At this time, just pulling myself out of the lowest of my low, I found comfort again in The Red Book and it seemed like the right time to pick up another book I had started in the months following my divorce, Eckhart Tolle’s New Earth. Years ago it had piqued my interest and planted some ideas, but nothing beyond the first three or four chapters. I was too wrapped up in my egoic, poor me story. But that had served me for shit and now I was ready to take some positive steps to actually realizing my dreams and finding the peace and love that I so ached for. Tolle’s ideas were perfectly logical to me, and easily internalized. For nearly eight months I had felt completely lost, but suddenly, out of the lowest of my low, I was able to find calmer waters. I was able to shed heavy weight cynicism had put on my heart. It was spiritual Prozac. I had found my path with heart. I did things with presence and attention, with intention. I finally had found a direction that called me and I put that passion into my application for the TEFL school in Costa Rica that had my high school friend, Layne, as one of its proud alumni. I finally felt like I had some agency in my next step. I was getting myself unstuck. And I was grateful to my mom when I dropped this idea (for the millionth time) and she said “Go fucking do it, you’re making everyone here miserable.” She may not have what some call finesse, but she is effective.
Suddenly my life became so much lighter. I let go of old anger and frustration; I put love and attention into my baking. I was able to have those fun conversations with Neal again, while he bounced all over the country getting his duckies in a row to leave for Afghanistan. I’d come to peace with the fact that my tarot card reader was in all likelihood right about our destinies, but I would always cherish what he was to me and how that night we spent in each others arms and how his words bounced around between my ears until I decided to take the path I’d been threatening for the past four years. In the way that Andrew’s emails of Europe, Africa and Asia inspired me to leave an unhealthy marriage, Neal had done the same and set me down my path with heart.
In the days leading up to his departure, I was anxiously counting down the days to the end of my 45 day processing period for my cashed out retirement. Ironically, the day he took off for Afghanistan was the day that it showed up in my mailbox. I do not believe this was a coincidence.
I had to wait another 48 hour waiting period before my bank would clear the check, but the day it did, in addition to making all arranged down-payments for my get-outta-debt plan, I purchased a roundtrip ticket (with trip insurance) to visit Amy in Houston for a long weekend road trip to the New Orleans Jazzfest, and a one-way ticket to San José, Costa Rica (no insurance; I was getting on that plane come hell or high water).
When I called my mom with news of my morning’s purchase, what had once been her happiness for my decision turned to worry, concern that I had no yet received my letter of acceptance from the TEFL school.
Hoping for a little more excitement and support from her, I got off the phone feeling dejected, but only momentarily. I checked my email for the hundredth time that day and found the next key to this adventure. The letter I received from the director of the TEFL school was so kind and flattering. My heart floated as I forwarded the email to my mom and quickly called her back. I would be leaving for Costa Rica in just under three months time.
It’s an altogether amazing and gloriously terrifying thing to follow your dreams, to make those dreams into a reality.
My mom sounded almost disappointed when she said “Congratulations” at my news. I had to remember that she was just upset at the impending goodbye that will take me a few thousand miles away for a minimum of a year. At least that’s the story I told her; in truth, I had suspected that this would be a more permanent move. But I wanted to give myself at least a year, despite my suspicion that it would only fuel my wanderlust and be the experience I needed to propel me further away.
Now that I had purchased my ticket and been accepted to the teaching program of my choice, on the beach in Costa Rica, my next challenge was to tell my dad. He had supported my choice to try for a job in Puerto Rico because I had family there, but did little else to help in the whole process. I had figured out my own path, without consulting him and I knew this would only echo of the same abandonment he felt from his mom when he was 14, and my mom when he was 47. But I had resolved that this was my path and at 27, I wasn’t going to wait around on that path because a 62 year old man didn’t want to be alone. Unfortunately, my resolution didn’t make the conversation any easier. I think it was easier when Shane and I told him that we were getting married.
He immediately flew off the handle, and I understood his surprise, but that didn’t take the sting away. He began going back the 15, almost 16 years to how he wished that he could have saved me from all the damage inflicted upon me by my mom’s leaving that now makes me fuck up in such bold and ridiculous ways, those being my marriage and subsequent divorce, and now this. I tried to explain that I wouldn’t have the courage or desire to do this if he hadn’t raised my brother and I the way he did. He responded with the victim card, “Oh, so now this is my fault.”
“Yes, this is all your fault,” I chided back.
By the end of a two hour conversation, I mostly just felt sorry for him, but I knew this wasn’t the end of the battle to save me from the misfortune bestowed upon me by the rash and irresponsible actions of my mother. I left disappointed in his fulfillment of my expectations and pitied the anger he carried with him.
A few weeks later, I found out from someone other than my dad, I can’t remember whether it was my brother, or my brother via my mom, that he had been having episodes that compelled him to see a cardiologist. MRI scans of his heart showed an enlarged aorta. I hoped for the best, but I still can’t help but believe that the anger he carries in his heart has caused this. And it reminds me what Mr. Orange, the Catholic said, that my dad must really have loved my mom to hate her so much now. It’s the most tragic of love stories. Further tests revealed that while yes, his aorta is enlarged, it may not be as bad as assumed, and we all shook our heads at the reactionary nature of Western medicine.
During a trip to Puerto Rico to visit the family doctor, he took a day trip to one of the many private schools to which I had submitted my resume and portfolio the previous summer, this one being where his childhood neighbors, and cousin through marriage, worked as the director of curriculum for the elementary school. While I waited for my pity-interview, I spent an afternoon with my dad in his office, my old bedroom, as he scoured the internet for every other private school on the island. He printed up the applications for me to complete, but I have a feeling he knew this was an empty gesture on both our parts. In the whole denial-filled day, he even went so far as to ask if I was leaving because I was fearful to reveal that I was, in fact, a lesbian. I laughed, closed my eyes and swallowed the idea of such a question coming from my dad and held back the response I have for most people when that question comes up (and it does) that is that I’m only a lesbian on the first full moon of July.
I thanked him for being so open, but assured him that my conflicted sexuality was not to blame for my desire to leave. I fully understood his concern. I’d married young, divorced young, had sparse and short-lived relationships with men, frequently chopped of dramatic amounts of hair, most recently shocking was shortly after I returned from Madison when I finally pulled the trigger and went for the Pixie. Not to mention my close close relationships with my girlfriends. For my family, it would have been old hat, both of my dad’s siblings and my mom’s younger sister all being gay. In fact, if I could have avoided my stout and troublesome love for men, manly men, Capital M Men which had led me down such a difficult path, I would gladly have taken the alternative. I don’t believe that women are any less crazy than men, but at least it’s a crazy I know.
I know that he thought he was only trying to offer open arms to a daughter he thought was floundering and screaming for help and he offered an open ear to any concern I might have. To actually have to explain my certitude in the situation with the unbelievably awkward Been there, done that evidence will always be one of those moments in life that you want to forget, but can’t. I supposed I was spared having to walk in on my parents having sex, so this must be my penance.
My brother, who I told just before my dad, received the news in more of a shock-and-awe sort of fashion. I met up with him and his girlfriend for lunch. No good opportunity presented itself at the restaurant, but at the sporting goods super store, yes, that was the time. And then I ran off to work or to my dad’s, I can’t remember, but I left a trail of smoke and tire marks in the parking lot. In the following weeks, he would express his constant concern for this dream, that I was just trying to run away from something. And I had always taken that into consideration when I thought through these decisions, but I never thought I was running away from something, always toward a goal, down a path and I was beginning to learn that it wasn’t about any sort of pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it was that there was a rainbow in the first place. (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth as I wrote that.) Regardless, it was nice to know that my brother cared about me. I knew that he did, but when we actually had the conversation about the whole deal, it was a good one. I helped him work on fabricating airplane parts out of sheet metal and eased his concerns for my lack of a plan when I fabricated that I still wanted to try to open “Rosie’s” when I got back, or maybe try teaching again. I kept my hopes of Patagonia and other far off lands to myself.
Our dad had started doing what he could to lose the panza he’d developed over a few years and eating healthier, but it’s a reminder that he’s getting older, that we’re all getting older and that all we have is the now.
It was shortly after I finished New Earth and was well on my way down my path with heart that I found more clarity on the whole situation with Micah, and he was one of my biggest supporters in my dreams to live elsewhere and I wanted to share my success with him. And truth be told, I missed my friend.