Sunday, November 25, 2012

Home Sweet Homeless?

I just returned from Southern California, where I stayed with my sister, who lives in Irvine, so that I could participate in the family celebration of Thanksgiving. The majority of my Dad's family lives in Southern California, from Fullerton to Duarte, Irvine to San Gabriel, the whole lot is there, pretty much. As a child, I spent a few weeks every summer in Fullerton, staying at my Grandma and Grandpa's house. I loved those trips down there. What kid wouldn't? They owned their own theater company, The Fullerton Civic Light Opera, so the trip was always filled with musicals and shows. Being so close to Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, and Knott's Berry Farm, and having connections to people who worked at all the parks, we always got to hit up at least one theme park per trip. Then, there are the aunts and uncles who would spoil us with the Orange Country Fair, movies, eating out, can you think of a better vacation?!

So, it's no surprise that when I do visit the Fullerton crew (even though they don't all live in Fullerton, that was the place where my sister and I spent the most time, hence everyone getting lumped together) I get a little nostalgic and I start to feel like I should be living down there. Now, I've been in the Oakland/Berkeley area for the past 6 years, and until recently I loved it here. But a strange thing happened when I returned "home" the other day. I was not excited to be back. In fact, I was so ready to be anywhere but here, it's been hard to stay in a positive mode. There are several factors that I attribute to this little funk that I'm in.

First off, like I said, whenever I visit Fullerton, I get sad that I don't live there. I'm not really sure that I want to live in Southern California. In fact, I don't think I do. The amount of time spent driving on freeways from place to place is exhausting for me, the prevalence of chain businesses and sprawl of strip malls and uniformed houses and apartments is just not my style. That being said, I do love to visit, but because of my family. That's what it is about that place, it's not the place, it's the people. But, I still have a desire to live in a place that has more trees than people, so Southern California is not for me, at least not right now.

The second reason that I am little out of sorts being back in Oakland is that I live in West Oakland, known by some, as the ghetto. Rent is cheap, there are some really great things happening here, like the Peralta Junction, City Slickers, and I'm close to downtown Oakland for awesome events like Art Murmur. But the ghetto is the ghetto and really, I'm over a lot of the characters that I do meet when I'm trying to do something as simple as go to the grocery store, or get gas. No, I don't have any money for you, I'm not even working right now. No, I don't want to buy your CD or see the scars from where you got shot. And no, I don't have a cigarette, a lighter, or matches for you. Clearly, I have run my course with Oakland.

But the real thing that is happening is that I'm in a transition already. Getting ready to drive to Costa Rica, I have started to check out of this existence. All of the things that grounded me to this life, the jobs I've had, the routines I have formed, they are starting to erode away as I move towards the next phase of my life. And for me, it's hard to stay present and feel connected to this space and time, when my mind is so occupied with all of things the future holds. I don't feel like this place is my home anymore, and I don't know where my next home lies, so in a sense I'm already homeless, if not physically, mentally at least.

I don't mean to sound so negative though. It's not like I hate this place, West Oakland, that I have called home for the past three years. I have loved my time here. It's just time for something else now. I took a few yoga classes at the studio where my sister teaches in Irvine. In one of the classes the teachers said something that was true for yoga, obviously, but very true for my life as well. She was explaining that stillness and motion were equally important in your practice. Now, she was referring to our downward dogs and our sun salutations. How finding the comfortable place before holding it in stillness was necessary. And how if you needed to take a child's pose and simply lay still at anytime, that was just as valuable as flowing through with the rest of the class. So I realized, I've been practicing stillness for three years. I made all the necessary adjustments, got in tune with my body, found just the right way to be, and I stayed still, in that pose, for three years. And it was important. Just as important now, is the need to move, to pedal my feet, bend my knees, move my hips, wiggle my writs and fingers, shrug my shoulders, and find that next posture, that I'm sure I'll end up holding again for some time. Because let's face it, you can't just stay in downward dog forever, at some point you have to flow, you have to move, you have to explore your body, your mind, and the world.

Here's to motion and stillness, and to figuring out which one is more helpful to you right now. And whichever it is, just remember to breath.

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