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letting go

There's this thing in AA we call "geographics".  What it means is that if life gets unpleasant or uncomfortable you move, usually far away, instead of facing your demons and dealing with them head on.  It's the emotional equivalent of the fight or flight response.  And having always been one to run from reality you can imagine I've done a few geographics.  The thing is though, at the time moving seems like a really good, really valid solution.  That other place you are longing for genuinely seems like it will be much better.  Perhaps it's just human nature because I don't think alcoholics are the only ones to succumb to this.  Or maybe non-alcoholics get the urge to move but don't actually do it.  If I moved to every place I thought would fix me I would have a very dramatic life indeed.  For example here are a few of my fixations:

TEXAS:  In my twenties I was really into the rockabilly and country western music lifestyle. I had a pompadour and wore cowboy boots, the whole nine yards.  More than anything I wanted to take a time machine back to the 1950s, or barring that move to Texas.  I read every single Larry McMurtry (of Lonesome Dove fame) novel available at the time and had detailed fantasies about what it would be like to live there; preferably on a ranch.  Life would be slow-paced and the people unpretentious.  The skies would be wide open and the nature raw.  I'd have a bunch of different animals and maybe I'd even marry a cowboy.  I could visit Austin and enjoy the music and its artsy scene.  It seemed like the ideal life but in this instance I never did get there.

ALASKA:  My alternate fantasy in my twenties was to move to Alaska.  I religiously watched Northern Exposure; it was my escape from the superficial and stressful world of Hollywood filmmaking in which I was involved.  In my mind I down-played the whole freezing cold weather thing and focused again on the slow-paced lifestyle.  In Northern Exposure there was a small community where everyone knew each other and they accepted each other's foibles, often banding together in crisis situations.  Everyone was liked for exactly who they were.  From Alaska I craved a small town and Mother Nature.  But as with Texas, I never actually went to there.

SEATTLE:  This idea was less formed but basically I was living in California where it doesn't rain for 6 months of the year and I was craving some wet.  Even a little darkness.  Maybe you can guess that I got this idea from watching Gray's Anatomy where they make the rain look really romantic.   I never went.

WISCONSIN:  The main draw here was two-fold:  low cost of living, and rural living.  Oh and the cheese.  The area I live in now has insanely high rents and house prices, and the restaurants and shops have jacked their prices up to take advantage of all the wealthy entitled people living here.  I don't have a hope of ever owning a home around here where 2 bedroom bungalows sell for over 2 million dollars.  And while I guess it's a good thing that the economy is booming the area has become vastly over-crowded and congested.  The traffic is at least as bad as it is in LA.  So as always I crave low-key living and "real" weather.  One of my favorite Food Network chefs films out of her house on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border and it always looks so cozy.  Needless to say I've never been there but I would love to check it out sometime.

MASSACHUSETTS:  Now I have lived here.  Many times.  Whenever I am living in California and get depressed I feel that the solution is to move to the South Shore of Massachusetts.  I call it my spiritual center.  I grew up there until I was 11 when much to my distress and dismay my parents moved us across the country.  I always wanted to go back and when I was 32 I finally did move there.  I also hit my alcoholic bottom and got sober there so in a sense grew up there a second time (if you want specifics you can read all the juicy details here).  I always say the AA meetings are better there and the people more down to earth but usually what happens when I live in MA is winter hits and I get miserable and depressed and move back to California in a rush.  I constantly feel like I am trying to chase down the idyllic childhood I left behind, before life got so complicated.  It's futile and yet I must have moved back and forth between California and Massachusetts 5 times by now.  Granted, I love both California and Massachusetts, and both feel like home to me so I'm inevitably going to miss one or the other.  But let me tell you what happened this time; it was totally unexpected.

Once again I was having a pity party, lamenting how I could only afford to live in a generic apartment building with just a container garden on a cement patio.  It was no where near my dream of a house in the country where all would be well.  I was fixated on how much everything wasn't the way I wanted it.  I was trying to chase down peace, love, and comfort, and was yearning for something more.  I started making plans to move back east again but this time something different occurred which totally derailed me:  I let go.  I gave up the chase and stopped pining for somewhere else.

I finally gave myself permission to enjoy my life exactly as it was.  I relaxed and I softened.  I don't know how or why it happened; I was sitting in a session with my therapist and the feeling suddenly came over me. Maybe she worked some Jungian magic on me or not but it was definitely an ah-ha moment, one perhaps assisted by the grace of God.  I achieved acceptance and I've never ever been able to do that before.

Would things really be better in Massachusetts?  Maybe. But it doesn't matter because now I feel that it's not worth the major hassle, disruption, and expense for me to find out.  Besides, as soon as I let go I realized I had a bunch of terrific friends here in California whom I loved and who loved me.  Suddenly the AA meetings around here seemed really friendly and fun after all.  Then I noticed how big and bright and airy my apartment was and how beautiful the view from my bedroom window of the birds splashing in the fountain.  It's all a matter of the mind, this noticing thing.  Maybe my breakthrough was because for several months I had been faithfully writing out a gratitude lists every morning and it had a cumulative effect.  What ever it was I'll take it.  It is just such a relief and such a freedom to not have to yearn anymore.  After God knows after how many years, I finally feel like I'm brave enough to deal with life on life's terms.  I am fine right where I am and who knows, maybe if the situation is right I'll get my house in the country some day but it's not urgent.


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