78 days driving
I am writing this post from a balcony surrounded by the trees of the San Bernardino National Forest. Since June 8th, we have been to Marfa TX, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Lincoln National Forest, White Sands NM, Roswell NM, Santa Fe NM, Colorado Springs, Boulder CO, Rocky Mountain National Park CO, Arches National Park UT, Grand Canyon National Park AZ, Zion National Park UT, Las Vegas, King's Canyon National Park CA, Sequoia National Park CA, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe CA, Lassen Volcanic National Park CA, Redwood National and State Parks (twice!) CA, Crater Lake National Park OR, Willamette National Forest, Portland OR, Mt. Rainier National Park WA, Olympic National Park WA, Seattle, White Rock (British Columbia - Jonny's hometown!), Mt. Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park (The Canada One), Yoho National Park, Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, Canmore (Alberta), Olympia WA, Siuslaw National Forest OR, Humbug Mountain State Park OR, Mill Beach OR, Jedediah Smith State Park CA, Salt Point State Park, Carmel, San Francisco, Big Sur CA, and Big Bear Lake.
We traveled from Texas to Canada and back to California in 78 days. We slept outside for 60 nights. I'm trying to think of what to write to articulate how I feel. It did something to me, to my brain, to the way I think, to my personality. My core is changed, the way I see the world is different, the way I think about the meaning of my life is new and interesting. All I can do is smile and cry.
When we left Austin and headed to California on June 8th, I don't know what I thought was going to happen. When we left California and headed to Canada on July 8th, I was so excited to see what else was going to happen.
The time was very healing. I allowed my Self to feel a lot of pain that I hadn't had room to explore. We would be on these long drives, and I would just start crying and talking about a ten-year-old loss I'd never cried about. Every morning I woke up early and sat outside to write in my journal. I wrote over 200 pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts.
There was so much space. Space for anger and fear and guilt and sadness to exist and then plenty more space for feelings of happiness and gratitude and connectedness at the same time. I would sit in silence, staring at the trees, allowing myself to feel. Sometimes I was full of rage, feeling anger I'd never given myself permission to feel. From that came gratitude for these trees that kept me feeling safe to feel all the rage I was feeling. All I could do was continue to sit there and look at the trees or write in my journal. Always with the intention to arrive at compassion. Sometimes it took me five minutes to feel through the anger, sometimes it took me five days. That process will continue for as long as I am a judgemental and resentful asshole (I'm also amazing and very kind, but come on). It doesn't matter, there is enough time. There is always enough time.
texas to california
The trip from Texas to California felt like a lot of healing around feelings of loss and abandonment. Right before we left, OG died. That heartbreak brought to the surface every heartbreak I've ever felt of any kind. After his funeral, I didn't have to hit the ground running again. I got in a car and I drove and camped for a total of almost eighty days. So, every loss came up. Lost relationships, lives, opportunities, connections, even material things.
I practiced radical acceptance on new levels. "Yes, this is true, this happened. I'm not cool with it and that doesn't change this reality." We saw a lot of interesting geography and we got curious about that. We asked questions and we read everything at every visitor center so that we could understand the land and its history. It was really cool to touch the Double Arch and understand how it got there, and what a beautiful accident all of that is.
california to canada
California to Canada was all about my Self. I worked on my "cringe reel." You know when you're walking to the kitchen to get an orange and you suddenly remember something really weird or embarrassing you did in front of someone fifteen years ago? And you start wondering what that other person thinks and if they remember it or if they told that other person and what those people must think of you now when they see you in their social media feed. That something is on your cringe reel.
I have a lot of stuff on my cringe reel. I approve of myself. I started re-reading Lousie Hay's book, You Can Heal Your Life, and I put myself to work on it. When that cringe reel starts going, I say aloud "I approve of myself." And then my brain is like, "Okay, you approve of yourself? Get real, you suck." And in return, I say, "I choose to approve of myself." This is all Lousie Hay. She taught me about the power of my thoughts and you just have to read the book twice to get what I mean.
My brain is changing. I repeat, "I approve of myself" hundreds of times a day and my brain is changing. Here's another thing I say (it's on page 88 of her book) and I want you to read this out loud if you can and see how you feel:
I am willing to let go. I release. I let go. I release all tension. I release all fear. I release all anger. I release all sadness. I release all guilt. I let go of all old limitations. I let go, and I am at peace. I am at peace with myself. I am at peace with the process of life. I am safe.
In Portland, I got to meet with my publishers and talk about the format of my book. I want you all to enjoy it, I want it to introduce practices that are easy to understand and easy to apply. I want you to sit and read it while you're having a cup of coffee. I want you to feel like someone nice is talking to you, and I don't want to spend the entire book talking about myself. This book is about you. You'll get to read it in December of 2019, and it's different than you might expect. It's going to be fucking awesome and I can't wait for you to read it. I'm so grateful I'll get to give this book to you from the perspective I have gained from this adventure. I am overflowing with inspiration. I cannot wait to share this piece of my truth with you.
Getting to Canada was a huge milestone of the trip. It was the furthest north we would go and I had never been to Canada. We spent two weeks camping there, and it was amazing. The sky was beautiful, the lakes were the most vibrant lakes I'd ever seen, and we'd just been to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon (super vibrant lake). We got to Banff and explored for nearly a week. It was clear and beautiful and amazing.
I have scoliosis (the top of my back curves to the left at a 13-degree angle), and I started feeling a lot of pain when we started to head home from Canda. I think I knew I'd be getting back to my treatment and that idea brought awareness to the discomfort my back gives me. I don't have a doctor in California yet, and it may be a few weeks before I can get back to work on my back. I'm not one to pop ibuprofen consistently, and I needed to do something about the pain. So, I've been trying imaging (visualization). Basically, one million times a day I graphically visualize my back straightening and the pain dissipating. When I lay down, I put selenite (a great stone for scoliosis) on my back and I give a more focused effort to this practice. It eases the pain in the moment and I fall asleep without issue, so I'll take it.
The willingness to change my thought patterns has helped so much. I have been reading these books about how our thoughts create our reality, and though I have agreed for many years, I have not been all-in on that idea. I've always had some reservations, and I still do. I love the quote "the universe always conspires for your highest good," though I've never bought into it with my whole heart. The universe is also random and meaningless, so, how can I trust it completely? What is there to trust?
I decided to just try it. I'm just going to give it my all and see what happens. Making a decision to think positively isn't going to fuck up my life. Today I choose to believe that the universe loves me. My practice involves positive affirmations and visualizations all day long. When I start to get nervous about the future, I focus on three things I love about the present moment. If I feel uncomfortable in my body, I say "I feel comfortable and confident in my body."
I am thinking positively and changing the words strung together in my brain that make thoughts (thoughts that only have power if I choose to give them power). If thinking positively doesn't heal my back, it feels better than thinking about how much my back hurts.
on the way home to california
The way home to California was all about allowing the power of our adventure to sink in. There's still a lot to process. I'm the same person and I'm a totally different person. I'm more myself and I've become more of something else, too. More observant, patient, appreciative. Around every corner, we contemplated beauty. We talked about beauty all the time and we saw all forms of it. The Desert in the southwest, the giant trees in California, huge mountains in the pacific northwest, long stretches of a quiet fullness as we passed through abandoned towns, and we saw each other's beauty in new ways. Something crazy happens when you talk about beauty for hours on end every day for almost eighty days.
We began to feel intense gratitude and excitement as we got closer and closer to our new home. In mid-September, we'll be settling into our place in Big Bear Lake, California.
I was afraid we weren't going to find a place to live, so I repeated "I love my new home," a bunch of times during our drive home. There were two houses available for rent in the area where we want to live, and we didn't like either of them. We told our realtor that we didn't like those places, and they were pretty taken aback, assuring us that houses don't pop up too frequently. 24-hours later, we'd found the perfect house to rent and we got approved for it. I'm not saying we found our dream home solely because I kept saying that we'd already found it. However, my attitude about it all was totally different. It's the reason we waited, I decided to put this practice to the test and trust that the right home would become available.
When I say, "I approve of myself," most of the time I'm in a place where I don't approve of myself. I have all these thoughts about the mistakes I've made, I play through my cringe reel, my thoughts manifest as self-doubt and disapproval. "I choose to approve of myself," I say, as I relax my shoulders and make a decision about what thoughts I'm going to think. My mind is my tool, it doesn't control me, I get to choose. When I say "I approve of myself," my behavior changes. I get closer to my values and I act according to them in new ways. More approval comes.
I'm 27 and I don't think of myself as a kid anymore. I acknowledge my youth and I try to be aware of the fact that there are concepts I can't understand yet. I am upping my inner-child work big time and I'll write more about that later. There are things I get upset about that I can understand as things that my inner-five-year-old really wants, even if intellectually I understand that I don't need them. That five-year-old doesn't understand that, so I go swing on a swing set or ask for a hug or read one of my favorite children's books. It makes me feel better and it changes my behavior.
What I have come to believe is that our spiritual beliefs work if we believe in them. If I give you amethyst but you see it as a meaningless rock, I don't think it will do much for you. If you believe that this crystal will bring you peace, healing, recovery, it will. I pull tarot cards in the morning to see what I could contemplate throughout the day. It helps me think about new things and see my future differently. It helps me take responsibility for my life and it helps me be honest with myself. That's where I am right now.
There are thoughts that work for me that won't work for you. That doesn't mean you're wrong and it doesn't mean I'm wrong. Whatever brings you comfort and makes you feel good is what will help you on a personal spiritual level.
I am curious about what the future holds and when I imagine the worst case scenario, I decide to think of something beautiful.