breaking our hearts on purpose

You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.
— Rumi

Last Friday I took a new bus across town. The number 12 from downtown to 65th and Sandy to meet up with John for a Colombian dinner at a place we’ve never been. The journey was long, full of traffic; smells of ripe people, cigarettes, exhaust. But I wasn’t annoyed by any of it. Instead, I tucked myself into a window seat and watched the city roll by. Something clicked in my heart as I gazed up the Willamette River when we crossed over the Burnside Bridge. . . .

This beautiful city has been my home for fifteen years (including a couple years in Beaverton when I first arrived). I came here on a gut feeling and with a sense that I would flourish in Portland. I was right. The most significant portion of my personal growth (so far) has been in Portland. The day I left Beaverton and landed in a garden apartment on SE Belmont and 41st, my life began to blossom. When I arrived in Portland, I was still wearing a mask and thanks to this city but more so, the remarkable people I've loved along the way, a mask is no longer needed. 

Portland has graciously hosted my love story with John. Had neither of us come to Portland on a whim from elsewhere, we'd never have met and created a life together. It was here that I overcame the limiting belief that I was not cut out for college. Portland State University, with its high percentage of older students, offered an environment where I felt confident that I could succeed in college a decade after barely graduating from high school. And I did, with honors.

Portland is the scene of meaningful friendships, and the kindling of relationships that make up most of my tribe. Of course, I've loved and lost here. Friends who have faded out of our scene (or us, out of theirs) and friends who have died. No matter where I am in the world, I will remember these friends with Portland as the backdrop. 

I was in Portland when I learned my mother died and was so grateful she visited this amazing city a few times before her death--she knew Portland was a key player in all of the positive personal changes I made in my late twenties and she was at peace knowing the positive direction my life was taking. While I have had some terrible bosses in the last fifteen years, I have also had some unbelievably amazing bosses who empowered, encouraged and helped me hone my skills. I’ve had many meaningful jobs and volunteered many hours in the Rose City.  I've planted seeds at the Oregon Good Bank, volunteered to help neighbors navigate conflict as a mediator, helped women at Transition Projects express themselves through writing, fed hungry Portlanders at The Blanchet House, advocated for women and minority rights and for de-stigmatizing mental health and I've marched in peace rallies.... Portland is the place I began to establish my character. 

We’ve found happy memories all over Portland, many places that are no longer: Fusion, Eugenio’s, Natures, the juggling store where I bought John a unicycle, the hippie dippy Daily Grind Market, Imbibe…  Memories of places I’ve worked; music I’ve seen; Mt. Tabor Park for dog walks, Soap Box Derby and meditation. Spots in this town will forever be etched into my heart.

As my bus ride came to its conclusion, I grew teary-eyed in my retrospection. We’re selling our house and going on a life changing trip… but unlike most of the travelers we've met here, we're not returning to Portland after our travel is done. This is a third lofty emotion we’re navigating and until last Friday, I hadn’t identified it. It was certainly in there nipping at me, making me irritable, but now that I recognize it, I can let the feelings be what they are: A profound sense of gratitude held with the tender sense of loss.

We’re following our hearts which are calling us away. Portland is changing into a new city. Not “bad” or “good” but not for us. When I left Southern California exactly fifteen years ago today, I did so knowing I was breaking my own heart. I left without a plan other than to see what Portland might offer. I left the familiar for the uncertain. I chose to follow my intuition even though it meant saying goodbye to family, many friends, my job and everything I knew about “home.”

In leaving California, I broke open my heart. I cracked the stiff walls of my reality and in doing so, made space for everything that has happened over the last decade and a half. I am better, brighter and happier for having made that leap of faith.

Now, I am making the choice to follow my intuition once again. Though, this time I will get to jump into the unknown with my best friend by my side. We’re lucky, my husband and me, that our intuition is always on the same track at the same time. We’re both being called out into the world and then, to seek a new town to make a home for a while. Probably not the place we will retire. Just the next phase in our lives. Another place to love new friends, experience new jobs, embrace new ideas, to show off to our parents and explore unacquainted nature. And while we’re feeling our hearts break as we count down the days to our departure from Portland, we do it knowing that we’re doing it on purpose in an effort to make space for even more love, more joy and brand new, growth-inspiring adventures.

I suspect I might be a little weepy for the next few months. Farewell is never easy. And no matter how much we intend to keep in touch, some friendships will fade with the distance.