Today I went to see The World Before Your Feet.
I had the great fortune of meeting Matt (the “subject” of the film) just two days ago when we were both invited to share in a Thanksgiving feast with friends who have kindly hosted both of us over the years on our respective nomadic journeys. Though we have never stayed at their place at the same time, I had heard about Matt and that he was walking every street in New York from them. To me, what he was doing and how he was living made sense. I never thought to question it or his motives.
What I never considered (because how could I) was how much of an impact seeing parts of his story told would have for me. How I would leave the theatre and end up in tears moments later, standing on the 14th Street subway platform waiting for the 2/3 train.
I’m not here to write about the film. If you’re interested, definitely go and see it – it’s beautiful! It’s not my intention to spoil anything in the film either (but if you think I might… stop reading now).
So, what happened in those moments after?
I walked down the street to the subway and had a 10-minute wait on the platform.
Normally, 10 minutes feels like a long wait. Today felt different.
Today I had 10 minutes to listen to the man play the longing sounds of Auld Lang Syne on the Erhu (a Chinese “fiddle” of sorts). 10 minutes to walk down the platform past the other people waiting. Within the first few steps a thought inspired by Matt struck down upon me:
“You can’t know how to complete the puzzle – or even what it looks like.”
“You can’t know the whole puzzle.”
“You can’t know.”
My pace slowed as the bottom of my heart fell and the sides of it seemed to open up and out, creating a cylindric force of emotion channeling through me.
Grief. Deep, painful, grief welling up.
I was instantly reminded of a story I wrote years ago when I realized “you can’t figure out the angles of a circle” and within the intense emotion, I felt laughter mix into the grief because I’ve had a very similar realization before.
This was striking me differently.
A mixture of emotion was opening. Hitting into the depths of something beyond my comprehension.
You can’t know.
Grateful that I had stuck a few napkins in my pocket from the Japanese deli where I had lunch, I stood on the part of the platform that was abandoned and decided to let the emotion come up, sometimes dabbing away tears sometimes letting them stay. The laughter mixing in brought up more emotion and tears than just the grief itself, which I noted as interesting even as it was unfolding.
My memory flashed to all the moments in the past I had unabashedly cried on the subway in the past. Necessarily so. I thought about how much this city witnesses and holds. I thought about how this city has never felt overwhelming to me because it allows so much. Because the overwhelm isn’t out there in it, but inside of me. Or has been.
This city has been my greatest healer. My greatest teacher.
God, the pain coming up was deep.
There was an announcement made that it would now be 6 minutes until the next train. I took this as an opportunity to stand there, close my eyes, and feel. To be with what was happening. To actually feel into the sensations arising across the screen of my heart and throat. To let them flood up.
After a while of consciously feeling I thought about these past years of living nomadically. How for such a long time I dreaded facing the seemingly-always-asked-by-everyone question, “what do you do?” and “so… what are you going to do after your training in Ireland?” or “what are you going to do with it?” All the questions focused on earning. On making a living. On how, how, how are you going to….
Years of pushing, trying, forcing.
Of trying to know. Trying to see it all and know how to put the puzzle together.
At first the questions would make me angry. Angry at feeling like an outcast for choosing to do what I’m doing. Angry that if felt as though people wanted me to fit in a certain box that was not working for me. Angry that they demanded answers I didn’t have. Angry when they didn’t like the answers I did have. Angry that my very existence felt threatened by their questioning. Grilling me, as it felt.
When my answer has always been, “I don’t know.”
I’m being led this way and so that’s what I’m doing. It just feels right.
The truth is, I don’t have a plan.
The truth is, underneath all that anger was the grief that started to push its way up to the light today. Grief of loss I can’t even identify. Nor have I tried to. I just felt it there.
The truth is that it had nothing to do with those people or their questions which I allowed to feel like attacks.
I wanted approval. I wanted to not disappoint anyone. To satisfy them somehow.
The truth is, they were pushing up against my own beliefs of deeply-held insecurity by pressing me on questions of “how are you going to be secure if this is the path you choose” which, because of my own fears, I translated into needing to feel defensive of my choices.
Without even knowing it, I’ve held onto the pain that fuels that desire to defend.
So there I stood, in a tiny corner of New York City grateful to have been given 10 minutes where I wasn’t looking down the tunnel for the lights of the oncoming train, having a massive movement of energy through the core of my being.
I still don’t have answers to those questions. I need them less and less. I need others to have them less and less too.
Through the past twenty months of living nomadically, those desires of craving external validation have shifted. I’m not sure they’re gone but they don’t have as much power. I don’t get asked those questions as much any more either, as though the constant barrage reached inside of me and helped polish (through a challenging process) all those bits that needed to become more secure.
All of that pain coming up on the platform had been locked away, waiting to rise to the surface, ready to be seen, healed and released. Ready to be embraced with the deep laughter that came right up beside it, waiting for me to have the capacity to hold both. To continue to transform ties holding me back into the freedom to that allows me to step securely into myself and my own power to actively create my life.
The freedom to give myself permission to not know. To not know how to complete the puzzle or even what it looks like, and to keep taking steps anyway.
To let go… a little bit more.