Wednesday, 13 December 2023 20:41

Expect the Unexpected

Two years ago, in December of 2021 I spent the Christmas and New Year’s holidays by myself, exploring the countryside and cities of North Carolina, searching for places to feel like I belonged, for a place I could call my home. It was a tumultuous time for me. I was still grieving and trying to heal from the loss of my husband and my life in an unexpected divorce. My heart leaked with failure, depression, and pain. My mind urged me to run far away from the pain and memories of my past. 

I remember the traffic jams on interstates, speeding cars on freeways, country back roads for miles without so much as a gas station, and winding mountain paths where the roads were not even wide enough for two cars to pass in opposite directions. Up, up, up I ventured blindly, daring short glimpses out my window to see the perilous journey downward should I make one mistake. But I urged myself to keep going with the expectation I would eventually reach the top and be safe again. 

Sure enough, the path led me to a wider opening where a few other cars were parked. I remember the strenuous hike up steep mountain travails that my Florida adapted lungs were not accustomed to. I heaved oxygen-giving breaths through the pain in my quadriceps and felt rivulets of sweat running down my back. I remember feeling lost two hours into my hike and, unsure whether the path looped around or not, turned around and traipsed backwards to where I started. The analogy of this kind was transparent: I was on a similar circuitous journey in my life, also ending up back with my pain no matter how far I tried to distance myself.

In cities, I saw families and couples, friends, and relationships of all sorts. I remember the feelings of loneliness, frustration, and fear. I remember sneaky tears filling up my eyes when I thought of the life I had only a year before. When I was in the middle of that turmoil, I could not see my situation objectively. It took time, months and years, to begin seeing my circumstances with clarity and as some of the most significant parts of my life.

Today when I look back on that time, I also remember making it to the top of the mountain and gazing out over the landscape below to see gray ridges full of dormant trees. I remember thinking of the obvious cliche of my life, the life I deemed as dead as the trees on the mountain; however, in reality, there was still life somewhere inside, and in the coming months, that life would renew. I remember feeling the sun warming my skin and having to take off my jacket. I remember the invigoration of accomplishing something that was causing physical discomfort and overcoming because I persevered. In restaurants and coffee shops, I enjoyed the satisfaction of ordering whatever I wanted, not feeling judged, and eating every bite. I even remember feelings of peace, confidence, and hope. 

Though my adventure in the cities and the countries of North Carolina didn't result in finding a place to call home, it did give me something just as important. I learned about what I was actually capable of and I saw how strong I was to be out there on my own, in places I have never been, surrounded by people I would never see again. Even though I was scared, I had peace. Even though I was alone, I had myself. Even though I longed for companionship, I found it in nature. I never expected those things would come out of two weeks in unfamiliar territory, in the middle of a pandemic. But sometimes you can expect the unexpected feelings and lessons that give you your own unique kind of happiness. I learned that a sense of home lives inside of me, not the place I am in. That is the way life likes to surprise you. If you can learn to wait it out, life brings you to the place you are meant to be in some way, shape, or form. If you are going through a loss of any kind, whether a relationship, a pet, a job, or home, I urge you to wait it out and not give up hope. Things will look different with time and distance. I promise

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