“I’d have a plan B if I were you.”
Some concerned people in my life offered this response as if it were a shawl to wrap around my naked shoulders.
For others, this was how they may have needed to soften the fear or discomfort that arose within themselves upon hearing my big news.
I was moving from Seattle to New York to begin a new chapter, just two months shy of walking away from my marriage. I was moving in with a guy I wouldn’t even meet in person until he arrived at the airport two days before we’d load my belongings into a U-haul and road trip back across the country together.
I hadn’t even been single a day between ending my marriage and beginning a new relationship, and here I was, making an abrupt and wild turn of the page.
I knew how crazy, reckless, and downright risky it must look to people on the outside. Maybe to some it had “rebound” written all over it, or perhaps given the global pandemic, “apocalyptic.” So they wanted to let me know I should have a fall-back option for my new life. Just in case.
Just in case I woke up one day and came to my senses. Just in case he and I didn’t actually get along or have chemistry in person. Just in case I got my heart broken again by a relationship that didn’t “last a lifetime.”
“I’m not sure adopting a plan B mindset is really what I’m going for in this leap,” I replied, after some thought, to one friend. “I’m not going into this entertaining thoughts of failure. I’m just going to be there, fully present, giving it all I have and dealing with the twists and turns as they arise in the moment. I’m writing this story in real-time.”
I see the value of having plans. Of not putting “all your eggs in one basket.” There’s some illusion of comfort and security in this approach that isn’t necessarily good or bad; it just isn’t what I want anymore.
I’ve decided I am no longer obligated to pick up and carry anyone else’s fear or discomfort. I can also choose whether or not playing it safe or being the scripted version of “good” is how I want to continue approaching life.
I’ve played it safe many times before, in the previous chapters of my life. I’ve checked the boxes of “all the right things.” I pursued a degree that I never actually wanted all the way through graduate school, only to never practice in my field of study. I dutifully stayed within the confines of the belief system I’d been raised in until my mid-30s when I finally allowed myself to ask the questions I’d never been permitted and watched it all crack beneath the weight.
I waited until I was 31 with a ring on my finger to have sex, and wound up in a sexless marriage. I dated the man I married for almost two years before committing my life to him, tried my damnedest to make it until death did we part, and finally ended it eight grueling years later.
So, with a divorce ahead of me and years of wrestling the tired script behind me, I wanted a new pen with fresh ink to inscribe the pages of the Rest of My Goddamn Life.
I needed to toss out the old script.
The one who says we should only take calculated, safe risks.
The one who says outcomes determine whether or not the decisions we’ve made are good. In this case, that the only worthwhile relationships are the ones that come with a lifelong commitment attached and the only successful relationships are the ones that end in marriage.
The one that says women who make radical moves for their own happiness are selfish, going off “the deep end,” or overcompensating.
The one that says we, especially women, cannot trust our hearts because we are overly emotional, and our hearts betray us with things we should not or cannot want.
The one who says fear is in the driver’s seat of our decisions, to protect us.
The one who says we must trade what is wild for love because we cannot have both.
I’m learning to face the wind, old scripts in hand, tearing them up and throwing them to the sky. No shawls to cover me, just my naked frame, running to the edges of cliffs, the deep of the forests, the banks of raging rivers, the cave of myself where I can hear the call of the wild once more and feel the hairs on my bare skin stand at attention. Alive.
The only contingency plan here is the one flapping in the wind as it’s carried away.
. . . . .
I’ve had two forwarding addresses in the past two months, but now it’s beginning to settle over me: the only address I’ll ever need is the one carved in the doorway right above my heart. This is the address that tells me everything I need to know if my world falls to pieces again, or if a particular chapter is briefer or has a different ending than I imagined for myself.
This address is my Why, my ink, my unfolding story. It is the thing that comes with me wherever I go, not dependent on geography, circumstance, relationship status, or external measures of success.
I was on my bike the other day, passing clusters of wild daylilies, when I felt a ridiculous grin stretched across my cheekbones.
I realized, in this moment, that I am still fully me here in New York. I hadn’t noticed how I had been holding my breath since arriving in this new place, so far from home, waiting to see if I am, in fact, the same person here as I was there.
For most of my life, being of the Pacific Northwest has shaped my identity. But how much of me was defined by where I came from and how much is fluid, moving within me wherever I go?
Not only in a whole new geographical landscape, but shifting internal and relational landscapes.
What does my connection to place and Earth, my love affair with the natural world, look like in a life that is currently shaped less by lack and suffering?
I let out a deep exhale upon recognizing myself here in this place. I am still wildly, wholly in love with this Earth and all her creatures. I still ache to protect her, them, us. I still cry in wonder and sorrow for these beauties and tragedies. I still hunger for this companionship.
I know that no human can ever fill this space in my heart, reserved for place and other beings—and even more, I don’t owe any other narrative the power of defining what is or is not a successful life or love story.
This intimate connection I have with a place, which is available wherever I am willing to open to it, is a definitive part of my great love story. No matter if my marriage ended. No matter if this new love that I’m exploring and enjoying lasts for three months or 30 years. None of it defines me; therefore, none of it scares me enough to persuade me I need a contingency plan just in case.
I am home here, in myself. And I’m not going to lose myself again.
I’m not going to stop loving this Earth with all my being.
This is the only plan I need, until my dying day. This is my ‘til death do us part. Whatever happens is helping to fill in these pages of story, which I am writing as I live out in the wildlands where I am learning to be free.
Over my doorway, it simply reads, “Here I am. Here I will always be.” This is more than enough for me.