I was a Peace Corps volunteer who exceeded her 80-pound weight limit.
This time, this journey, I promised to do better.
And I thought I had.
I left my 4-floor 3000 square foot DC rowhouse and downsized (or rightsized) to this new, contained habitat – two rooms, and everything within reach - two giant steps from my bed to the kitchen space, two-burner stove on which to cook, two steps from there to the desk where my work, getting down these words, awaits.
When I do yoga, reaching up for my sun salutes, I touch the ceiling. The 12-foot vaulted ceilings at beloved Park Road required a ladder to reach the corner cobwebs.
Unpacking was nothing like the packing-up which was months of sorting, selling, trashing, divesting, boxing, lifting, hauling and storing. Unpacking for this, my first road trip stop, Rhinecliff, NY, was but four zippy trips from the Tiguan, down a minuscule flight of flagstone stairs, into my English basement ‘Artist Retreat’ apartment. My carrying muscles well-toned, these loads seemed a breeze.
Except, on my last trip, lugging a crate of kitchenware and foodstuffs, I felt my heart sink. Gazing at the mountain of luggage occupying the the area rug, it was obvious: I’d taken too much! Wasn’t my wish for freedom and simplicity?
I know belongings don’t equal belonging. So how come I packed my kitchen scissors and lime smasher and spice collection and variety of teas and six pairs of shoes and jacket options for various temperatures and candles and incense and…? Opening the cupboards of my sweet and orderly rented room, I could see my hostess had provided most everything for me.
If I were homeless – and it brings tears to my eyes to even image such a downtrodden state – I’d be the kind with the towering, toppling shopping cart - like the woman from the Tyson's strip mall who's remained in my mind.
I noticed her outside the nail salon while waiting for my brakes to be repaired at the Koon's dealership. She seemed like a regular person to me, at first, dressed in cute plaid Bermudas, her streaked hair pulled back into a neat pony tail, her face nicely tanned. But she approached me, frowning and muttering to herself; and that’s when I noticed the laden grocery cart, and a roller suitcase next to it.
I held my breath as she veered away and seized her basket, u-turning, pushing it down the plaza walk, and re-parking it in front of the DSW. Then she went back for the suitcase; she couldn’t navigate both at once.
Adrenaline bubbling, I watched her from the corner of my eye, and was relieved when the Koon's concierge pulled up. Safe inside the comfort of the minivan, I took one last glance as my chariot drove away – the woman was already moving to her next place.
It’s unthinkable, really, an existence like that. Always on the move, no place to call home,if you find a place to land, it won't be long before you're pushed out.
Belongings are all you’ve got.
My own PhD father died almost homeless – alone in a tenement from which he was being evicted. He’d lost everything – his family, his work, his dignity. I wonder if he cooked in that place – because when he cooked, he was home.
I’ve often, over my years, felt plagued by the worry of ending up like him, the fear running quietly in the background of my life.
That fear, over the years, has both plagued and driven me to explore every healing modality under the sun: cognitive therapy, life coaching, insight meditation, Landmark transformation, life regression, family constellations.
That fear has led me to my transformation profession.
That fear has led me right here, to test my limits and my resolve: I will never end up like my father, may he rest in peace.
Over the next year I will roam, but I'll always have a roof over my head and my Tiguan SUV large enough to haul belongings-galore, French press to garlic press, from place to place.
Not that belongings equal belonging. But they help.
On the road, I aim to find belonging wherever I go.