who we are when we’re away

I am very transparent.
Or so I think.
Until I am released from the constraints of “hometown” and travel.

Then – because I care less about others’ judgments, assumptions made over time and our shared experiences – I am carefree … almost. Gregarious. Comfortable in my skin. Almost 100% comfortable in my skin.

That is not my typical experience at home.
Though moving away from concern about what people think, I still do wrestle with the fallout of untruths believed and questioned behavior.

Old habits die hard. But I’m learning.

And after years of encountering assumptions-in-error retained about my life, I know that I am never fully at rest. At ease.

But out in the wild and away from the known and very familiar, I am no one anyone knows. There is so much freedom in being a stranger. No pharmacy technician is going to try to argue with me that I am Madi and Kenan’s dad’s new wife. (I replied, “No. Seriously, that is not me. I am the original.”) No one asks about this or that as if they know the details better than I. (Note to self: listen more than speak.)

Freed from my assumptions and cringe-worthy assertions of others, I have no worries about smiling at strangers, laughing loudly, quietly slipping into the hotel library to pick up an old friend (an old copy of A Wrinkle in Time), and sharing my umbrella with strangers. This comfort-in-my-skin is most often reserved for those people who know that I snort when I laugh and really don’t mind in light of our friendship and mutual care.

I can physically feel the constraints fall off as I drive or fly from the Flint Hills. I feel like I grow an inch or two and the bashfulness because of my quirky nature, dissipates. This baffles me at times because it is in these Flint Hills I have encountered most of my favorite people.

People of kindness and heart … hearty laughter. People who check in and swap hopes. People who hold me accountable and know my questions come from a place of genuine love.

People with whom I can vehemently disagree and still look forward to a standing Sunday dinner. People whose superpowers fall under the umbrella of love and joy.

Maybe it – my hesitancy to be fully at rest at home – has less to do with other people and more a reflection of my own shadowy ghosts.

Ghosts of failures, embarrassments, the slow death grief and trauma causes to dignity until it is dealt with, moments of ill-temper or that unfortuitous sneeze as I shook hands with that gentleman so many years ago.

Come to think of it. It is more me than others.
Most people don’t care. And if they do, good luck to them.
Some people who were especially condescending and cruel in the past have apologized for believing such bollocks about me and my circumstances.

And Risk is required to live well.
Risk to love. Risk to leave. Risk to learn. Risk to let go.

So instead of travel as an escape to be myself and not care about the opinions and assumptions of others, perhaps travel is practice to be fully present and no longer skirting ghosts of my own believing.

And travel is fundamentally expansive to our thinking. We make room for bigger and fuller truths, wonder and wonder and WONDER.
Small things become mystery and beauty.

Past calamity becomes vapor. No longer relevant.

So as I continue on in this conference, I will continue to make a practice of being fully present and fully free of what worries my mind has trained itself to roll through.

This could be fun.

Your thoughts?

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