Incremental Change: Debbie’s Gap Year Wrap-Up

View_from_plane_June2014Sam had his say, reflecting back on our Gap Year. It is always a pleasant surprise to learn more about what he is thinking. Now it’s my turn. My thoughts are not as organized or logical. I picture tidy file cabinets inside Sam’s brain, clearly labeled “Africa,” “France,” “Hunting,” “Lemurs,” “The Last Ferryman,” etc.

Not so inside my head. I’m not sure I want to let you peak inside. It’s a mess. Papers are piled on the floor or stuffed haphazardly into cabinets, some of the drawers are hanging open and the files are not, I can assure you, arranged alphabetically.

Just as my memories of favorite books consist of sensations (I cannot for the life of me remember the names of the principal characters), so my recollections of the past year are a series of images bathed in light or color.

Gap Year scenes to remember

The combined terror and exhilaration of standing on the main stage, blinded by light, and speaking to 3,000 people at World Domination Summit 2013. (Here’s my 3-minute talk on Embracing Uncertainty.)

A crisp fall night in Stonington when we made a roast chicken dinner for our friend, artist Jon Imber, who was stricken with ALS. He and his wife, Jill Hoy, both acclaimed painters, are neighbors. Jon died in April 2014.

Waking in darkness and walking quickly to the metro in Paris on a raw November morning to get to our French class on time.

The loveliest, saddest visit with Simon and Alyson Hoggart in their kitchen in Twickenham on a cold December afternoon, a few weeks before Simon died. A noted British journalist, he was a very special friend for over 25 years.

Watching our young granddaughters (ages three and one), in silky pink and purple tutus, dancing around and around on Christmas Eve to the Nutcracker, set on repeat to Ruth Alice’s favorite, March of the Toy Soldiers.

Waking to a vermilion sunrise in our little house in Stonington on so many winter mornings.

Scene shift to California sun: riding scooters with my two-year-old grandson in the parking lot of his apartment building in Mountain View. I couldn’t keep up, his tiny figure blasting past me.

Bududa_guest_houseSitting on the veranda of the guesthouse in Bududa, Uganda on a stifling afternoon in February and chatting softly with our friends about the day’s events.

More from Bududa: a splashing bath in a basin to cool down ever so slightly, just enough to make the unrelenting heat tolerable.

Hiking across the desert floor in Isalo National Park in Madagascar under a merciless midday sun. We stopped repeatedly under the shade of the few sparse trees and gulped our bottled water, as hot as if it were half boiled.

My frigid winter walking loop around the Opera House to the top of the hill overlooking Stonington’s harbor. The air was so clear, the water diamond hard.

Revisiting my favorite haunts in Georgetown (Down Dog Yoga, Georgetown Waterfront Park, Martin’s Tavern) in D.C.’s warm May weather, such a relief after the barren spring in Stonington. (Yes, I’m not quite over leaving D.C.)

Then our overly busy and discombobulated summer of 2014. It never felt like a vacation. I tried to squeeze in work with clients between our five-week succession of visitors, while Sam was swallowed up with rehearsals and performances of The Last Ferryman.

And finally, during the last week of August, a Poetry workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. A glorious week of writing and writing amidst the spruce trees and granite boulders and the embrace of community. (More about Poetry at Haystack soon.)

So how does my Gap Year add up?

Sam asked precisely the right questions in his wrap-up post: What did I learn? What can I pass on?

The greatest lesson I can offer is that change happens very slowly. Reinvention – the stated goal of our Gap Year – is much too lofty a term. Change is incremental. An insight here or there. A mind shift only recognized many months later.

The tag line for this blog – Hungering for change and embracing uncertainty – began as an aspiration. I struggled with it, especially “uncertainty” (see this January post). The biggest realization for me is that I can honestly say our tag line is now closer to the truth.

I have learned to accept some uncertainty. As an example, selling our house in D.C. quickly turned from a “certainty” into an unsettling puzzle we have yet to solve. At first that drove me crazy. Now I’m looking at it as an invitation to stay open to impermanence.

I no longer want to invest in a small property in a city, the yang to the yin of Stonington I was sure I needed. If we need a change from our small, remote town, we can rent by the month. In Brooklyn or San Francisco or France or New Zealand. Who knows?

As for what we’ll be doing, that remains uncertain too. I want to write more. How will that affect my business? I don’t know yet. Sam’s plans to make the world a better place continue to evolve. That’s OK with me.

I am looking forward to the new status quo: embracing change as well as uncertainty.

– Debbie

At top, the view from above: snapped on a 20-minute ride with Penobscot Island Air.

Middle photo: the guesthouse veranda in Bududa, Uganda.

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