Violet struggled, hit a zenith, went to the woods. Physically, this is one of the most challenging experiences I have ever heard about. Emotionally, it is even tougher. And here is where the real work lies. First step? All the ol band-aids come off.
Vi loves fashion, accessories, makeup, always has. She typically had a 4x costume change per day – I presume it’s something about her outsides feeling better in hopes of affecting her insides. RIP #1 – VANITY – No mirrors.
Vi suffered from transition anxiety. On a normal day I would need to give her about 4-5 ‘heads-ups’ regarding plan anticipation. Zero room for spontaneity. RIP #2 –COMFORT OF KNOWING – No future information.
Vi tuned out the world to screens. Another presumption – it was probably easier to turn on and tune out than it was to function with her discomfort. RIP #3 – HIDE AND ESCAPE – No technology.
ONLY YOU. Focus on only you. No time, no plans, not what you look like. Just YOU. How torturously liberating.
“What are we doing next?”
“Sorry, too much F.I., try to be present.”
First note from Violet. Coined “The Bail Letter” by the kids, they bond by helping each other punish their parents with their worst nightmares. Sleepless nights worrying about your lost, starved, miserable kid – confirmed! Here are some gems collected from ours and other families…bail me out!
“I cry every night and they make me read my letters out loud and I hate it here.”
“They took away my sleeping bag and I have to sleep on the ground and I’m freezing to death.”
“They are forcing me to take more medicine and I feel weird.”
“They make me eat bugs and garbage.”
“I had to drink dirty lake water.”
“The kids here are REALLY crazy.” (that one is funny)
One family therapy call a week. One highly structured letter from us. The opportunity for her to respond (not mandatory). No talking to her, no seeing her. And we agreed to this so WE had to just do it.
A raw person. No defenses, no safety nets. Now? Let’s tempt their most intolerable frustrations out of the cage. Let’s taunt them with challenging tasks, while they are exhausted, and ask the frustrations to just sit with us, in the present.
“Your daughter made a fire.”
“Say what.” (Great, now she’s an arsonist?)
The whole “fire thing” was not clear when I first heard about it. Then you realize how powerful it is. A tangible mark for success - oh the exhilarating flames! The agonizing task of getting to actual flame-age can take weeks to perfect. Could there be a clearer test of how anyone handles frustration? Trying something unsuccessfully for days on end while others succeed? The perseverance it takes is awesome.
Fire from scratch? Not like the movies. Start with a rock and flint or you make a “bowdrill.” This means finding the right wood, making divets and a rod out of more wood that you jimmy back and forth with string. That’s just to get smoke. While you are trying to make the smoke, pieces of wood are sliding out of place non-stop. You have to take a breath, reset and start over about 1 million times. IT IS ABSOLUTELY AGGRAVATING.
“How long do we need to DO this for?”
“Sorry, too much F.I.”
Therapeutic milestones are the next obstacle. Building trust through accountability and consequently respect. Owning up to your own part in the negative dynamics created, learning how to manage ONLY what you can control. I kept thinking – holy smokes – my daughter is going to be more prepared for life’s trials at the end of this journey than ANYONE else I know. Certainly has taken years of therapy for me to come to terms with my part in the dysfunction. I mean, I am STILL a serious work-in-progress.
“Can you PLEASE tell me what we are doing next?”
“Sorry Vi, too much F.I., try to be here now.”
Sound challenging enough? I think one of the strongest parts of this is that there is NO CHOICE. No escaping, no hiding, no option. You just have to deal with it. Violet and I made an interview where she gives advice to a soon-to-be Wilderness kid.
“If you go against the program, it’s harder and you will stay there longer. If you go WITH the program and you help yourself through it and you let the program also help you, you’re gonna fly through it.” Gotta just do it.
This is a lot to ask. Completely giving up control, or even the pretense of it, feels totally insecure. Broken record, but what a crazy opportunity. Couldn’t feel more lucky or grateful for this for Violet. How could you EVER be the same after this?