Day 1, Portland, April 18th 2016
I woke to wild daydreams, memories of experiences and choices that brought me here to Portland. My past danced in the darkness behind my eyelids. I grasped at the random images, searching for a beginning to start the narrative of my new life; the life of a traveling storyteller. Real life has no beginning or end, just continuation, but stories cannot exist without a start and a finish.
So where do I begin this new road? Was it in 2009 on my first tour down the Pacific Coast? On that tour I learned that I was capable of carrying the burden of my son, Vasu’s, death. I learned that my pit crew showed up when I was in need and that I did not have to carry the burden alone. I learned that my grief is love and that my love carries on after.
Or perhaps the beginning is when I first thought of this quest? Over a year ago, I sat on Vasu’s beach watching the death of a seabird. It was taking a long time, and there was too much pain, and I just wanted my little seabird to let life go. I was not able to choose to help it die, but I begged with tears and sobs for its relief from pain. Three ravens flew up from the south. They saw my seabird and landed beside it. One raven stabbed my seabird in the neck and then they all three flew back the way they had come. As I watched the body of my seabird float away in the surf I was amazed that kindness could come in the form of horror. I wondered what other forms kindness could take. That was the moment I first wanted to go on my quest, circumnavigating the USA in search of kindness.
Or perhaps the beginning was this last November, when I paced my driveway desperate to find a way out of life, and realized that to find my own happiness I would have to walk away from the life I had been creating.
I opened my eyes to dispel the thoughts, and turned to watch the man I love sleeping beside me. I rested my hand on his chest and felt it rise and fall with each breath. I often watch him as he sleeps, because a part of me still cannot believe I am lucky enough to have him as my beloved.
Falling in love had been a surprise to both of us. We had been friends for 27 years and had never fallen in love, so it seemed unlikely that love was something we would find together. And yet, after one of our “wanna-go-get-a-drink-and-gab-about-whatever” evenings, everything changed.
We had always gabbed well. I met him at a homeschooler’s meeting when he was 11 and I was 14. Over the next few years we talked, often, usually on the phone. I would sit in the bathroom and put on makeup, or do my hair, or just sit on the vanity twirling my fingers through the telephone cord. We talked for hours that way. And then for more than a decade we lost touch with each other. We both met our significant others and moved to different parts of the country. When we found each other again we lived on opposite coasts. We talked now and then and discovered that we had lived almost parallel lives, touched by love and loss.
And then this winter we were suddenly both living in Seattle, and we could go out and talk whenever we wanted to. It was like old times. Until that night when we walked out of the lounge and instead of my usual hug and kiss on the cheek goodbye, my kiss landed on his lips. It was just a peck on the lips. Between friends. Except, after that I couldn’t stop thinking about him. And he couldn’t stop texting me. Just one kiss, and our lives transformed. The direction of our lives shifted, like a pinball bouncing off a peg.
I watched him sleep beside me and let amazement and awe take over for a while. I have found that, when I don’t know how to choose a road to move forward on that it is best to let go for a while. I stop doing and trying and needing, and take time to release my thoughts until all I have left is the enjoyment of the moment I exist in.
I exhaled, and let the bits and pieces of my life fade. I relaxed into the love I feel when all the world is quiet, confident that in my silence the beginning of this new story would make itself known.
In her book The Trance of Scarcity, Victoria Castle says “Human beings are natural storytellers, and we are most captivated by the Stories we tell ourselves. An event occurs, and right away we go about the business of interpretation. We assign some meaning to the event. Once we’ve assigned meaning (and we’ve deemed ourselves to be correct), we forget that there might be other interpretations to the same event.”
The stories we tell ourselves are very important. Stories have consequences, and although we adapt along the way, once we have chosen a story we have to face those consequences. Last year, I started telling myself the story that I had no value without the job, boyfriend, home, and future plans I had been nurturing for six years. So when I realized that all those things weren’t nurturing me back and that it was time for me to leave, all that I could feel was that I had no value. And without value, I had no incentive to continue on. It took a lot of scrambling and leaning on others to dig myself out of that hole; but I did, and I found my worth again. I learned long ago the importance of the words I choose for my own story, but it is a lesson that I all too easily forget.
What I choose now will be the beginning of my next story. I am about to loose a new ball into the pinball machine of life. One shot to start the trajectory. After that, I would be adapting to where the ball bounces and rolls.
So what story did I want to begin this quest with? What narrative do I choose today to help me see all the different forms of kindness that I seek?
I watched the man I love sleeping, and realized that the story I wanted to live was the same story I wanted after Vasu died. The story I have always wanted. Not a tragedy, though there has been plenty of wailing and tears. Not a drama, though dramatic events happen. Not a comedy, though I hope to laugh often.
The story I wish to tell is the story of love. Wild love. Vulnerable love. Daring love. The love that Vasu taught me was possible, and the love that I learn from all of you on the road leading me forward. I see this love everywhere; in the way cars give me extra room as they pass by in the way the bike mechanic takes extra time to clean Old Blue’s chain even though I came in to get new grips, in the way the man I love enthusiastically helped me move to Portland at the beginning of a long road apart. Every day there is evidence of love. Proof that the world desires to be connected. And it is offered freely in the form of kindness.
It is love that gives someone like me the strength to carry the memory of my dead child. It is love that will show me where illusive kindness dwells. It is love that allows me to take a chance and dare to trust my heart, even though I may someday lose everything all over again.
I cannot know how the ball will eventually fall, but I pull back the spring and release the pin anyway.