Lately I’ve been kicking myself for choosing the domain name that I have. “BorneBackCeaselessly” is difficult to remember even for native English speakers. Now, as I continue to travel, I realize, if I actually want people to read my work, then it may have been unwise to choose such an obscure literary reference on which to hinge my entire online identity.
But here’s the thing, I mean it.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning---- So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
I remember reading The Great Gatsby for the first time in middle school and thinking, “Yeah! I totally know what Nick is talking about. I feel you, Gatsby!” (Although I’m pretty sure “I feel ya” was not yet a saying when I was in middle school. It indeed encompasses how I felt reading about his struggle. But I digress…) Why the name Borne Back Ceaselessly? Why not “Gatsby fan” or “Jennie is lost” or “Teacher travels” or “what the hell am I doing with my life” or any other host of handles which may have been much easier to remember? It’s simple. Because I’ve been planning this journey for a long time. Maybe I didn’t know exactly what it would look like. Maybe I didn’t even realize it would be an actual voyage around the world. But I’ve always known that writing my story and working through my shit was going to happen one day. And there is no other way to describe how I’ve felt except Borne Back Ceaselessly. Allow me to explain…
What is this journey all about?
I am traveling because I had the means and opportunity to do so. But the journey is actually about finding the time and headspace to examine the experiences of my family, my childhood, my adolescence, and my young adult life which have led me to where I am today. When sharing parts of my story with friends and acquaintances, I’ve often received the feedback that I should write a book or make a movie or go on Oprah. Well, my shot at sharing my life story with Oprah may have passed, but writing my truth is still very much a reality... a need.
“I think many people need, even require, a narrative version of their life. I seem to be one of them. Writing memoirs is, in some ways, a work of wholeness.” ~Sue Monk Kidd
Ultimately, the desire to get the stories out of me is one of catharsis. I’ve carried so many secret heartaches and private struggles for so long that the only way to truly move forward for myself is to empty my soul of the suffering and to actually MOVE forward. My memoirs are not only about story telling, they are about growth, rebirth, and coming to terms with what is and what will never be. That I have chosen to share the process online with others is simply part of the journey. I am learning so much about myself as I travel that even the process of releasing my stories has changed. Each new destination, each new challenge, each new friendship, each new phrase learned in a foreign language, each new food, each new bug bite, each new bout of tears borne of frustration is shaping how I relate to and how I tell my own story.
What is my story?
My story is one of overwhelming helplessness at being unable to do my job in a way that feels authentic to me and that will actually make a meaningful difference in the lives, the attitudes, and the desire to learn of my students.
My story is one of suffocating stagnancy at settling for the status quo by living each day as if it is the same and as if I have no control over my decisions and the direction in which I will steer my life.
My story is one of acceptance as I seek to finally come to acknowledge the painful and difficult events of my childhood.
My story is one of forgiveness as I seek to reconcile myself to the consequences of my choices and decisions.
My story is one of escape as I run from the familiar toward the unknown.
My story is one of tolerance and open-mindedness as I seek to recognize and understand the beliefs, philosophies, values, and principles of other cultures.
My story is one of love and joy as I use these lessons and stories and work on becoming my truest and best self.
How can I live my story?
This past week I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a mindfulness and movement festival in Goa, India. As with most of what I have experienced on my travels so far, I stumbled upon this festival by meeting a friend of a friend at a dinner. She invited me to participate and told me I would love it. She didn’t know me at all. But the universe does. So I said, “yes!”
The vision of the Conscious Flow Festival per their website is “To explore mindfulness, creativity and movement together. To create places and moments, where body, heart and mind can find inspiration, peace and flow, both in silent retreat and in joyful interaction.”
In this moment, I couldn’t think of a bigger desire. And, true to the flow of the universe, I have felt so blessed to be here. In a few workshops I have been moved to tears at the idea of being truly open to what my mind and body are leading me to do and be. Have I always lived this closed off to my truest intentions? Thankfully, there were moments set aside in the festival to share what we are experiencing and learning in the process. During one of these sharing circles, we broke into smaller groups of three and I finally shared what I was going through. I shared how I felt like I could truly be myself but was worried that I would have to fight to maintain that when I returned home to Washington DC.
A beautiful Austrian woman smiles softly and says to me, “Are you used to fighting?”
Intrigued and confused by her question. “Yes. Why do you say that?”
“Because maybe this time it can be different.”
Ah-ha! Maybe this time I don’t fight to maintain myself. Maybe this time I just am. It is not the world that is going to change towards me. I must change my attitude toward the world!
I had grown weary of the old patterns of feeling rejected, not good enough, and not fitting in. It was time to shake them off and walk into the world confident that who I am and what I have to offer is valuable and meaningful. No more allowing the perceived attitudes of others to bear me back. No more relenting to the comparisons imposed upon me by society via cultural norms and social media. No more capitulating to the demands of the world when my heart calls me to something more, something greater. No more living in the past perceptions of myself.
"The past is the present, isn't it? It's the future too. We all try to lie out of that but life won't let us." ~Eugene O'Neill in Long Day's Journey into Night.
So why, BorneBackCeaselessly?
When all you’ve ever known is neglect, you stop seeking out connection. I felt disconnected in my heart, but I continued to beat on believing that I could find it. No matter how much I pushed people away, I still chased love. No matter how much I sabotaged myself, I still tried again.
What ignited this fire? Where did this fight come from?
It came from the intrinsic knowledge that everyone has if they look hard enough. The knowledge that we can never go back. Life is a forward momentum. Life is happening right now. Life is always the present moment and no matter how hard we paddle, we will never bask in a shining future. No matter how fast we run, we will never outrun the past and we will never run fast enough to stand still and catch our breath as the present arrives. As soon as our oars touch the water again, the last stroke has already faded into history.
The only moment we have is the now. This moment. This breath.
And though we continue to make new choices, enact new patterns, and create new future opportunities for ourselves, who we are and what we lived in the past is inexorably a part of us. We are a collection of moments. And as F. Scott Fitzgerald himself said,
“There are no second acts in American lives.”
But we can learn from the past.
We can aim for the future we want.
We can live in today.
And in so doing we are in fact beating on, against the current of an aging universe, being borne back ceaselessly with every breath into another instant of the past.
And as for me, I’m loving every moment of the passage.