Letting go of Alaska

IMG_2469Do you ever wonder if a relationship could have been turned out differently had the timing been better or if you had been in a better, healthier space in your life? I left Alaska years ago but have been haunted by our relationship there in dreams and waking hours ever since.

When I write about relationships, I am referring to both people and place. I recognize that people and place come in and out of our lives with each phase I experience. Some remain in my life, even from a distance, for decades to come. Others are more evanescent. All stay in my heart.

I have been writing about my relationship with Alaska for nearly five years now. Two years writing about my experience rooted in the remote community of Gustavus and the following three trying to make sense of the storm of the previous two.

I write as a means of processing and also of letting go. Whether or not I write, the emotions may stubbornly remain; however, I like to think that each time I write, I set a little piece of emotional tether free. I can close my eyes and imagine freeing one small strand on a thick rope that binds us together.

I was thinking yesterday about how some people feel like family when I see them after a long time has passed and others like strangers. Perhaps, some people are meant to come into our lives and we to theirs are times when we both need someone one to lean on. When the storm has passed, some relationships go with it.

When I moved to Alaska, I was at the very beginning of the greatest storm in my life yet to pass. It was a calm before transition. I went through so many changes that shook the very core of my own being. At times, I felt so out of control that I worried I would destroy any person who stumbled unwittingly onto my path.

Some who came into my life weathered the storm and others did not. Looking back now, I know things could not have been different. They were as they were meant to be. I did what I could, made mistakes, and learned from them.

So much of my interaction with people and place are wrought by my choice of perspective. More often than not, I imagine that I am at the root of any ill will that surfaces. I should know better at this point that any individual’s response to a situation has as much to do with their own inner demons as it does with how they feel about me.

I try my best to go deep into the heart of what is happening and to understand what it is going on inside of me and try to imagine what the other may be grappling with.

At least, I have come to appreciate that this is true for me and has been the case with people I have known. There was a woman in my circle of friends from college who I imagined never liked me and so I feigned dislike for her out of my own insecurities. At the very end of our four years, we discovered that we each had held the same fear about the other. Our honesty revealed these insecurities and misunderstandings. Communication gave us the freedom to be friends.

Honesty is key. I appreciate honesty from others, however painful it can be, and I try to be honest with my own feelings.

I have difficulty letting go, of material possessions and even more so of people who have been close companions at a time in my life. Many of my intimate relationships saw me grasping on for dear life long after the initial spark had gone out and unhealthy patterns set in.

Much of my experience with letting go has come from trying to accept the unfolding of events as they happened rather than imagining they could have been different, forgiving my self and others for the parts we played, working to understand our individual choices and inner demons, and giving my self permission to move on.

I think much of the difficult interactions have stemmed from my own personal growth. I went through a storm in Alaska, and it was by my own device. I wanted to go into the storm to find out who I truly was and to allow my self to fully be that person. Not everyone is comfortable with this kind of shift, and I think I set many on the defensive edge.

Part of embracing change is letting go of the past. This does not mean forgetting the past. It is always with me. For me, it means being free from the ghosts of my past. In some cases, I can only experience closure through my own choice to practice acceptance.

And it is time. I left Alaska more than three years ago. To truly be where I am, I need to let go of who I was.

So, to Alaska, I say:

You are the first place I felt that I belonged, and I felt it from the moment I stepped off that tiny plane and onto your wild ground.

Your wildness filled my soul but also made me lonely.

You were both sanctuary and prison.

I went to you seeking my self.

I left you to truly become that self.

You are in my heart.

It was difficult to be with you and also to leave you, but I am glad that I had the courage to do both.

I am thankful to know you are out there.

Goodbye for this life.


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