Until this past week, I’ve never been truly weary before. I’ve been exhausted, tired, drained, tapped out, and spent. Not weary.
Goodbyes are tiring. Traveling is tiring. Road trips, while they are the experience of a lifetime, are tiring. Sitting in a car at a ninety degree angle for sixteen hours at pop is tiring. Yes — even trail mix — is tiring. And, some combination of these things, at random or in succession, leads to extreme weariness.
So, I sit here in a fog. Waiting. Waiting for the moment to hit. The moment when I’ll begin processing all this change and movement I’ve been barreling through at warp speed. But, now, I allow myself the time to rest.
I try to write about home and place. The two things that have always fascinated me the most. They are synonyms and antonyms simultaneously. And, my search for home never started by going to a place, but, instead, by searching within. You must use caution. Home and place will deceive you. I’ve learned too well how familiar things can, very quickly, become foreign.
On the last leg of our trip, as my mother and I crossed over the Pennsylvania border, she said, “This is the East coast landscape I’m used to. It’s so green and lush. It’s beautiful. And, maybe it’s not as dramatic as the West coast, but, this is my home.” Those few, short sentences, summed up everything. My hopes and expectations for this move, the place I hold and have always held for myself in NYC, the sense of myself that I’ve left behind and — the one I’m returning to.
Sometimes, in those TV shows where famous actors or athletes return to their childhood hometowns the host will say, “Stay tuned, and watch as So-and-So returns to the place that made him!” I keep thinking about that. Because, I returned to my childhood home, and, in doing so, I left the place that made me behind. But, having been re-made somewhere else, and returning back home, has its advantages. — It makes everything here look new. Better. Or, at the very least, different.
It’s an unknown feeling. An exciting one. And, when I’m less weary, it’s one I look forward to exploring.
It’s like crossing a state line into something unexpected, but, still familiar. A life that’s green and lush. And, maybe not as dramatic as the one I left behind out on the West coast. But, here I am. And I won’t look back.
Because this — this is my home. And, weary or not, I’ve arrived.
We don’t have to say goodbye. To the people. The places. The things.
We can just let them be. — Who they are. Where they are. As they are.
This is my big lesson in letting go. The one I needed to learn. My unavoidable and inevitable truth.
My mother and I pack up my apartment, and, I wish it were different. I wish that my last moments here, in this place, weren’t tip-toeing around my life’s possessions, all of which are strewn haphazardly across the floor. I wish that the big, black garbage bags — one for Goodwill and one for the dumpster — didn’t sit in the middle of my living room, slinking, dark portals to the sad and hopeless lost worlds that await my unwanted past. But we continue — dismantling this world as I know it, piece by piece.
It helps to remember that — I can come back. Maybe in 5 years. Maybe 10. On a plane, or, in a car. On another road trip — maybe with some new beau, or on business, or I don’t know — with a baby. I can’t know how I’ll return to this place. And, I think that’s the thing that scares and excites me the most. Who will I become without this place? Will I like her? Will I miss this woman I am now? Revile her?
Who can say what I’ll be when I return to Portland? I don’t know. — I can’t know. — What I’ll be wearing. What job I’ll have taken time off from to make the trip back. Until that moment, I will not know whether or not I’ve found the illusive thing I’ve always been seeking.
So, instead, I do it. I let go. — I make peace with what’s here. Now. — Who I am. Now.
The most difficult thing, is this: Letting go of everything. Allowing it all to just be — as is. Not knowing how my dreams will return to me, or, how I’ll return to them. In 12-Step, this is called — turning it over. And, it’s the thing that I have always wanted to do, but, never actually did. And, here I am, — allowing it. Placing it all into someone else’s hands, because I am tired of wringing my own.
No promises or commitments. Just time and space. A strange, uncertain portal to my destination — like the garbage bags, sitting in the middle of the living room floor.
But, that’s the way I want to tie it all up. My sobriety. My love. My city. — My letting go. Memorizing all the people, places, and things that held me together. Keeping them somewhere safe, as I turn, and walk the other way.
I will place all these moments into a cranial time capsule. I don’t know that it’s something that I want to write. It’s something I prefer to feel. And, feeling, that’s something I learned to do here — in Portland.
I tape up boxes. I clank through kitchen drawers and cupboards. I clear my cache. I pack up what I need and I throw the rest into the black-hole-garbage-bags in the middle of the living room floor. — I make room for new things. I convince myself to forget about the ways in which I’ll leave, and return, to this place.
In just hours, I will no longer be an Oregonian. And, maybe, I never was one. But, in order for me to leave — I have to believe: I was. I have to believe that in the same way this place made me who I am, it also allowed me to become what it is. Oregon is inside me now. An integral part. Maybe even the central part.
So, I don’t have to say goodbye. — Not even to myself. I can allow it all to just be. As is.
Me. My Oregon. My Portland.
The people. The places. The things. — Who they are. Where they are. As they are.
My sweet, 14+ pound kitty and I had quite the traumatic flight. But, we survived, and we pulled up to my childhood home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn very much alive. I returned home to find that, despite the fatigue, stress, and moving-related nostalgia, I had been gifted an unusual and, somehow, special sense of place and peace upon my arrival. My cat, however — hid under my bed.
Just days later, my mother and I embarked on our epic cross-country journey BACK to Oregon. (We’re still on the road.) In Portland, we’ll be packing up the last of my things and saying final goodbyes to the people and places I have cherished for the past six years before driving back East. For good.
It’s a strange feeling. Moving — shuttling around. A friend of mine recently moved from Portland to Richmond, Virginia. We’ve been talking about the highs and lows of leaving one home behind for another. The excitement and the sadness. The stress and the satisfaction. One night, after expressing my mild panic about one thing or another, he sent me a text from the road: “The drive across country helped soften the change.”
I thought about his words. Digested them. That’s really what I’ve needed all along. — Something to soften things. All my things. — To make my places safe and comfortable. Graceful transitions have never been my forte.
But, in the car with my mother these past few days, between our laughter, obsessive podcast listening, eclectic music selections, and the obvious we’re-in-a-car-together-for-several-weeks frustrations…I’ve all but forgotten the sadness that my Portland-loss had brought. And, while there’s still packing to do and goodbyes to make, I think that confusing my sense of place has — softened things.
So, this week, and next, I celebrate. I celebrate myself. I celebrate my mother. And we celebrate our place — together and in the world. — Wherever that may be.
I learn that place will never define us. It cannot define us. It only builds and informs us — it transforms us. But, it is us who will do the defining. And, with each step I take away from, and back toward, Portland — I write myself. — My place. — I discover that I am my own home.
And, I allow myself to live — here — in my own heart.
And with that knowledge, I soften with every passing day.
As I pack, I find stories strewn about everywhere. Stacks of old papers. Pictures. Books. Dresses and socks. Keychains and candles. Molskines and mugs.
I can hardly breathe. — So, bear with me, there won’t be bonafide essays for a few weeks. Just travelogues. Notes on a transient life — which has spilled out in front of me like a bag of rice on the kitchen floor.
One thing is certain — we can tell who we were by the things we carry. Tim O’Brien once wrote a beautiful book that captured those feelings I’m only now beginning to understand.
What follows here are snapshots. Truly. There is so much more. Boxing up my life. Leaving this place I love. I sit with it. I look at it. All of it. I lay it all out on the cutting board. And, I cut away the pieces. Choosing the ones I will throw in my pot — and tossing the rest to the side.
I acknowledge these. These that were. These that shall remain.
His photos are all in one box. I put them there — years ago. A coffin at the top of a closet. The lid was covered with dust. We used to take photo-booth-photos everywhere we went. I still have all of them. The strip above was from our friend’s wedding. He loved me on that day — I remember — and I loved him back. We danced. We sat on cement steps with plates of food in our laps and we laughed. I have tried to throw everything of ours away before. No matter what I trash, I will forever keep this photo strip. Always. Because he was my first love. And, I will never love that way again. And this. — This is what that looked like.
My maternal grandmother died before I was born, but I’m told that we are a lot alike. My mother says that she was no-frills. That she said what she had to say when she felt like saying it. That she insisted on eating salad with every meal. — And, that she was a fox. People see my fair skin and know that I’m Irish. But, they forget that her Mediterranean blood courses through my veins too. In the Summer, my shoulders turn her Italian, olive brown.
I knew my grandfather well. And, I knew he loved her real bad. — Even years after she died. — He’s gone now too. But, every time I consider settling on some guy — I think about them. And, I know, there’s some dude out there who’s gonna love me, real bad, even when I’m dead. And, I’m waiting for him.
When I see the picture above, the one with my mother sitting in Grandma T’s lap, I think to myself — we all look alike. And, we’re beautiful. Three generations of beautiful. Theresa’s dead, but she sees me. — I’ve known that since I was a kid. It’s weird. — I keep her pictures in every room so she can watch me. So she knows — her daughter did a really good thing.
My dad is, and always will be, a strange bird. But, there’s no guy in the world who will ever love me more. Growing up, he used to listen to a lot of classical music. Opera, symphony, choral — all that stuff. He had bookcases full of classical recordings. One day, he was just over it. Suddenly — it was all Bob Dylan — all the time. He used to pick me up at play rehearsal in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and blast Blood On The Tracks like it had been released that day — every day. If we’re being honest, I’d rather not admit I know every track by heart — but, I do. My dad gives me Bob Dylan postcards and books. It’s like, he’s telling me — subliminally — if I get Bob, then, I’ll get him. That alone is enough to keep my interest. I don’t always acknowledge it, but, I love that my Dad is weird as fuck. Because, I am too. And, it’s nice not being so alone in my weirdness. He’ll watch an entire season of any HBO show I want — in 1-2 days. When I sold my complete series of OZ DVDs on Hawthorne yesterday, it kinda broke my heart. But, my Dad knows what’s up. He’s got HBO GO. And, I know, we’ll get back into it. And now, while we’re in the car — I get to pick the album. — I paid some dues getting through, Tangled Up In Blue.
My mom sends me a card for everything. They arrive so frequently, I forget how amazing they are. Now, I’m finding them everywhere. Sometimes, she’ll throw in some cash and tell me to grab a bite, or to do something nice for myself, or to buy the cat a treat. She wants me to be happy — always. In good, motherly fashion, she has always wanted me to have, feel, and be the best. I find her heart scribbled on tiny cards everywhere. Maybe she doesn’t know — I save them all. When I was little, she emphasized the art and necessity of the “Thank You” card. — How it will “never go out of style to have class.” How, to appreciate people and things is important. It occurs to me as I pour over her notes — crying like a child, because it’s uncanny how she always knew exactly when I needed saving — that I should send her more cards. There is no one in my life more deserving of thanks and kindness. She deserves nothing less than 100%class. And, there’s no one who needs more reminding to do kind things for herself. Someone needs to give her permission to feel good. Maybe that person is me.
The card above was sent to me at Christmastime — the year that my heart was first brutally slaughtered. Whenever I come across this note — I’m reminded of who I’m supposed to be. And, that’s a woman who’s a lot like my Mom. — Gracious, brave, strong, and impossibly classy.
5. Me, Myself & Eye
I took this photo yesterday in my kitchen.
I wanted to share a vulnerable moment with you this week because, well, that’s how I’m feeling. I wanted to show you the vulnerability. But, I don’t have to. I’ve been showing you for months and months. These things I’m packing up aren’t me. They’re my archives. All this crap I’m putting into bags and boxes — those aren’t the moments — they’re the evidence. Proof. My tears are like that too. All that outside stuff.