"First You Let It Go is invigorating, consoling, heartbreaking, funny, informative, philosophical, adventurous, courageous, and inspirational. I found myself in awe of her risk-taking ability and also completely resonant with her emotions, fears, anxieties, angers and her way of dealing with them. Her honesty and heart come through."
-George Breed, PhD, author of Embodying Spirit: The Inner Work of the Warrior
"This is an inspiring chronicle of a woman's search for self. Her adventurous trek around the world as a single, senior woman is captured with dramatic imagery overlaid by insightful commentary of the universal human connection."
-Jerry Lopper, author of Jump for Joy! Clearing the Hurdles to an Easy Life
"First You Let it Go is for anyone who has ever made a change, or wanted to change-in short, a book for everyone. Written with warmth and wisdom, joy and honesty, you'll read it with your passport in your hand."
-Sheila Dickson, PhD in psychology
"It is an honest account of loss and renewal. First You Let it Go is filled with insights that find an immediate home. The author will move you towards optimism, and you will not want the journey to end."
-Denice Helwig, chief of staff, Humboldt State University
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.35(d)|
Read an Excerpt
First You Let It Go
By Shiana Seitz
Balboa PressCopyright © 2012 Shiana Seitz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFinding the Rhythm
For more than twelve hours, I am detained and restrained, held down with a belt, secured in my place by the aisle as muted sounds of movies merge into the engine's drone. Flight attendants walk back and forth, with smiles glued patently on, offering pillows and books and drinks and things, but they never offer what I dare not ask, and that is permission to leave. I am confined in a corral where strangers drag their butts in front of my face, and I must do the same. I am stuck in a rut of cynicism, worn raw by melancholy. Thousands of feet above earth and sea, all I see is blackness outside the windows, and the murky recycled air is laden with stagnant breath and anxiety.
Suffocating thoughts and the sleepless night conceal all sense of time; but when the ribbon of dawn's early light flashes through the windows, I am jostled from my malaise. All blackness vanishes as the solar blaze saturates the sky, and the flawless glow of a new day transforms my cynicism into enthusiasm. Emerald gems of land are scattered beneath me, like loose beads from a broken strand, and my curiosity is aroused.
Back on earth in the hours before most people drink their first cup of coffee, I follow the crowd through brightly lit corridors of polished floors and fluorescent lights. The walls are but an empty space, without a sense of art or taste, and only trash cans mark the lines of things we must consider. All fresh fruit, dried meats, dairy products, tea, coffee, crackers, and bread are forbidden, or severe penalties will ensue. I add my trail mix to the cache of food and follow the lines past two hefty swinging doors into another expansive room, sectioned into yet more walkways.
Signs direct travelers to the "Nothing to Declare Way Out", or the "Goods to Declare Way Out". I'm holding a form that says: "Travelers who fill out the quarantine section of the arrival card incorrectly risk an instant fine of $200. Serious breaches of the New Zealand biosecurity laws may also result in a fine of up to $100,000, or a prison term of up to five years." Intimidation wins this round. I don't know what to do or where to go, so stand in the smallest queue, hoping for assistance and clarity.
A middle–aged man—his few remaining strands of gray hair combed precisely over his balding head—stands in a small cubicle at the end of my queue. He's dressed impeccably in navy blue pants, a white shirt with epaulets and a blue tie, and watches me with unsmiling eyes. "Do you have anything to declare?" His vowels and consonants spill from his tongue in a way unlike the English that is spoken at home. I say nothing for a minute, taken aback by his dialect.
"Anything to declare," he repeats. I say no, and he directs me to another queue that leads to long metal tables that stretch along the walls. More uniformed officials scrutinize underwear, outerwear and toiletries. When they get to my bag, my boots are confiscated. Mr. Official Guard seizes them with a look of contempt, and marches to the end of the room behind closed doors; no trace of dirt or pine needles or cow dung is to remain, for fear of Mad Cow Disease.
"Take your bag and wait. Over there," he commands. I close my back and stand where directed, watching people pick up their bags and leave. Someone returns my boots, but Mr. Official Guard shakes his head and sends them back to the cleaning room. People pass me by, one by one, until hundreds of my nearest and dearest travel companions leave me behind.
Eventually, I receive my sanitized boots in a clear plastic bag. I keep them upright to keep the mysterious cleaning solution from dripping down my clothes and onto the linoleum floor. My passport is stamped, I am free to go. In some way, I manage to deal with the backpack, shoulder bag and my new translucent boot bag and head toward the exit.
I'm an obstinate crone—not a feeble old woman, a hag, or a shrew, but a contemporary woman past menopause, with stamina and verve. Legends insinuate that a crone has a treasure–trove of life experiences and wisdom tucked within her belly, but I struggle with the concept of being wise as much as I struggle with my new, mail–order backpack.
With unfamiliar awkwardness, I lift it first to my hip and then gyrate a little as I hoist both straps to my shoulders, and wrap the remaining strap around my waist. With a couple of clicks, my pack is fastened and I walk through the outer doors of the airport into the lemon–colored day. My goal is to discover who I really am, beyond the parameters of family, friends and possessions; to surrender my habitual way of looking at things; and to freely experience whatever appears as it appears.
Buses circle the driveway like cows walking single file to be milked. Each one pulls up to the curb and doors open with a guttural moan. People emerge and walk away. With another hiss of bored indifference, the front doors open and people ascend the steps, disappearing into the body. I board the bus that follows the well–worn trail to town. We pass fields swollen with pools from yesterday's storm, and rain–swept streets still dark and damp.
After a while, the bus driver tells me when to get off. Even though I can't make out most of what he says, his cheerful, "G'day!" makes everything seem to be all right. I walk to the end of the block, turn right and half a block more, to a cream–colored two story Victorian house that's been converted to a backpacker hostel. The entrance faces the driveway.
Stepping out of the sunlit sky, I enter a hallway plastered with posters for reggae concerts, drumming circles, CD release parties. I maneuver around the backpacks stacked against the wall and ring the bell at the counter. The sound clinks into the void. No human voice responds. I wait. My fingers peruse the brochures for skydiving, bungee jumping, and floating down rivers into caves to see glowworms. Stillness pervades the lobby as self–doubt reverberates in my mind. And so I sit, then sink, into the sofa, and share space with pillows, dog–eared books, and crumbs from who knows what.
What am I doing here? What was I thinking? I don't belong. I'm too old. I'm all alone. If I don't understand the way they speak the English language here, how will I survive when I travel somewhere else? I spiral down, into a dark cavern of negative thoughts, catching my mind on shards of attitude that poke out of the shadows. Lost in the preoccupation of self–doubt and insecurity, I miss seeing the clerk enter the room, and jump when he repeats his question, "... help you?"
I gather my bags and go to the desk to find out what I'm to do next. It looks like the clerk is in his early twenties, clean–shaven and bare foot, in a pair of faded jeans and a tee shirt. I can't decide where he's from because his English is tinged with another accent—probably earning his room while traveling. He takes my passport, gives me the house rules, the keys, and the alarm code. I climb the stairs to the second floor. Any sense of Victorian charm is lost in the sullen hallway of closed doors, where only a few scattered incandescent bulbs and a dingy neon Exit sign guide my way. My room is down the hall, second from the end, on the left.
Dropping my bags inside, I walk the narrow space between the bed and the wall. Beyond the open window, past the fire escape, metal corrugated roofs jut out in parallel rows at different heights. Each is a different color: taupe, sage, and salmon. Around the perimeter of the property, vegetation grows wild, lush and green—a glimpse of what the land would be like in its natural state—with a scented breeze of fertile soil and fragrant flowers.
Turning away, I sit on the bed, scrunch up the pillow and go horizontal. This private room is a decompression chamber of sorts for these first couple of nights. I need a breathing space to acclimate slowly before I share rooms filled with hormone–driven twenty–year–olds; as it is, I need time just to get used to rooms like this.
There's only enough space for one narrow bunk bed, a cupboard big enough for two backpacks, a ladder–back chair, and a small table with a lamp. At the foot of each mattress is a tri–folded puffy duvet, wrapped in psychedelic fabric probably left over from the '70s. On the slats above me is a mattress wrapped in brown vinyl—obviously for protection against bed–wetting, perhaps protection from wet dreams too, anything is possible.
Even when we think we know what we're doing, things happen. Even when we have visions and dreams, things happen that wrench our hearts and force us to change. Even if we resist by kicking and screaming. I'm here in this dinky little room, envisioning rebellious youth and drunken slumbers while at the same time, I know that I better get used to it. Cantankerous carping won't do any good! I don't have any place to call home, anyway. For now, this is it! My home is gone; I had to let it go, and I'm still reeling in self–pity.
Mourning the past is futile; delusions of the future waste time; worrying about the unknown only muddles my mind. All I really have is this moment right now, it's the only sure thing I know. From this moment on, it's up to me to approach each day as an adventure waiting to happen. I pull out the index card I've been using as a book mark, and read it, once again.
Adventure isn't hanging on a rope
off the side of a mountain.
Adventure is an attitude
that we must apply
to the day–to–day obstacles of life—
facing new challenges,
seizing new opportunities,
testing our resources against the unknown
and in the process,
discovering our own unique potential.
––John Amatt (by permission of author)
Lost in thought, I turn the card over and over, end to end, side to side, as it provokes a mindless reverberation of distant memories.
There was a time when I experienced some sense of financial security. I was married, and lived in a track home in a neighborhood where few people knew their neighbors. We all had garage door openers, so entered our homes through the garage. I was newly married. The first Christmas season I lived in that community, I imagined my Suzy Homemaker spirit could make a change in people's lives. I baked and boxed up cookies to give to my neighbors. "Why do that?" my new husband asked. He didn't know who his neighbors were and never thought there was a reason to change that. In reality, the cookies changed nothing—did not change the relationship to neighbors, did not change my husband's attitude.
I thought I could make a difference, but I learned that I was wrong. A couple years later we went to Hawaii, and rented a wonderful condo near the ocean. Amazing! Beautiful! Within an hour of our arrival, I learned this was all that he could give me. The trip, the room, and dinners out. He saw no reason to walk on the beach, for he would get sand in his shoes. He double parked near one of the most spectacular beaches in the world, and read his book, so that I could catch a glimpse of the scene. He gave what he could, and paid the money for the experience, but he did not have the capacity to give of himself and share the experience more fully. That red flag waved wildly in our second year of marriage. All the while, he was a nice man. A quiet man. He did not yell or fight. He had his way. He knew what he expected of me and he shared what he could. In fact he bought me more clothes than I could possibly wear, and played a mean game of Scrabble. But flexible, he was not, and his boundaries were strong and secure.
I worked at letting that go and told myself I did not need him to bring joy into my life. If need be, I could find my joy elsewhere, and so I began taking trips alone. He would not go to Alaska if I paid for it, so I went alone, joining a group that canoed on the Yukon. Later, I joined others who kayaked down the Green in Utah. I went to England with my mom, and then on an archeoastronomy trip on the San Juan, with my sister. These trips were more than many would ever experience, and I realized how lucky I was, but I wanted a marriage in which I could share my joy. Even the scenes I photographed were not appreciated.
As our marriage continued (it existed rather than progressed) those years of being married, but single, became a heavy weight in the background of my day to day life. In hindsight, I realize they were the necessary foundation for this magnificent trip of a lifetime. Without experiencing them, I would never have had the gumption to be here now! We never really know where our paths will lead. Our obstacles stop us for a while, until we are able to overcome them to pursue life anew. The future is always an unknown.
After ten years of marriage, I made the pivotal decision to leave that financial security behind. During the few weeks prior to that decision, the anthology of stories I had been reading were the catalysts for the re-visioning of my life. While reading about Bluebeard, I found myself laughing out loud. It was as if the story had been told about me.
I was the protagonist in a story about a husband who provided a false sense of comfort with a home and a garden. He permitted me to entertain whomever I wanted, bought me beautiful clothing, and paid for an education; but he kept rigid control over the music I listened to in his presence, the topics of conversation we discussed, and where and when he would join me. Once I began to pursue spiritual exploration, his rules, or limitations, expanded. "If there's nothing good to say," he told me, "better to say nothing at all." This discourtesy added to the grievances I had been compiling against him.
Unhealthy thoughts began to take precedence in my mind. If I stayed in the marriage until my husband died, I would have the freedom to do and think as I wanted and not blame him for his lack of participation. This unhealthy thought jarred me awake. I realized I had locked up my own soul, and had forbidden myself to explore other options. I needed to let go of blaming him for what he was unable to provide; I needed to let go of my accommodating ways; and I needed to take responsibility for my life.
Common truths: there is more to life than possessions, more than financial security. We did not share travel, philosophical or spiritual exploration. What we did share was not enough to maintain a healthy relationship. To stay financially safe and secure in the marriage, meant putting up with rigidity and limitations that were not of my choosing. "Putting up and shutting up" was part of my history of being a doormat, of doing what I was told, being whomever people wanted me to be, without challenging the authority I never realized I gave them. It was time to stop. I let go of my financial security in order to experience my life more fully. I gave my husband notice and moved out, first as a separation and then as a final divorce.
This was a conscious choice, I remind myself. Now, I have neither financial security nor a husband. I have neither a home nor a job. I have a magnificent opportunity for freedom, but I don't know what that looks like, what it feels like, or what it really means. I've never claimed ownership of freedom; it's always escaped my acknowledgment. Now that I'm free to go wherever I want, I don't know where to go, I don't know what to do next.
Reality finally rouses me out of my reverie. If I continue to mull over a decade of yesterdays, I'll miss the rest of today!
Not far from the hostel, from the top of Mount Eden is the panoramic view of the city. With a slight shift of focus, I can see two different bodies of water, the Manukau Harbour to the west and the Hauraki Gulf, to the east. Once this was the sight of an old volcano, later, the Maoris cultivated the fertile land into a terraced village with garden plots. Now it stands as a grassy hill with contented cows, far beyond the concepts of the very people who worked the land, long ago.
Time and evolution transformed it from what it once was; and the people who worked the land, through upset or trauma to achieve their goals, can no longer claim ownership. Beyond all of our keenest intentions, transformation occurs, though we are frequently unaware of the process as it is happening. Even in the most furious of situations it is the very wound that is the catalyst for new beginnings, and we are even more resistant to appreciate the change.
When twilight finally falls, after I've pushed myself into experiencing all that I can for one day, I return to the room, exhausted. Thoughts, worries, memories and new adventures criss–cross my mind, until I lose myself in the place of no time, no memory, and no judgment. This sense of tranquility, though, becomes but a fleeting illusion.
Shortly after midnight, I jump with the ruckus in the room next door. Some guy is throwing things against the wall – Bang! Crash! Thud! – along with shitloads full of profanity. Stillness has gone astray. I groan and sink deeper into the mattress, hoping this isn't a preview of coming attractions.
Excerpted from First You Let It Go by Shiana Seitz Copyright © 2012 by Shiana Seitz. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1. Finding the Rhythm....................1
Chapter 2. Carpe Diem....................11
Chapter 3. Into the Indigo....................19
Chapter 4. Letting Go....................29
Chapter 5. The Land Down Under....................35
Chapter 6. Cave Hill....................47
Chapter 7. Back in Time....................51
Chapter 8. Coming to Terms With the Enemy....................57
Chapter 9. The Dawn of Happiness....................65
Chapter 10. Lost in the Labyrinth....................71
Chapter 11. Where Marble Columns Lie....................79
Chapter 12. The Smell of Coffee....................87
Chapter 13. Do the Unthinkable....................97
Chapter 14. Pulled into the Fado....................105
Chapter 15. The Countries Merge....................113
Chapter 16. Going Home....................125
Chapter 17. Afterward....................135
Chapter 18. What Now?....................139