And that's only the beginning.
I’d like to introduce myself. I’m the real Holly Regan, and you’re going to be hearing a lot more from me. I just met myself, too, for the first time; after all, I was just born, but first, I had to die. Safe under the guidance of a queer goddess who leads seekers between worlds, encircled by the trees’ emerald embrace, I finally saw what I’ve been running from, and found the place I’ve been searching for my whole life.
I chant the word in my head as she counts me down, holding the pipe to my lips as I hold the thick vapor in my lungs, breathing the spirit in deeply. In seconds, everything dissolves with a shiver into a crystalline web, form falling away into the pulsing, flexing, fractal spectrum unfolding before and around and inside me, my body becoming amphibious in the synesthesiatic soup, then dissolving into molecules.
I say the word “home” and it turns into “om,” the sound of the universe, the breath: the beginning and end of everything. The vibration takes the form of quantum field lines that subsume all existence, her and me and the trees and the concept of space and time. It’s beautiful and terrifying, this idea that I do not exist, and she holds my body in third-dimensional reality as I tremble.
Now I begin to panic as I ride the crest and fall of vibrational waves, faces and places, memories and sensations, rushing in and out of my awareness like crashing surf. I scramble to hold on, still wanting so badly for things to make sense, and suddenly I see my own patterns so clearly. What I’m doing here, in this liminal space, is what I’m doing everywhere, the way I’ve been living my whole half-life.
I’m kicking and screaming, flailing and grabbing, splattering myself all over the planet; overindulging and underexposing, desperate for someone to know me, but not staying long enough for anyone to really see. I’m traumatically re-enacting, finding places and people that reply my formative scenarios: building homes and lives and careers just to tear them all down; forming a self and finding relationships that shatter it; settling in places where I can never stay. Always starting over, all over again.
I’m trying so hard to Be Somebody, because my dad wanted it that way, and I’m still trying to get him to see me; creating alternate versions of myself, all jostling for position in my psyche, that only exist in observation. I’m trying so hard to Say Something, because maybe if I keep talking, someone will listen; if I keep writing, someone will read it; maybe if other people understand me, then I will know who I am. Maybe if I force myself repeatedly into the sensory, I will remember that I have a body, and if I don’t, then I will disappear.
I go through these motions twice removed, observing other peoples’ lives instead of being present in my own, then writing the stories and never publishing them: page after page, version after version, screaming into the void. I have dozens, maybe hundreds, of half-finished stories, memoirs, treatises, book proposals, and pitches, all disappearing into the vortex of various cloud drives. All over the page, all over the world, starting things I never finish; building narratives that only last a season. There are real moments of fun and beauty and connection, sure; there’s the odd story that comes to life; but I keep losing the thesis and the through-line.
But now I see that I never really existed anyway, not in the way I thought I did, and it’s overwhelming. I am everything, and everything is nothing, no particle more important than any other.
“I can’t be everything,” I cry, “because then who’s in control?”
“Why does someone have to be in control?” she gently counters.
I’m in my child self again, someone has to be in control; it was supposed to be me as a kid, and that was too much to handle. I feel it all slipping away again now as I melt into infinitude, my guts laid bare, crows pecking at my insides. I feel my own abuse; the pain of death; the suffering of infinite others. Why would the universe even want to know this terror? What’s the point of any of it? Why even be alive if it’s all going to end in frantic fear, clawing and alone?
“I’m dying!” I scream, grabbing her face in my hands. “I’m dying! Help me! I’m dying!”
And she looks at me and says: “So, die.”
It echoed through every mile and timeline, memory and cell, and I realized that this was what I’d been running from, the inevitable end; the fear of finding myself at the edge of infinity and having to cross over alone. But I wasn’t alone, I never had been, and I saw that in her eyes, the only thing that penetrated the engulfing black.
“You’re dead,” she said, and for the first time in my life, I actually let go.
I collapsed onto my back in a flash of sonic white as all my bodily functions released like a corpse, subsumed by the slowly swirling vortex. There was nothingness then, just for a moment, until out of it emerged a somethingness. And this was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. The whole multiverse was happening at once, and words cannot describe the overwhelm. I was cradled in a cosmic egg of ocean and sky, whales swimming through milky galaxies and turtles crawling up on star-speckled shores. I emerged into the womb and reached for her hand as she curled up with me, gently rocking me awake from a lifetime of sleep. I discovered my limbs and licked my own eyeballs, catching fireflies with a lizard tongue. And then I peed my pants, like I never really got to do as a child, because that’s what babies do, and freedom is in the release.
Slowly drifting back to the consensus world, I wept with joy at the realization that I still had a body; that I had pants to wet. I cried and laughed and peed all at once, and every moment of beauty and connection came rushing back to me, and I realized that this is why we do it.
She later told me that she actually said, “You’re alive,” but living and dying, it’s all the same thing.
I see it so clearly now, that none of these things that seem so important really matter; there is no self and no story. In these moments where all bends and folds and fades into the fractal, all that persists are the connections, the vibrations, the feelings, the joy and pain, the sorrow and the love. It’s the moments of presence, the people who have walked with me on this journey; the rainforest and mountains, the woods and the shore; the feeling of my own hands for the first time. The cicadas whirring on a moonlit night; the vibrations of a song that collapses the space-time barrier; the infinite reflected in someone else’s irises.
And suddenly I don’t want to do it anymore, I’m tired of running. There are still places I want to see and experiences I want to have, and I am a Sagittarian wanderer at heart, but this pace is madness, it was all fueled by trauma, triggered by so many things along the way. I thought that if I stopped moving, my abuser would find me and follow through with his threats. I thought that if I built something lasting, it would only end. I was afraid that if I really sat still, I’d find there was nothing inside, and I would cease to exist.
And then I did. I died, and it was the most important thing that’s ever happened to me, for now my life can begin. I’m going to start publishing fragments and half-formed theses, because it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m going to finish one of the seven books I started reading. And I’m going to stop moving, mostly, just for a few months, so I can find myself again.
When we sat down to begin the ceremony, I said, “I’m tired, and I just want to go home, but I don’t have one anymore.” I was holding my head between my hands, and she smiled and told me, “It’s right where you’re touching.” Then she held up her magic wand and asked, “Want to go home?” And I nodded with tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s go home.”
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