We All Have A Hunger:
When it is Time to Dig Deep and When it is Time to Let it Be
As I begin to prepare for my next book to arrive into the world I am going to share stories about love, heartache, heartbreak, and the transformational path of the heart here. You will get personal essays from me one to two times a month on Sunday’s, and morning invocations twice a week as I build this community…Enjoy. Happy Sunday to you.
I remember my nerves going to a SLAA meeting in LA in 2015. I wasn’t sure which addiction was the one asking for most of my attention but I figured it was probably love. SLAA stands for sex and love addicts anonymous. I wasn’t addicted to sex, though I had used it as a substitute for love a great many times. But I was feeling that perhaps I was addicted to love. Or the passion of wanting love. I loved the wanting, the pining, the hunger…it created a magnetic force in me, lit me up, got me the highest of highs…it took me into the realms of Byron and Keats and Nina Simone and Anaïs Nin. It made me roll my little lavender and wild herbs and organic tobacco smokes and sit under the moon puffing away as “Wild as the Wind” played in my ears. This was my identity. To want love. To love. To be love. To be loved. How on earth could I question my soul’s true essence as an…addiction!? Well, I decided it was time to.
I sat in the back of Cafe Tropical, a Cuban café on Sunset Blvd in Silver Lake, LA, the type of place that could only exist with rent control in a neighborhood where smoothies were $15 a few doors down, and the who’s who of the East Side were rubbing elbows sipping spiced sugared rimmed mezcal cocktails at Cafe Stella down the block. This place was no frills. You entered through the side door into a back room. There was the token free watery coffee. And that was it. People in the room spilled their stories of being love and sex addicts without holding back…from being addicted to romantic films, to creating “intrigue” with married co-workers, to compulsively moving from Tinder to Bumble to Raya to Hinge setting up multiple dates a day. Every ounce of my being resisted this room. The voices inside of me cried: “This is not me. No, no. But you see my spiritual practice is love! But I’m a romantic soul! But I’m a Pisces! But I’ve always been a flirt! But I’m half Brazilian!” If I went into recovery for love, would this mean I couldn’t watch romance movies anymore? Would I have to ban Lana Del Rey from licking my inner ears with her sad croons? Would I have to stop being a “love driven being?” I gulped.
When I left that room that day I decided A. I needed to go back to a women’s only meeting because there were too many cute hipster dudes in the room and it was distracting and B. Maybe I had a floating addiction and I would look for anything to fill the “god shaped hole” as Anne Lammott called it, and I needed to get to the bottom of that hole stat. Love was perhaps the thing I had craved since my parent’s divorce at age 5 when the family cracked and parents become busy, and less available, but perhaps it was even before that. Perhaps I was born that way. Hungry. I lived with that hunger my whole life. And sometimes when I was in a relationship long term, the hunger subsided. It went dormant, became subdued and drugged by Netflix nights and laughter under the sheets, and egg and toast mornings, and legs interlaced on the couch. But when I was single the hunger undoubtedly came back. Sometimes the hunger came back and made me become single, as if it was holding a gun to my head hissing in my ear: “Time to go pursue something new…” like a fiend looking for a hit. Sometimes it came back more ravenous than before, casting me onto the street to beam my wide-eyed blue siren’s call in whatever direction it could find. From that deeply pained and hungry place I did have some of the best sex of my life. It was that ravenous, broken, fucked up kind that you know cannot last and leaves you in a strange state that feels so alive, and so unbelievably empty at the same time.
Besides love, sometimes I filled the void with food. Sometimes work. Sometimes exercise. Sometimes tobacco. Sometimes alcohol. Did I have to pick just one? Sometimes work kept the hunger for love at bay. Sometimes exercise kept it quiet. But the desire to feel love, and under that desire, the yearning for belonging, and home, and family was the through line to all of it.
12 step wasn’t the route I took to recovery from any of the above. It felt like too much to choose just one room. It felt too pathologizing. Instead I decided to investigate what was under all that void filling…what pain? What trauma? What core wounds? Everyone takes their own path. Mine was diving under the “addictions.” Mine was going into a phase of deep excavation.
I was listening to Glennon Doyle’s podcast the other day and her sister Amanda shared something that stuck with me:
“Brene Brown said that, her biggest power and her biggest weakness is the ability to dig deep. And we talked about how the bullshit of that is that you think when you’re digging deep that there’s no cost to it, but you’re excavating from somewhere. You’re excavating from yourself or you’re excavating from the soil that belongs in your relationships or the soil that belongs to your own health. And so you’re digging, you can keep digging, but you’re stealing soil from somewhere else. And I think that I have been in soil debt for a lot of my life.”
I went the deep dive route. And it did cost. Going deep isn’t an easy road. I pulled soil from my social life, my work life, I disrupted the top soil of everything actually. It felt necessary. Like The Tower card.
When you dig you may feel less social. You may risk having to take time from parents and friendships. Things may get weird. It is not sustainable long-term to always be digging. You have to stop eventually. Because that too is a place the hunger can hide. That too can become an addiction, a compulsion.
I dove into my pain and hunger with a great many modalities. And I can intuitively say that the deep work I did with plant medicine ceremonies changed my heart. It was not easy work. But it changed something on a very deep level.
I didn’t compulsively work, or exercise, or drink, or flirt, or seek love during this time of excavation. (At least most of the time.) It wasn’t time for that. Instead I felt the pain under all the behaviors on the topsoil. I felt buried feelings under that. This melted walls in my heart. For some hard years that often felt lonely, staring at the wall while in the bathtub many a night, praying, resting, crying. Not “fun” times, but necessary ones.
There were a few times while excavating where I fell into the love hunger even though I tried not to. Where I became obsessed with the unavailable lover. Got high on text interactions with a famous musician. Fell in love with my ayahuasca facilitator. But I would snap out of it, eventually, soberly, and see the pattern.
Right before Covid, the summer of 2019, I had a bit of a “test.” I was offered a ticket to Burning Man, with all the special things in place, to go with one of my best friends. And I sat and I thought and thought, and then I did the thing I normally wouldn't have done. A thing that showed my healing. I said no. I had just spent all this time digging, especially the last year, deep under the soil, in many plant medicine ceremonies, in healing spaces, and I knew it was too dangerous for me to go to Burning Man single, while to topsoil was still settling. My hunger was almost out of recovery but not quite yet. What if my inner seductress seized the opportunity to parade around and flirt and hunt? And so even though I wanted to go so badly, I said no. I was tracking my hunger. It was calm and clear now. It wasn’t drunk and wild. It was able to say clearly: “I want a long term partnership.” But it wasn’t out there having flings and making eyes with everyone at Erewhon (LA’s overpriced grocery store that doubles as a pickup spot.) I was doing good. And so, no Burning Man.
Six months later I met my future partner at a wedding. I did not make eyes with him. I did not flirt with him. I held my energy contained and clear. When the rest of the wedding party stayed up late celebrating, I took myself to bed, sang devotional songs in the dark, and felt fully complete, by myself. Solo. Previously, I would have been at the after party wondering if my soul mate was there. Instead, I trusted that I wouldn’t have to hunt to have love in my life.
I drove my convertible home the next day from Joshua Tree to Venice feeling peaceful. I had sat with my pain long enough and I was okay. The hunger wasn’t running my life. In fact, I felt satisfied. I felt happy on my own. I possibly would have kept excavating, but Covid had us all stop. And so no more more ayausca ceremonies or healing retreats. I canceled a trip to Peru. Another to the South of France to Mary Magdalene’s cave. Instead I sat with myself and cooked spare rib and make sauerkraut, and watched all my old favorite movies, walked on the beach alone despite being told by the LA cops not to, and read books alone in my apartment. I was pretty damn content in a quiet alone peaceful way.
Four months later I met up with my now partner, as a friend, to spend time together. I didn’t go into “seductress siren” mode, I held my desire for love with grace, and we didn’t even kiss until days into our getting to know each other. That was big for me. The change had come. My hunger wasn’t running the show.
The journey there was messy. I did some embarrassing things, some things I deeply regret, from that place of broken hearted hunger. I let the hunger run things and it created chaos in it’s wake. Sometimes I pray in the mornings to the hearts I hurt in my own pain. I lay quietly in the dark in my bed and just say “I’m so sorry.” And I pray they are happy and healthy and living lives that meet their deepest dreams. And then I work on forgiving myself. This part in ongoing.
And since 2020 I have stayed away from the deep digging and the excavation. This phase was excavation around relationship, connection, attachment and love. I have also excavated around many other things. (Some of those I shared about in my first book.) For now, no constant digging. Just tending to the soil. And very carefully, tending to my inner life without using the big tools that scatter the topsoil, i.e. sitting with a trusted therapist, spiritual teacher, with books, etc…still contemplating and being curious about the depths, but without making the big deep dive mess.
I have tried to explain to people why I won’t do MDMA or mushrooms with them at New Year’s, or on the weekends at shows. Or why I’m rarely inclined to go to a new highly skilled shaman or healer right now. For me, none of that can be for recreation, it just doesn’t work that way for me. For me it all excavates deep into my soil. And, in my life right now, I’m rooting, settling into nourishing soil, and not making a mess climbing to the bottom and disrupting the little seedlings that are spreading their roots and budding into beautiful colors.
Instead I go to sensual dance. I write. I cook. I read. I tend to the garden of my partnership. I hold my pain tenderly and sit with feelings on my own, sober, just feeling. I lead my groups and cry and laugh and write with the women in them. I hold space for some women who are amidst major excavation, whom I feel adept to lead, and others who long to be held in sacred space post dig. I watch movies and good TV because they are one of my first loves and they are not self destructive in my life.
There will likely be another time in life for that dig, dig, digging. I did it before for a reason. I needed to get to the bottom of that hunger. But for now there is nothing to get to the bottom of. There is life to enjoy. To live. Feelings to feel. The ecosystem of the current reality that I want to be a part of. There is enough here on the surface to keep me busy for a while.
My next book DARE TO FEEL: The Transformational Path of The Heart, comes out January 2024 with Sounds True. It’s full of stories of heartbreak and heart healing like the above. Stay tuned for more tidbits along the way over the next 8 months.