Commuting from Seattle to the Bay Area last Tuesday was a fresh experience for me. The first reason for this was that after 3 years of working in the Bay and living in Washington, I have finally figured out how to have enough of everything (the right things) in all my dwelling places – the boat, mom’s house in Napa, and our apartment in Seattle – that for the first time ever, I went with only a backpack. I haven’t done that in years, not unless I was going somewhere for a weekend trip and even then I can’t remember the last time I did it. I don’t mean check the bag and board the plane with the backpack – I’ve done that a hundred times. I mean I left the house with only a backpack, and I didn’t feel like myself. But… in a good way; a very good way. I texted Jake about this feeling of lightness I had (as I perused all the adorable crap at the Fireworks store across from my departure gate) and he said “go light go fast!” Jake sees me.
There were other reasons for the lightness, though. In May I started going to therapy for the first time in my life because there were things going on for me that I realized I could no longer process alone, and it has been a game-changer. Once you open that box, it seems all these therapy buzz phrases start flying at you and you start to understand that there are actual names for all these fucked up things you’ve been doing and feeling, as well as for the behavior I’ve seen in others: complex trauma, narcissism, trauma bonds, codependency, enmeshment, scarcity. New ideas pop up: self-healing, boundaries, reparenting. Forgiveness. Gratitude. For the first time in my life I’ve been able to take control and consciously reject the re-entry of what I now recognize as a trauma bond into my life. I can see that I’ve spent a lifetime addicted to the emotional hit of pain and shame and inadequacy, and have unconsciously sought out behaviors and people who kept me in a holding pattern of sadness, because that was an emotion that ruled my life throughout my childhood. The message that you’re not good enough, that you deserve to feel shitty and small, that you don’t have the power to create your life in a way that makes you happy but rather that you’re obligated to please people; that message embeds itself deep in your core. You become conditioned to seek external validation at the expense of inner peace – you betray yourself. Self-betrayal doesn’t feel good but if it feeds into the pattern of sadness in which you feel comfortable, you’ll keep doing it until you heal the shit from the past that has you so attached to feeling this way.
Self-care has become paramount. My work needs my whole self, and that includes working on the tugs as well as the company I’ve started, which will need all my focus to secure funding in the next few months and years so it doesn’t all fall through. Fear has held me back there, too. Mainly fear of failure, or as Emily McDowell has put it in a recent post, a fear of the pain of shame, which I know too well. We all know this fear too well.
My adorable friend Aurora and I were having a conversation about this the other day and she pointed out to me that Emily McDowell also sells a greeting card that says “it’s okay to cry in savasana” which made me laugh out loud, because I pretty much cry at the end of every yoga session. Side note: I’ve recently fallen in love with yoga and I know I need to do it more because it heals my body (and doesn’t impact my tired old back) while also giving me a solid hour within each session to dive into unapologetic gratitude and self-compassion, which is why I inevitably cry in savasana… feeling and welcoming an emotion like happiness or gratitude feels very uncomfortable for someone who has been conditioned to feel shame their entire life.
So all this being said (you might be thinking wtf Liz, this is a place where you’re supposed to talk about working on tugboats, not spouting psychobabble, but this is where we are now) some of the people I’ve been following whose words I’m loving these days are:
Emily McDowell, Brené Brown, Byron Katie, Angel Collinson, Cleo Wade, Melissa Urban, and Nicole LePera. That only scrapes the surface but these women have taught me universes beyond what I knew even six months ago. Once I dipped a toe into the waters of recovery, I was plunged into a new version of myself very quickly which was uncomfortable but life-changing. I didn’t think I could grow or learn or change any more than I already had… I thought I had pretty much figured myself out, but I was wrong, and I’m glad.
One last thing: I wish I could go light and go FAST but when I really looked at the clock, I left home in Seattle at 0930 and arrived home in Napa at 1630 and was so frustrated to admit that it takes 7 fucking hours to get from door to door! We always say “oh it’s quick, it’s a 2-hour flight”… well that’s 2 hours in the air, yes, but there’s multiple hours being spent before and after that time in the air just getting to and from the plane and I wish so hard that it wasn’t so. I’m probably going to make it even harder by abandoning my Sacramento airport departures in favor of SFO, which is cheaper and has more frequent flights (Oakland is worst of all these days for price and frequency), and I recently realized I can actually take public transportation all the way round. It wasn’t like that a few years ago, but now the bus line leaves the transit station in Napa just a 15-minute walk from mom’s, takes me to El Cerrito Del Norte BART station for 5 dollars, and from there it’s another $10 plus change to get to the airport (all on a single Clipper card, FINALLY). In Seattle, the light rail is our go-to and I’m getting much better at using buses for everything since my own car is reserved in California for work travel. I’m going to try this bus-to train-to plane situation in the Bay Area to save money and to save my sanity from the hour-plus drive I’ve been making to and from Sacramento airport for the last year. We’ve decided to buy a house in Seattle too, so the money-saving tactic is a big one.
Oh shoot, one more thing (if you’ve stayed this long, bless you, this post has become mostly for me at this point) – I’m slowly falling in love with Seattle again. I spent so long hating it, hating the weather especially, because I wanted Jake to move to California with me and hating Seattle seemed like the logical thing to do. But countless wildfires and just as many man-made fires in California and some unreal fucked up traffic in the Bay Area in recent months are making me realize that living here probably wouldn’t be allll that, even though I love it here.
Lately I’ve been waking up in Eastlake and marveling gently at the glow of the autumn light against the changing leaves outside as it settles on our window blinds, and finding the sweetest comfort and pleasure in the smaller things: the light, the smell, the cool fog, our cat, our loving friends who came and enjoyed delicious food and drinks with us on our birthdays last month, and the overwhelming comfort of knowing that I’m loved for who I am in the home we’ve created together.