My Journey is My Destination

The reality of self work and progress is that it’s not linear, nor final. This is what I mean by the term: The journey IS the destination. This voyage architecting my best life never ends because there are always more updates that can be made. Instead of striving for some final destination, my best life is lived moment by moment.

When I take this premise a step further, I’m reminded that if I find that my journey has ended, and that I’ve gotten comfortable with my life and the people around me such that I’ve stopped questioning, that’s when I should have cause for concern.

To exemplify these thoughts, I’ll share with you a recent memory of a memory that made my knees buckle and brought me to tears.

The Memory of A Memory

It was December in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I was warming up lunch in the kitchen when the sensation that I was in a different time and place came over me.

Front Patio of a New Mexico house along my journey
The front patio of the house where the memory of the memory went down.

I stopped what I was doing, turned off the stove, then stood still for a second and shut my eyes. The moment that returned was one of the most simple, but impactful, of my life.

It was just about 12 years ago in early Spring. At that time, I was in the process of leaving San Antonio, Texas to move to Manhattan. Living in New York City had always been a dream of mine, and I was finally ready to make said dream a reality.

Before I could do so, I had to say goodbye to the life I built in Texas. Though I only lived there for three years, those years were some of the most important of my life.

During that time I started my career, made amazing relationships, and proved to myself that I could build a life away from the home I’d always known. But, despite all of these factors, I was certain I had yet to reach my potential. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to do so in SA Town (much as I loved it).

The memory is one that always makes me sad. In it, a work friend and I were walking to our cars after my last goodbye party (I had many, hehe). He stopped, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “Always remember. A good day in New York is a great day, but a bad day in New York is the worst. And… You can make it through anything.”

I recalled how, as he was saying these words, I could barely lift my eyes to meet his gaze. When our eyes did meet, I remember looking away from him as quickly as I could, fighting back tears. Then, we said our “goodnights” and “see ya tomorrows”, and I got into my car.

The Song of My Journey

When I turned on my car radio, the song came on; one of my favorites of all time. The refrain cut through me, its vice-like grip holding me in that San Antonio parking lot.

And I know I could look at anyone but you now
I could fall under the eyes of anyone
But you now, now, now, now
This is a list of what I should have been
But I’m not
This is a list of the things that I should have seen
But I’m not seeing
I’m just turning away from where I should have been
Because I am not anything…

The amount of shame and fear I felt when those words belted through my speakers overwhelmed me then. I remember my mind starting to unravel with thoughts like: What was I thinking leaving such a comfortable and wonderful life behind? What if I didn’t succeed? What if I was being ungrateful for throwing it all away!?

In present day, I had forgotten about lunch. Instead, I went to the living room, found my computer, opened YouTube and typed the song into the search engine.

I again started playing it, letting it, and all the memories and feelings that came along with it, surge through me. Re-living the angst, I fell to the couch crying uncontrollably.

I’m Still Not at The Destination

After a few moments I asked myself why the tears? Why was this memory still impacting me so?

My response was disheartening. It was because I still didn’t believe I’d reached my potential; my destination. I saw that I was still, after 12 long years, not “there”. I reasoned that if this was the case, maybe my leaving really WAS the biggest mistake of my life. Maybe I was a failure.

The Journey Is the Destination

It took a few moments of gasping for air and of reflection and self questioning, to see that no, leaving wasn’t a mistake. If I had stayed, I would not have stepped fully into myself as I am now aiming to do. I would have remained comfortable, yes, but stagnant.

That’s when I remembered: The Journey is the Destination. There simply is no “there” to get to; no finality to the journey. Instead each moment IS what I have been working towards, and each moment is what I need to make the most of.

I’ve written about this topic a time or two, and bringing all these facts to light again reminded me that I’m not a failure for not having yet reached my perceived destination.

Rather, the realization was seeing that if I settle into a comfortable state of being, a “there”, that’s when I should be worried.

Wait… What Did I Just Say?

Am I saying that settling into a comfortable life (whether that be made up of a partner, family, community, place, etc) is negative? Do I think building that kind of comfort into life means I failed?

Not. At. All!

It isn’t the building of comfort into my life that I think is problematic, but merely the letting go and forgetting to continually question and tweak my life that can be the issue.

This is something I didn’t really learn until I took all the distractions out of my life. Before I took the time to question who I am and what my beliefs are, then align my actions with those pillars, I took the easy road. This meant walking the path of those before me and assuming it would lead me to happiness (Spoiler alert: It didn’t).

I now see that questioning and even a healthy dose of self doubt which leads to questioning is one of the structures that enables me to architect my best life. Along with that questioning is continuing to tweak my actions to align with what’s truly best for me.

This process is the definition of architecting my best life.

Keep Questioning, Keep Tweaking

If I stop continually questioning and aligning aspects of my life, and instead choose to succumb to the fear which keeps me from digging deeper, I will never pull back the curtain to show me what needs fixing, nor will I ever conjure up the courage to make updates to improve my well being.

Those matters that need fixing may be the people I choose to spend time with, the activities I choose to partake in, or the thoughts I choose to believe, but whatever the curtain may be hiding, if I don’t pull it back and see the issues for what the are, the underlying issues that keep me from my full potential will remain.

Not only will they remain, but they will fester and expose themselves at the most random times. I feel not in control of my own life, and allow myself to become a victim of my own demise.

The hardest part is pulling back the curtain, because once I do, the issues can no longer be ignored. In fact, my inability to ignore the discontent with my life is exactly why I left SA Town all those years ago.

The Best Part

The most beautiful part about looking at whatever is behind that curtain is that, once I do, and once I investigate my feelings and resistance, I free myself up to see new ways forward, and I invite new and more fulfilling energies into my life.

The desert landscape of this Las Cruces destination.
Seeing what else is on the horizon…

In fact, after I unearthed my reasons for tears that day in Las Cruces, it was as if a 500 pound weight I’d been carrying with me for 12 years was released. I think about that moment in the parking lot now not with sadness or regret, but with confidence and knowing.

I know who I was and wasn’t then, and I know why I stepped on to the next part of my journey.

With this confidence in mind, I also am reminded to keep on walking, because if I stop, I stop truly living.

And… I kinda like living; moment by moment.

Preparing for the Storm

Two days after Christmas the storm came.

I felt a shifting stir that morning well before the brunt of the blow hit. When I awoke the internet was out. This fact threw a wrench in my yoga routine. I tried to forge ahead with streaming a yoga video, but even that was choppy. So, I accepted my fate and skipped out on my practice. I always hesitate with this for fear of my inner sloth being validated. However on this day I had little choice, a fact I noted for later.

Shortly after I put away my mat, I realized cell service also was down. At this point I felt fairly content though. The heavy snows hadn’t yet come in and the family I was staying with was still home, so I wasn’t yet faced with it all. (NOTE: The family was heading out of town that day. The plan was for me to stay on at the house to take care of the pets while they were away.)

We lamented the lack of internet and cell service, but didn’t let it stop us in our planning. They continued to pack up their car, and I made a shopping list to stock up on goods before I couldn’t leave the house for awhile (NOTE: by awhile I meant a week).

The family made their departure as I made my way into town. My first stop was Walgreens where I found they were only allowing “cash-only” purchases due to the outage. (NOTE: come to find out this outage extended throughout much of the rocky mountain and west coast regions.)

Luckily I was able to use my card to purchase my food supplies at the grocery store and fuel up my car. I didn’t know when I’d be able to leave the property again, or when I’d see other people again, so I was grateful for this ability.

When I left the house that morning the view outside my bedroom window was something like this:

Light snow on a tree.
Just a covering of snow.

I got back to the house and the view was much the same. Still without any sort of internet or phone service, I unpacked my grocery bags and decided to get cozy on the couch to watch some movies. This plan was a solid one until the electricity went out.

There I was without electricity, internet, or phone, and completely alone on 32 acres somewhere in New Mexico.

Then the snow began.

What started as a flurry turned into this:

Snow storm
The storm covers the terrain.

The tree I showed you earlier very shortly looked like this:

Snow covered tree.
Another view. This time with more snow.

I only allowed myself to panic slightly before reminding myself I was completely safe and sound and well stocked up. The electricity came back on when it was still daylight, and I had a quiet night at home.

When I woke up the next morning, I saw the total snowfall had increased significantly.

Two feet of snow covered patio furniture.
A few feet of snow grace the patio furniture.

I also realized I had to walk quite a way to feed the horses. Not only did I have to walk down to feed them, but I had to carry buckets of water along with me. Here’s a picture of the trail I managed to carve out:

Trail through two feet of snow.
My trail through the snow.

It was on these walks through the several feet of snow that the panic kicked in. What if I slip and fall and freeze to death out here and no one knows? What if a coyote comes out of the woods and attacks me? (NOTE: I have no idea if this is even something a coyote would do. I doubt it.) What if I’m unable to keep the horses fed and watered and something happens?

You get the idea. I stopped each time I noticed these thoughts. Yeah it was -2° F with the wind chill, so standing there with two heavy buckets of water wasn’t the best idea, but I stopped nonetheless. I stood there, feeling the fear, noticing it, then watching it drift away. As I continued walking I let the huffing and puffing of my breath release any other old thinking and negativity.

I continued this practice while indoors (which was significantly easier, physically, anyway). Each anxious thought. Each fear filled reaction. I sat (or stood) with them all. I did little else except stay present with them.

Each time, they disappeared.

Little did I know it was this practice which clears the mind and soul, and readies us for bigger and more intense moments. Little did I know how much I would need this practice in the weeks to come. Nor did I know how much bigger those moments would be.

What I did know is as I cleared my mind and heart, so too did the weather clear, and with it came an incredible beauty:

Snow covered high desert.
The view clears.
Snow covered high desert.
Another beautiful view of the snow.

I like to think that this last part of the story is not mere coincidence; that if I continue with this practice in my everyday life, I’ll bring more beauty in as well. Perhaps that beauty will also be bigger as the moments themselves grow.

Well… there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?


What’s in a Moment?

On my last night in Tucson I was lucky enough to have dinner at the house of some new friends. (NOTE: These are also friends of my RVA friends.) My time with them was (too) short, but it was impactful. As we sat outside discussing just about everything, I felt the need to get my anxieties off my chest.

I described to the two of them the doubts I’ve been having. Most specifically, Are the short relationships I’m making while on the road a reflection of me only wanting to have “good” moments as opposed to hard ones with friends? Am I missing out on that other side of the person to person experience? Will I ever be happy somewhere and with someone?

You get the drift.

The one friend stopped me dead in my tracks. She described to me how she had a recent conversation with their daughter, the topic of which touched heavily on my current existential woes. Her response to both her daughter, and now me, was simple. And, as many simple responses are, it was quite profound.

She described a story in which her and a friend were discussing memories and moments in life. They determined that even though they may not remember every story of their life exactly as it happened, the moments still impacted them for the remainder of their days. She encouraged me to consider this simple wisdom for myself:

All we have is a moment. Enjoy it.

Of course I am paraphrasing this friend’s wisdom which I’m sure was much more eloquent and detailed, but this sentiment is what I carried with me. As soon as she said this all the Buddhist lessons I encountered over the years came flooding back. This was the fact I have been overlooking. I felt it stir me.

When I left town the next day, I left knowing I had the support of others to encourage me onward. The road took me into the mountains to the beautiful state of New Mexico. Being from the East Coast I had no idea what to expect from this state, but to say I’m stunned by all it has to offer would be an understatement.

This emotion was underscored by the AirbBnB rental I stayed in on my first night. Unfortunately, I only had one night here, but even that was enough to fill me with comfort and inspiration. And, most importantly, it granted me the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had.

I pulled up to the property to find the owner, Beth, working on one of her many art projects. Here, let me share it with you:

artwork
I was mesmerized by this piece.

She welcomed me and stated I would be the first AirBnB guest to walk across this new installation. Woohoo! We began chatting and I found myself quickly recapping my anxieties from the night before. You all know how she responded:

A moment is all we have. Live it up!

I guess that was all the universe had to tell me on the topic, and I figured I may as well start listening.

I started by taking a tour around this beautiful property; my jaw dropping at every turn. This woman had the ability to make anything and everything look beautiful. Her attention to detail was simply amazing, and the feeling her work gave me was greatly needed. Here let me share the pictures already:

Mountain view
A view of the property including the mountains in the distance.
Mountain views
More mountain views.
Tree view
Views of the trees surrounding the property.
horse
There were even horses onsite.
outdoor kitchen and living room
The outdoor kitchen and living space.
Tea set
I loved this tea set.
Metal peacock.
Some art marks the path.
Cabin door
The front door of the cabin.
Desk and chairs
The workspace in the cabin.
Spiral staircase
This is a staircase the owner and an artist friend built. Enchanting!
Front of small building
The front of one of the galleries on site.
Gallery
A gallery interior. Pretty amazing, right?
outdoor living space
The outdoor kitchen and living area at night.

As I sat outside enjoying the cool mountain air, I took in Beth’s life. In this small town of maybe 150 people, tucked away in the Gila National Forest, she had people stopping by to help her with art projects or help her fix something or other pretty much all afternoon. She had galleries onsite with incredible local art which people knew to come see. I noted the dream like quality of my experience there, and also noted how much I loved the quaintness of it all.

I reminded myself there are probably just as many downsides to her life than any other life, but since I’m living moment by moment at this point, I pushed those thoughts aside and simply enjoyed the good vibes.

The next day I woke up refreshed and ready to start a new day. It was the best I’ve ever felt waking up in the morning… I have to be honest. I packed up my gear and got on the road for another 4 hours of driving up to the El Morro area. Along the way, the sentiments of the past few days rang loudly for me, and I finally connected with what my friend was expressing on that Tucson night.

These moments I experienced over the past few days were short indeed. Further, I may never experience the people or places again, but the fabric of them has shifted my perspective. Since perspective is everything, they have shifted my life.

So, what’s in a moment? Seems like everything is, no?