At 10:00 am, on July 2, 2011, the cleaning maids came an hour early to 501 Corbett Ave in the Twin Peaks neighborhood of San Francisco. They waited on the long wooden staircase in front of the pink cottage while the woman inside frantically put on clothes, tucked away papers, and made the final preparations she needed for a yearlong trip abroad to Central America. The sun was already high in the sky. It was going to be a beautiful sunny day. Her husband was in Richmond putting the last load of their possessions into storage. She was alone with her two dogs. The last calm before the commotion of the journey ahead.
The cleaning women’s early appearance was a gentle nudge from the universe to say, it’s time to go.
I’m putting on my jeans and getting dressed after a bath when they knock. I don’t want my long bath to end. I’m still savoring it. My last bath to Jesus’ last supper…
“Hi, sorry, I’m still here. Can you come back in an hour? Checkout isn’t until 11.” My voice behind the door.
“Ah! Sorry, you’re leaving today?” The knob turns and we all meet eye to eye. My hair is still wet, combed back by fingers.
“Yes. You can come in but I have 2 dogs, if that’s ok.”
Biela’s brown eyes investigates, the little white dog peaks from behind, her bark claiming her space and human.
“Sorry, she’s nice. Shhh, Biela. No.”
“Iz ok. We come back.” The lady says with a cell phone on her ear.
The women walk up the steps and find their place to sit. They look like a mother and daughter crew. One of them unpeels a perky banana. From their banter and girlish chuckles, their mood is harmonious and merry. I want to tell them that we’ll be leaving to Central America today but I don’t know how. I need the silence to clear out the space and the mind.
The pink cottage or “The Tree House” was our temporary refuge. An open, fully furnished rental we found three days before moving out of our home. We found it by chance as with everything that moves with synchronicity…things appear when they need to. There’s a hidden staircase that leads you down to the house. A staircase in its original condition when it was first laid down, who knows when, in the 20s, 30s? All of this is a deliberate decoy like Alibaba’s cave, shabby from the outside...from the inside, an unexpected million dollar view of the city.
It's been a month, but my heart is still tender for our home on Roosevelt Way; when we were ready to let go, it sold quickly.
Was it hard to let go of the house? Was it emotional?
Yes, all of the above. Though I can tell you, it seemed a lot harder for family and friends to accept it, who wanted us to keep it. And I did. I wanted to hold to it. That home meant a lot more to me than just a house with walls and rooms. It wasn’t anything material. Or about status or validation or approval (although it was all of those things in the beginning). I cried a lot in that space. And I wrote a lot. I slept a lot. And cooked soups and baked bread. Slowly mending my heart and healing old wounds. To me, that home was a space to heal and expand, to dream again, to be truthful, to be connected, to reclaim my life. Not a life for others because of the expectations handed down, the shoulds, but a life for myself.
What happened that led you to the decision? Was there a breakdown? A crisis? We worry about all this change. That you are always seeking change…
I used to live day in and day out, doing the same thing over and over again, the same pattern of thought, the same action, rewind….repeat…because it was Expected. Predictable. Consistent. Structured. Orderly. Safe. I wanted all those things...but not anymore. Not now.
The truth is no one really gives a damn if you’re happy or content or being authentic or not. People don’t care. They’re too busy dealing with their own mess. So who are we doing this for? Pretending to be who we're not? The only person whose opinion really matters is your own. I’ve already put in more than three decades of my life doing what I should be doing. It never made me content. In fact, it left me empty, guilty, resentful, angry, out of touch, in denial, tired. I ended up being moody, jealous, blameful, ungrateful. It’s NOT what I want. It’s time to move on; let’s try something else, a path that is mine to experience and claim. I’m scared as heck but it’s my responsibility. No one to point to but myself.
I get it, you’re taking a year off to find yourself.
I’ve already found myself. I’ve dreamt of living a year abroad. It turns out that this is the year and it’s happening. It’s now or never. Wahoo!
For a Saturday, it’s still early. My brain isn’t fully functioning. Empty stomach, empty brain.
There are medical papers still lying on the coffee table, a passport, a roll of tape nibbled by a dog. Orphaned pens. I haven’t done my pages this morning. I need to wipe down the coach before leaving the place and don’t forget the pillows that Manly licked when we weren’t there to stop him. The dogs are walked. Check. I’m going threw my mental list. I want to just stand and drink in the view of my city by the bay for one last long time. The sky is clear, the Castro theater, the outline of the buildings in the haze of daylight. My city. I’ll miss you. You’re the hardest of all to let go of. This paradise on earth where you can live and be yourself. So many writers and artists, so many new arrivals, the navigators who first saw your beautiful hills and shores, who came to this place to reinvent themselves. Allowed to show their true face.
When allowed to dream, to be, you just are. No crisis. No breakdown. No drama.
I need to let go of you to truly love you. San Francisco. I’ll be back.
By Mai Brehaut
By Mai Brehaut