A New Season –
A year ago, I was having brunch with a friend when I mentioned that I was thinking about moving back to Boston. I was in the midst of a career transition. As I evaluated my options, I quickly realized that the factor weighing heaviest in making my decision was geography.
Do I stay in Seattle or do I move back to Boston?
While I had the freedom to move anywhere, whether I would venture somewhere other than these two cities was not something I seriously considered.
Should I go to Boston, the place I considered home for most of my adult life, or stay in Seattle, the unexpected dark horse whose path I followed six years earlier?
As I verbally weighed the pros and cons over coffee with my friend, he interjected with an opinion that caught me by surprise.
Why would you even think about staying in Seattle? After everything that you have been through here, I would think you would want to get the hell out.
While certainly not his intention, my friend’s words felt like a punch to the stomach. It was a classic situation of two people discussing one topic but viewing it from different perspectives.
My friend assumed that my cancer diagnosis would forever hang as a black cloud over my Seattle experience.
But nothing could be farther from the truth.
For, similar to the cast of family and friends who helped me get through my diagnosis and treatment, Seattle played an important role.
From the moment I arrived in Seattle, I felt embraced by the city. This was not surprising to me, as I had a strong feeling that Divine Providence had brought me to the Pacific Northwest.
I moved to Seattle in September 2011. Ten months earlier I had spent time in India on a yoga retreat with my sister Meghan. During my trip to Paris last month, I wrote about the significance of this trip, as it was where I met my writing teacher Kimberly Wilson.
But I had another experience on this trip that had a profound effect on my life.
On our final day in India, I met with a Yogi for a Vedic (Hindu) astrology reading. As I walked into the room to meet the Yogi, my stomach was trying to reconcile my simultaneous feelings of nervousness and excitement.
The Yogi was very young, which surprised me. However, this feeling quickly dissipated, as I began to feel discomfort over the fact that he wasn’t speaking. He was looking directly into my eyes and smiling, but not speaking.
I tried to do the same, but now nervousness had completely taken over.
WTF am I doing here?
I assume the Yogi sensed my unease as he asked the exact question that matched my concern.
Why are you here, Christine?
In playing this memory back in my mind, I realize there may have been some existential undertones to this question, but I was so happy there was finally an open door to conversation that I barreled through it like a pack of kids coming home from school in search of a snack.
Well, I have a lot going on in my life. The company I was working for just got bought by Microsoft, and I am not sure what I should do about it. I don’t think I want to stay, but if I leave, I am not sure what I would do next. I’ve been very focused on my career, but it’s not making me happy, although I’m grateful for everything that I have……
I paused for a moment. I needed to take a breath, as I had just verbally vomited in one long exhale. The look on the Yogi’s face was something akin to empathetic bemusement.
The Yogi explained that a job was not the biggest decision I needed to make. Then he went silent for a moment and looked intensely at my birth chart on his laptop. He returned his gaze to me, and with a knowing smile he said…..
I think you are going to move.
Where? I asked.
I am not sure, he responded. But it will be somewhere far from where you are living now.
I had resumed a normal breathing pattern, so I was ready to release the next wave of verbal vomit.
I started off with, I don’t think so. I live in Boston. Have you ever been there? It’s such a great city, and my family is close. And I have always considered myself an East Coast person. I can’t really see myself living somewhere else. Is my chart really telling you that I am going to move? I just have such a hard time seeing it…..
Crap. I was running out of air and needed to inhale.
The Yogi’s empathetic bemusement expression returned.
I stopped talking.
As if patiently waiting for his turn, the Yogi did not wait to fill the silence.
Christine, what if your first response was not automatically “no”?
As if shot out of a cannon, I started to respond with I don’t think that’s true, but somehow was able to fight off the urge.
Not only do I think you are going to move, I think you need to move. I think for your life to open, this move is important. At some point in the next several months, you are going to have a moment when you will just “know.” And this moment will be stronger than your resistance…..if you allow it.
My session with the Yogi wrapped up shortly after this prophecy. After hearing that I was going to uproot my life to some unknown place at an indeterminate time in the future, asking any additional questions didn’t feel necessary.
I thanked the Yogi and noticed that I felt very calm as I walked out the door.
When I returned home to Boston, almost immediately my contacts at Microsoft began recruiting me to relocate to Seattle. Amazingly, I did not connect this at all to my reading with the Yogi.
Every time someone broached the subject of relocation with me, my immediate response was No.
My resistance was strong.
However, I had agreed to give Microsoft a try. I was able to do my job from Boston, but I was now traveling to Seattle quite regularly.
In April 2011, I was in Seattle for a multiday meeting. One evening, there was a dinner scheduled for all the participants. A colleague who was local to the area offered me a ride to the restaurant.
We were discussing the events of the day, when I fully took in the view of the road ahead.
What’s that? I gasped.
The mountain? my colleague asked. That’s Mount Rainier.
Wait… what… is that? I stammered, finding it difficult to explain what I was seeing.
It was the most breathtaking view I had ever seen. I asked my colleague why I had never seen Mount Rainier before. He explained that apart from the summer months, Mount Rainier is usually obscured by clouds.
You are really lucky to get such a great view today, he said.
I barely slept that night. All I could think of was the Mountain. Then I remembered what the Yogi told me.
…You are going to have a moment when you will just “know.” And this moment will be stronger than your resistance… if you allow it.
The next day I met with the head of Human Resources and made a request to relocate. I had never made a decision that quickly or easily. Certainly not one that had such a significant impact on my life.
In subsequent meetings with my boss and colleagues, we agreed that I would move to Seattle in September, which gave me five months to prepare and wrap up my time in Boston. At that point, I wasn’t thinking so much about the impact of leaving Boston as I was so consumed with getting to Seattle.
A few months later, I received an email newsletter from Kimberly’s yoga studio in Washington DC, which announced the studio’s upcoming workshops. While I was not in the DC area often, I signed up for the newsletter after the India trip to stay connected to Kimberly.
I found myself again at a loss for words as I read the email.
The Yogi was coming to DC to do a workshop.
I immediately called Meghan.
We must go! I implored.
Fortunately, Meghan agreed.
Unfortunately, the Yogi’s workshop was the weekend before I moved to Seattle. Thoughts of all the tasks and packing I would need to get done raced through my mind. But I didn’t care.
The workshop was a weekend yoga intensive. However, the Yogi was offering one-on-one readings to any participants who were willing to meet in the evening.
I was willing. I signed up immediately.
When Meghan and I arrived at the workshop, the Yogi was sitting at the front of the room, surrounded by his handlers who had organized the event. Our eyes met, and he smiled at me.
I wondered to myself, Does he remember me?
I put this thought aside, thinking it was unlikely. The Yogi travels all over the world and meets with thousands of people every year. There was no way he remembered me.
Finally, the day ended, and I prepared for my reading. When I walked into the room, the Yogi greeted me with a hug. The silence and formality of our first meeting had transitioned into something much more comfortable and familiar.
With a bit of trepidation, I asked the Yogi, Do you remember me? We met in India last November.
Although I did not think this was possible, the Yogi’s smile got even wider. He then replied to my question.
Of course, I remember you. In fact, I was thinking of you last week. I have been traveling across the US this summer and I visited the most wonderful city for the first time. I thought of you because I think you would love it there. Have you ever been to Seattle?
Earlier this year, I wrote an essay called East Versus West, which dealt with another choice I had to make. Should I stay in Seattle for my treatment or move back East to be closer to my family?
This story lies at the heart of why I made the choice to stay in Seattle. My cancer diagnosis was fraught with unknowns, but I was certain that Seattle was where I was meant to be.
The gratitude I have in my heart for the kindness, compassion and love I have received over the past seven years is greater than any words I could write.
Seattle modeled for me what it means to live in balance. To be open to new people and new experiences. To care about the planet and revel in the majesty of nature.
I have often said that apart from receiving my diagnosis, everything since then has worked in my favor.
Seattle’s incredible doctors, caring nurses and the fierce tribe of friends I made here will be in my life forever.
Seattle prepared me to receive a life altering cancer diagnosis, then took care of me throughout the journey.
And at some of my lowest moments, Seattle always found a way to give me a glimpse of Mount Rainier, which served as a poignant reminder that what I was experiencing in the moment was only a small part of my larger story.
It’s been a month since I have posted an essay to the blog. I took a break because moving across the country while working proved to be two full-time jobs.
But what I realized in writing this essay, is that the time away was what I needed to give me the confidence to tell this story.
It’s a bit “out there.” I get that. But this experience was the catalyst for the past seven years of my life and taught me the importance of “trust” and “surrender” – not only when it comes to dealing with cancer, but in life in general.
Depending on your view, I understand that some may share my perspective, that there were larger forces at play bringing me to Seattle, while others may think, “Oh please – Microsoft was the only Yogi involved here.” And I am fine with either opinion.
But what I do know is this. I am not leaving Seattle; I’m just not living in Seattle. For this magic Emerald City will continue to teach and inspire me.
And now, once again, it’s time for Boston. A city that since my twenties, I have spent part of every decade.
I am ready for my new season.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you for your patience during my “Summer Break.” Starting today, a new blog will post every week on Thursday. I am happy to be back and look forward to hearing from you.
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