There's no place I'd rather be: a confession.
When freedom is always on the other side of that fence - that set of conditions, that landmark, that environment - it is hard to ever feel free. Free has to be beyond a set of conditions, rather conditioned by a state of being. Privilege of course obscures this because we are often blinded by the freedoms we possess that another lacks. But we can see a group of people with a very similar set of privileges having very different experiences in their sense of freedom.
In the fall, I went on a journey. My father and I were joined by separate but parallel desires to look for a place we would like to live in Europe. For my father, it was literal, he wanted somewhere else to live during the rainy season at his permanent home in Costa Rica. For me, it was hypothetical - I have roots down here in Montreal with a love partner and dog (and home/community) that I cherish deeply.
So the quest was paradoxical. I left a home I valued hoping to find another place that would express itself to me as a new home. I had always felt I needed to move out of Montreal eventually, though the right time never seemed to come, despite many false starts at departures. At some point, when we keep saying we are going to do something, and we don't, we need to look at that.
So when I wandered from country to country with an open mind, each town and island like a buffet of choice for my imagination, I felt all the possibilities at my fingertips. I was refreshed and fulfilled by the novelty, the varied vistas and rich histories. And yet...
There was nowhere "better" than here. Not worse, either. I knew I could make new friends, new routines and find new sets of advantages unique to each place. I expected to return to my home city with a clear calling: "that is where I am going to manifest a move." But when I checked in with my inner compass before the end of my trip, only one answer came to me:
"If you want to 'find' your ideal home, treat the place you are as where you'll always be."
Never leaving Montreal became more a fear of missing out on my potential rather than a desiring of another place. It was a perpetual, gnawing lack that there must be something more important, more impressive, more miraculous that I could be doing somewhere else - and maybe even, as someone else, or at least - another version of me.
With this endless trying to "get there," I returned and made a conscious decision to get off the train. This was not a resignation of the dream of living abroad. It was a recognition that when I felt truly at home, at peace with where I was, the right home to match that frequency would find me.
I already knew this principle with relationships. If you want to find out if a person is right for you or not, go all in. Because with one foot or part of your heart out the door already, you'll never know. It's only when we truly give ourselves to something that we can recognize where our suitability with it falls short - or not. When we show up as ourselves fully, the compatibility or lack thereof will reveal itself in all its magnitude.
I had heard this principle about treating your home as if you'd live there forever in Feng Shui and in Marie Kondo's konmari method. But it thundered back into my consciousness at the end of my travels in Europe like a bow wrapped around the 6 weeks and a new portal into manifestation.
When I came back to Montreal, I entered a period of being near-blissed out in my settled rooting. It was a familiar feeling from the last few years, but one I had resisted from time to time whenever the nagging voice asked "but shouldn't we perhaps be somewhere else?"
Committed to here-ness, I discovered things right under my nose that opened hidden doorways in my city. Thinking I had walked every possible path in my neighbourhood with my dog over the past few years, I discovered a magnificent cemetery with seemingly endless paths and beautiful relics of statues and gravestones. My favourite part of my trip had been the cemeteries in Paris. And here was a magnificent one only 15-20 minutes from my front door. I have lived in this city for all of my 35 years and knew it was there all along. How could such an oversight be possible for a walking fiend and lover of history like myself?
I also began a fruitful exchange with my neighbour and dear friend who's a gifted interior designer in exchange for my Tour de Soul services. I had long dreamed of having a design consultant to motivate me to get more intentional about my home decor but the budget for that felt far off in some impossible distance. Now it's happening. One DIY-project and Feng Shui bagua corner at a time.
Working in our entranceway as a starting point, I discovered that this sector corresponds to the "fame" section in my bagua (the map used to chart the spaces of your home according to Feng Shui). Making some small alterations that cost little to no money, I started to notice openings with my work online and social media presence which has resulted in me near doubling my sales.
But here's the thing. There's some sadness too because I feel at odds with the culture in some ways. Whenever I go online, I see people complaining how miserable, frustrated, angry or desperate they feel in the pandemic climate of the past two years. And I feel a mixture of shame and confusion when I reflect to myself that "there's nowhere I'd rather be."
When the holidays were cancelled due to a fresh lockdown, my boyfriend let a smirk slip across his face, he too embarrassed that he was partially celebrating the opportunity for a quiet holiday together at home.
Don't get me wrong. I don't like illness, death, divided families and friends, government control, pharmaceutical companies, overstressed parents, workers on unemployment, political strife - etc etc etc - any more than the next person. But I made a choice during month one of COVID. I was in Costa Rica, broke and without a plan. I told myself, I am not going to use this time worrying about something I can't control. Things are going to keep changing, they are not going to match our predictions, and my analysis, worrying and spiralling in news headlines or research rabbit holes likely won't help much. I decided to let some information wash over me but basically to reduce stimuli and listen to my intuition.
And it's been some of the most fertile and organizing years of my life. I manifested financial independence and a gorgeous dream life of entrepreneurship that I have always wanted into existence. I experienced a complete turnaround in my consumption habits that ranged from a weed dependency, to 15 months of total sobriety abstinence to a person who can have a glass of red wine on a Friday and not think about it for the rest of the week. I have become a blogger, a vlogger, created an online course and discovered a new community via my @tour_de_soul Instagram that feels more vividly real and aligned to me than my personal accounts do.
My life has become drastically simplified. With less stimuli, distractions, FOMO, O-P-T-I-O-N-S and a need to keep up with "busy-ness," magic has begun to sprout up in all the quiet corners of my life. A beautiful girl that lives down my street that I always thought I could befriend but never did became a co-host to a new series of Tea & Tarot events that felt really special. My boyfriend and I began a weekly tradition of family dinners with the two homes we share a floor with in our building, affectionately labelling ourselves the Bandemic in September 2020. I feel overcome with emotion thinking of the exhibition of photos in our shared hallway alcove that one of them put out to commemorate the healing, heartfelt memories we've shared over these past 2+ years.
A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I would have to plan our dinners or drinks with friends weeks in advance because our schedules were packed full. Every-single-event was fun because we loved our friends. But as sensitive creatures, we would have to overcome a whiny inner child that just wanted to stay home and create every time we got dressed up and left the house because we had overdone our hour-to-hour scheduling.
I used to be famous for FOMO in my younger years. I verged on a fun-bully, convincing friends to go on this or that adventure, new party or activity. Never a minimalist, I was always a maximalist - more is more.
And now I've become addicted to less. Stillness, spaciousness and simplicity have given me gifts that my overstimulating life never could. I know life would not feel so full if I didn't love our airy, warm loft, if I didn't have the cutest and most cuddly dog on the planet and if my boyfriend wasn't such a sweet, patient and calm presence to share a home with... if we both didn't work at home and see our careers blossom during these past few years etc.
I know I am lucky. I know I am privileged. And I know my life feels very different than so many who have been suffering hard. And this is where the sadness comes in...
I see a tendency on social media to playfully compete for who is the most desperate, anxious or despondent these past few years. As 2022 approached, I was swimming in a sea of memes eager to throw 2020 and 2021 into a cesspool, garbage heap of hellfire. Perhaps when this is all over, I may be one of the few people who will actually miss the calm incubator of a simpler life: less fashion, going out and jet set.
I say incubator because our home has felt like a testing grounds for me through all this: to renegotiate my relationship to what I consume, express, create and how I connect. It has given me occasion to distance myself from some relationships that weren't quite aligned, to gently test out some new ones that elicit my curiosity and there's simply been enough time to ask myself the questions: what do I want, what do I like and what can I do differently.
I feel the need to air this subject out because my emotions have been struggling a bit with two people in my life who recently tried to pull me into their anger and political stances. While I have my own opinions on what has happened socio-politically/medically over the past few years, I don't feel comfortable affiliating myself with any movements or larger collective ideologies because they are not nuanced enough to match my range of positions. And what I found in these recent encounters was that these two people (who I had already been keeping distance from) seemed frustrated and angry that I was at peace.
Is it not OK to be OK right now?
One could highlight this injustice or that as a justification for outrage. But has there not always been a world full of cruelty, greed and ethical contamination? Did we halt our joy and ease because someone somewhere was suffering? Did I cut off my friends and family who seemed to have complete disregard for the issues of environmental degradation or animal suffering? No. Because I recognize we are fighting different battles.
Mostly what I have come to realize is that I don't want to fight. Not now at least. Every day feels like a big giant blessing and it has for a very long time. I am immensely grateful and want to share that gift of luxurious presence with anyone I can.
My ex-boyfriend used to try and make me fight. These two people lately (both male) who have attempted to either 'convert' me to their storylines or are attempting to rouse me into their commitment to strife remind me of that energetically. I am not angry at them and I don't think they have bad intentions. But I realize that I've chosen peace. And if that's not OK with someone else, that's OK too.
There are no set of conditions that will give a person permission to be happy. Sometimes one's joy - just like one's pain - has to be a solitary journey.
And when you find other people journeying that same road, you know you both got there on your own but the joy of walking together will be immeasurably great. Because it's not from division, from "bandwagoning," from comparison, from being 'in the right' - it's from the mutual recognition that freedom is here, right now, in the shared choice to just be alright.
To be a friend of peace. To not wish things to be other than they are yet to always recognize the opportunity when one can be generous and improve the lives of others. Not from anger, blame or fear. To give from a place of abundance - this is how I can help and this is how I will. And if don't feel that I can right now, this is how I will be alright with myself. Release the judgment of self so that I can use the same soft lens to view another.
To be free, for me, right now is to be wrapping up this blog, the winter sky out the window in front of me, the slight itchiness of the wool blend of my turtleneck, the vague undertone of sadness over the conversations I have abandoned with those with whom I won't attempt consensus and the knowledge that maybe we can't all agree, but we can love in that unknown space between our multiple truths.