I swear to you, I am a mermaid.
As a child I would spend my summers washed up on the shores of the public beaches in Connecticut, salty skin and seaweed tangled hair.
The water was thick brown and murky, and people all around smoked their cigarettes while yelling to each other over too-loud boom boxes playing Madonna, but for me, it was heaven.
I swear my blood is 50% brine.
When we left the driveway in our Airsteam years ago, I can't remember if I said it aloud or not, but I had a plan to find my way back to the sea. To drive until we hit water, set up camp on the sand, and then, like a little family of crabs, spend our days swimming and scurrying around in the sun.
I thought maybe we'd land back in California, or maybe Florida, or maybe the coast of the Carolinas. I wasn't specific, and maybe I should have been, because we ended up smack dab in the middle of the opposite of what I wanted in God-awful Texas.
I apologize to anyone reading this who has the lone star state sticker on their truck's bumper, or flashes the "hook 'em" hand signal casually to strangers in the grocery store instead of waving, but Texas was never my version of home.
For starters, I have a fear of wide open spaces, and Texas is giant beyond any reasonable proportions. When I first mentioned this to Braedon he shook his head and replied, "Borders are invisible anyway, Mom. Just pretend Texas ends and begins on our street." I tried his method, and here I am, over a year later, still feeling swallowed daily by ten-thousand-mile-wide ranches. I cannot tell you how many times I have woken up in the middle of the night feeling choked by the massive hands of the cowboys who shoot things for fun and eat steaks piled ten-high for dinner every night. Their breath always smells like stale beer, and they never care about the pottery I make in my kitchen.
If you told me, while I was busy doodling mermaid fins on the ends of the model's legs in old People magazines that I borrowed from rest stops along the way, that I would end up in the middle of Texas, I wouldn't have even looked up from the page because I'd think you were completely insane.
And yet just this morning when I mailed the check to Lily's dance school, right there in the upper lefthand corner was my return address. 78736. Somehow, here I am.
Every day, something like ten million new people move to Austin, and I think I've spoken to maybe two of them, but I'm pretty sure the main reason is because of the crazy computer job market here. The money in that market is unreal, and I'd be lying if I didn't share that it's the reason we decided to call this place home. I mean, of course it wasn't the only reason, but then again, I think maybe it was. Thomas got a killer job offer the same day the pipes in our camper froze, and by the fifth day of no running water, I would have given anything for a hot shower.
We found a house. We enrolled the children in awesome schools. Thomas put on his shoes every morning and went to work every day. And I sat, alone, counting cactus needles and mosquito bites.
It's no secret, or maybe it is, that pretty soon after we landed here, my health fell completely apart. I began having migraines with auras daily, and lost movement on one side of my body. I couldn't eat without throwing up for hours, and my mental cognition was so poor that on Halloween when my children dressed up, I almost didn't recognize them. I couldn't drive. I couldn't type. I couldn't think.
I called my friends and asked them to google, "disability benefits," and grieved any sense of ever living a healthy life again. I gave up my wedding business, I gave up my River Story™ sessions, and towards the end, when I couldn't leave my bed, even though I hate to admit it, I totally gave up hope, too.
I believed that I was stuck. I believed that I was landlocked and shell shocked and frozen in place. I forgot about the magic of things.
I have a whole new blog post (coming) dedicated to how I turned my health around, but I need to share about that darkness because in the middle of it all, when I was cheek to cheek with what it means to die, one day the mailman knocked on my door, and with my wobbly, knobby knees, I answered. He handed me a small package and I opened it before the door was completely closed behind me.
Inside was a print, from my friend Lindsey, that said, "Take me to the ocean," and I felt it return: hope. I felt it flood my heart and rush over my skin. I felt it in the way that you feel the things in life that are unmistakable and unavoidable and true.
So I wrote in my journal, "Maybe there is still a way. Maybe this is not a cage, but a nest."
And so I surrendered to the fight of things, and floated for a (longer than I would have liked) while. I allowed Austin to be the fire that burned away what I didn't need anymore. I let it tumble me around, so that my edges were smoothed, and my gaze, more refined than ever.
This pin on the map has kicked my ass, but it was never for the sake of struggle. It was always in the spirit of strength.
Austin has taught me about the word "and." It has shown me that I can be devastated and terrified AND growing and brave. It has shown me that I can hate something AND love it with all of my heart.
But most importantly, and where I am going with all of this, is that I have learned I can live here AND there.
I can have Texas AND New England.
I can spend my winters straddling the potter's wheel, stacking bowls on dusty desert shelves, trading soup recipes with the Mamas at my baby's schools. And I can spend my summers in salty solitude, chasing waves and capturing weddings; collecting sea shells to put in my bowls.
There are some things I remember and forget over and over again, and one of them is possibility.
So, I am typing this mermaid's tale here in hopes that this time it sticks. This time, maybe the understanding that we are never really stuck, and there is always a divine light guiding us towards things we cannot yet see, maybe it won't fade away again.
There seems to be permanence in the written word once it is shared. A sort of immortal song that never completely stops playing.
And I share it because maybe you need to hear it, too.
I cannot wait for the moment next May, when the tips of my toes touch that dirty brown Atlantic sea again, and I can declare, once and for all and without any doubt, that this was all worth it.
And the big plan might change, and the tides may pull me in another way, but that's the whole beautiful point.
For now, I am certain of this: between the dates of May 23rd and August 15th I will be in New England, and I cannot wait for the weddings and River Stories™ that await.
Sure I could have posted a pretty graphic here, or shared my instagram image from earlier in the day, to declare my return to New England. But some things deserve the oxygen that only story can bring, and for heaven's sake, I am so ready to breathe again.