An Introduction to the Medicine: My First Ayahuasca Ceremony (Part 2)
I imagined what emetic he was dosing us with. Little shot glasses of putrid scum that made you salivate and gag on the spot. And I’d fallen for it.
I let myself hate and feel such an intense self-pity. And that’s how it had to start.
It occurred to me, in the sterile clarity of a depressed mindset, that this Peanuts movie, and most sitcoms in general, were just about people. Communities, really. They have their tricksters, troublemakers, assholes, Lucy bullies, and schlimazel Linus types. Every combination of archetypes that just wind up together, like in real life. I found it quite sad: We’re just stuck here with a bunch of people and our collective problems. I felt so depressed. I would just go home after this. No healing, just back to my eating disorders and daddy issues and feeling lost and uncomfortable. Something surrendered in my frigid body and I started to cry. Quietly at first. The tears just trickled and I stifled the sobs, like I used to as a child, under the weight of the blanket on my face. Everyone else got to cry out loud, I thought. So do I. I sobbed loudly for a short period of time, then remembered the song “Man of Oil,” by Animal Collective. The line “On my knees/ my head on your queasy stomach/ cannot keep my chin up,” felt unsurprisingly drawing. Crying made the nausea go away for a time, as I heard the early morning greetings of people that I’d probably woken up, moaning and hiccuping like that.
This had seemed strange to me before: the way people would suddenly start talking or laughing when someone else in the group was clearly having a tough experience. I recalled the first night - maybe half an hour after we’d all had our first cup of the ceremony - when a young woman stumbled out to the shaman and started crying in front of everyone huddled around the fire that she was so scared. The woman that I was sitting next to, who I later learned was the woman’s mother, inexplicably started cackling at nothing, as her daughter was instructed by the unfeeling shaman to lay face down on the icy ground. By some group instinct, we all had started talking. Perhaps, I figured, to stifle our discomfort at an adult’s vulnerable display of toxic fear. Now, it had the vague feeling of an intentional process that was supposed to happen. I did not yet recognize that I was, in fact, feeling the medicine, but my brain was still analyzing this curious group norm. It now occurred to me that it might be important that those who cry out be observed by the unsympathetic eyes of what I was suddenly thinking of as my tribe. It seemed as though recognizing that nobody cares about your suffering was important in some way, but the foot that was still firmly rooted in my ego’s reality attributed this thought to the depression that I was huddling under for warmth. When the chattering retreated, my nausea advanced. Still miserable, I clutched my stomach and began softly singing “Man of Oil” to myself for comfort. Almost immediately, sounding like the product of programming in the process, I heard a woman who must’ve been seven spaces down from me say “Thank you for singing.” She reported the sentence monotone. I sang louder. The noodley part that I love. Suddenly the nausea was really gone. I thought about how much emotion I was feeling, that everyone around me was hearing. It felt strange that we’d all be laying in this freezing tent, hollering like toddlers, only to continue our conversations and laughter, which I could hear pick up once again after I’d finished my song. An impromptu memory of my sister forced itself into my inner monologue.
I had walked into the room that we shared and saw her crying on the bed. I knew why she was crying, because it was the same reason I cried at night sometimes. Our dad had said something very hurtful - usually insulting intelligence in a brutally alienating way - and she had hidden the internalized self-loathing until it could shatter in the safety of our bedroom. I remember, I’d gone straight up to her and hugged her, because I knew there was a good chance that I would walk in and see just that. We had driven home from the town’s annual carnival and Dad was in a bad mood and took it out on Megan’s sense of self. I remember that feeling of solidarity. We cried for the same reasons.
Flashback to the present: A wave of emotion hit me. I love my sister. I started uttering it under my breath, tears breaking down my face. I repeated it more,”I love my sister!” I could just see her bright smiling face, eyes squeezed shut, hugging me as tight as she could. How I never understood how she could miss me the way she did, now that I lived two states away. It felt exaggerated when she would claim to miss me so much, but I felt it all now. I felt an ache for her presence and a second euphoric spurt of knowing that for all the love I felt for her right now, she felt it all back for me - perhaps even more! No! How could anybody feel more love than THIS?! Oh, Megan! I love love love my sister.
I wasn’t wrong that this would be the peak of love I could feel for my sister, but very soon, it became overwhelming in another way. It was so much that it couldn’t fit in my body, so I had to leave my body.