I’m channeling my grandfather as I sit to write this post. Many mornings, I’ll sit to write down just for myself. I usually like to keep one of my grandfather Jack’s journals nearby when I do. This AM, my journal is this WordPress document versus a spiral-bound flip book like his, but I still feel his companionship.
It doesn’t get much better than getting to sit down and read in his handwriting a firsthand account of his morning, which he recounted to my grandmother in letter form almost daily for 20 years after she passed away. While he’s now able to actually spend his mornings with her on a beach somewhere drinking a Bloody Mary, he’s also still very much with me – and I can feel that when I read his writing.
His entries are often as simple as, “Morning! Another beauty – 50 degrees & sunny – gonna be 80 degrees (they think). Mowed the lawn yesterday and it looks nice, you’d say, and you’d be correct!”
Or, “Morning! October? Time marches on! It’s 8 AM, 48 degrees, and I’m on my porch (you wouldn’t be out here now) after my 4 mile walk, push-ups, sit-ups, and stretches.”
They always continue for a bit longer, but they’re usually pretty brief. They are simple. And they remind me of the beauty in simplicity. So I’ll keep channeling him as I reflect on the past month and some change, the time since we uprooted our lives and left Chicago.
Morning! It’s 7:30 am Pacific Coast Time and about 60 degrees out. The sun isn’t shining brightly – yet – but I’m overlooking the water in San Diego. Two men are wading in the water just outside on the beach, fishing. Another man is throwing a ball for his dog, and his dog is gleefully bounding down the length of the beach to get it, kicking up sand and waves in his wake. Other than that the bay is as calm as can be.
I’m drinking my iced coffee and I’m thinking about what this time on the road has been – and what it hasn’t been – so far.
It has not just been a vacation. It has not been an immediate falling in love with nomad life. It has not been the perfect reset.
It has been the beginning of something beautiful, though. I think sometimes we just have to get more lost in order to find our way again. Perhaps a new way altogether, but we’ve got to tromp through the messy woods filled with spiderwebs blocking your path, poison ivy around your ankles, and overgrown tree roots and branches in your way, first.
The room has to get messy before it can really be cleaned out, organized, and feng-shuied.
Taking these beats to reflect helps me see some of the diamond learning moments in the rough transition period that this last 6 weeks has brought up.
I knew on some level that transitioning away from a very set life with a set schedule and plenty on my plate to do in Chicago would bring up some uneasiness. I was sure I’d have those feelings of missing out on what others are up to. I’d feel a little cut off from community. I was expecting it, but I still couldn’t really prepare for it.
All those feelings have, without a doubt, surfaced, but what I didn’t realize would come up is just how much I tied my identity to what I was doing.
Who I am (or was?) is woven so tightly up into the jobs I held. Run by my calendar. Affirmed by the number of emails that landed in my inbox. The busier, the better. The more committed, the more “full.” That became my base operating level. “Say yes, and make it happen.” Fit more on my plate? But how? Who knows! But I’ll figure it out!
Many times I’d said I wanted to slow down and simplify. But the truth is, I didn’t really want to change anything. I loved the way I spent my days. And what I am coming to realize now is that I loved the way that busy felt because of WHO I identified as within the context of what my “jobs” were. Does that make sense?
When it came time to make the decision to leave, to say I was hesitant was an understatement. Why on earth would I want to up and leave? What could possibly be out there when there is such fullness right where I am?
Still, a little whisper somewhere in the back of my brain urged me towards saying yes. Now that I think about it, it was probably Grandaddy saying “Oh, I can’t hardly wait to see what happens next!”
I made it over the first hurdle. I said yes. Accepting that there would be so much I would miss. I’d feel homesick. I knew I’d feel that. And I did – I felt a little bit like the floor was ripped out from underneath me.
For the first couple weeks, I was like Roadrunner’s Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, continuing to run in mid-air without anything underneath him. Going through the exact same motions but totally out in the open, without an alternate plan to get back on land, and the inevitable sudden smack-and-drop looming in those split seconds.
But as they say, change one thing, change everything. I made a big shift, and I expected all that would shift is what I was doing day-to-day. But no, it’s way bigger than that. If I tied a large piece of identity to what I was doing, and I’m no longer doing really anything I was doing, where does that leave me?
In the Roadrunner analogy, I’m somewhere in Wile E. Coyote’s fall. I definitely haven’t “landed” yet, but I will say, I’m getting a little more used to that feeling of not having the ground under me.
In moments like this when I’m able to step back, reflect and observe, I remember my grandfather’s writing. The simplicity and the pureness of what he puts on paper. He wrote what he observed. Sometimes what he felt, too, but not usually what he cast judgments about. Very little ink dedicated to anxiety. Sometimes prayer. Usually with a sense of lightheartedness. Always filled with love and admiration for Gigi (my grandmother).
So far, with six weeks of life on the road under our belts, I can feel a shift beginning to happen. No life lessons set in stone. Just admiration for the process. Deep gratitude for the space to breathe and observe life unfolding. Appreciation for all the ways I’m feeling; yes, a little of mourning a life I held dearly and I won’t return the exact same way to, but also exhilaration for what’s on the other side. Grandaddy, I also can’t wait to see what happens next.