How Grief Can Catapult Us Into Clarity of Purpose

Have you ever had an idea in your mind that felt so real? You can touch it, taste it, smell it, feel it…yet you have no earthly idea how you could possible make it come to life?

This has been me at every crossroads of my life. Seeing something so clearly in my mind but disconnected from the how.

I once sat in a cafe in Santa Monica and had the thought, “I want to work here like these people. One day it would be great to sit at this same table and have a business meeting.”

I left the thought alone there, and three years later I got hired at Lionsgate who’s headquarters were in the same building. I had lunch in that cafe nearly every day for a year.

But that seems like a fluke, right? What are the odds that I could repeat that same scenario with everything else I want in my life?

When something is so real for us, but there is no roadmap or guide for how to make it real, where does that leave us?

You last saw me and Billy in Denver, packing our car, tear filled eyes, heading east.

We spent three days traveling back to our home turf in Indiana. We stopped for an overnight stay and a morning run through the Kansas State University campus. The gardens and trees were so beautiful and the warm Kansas summer morning air suited us.

We paused in St. Louis and had coffee with our beautiful Columbian friend. A documentarian. A soul meant for another time. We talked about race and chaos and art and community. A perfectly wonderful chat on a bench with an old friend ignited something in me I hadn’t found in the mountains. It was good to be reminded of how beautiful and full my life already was.

Maybe I haven’t been searching.

We arrived home to an excited dad in waiting. Eager to see his daughter, he sat rocking in his arm chair all morning anticipating our arrival.

My grandfather used to wait for us the same way.

It’s important to note here for those of you that don’t know me, that he does not live in my childhood home. For that story you will have to read the book, but for context I will share that we sold that house sometime around 2011.

I can remember the last time I was there, the day I had to leave the keys for the new owners. I spent some time walking through each room, stopped in the kitchen to guide my hand over the countertops where my mom used to spend hours preparing eggplant parmesan on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Swaying back and forth as she sang along to the music in her head pouring ingredients into a big pot, taking bites of the fried pieces of eggplant drying on the paper towel placed intentionally to her right.

When you pulled your car along the driveway to our back door you could smell the simmering pasta sauce escaping through the small cracks in the kitchen window.

I could always count on that.

But in 2011 dad decided it was time to move on and our home became just a memory. I often wonder if his urgency to sell it was a mistake.

Maybe if he still had a home he loved, life would be different.

Maybe if I still had a home to return to, life would be different.

“Things don’t matter Teresa,” he always tells me. Is this just his fear of being attached to anything again or is it wisdom?

So returning home last summer had different meaning. This wasn’t my home it was a place where my father had settled and I was a visitor, coming to stay for a little while.

Back to this idea and feeling I had nesting inside of my mind. It was starting to become clearer—but the “location” was not clear. I knew the place just not the geography. A cozy cottage surrounded by flowers tucked away in a little neighborhood where people came for solace.

A sign on the door: Welcome home

A path to the water along the side of the cottage, the sound of birds and children laughing and adults clinking glasses. Saluti.

Warm cups of tea. Deep meaningful chats. A writing nook. A book shelf. Take a book leave a book.

A simple display of curated hand made items. For women by women.

A shop. A retreat. A place where women gather.

Billy and I spent the summer in Indiana. We saw friends, went for runs around the golf course, spent Fridays with my niece having dance parties and jumping in the sprinkler. Yes it was this picturesque.

Yes, I was this happy sitting on the couch with my niece worrying about, thinking about, contemplating nothing else.

Is motherhood what I have been searching for? I thought as I watched her giggle each time Billy howled.

I decide one evening sitting on the floor with her in her toy room that motherhood is part of what I have felt in search of, and that searching feels stale and outdated.

I realized I don’t want to think of myself as searching. It is time to create, nest, and ground myself.

The longing for something still existed, but what happens when I nudge my perspective just slightly in a different direction?

A few Sunday’s later sitting in the guest room of my father’s condo I find a website.

Community and housing for the nomadic entrepreneur.

I wonder if this “cookies” thing everyone complains about is actually curating my entire life and world view.

I click the link.

I stumble upon photos of a sun kissed minimalist house tucked in a city they call Austin.

It’s in that moment that I feel the same thing I felt in that cafe back in Los Angeles in my 20’s.

Before this moment I had never thought of this place. In this moment I cannot think of any other place that makes more sense.

I am going to visit this place, I am going to spend some time there, one day I am going to live near there.

A few clicks later I am on Airbnb booking a month long stay in Texas.

Is following the yellow brick road really how it works?

Follow follow follow follow…

Can one just trust in her ideas, be open to the tiny breadcrumbs of inspiration that appear and savor each morsel as she walks forward in faith?

I tapped my computer shut feeling sure for the first time in long while.

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