If I had seen these photographs before I moved to San Francisco, I wouldn’t have believed that they were taken within the boundaries of the city.
They are, in fact, images taken by me on our last jaunt to Fort Funston. It’s a common place for dog walkers to take their dogs during the day, and during the summer, when C was off of work, we came on a near-daily basis. He’s back at work now, and so when we do go, it has been in the late afternoon, when the fog rolls in. The sand dunes, covered in ice plants, become atmospheric and crowned with mist. Daphne is at her happiest at Fort Funston; at the dog park she is shy and hides under whatever bench C and I happen to be sitting on, refusing to play with other dogs, only running laps when either of us chase her — at Fort Funston she runs far ahead of us, looking back occasionally to see where we’ve gone. She’s adventurous. She explores the dunes. She greets other dogs, running her zooming, part-Papillon circles around them. Clearly, she is in her element there.
C is also happier in that place. When he’s stressed from work, or simply needs to feel rejuvenated in spirit, he goes alone with Daph on days when I’m too tired to leave the house, or brings me along if I’m feeling a bit perkier. He smiles as he greets other couples with dogs. By the time we leave, climbing back into our little green car, he seems lighter, and less burdened.
I resigned from my job last week. Come September, I would have been working there for three years. In that time, I was permitted to learn new skills as an editor and grow my own projects from the ground up. My supervisor, knowing that I am a writer, approved my requests to periodically take time off for the purposes of attending writing residencies and retreats; when I returned, I often found a card waiting for me, telling me how much I was missed and how the team hoped that I had a productive, lovely time. For most other people, it would have been a good place to stay for much longer. As for me, I was convinced that I was going to stay there until I was fired or let go.
During the time when I was the most ill (read: psychotic) for the past, oh, six or so months, though — during the time when my parents were living with us, my mother cooking for me and making sure I slept, took my medication, went to my appointments, attended my outpatient program — it was questioned whether that job was truly a safe place for me. And I do not mean that I was being harmed, either physically or psychologically, by my company. I mean that when I did go into the office, I hallucinated phantoms. The work hours and demands of my position, while conducive to productivity for some, aggravated my symptoms. I realized, after months of being away from the office and away from my work duties, that to continue with an office job — no matter how wonderful or supportive — was to ensure the repetitious cycle of stress leading to illness.
At the same time, I received emails and messages about this site and my blog, telling me that what I am doing here is important. I heard from you, dear readers, about the transformations that I am creating in my own small way. I resigned from my job. I began to think about what products and services I might be able to offer my readership, as well as the readership I hope to grow. I registered to begin my own small business, standing in City Hall with the papers in my hands.
I am telling you about safe places. Right now, I am entering my new beginning. The Tarot cards that I pull lately — The Fool, The High Priestess, The Mother of Swords — repeat to me what I already know about what I am meant to be doing. I am waking early; I am doing a lot of thinking. The class I will be teaching in a few months is only the first step in a series of steps. There will be programs specifically for those living with mental illness, and books, and a one-on-one novel-writing intensive beginning in 2014. Yesterday, I finally settled on a new tagline, which is now also written on the blackboard by my desk: Tell your story. Be your dream.
It’s as much directed at me as it is to you, dear hearts.
Here are some more of my safe places: any view of ocean waves churning in and out, which is the closest thing to any notion of God that I possess; while nestled in the crook of C’s arm or on his chest; lying in my office’s bed with Daphne on my belly, her soft face looking up at me knowingly, her doe eyes half-closed, and then closing, as I pet her; the hammock in our yard, holding something to read. Tell me some of yours. I would love to know. And, if you can, wish me safety and bravery on my new journey.