Good News & Gratitude #12
Shoutout to our souls' homelands (in my case, England), family, health, dogs, punk rock, and sharing our stories.
Before anything else, I want to say how grateful I am that you are all here and that we’ve formed this beautiful, thriving community that’s grounded in kindness. This truth bowls me over daily.
I also want to thank the new paid subscribers. Your support allows me to keep doing this work. I’m deeply grateful. I know things are tough for so many of us these days and we’re all being pulled in so many directions, so I don’t take your faith in me and in Beyond lightly. It can be so easy to fall into despair over this world of ours, I fall quite frequently; but it’s also undeniable that there’s beauty and trust and hope and compassion and big-heartedness and joy, all of which I find here. Thank you.
I’m recently home from a two-week trip to England. As many of you know, my parents were both born in London and immigrated to America in the early fifties. England was still on rations from the war at that point and jobs were scarce. My mom was one of nine siblings and my dad one of four, so I have approximately 1,237 cousins across the pond (and some in Australia and one in Hong Kong) and, lucky for me, they’re fantastic humans and live in astoundingly beautiful places (although, I think “astoundingly beautiful places” describes nearly every inch of England).
My mom died seven years ago, and each year since my dad and I have travelled to England to visit the relatives. They’ve been some of my most cherished and fun and gorgeous trips. Whilst in his nineties, my dad is indomitable and adventurous. At ninety-four he was zooming (literally!) up and down the Very Steep streets of Clovelly (I wrote about it for Oldster); at ninety-five, he was climbing the Very Steep cliffs of Cornwall. This year however, he decided it was best not to go. So I cashed in my miles and ventured forth on my own.
When I was nineteen, I went to England for the first time (my parents never visited as I was growing up) and lived in London for the summer. The moment the plane landed at Heathrow, a voice inside me said, “I’m home” and my body simultaneously relaxed and invigorated. And I was home. It was 1981, and whilst no longer in its heyday in London, punk was still going strong. I promptly shaved my hair to a stumble, went bleach blonde, spent my days wandering King’s Road, Kensington Market, and Camden Market in love with the magnificent punk rockers, and my nights at shows at the Marquee, Electric Ballroom, and the Hippodrome learning the hard way about slam dancing. I also took in the museums and the grand, winding rivers and massive parks and the quaint shops and made heaps of friends. (I looked everywhere but couldn’t find my pictures of these days to share.)
I was exuberantly, wildly, full-heartedly in peace and in awakening with what I would soon call my soul’s homeland. I thought I was going to move there but the following summer I went to NYC and, well, that became my home for the next twenty-five years. Toward the end of my London summer, I grew restless and began hitchhiking around England and eventually ended up at the homes of various relatives most of whom I’d never met and knew little about.
I’ve long wanted to write about what it’s like to come from a fairly enormous family and know only a handful of them, to grow up yearning for a big family (I gravitated toward friends from big families), intuitively understand some pivotal part of you is missing, and then suddenly meet these aunties and uncles and cousins as a shaved-headed, meaning-of-life-seeking, mildly troubled teenager. But for now I’ll say it was transformative. I was undoubtedly in rough shape when I appeared on their doorsteps, but they welcomed me with so much love and kindness and doting and curiosity—I felt it deep in my bones. And after that I never felt myself in the world in quite the same way again.
This recent visit was probably my thirteenth or fourteenth since then. All my beloved aunties and uncles are now gone but I have myriad cousins who live in all the previously noted astoundingly beautiful places. This trip, however, was spent largely in London. Lucky for me, I was able to stay with two friends and their darling daughter before venturing up to cousins in Cumbria (swoon), Bath, Netley, and then return to London for another two days of bliss.
In addition to the friends I was staying with, I have two more friends who live there so my days were bursting. Lots of walking (one day I hit: 33,056 steps!) and museuming and a wee bit of popping into the shops and eating outrageously phenomenal food and revisiting old stomping grounds and discovering new ones, stumbling across the changing of the guard at Horse Guard Parade, tumbling upon the poppies at Westminster Abbey just as the bells rang, so much much much more, and no jetlag. I truly felt I was being watched over the entire trip, which is not how I always feel in life (but would very much like if I did!).
I have so much gratitude for England and my family and my friends. I light up there in a way that only happens in one soul’s homeland. I believe we all have our place—be it a particular street or city or state, region, or county. Or, in my case, an entire country! I know England has a complicated history, and much of it is not great. But that’s not the England that lights me up. The England that nourishes my soul, that homes me, that holds me, that allows me to feel completely myself, I don’t have words for. I can’t point to it. Or taste it. Or hear it in some definable, graspable manner. I mean, I could make a really long list of the astoundingly beautiful places but there are astoundingly beautiful places all over the planet and I don't come alive in them the way I do in England (not that I’ve been all over the world)! Whatever it is, it’s real. And it’s in my blood and in my cells. And I’m so gigantically grateful that I have this place and that people I love live there and that I’m able to get myself there and find myself more deeply each time.
Good News: Because we had so many new paid subscribers, this month’s donation to The DeTommaso Dogs will be a little bigger than usual. This makes my heart burst with gratitude and joy! If you follow Ana on social media, you’ll know she works around the clock to save dogs and has placed hundreds of these sweet babies (and a few kitty cats) in their forever homes. I often daydream about making a ton of money just so I can give Ana a huge donation. So this month was an extra treat for me! I hope you feel excited, too!
And finally, I was interviewed this week by the lovelyfor her podcast Here For Me. She’d read the Five Big Questions I did for ’s gorgeous Substack and wanted to hear more about my health journey. It was new to me to not be the one asking the questions! And some of what we talked about was difficult subject matter; things I’ve just recently begun to sort through and have only discussed with a handful of friends and close family members. But I think almost everyone who has a chronic health situation has at least one person in their life trying to convince them and those around them that they’re faking all their symptoms. This is another topic I hope to one day write about (thank you again paid subscribers as your support helps create the time to write more!), because I believe this behavior is unfortunately quite common. It’s my hope that by sharing a small portion of my story, it might help others.
I feel a bit nervous about sharing this. And also pleased. I believe by sharing of our stories we allow our spirits to grow and hopefully nurture the spirits of others. Of course, I feel like I didn’t explain things as well as I should have and am tempted to include a long screed here explaining everything better, but hopefully you get the gist! Nicole was so lovely and kind and made me feel at ease.
That’s it for me this week! How about you? What are you grateful for? What joy did you stumble across or create? Any good news? What place lights you up? Please do share! I love hearing from you!