Spring in Portland
I've been wanting to do a check-in on van life, but so much has been happening that I just haven't been able to write how I have felt, thought, worked through.... so here is an attempt.
When I first moved into the van, Portland had one of the coldest winter snaps that I can remember. I stayed plenty warm thanks to good gear I have from the years of backpacking in Colorado. I think I've written about this already. The weather has warmed. Spring is in full bloom and bud. I am as consistently happier than I can ever remember being in my life, and am wondering how this has happened.
One of the very first things I noticed one night as I was drifting off to sleep was how quiet it was. There was not the sounds of a refrigerator kicking on/off, heater firing up, a hot water tank, hum of electricity or Internet bouncing through the walls and air... There was only the sounds of white noise, the occasional car driving by, even the train rolling through the city seemed quieter/more comforting outside, than inside a house (it should be noted that I have spent a good deal of my life by rail-road tracks and find comfort in the hum of the rails and the sound of the horn).
Maybe it is because of this that I am sleeping better than I remember ever sleeping. I am sleeping deep, and dreaming at such incredible levels. My sleep patterns have always been troubling and fitful. When I have dreamed in the past it leaned toward violent, chaotic, and disturbing. So far I haven't had a single apocalyptic dream. I have had some serious yelling in my dreams, but it was more like I was working shit out versus violence or chaos. The dreams have been super realistic and I sometimes wonder if they actually happened, and had to remind myself that the people in them don't even live anywhere I currently was.
Spotted on one of my walks of randomness.
This brings me to waking up, maybe the most profound part of this adventure yet. When I wake, sometimes due to the level of my dreams, I have to figure out where I am. Not just in the way I use to after an intense dream. Before it would be like "oh yeah, I am in MY bed in the house I rent". Now it is "I am in the van. My head is on this end. I am parked.... facing toward....." Then I check my most basic needs. I can't just wonder half asleep to the bathroom and sort the morning cobwebs. I have to make sure that the pee jar has enough room for what is in my bladder (I have almost misjudged this a couple times and been thankful for Kegel exercises!). Is it warm enough to change cloths in the van. Do I need to get to a cafe for breakfast/tea/coffee.... In other words, I have to wake up and be present. I start my day in a type of meditation, and if I stay intentional, I spend a good part of my day present and aware.
Some days are better than others. Sometimes I spend way too much time thinking about were I need to be for where I want to go/do next. Other days are much more spontaneous based on where I wake-up because of what I did the night before. The spontaneous days are the ones that I really feel present in. It starts with the wake-up game I just mentioned. Then I walk to a coffee shop and check in for the day (brush teeth, charge up, warm up) then walk around to various places, chat with strangers (or friends I randomly run into), and just enjoy whatever comes in my path that day. If it is a work day, I go to work. If it is not, I just keep roaming. I stop when I want to. Maybe I swing in to watch a movie. Maybe I sit down and devour an entire book, a pot of tea, a growler of kombucha.... Every couple of days I end up at the gym for a nice workout and shower/hygiene maintenance.
Switching to a mostly raw food diet, I am both eating more fresh foods, and also more packaged raw food. I hope to move more and more to the fresh foods. Right now I am grabbing a piece of citrus (they have been so amazing this year), a carrot, avocado, celery, nut butter... you get the picture. I am sure this cleaner food is helping fuel all of the changes I've mentioned as well as the ones I'm about to.
In summation, I feel amazing and super in-touch with what is going on with my life, but hadn't thought too much about it until a good friend of mine, who is a teacher, sent out a call to some people for input on a book he is teaching, THE GLASS CASTLE by Jennette Walls (an excellent memoir). He wants to teach from the perspective of the characters who choose to be homeless. He was wondering about some good questions to explore economic alternatives for a generation that will not be able to buy a large house in the suburbs with 2 cars, etc. His desire for this exploration sent me deeper into exploring my choice of not living in a dwelling with an address. I can't compare my life at all to the characters in that memoir. Our experiences are vastly different for so many reasons. However, I recognized some commonalities. Mostly, the desire to not fall prey to the mentality of more is better, or that "our" government has our best interest at heart. That I don't believe in the "American Dream".... come to think about it, there are actually a good number of values/ideas/believes that I can relate to when the main characters are not indulging in their respective addictions.
I can also relate to some uncomfortably. What do people think of me at the gym? Or the people that see me climb out of my van first thing in the morning? How about the people at the park that catch me doing some re-organizing? After a slight moment of feeling judged, I realize that no one is really noticing, or caring, or saying anything. That most everyone is feeling self-conscience about how others are judging them, or what they are thinking of them. Then I smile at them, at myself, at the awkwardness it is in being human. And I reflect that this life is the perfect life for someone like myself.... not just a nomadic spirit, but a loner by nature; destined to walk the lone road like Cane in KungFu.
Then, just this weekend, I had an experience while I was out dancing. It was no big deal in the moment, but as I was thinking a little about it, turns out its kinda big for me. A friend and I went dancing (finally I had a good queer dance night in Portland! fuck yea! real dance music!), and we were having fun. Someone kinda hit on me, I was awkward, and went on dancing. If I had been drinking, how to put it,I may not have been so awkward? So, anyway, my ego got some attention.
Then I really thought about it (days later), and I realized some deeper shit about myself. I have been suffering from a broken heart for such a very long time and haven't really paid it any attention. That there was a time in my early 20s that I could go out dancing/drinking meet people, be flattered, and NOT go home with them. That use to be my normal. Then I was in my first deeper relationship. It ended after a few years. Instead of just having a scab over my broken heart, I put up a wall. Instead of letting it heal, I started sleeping around. Sometimes I did this with people that I really did/do care about (perhaps that is why we are still friends), other times I never saw them again, reassured that it wasn't just casual sex because we had a really great conversation before/after.
Eventually I had another "big" relationship. It lasted a couple years, and though we both knew that it would end (one day at a time was our mantra), I was not prepared for it. I was at a loss when it came to an end. I had missed some crucial part of healing and being able to know myself. This is why it took me a couple years to get my shit together enough to move out here to Portland.
Being out here has been great on so many levels, but not for my romantic life. That part of me had kind of died. I got involved with people that I knew where not good for me on so many levels, until I have gotten to the point of not wanting to be involved with anyone... all I need are my friends.
So what I've realized after my awkward moment this weekend, is that I actually feel that my heart is healing. It has been broken in so many ways so many times, for so long; and not just from romance with other people but also how I've treated myself, how humans treat one another, the land, water, animals... how much has been over consumed, taken for granted, used up to nth degree.
What I think I am realizing is that this simple life is leading to a greater understanding of myself and how I want to interact with this world while I am a part of it. I don't want to fuck around any more. I want to get to know a place the way it is in that moment before I leave it. I want to take the time to know someone just a little more before I sleep with them. I'm not against casual sex. Don't get me wrong. I'm just realizing that, for me, now, I don't want superficialness in my life. I want my food organic and alive, not some packaged emptiness, and the same holds true for my relationships, friendships, work, play, life, dreams, ....
So, I guess what I am trying to say, is this life that I am choosing to live right now is helping me develop the discernment to know myself better. To shed some of this fear that has kept me locked up in myself that keeps people and places at a distance. To find ways to connect more deeply to the world around me and to myself. ... Its life as a meditation.