I’m well versed in leaving. I’ve had plenty of practice. In my thirty-three years I’ve moved twenty-six times and that only counts the moves between cities, not the minor changes in scenery brought about by relocating to a different neighborhood or from an apartment to a house. The majority of my moves occurred before I reached eighteen years old, establishing what I sometimes fear is an unbreakable habit. There are times I secretly hope that all this traveling will cure my restlessness, as though it were something in need of healing. But, more often I embrace my appetite for new experiences and love where that leads me. Will the compulsion to pick up my entire life and start anew always be pulling at me? Or, will rearranging the furniture someday be enough to scratch my itch for change? At this point, I can’t say. But, if there is one thing that all my moving around has taught me (aside from how to make new friends), it’s that leaving is bittersweet. I know it’s impossible to go back to this time, and this place, as it lives right now. And, even if you do go back, everything will have changed, you will have changed and therefore it is never the same. A chapter is over. That is the bitter.
But then there is the deliciously sweet anticipation of what is yet to come. The thrill of walking towards a future that is wide open and filled with possibilities is all I need to close yet another door tightly behind me and turn my feet in a new direction.
Sunday we headed for Cambodia after a sentimental week of last minute visits to all the people and places we knew we’d miss the most. We exchanged hugs and heartfelt goodbyes with friends and I shed a solitary tear as our good thing was coming to an end. But leaving this time had a peacefulness that was new to me and as we rode in the back of the songthaew (red truck taxi) on the way to the airport I realized why: It was always meant to be temporary.
It’s so simple that I’m a little surprised by the way the thought moves me. Don’t I always know that? Everything is temporary. Well, yes, logically I suppose I do, but when it comes to actually living it, I tend to fail at putting this wisdom into practice. Instead, I settle into a particular life situation, become attached to how it is, fool myself into thinking that if I do things just right I can make it stay that way forever, and then grow fearful and anxious at the threat of it altering. And, it will. It does. It has to. That is the nature of life – impermanent.
Any desire to keep life static will cause pain. It’s what the Buddhist’s define as the root of all suffering. Wanting what you can’t have will make you miserable and what you can never have is permanence. So, maybe for the very first time, I did it. I allowed the Buddhist teaching it is already broken to be the context of my experience. I didn’t grasp tightly to what I knew wouldn’t last and I loved it all the more knowing that it would inevitably end.
This lifestyle we are living now will one day end as well, a very sobering thought for me at this stage. I’m nowhere near ready to go home, settle down and live a conventional life (whatever that is). But, I know that what I want will change as the years go by, it always does. Someday the notion of living in one spot could be a welcomed one, I don’t know. I guess we’ll see.
For now, I’ll hold on loosely to this delicate cup, feel the warmth radiating from within and attempt to memorize its many colors and the way the smooth, curved shape feels in my hands. Today, I will drink in all that it has to offer for tomorrow could be the day that it breaks.