A treatise on coming out of quarantine, and the promise of unpredictable spring skies
“There is freedom waiting for you.
On the breezes of the sky.
And you ask, “What if I fall?”
“Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
A couple of days ago I wrote the last line of this to Loud Mouth Brown Girl on Twitter, and also to someone else who was musing about taking a Big Leap. This is the mother’s milk of my soul. I had no idea I was about to be faced with precisely the same thing.
Fellow writer Sharon Hurley Hall wrote a few days ago about turning down writing work which was effectively from her past, which allows her to focus on where she’s headed. Boy, was this also both potent and prescient. I don’t spend much time on Twitter, but lately I’ve been following some of my favorite Black female writers over there, and their journeys have been instructive.
They are becoming wilders. They may not even realize it, but they are.
So last night I called my buddy Melissa in Denver. Back in 2013, I was her first massage client who followed her right after she graduated from the Thai School in Denver to her home practice. A deep, rich friendship blossomed over the years. Melissa had a long background in project management in the moving industry.
Over this past year, Melissa, like so many others in the body work industry, had to shutter her practice. She turned, as we so often have to do, to work that was available. At 63, she was still highly skilled, and so moving projects rolled in. Enough so that she was able to pay her bills and keep herself employed.
Recently she’d been contemplating several job postings in project management. One of them paid more than she’d ever made, and also offered her health insurance and key benefits. Not small things. But. But. I was supportive of her interest, because I could see the benefits. But. But.
She’d have to give up her bodywork, just as people were coming out of quarantine, in terrible need of just that. But well, income. But well, health benefits.
But, well…… And then there was this.
Melissa told me that -long story short- only a few blocks away, the local office of Workman’s Comp was in need of a massage therapist. She promptly nailed the job. What she told me, giddy with delight, was that her pay was several more times what she might normally charge. To say nothing of the fact that the work was not only what she really wanted to do, but within walking distance.
The Universe finds it hard to deliver dessert when your plate is full of stuff you think you want and need, but really don’t. Give it to the dog under the table, already.
I was in crisis myself. I had worked very hard to help a friend get in front of a Very Big Client, and said friend had been successful (to our mutual delight). Said friend wanted me to come along on the journey, and to my frustration, I said yes. There followed a few weeks of deepening angst on my part, until I had a total meltdown last night. I was in tears about it.
Here’s the short version: I have no interest in returning to this kind of work full time, having invested years and years on developing my chops for adventure work. I’d moved to Eugene in part to study to become a large animal massage therapist, as that, like with my buddy Melissa, is where my heart lies. I am MUCH happier scrubbing the ear canal of a happy elephant and standing in horse sh*t than I ever was doing high end consulting work.
I’d rather be in hiking boots than high heels ANY day of the week. When I come home reeking of horse sweat and urine I am happy as a pig in poo. And I smell like one.
This argues hard: just because you and I have those skills doesn’t mean we should do the work (barring survival issues, natch). IF we have options, and I do, you and I have to ask, why would we go backwards?
My friend and I had a lovely heart-to-heart this morning, and I am happy to say that we’re totally good. I am glad to continue to support, but I am going to return my focus to my own future. Being ten years older, and with less time to play with, I had to ask myself why I have spent so much of my life helping others be successful at the cost of living my own joy?
By releasing myself back to my wild woods, my heart leapt with joy. I was dreading returning to the world of concrete and steel. I do not belong there. Never did.
While it does indeed give me joy to be of service, I only this past year got to the point where I am poised to live precisely where I want and how I want. That potential contract promised significant income, but at an untenable cost.
Therein lies the question. If I am willing to test the thermals, and re-launch myself into the turbulent post-quarantine skies where I know I belong, then is it worth it to leave behind guaranteed major cash, AND guaranteed major tradeoffs?
Well, my dear, what if I fly?
My buddy friend Margaret just wrote me that she nailed her IFR flight rating down in Florida. We met a while back, and I wrote about her journey a while back.
Maggie does fly. At 68, she reminds me of how immensely joyful it can be to embrace each coming year with gusto and jubilation, no matter what life throws at you. For my part, what the quarantine has taught me in part is that first, yes, sometimes we have to make tradeoffs to pay the bills.
But when some options begin to appear, as they are now, the question is whether we have become so fond of our relatively safe cocoons, the predictability of our four walls. When the windows fly open and the bright spring sun beckons, are we unwilling to test our folded wings? Do we choose relative safety and the limits thereof, rather than risk failure?
My fellow Black female writer peeps are stirring it up collectively and individually in their anti-racism work. I have chosen to refocus where I belong: adventure travel and diversity in the outdoor spaces. The road is harder, longer and fraught with challenges. Going back to corporate work would be safer. And it would suck the life out of my soul.
With Melissa, as with each of us, the road we carve out for ourselves is potentially the road of the wilder. It belongs to us. If we wish to run with the wolves, as hte great Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote about in 1992, we have to break from our fears and explore what is achingly wild inside us.
That wilderness, literally and figuratively, is where I belong. I cannot speak for you, but I desperately want to be back out there rubbing rhino butt and working on very large beasts who are incredibly grateful for that attention.
The author in Kenya. Julia Hubbel
You can stay in your nest. You can stay cocooned. You can remain where it feels safe. That is your choice.
Last year I cast comfort aside, even under quarantine, moved to a new city and state and began to realize a long held dream. This is no time to run backwards towards perceived safety. At least not for me. With the curtains of quarantine being pulled back on a spring world, it's time to scan the horizon. Take the leap.
If you long for a different kind of life, then I would again pose this question:
But darling, what if you fly?
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