50 Roads #8 – THE ROAD WHERE I WAS THE STRANGER
There are lots of ways to disappear, and being a stranger is one of them.
There’s this dorky old saying that says something like — “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.”
I guess that depends on what your definition of friend is. And what your definition of stranger is. Sometimes it’s okay to just remain strangers for a while, I think. Maybe even forever.
It’s a bizarre experience to set off into the world and not have anyone know who you are after you’ve spent your whole life in the same community where almost everyone knows who you are, generations back.
Lots of people knew me that way and I knew lots of people that way. But I also “knew” lots of people across the world online and from business. On one of my Soul Roads, my social media accounts were gone overnight. So over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to really experience what it’s like to go from having lots of community to having almost none.
Once my social media accounts were gone, after years and years of having an online following in the hundreds of thousands, I had to really come to terms with what social media has done not just to me, but to our human family.
I had to ask myself the preposterous question of whether I had any value if no-one knew who I am, where I am and what I am doing. And this would ultimately lead to me asking MYSELF – Do I even know who I am? Do I know where I am? Do I know what I am doing?
It’s like the old question….does a tree that falls in the woods make a sound?
Does a person who hardly anyone knows exists have any value?
Does that person even exist then if they are not known?
Is there any value in being the perpetual stranger?
Like I said, these are ridiculous questions, but we ask ourselves ridiculous questions a lot . . . we ask life ridiculous questions as if we are the ONE PERSON alive who doesn’t matter. All of us matter.
- a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.
“don’t talk to strangers”
- a person who does not know, or is not known in, a particular place or community.
“I’m a stranger in these parts”
- a person entirely unaccustomed to (a feeling, experience, or situation).
“he is no stranger to controversy”
- a person who you like and enjoy being with
“I’d like you to meet my friend”.
“She is such a good/close/dear friend (of mine).”
- : one attached to another by affection or esteem
She’s my best friend.
- : a favored companion
I will never forget our first month away from Idaho. Going to the store, I did not recognize or know anyone. No one recognized or knew me. Going to the laundromat . . . didn’t know a soul, no one knew me. No one knew our truck when it drove by, so people only waved out of courtesy, not old familiarity. No one knew what we’d done, what we hadn’t done. No one knew what boxes of acceptability had been checked on our list of life choices, accomplishments and failures. No one knew ANYTHING about us.
We were free to go about our minutes just being strangers.
It felt really good. Really peaceful. Really freeing.
I still had my online friends. My online following. People still knew me if I needed to check in, and I did for a while. And then I couldn’t because my social media accounts were gone. My mailing list was gone. Then I started to really experience this stranger/friend thing on a whole new level.
It was messy and internally brutal like all of this has been. I am no champion of making it through without scars. It was scarring. It was telling. It was lifesaving.
Seeing ourselves through the eyes of others and feeling our value through the love of others is powerful medicine. But you can overdose on it. And then what do you do when it’s gone? What happens when all that’s left is your own self and your own self doesn’t really know how to have a nurturing relationship with you?
When I became a stranger in what seemed like an overnight earthquake, I realized in a million little ways that I was actually a stranger to myself. Even Marq to a large degree was a stranger to me.
Look at the definitions up there again . . . a stranger is a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.
I was starting to learn that when I wasn’t running around, wearing myself out, I was a complete stranger to myself. When I wasn’t fighting for LIKES and HEARTS and validation and acceptance, when I wasn’t helping people, when I wasn’t loving and encouraging and lifting people out of dark places, I really didn’t have a clue who I was.
When my ego started fighting with my heart, that’s when I really started to break open. And breaking open requires the breaking. I think I have adequately explained on the last 7 roads that I broke so we won’t beat that dead horse again.
I was learning that not only was I stranger to myself, I also wasn’t a candidate to be much of a friend to myself. A friend is a person you like and enjoy being with. I didn’t hate myself or anything like that, I just didn’t know myself well enough to know if I liked being with her. I didn’t know if she was a “favored companion” as the dictionary defines a friend.
I also had to start reckoning with the definition of enemy:
- a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.
“the traditional enemies of his tribe”
- a hostile nation or its armed forces or citizens, especially in time of war.
“the enemy shot down four helicopters”
- a thing that harms or weakens something else.
“routine is the enemy of art”
- one that is antagonistic to another especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent
Had I become an enemy to my own self, even if only through putting my head in the sand during the tumbling downfall of my own well-being?
Was I hostile to myself? Was I harming or weakening myself? Was I antagonistic or seeking to injure, overthrow or confound my own life-force?
I wouldn’t say I was doing this consciously, but I would say that there was a part of me that was trapped in old conditioning and when I couldn’t find ways to be an enemy to myself, or destroy myself . . . it seems I was somehow trying to lure people and situations into my life who would do it for me. I attracted some of the meanest and most brutal people I have ever encountered. I let them behave in a harming, antagonistic and injurious way. I got myself in situation after situation that seemed hellbent on destroying me.
And I would turn my head as those things seized my kingdom. I sabotaged myself over and over and over again. I handed over the keys, I surrendered my golden eggs as soon as I birthed them, I passively allowed enemy attacks from just about every direction.
I did that.
That truth was a bitter pill to swallow.
I started this chapter with writing —
“There are lots of ways to disappear. Being a stranger is one of them.”
I think we try to disappear when we don’t feel safe, when we don’t feel equipped, when we don’t feel hope. It’s fun for a while to be a stranger in a strange place, but after a while, you start getting lonely to be known, to be seen, to be heard and to be held.
When I realized that the most damaging part of this stranger-ness was the way I had become my own most distant stranger, I began to realize that if I did not stop and learn to know myself, see myself, hear myself, value myself and HOLD myself . . . I was doomed.
I felt so lost when I was erased from social media. But then I learned that there is no amount of being known, heard, seen, recognized and held that can EVER make up for the act of ERASING YOURSELF from your own life.
I knew that if I was ever going to be able to move forward after so much loss, I had to stop and take the time to reclaim what I gave away, threw away, abandoned and erased about myself.
So for months that turned into years, we traveled here and there in our truck or RV and we were strangers in so many places while we took the time to get to know each other and ourselves.
I’m certain that there were places we stopped on our nomad adventures where we looked like we were on our first date, or on our honeymoon, or in some beginning stage of some relationship. Because after 30 years, we were.
AND the same thing was happening individually. Marq has a pretty solid sense of who he is and he’s never gotten caught up in the same webs that I have, but he was 50 years old when we left. And something happens when you’re not young anymore. You have to decide who you are as a not-young person.
So we set off as strangers, in a land of other strangers. Learning how to be friends with ourselves, with each other and as soon as it was time, with others.
I found a quote by Mark Twain that feels especially appropriate:
“Not until you become a stranger to yourself will you be able to make acquaintance with the Friend.” -Mark Twain
So, soul stranger, soul friend,
-What does it feel like when YOU are the stranger in a strange place?
-In what parts of the complexity of YOU have you become a stranger to yourself?
Thank you for walking beside me on this strange road. Tomorrow we will brave our way onto “The Road to the Unwanted Truth”
I love you.