On February 23, 2015, I wrote this in a blog post draft:
It’s the end of February, and I slept with the windows open last night. A gorgeous Florida night: cool and humid, followed by an unusually gray morning filled with birdsong.
I sit here, preparing for the week, and wonder what it will be like to wake up in Portland.
It’s now May 0f 2016, over a year later. It feels like maybe 8 years later; the past year is a water-drenched sponge, expanding beyond its natural density. A gift of a year.
My blog posts, sparse as they are, have been consumed with processing my father’s death. One of the seeds that grew from the scorched earth of that grief has been this move to the Pacific Northwest. And now I can report on what it’s like to wake up each morning in Portland.
This morning I woke up, after being away for a couple of nights. I was worn out last night, so I zonked at about 9:00pm and woke shortly after 6:00am. It was quiet; my white noise machine was whirring. I hadn’t bothered with earplugs. It was quiet; the occasional sound of a truck on 21st, but otherwise quiet. No rain, no crowd at the stadium, no passersby.
My heart was not so quiet. Jumpy, worried. Concerned about work, about lovers, about friends. My brain turning over on itself.
At my core, things are settling. My self-trust is growing. My capacity to process life is increasing. If you’re not a person who’s ever been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of life, this won’t make sense; but if you are, this probably resonates, this feeling that “I can handle this.” Either you’ve found it, or you’ve hoped to find it. And to you I say: it’s possible to live a big life with a quiet core. It’s possible to be bold and sensitive. To be brazen and hesitant. It’s possible to navigate life with joy even if your wounds tug at you daily. I want to broadcast this backwards, to my own self a year ago, five years ago, twenty years ago. To assure her that everything she hoped could be is in fact possible. Not assured, no; but possible.
Just about two years ago, I wrote a blog post about pursuing an elegant life. I had this idea that I would blog about this process, and that by now I’d have a couple dozen blog posts about my experience.
Uh. That didn’t happen.
But what did happen was that the handful of posts I did write (about cultivating attention, releasing obstacles, and reducing debt) seemed to take root. And now here, two years along, I have a shit ton of work left to do, but the work I’ve already done is paying off.
Last night I sat on a panel about diversity in tech, and someone asked a heartfelt question: “How do you overcome the fear to do these things you’re talking about?” And I instantly ached, because I knew where this question was coming from, but I was also thrilled, because I knew that asking that question — “How?” — is the first step towards succeeding.
My answer was this: increase your window of tolerance. Find the thing you can do now, the thing that feels scary but is small enough that you can do it, and tackle that. Don’t set impossible goals. Don’t stretch so far that you collapse back in on yourself. “Easy does it, but do it.”
Because that’s what got me this far. When people told me I needed to move faster, I stopped listening. When people told me I needed to move slower, I stopped listening. I shut out everything but the still, small voice inside — the voice that I spent years learning how to hear — and I followed my own instincts into a crazy new life. I moved 3,000 miles across the country because the conviction grabbed me, when I was sitting in the Boise airport, that I was going to move to Portland, Oregon. I took a job at the most inconvenient possible time because I knew it would make my life better if I took the leap. Next week I move into a bigger apartment because getting bigger seems to be the thing to do.
And most importantly, every day I work on showing up honestly to the people I respect in my life. I work on being more transparent, kinder, funnier, gentler, bolder. I work on connecting better to my own wild, vulnerable self so that I can show up in the ways that matter to the people that matter to me.
A year ago, I wondered what it would be like to wake up in Portland. Well, here I am, and every moment of every day, I’m waking up. I’m waking up in Portland, and it’s just grand.