*Editor’s Note: This piece is part of a series—lucky you. Head to the author’s profile to continue reading. Or click here for Chapter 1.
It is Fall 2015.
I am familiar with the number of crystals on each chandelier in this café on the corner of Peachtree St. and 11th in Midtown Atlanta.
My feet pound and swell into pointed ballet flats as I stand at a wooden podium for the seventh hour of my eight hour shift. I answer phones and seat guests in between dusting statues of the Greek goddess Venus and straightening Waterhouse paintings. More often than not, by the end of my day, I resemble a statue of myself with the pulse of unresolved trauma and a severe lack of meaning boiling under my wrinkled black dress.
Every morning I tell myself, You can just start over, but I do not.
It is December 17, 1967.
Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, goes out swimming near Portsea, Victoria never to return. He is either eaten by sharks or swallowed by waves. No one knows for sure, but what they do know is that he is gone. He vanishes completely.
So in true Aussie fashion there’s a phrase called “pulling a Harold Holt” in reference to his disappearance. If someone drifts off and heads home during a party without telling anyone, they are pulling a Harold Holt.
I wish I’d known this phrase earlier in life because I’ve been pulling Harold Holts over the last 12 years. I’ve let my life go out to get swallowed by waves and eaten by sharks over and over again. The last and most memorable time I vanished, was when I ran away with the circus—an entire crew of people who pull Harold Holts at the most professional level.
It is October 2, 2019.
I pin up my fringe bangs and wash off uneven eyeliner after my husband’s last premiere night in Sydney, Australia. Fresh-faced and in pajamas, I head out to the patio and ask myself, How did I get here?
What was it like before I got here? Before this circus life. Before my sober life. Before all of this traveling. Because before I let my life get swallowed by waves behind me, I had to step out into something new and totally unseen.
I think about the 12 major international flights I’ve been on this year alone hopping over the international dateline and back again. And how none of these flights come close to the distance I traveled mentally and emotionally on the first one-way flight from Atlanta to Boston.
It is Spring 2016.
My mom and brother drop me off at Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta, GA. I stumble through security in a large suede hat and massive beach bag filled with stuff. I find the nearest bar in my terminal before boarding a 10 a.m. flight to Boston—to the circus and to a totally unknown chapter. I am clumsy and filled with wine when I leave, but I do eventually leave and arrive in Boston. Because despite everything, there is something in me saying, Go. Just go.
When people say they hit rock bottom and have to start their lives over, it paints a picture for how a beginning and ending is supposed to look. One day they step out of the person they used to be and into the person they will be for years to come. It’s like taking off old pants and putting on new pants. Is this the way it happens? Because I don’t feel like a pair of pants. I still feel like me. I just don’t do the same things anymore.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras talk about a windless cave of the heart where our true essence resides. This is our eternal flame. No matter what turbulence takes place on the outside, this flame in our soul space, in our hearts, is our truest form. It cannot be disturbed.
It is Summer 2016.
We live off of India and State Street in Boston, MA. There is a bar called Hong Kong that serves fishbowl cocktails two blocks to the left of our apartment. Every morning we pass rows of carriage horses that click their hooves along cobblestone roads in a way that really brings you back to colonial times.
Boston smells of salt and seafood. I smell of cigarettes and wine. But something deeper draws me into bookstores like Brattle and Commonwealth. A curiosity lurks in me that I cannot explain. I search for a copy of Walden not knowing anything about Henry David Thoreau. I find Walden, and I find out that Walden Pond is only an afternoon drive away from us. We spend the day in Concord. We walk through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery hiking up Author’s Ridge. I don’t know why I want to be there, I just know it feels right.
It is October 2, 2019.
Coming in from the patio, I fill up another glass of water and place it on my nightstand while Michael sleeps.
This is our Sydney life—our last leg of the tour coming full circle. This is what wandering back to myself looks like. Because something in us knows what to do. Something in us knows when to go. Even through my worst times, when I was still struggling to get up and be somebody in the world, something in me knew how to hunt and how to pull myself in the direction of my soul. But the versions of myself had to disappear.
Boston was a start. It was the salt air cutting through my otherwise absentminded outlook on life. It brought me to Walden and to the hope of things to come. It may have been clumsy, but most giant leaps are clumsy. Sometimes you just have to pull a Harold Holt and know that healing means letting go of everything you thought you knew.
I had to die a little to come alive as my truest self.