People, Stories

On Journey. Not the Band.

One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.
-Henry Miller

Some months ago, I went to the Women’s March in Washington. Leading up to the march, I mentioned on facebook that our house was open to any out-of-town marchers that needed a place to stay. Friends messaged me in private and I thought, this must be how Ingrid Bergman felt.

One of the friends who messaged me was one I hadn’t seen in 15 years — FIFTEEN YEARS! She was going to drive down from Philly and we’d meet up and march together. To be in a sea of that many people, with someone you hadn’t seen in 15 years, was surreal. But that’s not why I’m telling you this story. The point of this story is to share a conversation she and I had on the National Mall outside a row of port-a-johns in the company of half a million people or so.

My friend Kristen is a psychologist. She’s brilliant and funny and has the worst luck when it comes to traveling. I only tell you this in case you two ever go on a road trip together. Remember to relax and just roll with it. There’s always AAA for flat tires.

Kristen and I met years ago when I was young and plucky and full of ambition. She was my supervisor and mentor. She always made you feel comfortable around her. She was open to ideas and had a way of teaching that I still admire. I really loved working with her. And I’m not just saying that in case she reads this.

Friends messaged me in private and I thought, this must be how Ingrid Bergman felt.

During our years together, we’d been through some things — there were challenging clients, difficult staff, general wack-a-doo. We were even written about in a national magazine that’s known for humorous comics. Although, the story we were in was not humorous at all.

Basically, what I’m saying is this: There’s a lot of history between us that even our years apart can’t erase.

If you watched the march on TV, you probably saw there were lots of people at it. However, being in a sea of over 500,000 people brought the reality of it into extreme focus. It was overwhelming. Which is how we found ourselves talking about life in one of the only open spaces in all of D.C. that day — the lawn in front of the portable toilets.

Kristen and I caught up with each other and reminisced about the past. We finally confided in each other that our old boss made us cry, possibly more than once.

Then I told her a story about a crappy situation I recently found myself in and wondered what I’d done to deserve it. She laughed and said, “You always think it’s something you’ve done.” I replied, playfully aghast, “Well, yeah, because that’s how we narcissists roll.” That’s the type of jokes you tell when you’re psychology nerds.

But she had hit on something.

The crappy situation I found myself in didn’t really have to do with me. It wasn’t brought about by something I’d done or didn’t do. I could see it in a new way.

She laughed and said, “You always think it’s something you’ve done.” I replied, playfully aghast, “Well, yeah, because that’s how we narcissists roll.”

When I was younger I held onto things. I’d keep them in piles in my room — books I’d never read but couldn’t part with, dirty glasses I didn’t take downstairs, clothes that didn’t fit right. I also held onto hurt. For years, I could have told you the names of anyone who’d wronged me. What I’m saying is, Arya Stark stole that whole list thing from me.

Maybe it’s growing up without a lot of money in a highly materialistic world, but I simply couldn’t let things go. Things were precious. And that’s fine until it isn’t. Like when holding onto things becomes holding onto thoughts and feelings that no longer serve you. Or when your grasp on what you’re holding is so tight that you forget to open your hand to anything new or good that might come your way. Or when you’re afraid of the good. Or when you think you don’t deserve it.

While I hold onto the romantic idea that life is a journey, I sometimes forget that part of the journey is also letting go.

The lesson here is that you have to say goodbye to things. And that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s exactly what we need.

The other lesson here? Standing outside a few dozen portable toilets is as fine a place as any to find oneself.

ps. Thanks to Pars Caeli for the intro quote inspiration, which, pretty much inspired this whole post. She always shares the best ones.