Life is weird. You think you’ve got it all figured out, and then it turns out that you don’t. And even when it’s figured out, it’s a little scary. When NOTHING is settled, it’s terrifying.
I once told a friend that when you look to the right you see someone who has it better than you, but you look to the left, and someone else is worse off. It’s a matter of perspective, and instead of comparing ourselves to others, it’s best to just compare our life as it is to the one we want. Is there a way to make that happen? Is it worth the risks to make it happen? Is it worth the risk to stay where we are and not change? And which is worse?
In my case, I gambled everything, but I did it in what I thought was a smart way. I tried to arrange for the life I left behind to be managed (renting out my house, setting my young daughter up in an apartment) and the life I would come into to be prepared for me (getting my teaching license in a new state, storing all my stuff that I hadn’t dispersed). Then I took off.
I traveled for a year, improved (but did not perfect) my Spanish, wrote 125,000 words to be fashioned into a memoir. I made friends, worked hard, dealt with hardships, and learned how to be alone.
A year is a long time. I thought it would never end. But it did.
Now I’m back in the US, back in a place I am learning to call home. There’s a little post-traumatic travel syndrome going on: it seems like I never went anywhere. In some ways, nothing has changed. In other ways everything has. But I am the only one who really understands this. Life goes on, but how can it ever be the same?
Well, of course it won’t. I have changed everything. I broke up with a beloved boyfriend, rented out my house, quit a job I’d had for many years (earning a decent salary and with a continuing contract), gave away almost all my furniture, and, sadly, left my children. I traveled for almost a year, and did it on the cheap: volunteering and working for families, sleeping in hostels , on buses, and in the hospitality of strangers. I learned a lot. I laughed and spoke a lot of Spanish and did things I never knew I could do. I took a temporary vow of celibacy for a while. Then I took a lover in Ecuador: met him on Friday, moved in with him on Sunday, and left on Thursday. I prayed to Jesus in Spain, to Buddha in Argentina, and to unnamed Inca gods in Machu Picchu.
Back in Colorado, my new home, I am holding my breath. I’m applying for jobs, starting a business, revising a book. I’m living with my parents. I’m facing fears on my own, having learned that I am the only one who can talk me down off the ledge. I baby myself and I challenge myself.
Once in a while, when I take time to slow down, I find myself in an unexplainable panic. My heart is racing. My thoughts are scattered. My energy level drops but my anxiety rises. I don’t know how I got here; I don’t know what to do. What have I done to my neat little life? I go to my mat for answers, I work my body and mind, I try to be still and accept the thoughts and just observe my craziness like a dear wise friend. I stay away from sharp objects, but I over-indulge in alcohol. I cry. I write. I get through another day.
I know it’s not supposed to be easy. Transitions are difficult. I’m making steps but how do I know if they are the right ones? I don’t; we never do. I just have to find some faith that it will all work out as it is supposed to. I can try my best and let go of the attachment to what happens next. Not knowing is hard, but it is also a blessing. Anything could happen!
And I sure hope it does…..