Life Musings, Travel Stories

Not exactly cool, calm, and collected.

“Calm and centered. Harmonious.” Words a friend just used to describe me. I laugh at the irony, grateful for her perspective. These days I feel anything but. All of my nerves are tingling, every fiber in my body is on edge. It’s been getting harder to sleep at night and I wake up in the mornings with a fireball in the pit of my stomach. I find my breath catching more frequently now, until I force it to slow down, even out. My heart is racing inside my chest, riddled with anticipation, anxious for the next plane to take off with me inside.

I may appear calm and put-together, but I feel like a complete spaz. My mind is wigging out. It’s been doing so for months, though Ghana has been the calm in the eye of the storm. Thoughts of far away places constantly swirl through my imagination, tethered by a strong desire to go home, just for awhile.

In a few weeks my travel insurance will run out. The expiration date I timidly fixed for my travels is here. I never dared, or hoped to believe I’d last more than six months on the road, but in my stubbornness, I allowed myself a year’s time to figure “it” (myself) out. The year is almost up and I’ve outgrown my makeshift itinerary, penned with shaking hands and a pencil 15 months ago.

I’ve reached the borders of my imagination, and the horizon is hazy.

I know this is exactly where I need to be. Open heart, open mind, limited plans. Oh, but I like plans! Lately I am a bundle of constant contradiction, changing my mind dozens of times before putting one foot in front of the other. I’m an emotional roller coaster, white knuckled and clenching my teeth in one instant, hands in the air and squealing with delight the next. I feel like I’m constantly coddling myself, convincing and protesting simultaneously, humoring and silencing the conflicting voices and their accompanying emotions. I entertain fear and then insist that it leaves, depending on faith one moment, and wavering the next. Not exactly harmonious, not exactly centered.
Sometimes I feel like this clown, putting on a brave face when I’m screaming inside.
Rome, Italy 2011

The people I love, the ones who have been standing below cheering, or sitting beside me holding my hand on this crazy roller coaster, have been patient. They’ve exemplified grace, solid support, and enthusiasm as I rehearse yet another change in plans.  

I’m starting to follow their example. I’ve been kinder to myself. I’m slowly learning that I will never be free of inner conflict or dueling desires. I’m learning to allow myself, all of myself, to speak up. I don’t have to be one-dimensional or see through. I’m not a reader’s digest. 

Part of me, (the often insecure part), wants to be this or that. I want to be easily defined, so I can work on channeling all of my energy and time into manifesting that one thing. Perfecting one identity, numbing the mixed feelings and silencing the dissonant parts.
TheBarefootBeatThe truth is I’m goofy, weird, and decidedly uncool on even my best days. Oh yeah, and I love fanny packs.
Mountain Man Fashion Show Colorado, 2012

Several months ago, a stranger asked me, “Why are you REALLY traveling?” I had a difficult time answering that question. The more I thought about it, the more I realized as badly as I wanted to travel, I wanted another life, too. I wanted stability and routine. I wanted to raise a family with someone, live in a quiet place in the woods, and grow my own food. 

I thought for the first time that maybe traveling was my second best. I doubted my motives and questioned what I really wanted. The truth is, I want both of these things. I want to learn foreign languages and see wonders that take my breath away. I want to travel until I’m physically exhausted but spiritually on fire. I want a lot of things that don’t necessarily belong together. And maybe I don’t have to choose.  
TheBarefootBeatHanging out with Alpaca
Ecuador, 2012

I’m a chameleon. I’m adaptable, flexible, impressionable. It’s why I love traveling and why I find it so easy. I’ve made homes for myself all over the world and felt I belonged each time, carving out oddly shaped spaces in my heart to make room for just one more. I am fractions of a whole, three dimensional, fluid and wavering. I always will be.

You are, too. We all are.  

I’m slowly learning to give myself space to be complicated, messy, paradoxical. Not exactly cool, calm, and collected. The best thing about taking this internal pressure off of myself to be more “manageable” or consistent, is that I get to lay off of everyone else, too. I get to hang out with them in the gray area, instead of shouting at them to be black or white. I get to love them, just as they are, where they are.
TheBarefootBeatLearning the shades of gray in love.
Ghana, 2014

This kind of love is challenging for me. It doesn’t have any rules or expiration dates. There are no contracts to breach or conditions to be met. This love doesn’t judge the conflict, the inconsistencies, the dreams dreamed but never realized. It just gives. It swallows you whole. It drowns out the criticism, soothes the sweaty panic, and comforts unmentionable fears. I want to love others this way, whole heartedly, unreservedly. 

I’m starting with myself, first. 

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  • Reply Silvia March 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    This was such a beautiful, heartfelt post! I can relate to so many of these mixed feelings you’re talking about. I think you’re on to something though – embrace the messy, paradoxical you!
    Silvia recently posted…Over the Hills and to the VillageMy Profile

    • Reply Mariah March 6, 2014 at 12:45 am

      Thanks Silvia! It’s a daily work in progress, isn’t it? I’m learning to exhibit gracefulness towards myself and others…so far it feels really good!

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