“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. Your heart is that large. Trust it. Keep breathing.” ~Joanna Macy
Just as my body has finally adjusted to the lengthening days and summer fruits, it is time for me to board a plane and fly back across the world. The question that always arrives at endings swirls through my mind: where did the time go? For the days themselves passed perfectly, not too slow or fast, and yet here I am wondering how 2 1/2 months can be over so quickly. A week or two ago I thought, “okay, I am ready to be home,” and I filled with excitement at the vision of falling snow and a white Christmas. But despite the readiness I had then, I feel a steadiness in where I am now. Even though Christmas music plays in all the stores and resorts, the idea of a winter wonderland seems millions of miles away from the 80 degree temperature and warm aquamarine waters of Fiji.
I am preparing for reverse culture-shock. Never before have I returned home uncertain of my next move. Where will I work? Where will I live? But these questions are small compared to the ones I started this trip with: how do I move through loss? How do I let go?
These answers don’t come quickly or easily, for the only way to find them is to live through each moment whether it bring sadness, distance, heaviness, aloneness, numbness, or anger. Ignoring the waves of emotion that come with letting go only drowns one further in pain. Bobbing along in the storm, however, has led me to discover caves I never knew, to enter them and find solace in their hollowed spaces, and to exit them to light my eyes upon the shifting colors of sunrises.
Thinking back to the middle of October, I see myself on the train to Christchurch. I was listening to a playlist, dozing off and on as the wheels churned south along New Zealand’s east coast. I woke up in the middle of a song to hear Ingrid Michaelson sing the lyrics “I am blind. I cannot find the heart I gave to you,” and tears welled up in my eyes. I turned my face to the window and wrote a note to Matt that I never sent:
Sometimes I can’t help but think I was supposed to do this trip with you. And it catches me off guard. I will be fine, smiling, happy, and then your memory enters me and I feel your arms, I see your eyes look at me with so much love. And then it’s gone again and I wonder, How? When?
I find myself crying on a train. Where are you? When it starts to get hard, I tell myself: I left him. But that’s not completely true. We left each other.
I put my pen down then and let myself be lost until we arrived at the station.
This trip has been as much about finding myself again as it has been about letting go. It is so easy to give up, gain jealousy, and blame another for everything that led to the break. It is much harder to step back and see one’s own mistakes, and harder still to claim them, but that is what I had to do. Now here I am. I am broken open and I fly in the space I fell into. Of course there are moments when the wind drops and my wings falter, but no longer am I pulled constantly down by a weight inside of me. With the help of Erin and time, I see myself as love again, feel my body shake with laughter instead of tears, and grow anew in the space that expands inside of me.
How much effect does a place have on one’s growth? Can I return to Vermont and remain detached from all I have shed on my journey? The answers will come with the moment…