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Rebirth

Wilderness, S o u t h A f r i c a

There’s been a whispering of late to write another blog post. I just didn’t know where to start because so much has occurred since my last writing that it didn’t seem there was a way of filling in all the gaps since Italy; since my first, wide-eyed, just getting established in Florence post, and then the abrupt changes that occurred after the lockdown.

If I was to briefly summarize what has happened since then: losing all my work, moving out of Florence to a villa in the countryside of Chianti, followed by a shared apartment with a quirky Italian man in a quaint village, and then the almost unbelievable decision to leave Italy altogether. I still cannot believe that this has all taken place; that I finally realized my dream of living in Italy and that I actually made the choice to leave.

I could blame it on the increasing restrictions from the government because of ‘covid’. I could blame it on the fact that I refused to follow along with any of those rules and wanted to escape but there was a much deeper soul urge to completely change the path I was on. A life-path calling that was nudging me to go back to my roots. To take with me all I had gleaned from the 28 years I’d spent away from my place of birth.

Current world circumstances were merely the trigger.

Nevertheless, it was a painstaking decision. That is for sure. My nervous system was already rattled from moving multiple times post my departure from the United States and then again within Italy. I couldn’t fathom how I would have the energy to, yet again, shed my belongings, say my goodbyes to my newly found community of sweet Italians and get on a plane, after the longest pause of flight travel I’d had since I started my travel adventures in 1992.

I only came to my final decision and made it happen one step, one moment at a time. I learned how to pace myself, day by day. During the process my friends from all over the world would ask: “So, have you made a decision yet?” and for weeks and weeks I said: “No”.

When I tired of forcing a decision, I would take myself on walks through the village and get my fill of Renaissance architecture, glance up at green shutters, listen to the sound of cute Italian children riding their bikes in the park, and smile at little old men smoking their pipes and drinking espresso with their friends at the coffee bar. I’d eat gelato whilst sitting in doorways on cobblestone streets, touch ancient walls, making sure to take in everything in minute detail so as not to forget, so as to forge the memory into my mind so that I could recall it at a future date, once I was gone.

I simply was not ready. I wasn’t ready to give up on this dream. I had not had my fill of the beauty before me, to let go of this dream that I’d envisioned ever since I had first visited Europe 28 years before. It had taken me all that time to get back, to take the leap, and now I was considering leaving?

Life is strange.

Some called the prospect of me coming back to Africa the path of least resistance. Some said it was an important task to come back to my family of origin – that it was courageous. My friend Paolo told me it was heroic. Perhaps it’s all those things. I couldn’t call it anything but moving forward for a bigger plan, to be of service to my parents and to the country I was born. It was just a deeper knowing. All the while my heart was breaking and my mind resisting but my soul held the line, along with my anxious body, through days and days and days of third-dimensional uncertainty and resistance, constantly urging me to just take one step at a time. It was the biggest lesson and lived experience of trusting in the timing of things and of literally taking things moment-to-moment in order not to overwhelm myself.

I’m a master at life puzzles, of researching and putting aspects of an unfolding prospect together but it’s not all linear. I jump around from different angles, from one thing to the next until the picture looks legible; until it all starts to make sense. And in between, I distract myself. I’ve been known to clean, decorate and spend entire days cooking just to avoid the next step in the decision-making process. But I acknowledge that that is actually part of the procedure. It’s my meditation. It allows my mind to settle in a subtle subconscious creation process of sorts which fuels me for the next, sometimes agonizing action-oriented move towards a decision, until finally I’m spat out on the other side, and voila! … I’ve decided and it feels like I’m finally on the water slide to my destination.

Now, as I write this, I muse on the inkling that anybody who grew up being trusted and acknowledged for their uniqueness and freedom to make mistakes, ask for help and have faith in themselves would have a much easier time than I do in making big decisions because they would have naturally learned how to truly know themselves. An engrained pattern of trust is forged.

Perhaps I’m wrong in this assumption but it would seem that it has been a life-long lesson of mine to learn to trust myself and my ability to do what I know is right for me, even if it’s not necessarily the easiest choice.

The better you know yourself and the more you’re embodied the easier it is to make decisions. Through trauma and being invalidated, we learn to disengage from ourselves and jump out of our bodies to avoid feeling certain things, so we, in effect, avoid ourselves and what’s true for us.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve gone on the winding path that I have. A path that’s led from dancing on stages – a very external showy art form, to teaching embodiment to others through movement – a more internal process. A path that’s led me to explore various healing arts modalities, and to travel and create. It’s all been a sensory journey to know myself. To know how it feels in my body. To know what feels true. I think to know thyself is the most important task of this human journey.

When you know yourself, you trust your intuition and you don’t second-guess yourself. You know what’s right for you in an instant and it’s not an agonizing weighing of every scenario possible.

There was a moment – a moment when I fell to my knees in acknowledgment of what I needed to do. Tears formed in my eyes and it was as though an angel was wrapping its wings around me from behind. It was a soul YES to return to South Africa. There are no moments quite like those spine-tingling ‘yes’ moments that seal the deal. It’s something no tarot card reading, pro’s and con’s list, or conversation with your closest confidant can give you. It took a while for my mind, my body, and my heart to catch up but my soul knew.

That last week in Italy was not easy: logistically, emotionally, physically. I came down with a cold and had to figure out what to do with all the things I had acquired for my new Italian home a year before that. Most of it was donated, some of it was packed in my trusty suitcase bound for Africa. My bicycle Amoré was sold to the sweetest family. My heart skipped a beat when I saw her being taken up the road. I LOVED that bike with her black basket and her smart tan seat. She and I had traversed the Chianti hills as well as the cobblestone streets of Florence all with ease, grace, and comfort. She was my right-hand gal and I adored her!

My goodbyes were filled with tears, long hugs, heartfelt good wishes from the lovely community of Italians I had finally started connecting with. I love them and am happy that we were able to *breathe together, walk together and, most importantly, eat together.

Upon returning here and speaking with my friend Paolo in Tuscany, I expressed to him that I felt like I had left a piece of my heart there and he said: “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it for you”. The sweetest sentiment, accompanied by the knowledge that one day I’d be back.

I write this two months after I’ve left Italy and traversed the African continent to the southernmost region of South Africa. The things I had intended for months and months, I’m starting to see manifest around me. My own little place, not too far from the ocean. On some days I can even hear her. I’m surrounded by nature, fruit trees, and the beginnings of a soul tribe. A place where I can walk out my front door and have my feet planted on the earth. Close enough to my parents so I can be there in a few hours if need be.

For now, I’m here. I’m here to witness the old age of my father, the exhaustion of my mother, the desertion by my sister, and all the damage done by her inability to see herself and her unwillingness to heal. I’m here to re-discover home and my roots. To bring what I can to the land and the people who have endured these last 28 years, through an ongoing economic crisis, through corruption, crime, and continued racism. The people that have been holding on by a thread but remain authentic, good-humored, and strong through it all.

I am finding a different kind of strength. I am finding all those vibrant parts of myself that I had stepped away from in order to make others feel comfortable. I’m acknowledging all the ways in which I hid away and all the ways I was the nice quiet girl so others wouldn’t be unkind or jealous. I’m seeing all the ways I contorted myself to fit into others’ expectations of me; to fit into a mold that stifled my brilliance. I’m seeing how, as I traveled further from my home, I traveled further from myself in some ways but in other ways, I moved closer.

And now, I meet myself in the middle of here and there; integrating, rediscovering. Seeing where not to take on others’ stuff and where I can let go more. Where I can laugh and love more. Where I can truly feel at home within myself more.





*I found a holotropic rebirthing breathing group in that small town in Tuscany. There I met my little community of sweet and funny Italian friends. It was a confirmation that wherever I go in the world I will always find a little tribe of kindred souls.
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The Day After the 54th Day

FLORENCE, I T A L Y

Today I hugged someone for the first time in 54 days.

I rode my bicycle for the first time in 54 days. 

I sat in the park under trees. I saw families and dogs and smiles. 

The air smelled so fragrant and the flowers so sweet. Roses, wisteria, orange blossoms! All the things of spring I’d been craving. What a marvelous afternoon under the sky. 

Today was the first time we were let out in 54 days – allowed to roam further than 200 meters from our home.

I was so happy to see that Amoré, my bicycle, was still where I’d parked her 54 days before. Boy did it feel good to meander through the streets and all at the same time, so sad. Everything closed, on a Friday afternoon.

I cycled passed cathedrals and clothing stores, gelaterias, pizza shops, and museums. Businesses that should be booming at this time of year but it’s like a ghost town out there. I rode through piazzas and beside the old fort. I rode past the gigantic, lonely palaces and over the ancient bridges. I couldn’t bear the mask so I rebelled and only pulled it up over my face when I spotted police and military or people in close proximity. I wanted fresh air. I wanted to feel free. I rode passed my favorite church. It looked so huge and I felt so small. Maybe because I hadn’t seen it at all in 54 days. I paused at its steps and gazed up at it. I’d always found its façade arresting because of its simplicity. More beautiful and admirable than its more intricate and detailed counterparts. It was simply so good to see it again.

I made my way to my friend’s street like I always had to see if he was home. Perhaps he’d like to go on a bike ride with me, I thought. I stopped outside his door, my finger hovering over his doorbell. Was I allowed to ring someone else’s doorbell? Someone who wasn’t my relative? The new decree said, no visits to friends, only relatives. Apparently, that evening after the decree was announced, the word ‘relative’ was the most Google’d word in recent history. Who can we see? Does relative only mean mothers and fathers and sons or daughters and brothers and sisters or can we see cousins and nieces and second cousins and fiancés? For family-oriented Italians especially, this is a very important question!

I looked up and down the street for police and then pushed the bell. Davide hung his head out the window from his 3rd-floor apartment and with a big smile asked me if I wanted to go up. I grinned and shouted up to him, “Am I allowed to!?” Oh my God! What has this world come to? I thought. Without an answer, he buzzed me in and I ran up the stairs – his dog Nino greeting me before I reached the open door. 

And the: a hug. The first embrace I’d experienced in 54 days. The first one-on-one human contact I’d had in all this time. The first face-to-face conversation I’d had in 54 days. I thought I would cry but I didn’t. I was just happy and no one would know as we were behind closed doors. And there we were, two little rebels, sitting at his kitchen table having a chat. Petting his dog. Normal but not allowed. Natural but surreal.

We talked about what we were going to do, and how it had been – all this time we’d been locked up. 

He’s been getting the government checks, I have not. I don’t qualify. We both don’t have an income but unlike me, his landlady has not pressured him for rent. He’s Italian. I’m not. 

We make a plan for our bike ride. No one must know we are together. If anyone questions us, we don’t know each other. 

We race down the street on our bicycles, like two excited children, keeping a good distance from each other. We ride along the river. A cool spring breeze caressing our delighted faces. We hang a left away from the Arno, traversing a street that is usually packed with traffic, but now, of course, we sail right across, as there’s not a single car in sight. 

We meander through a quiet residential neighborhood. The first thing I notice is all the roses. Voluptuous roses that have been blooming and which I have not seen for all this time – these 54 days that spring had been happening outside. Secretly flourishing alone, with no one to behold her unfolding. I’d been robbed of the experience of witnessing it all unfurl. I feel dismayed but happy, amazed but grieving the time that’s been lost.

We zigzag up the back street hills and find ourselves in the most glorious neighborhood. An area in which I’d looked at an apartment for rent a few months prior to the lockdown. A neighborhood I knew very well I couldn’t afford to live in but was curious to check it out. They say if you want to feel wealthy visit an expensive hotel and wander through its lavish lounges. Order a drink at the bar and sit and observe the opulent people and surroundings. Soak in the energy of it. So, I met the owners. A Well to do Florentine family, and walked around the property, taking in the views, imagining myself waking up in the gorgeous bed overlooking the rose garden. Gazing out of the kitchen window towards the manicured hedge and lemon trees, as I made tea. 

Anyway, I diverge…

We push our bikes up the steep hills, huffing and puffing – our bodies straining from the lack of exercise these last couple of months. The fresh air burns my lungs but I’m just so happy to smell the air. There are a handful of mask-wearing people out and about and a sense of censored relief and refreshment. 

As we make our way around the neighborhood, my friend and I poke our heads through the fences of fancy homes where wisteria and jasmine cascade over them. We make up stories about living in one of the villas and how it would be to quarantine in one of the palaces with gorgeous gardens, swimming pools, and incredible views of the Florence valley. 

We come across a small park and sit there for a long time, listening to the birds and looking up at the trees. What simple magnificence. We watch dogs and cute children frolic in the grass. The new ordinance says that contact is allowed between children and their parents whilst outside, so things look relatively normal as we observe families interact on this Friday afternoon. Facial expressions masked, we now become more observant of body language, voice intonation, and the expression in another’s eyes. 

My friend and I sit next to each other, not really thinking about the distance between us. It doesn’t actually enter my mind. It just feels so good to feel relatively normal and there’s no police in the area keeping an eye out. 

We leave our bikes and go for a walk up more hills, passing several people, some of whom have their masks pulled up over their faces and some who just can’t be bothered. I wonder, as the hot and humid months of the Florentine summer approach, if we’ll still have to wear masks. Just the thought of it is stifling. 

On this exuberant stride up these hills, I marvel at my body and how it moves. I marvel at the smell of the air and the intensity of the brightly colored foliage. I marvel at the little succulents and the bright red poppies pushing their way through the ancient stone walls of Tuscan properties. I marvel at the ability of my eyes to focus on faraway hills after being indoors, enclosed by 4 walls, for 54 days. They say that people who live in the countryside have far better eyesight because they can gaze at the horizon, whereas city-dwelling people’s eyesight deteriorates quicker because the objects they focus on are far nearer and therefore they become nearsighted.

All I know is that on this day we can see far – further than I’ve ever seen beyond the city and into the hills in all directions. The air is clean and fresh and this moment of relative freedom is fantastic, magical, and exhilarating. 

We are made to enjoy and appreciate this planet and to savor nature in all her glory. Perhaps she doesn’t need us but we need her and not a day goes by when I take her for granted. 54 days is too long to be apart and I sincerely hope and pray that we are never separated for this long ever again.

Sacred Tears

FLORENCE, I T A L Y

I sat and edited some artwork today whilst listening to my favorite music. Music that fits the mood of the world.

I cried today for the first time in a long time.

I cried when I saw a mentor of mine sharing heart-opening exercises to relieve anxiety. I cried because she was sharing it on mainstream media. They were happy tears because this is change, this is healing, transmitted to those who need it – all of us.

I cried for the loss of a friend I love.

I cried because I don’t feel supported within the city I have chosen to live.

I cried in gratitude for the people I feel connected to.

I cried tears that have been building up.

I cried because I’m strong and cope well in times of crisis.

I cried because my friend in Berlin needed to sit in silence to process the sadness she felt after going out to buy food this morning.

I cried for our hearts, for the homeless and hungry, the jobless and overwhelmed, the anxious and exhausted.

I cried for the swans in the Venice canals rejoicing in clean water and for my sister in South Africa who stays silent through it all.

I cried because a stranger emailed me to see how I was and asked if I needed to talk.

I cried because I can feel the collective heart open and love flooding in.

Yes, love is flooding in.

Your tears are sacred.

Cry if you need to.

I love you.

Florence – The Recent Past

FLORENCE, I t a l y

These days have felt strange, at times, surreal. I’m still hovering above the ground. I haven’t fully landed. I wonder when I will.

I’m taking care of my friend’s dog whilst he’s away and I have a deadline for finding housing which is good and daunting at the same time.

I’ve made two ‘big’ purchases – big for a person who hasn’t had a proper income in the last few months with all the moving and transitioning – a pair of sneakers and a fantastic bicycle so I can get around more easily. It’s always been my dream to live in a European town and get around on a bicycle!

I take Nino, the dog, for a walk. He decides to pee in the entranceway of Gucci. Really? Gucci!? Could you not have peed somewhere else? I chuckle; remembering his papa saying, “Don’t let him pee in anyone’s doorway”. I will not be telling him of this atrocity. Gucci, above all doorways. We hurry along in the hope that no-one saw this faux pas.

“Quickly, take a poop, please”. It’s freezing cold and I need to get back so I can start my day. What day? What am I doing? I mean, the list is still long and seemingly overwhelming: choose a place to live, figure out how I’ll make ends meat, make connections at the art schools and yoga studios, finish setting up online portfolios and market my work, and in between, try and learn some Italian so this whole process is a bit easier. Not too much of a list. Ha!

I cycle to the coffee shop. On my way, I stop at a panini shop to see if I can buy a sandwich. I don’t need anything fancy as I only have €5.36 in my wallet and the ATM is too far. Alas, it’s too late. They are all finished. The only thing left are a few cornettos (croissants) and some biscotti della nonna (grandmother’s cookies), which I must say are damn delicious but I must pass as I’ve had way too much sugar in the last couple of days. That cookie was a total surprise when I first got it on a whim a week ago. Soft and flakey outer pastry, encrusted with almonds and custard in the center. Divine.

I could easily turn into a fat Italian mama here – eat my way through pasta, panini’s, and pastries all day.

All of a sudden, I’m overloaded with offers for housing. One outside of town in the north with a bit more nature, sharing with others and my room is below street level and a bit dark. There’s a tiny studio in the west of Florence with a view of the Duomo and the hills of Fiesole, in which things are falling apart somewhat, with a bathroom and kitchen I can’t turn around in as they’re both so small. It has horrendous decorations and a pull-out sofa bed which I think I’ll loath after the first night….but the view! Then there’s another place where I’d be solo, in the east, in a typical Florentine neighborhood. It’s immaculate but has no character and opposite my bedroom window is a parking garage. And then there’s an apartment in the south that I’d have to share with two others in an absolutely desirable neighborhood with light and air and gorgeous views of Piazza Michelangelo and birds and green and it would take a bunch of elbow grease and some imagination to pretend that all the fixtures are not falling apart and haven’t been replaced in a hundred years. So, you see, the universe has me covered in many different scenarios and directions and they all have their positives and their drawbacks and by the time you read this, I would have chosen and be complaining and praising things about one of them.

For now, Nino, keeps me on my toes as I have to walk him three times a day and feed him twice a day, and as much as I complain about having to walk him right before I go to bed when I’d rather actually be in bed, there’s something calming about walking around the neighborhood at that time of night. I’m grateful for the exercise and a cute pooch to hug and talk to when I’m not talking to myself, which seems to be the comforting thing to do as I get older.

I take sanctuary in these, yet to be determined moments, by remembering that I’ve always been OK. I’ve been resilient and I don’t have to figure it out all at once. I have a reminder on my phone that tells me to take things step-by-step and that I don’t need to prove anything to myself or others. To stay in the moment. And when I’m walking down the street, sanctuary is looking up towards the sky and the tops of Renaissance buildings, or when I zoom by on my bicycle and catch a glimpse of a Michelangelo sculpture just hanging out on the corner of the street, and I remind myself where I am and that I made it here. I am here.

Frankincense and Oranges

TUSCANY. I T A L Y

We stopped at the public spring to fill our glass bottles with water whilst the old mans slobbery dog ran around like an unruly monster, rolling around in the dust, drinking from the pool of spring water then shaking and spraying us with a mixture of water and saliva. I’m definitely more of a cat person, I thought.

We got back in the car, Gos barking in excitement, as he knew what came next: a walk through the forest and up to the monastery. Again, we walked in relative silence. I tried to comment on this and that, making small talk, mentioning the trees and the view. Asking which villages were in the distance. I was happy it was warm and that I was getting some exercise. The old man had remarked before we left the house that I would not be able to walk up the hill in my sandals but with every step, I proved him wrong, overtaking him and waiting for him at various intervals. I was strong. I had walked all over India for six months in those sandals. Do you think a 30-minute walk up a small hill is beyond my scope of capability without proper walking shoes?

We got up to the monastery and I was eager to look at the architecture and peek inside the church. The old man said he wasn’t fond of Baroque architecture so he and Gos stayed outside whilst I climbed the stairs and into the sanctuary. Sunday mass was just coming out and there was an energy of peace surrounding the entrance as I entered. The Baroque interior was gorgeous and a heavy veil of frankincense smoke hovered in the air.

The smell reminded me of my childhood and Catholic mass. My mother wanted us to go every Sunday and my sister and I would sit in the pew, bored out of our minds. I looked forward to communion when there was some movement and we could get up and have the ‘body and blood of Christ’ and I could give my knees a rest from all the kneeling. I loved when the priest and altar boys would walk down the aisle with the burning frankincense. That was my favorite part; being enveloped in the sweet and pungent smoke.

I sat in a pew and said a short prayer, knowing that the old man was waiting. Usually, on visits like this, I’m on my own and I like it that way. I can take as long or as short a time as I want. I can sit and stare at the artwork on the ceiling and the sculptures on the altar and watch the light as it passes through the stained glass windows, with no urgency to leave. I don’t like to be waited for or to wait on anyone else. Traveling alone has ruined me in this regard. Very seldom do I like to travel with others, especially inexperienced travelers. It’s extremely frustrating for me. I feel like a bird that’s had its wings clipped. My pace is severely hindered. I’m selfish with my freedom and I make no apology for that.

I made the sign of the cross with a half kneel, walked down the aisle and out of the huge wooden doors and back down the stairs to meet Gos and the old man and we all walked back down the hill. The old man handed me the lead with Gos at the end of it. I was not impressed.

“This is your dog”, I thought. “Not mine”.

If he was trained properly it would be a different story but this Gos is unruly and disobedient and meanders all over the place, pulling whoever is leading him wherever he wishes.

Back in the car, Gos and his excited signature bark accompanied us down the meandering hill. I was relieved and excited too, although I knew we’d have another pasta dinner and my belly was starting to look and feel like a bulging beach ball. This was not going to be a sustainable diet for me. I needed to investigate the fresh produce markets once back in Florence and I was counting down the days until my return.

Of course, I’d miss this little world in the hills, in the stone house. One of those houses that you always see when you’re traveling and wonder what they’re like inside. Well…they have heavy wooden shutters, inside and out, complicated latches on the windows that can be quite tricky to figure out at first. They have stone stairs and floors, and uneven walls, and they can be quite cool in the mornings. If you use too many appliances the electricity will go out and it’s quite a puzzle to figure out how to fix it.

In the mornings I woke up to opera, birds and spring blossoms, and squeezed Sicilian blood oranges for the old man every day. We would sit quietly, each in our own worlds, trying to communicate when we could, over sweet biscuits in the morning or raw fava beans and pecorino cheese in the evenings.

I realize that my time there was an exercise in listening to energy when you can’t understand words. I realize how I want to please and how I wanted to be liked and understood and in those moments when words were useless and the old man was stern and frustrated, I learned to be OK with the silence. To be comfortable in my skin, in this foreign land, in this foreign home with this foreign old man.

Untethered

THE JOURNEY BETWEEN HERE AND THERE

There was only one thin thread holding me there: love. The love of a man who was not in love with me and was not right for me.

I knew it in my bones but I persisted anyway. He was my last attempt, or maybe my last excuse to stay in a place that was not ideal for me and hadn’t been for a very long time. When that fine thread disintegrated, the anchor that was already near the surface of my ocean, broke and there was no sinking down again.

I shudder when I look back on the years of wasted time, trying so hard to make it work. Grasping. Pulling myself up a steep hill and never reaching the summit. Barely even making it far enough for a decent view. Constantly walking, sometimes crawling, through the desert that was California. A valley of tears, that sucked me dry.

It was always love that had led me away or to something. Usually the love for a man, sometimes a job, or simply the freedom to escape, to travel – a new discovery in a foreign land. That, after all, was my first love. 

Finding myself in an airport was natural and just seemed to happen throughout my life, from the moment I went on my first journey. Always at certain junctures in my life. Endings, beginnings, times for expansion. Space to untether myself from heartbreak or confusion. To get lost on purpose in an unknown land. To embrace myself and the warrior in me. My free spirit gleefully flying across the skies. I never once regretted spending money on a plane ticket. If it’s all I ever spent my money on, I was content.

So there I was, at another juncture, that I had created, looking back at all the doors that had slammed shut – collaborations, love affairs, homes, projects and attempts at creating something that resembled my version of a good life. A life I could be proud of. But it had all failed. One thing, after the next, until I believed I was a failure. The pathways in my mind, forging a deeper and deeper sense of shame with each passing year. I had to save myself. I had to pack it in, pack up and ship out.

They say that wherever you go, there you are and there’s a great deal of truth in that – whatever your inner state, so is your outer reality. I say, also, that your environment carries an aura that feeds into you, like osmosis, and affects your inner being.

I’ve always been sensitive to my surroundings – the weather, the aesthetics of the environment, the atmosphere, and the people. Plant me in a place with authentic souls, art, beauty and nature and I’ll grow like I was programmed to. Like a plant that needs air, light and warmth to survive. It’s simple. Why be so dedicated to the struggle when there are so many other options available? So many other gorgeous places to discover. As we get older we realize that time is of the essence. Someday, one day in the future becomes now. Not a moment too soon.

Here it was. The final hour. I was just about to cross the finish line and birth myself into another reality. The decision was made and it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Waking up each day to assess what was most precious and purging the rest. Waking up to the reality of the shift I was about to make. My life in the United States, unraveling behind me. Coming to terms with all the lifetimes I’d lived in the last 23 years – exactly half my lifetime, thus far.

I had to keep a steady focus on what was in front of me, leaving behind the what-ifs and the if-only’s. It was too late for those. I didn’t have any more time to waste. The task was clear and each moment was filled with hitting the target: October 3rd. A flight out of San Francisco, at 6:20 pm.

All my belongings had to be packed, sold, stored, or donated. I had to be ruthless in moments when I could have been nostalgic. I had to press on, placing one foot in front of the other. Making multiple trips to my storage unit and wading through what seemed to be an endless mountain of belongings and an endless exercise in figuring out what was staying and what was going.

Most of it had to go. The precious chairs I had bought at a little antique store in San Diego eight years before when the wide-eyed wonder of living in my 1920’s apartment overtook me with enthusiasm and hope. My rare jazz CDs and my sketchbooks. Artwork I had created and never sold. Trinkets I’d had for years from travel adventures. Things that ex-lovers had gifted me – in the donation pile they went. Things that evoked sadness, things that were old, things that seemed to belong to another lifetime, attached to memories I’d rather not take with me.

Four boxes – keep, throw away, donate, sell. I made gift packages for people, gave things away, arranged garage sales, listed things online. My days were consumed with organizational tasks. Listing Jamima – my 30-year-old Volvo – to be sold, and due to some miracle, she was. Working here and there when I could to make some extra cash. Making dates with people I would see one more time before departing. Packing my suitcases – one for summer and one for winter – for a journey that would take me to the southern hemisphere for three months and the northern for…who knew how long? Books, essential oils, sage, a couple of precious gemstones, my camera, a deck of oracle cards, and my favorite clothes were coming with me.

The time drew more and more near until finally, I was standing in my friend’s living room four hours before my flight, surrounded by things that hadn’t yet been taken care of. Bless that woman for letting me leave with things undone. My vision board on her living room floor, my last donation items in a random box, a pair of suede moccasins I didn’t know what to do with, abandoned in the corner, soaked from running back and forth in the rain. My emotions were undone from exhaustion and from this moment finally arriving.

I had pushed and pushed for months on end, intending to tie it all up in a neat little bow, not wanting to burden anyone with any loose ends. But here I was and I had to give myself permission to leave these few things undone and accept my friend’s loving recognition of what this moment entailed. Knowing I had tried my absolute best. Knowing this was a huge deal. It was OK not to be a perfectionist in this particular moment.

And then, as in a weary dream: sanctuary – sitting on the plane. The few keep boxes stored in my friend’s basement and me, in the air with two suitcases. No more storage units, no more fitting all the puzzle pieces together or taking them apart. There were still going to be decisions that needed to be made but not for these next few hours. I could breathe, watch movies, write and dream.

Six months later, as I write this, sitting at a desk in a farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside, there is one suitcase in London and one with me. So many logistical decisions have had to be made since my departure. More diversions before I finally decided on a place to land. South Africa, England, Scotland, supposedly places I’d work and study and make the proper decision about where to be. Lugging those suitcases more times than I care to mention, up and down stairs, into airports, onto trains and buses. Accepting people’s help when it was offered, otherwise making it work the best I could. An enormous amount of energy to merely sidestep the right decision, any decision, about where I wanted to ultimately land up.

Sometimes a decision just has to be made and any inkling of inspiration followed. A dreamer I may be. An idealist, most of the time. Free as a bird, only encumbered by my own perceptions of the vision ahead.

I realize that sometimes freedom can have one more confused but having gratitude for that freedom and diving into one of those things that have passed through your dreams, things only someone who has this freedom can entertain for real, is a wide-open blessing. Choosing one of those one-day visions. Because if you don’t you would wonder ten or twenty years from now, what if, I had…?

Now, after the intense heat of South Africa, the cold rain of England, and the snow of Scotland, I wait in anticipation of warmer weather again when I can wear my summer clothes that I so carefully packed. To shed a layer and really be here. Here, in the land that I’ve envisioned living for so long. Here now, with another list of to-do’s. Things that seem like massive hurdles at this juncture:

Learn Italian

Make new friends

Search for a job

Find somewhere to live

Even amidst the doubt and the worry and the, what if this fails too?, maybe I could start by congratulating myself for my courage and strength in making it this far, as I walk down cobblestone streets, marveling at the grace, beauty and grandeur that surrounds me.

Aliveness

CHEFCHAOUEN, M O R O C C O

I wake up and open my bedroom window to reveal blue walls and blue sky, sparrows singing and men singing in the mosque.

Hearing Arabic brings a smile to my lips and I remember my grandmother and my heritage. I hear her saying prayers in Arabic before we eat and her accent. Her sweetness, her innocent outlook, despite all the hardships life had presented.

There’s a passion in the language of these people, the presence with which they talk, their kindness, the way they walk. Their skin, their eyes, their hand gestures.

Where do I come from, where am I going and where will I stay? These questions I ponder as the crucial time for deciding grows ever so near. Will I return to the motherland? Is this my destiny? Will I align with the cultures that are rich with passion, with sound, with design, with music, with a spirituality ingrained in their veins?

I hear the way the footsteps of running children echo down the narrow alleyways and the voices of traders as they argue with each other. It’s all in good spirit though. It’s part of the culture. Passion, authenticity, being heard. They explode with strong emotion then return to a mischievous smile and relax into the moment. 

I giggle. I appreciate what I am hearing. There is an aliveness outside of my window that spills over into my room and fills me with gratitude, just for this simple moment of being here and hearing this life that is going on for me to witness, for me to hear, for me to be a part of if I wish.