The London Notes: Big Magic

Sometimes I wonder what my story is. I travel to a new place and I think I have nothing to say and then I sit and I let my mind wander and my story appears before me and I scramble for a pen to catch the thoughts before they disappear.

I try to write down all my messy knots and then I use my pen like a sword to unravel my stories, the ones on repeat that I can probably let go of now, and the new ones that are there waiting to replace the old ones.

An author I love, Geneen Roth, says that not letting go of the negative stories from your past is like living in a scream from 20 years ago. I’m trying to work on that. Trying to live in fresh breaths these days.

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***

I’m back in London. Home of my soul and my peace and my struggles and my loves.

And my story here is this:

I fly to London on a long planned whim. I do most things that way these days and it’s exhausting.

I arrive at Heathrow and I still don’t know if I’ve made the right choice in coming here. I wanted to. I needed to. But I’m still working on self trust and I don’t always trust that what I want is the right thing.

I get to Joana’s and her hug feels like family and forevers and all of a sudden I am breathing easier than I have in months.

We sit at the table.

“Brittany, I’ve read your latest blog post. I’ve let it go for awhile but now you’re in my house. Start talking.”

It’s midnight. I explain to her the feelings I have, the new and the old. I tell her about the people I love and the ones I want her to meet and the things that they’ve taught me. We dive deep and come to the surface only to erupt in laughter that is too loud for the time of night.

She makes all the right jokes in all the right ways and I can’t believe for a second that I thought I shouldn’t come back.

I tell her about my head. About how it’s been so cloudy lately but I’ve found a new therapist who says she can help me.

There’s an air mattress on the floor and we go to bed too late and talk some more, about family and happiness and how much we love Oprah. Always Oprah.

***

The next day I make my way to Carnaby Street. It’s an old haunt in an area that never rests, never sleeps. I meet Joana when she is done work and we wander…through Piccadilly, down Pall Mall, then St. James Park. We’re trying to get to Southbank. I need to see the London Eye to prove to myself that I’m alive, that I’m home. That I’m different, but my city is the same. It’s the place I go to measure myself.

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***

The royal wedding is finally here, and I awake to a message from Joana.

“Turn on the tv. Oprah is at the wedding.”

Meghan is taking this way too far, we laugh.

I watch the wedding with a friend, with the rest of this city, with the world and then I head out into the Saturday sun. London is glorious today. All sunshine and warmth and an extra dose of Britishness.

There are more flags than I’ve ever seen, Harry’s face on mugs and t-shirts, girls on the underground wearing tiaras.

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I explore Brick Lane and my wandering feels random at first but I always end up in the spots I know so well.

My favorite coffee shop has gone vegan and I’m forced to get soy milk in my latte and it feels like a slight. I’ve only been gone 6 months this time. The street art has changed, replaced with brighter colors, my coffee tastes different, but the sounds and the smells stay the same. Bagels and curries. Raw cocoa from the chocolate shop on the corner. The sound of motorbikes whizzing past, kicking up dust.

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***

Sunday is always my favorite day of the week when I’m in London.

I spend the first part of my day surrounded by love and friendship on a hotel rooftop. We catch up like so much time has passed while still feeling as close as ever. We have lunch and we laugh and we talk about the future. I’m thankful for all the easy things. People who are constant.

When we part ways, I don’t fall apart and wow, these days are so different than they used to be. London reminds me more and more now of how much I have to look forward to, instead of how much I am leaving behind.

I make it to church that evening. I sit at the front. I soak up every single second of being alive and awake in that place. Every drum beat, every well written lyric, every wise word spoken.

Everything changes and nothing changes.

The pastor talks about love. He makes a joke about the Reverend’s message in the royal wedding the day before and he builds on it. He talks about different kinds of love and how God designed us to be with people. It’s not us against the world. We need friendship and companionship and community. And then he pauses for a moment.

“You know, if you ever hear from someone, ‘If you loved me, you would do this…’ THAT is not love. That person is using you. I don’t know why I’m saying this, but maybe I’m speaking to someone in this place. That’s not love though. You hit him and walk away. Anyway.”

I think about all the times those words were said to me over the course of my life.

I think about all the people I have surrounding me now who would never even think to utter such a threat. I’ve come quite far.

***

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On Tuesday morning, I open my eyes and see the pile of clothes on the floor. My yellow top that I wore for the first time last night. Saving it for London, I guess. There’s a spot on it that I didn’t notice last night and I let my eyes focus on that while I try to collect the bits of memories that float around from the night before. I think this is what’s called an emotional hangover. Maybe even a growth spurt of the soul.

When enough clarity comes and I feel like I can move, I head downstairs. Joana is waiting to hear all about the night before so I get into it.

I tell her about going to see Elizabeth Gilbert. I repeat every single word Liz uttered, as much as I can remember, from beginning to end.

I tell her how Liz says that the most relaxed person in every room is the one with all the power and how she asked us to think of whatever horrible, awful situation we have going on in our lives right now, and to imagine walking into that same situation tomorrow feeling relaxed and having peace. Is the situation going to seem better or worse?

I tell her how Liz said that there is a lot of talk about self-love these days but that she thinks that self-friendliness is really hard to find and how sometimes we need to pre-forgive ourselves for the fact that we are going to fuck things up. We just will. But we can get up and try again. That’s the cycle of life. It’s also how we grow. The dropping, the resistance, the lifting and trying again. That’s how we get strong and we can’t do it any other way.

We ooh and ahh over the wisdom of our favorite author.

I try to share all of the truths that this writer of words and put-ter out there of feelings expressed last night during her talk.

And then the conversation turns to after.

I talk about spending the first part of my evening healing my soul, only to meet up with my past so that I can use what I’ve just learned to heal some more.

And I do.

We spent hours together. We talked and we remembered. I saw my past sitting next to me, so clearly mixing with my present and I thought about my future. What’s going to happen and how it will look. I catch myself and my thoughts turned to words, “Let’s just let this be a nice moment.” He agreed.

The rest of the story is for me and for him.

Healing and growth.

Past and present and future.

***

The next day is my last day in London for now. It’s the most bittersweet experience I could have and it’s the same every time. I think I’m fine and then I’m not. I keep it together and then I don’t. My brain stays rational and my feelings run wild.

But since growth is the word of the week, I try. I step back, identify. I talk and I read and I get it out and I take in what I’ve learned. And as I sleep, okayness comes. And sometimes that’s more than you can ask for.

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As Elizabeth Gilbert taught a room full of women just a few nights ago, what’s the alternative to growth? You wake up tomorrow and your life is the exact same.

And now I’ve learned that mine won’t be.

***

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