Two days ago, the following email popped up in my inbox: “Domain untetheredasacloud.com is about to expire.” The arrival of this annual message kicked off my also-annual mental tug-of-war—to blog or not to blog? Of course, it has been a very long time since I have truly blogged. The days of regular posts and toting my camera around everywhere ended long before this email showed up. I wonder, did I outgrow my blog? Did I lose my passion? Or did I realize that what I had to share with the world was, well, not worth sharing? All of these rhetorical questions make it sound like I’m having some sort of crisis, but the truth is I already have the answers I need. I’m going to let the domain expire. This will be my last post on Untethered as a Cloud.
The phrase “untethered as a cloud” is one I stole from a poet who performed at the University of Arizona Poetry Center during my freshman year in college. The entire poem was beautiful, but that single line spoke to me. I heard it and instantly knew that it captured exactly what I wanted to be—free, unburdened, untethered. So I pulled it from its context and its creator and slapped it on the top of my blog, claiming it as my own. Now, eight years or so removed from my insecure 18-year-old self, I had hoped to finally give credit to the poet who crafted that perfect line. Unfortunately, I cannot remember his name, nor can I find it in any of my journals from all those years ago. He was remarkable though, and his poetry was gold. He is one of many poets who inspired me to write.
As I flipped through the pages of my old diaries, searching for the poet’s name or some documentation of that fateful moment, I got sucked in to the past. I stopped looking for the long-forgotten poet and started revisiting my own story, my own messy, often embarrassing story. It took me so long to know myself. And I never did live the life untethered. Now, as a much more stable, confident adult, I’m not sure a person ever truly can. We are always tied to something or someone, to a place or a responsibility, to a future or a past. Hopefully, we can also learn to be tied up in the present and to be tethered to the things that really matter.
In my life, the things that have come to matter are the people that I love and the places that my heart calls home. And to these people and places, I am inseparably tethered. That is dangerous, I know, because all of those things will inevitably change, die, be lost. When I started this blog, that is what I feared most—losing the things I love, the things I had allowed to define me. My parents had gotten divorced not long before, and everything felt broken. I felt broken. So I decided that the only way to avoid more suffering was to become the kind of person that didn’t need anybody else. I gradually pushed people away, started living a little more recklessly, allowed myself to be consumed by work… it’s a classic story. Luckily, all of my attempts to self-destruct and self-exile failed. In every page of every journal, I wrote about the people in my life. Friends, lovers, mentors, family. Despite my determination to need no one, my life was always intertwined with the lives of others, all of them integral to who I was becoming and to who I am today.
And so, in my eight years of feigning the untethered life, I have come to learn—surprise!—that to be untethered as a cloud is not only impossible, but empty. What is life if it does not revolve around relationships, around connections, around love? It is a cliché, but it is also a universal truth: no person is an island. It is the most repeated story in human history. It is Harry standing before Lord Voldemort, it is Sam cradling Frodo on the slopes of Mount Doom, it is Hugh Grant in “About a Boy.” I have read and watched and reread this theme over and over again. I know, and I knew back then, that what makes life meaningful is having people to share it with—being tethered. But nothing really drives the point home better than learning that lesson for yourself.
Smiles and all my best,
Our little family at our home in St. Louis