Today is my 58th birthday. I have never felt more calm, and more scared at the same time.
Let me work backward. Soon, I’m headed to an island 4 time zones away, and I have no idea how or why I picked this place, but it was borne of a restlessness, a fear, an anxiety produced evening, when I had just burst with the words “enough!”
Several weeks before Christmas, I would head to bed at night, and just say to God that I’m sure you have something more for me. More than this. These 700 Facebook friends and all their pictures and opinions and oh god I do not think I can take any more political posts. Several years before, my boyfriend and I consciously left Facebook with the plan of coming back. But this time. This was different. I would come home at night and turn on the computer and go about my evening, and keep checking back. I talked all night with friends as I tended to the keeping of my house. And my fingers hurt. Like, literally I was starting to realize that I was not having a relationship with my friends, but with this plastic phone. I was tapping and zooming and reading, but make no mistake. I was not interacting with people.
A few weeks later, I found myself wondering what I should do on my ten day break from school, and that I really should do SOMETHING. I got a random travel email, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go. So, I Googled “beaches for women”, or something. It turned up lists and lists of good travel destinations. Groups of women. I didn’t really see myself doing a group, and wasn’t needing or wanting to go on the “Eat, Pray, Love” tour.
I wandered a bit, and found an island. Within minutes, I booked the trip. To another country. To some remote place that I had never heard of. Not the Caribbean with your beautiful nails and lying on the beach with suntan oil, but the place where iguanas are on your porch, where you hike for 2 hours, where you land hopefully on the runway.
In the next several days, the shock of this decision wore off, and I realized that I needed a passport. On New Year’s Eve day, I spent the day with all the families and people needing to travel. I was the last one on that day, and I literally got in under the wire. Since I was leaving so soon, I needed to expedite the transaction, costing me more money that I wanted to spend.
I cut my hair. My long hair was now right at the shoulder. And of course, it’s already grown back to within reach of where it was.
On New Year’s Eve, I had Chinese food with a dear friend, both of us in sweats at a local restaurant. I was home by 8, and spent the evening listening to classical music and reading a book. I’m telling you. This is not me. Not even close. I’m the party girl, who won’t leave until the end. I listen to loud music, and am hardly ever able to just sit and relax.
I woke up at 9am the next day. I called Texas. I told him I needed to deactivate Facebook, that I was painfully alone, and needing to stop filling that feeling with fake connectivity. Thankful for his friendship and support, I just clicked. Delete.
I had woken up that morning to a Faceversery of six years with the social media mogul, and I just thought. That’s it. I’m done. I had no plan of staying off, or counting days. I just had to deactivate it. I knew that it was tapping into a place of loneliness. This appearance of having relationships.
During the Fall, I was trying to figure out a way to outsmart Facebook. I couldn’t stand the little indicator telling people the last time I was active on Facebook. I felt manipulated, controlled. Every app, every possible place on the web pointed back to it. And, I hated it. There was no work-around.
The first week was hard. Like kicking heroin, I imagine. I thought, wait. I have 700 friends. Where are they? There were a few nights that I couldn’t sleep. That I thought I was going a little crazy. And when I would tell this story, people would say things like, “Well, I’m not that into it like you are…”, or “Good for you! You definitely were on it too much!” And I said, listen, do you think you could go off for three days?
The answer was always, oh no. No way. No. Way.
So it’s been about six weeks. And I’m headed to my island soon. And I’m scared and excited. I feel as though I just am landing there. I didn’t plan this, or decide to visit. I didn’t know it was owned by the Netherlands, and so I have been receiving emails in Dutch, translating, then sending them back.
Today, I turned 58. I didn’t receive 300 Facebook messages. My people called me. My true loved ones. Family. Friends. My children.
I don’t know where I’m going. I’m fascinated that I landed here at all. Apparently, I’m off to discover that core alone-ness. To find me, that little girl who played kickball in the streets with the boys. My guide said to bring paper and pencil…that I will need it.
To write, to pray, to discover. I’m finishing this, and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, comes on a random playlist, and it’s the first song that was at my nephew’s funeral. And I look up at his picture, here in my dining room. And I would give my right arm to hear him tell me to do it. To go.
And they say that all who wander are not lost. But oh. I am. I am.