I am about to be on the road again as a Gypsy. Willy Nelson nailed it with the lyric about bands of Gypsy’s in his song, On the Road Again, which I find myself humming as I pack a few more boxes here in Asheville, NC. But, I relate a bit more to Linda Hamiton in the Terminator when at the end of the movie she is alone and pointed west going into a storm. Very dramatic don’t you think?
Like in all time warps, I awoke to having left my life packed in boxes three years ago to hit the road right after my mother died, but suddenly had gotten a little sidetracked in intention. Now I am resuming the journey, which started for me in Tulsa Oklahoma in 2011.
A Case for Becoming Sidetracked
What does that mean. We say sidetracked as if it is not an intended path. We say it like it has been a diversion, a mistake, and now it is time to get on the Right path. Well, I think this is a misconception. All paths lead to one path. Life. And when we look at a “sidetrack” as a mistake we miss the truth that these detours are just that, a detour.
Haven’t you ever taken an unexpected detour and where you saw a house in a new neighborhood you loved, a stray dog you picked up and he was yours forever, a breathtaking vista that you would never have seen…without the detour? You are changed and then resume an intended direction all the richer and wiser for it. And maybe the detour slowed you down, maybe it avoided an accident. Detours are part of our path. For me the last three years have been a breathtaking detour. But I did not know it.
“In 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina.”
What prompted me to leave my life back then, say goodbye to my friends, my therapy practice and all my stuff, opting for a car full of the simple basics and my adoring and patient cats, Snow and Hazel, was nothing short of a miracle whispering in my ear one night: “Fly Maya and find out what truly makes you happy?” After 30 years as a psychologist, a wife and a mother, I was not sure I knew any longer. So, I set out to find the answers.
Like all of us, I made plans. I had a map of all the stops I wanted to make. I made a commitment to following the “signs” and to listen to coincidence and see where the road would lead. And like you may have heard me say before, “If you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans”. Well, I have no idea who said that first, but in my life I found out exactly what that meant in about one week of travel.
“An X-File is a marginalized, unsolved case involving unexplained phenomena”.
I have shared the saga about why I took my car off the road and stayed indefinitely in Asheville, NC after only ten days with Oklahoma in my rearview mirror. Nothing sexy, just that my driver’s license expired and I had to get a new one. I went to the DMV and short of them taking scissors and cutting my license up in front of me, like they do with credit cards that have been revoked, my license had been “cancelled” indefinitely due to a little, insignificant, pain-in-the-ass detail that the Social Security Administration could not fix.
I thought to myself, “no-brainer, I can make this happen and get back on the road in no time”. So I hunkered down with my daughter Jessie in her apartment, which was wonderful although she got more time with me than she ever wanted.. More time with her beautiful spirit was a great gift for me. But, with regards to my driving out of Asheville, I am here to tell you three years later the glitch did not get fixed.
Lawyers could do nothing no matter how much money I spent, the government did not care if I had to walk to the nearest ER with a heart attack, two appeals to court got dismissed and my unusual situation got stamped and filed in what I came to know as “the gray files”, back in some official’s pitch black closet that no one ever looked in again. I felt like the X-Files, Scully and Mulder would have been stumped too as my case just got buried since the governing officials didn’t want to take the blame for anything which fixing the glitch would have led to. So, as citizens, our freedoms become expendable at this point.
What Happens When the System Does Not Work?
TV News, the D.A., the Mayor and the Governor of Colorado said, “Their hands were tied”. What does that mean anyway? So, I took matters into my own hands and this summer I am now legally driving with a shiny new photo of me smiling on my brand new driver’s license. But, the road to getting that license is not only another story, but, a carefully guarded secret. It sort of involves meeting a strange man smoking a cigarette on a back alley somewhere. Well you get the picture. I am happy to share the solution with anyone who is “Gray-Filed” in life.
With all obstacles come opportunities. And as I slogged through the bureaucracy of a broken system, grounded in NC, I met Richard Gannaway from AOMusic and knew that my reason for becoming sidetracked in Asheville was to meet him, to hear the music of AO and to feel the certainty that I would become a core support for making a new album, for getting future films made and seeing this extraordinary magic of music change the hearts of people around the world. So, for these last three years I have been doing just that, as well as working on a project with the renown singer Miriam Stockley, which has been an immeasurable gift in my life.
My life, love and work for AOMusic, with Miriam, and with the angels I met in Asheville has changed me entirely. And in the process of being part of this richly creative process I began to notice some things that disturbed me. I became tired although my creativity ran high, I found myself suffering from a weariness that I could not explain. I started to have a long bout with insomnia.
Then sometime later I became ill, had a car accident, become dampened down by a shadow of some kind that I couldn’t shake. I was soul searching about a dozen times a day to see what could be the cause of my electrical plug pulling out of the socket of my life. My heart started feeling like it was getting a little dimmer. But I was doing work I loved, I was creative, I was with people I loved. What was the problem?
“The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Out of the Mouth of Babes
One day I was on the phone with my daughter Sasha, having a heart to heart. Now, you need to know that unfortunately for her, all too often this translates as Mom in her giving-advise-mode, which I experience as some kind of hostile take over of the wiser version of myself who knows better than to give unsolicited advise to my grown daughters. But, I did it anyway like a crazy person and what happened next changed everything.
As I was on a Skype with Sasha, who is 30 going on immortal, and we tried to hear one another over the thunderstorm bouncing off the Blue Ridge Mountains on my end and the cement floor coffee shop she was in with whirling blenders and a cacophony of voices blasting through her headphones on her end, that shoe you never want to drop, did. I was met with a stern stare burning right through the computer screen, since she could see that I was about to rev up into one of those Mother Lectures we all know about. I paused.
In the pause, while I am grappling with what should or should I not say, I see an older girl, black horn rimmed glasses making her look scholarly and like an authority on life, lean up close and personal and say. “Well Mom, I think all we can do to help each other is not tell one another what to do, but maybe you just might think about leading by example”.
I heard her like an arrow to the heart makes you sit up straight and get that you are in a life changing moment. My daughter had the only really wise thing to say. “Lead by example, don’t try to fix anyone”. Ugh.
The Accidental Life
I think I was staring at the screen for a long time after the Skype ended and then I did what any good mother would do. I imploded with the truth of what she has said.
I plummeted briefly into that place of feeling like a total failure with her, with everyone, in life. A failure with myself. The next three days I went off the grid and encountered revelations one after the other. I looked long and hard at my overworking, over-caring for people, worry about money, giving myself away in love or in the need to be perfect. I had become the energizer bunny for everyone, but myself. It was exhausting.
Then I did the bravest thing I could do and got up out of my chair and went and looked in the mirror of my own life. And all of a sudden my depression, exhaustion, and my accidental life came clear to me:
I had been living the dream, but it was someone else’s.
When my daughter confronted me to lead by example what she truly meant was “Mom what about your dreams, what about that book you were writing, that movie you wanted to make and what about that life on the road you didn’t take?” She was all too right. I had found the most amazing people and projects full of love and nobility, all the things that I love and live for. But, the projects were not what my soul came here to do. My soul finally just got exhausted trying to tell me.
This was about one month ago and I have pushed the pause button on my life entirely. Not without guilt, but with a bit more courage than usual to do hard things. Disappointing people is one of those things I hate doing. But, for three years I have put a part of myself on my own “Gray Shelf” and forgotten to check in with the part of me that hit the road to find what made me happy in the first place.
I have surveyed all the work I have been doing as an entrepreneur, a producer, all the people I help, all the commitments I have made to shore up other people s visions, and asked if I loved what I do. The answer was this: I love the people and the projects but I do not like who I have become in order to live inside someone else’s dream.
Impulse or Inspiration: The Thin Line
: doing things or tending to do things suddenly and without thought : acting or tending to act on impulse: done suddenly and without planning : resulting from a sudden impulse
noun \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spi-\
: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something: a good idea
When you take a dash of impulse, a pinch of inspiration you come out with the recipe for Faith: Faith is belief that is not based on proof The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust, or belief. This is the engine of my life.
So, with one deep breath I stopped it all in order to get back to that basic, all important question, for every person on the planet: What truly inspires me and am I allowing all of who I am to shine? The answer? Stories inspire me. Movies inspire me, listening to people share their stories inspires me. I am a writer. I want everything that I do for myself and for work in the world to be about writing.
Wow, that was a long overdue relief. But, with awareness comes that thing that makes us all stumble just a little: Action. Now I had to recalibrate my life, reassess my work with AOMusic, downsize a dozen other commitments and put myself out to the world in a more authentic way. Right about now I started sleeping better. My energy came back, and that dimmed heart light went from a 15 watt bulb to an outdoor floodlight.
The other surprising recipe goes like this: A dash of feeling liberated, an ounce of courage, and watching all the dots connect can in fact just… piss you off. Just when I thought I was to the other side of this massive wake up call, I was seized by the need to go out in the dark and get into my car and scream. As soon as the door closed I started yelling at God, the Universe, Spirit, my parents, myself and anyone else I could yell at. About everything.
And what came of emptying my reserve of pent-up emotions was a new certainty: That all that procrastination, workaholic, exhaustion, worry and fear was simply the by-product of not believing in myself. This was the real epiphany.
This was what my daughter was trying to tell me. I finally looked in the face, my habit of tying my star to someone’s dream no matter how amazing the dream was, because I did not think…I was good enough. Husbands with big jobs, little children, and clients in need, colleagues who I thought were more talented than me were always in the front seat of my life. I sat there in the dark for a long time. I was waiting for the tears to spill over and never stop. But, they didn’t.
“Fuck it”, I said. I felt energized, motivated and excited instead. This usually goes hand in hand with when you align with your soul. I got out of the car and sat in the clearing and listened to the Cicada’s as they tuned up for the approaching rising Blue Ridge moon. And in that quiet after my storm, I heard myself say only one word out loud. “Yes”.
Yes, I will be all of me, yes I am enough, yes I will simply risk over and over again, yes I will have money, yes I will…lead by example. Yes, my daughter is right. Then I said what I had tried to say for decades. I said, “I will be writer I am, tell the stories I have been given and I will make my living as a writer. I will write my own story. I will heal my life”.
Enter the Sledgehammer
There is another saying that I have coined that goes something like this: “If in your heart you feel the truth of a dream and set an intention, sit back and watch the Universe line up behind you to make it happen”. I forget this all too often.
Suddenly, the phone rang and I left the buzzing of the forest and went inside to answer it. It was a friend who wanted to talk to me over coffee. I set a time. I then went to the computer and found two emails from friends who said they needed to share some feedback with me. Hmmmm.
For three straight days eight random people approached me saying the exact, verbatim, remarks: “Maya I don’t know why I am telling you this, but, stop helping everyone else, write your book, sell your screenplay, believe in yourself”. It was staggering and as clear as the Universe knows how to be when using a cosmic sledgehammer.
Beware What You Wish For
I put out that what I wanted was to write my story and make my living by writing. I posted on Craigslist, I sent emails, I shared my clear intention with friends. That was on a Sunday. Five days later I had three inquiries to coach people on books they wanted to write, signed contracts, received money, closed a ghostwriting deal in Denver, started my blog http://www.mythotherapy.com and three other people have approached me to be their writing coach. I then dug out my unfinished books, second draft of a screenplay and began collecting what is ten years of writing. I am a bit breathless over the whole thing and it is not stopping. I guess that when god is finished laughing at your plans, she gets to work on miracles.
Then I decided to pare down my life to the basics once again, let go of my paradise apartment and get back on the road. If I had not been sidetracked by life I would never have come to this place…in myself. The road is where I can see the signs better, where I gather stories, live simply, stop paying rent and utilities and spend that money in the service of writing, discovery and growth.
So, my tiny apartment in Asheville is nearly packed. My two cats are now one since sweet Snow died in the spring. I am getting new tires, hugging the best people in the world here in Asheville and pointing west for an indefinite road trip. And funny, my first stop is back to Oklahoma. My future will once again be full of couches and the good will of great friends. I will let you know where I will be stopping in case you want to have a cup of coffee and… I have a front seat if you want to come along
“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story. How brightly a better story shines.― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life