Last Saturday, I arose in the dark, dressed quickly, gathered up a small suitcase and carry-on, placed my sleepy puppy in the car for the short ride to my daughter’s where she once again snuggled under the covers and returned to her endless, happy dream, and with the help of my darling daughter, headed to Portland’s airport and an early Alaska Airlines flight to Los Angles.
The trip was delightful and easy filled by an unexpected conversation with my seatmate who turned out to be a smart, kind mom of three as well as a fifth-grade teacher. By the time we landed in the city that had been home to me for decades, I was relaxed and eager to see my friends and spend some quiet time, while not at the doctors, enjoying a break in my routine.
Having lived in LA for so many years, I was no stranger to its frantic traffic and famous freeways, especially the infamous 405. The last five years I spent living there, as I always had, near the beach, I became sadly aware of how dreadful the gridlock was becoming. Traffic pouring west into Santa Monica on the I-10 was horrific all morning, and if I tried to travel east into Beverly Hills or points beyond anytime after 3 PM with the hopes to go to dinner or the theatre, I needed to prepare myself for gridlock that would make traveling ten or fifteen miles a frustrating trek of an hour or two.
But as many times as I’ve left LA for other parts of the world and returned, my arrival back this time hit my senses in a new way, particularly the first time I took the wheel of a car myself instead of being driven. Suddenly, the air changed. I felt it palpably in my gut, as if a switch had been thrown and I was caught up in a wave of aggressive tension that literally made my head swim.
I’m a good driver. At least, I have been until now. And I can be aggressive when necessary to pull out of a tight spot or get into faster-moving traffic. No problem. But this was different. It wasn’t so much the amount of cars as the aggressive attitudes and faces of the drivers. And it seemed to be everywhere, no matter where we traveled, no matter what time of day. And not just on the road. The frenetic energy was in stores and restaurants, too.
I wasn’t surprised. Intellectually, the shift had registered long ago. But I find when I leave a place and then return, the differences seem more evident and clear. After moving to Oregon last June, I quickly became accustomed to the slower-paced, more toned-down ways. That doesn’t mean there aren’t arrogant or crappy drivers in Portland. They abound everywhere. But the pace, the push, the pulsating tension in the air, even in rush hour, is different here. And this recent trip to LA drove the point home with clarity, underlining my belief that it often takes returning to what is familiar and known to see the warts and wrinkles more clearly.
Like any relationship, when we’re in it, even though we’re vaguely aware of the bumps and tremors, we’re often just so busy surviving we become numb or unaware of reality. It takes stepping away to realize that we may not have laughed, or exhaled deeply, or slept soundly, in far too long a time.
I will always love LA. It has been home to me twice and held the possibility of much that I thought I wanted in the past. But regrettably, it is also a very soul-less place, filled with way too many wanna-bees as well as well-intended folks who are so out-of-body trying to become somebody.
While I miss my dear friends daily, and often miss the weather, too, especially those utterly gorgeous, temperate, sunny days when the colors of the ocean stun the senses and seduce us into not noticing the brown air or the congestion, I’m now so very grateful to be able to return to my new life rooted in a place as solid as the magnificent, towering cedars and pines that abound everywhere. And to awaken to find that the air has suddenly changed again, back to a cleaner, healthier, more peaceful element that doesn’t cause every cell in my body to tense and stop breathing.
Have you checked out the air around you lately? If you find yourself living a life in a place that feels that toxic, perhaps you should check out your own Inner Bottom Line, re-evaluate the elements you breathe, and make sure you’re Playing with a Full Deck. It’s a journey worth taking and the ticket, at least initially, is free.
You can submit your questions, book consulting appointments or private phone coaching sessions with Olive at www.theinnerbottomline.com, and call into her blogtalkradio.com show, “The Inner Bottom Line” at 661-449-1425 with your questions. All letters and calls can be anonymous and confidential.
Kindle and audio versions along with the hard cover of Olive’s book, The Nude Ethicist: A Simple Path to The Good Life™, are now available on amazon.com.