In my last post I wrote to you about the big decision my husband and I have made to move to Vienna this summer. We are going for a year and then will decide whether to stay there longer, perhaps move to Ireland, perhaps come back to the States. We are truly entering this as a time of listening and discovery.
We are in the midst of many preparations for that journey. There is much letting go that needs to happen. We are selling our home in Seattle and so have been working hard to release everything we don’t absolutely need in the next three months so we can paint our condo and put it on the market. It has been a revealing process as I sort through endless piles of books, clothes, and other accumulated items. We live in a small space but I am amazed at what has gathered here, what I have been holding onto. In many ways, it feels very freeing, this sending out of things into the world and no longer being burdened with their care. It feels very much a part of my monk path. Other times I feel the anxiety rise of whether I will need this particular book sometime soon or where to store family treasures. There is grief as I contemplate walking away from this home we have made.
Most difficult of all is our sweet and deeply loved dog Winter. We have been struggling to find ways to bring her over with us, but major airlines won’t fly pit bulls in their cargo and Vienna has breed restrictions. And even if we could find the right way to ship her over, the thought of her in a cargo hold alone for so many hours feels very risky. This has been a heart-breaking consideration to think about not having her come with us. Then we found out there is a strong possibility that she will be able to live at a place she loves, with people we trust and other dogs she can play with, and lots of room to romp. When I hold the struggle and risk alongside this other possibility, my heart expands when I imagine this place for her. She is absolutely our first priority in this whole journey. I feel such deep sadness, I have always adored our dogs and could never have imagined giving one away. And yet, here I am, being called into something unknown, called to release everything in service to it. And it is painful. Responding to a call demands sacrifice.
Eventually we will let go of everything we own except for two suitcases and a small storage unit for an antique desk that has been in my family for two hundred years and several boxes of family photos. On our previous pilgrimages — the longest one being five weeks away at one time — we discovered the joy of traveling lightly and being discerning about what it is we really need. We are bringing this spirit of curiosity and exploration to our journey ahead.
One of the biggest joys right now is letting other people know about our plans and watching their faces beam. We closed out an account the other day we weren’t using and the bank teller asked why. When we explained we were moving to Vienna, he asked, “for a job?” “No,” we replied, “for an adventure.” He began to gush on for several minutes about how wonderful he thought that was and how much he wants to travel more. We have had many versions of this same exchange, each time this light shines behind peoples’ eyes, and I am seeing in a concrete way how following a dream ripples out to others offering courage, permission, and possibility. I have no doubt that a seed has been planted for some of the people we have encountered.
As I wrote before, there are so many strands of my life that have led up to this decision. One of the most significant was traveling to Vienna at Christmas 2011 and ending up in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism. That radical confrontation with my own mortality has changed me. I thought I savored life before, but now I see just how absolutely precious each moment is. And how there is no more excuse for delaying a dream. I want to go back to that place I love, where I almost died, and gaze wide-eyed at my fear, and behold the endless beauty to be found there. I long to encounter the multitude of ancestral stories that city holds.
When we press against life’s edges, we discover that so much of what we carry in the world is not necessary. This includes things, but also stories we tell about ourselves and how the world works, and expectations we hold. As I sell and give away most of my possessions I am taking seriously the invitation to loosen my grip on other kinds of excess baggage as well. I am doing my best to let go of the belief that this kind of dream isn’t practical or wise. My husband is letting go of a good job in a terrible economy. We have both had to deal with the demon of anxiety around this one. The danger of the times we live in is that fear takes hold of us so easily. We are given so many reasons to be worried about the future. As the storyteller Michael Meade once said, “a false sense of security is the only kind there is.” When we make choices purely out of holding onto an idea of how things should be, we are often disappointed. The wisdom of calling does not follow the logic of the world.
What keeps you from the great adventure life is calling you to? What are the logical or practical explanations that get in your way? What needs to be released to travel more lightly?