Drive fast, and take lots of chances

February 21st, 2013 - filed under: The Farm » Family

Early October was spent in a flurry. We had so much to do before leaving Portland and renting out our house. The plan was for me and Waits to depart as soon as possible, land with family in Santa Barbara and get to work securing a place to live.

Damian would stay behind, finish up the house, and get it rented. I’d packed up almost everything, so all he’d have to do is load up our stuff and the dogs (the hens had already relocated to an awesome neighbor) and drive it all down (with help from his best friend, who he would be living with in SB). It was a lot for him to do.

And thus, the start of October was all lists and errands and tying up loose ends, prepping and packing and planning, and trying to include as much “Portland experience” as possible. It was generally just an overwhelming flood of emotion.

The only pic I have from my going away party: Jo, with her newborn strapped to her chest (my party was at a bar mind you) (no, not a loud one and Maebeline slept the entire time) because like I said => badass.

The days right before I left were such a roller coaster, interchanging total numbness (my involuntary defense mechanism, thank you childhood trauma) and incredible sadness. I got to spend one day all by myself, hours just driving around Portland, listening to music. Re-living the past 5 years. A lump lodged squarely in my throat. I was drinking in that incredible city, and thinking of all I was leaving behind.

October 9th. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the day I left was the very first morning the heater kicked on since the previous winter. I was getting out just in time.

I loaded up the car and got Waits all settled in, hugged the dogs and Damian goodbye, and took one last long look at that house that was no longer my home. I met my step-sister for coffee and pastries at the gluten-free vegan bakery (oh, Portland), where we ate our breakfast and said our goodbyes. And then it was time.

Just as my wheels hit the freeway on-ramp, I got a text from Jo:

I am so excited for your journey! You and Waits are going to have so many new adventures. Drive fast and take lots of chances.

And that’s when the tears came. I was so sad, and so scared, and also filled with excitement at the infinite possibility that my life had become. The “anything-ness” of it was at once thrilling and terrifying. And also, goddamn I was leaving some amazing people behind. My heart just felt broken wide open.

But I kept going. I pulled myself together, at least enough to drive. I won’t pretend I wasn’t still a mess because I pretty much wept intermittently all the way to California. Thank goodness Waits likes his music loud.

McDonalds is good . . . for me to pee in! Day 1.

We spread the trip over three days, doing roughly 300 miles per day, because it seemed easier on Waits that way. Portland -> Ashland to stay with my step-brother. We took Waits to the park and had dinner at the co-op. And we talked late into the night, him and I, about life and spirituality, connectedness and human relationship. It was amazing and exactly what I needed.

On the road, somewhere in California. Day 2.

Ashland -> Fairfax in Marin County, where we stayed with my god-sister. She lives in this incredible glass-walled palace of serenity high in the hills. We took Waits on a long walk looking for a fox (no luck) and co-cooked a delicious vegan dinner. We talked late into the night, her and I, about our childhood and family dynamics, the wounds that will never heal and the ones that gave us gorgeous scars. It was amazing and just what I needed.

Grey skies over the bay, early morning day 3.

Fairfax -> Santa Barbara by way of San Francisco, and then that long stretch of central California that I’ve driven more times than I could possibly count. Familiar. Finally.

I drove into Santa Barbara the back way, over the mountains. Through wine country, up the backroads cutting their course through the Los Padres National Forest, up and up towards the crest, all so that I could round the top and see this:

Dry mountainside, scrub brush and sage. Gorgeous green valley. Lonely oaks. Ocean and islands. Azure sky. That’s Santa Barbara – my Home.

I drove straight to my Dad’s house. We ordered Thai food and set up a makeshift bedroom for Waits and I. I opened a bottle of wine and stayed up late, all alone. It was exactly what I needed.

The next morning my only focus was on finding a house. I’d been scouring Craigslist every day for weeks, and the outlook was so grim. Our price range relegated us to studios, converted garages, and the occasional 1-bedroom apartment. Everything said NO DOGS ALLOWED.

But then, on my very first morning in town, there was this miracle.

And on October 15th I Instagrammed: I got my dream cottage, the home I dared to dream about but never thought would actually appear. On the outside, it’s dilapidated and dirty, a bit of a wreck. Good – that makes it affordable. On the inside, it’s teeny tiny vintage charm. Itsy bitsy rooms with weird details and built-ins and crown molding. So funky, so much potential. But the treasure? The real dream come true? 2 bedrooms! TWO! Which means it’s a long-term home. Never thought I’d find that in this price range, in this maddeningly expensive city. And it has a yard. A big one, with a rope swing for Waits and room for gardens and dogs. A tangerine tree. Dreamy.

It took me 4 days to seal the deal. I was persistent practically to the point of badgering, but the guy said he got over 40 calls on the first morning alone, so I’m glad I took the initiative. I was elated when I got the news.

But that night, exchanging money for keys, my mood had changed. And it wasn’t just the dirty walls and sagging floors that were bringing me down. No, the place had potential and that’s a good thing. It was . . . well, it made everything very real. I’d found an amazing home for Waits and I, but that was just it. This new life.

Everything was confusing; bitter and happy and sweet and sad.

Meant to be: the cabinets have a cutout to accommodate the annoyingly always-too-tall-to-fit Vitamix.

The rest of the month was spent working on the house – which I dubbed “Independence Manor” but always just refer to as “the little house” – and damn, it needed a lot of work. Massive amounts of cleaning, paint on absolutely everything, etc.

We ended the month with Hallowe’en and our first trick-or-treating adventure. That was a really special night for me. Waits liked going up to the houses and always wanted to hang around and chat, but he wasn’t much interested in the candy. I gave him a Dum Dum and ate his Smarties (both vegan) and the rest went to our companions.

November, coming soon . . .

  • MathTutor

    Can’t wait to see the pics of your new home after renovations! And looking forward to garden posts!
    So happy that you found a good home, karma is real! And I’m sure you got lot’s of good karma :)

  • Katrina

    Oh change. So terrifying and thrilling. I’ll say one thing for it — it makes you know you’re alive.

    You’ve got incredible power, woman.

  • Katrina H.

    Sayward, I have been following your blog for over two years. Stumbling on it is what triggered my personal journey to better health. While I can’t say I agree with all of your choices (and that’s a good thing, I think! Diversity makes the world to round) I am so happy that you are sharing your year!
    Veganism, or vegetarianism at the very least, has constantly shown itself to be the best for my health. But then my natural doctor diagnosed me with low levels of testosterone and iron. I lived in China and didn’t trust the vegetables or herbs… Long story short, it’s been a battle. Eating meat gives me more energy and makes me less depressed. Not eating meat makes my skin behave and makes me feel lighter and more upbeat. I never thought I could choose!
    In addition, I have moved nearly twelve times in the past two years: San Diego to Beijing to San Francisco back to San Diego, etc. the stress of constant moving made my attempts at healthy living difficult, at best. (Stress didn’t help)
    Readin what you went through, not just with your health but all the transitions afterwards is truly inspiring. I am reading your blog and empathizing with you and remembering when I went through some of those things and learning so much!
    I love your “new” and very real approach. I love your updates. Keep it up! And thank you!!!!

  • Cécile

    You seem so fragile and so strong at the same time. When I read your story I just wand to hug you to give you just a little more strengh. Even though I am sure that you don’t need it. I also feel that this is a “good ending” story.

    I have a three year old boy too, just a few months older than Waits. I would be so frightened to have to raise him alone. I admire you, I really do.

    Each post is a blessing, I wait for them as I could be waiting for a new episode of my favorite TV show. Thank you so much !

    I live very far away from you, in Paris in France. See ? You have people thinking of you from all over the world !

  • Vegenista

    I just started reading your blog & the last two posts have really hit home for me. First of all, I went to college in SB. 20 years ago it was unaffordable, I can’t even imagine how much rents are these days. And that drive through Los Padres, so gorgeous! Anyway, I’m undergoing some major changes in my own life…got divorced 3 years ago, held on to our house even though I couldn’t realistically afford it, went through a series of job/income changes, & eventually decided it was best to sell the house as a short sale. After 9 months of trying to get the bank to approve it, they finally said yes. Then it was time to figure out where I’d go from here. If losing my house wasn’t painful enough, my hunt for a rental in San Diego was excruciating – I realized very quickly I’d either have to lower my standards, or raise my price range. And forget about finding something dog friendly. Yet, somehow out of a stroke of luck, kismet, & a bit of fairy dust, the perfect place appeared when I least expected it to. And against all odds, I was offered the house. As it turned out, it was owned by a friend of my work supervisor, a connection made the day prior to my viewing it. And largely in part of that personal reference, amongst 20 some-odd applications, they accepted mine. It is smaller & pricier than I’d planned on, but so much more than I could have ever hoped for – tons of character & vintage charm, with a yard for my dog, two orange trees & 25 rose bushes in the front yard. I’ve spent the last two weeks packing & purging – while having bouts of crying fits & numbness – & move next weekend. As you said “everything has been confusing; bitter and happy, sweet and sad. ” Finally for me everything has become real, & it’s overwhelming. My life is about to change in some big ways – but it’s new & I am so ready for the new. Thank you for sharing your story, it helped me feel comfortable in sharing my own – & I’ve just divulged here now more than I’ve ever shared on my own blog! I cannot wait to read about how the rest of your journey unfolded & how it continues to bloom. xoxo, Melissa

  • jen

    Seyward you are very brave and an inspiration. I am currently dealing with crazy stress having had my partner apply for a promotion and getting it without considering what would be best for the family only that he was going through his surfing phase so weve moved from santa fe to hawaii. Its horrible here and I’ve caught him looking at porn while I was out getting groceries and while he was suppose to be looking after our two girls and I’m too scared to leave but I am now. Thank you for your blog.

  • Ladies Holiday

    This speaks of so much courage and strength…please do share more about how a place, particularly a cold one can be unaccomodating and difficult for some constitutions. I’ve been dealing with that for ages and it sounds like familiar, but we New Englanders are supposed to, “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and get on with it.” – no moving because we don’t like the weather. But I say, it’s so much more than simply not liking the weather!
    Anyway- as always thanks for sharing!

  • jen lassalle edwards

    May I just say that I admire you, your courage, openness, sharing of all of your personal thoughts and life? Thank you for letting us in. You are very inspiring.

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Aaaah, you’re making me miss Santa Barbara! Also, tangerine tree – not in a pot, not in your house, but in your back yard! Lady, it sounds like you and Waits found the perfect spot to start this adventure (or maybe it found you?).

    Other than that, all I can say is that your post is making me experience all over again what it felt like when I left Chicago. I know this post is about you – but it really resonates with me.

    And of course, the way that you and Damian are handling this transition is pretty fucking amazing. When my first husband and I divorced, it was quite the opposite . . . but then again, sometimes *not* staying friends is the best course of action. :)

  • Rachel Jacobs

    I love Jo’s advice to you. What a whirlwind of emotions for you to experience. I am so looking forward to November, especially now that you did indeed make it back to your dream city Santa Barbara!

  • The Cookie Fairy

    Sayward, this post made me so happy for you! I’m glad you finally got a bit lucky. Looking forward to the next instalment.

  • Christy

    I started reading your blog right around when you stopped writing it. I looked back through and read your journey and saw how it paralleled mine in so many ways. The first post I read I thought ” I bet she lives in Portland too” and sure enough you did. Now just as I am packing my belongings and preparing to leave Portland in search of sunshine, after 5 years, I see that you too have done the same thing! Keep writing this time, reading your blog is like having a friend that always seems to know what i’m going through.

  • Bianca-Vegan Crunk

    Change is scary, but isn’t it always amazing when you stumble onto better things? Like that perfect house with the perfect Vitamix location? Almost as if destiny were saying, “Hey change sucks, but this is how things were meant to be. And they’re only going to get better.”

  • skeptk_vegan

    Such a perfect post for representing the bittersweet feelings of a move. My boyfriend and I just this weekend decided to ditch our five year plan, and are moving out of Alaska to Colorado in approximately 5 months. Definitely understand your no dogs allowed dilemma (including ridiculous rules on restricted breeds!), also currently holding out on a “too good to be true” little 2 bedroom house with a yard! Congratulations on your place, complete with the always appreciated vitamix placement!

  • Allie M.

    It’s wonderful having this window into your world, Sayward. Your perspective and good humor as you navigate these exciting and unknown waters is an inspiration to me. All my love to you and your wee tribe!

  • Kelly H.

    Ohmygoodness…you did it! Wow. I can just FEEL those emotions. It will help immensely to have family nearby…to help dissipate some of the fear. Congrats and good luck! I hope I have the courage to do the same sometime soon…

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you for haring Melissa! What a story, and so similar to my own. Kismet is a fantastic word. Best of luck to you!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thank you so much, everyone, for all your amazing and supportive comments. I can’t keep up with responding to each one individually, but they all mean so much to me. Thank you! ♥ ♥ ♥