Get out of your head.

I hear it… not infrequently. I tend to overthink. I could dive into an overthinking of why, but at the end of the day, I suspect my conclusion would be this – my mind has always been my best tool. It’s what I’ve relied on when the rest of me, who and whatever else I may be, has failed me. And when I’m not focusing on the negative, there’s a certain bliss to it, this sitting and allowing my mind to wander down tenuous connections. What is possible if we ignore our assumed limitations? What world could we build if we threw out the pieces that aren’t working? This dreaming is a piece of me, and possibly the core of who I am.

And yet, deep in thought isn’t where I feel most authentically and completely myself. I struggle to find that place if I’ve been static for too long. Authenticity and access to that dreaming happen when I move. I knit and sew and read, sure. But I also landscape and hike and dance. And dancing is probably when I go deepest into myself. Not the recitations I do for audiences (though I do enjoy them), but the spontaneous, unplanned movement that I do for myself, just to feel the rhythm, the swoop and pop of human creativity that transcends thought and merges the body with the nervous system on a primal level. I fully understand the meme’s and the arguments that we are not our meat-suits. We cannot be defined by them or their appearance. But I am also not simply the spirit or the intellect that drives this pale, aging vehicle. I am a physical being who takes up physical space in a physical world, and has as much right to do so as every other physical being on this planet.

I find that to be a deeply humbling and uplifting realization.

From October 2018 to October 2019, I spent a great deal of time looking at the darker aspects of who and what I am. I was part of a women’s group that was studying global shadow archetypes of womanhood through what little remains of the mythologies of death goddesses and storm goddesses from around the world. It was challenging work, often heady and easy to take into mental rabbit holes. When the struggle threatened to overwhelm me, I followed the same instinct I followed just this week, working in my garden and connecting only through thick leather gloves. I took off the layer of protection that seemed appropriate, that I thought I should be using or wearing, and walked and dug with bare hands, feeling the contours of the objects I worked and places I stood. I walked barefoot in freezing temperatures, and used bare fingers to pry up chucks of cold dirt or spread warming stones. My landscaping, choosing to use as many locally native plants as I possibly can, is certainly a piece of knowing and connecting with where I am, but so is this instinctive and direct connection with stone and dirt.

And I think, for me, that’s the key difference between what is true and what is real. I think they often overlap, but the distinctions between intellectual and direct knowledges are important. What is happening in the world is true, but what is happening at home is real. What is said may be true, but what is felt is real. I think this means that real truth needs to be able to incorporate a lot of distinct and contradictory realities. That suffering matters, and so does joy. That life is good, but also really damn hard. That the world is both a beautiful and a terrible place. But maybe more important than that, when we get to a place of boots on the ground activism, what is true doesn’t matter at all if that truth doesn’t match the reality that in front of your senses.