Welcome to this series of observations and musings on a life transition. I lived in a spiritual community for more than three decades. When the time came to make my home elsewhere, I saw the move as a re-entry.
Re-entry means going back. A spacecraft in re-entry has been inhabiting another atmosphere. On such a re-entry, you need to gird yourself against returning to a world that may be your origin but has not lately been your support. How do you make this shift? What must you jettison? What do you need to keep?
For my move, I mailed 90 boxes of things: sheets, towels, photographs, books… Why should I buy them again? Could I even afford to do that?
With the help of friends, I rented a tiny house online, so there was a place to land.
And I drove cross-country in a car bursting with what couldn’t be mailed: suitcases full of clothes, a trunkful of computer equipment, art supplies, the cutting from a night-blooming cereus, a bunch of silk wisteria…
A drive like this demands vigilance. I learned a new attentiveness to the physical world, but step by step. I lost my car keys in Ohio, dropped my Visa card at a Starbucks in Minnesota, left my purse—with my wallet, my money, and all my identification—on a picnic bench in the badlands of North Dakota. I did what I had to, of course.
I had the car towed (courtesy of AAA) to a dealer who made new keys. I canceled my Visa and was grateful that I had another credit card. And the badlands turned out to be not so bad after all. As I was frantically backtracking in search of my purse, a woman called out, “The park ranger has it. I turned it in at the office.”
I was lucky. Without that insurance or the extra card or the kindness of a stranger, I might not have made it to my destination. No re-entry. There are those who do not physically survive re-entry. In this weekly blog I’ll go into some strategies I’ve found—and some I’ve discarded—for maneuvering this new world in which I was suddenly cooking for one, finding health insurance, starting a business, planting a garden, building community…
But physical survival is only part of re-entry. There are other, more significant issues in our lives. As the stage manager in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town puts it, “We all know that something is eternal…” While we’re involved in the physical realities of housing and feeding and maintaining ourselves, how can we remember the “something way down deep” in us that’s eternal?
For me, the heart of re-entry is remembrance. I work with remembrance every day. While I’m on a spiritual path, it is not this path I write about. There are means of remembrance accessible to every journeyman, and this is what I will focus on.
For instance: at the end of each day, I like to ask myself two questions:
- What did I do best today?
- What could I have done better?
The answers are often a surprise.