The day before I moved to Chicago after living in Fairfield County Connecticut for 23 years the rear window of our station wagon shattered. We were on our way to the dump to donate an extra TV and crates filled with more useless stuff. I looked in shock at the shards of glass that were now splintering off the windhshield and littering our driveway. My first reaction: The knee jerk muscle twitch kind was “IS THIS A SIGN?” It was already hard enough to fathom that my whole life was now reduced to the back of one Uhaul that my husband would be driving with the company of two dogs and I would be following with my son and our cat for 900 miles to a city that I had only visited twice in my life. A yogi friend of mine (do I have any others?) told me to look at the rear window shattering as a symbol of breaking away from the past.
The day before the window broke my computer hard drive crashed out of nowhere and I found myself standing online at the Apple Store at the Danbury Mall at ten at night having a slight panic attack that my beloved Mac Air that housed the only newest draft of the memoir I have been working on for almost two years would have to be shipped to me in Illinois. Illinois? I thought. Where the hell is Illinois? The window and the hard drive got fixed the way that objects eventually can and do and the next day, despite these annoying set backs we made our way out of Fairfield County and toward the Midwest. One of my dearest friends said to me about my leaving my hometown. “I thought you should have broken up with Connecticut five years ago.” A break up is what it felt like as I drove up my driveway the last time and turned onto the familiar highway with no clear plans of when I would return. A break up indeed. Fairfield County had been my home most of my life. I moved there when I was twenty two. I got married and divorced and married again. I birthed three sons there. I lived in four different homes and three different suburban towns there. I had three career changes and owned and lost three sucessful yoga studios there. I found, kept and fostered friendships that felt more like family, and lost many close connections whom I never thought I would lose there. I experienced the great benefit of public success and popularity as well as felt the deep shame of family crisis, professional missteps and public scrutiny, all there. (The Buddha would call these vicissitudes, “fame and shame.”). It was time, I said to my mother, to my friends, and to my students for a real change. An energetic shift, some may call it. And everyone mostly nodded their heads and understood. Places hold a certain energy like people. And it was time that Connecticut and I released each other. Ninety miles South of Chicago, just as I was feeling the adreneline rush at the thought that I would be living in a city again (and a cool city) just outside the border of Indiana I watched our Uhaul in front of me swerve almost out of control and huge remnants of black rubber fly off almost hitting my windhsheild. I watched my husband miraculously avoid what would have been an easy tragic accident for anyobdy else and land the van on the right shoulder with cars speeding over 70 mph whishing past him. I pulled up behind him. It was the same shock of staring at the windshield but now maginified by a million. The tire had blown up and we were now stranded on the side of the road at the mercy of Uhaul’s road side assistance. While both of us had made a decent career communicating the right words at the right time in a yoga room, in that moment, I had none. No words. Just the same flare up reactive question, Is this a sign? A friend of mine later reminded me that the only way to respond to the tire was gratitude. “Grateful that you are not visiting your husband in the hospital, she said. Grateful that nobody died.” It was divine she said. Perspective, I thought. Though I intensely resisted, my husband encouraged me to go on without him. It wasn’t safe with our young son in the back and our car so exposed and vulnerable on the side of the road. I had to be the grown up about this as opposed to resort to the tantrum I wanted to have. I wiped the tears with my forearm and proceeded en route to this new city that I had never really met before. My mind playing the provacteur and the adversary kept anatagonzing my inner turmoil by saying, “and now you are doing this alone. Is that a sign?” We entered the city finally, albeit not in the way I had imagined. It did not feel celebratory in ways I had romanticized. No champagne bottles were popped as we looked out our new balcony and toasted our new city landscape and a bright future. My body was achey from the long drive, my nervous system wrecked from the sheer emotional reality of this displacement and my anxiety was peeking at the total question mark of what lay ahead. One not so minor detail to add fuel to this fire was that the Uhaul’s other tire exploded again forty five miles South of the city. I used most of my strength to repel the belief that we were somehow cursed on our path. How is it that this is the start of the new fresh beginning we had dreamed about? There was no sudden aha moment here. Getting here took grit. Getting here hurt. Getting here was what it was. My father (the farthest thing from a hatha yogi) was the one who reminded me of the simple logic. These are not signs, Tracy. This is just life. Things happen. Life is not interested in whether it’s good timing or not. It’s funny how much I expected that to be the case. Why was I expecting Chicago to roll out the red carpet and hand me the salve I was in search of and desperately feeling I deserved? So I arrived here with a lot less baggage. Literarlly and figuratively. Less stuff, more simplicity. Less ego, more humilty. Wide eyed, open, slightly disoriented and what I would describe as “trembly.” My other yogi friend said “trembly is a good thing – kind of like a fawn learning to walk on its’ new legs.” I am starting to see that the signs that I once questioned as the enemy were not the enemy but my perception of them might have been. These were not curses my bigger self reminded me, the self that wanted to have the space to emerge — these, she said are just the perfect challenges— challenges that are just pointing me toward new growth. Growth that I had probably been side stepping for years back in my old hometown. The window. The hard drive. The tire. The awkwardness. The heart break. The mystery. This is the stuff of life. And we are our own drivers choosing to carry our own weight.