By Gerri Ravyn Stanfield
I never thought I would make it past 30.
Birth was the first time I took air inside myself. Then, the new sound from my raw throat floated away from me. That first time my voice pierced the world, I was not welcome. I longed to return to that quiet dark liquid place that tricked me into thinking it was home. I wasn’t real for a long time. I immediately hated anything that pushed me further into this unwanted emergence. My voice was to blame, so I banished it.
When I was 12, my friend’s parents were out of town and I found you in their liquor cabinet. When we met, you were that moment when the sand beneath me dropped off and my feet found nothing. It was all about floating, swimming, being held, salt drying on my lips.
I wanted to do it again, always pushing backwards towards you.
I was grateful to belong to something vast. Over the years, I whispered so many of your use-names. Tobacco, Vodka, Whiskey, Southern Comfort, Kentucky Skunk Weed. And others told me they knew you by other names Ecstasy. Shopping. Cocaine. Sex. Meth. Heroin.
I always searched for the private trysts, the liaisons with just you and me. I barely spoke. I was the quiet one floating. When we were together, tumbling over each other, the world was exhaling and nothing was certain.
You taught me to speak chaos.
The water was cold. I got lost for many years. Things got bloody and drunk and dismal. There was a kind faced woman teacher of Eastern European descent. She saw me drowning in high school English, even though I hid and lied in everything I wrote for her. We had no winking signal across the heads of the others, no secret literary club. She never indicated that she would give me anything but she called me writer for the first time. I can’t remember her name, only her turtleneck and her smiling way.
I felt confused when people were gentle. I wonder how they survived without silence, armor and your protection.
After 18 years intertwined with you, I crashed to the depths of the pit and there was something that found me there, undone, knees curled into belly. Every day, I fell more in love with the leviathan force that lifted me away from you. That starry flowing thing unearthed me crawling and made me rise and climb out of the hole by myself, hand over hand.
I needed to leave you, so I buried seed dreams in the earth and howled. I sang the secret name of the moon. I got out of bed, even when it was a destruction day instead of a creation day. I had to trust something larger than you to hold me.
It wasn’t you that made me get free, it was me.
We wanted different things. I wanted to devour salted caramels, croon lullabies, see elephants and climb mountains. You wanted me to die in an absent, numb kind of way.
I was still alive on my 30th birthday, against all odds. I let that pulse quicken, found the shiver that whispered yesyesyes. I desired my whole life. I heard the song that plays softly beneath it all, gluing everything together with patient joy.
That is why I was born with a voice. Suddenly, I could no longer shut up. Your tumult prepared me exquisitely for the times I now lived in. Suddenly, people needed me to do that thing I knew how to do. We could sing as we marched out of prisons, out of hell, out of anything that was not the truth.
I decided to tell the story again and put you and my rejection wound somewhere in the center. I needed to make the ending an unknown wonder, a holy plot twist, a claiming of power.
I might miss you when I am falling short, taking myself too grimly, white knuckles and tight lips. But I am part of a larger songweb. I receive and give breath over and over, even when I feel alien.
Everything sings to everything.
Gerri Ravyn Stanfield is an acupuncturist, author and educator dedicated to liberating the super powers within each of us. She practices acupuncture in Portland, Oregon and works with Acupuncturists Without Borders to build world healing exchange programs. She uses her background in neurobiology, ritual design, mythology, writing and theatre to coax more of the extraordinary into the world through the cracks in Western civilization. Ravyn is a cultural alchemist, writing to transform the heartbreak of modern times and reveal the gold in what seems worthless. She designs trainings for emerging leaders and healers in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. Visit her blog, or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.
Editor: Dana Gornall