Cliff-Notes to Life: the abridged version.

T-minus 15 days.

I am no longer a coffee drinker.  Now I drink green tea….A LOT of green tea.  Consequently, I have become an incredibly proficient and prolific pee-er.

I got a travelling back-pack for Christmas and I was surprised by how little fits into it.  Packing light is a skill that is usually not in my repertoire—shoes, belts and accessories, however, are.  But I will replace those items with a few other Christmas gifts:  a cool little chamois towel that is like those little pills you put into the bath and turns into a giant dinosaur sponge.  ABSORBS EIGHT TIMES ITS SIZE IN WATER!!!  A flashlight, a pocket-knife and Hallelujah-thank-Mother-Mary-Son-of-God-His-Great-Uncle-and his pet lizard (or whatever pet a good Christian man might have kept in those times….sheep?)–a sleeping bag liner that protects you from my phobically feared bed-bugs.  And, since moms will be moms, a stocking stuffed with enough anti-bacterial EVERYTHING that I could ward off the plague for all of Europe, should it decide to rear its ancient midieval head.

“Baggage” is interesting, isn’t it?  I wonder what else is going to fit into that metaphorical back-pack?  What am I taking with me?  What will I gladly throw into the sea?  What precious souvenirs will I find along this adventure that will replace items lost or tossed?

As I rode the plane to visit my family in Portland, though it wasn’t the “big” trip, it still felt like a launch, a taking-off, a journey.  Or was it merely a continuation of a journey that has been taking place all along?  A journey that has been taking place since the dawn of time?

In my world, I see my journey beginning around the age of fourteen or fifteen.  A sense, that amidst the hormones and the breast buds, “it” was much bigger than you and me, bigger than high school, bigger than my town (which most things are), bigger than the edge of the stars.  And as I look back, I see periods in my life that were disconnected from that sense of wonder.  Times when that curiosity that comes with the innate naivete of  youth was as dull as the grate in a fireplace.  A tiny flame…not even a flame, really.  An ember that was buried beneath layers of ash, soot and dirt.    But nevertheless, still burning.

I oftentimes regard those periods as if it was a fork in the road, a diversion off of my path, a disorientation or a way to excuse that shitty choice of a boyfriend or another escapist reason to move to a new city.

***Slap on the forehead***  “Silly me, there I go chasing trails of bread crumbs again.”

But I am slowly beginning to realize that all of those “diversions”, those separate realities that I so readily disassociate from mySELF are actually all very connected and part of my path.

There are times when I can’t help but wonder (usually post-break-up and loaded full of cocktails)” WHY did that person get put in my path??”  Was it really necessary to take five years to see myself out of a bad relationship?  I mean, aren’t there Cliff Notes or a weekend intensive course I could have taken to cut the time down to say….two years?  But there are no short-cuts are there?  There are no quick-fixes for pain or loss or grief.  And the reason why they say hindsight is twenty-twenty, is because only with hindsight can we see the connections….the way things came to be.  The way I came to be.

The hard part is trust.   If we look back and see that those connections have meaning and importance in who we are now, then it should be easy to embrace the people, places and events that will shape us in the future.   Trust that the dots will connect as they have always connected.  But it’s not easy, is it?  For me, trust is one of the hardest.

Airplanes rides are one of the best excuses for indulging in Hollywood movies; without shame I dial up flicks that I would normally not deem even suitable rental material.  So with a six-dollar bag of cheese and crackers in-hand, I cozied up into my tiny seat, plugged in my earbuds and ordered Eat, Pray, Love; curious to see how the movie version compared to the book.  Hollywood it was, but there was one part I really enjoyed:

‘The Physics of the Quest’–a force of nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity or momentum.  And the rule of ‘Quest Physics’ maybe goes like this:  ‘If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything from your house to your bitter old resentments) and set out on a truth-seeking journey (either externally or internally), and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and, if you are prepared-most of all-to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself…then truth will not be withheld from you.’

Pay attention.

I keep getting asked if I am just “SOOO” excited for my trip.  To be honest, I am blank.  Emotionless.  Maybe scared.  I don’t know what is going to change, or how, or when…or if at all.  Which I think is good.  My experiences will not be foreshadowed with expectation or preconceived notions.  Contrarily, after two conversations with my neighbors on both of my flights, I started to see the importance of openness and receptivity.

A man in his seventies starting chatting to me about his love for gambling and casinos and introduced his wife, sitting one row in front of us.  When I offered to switch seats so they could sit together he said, “Nah.  I see her everyday.”  He spoke of growing up as one of twelve siblings and how he lost his three-year old daughter to Leukemia.  My other neighbor mentioned that she had just started up Moksha Yoga in Hamilton, Ontario.  (connections??)  And then continued on to tell me that her husband died last year only to be followed by the death of her mother two months later.  She escapes for the holidays with her daughter to avoid sadness and memories and confessed her new interests and travels are a way to “get my life back”.  I asked her if it got any easier, and with damp, brown eyes, she softly shook her head from side to side.   “No”, she said.  She smiled and added that she was pretty good at hiding the sadness, though.  I gently reminded her that sadness and grief are important emotions and that all-too often we shelve those feelings because they are uncomfortable…to us, or to others.  We put on our smiley-face, emoticon masks and pretend they don’t exist until they turn into hard spots in our hearts and distant memories in our minds.

And these were real conversations, soul conversations with perfect strangers and they taught me the potential and the power of what you can let in when you are open.

So maybe blank and emotionless isn’t so bad.

Go ahead, Universe.  I am your canvas.  Paint me.


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