Where the hell am I, and how did I get here?
It’s been three weeks since I’ve touched this site. In that time, I’ve uprooted my life in the US and headed to Europe for a meandering adventure with a pack on my back, a loose itinerary in one hand, and a few clear intentions in the other. The itinerary includes Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Poland, Italy, maybe Greece, and maybe Turkey. I am also reserving the right to change my plans on a whim. The intentions are as follows:
1) To learn about the music (especially the rhythms) that embody each culture with which I come into contact. I hope to trace the roots as far back as possible.
2) To learn about the spiritual rituals and methods of connecting to the mysteries of life on Earth and a sense of the divine. I hope to trace these roots as far back as possible, as well. Especially to a time before the churches and cathedrals (synagogues and mosques) got so damn big and powerful.
3) To make amends with Europe, connect to my ancestry, and to appreciate the diversity of cultures and people. — For a long time, I have held a bias against Europe (particularly white, anglo-saxons, Catholic and Protestant alike…like me), and cast it as the source of most of the world’s evils. Harsh and broad, yes, I know.
However, I feel it’s important to say that this trip is tucked inside a larger story of healing and renewal for me. To talk about this trip, without sharing the wounds of the past that have formed my passions and dreams, would feel incomplete. So let me start with a bit of that backstory:
About five years ago, life as I knew it came crashing down. I was part of a scenario that was the sum of most of my personal fears, but in hindsight, is also a sadly generic ending for many people who live out their Rock ‘n Roll fantasy. Think VH-1 Behind the Music without the fame and fortune, but with substance abuse, betrayal, crash landing, and seemingly total loss. My best friend and music partner for over a decade and my girlfriend/fiance of five years, ended up doing the unthinkable and had an affair. Completely unsuspected, yet somehow completely in front of me and our community for the better part of two years (as far as I can tell). Overload, frizzle-frazzle, short-circuit, numb, collapse…oh, and then they got pregnant, after we superficially ended our relationship because she told me she didn’t want kids. Death rattle.
NOTE: Since these two people will be reoccurring characters around here, and to provide a bit of confidentiality, I will refer to them as “Mutt” and “Langely” in honor of Mutt Lange. Click on his name to learn more.
It felt like I was cut and pasted out of my own life, and that my two best friends had robbed my “vault of dreams” in the middle of the night, merged my assets, and high tailed it across the state line. I used to imagine them high-fiving each other as they crossed over into Idaho, some sort of bizarro Bonnie and Clyde. Criminal at the core, and on the loose. Needless to say, shit got real dark for me. I spent about 18 months blaming myself, another 18 months on a diet of weed and revenge fantasies, escorting these two individuals to the edge of their life, and the last two years getting clean and sorting through the pieces of a shattered self. Crying, screaming, resenting, hurting, meditating, searching, writing, expressing, even praying. Slowly over time, my mind grew quieter. The oppressive, shame based echo-chamber that had become the only channel in my head, began to fade. In its place, a new sound and energy and voice began to emerge. You know the stereotypical “calm inner voice” that so many people talk about in new age, self-help books (or blogs:), sharing their story of transformation born of tragedy? Well, that shit started to happen to me.
For years, I saw my life as a hand of cards and all I could see was a loosing hand comprised of grief, loss, resentment, and victimhood. More than anything, I thought I wanted to be a father (which is way Mutt and Langely getting pregnant was such a death blow). But sometime in the spring, something shifted. I was able to clearly see a strength in the hand I was holding. FREEDOM! I had more freedom than 99.99999% of people on this planet. All of my life, I had been terrified of being single, unemployed, and using my savings before retirement. I resisted any scenario where any of these would happen. Far from the dream of fatherhood and family (which I still maintain is one of the highest privileges in this life), I found myself single, unemployed, and living off savings. But unexpectedly, I felt relief to be in the unique position of having no significant responsibility to anyone but myself. Shocked and elated to feel so good, I thought, “I am going to play the hell out of this hand! In fact, taking care of myself and using my freedom and privileges consciously and wisely IS my responsibility!” It might sound trivial, but this was a revolutionary shift for me.
Around that time, I started to get opportunities to travel to amazing places within the US. I got to explore central and eastern Oregon with my good friend Gabe (I highly recommend the “journey through time” in the John Day National Monument and the Steen Mountains, which is the most remote part of the lower 48 states)! I was invited to a yoga retreat in Joshua Tree National Park and a peyote ceremony through the Native American Church (thank you for the rare, special gift of the invitation, Lara and Brent!!!). I got to see Alaska with my Mom, my step-dad, Frank, and step-bro, Jonathan. I spent time in the Ochoco Mountains, with a spiritual community in the lineage of the Lakota (Sioux) Native People, participating in a Hamblache ceremony, more commonly known as “Vision Quest.” Each of these opportunities came to me through an invitation, and with each of them, I felt a sense of clam, clarity, excitement, and gratitude.
Between those trips, a few music tours, and some other events that took me on the road, I didn’t spend a full weekend at home in Portland, OR for almost three months. And I loved it! Somewhere in all of it, I started to get ideas and images of heading back overseas. It had been 15 years since I traveled internationally, when I spent 6 months at the University of Ghana. Two important things happened during that time, which became key factors in how the next 14 years unfolded and eventually exploded. First, I started to get high. Secondly, I decided to return home to join an aspiring rock band and to embark on a musical odyssey. Like Jake and Elwood, I was sure both had been anointed from above. And so, to head out into the world again, on my own, is a conscious act of closing this chapter of my life and turning the page into a new one.
It’s late October 2015, I am in Bilbao, Spain, soon to board a plane for Ireland. I am reflecting on a very intense two and half week training that took place in Barcelona and Sitges, and a magical week in the Basque country with my friend and local, Inigo. The intensive was called “Power, Love, War, and Miracles.” It was offered by the Deep Democracy Institute (DDI), which is part of the larger world of Process Work. I will talk more about Process Work, when I delve into my dreams of the future, but suffice it to say, this work is not for the faint of heart. These trainings unearth very deep anddifficult topics and require a lot of energy to move through them. DDI intensive + 110 new people to meet + first time in Barcelona = no sleep or blog activity. One of my friends summed it up well, by saying he felt like he had his chest ripped open and his insides strewn about. Yep, that sounds right. — But my time in Spain has been wonderful and I will share my thoughts and more pictures soon (enjoy the collage for now). But first, I need to tell a little more backstory…