Several months ago, holed up in a room to myself (finally!) in New Zealand, I decided I would take a shower, and a photo of myself — hair wet, makeup off, any zit not covered and with the ratty towel I left on my bunk as dressing.
The idea was that here I am, unedited, nothing sugar coated.
This is ME.
I was exposing myself for everyone who is on the journey with me, in spirit.
I learned that day that there are a lot of you, and you mean it.
I was on a 10-hour bus ride from Christchurch, where I had spent days interviewing people about rebuilding and the community they found after the earthquake, and trying not to freak out when my Nikon professional camera broke and the ensuing red tape and fret that comes with losing your limb.
The bus hummed beside Lake Pukaki as we rode into Aoraki — Mt. Cook — after 7 hours of endless breathtaking scenery.
I watched the icy blue waters and suddenly I imagined myself flying — skimming above the water — arms pinned back along the sides like a cannon-shot superman. It was more than flying. It was less effort because my feet were being pushed from behind.
The wind brushed my cheeks and dried my eyes as I headed toward the mist and snow-covered mountains still an hour ahead. My friends, family and even complete strangers who believe in me and what I'm doing were pushing me forward, easing my way on the journey.
Those were euphoric moments there, when I could feel the encouragement from all corners. It buoyed me, made me stronger and lit the way.
That night, I took my iPod for a small solo walk at dusk. As the sun tucked itself in for the night I stood in the shadow of the county’s largest mountains, growing ever darker.
I started to dance.
I tapped a little and then shuffled, and then outright danced like no one was watching, which of course they could if they looked out their car windows. I danced to the peaks, and for life, and my small army of people who are really behind my dream.
That night, I thought, I’ll take this photo and post it with this blog, and people will know that I’m open and exposed and we’re here together.
It filled me, those flying on the lake transformation moments, I think, for these times, when I feel there’s a pin prick in me and the water is just running out but I’m not sure how to plug the hole.
There was a day in Kalgoorlie, Australia, before I ever journeyed to New Zealand, that I spent nearly entirely laying down on a bench outside the library, my face being burned by the sun, or walking and walking until my feet ached. I felt lonely and sad and silly for opening myself to something and wandered, realizing I had made my bed and sometimes you just need to lie in it. Accept that it is what it is and you helped get yourself in that uncomfortable position, and then have a good cry. I gave myself “the talk,” of wallowing but then getting up.
At the end of the longest day possible, I was in the library trying to get stuff done but not succeeding at getting anything done, and I got a phone call.
It was Andrew, from the hostel. He was our resident I smile and the world smiles with me sunshine, and a chef who was now working making detonations for the mines.
He called to say, where are you??! Tonight is the night I make you dessert, and we’re at the hostel. I’m coming! I shouted.
I got on the bike Saeed lent me; and as I pedaled off, I felt what this was: Saeed had lent me his bike so I could get to the library more easily. Andrew had remembered me and was making me dessert.
These friends — who were strangers weeks ago — cared for me. The universe was telling me it was OK.
I raised my legs and let them fly as I steered the bike back and forth, swerving like the little kids do, and the night was young and the moon shined and the night looked like it could go on and on. Possibilities.
On this day, I am in the apartment of one of my best friends in the world. He is at work. I’m alone, and trying to get things done — write articles, try to sell articles and dream up ways to make this trip go on because it is my calling and not working a 9 to 5 ….
but the silence is deafening.
I have a lot of feelings and they slowly rotate on the spit over the fire to fear and the what-ifs. Have i done what I could? Did I waste time? What am I doing?
The emotional part of this journey has always been the hardest. The acceptance, the letting go, the letting people in, including yourself.
I am a great compartmentalizer. The best. I used to have this “button.” I pushed it often and stuffed it down. I ripped the button out when I stepped on the plane in April 2014. I make myself feel and accept and have learned to not jump on that hamster wheel of anxiety - often.
This day, I am reminded of this photo. I will go take it now, after I try to wash away the feelings of this day.
I will take the photo so you can see me — all of me — exposed and bare as you are on this journey with me. And we're not sugar coating it.
Thanks for being here and pushing my feet forward.
I will go open a letter that a loved one sent me for days just like this: I asked them to send me some for the rainy days and this is the third time I will break the seal.
And I am hoping that the universe will speak to me again.