The voyage west

IMG_4800Six days ago I loaded a residual of earthly possessions (an espresso machine, musical instruments, hair products, and some clothes) into my CRV and began driving north, then west. Destination: Seattle.

After four years in Louisville, KY, I cried crossing the Ohio River while taking in a last long look at the skyline of bridges stretching into southern Indiana. I passed the goat milk farm, grieving insufficient or nonexistent good-byes to those I thought were friends, and settled a little as I peered through squinty eyes into Illinois and Iowa and a kick-ass thunderstorm. Thanks to family, I had a landing place, but no job. “What am I doing?” I screamed at the universe. “I mean, really? Haven’t I had enough for a few years?”

I had left the PNW when I was called to a fantastic justice job with my (Presbyterian) denomination. For over 3 years I met with global partners, workers overseas, and U.S. supporters and invited them to deeper work stopping violence against women and children and called them to deeper and more systemic work. As those who read the job description told me, it was a perfect job for me. It brought together my peace and justice work and my creativity and people skills. After 3 years, the position was eliminated and within a few months, my entire department. I could say more about that but will save that for another post.

As I began my “land voyage west”, I crashed the first night with friends who indulged me with kindness, bourbon, and sweet potato hash. It was the right beginning and I felt “sent” by them and those who made it possible for me to leave on time. A pod was en route to Seattle on it’s own time frame. IMG_4824

On day two I remembered some earlier coping techniques, intermittently scribbling observations of my surroundings and feelings. I drove through more corn miles than any nation should have, was swept up in gorgeous clouds and fields that emptied into the bewitching prairies of South Dakota.

I wanted this trek to be the primary transition I needed, longer (and more affordable) than a one-day flight. Something in me shut down when my job ended, even silenced. My work was gaining traction and had mobilized people. But now it was over. I took an interim job but continued to feel like I was wearing a corset around my heart and soul. Anger, grief, anxiety, and fear have a way of settling into my body that seems to take a while to unravel. The last 6 months, anger became my deferral emotion. This was something quite new to me.

But here, through middle America, under the wings of expansive skies and clouds that many only fly over, I took to the hum of the road. Prairies, whether farmed or free, have an exhaling quality to them. They breathe, in a way one can identify even driving 80 mph with headwinds.IMG_4880

Somewhere along day 3, I forgot that I was leaving somewhere I had called home for over 4 years. I was simply driving, breathing, taking in spectacular Wyoming, pushing myself to drive further. I wasn’t thinking so much about either coming or going and it gave me some peace.

The death of a dream is hard to get over. There is no significant closure – it is more like a divorce with dangling threads of connection. I was jerked out of the most meaningful work I had been part of and thrown to the wind. My dream wasn’t over. My work wasn’t over. But my position there was.

It took 6 days to make it Seattle. Montana fires, entertaining prairie dogs, voluptuous hills, and mountains that remind me why Seattle-ites have confusion about what qualifies as a mountain.rainier-fm-lk-washweb21

Wherever we are in our soul journeys, reinventing ourselves is always at work if we are to grow. It is not just for those in an unwelcome crisis. So, dive in, friends. Dive in.





This entry was posted in Calling, family, God, happiness, Peacemaking, Reflections, travel, wisdom and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The voyage west

  1. Laura McMillan says:

    We are thrilled to have you back in Seattle. I’m glad you took the time to travel home on the road. Have you ever seen this story?
    European missionaries serving in Africa a century ago hired local villagers as porters to help carry supplies to a distant station (imagine Mombasa to Lake Victoria). The porters went at a slower pace than the missionaries desired, so after the first two days, they pushed them to go faster. On day three of the trek, the group went twice as far as day two. Around the campfire that evening, the missionaries congratulated themselves for their leadership abilities. But on day four, the workers would not budge.
    “What’s wrong?” asked the missionary.
    “We cannot go any further today,” replied the villagers’ spokesman.
    “Why not? Everyone appears well.”
    “Yes,” said the African, “but we went so quickly yesterday that we must wait here for our souls to catch up with us.”

    (I went looking for it and found this version (there are others) of it here:

    I’ve always loved this story and feel this story when I fly. I think in this case you needed time to travel with your soul, instead of ahead of it, and I’m so glad you did.

    I hope that you will lean on family and friends to help you find your next path… which may look very different than the last one, but will allow you to use your unique gifts and talents nonetheless. You are loved.

  2. Michelle Y Lori says:

    Soulful essay, Shannon. You have a way of making vulnerability beautiful and desirable. I hope you are doing well.

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