The energy shifts with every person that comes and goes. Two young women from London and a young man from America arrive. We share everything and cook big dinners together. We gather in the living room all day and night and the musically talented entertain us. I lie with my eyes closed and soak it all in.
The meditations continue to push me out of my comfort zone. One night we listen to heavy drum music and are told to go crazy. The music bounces across the walls and everyone is screaming, flailing themselves across the room. One woman crawls across the floor like a panther with her hair falling down her face.
I try to remember Wim's directions "Go more crazy. If you catch yourself thinking just go more crazy." I do what feels like an African drum dance. I scream. I shake my upper body like a belly dancer. I want to go crazy but dancing comes most easily.
We finish with a standing jumping and breathing exercise, arms up, that seems to last forever. We are all panting and sweating, stripped down to our bare essentials. The song suddenly yells out "STOP" and we stop in our place to examine how we feel.
The exercise is meant to release tensions and negative energy we hold onto. I'm grateful for it. I hold so much in my body and carry it heavily. Over the past few months I have become tense. The worry lines on my forehead have thickened and I don't move as easily as I used to.
Later when we're all sitting in the living room one of the young women from London walks in, grabs her book, and storms out. I can tell her energy is off and debate going after her. Shortly after she comes back, sits beside me and lays her head on my shoulder. There are tears in her eyes. I ask her if she wants to stay there or go and talk. "Let's go talk".
We carry hot cups of tea to my caravan and she's already calmer. I see myself in her and tell her not to worry so much. Nothing makes sense in your early twenties. Does it ever? I do my best to comfort her and we go back to the house to eat peanut butter and Nutella from the jar, our nightly ritual, before I go to sleep in the yoga room on my own.
During this time I fall in the habit of sleeping everywhere. Some nights in the yoga room, other nights on the living room couches. Some nights I fall asleep to people playing music. I'm told I'm the most energetic and happy person until 10 p.m. when I wipe out.
I worry less and less about clothes or showering and wear a messy bun on top of my head and whatever clothes I can find. I enjoy my time, my food, and the company of those around me. I feel closer to myself. My body feels soft and feminine and my thoughts feel stable and content. One morning we sit in the busy kitchen and I look up and tell everyone "I'm going to miss constantly being around this big family we've created." The room warms up immediately.
One night we blast music in the yoga room and dance as a group of women. I run around the room and made ballet leaps. We dance like gypsies. Get low to some hip hop. We drop all inhibitions and move in whatever way makes us feel good. It is liberating to dance soberly and yet feel so free.
I feel good with these women. There is only one time that I think about going home early. It is near the end of my stay after a post-dinner walk in the fields. I break into hives and can hardly breathe or keep my eyes open. It turns out I have extreme hay fever, which in a way is a relief, as I have been having trouble breathing since I arrived in France. I had assumed it was stress and tobacco.
I spend my last days drowsy on medication. The drugs make me tired, but it is such a relief to breathe. I have to give up painting a ceiling because I feel faint and find I'm better scrubbing tiles while listening to music. I find the work meditative and have a few short, silent cries to myself when certain songs come on. I am still working through a lot.
Somehow my last day arrives. I'm on cooking duty. I'm happiest in the kitchen and love cooking for such a large group. I make a curried potato salad with corn, a lentil stew big enough to feed an army and a Greek salad. I clean all afternoon and at night we plan a sauna, bonfire and slumber party in the yoga room for my farewell party.
When the night arrives I'm not much fun. I go to the bonfire for a short moment and have to go to bed. I know that it's partly the medication and partly my own exhaustion. I've experienced so much and so many people in such a short period of time. I'm tired. Emotional. Overwhelmed.
I wake up early the next morning and clean the dishes leftover from the bonfire. I clear out my bedding from the yoga room, sweep my caravan, go for a run in the rain, take a long shower, and put on my clean clothes on. I paint on a lick of mascara, let my hair dry naturally, and it is time to go.
Before I leave my German friend sings to me. For someone so quiet she has a voice that fills the room and silences us all. I sit with my eyes closed and they fill with tears. We hug. I hug everyone goodbye then hug her again. I'm driven to the train station where I'm left on my own. While I've been in France the whole time I feel like I've been in another world and have suddenly returned.
I'm at peace the whole train ride home. I fall in and out of sleep as we're rocked down South. When I arrive in Toulouse hours later I have an hour to burn. I walk to a nearby bar, order a glass of wine, and roll a cigarette. I think of Wim "Your body is not a trash can, but if you're going to do something, REALLY do it."
So I really enjoy my cigarette. My wine. The sound of French around me and the traffic in the street. I'm back in France and ready for my next adventure.