Fighting Impermanence!

In life only change and death can be counted on 100% of the time. After a near fatal car accident that left me unable to walk, I had a lot of time for contemplation. My mom brought me the book The Tibetan Art of Living and Dying and I became obsessed with understanding the Buddhist teachings about suffering. However, the teachings about impermanence were the ones that really troubled me. I danced with impermanence and briefly slipped away from this life. Instead of learning to embrace impermanence I spent decades trying to create something stable, meaningful, and permanent. My life was filled with fear and trepidation. PTSD controlled where I went and how I traveled. Each time I got into a car, I was acutely terrorized by the knowledge that truly I could die and leave my children without a mother. Or worse, I could lose them. People mocked me about my fears, as if fatal car crashes were something that never happened.

As the years passed, impermanence screamed louder. Mass shootings propelled my community into darkness.The murder of my dear friend and mentor reminded me again to savour each moment, because you truly do not know which will be your last. More loved ones perished by accidental overdose, cancer, and suicide.

Impermanence hurt like hell.

Impermanence. I must fight.

How does understanding that it exists make your life better? I just didn’t get it.

With time my community became stronger, we leaned on each other, and we loved harder. Amazingly, the wrenching sadness caused by each of the tragedies was impermanent too. Of course, there is still a sense of loss but it is no longer all consuming.

We pulled together in love. We move forward.

It turns out impermanence is not the enemy, for it brings joy as well as despair. In my darkest times, I now understand that they too are impermanent. I find comfort from this and instead of grasping so tightly to what is, for fear of it going away, I try to savour each beautiful moment so later I will have no regrets. Armed with this knowledge, stepping onto our loosely charted path fills me with excitement instead of fear. After all, stability is an illusion.

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Letting go of all the “good stuff”

Move number 46.  When I purchased my house almost three years ago, I swore up and down, “I will NEVER move again!” After forty five moves, I was finally ready to settle into my career and patiently grow deep roots at my new home. I sowed young plants confidently believing I would watch them mature. I could see myself years older sitting in the yard fully enscounsed in the privacy they would provide. I could picture a water feature that I’d add in the next couple of years. I felt so grounded. My family (and our stuff) at last had our forever home.

Ironically, Stan moved the majority of my stuff into this house while we were “just friends.” Life can be so extraordinarily unpredictable. The next summer Stan moved in with us…as we combined our lives, his stuff was added to ours. Although, Stan had already started taking a more minimalist approach what he had left were treasured items.

Decisions. Fast forward to the present. If we want to leave the US, “What do we do with all our stuff?” Much of what filled our house was special and held within it memories of  family, old friends, my kids’ early childhoods, and our artistic endevours. I was filled with doubts

How could I leave “all my stuff” behind? What do we actually “need”?
What if I regret giving my “favorite” things away? What if the house doesn’t sell and we have to live here with it empty? What if we change our minds? What if the person that gave me that “special” item finds out I gave it away?

What if by giving everything away we become more free?

Since we don’t know where we will ultimately land, we decided to store what we would be willing to pay to ship across the ocean. Then, we decided we were only willing to pay for the smallest shipping container possible.

Sorting. What would we really want to see again after a year or more in storage? What did we absolutely have to have for our first few months of travel? What is worth money? What brings us joy? What is holding us back?

Purging. We sold high dollar items on eBay and craigslist. For sentimental items it felt best to give them away to our dearest friends. We kept watch to see what our neighbors needed on the BuyNothing group; we passed along anything we could. Next, we held a festive yard sale where we played “Let’s make a deal” and most offers were accepted. We also had a huge free pile. At the conclusion of the sale we posted to craigslist and our neighborhood Facebook group that all leftovers were free. The remains were of course donated.

Outcome. There were moments where I saw my memories in the hands of another. It was hard to let go. Then, I saw joy in people’s eyes when they found a treasure! People shared  how our stuff was going to make their new house feel like home, how their best friend would love a picture, book, or sweater, and our friends grabbed items that would remind them of us. I shared with my daughter that when I was her age, I had a rule that everything I owned would fit in my car and I could carry it myself. That rule had been broken long ago, but it is rather unbelievable how much stuff I had moved around over the past 2 decades and how many states it had been in. I do feel lighter today, less encumbered, and yet it is bittersweet.

Base jumping into uncertainty

What did you notice about the photo above? Did you see the beauty of the winding road leading to the rainbow meeting the sea? Or did you notice the blurriness of the falling snow or critique the composition as less than perfect ?

Over the past few years, I learned to notice the beauty first. However, it is often difficult to hold that space and life frequently kicks you in the ass (which is sometimes what you need to help you remember you are alive)! Then for a period of time, you become jaded and sealed up. Doing exactly what you needed to do to survive! Finally beauty restores itself. Life cycles continuously between the beauty and the suffering, but sometimes there is balance between the two and you wisely ride that wave as long as you can…

No, the photo isn’t perfect but waiting for “perfection” is what often holds us back from moving forward. Instead of waiting, notice the beauty right in front of you and believe in possibility.

We are doing just that and this blog is about taking that giant leap without knowing where we will land. Moving towards what we want even if the path is ambiguous. It is about all that has been and is to be learned along the way. Instead of the academic pieces I carefully polished until they are smooth and shiny, the writing here will be raw with the cracks and flaws exposed like a piece of turquoise that hasn’t yet met with the tumbler.

You are welcome to join us as we base jump into uncertainty!