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Digging To Find Myself.

June 1, 2014

Digging To Find Myself. By Rachel Bolin.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. ~Seamus Heaney

I have never really been very into poetry. I have phases where I have found solace in the words of poets. Robert Frost when I was at the ripe old age of 13, and I had a fleeting love affair in my teenage years of angst with Charles Bukowski. But I never understood it. I could relate to some of the passages and with bits and pieces of them, but as a whole it was completely outside my realm of comprehension. Then I discovered this man from the green hills of Northern Ireland. Where, even to this day, I would swear part of my heart lies, even though I have never stepped foot onto its soil.

I have always, and I mean always, been obsessed with the United Kingdom and Ireland. Anglophile never did seem like a strong enough term for how much I loved it. Even now, I still yearn for this probably very heavily romanticized version I carry around in my head and my heart. Of drinking Guinness in the local pub and watching football on the telly. I have gobbled up music, books, films and everything about it I could get my hands on. From the fascination with the Tudors to the obsession with the Sex Pistols, John Peel and Good Vibrations to imagining living a quiet life with grandchildren in the country many years from now. You name it I am sure I have envisioned that life and wanted to live in that city. It probably seems silly, but that daydream life was something that helped through those dark times. I knew that it would probably never come to fruition, as I was born and bred in the Midwest, but you can not blame a girl for dreaming. I have never felt my heart truly belonged here. Maybe in the beaches of California. Maybe in the mountains of Montana. Or maybe in those green hills were that man came from.

I always landed in those green hills. I think Seamus Heaney was the reason I landed there. I believed for a while that finding him was a sign for me to live there. I had my heart set on Belfast and Queen’s University where he attended and graduated with his degree in English. I was going to do music rather than write. I have tried many different things in my life. I attempted art school, which lasted for a whole 6 weeks, and then off to music production, then music business. Which definitely could have worked if I had the gumption to push myself to do it. But no matter how hard I tried, it did not really fit. I found myself getting disillusioned with the industry, seeing only the bad aspects of it, and realizing that there was a very real possibility of losing my main outlet. Music is, and hopefully will continue to be, my therapy. That is my solace in those dark times and my rejoicing during the good. I end up with music and with writing. I never thought I had the ability or the talent to be a writer for a career, but I kept doing it. Because I found that I have an easier time articulating my feelings and thoughts through it. Even though I write fiction and attempted, very badly, to write poetry, I still found a way out of my head. I have only recently begun to write those personal things. Those things that live and fester in the dark corners of my mind. I have begun to shed light on those demons that for so long seemed like they would overtake everything I hold dear. I have been in traditional therapy for so long, and while it did help, I think giving myself a voice and reaching out to others to realize that yes, I feel alone and unworthy, but seeing in big bright bold neon letters “YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS.” That others have similar demons haunting them, has been such an eye opening experience.

I hopped on a plane and spent a week in the humid tropics of Costa Rica. I went on a Manifestation Retreat with (there are no real words for how amazing she is) Jennifer Pastiloff. I got home a handful of days ago, and I can feel myself flip flopping between the old and the new, who I was and who I will be. I have been so blissful and felt the best I have ever felt in my life. Then I have been agitated and felt suffocated. I can feel the old trying to choke the new blossoming ways out of my mind and my body. I can feel them fighting. I don’t entirely know what happened while I was down there. But apart from being so open with the most amazing, loving, giving and supportive group of women I have been blessed to meet in my life, something major shifted. That dark matter that resided in my belly was dug out, and the fire in my belly began to spark again in ways I have never felt. She holds the space for us to do this, to be open and so vulnerable that it could break your heart, but it doesn’t. Our hearts mend together to create this space for us to bring out our darkness and to confront it and say, “I rule this body, this mind and this soul! You don’t own me. I do!”

It seems almost as far away as one could get from the cold and rainy greenery of Ireland. Something big shifted in me in the sweltering heat of the jungles. It took a man from the rainy countryside to start it, and the jungles to dig it out.

I went down there to dig. That word “Digging” has never been far from my mind (I even want to get it tattooed on my arm), even as the years pass from the first time I read “Digging.” I never fully realized what he meant by any of it. How, by saying he “had no spade to follow men like that.” He was not meant to follow in the footsteps of the men before him. That he was to carve out his own path. He was to dig with his pen. He was to dig his way through himself, and through the world with his words. It was amazing to me to find out that he was all of 27 when he wrote that. That he had his moment of ‘This is what I am meant to do’ at an age not much older than my 25. That he did not have it all figured out until then, maybe even after that. He used his words to determine his path, both for finding himself and his way through the world. His pen and his words became a beacon of light in what could be an overwhelmingly dark world.

That was a calming moment for me. I have scrambled through life believing that I have to know my path NOW. Not years from now, I have to know everything right this second. Truth is, I know a few things. I have a few things that I would absolutely love to have happen, but they may not. I went through my digging in Costa Rica with the wish for a family and some peace, maybe a smidgen of self-love thrown in there for good measure.

But I fixated on family. The calm and ever loving family that I did not have, and still do not really have now. The family that I could do better and be better in. The family where we are not passive aggressive and let things fester over the years, where anger and depression and all other feelings run rampant and rule over the possibly of an unconditional non-judgmental ever lasting love. The family that I would daydream about in the country of Ireland (either North or South. I’m not picky). The one with the mass amounts of children and grandchildren running around, playing the mud, and howling laughter. With my husband and I sitting and just feeling calm love for each and every one of them. Where I could finally have those demons under some kind of control and not over-think myself into a mess that does not exist. When I slip into that bliss from the trip, that future does not feel so far away. It feels possible in some way. I can feel that peace of mind. I can get my brain to shut up for a while. I can get the words flowing again. That is the truest form of bliss I have been granted in my short life. Getting that hamster wheel of brain to stop running in circles that go nowhere but drive me insane, to halt to allow those words of Mr. Heaney to enter. To use that pen snug as gun between my fingers to dig. To really dig to the point where I can almost feel those words as earth between my fingers. Where I can visualize my words being pulled out of the hole in the ground where I lived for so long, and allowing these things to see the light of day so that I can thank them and realize them. I am trying so hard to release them to best of my ability, as I know remnants will always exist, but to dig the majority of it out and let it be gone. So I can stand guard over it and decide what I will allow back in. I will never completely control it, and there will be days in which the old stuff slips back in, but if I can be at a point where I can deal with it, and not shy away from my tough stuff, I will be good.

I went to Costa Rica to dig. And dig I did.

“Between my thumb and my finger

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.” ~Seamus Heaney

May there be many more years of digging ahead of me.

 

At Jen Pastiloff's Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica.

At Jen Pastiloff’s Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at Blue Osa.

Rachel Bolin is a freelance writer who hails from the frozen tundra of Minneapolis. An art school drop out, she turned her focus to music, and has been educated in various aspects of the industry. She has been focusing her writing on Music and the Industry, but is now turning her focus onto more personal writing. She has a small collection of short stories published on Amazon. Her writing can be found on her blog at rachelebolin.wordpress.com.

At Jen Pastiloff's Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica.

At Jen Pastiloff’s Manifestation Retreat in Costa Rica at Blue Osa.

Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading a long weekend retreat to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  Los Angeles, SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

 

 

 

Guest Posts

It’s Personal.

November 21, 2013

It’s Personal.

By Rachel Bolin.

Writing has always been relatively easy for me. I usually did pretty well in my English classes, and glided through my creative  writing class in high school. I can usually just B.S. something, and often it’s just enough to get by. It’s always been easy with homework or any fictional writing I’ve done. Because it’s not personal. Maybe there is a bit of something personal that slipped through the cracks into a character or to a sentence, but it has never been a whole thing of my bleeding heart pumping my emotions out onto a page. I have never been brave enough to do it. I just recently admitted how terrified and nervous it makes me. I even think about it, and I can feel a crippling panic attack coming on. Which I do find kind of funny since I’ve been in therapy for about half my life, it’s not an inability to articulate the feelings, but it seems like even sitting in a session I feel like I’m approaching it all with detached clinical attitude rather than feeling it flow through my veins. It’s pretty bad when even your therapist calls you out on that. When she asks how you feel about things rather than being able to see it on your face.

The funny thing is, I have people who have managed to slip past these walls I have. I always picture them being 10 feet high with barbed wire at the top surrounded by a moat with alligators, piranhas, and for some reason hippos and lions are in there. Those animals I alway thought were so fierce and scary as a kid, have slipped into the mental picture of protection I have for myself. Sometimes people get to see in, and if they don’t run away screaming, they stay and become people I can truly rely on. Most of the time though, I don’t even let people have a sneak peek. That has been my control and safety net. I always thought if I could do that, then everything would be ok. Which as I grow older and experience more situations through life, I realize that I can’t control things like that.

I realize how much I use the word Hate. I hate this, I hate that, I hate this feeling, that movie, that song. But I’m not afraid to use it in this instance. I HATE being like that. I HATE that I have those stupid walls, and feeling the need to protect my heart so heavily. I’ve let that hurt and that pain dictate too much of my life. I was angry for so long, and turned it inwards. I truly despised myself for so long, based on something I couldn’t control and didn’t decide. I felt like I paid the consequences for other people’s choices. I had established this weird protect/punish dynamic with myself. Where I would keep the outside world out of my mind, which was probably an attempt to keep myself from getting hurt even further, only to turn around and mentally beat myself to a pulp. So I tried to protect myself, which only lead to me hurting myself mentally with the thoughts of self-hatred. At some point, I started the slow process of shaking that off. It will take a very long time, and I’m prepared for that. The fear and self-hatred made a home within every fiber of my being that sometimes it feels like it has enveloped my DNA. Sometimes I think that I’ll have to take a sledge hammer to it, in order to loosen it. It will be hard work, but nothing in life worth having is easy. Everything worth while is hard work, and this is definitely worth while.

I read this article in Psychology Today a few months back. It was called, “What happy people do differently.” I remember looking at the cover, and laughing to myself thinking ‘Of course they do something differently! They’re HAPPY!’ I thought the idea of having an article talking about happy people was just silly. Upon reading the article, I found that it wasn’t just some list of rules you should follow to be happy, but that they ended up saying that people who are happiest in life tend to do things that make them anxious and uncomfortable. They take risks and they take the time to feel those horrible feelings so that when they do feel good it’s that much sweeter. That we can’t appreciate the light until we’ve been shrouded in darkness. I have to admit I have found this to be completely true. I do have more light days, and feel better for longer chunks of time than I did before, and when I feel good it feels GOOD. Like seeing your favorite band play your favorite song live. Sand between your toes, having a really good glass of wine, or standing in a forest and feeling connected with nature. You feel almost peaceful. I know it’s not possible to feel that way all the time, and even if we did, it wouldn’t be as sweet. I think having those moments of pure joy or bliss are what make them so powerful. They may be fleeting, but they are powerful. Just as those dark moments are. They are balance in our lives, at some point we find a medium between the two.   That balance seems elusive most of the time, and I think the majority of people will spend their entire lives trying to find something that fits for them. We never have it all completely figured out, and if we did, what would the point of this journey through life be? We learn and we feel pain, joy and everything in between so that we can collect more pieces for our puzzles we call lives.

My puzzle is far from being done. I have more pieces than I thought I would, but most of them don’t fit together yet. I wouldn’t expect them to. Life is not a race, and I’m just really beginning my journey. The first major thing to do though is to take a sledge hammer to those walls, take a risk to feel open and bare. To find ways to connect with people, and to find love, and beauty in life. To be ok with that personal stuff, and to realize that it’s ok to give my heart to people and sometimes I might get hurt, but sometimes I won’t and it will be so worth it.

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Rachel Bolin hails from the not so frozen tundra of Minneapolis, MN. She has spent her life using writing as a guiding light through the darkness, and a way to help capture those lighter moments in life. She is an advocate for therapy, as it has been a lifeboat for her. She has attended the School of Art Institute of Chicago for Photography and Painting (for a whole 6 weeks!), Minneapolis Media Institute for Music Production and Berklee College of Music for Music Business and Technology. She is currently a freelance writer, mainly focusing on Music and the Music Industry. She self-published her first collection of short stories through Amazon in December 2012, and is working on a full length novel adaptations of those short stories. She maintains a personal blog filled with writings and links to her music articles published this year, the crown jewel being an interview with one of her favorite musicians Troy Stewart of The Windsor Player and Tired Pony. Her blog can be found at rachelbolin.blogspot.com

She is a rabid music fan, netflix junkie, avid reader and has a strong obsession with all things British, Doctor Who and Batman. She has 2 dogs, and a Niece and a Nephew who she loves more than anything on this big blue planet. She’s still working on the puzzle she calls life, one piece at a time. 

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