The Healing Journey

I’ve been on a healing journey for over three years now.

Along the way I’ve tried just about everything you can think of. I’ve done wheatgrass cleanses, gluten free diets, exercise regimens, yoga, acupuncture, and chiropractic adjustments. I’ve gone to a psychotherapist, a massage therapist, and a gemstone therapist, and naturopathic doctor. I’ve done blood work, stool samples, and saliva tests. I’ve also had my medicine cards read by a Native American shaman. I’ve attended conferences and self-help seminars, mentoring programs and coaching sessions. I’ve done hyperbaric oxygen therapy and crystal bowl sound therapy and angelic channeling with a medium. I’ve done Reiki and craniosacral therapy, biofeedback, and color therapy. I’ve tried tuning forks and biomats. I’ve had a laser light therapy session during which I took a vision journey. I’ve done colonics and cupping and CBT and karmic cord cutting. I’ve worked to forgive—by name and in detail—nearly everyone I’ve been angry at in my 38 years on earth. I’ve smudged my home and rearranged it according to Feng Shui. I’ve participated in a drum circle, kept a gratitude journal, and tried hypnosis. I’ve used herbs, enzymes, clay packs, amino acids, MCTs, essential oils, and flower essences. I’ve walked barefoot across glass shards, and climbed a mountain called Angel’s Landing, sobbing the whole way. I’ve spent hours journaling, tapping, breathing, meditating, and visualizing. I’ve also spent hours walking in the desert. I’ve recited affirmations and created vision boards. I’ve done wave after wave of emotional and energetic release. I moved my family to a biodynamic farm for three months so that I could reconnect with the earth. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover. I’ve also read Eckhart Tolle, the Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Paolo Cohelo, and everything in between. And I’ve dived deep into the Christian religious practice in which I was raised.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that what prompted this journey was a life crisis. I lost my home, my community, my career, my confidence, my place in the world, my sense of purpose, and even my idealism—all in the first six months of 2015. That probably sounds like an exaggeration, and I only wish it were.

The short version of this story is that my husband and I spent six years living in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan—two years in the Peace Corps and then four years building a nonprofit program to help Arab youth find their voice and their place as changemakers in their countries and the world. We partnered with the Queen of Jordan; our work won international awards, was written up in the New York Times, and garnered us prestigious fellowships. And we saw hundreds—thousands—of young people deeply affected and changed by our efforts.

But at the beginning of 2015, it all unraveled. Our 15-person team went through a traumatic crisis of faith when a young Palestinian-American member of our staff publicly accused my husband and I of being Israeli operatives and embezzling money from our nonprofit. What had been a loving, loyal, family-like team environment turned into a minefield of mistrust overnight. But that was just the beginning. About a month later, ISIS captured a downed Jordanian pilot, burned him alive, and published a video of it on YouTube. What had been a peaceful, predictable situation in Jordan turned chaotic and threatening overnight. Our board of directors insisted that we close the program for security and liability reasons, a decision with which we vehemently disagreed. But after weeks of agonizing negotiations with our board, as well as countless hours of painful processing with our team, my husband and I were, simply, exhausted. So we raised the white flag, spent the spring dismantling piece by piece the organization we had built, sold almost everything we owned, and packed our bags for America—heartbroken. We had no home, no jobs, no income, and no idea what came next.

People often ask me if I liked living in Jordan. I must get that question once a week. It’s hard to answer because “like” is such a small word to attach to a place that affected me in such a monumental way. Some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met live there. It’s a place steeped awe-inspiringly deep in layers of human history, and layers of bloody conflict. My daughter was born there. My career was launched there. My heart was expanded there. I lived there for six years and fell in love with it—but it also broke me. It was a fulfilling, challenging, thrilling adventure that took every ounce I had to give and ultimately kicked me to the curb. By the time our plane landed stateside in July of 2015, I was completely empty.

During our time abroad, my parents had retired to a smallish community in Southern Utah called St. George, which is the jumping off point for Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, and is situated in a beautiful red rock desert. As luck would have it, my parents had some neighbors who needed a house sitter for 18 months, and we jumped at the chance to have a place to land on such short notice. Having lived our entire adult lives bouncing between the big cities of the East Coast, St. George felt to my husband and I like the middle of nowhere—which was both a bitter disappointment and also a huge relief. We walked into that furnished house with nothing more than a few suitcases, and slowly began the process of rebuilding our lives.

Soon after we got there I took a job managing a tiny, quirky health food store in town. It seemed like an easy way to make a little money, as well as a way for me to start exploring what a path to healing might entail. I didn’t even know what healing would look like—I only knew I was 40 pounds overweight, suffering from adrenal fatigue and a raft of digestive issues, dealing with chronic headaches, battling depression, and feeling more lost than I’d ever been in my life. For some reason a health food store felt like a good place for a deeply unhealthy person like me to find a path forward.

At first it was just a job. But soon I started to meet people. Browse books when it was slow. And buy products with intriguing purposes. I wasn’t a stranger to this world—before I had moved to Jordan I had worked on an organic farm and engaged in a self-directed holistic healing regimen that I credit with resolving many long-term health issues and ultimately allowing me to get pregnant after years of infertility. But then Jordan happened. It had been a while since I’d really taken care of myself. My go-to coping mechanisms in the Middle East had been drinking copious amounts of Pepsi, eating chili fries with frightening regularity, and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy DVDs I got from one of the scores of pirated media shops in downtown Amman. Had I not been raised Mormon, and had I not been in a Muslim country, I’m pretty sure I would have become an alcoholic.

As I started to orient myself gently in the direction of healing, I made one commitment. I would follow my intuition, no matter where it led. I’ve always considered myself above average when it came to reading people and situations, following my heart, and discerning what to do through some mysterious faculty other than my mind. But living so long in a place so fraught with latent conflict—in a place where one uncalculated word could undo years of trust-building—I had learned to mistrust motives including my own, to guard (and even outright hide) my true self, and to generally over-think everything. It was exhausting, and I knew that healing could only begin when those destructive habits stopped. So I decided I would just open myself to being heart-led again, and follow whatever trail of breadcrumbs the universe saw fit to scatter in front of me. No matter where it led.

And it led down some strange roads. I wasn’t really trying to do kooky stuff, but I often did, just because it presented itself and my soul seemed to incline toward it. And every bit of it was wonderful in its own way. Despite having been founded and dominated by Mormons and being in the reddest part of a red state, St. George has a surprisingly large sub-culture of seekers, healers and energy workers. A surprisingly large number of whom are also Mormon housewives. And for a while it was the fastest growing municipality in America. But still decidedly a small town. All of this combines to make it one of the strangest little places on earth. Some people say it’s the vibration of the red rocks that draws people here—similar to what is often said of Sedona, Arizona. Others claim that all spiritual seekers—Mormon or otherwise—are being drawn to a higher plane of existence by way of wandering roads. Whatever it is, many of these people quite unexpectedly became my guides.

I should pause here to say that fascinating and life-changing as the past three years have been, they are not the subject of this blog. I credit my journey so far with healing my body of ailments I didn’t even know I had, with resolving a decade-long struggle with depression, with quieting my mind to a degree that still surprises me daily, and with reorienting me to my most deeply-held values and goals.

And that’s where this blog comes in.

I'm a writer who's spending 2019 engaging in a yearlong personal journey back to community, connection, and relationship. It's called Project Reconnect. Join me!

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