Friday, November 06, 2009

Find Your Happy Place

Several years ago, after a hideous break up (what I now refer to as the biggest bullet ever dodged), I did three things: plummeted into depression for the first time in my life, started therapy for the first time in my life and took a vacation, by myself, far far away from the source of my pain.

A wonderfully kind friend who lived in San Francisco at the time FedEx'd me the keys to his apartment. He was going to be on a business trip, but invited me to stay at his place during my school's spring break, clear my head, get some perspective, learn how to breath all over again.

I flew to San Francisco and arrived at a doorstep in the Castro in the middle of the night. I let myself in with my FedEx'd keys and dropped my bag in my friend's empty living room/bed room (ah, the days of studio apartment living!). I spent a lot of time sitting out on his tiny balcony, watching the fog crawl down hills, writing in my journal and wondering how long it would be until I felt whole again.

Over the next several days, I only spoke to ask directions or to order food. I walked the city, from the Castro down to the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf to Golden Gate Park (not all at once). As I walked down Haight, a bare-chested long-haired hippie ten years younger than me stopped playing his guitar and offered me a foot rub for $1. I climbed on a bus that dropped me at the Muir Woods, where I wandered through the giants for the better part of an afternoon.

Everything about San Francisco was rejuvenating, and slowly I felt myself coming back to life. I knew I had a long way to go, but that week gave me glimpses of peace and the strength to fight through the depression to find it. But the one place I remember above all others is the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. There's no way to describe the calm I felt walking through there without sounding like a giant dork (not that I usually let that stop me, I know).

Down the road, not far from the tea garden, there are little ponds. I sat by the edge of one pond, thinking about my life--choices I had made, choices that were made for me, and how to move forward with my life. I don't know how long I sat there (I'd walked from the Castro, so my feet were freaking killing me; I had not taken that hippie up on his offer of a foot massage, but I was in no hurry to get up and start moving again), but at one point I looked down and a turtle, no bigger than the size of my hand, had crawled up out of the pond and was sitting next to me. He didn't move until I got up to walk away. He was just a silent witness and companion to my healing.

For some reason, that turtle was profoundly comforting to me and when I got up to walk home not long after, I felt there had been a shift in my mindset and my belief that life would go on and that happiness in the future was a real possibility for me.

This weekend, more than a decade having passed since that week of my life, Husband and I took Ethan to the aquarium in Golden Gate Park. When we arrived, I recognized that we were only a short walk away from the tea garden and after we'd exhausted Ethan's ability to oooooh and aaaahhhh at jellyfish and Nemos, we headed over to the tea garden.

Watching Ethan explore the garden, and being there with Husband, aside from just being fun, brought me at once back to that time in my life when I could hardly envision a future in which they could exist, and brought what has been in a way a long journey towards inner peace, full circle.


Sarah said...

I love this post! And you guys all look blissfully happy in those pictures. Ben and I went to SF to work at a speech camp one summer, and I stayed to work at another one by myself for 2 more weeks after he left. It was the first (and only, I guess) big city I have ever been in by myself, and I loved it. Definitely a happy place.

Becca said...

What a WONDERFUL post! I was so struck by how happy you are in those pictures. Thank goodness for that breakup!

gringa said...

At the risk of sounding corny, I can only cite John Schaar (who lives in California I think) in your beautiful post and pictures:

"The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination."

QueenCrazyMum said...

a little something for all your hard work

Zoe Right said...

I feel the same way every time I come to town.

Anonymous said...

Hearing you describe the aftermath of the break up takes me back to my bullet dodged. Great pics. Looks lovely.

cicadalady said...

beautiful pics

Jen said...

Great post and love the pictures. That one of you and Ethan is a framer, as they say! So sweet.

I can totally relate to this as well. 14 years ago I picked up my life (I was living in NJ) and headed to the Bay Area. I had wanted to come to California forever so was surprised that when I arrived, how hard it was to actually start over after living most of my life back East. I had family here which was great but that was it. No friends and no family and no relationship. I felt lonely and often questioned my decision.

BUT, every day I got outside and went on long walks and drove into San Francisco to explore(I lived in Berkeley when I first arrived) and each time I'd return home, I felt so rejuvenated and motivated to make a life here. It's hard to explain the "magic" of the Bay Area but I so get it.

14 years later and I'm happily married with my gorgeous daughter and living in SF and I'm so glad I stuck it out because like you, I've definitely found my happy place.

Such a lovely post...maybe sometime we can meet up in San Francisco with the kids!

Emi said...

That was beautiful dahling.. so glad you made it back in such a different state of life and mind...

Kate said...

beautiful post !!