She was a child  
lost in the woods somewhere,
who kept running
behind a light,
hoping that it would take her home
someday, eventually.
~Akshay Vasu

It’s April 2017, and I’m beginning to dig out from under the 30-year storm damage that buried Bello, Sparkles, and me for months: the massive, drought-impacted, snow-covered tree that fell on our new house, putting a hole in the roof that wouldn’t be repaired for months because there was no one to fix it; the bounce that landed the tree on my new SUV, destroying the passenger side and putting a hole in the windshield that wouldn’t be repaired for more than a month because no tow truck company would come to Kerby; the grave I dug for Bello, my love, who was killed early on a Sunday morning on his way to find the duckpond across the icy two-lane highway; the blood pressure in stroke territory and the male nurse at the local health clinic screaming that I’ll probably get an embolism, that the clinic can’t be liable if I die, that I need to go; the eight months without an internet connection at home and none nearby that wasn’t in a place polluted with rebel flags in the parking lot and/or Fox News on the tube inside; the isolation. Like bootcamp for humbling life lessons.

I live a life where the very basics are often threatened—my health, shelter, and transportation; my heart, my mind, my identity, all up for grabs here. Living this way makes it nearly impossible to think or see beyond the most important thing that has to be done this day, a task that will hopefully keep some essential part of my life from just falling apart. (I magnet a note to my fridge: “Keep calm, take care of Sparkles, and take good notes.” That and “no problem, I’ll do it myself” become personal mantras.) I begin to understand that my privilege is not portable; the thousands in the bank, my education, my plans, and my intellect–my old sources of power–will not save me here.

I learn how to adapt. I’m hacking all the time: using what’s available as a tool for my purposes, even though my purposes may not be its. Stopping mid-task, mid-goal; assessing, seeing the direction won’t work, and taking a new approach. Constantly shifting everything in response always new, “no one is going to believe this,” wtf situations.

Daily, hearing, seeing, feeling their rejection of my existence–their (justified) hate for the Californian; experiencing the marginalization, the social isolation, but not holding it; noting it, letting it go, moving past it, and leaving it there. Losing my battle to hold onto my familiar sense of self, and, finally, letting her go.

Seeing the connection to all marginalization, to all those ignored humans; living with the pain and invisibility all outsiders feel, all us bottom-of-the-culture dwellers just trying to get through the day alive and sane. Whole.

Being solo, I open to all the ways the universe is trying to talk to me. I begin believing the universe has got my back, that events I keep calling “lucky” or “coincidences” are a pattern. I feel this first among the trees.

I begin trusting my emotions and imagination to direct me with their creation of possibilities that pull me forward, out of this toxic actuality.

I begin to see past the debilitating passive aggressive power projections fired at me by the scared white humans around me with a little power to protect.

I begin to see that the overwhelming pain I feel daily isn’t earned, not punishment for who I was in a previous life.

I begin to see that the human relational patterns are the work; that the relational dysfunction in which all of us are immersed here is the reason for the work.

I begin to live connections that merge with memories made in a smaller body: how the bottom makes the top possible and how the humans at the bottom can remake that relation, even if they’re little. How they can choose and resist; how they can break the bonds that chain their agency.

The power of purpose finds me. This purpose gives me gifts of seemingly endless energy and optimism, and the strength I need to keep believing and working when, literally, no one else can see what I’m trying to do.

And I begin to understand.