Truth-Telling Tuesdays: Burning My Own Boat

This week's post is inspired by a question asked over at DanielleLaPorte.com, one that has kept me spinning on it since I first read this post. Here is my response.

What boat do you need to burn?

The past five years have been a whirlwind of romance, of business, of change, of challenges and heartache. Nothing ever seems to last, no matter how much energy I invest. I keep investing that energy. I keep spending the time, searching and seeking, diving in and barely resurfacing. I keep circling the drain, waiting and spinning and scrambling to reach the top of the sink, never wanting to go under.

When I came to Madison in 2006, it was to escape an abusive lover. One who wanted me dead. One who left me for the tide on a bone-strewn beach. I ascribed so much significance to emerging whole {in body} from a place named for the core of our physical bodies, I believed that anything was now possible. My body was my boat, carrying the wreckage of my spirit to a place where it could heal and grow.

But once I got here, I started to realize just how damaged I was. I tumbled into one bad choice after another, a few more abusive {sometimes verbal, sometimes physical} relationships. I had no guidance. I had no compass. My body was my boat, set adrift in a hurricane and I couldn't find the shore.

I finally took some time to just be. I worked hard. I stayed single, though I was in {unrequited} love with someone that would never work. {honestly, I think that love carried me through the ability to fall in love with myself. it gave me the courage to look at my own stuff, because there was someone nearby, someone who would see me when I needed witnessing, even if there was no romance there. I am forever grateful to her, though she may not ever know how important she is.} I built A Forest of Stories. I answered the call of my own wild heart. I recognized my heart's true work, and began cultivating it.

After two years, I slowly emerged into the world of others. I thought perhaps I was ready to try dating. I wasn't. I ended it {after waiting longer than I should have}, and could breathe again. A few months later, I did it again {entered an arrangement, realized the feeling was all wrong, and ended it}. And then again. Only the last time, I thought "I am ready" and let myself go into the deep with her. It wasn't the right time. Not for her, not for me. And that's okay.

I am a person who exists deeply connected to others. My identity has always rested heavily on my connection to community. How I label and define myself is in direct relation to circles of people I encounter and with whom I interact.

Lesbian. Dyke. Queer. Partner. Girlfriend. Lover. Step-mother. Aunt. "Friend." Best friend. Confidant. Ally. Activist. Archivist. Protector. Freedom-fighter. Politico. Dancer. Yogini. Acrobat. Trapeze-flyer. Chef. Artist. Writer. Reader. Teacher.

I cannot burn the boat that is my body. I cannot burn the boat that is my identity.

I can burn the boat that is my assumption, my belief that I am only the sum of my connections, that I am wholly defined by connections and communities.

I am not the sum of my experiences, nor of my labels.

My boat has been sturdy and strong, built of the reddest cedar and coated in the freshest pine tar. It has carried me through storms, let me navigate her sails in rough winds and calm waters. She has protected my weary body when I was too beat down to turn the rudder. We have crossed the blue waters, the green waters, the grey waters of life. And my boat has brought me to an island of newest beginnings. It is here we part.

Today, I break apart this boat and build a shrine. An altar of deepest gratitude, for getting me this far. Her name was Mardoll, loosely translated as "light of the sea" {and almost my last name}. As the full moon approaches, I share offerings at this altar, sacrifices of the self I am ready to release. And together, all the pieces of my heart light the match that sets this boat ablaze.

I am here. I have landed. And together, you and I will build a land of abundance and grace. We are all just wandering in our own tiny boats, waiting to reach the next shore.