Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Rest of Us

"Go anywhere but home." -the ultimate philosophical reference, Dove Chocolate

Seven Falls Trail, Sabino Canyon, AZ

Key West, FL

There are several reasons why I'd consider being a travel writer. However, there is one implosive reason why I know that I can't, and it's the fact that I've been traveling for six months but haven't written, really, many posts about it. I've had readers request updates while I was abroad and I had intended to oblige; however, my hands were busy clutching plane and train tickets and keeping my jaw from hitting the ground at every moment.

Switzerland Trail, CO

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA

Jökulsárlon, Iceland

Lots of people wonder about me. It's fair; I am wonderful, and I try very hard to keep my life that way. Perhaps many of us began as wandering children. Children who are, for better or otherwise, displaced. Displaced children grow up to become women like me. And at the minute, I must admit that I feel a bit incomplete and empty...though, I may just be tired. And those feelings are rare and far between when I am off exploring. 

Antelope Island State Park, Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City, UT

Brugge, Belgium

So at first glance, or even for several consecutive glances, it would seem that I've followed Dove's advice like my life depended on it. And in some ways, I think that it did.

One of my California friends who invited me into her life during my brief spell of homelessness recently challenged me to write down one significant event for every month of 2015. If anyone would have asked me to do this one year ago, I might have broken down. I had an alright 2014, but it was difficult to survive and it ended in a complete and shameful disintegration. Honestly, I had very little interest in seeing 2015; however, when I started to feel a bit better, I conjured up a creative way to make sure that I could do my best to stay alive for the lot of it, and I have.

Rendezvous Point, Teton Village, WY

Most of you know about these plans. They weren't secrets. And they involved seeing the world.

Biscayne National Park, FL

Notch Trail, Badlands National Park, SD

Boca Chita Key, FL

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

So, I did marvelous things. I explored Biscayne National Park, which is 95% underwater. Hiked around Devil's Tower and blew kisses to its basalt columns. Walked around the Yellowstone caldera, watched Old Faithful erupt, and survived a car breakdown in Montana. Found a hostel in Teton Village, and rode a tram up into the Teton peaks. Got stoned in Wyoming and hated it a lot. Camped on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. Got caught in an alpine rainstorm at Great Basin National Park, then headed underground to explore its caverns. Summited Half Dome at Yosemite National Park and then ate half of an enormous pizza. Lived in my car for 45 days. Worked for a criminal. Learned how to teach online. Learned how to climb. Returned to Badlands National Park for Astro Fest, and debuted at Joshua Tree National Park for Night Sky Fest. Climbed the 366 steps to the top of the Belfry of Brugge. Laughed on the inside while being shown the supposed blood of Christ in Belgium, because it actually just looks like a tampon. Ate mussels in Brussels. Made Irish s'mores with my Irish family. Got caught up in Irish Time, and missed my flight to Germany. Fell asleep with Syrian refugees in Frankfurt, and made friends with a guard who kept me safe until my train arrived. Met my baby nephew. Met my baby niece. Lived with my biological family and hung out with Max all the time. Saw all of my sisters. Saw the Mountain Goats live in London. Visited Buckingham Palace and Big Ben a week after the Paris attacks and nothing bad happened. Hiked on Icelandic glaciers and crawled through ice caves. Saw the Northern Lights dance in the Reykjavik skies. Soaked in Icelandic geothermal pools. Drove thousands of miles across the US. Wasn't afraid.

Woodville, MS

Clearwater, FL

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, WY

Sólheimajökull, Iceland
And for the most part, all of those things are things that I did by myself. More accurately, I solo traveled en route to visiting lots of my friends and family. But in between, I signed up for a lot of group excursions and was often one of very few who went alone. I never even think about that until I get there and meet the families and couples and friends who go together...and meanwhile, it's just me. It doesn't bother me though; I talk to them and everyone is friendly and wonderful. And I have so many people in my circle who would join me if they could...but it mostly ends up being just me. It wasn't at all lonely in the way that being homeless was lonely; instead it just makes me wish for, I suppose, a copilot. 

But now, here I am in Michigan watching the winter storm blow in and the snow accumulate. I'm home indefinitely, which absolutely nobody believes when I say so. But, I am for a minute. At least until my life begins to show some semblance of order, and until I can financially rebuild a little. I have plans for mini adventures, but ultimately, I don't know where my life is taking me and I can't make any long-term commitments until I do. I can't.

Those who are closest to me know that this is, in theory, phase two of my (hopefully) brief break from academia. Phase one involved maniacal traveling and trying a million different things, which based on the list above, I think I've done quite well. Phase two involves doctors, medication, and sitting still. An actual medical approach to the nervous breakdown for which I've attempted to self-medicate. Basically, a chance at healing disguised as a death sentence, because of its requirement that I stay put. 

I've already begun phase two. I've been medicated all month, which has allowed some beautiful days but it seems now that these particular pills are better at shortening my temper than leveling my dark days. It's hard to tell if I'm just exhausted from constant movement and just need several full days of sleep, but something is not right. Without reason, I am irritable, hot-headed, and angry more times than not, in addition to my baseline of traumatic stress that tends to make me feel frightened of being desired as well as feeling undesirable, simultaneously. 

Once again, I can take comfort in Einstein's branch of relativistic physics, which tells me that simultaneity isn't really a thing...but of course, observation triumphs over theory once again. And since my observables come from a chemically imbalanced observer, I'd never know the difference between reality and shadowy falsehoods, anyway.

And these realities and shadowy falsehoods are nesting grounds for the rest of us: the unattached needy, the ones who bask in love one moment and feel unlovable the next, the independent gypsies who secretly search for home, the wanderers who are afraid to stay put, but sometimes need to in order to get better. The anxiety and the sorrow mixed with the peace and the joy. 

Over the past couple months, I haven't felt like writing much, clearly. But, I picked today to write. Today was not a mentally healthy day. It was a lovely day filled with adventure and laughter on the outside, but it was not a healthy day inside my head. I'm not sure what kind of tone this post would have were I feeling better, but I suppose it doesn't matter. 

What matters is that, whether I like it or I don't, whether I feel like celebrating or I feel like crying, whether I'm wandering or staying, I'm still alive.

Half Dome Summit, Yosemite National Park, CA

No comments: