Part of being the product of dysfunction, of growing up fast and hard and different from most kids, is sometimes the lessons that others learn when their young children, or perhaps teenagers, I’m occasionally realize I never faced and thus am left grappling with well into adulthood. This past week I posted on my facebook, that it’s taken 28 years but I finally learned how to enjoy a quiet night home alone and not be afraid of it. That’s huge for me, ok huge doesn’t even cut it – I never ever believed that was something that I could experience, but I have not only for a night but even for an entire week when Kestryl was traveling for work. There was no panic, no pit in the bottom of my stomach fear that everything was ending – I was for the first time in my life able to say “I enjoy having time alone” and hear someone else saying that without my anxious mind twisting and contorting it into “I’m thinking of leaving” or “I’m deciding if I still want this.” Big big stuff.
At this point Kestryl and I are heavy into the prep for our Europe tour November 1-11. It’s something that we’ve talked about doing for a long time but it really does seem unreal to me thatwe’re actually going, and we’re actually going so unbelievably soon! I’ve never left North America before, truth be told I’ve never wanted to. I’m a major homebody and although I toured really extensively with Kicked Out and I LOVE the people that I meet/continue to meet on the road, and the work that I’m able to do which feels intimately like where I’m supposed to be, but I’d be lying if I said the touring itself wasn’t a struggle for me emotionally.
I might not lay a whole lot of faith in astrology, but I’m a Taurus, through and through. I’m a homebody, and I think even more so because every fiber of me remembers what it was like not to have a home, now that I have one, now that I have the family beyond what I ever dreamed of, the idea of leaving it even for a few days is traumatic. The good news is that it’s really just the leaving itself that I struggle with, once I hit the airport or board my bus/train I sink into a different headspace, the one that reminds me this work is important, it’s the work that I’m put on this earth to do, and that I’ve been blessed and privileged enough to have the opportunity to do it. It’s a service to my community and I’m able to fall deep into that service place.
The Europe tour however is a whole different beast. It’s further than I’ve ever been, longer than I’ve been gone in a single stint ever, and it’s the first time that both Kestryl and I will be traveling together since we adopted our high-needs rescue dog Charlotte last October. For the past couple of years we’d planned this tour to be over the summer, but once Charlotte joined our family we postponed, knowing that we needed more time to work through her issues, and to help her develop a sense of normalcy and routine in our home. It worked. She’s far from low maintenance. She still struggles with dog/dog activation on the sidewalks of our Brooklyn neighborhood, but we’ve been able to even start doing work with her during the prospect park off leash hours where under very controlled circumstances she’s able to meet and interact with dogs (other than Mercury whose her very best friend). Sidewalks are still touch and go, but even there we’ve seen dramatic improvement in the last year. Watching Charlotte blossom in her forever home, to discover the joys of toys and carpet, to learn to trust, and to begin to work through all of the emotional and behavioral scars of an early life on the street has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever witnessed, and the work with a dog I’m most proud of (those of you who are longtime readers of the blog know that I spent my teen years as a high level competitor in canine sports, so that’s saying something). Of course I’m nervous about leaving her with a sitter but as Kestryl reminded me last night in her previous life on the streets of south carolina she faced a whole lot more traumatic experiences than being left with a well-paid and competent dog sitter in her comfy home, with her brother and kitty siblings. Talk about perspective!
A couple of weeks ago I realized that the aspect of the tour I was struggling most with wasn’t trying to figure out how to get 10 days worth of clothes into a small suitcase already packed with books, nor was it even the chaotic realities of touring through 5 cities in 10 days with gigs every night that we aren’t traveling– it was leaving the dogs. In fairness the pet sitter that we had lined up 9 months before the tour bailed on us two months ago sending me into a total tailspin, but we quickly were able to line up a pro sitter to come and stay with our dogs and cats while we’re in Europe. While this solved the practical side of my fears, it only slightly helped the emotional side, and for a while I couldn’t figure out why.
It took me a while to realize that leaving the dogs for 10 days with a qualified pet sitter while we go on tour and have an amazing time didn’t in anyway mean that I didn’t love them. It sounds silly when I write it, but that realization was a major game changer for me. As part of this I realized that a flipside to my tremendous abandonment issues which I own, and understand was that I was reenacting them backwards and against myself. I had in my most anxious of places worried that going- being excited about going, and actually enjoying myself on the tour in someway meant that I didn’t love the dogs as much as I knew that I did, and that by going something would happen to them, and I would have failed the ones that I love. Obviously that’s circular and anxious thinking at its best and flat out not true, and on the surface it wasn’t even where I was at — but I have a lot of trauma around dogs, and this was the spinning happening subconsciously and manifesting as anxiousness about the tour itself.
It’s always incredibly aggravating for me when I uncover another old pus-filled wound like this. I like to think that by now I’ve gotten at most of them, lanced them and allowed them to heal into thick scars that I proudly wear to show where I’ve been. It’s true a lot of the time, except of course when it isn’t and I find an old wound still pussy.
Fear of abandonment has always been a struggle for me – I’ve been left a lot by a variety of different people, wounds that I’ve mostly lanced and scarred over. But there’s another side to that abandonment fear. Growing up I also was taught that going away meant you didn’t love someone that you wouldn’t come back; going away was a precursor for abandonment. Even though rationally I know that isn’t true, its still what played out in my subconscious and then it all snapped into place and I realized, vocalized and actually believed that there was NOTHING wrong with being off the charts excited about having the opportunity to go on tour to Europe, and have adventures. Going doesn’t mean I love my dogs any less (don’t even get me started on my plans to bring back puppy cookies and toys from all the different countries we visit). It sounds simple, and is a little bit embarrassing to write about so publically, but it’s also real. This is real and the kind of trauma aftermath and brain rewiring work I’m most proud of reaching a place of being able to do.
Now back to figuring out how the hell to stay below airline luggage weight limits, and still get enough books and cute outfits into Europe!