hit me: I was no longer afraid!
I knew that no matter what, I’d be okay. It was okay for me to leave my job. It was okay for me to do something different. It was okay not to know what I was going to do! A gigantic shift had occurred in that chat with the lizard in the desert, and I was no longer afraid!
No one had killed me since I saw the psychiatrist and got the prescription to stop the night visions. I had no plans to drive off a cliff. I felt happier than I ever had. I saw joy everywhere I looked, and I was fighting to hang on to that joy, fighting for my new life.
And God gave me a house sitter I could trust – my current housemate, coincidentally also named Kathy. She was one of my college-student friends, one of the non-traditional students who had lived a life before taking classes to become a teacher. Who could ask for a better house sitter?
We had become good friends in the time she lived in my house – despite my going through hell and being crazy. She was funny and played a mean game of backgammon. She actually liked listening to me pick my guitar and wail my country tunes. Kathy never once mentioned that I was not “firing all cylinders.”
Kathy would continue to live in what I had started calling Mom’s House after Mom visited and chose not to stay there. Kathy would live upstairs in my room (rent-free). She would rent three of the bedrooms to college girls to pay the mortgage in my absence and serve as their den mother. Their moms would be glad to have adult supervision for their daughters in off-campus (cheaper) housing. Kathy could stay a while longer in Purgatory, rent-free, and I could leave without worrying about my house. Win-win for all parties involved.
With my property in good hands, it was time for me to leave. I had prayed for a miracle, a chance to do something besides teach so I could allow my body, mind and spirit to heal. My prayer had been answered.
Catherine, my friend in California, expected nothing from me, not even rent. She had offered me a place to simply be, a sanctuary, and that’s what I needed now more than anything.
I had done battle with fear and won. I had listened to the cheeky desert lizard that reminded me of the Bible lessons I learned as a kid, and it had restored my faith. The lizard’s bizarre behavior had taught me to trust that all my needs would be met, even before I knew I had them. I had been seen and validated by people I loved and respected – the spiritual man with his Indian shaman family in Mexico. It seemed my freaky weirdness had a plausible explanation, whether it was a nervous breakdown, a “dark night of the soul” experience, severe burnout, or all three.
Whatever it was called, it wasn’t happening now. I had received healing from a psychiatrist and from alternative health providers, including psychics, massage therapists, Tarot readers, astrologers, and real, live, bona fide Indian shamans. I was ready for the next step, to surrender and trust that I would be guided every step of the way – on an amazing journey with no plans and one paycheck.
But you already know it’s not really the end. It’s the beginning, the “back-story,” the story that launched my two-year journey with one paycheck and no plans that started with CYCLING in the CITY, Book 2 in the Burnout to Bliss series.
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About the Burnout to Bliss Series
(1) Burnout is the story of a workaholic who experienced “dark night of the soul” or existential crisis. The tale begins with a murder that happened while she was lecturing. It relates all the ways the author sought relief – from self-medication (alcohol, drugs, and men) to psychics to counseling and psychiatry. It shows how real healing began when the author camped with shamans in a culture vastly different from her own. BURNOUT is now FREE! On Amazon. And Books2Read.
The first get away from that extreme situation was to a “sanctuary” in California as related in Book 2, CYCLING in the CITY. That get-away apparently was presented simply to heal myself enough to take the next step.
CYCLING in the CITY is a story about overcoming limitations –one small step at a time. It’s also about the process of making life changes – like why resolutions don’t stick. It shows how you can plan for success instead of failure – even how to make tough changes like quitting smoking, alcohol or drugs. And, it includes the underlying SECRET for success! OnAmazon here. On other venues HERE.
(3) The real story of the ego surrendering control began when that sanctuary was no longer available and I became like The Fool (Tarot card, pictured here), jumping off a cliff with a tiny knapsack and a little dog for company… Book 3 is a full-length book, currently sitting at 73,500 words. It’s a tale of letting go and trusting that life is good and safe and that all needs will be met even before I realize I have them. It is the final story of an awakening experience, my two-year journey with one modest paycheck and no plans that was launched with BURNOUT. (Working title is Practicing SURRENDER.)
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Next: I’m considering posting chapters from the DRAFT of Book 3, hoping for feedback as it goes. Is that interesting to you?
Till next time, please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi