A girl can’t help where she finds pieces of herself, especially when some were cast so far away that she almost would have had to search to the ends of the earth to find them. Thursday evening, as we drove off into the dusk, I turned around and smiled as the edges of the region faded away behind us. For the first time in years, I finally was able to work myself free of the mire and venture out into the world I had been forced to leave behind. It was a difficult transition that I fought against but was soon brought under control. The sun sinking in the distant horizon ended up being a metaphor of life — my life — that I felt compelled to catch on camera. The blurring was deliberate. I wanted you to try to strain to see what was behind the brush-line in the foreground. All you see is shadow. Uncertainty. Grey. The light of the descending sun blending the darkness into muted shades of gray that would eventually be pierced on the horizon by the light so profusely that everything but the growth in the foreground was obscured by light. By my light, for I have at long last escaped the darkness.
For the first time in years, without being sick, without being entirely deprived of sleep for days on end, I slept that night. Uninterrupted. Peacefully. Nothing haunted me in my dreams, and nothing kept me awake from the pounding that had once been so prevalent in my head. Not endlessly being tossed and churned about between the chaotic waves of waking and spurts of sleep.
Friday morning arrives, and I am the first one up. In fact, by the time anyone else is awake, I have already had my shower and gotten dressed. I was antsy. Eager to get going. Something was burning inside me, and I think my early morning enthusiasm was grating on the others’ nerves. Time spent with friends, a tour, lunch, another tour. Before dinner with the couple we were visiting for the weekend, there was one last surprise. It was not the best part of the day, not even close. But with a view like this, how can a girl complain?
Saturday, however, was a day like no other. We got up even earlier (I was, of course, the first one up, because I really don’t mess around) to prepare for our early morning drive into Manhattan. The weather was perfect for a long, full day of walking around Brooklyn and Manhattan. When I say walk, I mean put on your hiking boots, friends, because we were absolutely nomadic. On the way to our mid-morning tour, we stopped to take a few photos. (Please note, this doesn’t mean I just started taking photos. Over the course of a few days, I burned the life out of the camera’s battery to acquire several hundred shots.) You can have a look at this one here.
After business was handled in Brooklyn, we ate a late lunch and then descended back into the bowels of the earth and headed for the subway. When we re-emerged, we were back in Manhattan. A few very important things happened here. One, I was able to augment my supply of scarves by snagging up some super cheap pashminas from a street vendor.
Once the pashmina fest was over, there was one place we absolutely had to go. Shining like a bright beacon leading you through the darkness, it stands on the Avenue of the Americas. 1073, to be exact. What is this wonder, you ask? A Japanese bookstore! Not just any Japanese bookstore, but an oasis in the desert for a self-professed language geek. A bookstore I scoped out from a few hundred miles away, just patiently planning the day I could descend upon her bindings like a plague of locusts. Kinokuniya is two floors of endless hours of entertainment for me. Basically, I could spend a big part of the day wandering between the shelves of books with wanton abandon. Unfortunately, I had limited time, so I had to struggle to keep my focus. Here are my spoils. Don’t ask how much they cost. Just know I enjoyed cracking these puppies open and flipping the pages back and forth and back again. So excited to be able to replace such a simple thing that I left behind not so long ago. So excited that when I left the store, the three women I was with actually stopped walking and made a point to say something about it. In concert with each other. Nothing to see here, ladies, let’s keep moving! The Apple store waits for no one!
After we finished ravaging the streets of New York, we took a break at a café before heading back to Connecticut for dinner on our last night in the area. This was pretty much my weekend. Just the nuts and bolts, because there is so much more going on in my head, and there will never be enough room, virtual or otherwise, to share them both. I was deliberately brief about how I occupied myself this past weekend, because there was an extremely important revelation to be had.
The rogue missing pieces of me I briefly mentioned in my last post made their appearance over the course of the few days I spent out of town. Generally speaking, one doesn’t seek to find such things far from home, especially when it was been what seems like a million years ago that I was there. (The last time I was in New York was ages ago.. in 1996 when a group of hardy Japanese majors made a weekend road trip to take our Japanese Proficiency exams to get certified. We took the exams at Columbia University. We also attempted to eat at a Chinese restaurant in Jersey until we saw rats scurrying around the walls. Um, we left and went for burgers!)
If you remember, back in May, I mentioned the little monster within me making her cyclical presence known, albeit in a veiled, non-determinate way…..
Here is the funny thing, though, before I go into this more. Before putting in your mind the images of what I discovered over the weekend. It’s an awe inspiring way how making it out the other side of domestic violence changes a person, not only the temporary (longer for some than others) aftermath and chaos, but the good things as well. The lessons and abilities we would have preferred not have to learned the hard way, whilst fighting for our lives. I am forever changed by my experiences, and hopefully now that I am past the hardest part of the journey, that means for the better and not the worse. Before, I was not so vigilant of seeing sign and patterns in people that I needed. Things that could have warned me. I could not see a direction to go nor the planning it took to get there; I just acted. I could not wait; I just pushed ahead. So when I say I have been changed for the better, I truly believe that this is the case.
I have always had this nagging wanderlust pounding around not just in my head, but my heart. With the head you can use logic to combat its persistence to a certain degree. However, your heart has a will all its own. And when I could talk my mind out of thinking and wanting and planning, the drive still persisted, and when I resisted it, my emotions betrayed me. But they never clued me in on what they were trying to tell me; they just festered and agitated me. Once they get agigtated enough, I become discontent, and that is when this urge to wander shows itself, recklessly, with potentially detrimental effects.
I never had the need to sit back and examine this, despite my penchant for tearing everything else apart to the last fiber and performing careful examination and inspection before compartmentalizing it in the vast storage tank called my brain. I had a tendency to avoid analyzing anything that had to do with my emotions. This was dangerous. This rehashed things I thought I buried deep enough. Things I sought to forget, because to remember was too painful. As those of you here who have made your own journies through to the other side of domestic violence (and now continue on the journey to heal and find peace again), you no doubt know once you leave, there is no longer any place to hide from yourself. Everything that was in the darkness has been dredged up, lit up in brilliant light, exposing it to everyone. You are betrayed by your vulnerability. Your tears and pain and shortcomings and failures become manifest, and to heal, you have to confront everything that led you there, no matter how far back you must go. The ugly things in past never stay buried.
Even in May when I touched on this topic of the yen to sojourn into other places, I still had not been able to pinpoint where the desire… no, the need… for this came from. Sometimes, all you need is time. This waderlust became something that was quite an obsession the past few months, and I found myself becoming increasingly discontent with things around me. Work. Home. Doing the same thing day after day, different places and different faces, somehow always the same.
When I was invited on this trip a month ago, I immediately jumped on it, for so many reasons. The most important of them truly had nothing to do with the need to get away. I was offered an opportunity that many don’t get so soon after being baptized. The entire year since leaving has been like this for me; filled with blessings up to the hilt. So full, in fact, that they overflow and envelope me. It is difficult for me to put into words, because, considering the circumstances, it’s a very personal, emotional topic, and I become overwhelmed at the thought that just one person could ever be considered worthy enough to receive all that I have been given.
I had no idea when I accepted the invitation that this weekend was going to present me with such an epiphany about myself and what I need to be happy. Content. Past the three most important things, my relationship with Jehovah, having Kerwyn back in my life, and all the wonderfully loving brothers and sisters in my congregation, there was still more I needed to become whole. But until this weekend, I still lacked the capacity to figure it out.
So what was it? What could be so important to my becoming a whole person again? Life. Vitality. Change. Resources. Choices. People. I am speaking of where I live. Many people can make themselves at home wherever they are, and I feel a small bit of envy for them. While I can adapt and survive anywhere, this does not afford me the luxury of being happy and content there as well. And as I was smacked in the face with this realization on Saturday, I began to think in detail of one habit of mine that never changed. My preferred surroundings. Being in the country is quiet. Slow. Peaceful. But it’s deafening. It’s smothering, and after a while, it becomes annoying. Every time I have traveled in the past, I always go to large cities. The excess, the masses of people undulating on the streets like the tide as it ebbs and flows, the diversity, the constancy of change… these things to me represent comfort.
New York City, Montreal, Seattle, Detroit, DC, and then two places where I spent a great deal of time in both quantity and duration: Tokyo and Toronto. I enveloped myself in the crowding. The noise. The constant movement. And I yearned for it. I have learned that I am just not a country girl. I would dare err on the side of saying I am a city girl at heart, because by the time I was in Tokyo for the first month (out of three), I had gone totally native. I had to be forced to get back the on plane to come home. Each time I left these places, I felt a part of me become dark and withdrawn, and when I found myself back in the mix, I immediately came back to life. I need the crowds, and hustle, and choices, and change, and excess like I need air. Like I need water. And Saturday, this is the piece of me that I found lying conspicuously on streets of Manhattan.
The final piece of me that says I have finally come full circle. I now know what I want and where I want my life to take me. And the excitement I feel cannot be put into words. So many things to plan, so many things to do, so many places to see. I am whole. I have a home. I am at peace. And the thought that this time around, Kerwyn gets to see the better side of me… well, it makes me grin from ear to ear.
I have picked up the pieces. I just needed the right glue to get them to stay in place. These brilliant, quirky, but loving and faithful pieces of me.
The story of a girl has just begun. Come along on my journey with me.