There was only one thin thread holding me there – love. Love of a man that was not in love with me and was not right for me. I knew it in my bones but I persisted anyway. He was my last attempt, or maybe my last excuse to stay in a place that was not ideal for me and hadn’t been for a very long time. When that thin thread disintegrated, the anchor that was already near the surface of my ocean, broke and there was no sinking down again.
I shudder when I look back on the years of wasted time, trying so hard to make it work. Grasping. Pulling myself up a steep hill and never reaching the summit. Barely even making it far enough for a decent view. Constantly walking through the desert that was California. A valley of tears, that sucked me dry.
It was always love that had led me away or to something. Usually the love for a man, sometimes a job, or simply the freedom to escape, to travel – a new discovery in a foreign land. That, after all, was my first love. Finding myself in an airport was natural and just seemed to happen throughout my life from the moment I went on my first journey. Always at certain junctures in my life. Endings, beginnings, times for expansion. Space to untether myself from heartbreak or confusion. To get lost on purpose in an unknown land. To embrace myself and the warrior in me. My free spirit gleefully flying across the skies. I never once regretted spending money on a plane ticket. If it’s all I ever spent my money on, I was content.
So there I was, at another juncture, that I had created, looking back at all the doors that had slammed shut – collaborations, love affairs, homes, projects and attempts at creating something that resembled my version of a good life. A life I could be proud of. But it had all failed. One thing, after the next, until I believed I was a failure. The pathways in my mind, forging a deeper and deeper sense of shame with each passing year. I had to save myself. I had to pack it in, pack up and ship out.
They say that wherever you go, there you are and there’s a great deal of truth in that – whatever your inner state, so is your outer reality. I say, also, that your environment carries an aura that feeds into you, like osmosis, and affects your inner being.
I’ve always been sensitive to my surroundings – the weather, the aesthetics of the environment and the people. Plant me in a place with authentic souls, art, beauty and nature and I’ll grow like I was programmed to. Like a plant that needs air, light and warmth to survive. It’s simple. Why be so dedicated to the struggle when there are so many other options available? So many other gorgeous places to live on this earth. As we get older we realize that time is of the essence. Someday, one day in the future becomes now. Not a moment too soon.
Here it was. The final hour. I was just about to cross the finish line and birth myself into another reality. The decision was made and it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Waking up each day to assess what was most precious and purging the rest. Waking up to the reality of the shift I was about to make. My life in the United States, unraveling behind me. Coming to terms with the lifetimes I’d lived in the last 23 years – exactly half my life thus far. I had to keep a steady focus on what was in front of me, leaving behind the what-if’s and the if-only’s. It was too late for those. I didn’t have any more time to waste. The task was clear and each moment was filled with hitting the target: October 3rd. A flight out of San Francisco, at 6:20 pm.
All my belongings had to be packed, sold, stored or donated. I had to be ruthless in moments when I could have been nostalgic. I had to press on, placing one foot in front of the other. Making multiple trips to my storage unit and wading through, what seemed to be an endless exercise of figuring out what was staying and what was going. Most of it had to go. My precious chairs I had bought at a little antique store in San Diego eight years before, when the wide-eyed wonder of living in my 1920’s apartment overtook me with enthusiasm and hope. My rare jazz cd’s and my sketchbooks. Artwork I had created and not sold. Trinkets from travel adventures I’d had for years. Things that ex-lovers had gifted me. In the donation pile they went. Things that evoked sadness, things that were old, things that seemed to belong to another lifetime, attached to memories I’d rather not take with me.
Four boxes – keep, throw away, donate, sell. I made gift packages for people, gave things away, arranged garage sales, listed things online. My days were consumed with organizational tasks. Listing Jamima – my 30-year-old Volvo – to be sold, and due to some miracle, she was. Working here and there when I could to make some extra cash. Making dates with people I would see one more time before departing. Packing my suitcases – one for summer, one for winter – for a journey that would take me to the southern hemisphere for 3 months and the northern for…who knew. Books, essential oils, sage, a couple of precious gemstones, my camera, a deck of Oracle cards and my favorite clothes.
The time drew more and more near until finally, I was standing in my friends living room four hours before my flight, surrounded by things that hadn’t yet been taken care of. Bless that woman for letting me leave with things undone. My vision board on her living room floor, my last donation items in a random box, a pair of shoes I didn’t know what to do with, abandoned in the corner, soaked from running back and forth in the rain. My emotions undone from exhaustion and from this moment finally arriving.
I had pushed and pushed for months on end, intending to tie it all up in a neat little bow, not wanting to burden anyone with any loose ends. But here I was and I had to give myself permission to leave these few things undone and accept my friend’s loving recognition of what this moment entailed. Knowing I had tried my absolute best. Knowing this was a huge deal. It was OK not to be a perfectionist in this particular moment.
And then, as in a weary dream – sanctuary – sitting on the plane. The few keep boxes stored in my friend’s basement and me, in the air with two suitcases. No more storage units, no more fitting all the puzzle pieces together or taking them apart. There were still going to be decisions that needed to be made but not for these next few hours. I could breathe, watch movies, write and dream.
Six months later, as I write this, sitting at a desk in a farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside, there is one suitcase in London and one with me. So many logistical decisions have had to be made since my departure. More diversions before I finally decided on a place to land. South Africa, England, Scotland, supposedly places I’d work and study and make the proper decision about where to be. Lugging those suitcases more times than I care to mention, up and down stairs, into airports onto trains and buses. Accepting people’s help when it was offered, otherwise making it work the best I could. An enormous amount of energy to merely sidestep the right decision, any decision, about where I wanted to ultimately land up.
Sometimes a decision just has to be made and any inkling of inspiration followed. A dreamer I may be. An idealist, most of the time. Free as a bird, only encumbered by my own perceptions of the vision ahead. I realize that sometimes freedom can have one more confused but having gratitude for that freedom and diving into one of those things that have passed through your dreams, things only someone who has this freedom can entertain for real, is a wide open blessing. Choosing one of those one-day visions. Because if you don’t you would wonder ten or twenty years from now, “what if, I had…?”
Now, after the intense heat of South Africa, the cold rain of England and the snow of Scotland, I wait in anticipation for warmer weather again when I can wear my summer clothes that I so carefully packed. To shed a layer and really be here. Here in the land that I’ve envisioned living for so long. Here now, with another list of to-do’s. Things that seem like massive hurdles at this juncture:
Make new friends
Search for a job
Find somewhere to live
Even amidst the doubt and the worry and the, “what if this fails too”, maybe I could start by congratulating myself for my courage and strength in making it this far, as I walk down cobblestone streets, marveling at the grace and beauty that surrounds me.