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Journey to My Core of Rot

I made it to verdant, voluptuous Vermont.

But this is not a sabbatical.

My hawk sighting last October prompted me to pack-up and fly my DC coop. But at the rate I’m going, I’ll hardly get to West Virginia, much less all the way across country, on my quest for #freedom and #simplicity.

What this is turning out to be: a journey to my core of rot.*

And what a MARVELous landscape it is: more precipitous than the Grand Canyon, craggier than the Rockies, vaster than the Mojave, lush as the Vermont Green Mountains.

Yes, I've settled into my rustic chic exposed-beam converted barn Airbnb with a view from the balcony of Camel’s Hump Peak. But I'm not out there.

I’m inside, zooming my glorious mountain-air days away seated at a spindly farm house chair working on an org assessment for a Federal agency – conducting interviews with the top leaders to help strategize their future – one eye on the screen, other peering out the kitchen nook window at the halcyon scene.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this project: it’s interesting and important work for an agency whose mission I believe in with a client who is collaborative and inspiring.

It’s just not a sabbatical.

Let’s use the new post-pandemic colloquial and call it what it is: remote work.

On top of it, I’m remotely managing a DC Historic grant funded porch remodeling project at my house that just happens to be going WAY south – a lot further south than it appears my journey will take me.

I was back in DC in early July to check on the status when, in a big mid-summer storm, the newly (and incorrectly) laid porch floor buckled and the contractor had to start all over again. If I could find him - if I could trust him - to start over again.

I am on calls daily, sending flurries of emails, to try to get a handle on things. This week, from Vermont, after fits and starts with the contractor, lack of response, okays that really mean no damn way, restless nights and nightmares that awakened me sobbing over the massacre of my beautiful historic façade, I issued a stop work order.

It took everything in my power to send that email. And I know this is just the beginning.

Today, I’m up at 3 am, sleepless again, composing this post, as the rain patters outside my open sliding door and I remember: my car windows are open, my bike’s getting drenched.

This time I feel ironically lucky that my swirling worries woke me.

My core of rot tells me: This isn’t fair, it shouldn’t be happening this way!

My core of rot is this abandoned child kicking and screaming for her mom to come. My poor mother did the best she could; but my core of rot was ignored; and it’s up to me, now, to learn to console her.

There, there, I say. This really does suck, I admit. Or, as my favorite meditation guru, @TaraBrach, puts it in Radical Acceptance, Darling, it’s just like this.

On the other hand, my core of rot is creative – her anger is fuel – if funneled in the right direction, if I don’t turn my back but listen, take dictation as the lines of a poem bubble up like lava...

No to your rules, not to your jewels,

No to your timeframe and mindframe and life game,

No to the push and pull and will to fulfill your plan for me, for you.

I let the brat core-of-rot out of the apartment from time to time to do yoga on the bank of the Mad River, sing as she rides her bike down the dirt lane, go swimming in the rain, pick blueberries and drop them in a bucket that hangs around her neck so both hands are free to get as many as can be – whatever she wants on weekends, in her free time, to be happy.

So when it’s time to sit down in the torture chair, she relents, doesn’t squirm in her seat, but can stay present for the work.

And when it comes time to decide to cut the Vermont stint a week short and drive back to Washington to deal with house matters, I let her cry a little bit – of course she’s sad – and promise to buy her a cree-mee.

This may or may not be the sabbatical cross-county excursion I’d envisioned; I may or may not finish my memoir, as I’d hoped and planned.

This change – whatever I do, wherever I go – is about learning to accept EVERYthing.

*Shout-out to my late, great grad school professor of human and organization development, Charlie Seashore, who taught me to be my own best lab experiment and laugh about it.


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