I can’t believe it’s been nearly 5 months since I left Oakland. And while I know there haven’t been a lot of posts in that time, I promise there has been a whole lot of living. I’ve survived living in a tiny house on wheels, visited many new places within a smallish geographical location, dealt with sickness, sadness, and homesickness, made new friends, fell in love with a city, fell in love with someone, had adventures and misadventures, and learned so much about myself in the process. I know I have a lot of stories to write, but the one I find myself writing now is what is happening at this moment.

Tomorrow, the Chinook and I are heading back to the Bay Area. If you read my guest post as part of Torre DeRoche’s Love and Travel Week on Almost Fearless, then you know I’m really missing loved ones.  So you can imagine that after all of this time, I’m so excited I don’t know how I’ll make it the 11+ hour drive without jumping out of my seat. But at the same time…

I’m scared

You see, the timing of this trip isn’t random.  On Tuesday, if everything goes well, and I want it to go well, a couple with a newborn baby will be handed the keys to the first house I ever co-owned. The house that I sank countless hours of sweat and love into (while documenting it all), made first-house memories in, and that I left thinking Francisco would be able to keep. Sure, I left our house willingly in January, but it’s so much harder to imagine neither of us being there anymore. And on Friday, I’ll sign what’s left to sign, and it will become the property of strangers on Tuesday.

I’m also saying another farewell to Francisco, and I don’t know when I’ll see him again. With the house being sold, he has decided to leave the Bay Area and travel as well. Unlike in so many instances where there’s an amicable split, we won’t be in the same town to get coffee every now and then or have one of us be in a static spot the other can visit. As much as I know our split was the right decision for both of us, and we’ve both moved on, ten years is still a really long time with someone, and I’ll miss him. In many ways I already do. In this time since I left, we’ve been in contact via email nearly every day, communicating about the house with our broker, and with that process coming to an end, I know that will too.

And then there’s my stuff. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that when I moved out, I left a lot of things behind, and then I further downsized before taking off in June. What is left, are either sentimental things I don’t want to part with, or things I didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with then. But now I think it’s time.

There are my rings- my 1920’s diamond engagement ring- the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen, the vintage ring box Francisco bought for it, and my 1920’s wedding band that are occupying space in a safe deposit box. It’s time to let them go to someone else now, and yet as certain as I am of that, I can’t imagine making it so.

And then there is my wedding dress. The one my former sister-in-law, a famous fashion designer, made especially for me. The one I flew to Buenos Aires alone to have made while I stayed with my in-laws and studied Spanish in the month leading up to our wedding. I can’t imagine ever wearing it again, so why keep it? And yet, I don’t know how I’ll hand it over to anyone.

I’m also clearing out my storage locker and loading the Chinook with the rest of what I own and bringing it back to Portland, where I can scan my photos, further downsize, process, and heal.

So, as excited and happy as I am to see those I love and miss so much, I’m just as scared to make this trip. It’s so strange to think that what I’m afraid to see for the first time in 5 months- Francisco, my house, and my things- I’m even more afraid to never see again. All I can do is muster all my emotional courage and take off with the intention of handling everything in the kindest, most genuine, honest way I know how, and to enjoy every minute with my friends. And who knows, maybe I’m stronger than I think.

This, I think, is the third hardest time in my life. The first, I won’t talk about here, but it was a long time ago with a girl who feels like someone other than me now. The second was in May of 2007 when my mom suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage and I spent 5 weeks in Arizona during her recovery.

This is so hard. I have good moments and sad moments in every day, spend some parts of every day laughing and others crying. I have times when I’m sure I’ve gone crazy and that the silent judgment I feel from some friends over my decisions and wild plans must be justified. I think about backing out regularly and just running back to the safety of everything I’ve given up…as if that’s an option.

It’s harder now than it was at the beginning- and that makes sense when you think about it. Then I was just relieved to not be fighting anymore. It felt like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders to be able to have peace and not have to mentally and emotionally wrestle to try to solve the unsolvable. And there was an initial burst of excitement at the realization that I could do anything now. I probably gave the false impression to some that I didn’t give a shit. I did and I do.

My friend Kate told me something a few years ago that I’ll never forget. She said that grieving is non-linear, and I think that’s true. The idea that it’s supposed to “get a little easier everyday” just sets you up for thinking something’s wrong with you if you don’t feel bad in the first week but do a month in. It ends up feeling like a setback when that’s just part of the process as it really is: non-linear. I’ve been trying to remember that, especially now, a couple months in, when it’s become harder. I try not to forecast misery, but I don’t expect to be “done” either.

I’m starting to take solid steps toward my independent life and that’s both sad and scary. Sad, because some of my travel plans were things we planned to do together. Scary, not because of the solo aspect, but because they are things I’ve dreamed of doing for half my life. I’ve built them up, put them on a pedestal, but still prioritized away from them until now. And now that I’m finally going to do them I hope I find them worth the sacrifice and that I don’t fall on my face. I feel in my heart of hearts that they are and that I won’t…in the good moments.

I haven’t made it easy on myself either. I’ve learned some valuable things about myself through this. I try to rush through uncomfortable things. I’m okay dealing with uncomfortable things, but I attempt to compartmentalize them into a clump and bang out the work of them so I can get on to the happier things. Note to self- this isn’t working. Clumping a string of tough things together is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting, and is a sure-fire way to feel totally off-balance. It also means cutting myself off for that time, from the very things and people that could help boost me through it- and that’s a recipe for some low lows…and head-up-my-own-ass-syndrome, and that’s no good for the world either.

Part of what’s been neglected in this, has been this blog. You wouldn’t know it from my absence, but this blog is my second priority, after family and friends, in my life right now. It’s a symbol of my finally daring to step forward and put on display for whomever will read it, my creativity. Until now, my creative professional life has been collaborative, and ultimately someone else could take the credit or the blame for a given project. This is just me, although admittedly for some time, I used Francisco as a bit of a shield.

I’m not entirely comfortable here on this stage yet. Especially when I’m feeling raw, and that’s another reason for absences between posts. I also get a little trapped by the idea that this is supposed to be a travel blog, but as my friend Sara reminded me, this is part of my journey.

So here’s what I’m vowing now to myself and to you so I’ll be accountable. I will write at least one post per week. I can’t promise that it will fit into a neat and tidy travel category, but it’ll definitely be part of the journey.

Thanks Ayngelina for your kind emails and encouragement to commit to this, to Kent and Caanan, Erica, Beth, Andi, and Kirsten, for awesome “checking in” emails, and to all of you sweet people for supporting, reading, and commenting. :)

For the last week I have awoken in strange beds.  I wish that were as fun as it may sound, but it’s because after 9.5 years of living together and 4.5 years of marriage, Francisco and I are going through a divorce.

Why? Irreconcilable differences. There’s no bad guy/girl here. There’s a lot of love, and remorse over the realization that we can’t make it work in spite of that. That we may even arrive at the same destinations, just not at the same time. We’ve tried so hard to avoid it, and have talked, cried, and hugged our way through it.

There was a month-long separation, where I went on what my friend Sara called- to my chagrin- my own mini Eat, Pray, Love. I holed up in a hotel to re-design the blog, I went to a clothing optional resort where I could meditate, and I traveled to spend time with my family, have adventures with my nephew, and think about what family means to me.  Increasingly I started to use “I” and “me” language, in place of “we” and “us.”

Last week marked the end of two weeks of going through the wringer…or more aptly the shredder.  Of going through ten years of shared history in stuff and on paper; school, research, apartments, cars, travel, jobs, marriage, taxes, purchases, home ownership, photos, videos, love letters. Of figuring out what to keep, who gets it, donating, selling, packing, or shredding.  Piling bales of shredded evidence into recycle bins…shredded paper that looked and sounded like my high school cheerleading pom poms, when no one felt like cheering.

Moving at least every 3.5 years for my entire life and even being excited to take minimalism to the next level didn’t remotely prepare me for this, and why would it? Heartache + dismantling a joint life + uncertainty of what/where I’m packing for = awful. A friend asked me if as days went by it got easier- if I became numb to it. But in fact as days went on and moving day approached I became rawer, and it felt unbearable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that line in the Rage Against the Machine song “Freedom” where Zack de la Rocha whispers, “Anger is a gift.” I get that. This might be easier if I was angry. I might be more certain or feel stronger. But then again, I’m glad that’s not the case.  We’ve been compassionate, kind, considerate, and supportive through nearly all of this. We’ve even gone together to friend’s events, parties, etc. Why are we doing this again?

Our amazing friends helped me move out and into their homes and garages last Sunday- all approximately 6X6’ of what physically remains of my life outside of me, by choice.

Now I’m of two minds. One is dealing with this breakup as one might expect- mourning the loss and feeling a little worried about the future. This sad side carries all my insecurities and displays them often. The other side of me is excited for my life to come even as my current life is dismantled and few remnants remain. This side is thinking, “You can redesign your life radically and you have the courage to do it- the sky’s the limit!” The other part of me thinks, “Get lost bright side- you’re too early.” I feel guilty even admitting that there is a bright side right now, but I also believe that happiness is a choice- part perception and part action- and I want to be happy. Without ignoring the hard stuff, I’ll try to focus on the positive.

I’m also counting my blessings. Among them is Francisco. I feel grateful for our time together and I’ll fondly think of it as a gift to be cherished and learned from. I’m so thankful that we can be friends. I’m also fortunate to have amazing family and friends who have helped me in so many ways, and understand that there are no sides to choose from.

And then there is this- my blog, which has brought so many awesome, inspiring, caring, supportive new friends into my life.  It will continue, just transform like me. And of course, there will be travel…lots of travel. :)

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