Finding Home (Part Four)

Astoria(Home: Astoria, Oregon)

It hasn’t been uncommon throughout my life for me to doubt myself. My insides will be screaming with wants and needs, pulling on the shirttails of my heart. Yet I ignore the inner pangs and internal beggings wanting me to listen. Listen to what I really want, to what my soul wants, and to listen to my own destiny. For so long, I stuffed down those longings like cramming clothes in a dirty hamper. And old habits tend to cling; they burrow their claws deep, grasping to keep hold.

Even after procuring my apartment in Oregon, I still knew I could withdraw my offer and not move. I don’t think I really thought of that as an option, but I also couldn’t believe I was going to pack up my life, leave my boyfriend, and drive almost 1,400 miles to Oregon with just me, my dog, my Subaru and a small U-Haul in tow. I now had two weeks to follow through on one of the biggest decisions of my life.

I had decided not to tell my boyfriend of my plans. He later would call me a coward, but at the time I saw it more as protection. A person can only share so much of herself, and not be received, understood or loved, before she closes off. I was officially closed like a door tucked tightly in its frame. I didn’t want to have any more discussions. I didn’t want to share my plans, my dreams, or the next stage of my life. I felt like a mother protecting her young.

I secured a U-Haul for 10 am on October 19th. I spent the next two weeks going through “our” stuff, “my” stuff, just accumulations of stuff. I decided to leave almost everything behind. Most things felt tainted or infected. So I took time to organize those items I did want. I met with the two friends I had made while living in Colorado, one was a previous student and one was a fellow teacher, and I told them of my plans and said my good-byes.

The doubts that had been lingering like storm clouds continued to drift away. My boyfriend had progressively grown reticent. He continued to lie and hide truths from me. He continued to spend his time wrapped in his own personal world. Even if I didn’t have every inch of my body and soul telling me Oregon was where I needed to be on my own, our relationship had run its course regardless. So I kept my focus on what I knew was right for me.

October 19th arrived, and my boyfriend left for work. It was strange saying good-bye to someone I had spent almost two years with knowing I would never see him again. But I was saying good-bye to my whole past, to an outdated way of being. I had found the perfect spot in Astoria, Oregon surrounded by forests, trails, rivers, the Pacific Ocean, artists, community, and a sense of belonging. It was the place I needed to develop my relationship with self.

As soon as my boyfriend left, I went to pick up my 4×8 U-Haul trailer.  I arrived back home and nervously loaded my Subaru. The passenger seat was flooded with my loose clothes on hangers. The backseat was set up for the dog: a pillow, a blanket, and toys; I also had my peace lily plant named Baps. I was given this peace lily at my mom’s memorial service. I named her Baps after my mom’s initials (Beverly Ann Passero). Baps had moved from Tennessee to Colorado with me, and she was now about to join me on the next journey of my life. Boxes of my books and shoes filled the rest of the car. My kayak was loaded on top of my car. The U-Haul had my bike, more clothes and shoes, artwork, more boxes of books, outdoor gear, and a few memories from the past.

Before I drove away, I sat in my car. I looked in my rearview mirror as the U-Haul tagged along. My heart palpitated like rocks skipping over a lake’s surface. I felt the ripples through my body as I drove away.

I have been in Oregon for almost 4 years now. I am still in Astoria in my same purple Victorian home. I continue to gaze at the beauty of the Columbia River. The tree-lined shore of Washington State greets me every morning as I pull the shades up. As I get into my car, I gaze at my license plate and see “Oregon” on the front plate with the row of Douglas-firs. I am still filled with awe and elation to realize I am here. That license plate is a symbol of answered dreams and a followed destiny. I waited 37 years to feel at home within myself and within a place. Any concerns I may have had about never being able to feel content or whole have subsided.

The daily gratitude I feel to be where I belong has not faded but grown with time.

me hiking

Finding Home (Part Two)

gardenofthegods(Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO)

By the middle of 2011, my job had become a barred cage. A narcissistic, child-like woman was promoted and had been my boss for about a year. She led people by fear and on the waves of her ever-changing emotions. It was similar to being supervised by a 3-year-old child who needed a nap. If she was having a bad day, then she made sure her employees were having a bad day. If she was in a great mood, then she invited her employees to laugh and joke with her. At one point, we lost close to 20 employees in a month because working for this boss was like being in an abusive relationship. Employees had to walk on tip toes hoping not to step the wrong way in fear of sending the boss into a spiral of anger and abuse. At least half of the employees spent their work days looking for other jobs in hopes of escaping.

It was during this time I planned a week-long birthday vacation. I decided to go to Oregon. I stayed in Portland, and I was going to run a 4th of July half-marathon at Sauvie Island. ( I am in the process of running a half-marathon in every state, and I randomly decided Oregon should be next). When July rolled around, I needed a break from my work, from Tennessee, and the everyday monotony of my life.

While in Oregon, I went to a Blues festival and watched fireworks over the river, I went to local bars and restaurants, I ran my race at Sauvie Island, I went to the coast and played on the beach, I went on hikes and runs, and I did anything else that caught my attention like visiting the vibrant Rose Garden. The summer weather was perfect. It lacked the suffocating heat and humidity of Tennessee. The sun shined every day and the sunlight didn’t fade from the sky until after 10 p.m.

I loved how open Portland and the people were and how beautiful and natural everything was. People were allowed to be exactly who they were. I breathed in the authenticity in the air. I began to shed my own deceitful layers. I rediscovered myself in this city. I had come home to myself. It was as if I had been planted among the rose bushes and stumbled upon myself blooming.

When I went to the coast, Oregon officially had me in her grasp. I love the water, and I especially love the ocean. The closest I had ever lived to the ocean was 8 hours, but I was always drawn to go back to the ocean every year; it was one place I had to go. So to be on the coast, frolicking in frigid waves with rocky shorelines made me realize I didn’t just need to visit the ocean every year, I needed to live close to it. The waves whispered to me, and other times they were screaming, rushing faster towards the shore yelling for me to no longer ignore them and stay. Stay in this magical place. I listened intently. The language they spoke was inviting, it made sense to my confused mind, and it felt right. While I was enjoying the beach, I found my first sand dollar. It was an offering from the ocean herself. An invitation to stay and enjoy all the gifts she had to offer.

On the last day of my trip, I sat high on a hill overlooking Portland. I felt an ache inside. I didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t a typical “oh my vacation is over, and it is time to go back to reality” feeling. It was a deep pain, and I cried. I felt like I was being torn away from the one thing that ever understood me.

While it was still another 5 years before I moved to Oregon, I now had focus. I knew where I was going. I just had no idea the path I was going to be led down to get there.

Over the next 3 years, I did leave my abusive job and embarked on a new career. I lost both of my parents to cancer, and I also fell in love. When my parents passed away, there was nothing tethering me to Tennessee anymore. I had no responsibilities, I was financially secure, and all I saw was the open road. I even told the man I was dating that I was leaving Tennessee as soon as my parents’ house and my house sold. Both of the houses sold within a month of being on the market. I told the man I was with that I was getting out of Tennessee; he was welcome to come with me or stay behind, but I thought he should know because that may affect our relationship. He decided he wanted to move as well.

When the time came to discuss where it was we were moving to, there wasn’t much agreement. I automatically vetoed living in the South. He vetoed the North and the New England area. So we were left with the West. He absolutely refused Oregon. I was disappointed, but I was in love with him and I was just so happy to be getting out of Tennessee. I told him I enjoyed Utah as well, but he seemed to have his mind set on Colorado. Colorado seemed like a pretty amazing place, but I didn’t realize at the time that another “home” was being chosen for me.

Once we settled on moving to Colorado, we had to choose a city. I really was wanting to move to Boulder because I thought the vibe of the city would fit me, but I let my significant other choose Colorado Springs, and so it had been decided.

I moved out to Colorado first, a month before my boyfriend, and got everything set up and settled. I started to feel relief, and I was able to take deeper breaths. I felt the shackles Tennessee had me bound in fall away. Our apartment had views of Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. The mountains rose up towards the sky; their peaks reaching their jagged fingertips towards the sun. Nature and the outdoors were all around and so easy to access. I had whole trails to myself to run and hike on. There was a great running community and many races to run throughout the state. The weather was my favorite because there were four clear and separate seasons, and I loved being back around snow again. I found a beautiful yoga community, and I started to discover the things I really loved.

But even after being grateful for leaving Tennessee and loving the beauty of Colorado, within 6 months I felt a pang. Oregon was still calling out to me. Her voice was quiet and low, but her whisper spoke to the ears of my heart. I was committed though. I was committed to my boyfriend and to the move I decided to make to Colorado.

As months passed, I was my boyfriend’s insignificant other. He made decisions that suited his needs, we were more like roommates than loving, intimate partners, and I felt awkward and strange in my own home. I was in constant discomfort and neglect. There is nothing lonelier than being alone in a relationship. I could no longer stay where I never belonged in the first place.

Without a fulfilling relationship with my boyfriend or Colorado, I had a decision to make.