If you know me at all, then you know that I tend to wander. I’m a seasoned road-tripper. An impulsive maker of cross-country moves. A corporate tourist. I have “wanderlust,” they say. “A free spirit,” I’ve been called (today, even.) It’s not my fault, I’m just a Sagittarius. It was written in the stars long before I was born…right?
And I’d just accept my fate and chalk all the moving around up to The Universe having bigger plans for me if I weren’t a firm believer in this thing called personal accountability. I like free will. I find it empowering.
I’m all for chasing down whatever incites my curiosity and inspires an adventure. But, at 36, I’d be a fool to not recognize that my situation – whatever it may be – is entirely of my own creation. For better or worse. While I learn through fascination and am always on fire for the excavation of hidden knowledge – wherever that may take me – at a certain point, even I feel the pull of home and a strong desire to feel connected to a place.
When I moved to Seattle last spring, what felt like a calculated and well-thought out change, a chance to put down roots, was anything but.
I had a plan. I had direction. I had a W-2!
What I didn’t have was any friends, any idea of where to live, any community. And, for the first time in my life, I was as far from my family as it is possible to get within the confines of the contiguous United States. I had a new commute. A new paycheck. A new gym. A new climate. I was traveling so much for work that I hardly noticed, but when I returned to the Pacific Northwest in October, after almost two months on the road, and no more than three weeks in a row in the city since May, I was struck by how lonely I was in the midst of so much motion.
I was finally at rest within my surroundings, and I was actually scared of how unfamiliar it all felt. This beautiful city, my fantastic apartment, the places I’d been moving through for the last six months – they all felt foreign. And I was at loose ends.
I desperately dug in – worked hard, worked out, went about my business, hoping that something would click, that it would all fall into place and I’d find the ease inherent in routine.
But it didn’t happen, and I had to take a hard look at how I was doing things. Yes, I had a schedule and a sweet pad and a good job, but it all felt forced. And just weird.
Fortunately, a friend in the city invited me to a random yoga class one friday night – and I only say ‘random’ because, inexplicably, I hadn’t even thought to go to yoga in the six months I’d been living in Seattle. After two years in Montana, I’d forgotten about yoga. The one thing that has always protected me from the weirdness of life – I hadn’t even thought to look for. And then, there it was again, waiting for me.
That friday night, as I unrolled my mat, and stretched my lanky self out into the first dog that I’d downed in years – in that moment, I placed my hands on the mat and closed my eyes, I was comfortable. I went through the class, knowing the movements in the very cells of my heart, inhaling and exhaling as I expanded into the space, and, finally, into something that felt familiar.
I didn’t realize how much I had been powering through holding myself up in the face of everything that was new. There is always a necessary amount of posturing when you’re in a new place – exude confidence, hold your head up, say yes to things even though you just want to hide out in bed all day and try to get your bearings – and I was exhausted. I was in fake-it-til-you-make-it mode, and in dire need of a place where I could just be myself.
While that yoga class felt good, it didn’t pull me right back into my practice. I was still shaky in my new surroundings. Just as I was beginning to recognize this need for the familiar, for something that felt safe and recognizable, I decided to learn how to ride a motorcycle. And as much as I love that sh*t, at that point it was just more new that I had to manage. And then I dropped the damn thing and picked it up with one hand in a moment of baby-under-the-bus adrenaline and stupidity.
As a result, I pulled a muscle in my back so hard that I couldn’t get out of bed for two days. I could barely stand. I physically could not hold myself up anymore.
I got the point. And I booked it to the first yoga class I could find. And that class was all about finding ease, looking for places to soften, and letting the universe hold you, trusting it to catch you. I’d been trying to muscle my way through everything, and it took pulling one to snap me out of it. And I remembered the work that I’d done establishing my yoga practice – why I’d been so dedicated to creating something that would shelter me from the shitstorms that inevitably hit – and I was back on the mat with a vengeance. This is exactly what practice is for – whatever yours may be – it’s what fishing was for me in Montana, what yoga will be for me always, what riding my motorcycle is when the weather’s nice. It’s the thing that grounds you no matter where you are, and it’s the one thing that we all need to feel centered, safe, and like ourselves.
I never thought that I’d say this, but there is such a thing as “too much new.” And I’d pushed right up into and over the edge of what I was comfortable with. A boundary I didn’t even know was crossable. But as I got reacquainted with my yoga mat, I started to reposition the rest of my life so that The New wasn’t so overwhelming. I cut out some things that I was interested in but were crushing my energy, and reinvested in what I knew would support me. I wrote on the ferry. I focused on my relationships, near and far. I prioritized self-care so that when things went a bit awry, I didn’t lose my footing.
And now, on the road again, I travel with a mat and a pen and sense of place that supersedes my geographic location. I know where I stand withme, and while it’s easy to get lost in the otherness that is the world around us, I’m making a point to keep house wherever I go – because what we create internally will always give us a sense of direction. A true north. A sense of the familiar when the newness gets to be too much and a place to come back to no matter how far we roam.
Here’s to the adventure. Here’s to the familiar. May they always bring you home.