What would you take with you if you left?














For years this was my favorite fantasy.


When I was having trouble falling asleep at night, I would sooth myself by making my list. The feeling tone of it was, what if I left quickly, secretly, probably in the dark, and couldn't take very much, and could never go back again, maybe even if I left right now? What would be in my one bag?


The never go back again part was tricky because it meant that I had to take things that were small and important to me, as well as practical things. I always made myself begin with the practical, boots, jeans that fit, my medications, a warm coat. After that came things like a bunny made of volcanic ash that one of my favorite people gave me, wrapped in my favorite blue velvet miniskirt, things that, while of little practical value, I loved.


Why yes, dear reader, I wasn't in the best space, mentally or physically.


I repeated this mental exercise so often that it became habit. I probably did it for over fifteen years. During that time my life circumstances changed  a lot, and for the better. My list kept becoming longer and longer, until I had to take my car with me too, to carry it all. I began to include dogs and people. Then came the night I was laying in my soft bed with my sweet husband sleeping beside me, and I finally got it: I didn't want to go anymore. I hadn't wanted to go for years. I was where I wanted to be, without doubts or reservations. The scared part of me had just now noticed.


I cannot describe in words the visceral sense of relief I experienced. It almost makes me cry to think about it now. Part of me had been braced to run, to painfully tear away, to just get out, for so long. To be fair to the grand scheme of things, this feeling of being ready to go began in my childhood. We moved often, and had remarkably few belongings for a family of three and later four. I suspect that I got this idea from my mother who successfully had her entire life fit into one cardboard box while in college. I found that admirable, practical, and felt it showed that she was independent. And that may have been true for her, but for myself, who has always been a homebody and loves making nests, it came from a place of fear instead of independence. Letting go of the idea that I should always be ready to leave and snuggling in to my life has been so relaxing.


So what about you? If you look inside, is there a list tucked off in a corner of your mind? Or perhaps a destination, be it a place, lifestyle, or person, that you yearn  towards?

If so, may I suggest these two inquiries?


1. Is it up to date? Is there a need for safety, freedom, or self-expression that is not being met by your current life? If there is, can you renegotiate with yourself and those around you to fit a wee bit more of your needs into your design? I remember a friend who was ready to divorce her husband because she felt a deep yearning to travel the world. I asked her, "Do you have to go alone? Would it be okay if he went with you? Have you asked him if he would like to join you?" She had not asked him anything, she had just made her list inside herself and let it moulder. It's a few years later now, and they have traveled together to several exotic destinations. I know this is a graceful example, and often life is more messy. You are worth straightening things out for. Even a small adjustment can offer big relief.


2. If you look at your list and find out that it is not up to date, and that, as I discovered, you would want to take your whole life with you, well, hell, why don't you just stay and enjoy it where you are? Clear that space in your mind out for something else that is more relevant, and allow the sense of relief that comes from being where you belong right now.


To keep myself up to date, I check in periodically. I ask myself:


Are you where, with whom, and doing what you want to be right now? (this being a deep slightly existential question, not, say, oh, I'd rather be napping then cleaning the kitchen)


Are all the major agreements in your life still relevant, and did you enter into them consciously?


Is there anything you need to do or say to clear your inner landscape?

Most of the time there is a little housecleaning to be done, and I do my best to just do it, even if it means having an uncomfortable conversation with myself or someone else.


My most common theme is that I have too much to get done, and feel guilty and generate pressure inside myself that I then pretend is coming from somewhere else (anyone recognize martyrdom?). When I see that, I look at my schedule and decide what is important and what I can jettison. Then I talk to my husband about scheduling and household duties and negotiate some time for me to put in on the projects I am pressuring myself about. Over time I am reducing the guilt/pressure stage, and learning to just look at my life and see what needs done.


My bunny now happily lives on our mantle with several other animals. My miniskirt disintegrated several years ago. Maybe I'll make myself a new one.