Over the years I’ve learned that when the first few chapters of your life are incomplete, you keep trying to write them into your relationships, each time hoping for a better fit. Whether we are missing a childhood, recovering from destructive addictions, unhealthy relationships, or sickness and death – we all come to know loss. Without an anchor, some of us accumulate relationships, experiences, or things, only to realize that we can never fill a bottomless hole or find a peaceful plateau. The wealthiest can’t save themselves from sickness and the kindest meet adversity. People once deeply in love leave each other. Life’s non-discriminating leveling wand challenges our ability to believe in goodness and depletes our energy to start over as we settle into our life stories.
I was reminded that we often make false assumptions based on the picture we perceive, when I learned that the thousands of flags flying were honoring a young local soldier killed in combat who had been returned home. Having lived on multiple continents, metabolizing experiences and people at crack speed, my trajectory was rooted in motion. That sunny afternoon I felt an emotion that I couldn’t intellectualize, let alone understand when I walked on a beach at the end of an unknown residential street.
I wanted to breathe in slow motion to savor something that I had not imagined until that moment – a sense of home. It wasn’t just that the town had renamed one of their ferries after the fallen soldier, or that the restaurant I ate in honored his memory with a poster size photo. It was the larger than life rock on the beach with an American flag and We Love you Joe hand painted by his friends that made me think about where my story would end, something most people take for granted. When I saw so many flags and learned that 2,000 people lined the streets for Joey’s funeral it hit me so hard. He was a part of something. He had a community that claimed him. Stopping to walk on a beach covered with rocks and weathered shells I surveyed a single yacht sandwiched between dinghies and modest sailboats tethered to moorings. Like this island with no bridge or land mass to connect it to the mainland, I imagined myself as a ship without a country. Exhausted, I sat down feeling every rock and shell marking my skin. I found myself in tears thinking about one mother’s loss juxtaposed with my desire to step into a stranger’s story and make it my own.
I think the notion of divorce is the point of departure. My divorce prompted a divorce from not only from my husband, but from my contrived self and set in motion a journey that took me east to a Trump condo inManhattanwhere I found solace in my anonymity amongst 8 million strangers. I often think of writing Joey’s mother and telling her that her son’s journey home was the catalyst to my journey even further east. His return inspired my journey within, where I traded the outside appearance of success to pursue an inner success of self knowledge and self possession. It wasn’t luck. It it wasn’t magic. It was chance and fate mixing. In wanting to become a part of something, it became a part of me.
Three years later, I like to think that I’ve paid my dues, having sold my condo inNew Yorkto commute to my tiny island fromTexas. I’ve weathered hurricanes and harsh winters to enjoy the desolation and the romance in the desolation as much as being a part of a community that feels like family. My children have made memories over holidays and summers in a place I call home that they will someday call home. I no longer question how many second chances can be had, or how many manual resets can lead to change. I struggle on how to make myself relatable after living so many lives. I’ve found my passion in in helping children in foster care whose resilience inspire me to share hope. When I can’t control the moving pieces of my outside world, I help another child and feel connected to a world I don’t always understand. Sometimes I think this isn’t the life I imagined; I should be settled in a relationship or feel more secure. Then I remember; I found Shelter. I am on my way home.