It's been an interesting past few months. Really, it's been an interesting past few years. But the past few months have taught me the weirdness isn't going to end. The weirdness being, existing as a fully integrated, feeling, human. I'm just paying better attention than I used to. And stepping away to travel reminded me of the conversations I need to be having with myself and my work.
One thing I wasn't anticipating when getting divorced, is how uncomfortable the freedom felt. I missed having a role as a wife and mother, because the alternative options weren't so overwhelming, and the safety behind the limitations felt comforting. Limits are good at the right time, but if the timing is off, they only lead to suffocation and inauthenticity. Creating I've learned, is a practice of limiting the options, to what is most in line with you. And when your kid dies and you choose to be single, there are more options than when you were married and your beliefs about the world fit into a more complicated, box. The options have taught me the importance of being in tune. Of learning to start from the inside as opposed to the outside.
Giving birth to my son and then burying him five days later, helped me understand the importance of emotions in this process. It woke me up to the grief we are all actually feeling on a consistent basis, without always realizing it. Once you see this collective grief as something we can all relate to on some level, you see that the negative emotions become just as important as the positive ones. That often times the negative emotions originate because of experiences, pre-adulthood. Some can even be tracked all the way back to how we came into the world. There are a lot of experiences that imprint on us from the beginning, that we don't realize are unconsciously dictating our response to the world around us. Being alone after two and a half years of being married, helped me to remember. Remember to pay attention and to recognize the pattern of feelings that keep arising. Remember to not only honor the shitty feelings, but to be in tune with them. To make space for the messages behind emotions, so as to not repeat the pattern of heartache ignoring them brings. I wasn't good at that 4 years ago. And I'm still learning now.
People say traveling is a necessary part of progression. I would say, awakening is a necessary part of progression, and traveling is an excellent way to wake up. Wake up to who we are and the conversations we should be having with ourselves and with the unknown.
Leaving home is only one of the ways to spend your days being more awake, so I think it's only necessary if you want it be. Like anything worth doing, your intention behind it is what matters the most. You can feel as disconnected from yourself back home as you feel on the other side of the world. Being in tune doesn't require a plane ticket, as much as it does sitting on the ground with your eyes closed, paying better attention to your breath. Feeling alive has far more to do with your intent and spending energy on things that align with your values, then it does with doing and seeing and becoming more. It's why there were times I was standing in front of more popular pieces of art, and feeling disconnected from myself and the world around me, but then feeling emotional driving through the streets of Santorini, Greece, where the moon felt more touchable and the stars in closer grasp. What matters most is why you're doing it and that you're in touch with your feelings on the journey getting there and on the journey of narrowing down the options. Emotions are messengers, and in a world where we value unconscious thought forms over the vibration of emotion, we disconnect ourself, from ourself.
My first stop on my trip was to visit a friend I had met in Thailand a year ago, when we both were volunteers at a Women's Center there. I had been divorced about a year when my sister called and asked me to come to Thailand with her. If you want to read about that, you can read about that here and here.
The last few weeks in Thailand became the experience that people leave the country to find. The ones which you end up realizing you don't actually have to leave the country in order to have, but there you are. It was the time when the idea of volunteers being the helpers, and the Thai women the ones being helped, dissipated into the background. Suddenly, it was just a group of humans, from different places with different perspectives, remembering what we have in common and the magnitude of what we don't. It became less about how the volunteers were helping and instead, what we were learning. Sure we helped the women watch babies in the daycare and we taught them different words and phrases in English. But really, we just learned how to have a better conversation with them. That took it from being a service trip to being a connected experience that would continue to unfold in different ways. Eveline wanted to learn like I did. So we became friends quickly.
That conversation we started when we signed up to go to Thailand and volunteer in the women's center, continued when I went to visit her in Holland during the first stop of my trip. She told me about her job working with refugees coming into the country. She introduced me to her family and we took pictures of the street performers in Amsterdam, ate dutch food, drove around in her dad's Mercedes, rode bikes through her home town, and helped in her family's flower shop. It's a conversation that is still continuing, because of the connection we had during our time in Thailand. I'm already planning another trip to Holland. That's the thing about the right conversations, they become lifelong.
Next was London. I hung out with my friend Tom, who I also met the last week I was in Thailand. We joke about Donald Trump (the kind of jokes you make to keep from bursting into tears) and I've learned a lot about the differences between the states and the UK, specifically when it comes to the health care system and how it relates to women and mother's. I stayed there for a week, getting to know his friends, family, and flatmates. He was busy during the day, so I spent everyday following wherever I felt drawn to. I have never been a good tourist, so I didn't see a lot of the things you're supposed to see there. I mainly spent everyday exploring what sounded interesting to me. London was one of my favorite places, mainly because I could understand the language, and it was easier to eat plant based meals than in other areas. One of my favorite days was spent exploring a museum dedicated to black art and culture, and I found a coffee shop filled with books written by women of color. Here is the book I finished while there, for those dedicated to speaking up about the perspectives and experiences of POC.
I took a train from London and met up with my family in Paris exploring it's outskirts at the Catacombs, Versailles, Normandy, and then Venice, Kotor, Croatia, Florence, Olympus, Athens and the island of Santorini Greece, and finally, Rome.
My parents had been planning the trip for a year and we were able to see a lot in those 30 days. I felt lucky to be able to experience so much of it with my family and close friends of ours. I tend to get overstimulated and overwhelmed and over everything, when I'm in crowds and tight spaces for long periods of time. So at times I stayed back and wrote and read. But most of the time we were moving quickly, and it was one enormous adventure. From getting lost exploring the palace of Versailles, to riding on Roberto's boat around the island of Capri, to me being the only one to miss the train to Naples, and trying to help my brother navigate the chaotic roads in a rental car. I loved watching my family, get to see and experience things they've always wanted to, and getting to myself.
I think people like to travel for a lot of reasons, but especially because in doing so, they are setting aside space to spend their days doing things that are exciting to them. What we forget is that you can make that a priority, everyday, no matter where you are in the world. Since the heart vibrates at a far greater frequency than the brain, the more you follow the things that are exciting to you, the more of an impact you'll have in the world. You're creating from the moment you wake up to the time your head hits the pillow. What matters is whether or not you're following your excitement while doing so. And that means having those conversations with yourself and with the unknown, in order to come back to the work that matters to you.
The truth is, there is no true relationship, no marriage, no way of parenting or loving in the world, that will not eventually break your heart in some form or another. Because of that, there is no good work in the world, that will not also break your heart.
I realized up until now, how much time I've spent arranging my life to avoid heart break, but it's not actually possible. Heartbreak is a normal phenoninim of any dedicated, sincere, human creation. And the work that is most in alignment with who you are, the one that comes from your hearts center, is going make you come apart at some point.
Traveling taught me that, but so did divorce. So did being pregnant. So did becoming apart of a group of mother's who have lost infants. So did picking up a camera and trying to create work in the world that I care about.
Creating from that place, the part of you that is true to you, it's the only way to have completely and unapologetically, been here. And in order do that kind of work, you have to be where your feet are. You have to spend more energy coming back to yourself, than you do searching outside of yourself.
I think we avoid heart centered work and ways of being in the world because it requires asking the shitty questions. Things get more complicated when you have to know the reasons.
But the reasons will help you narrow down the options much quicker. The reasons will let you know what the next step is. And taking that step might mean coming apart, but it will always mean coming alive.