Ten years ago, a health issue led to some questions, that led to some answers, that then led to the destruction of my imagined life and its imagined stability. And that led to what felt like my brain melting and my soul howling out into the void.
If my life were a melatonin induced freaky dream, it would have found me climbing the rope in the gym back in grade school, slapping my hand on the rafter to signal my arrival and then looking down to see someone had lit the rope on fire and it was fast approaching the soles of my Keds.
I have always listened to the Universe as it has guided me on my way. It hasn’t been an easy sprint from point A to point B. In fact, it took me a few decades to figure out that my spiritual guides might be slightly sadistic bastards that thought leading me on wild goose chases was highly entertaining. Case in point: at age 27 I was guided to pack my life in the desert and follow love to a northern city only to be met with a full stop, u-turn and a “Just kidding! Hang in there for seven months in this new location and your work will take you to your next stop which we aren’t going to tell you about until you’re seriously questioning all your life choices! It’ll be great! Trust us!” See? Sadistic.
I sat still. Miserably. Heartbroken. But then the next stop did put me on a path that held a pretty clear route for three more decades. Until the brain melting happened.
So, there I was ten years ago, at my kitchen table in East Lansing; charred bits of my old life flaking off me; writing like a mad woman on the wall I had painted into a giant chalkboard for big ideas. It was handy for menu planning, thought processing, doodling and list making. It’s too easy to lose the post-it notes or the 37th spiral notebook you write the big ideas in, but you’d have to be Criss Angel to lose a wall. So there you go.
New Life Goals!
Uh… Happiness? Nah. Too vague. Success? At what? And really, isn’t “success” the achievement of a singular goal? Then you set up a new hurdle to jump. Screw that. This brain exfoliation went on for a while.
Until I ran into a thought that stopped the brain leakage. “What the hell do I actually want now?” Staring at the doodles, finally, some strong words shouldered their way to the front of my burned brain.
The first word was COMMUNITY.
I wanted a real community of friends and neighbors who I could interact with, create with, commiserate with on whatever shenanigans we would get up to. I had lived in that house in that college town for two decades and for reasons that no longer matter, I had only connected with a handful of people. Those were lonely years. And I was done with that.
The second strong word was MOVE. Five years prior, I had set a deadline for a decision to be made for the years ahead and if the spouse hadn’t come up with a viable plan to relocate somewhere that I had a say in selecting, then I was going to make the choice and he could come along or not. Afterall, I had uprooted my life three times at this point, each time moving for his work that took me farther and farther away from a location where any of my eclectic skill sets were viable career choices.
Ten years ago, it was clear that I needed to get out a metaphorical machete and start clearing a path to where I was supposed to be. It was a true winter of the soul where I had retreated, hibernating and trying to keep the delicate seeds of dreams alive while I let my listening stretch out again to those sadistic guide bastards to hear where I needed to move next.
NORTH. That was the word. I don’t think there are any coincidences because I know how those sneaky bastards work, but I had two simultaneous invitations to go north for visits from two women I’d known for years who both lived at the tops of two Michigan Peninsulas; one in the Keweenaw and the other in the Leelanau. They did not know each other so three guesses who set this up.
Why the hell not? I packed my car and hit the road to Copper Harbor. I had a great visit with my friend and the miles on the road alone helped air out my head. The morning of my departure from her house, I sat alone on the dock with my coffee and threw out to the Universe a request for a sign to let me know if our communication line was open so I could pick up the next bread crumb they tossed on my path. I did not see a bird fly over, but as I raised my cup towards my mouth, a feather dropped right into it with a satisfying plunk. Hilarious. Message received. As Ellie in the book Contact frantically reported to the control room team, “we are good to go!”.
Next stop Northport. I had some very interesting days in this tiny town and I met a lot of people and already had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last time I visited. Sitting at the donut shop before hitting the road, my friend asked what I saw myself doing next, and I said I wanted to create gatherings where people can celebrate and learn and interact with their community. She pointed across the street and said that building was for sale. We walked over and got a tour from the owners who were outside tending plants. The very second I stepped into the ballroom, everything that was twisted and broken in my soul straightened out and said “THIS”. THIS is my future.
It still took another three years to bring together all the wiggly bits and pieces to finally take over this building and another seven years to become one with this beautiful business in a lovely town with a real community of friends and neighbors, but it happened. Ten long freaking years.
So, the moral of this story is that when your life explodes and your brain melts, it’s a really good time to reopen your communication channels with Sadistic Bastards Are Us. I mean your spiritual guides. Let them lead you on a merry chase as they move you closer to your own next step. The golden part is just over that hill with the steep incline, razor wire, fire ants and random lightning strikes. Come on! It’ll be fun! And ten years from now you’ll look back and laugh.
A word from the Patron Saint of Sadistic Bastards-
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward” Soren Kierkegaard
Can I just say that the Toon Me App is ridiculously fun? The self portrait image at the top of the article is from 2012, taken in my kitchen in East Lansing, next to my chalkboard wall. The other images are from Toon Me’s portal access to the Faerie Realm.