There is only one post on this site from last year. As far as writing hiatus’ go, this one has been one of the longer spells. I’m breaking it here and now to try and see clearly the year that has been and gone.
The American and I brought in 2017 with both of our parents on a patch of grass in Balmain on the Western side of the Harbour Bridge. We ended the year at a house in Marrickville with my family celebrating my cousin’s birthday with sparklers and a sage stick we bought on a whim at a spa aptly named ‘Nature’s Energy’. We did all the things you do to at the end of things – we looked back, we appreciated, we let go.
This has been the year of letting go. We moved out of the inner west where we had been living for two years since we first got back from ‘the Americas’ (me moving from the South and he from the North). We sold our couch and our fridge, culled our already pared down belongings and committed to living house to house, dog to dog – house sitting full time. We stepped out of our Inner West bubble and lived all over Sydney in suburbs that, embarrassingly but not unsurprisingly enough, I had never been to as a Sydney sider and certified Westie. The routine and schedule I had cultivated and nestled into for months was disrupted. Reluctantly, I let it go – watched my hard-won morning writing habit slip away and my leisurely breakfasts and my leafy walk to work and my 5 minute train commute. We let go of all the places we frequented, the comfort and familiarity one attains from being a local.
We didn’t know how house sitting full time would be and were suspicious that nothing could be as good as our comfortable and cushy hipsterville livin’. We were wrong. We both fell in love with all the dogs (and even some cats!) we took care of, we discovered we were fully suited to the nomadic (yet somehow luxurious) lifestyle which was less like back packing and more like staying in airbnbs dotted in random places of suburbia. We let go of predictability and opened to everything else.
At work I was challenged from the first week of the year to let go of all that had come before. Things were different and harder and would be so for the rest of the year. What had been for two years a wonderful, supportive environment with a dream team was no longer and I would spend the entire year learning what it looks like to let go of that and learn to live and try to thrive despite it. It has probably been one of the biggest learnings of my working life. I knew also that this would be my last year at this job, a job I had grown into, loved, adored, connected to, identified with, become absorbed in the way so many of us naturally do with the commitment that takes up so much of our adult lives. And it was time for me to hand it over, piece by piece, and eventually let it all go and walk away. It was all the things letting go is – painful, sad, freeing, a relief, a complicated mess of conflicting necessary feelings. At the end, there were tears and hugs and laughter and on the last day, bowling and laser tag and cider.
For our future dreamings, the American and I had started learning Arabic the previous year with set plans to move to Jordan. I joined a facebook group of ex pats and locals living in Amman. We had countless conversations with people who had friends there or who had been there. We were rearing and ready to go. After a holiday to Vietnam in May, the direction of our dreams changed and we let go of that idea too. We couldn’t resist the delicious food, the affordable living, and I had never before traveled to a place where people innately understood and accepted that I was both Filipino and Australian. We were enamoured with South East Asia – determined to get there first, putting the Middle East on hold for now. that’s the basic story of how, thanks to cheap flights to Vietnam I saw one night and booked within an hour, we are now moving to Hanoi next week! Closer to anywhere I’ve moved before, we will somehow be close enough to Australia that when I tell people ‘come visit!’ it’s somewhat feasible. We don’t know what will happen or where we’ll end up but we are staying open to it all.
As if anticipating all the change and disruptions and need for equanimity that was to come, at the beginning of the year I started meditating. Twenty minutes a day with an app on my phone. I bought and read Pema Chodron’s ‘The Wisdom of No Escape’ whose title tells you exactly what I was feeling when I made that purchase. Throughout the year I found time to carve space for myself to recover and take care of myself. I went on a retreat with my dad hiking through the Blue Mountains, on a retreat with my mum where we did yoga and connected to others seeking to pause the churn of normal life. A month before I finished work for good I completed a Vipassana, essentially a ten day silent meditation boot camp that completely kicked my ass, and somehow allowed me to see clearer the path I had already been on for a while.
This last year has been full of the practice of letting go of expectations, of plans, of ideas, of feelings and opening up to the possibilities that arise when you do. Letting go can feel so counter intuitive most of the time. We are taught to hold onto what feels good and to avoid whatever is uncomfortable. In the process of chasing the high and escaping the lows, we skip out on all the benefits of simple experience and all the ways that can lay the foundation for enjoying the madness of life that is never comfortable, never simple, never easy, never-ending yet always, if we can see it, wondrous and magical.
May we all let go and open up to the messiness this new year brings.