I’ve been trying to write this post since March, the five year anniversary of our move from the city to the bush. I could say that life got in the way, that I was too busy but that would only be partly true. The real truth is that I’ve been procrastinating, making excuses because I knew writing it would be hard. Hard because after 5 years of ‘living the dream’ we’ve decided to follow our hearts back to the city. How do you celebrate something and leave it at the same time without feeling like somehow you’ve failed? I realised as much as wanted to, I couldn’t let this milestone pass because an anniversary is more than a celebration of the start of something it is also an opportunity to take stock of where you are now and how far you’ve come. To reflect on all of the things you didn’t know then but do now.
That day back in the beginning, I burst into tears as the removal truck made it’s way up our driveway to our new home amongst the trees. Anyone who has visited us knows it’s not for the fainthearted. Two Kilometres of narrow winding dirt track but if you’re brave enough to make it to the top, its worth it, with views out across the river valleys to rainforest and the ocean. It was our home in the clouds. We were finally living our dream life. But that’s the tricky thing about dreams, they’re a lot like expectations, breeding grounds for disappointment and resentment.
When I think back to the decision to leave the city behind, we were convinced that our bold move to the country was the answer to our longing for a slower more connected life. We made that leap for freedom we had always dreamed about. Finally we had the space and seclusion to live life on our own terms. But if this journey has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes jumping is the easy part. That moment when the veil of exhilaration lifts and you’re left with the here and now, with making it work, that’s when the shit gets real. The failures and the isolation of life’s daily grind, that’s where the real buried treasure is hidden. And here I am five years later, forever altered in ways I could never have imagined and about to make another leap of faith armed with new insights that only this experience could have given me.
My tree change included many hallmarks of a life on the land, birth and death, floods and fires and moments of holy communion with the natural world. But the most unexpected boon amongst all of it has been my own journey of personal transformation. Much like a snake sheds it’s skin, the last 5 years have been a continuous process of letting go and rebirth. But unlike a snake who surrenders to its renewal, I struggled against it, for a while anyway, hanging on to those illusions of how things should be, how I should be. But this wild place had other plans for me. My migraines of 20 years became chronic, I was diagnosed with cancer and the long periods of isolation with a farm and a small child to care for brought me to my knees. I found myself in a place where I had to let go of everything I thought I should be and was left without any choice but to embrace who I really was. Because I realised in those moments of utter despair and resentment about my circumstance that the only way was through. To surrender to what was and let go of everything else, including my dreams and my productive, multitasking self.
My illusions of self sufficiency were shattered. I was forced to see that suffering alone was not the sign of strength I thought it was but a myth constructed out of my need for external validation, another misguided attempt to prove myself to myself and the world. But in those moments, I also discovered the real truth of my own resourcefulness. That I could handle the worst that life could throw at me. That surrendering to what is took strength and that admitting I needed help and then actually asking for it took courage.
In hindsight this experience feels like part of some much grander master plan. That subconsciously my wild self had been craving the healing balm of the wilderness for a very long time much like an animal retreats into solitude when it’s about to give birth or is ill. Many years ago on a road trip my husband and I decided to turn left instead of going straight on and drove deep into this little valley. We were captivated by it’s mystical energy and knew then that someday we’d we back. And we were years later. And that if it wasn’t for that risk taking removalist and so many other small miracles we wouldn’t be here at all. That I had to be here, to disintegrate and to put myself back together in the lap of mother nature.
I came here with so many dreams. Most have long been let go, or at least brought down from their lofty pedestal and moulded by reality into something much more powerful and enriching. By letting go of what I dreamed life would be like here, I awakened to the true beauty of this wild place. Leaving is bittersweet and I’m excited and a little scared about how my life will be in the city. About how to create that feeling of spaceousness, of connectedness to the universe in an urban environment. But what gives me peace of mind is knowing that I’ll be taking this place with me because it’s part of me now, imbedded in my experience, in every cell of me.
I know now that freedom is not a place or an experience or something that is given to me, it’s having the courage to look inside myself for the answers. To take radical self responsibility for my own happiness. To know that I have the power to choose peace in every moment regardless of where I am or what is going on around me.
I have a feeling I will be called back into the wild again one day but in the meantime, wherever life takes me I know that truly ‘living the dream’ is letting go of the illusion about how things should be and embracing the now. And that letting go and moving on is a natural part of the cycle of life. Life, like the river that has carved out this valley, is always in flow, free, running it’s course, merging then out to sea.
….. one cannot bathe twice in the same river because already, in his inmost recesses, the human being shares the destiny of flowing water …. a being dedicated to water is a being in flux. he dies every minute; something of his substance is constantly falling away.
Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams