WHEN I STARTED this leap into a nomadic life back in April, 2013, I flew straight to Hanoi from Durham, NC, for the longest flight series of my life. Sitting next to me was my four year old-son, Kush, who was just happy to get to see airplanes way up close at Raleigh-Durham Airport. Akira, the third in our trio, had just dropped us off. I didn’t know it would be 76 days before the three of us would be reunited. This is how it felt to discover ourselves changed, both individually, and as a family, too.
Rewind to July. Akira was due to meet us soon. I’d tried hard to think about where we ought to rendezvous. Hanoi? Too polluted, that wouldn’t be good for Akira’s asthma. Nha Trang? Too many Russian tourists. Da Nang? But I’d already been, twice, and said goodbye to that colorful, modern town. Maybe just somewhere outside of Vietnam, altogether. Maybe… Laos.
Doubt and the pool of anxiety
All this time on the road with Kush had felt like a giant marathon, in some ways. I wanted to be alone, most of all, and just go into a room with no windows and write. I wanted to write about how it felt to cry into the pillow because I didn’t know if I could keep doing it, keep trying to make sure everything was okay, to keep an eye on him every minute of the day, to keep giving him lectures, or putting him to sleep first for nap then for bedtime, to keep making up stories that would keep him engaged, or to keep telling myself that this wasn’t as dumb an idea as I’d thought. That it was okay. That it was actually good. Kush will only be four once.This was the window. This was it.
One night, I got on Skype with Akira, to talk about what we’d do next. By this time he’d done all the final work on getting our apartment emptied, the keys turned in, the Post Office Box forwarding stuff organized, and the goodbyes said to our closest friends (of which there are only a handful), along with keeping my morale high on the couple of conversations we could have at hotels scattered around Vietnam. I’d check in, then tweet to him from the lobby where usually they’d keep a couple of desktops for guests, and send a number of where I’d be and for approximately how many nights. Depending on the place, sometimes they could take the call and transfer it to my room. A lot of times the phones didn’t work that way, though. Kush would go into a hotel to check it out with me, and the first thing he’d do would be to pick up the phone, if they had one. “It works, Mama! This one works!”
I was glad to connect with Akira, and it was good to hear his confident voice on the other end of the line. He’d been in Seattle. He’d gotten a few new projects. We were going to be okay. We were. Don’t worry. Just take care of yourself, and Kush.
“So, where do you want to meet?” he asked me, that day.
I’d been thinking about it. A lot. “Meet me in Vientiane,” I said, hoping the connection was sturdy.
And there we were.
When I got one of the last e-mails from Akira while he was still Stateside, I found my answer to the huge doubt that kept filling the pool of anxiety in my heart.
I’d noticed it in the signature: a new tag line that says, “Orangutan Swing. Practicing the Unknown, Uncertain, and Different.” Reading this little phrase made me sit up and take new notice. I’m going through the old GTD (Getting Things Done) lists that I have a la the David Allan method. It has things at the tops of each looseleaf page saying stuff like, “Books to Read,” or “Someday/Maybe” and “Personal Mission Statement.” And as I reread these lines I am flabbergasted. I don’t recognize the person who’s written them. Almost everything about me seems changed.
“Are you still in love?” asked a new friend I’d met in Laos, Jessica Hannagan, who sings children’s songs and plays guitar to go with.
If the butterflies in my stomach before Akira got here were any indication, the answer is, “Yes, I very much am.”
Tomorrow is his birthday. I’ve spent more than half of his birthdays with him. For that, I’m grateful. We get each other. And if I had to elope with him all over again, I would. Because having someone around who knows you and accepts you as you are—that’s what counts.
Have you ever had big moments of panic, or doubt? How did you handle them?
Join me for free updates and exclusives at the Kismuth Connection, which you can access for free here.