Friday, March 29, 2013

A Story of an Easter Soul Retrieval

Easter week, circa 1978, was the last week of my nervous breakdown. That's one of the reasons I love Easter, the only Christian holiday I feel attuned to.

My boyfriend and I were living in my volkswagon bus, in Portland, Oregon. Oh that Pacific Northwest low hanging overcast! Oh that rain ... it was not good for me especially because I was already such a mess. Anyway, I got crazier and crazier in the bus with the sound of rain falling constantly. I was utterly incapable of helping myself. It was awful.

When Easter week rolled around, I went to church - to get out of the rain, mostly. But I was so fractured, damaged and sliced open that the story of the end of Jesus's life got inside me, worked itself inside my shattered psyche. When I remember that time, I feel so sad about how much pain I was in.

Yeah, that was me, the crazy lady sitting in a pew at the back of the church, rocking and crying as I listened each night to the unfolding of the story. It was a powerful experience.

On Good Friday, I found a pair of scissors in the bus and cut my hair very short. It was only then that my boyfriend understood something was seriously wrong with me. I had been telling him, but he couldn't, or wouldn't, see it.

On ... Good Saturday? What do they call the day between Good Friday and Easter? ... we drove out to the Columbia River Gorge where we often hiked. Spending time out there felt more like camping than being homeless, and we both loved the long walks through the ferns and past the waterfalls.

We woke early on Easter morning, began our hike. It was dark and of course raining, but for some reason we were inspired to walk far beyond where we usually turned around. We kept climbing and climbing until we were inside the low overcast. Rain didn't fall there, it condensed on every surface, including us. It was like being in the densest fog you can imagine. We kept walking up the trail and now it was getting lighter and then - a miracle - we hiked above the overcast.

The tip of Mt. Hood stuck up above the layer of cloud. We could see the tips of other mountains as well. The most important thing was the blue, blue sky above us. I had not seen blue sky in months.

I started laughing, the laughter accelerated into hysteria. Then I cried. After that I lay down and stared/squinted at the blue sky for about an hour. I was dry and warm for the first time in what seemed like forever.

At last we went back into the cloud, then below the cloud, back to the bus in the rain. Something fundamental had changed within me. It was an incredible day, the end of my nervous breakdown.

Within a couple of weeks we'd put down a rental deposit for a nice apartment. I found a job, after a trip to a hair salon to have my chopped up hair styled. I got a new pair of contact lenses through which I could see clearly. The tide had turned.

Of course I had a long ways to go before I was truly functional, and years of therapy and other work before I could begin to understand what had happened, but that day, that Easter Sunday so many years ago, was a real Easter. I felt it, I knew it in my body, what it meant to shove a big rock out of the way and get out of the cave. I will never forget that day.

I'm not working on Easter this year. I wonder how I'll spend the day. Walking around, probably, taking pictures.

I've told this story before, but I think that was on my first blog, now long gone. That Easter is now long gone as well. Thank God!



The Bug said...

What a powerful story - and it included a mountaintop experience! Very appropriate for Easter :)

P.S. I think it's called Holy Saturday. Maybe.

Reya Mellicker said...

Holy Saturday, of course.

lacochran's evil twin said...

Glad you got through the storm, in all respects.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Laura.

Linda Sue said...

What a story Ms. Reya! made me want to tuck you under my big momma wing and cluck sweetly to you.
So glad you just kept climbing all the way to the sky! I like the perspective of camping seeming "not homeless" rather less homeless...that is great! Glad you got your head and hair sorted!I question people who do not go through some sort of dawning- are they not paying attention? Are they numb?

Tom said...

incredibly symbolic. Not nearly as gruesome as the journey Christ took, but maybe falling into some of the same footsteps.

nerima roberts said...

What a powerful memory, Reya. Your ..."what it meant to shove a big rock out of the way and get out of the cave" touches me.
Thank you for sharing a profound episode in your Journey called Life.

Reya Mellicker said...

Good questions! But do you think there's anyone who is able to skip these kinds of experiences? It seems human to me.

Reya Mellicker said...

I could have used some clucking!

Pam said...

I feel for young people today going through much the same emotional landscapes. I had this discussion recently with some close women friends who said "our guys were so young".
With the wisdom of hindsight, we know we can get through, but in the middle of it all, surrounded by those of the same age and not much experience considering, those times can be so tough - for male, female, not to forget the incredible challenges faced for those of transgender.
In your 60's is not a bad place to be considering.
So glad you nroke through to the the other side of that breakdown Reya.
I can relate to that first photo -it really captures what soul retrieval looks/feels like!

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks to you all! It was a defining moment to be sure.

Steve Reed said...

That IS a great story, and very Easter-like. Rebirth, indeed. I suppose just reminding yourself that warmth and blue sky was up there, above you and all those clouds, must have really helped.

Reya Mellicker said...

It did. Through the long rainy PNW winter I forgot about the eternal blue sky. Also at that time I didn't know that the weather was my boyfriend.

ellen abbott said...

the blue sky and the sun are so necessary to our mental and emotional health. I don't see how people can live there and thrive. A major step for anyone who understands that they can move that rock out of their way.

Reya Mellicker said...

There are people who are fine in the PNW. The overcast doesn't bother them at all. Kerry Bliss is one of them. My sister Hannah is another. Boggles my mind.

Loon said...

Your recounting feels as fresh as today and yesterday. What a gift to us all. Deep bows and many thanks for showing up and paying it forward.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Loon!

Amanda said...

what a powerful story, Reya. the connection between your emotional state, the Easter story and the landscape of Mt. Hood is seamless and profound. a soul retrieval indeed. this time of year and that place must be eternally pivotal to you.