The Road Ahead
I did another psilocybin mushroom trip just over a month ago, at the end of September. This time I did it with four other women with whom I was in a resiliency group, and it did not disappoint!
It was an amazing experience to share with these other women. We were all part of a Gathering Group (see the link on the main page) and had spent 10 weeks getting to know each other during our weekly meetings over zoom, so when the time came for our weekend retreat we already felt a deep connection with each other. Having a trip together just deepened our experience even more. They’re some pretty kick-ass women, brave enough to allow themselves to be seen and heard by the others in the group, and I know that I’ll always have a special connection with each of them.
I think my trip started the week before I drank the mushroom tea. It’s amazing how the mushroom knows what you need and starts to prepare you ahead of time. Or maybe it’s just the brain doing its work. It’s just part of the magic, I guess.
One of my most useful tools through this whole ordeal has been humour. I think of it as the air brakes on the roller coaster ride because whenever I’ve had bad news over the last few years I find the funny right away and it slows down the landing a bit so it doesn’t hurt as much. But that part was starting to get in the way and not allowing me to feel what I needed to feel after my last scan. I finally sat down, talked to that funny girl, and asked her to sit down and be quiet. I needed to feel all of the fear and anxiety I was feeling and she wasn’t letting me do that. So I had a pretty quiet, sombre few days, stuck in my own head,
I finally found out the results on the Wednesday before my trip, and they were “meh’. The tumour (I call him Frank) hadn’t shrunk and possibly grown a little bit, but only by a millimetre or two, which could also be due to inflammation. My oncologist assured me that everything was fine, still a good scan, but I spent a few days with a knot in my stomach.
Then Thursday rolled around and we had a film screening of Dosed2 in Abbotsford, my hometown. I spoke for a few minutes after the film, trying to replicate my comedy act from the screening in Vancouver, but I was emotionally exhausted by that point and just wasn’t feeling it.
By the time Saturday morning rolled around I was tired but ready. I had barely slept the night before, instead laying awake and thinking about things. My brain was bringing different things into my consciousness that I needed to deal with, still preparing me for the next day. It’s like the mushroom was saying “Look, you need to deal with this now because we’ve got lots of ground to cover tomorrow.”
We drank the tea together about mid-morning, and I think I was the first one to start feeling it, slumping over onto my mat about ten minutes later. I’m still a lightweight when it comes to psilocybin, it hits me fast. I’m pretty sure I was the last one to come out of it later that afternoon, but what a wild and crazy ride!
I spent time in a cage, fighting it out with The Rock and then other wrestlers whose names I somehow knew even though I’ve never watched a minute of wrestling in my life. I spent a lot of time giggling while wondering how in the world I knew their names, but somehow I did. I kicked all of their asses, by the way, and after each fight I would run up a ramp and leap off the end, hitting a button that would set off sirens and flashing lights. The first battle I won was with cancer, then other things followed, each time ending with me being victorious and setting off the lights and sirens. It was kind of a combination of MMA fighting and American Ninja Warrior. The Rock turned into Moana after I beat him in the ring, and every other wrestler turned into a Disney Princess when they were beaten. Then I’d give them a good swift kick in the butt and tell them to get lost because I’m no princess.
“I’m no Princess, I’m the mother-f’ing warrior!” That was my wrestler name - The Motherfucker, and every time I won a fight I’d flex my muscles and yell that out before running up the ramp. I'm not sure, but I think Glenn might be a little scared of me now.
There were a lot of new insights that day, and all of my intentions were met. I’m still processing a lot of stuff, but every once in a while I catch myself doing something or thinking about something that’s different from the way I did things or thought about them before. My emotions aren’t as close to the surface, but I’m not shoving them down either. I simply feel more hopeful, confident and settled than I did before.
I kept seeing myself walking on a circular path. I’d leave home and battle it out with one of my wrestling pals, then dance around yelling out my name to the crowd, then be out walking on the path again. Each time I started around the last curve I’d see the picture that Dave & Adele have in their basement, in the room where I did my other trip:
I would see that picture of the women’s hands weaving and then the frame would widen and I’d see women from my family, down through the ages, as well as a lot of Indigenous women. All of them were old, grey and wrinkled, but their eyes shone brightly when they looked at me. Every time I visited I would sit in the circle with them and they’d look at me and smile and say “It’s about time you listened! We’ve been yelling at you all these years! Sheesh!” Then we’d all tilt our heads back and let out a big laugh like a bunch of laughing buddhas. I had a great time with them and wanted to stay, but they’d eventually send me on my way.
Each time I was with them I’d ask about my cancer, am I going to survive or not? Each time they’d say “Don’t worry, you’ve got nothing but time”, which would satisfy me for a second or two and then I’d say “Wait a second, what does that mean? Do I have time here, or in the hereafter?” Then they’d all laugh and say “That’s not for you to know.” The next time around I’d ask the same question in a slightly different way, trying to trick them into giving me more information, and every time they’d just laugh and wag their finger at me like I was a naughty child, and we’d laugh and I’d be on my way again.
There was an indigenous woman in my first trip. She led me through a dark forest to a clearing and sat with me there for a while before she sent me on my way. She didn’t appear in my second trip, but she was back again for the third. She was waiting for me at the end of my journey, standing at the side of the path like a sentry, welcoming me home again.
The next morning while I was getting ready for the day it struck me: this is a trilogy! The first trip helped push the walls back so I could breathe again and then sent me on a journey of self-discovery. The second one forced me to let go of a lot of things, it told me that I was going to be okay in the end and that death doesn't have to be scary. Mostly though, it allowed me to stop and enjoy the beauty in the world around me. I feel like this one brought me back home again. I was welcomed back like a hero returning from battle, forever changed by the journey I’ve been on.
So that’s it, the end of the road. Or is it? I feel like this part of my life is coming to an end and something new is about to begin. I’m waiting now to see what it is. I think I know, but I’m not sure.
Glenn and I have had a dream for a long time. It started when we were younger and then we forgot about it with all the busyness of raising a family, but now that life has slowed down a bit and changed direction it’s come back to us. We have wanted to open a retreat centre for years. The dream has changed shape quite a bit from when it started, but we feel passionate about it. We want to have a place where people can come when life suddenly grabs them by the neck and tells them which way to go as it did to us almost five years ago. When we think back about those first few days and weeks after I was diagnosed we can see how lost we were, feeling completely untethered. It would have been nice to have a place to go for a few days just to breathe and get our feet back under us again, and that’s what we want our retreat centre to be. A place where people can come and just be. Just be in nature and appreciate the beauty of the world around you. Get grounded by touching the earth. Come and sit at our table and talk to us, tell us your story and we’ll tell you ours, and together we’ll find the way forward. That’s what we want Laurie’s Place to ultimately become.
I came across this poem a while ago and it resonates with me in so many different ways. It reminds me that no matter what is happening in my life, I am enough and I belong.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
Love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair and I’ll tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
Are moving across the landscapes,
Over the prairies and the deep trees,
The mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
Are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
Over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
- Mary Oliver
That’s the dream that we have for our retreat centre. A place where people can come with their heartache and despair and be seen and heard. A place to just be, to look outside and see a whole big, beautiful world just waiting for them, telling them that they belong too, and then take the time to look inside as well and start to prepare for the journey ahead.