In just a few more days it will be one month since I’ve been back in California. I have settled pretty seamlessly back into life here.
I was expecting more of a culture shock when I returned, but I actually felt the total opposite. I just kind of felt nothing. My first thought upon entering my driveway on the way home from the airport was, “so, like, that’s it? I’m just here now?”
Everything was exactly the same as I left it. I knew what I would be coming back to. Yet I was still surprised I didn’t feel a stark contrast in my environment.
But I did feel a stark contrast within myself.
One of the first things I noticed when I got to Bali was a deeper awareness for the senseless busyness that seemed to be everywhere in California. And it didn’t take me long at all to notice how exhausted I was with trying to keep up with it all.
When I first learned mindfulness a few years ago, I discovered how detrimental busyness really is. It’s being stuck in a state of doing instead of a state of BEing. It’s an endless chase of the next, instead of truly experiencing what IS.
So, learning all of that, and immersing myself in the practice of mindfulness, I really shifted my way of living. I retired my busyness. And it changed my life, in the most beautiful and profound way.
Unfortunately, I felt like I was the only one around me who got this. So I became passionate about wanting to pass on this new knowledge to people. I wanted others to get to experience the profound shift that I did.
But after several years, I finally realized that not many other people are that interested in it. They may be interested in what happens after the shift, but doing (or not doing) what it takes to create that shift was more than anyone was willing to participate in. I couldn’t even get people to show up- in every sense.
So, I found myself in a space where not many other people were. And that’s just it- there was space. I had created so much space in my life to be able to actually live and thoroughly enjoy my life with those I cared about, but it seemed like nobody else had created that same space. Everyone was too busy.
I started to feel judged for not being too busy. Like busyness was some sort of standard and I didn’t have enough going on in my life to actually constitute a life. But my life has been very intentional. I created space for people and things that I cared about. They just weren’t showing up.
So I’d run around trying to keep up with all of the busy people around me. But I can’t run that fast. Nor do I want to.
So when I got to Bali, and gained distance from what my life had been, I finally realized just how much I had been chasing unavailability, and how deeply exhausted I was from it.
Because I had been chasing that unavailability my entire life.
Starting from childhood with my family, then sticking with what I knew, recreating the chase in almost all my other relationships, of any context. And it all ended up directly reflecting into my career (or lack thereof), my finances (or lack thereof), and my issues with trust (or lack thereof). It was all just a metaphor for my relentless chasing of unavailability.
I have done so much work around this stuff. I couldn’t believe I was still so engulfed in such an old pattern.
I worked so hard for the approval of abusive people who could never be pleased- people who only knew how to take and not how to give. They were bottomless pits of “not enough.”
I worked so hard to try to make a satisfying living and life for myself in a place that has never felt right for me, despite how breathtakingly beautiful it is here. I worked so hard to prove myself- to others (and therefore myself). I worked so hard to try to gain permission to just be Who I Am.
I worked so hard to heal from the years of abuse, control, and manipulation. I worked so hard at cleaning out the toxic drudge that lived within me. I worked so hard to become the best version of Me that I could possibly be.
And once I became a better version of Me, I worked so hard at trying to stay healthy. I worked so hard to try to keep good people in my life. I worked so hard at trying to make so many other things (or people) work, when sometimes they just didn’t.
I kept working and working. And I loved that work! But I worked so hard only to find myself still working so hard.
No wonder I was exhausted. I’ve spent so much of my life working so hard.
And the grand irony is that the harder I worked and the more I chased unavailability, I myself became unavailable. I was unavailable because my energy was focused elsewhere- on unavailability. I was consumed by unavailability. And I wasn’t available for anything (or anyone) that was available, which includes the relationships that I want, the career that I want, the bank account that I want… the life that I want.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love my life. But there is much of my life that has felt like it’s just been waiting for me to step into it. All the while my back has been turned with my energy and focus on all of the things and people that were unavailable.
And the thing is, all of the unavailable people that I have been chasing, in various contexts, are busy with their own chase. They’re not actually inhabiting their own lives.
Neither was I.
Even after all that work.
So, when I got away from all of the unavailability, and took a big break form the chase, I was able to see just how hard I had been working for so much that didn’t work for me.
I went to Bali. And I let go.
It took a couple weeks, but I settled into a flow. I didn’t have to try. At all. People and places and circumstances just showed up. Because I was available for them. Everything just fell into place with such ease. Because I let it. The life that had been waiting for me was finally being lived.
Then I had to leave. And go back to a home that has never really felt like home to me, a place that no matter how much the sun shines has never felt warm to me, a place where no matter how little crime there is has never really felt safe for me, a place where no matter how many decades I have spent there I have never felt a sense of belonging. In fact, I have felt more of a sense of longing than belonging here.
So when I came back to California none of that felt any different. But I felt different. And therein lies the contrast.
I’ve been back for just about a month and I am still getting used to the new skin that I’m living in. I am getting used to experiencing being able to approach situations with ease instead of anxiety, with curiosity instead of fear. I’m getting used to no longer chasing the things (and people) that don’t work for me. And I’m getting used to the feeling of being completely and genuinely ok with it all.
Experiencing the contrast really helped me gain perspective on what I was really returning to. I was not planning to return to unavailability, no matter how prevalent it may be. I was returning with a renewed focus. That focus being on two things- writing (and finding a way to build a sustainable income doing that), and how to get back to Bali as soon as possible (based on finding a sustainable income that will allow me to do that). Those are pretty much the only things I have the energy for anyway.
I no longer have energy for the chase, even if I wanted it. It’s not there anymore. I have exhausted it all. That resource has been depleted.
My energy is now being spent creating, instead of working, on allowing, instead of chasing, on taking steps, instead of running… on living the life that’s been waiting for me, instead of perishing inside a life I don’t even want.
And I finally, truly feel ready and available for all that I’ve ever wanted.