Hello from Oregon

"Hello from Oregon"

I am writing to you from my new home in Portland, Oregon. Today marks a big day because three months ago I moved away from the Bay Area, my home of almost 40 years, and took a leap of faith that will forever change the direction of my life. I want to take a moment to reintroduce myself to you, to tell you what’s happening with The Practice for Women, and to share a story.

Three months ago today, I stood on the driveway of my little home in Pleasant Hill, California, holding my husband’s hand.

We stood there, fingers interlaced, staring at our 10-year-old daughter, a little blonde ray of hope and magic. She stood on the front porch, staring back at us, with her hand on the knob of the front door—the one that we painted dark brown exactly ten years before. “I’m going to close the door for the last time,” she yelled back at us, completely unafraid of the impact of her announcement.

I watched her, in what felt like slow motion, close the door that she had opened and closed every day of her entire life. It was the door that welcomed our loved ones on Christmas and Thanksgiving and every birthday up until now, the door that was always swung open, slammed shut, and was knocked on by her friends wondering if we were home. I watched her close the door to our life in Pleasant Hill.

She skipped over to us, smiling, sturdy and brave—a beaming light that reminded me why we are doing this, and that we will be okay. Then we turned around and walked away from our house and a lifetime of memories, forever.

A few minutes later I started the engine to the family car and pulled away. In my review mirror I could see our home, just sitting there, waiting for us to turn around, throw open the front door again, and crash on the sofa in the living room, just like we always had. But the door had been closed for the last time.

As I pulled away, I felt like a cord was attached to my body from that front door—a long, heavy, coiled cord, wrapped round and round, sitting like an iron ball in my lap. I felt the cord begin to pull, like my body was being pulled and stretched back towards my home that was no longer my home. The cord that was my life began to uncoil itself, it began to unravel.

I drove away from my street in Pleasant Hill, with the fattest tears I have ever cried rolling down my face and falling onto the coiled cord on my lap. As I drove further and further away from my home, from the town I grew up in, from the memories of my childhood, from all the attachments and old dreams, from the long nights of rocking my babies to sleep in that little house in Pleasant Hill, the cord continued to unravel. After miles and miles and miles, the ball began to lighten. It was like 40 years of memories coiled up in my body and my mind began to leave me, leaving their marks along the highway from California to Oregon.

I saw my childhood home. I saw flashes of my mother, sitting on the floor of the den when I was 15 years old, telling me she had breast cancer. I saw the cancer seeping from her pores. I saw her passing. I saw my babies being born, my dad picking up my son in his little red sports car, my daughter’s first day of school.

I saw myself starting a business—my soul’s work—and the women coming through the doors for the first time. I saw my dream coming true. Then I saw myself get sick. Not like my mother, but very sick. I saw how I took on too much responsibility, how I over-gave, how I didn’t take care of myself and my babies in the way I knew how. I saw myself in my mother.

I saw everything unravel before me, and the tears did not stop coming. They were washing away the stain of every memory left on my body and my heart, cleansing me of everything that had happened in the last 40 years.

When we finally arrived to Oregon, 635 miles later, I walked into our new house—an unfamiliar rental on a new street in a new town in a new state—and I cried even more. I wanted to go back. I wanted to coil myself back into that tight ball, because it was familiar, because I knew all those memories and places and people so well. I wanted to coil myself back up and pretend my daughter had never closed the front door.

But she did. And a new door opened. My daughter was already outside on the swing hanging from our new tree, with her head tilted backwards, her blonde hair moving in the wind, staring up with a big smile at the new sky above us.

“I’m here to heal,” I reminded myself. “To go all the way in. To unravel completely. To finally be able to slow down—to stop. To take care of my body and my kids and my home and my life. To do what my mother never did, and what I haven’t been able to do yet. I am here to fully heal.”

And so it is, and so I am. I am writing you three months into my journey, from a new town in a new state under a new sky in Oregon.

And what I have learned so far is that for the past 13 years (and maybe longer) I have been running so fast that I could barely catch my breath. I have been running in the way my mom did, in the way our culture tells us we have to, which I believe made my mom and me and so many other women I know sick and tired and burnt out. What I have learned is that sometimes we have to close the door to everything familiar and everything we love and press Reset, because there is nothing more valuable than our own well-being, and that of our loved ones. Sometimes we have to close the door to remember who we truly are.

What I know to be true in this moment, is that I will never run at that pace again. I have learned that slowing down and putting my own needs first, are non-negotiable.

I am away right now on my healing journey, and the words I keep hearing are, “Go all the way in.” So, I am taking time to do just that. I am taking time off of work, off social media, and social pressures. I am spending my time reclaiming my body, my home, and my children. I am cooking every meal, walking in the forest, praying by the river, going to yoga, writing, reading, and napping. I am going all the way into this Sacred Pause and truly feeling what it’s like to slow down.

I am writing this letter to you because I want you to know I am still here, but I am taking this time to be slow. I am practicing in the deepest way I ever have. I am going to be quiet for a little while so I can continue to cocoon and take care of myself in this way. I know I will come out on the other side with more wisdom and so much more to share. I believe that wisdom, creativity, and vitality are born in the moments when we can stop running and sit still.

I want you to know that The Practice is alive and thriving in the Bay Area with our local teachers. Catch their classes and conversations in our private Facebook Group HERE. I also want you to know that I will be sending you letters from several different women in our community in the coming weeks. We are each holding so much, and there is medicine in hearing other women’s stories of struggle and triumph. We need each other right now, and I hope their stories will touch and inspire you, so stay tuned for that.

Lastly, I will be leading a day-long retreat in Walnut Creek in December. And, I will be leading a 4-day retreat in Maui(!) in March, and I would love for you to be there. 

In the meantime, I am sending you a huge hug. Thank you for being here.

xoxo,

Michelle Long, MA
Founder of The Practic

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