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I was young and uninformed when I moved out of my mother’s house and into my own home.
I married and had two children at an unthinkably young age. A baby having babies.
At 27, I was newly divorced, in college, working; learning how to be a single parent to my young children. My stress was at a record high. I longed for a way out.
A friend had just gotten back from a trip to Northern California. She brought me a little newspaper–The Mendocino Grapevine. In the classified section of this hometown paper was an ad that read:
“Cabin in redwood forest, free to family with school aged children, for reciprocities.”
As I read it, I sensed that moving to this little cabin in the woods might just change the trajectory of my life.
I quit school. I quit my job. I made what was, for me, a radical change. I moved from Southern California, away from my home, away from the haunting of a difficult marriage.
Up until that moment, I had always lived with someone else. First my mom, then my husband. There was never a time when I was on my own. I hadn’t traveled. I hadn’t experienced much of life at all.
The decision to leave my life as I knew it was not made for my usual reasons. It was not born of my ancient need to be a “good person”, or better yet, a “good woman.” I was leaving because I sensed this move would challenge me in all the best ways. For the first time, I did not bypass myself to gently and quietly shrink into the plans of others.
When I look back on my pattern of giving myself away for so many years, to anyone who asked, I feel cheated and angry. It wasn’t others who were cheating me, it was me, always me, cheating myself.
This time I would honor my choices. I was learning that my needs were as valid as those of any of the people I had ever given myself away to.
This move was much more than a change of location, or even a change of lifestyle. It was my first real move toward independence. I was making a move closer to myself.
My head raced with the excitement of things to come. There was so much I wanted to know, so much I wanted to prove to myself. I began feeling the stirrings of a new inner wisdom. After 27 years of denying it, I was feeling my strength. It felt intoxicating. There was so much that was suddenly alive in me.
That little cabin was 23 miles deep into the woods. It had no electricity. My light would come from kerosene lamps. My food would be cooked on a wood stove, with wood that I would learn to chop. I would grow my own food. I would do my own gardening and my own plumbing. That little cabin would be my home, and it would be my proving ground for testing my own resources. I would learn things about myself, things that had been lying dormant for years. The thought of it all gave me a sense of personal freedom that I had never known.
I learned how to put chains on the tires of a big Dodge crew cab so I could drive through the mud of the forest road without getting stuck. And when I did get stuck, I learned how to dig myself out. I learned to drive the dicey road to get the kids safely to town for school. I learned how to accelerate and brake on the winding highway to the coast, so that we could enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
I learned to love the deer as they ate the ripened blackberries that lined the forest path. I learned to listen carefully to the music the redwood branches played as the wind caused a quiet symphony that soothed my soul. I walked to the meadow where the sun shone freely on my bare shoulders.
I learned to feel deep gratitude for the rain that caused the ferns and the wild iris to grow. I gained the skills to fill a propane tank, and to tend my Franklin Stove as it provided warmth for me and my children.
I got to be a better mother there, in the woods, as I watched my kids shed the layers of Southern California programming and regain their innocence within the long play of forest life.
This move was an act of personal bravery. It was a long, sustained sigh of freedom.
After two years, I moved back to Southern California and resumed my life there. But in the preceding moments, I took a risk, and the gamble paid dividends I could never have imagined.
I can’t help but wonder, dear reader, are there risks you long to take? Have you caged yourself within the boundaries of your own prison?
I hope my story will encourage you to carve out your own courageous move.
Perhaps you can find your special cabin in the forest.