There are days where it sweeps over me like the fog that rolls over the hills in San Francisco slowly devouring the landscape. Gratitude. It should be a positive feeling – but at times for me it’s a heavy feeling. It’s so heavy that it pushes my shoulders down planting my feet firmer on the ground feeling as if I can’t move. My brain glosses over, my throat seems to tighten and swell and I swallow hard hoping to swallow away the tears. The feeling of gratitude sweeps over me often – and most times I feel like it has no where to go – it just sits in my body and mind making it a lump – a lump who is unable to express out the feelings that are rushing through it and ultimately leaving me strangely dissatisfied.
As I stood at the bus stop this morning in Berlin with my backpacks weighing down on me – I felt even heavier as gratitude took over my body. Strangely I’m sad – sad because I wonder if I can ever be able to give back to all of those who I have immense gratitude for. It’s these times when my life feels extremely uneven – it’s these times where I feel like I take, take, take all of the goodness people have to offer me – and I have no way to give back – that’s why the gratitude feels like a weight to me at times.
The only way I know to give the heaviness of gratitude a way out of my body is to write. Expressing gratitude in words at this keyboard is all I can really do.
I have so many friends and family who have supported me and this lifestyle through the years and even though I may not say it – I’m thinking it – I appreciate every little tiny meal, drink, bed, bandwidth, dollop of laundry soap, and assistance that is given to me as I wander the world.
When I lived in San Francisco and New York City I used to have visitors all the time…ALL THE TIME. And there were times when I sort of felt like I was giving, giving, giving – but I always knew there would be a time when the tables would turn. That time came in 2009 when I came back from living in Vietnam with my nomadic life in full swing and I had to start depending on everyone else for assistance and places to sleep. However it’s now 2013 – I think that after 4 years my good karma I built up in NYC and San Francisco has all been used. Yet I keep moving and relying on people. I have learned that I have to let go of trying to think about how I can pay people back and just accept the kindness. But there are times like now – waiting at the bus stop – where I feel like it gets really out of balance.
This particular trip has been full of past friends, and relatively new ones who have put me up, helped me, and fed me – and gratitude is flowing inside of me more than ever. It started in Brussels with my friends Andrew and Alison – their immense kindness always stuns me – even going as far as picking me up from the airport at an ungodly hour. I then moved to Frankfurt where I met my Camino friend, Michael, who took the day off of work to show off his adorable town of Bad Neuheim, take me to dinner, and graciously give up his bed for me.
Next there was Angela – my girlfriend who I developed a bond with just this year when we both lived in Buenos Aires in January. She had just got back from 3 months of travel in Argentina and she welcomed me into her Berlin apartment with open arms. She cooked incredible meals for me, shared bottles of wine, threw a dinner party, helped me mail packages, let me leave bags at her apartment as I went off to Oman, and even lent me hiking poles.
And even in obscure places like Oman I am blessed with friends who open their homes and lives to me. Raymond and Federico drove me around, fed me, helped me do laundry, and showed off their town of Muscat all in the short time span of 2 days. Raymond even drove me to the airport in the middle of the night.
And as I continue my travels in Europe for the next few weeks I’m continuing to rely upon friends – it never really stops. Each of these people were so giving and amazing hosts that I really have no words for them except Thank you.
But it’s not just the people while I travel – it’s my family and friends in the US who are constantly accepting me in their homes and lives. My family allows me to show up on their doorstep for weeks at a time – and even though they are family – I still feel as if I owe them.
Then there are my friends who treat me like family – are even more amazing to me. Charlie in NYC not only provides me a bed but she cooks feasts for me. Miles continues to be my administrative savior as he accepts packages for me and deals with my mail and other admin loose ends. There’s Ron who is acting as my actual administrative assistant virtually from Hawaii helping me with travel planning, running my websites, and providing me amazing pep talks. Then there’s David and his boyfriend Jason. David has been a long time friend who has provided support to me in so many ways I can’t even begin to list them. He not only provides me an air mattress, food, wine, and wifi use – he’s my shoulder to cry on, my person to call when I need a smile, or the person to remind me to laugh when the serious brooding side of me takes over. (Happy Birthday to David today – here’s the best present I could get you – wish I could’ve been there to help you celebrate.)
I have nothing I can give back to any of these special people – and I have to learn how to just let that be – but I find it very challenging to not always feel in debt to them. Sometimes it’s so challenging to deal with the out of balance feeling that I think about stopping this crazy nomadic motion when the gratitude gets too heavy like today.
Gratitude can be a funny thing – it’s a beautiful feeling – but learning to just accept it and not feel like a leech is the real challenge. It’s a challenge I have yet to master.