I love phrases that switch words around to completely alter perspective. So simple, so clever, so complex. Word plays.
From the Start Where You Are, a journal of self exploration comes the phrase: “The question isn’t who is going to let me. The question is who is going to stop me.” –Ayn Rand
I love that. It makes me think about my first mind breaking trip that I took back to Oklahoma in 2004. A return to my roots. A trip that I had anxiety attacks about every day and night, over and over. My mind was broken like a too oft played record, the grooves too deep to jump the needle of thoughts out of the rut. Not only was I facing down my fear of travel, but I was going back to somewhere that I hadn’t been since I was 8 years old. A place that memories had somehow fled out of my mind, except for a couple… and those weren’t very good ones. By the time I went to the airport, I felt like I had been through a harrowing journey in my mind that had taken an exhausting toll on my body. I don’t really know how I managed to do it, but I look back at that woman and tears stream down my face in compassion at the courage I manifested. The strength of will I had to move forward through the terror.
The trip itself, of course, was a journey through time for me. The woman I sat next to on the airplane asked me where I was going. When I shared that I was returning to where I grew up, not to visit anyone in particular, but just to see it… she said, like it was a natural, coming-of-age thing to do, “Good.” And that was it. I didn’t feel belittled or dismissed, or like she was uninterested. In fact, her response was just the right amount of “normal” in the sea of emotional turbulence I had put myself through. It was perfect, and I’ve always been grateful to her in my heart for that. Sometimes people, even random strangers, can say just the right thing at the right time without even knowing it.
There were many memories that I made on that trip… I remember arriving in OKC and getting my rental car and driving out to the lake that my parents used to go boating at. I remember talking to my former neighbor, and her simple joy at finding out who I was and learning that my mom ended up being OK, she had worried for her. She was so pleased at “what a fine lady you’ve turned out to be.” She had lost her partner, and she openly shared her grief with me about that. She happily shared my trek as we trespassed on the land where I had formerly lived. On that property, I remember walking down a hill that was overgrown with weeds as high as my breasts and not knowing why I needed to do it, until I realized as I came out from under an overgrown shrub that there had once stood the playhouse my daddy had built us. The way I had gone, my body remembered, but not my mind. The Oklahoma Bombing Memorial and the somber sadness that overwhelmed me as I walked along looking at the pictures and momentos weaved through the chain link fence around the memorial. So many memories, and none of them I would hold in my heart now if my anxiety had won.
The most stark memory I have, though, of all those that I made, was on my flight back home I was sitting in the airport during my layover in Denver. I looked around at all the gates. Flights were leaving to JFK, LAS, SFO, DTW … all of those places, and like a flash in my brain I thought to myself, “I could change my ticket and go… anywhere. Right now, this second, I could. There is no one to stop me. I am limited only by me.”
It was a revelation of freedom and a recognition of my choices.