Stockholm- Lighting a Fire in My Belly

Okay gang, I’m writing these posts on my phone so no promises that they will be many or properly spelled. I’m in Berlin now, have been for all of one day, and I see suddenly why everyone is afraid I’m going to run away to Europe. But not yet.

And before I tell you about Berlin, let me tell you about Stockholm. I got on the flight, teary-eyed as usual. Overcome by gratitude that the universe in its infinite wisdom had brought me to that moment. And for the first time in a long, long time, I checked in with my stomach.

For those who don’t know, I’ve had a long and difficult journey getting in touch with my belly. It sounds weird, I know, but since I was little I’ve had all sorts of issues. For a while I could hardly keep down food because of my tonsils, and even when those were finally removed, I still made myself sick before events. I missed birthday parties, church events, and concerts because I held all my excitement and nervous tension deep inside of me.

A few years ago, it became painfully clear that this habit hasn’t gone away. I quit my job at Epic because my anxiety made it physically impossible for me to continue working there.

So, that’s my story with my stomach. I hadn’t really given it much thought, though, until my therapist mentioned that I rarely spoke about feeling things in my stomach.

“It’s interesting,” she said, ” because the stomach is generally where we feel things on a personal level.”

Previously I had described my emotions settling in my chest or shoulders or head, which my therapist explained are usually where we have feelings of connection with others or the world. And it made sense, I have felt all sorts of things in my heart and mind, about how other people are feeling or doing, how I am impacting them, how the world at large is spinning. But I hardly ever want to think about myself, how I’m feeling, on a personal level. When I do, I usually feel nauseous.

So as I sat on the plane to Stockholm, waiting for it to take off, hoping this time it wouldn’t roll off the runway ( see Spirit flight to LAX 2014), I checked in with my stomach. Sure enough, there was the familiar roil of nerves, my little brain working overtime. But I had decided that this trip would be different, and I decided to take a metaphor literally as I often do.

To light a fire in my belly.

Okay not actually literally, but mentally that’s what I did. I wanted heat, I wanted light, I wanted that mesmerizing dance of flame. So I envisioned a cheerful little fire right in the pit of my belly. When I breathed in, it nestled down and warmed my insides. When I breathed out, it grew, emanating light to those around me.

There I sat, the whole plane ride, breathing in and out from my diaphragm, focusing on my little belly fire. Occasionally taking breaks to sleep or use the plane bathroom. (On one of these latter occasions, I accidentally opened the door on an elderly Swede. Luckily I didn’t witness anything exciting. We both tried to excuse ourselves in a way the other would understand. I by saying “sorry” to indicate my sorrow. He by saying “lock” to indicate he had forgotten to lock the door. We parted ways in friendship.)

My fire buoyed me through the jet lag and led me out into the sunny streets of Stockholm where everything is very old and simultaneously under construction. It led me to a cheesy gelato shop where I ordered some sub-par coffee and made friends with a woman by explaining that the only sentence I actually know is Swedish is “jag talar inte Svenska” (I don’t speak Swedish). It brought me to the water past a pair of swans and up to an old church where young violets had just started to bloom.

And my fire reminded me that although I have been through hell, more than I ever want to admit, some that I’m processing at this very moment, I am still able to feel beautiful things. I can still trust myself.

As I saw the lights of Berlin winking at me through the darkness, yet another lifelong dream coming true, I knew my fire and I had many more beautiful moments to experience.

More on getting lost and found in Berlin to come.

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