What Kind of Monster Feels OK in a Crisis?

Mnemosyne/March 26, 2020

In the early days of the shelter-in-place orders and the spreading alarm about the COVID19 pandemic, I am feeling…

Well, I’m not feeling what I expected to be feeling, that’s for sure. I go looking for some way to explain myself to myself – a common preoccupation of mine – and what shows up is:

I am so hot. The heat sits on my skin, mixes with sweat and soot and the sickness gasping and oozing out of the bodies dying all around me. Barely anything human left, I think, behind those eyes, the ones that follow me as I walk up and down the rows. Just vectors for disease.

Of course I don’t think the word “vector.” That’s not a word I or anyone understands. I think “miasma.” I think of curses and demons. I think of sin. I step, and stoop, I trickle water over cracking lips, stand, and do it again. The stink has hollowed out my nostrils. The smoke so thick in the air that seeing is like the viscous burn of seawater in my eyes. The eyes of the dying are yellow like bad butter. The eyes of the helpers, like me, are red like sullen coals. We meet like monsters swimming through the poison fog, greet each other with a nod, a tip of the pitcher we carry, and then pass by.

This is a memory. You can believe what you want about it. I’m not sure, honestly, what I believe about it. It arose in a regression session facilitated by a therapist, in response to this question: What is the past life I lived that has the most relevance for the life I’m living now?

And whether my brain gave me, in answer, the memory of another life, or of an ancestral trauma, or whether it manufactured a story from pieces of my memory and knowledge and sensibilities that would reveal a truth, the way stories do… well frankly I’m an artist and I believe that last option has as much validity as any other. I hold an open mind about reincarnation and the mechanisms that might be involved there, but I’m inherently skeptical. I am not at all skeptical, however, about the power of the subconscious to deliver us sleeping and waking dreams of truth more powerful than fact. I’ve seen that happen over and over again.

How does an inherently skeptical person end up in a past-life regression? Or having invested so much time traveling the roads that lead to rooms full of people seeking other ways of knowing that trance states feel familiar and credible? This is how: my whole life has been seeking ways of understanding myself. There have been clinical diagnoses and pharmaceuticals, there have been neutroceuticals and entheogens. There has been talk therapy, somatic therapy, shadow work, immersion in self-expression, immersion in service. I have embraced both discipline and distraction. I’ve been looking for answers as to why I feel so wrong, in this world, for a very, very long time. I’ve been desperate enough to open doors that seemed ridiculous, looking for those answers. Most of those doors? I’m glad I opened them.

I have had a rich life of exploration, alone and in community. I have learned so much about mtself as individual, and as species. I’ve found joyous moments and transformative challenges and heroic friendships through some of that work.

But I never stopped feeling wrong.

Momentarily? Sure. In the midst of some task I both believed was meaningful and knew I could perform? Sure. There is satisfaction in flexing a competent muscle. But when the task was over and I was cut lose back into life…

So here’s the thing. Right now, for the first time ever, I feel ok. Like, in my bones OK. I feel calm. I feel competent. I feel, honestly, as though the world around me reflects a reality – and a relationship with that reality – that I recognize.

I don’t feel wrong anymore.

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