They say the Burn changes you…

They say the Burn changes you, that being around so many free spirits inspires you to soar to your true potential. But for me there is something much greater at work on the Playa. For me the Playa has shown her sentience and her maternal goddess side. I went to this Burn with a heavy burden that I wanted to shed into the fires of the Temple burn, but what I walked away with was a soul that had been healed on even deeper levels than I could have ever known to ask for.

You see, fourteen years ago I was raped, but only in the last few months was I able to accept the fact that it had been a rape and not merely a “misunderstanding.” Going through the complex emotions that were finally released after so many years in hibernation was further intensified by the fact that I was raised not to form attachments or trust people…period. In other words, in all my thirty-six years on this planet I have never allowed myself to feel wanted or loved, rather I have always walked on egg shells around others waiting for the inevitable moment of betrayal or rejection. Luckily I come from a large family, so it wasn’t an entirely solitary existence, but it was a lonely one, like living life from inside a fishbowl…people think they know what’s going on but they are never able to really get close enough to see the truth. To top things off, just before the Burn I had faced rejection by yet another man…the inevitable other shoe had dropped despite my walking on eggshells for over two months. I was seriously considering giving up entirely on the concept of romantic love with a man and had nearly resigned myself to ordering sperm off the internet to satisfy my ticking ovaries.

So this burn I had decided would serve as a major release for all my feelings of hurt, anger, confusion, and hate that I had stored up about the rape, which I hoped would free me from my inherent distrust of men. I had put my feelings into poetry and planned to spend a solitary afternoon transcribing the words on the Temple and crying. Be it my natural tendency toward procrastination or the pull of the Playa, the beginning of the week steered me toward a more gradual healing. I was blessed to find an old soul that my spirit recognized almost immediately and we walked with the spirit of the Playa for destinations unknown. Slowly, as the dust was loosened beneath our feet, the damage to my soul caused by my most recent betrayal was smoothed away until a glimmer of hope returned. I started to at least trust myself again…something that I desperately needed to do before I truly faced that night from fourteen years ago.

As the week started drawing to a close and I had still not managed to motivate myself to make the trek to the Temple, I began to question whether it was a journey that I really wanted to make on my own. But I still couldn’t find the courage to ask any of my friends to accompany me because I had only shared the story of my rape with one person that was on the Playa and I didn’t want to impose on her Playa time…the eggshells that I walked upon simply wouldn’t let me do it. It was Thursday night and I had finally resigned myself that I would make the trek alone on Friday, but if my girlfriend happened to be around when I started on that journey I would try and pull up the courage to ask her to accompany me. However, the Playa knew better and had other journeys for me to take.

A friend asked me to go on a walkabout after we finished with our camp obligations and we set out to explore the Esplanade and open Playa with no real destinations in mind. As we wandered the Playa and searched for an art car to hop on we found ourselves unwilling to pause our journey long enough to find an open seat, instead we began walking to find the Temple. My friend hadn’t seen the Temple yet and I felt that I could shield myself well enough to make a brief stop there, so I didn’t object to that being our destination. However, when we reached the Temple I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold back much longer and asked my friend if we could keep our visit brief. I sat between his legs on the steps and he sheltered me with his arms, but it still didn’t take long until I needed to leave. I told him that I needed to leave or I would be a bundle of tears for the rest of the night and he naturally wanted to know why. I tried to be elusive and just told him I had stuff to leave at the Temple but that I wanted to do it alone the next day. He said that if it bothered me that much I should let go of it then and he wouldn’t mind if I felt the need to cry the rest of the night. Since I had battled with the decision to do my Temple visit alone and I was more emotionally open than I normally was, I broke down and told him the story of my rape and I cried and cried. He simply held me tight and told me that it wasn’t my fault and to let go of the hurt…and he let me cry. I must have cried rivulets for at least a half hour and my whole body ached from the sobs that consumed it. As the tears began to subside and the sobbing calmed, I felt a release that seemed to go through my whole being. We got up to leave and I tucked my poem into an edge of the Temple. We walked back out to the open Playa, the tears had stopped and I felt physically lighter. Later toward the first stretches of dawn I again walked along the open Playa, by myself this time, and explored the sensation of release that I now had. With a major part of my soul on the mend, the Playa set her sights on healing the rest.

It had started out as a wonderful night riding the magic carpet across the open Playa, but somewhere along the way my camelback, my lifeline, had fallen off the carpet. I didn’t notice the loss until we reached our next destination and at first I wasn’t really upset since I try not to form attachments to possessions. But then I realized my camera had been attached to my camelback and the loss of the memories it contained traumatized me. You see, although I have never been able to form attachments to people, or maybe because of it, I formed very deep attachments to my memories … photos, mementos, etc. I cried with the grief for a lost loved one even as my friends trolled the Playa in search of my bag. Finally I accepted that there must be some soul lesson to be learned from the loss and told my friends to call off the search. I held back my tears and played the part of the trouper as we partied for the rest of the night, but when the time came for us to end the evening and return to our respective tents the grief returned. I didn’t want to be alone but couldn’t find the courage to reach out to my friends for comfort, so I returned to my tent alone and cried and sobbed myself to sleep as I shivered in the cold. The next morning I woke at first light and decided that I wasn’t going to let the loss ruin the rest of my burn even if I couldn’t see the reason for such a loss yet. To battle the grief I decided to keep count of each positive thing that happened to me during the day…I’m “home” surrounded by the sounds of BRC…+1…no hangover…+2… After getting ready to start my day I went to search for my camelback, but after an unsuccessful visit to “Found” at Center Camp I realized my back tire was going flat and was forced to head back to camp.

One of my girlfriends had a backpack of mine and I found her sitting with a group of our friends congregated in a chill space. My lips were aching and sunburned which only served to remind me of my loss since my chapstick was also in my lost pack. I asked to borrow someone’s chapstick and unknowingly released the floodgate of grief that I had been holding back. As I relayed the story of my loss I was suddenly inundated with replacement items from my friends as quickly as my tears flowed…a new tube of chapstick, a new bottle of eye drops, a sharpie, a fresh bottle of water, and a disposable camera all materialized at once in the hands of my friends. And without the least prompting they surrounded me in an assault of a group hug which lasted until I had no more tears to cry. It was a moment that I can only imagine must have been like when the Grinch felt his heart suddenly grow three times it’s previous size because somewhere in the middle of that circle of love I felt the wall around my heart begin to rip and by the time the last person released me from their embrace I knew what it was really like to feel loved and wanted. Just like that, with the swiftness of flicking a switch, I was released from a lifetime of insecurities and detachment. But the Playa wasn’t done showing me her power or compassion, for when I made my final trip to “found” she returned my camelback to me completely undamaged and un-tampered with…yes, I got my camera back too!

So now I am back from the Playa and I’m glowing with the love and acceptance of my friends. All the energy that I used to waste on my eggshell walking has been rerouted and I’m literally bursting at the seams with creativity. I’ve started painting again after nearly a decade hiatus and I realize that I had become afraid to paint because I had stifled my creative energies so much with my fear. Now that I have let go of my fears and regained my hope the paint nearly flies to the canvas on its own. My spirit is freed through my creativity and I am more alive now than I have ever been…I no longer fear the future.

by Storm

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.