“Here is the crux of the matter, the distilled essence, the only thing you need to remember: When considering whether to say yes or no, you must choose the response that feels like freedom. Period.”
- Martha Beck
I bumped into a friend in Bali recently who mentioned she’d hung out with a mutual friend of ours in Australia. I came up in conversation and she laughed as she relayed what he had said about me: “Poor girl. She’s kind of a little lost soul, isn’t she?”
My friend had attended one of my retreats earlier in the year and remarked she’d never seen me so in my element, so shiny and alive. “I replied that it seemed more like you’d found yourself,” she said.
Right now in my life, everyone is making a point of reminding me I need to “settle down”. What does that even mean? Find a mate, buy a nest, lay eggs? Do I need to stay in one place for that to happen? Most people in my life say Yes. My single status suggests that as well. “You can’t do this forever!” they say. “You’ll never meet someone travelling like you do!”
Just as many people the following week will write and say “I wish I had your life.”
But this is not me following a plan. When I left Australia, all I wanted was to be somewhere else. To be someone else. I was tired of being unable to create a life I was inspired by, of trying to convince people I was the right person for the jobs I wanted. Nearly five years later, still living out of a bag, I’m as surprised as anyone that I haven’t unpacked somewhere.
It’s a lonely, lonely life. I’m not going to lie. I spend a lot of time alone, writing emails to people far away. I have insistent, indignant friends write me: “When are you coming back? I miss you! What are you doing?!” They offer tidbits of their lives but have never visited. Melbourne, Perth, Barcelona, London, San Francisco, Bali, Thailand…When are you coming back?
The truth is, I don’t know. I have been looking for a reason to stay still: a partner, an inspiring job, a way to express myself in a particular place, a way to make a difference.
If I take away my desire for a partner, my life is exactly as I want it to be, albeit far away from many people I love. But that too has been a blessing. I have found so many ways to say “I love you” from afar. Said things in print that I could perhaps not have said face to face. Expedient internet time has meant directness, honesty, openness – and choosing my besties carefully.
Choosing the path that feels like freedom often looks to the people around me like choosing to run away. And I’ve done my fair share of running away. I have been in relationships that felt like I was drowning, been in jobs where I felt like my head was being pushed underwater. I had a sense of being stifled, held down, of being small.
Somehow, out here on the road, I can breathe bigger. I can be bigger: than a place, than a city, than a job or a relationship.
I spent a good chunk of last year in my home town, Perth, staying with my parents. I feel like it was the summer that helped me move from a whiny teenage version of myself to an adult. I’ve never loved my parents as much and now, far away from them again, I miss them terribly, in a way I haven’t since I was a child.
For the first time in my life, being away from Perth feels like a conscious choice. When I hated that city, hated who I was in it, needed to control the distance between myself and my family, there was no way I could live there. Now I crave it’s dry air, sun, beautiful beach visits with my dad, my mum’s hugs and cooking, being close to my family.
Now it’s yet another place I’m sad to leave, whose tendrils curl around my heart and ankles, asking me to stay.
Yet the momentum of the work I do picks up speed. More inquiries about retreats, more people writing to me, months after sessions, telling me about breakthroughs they had. “It started with you,” they say. “You changed my life. I feel truly happy for the first time.”
I feel like the work I’m doing is truly making a difference in people’s lives, yet I often feel so alone. It’s as if the more I find my power: as a teacher, as a yogi, as a business woman, the more isolated it makes me.
I recognise how lucky I am to have so much choice. I have portable job skills. Friends and contacts in many cities. An incredibly supporting and loving family.
Do I look lost to you? When I’m with a group on retreat or coaching someone through an all consuming issue or teaching a class, I’ve never felt so found.
Finding that quote from Martha Beck today brought me to tears. It was from a piece called “Do I Know How To Say No?”
I can see that for the past year, I have been trying to do what I think is the right thing, even though it doesn’t feel like freedom to me. I’ve been scared to go inextricably down the rabbit hole that I think might make me terribly, terribly alone. I’ve applied for jobs, hoping they would bring me the direction and anchor to tether me. To weigh me down.
But the truth is, I’m already doing what feels like freedom.
I think it’s time to acknowledge that I don’t want a conventional life, or a conventional partner or a conventional job. Even though I haven’t been doing any of those things, I have been resisting my life the way it is.
I’ve been spending time and energy worrying that I’m going about this all wrong, when, if I’m honest, if I stop and breathe and feel into it, I think I might just have it right.