Thursday, January 1, 2009

crossing bridges

It's a new year, and a new chapter for Ralgh and I. We are back in Bridgetown, which is, as expected and hoped, still here. We are home, and homeless, and I'm struck by the fluidity of my sense of place. Portland hasn't changed, but we have. We're looking at the city through a different lens these days, and it feels like suddenly all doors are open.

Pulling my new back window from a van in the junkyard

As I crossed the I-5 overpass to the east side for the first time in months, I realized that not only was I literally crossing a bridge, but also figuratively. I've basically spent the last four months alone, meditating. I sunk down deep into a cold lake of despair without a life preserver, on purpose. I refused to allow my normal coping and avoidance mechanisms save me: drinking, hanging out with friends non-stop, working, going out for coffee, men. I didn't abandon these things completely, but I forced myself to recognize that I was using them to avoid being alone and being mindful of painful things which I needed to think about in order to grow.

Posing on a community bike at Burning Man

After experiencing how difficult it was to force myself to feel pain, ask questions, and then allow myself to recover on my own time, I'm not surprised that most people never do it. It's much easier to simply continue to stomp on the same ground over and over, and maybe there's a certain peace in knowing that you never really have to make any tough decisions or realizations. But the payoffs of facing the fact that no one's going to "steer this van" but me, are priceless. Before I left on this trip, I didn't really like myself very much. I knew I was a likable person, I knew I was a good person, but I kept finding myself doing things I didn't like. I lacked direction. I had a dwindling relationship with my family. I was indecisive in my relationships with men. And I hated spending time alone because solitude left a space for thoughts about all these things to creep into my mind.

Rattlesnakes in New Mexico

I was lucky enough to learn a long time ago that for me, the key to success in life is to treat anything that scares me as an opportunity. The instant I notice that I'm afraid of something, I sigh and shake my head, because that emotion is a tip-off that I'm not living as powerfully as I should be. I have a personal rule that once I notice my fear, I have to do whatever it was that scared me. It has been pretty annoying to notice this connection, because it has been shooting holes in all my excuses and highlighting the real issue: fear. Obviously, that's a good thing. I wouldn't have taken this trip if I didn't live by this philosophy. But it also means that my life is on course to be one terrifying or uncomfortable experience after another.

Ralgh, Eva, and Vanta C chillin' in New York

Last year at this time, being alone scared me. Once I noticed that, I knew I had to find a way to take being alone to a ridiculous level until I wasn't afraid of it anymore. Three days ago, when I drove across that bridge into my home neighborhood, I knew I had changed. I took on this unbelievable task. I saved ten thousand dollars. I bought my first car. I took an auto maintenance class and overcame the fear of poking around under the hood. I set my plan, this plan which at one time seemed impossible, into action. I spent nights in unknown neighborhoods trembling with fear when I heard a mysterious noise. I got lost. I made new friends. I never, ever, even once needed to use my AAA membership. I planted seeds for new, loving relationships with my brothers and sister and parents. I froze in the northeast, sweated in Kansas, and sobbed just about everywhere. I bravely faced the misfortune of the end of my marriage. I learned that I am an extraordinary rock star of a woman. I fell in love.

Bonding with beautiful sister Beth in Ann Arbor, Michigan

And now I'm standing on new ground, having crossed that big scary bridge all by myself. The soil is fertile, ready for whatever I choose to plant here. This is a good place to be.


Anonymous said...

I love you! Our pictures are on their way to you as I write this! xoxoxoxoxoxo

Trina said...

I'm so lucky that I get to be friends with my hero. Heroine. Whatever. You're amazing.

Rachel Tamed said...

Still though, I think that the uber-hot AAA guy coming to your rescue last evening was the true end of the Vantasy :)

I love you and I'm so glad you are back and we can relate outside of the blogosphere.