What the Hell Am I Doing... Where?


I'm not where you think I am right now.

I'm not at home. I'm not in San Francisco at all, actually. I'm elsewhere, away from the customary surroundings and recognizable faces. I'm on a break.

As of this past weekend, and timed to coincide with Monday's solar eclipse, I am officially on a two-month 'life sabbatical'. (Before you panic, the one professional duty I'll be keeping up with during this time is my astrological writing, so you will still get your weekly dose of horoscopes.) I hopped in my car with my furry best-friend JoJo and skipped town. What happens from here is anybody's guess… but I promise I won't be reporting on every questionably-meaningful detail, since my drive to publicly parcel out compelling content is part of what I'm trying to extricate myself from. I need to worry about myself, my soul's inspiration and my heart's engagement, instead of producing more feats in my ceaseless stream of efforts intended to woo audiences. Who am I when nobody's around to hear or see me? Do I still make a sound, an impression?

I've been planning this trip, the longest I've taken since visiting Europe with my parents as a pre-teen, for a couple years now. I was raised to be a traveler, and find myself feeling depleted by adult-life's glaring repetitiveness if I don't have an upcoming trip on my calendar to gleefully anticipate. Yet, in recent years, my jet-setting desires have raised a corresponding emotional strain: I hate leaving my dog for too long. Morbid though it might be, I've been acutely aware of JoJo's limited life-span since he was just a tiny pup. I use this mortality-consciousness as my constant reminder to appreciate all the moments I get to share with JoJo, while I still can. As JoJo gets older—he's now 7, which isn't so spring-chicken for a dog as large as he is (90 lbs and tall as a miniature pony)—these moments become more and more precious. Not only is his snout greying, but his back legs are getting increasingly wonky. I designed this trip as my way of helping to relieve this strain, so I might nurture my travel bug and spend quality time with my baby while he's still limber and young-hearted enough to enjoy the opportunities to romp. Where might we go to explore new lands? Let's see where this trusty Volvo can take us.

I will not be publicly disclosing my current location nor any future stops on this journey, not just because I love portraying the 'man of mystery' role (the aloofness warms my cockles) but in an effort to reserve myself as much self-nourishing freedom as possible. Ordinarily when I travel, I fall prey to a sense of obligation toward all those friends and contacts I know who live in the destination I'm visiting. Should I post my whereabouts on Facebook or Twitter, I'll already sense, bearing down on me, the stress over which local acquaintances might be reading my update, wanting to schedule a lunch date or an evening cocktail with me (and, though I may sincerely adore the person, I may or may not wish to take them up on their offer during my limited time and, if I don't, I'm likely to feel guilty about it) or wondering why I didn't schedule something with them myself and unfairly assuming it speaks something about my feelings for them. I readily admit this excessive concern for others' potential reactions to my doing as I desire to be a self-imposed neurosis (I do have five planets in the 7th and 8th houses)… which, of course, is exactly why this choice to withhold my location is so critical to my self-care. I apologize to my Facebook friends in advance for all the evasive 'vaguebook' posts you'll be getting from me in weeks to come.

In my original vision for this trip, I'd intended to consult with clients all along the way. I've thoroughly enjoyed my past client-session travels—to NYC and LA, and to Australia—as they've afforded me the chance to intimately connect face-to-face with folks I otherwise wouldn't have met, and, at the same time, to create tax-deductible profit-opportunities for myself. But as this trip became more and more real, the idea of signing on for more work cast a discouraging shadow over my hoped-for bliss. I had to acknowledge that, emotionally speaking, I needed a full-on sabbatical more than another tax-deduction. I talked my practical side into foregoing the work aspect of the trip (and, naturally, contending with another spike in guilt due to the idea of passing through towns full of existing and prospective clients without offering to consult with them) and, instead, mindfully created a palpable departure in my life. I wanted to eradicate all my usual expectations of behaving productively (except, of course, for writing weekly horoscopes and keeping the dog fed and pooped)… and, rather than doing so damn much, concentrate simply on being.

In the weeks leading up to my departure, pervaded by the unsettling grand-cross energies, my inner demons tried every trick in the book to torpedo this trip. My fear of the unknown, for instance, attempted to hijack my so-called 'intuition' and convince me something bad was going to happen that would force me not to go. (Hint: Intuition functions most unreliably when we've got a strong emotional stake in the matter-at-hand.) I worried about what I wouldn't get done before I left (and what tragedies would then ensue), and I worried about what I'd forget to bring with me (as if there aren't grocery stores or pharmacies anywhere but SF). I worried that the dog would be mad at me for being dragged along on some wild goose chase. But most of all, I worried that I didn't know why I was bothering to go on this trip at all—even at the same time I could rationally articulate plenty of sensible self-nurturing reasons—and that, once I got 'there' (or wherever, since I had no single destination of particular importance), I would look around the strange unfamiliar room and wonder, 'What the hell am I doing here?!?'

This preparatory process was astonishing to me, insofar as I'd never quite realized how hard it's been for me to prioritize a major life-activity simply because it's what I want to do… especially when I'd be achieving nothing 'productive' (meaning: not for pay or some other immediate tangible benefit, not to prove my worth, not to impress anybody), and especially when my self-serving choice would necessarily impact other people (since leaving my partner Ricky behind for our longest separation ever, and taking our dog with me, certainly qualifies as a significant impact). Yet, it was my very dedication to both productivity and interpersonal consideration, arguably to an excess at times, that had caused me to feel trapped and overwhelmed and so desperately hungry for space.

My personal and professional successes had anchored me into place—a place, mind you, that I chose and am very grateful for—but my free-spirit self was floundering. Had it really been years since I'd wandered into a coffeehouse with my spiral notebook and scribbled an impromptu poem onto its pages? Though successful-adult Barry may have attained some amount of public renown, young-wanderer Barry relishes his lesser-tethered anonymity. And I am proud enough of him now, too, to carve out this sizable slice of my life for deliberately feeding his heart's content: a long overdue duty to my creative spirit, and a practice in fuller integration-of-self.

So, no, I don't know exactly what the hell I'm doing here, other than just being… just as you don't know where the hell I'm doing all this not-doing. I suspect there will be unexpected encounters with strange characters and blasts-from-the-past, enlivening people-watching and gorgeous scenery-stealing, transcendent flashes of insight, fleeting moments of deep longing and achy loneliness, bright colors and cool breezes, hikes and strolls and saunters, existential angst, and plenty of farm-fresh produce. I promise nothing to myself (nor to you, for that matter) other than that I will allow this experience to change me forevermore, however subtly or profoundly. This sabbatical is not some temporary exception to the restraining rules of my day-to-day life, I proclaim, but a consciously transformative gesture toward the type of existence I intend to live on a daily basis, more and more, as my years of life roll on. With this act, I make it real.