Today we have been traveling for 1000 days. I just wanted to mark the occasion. So much to reflect on. So much to unpack. I still haven’t internalized the sudden lack of momentum that has been a constant companion. Always looking towards the next place. Always a sense of the unfamiliar. The stranger in a strange land. The hungry ghost. Consuming the world at an unhealthy pace.
I don’t remember who I used to be. Or what I used to dream about. How do you go back to your old things and put them on like a stranger? But the grooves of a normal life are deep and lulling. A comforting gravity. Difficult to resist.
Can you go back? In your heart? Is this the fake life or the real one?
There is something deep within us that longs for a home. A place to be ourselves. To let go and relax. A good traveler understands that they are a guest. A guest in a new place. And all the rules of being a good guest should apply. Tread lightly, be grateful, do not be a burden, honor and respect the ways of your host, subvert your routines and expectations, listen, say please and thank you, learn how your host receives kindness and humility (social language is subtle and different wherever you go). But being a good guest is exhausting. You can never truly relax and be yourself. Because lets face it, our selves can be self absorbed and brash. And that’s fine at home.
No matter how strong my drive to see the world it’s going to be nice to have a home again for a while.
After returning for my daughter’s graduation from PACE University in Manhattan and a short visit with my family in West Virginia, we flew to Eugene Oregon to start a new life. We rented a mailbox, started a local bank account, bought a car, and rented a house we thought had the potential for happiness.
Going through the motions of reentry. Flipping the switches in the right order. A certain kind of autopilot. Waiting for the lease to start in 2 weeks.
Until then we’re still living in Airbnbs. Living from suitcases. Penumbral thumb-twiddling.
For the first time in three years, I’m suddenly able to own things. New additions used to be labored over in ounces, a constant battle to reduce or eliminate the unneeded. Almost everything I’ve purchased during our trip has been consumables. But now the allure of things. My things. The things I love. Or at least used to love. My solutions. My little tombstone reminders of past joys and aspiration.
One of the great driving factors of human behaviour is the struggle against ambiguity. Humans want to know concretely. Comfort lies in knowing. Predictability. Ambiguity drives anxiety. Ambiguity requires alertness and agility. Knowing builds a little nest in our brains where we can rest and feel safe against things beyond us. Likewise, “stuff” in a nutshell is the answer to a problem. A solution. Every solution reduces ambiguity. Like a literal nest you can rest in. Without stuff, the world is an endless list of possible problems to worry about. The more and better your stuff, the fewer problems we worry about, the closer we become to complete. Right?
I’m not sure if there’s a word for it, but there’s a special version of ourselves that’s the culmination of all of our things. This manifestation of all things you’ve drawn into your orbit, the gravity of your will. This super-self of consumerism. That sort of thinks and acts on its own. A new kind of body. This organism of meaning you create. This protection against the boogeyman of ambiguity. Which makes it hard to see. That things are meaningless. That existence is ambiguous and predominantly meaningless. And that not only will we certainly die but that we were probably never actually born in the first place. That the illusion of creation and our substantiation of form in any sense, is fleeting (if at all) and largely meaningless compared to our connection to the whole. Our contribution, even of life itself, is unknowable and almost entirely without consequence.
Is that too dark? I don’t mean it to be. Letting go of the illusion that somehow the universe cares what you’re doing is a freeing concept to me. I lean, arms wide, into the crashing storm of ambiguity, screaming over the roar, that I am standing on the edge of oblivion. We are all the oblivion of all things. The more I see, the more clear my dissolution into the whole. And the more broad my love for the world. Ergo, learning to love myself, is learning to love the world. Trust in myself is trust in the world. Letting go of who I think I am, opens myself to the expansive embrace of existence.