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Different and Reliable Mirrors

Updated: Oct 6, 2018

Trusting your gut

When I was 23 years old and farming in Hawaii the only way to get from point A to point B was to stand on the side of the road, stick out your thumb, and hope for the best.

As I got more practiced, I learned that good hitchhiking was, in fact, not about hoping for the best, it was quite the opposite.

The most important sidekick to my adventuring, then and now, was listening to my intuition. When I focused on utterly prioritizing what my gut was telling me over all else, it rarely led me astray.

Listening to myself prevented me from climbing onto a motorcycle with a guy that looked like Fabio and smiled at me longingly. It was raining, I needed to get home, but this was not my ride. Five minutes after Fabio departed, a car full of happy travelers pulled to the side of the road and brought me safely to my destination.

While hitchhiking another day, listening to myself prompted me to ask to be let out of a car when I felt uneasy with a driver who was rambling incoherently and taking turns at high speeds. He left me in a cloud of dust after dumping me on the side of the road, per my request, and I knew it was the right thing. Even though it meant waiting a long time for another ride.

During this time in my life, I was across the ocean and had only myself to rely on, so it was absolutely essential I listened when my gut raised a red flag or gave me the green light. I was far away from all the support systems I had grown accustomed to. Actively listening to my intuition and trusting myself was my greatest tool.

Over a decade later, I am aware how critical this skill remains, this self-assured listening. A few times on this trip we have experienced a crossroads that begs the question: continue on the planned path or take an unexpected detour?

When we have listened to what our gut says, we have stumbled into some of the highlights of the trip – a rustic motel in the woods in Northern Maine; an amazing lobster (“lobstah”) roll eaten quickly while sitting by the ocean; a tiny home on a farm in North Carolina, with a sky so pitch black in the evening that if not for a nearby dog barking, we could’ve sworn we were the only people for miles around.

All of these experiences have come about because something wasn’t quite right with our planned day – a host, a home, a feeling – something was off enough to make us pause and say, “Should we make new plans?”

Today, Joel and I were discussing that by the very nature of this trip it might feel like we are running away from our problems. However, I see it differently.

I see us facing our problems, acknowledging our challenges, communicating our boundaries, and making choices that serve us. I see us deeply, actively listening to ourselves.

Recently we stopped for a few hours in Richmond, Virginia where Johanna – who found us on the internet here – offered to give us a tour of her city along with her husband Charlie and sister Ceci. This was a hitch we wanted to take.

While walking through Richmond, Ceci and I started talking about transitions like the one Joel and I find ourselves in, and the tenacious voice of self-doubt that creeps up now and again, blocking out the intuitive voice. At lunch, the five of us had been discussing how to orientate yourself on a trip like this, when all your “normal” measures of self and identity were back in the place you came from.

I explained to Ceci that as we journey around the country, we are thrust into new situations constantly, oftentimes with people we are just meeting for the first time or haven’t seen in a long time. Case in point, the human being I was talking with in such an intimate and truthful way. Go figure.

While we try to stay connected with what our instinct is telling us, with these new mirrors in front of us, it can feel like more work to know ourselves, let alone what our next steps should be. In this transitional space, what is reflected back to us is unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable.

Far away, in the place we came from, are the mirrors we’ve come to count on– close friends, family, colleagues. What they reflect back to us, we recognize. When we are with them, we understand ourselves. With these long established relationships, it feels simpler to know our rhythms, how we’ll react to certain situations, how we will talk ourselves into or out of certain choices. Our familiar mirrors are reassuring.

Yet contradictions abound, I exclaimed to Ceci, breathless. Though we are literally moving, there’s a stillness in this travel. In the quiet spaces there is time to think about how we see ourselves. Though transition brings about unfamiliar and at times uncomfortable new mirrors, via the people we are meeting and the ones we hold up to ourselves, it also invites us in for a closer look.

Because everything is different and reliable mirrors are so far away, a voice of self-doubt can certainly thrive in this space. But another voice grows here too, one I am trying so hard to turn up the volume on.

I have found myself cautiously looking into these new mirrors – informed by the past, grounded in the present, and dreaming of the future. In them I see a reflection I want more of: a steadfast confidence that we can finally take the detours we need.

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