June 1, 2012
I asked for a sign, and I got it.
But the problem with asking for a sign is that when you get one, you still have to make the choice:
Do I follow it?
Do I base my life and future on magic and synchronicity and trust? Or do I follow reason and rationality and logic?
I almost gave in. I almost went the safe route and went home, back to the States and my family. But instead I chose to follow the signs.
(This is an extremely long post – probably the longest I’ve ever written – so if you don’t have the time or inclination to read the entire thing, scroll down to the end for the punchline!)*
BILL MOYERS: “Do you ever have the sense of… being helped by hidden hands?”
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: “All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time – namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
I’ve been nomadic since June 2011, driving across the US and Canada before flying south to Buenos Aires, Argentina in October 2011, and then heading even further south into Patagonia in April 2012.
“Don’t fall off,” my ex business partner warned me. “You’re running out of land.”
He said I was running away. Perhaps. But running away from one thing is running toward something else.
What am I running towards? Myself. I know that’s a silly thing to do when I’m right here with me all the time. But I see this journey I’ve been on as a process of lightening. Across the continents I’ve left a trail of fears, guilt, obligations, and ‘shoulds’, and who I am and what I want is coming into sharper focus.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a little unemployment from California funding my journey. When I signed up after being “liberated” from my day job in March 2011, I was told I’d get 99 weeks, about two years of what my friends have termed “funemployment.”
Two weeks ago, about 53 weeks into the 99, the Federal Government announced they were cutting all extended unemployment benefits to Californians. Effective immediately. My cash flow stopped suddenly, eight months before I expected it to.
I’d known my unemployment could end at any minute – I could’ve been called in for an interview in California – so the news wasn’t a total shock. But it did change my plans for the rest of 2012.
Luckily, serendipitously, synchronistically, I have a few thousand in the bank.
I have never had a few thousand in the bank. I’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve had credit card debt since I began traveling to Italy once or twice a year during a long-distance relationship in college.
But I made the decision to be “financially free” (ie debt free) in 2010 and stopped using the credit cards. This year, I had a perfect opportunity to cut down more of the debt – I had the unemployment coming in, I got a good tax return, I received a few grand from my father’s death, and I chose to take a job in a remote town in Patagonia that covered all room/board expenses for a few months so I could focus on paying down bills. Nothing to spend money on out here, not even a restaurant.
Within my first month down in Patagonia, and just before unemployment ended, I’d paid off every card but one. For fixed expenses I’m down to one credit card, one hospital bill (from the rabid bat incident last summer) and my college loan.
So, synchronistically, the unemployment couldn’t have stopped at a better time. I had some money and low monthly expenses.
Now What Do I Do?
But what to do next?
I was at a crossroads.
I was being tested – what kind of life do I want to live?
Do I take a risk, or play it safe?
Do I go home, to the comfortable and secure, or do I take the leap of faith, the step into the unknown?
Fly back to Los Angeles and move in with my mom?
Fly to Oregon, a place I’ve wanted to live since I was eight, and move in with my aunt?
Fly straight to France, where a friend has a house I can stay at, and figure out a way to make money under the table in Europe?
I was torn. And a little scared. What if I ran out of money? Maybe I should go home and get a ‘real’ job. Going back to the States didn’t sound half bad, either – safer, more reasonable, more comfortable. I’d get to see my family and friends. I speak the language, it’s familiar, I know I can work legally, I don’t have to keep moving because of visa limitations. And I don’t even speak French. Of course going to France would be fun, but I’d only planned to go there because I had a free place to live, and it would be good to see my friend.
I realized that this indecision was the same old fight that’s existed throughout my life – the fight between the heart and the mind, fears and dreams. I’ve been trying to figure out and follow my dreams this past year, and it’s still a work in progress. I’m still sorting out what’s me and what’s other people, and I’m still working out the blocks that I sabotage myself with.
So now I had to decide – Do I give up on the adventure and go back to safety, comfort, the known, the secure? A 9-5 job in the States?
Or do I continue living outside of my comfort zone, pushing my limits, taking heart-based risks, living all this spiritual and inspirational stuff that so fascinates me?
And does it even matter? Any path can be an adventure an growth experience with the right attitude…
I know sounds like it’s all fun and games and first world problems, choosing what country you want to fly to next. But my uncertainty and all of the options, were making me anxious and uncomfortable. Freedom equals responsibility, and when you no longer have anyone or anything to blame for holding you back, it can be a scary and daunting thing.
I decided I would go home. I’d fly back to Los Angeles and spend the Fourth of July with my mother (something I don’t think I’ve ever done, since it was traditionally a holiday I spent with my father), and then after about a month I’d fly to Portland, and stay with my aunt while exploring Oregon.
The Universe Won’t Let Me
I had a return ticket on United Airlines from Buenos Aires to Washington DC that I’d pushed back from December to April. However, when I went online in April to change the return flight from April 18th to July 1st, thinking I’d spend the Fourth with my best friend in DC, I got an error message. I tried again and again, but it wouldn’t go through. Finally it showed that my reservation was changed, but I would have to make a call to United Argentina sometime before my departure to pay for the ticket change.
I later realized it was luck/synchronicity that I hadn’t been charged for that ticket change – turns out my friend wouldn’t be in DC for the Fourth of July anyways, so I had no reason to go there. So in May, when unemployment stopped and I decided to fly back to LA, I tried to change the ticket again. All I got on the website were error messages, so I started calling United.
I called, and I called, and I called. It was either busy, or when I would finally get through to an agent, the phone system it would immediately hang up on me. I ran out of money on my phone, so I bought another 40 pesos of credit, and then another 60 pesos. Busy, busy, hang up. I finally got through to a woman – “Please don’t hang up on me!!!!” – and she started the process of figuring out what fees I would have to pay. After about 4 minutes on the phone with her, click – disconnected. I’d run out of money again.
So I stopped. Why was this so hard? One of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few years is Don’t Push. Take action, then let go. Relax, allow. I’ve learned through experience that when I push something to happen, in the end it doesn’t work out anyways. This has been especially true, oddly enough, with technology. Technology tends to work in my favor – when something’s not working smoothly for me, I’m not supposed to do it. One of the best examples of this: last summer I was trying to buy an Amtrak train ticket online from Boston to Washington DC, but the website kept giving me error messages. I decided to stop pushing and wait til the next day to try again.
The next day I was on a whale watching cruise in Provincetown, MA. I met a friendly woman who was celebrating her birthday with her husband. Her husband, it turns out, was a train conductor for Amtrak. A few days later they picked me up, drove me to the train station, and I got on the train he conducted with him – the train from Boston to DC. For free. The cost of that train ticket I hadn’t been able to buy online? $160.
So, I stopped pushing for the United ticket to Los Angeles, and started wondering – maybe I’m meant to go somewhere else? Fly straight to Portland, Oregon? Fly straight to Marseille, France?
“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” – Dalai Lama
Answer from the Goddesses
After a few anxiety-ridden days of ruminating over what to do, I sat down with Ginny in front of the crackling fireplace in her room for a maté and confessed my confusion and anxiety over where to go next. I was overwhelmed by choice. I described the frustration I’d been experiencing – my struggles with United Airlines trying to re-book my ticket, the 100 pesos (~$20USD) I’d wasted calling their Argentinian 1-800 number over and over, the repeated busy signals and hang-ups. So this left me asking:
Why? Why wasn’t this working?
And then I saw Ginny’s Medicine Bag. The Medicine Bag is full of cards, runes, and books with Native American teachings. She had a deck of Goddess cards that I particularly liked, so I decided I’d ask the Goddesses where to fly to next.
I pulled out the deck, shuffled the cards, and asked: Where do I go?
California, Oregon, France, or hell, why not Italy, my favorite country in the world?
I expected some generic message from the card that might push me on a certain direction – a card about home or mother might mean I should go to California, forest imagery might be Oregon, adventure might be France…
I pulled a card and flipped it over. And I burst out laughing.
The card said:
“FORTUNA: The Roman goddess Fortuna was the same as an earlier Italian goddess who presided over the earth’s abundance and controlled the destiny of all human beings. Her name, derived from Vortumna, “she who turns the year about,” came to symbolize the capriciousness of life and luck, the vagaries of fate as the wheel of life turns around. Her festival was celebrated in October. Fortuna gives way to approach the ups and downs of life, a perspective that can offer us some equanimity as we proceed on our journey.”
I laughed until tears squeezed out the corners of my eyes.
I later flipped through the deck, and that one was the only card that mentioned Italy.
Italy. The country I fell in love with on my first trip to Europe at age 18. The country I left my first boyfriend for, spending a semester there studying abroad (when I had to return to the States I was quite depressed that I hadn’t spent a year). The country I went back to after graduating from college, intending to stay there forever, but then coming back to the States because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to pay back the $40,000 student loan I had (at the time the currency was the lira, not the Euro). Italy, the country I returned to four times in as many years because I fell in love with an Italian (my second boyfriend, a relationship that ended because of the distance and the fact that he was kind of a mammoni that wouldn’t move out of the house, and I got tired of waiting for him to get his own place so I could move in). The country of the language I love to speak and the food I love to eat.
So, I got my sign, my answer. Loud and clear.
And I’ve decided to follow it.
When the Goddesses said to go to Italy, I started thinking of who I knew over there.
I emailed a friend of my best friend in DC who I’d forgotten had just been relocated to Rome for work, and asked if I could crash on her couch if I came to Rome.
She said she had a guest room ready for me.
I emailed another friend I’d met 11 years ago on the way to a Radiohead concert in Verona. I told him I might be heading to Italy this summer, and asked if there were any good shows coming up.
He told me Radiohead was playing in Florence on July 1st. All their other dates were sold out but there just happened to be a few tickets left for Florence.
Ok, ok, Goddesses, Fortuna, Universe, fate, I get it!!! I’m going, I’m going!
So before I even booked my flight to Italy, I bought a Radiohead ticket online. The purchase went through without a hitch.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
- William Hutchinson Murray from his 1951 book entitled The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.
The Universe Won’t Let Me Again
The next step – the hunt for flights. The cheapest flights I could find on Kayak.com from Buenos Aires to Italy was an Aerolineas flight into Rome on June 25th. I checked every other Italian airport, including Florence, but they were all $300 or more than flying into Rome.
So, I tried to book the ticket on the Aerolineas site.
It wouldn’t go through.
I tried a few more times. Error, error, error. But there was an 800 number to call! Oh god. So I called, and got through immediately. A helpful woman with a Peruvian accent suggested maybe I was entering a four-digit expiration rate for my credit card rather than a two-digit. So I tried online again. Error.
I stopped. Why wasn’t this working? AGAIN?? I thought I was doing what I’m supposed to do!
I couldn’t book that train ticket to DC because I would get a free one the next day.
I couldn’t change my return flight to DC because my friend wasn’t going to be there.
I couldn’t change my flight to LA because I was apparently meant to go to Italy instead.
So why was Rome giving me problems now??
Perhaps there was a cheaper flight available? So I dug deeper. I googled ‘cheap flights Italy,’ I checked old emails from my Italian days to see if there was some travel site I’d forgotten about. I tried searching different dates, for the entire month of June, for the end of May. I tried searching all the airports, again. Nothing cheaper than flying into Rome. So I called Aerolineas again, and shortly got through to a man who put me on hold while he tried to figure out my issue with booking online. As I sat on hold, I flipped through the 20 or so tabs I had open in my browser.
And then I saw it. Somehow I’d missed the search result, or misunderstood it since the flight had a layover in Rome: a flight from Buenos Aires to Florence, a few days earlier that I’d been looking for, on June 23rd. For the same price as flying into Rome.
I hung up the phone.
I booked the ticket to Florence.
It went through without problem.
Florence. The first place I ever fell in love with. My second home. I hadn’t been there in seven years.
I’m going to Florence.
”Life is a fatal adventure.
It can only have one end.
So why not make it as far-ranging
and free as possible.”
- Alexander Eliot
I’m still afraid. I’m afraid I’m being stupid, afraid I’m making the wrong choice, afraid I’m wasting my money and my time, afraid I’m wasting opportunities, putting my comfort and security in jeopardy.
But the day I finally booked the ticket to Florence, I saw this post by Kute Blackson, summarizing and affirming the truth that I know in my heart, the truth that my head hasn’t quite been programmed as default yet:
“The fulfillment of your dream is not simply a matter of resources. But about your resourcefulness. How resourceful are you willing to be? How committed are you to your vision?
There is always a way. Always. Perhaps not the way you have always been doing it. But the way it’s seeking to happen for your highest good, which may not be the way you thought. So get yourself out the way so the way it’s meant to be can unfold.
The obstacles you might face along the way are simply opportunities to expand yourself, innovate and tap into other dimensions of your creative power that has yet to be expressed.
The fulfillment of the dream you have cannot be fulfilled by being the same person you have always been. It will require you shed the limitations of your previous self so that you stand in the greatness that your dream is demanding of you now.”
It’s about playing full out and giving everything you have to each moment, leaving nothing left on the table. So, lick the plate of your life clean.
You might have no road map for where your dream is taking you. But this is the time to trust your ‘Souls GPS’ to navigate you home. It’s your vision that will bring light to the path you are to travel.
Your dreams are the way in which the Divine seeks to dance in physical form through you.
The universe will respond to you at the level of your commitment.
Your excuses will get you nowhere.
Your commitment is key.
And that same day, my Note From the Universe:
There are no accidents, Michelle.
If it’s appeared on your life radar, this is why: to teach you that dreams come true; to reveal that you have the power to fix what’s broken and heal what hurts; to catapult you beyond seeing with just your physical senses; and to lift the veils that have kept you from seeing that you’re already the person you dreamed you’d become.
And believe me, that was one heck of a dream.
So, for now, I’m following dreams, allowing life to be magical, and going with the flow. Stay tuned!
*Afore-promised punchline promised to those who weren’t willing or able to read the whole thing: After my income flow stopped and I encountered a series of obstacles and website blocks, I didn’t know where in the world to go from Patagonia, so I asked the Goddesses: California, Oregon, France or Italy? And drew a card. The card told me to go to Italy. I arrive in Florence on June 24th.