It’s the city that put me on the trajectory toward who I am right now.
I have always assumed we would go back there. Always. One day, when we’re ready to settle in and BE somewhere, I always envisioned us going back to Kansas City. When I think about the home I want to create, I imagine it being there. When I think about walking city streets with Josh, I imagine the Plaza. When I think about date nights, I think about the AMC downtown, Lidia’s Italy, concerts in Westport. I can see us becoming regulars at McCoy’s, the hostess coming to know us by our first names. It’s the place I imagine when I think about making a life. I can envision myself teaching yoga and meditation, in studios and school and parks. Stretching it out in my hands to the masses, this practice that has done so much for me, one that is notoriously only accessible to able-bodied, wealthy, white women. I can see all of this in my mind, and I fall in love with it each time I do.
Yet, as we’ve been talking about the possibility of doing so within the next year, I am hitting a giant wall of resistance. I don’t know why, entirely. I’ve lived long enough to know that resistance around a thing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong thing, and so I’m trying to sit with it. I’m trying to suss out whether the resistance is my gut instinct telling me it’s actually the wrong move, or whether it’s just fear.
I keep thinking about Elizabeth Gilbert’s take on fear, how it’s actually a necessary mechanism that has kept the human race going for all these millennia. The idea is that fear is not a bad thing, it’s just a warning system to alert us to potential danger. The problem is, it alerts us to POTENTIAL danger. Just because we’re experiencing fear does not mean that we’re in danger. I’m not in danger in this scenario. Considering a move back to Kansas City is not a threat to the safety of my body, mind, or soul.
So I sit with my fear as though it is a friend, and I tell it, “Thank you for being here. Really. I see you and I understand you. I know you’re here to protect me and I am grateful for that. But you can take it easy now. Stay if you want, but I need to be in the driver’s seat. I have to run the show.”
I do see my fear. I do understand it. I have felt like a fish out of water for a long time now, for most of the past five years. And sometimes, I find myself blaming it on the Midwest in general. I have spent most of those five years surrounded by a large number of people who have only ever been surrounded by people exactly like them. That’s not a judgment call or a moral critique-it’s just a reality. And yet, I find myself struggling not to globalize it, to just assume that I need to live in Seattle or New York to feel a little less like the community weirdo.
I know that this is not true, when I sit with it. Like I said, Kansas City was where it all started. It was the first city to introduce me to people whose lives looked absolutely nothing like mine. It was actually the very first place I felt like a fish out of water–and then it became an entire oceanic ecosystem to me. I learned to belong there, amongst all of the absolute-nothing-like-me’s.
I do see my fear. I do understand it. I get scared about moving back close to family. Not because I don’t love them–I love them with all of my fibers–and yet I have come to love the natural boundaries that come with a little bit of physical distance. External boundaries keep us from having to do the hard work of establishing and protecting internal boundaries. Josh and I both tend to disappear into the desires and thoughts of the people around us, particularly when we love them deeply, and I get scared that without some physical distance, he and I will just disappear into nothingness.
I know that this is good, when I sit with it. Fresh opportunities to fight for our autonomy, to be a family in our own right, to unapologetically inhabit the people we have become. I know living close to family is a blessing many people dream of, and I know it would present us with challenges that would stretch us and grow us, maybe even more than setting up shop alone on the coast, a thousand miles from anyone who knows us.
The truth is, I have grown a vast expanse of branches this past year. I’m beginning to understand my soul, feel its waxing and waning, rely on the predictability of my own rhythms. But maybe I need some roots, too. Maybe, as much as I find myself afraid of settling in, maybe sinking my feet into stable soil is exactly what I need. In the same way that Josh’s stability has been a unfathomable kindness to me, has kept me grounded when I would otherwise fly off into the stratosphere, maybe I am a person who will always need some roots to support my limbs, which are stretching and bending and whipping at a rate that sometimes disorients me.
“Root to rise,” one of my yoga teachers always says. Ground down so that you can stand strong.
I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know where we will be a year from now, or two or three or four.
But I’m becoming less afraid to dig into the soil beneath me feet, and simply stay.