"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Saturday, October 6, 2012

View From the Bottom and the Way Back Up (or, A Gift From a Flat Tire)

Every time I travel alone (which has been almost every time I've traveled), there is at least one point of deep loneliness.  The majority of my adventures have been filled with thrilling new connections and fulfilling times of solitude, and this trip has been no exception.  However, there has also always come a point when I don't care about how strong or courageous or adventurous I'm being, I just want someone next to me to share it with.  

And this trip has been no exception.

I hit that point earlier this week.  All the time I had been filling with long, scenic drives, parties with new friends, or adventures in the outdoors came to a screeching halt.  After my Glacier backpacking trip, the two people I know in this town (who happen to be fantastic, inspiring, adventurous women for whom I am deeply grateful), went back to their regular lives of work and class.  

I wasn't quite ready to leave Whitefish because I didn't yet know where I was going next, and I didn't take advantage of the main reason I love this place (the huge mountain wilderness) by going on solo hikes because I am just too darn afraid of being a vulnerable snack for a grizzly bear or mountain lion when I'm alone, and the consuming fear is not worth the trip.

So stagnant I quickly became.  And all the empty spaces in my mind, in my day, in my life, wasted no time in becoming filled with all the thoughts I have been avoiding thinking.  Why did I get married so quickly. . . why did it end so quickly. . . will I ever have a healthy relationship again. . . will I run out of money before I find somewhere I want to live out here. . . will I find somewhere I want to live out here. . . I thought I found someone to do this with me (remember this entry?) and now I'm alone again . . . blah blah blah . . . self-pity, self-pity, self-pity. . . bullshit.

So late Wednesday night, I made a spontaneous decision that it was time to leave Whitefish.  It didn't matter where I went, I just needed to get on the road and get out of my head.  Around 10pm, I threw my dirty laundry in my car, intending to get my clothes clean and be ready to leave the next morning.  And when I went out to my car, this is what I found:

A gift from my day trip Polebridge
Well howdy-do.  I guess I'm not going anywhere.

I dragged my bags of laundry back into the empty house, plopped down in the middle of the floor, and started crying.  "Why am I doing this to myself?  Why have I taken myself away from all of my friends, family, and support at the time when I need them the most?"

Which is when it hit me to call on my support system.  I began with my friend, Eshe, who is an all-star listener and one of the wisest women I know.  I cried and talked out all of my fears until I got to the bottom of them.  And underneath it all was a fear of becoming part of a new community, getting attached to it, and then losing it like I've lost so many other relationships in my life.  That I would be "too much" for them, and they would get sick of me, just like Oldman did.

Well once I said it out loud, I realized it was just plain stupid and not worth giving any space in my brain.  I admitted to Eshe that really, I was desperately missing the community I had found in Toledo but was just afraid to admit to myself that that's where I wanted to live.  It wasn't in the mountains - hell it wasn't even out west!  And it would mean that I had made this whole trip for naught, only to return to right next door to where I started.

And once I said that out loud I realized it was also stupid.  So I gave myself full permission to allow Toledo to be a possibility for me.  (I hope you're reading this, Toledo fam.)  However, I still had a bit of adventuring to do out here before I was ready to make that decision for sure.

The Toledo crew

The next day, I took my car to the garage and found that it would be a full week until I could get the tire I need (something to do with all-wheel drive and having to get a tire that matches the other three's tread exactly and blah blah blah).  So the universe is forcing me to stay put for another week, much of which may be filled with more solitude, whether I like it or not.  I decided to surrender to it rather than remain in opposition and cause myself further suffering.

My next step in calling on my support system was to call my friend, Shelley.  I knew that she was planning to fly to Denver in late October for a work conference, and we had talked vaguely about maybe meeting up to do some backpacking.  I called her and said, "Let's do it.  Let's plan it."  We decided to take about a week to explore western Colorado and eastern Utah.  I hung up totally psyched,  armed with a new direction (literally a geographic direction) and a timeline in which to fit it all in.

I began planning my route south from Montana, through Idaho, eastern Utah, and down to Sedona, Arizona.  When I hit Sedona, I'll head east to Taos and Santa Fe, and then north to pick up Shelley in Denver.  I plan to couch surf, camp in my car at some of the national parks, and stay at a few intentional communities I've researched along the way.

I have three weeks to do this.  This is the deal I made with myself: if I don't find a community and place that I connect with as much or more than the one I found in Toledo in that three weeks, then after the trip with Shelley, I'll simply head back east and set up shop in Toledo.  If I do find somewhere out here, I'll simply go back to that place instead.  It's a win-win.

The final step in calling on my support system was to have a phone session with my brilliant life coach from back in Maryland.  I asked him to help me make some sense out of what happened to my marriage.  I said, "I need a way to speak about this situation that is both truthful and honors both of our dignities.  I don't want to blame him or me, or go into more detail than necessary.  Yet people keep asking me about it and I want some sort of party line to hang on to.  What can I say happened?"

He talked me through it and at the end, I came up with this:

I chose to rush into a marriage, and then the cultural and conditioning differences quickly became more than either of us were prepared for.

I'm sticking to that for now.  And I'm going to make the most of my upcoming week here in Whitefish. I plan to spend more time around town and get out to the wilderness, even if it's just to read by a beautiful lake with my bear spray next to me.  And I will keep writing, both on here and on the book I've been writing about this whole journey.  Stay tuned.

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