As you know I spent a few weeks in a secluded cabin in the woods last month.
Despite coming down with pneumonia while there and it raining nearly every day, it ended up being the best thing I’ve done for myself in years. It’s impossible to catalogue all the realizations and growth I had there, so here is just a little synopsis of how it went for me– the ups and downs and everything in between.
1. I felt like I got hit by a double-decker bus made of unbearable feelings.
For the entire first week, this is how I felt. Without my usual anxiety-soothing crutches like Facebook, Netflix, wine, or socializing, I couldn’t escape my feelings. I faced them head on. It sucked but it was exactly and precisely what I needed.
I video journaled every day and re-watched the videos. This ended up being a surprisingly effective exercise in self-attuning and self-soothing. I’d cry or vent or talk to the camera, watch the video, really *see* my feelings, and then they’d pass. And WOW did a lot of feelings bubble up. Some more recent, some very old. I know as a therapist that you’ve got to feel your feelings in order to process them, but I had been avoiding it all year because I was scared of how much it would hurt. When I finally did it, it did hurt but I handled it. All alone. And I was ok. And knowing that I could do that helped me continue facing my feelings over and over again.
By the end of cabin time, I had let go of a lot of anger and resentment that I thought I was going to have a tight grip on until the day I died. I was able to find compassion for folks in my past that at one time I thought didn’t deserve it. I was able to sit peacefully without the running engine of anxiety in my gut. I felt peace like I hadn’t felt peace in years.
2. I really came to understand meditation.
Every single morning I watched the sun rise outside, and then came back into my cabin and meditated.
Again, I knew the benefits of meditation but I never exercised it. When I did meditate, I felt calmer and more centered all day. Despite knowing these benefits have been scientifically proven, I was still shocked every day that it worked so well. Like, really? That’s all I have to do and this serenity happens? Sweet.
3. Art feels good even when it doesn’t look good.
I’m intimidated by art and creativity and, as a perfectionist, rarely allow myself to do it. I’m surrounded by very talented and well-trained artists, and that makes it even harder for me. Not to mention, I received messages as a child that basically said, “if you aren’t a prodigy, don’t bother.” So I avoided all kinds of creativity. I intentionally made this cabin my “well, fuck that” experience. I painted something every single day, even when I didn’t want to. None of it is going up in a museum, but holy crap did it feel good. I made pretty things, I made meaningful things, I wrote poetry and created collages and it made me happy. Art, for me, is truly about the journey and not the destination.
4. I discovered I can do things I genuinely thought I couldn’t do.
Here’s a list:
Build a fire
Care for myself when I’m really sick
Be alone for weeks
Avoid social media completely
Face overwhelming feelings
5. I solidified what I wanted to do next.
I spent so much time outside while living in the cabin. I took hikes every day and read books outside. Despite feeling frustrated that I had to walk so far to a cold outhouse in the rain when I had to pee in the middle of the night, being in nature really spoke to me. I felt a wash of peace come over me every time I looked over the canyon at all the beautiful trees. It was like every minute looking at this view was an antidote to every painful minute I’ve sat in Bay Area traffic over the last two years. I knew the next place I was moving to needed to be more rural.
I came home and my next move just fell into place. I found a beautiful, affordable, rural cabin just outside my favorite place on earth, Mendocino. My new landlady has taken to me, perhaps because she too came out to Mendocino from the Bay Area after a breakup, and she is helping me learn how to live in the country.
I move in three days. I’m currently sitting on the living room floor of my Oakland apartment, surrounded by boxes packed with all my things. I’m scared to leave my comfort zone of the bay area, but I’m also so ready for a change. I’ve always talked myself out of moving anywhere, and now it’s finally time. Mendocino is only a few hours away, but it’s a whole new way of life that I’m starting. A slower-paced life. I’ll make new friends and find new favorite places and I’m so excited.
This year has been a huge year for me. My friends and family have supported me in all sorts of ways while I recovered from heart-break and restarted my life. I’m so grateful to you all, and I feel truly blessed. Please come visit me anytime in Mendocino ❤