Full text of travel writer Teresa Rodriguez’s talk: “Owning Alone: conquering your fear of being solo” at TEDxWilmington conference.
Teresa Rodriguez – Travel writer
Well, I married a beautiful, tall, blond Australian man in a courthouse outside of San Francisco. It was an interesting event. It was short and it was sweet. But we did plan to return.
Shortly after our marriage, we moved to Australia. I packed up my life in San Francisco and I hauled it across the world. There we planned to return after a year to plan the big white wedding. Everything a girl dreams of.
And sure enough, we did return, well at least I returned back to San Francisco to plan our big white wedding. There it all started, the wedding dresses, the cake, and the bridesmaids. And the day that I picked out my dress, I’ll never forget. It was the 80s, it had big shoulders. It was fabulous.
Well, I went home to celebrate my find. And there I found a letter from my beloved. I was so excited. This was before the Internet, this was before cell phones, and this was before Facebook. So I could check up on it.
And the letter read as follows:
“Dear Teresa, the marriage is over. I’ve moved. I’ve disconnected the phone. I put your clothes and personal items in garbage bags. I just need to know where you want me to ship them.”
I was devastated. I fell into a deep place of depression. And I was so afraid to spend my life alone. I was alone, I’m alone up here too.
Well, I started seeing a psychiatrist every week. As a matter of fact, I was seeing her on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. She would give me two Valium, one for that Monday, the one for the Tuesday, and then went on, Wednesday, Thursday.
I was highly suicidal. And she was afraid I was going to hurt myself. So she thought that if she gave me the whole bottle of Valium, that there was a chance that I would overdose. And I have to say that she was probably correct.
It was weeks into this treatment, and I wasn’t getting any better. I lost over 15 pounds; my hair was falling out.
And I came to see her on that Friday at 2:00 p.m. as usual. And I was given the grim news by her that, ‘You know Tracy you’re not getting any better. And I have requested that you start inpatient treatment next week in a lovely facility in the rolling hills of Martinez, California.”’
She handed me a stack of admissions papers that were heavier than my broken heart, and I walked down that sterile hallway in that hospital. And I looked down, and to try — oh, there we go. And it read: inpatient psychiatric services. Provides 23 beds for seclusion rooms and three with straight rooms.
I walked out of that hospital and I looked up in the sky. And I saw a flock of blackbirds dancing like I’ve never seen before. And that line from Ken Kesey’s book came to me, ‘One flew East and one flew West and one flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’
It was at that moment in my life that I said there’s no way that I’m going to let another person put me into a psychiatric ward. There has to be another way of doing this.
So I took those admission papers. I threw them away. I got into my dad’s old Volvo, and drove back to my parents’ house. And I called my girlfriend who had happened to be going to London the following week. I called her and I said, listen, is there any chance that I can tag along on this trip.
And she was a little bit resistant because her sister set it up. And she agreed.
So instead of flying over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I flew east. I took the money that I saved for my wedding and I bought a ticket to London.
Well, we got to the hostel that her sister had organized and it was completely booked out. So there was no place for me to stay. And I was like- ‘Uh alrighty, I’ll figure this out. Hey, I was about to go to a psychiatric ward last week, which could be worse.’
So I grabbed my bags and walked out onto the High Street. And something magical happened. Yes, I was alone, but I was alone in London.
In John Bradshaw’s book- ‘Homecoming’, he talks about one of the best ways to heal our broken child is to go back to that place of discovery, to that little toddlerhood, where we look at things in a new light with new birb and new excitement. And I was there on High Street for the first time in a long time, I was alive.
I was living in the now.
And Eckhart Tolle talks about this now. And it’s so rare that we actually go into this delicious place of the present, because we are so busy worrying about our future and afraid and regretting the decisions that we made in our past that… do we rarely step into this place where we are just happy. And I was there.
So I went down to the underground not knowing where to go, had my bags and I picked another station. I picked Elephant Castle because it sounded magical.
And I got down there onto the platform and it said mind the gap. And I started laughing because it reminded me of Dr. Wayne Dyer and his series on getting into the gap making conscious contact with God. And he says that to create a conscious contact with God with our higher power is, we have to create space. We have to create distance. We have to open up.
We have to leave the monikers of dumped housewife, loser daughter, failing business partner. We got to leave those all at home and step out into something new and something adventurous.
And I was doing that. I was creating space. And as Debussy says:
“It is the space between the notes that makes the music.”
So how do you create your own music on your solo journey?
Actually, there are seven keys to it. Some are easier than others.
The first is, you have to be brave. You have to take a stand and say you know what, I’m going to do something and I’m going to do it for myself and I am willing to make a commitment.
And I’m not asking you to do an Eat, Pray, Love adventure around the world for a year. Hey I’ll be happy to go to the movies by yourself. It can be something as simple as going to another city or going to a café. But if you want to do an adventure, go for it.