Looking Forward without Looking Back, Part 2
Someone recently commented about my current "adventure" saying, "I can't see why you had to close so many doors", and I'm glad she did say that, because most of the people who I have told about my plans have responded with exuberance about getting rid of everything in order to get out there and explore freely. I don't think most people fully realize the intense effort to leave almost 90% of a life behind. So I am glad that someone did realize and question my intentions and why I closed so many doors.
The process was somewhat organic, and it didn't start with the intention of leaving Seattle. Although I must admit that with 70,000 people moving into Seattle over the last year, and 4 major construction projects on our block, that Seattle had indeed changed, and I was over it. In short, to hold onto everything would be to watch it deteriorate.
The process actually started with frustration of how long it took me to clean the house. I stopped going on long bike rides on the weekends with my husband because I wanted to clean and organize, and our house was in such a state of disarray that it took a monumental effort to do so. So instead of relaxing and unwinding the way you are supposed to by not doing work, the work of cleaning the house became my new type of relaxing and unwinding. And that seemed fundamentally wrong.
My husband kept insisting that we had too much stuff. But I felt like we didn't have that much stuff because most of it was contained in cabinets. We didn't have clutter the way I've seen others have clutter, but things did have a way of getting out of place very quickly, often within hours of me cleaning the house messes would appear. I purchased the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo and decided to start a process of getting rid of stuff by cleaning my closet.
The process was quite simple. Take every single piece of clothing out of your drawers and closets and lay everything onto the floor. Then take a step back and look at everything you own and what needs to happen becomes very clear. For example, I had 4 different burgundy knit shirts, or "3 too many". I also noticed that I had a few items that just "didn't fit with the rest". From the perspective of the edge of the room, I could now see naturally who I was (based on my clothing choices), and what parts of me were "extra" or "didn't fit". What was strange was that I was subconsciously creating a vision for the rest of my life, and I now had a visual and mental record of that vision. I didn't even have to sit down and write anything. I remembered what it was like on a bike tour my husband and I did down the California coast, with only 3 outfits and 10 days. Not having so many choices was remarkably peaceful, even with a little stinkyness.
I edited out almost 50% of my wardrobe and now had 2 large empty drawers. What I realized is I had nothing to put into those drawers. My subconscious, at that point was very busy as I was starting to realize that I had much more than I needed.
I continued the process, working on art supplies, kitchen stuff, books, etc. until the house started to look very empty. But it was filled with only the best things in my life.
I started looking at other areas of my life, namely, my bakery. After almost 10 years, the bakery had mostly stabilized, and although it was still quite fulfilling, I felt the need for another creative challenge. In early 2015 I had explored the idea of opening a restaurant in a location right near the house, and I spent countless hours writing a business plan and meeting with consultants and architects. It was a long process and I went full force into fitting together every piece of the new puzzle, while I also did some soul searching regarding my motivations behind growth. In the end, when I could see the big picture, the venture was clearly not financially feasible, and the monumental amount of work to pull it off with very little reward seemed wasteful. So I met with my agent and cancelled the project.
Later that year, since I was still unsatisfied with the bakery and my desire for greatness in every aspect of my life, I decided to invest my energy into making the bakery the best it could be. I remembered that when I started the bakery, I didn't necessarily have a plan, so now was the time to make one. I met with consultants and designers and spent a lot of time pouring over numbers and reports looking for strengths and weaknesses. I ended up taking everything apart, the furniture, the menu, and to some extent the staff and then and put it all back together. The bakery looked great, better than ever before. However, I soon realized that the process was akin to re-arranging your house where at first you are excited that everything seems new again, but then you realize you still have the same old couch and you're sick of it. And so it become clear that the bakery no longer served me, and I decided to sell it. For someone who had felt that their life's work was in baking, it came as a complete shock to me.
But please understand that selling the bakery does not mean I will never bake again. It is still my passion, it is just for now, owning a bakery is not how I want to express my passion. The future, is as uncertain as the open road (so to speak as I am literally on it).
So with an empty house and a bakery I would soon no longer own it became clear that the next step was to leave Seattle. So we purchased an Airstream.
But there was one problem. At the time we had a very old dog who had gone deaf and was beginning to show signs of Canine Dementia, and had severe incontinence. Physically, she was fine...a little loose in the legs at times, but mostly, perfectly healthy and somewhat happy. We took her to the vet to talk about the plan to get the most of what life she had left. The vet advised us to watch for signs of lack of appetite, which seemed to us unfair to her, to bring her to such pain and suffering. And then over the course of a couple of months she began to deteriorate and weaken. Her incontinence became extremely unpredictable. We knew that it would be too complicated to bring a geriatric dog on a long trip, and we were most likely being selfish and cowardly about our ability to let her go. We set a date to euthanize her and decided to have a long weekend with her. We let her eat whatever she wanted (a big mistake with an old dog). We took her to a beautiful park for a long walk, and in the car on the way back I looked back at her, smiling, relaxed and happy from a great day with us, all she ever wanted. We were not ready to say good bye then, but eventually, we knew we had to let her go. She deserved to leave us on a good note, without suffering. As I held her in my arms, I felt her last breath as her spirit left the earth.
What was so strange is that everything that is happening right now is connected. Our dog Betty was the inspiration for me to start the bakery. Like all dogs do, she lived in the moment which is exactly what it is like working with food. Her death is inexorably linked to the end of the bakery, but her life will mostly likely be the inspiration for the next project I take on.
And so because everything is connected is why so many doors had to be closed.
90% of the physical contents of my life now exists in the past, and although I might peek back and try to make sense of it, honestly, my time is much better spent in the eternal present.