In my very first blog post in September 2010, I proclaimed that I needed change in my life. I prayed for change. I desperately needed change. On the first day of my road trip last October, realizing I had no idea how to find that change, I blubbered snotty tears all over my steering wheel as I drove up the California coast in the pouring rain. I spent 5 months driving aimlessly around the United States staring at my hand printed words “I Welcome Change” on that decade old Post-it note that I plastered to my dashboard with duck tape. I WELCOME CHANGE became my mantra, my friend, my muse. The Universe eventually listened and when it brought me change I welcomed it with open arms. Kinda. Sorta. Okay fine, I found myself pushing it away at the same time as I tried desperately to reel it in. This is because change, no matter how healthy and welcome that change may be, is always a bit painful because it takes us out of our comfort zone. I didn’t realize how emotional it would be to say goodbye to Los Angeles, my home of 15 years. Lately it really wasn’t a healthy home. In fact, during the past two years it had become a toxic home. But still, it was home and there are things that I am really going to miss. I spent my last week in LA honoring those special things that kept me in Southern California for all these years.
Beach Walks with Yoda. My apartment was only 6 blocks from the beach. Yoda and I have rarely missed a daily beach walk in the 6 ½ years since we rescued each other. I’ll miss our energizing brisk walks breathing in the salty ocean air while watching the pelicans dive for fish and, if we were lucky, a pod of dolphins gracing the surf with their synchronized swim.
My Friend Ingo. I’ve told very few people about Ingo. We’ve been friends for 9 years. He’s homeless, and with his long gray hair and beard he reminds me a bit of Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Ingo has so much pride that he’s never accepted a dime from me. The only gift he would ever accept was an annual Albertson’s Gift Card on his Halloween birthday so he could stock up on vitamins. If I caught him on a good day he’d talk my ear off with uncanny insight about the Eastern Philosophy texts I was studying in LMU’s yoga philosophy program. However on most days our conversation was limited to him giving me costume jewelry he found on the beach and then dismissing me with a silent nod of his head. His last name starts with the letter “D,” so his first name combined with the first letter of his last name spells “In God.” For this reason he takes great pride in collecting pennies – In God We Trust. The only I time I saw him truly animated was 5 years ago when he tried to set me up with a tennis instructor who had also befriended him. When I told Ingo I was moving to Texas I caught him on one of his introverted days. He didn’t seem to care. The last time I saw him he was sleeping, and it was the only time I took a picture of him. He’s private, so out of respect I took the picture of his back. I’ll miss him. There is no way to stay in touch with him and I may never see him again. This thought makes my heart split in two.
Let as much light in as you can. Los Angeles offers a Technicolor candy jar of religions and spiritual practices. I count amongst my friends Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Yogis, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists. Baptized Catholic and raised Lutheran, I was a yogi for a decade in LA and eventually found my way to sit with Brad Warner’s Zen Buddhism group (Dogen Sangha LA). Because my spiritual explorations were such an important part of my 15 years in the City of Angels, it seems fitting that I had one of the most spiritually profound experiences of my life 4 days before I moved away. I attended a workshop at Brook Still’s Creation Center in Lakewood, California. Brook is one of the healers I met on my road trip in Hot Springs, Arkansas when I was taken in for 5 weeks by the Curandera and master healer who opened doors in my spirit that I not only didn’t realize needed opening, but quite frankly didn’t even know existed. Brook’s workshop was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I walked into the crowded room and was immediately hit by an intense vertigo. I sat gripping the sides of my white folding chair and closed my eyes, and soon that vertigo was replaced by light pulsating through my body and tears streaming out of my eyes and dripping off my chin…however I wasn’t crying. My friend Lynne, who attended with me, described these non-crying tears as water coming out of her eyes. I don’t really want to describe my physical experience, because I know that all spiritual experiences are unique to each individual and no one experience is the right experience to have. However I can say that I left Brook’s workshop realizing that I’ve been addicted to suffering. Suffering comes from living in one’s head and by not living in one’s heart. We are all worthy of good things, but before they come to us we need to first open our hearts to let them in.
Santa Monica Swim Center. Swimming laps at this world class, Olympic-sized pool has gotten me through some of the most difficult years of my life. This pool, literally blocks from my house, spoiled me with its 19 lanes and beautiful views of the mountains.
Venice Beach Boardwalk . I’ve always felt at home amidst the bohemian eclectic vibe at Venice Beach, where it’s one stop shopping for my fix of incense, sage bundles and $15 foot reflexology massages.
Hike at Solstice Canyon/Lunch at Malibu Seafood. I’m a hiker, and LA offers a seemingly endless choice of picturesque trails in mountains that overlook the ocean. A favorite weekend activity is hiking dog-friendly Solstice Canyon followed by lunch at Malibu Seafood, a place where you eat your fresh seafood at picnic tables overlooking the Pacific surf.
My Friends. The most difficult part of leaving Los Angeles was leaving my friends. There is something about being a transplant in a big city that makes a select few of one’s friendships very deep and meaningful. Since many of us don’t have family living in these cities, our friends become our surrogate local families. Two days before I moved to Texas, my Houston boyfriend (whom, because I don’t want to use his name, I think I’ll from here on out refer to as “THAT Guy”) was a great sport as I dragged him to meet about 50 of my LA friends for cocktails and sunset beach views at the rooftop bar of the Erwin Hotel in Venice. To my friends, some of you who drove as long as 2 hours, thank you for seeing me off and being so welcoming to THAT Guy. I love you all …I’ll miss you…you will forever be in my heart.
And the friend thing, well, I think that is the most recent lesson of the road. Life is simply richer with the love and support of friends. During my road trip I made many new friends around the country and strengthened existing old friendships, and I did this by being authentically me. I let them know the reasons for my road trip – that I was lost and in pain. Instead of rejecting me, both the old and the new wrapped their arms around me and let me know that it would be okay. And they were right.