I have felt tears in my throat, threatening to bubble up into an ugly cry, every morning this week as I drive the 20 minutes from our house to the office where I work. I pull into the turn lane at an intersection and stop at the red light, my signal clicking while my eyes drift to the Shell on the corner. I lose myself in a stare, longing to be one of the cars lined up at the gas station. I am transported back in time, to our summer of purposeful wandering. I miss it like I imagine I'd miss a lung.
I wonder if the man pumping gas, with sleep in his eyes and smashed bed head, slept in his car because he's on his own journey across America and is trying to save money where he can.
I imagine the woman coming out of the convenience store has a pocket full of change in preparation for toll roads and just washed her armpits in the bathroom sink while balancing a toothbrush between her teeth, swishing minty saliva.
I remember my husband and I laughing about how ripe our bodies were, because we hadn't showered in a couple days, but also because we were finally learning to live in the moment. We were ripe for adventure; we were ready for anything.
My light turns green and I don't notice. Behind me, a truck's horn startles me back to reality and I roll under the light just as it's turning yellow. I'm that girl on your work commute who causes you to sit three minutes longer at a second red light and when you have to make up an excuse for being late to your boss, you're going to blame me.
How quickly I lost my sense of adventure when life slowed to a hurried routine.
- I wake up on Mondays, "If only I can make it to the end of the work day."
- I'm sweating at the gym lifting weights onto my shoulders, practicing deep squats, "Only an hour and then I can go home."
- I'm on the couch eating dinner; the clock reads 7:30 and I agonize, "Only two more hours until I get into bed."
- I wake up on Fridays, "If only I can make every minute of the weekend count."
My time has been reduced to onlys; to everything was better whens.
I have forgotten that living in the moment is more fulfilling than living in the future of what's to come - after, later, or tomorrow.
I fear I have forgotten how to be present.
When my husband and I quit our jobs and decided to travel across the country as a means to recover and pause reality, we didn't know what to expect. Every day we woke up ready to wander new territory and every evening we were unsure of where we'd sleep.
We visited old haunts with familiar places and faces, and drove roads we'd never been down before. We experienced firsts: the breathtaking views at the Grand Canyon, a spontaneous stop at the crumbling Flintstone's Bedrock City, a UFO sighting not far from Area 51 (we are indulging ourselves, but the truth is out there!), walking Austin's streets in an authentic pair of cowboy boots, finding a home away from home in Pittsburgh, an extended stop and four-day visit to New York City (so. many. people! and so much to see!), sweating the Freedom Trail through Boston and having a beer at Cheers on Norm's corner of the bar, true deep dish pizza in Chicago, the oddly alluring cornfields of Iowa.
We assumed we'd run out of money and worried what we'd do when we returned to Oregon, but in our unemployment and the following of our hearts, our bank account literally doubled. I am not exaggerating and I cannot explain it. It's as if we didn't spend a single dime to do any of the things we did.
Then we sold one of our houses and I dreamed about never working another day in my life - i.e. never again doing something I don't love because I have to pay the bills - because it actually seemed possible.
By abandoning comfort and taking risks, we were existing exclusively in the now.
Now there are only the memories from the road. There is no meandering, no unscheduled stops. It'd harder to view life as an adventure when you're not actively moving towards something and everything is so... controlled.
And this is where I'm learning how to be. I am, after all, a human being, not a human doing.
I have to allow the memories to propel me when I'm sitting still; in traffic, at my desk for eight hours a day, in front of the TV listening to reruns of FRIENDS using color therapy and a fizzy glass of whiskey ginger to calm my anxiety. Instead of missing the road - the daily distraction of scenery and movement - and itching to just keep driving every time I hit the freeway, I have to let the road - the sound of my tires on asphalt - remind me of what it continuously offers. Especially when familiarity threatens depression.
- I am reminded of the goodness of humanity. The strangers and friends who - in their realization of wanting to quit their jobs and travel without a destination in mind - generously gave to us in the form of food, gas, car washes, directions with suggestions of non-touristy locations to visit, beds to sleep in, showers to wash in, and invitations to be a part of their families.
- I am reminded how connected we are on the most basic level; as people who want to live purposefully seeking love, success, happiness, and satisfaction. Every opportunity presented to truly see another person means there is a choice to acknowledge with a smile, a nod, or a friendly conversation is connection made simple. We are different but we are the same.
- I am reminded of the beauty of the ask; expressing a need or want and either or both being met.
- I am reminded of the freedom of being present with every second of every day; of being so in tune with your heart and soul that you feel the breath of God moving through you; of knowing you are one with God.
- I am reminded that every part of our journey, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, happens for a reason; a reason we may never realize consciously but whispers to us when we dream.
- I am reminded of wonder and curiosity; of the joy of discovery; of the necessity of sharing your truths through the art of storytelling.
The summer of 2015 will forever be the summer my husband and I intentionally changed the trajectory of our lives and our marriage. It was a summer of unknowns; a much needed break from "just living".
Life became LIFE; and I cannot allow myself to forget the boldness of living LIFE, or entertain the thought that where I am in my journey is anything less.
I'm shoving these onlys where the sun don't shine.