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The Bittersweetness of Leaving

I’m going away tomorrow. By myself. It’s a thing I do two times a year. I go away so I can hear my voice more clearly, and ultimately remember who I am – me, stripped away of all my roles, relationships and circumstances.

I know it’s time. I know it’s needed. I know it will yield results beyond measure. I’m no stranger to the open road – it’s my seventh year of doing this.

But it has me feeling sick to my stomach this morning.

I’m not surprised by the upset. It’s right on track – a predictable part of the process of going away. First there is the excitement from my spirit of adventure awakening. Then comes the focused (often stressful) effort of getting ready to go away – crossing things off my list, preparing for departure. Then comes the guilt of leaving behind all that I love – my two sons, my beloved, my beautiful life. Finally, the morning before, angst and fear arrive – like unfortunate taxi drivers to my destination.

This morning as I felt them arrive, I had a sense of what gifts they were trying to give me. Yes, I said gifts. Because sure, I could label angst and fear as bad characters, but the reality is they exist. They are here – very present – and in me wanting to be heard. So this morning I listened to them.

What I realized is that in taking myself away, I am invited to say goodbye to those I love and to my life as I know it. And not to be morbid, but yes, I’m talking about the BIG goodbye. Hang with me here for a minute… Because these emotions were asking me some really powerful and gracious questions:

Have you lived a good life?

Have you told your loved ones how much you love them?

Do you have any regrets?

Have you left a mark on the world?

Has your life made a difference?

Is there anything left to be done, to be said?

Am I being dramatic? Some might say that. After all, I’m just going to North Carolina. But they’d be missing the point. Going  away by yourself is an mighty invitation to take stock of your life. Like that age-old “funeral test”, it has a way of cutting through all the crap and noise of our day to day living and shines a light on what matters most.

So I’m taking stock this morning. And I’m finding a boatload of gratitude and love and perspective is arriving in me as a result.

Who knew fear could come bearing such life-giving and heartfelt gifts? I’m realizing that sometimes all it wants is to give you its gift so it can leave in you peace.