Clearing My Antennas: How to Know What's Next After a Year of Traveling

“You need to clear your antennas,” she says.

I sit cozied into an antique armchair, my feet swinging off to the side; the faux fire heating my toes. I hug my warm coffee mug to my chest.

We’ve only been back in Colorado one week since taking a year to backpack around the globe. The cold, spring weather feels like a refreshing swim. I welcome cozy sweaters after months in Central America’s humidity and heat.

“I can’t see what’s next,” I whisper. “I feel like I always have some sort of direction in life, but not this time. It’s like staring at a concrete wall. I don’t know what to do.”

One of my dearest friends, she stares back at me. Her kids play with puzzles on the floor and the youngest burrows in her lap. Having ten years on me, I scan her face, invoking some of her wisdom.

“You need to clear your antennas,” she repeats. 

How though? I wonder.

I close my eyes, embracing the weight of the room; the weight of her words.

We spend the rest of the weekend drinking dark beers, eating casseroles and staying close to the fire. I try to be present, but the anxiety of our next move feels paralyzing.

After spending a year traveling, I assumed we'd return home with a sense of direction, but we only see fog. 

We drive home the next day—home being my parents’ basement.

I contemplate how to clear my antennas and what that means. I decide my antennas are my direct line to God and, like a television, they work as a figurative apparatus for sending and receiving messages.

But then I learn there are two types of antennas: the metallic equipment used in electronics and the two small appendages on an insect's head. Antennae is the plural form of the latter.

Curious, I research the purpose of antennae, specifically in butterflies and I discover they exist for directional purposes, as well as sense of time. Amazingly, Monarch Butterflies use their antennae to migrate south to Mexico every winter—my kind of butterfly!

And it all begins to make sense. Not only are my antennas blocked from receiving messages, but my antennae aren't working either. I'm not sure where to navigate to next.

So I spend the following week in hot yoga classes and buried in books. I force myself out of the basement and into coffee shops. I try to write. Desperate, I search for inspiration.

And it helps. I dream up business plans and even test a few. I revamp my website and update my LinkedIn. I practice deep breathing in Shavasana and sweat off my anxieties onto a yoga mat.

But the buzz returns along with the numbing anxiety and dense fog. The concrete wall appears thicker than ever.

Should I go back to a 9-5? I consider. Should we buy another home? Move to Spain? Start our own business?

My head begins to ache.

I recently read Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel, the words impacting me so deeply it took me months to finish.

I’m now reading his 19 Mercies. Mercy number one, titled Be here, now, is teaching me how to break through the fog.

Manning writes,

In [ life ] I ask you to make a serious effort to remain rooted in the moment. Discipline your time, your thoughts, your emotions. Don’t allow anxieties or distractions to crowd out the work of the Spirit in your life. Be here now. Then the God who comes will find you in the present—waiting, listening, and ready to receive His gifts. (Manning, 230)

 

Clearing our antennas/antennae requires we stop everything.

We grow quiet in our minds and hearts. We stop talking and thinking and doing. We sit in silence, embracing the air and energy around us, only speaking to ask questions.

We live with arms stretched out and palms facing the sky. A posture of surrender. A physical sign of submission. We hold this posture, take deep breaths and wait.

We remain until we become quiet enough to hear the tiny whisper. The whisper may be God. It may be our own hearts. It may be the quiet melody of life and air circulating around us—through us.

My mother-in-law emailed me a link to a Pico Iyer’s TED talk, The Art of Stillness, this past week. It’s only fifteen minutes long, but like Brennan Manning’s writings, it’s gold. His words break through the buzz in my head. His message might as well be the manual for how to clear one’s antennas/antennae.

So much of our life takes place inside our head, says Iyer.                                                         Take the time and the trouble to sit still. Nothing is as urgent as sitting still.                               Remake your life in the art of going nowhere.                                                                             The beauty of travel allows us to bring stillness back home.

 

He then quotes Shakespeare,

There is either nothing good, nor bad, but thinking makes it so.

 

I’m learning sometimes life looks like fog and concrete walls. Sometimes our antennas/antennae are blocked or broken.

It feels paralyzing and scary, but it happens. These moments create a call. A call to be present. To pause and linger. To sit down and breathe deep.

Life looks different now. We left everything we knew behind. We are back, but it’s different—we’re different. And the world keeps spinning. I have no idea what is next, but that’s okay. I’m clearing my antennas and antennae.

I’m outstretching my arms and laying flat on my back in surrender. I will linger here. Eventually, we will find our way.