We were at FedEx the other day shipping packages - sending artwork back to artists, sending old computers for recycling, sending care packages to the kids. In other words, tying up all of our loose ends in the postal department. The young woman helping us asked about our business name, so we told her what we do and that we’d be leaving NJ in two days to live and work full-time in our vintage caravan. She was impressed. But then she said, “Will you show the real stuff?” It turns out she had been watching YouTube videos of a woman who is purportedly living out of her van and traveling across the country. “She only shows the pretty stuff,” our curious new friend said, “I’m not sure I believe she’s really doing it.” We joked about a green screen version of the Grand Canyon, but then assured her we’d be sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness – even our wholeheartedness – actually depends on the integration of all our experiences, including the falls.” ~Brené Brown
Exhibit A: The storm we ran into on Thursday night while driving home from dropping the youngest for his freshman year at Virginia Tech. It was terrifying. Massive black clouds, two-and-a-half hours of torrential rains, lightning, wind. Maya was focused behind the wheel, our hazards were on, we did 40 mph instead of 65 through two states. We pulled over twice because we couldn’t see anything past the hood of the car. It seemed like it would never end. We were hungry, exhausted, and I was totally stressed out by something we couldn’t control. I was second-guessing this decision and wondering how quickly we could buy a new house. To add insult to injury, we hadn’t even officially hit the road and we had already broken our promise to try not to eat too much junk food. We had consumed a bag of sour gummy bears, a bag of barbecue potato chips, and handfuls of chocolate chip cookies.
We promise to be transparent. We promise to tell the truth about what it’s like to make this kind of leap. We promise to share the flat tires and the bickering and the hard days, not just the beautiful scenery (in bikinis?). We promise to be more Celeste Barber than Kim Kardashian.
. . . . .
A few years ago, I took a weekend workshop with Byron Katie at a retreat center in western Massachusetts. If you’re not familiar with BK, her work centers around the idea (and I am summarizing here) that when we believe our thoughts, we suffer, but that if we question our thoughts, we can be free. The process by which this happens is a simple but profound tool that is broken down into four steps. You begin with a statement about something that is bothering that you believe is true - something like “So-and-so doesn’t include me in the decision-making process” or “So-and-so isn’t trustworthy.” You move on to the next part, by asking yourself “Is this true?” The next step is to ask again, but perhaps in a different way: “Am I certain this is true?” Next, you pose this question to yourself: “Who or what would I be if I didn’t believe this was true?” (Hint: The answer is usually various versions of “happier.” After this, you are tasked with making three “turnaround” statements, where you basically flip the initial complaint on its head. For example, if you said “So-and-so doesn’t include me in the decision-making process,” a turnaround might be “So-and-so does” include me…” or “I don’t include so-and-so…” or even “I don’t include me in the decision-making process.” The objective here is to make three opposite statement and see if, in fact, those might be even truer.
There’s another step to this process, which is to create a new statement that goes something like “I look forward to so-and-so not including me in the decision-making process” because what this means is that you aren’t done dismantling this particular belief, and that you need to going through the steps until you do.
I bring up Byron Katie’s work because it occurred to me the other day how fraught this little adventure of our is…or seems, or can feel, particularly if things go wrong. Somehow, when we are home, we enjoy the experience of comfort and convenience, of security and safety. We take for granted, in some ways, how relatively easy everything is. So there’s something about cleaving from a physical address that feels more vulnerable because there’s an inherent sense of exposure. Even our belongings are more visible - anyone walking by the windows of our car can clearly see what’s there.
In many ways, what this experience is going to do is ask us to challenge our definitions of comfort and convenience and security and safety. To question our thoughts about what we need and when we need it. To disrupt our expectations and assumptions and all of their accompanying mindsets, behaviors, and choices. What this experience is also going to ask us to do is lean and trust - on ourselves, on each other - in the intelligence of what we are given to contemplate, explore, and learn from. Not all of it will be easy or comfortable. Not all of it will necessarily make sense or feel “right.” But I, for one, am looking forward to meeting the invitation to let go of the rigidness of my own thinking - and, more specifically - the attachment to that thinking - in service to the learnings of this experience. As Byron Katie says, “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don't have to like it... it's just easier if you do.”