An (Un)usual Arrival

My arrival in England was simultaneously normal and not so.

The red-eye flight landed at Gatwick on time (around 10am local time), and we got to the gate and off the plane without issue. Once inside the airport, I made my routine path to the restroom to both brush my teeth and ensure I looked like a person one would trust to take care of their home and pets for a few weeks.

Appearance intact, I put my carry-on bags in place (backpack holding all my clothes and laptop on my back, office bag holding my notebooks, chargers, and necessary next day toiletries on a shoulder, and cross-body purse holding purse things across the other shoulder), then half-awake walked my way to baggage reclaim.

Thankfully my carry-on sized roller was among the first to show itself, and with all my bags accounted for, I regarded my air travel a success. Then, I headed towards customs.

NOTE: I was delighted to find that England’s passport/customs process was among the easiest I’ve seen. It goes a little something like this (for US citizens it does, anyway). Wait in a short line (due to the many lanes they had open). Walk up to a machine and set your passport down to scan. Walk into the UK. Not bad.

Walking out of customs, I saw the homeowner holding a “Lis” sign and a steaming hot, fresh seeming cup of coffee. Woohoo! She and I chatted as we made our way to her car, then laughed as I, embarrassingly, tried to get in on the drivers’ side of the vehicle (“Everyone does that.” she assured me).

She drove us the 25 minutes home, where upon arrival the bassets I’d be sitting were quite excited to see me (in truth they are excited to see most anyone).

Two basset hounds asleep on a couch.
You can see how energetic these two can be. Mildred is in the foreground, Penelope in the background.

We entered the kitchen where I met the second homeowner, and the three of us humans went about the familiar (to me) dance of getting to know the people we were trusting with our dearest possessions. (They trusting me with their home and pets. Me trusting them with my safety and security.)

They showed me their narrow, stair-driven, but quite adorable home, and explained what to keep an eye on and how all the home paraphernalia worked.

Next, we settled back in the kitchen and discussed the dogs’ routines, what else I should expect during my stay, (milkman on Tuesday and Saturday. Fish man is in town on Thursday.) and then planned out the remainder of our day together. They were leaving the next day for Canada, and per usual we had planned a day of overlap time together in the house.

Orange juice in a glass bottle in front of cookbookes
Fresh Orange Juice arrives each Saturday.
Eggs sitting on the kitchen counter
We also get fresh eggs delivered each Saturday. I’m digging this buy local life!

The day together involved walking the girls, then meeting up for an afternoon cider at the pub a few doors down. This agenda suited my jet-lagged state quite well.

The Six Bells pub from the High Street
The Six Bells is where we had a proper cider welcome.

Further intricacies of our time together involved the Canadian born homeowner (the second homeowner I met) helping me to adjust to the many word differences I would encounter here in England. For example, he explained that the ATM is called the Cash Point, that you don’t order coffee by asking for a “coffee” but rather asking for an americano/espresso/latte, and that hot sauce is few and far between.

You know, the important things.

As you can see.. all was going according to a normal house sitter script.

Later that night, the parents of the English born homeowner joined us for a dinner of burgers, ciders, and beers. They also stayed the night as all four of them were flying out early the next morning.

Let me stop here.

Know that although the particulars of my arrival at a new home change each time (i.e. the people, settings, pets), the flow of is one you’ve heard time and again (if you’ve followed this blog. If not you’ll just have to go back and read OR you can just trust me.)

Here’s where it differed.

As we 5 sat outside eating together, I had a moment. Chalk it up to my lack of sleep, my jet-lag, the cider and wine, or all of the above, but for the first time during an arrival, I not only saw, but deeply felt, my outsiderness. This had nothing to do with how my hosts were treating me, but had everything to do with my growth and reflection throughout this journey.

When my house-sitting adventures began I felt quite included and “a part of” during my arrival times with the homeowners. I would marvel at how in no time I’d made new friends who let me into their homes and trusted me with their pets.

Over time I noticed how when the sits were over our lives separated again; we went back to our normal ebbs and flows without each other. More often than not I’d not encounter their world again, despite having such an intense connection when we first met. (I should note this “going back to normal” is to be expected and isn’t negative, AND in some cases I have been lucky enough to stay in touch with homeowners!)

In that moment over dinner, I resonated with the divergent part of the housesitting story, and sat with the knowledge that I’d probably not see or hear from the people seated around me again after my departure.

Then, my perspective darkened. I foresaw their life going on as normal and amazing, and mine going on with me being deeply impacted by opening myself up to their home and pets but being left alone without their energies to fuel and validate me.

I was ashamed of my perceived inequality of effect we’d have on each other’s lives. I then labeled myself as someone unable to figure out their own life, and thus needing to hover in and out of the lives of others to leech off their life experiences. I considered myself needy, unsettled, and inadequate.

This moment came and went fairly quickly, but the aftermath of it stays with me as I continue to sit and wonder narratives like:

Stepping into someone else’s life doesn’t make it my life. BUT stepping into someone else’s life is what I do as a house sitter. So then, what IS my life?

The next morning I awoke around 7am and dutifully reminded myself where I was (“You’re in Billingshurst, England sitting Penelope and Mildred…”). I was exhausted from the previous day’s travel, and curious why I hadn’t heard anything from the dogs when the family left for their flight earlier that morning. Was I really that tired that I slept through 4 people and 2 dogs living a morning together? I learned that yes, I was.

I walked down the many stairs to find the girls sleeping soundly in the lounge (or living room as we Americans say), then stepped into the kitchen where instead of the shame I expounded upon myself the night before, I was greeted with the most marvelous departing gifts. Cleary the homeowners were grateful for my services.

3 ciders and a bottle of wine with a note
Penny looks over at me as I ogle the homeowners’ generous gifts!

After taking stock that everything was as it should be (despite my half chewed flip-flop. Touche, Bassets) I climbed my way back up to the top floor, bassets following me all the while, and the three of us laid down for another few hours.

Back of a narrow town house
This is the house from the backyard. The room I’m staying in is the top set of windows.

When we woke back up, a feeling of terror arose with me.

I’m alone in England. I know absolutely zero people in this town. How will I meet people?

I had felt this feeling before, but had never given it a voice. I made note, and reminded myself I still had no answers to these questions. But, I made my way back downstairs to consider it all. I spent all weekend considering it. This is what I came up with so far:

I love my life. I love that I can sit and write or read in places like these:

Roses bloom in the fenced in backyard
Roses in bloom!

Then hangout for a bit with friends such as these:

Two basset hounds sit on a chair in the living room
Milly (back) and Penny look kind of like models here. So cute!

Yet, in these arrival moments where I’m presented with the happy path stories of those I sit for, because of course I don’t see the hard, real-life moments when only meeting them for a day or two at a time, I question my life choices.

Often these questioning periods fade over the weeks, but this time instead of waiting for them to dissolve, I’d like to be an active participant in helping their dissolution along. I want to learn from my past self, and go through rather than around the issues I’m facing and the discomfort I’m feeling.

More, I’d like to sit with the anxiety of not knowing the future, of being different from the story presented to us (as I believe the majority of us, if not all of us are), and of walking a path alone. Then, from that sitting, I’d like to create an even greater confidence in myself.

You’ve heard me talk about this process once or twice so we know it’s possible. You’ve seen me choose the high road before as well, so we know I have the ability.

This time isn’t any different than those other times. So, why am I writing about it?

I write to show all of us that it takes TIME and consistent PRACTICE to architect one’s best life. It doesn’t happen once just from learning a lesson or realizing a mistake. It’s something we must come back to over and over and over again.

Remember, the journey is the destination, which means there simply IS no destination.

Let’s keep on walking up to and through those small, but important moments then, shall we?

What We Leave Behind… Or Don’t

I delayed writing this post today. I sat down to write about 40 minutes ago, but distracted myself until now. When I returned to my draft document and the topic for today which I had written there, I found myself unsurprised at my procrastination.

The topic, “post about the last day in Oakland”, reminds me of the delightful time I had while hanging out with Fay in the mountains.

Fay
Fay sits by the fire!

Writing this post makes my leaving even more real, I suppose.

I have tons of fond memories of my time in Oakland. The homeowners are my new found soulmates/friends. The neighborhood was lovely, and the neighbors were kind. I was taken aback by being in a neighborhood where the neighbors knew each other, actually. I realized after 10 years in New York, a few short stints in Washington and Maui, and life on the road, I hadn’t experienced neighbors who were up to date on each other’s lives in awhile. It was nice.

Stairs up to house
One of the houses in the neighborhood.

On Fay and my last walk through the neighborhood, I was deep in reflection mode. As I walked past the houses and through the trees, I felt this sense of homesickness. I was unsure if this feeling was because the area was like where I grew up (NOTE: It is in some ways similar, especially the nature and wildlife. In other ways it is very different, like the types of people and their professions.), or if it was my anticipating leaving such a safe and secure place.

I let this feeling settle over me, and as I continued to look around I realized I was SEEING everything differently. I started to have this sort of perspective when it came to the details. Here let me show you the pictures I was compelled to take:

Purple Flowers

Mailbox

Flowers in the trees

Purple flowers

Green plants

It was as if the rainy day was bringing out colors I hadn’t seen in a long time. Maybe something in me was waking up. Maybe my homesickness was also fear of leaving a place where I felt I’d had time to develop said perspective. Maybe I’m scared to lose it.

What perspective did I develop while in Oakland? I’ve said it a time or two in my videos… I need to go hard at finding myself. With this perspective, and the work I started while on this sit, I’ve already felt an easing of the pressure I’ve put on my life. This easing is my ultimate goal.

During my time in Oakland, I even put together a mighty mission statement to focus me further! Check it out:

I am a striver challenging myself by participating in as many life experiences as I can to develop my life strategy so I can communicate my findings. My dominant personal strengths are discipline and communication, and I am to methodically uncover how I can live a present, authentic, and fun life so that I can share this knowledge with others.

A lot happened in my short 3 weeks in Oakland, and I will miss the inspiration and the surrounding energy. The good news is one of the homeowners agreed to be my writing mentor! This means not only will my writing improve, BUT I’ll also get to talk to her more often… woohoo!

My thinking is with regular updates with my mentor, and by focusing in on self, I should be able to keep the energy and perspective from my time there alive.

As I write this last part, I’m reminded of a line from the note said mentor sent to me yesterday:

“Fay misses you. We miss you. The house misses you. But I don’t feel you’re so far away.“

After writing this and reflecting further, I don’t feel so far away now either.

Getting to the Root

I write to you after a week spent back on the East Coast. My current location is Lincolnton, NC; a smaller town about 45 minutes outside of Charlotte. It’s rural here. It’s maybe not as rural as where I grew up, but there is certainly a great deal here which reminds me of my hometown.

Not the least of these reminders are my childhood friends who currently live in the area. In fact, I’m here because a friend whom I’ve known since I was 4 years old needed a pet sitter while her and her husband honeymoon in New Zealand. I am delighted to be that pet sitter! (NOTE: Their pets are really cute… AND they have a beagle)

Beagle on a bed
Jack gets into bed.
Cat posing
Arya strikes a pose.
Cat curled up
Pickle settles in for TV time.
dog and cats curled up on a couch
The pets curl up for a family cuddle on the couch.

Being surrounded by reminders of my youth has me thinking of a line from a book I recently read:

After all, it is the root that looks after the survival of an organism. It is the root that has withstood severe changes in climatic conditions. And it is the root that has regrown trunks time and time again. It is in the roots that centuries of experience are stored, and it is this experience that has allowed the tree’s survival to the present day. ~ The Hidden Life of Trees; Peter Wohlleben

When I read this, I paused. I’ve often thought of my current journey as one in which I’m getting back in touch with my roots. When one spends so much time alone without much external stimulus and distraction, it’s kind of hard not to go through this process. It’s a process where I’m constantly figuring out and trying to own who I am, why I am, what I believe, and how I want to live in this world. It’s also a process where I investigate how these beliefs were established, or became rooted, to be begin with.

If, as the author says, a being’s roots are the key to its survival of chaotic and changing times, it seems a necessary exercise to get back in touch with mine. After-all, they are what store my experiences and allow me to be who I am in my present day life. If I don’t unearth them, I fear I’ll remain a shell of what others say I should be instead of identifying with my core and living my own narrative.

And you know what… I’ve lived as a shell for far too long.

Guess I’ll keep digging.

East the Sun, West the Moon

•• The title of this post is in reference to one of my favorite stories from my youth.


I write to you from the last afternoon of my house sit here in Templeton. It’s been an emotional day, and I’ve spent most of it reflecting on why. I suppose the first reason is that I’ll miss these pups (who are amazing pets/teachers) immensely. They were kind enough to take me into their pack for these few weeks, and I am grateful for the hospitality.:

Dogs standing next to each other.
Bibi and Buddy hanging out during play time.
English Spaniel laying on the couch.
Bibi watches TV next to me.
Dog asleep on lap.
Buddy doesn’t seem too interested in the show.

Beyond just missing these furry friends, however, something else is going on. But, what?

Fear.

Yeah, I’m scared. Really scared. Not being able to see what’s ahead of me, even though I know it is probably amazing moments and new connections, is really scary. It seems the assurance of the amazing moments doesn’t yet outweigh the potential of the crappy ones. I’m working on it though.

Beyond fear there is a gnawing. I don’t know the short description of it yet, so you’ll have to read more words to get there. The gnawing is this wondering… am I meant to meet all these amazing people and pets, have wonderful times with them, then never see them again? What is the point of that?! It’s deflating. It’s like one let down after the next… and this line of thinking gets me thinking:

What did I sign up for?

I then go into a self battle of You thought you were running towards something, but maybe everyone’s right. Maybe you’re just running away from adult responsibility and reality. Maybe you ARE the failure everyone thinks you are.

I’ll save you from the graphic scene that ensues.

I’m not sure what the answer is or IF there needs to be an answer, but as I stop to consider how to close out this piece I’m reminded of these scenes from the morning after the recent full moon.

Moon in a morning sky.
The moon sits high in the morning sky.
Sunrise with pink clouds.
Not too bad of a sunrise, huh?

As I was walking the dogs I noticed that the moon (seen above) was still high in the morning sky, glowing brightly. Shortly after, the Sun was ALSO rising in the sky. As I noted this, I thought about how both of these seemingly opposite masses were existing in the same place at the time. I chuckled to myself thinking how our binary worlds would go crazy from more of this type of thinking.

Maybe it’s time I go a little crazy then?

Upon Another Arrival

I arrived here in Templeton, CA the day before Labor Day. It’s been a relaxing few days and I’m extremely excited to be spending my longest pet sitting stint yet here. Not only did the homeowners welcome me with open arms, but their dogs are some of the cutest I’ve been around in awhile. Here’s a few shots to share:

wine menu
Menu from the wine / spirits tasting the Templeton homeowners and I went to.
Stacks of books
Look at the amazing books they left for me to leaf through!
Buddy
Buddy really is this cute…
Habibi
Habibi is also really this cute.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to head to the beach yesterday with one of the homeowners (and the pups) before they departed on their adventures earlier this morning (NOTE: I’m writing this to you on September 4th). I have to say I very much look forward to returning to the beach a time or two before I depart later this month. These pictures should give you a hint of what I’ll get to enjoy:

Studio Beach
Time for a walk on the beach
Morro Rock in the distance
Morro Rock in the distance

As I sit here “writing” there are so many things I want to share with you!

I want to tell you about how earlier this summer before heading back West I was able to spend a night with my brother’s ex-fiancée/my still friend along with her 16 year old daughter and her new boyfriend. I want to write an insightful and memorial piece describing how my nuclear family thought I was a traitor for spending this time. I wish I had the talent to better detail how full and whole this time spent made me feel and to describe insight it provided me into my inner being and character. It was pure love.

I also want to talk more about the time I spent getting to know the current homeowners of the pet sit I’m on. I’d like to expound on how amazing these people are and how comforting it is to be in their presence, not to mention to stay in their home. I wish I could relate the utter feelings of gratitude I have for this experience because I know if I could, and if everyone felt this way, there would be a whole lot less negativity in the world.

I itch to confess how scared I was arriving here. How I could barely sleep the first night due to my heart pounding through my eyes, and how I have no idea what and why this fear was. I long to explain the daily battle that occurs as I begin to plot out all I NEED to get done that day for it to be a productive day, then I realize this plotting, and work to accept and let it go.

I fear I’m only scratching the surface of all that I wish to communicate about what I’m currently experiencing, but I’m finding the words have stopped coming to me. So, for once, instead of trying to force them, I’m going to be content with what I’ve written thus far and trust that it’s what needed to be said.

Here’s hoping you agree.