traveling to visit myself

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Earlier this month, I left for a solo getaway to Chicago to visit old female friends. I left New York feeling depleted by a summer of sleeping too late and letting other people dictate my schedule; merely fiddling, unfocused, on my art.

When I arrived in Chicago, the days stretched out and time seemed to slow down. Five days felt like ten. I napped on my dear friend's couch, spent mornings reading long-form essays and petting her cat, taking public transit an hour north to visit the Bahai temple, dodging a screaming couple (maybe on drugs) in an empty subway cart, went to a Mexican diner and ate two orders of tacos and burritos, was chatted up, doggedly, by a handsome Slovenian stranger, who asked me to accompany him to a famous jazz club where, he said, Al Capone used to frequent. Why don't you delay your flight a few days, he said. I laughed.  

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Then there were those late nights and long mornings in the homes of my two soul friends -- ones who knew me before I moved to New York, before college, before getting and quitting my job, before great love and great heartbreak, before all of this. We passed slow time together. We drove down midwestern highways struck by sun, laying on a blanket along Lake Michigan, drinking at a beer garden, cooking dinner in her kitchen, getting sleepy at ten pm from one glass of wine. I did, at least. I went to her upstairs guest bedroom and slept as though I hadn't slept all summer. 

There is something so comforting about being held in the spaces of nurturing female friends, of being taken care of by another woman. My own mother is so far away. I would be lying if I said I didn't crave that, sometimes. My body wanted to remember its soul. 

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It was that combination -- of wandering alone in a strange city, and also of being in their company -- which made me remember my own ground, made me remember my seventeen year old self; young and fresh with optimism. It's recalling this exact feeling, described by John O'Donohue in his late interview with Krista Tippett:  

There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there is still a sureness in you, where there’s a seamlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.

On the plane ride back to New York, I felt a sense of lightness, power, and the potency: like the sudden awareness of an inner presence, a peaceful goddess presence, you could call it. 

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Now it's been a few weeks and I'm trying to remember that expansive feeling. I'm thinking about how I can recreate that feeling at home, in my own room, in my own self.

Perhaps it's remembering that what other people and other places trigger in you is a self that always exists, regardless of environment or circumstance. In meditation, they call it the deep peace that lives behind the breath. Maybe sometimes I'm too busy living in shallow time that I don't even breathe. Let alone settle into the peace behind the breath. Breathing comes first. 

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... 

PS. This is my first post in what feels like nearly a year. I've shifted my focus quite a bit in my art. More details on that later, but, as it relates to writing, I've decided to treat this space as an online creative journal. Try to make it more personal. I'm combining inspiration logs with it. Here's what inspired me this week: 


Inspiration log:

Books
To Bless The Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings - found at my friends' home, cathartic for every life moment. 
Many Moons Workbook - found at my other friend's home. 
Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes in Women's Lives - finished while on the plane, incredibly enlightening

Music
Ave Maria - Giulio Caccini - I must have listened to this everyday since I first heard it. 
Orbit by Philip Glass - fell asleep with my earphones in and woke up at 3 am to this

Art
Prisma Visions Tarot - such a beautiful deck by an amazing artist. I saw this at the Strand and felt immediately drawn towards it. 

Podcast: 
John O'Donohue - The Inner Landscape of Beauty - listen to this. 

Objects: 
Selenite crystal, pictured above. Bought in Milwaukee. I found it so calming. 

JourneyKening Zhu