Musings from my window seat at 30,000 ft
April 8, 2019
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching the sun set from 30,000 feet above sea level. As I write this, I am sitting on a Boeing 777, passing over Greenland en route to Israel, by way of Moscow. The modern magic of air travel never ceases to leave me spellbound. Just a moment ago, the view from my window-seat was a splash of sherbet across the sky; orange creamsicle dripping into a burnt sienna horizon, which was capped with cerulean hues bleeding into the black, starless oblivion above it. There is only a little sunlight left now, but as I press my hand against the frosted glass, ice crystals creating delicate patterns in the bitter altitude, I can still see the clouds alive and moving past me. They remind me of an angry beach back in New Jersey; the way the sand became animated in a windstorm, and would move like wraiths, hugging the ground and running towards the sea.
There are times in one’s life when the momentum by which we pursue our dreams seems to take on a life of its own. The last few months of my life have followed this pattern. As they were occurring, they made no sense to me, but when I look back on them now – I see an unfolding of events that brought me to this exact moment: sitting on this plane, free as a bird, about to travel the world for over a month.
It’s been quite a journey to get here.
Seven months ago, a huge wrench was thrown into the wheels of my plans, when I contracted Epstein Barr Virus, otherwise known as Mono. The recovery has been torturous for me; awful, slow, arduous and difficult. I had a plan to be on the road with JoyBug before the first snow fell in 2018, but every time I tried to work on her, I got sicker, and regressed. The deadline came and went, as did many, many others. Somewhere along the line – I stopped pushing against the current of my life. I didn’t know why it was happening, but I knew that I was supposed to be learning something form it.
I now understand that my illness provided me with a host of opportunities I would not have had without it. Most importantly, it broke me open. I wrote my first song in five years, entitled “Evergreen,” which became the spark by which I wrote, arranged, recorded and released a Christmas Album in just ten days. That album was not only a success, but I sold 550 copies in one month. I transported a weary and naked JoyBug to a restoration company in upstate New York, to have the foundational work finished on her, lest she succumb to the elements of a harsh Jersey winter. The workers found a number of problems that would have been practically insurmountable for me to solve on my own. In essence, Mono helped me dodge a huge bullet by taking the project out of my hands.
I also began to write poetry with a ferocity I have not written in many years. Before I knew it I had completed my first book, which is set to be released in the summer of 2019. Had I never gotten sick, I don’t know that this breaking open would have ever come into being.
I also would never have fallen in love if I hadn’t gotten sick. Yes, Love. In one of the most difficult winters I have endured in terms of physical health, I paradoxically fell into the company of one of the most healing loves of my life. It was, as Love always is, completely unexpected, and completely wonderful. I was stuck in the same one-horse-town I had been in since childhood, so eager and itching to get away. But what did the Universe do for me? It sent me this love, who happened to be from the other side of Earth, and I traveled through his eyes, his accent, his language, his culture, and his experience to a brand new world.
As the months passed, I moved with the new current of my life, staying open to what might be. So when a friend I met when backpacking Iceland in 2017, offered to let me travel Israel with her in April 2019, I took it as a sign that the Universe knew I was ready to adventure again. From there the trip grew of its own volition, as it almost always does. Before I knew it, a 5 week quest had been born.
But just when it seems that things were falling back into place, the ground was ripped out from under me yet again. My new romance ended. I lost a steady gig I had set up for the summer. Then another. In two weeks I lost 80% of my work for the summer, which was to be used to pay for JoyBug’s further restoration. Then the landlord of my apartment building sold the unit, alerting me that I needed to move out in 60 days. As I would be gone for 5 weeks, I didn’t bother trying to find a new place to live. Instead, for the 2nd time in my life, I sold 90% of my belongings, and put what was left into storage.
As the day of my departure grew nearer, my health took a nosedive. I developed a mysterious pain in my back. I didn’t sleep for days. I worried myself sick about whether or not I should go or not on the trip in poor health. But in truth, I think that my emotions were manifesting themselves throughout my body. Like it or not, READY or not, I knew that when I got on that plane, I would be leaving behind the life I once knew. And when I came home, I’d be crashing somewhere until Joybug was ready and then beginning a new life on the road. The universe had decided on the timeline.
Somehow the massive to-do-list got done. True friends, some of which I hadn’t seen in ages, came to my rescue, reminding me that no woman is an island. And before I knew it, it was time to go.
As I laid on the naked mattress of my bed, in an empty apartment, on the eve of my adventure, I found myself traveling inwards, as I always do at the end of one journey and the beginning of another. This had been a place that I intended to live in for just 3 months, yet I had called it home for two years. When I moved in, I was basically suicidal. Just 30 days after moving in I had my mini nervous breakdown. It was between these walls that I began to fight for myself for the first time in my life. I crawled back from darkness. I fought for my health. I performed my own resurrection. I lost 75 lbs. I taught myself to pound the pavement and run like the wind. I reconnected with my desire. I found my voice. I broke open and reconnected with the author of my soul; my truest persona. I fell in love. These two years that I spent in this drab, little shabby apartment, this place that was never supposed to be “home,” ended up being one of the greatest adventures of my life.
When it was time to go, I took the keys off my key chain, and placed them on the kitchen table with a sort of quiet reverence. I paused. I couldn’t help but feel that something was still missing. I searched the rooms, but nothing turned up. It was then that I remembered a tiny green glass cross that hung on my kitchen wall. It’s nothing expensive or much to look at – but it has the words “don’t quit” hanging on it. That cross was given to me by my mother in 2007, at the start of my first teaching job. It hung on the wall of my classroom every day for a year, where I often cried or screamed my frustrations as an inexperienced teacher working in a troubled district. From there it has traveled with me for 12 years to every place I’ve ever lived, and every trial I’ve endured.
I ran my fingers along the smooth glass, gingerly removing it from the hook and wall. Then I palmed it and placed it in my pocket, opened the sliding glass door, and walked out into the morning sunshine.
I remain amazed at how those two words have served me so well in this journey we call life.
So “Don’t Quit,”no matter what, and especially when suffering enters your life. Because you never know how what that suffering might be leading you towards. It could be love. It could be the creation of your best work via your most beautiful craft. Or it could be a plane, 30,000 feet above sea level, overlooking a starless oblivion, smooth as onyx, that holds nothing at all, but possibility.