I can’t figure out why on earth I’m not happy, here living in paradise. I read comments on Facebook from friends deeply coveting my freewheeling and courageous life. But inside I am not feeling brave or free. I feel afraid and lonely. I have a lot of guilt about this. I feel like a little spoiled baby crying that my life isn’t perfect when so many people are suffering.
And I have read the books- tomes on positivity, creating your reality and quantum physics. I know I need more yoga, meditation and prayer. And yet, somehow I resist it, resist feeling better. I often watch my therapy clients do this resistance game trying to hold onto sadness and grief and don’t seem to want to feel better and I’m always perplexed by it in others, but watch in in myself.
I get annoyed with the Pollyanna’s, spouting sunshine and rainbows, positivity and prayer to resolve our darkest shadows. It doesn’t seem real, nor sustainable. And it definitely doesn’t feel like it is for me.
I don’t want to go back to the States, and I’m not sure I want to stay here. Nothing feels like home to me. I feel like an outsider, even to myself. This feels like a major identity crisis, perhaps fueled by my developmental stage, or perhaps some brain chemistry imbalance. Being a therapist makes me question everything. I’m not sure if it helps that I know so much about the workings of the psyche. Sometimes I wonder if I know only enough to make myself even more neurotic. For example, I know if I tweak my herbal regimen, or the prescription I have (but do not use) for bio-identical hormones, I might be able to transform into a completely new personality. I know that everything is projection of our internal world. I know we play little games with ourselves to make us feel important or needed and sane. So sadly, I can’t escape into these distractions because I know they are only mind games. And then, if reality is solipsistic then why in the hell am I creating this one? Out of bad habit? This creating your own reality stuff really leaves me feeling ultimately accountable and like a spiritual failure for my inability to master it.
The thing is, we came to Costa Rica for peace of mind. We’ve been here for three months. Utah was feeling less and less like home. I felt a strong panic to escape what I was feeling was an external oppression. The toxins in the environment, corporate giants tainting our food, the hedonistic treadmill, and the most terrifying…that horrible feeling of aging in a youth oriented society. I watched in horror as my youth slipped through my fingers and I felt increasingly invisible against the prized blonde, twenty somethings around me. As a child I wasn’t particularly striking, but as I got older, I was considered beautiful. I was conditioned to attach a lot of power to being pretty.
Being a woman in the USA is a difficult road. You either fight like hell to hold onto some semblance of youth and beauty, or you give up completely. And all of the fear around aging is really pointing to something deeper…it points to my fear of death, of irrelevance, or obliteration from this beautiful world I love so much.
Costa Rica seemed like a paradise, an escape into nature, affirmation of wilderness, freedom and graceful aging.
But now, I am questioning how much of that was real. Because the same dread had been dogging my dreams here too. Wherever I go, here I am.
However, the specifics of my anxiety are quite different. In our little pueblo, there is increasing theft arising of Ticos robbing Gringos, no violence as of yet. There is no law enforcement either, so it feels like the wild west. A couple we know were out for the evening and someone came and drugged their German Shepherd and robbed them. It took three calls to the police 40 minute drive away to come up the mountain. I found this very distressing. In the States, everyone in our neighborhood had the same stuff thieves covet. There was safety in numbers. But here, Gringos stick out like sore thumbs. I wonder if the locals see us and assume we’re rich (and we are by their standards). Also, Latin America doesn’t seem to have to same morality around petty crime that we have. There’s an attitude to take it if you can get away with it. There is no morality or lack of self dignity associated with stealing. When I express my concern, the other Gringos just shrug. They say at least its not violent, watch your stuff. There’s a peace here with that reality and I can’t quite get my mind around it yet.
Now we discover the shadow of this place. And it feels foreign to me. I think maybe the old saying might be right, its better the devil you know.
And there is a kind of guilt I carry because I do have more “stuff” than my neighbors. We are not rich by our standards, but to them we are kings. We drive a junker- a 1992 Isuzu Trooper with 200,000 miles on it, but for all of our neighbors who walk everywhere, it is extravagant. And I resent that I feel guilty for taking a step down in my material life to move here. But that wealth disparity- seemingly nothing in our spectrum is a gulf here. And I am not willing to live in a concrete shack with no computer, phone or car to make myself not stand out.
When we see the indigenous people walking around in their traditional dress and their stoic faces, I wonder how they see me. I must seem like a glitzy, spoiled brat to them. I wonder if they know how much I have seen of the world. I wonder how they know nature and life in ways I cannot even imagine.
In the States, I felt life was masculine-dominated and the feminine was negated. There is a strong ethos of Manifest Destiny….Almost like an announcement….”Man has conquered Nature!”
My daily life was stressful, going from one little metal or concrete box to another driving along in silence on smooth, concrete roads. I often felt like like was all cut-out predictability. The expectation is to work in your cubicle, sit in traffic smelling the fumes spewing out of your little tin can (which you still owe thousands of dollars for), eat plastic shit-food, watch commercial TV, buy plastic shit, sleep (less and less so you can work more and more). Life was leading my little family on well-worn tracks, as we sat in a cart on a Disneyland ride. Nature was something to visit, on weekends. Life felt like samsara and it distressed me to feel to cut off from the natural rhythms of the earth. I was disheartened to be working for a society I didn’t even believe in.
But here, in this green rainforest, I am coming to grips with the opposite. The jungle feels wildly feminine and unruly. Anything not tended and kept gets eaten by Pachamama. She crawls and slithers with bugs and snakes and life. Sometimes at night, I can almost feel her dank breath heaving against the light of the moon. Coyotes serenade her magnitude and power. Moist and dank, dark and unknown. She terrifies me because I am terrified of the Her that is within me.I have never made peace with this wild woman part of myself- I feel foreign to myself.
This wild nature and unruly jungle might sound romantic to you, particularly if you are sitting in a cubicle somewhere in the safety of an office, but this dark feminine terrifies me. I feel if I don’t keep my distance, I’ll be colonized by her. I’ll grow into an old witch, gnarled and ugly- moss growing in my hair and completely insane. Or worse, she will eat me alive, obliterate me. She is not malevolent, but rather there is a law of the jungle, and it is powerful. I can empathize with the Conquistadors wanting to machete her back into submission.
All of this fear of the unkept, wild woman feels like an ornate projection of my fear of aging. The Virgin is innocent and naive. What does it mean to step into Wild Woman, Mother and Crone? Can I do this either in a masculine world which negates it, or a world where the dark power terrifies me?
So, here I am..not feeling at home in either world. And again, an outsider. But I am now realizing I am only an outsider to myself. No one besides me has alienated or caste me out.
How do I even begin to know this wild woman? Somehow I don’t think she’s a “Hi, how ya doin’” kinda gal.