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The Change is Not What You Thought

I’m living the dream.

Over the last six months, inspired by the hawk, I reduced my life down to what could fit in the back of my VW Tiguan. Then, in June, I got in my car, set my Google Maps, and drove into the sunset, a free bird, on the road for a magical, mystical year.

So how come, these last two magical months, I’ve been throwing temper tantrums?

In my cozy Airbnb apartment, in the quaint hamlet of Rhinecliff, as a heatwave settled into the Hudson River Valley, I pulled the curtains shut, pointed the fan toward my bed, and slept.

For three straight days.

Nightmares plagued me. I awoke at the wee hours to the sound of my own sobs, images in my head of rats infesting my DC rowhouse and snakes slithering out the drains. In another dream, the new tenants were moving in through the old sash windows, cutting the screens and gouging the woodwork to get their furniture in, because the front door was blocked by the porch renovation project.

When I’d pulled up to 32 Orchard Drive in Rhinecliff, NY, my first stop on the journey, the GPS announced unequivocally: You have arrived.

Obviously, my subconscious had not gotten the message. And for good reason: I still had one size 10 foot back home.

By day, I zoomed into DC for meetings. I’d taken on a strategic planning project with an agency whose mission mattered to me; the work promised to be interesting and to wrap-up by the end of July. So what could be the harm? Except that the project was already oozing into October.

My sabbatical vision was getting fuzzy as the fog settling in the Catskill Mountain hollers.

But nothing that a strenuous hike, out in nature, beneath the canopy of trees, couldn't fix.

So I set off, on Saturday, for Rosendale, to a trail recommended me by a local friend.

It was a sweltering afternoon. The Wallkill River gleamed harshly in the piercing sun.

Lawnmowers revved and weedwhackers whirred – dogs barked and trucks bellowed as I gazed at the trail map, sweat dripping down my back, and wished I could be anywhere else. Pushing through the doubt, knowing I’m always my best when in motion, I took my first steps, Choco’d feet crunching and slipping on the desert dry trail, dust billowing, and not a wisp of breeze to appease me.

I could not get high enough fast enough, escaping the town, escaping humanity, escaping myself – inescapable.

So, I will admit, I started to scream, expletives spewing forth like venom as I climbed, cussing, sobbing, seething. The sounds almost scared me.

I was a four-year old again. I wanted to cross Wisconsin Avenue by myself. Why wouldn’t my mom let me? I jerked my wrist out of her grip and fell down in the middle of the intersection. She stood over me demanding I take her hand; and when I refused, she was gone. Mom crossed over without me.

She said I was inconsolable.

“I was just UN-consoled,” I yelled up to the trees, and fell to my knees, blubbering, tasting grit between my teeth.

The next morning, I awoke, puffy-eyed, to the thump, thump, thump of my landlady’s footsteps overhead. Her kitchen was right over my bed.

None of this was the serene scene I’d captured on my journey vision board – none of this was the #simplicity and #freedom for which I yearned.

I’d left complicated Washington; yet my life seemed to grow exponentially more mired.

I pounded the mattress with my fists and pulled the pillow over my head. What I needed was a miracle.

Somehow, some way, like Lazarus rising from the dead, I forced my dense body out of bed, pulled on some clothes, and marched out the door.

It was still early. The air was the slightest bit cool. The sun hadn’t yet risen up over the ridge. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I was going, up the hill to the church, past the graveyard, back down again, across the trestle bridge, and with my first glimpse of the river and gust of maritime breeze, I felt my tired eyes widen and the downward, determined frown turn slightly upward, the trace of a smile.

On the grassy bank, no one around, I took off my shoes and began to move. Squatting down into Goddess pose, tall spine, strong thighs, I prayed for ground beneath my feet. Watching a river barge glide by, I felt my shoulders relax. I prayed for buoyancy and flow.

I vowed I’d do this each day, show up at the river, show up for myself, show up for my #morningpages to write the loss out of me – and the dream into me.

21 days later, I was still going. The morning I packed up to return to Washington to deal with the uncut strings of my life, I was still going.

I said my final goodbyes to the mighty Hudson.

And the next morning, tired as I was, I got up, strapped on my Chocos, and found my way down to the river, The Potomac, this time. It looked broader and bluer than ever with my beginner’s eyes.

On the terrace of the Kennedy Center, bare feet on cool marble, fountains frothing, rowers gliding past, I squatted down into Goddess, closed my eyes, and smiled.

This was the journey.

Yes, I had a mess of construction to face at my house. I’d dreamed that the contractors replaced the old 1910 columns with dead, hollow tree trunks! I’d awoken crying.

But #simplicity and #freedom was within me. This ritual was with me and would accompany me wherever I went on this magical mystery tour.

Just in case, though, as I opened out to Warrior pose, gazing intently at my outstretched hand toward the Rosslyn skyline, I sent a request to Goddess Kali to propel me the heck out of Washington and onto the road ASAP, so I could continue to live toward my dream.


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