by: Jason Wyman
Jason. My name means “healer” or “he that cures”. It is a name that I have tried many times to deny, wishing instead it meant educator or writer or some other signifier that speaks more to who I am and how I view myself. Healer has always terrified me. To me, healer requires power.
When I was a child, I had a plaque above my bed that reminded me daily of my future, complete with a Bible verse I can’t remember. I was constantly reminded of my destiny by fellow church goers. Even at an early age, they saw something in the way I showed up in the world that made them believe I would heal. Mostly, they didn’t use the word “healer”. Rather, thanks to a shared cultural history/legacy of Catholicism, they said I would be a priest. For most, healer and priest were interchangeable.
I tried that destiny. I followed it vigorously all throughout my childhood teaching Bible camps and Sunday school, dedicating many hours to service (especially service in homeless shelters, psychology wards, and food pantries), and even ending up in seminary to be a priest. That destiny, when unquestioned, felt righteous and purposeful and bodily.
Then, the questions poured in. How can I be a priest if I am actually queer? How can I practice celibacy when all I want to do is fuck? How can I heal when I feel so damaged and disconnected?
Questions led to coming out and a revocation of my Catholicism. In turn, that created a great distance between me and the meaning of my name until, finally, I no longer remembered that Jason means “healer” or “he that cures”.
I had a dream that a spider was on my right shoulder. It crept there when I brushed through its web trying to find a clearing so I could get my bearings. I needed to know north, south, east, west. I wanted to feel the sun warm my eyelids and know that it was not a dream.
I couldn’t find that opening. I kept racing and racing pushing past branches and tall grasses, snaking over streams too wide to jump and deep enough to soak shoes. Urgency compelled what was believed to be forward movement.
The entire time, the spider rode on my right shoulder and made its presence known as an itch. I would scratch where it sat. Yet, my hand missed it for the spider quickly dodged my inattentiveness. I never looked back.
This dream lasted almost ten years. And it made its black-ink physical mark upon my shoulder.
When I woke, I noticed the orb weaver in the mirror. It sat there still and unchanging. It would not move. It still itched.
I did not know what it meant. Only, I knew that someday I would. I just needed it to stop itching.
Maybe my destiny would be found if I let the orb weaver be.
I started working in a cafe recently in San Francisco. I wash a lot of dishes, and the repetition of water and soap and the circular movements of the sponge have brought forth memories trapped in ancestry. Memories of labor, of burnt and gashed hands, of climbing electric poles, of butchering meat, of cultivating trees. These memories flood my entire body, and I imagine myself part of a long legacy of labor.
Somehow, though, I ended up in the realm of art and intellectualism for most of my career, which is odd as I dropped (as I like to name it)/flunked (as my college counselor liked to name it) out of university. In fact, formal educational settings and models drain the life right out of me. I end up bored or extremely stressed or disengaged if I can’t find the real world/physical manifestation or application of the knowledge/theory/skill being taught.
Yet still, I found my way into working in schools, training intermediaries, YMCAs, community centers, literacy organizations, community theater doing youth development, education reform, mental health service allocation, strategic planning, workforce development, adult education, arts enrichment, community engagement. These jobs had some physicality to them, but mostly the brain was the muscle most used. (Second, the heart.) I loved this work and found incredible passion in its machinations and outcomes.
But there was something missing. Something that I quietly yearned for within my bones. Something I only found when stuck behind the stove whipping up a meal over the course of hours (if not days) for chosen family. I told myself that the joy and ease and release I found in cooking for family was my meditation, my prayer, my self-care. I told this story so often that I didn’t understand its true implications: maybe food/food service was my destiny?
I think I now know what that spider was telling me and continues to tell me: that what is woven will become undone and what is undone will be woven again and again and again, that it is in the cycle that destiny is revealed and made and destroyed and resurrected, that the cycle is healing.
Over 15 years later, I am revisiting my name and its meaning. I am wondering what it really means for a queer who has spent his life running from his name to finally embrace his power as healer. I do not know, and I am still unsure of whether I am running towards or away.
The only thing I do really know is that the only way to understand and to feel and to be “healer” is to resurrect it. Who knows? It may die again. And I may resurrect it once more.
For now, though, I live in the ambiguity of what-is-yet-to-be. And maybe, just maybe, that is my destiny.
Jason Wyman is a life-long educator, writer, learner and performer. He finds spaces between things and then creates supports between them. He has helped professionalize youth development, created original theater, developed learning models based on peer exchange and shared expertise, written fables inspired by the darkness of fairy tales and fostered community rooted in social justice, creativity, and laughter. He lives in San Francisco with his beautiful husband and precocious cat. You can read more at www.14blackpoppies.com. (Photo by Andreea Cănăvoiu)