Building A Home And Leaving It: Another Koan

Of note: There are curse words in this post. But it’s fun. You’ve been warned.

Second note: not sure of a reference I make? Click the inline links and you’ll be transported to definitions or background info. And if you don’t know what spoon theory is, *please*  click that link – for the story’s benefit, but also because – you should know.


As a child, travel enthralled me, inspired by my Uncle Steve’s trips, plus a lot of Carmen Sandiego. At my Bat Mitzvah, I told the congregation that someday I wanted to work for National Geographic. The term digital nomad was years away from being coined. The technology that powers the lifestyle didn’t exist yet.

These days, I can work from anywhere that has an internet connection. So it strikes me as strange that I choose to live much of the time in Maryland. “Absolutely absurd,” my mind sings to me. 

But being near family during special chapters of life is priceless. 

Having a home base for months at a time means that when I’m going on a long trip, let’s say… 2 months in Nepal and India with an end-of-trip stopover in Qatar… there’s a fuckton that needs to happen to get ready.

Like what? So glad you asked.

I’m packing up everything in my place (which I rent when I’m stateside and gets rented out when I’m away) and then transferring it to my storage unit an hour away in batches because MINI coopers are tiny.

A week ago, I discovered through sheer serendipity that India requires submitting a visa application BEFORE I arrive. I haven’t been anywhere that doesn’t have a visa on arrival since my college internship in China. 

I spent 1.5 hours at the pharmacy last Thursday waiting for my typhoid shot (and learning about rogue nuclear warheads lost on the ocean floor from an octogenarian who used to fly B-52s) and then I forgot my passport overnight inside a scanner at Staples because my iPhone can’t make a pdf smaller than 300 kb which is what the Indian visa application requires…

I need to buy a mosquito net, extra ear plugs, my AirIndia ticket from Mumbai to Kathmandu, Allianz travel insurance, an Airalo international eSim because Google Fi can suck it, and electrolyte packets rather than a large, more efficient jar because you should *never* travel across international borders with anything that is white powder. Trust me.

Then, in addition to my regular pre-trip busyness, my schedule is far more packed than normal. This goes back to the concerted effort I’m making to create a home base for my heart in Maryland. I have always pushed hard against living here, ever since we moved to Baltimore when I was 12. Maryland never truly felt like home. 

Even after college, I moved back to Massachusetts following a solo road trip (pre-GoogleMaps) up to Michigan and then across Canada in the middle of the night ending up at Niagara Falls for sunrise. Unbeknownst to anybody, I was in Massachusetts with my grandmother for her last year on Earth this go around. 

These days, I live in a section of Maryland that I never lived in before. To my complete and utter surprise… I love it here. Like, really love it. My neighbors are friendly, the area’s beautiful, I live a mile from excellent bagels, and there’s easy access to so many fun, educational, entertaining, relaxing, you-name-it-it’s-there things to do. It’s like this Maryland is a totally different world than the Maryland where I grew up. 

So I’ve decided to put down roots. Routines. Explorations. Community. I’m building my relationship ecosystem. I’m looking for my soul people. My “sit next to each other with tea and watch tv on Tuesday nights” people. My “rooftop happy hour” people and my Shabbat dinner people. My “see them regularly at dance class/crochet circle/rock climbing” people. 

And it’s working. When I came back from my great-uncle’s funeral in Indiana, exhausted and rattled, my tired self smiled as I turned onto my street. I felt relieved and happy to be home

But what happens when a person with very finite spoons is spinning up nebulas of social networks, staying in touch as best she can with her beautifully large network of faraway friends, organizing and packing her entire life back into boxes (a process which starts with a thick coating of clothes and everything I own on the floor), and preparing for 5 weeks in Nepal prefaced by what will surely be a very chill, quiet week in India’s largest city, Mumbai. Oh, plus staying alive and (preferably) healthy. 

I literally give thanks regularly that most people can power through an over-the-top to-do list even if they end up with a huge sleep deficit. I wouldn’t wish my limitations on anybody. 

Sometimes I do try to power through. This is always a horrible idea. My body does not play around. If I push too hard for four days or good grief, two weeks, it will find some zombie virus trace in my system and resurrect it to take me TF down. Hard. I wasn’t always this way, but have been since acquiring a pretty hardcore sensory processing disability in my late 20s. It was 85% worse before finding the right diagnosis and treatment, which, sorry (not sorry) to the directors of neurosurgery at Brigham & Women’s and Mass General Hospital, was NOT FUCKING ANXIETY AND THIS IS NOT THE FUCKING VICTORIAN TIMES

Nowadays, I manage it incredibly well, to the point where I often forget that it exists. Let’s pause a moment and take that accomplishment in, shall we? <breath in – breath out – smile>

So what does a vibrant human with a want-to-do list the length of Argentina do? What gets priority? Can’t I slide in a few extra spoons… just for now… 

My secret weapon is napping. You know how when some people are tired what they need to do is take a walk or drink a big glass of water? I have tried that. This isn’t what I need. I’m not placebo tired. My brain legit needs recharging. Every. Time. The way I feel when I’ve caught up on sleep and I’m eating sufficiently feels like an absolute miracle. But it’s not. It’s putting my body’s needs first. Works pretty much every time.

But all of this takes a lot of time. And then my list of people who are waiting to hear back from me grows and weighs on my heart. It feels insane and arrogant to say I’m overwhelmed by how many people want to be in my life. I am honored and delighted. I love my people. And sometimes the mass of my people crashes over me like a tsunami. When I’ve washed ashore next to a broken palm tree and a sopping wet couch I look around and go… how did I end up here again? The center will not hold

If you’re a person who doesn’t hear from me often – please know that I think about you more than you hear from me. I want to write perfect messages to you and it keeps me from writing to you at all. I choke on how much you mean to me. It’s a harder way to keep up friendships for sure. 

So anyhow. I am here and excited and making so many plans. And leaving in mere days for Nepal and India. And seeing my beloved family often. And staying on top of my job. And my writing. But it’s so fucking hard.

As much as I believe that the majority of other people are more capable of powering through than I am… I wonder… how many people out there resonate with what I’m sharing? Who else feels the pain of an infinite pool of wants and responsibilities crashing up against the finite time and energy in a day. Who else is constantly practicing coming back to center? To what’s most important in their lives?

Who else is in the practice of halting the proverbial knife they use to slice off parts of themselves sliver by sliver so they can fit more of other people’s requests and desires into their precious box of energy and hours? 

Coming back, coming back, coming back. Using the knife to shape the sculpture of your life that’s created with each deft movement you make with your blade of choices. Looking back, can we reframe the cuts that plunged too deep into your Self? See them as happy little accidents? Maybe some of them are too ugly to be happy accidents. How about powerful, useful, transformative accidents that we would never have asked for, but that gave us gifts we would never return? 

What would happen if we wielded the knife in defense of our life purpose and healthy sleep schedule? Who would we lose? How boring would some days be? Would the depression come calling? What if we defend against too much and are left parched for the nourishment of love and friendship? These are real potential consequences. The true answer isn’t a basket of daisies and false promises that everything will fit.

But I tell you what. The powerful, exciting energy of all these people in my new home – it’s recharging me. It’s making me more vital, my energy more vibrant, adding 200 unseen psychedelic colors to my smile that I can’t help but blaze back at people. 

Going out dancing in a cute, flowery dress with new girlfriends; having a cup of coffee so good it doesn’t need cream with a friend in 3D for the first time; spending hours over dinner with a high school friend who is now a now friend. 

And then there are the littles. Matching my baby niece’s ratatat, wild laughter for 10 minutes straight, and kissing her sweet baby cheeks. Watching Up for the third time in a row (and still laughing at all the funny parts) while my sweet toddler niece rests her head against me after finishing her purple popsicle that she offered me a lick of because you share with the people you love. 

This is the good stuff. This is the life force that runs through the priorities. 

Putting these myriad experiences on hold while I pursue my deeply important goals won’t do. And because I do have fewer spoons, my life’s work takes longer to accomplish. 

So much damn longer. 

But… the people who are waiting for my next post… They aren’t going anywhere. And they’ll be so excited when one arrives in their inbox. I know this because over many years I’ve seen it to be true. And the money I want and need… it will come. The gears are in motion. And in the meantime, I’m scrappy as hell and living an incredible life. I’m not complacent whatsoever, but work to practice patience and self-grace, along with my perseverance and grit. 

I’ve got finite spoons, but I’ve chosen a life that’s almost never on autopilot and is mentally exhausting. How’s that for a mindfuck? But man, drinking from the firehose – I won’t give it up. It might shove me on my ass sometimes, but I’ll lay there looking at the stars until I’m ready to roll over, stand back up, and start putting one foot in front of the other again. Get back into my stride. I always do. B”H.

2 thoughts on “Building A Home And Leaving It: Another Koan”

  1. Tocaya, there’s so much life oozing from the pores of this post, it’s hard to know where to begin (but thanks for some backstory I’d forgotten or didn’t know). It’s a delightful mess, this way of contradictions and detours and discoveries and chance encounters and decisions made and unmade and made again.

    Good travels and good homecomings. Keep napping, keep writing, keep living, keep loving it all.

  2. Loved this. So much to think about and love how you bring the importance of prioritizing what you want to get out of your finite hours of each day and life. Your struggles in this are shared by many and I’m so happy you are reaching for your balance and doing what you love. Such a great reminder to take care of ourselves our loved ones and our personal goals and dreams. Make the most of every moment Julie, you are such an amazing person. Can’t wait to share in your travels some day!

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