I don't know why I was sitting alone in that small-town McDonalds 18 years ago, but I do remember that I sat in the corner by the window. In my memory of this scene, I can sense that I felt sad and alone, but I don't remember why. (This was some time during my college years, so feeling sad and alone wasn't exactly unusual then.) As I stared out the window at cars driving by, I listened to the inner monologue chattering away in my own head. Call it an inner monologue, thoughts, or prayer, I was reaching out to something inside of me and greater than me, seeking connection and a sense of meaning and love in it all. And then, in-between bites of french fries, an epiphany of the obvious materialized from thin air and hovered between me and the Formica tabletop: You are never really alone. No matter where you are or how alone you feel, no one can take away the thoughts in your head, the love in your heart, the knowledge in your spirit.
Wherever you go, there you are.
My dad likes that saying. He's also fond of: If you lived here, you'd be home by now.
On the surface, these are silly little truisms. But like most clichés, there's a deeper meaning wrapped up in them.
When I lived in England for a year after college, I learned to do all sorts of things by myself (first because I didn't know anyone, and then when everyone else was busy). I went sightseeing alone. I learned to navigate public transportation on my own. I ate out by myself. I went to movies and plays without a date. I visited museums and attended concerts solo. I didn't always feel at ease with being alone in public, but I was determined to not let that stop me from making the most of that year.
Wherever I go, there I am.
My friend Liz has a beautiful mirror meditation practice that she uses to feel less alone, to feel seen, and to bear witness to the truth of her life and her self. Sometimes she documents the moment through photography, and sometimes she just spends a moment looking herself in the eye. (She's exploring and sharing this practice in Water Your Soul next month.) Again and again, she meets herself in the mirror.
Wherever she goes, there she is.
Earlier this month I went to The Moth StorySlam in Pittsburgh, prepared to get up on stage and tell a story should my name be pulled out of the hat. (Alas, it was not, but more about that experience in a later post.) I've been dreaming of telling stories on stage for a long time, and I was finally ready to take that leap. My husband (my biggest supporter and the one who keeps me grounded) was supposed to go with me, but things changed at the last minute and he couldn't go. I went by myself, but I wasn't alone. I took my friends with me: I wore my "Just Be True" shirt from Jen, my misfit bauble necklace from Kelly, my wedding and engagement rings from James, the fingerless gloves that I wore when Viv took this photo of me (one of my favorites), this Anna Joyce hoodie that Liz had turned me on to via Pinterest, and some Texture posh pants that I'd bought when I was with Liz in Seattle a few years ago. Pretty much everything on my body (minus my shoes, socks, and underwear) was conceived of, handmade by, bought for me as a gift by, or somehow connected to people who know and love and support me. These physical items are talismans, reminders of rootedness and connection.
Wherever we go, there we are.
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About Everyday Essays: At least a few times a week I jot down notes about something -- usually a small moment, detail, or thought -- that I want to write about. Most of those ideas stay frozen as notes and never bloom into essays. Everyday Essays is my writing practice to allow some of those notes to move beyond infancy. I've decided to share some of them with you here, even if they're still half-naked or half-baked. The word "essay" (as is almost always noted when the form is discussed) comes from the French verb essayer, which means to try. The essay is a reckoning, a rambling, an exploration, an attempt. Think of these Everyday Essays as freewriting exercises, rough drafts, or the jumbled, interconnected contents of my mind, which may or may not take root and grow into longer (deeper) essays.