What you see in the picture above is a simple beaded bracelet, but to me it represents much, much more. This is the bracelet the homeowner of the Tucson house offered me as a departing gift. She often stops on the way back from her adventures and buys jewelry made by the local Navajo tribes. This was one such piece.
I put it on and wore it pretty consistently even as I arrived here in Charlotte. A few nights ago I set it on the bathroom counter for the night, and sure enough the next day it was gone. Of course I looked at the loss as my fault, as this is the kind of thing that happens when you’re staying in a house with a couple of curious cats.
My gut hurt as I recognized the bracelet was gone. How could I be so careless? I’d only had it a couple of weeks and already I had lost it… how stupid of me!
These be-ratings were only part of the story though. I saw my losing the bracelet not just as careless, but as separating me from the experiences I had in Tucson. I saw it as a fracturing of my journey; a carelessness which meant a disregard for the lessons I had learned.
Yeah, I’m that hard on myself.
At the same time, I didn’t panic or search high and low for the item. I reminded myself that I carried the sentiments with me; bracelet or not. The bracelet was simply that, a bracelet. It was pretty, but losing it didn’t mean my ultimate demise.
I teetered back and forth between these two points of view for several days. At times I felt guilty that I wasn’t more torn up over losing such an heirloom, then other times I reminded myself it was no heirloom.
As I was talking with a friend overseas about nothing in particular, I felt moved to share with him this story. The sensation to do so came out of nowhere, but it was powerful. I spewed the story out as he listened patiently. When I was done he smiled at me then said, “You of course know all these experiences and lessons are inside of you. You carry them with you.”
Of course I knew this.
Hearing his words made the decision final. I stopped the teetering and let the bracelet go without remorse. I felt free.
The next night I was sitting on the couch watching a movie. Out of nowhere the kitten jumped on my lap, paused as if to set something down, then jumped off my lap.
I’m writing this post on the Friday after American Thanksgiving. (NOTE: I refuse to call this day “Black Friday” in my protest against worshiping materialism. Hey… I’m trying here.) I sit reflecting on the events of yesterday which involved me driving across a city I’m not from to have Thanksgiving dinner with a high school friend and her family. The day was humbling, but it was also very comforting.
My biggest take away from the day, at least so far, is how un-alone and taken care of I feel even as I travel the country alone. As I think about yesterday I consider how far I am from the girl I was in upstate New York those 20 years ago, and yet, how I had Thanksgiving dinner with people I know and love from that time in my life. Strange how that happened, right?
So many steps have been taken in-between, and still they led me right back to where I was. I’m changed, yes. Those around me changed as well, of course. But, there’s something that binds us; some sort of deep experience which chiseled its way into our roots and changed us forever.
During these reflections, I also think about, and am grateful for, how much more comfortable I feel in my life. Besides these moments where I’m reinstated into my comfort zone from old, I’m finding goodness and comfort when outside that zone as well.
For example, my travel from Albuquerque to Charlotte involved me flying standby. For those of you who haven’t experienced it, standby is an adventure I recommend going through at least once. It’s a trip… pun intended.
In this case I was flying as a guest of an employee (NOTE: This is called a “non-rev” ticket which I’m gathering stands for Non-Revenue ticket) and this status put me at the bottom of the standby totem pole (NOTE: Employees and their family members get a higher status than my ‘guest’ status). Being at the bottom of said totem pole meant I would be the first to get bumped from a flight if it filled up. The plan was for me to get to the airport early to increase my chances. (NOTE: by early we are talking 4 AM. Yeah, that early.)
When I got to the gate, I told the agent I was flying standby. She took my name then asked me to sit it out and wait. Several moments later my friend in Charlotte said my chances of getting there were slim to none if I followed our original path. She suggested I go speak to the gate agent and ask her advice. I began panicking. I didn’t want to spend the whole day trying to get on a flight only to get stranded in a random city.
So, as the agents began boarding guests on the plane, I went up to the desk afraid to be interrupting their most important task. I explained my situation to one of the agents, apologized for the inconvenience, and hoped. She immediately put me at ease. “No worries. I’ll take care of you like I take care of my kids in these situations.”
Sure enough, she re-rerouted me completely and I made it to Charlotte several hours later. I have no idea why she bestowed her kindness on me, but she was sure to add, “Don’t you worry, girl. I’ll be watching over you all day.” Wow!
Shortly after this interaction, I was seated waiting for the next flight when I man sat down next to me. We began talking and very soon got to the topic of my location independent life. Instead of asking me the usual questions, he said, “Do you get bored”?
You know it, Mister.
Come to find out he was once a nomad himself. We carried on an in-depth conversation where he shared his experiences, reaffirmed my lifestyle, and provided me the ever needed comfort and confidence.
So you see, between yesterday, and moments like those I’ve shared here, it’s hard to feel alone in the world even when I spend SO much time alone. These moments, though not new, have also become so much more meaningful and impactful as I’ve stripped away the noise which once distracted me from them.
I like to think there are always characters like these coming on and off the stage in this play we call life. My goal is to be the best version of myself during those scenes, and the ones in-between too.
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)
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.
I should mention that before I actually LEFT the forest, I took some time to explore the nearby Catwalk Trail. A friend came through this area not too long ago and told me it was worth a stop. After driving through several small brooks on the way up (NOTE: the heavy rains cause a lot of runoff apparently. I thought I was in the desert, but I was way wrong.) I pulled in to the area about mid-morning.
I noticed three motorcycles parked in the lot, the only vehicles around. As I walked to the trailhead I saw their owners, 3 older gentlemen reading about the history of the area. I asked them, “What’s the word on the road?”
“Which road?” one of the men responded.
The three of us chuckled and I told them of my travel plans for the day. They were taking a similar route North, but were planning on splitting off back into Arizona instead of heading East like me. I bid them safe travels as I began walking the 2 mile trail.
About .5 miles in a deep fear gripped me. What the hell was I doing walking this trail alone while leaving my car unattended in the parking lot and filled with all my important belongings? I practically ran back to find Liam safe and sound just as I had left him.
I got in the car, then continued the trip north, stopping for lunch at a cafe about 45 minutes away. (NOTE: this was the only “local” restaurant open.) When I walked in, who did I see but the motorcyclists. “Well, you made it this far”, one of them said to me. “And, so did you!” I replied.
This was my last interaction with them, but I still felt connected to them in a way I can’t yet describe. I left the cafe with this sensation.
Several hours later, after passing maybe a total of 10 other vehicles along the way, I arrived in the El Morro area. Here I would be staying at another amazing AirBnB rental. This time I would be in an RV parked on a property with some amazing views.
The owner, Jeff, met me and showed me the RV. He was concerned with me staying warm given that the temps were supposed to get down to 27 degrees Fahrenheit that night. I assured him I’d be fine. We talked for several moments there after, and the feeling I had earlier that day when I was around the bikers returned.
I had a sound night’s sleep, then woke up for a morning of meetings. When these were finished, I set out to hike the El Morro National Monument. I arrived at the site, and, since I hadn’t done much research beforehand, went up to the visitors’ center to figure out a game plan. The park ranger greeted me, gave me a map, AND provided me a guide to the inscriptions left on the famous Inscription Rock.
NOTE about the rock from Wikipedia: Travelers left signatures, names, dates, and stories of their treks. While some of the inscriptions are fading, there are still many that can be seen today, some dating to the 17th century. Among the Anglo-American emigrants who left their names there in 1858 were several members of the Rose-Baley Party, including Leonard Rose and John Udell. Some petroglyphs and carvings were made by the Ancestral Puebloan centuries before Europeans started making their mark. In 1906, U.S. federal law prohibited further carving.
I took a few moments to peruse the small museum attached, and upon entering saw this sign:
Immediately tears flooded my face. I have no idea where from or why they appeared, but I accepted them and kept walking.
I decided on the longer of the two hikes available at the park. I would see both the Inscription Rock trail, as well as hike up to the pueblo town dating back to 1275 A.D. It would be a longer hike than I anticipated, but I had time so why not? Here are some images from the day.
As I arrived at the ruins of the town, I noted my isolation. I thought about how I had just climbed alone up the backside of this mountain, then somehow navigated my way across the rocks to this very spot where about 1500 people lived some 750 years ago.
The feeling from the interactions with the bikers and the AirBnB host appeared here again in this sacred feeling place. I took a look at the feeling more closely. I asked myself what it was. A whisper of an answer appeared in the back of my consciousness:
At that moment I saw flashes of human life fly across mind. The people who lived here, the bikers on the road, my housing host, me; no matter how different our lives seem, we are all made from the same atomic elements, the same biological tissues, and the same sacred spirit. Our perceptions and beliefs may differ, but we all need to eat, drink, and sleep to stay alive. Those who lived hundreds of years before us needed the same things. How amazing. How humbling.
I stood alone with this clarity for several moments before hiking my way down, then heading back home. When back at the RV I witnessed one last sunset as I reflected on the day.
As I thought about it I asked myself; If we’re all one, was I really standing up at that site all alone?
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:
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:
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?
I knew I had to act, but I also knew too much action, or the wrong action, would only perpetuate the problem. I considered this conundrum as I got out of bed and took care of the pets. When I was done I settled in for my yoga practice; for a venture inwards.
As I flowed, I reflected on what might be the cause of my internal discomfort. I recalled the new mantra I developed while here in Templeton; Be Led. I put this mantra to use because over the past weeks I witnessed the more I tried to push anything forward, the less the result of the pushing fulfilled me. If I instead let go and allowed the universe to take over, I usually found a better result.
For example, when walking the dogs I could try to get them to go the way I wanted, or I could follow their nudges. Following those nudges usually amounted to moments like these:
But, it didn’t always amount to these types of moments. In fact, I believe the discomfort that led to the dream was the result of going too far in this “Be Led” direction. I need to lead at times as well. At the very least, I need to take action. Which brings me back to the morning in question.
As I continued my practice, I softened and admitted this “going too far in the ‘be led’ direction” was the message the dream was sending me. Well, the dream and a few other resources. The universe, or your subconscious, doesn’t just deliver a message to you once, after-all. It will deliver it gently at first. Then, the message will get louder and louder until you finally listen.
The message I was ignoring was one of getting out of my comfort zone. Now, I realize this may sound crazy coming from someone who is on the journey I am, but I assure you, I’ve made myself far too comfortable here. I don’t leave the house. I don’t explore the area. I just haven’t ventured out all that much.
At first I told myself this was because of all the traveling I did in recent months; which was in part true. But, there is a bigger reason. I’m scared of what I might find beyond myself.
The message started as a whisper in the back of my mind. Then my friend emailed a group of us asking about manifesting a state of flow. Next, I read this line from the book my friend loaned me.
“Risk taking is one key way to access this flow state…”
This was followed by an episode of the Codependency No More Podcast telling listeners to take more risks in order to build up self confidence and worth. In the same episode, the guest encouraged listeners to curate skills to access and listen to their subconscious. One way he suggested to do this was to keep a dream journal, as often times our subconscious speaks to us in our dreams.
THEN came the dream.
I was playing with the dogs in the Templeton house when the doorbell rang. I answered it and there stood a man surrounded by many dogs. The two dogs I was sitting ran out to greet the others and I began my usual schtick of “they are friendly enough, though the little guy is anti-social.” The entire time the man, who looked mesoamerican in decent (or so I thought in the dream), stared me in the eye without blinking. He spoke. “There are 3 things causing you to withdraw.”
“What?” I replied. Though I knew what he meant.
He repeated himself while continuing his stare. I knew the 3 things he referred to were the pets I was watching. They were my recent excuse for staying in my comfort zone. Acknowledging and accepting the thought, I looked the man back in the eye and communicated the following through thought, “I see. You’re an angel. Thank you for coming to me.”
He smiled, and I awoke.
It took me a few hours to fully accept that I’ve been holding back, but once I did, ideas for how to spend my Saturday arose. I got into a flow of balancing leading with being led.
I landed on visiting the small beach town of Cambria. It’s been drawing me in since the West Coast Road Trip days, so I decided to give it a whirl. I was happy I did!
First, I took a walk by the ocean:
Walking for only a few minutes cleared my head, heart, and body. I felt completely new! Next, I decided to head to town to grab coffee and to pick up a few things for dinner.
When I got back to the house, I was SO happy I had taken this small, yet big, step forward.
Ever since, my brain has been going a mile a minute with new ideas and insights. Plus, my soul feels one size larger.
Thank you, Subconscious Self! See? Further proof we already know the answers to our troubles could not be more apparent. We ARE being led by ourselves. We simply need to lead the charge inward to surface said answers, then accept them.
I write to you from the appropriately named town of Seaside, CA.
I arrived here yesterday for a house sit. I was here a day early to meet the homeowner and get introduced to her cat and her house. It was another arrival filled with joy and comfort. I was welcomed into a lovely home by both the owner and her pet. I felt a deep sense of belonging and, along with it, a deep sense of gratitude.
I also arrived with a ton of work. In fact, no more than 30 minutes after our introductions, the homeowner and I parted ways so that we could get back to our respective workdays. I set about preparing for several months of upcoming research related to a project that has been more than challenging. Along with its challenges, it also has been taking up the majority of my waking hours. To drive this point home, the night before my arrival I could hardly sleep thinking about how I would balance the project with the travel. Turns out, I won’t have to.
As I lamented to the universe my inability to get out and explore due to the commitment I made to the project, I also decided to give up trying to control the next few months of my time. It simply seemed out of my hands, so why worry about it right? With this thought I finally fell asleep and awoke to the day and arrival I described above.
Here’s the crazy part. I arrived at the house yesterday around 10:45am. Around 2:45pm I got the text. “Project cancelled. Cease all work immediately. Your Statement of Work will be honored”.
It was clear to me that I had broken a worry cycle by giving up the false control I thought I had. In return I cleared my path for a few weeks and can return to a normal-ish life. Yes, no project = less money, but no rent = less need for money. See the magic?
When I woke up today I could feel the anxiety draining from me. I had nowhere to be. No one to meet with.
I could breathe again.
I noticed myself trying to fill up my time throughout the day, and was diligent about not giving in to this anxiety. Afternoon came, and I had zero “things to do” so I decided to take a walk to the local coffee roasters. Along the way, I was able to see that Seaside is quite a cute town. There are flowers everywhere! Plus, Monterey Bay beams in the background. Here allow me to share some more of today’s sights with you.
So, for the foreseeable future, I look forward to more days of exploring, wandering, and wondering…. or maybe even more time to write. Who knows?!
Whatever I decide to do, I recognize now I’m being helped and guided along this path (as I think we all are). I also see that when I keep my load really heavy, I become too weighed down to see and trust in this fact. Knowing this now, I have to tell you, I’m oh so grateful the load has lessened.