On the Run

On day 35 of living out of a suitcase, I laid in the dark between the wall of Madrid AirBnB #1 and my napping partner. He could tell that day he was coming down with the fever he has now, so we pulled the metal shade over the window and tried to rest on the mattress where our feet hung off the end. I couldn’t sleep. I spent 3 hours trying not to jostle him while obsessively checking my phone to see if any new apartment listings had been posted.

He woke up feeling a little better and said he’d like to go out, find some food in the area and then take it easy; what did I want to do? I said something, something, maybe I’d go out on my own because I didn’t want to squat in a dark apartment all day and not feel like I was enjoying this city. Then we had a nice little argument (in hushed voices so our AirBnB flatmates wouldn’t hear) about what exactly I meant by that.

I’ll pause here to say that part of me feels like, in this first post since I departed on my Adventure…

…maybe I ought to be writing about the quiet, mossy moon-esque landscapes we walked in Iceland or the many kind souls who have patiently listened to our broken Spanish since we arrived in Madrid. Maybe the surprise of stumbling into a video installation of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights or hearing a classical Spanish guitar performance on the commuter train. I think it’s important, though, to give space to the things travel and change bring us to on the inside as well as the outside. And the farther I get into adulthood, the more I appreciate when people share with me the things that are challenging in their journeys—not just the sparkling vacation photos with attractive filters applied.

Pile of suitcases

So, on day 35 of living out of a suitcase, my partner and I pulled it together enough to exit our cramped quarters and find a 4 o’clock lunch. We walked over the Madrid Rio through the sunshine and ate black onion pudding and venison with wine on the sidewalk of a taberna. Then, my partner went back to the AirBnB to rest, and I veered east to check out the location of an apartment that had been recently posted. I had my backpack with me; laptop and journal and books in tow so that maybe I could find a cute café somewhere to have a cup of coffee and do my thing for a few hours afterwards.

I wound through the streets of the barrio and passed by the listed apartment. It was not a place I wanted to live. It was fine, but not the right place for us. And by now I felt silly for lugging my backpack all this way. An empty feeling had crept into my chest, and my feet felt heavy. There was no way I would make it to the metro and into the city center to find a cute café now.

I lumbered back to the AirBnB, put on my pajamas, and lay face down on the bed with my feet hanging off the mattress.

My partner was a little concerned to find me like this after I’d made such a stink about getting out not even 2 hours earlier, but I didn’t even know how to talk to him about it. I’d been on the run for too long, but now the flood of experience and emotions had finally overtaken me, and the only thing to do was to wait and watch as the tide came in.

I never had any intentions of running from anything.

In fact, I try to live my life so that I’m moving to things as much as possible and not just away. But this is not the first time something like this has happened to me. It starts out as just a bunch of activity—a big move, a big change, a big project. Circumstances and lack of time might start to necessitate letting slide some of the things I do to take care of myself; my eating schedule gets jacked, the yoga practice fades, journaling gets spotty, meditation? Hahaha.

Before I know it, I’m solely focused on getting things done. I’m out of touch with myself, which would be problematic even on normal days, and is especially now that the plates of my life are shifting formation. At this point, I might look down at my metaphorical feet and notice that I’m running, which is understandable, because there is much to do. And I might start to think that not only do I not want to deal with the backlog of personal whateverness I’ve been neglecting, but also that I might not be able to now. Because there’s so much to do, right? So I might try to keep running even though I never intended to start running in the first place.

But, on day 35 of living out of a suitcase, I had slowed down enough that it caught up and stopped me in my tracks.

I miss my cats; I’m going to miss holidays with my family; I miss my beautiful little cottage full of all my beautiful baubles; I miss my favorite coffee shop in the trees; I miss my regular conversations with friends about life and magic; I’m about to turn 31 and I don’t know how I feel about what I’ve “accomplished” so far; I don’t know what I’ll do next.

After a couple of hours of this, the emotional tide ebbed a little, and I was able to pick through what had washed up on the shore and observe the pieces better. I’m still not quite sure how to put it, but I recognize that this is part of the conversation we enter into with ourselves when we leave home. It’s not necessarily a different conversation than I’d eventually have with myself staying put, but it’s packed tighter and pulled farther out into the open.

But why run from it? This is what I signed up for.

I’ve been hoping to treat this experience like a pilgrimage to unknown places–in the world and in myself. I set out to allow myself to be changed in this chapter, and of course that’s going to be uncomfortable and uncertain.

Today marks day 37 of living out of a suitcase. My partner is coming down from his fever. We’re resting in Madrid AirBnB #2 now, surveying the tools we have to be well in a new world.

What works for you, dear reader? How do you stay in touch with yourself when you might otherwise be on the run?