#8. Magic Mushrooms and the Ministry of Santa
Welcome to issue #8 of my letters! (You can read the others here.)
Well folks, it's been quite a season thus far, one mired in mostly funk and distraction, some fun, of course, and dare I name, bits of hopelessness, that last one intended to be ingested in as small a font as imaginable so as not to result in its metastasis.
Initially I had begun writing about Dracula and dinosaurs and how there was a time too recent--I'm ashamed to reveal just how recent--that I wasn't sure whether they were mythical or historical creatures, and how this is what happens when you grow up in the kind of school that believes things that, through perhaps no fault of their own if I'm being generous or just outright delusional, are not really reflective of truth, and how this all made me draw a very tangled line to the idea that, as a therapist, it can sometimes feel like the blind leading the blind, so it's a good thing we have four or five or maybe unlimited more senses to work with.
I was also interested in yelling into the void about how my initial intentions to effortlessly send something out weekly are in contrast to my reality, which encompasses an inner brain war between a desire to write and the stress of doing so, culminating in the low hum of a headache until until until.
As always, thank you for reading! <3
Three times in as many days and through as many people, the Universe spoke to me this message:
"It could be worse."
Or maybe it was, "Hey...[shrug]... it could be worse." Or was it, "I'm sure it could be worse?"? Impeccable memory is such a fickle luxury these days.
Luckily for me, I've always found the reminder that "it could be worse" a comforting reframe rather than a thoughtless and demeaning affront to whatever first-world problem I happen to be having.
The first time the Universe offered me this message, I was on the phone with Matt while shopping at TJ Maxx as a means of resisting the fact that my job is inching ever faster towards its end. The exemplification of scarcity mindset, my spirit guides reminded me, to frantically spend money "while I still have it," as if I believe it will eventually run out rather than believe that something greater will come my way. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. The point is, abundance exists in a multitude of forms. Holding in the crook of my left arm 15 pounds of clothes to try on while my right arm turned painfully numb from holding the phone to my ear, I forgot this truth.
"It could be worse," Matt said in response to my admonishing myself.
"Hmm... Even if I were being tortured for information that I don't have while imprisoned at Guantanamo?" I asked.
"It could always be worse," he replied.
I took his word for it. And kept shopping.
The second time the Universe offered me this message, I was about 1.5 hours into my [federal holiday known as "Thanksgiving"] mushroom trip, or, as I termed it, our "family vacation." I was sitting on the couch staring at the kaleidoscopic images playing on the tv screen with my brother's friend Ron, who had prudently not taken psychedelics. I can't recall much of the conversation up until the point where I alluded to what a strange and, at times, disagreeable trip the act of tripping is, to which he responded, "I'm sure it's not that bad. It could be worse, right?" My dilated pupils shot from the kaleidoscopic show to Ron. "...What? What did you say? What do you mean?" I asked, the words stumbling (er, tripping? ha ha ha) over themselves as I recalled that same phrase said to me in a very different setting but 24 hours earlier. "Well," he said, "if you were having a bad trip, you'd probably be acting way differently, right? Like really weird? Maybe in fetal position? Not having a conversation with me to be polite. That's why I said it could probably be worse." Consider my mind blown, even if it was the drugs.
Something else that blows my mind is that people do psychedelics for fun.
That's not judgment, that's jealousy.
I began a project a while back that I have yet to finish (although maybe "unfinished" is its own version of finished), a deck of personal oracle cards to serve as reminders of transformative experiences and big life lessons. The art I made above (sans Santa hat) is part of that project. It was about ten years ago when I overdosed on shrooms (is overdosing on shrooms even a thing? Let's just say it is). I found myself facedown in the dirt on the side of a hiking trail at dusk, hoping sleep would turn off in my mind and my entire being this admittedly beautiful kaleidoscope of ultimate presence and nowness that had taken over.
"Are you going to sleep?" Andrea asked incredulously.
"...No. I'm just... resting," I lied.
I most certainly was trying to go to sleep. It was far too much ultimate presence and nowness for me, someone who could honestly list "thinking of nonexistent things to get upset about" as a hobby. The kaleidoscope took every negative thought that I'd come up with as a means of sobering up and returning myself back to this planet, and shoot it out into nothingness. I was alone with the truth that not one thing was wrong, and that it could indeed be worse. My ego was dying, and my pain body was desperately unhappy about that.
After what seemed like 17 hours but was probably really 14 minutes, dusk turned to night, and, looking up at the sky, I became overwhelmed with the realization that every single thing that ever existed or will exist or does exist is connected -- the now-shimmering rocks to the dry summer grass to our dirtied bodies to the warm air to all the stars glistening above, a gauzy blanket of comfort tucking me in to my true self and assuring me that all is well.
And all was well.
Until it wasn't, and, after what seemed like 17 more hours but was probably really 26 minutes, Matt arrived to fetch us and bring us home, where I lay in bed most of the night, eyes wide open, contemplating calling 911 (lol), and crawling into my parents' bed, wedging myself in between them for safety purposes.
If there's one thing about me, it's that I always learn (half) my lesson.
The half I learned was to have my dear and most awesome parents present for my trip as my optimal safety net (remember, I love my safety nets). The half I didn't learn was to not trip in the first place. Just kidding, drugs are totally fine.
Anyway. The third time in as many days that the Universe offered me this message was right after Nadya and I took our 24th annual Santa pictures, less than 24 hours after my family vacation magic mushroom trip. As Santa walked us towards the exit of the platform, we made some perhaps imprudent small-talk comment about how skinny he was, which turned into big-talk about how he had been paralyzed from the waist down for many years, and had only begun to walk again 80 days prior. A true Christmas miracle! Santa spoke of how his wife had passed some years ago, and that she and God would have wanted him to minister to veterans, specifically, but really to anyone who needed to feel loved and cared for and uplifted by another. He felt it was his calling to spread the message of love in any way he can, and that if he could find joy through all of his life's pain, then by God and the spirit of his wife, he was going to help others do the same. "Remember, there's so much to be grateful for. It could always be worse."
I felt like I was in a hallucinogenic Hallmark movie.
"Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady Getting Messages from the Universe through Shopping, Shrooms, and Santa" it might be called. It'll take us through a psychedelic yet romantic journey through a kaleidoscope of alternating sunshine and snow, through love and heartbreak and back to love again, through alternating realizations of the fundamental aloneness of being alive and the fundamental connectedness of life. It'll begin and end with a shot of me looking at myself in the mirror chuckling at my own face and falling in love with the scalloped bathroom sink. The water rushing from the faucet is scalding, but the mushrooms numb my skin against the very concept of temperature, so the only way I know I'm nearly burnt is the bright, bright pink that my hands are turning.
It could be worse.
Until next time-