Tampa Was My Oz

As some may know, I spent a season of my life in Florida. From November 2014 to May 2015, it was the place I called home. What brought me there is always the question. Why a stay so short is commonly asked. Florida was not designed to be my resting place. It was my stepping stone, where I needed to go to be where I am today. To me, if I were to split my life into when I was just existing and when I began truly living, Tampa would be the end of one and the beginning of the other.  I knew with no doubts when God was calling me to Tampa and I knew with no doubts when God was calling me back to North Carolina. My heart knew where I needed to go to be set free and where I needed to return to fly with those wings.

I wrote something in March, with my heart screaming to make the decision, putting into words my desires and the purpose to this season. As I am embarking on a new phase of my journey and going through all my writings, I stumbled across it. I felt it was time to share.

Tampa was my Oz.

The tornado of fear within picked me up and dropped me into this unknown land, a place I have never seen before. I knew nobody. I had no plans. I just got uprooted and plopped in a foreign land thinking that it would be all that I needed. The tornado was my out from all the chaos, the past, the confrontation, real recovery, potential pure joy, connections, safety. I wanted out from all that I thought I didn’t deserve, all that scared me, all that would bring me healing. I wanted to run from anything that would bring me inner peace. I wanted to run from anything that would try to cut my remaining ties of the disorder. In Tampa, I could be alone and still hold onto the last little pieces of the sick self. Nobody would know the truth of how I was doing because nobody would be around to see. All they could hear was my voice and that I knew I could fool people with.

Tampa was my escape.

I first arrived and everything seemed magical. It was all new and exciting. It was bright and thrilling. I definitely wasn’t in North Carolina anymore and that delighted me. The opportunities were endless. I was in a place nobody knew my past or who I was. I was in a place never touched by the disorder. I was in a place free to do whatever I wanted. I could be whoever I wanted and nobody could stop me. I could take the route of staying in quasi recovery and would have no challenger to that. I could slip away and nobody would know. I could just disappear. I thought that was what I needed. I thought that this would be my ticket out. I thought I would find my peace.

For a while, I did.

But as time went on, a deep hole within me was felt. An aching that nothing was filling. It was a loneliness like never experienced before. It was a longing for all that I ran from. One day it hit me that all I ever needed was already in my own backyard. And all I wanted was to go back home. I wanted to click my heels and be back where I belonged surrounded by love and support. I craved being in a place where people knew who I was and would be there to see through the lies and pick me up. I longed to be where I felt safe and had never ending love.

The journey was not meant to be walked alone.

It hit me when I began to actively pursue physical restoration on my own. I realized that this is not something I want to experience by myself. I cannot handle the pain and the discomfort without support. I cannot sit with myself alone as I feel the change and the loathing without someone near me who accepts me unconditionally to love me back to life. I cannot be alone at a time when I want to rip off my skin and doubting every decision I am making. At a time like this, I need to be encompassed in love.

I do not want to be by myself.

I don’t want to be alone when I eat my first slice of cake. I don’t want to be alone when temptation kicks in to give in to the thoughts and let go. I don’t want to be alone when I have to get new clothes to fit my changing body. I don’t want to be alone for the first holiday I feel free to eat a normal meal. I don’t want to be alone when I see my full head of hair back. I don’t want to be alone when I get my first desire to go out to eat. I don’t want to be alone the mornings I am crying at my reflection staring at a new self that I have never seen before. I don’t want to be alone when I get to see myself through God’s eyes. I don’t want to be alone when I feel God’s healing hand upon my mind. There is only one place I can think of that I want to be through this all, and that is North Carolina, the place I ran from because I subconsciously knew that place would be my full healing and where my heart belonged. That thought of actually being happy scared me. And I let the tornado whisk me off to avoid it all.

I miss all that I convinced myself I did not need.

I miss family and the experiences that can be as I move into restoration. I miss seeing the ones I love. I miss connections. I miss being a part of something that my soul bonds to. I miss human touch. I miss being in the presence of people who know my story and see where I am going. I miss being in a place I am seen and felt. I miss the church that brought me to life and helped me find my purpose. I can never get away from that place and nothing can ever seem to compare to the belonging I feel there. I don’t want to keep watching from afar and longing to be in that place of love. I want to be standing there in restoration. I miss the place I was called to, that God keeps trying to make my home but I run from when I can, not trusting His greater plan.

My Oz showed me what my heart already knew yet my mind wasn’t yet ready to comprehend. Tampa opened my eyes to what I need, what makes me happy, what is my home. Tampa brought me to a place when I am open to letting go and being healed and living without fear of what that entails. Tampa was what I needed to guide me home. Tampa was my test of strength only to see the power was within me all along. Tampa was part of the plan but not for what I expected.

Right now, doors keep being shut or not opening at all despite my persistence. Opportunities are being taken away. The pressure is mounting, and I am collapsing without the support. Now it is time to find my hot air balloon to take me to where I belong. The yellow brick road is coming to an end, and for that I am grateful for I am tired of running. Home is calling me back.

And now home is where I reside. We all have an Oz in life. Whether it be a physical place or a state of mind or somewhere emotionally, we all have a location that serves as our retreat, a way to escape and avoid our fears. But we need to remember that Oz was neither permanent nor perfect. All you need is available where you are once you decide to open your eyes to see it and your heart to believe it. Tampa shook me and shaped me and broke me free in the most gloriously messy way. It birthed life coaching, a fresh blog, a hope reborn, restored faith, a new direction, and a revitalized and authentic me. For that, I owe that city everything. But that was its sole purpose and with the job done, I knew I had to go back home. What awaits me here is still being written, but I truly am so excited for what the pen inscribes next.

Love, light, and bravery,

J.L.