For the past year I have been on the journey of a lifetime, but not in the way most assume. A year ago I decided to sell almost everything I owned, end my career as a firefighter/paramedic, and set off on my own to coddiwomple and wander the world. When I set out I thought that the wandering was my big journey. I quickly realized there was a much deeper journey: a journey each of us can take no matter our worldly location or situation.
This past week I traveled back to Florida to visit many friends and colleagues from my “old life.” It has been so sweet to reconnect and catch up after almost a year of exploring. Many have mentioned how brave or fearless they think I am to walk away from what seemed like an ideal life and dive headfirst into the unknown. I was puzzled that this sentiment repeatedly surfaced because I don’t see myself as particularly brave or fearless. In fact, I had secretly wanted to sell everything and leave my day job for years, but was too scared to do it.
While reflecting on my apparent “fearlessness,” I realized it’s easy to appear brave when we recognize there are no monsters in the closet.
Misuse of Imagination
In September of 2017 I profoundly knew my next step was to tender a letter of resignation to retire from my firefighting career. I gave an eight week notice and the ball began to roll. Even though I believed strongly that this was the next step, I was internally very troubled because I had no clue how I could possibly leave my family, friends, and a career I loved in just two months. I imagined myself saying goodbye and crying like a baby on my last day with a heart full of regret.
During a group video call I asked Michael Neill if he had any advice on my situation since I was equal parts excited, worried, and confused about my impending retirement. His reply was simple: “It is September. You are imagining how you will feel in November.” Suddenly it made sense. Why misuse my imagination to create my version of an unpleasant future and then worry about it for two months.
Truth be told. My last day was easy. It was a joyful goodbye to an amazing career. Not a tear was shed. I walked away and have never regretted it.
The Actual Journey
The actual journey I have been on is a journey to understand how life works. It was, is, and always will be a voyage in deepening this understanding. The voyage is seeing and experiencing over and over again that there is a flow that just happens and it is always perfect. This flow isn’t a rollercoaster we ride; it is an alive and fluid presence we are a part of. So often we plan, wonder, and worry instead of being in the moment and taking the very next step.
We all have heard the term “Go with the flow.” Many think that is what coddiwompling is all about. Close, but not quite. Coddiwompling is being the flow. Imagine this: There is a babbling brook flowing gracefully as it gently meanders down a mountainside. Going with the flow is thinking you are a leaf that is being carried by the babbling brook. Being the flow is realizing that you are the babbling brook. You are the brook that flows downstream to the river. You are the river that flows into the estuary. You are the estuary that brings new life to the ocean. You are the ocean, the ocean of everything… and the ocean of everything is you.
Does the babbling brook worry that it won’t be able to find its way? Does the brook have to work and struggle to flow into the river? Does the brook wonder if it has enough resources to be the ocean?
Being the Flow in Brazil
Recently I explored Brazil and stayed in, Guarujá, an island town on the Atlantic coast. When I arrived on the island I knew no one and quickly realized everyday life was going to be very interesting as I had a bit of a language issue. In Brazil people speak Portuguese (which I have no experience with) and only 3% of the population knows English. So, I quickly learned how to say Thank You (Obregada) and became accustomed to communicating by hand and body gestures… it was comical and provided for many surprises.
On my first morning there I was lying on the beach when a happy dog trotted by. I called him over. He was excited and wanted to play. Soon there was dog kisses and sand flying everywhere. The dog’s owner came running over. He was obviously apologizing, but I had no idea what he was saying. I tried to motion that the dog was welcome to join me and said “No Portuguese” apologetically. The dog’s owner spoke a few words in broken English smiled, shared that his dog’s name was “Surf,” nicely said goodbye and continued his walk with his dog.
Later met again on the sidewalk and there was a feeling of connectedness. It felt right to exchange info and meet up later, so we did. Thiago is a sweet and kind guy and we became great friends (despite not knowing each other’s language). We learned a lot from each other over that week, more than can be shared in this short blog. I am forever changed and now see the world differently and it seems Thiago experienced the same.
Even though I arrived on the island knowing no one, ten days later I left with many friends and family. The kindness, care, and love of the entire community was mind-blowing. I have never experienced such a deep love from strangers… and it was culture wide. Those ten days on the island brought to light how we are all truly a part of the ocean of everything. It was nice seeing the sites, but seeing the connectedness and love that is already there for all of us was the highlight of the trip… and maybe even my whole year.
The wonderful experiences and relationships in Brazil happened because we were all open and living in the moment. We were being the flow in an unfolding journey. We were Coddiwompling in the now. I wasn’t “scared” to be in a foreign land and not know the language. None of the people I met were leery of me, a stranger. They cared, helped, and shared as I graciously accepted and connected. Fear didn’t exist.
Where are you in your journey?
In my journey, I am beginning to understand that I am the babbling brook and all that entails… I have glimpses of realizing I am (as we all are) the ocean of everything. The glimpses are such a peaceful space. In that space it is simple to realize there is nothing to do, but flow, gently flow. Life isn’t hard. Life isn’t scary. Life is a beautiful babbling brook without a care in the world.
While reading one of my favorite books for the second time, I ran across a quote (for the first time!) that perfectly describes the story of the babbling brook:
“Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That’s the hardest part and that’s what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will flow. Do not go with the flow. Be the flow.”
-Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
What I believe is meant by “the hardest part” that is referenced in the quote is this: the hardest part is only taking the very next step. We have such a tendency to get far ahead of ourselves. Worrying about the future is not our responsibility and trying to figure out how things will happen is what impedes us from realizing all that is possible. Worry is the greatest misuse of imagination.
There is simplicity in taking the next step. It may appear brave or fearless, but really… it’s just going for a walk.
What is your very next step?
Go and do that… Be the Flow.
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