I remember the ride back from the airport. My parents picked me up after a three week trip to England. They funded the flight for me and hoped I’d find some relief there.
I did, but not in the way they’d hoped.
“I discovered something amazing,” I told them.
“I was still depressed while I was there!” I explained.
“Oh… I’m… Sorry to hear that,” one of them replied.
“No no. It’s a good thing! There I was, off work for three weeks… On a fully funded vacation to a place I’d always wanted to go… Eating good food and with good company. And I was still depressed, barely able to get off the sofa.”
“How is that a good thing?”
“Because I thought this place was the problem. Little Kennesaw Georgia with my little life here. I thought my job was the issue or that the people in my life were the issue. I thought my depression was conditional. Turns out, it comes with me wherever I go.”
This was a deeply freeing realization. A moment of transformation from a victim trying to run away from her problems to someone ready to take responsibility and meet them head-on.
I had stayed with person who’s a writer and healer, who also had studied psychology and depression extensively and even had been a priest who did exorcisms. I stayed in a beautiful condo overlooking a river. I had nightly bubble baths and homemade meals.
And I was depressed. I slept most the time.
This had nothing to do with the company or with the location. I saw some of the most beautiful places EVER while I was there (the pic for this post was taken there), but seeing them I felt nothing.
It’s an odd sensation, that dissonance between what I felt (or didn’t) and what I thought I ought to be feeling. As if I was floating outside myself, not fully experiencing the moment.
Prior to that trip I was certain that all I wanted to do was travel and be a writer. I lived life with this ongoing angst, like I always had a splinter I couldn’t reach. I thought that leaving this country would remove the splinter and offer relief.
The opportunity was given to me… To move to Europe and write and travel and do public speaking…
I felt zero relief.
I realized how important and giant I’d been making that dream. It was a dangling carrot. It was the, “I’LL BE HAPPY WHEN…” that always felt too big to legitimately reach.
And when I did reach it, when I did begin to travel and see the world, all my angst and depression and lack of confidence tagged along with me.
This was both deflating and freeing.
That’s when work really began for me. I slowly stopped blaming the outside world for my problems. I started wondering what it was inside me that fogged my view of life, that made everything feel heavy and murky and sticky. Which stories had I been operating off of? Could I rewrite them?
I’ve come a long way since then. I often sit with myself in silence now, enjoying my own company. I no longer want to run. I’m not even sure I enjoy travel; I think I had been romanticizing it, thinking it was what I ought to do. I really enjoy snuggling on the sofa and watching Jeopardy, reading a book and drinking tea, taking naps, walking my dog.
It’s taken a lot of work to detach from outcomes, to allow myself to be okay with whatever is happening RIGHT NOW rather than to always be waiting for some future checkpoint. I’m not perfect at it, but I can tell you this: For years I did drugs and drank booze and starved and abused myself all in an effort to detach from ME… To run. I abruptly left relationships, I fantasized about dying… All so I could escape this relationship with myself.
Once I stopped running… Once I stopped trying to numb the pain… Once I looked in the mirror and withstood that first awkward eye contact with myself as I said, “I’m not going anywhere”… Life shifted for me.
The contentment and freedom I feel within myself now is no longer contingent upon what I’ve accomplished in any given day or what project I’m finishing. My enjoyment of my company isn’t conditionally based on how I feel; even if I’m sad or annoyed or anxious, I expand to allow and feel that with the same compassion I offer excitement and joy.
I used to look at the phrase, “Wherever you go, there you are” and think, Fuck. There’s no way to escape.
Now when I think, “Wherever I go, there I am,” I think, That’s awesome, because I’m great company.