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.
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.
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, Seattle, London, Atlanta, South Dakota, Dallas. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.