As the late afternoon sun descends, its rays catch the side of my face – warm, but not too hot. Directly in front of me, a lone, impossibly tall palm tree ascends up, up, up into the cloudless blue sky, stoic and proud, as though she were keeping watch over the entire neighborhood. The same gentle breeze that blows through my hair causes the palm fronds to rustle softly and rhythmically, the music of the trees joining the chirping of tiny birds and the occasional melody of a far-off police siren as this lazy late afternoon slides into evening.
As I sit on one turquoise mesh folding chair, my feet propped up on a second turquoise mesh folding chair, legs extended, gazing out from a white stucco patio framed by an impeccably-manicured hedge blossoming with pink and yellow flowers, I’m willing to admit that the view from here looks pretty good.
It wasn’t always this way. In fact, for much of the year that I’ve lived in this one bedroom cottage bungalow with its near-perfect patio, I didn’t enjoy or embrace my life here. I didn’t relax and I didn’t settle in. But now, as my second spring begins to unfold on Cashio Street, I find myself inching ever closer to something that resembles happiness. It’s a feeling that’s been foreign to me for so long, I’m not quite sure what to do with it. It’s a feeling that, if I’m honest, scares me a little. What if it’s not real? What if it goes away?
When I first moved to the cottage on Cashio Street, it was to seek refuge. My marriage was toxic, my life was a mess, and I was reeling from an overwhelming grief that I hadn’t been able to fully process or accept. I needed to start over. I moved in with some friends, temporarily, until I figured out what to do next. And then it happened: with almost zero effort on my part, this beautiful little bungalow materialized. It fell into my lap so seamlessly, it was almost as if fate had stepped in on my behalf.
At first, the sudden change was exhilarating. Both my home and my life were a blank slate, to be redecorated and refashioned in whatever way I saw fit. I had a new neighborhood to discover and a new life to explore.
But after the novelty wore off, reality set in. I was isolated, living far away from most of my friends in a city where perpetual traffic jams mean that even a separation of a few miles can present a serious impediment to regular social gatherings. The more time I spent alone with myself, the more I realized that I no longer knew who I was. My marriage had defined not only my relationship status, but many of my friendships and associations – both personally and professionally – as well. I felt adrift, homesick, and unsure of where to turn. I missed the places and faces of my past life and wanted to retreat back to the familiar and the known.
But I couldn’t. And I didn’t. Gradually, I began to seek out new ways to fill the empty spaces left in my life by the absence of so many people and things. I used this blog as a tool to write my way through sadness and loss and the changes I felt unfolding within me. Through my writing, I met a community of other writers, both online and in real life. A few months after my move, I went on a writer’s retreat in the San Juan Islands in my home state of Washington and was amazed to find that there were so many other people out there just like me: people who were brave yet broken, people who had profound stories to tell, people who found their solace within the safety of the written word.
The void still gnawing at my insides, I kept going. Along with a close circle of friends, I started a weekly creative workshop for fellow actors and writers. I reconnected with a college friend, joined her theatre company, and began rehearsals for an autobiographical solo performance show that will open this upcoming summer. I became a volunteer for an organization that works to empower teenage girls in L.A.’s underserved communities and I’m now a mentor to a fourteen-year-old girl who has plans to finish her first novel before she graduates from high school. Once again, I picked up an oft-abandoned screenplay loosely (or maybe not so loosely) based on the worst year of my life, but this time with a renewed sense of commitment and enthusiasm. I’m almost done with the first draft, and I’m planning to hold my first table read next month. And I’m finally – finally – in counseling with a good therapist.
I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I am a work in progress. Change is scary and it’s difficult, and some days are easier than others. But through stubbornness and persistence, I’m starting to find a way out of the darkness. I’m starting to find that this new, ever-evolving me is someone I actually enjoy spending time with. And I’m starting to recognize that caught as I am between impatiently pushing for a “better,” happier future and brooding over memories of a past that I can’t change, the only place I can safely reside, the only place I want to reside, is right here, right now.
One day at a time, as they say.
Until next time, friends.