Awaiting Adventure

After several weeks of basking in the Ohio summer with my family, swimming and eating ice cream and watching Call the Midwife with my mom, Jack and I boarded a plane bound for Los Angeles, the home for our next chapter.

It had been a month of comfort and sunshine, wrapped in love. Familiarity filled my days, the vibrant green landscape, wood smoke, gardenias, the sounds of cicadas, the chill of pool water brought memories of childhood flooding back. With them, they brought a childlike sensibility I am too often busy to remember.

Then, the day of our departure arrived, and I was jarred back into the uncomfortable loneliness of adulthood. Joyful, playful, beautiful things replaced suddenly with lists of utilities companies to call, earthquake preparedness to-dos, questions about car insurance, unfinished job and program applications, et cetera. With tears welling in my eyes, the day suddenly as drizzly and gray as my mood, I reluctantly dragged my heavy suitcase away from our family home to the car. Off we went.

Receiving an email from our realtor summarizing the three houses we planned to see the next day that began, “Well, this is disappointing,” on the way to the airport certainly did not help.

If my emotional landscape were a garden, I’d have several rows dedicated to varieties of anxiety: anticipation anxiety, generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, social anxiety, to name a few. My anxiety is eased by comfort. August at home brought me peace; moving – imbued with uncertainty and instability – undoes all of that.

A few weeks ago, the New York Times published a story about a renewed search for answers in Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and presumed death. A picture of Earhart standing proudly beside her aircraft. I was struck by her seeming confidence in the face of uncertainty, in the face of danger. She was radiant in the light of adventure. It was she who said, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

I am not a person who seeks adventure; I seek safety. Though I am well-traveled, though my husband and I are moving clear across the country, though I have lived in Vermont, Connecticut, England, New York, I do not choose adventure for its own sake. I have leapt for the sake of other things, like love, responsibility, education, edification. I function by virtue of preparation. (I’ve made sure even our cat has a disaster and first aid kit.) I fear losing those I love most. I fear losing control, so I avoid danger by avoiding and mitigating risk.

Rest, as opposed to risk, is expansive to me. When I can turn the dial down on my anxiety, I thrive, my parasympathetic nervous system thawing the rest of my mind. In a less defended state, I can see more clearly. I can love more deeply. I can be more creative, more authentic.

As Jack and I rushed through the airport to our gate under the sickening glow of fluorescent lights, all I could think was, “I want to go home. I want to turn around and go back.” There’s nothing like air travel in 2019 to make you miss the warmth and loving embrace of home.

Jack tried to kindly remind me of the reasons we’d chosen Los Angeles for our new home. A new pace, the opportunity to explore a new city before we have children, and most importantly, living in the same city as my brother. Could I allow something else to replace my anxiety? Could I displace, for a time, my myriad worries about highway traffic, natural disasters, snakes, heat stroke, and not finding a house, to allow a little room for joy? Could I lean in, just slightly, to adventure?

Well, as I do, I looked up the etymology for “adventure.” While I assumed it was derived from some shorthand for jumping carelessly off a metaphorical cliff without regard for personal safety or preservation of life, I was surprised to find that “adventure,” derived from the Latin word for “arrive,” at one point was most accurately described as “a wonder, a miracle, accounts of marvelous things.” Now, presence is something I can get behind, even in the midst of discomfort or sadness. That leaves room for delight and discovery.

Nearing the end of the boarding process, a boisterous little girl walked down the aisle with her family. She said aloud to the plane, “Where are all the California people???” And as she passed our row, she turned to Jack and me, continuing, “Heyyyy!” We all laughed.

Barreling down the runway a few minutes later, I felt something like excitement rise within me. The clouds lifting to reveal thick stripes of pink and orange, my dear hometown wishing us farewell for now.