When Showing Up is Enough

I was so in need of a break before I set off for what we Alaskans call the Lower 48 some weeks back.

Getting closer to retirement from a job I have loved and occasionally loathed, I’ve been searching for what comes next and where to live it.

I’ve hoped for a place with defined seasons that was closer to my extended family, closer to airports for big travel, and less expensive on a smaller budget.

I also wanted to escape from a job and a land too often punctuated by traumas like suicide and drug overdoses. Surely, in a world filled with both joys and sufferings, I’d stumbled upon a path that kept me overly steeped in the latter. Or at least, this is what I’d been telling myself.

And then, not too long before my scheduled trip to see family, we too were struck by the very things I’d wanted to flee. Three deaths as well as other unplanned emergencies that simply could not be helped changed the landscape of the journey.

After a few days of pure anxiety, picturing myself in strange towns, driving rental cars on the interstate, I got out from underneath the bed and began rebuilding plans, and challenging my own assumptions about my future as well. I’ve made a point to see family every other year that I’d not even met until I was an adult, and developed some close relationships that anchor me. So having less time with people I adore is still a gift.

It’s the quality, not the quantity, and this trip was a perfect reminder. I felt rich. Mini-visits and gatherings, hayrides and haunted houses closer to Halloween, and lots of time with my younger sister, nieces and nephews.

Thanks to the improvements with GPS systems, driving the interstate was completely doable. After the briefest jaunt in to Indiana, I got to see parts of Kentucky I’d long been meaning to, enjoyed my aunt and family in Rhode Island( another place I’d not been) and drove the length of North Carolina to visit my old professor and one of my editors.

It was on the way to North Carolina that I sat next to a thirty-something year old man who had the window seat. A few minutes in flight, we were swapping cat pictures and talking about his new relationship and successful business venture.

“I’m the only person in my immediate family whose not been in a psych ward or jail,” he said proudly. He attributed his success to an aunt that helped raise him after his father’s final incarceration. When I asked where she was now, his smile faded. He told me she died of suicide a year before. Then he shut down completely.

I haven’t any idea where I’ll be after I retire in October of 2020, but I know I don’t have to have it all sorted. I plan to have my own mobile business related to writing and speaking and teaching, so I can show up better for me and for my family. Maybe that’s all I need to know.

Just before we said goodbye, he said, “Life is a beautiful thing, so long as you keep showing up.” And somehow, the pressure I’d heaved on myself for figuring out the future, lifted.

I haven’t any idea where I’ll be after I retire in October of 2020, but I know I don’t have to have it all sorted. I plan to have my own mobile business related to writing and speaking and teaching, so I can show up better for me and for my family. Maybe that’s all I need to know.

Thank you for showing up for me. Always.