Between October 2015 and October 2016, my family and I made four major moves to New Mexico, Georgia, New York, and finally Colorado. I detail the story of our moves in my monthly column for Align Body & Soul magazine. You can click to read that story if you’d like to know the backstory to the story I am going to tell you today.
Moving Was Always the Answer
Two years later, we are still living in Colorado. Hallelujah to that! And I have gained some perspective over the past two years’ time.
Each time we moved, I thought I knew why we were moving. We had our reasons, and we always made them make sense. But now I see that every time we moved, we were running away from something. We were trying to fix something.
Each time we thought we had it all figured out. Isn’t that the way it always goes? We always think we know. So of course we thought that moving would solve all our problems. A fresh start. A new beginning. An old tribe. Family support. Whatever it was that was waiting for us at the end of that long road would be the answer.
A year after our last move, I realized that moving to Colorado hadn’t “solved” anything at all. It was a new place, and for awhile novelty is distracting enough to make one feel that all is well in the world. But it is an illusion. The truth usually hurts, and this time was no different. I had to admit that the place wasn’t the problem, or the solution. It wasn’t the place, and it had never been the place, and it was never going to be the place. It was us.
We were the ones who needed to change, not the environment around us. We were the ones who weren’t working, not the location we happened to be not working in. When we moved, our problems moved right along with us.
It’s kind of like divorcing and re-marrying a new spouse with the same martial conflicts. Or refusing to work out our shit in the lifetime in which we’re supposed to suck it up and face it and then being reborn into the same shit. We end up reliving all the pain over and over again until we learn what we are supposed to learn from it. Unresolved disturbances in the Force will follow us all the way to the ends of the Universe – even if we go all the way there.
The Universe is Calling and I Must Go
Colorado might have been the place we ended up, and it very well might have been the place we were meant to be all along, but now I see that it wasn’t the mountains that called us, it was the universe.
Whenever I think about back then, and how I would have followed my heart to the ends of the earth if it said I must go, I am reminded of a scene from my favorite movie of all time, Chocolat. You can watch Chocolat for free right now on your Netflix account.
I could seriously watch this movie eight times per year and still cry after Armande’s birthday party, laugh when Josephine says “Who says I can’t use a skillet?” and drool over every scene with Johnny Depp as the infamous riverboat captain. But nothing touches me deeper than the scene where Vianne releases her mother’s ashes and tells the North Wind no. “No,” she is saying, “I will not go.”
In a twist of magic realism, the story that is the backbone of Chocolat is that Vianne and her mother, now Vianne and her daughter, and every female in her bloodline, are destined to travel the world dispensing almost magical cacao remedies to communities in need. Whenever their work was done in one little village, the North Wind let them know it was time to move on to the next.
But this time Vianne had forged deep friendships. She was not ready to go. She did not want to leave. Her destiny read otherwise, but she used her personal power to undo whatever magic hold it had upon her and her descendants.
Storyteller: “But still the clever north wind was not satisfied. It spoke to Vianne of towns yet to be visited, friends in need yet to be discovered, battles yet to be fought… [Vianne throws her mother’s ashes to the wind] By someone else, next time.”
Just like Vianne, after years of traveling because the Universe said so, I have learned how to say no. Of course, the notion that the Universe might sometimes be wrong threw my faith under the microscope and made me question if I even believed in anything anymore. That was a stumbling block it took me longer than I like to admit to get over.
But I have gotten there eventually. There is a fine gray line between free will and fate that I like to hang out in. I don’t know how much I believe in either one. To me fate vs. free will is kind of like nature vs. nurture. They both make total sense, if you believe in them. So, like a husband and wife, can’t both be right? Suddenly things look totally different in a different light.
Surrender vs. Letting Go
There is a whole chasm of nuanced meaning between surrender and letting go. On the one hand, we can choose to surrender – to go calmly in the direction that our heart/the Universe/God (I am non-partisan, these things are all the same to me) is telling us to go. On the other hand we can let go of that calling and make a different choice. Only time will know what is the right choice for us. And really, both are right. No choice is wrong when we don’t know where its yellow brick road will end.
When Vianne moved to the small village, she surrendered. When she stayed, she let go of her obligation to go elsewhere. Deep down, she knew that just because it felt right to go, it could also feel right to stay.
What stays with me is that Vianne didn’t stay in Andalusia or Vienna or Pavia or any of the places she lived before the village. She stayed in the village. She had found home.
It has taken me years to understand this, and I could sit here and regret all our moves and wish I had never made them, but nothing else on earth would imitate the lessons they taught. If we hadn’t gone through it all, we never would have understood this: new beginnings will never set you free. Wherever you are, you can choose to be.
We Are Powerful
And you can choose to be whatever you want. You can choose misery, or you can choose joy.
I love how in For King and Country’s music video, “Joy,” blue fire comes out of their microphones and highlights the videotape they use to share their message with the world. It speaks to the power of our words, the power of our intentions, and the power of our choices. It speaks of our power to be happy despite our environment, our circumstances, and all the bad we are surrounded by in our world.
“McKenna was right. ‘The world is made of words and if you know the words the world is made of, you can make of it whatever you wish.’ So take responsibility for this metaphysical tool. Employ language with discernment and intention and agency and become an author of reality.” – Jason Silva
Much of this power comes from gratitude. Gratitude empowers our words with positivity; through gratitude our words are positively charged.
Gratitude might be a millennial buzzword, but it is ancient. It has been around since the beginning of consciousness, and we simply cannot take it for granted! There are plenty of techniques out there for cultivating gratitude in one’s life, ranging from daily gratitude practices like keeping a gratitude journal to writing gratitude letters and making gratitude calls. There is always room to take a deep breath and be thankful.
Once you begin to focus on gratitude, you might find the results surprising. Gratitude does so much more than make us happy, it can also repair relationships, save marriages, and fix the broken that makes us want to move to run away again. It’s kind of like a masked superhero – a powerful force with a private identity that makes us realize that he could be any one of us.
And he is. We are all gratitude superheroes, underneath our costumes of complaint.
The first step to breaking free from the cycle of unhappiness that can haunt us in any place on earth is to realize it’s there in the first place. Awareness is always half the battle. But the good news is that once you get there, you’re already halfway. Now that’s seeing the glass half full!
“Man is born free, But everywhere he is in chains.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau
For over a decade now, I’ve wanted to get this quote tattooed around my ankles. It’s going to be in script that looks like shackles. It means so much to me because I feel it gets to the heart of everything it is to be human.
We all have chains. But they are not necessarily to be despised. My family is a chain I love particularly well. Without our chains, we would be without purpose. We need our chains to ground us, and to make life worth living.
Problems can deceive us and look very much like they are chained to a particular place where we experience them. But the reality is that the chains aren’t tying us down, they’re tied to us – no matter where we go to try to escape them.
That’s why I’ve decided to love my chains just where they are. Life can be good if I can learn to see the good in it.
Have you ever moved to “run away” from problems? Did it help?