Confronting Change You Can’t Control (Part 1)

It could always be Great. 

My mom told me to write that on every wall and mirror around the house. I was on the phone with her, basically in a downward spiral of apprehension about a major change happening this year that is mostly out of my hands. Allow me to rip off the band-aid: My parents made the decision to move to Colorado this year, back to my hometown. Pause for dramatic effect.  

Many reasons played into that decision, a big one being that a majority of my moms family lives there and we will have a tighter community of support. Given that 2/3rds of our fam is sick and one family member is a dog, the move makes sense. It can be a tad isolating out here on the ol ‘farm’.

My moms casual reminder that it could always be great was a nice departure from the supposedly optimistic adage “Hey, It could always be worse!” I’m not sure that phrase has ever really made me feel better while in the midst of a struggle. It’s like “Well hey, both of your legs could be blown off!” “Riight. That’s true. I could have zero legs right now. Cool, thanks. I feel better.”

So yes, I have both legs, but I am still pretty afraid of the whole thing and I guess that makes sense given the scale of this. It’s a big change, and since I don’t have the health to live on my own yet, it’s one that’s out of my hands, which always adds a pinch of frenzy. I’ve sort of tortured myself thinking of ways to stay here, but I just don’t have the physical stability to do it. This last crash that’s held me down since Christmas just reinforces how mercurial my *health* is and how unreliable  I am as a result. A few weeks ago the crash finally let up for roughly a week, then returned angrier than before, and I’ve been essentially a half-living disaster since then. Yeaaaah wooooo! 

You can see how thoughts like that (I’m sick, my life is chaos, I don’t have jurisdiction over my own life) can play with your mind the way a cat bobbles a feathery toy around. It can take your whole outlook and shape it in many variations. 

One of the hardest parts the last few months has been maintaining an open mind that this might actually be a good thing. It’s meant a lot of reigning in of my thoughts, which tend to go default mode into armageddon type thinking. It’s as though some small part of me decided early on that since I didn’t choose this, it wasn’t a good idea and it would end in disaster for my life. And it’s pretty crazy how easy and quickly those thoughts can assemble, pile on one another, and leave me completely convinced that I’m going to melt away and die in my parents basement…or some other absurdity. I don’t know where that fear stems from—I mean I’m pretty sure they have internet in Colorado. 

I’ve had to work to clean up the useless, unhelpful thoughts that tend to mess with my mind and sense of wellbeing. By that I don’t mean I dismiss all the thoughts or feelings I have about this—which are of course, a lot. Certainly there is a legitimate sadness and type of grief that comes from leaving what’s been home the last 18 years. Those feelings deserve their own validation and processing because, damn, it’s sad to leave the people and place you’ve come to know and love so much. Louisiana has felt familiar and comfortable for a long time, and it will be tough to leave, even if I do plan to come back. ;)  

What I am referring to are the haunting thoughts, the ones that make you feel bad about things that are not within your control.

This kind of thinking totally blurs and limits my perspective about the life I have. It dismisses all the good and incredible parts of it, doesn’t see possibility or feel hopefulness or gratitude. It downsizes the significance and value of people and things just because they aren’t in line with what I had planned. (I think humanity might have an addiction to plans but that’s another day) These are just hypothetical scenarios based mostly on fear and a future no one can actually know. Like Tolle says, it is always more empowering to face facts. Even when the facts are scary or we wish they were different, it’s in acknowledging the real and being present in the now that we have access to our innermost power and strength. 

I realized early on how incredibly contrasting the outcomes are that emerge just from framing things in my head one way vs. another. This is something I do have control over, and it’s become pretty important that I put this ability to use, otherwise the ugly thoughts take over and down the rabbit hole I go. 

It’s been a good but difficult exercise to step back and try to just watch the way my mind can interpret the same reality in two completely different lights. The modern mystics would advise to consider the circumstance from the point of view of an objective observer. Watch your thoughts, but don’t become entangled in them. Allow them to appear, then let them go. Easier said than done, of course. But at any rate, the mind astounds me in its duality. For instance..

Here is one side of my mind thinking about the move: Reiterate the story that my life is out of control, that the disease makes all the choices, that I have no say so about things and thus can’t really be happy because it’s not up to me. My personal growth and goals and contentment will all be stunted or I’ll cease to pursue them because my lack of health and other people have the wheel and I’m just a passenger to my own life. What’s the point in trying? As a passenger I don’t decide where I go and thus my happiness isn’t my option but one left up to others or whatever new circumstances materialize without my consent. I don’t want to go. It’s not fair I have to leave what feels like home. What about my family and friends here? What about my dream to live in uptown New Orleans one day? Now it will never happen. I guess I’ll go eat worms. 

I can’t tell you how easy it was for each of those negative thoughts to formulate, one after the other, building on each other like a lego tower turning into a whole city…

Now here is my mind consciously thinking about the move: Colorado? That’s cool, I guess I’ll get packing. 

Could the differences be that dramatic? And is it actually possible to participate in your own life that way?  In The Untethered Soul, Singer makes the point over and over that of course it’s possible! We don’t always decide what happens, but we always the ultimate say so in how we react toward the circumstances of our life. And it’s those decisions, not what happens, that leave us either content, at ease, joyful, whole, or bitter, angry, jealous and depressed.

All it took was a few negative thoughts to quickly unravel into my making the choice to play no part in my own autonomy or the trajectory of my life. Just because I’d be living somewhere else, I removed myself from having any accountability in manifesting a life I wanted or that I could be proud of. That’s a crazy conclusion to make! But when you’re present and you actually break down your thoughts, you see what a huge majority of them are insane and simply need to be let go of. That’s not so easy when you’re hit with an onslaught of frenzy and angst, like a whirlpool that takes you down, where there’s no clarity.

So I have to practice at disarming the egoic force from taking over in my head, which I do by sword fighting the air with a Star Wars lightsaber. Just kidding. Like Tolle teaches, whenever I have a future based thought made mostly of fear, I replace it in my mind with facts that are actually true. I try to repeat positive reminders instead of playing a record of apprehension on repeat with a sad ending.

In other words, I do the thing basically all chronically sick people must learn to do at some point: surrender.

As always by ‘surrender’ I don’t mean give up–ever. I mean to leave a neutral space open in your heart and your head where good things can happen because you allow a new path to be paved even though you didn’t design it. If I had understood earlier on in my relapse that reality doesn’t really care about your plans, I might’ve saved myself a good deal of pain from what was already such a hardship. I thought I could fight things that were already in place and moving quickly forward. Life was just waiting on me to catch up to what was real, instead of trying so hard to hang on to the way things were.

All I know is that there is a pulse to life, a certain beat that resonates deep within us as individuals and as a collective. We can typically feel through that pulse a general sense of what direction life is moving in. We can resist. Be the fish swimming upstream. Or we can lean in and greet life with an open and adventurous spirit, despite limits and changes and things beyond our control. It’s true I am afraid and I’m sad to leave what I thought would always be home. But I have been shown over and over the miracle of surrender, of allowing life to ‘move me’ and the amazing outcomes that can result when we feel fear but move forward anyway. It always comes down to following that thumping compass we hear deep within and far beneath us.

Here’s hoping that it just might be great.

Health, Happiness, Hello Colorado

IMG_E1484

 

The Eighty Year Old Twenty Year Old

How come no one ever warned me about how hard your twenties are?

Well first, let me say hi. I returned last week from a medicinal tour of America. Yeah! I had to see my doctors in Colorado and Miami–Which means I had to take part in modern American air travel which means I felt like crap a lot. I went to Colorado and felt absolutely terrible the whole time I was there. The funny thing is, despite feeling awful, I had a really great trip. I stayed with my grandma at her assisted living residence. But judging what my days were like and what her days were like, you’d guess I was the 83-year-old and she was 28. She lives a very active, involved, and social life. She wakes up by 5 and it seems like she doesn’t stop until she sits in her recliner chair at night. She can hardly keep her eyes open through the news. Me, I slept mostly. She brought my food at normal food hours and finally after being completely fatigued and short of breath for 3 days, my uncle Mike hooked me up to her oxygen tank she uses at night.  So I looked like this most of the time.

 

Air please thank you.
Air please thank you.

The extra oxygen helped, but I was still out of sorts the whole time. Weak, Dizzy, Fatigued Yada Yada Yada. Luckily my grandma is one of the easiest people to be around. We talked a lot while I was there. I love hearing her stories. I love how happy she is at her age. I love that grandmas exist. I used to fear growing old, but watching her, I don’t anymore. In fact, I’m ready to stop being young and stupid.

I ask about a warning I never got because this Saturday I will turn 29. The last year of my twenties. It seems typical to freak out a little when the big three-oh approaches on the horizon. I sense that a bit. But at the same time, my twenties have been really hard. And nobody warned me! Though I don’t know who would, and it wouldn’t really make a difference would it. There’s been tragedy and heartache and some things I didn’t think I’d find my way out of. But, alas, I survived. I laugh because the more people I ask about their twenties , the more I hear people say that those were some of their toughest years. In fact most people said their 30′s were great and my grandma insists your 40’s are the best. Hers were anyway. I don’t know what makes them so, tortured, your twenties. Mine have felt mostly uphill. You know how babies go through the “terrible twos”? Well maybe your twenties are the adult version of that. I think it’s an odd time. You’re no longer an adolescent at all, but the college experience isn’t quite a real-world experience. I went to a University of 30,000 people, but still, it felt like a bubble. After leaving, it felt a little, anti-climatic? It’s like you’ve got all these credentials to prove that you’re an adult now, and the world expects that from you. But there’s still so much to figure out. Then again, I guess everyone is still trying to figure it out. The most important thing is to figure yourself out. I guess by your 30’s you’ve got a pretty good grasp on who you are, and that makes things easier in general. Have you ever hung out with someone who is unsure of themselves, who needs approval for everything? It’s exhausting, and it stems from not having a good hold of themselves. Sadly, we’ve probably all been there. I have to say that not really having my own home or my own money sort of stripped down my identity. I had to start over in a way. It was humbling but it also helped me get to know myself better. When you lose all these external things, it forces you to go within.

Then again, I can’t deny that my twenties had some amazing parts to it. I fell in love for the first time. I lived in France. I published my first article. I traveled and I made incredible, life long friends. I wrote a blog that became bigger than me. It’s had its perks. But I must admit, a part of me is banking on it getting a little easier in my 30’s. Like I’ll really get to enjoy all the wonderful things I’ve gathered with me along the way. A girl can dream.

A few days ago, I found a journal that my dad kept. It feels like I found lost treasure. Of course it’s always extra special when you’re reading someones written words after they’re gone. I read it with such a sense of wonderment. I was only 12 when he died, so I wasn’t really able to experience who my dad was an adult. I feel sad to have missed out on it, but at the same time, reading this journal has helped me to know the man I wasn’t able to know as a kid. I admit I completely idolize my father. It’s easy to do–he was a wonderful person and anyone who knew him would tell you that. He was a lot of people’s best friend. I’ve only ever heard of the wonderful things he did and the amazing person he was. I remember him yelling only once, and that was at my sister for not eating the disgusting buckwheat pancakes he cooked for breakfast. That night he bought her yellow roses, apologizing for having gotten upset.

In other words, he was Mother Theresa. And I often wonder if I am living up to how good he was or how generous he was. Furthermore, I compare other people to who he was, setting a really high bar particularly for the men in my life. Which is for the most part, good. It’s fine to have high standards. But sometimes I wonder if the bar is set so high that no one could live up to it. I need to remember that my dad was still human. He got upset sometimes. He judged people sometimes. He even cursed at our dog Bacchus while throwing rocks and chasing him down the street in his suit and tie. He slipped up like we all do, and I need to remember that. Reading the journal has brought to light the very human nature of my dad that I sometimes forget was there. The best part was, in the journal he describes each of my siblings and me and what makes us each unique. There on the last page were his words about me. Reading them was such a gift. It felt like I was sent an early birthday present, from somewhere over there. :)

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Anyway, I’ve become a little distracted. I try to write but I just feel more an urge to read.  Which is OK so long as this doesn’t turn into a writing breakup. I need to stay focused. But it’s been gloomy and grey and rainy out–so it’s perfect read and nap weather. Know what I mean jellybean? Anyway, all this reading and napping jazz has me worn out. I’m off to dream world.

Health, Happiness, Twenties.

Home Is Where the Holiday Is

A funny thing happens after you leave your parents house and go off to college or out into the world to find whatever needs finding. You start making connections with people and places that aren’t familiar, that aren’t necessarily where you grew up and learned how to be you. Most people go through some sort of transition, often in their twenties, where home base may turn out to be far away from the original. Now more than ever, I don’t have a short answer for where home base is. When people ask me where I’m from, I have no idea where to start. “Well I was born in New Orleans, but I grew up in Colorado until we moved back to Louisiana when I was 16.” “Why did you move back?” “Oh well, my dad died when we were living in Colorado. But then my mom met and fell in love with someone in Louisiana so we moved back. But then THAT GUY died too. *Pause for uncomfortable silence and obligatory “Sorry to hear that.” “Oh my gosh I’m sorry to hear that!” “It’s cool. She ended up falling in love a third time and has remarried again! But lately they’ve been in Colorado, where my moms family is.” “So why are you in California?” “Oh, well I came out here to dog-sit for my sisters in-laws but then I became increasingly ill and have kinda just been living on their couch since September.” “Sick with what?” “How much time do you have?”

My life has never really had a lot of stability. Moving in the middle of high school from Colorado to Louisiana kind of threw everything off. I attended three different high schools and once in college, like most kids, we moved every year. I studied abroad one semester in France where my home was the tiniest room I’d ever lived in, but it was completely comfortable and adequate. I loved it. I spent summers in New York where my brother’s apartment on Lexington was home. After college I moved to New Orleans and got a grown-up job. I finally had an apartment I loved (huge windows) and I lived alone, which I really treasured. But I only had it for 6 months. Getting sick in January, riding in the backseat of my parents car after that day in the hospital, something told me I wouldn’t be in my own home for a long time. And that certainly turned out to be true. Since that night, nearly two years ago, I’ve been living in other people’s houses. I’m lucky I have so many people willing to host me. But truthfully, I dream of the day when I can have home base back. When I can have things the way I want them. When I’m not stepping on anyones toes or breaking whatever house guidelines there are. Living with people is tough at best. And that’s the case with most everyone. If I want the comfort of “home” I have to go inward. Feel who I am, believe in what I’m doing, and trust that I am where I’m supposed to be. Isn’t that the comfort of “home” after all? A place that knows and understands you, a constant among change, a softness where the world is hard.

I remember thinking the universe was playing a cruel joke on me. Finally after years of bouncing around, dealing with the work of roommates and compromise and “Who ate my burrito?!” texts, I had my own place. I was settled. Just me and Monty. I hung curtains and picked out an area rug and was finally living in a space I totally identified with. I remember picking out decorative pillows thinking, “Only an adult buys decorative pillows!” Maybe it’s a desire among the youngest in families, to finally feel like an adult. I don’t know, but I was on my own and that felt really really good. And then, it was gone. As much as I loved the independence, I had to let it go, because being sick didn’t allow me that self-sufficiency I had earned anymore. I would have to learn to rely on others, to ask for help, and to be appreciative even if I felt bitter. It’s been one of the harder lessons to learn among all this–Humbling at best. Turning bitterness into gratitude is like trying to fold a fitted sheet- I’ve heard it’s possible, but I’m rarely able to do it. They’re both art-forms I am still trying to master.

So now here I sit in Colorado, in the town I grew up in, at my grandmas house. It still has the familiar smells (somewhere between a library and church) and familiar sights (the picture of me from kindergarten on the great wall of grand children.) and the same rules (Everyone write your name on your cup and drink out of the same one!) Is this home? Or is it California? Or New Orleans? Well, for the next week or two, it’s here. Where my siblings and nieces will shuffle in from all over America and make lots of noise and pull lots of pranks and inevitably play a game of monopoly that may or may not turn ugly. Where we’ll eat big meals and fight over who my moms favorite is and sing songs off-key around my brother Doug playing piano. There will be dogs and babies and gifts that nobody needs. But the best part about love is, it doesn’t need a certain city or house to flourish. It can grow anywhere. I suppose that’s another art-form I’m attempting to master. And I guess where love grows, is where I’ll call home. This Christmas, it’s Colorado.

Health, Happiness, and Happy Holidays– Wherever Home Is.

For Some Reason, This Gem Is Still on the Wall.
I’m going to use this pose in all my pictures. .

“Home is where you can say whatever you want, because nobody listens to you anyway.” :)

-Joe Moore

Dude. Solitude.

Sound the bells. I survived the Colorado Crash of 2012. I’m alive. Woohoo!

Yesterday I finally started feeling back to my normal sickley self, not my deadly sickley self. And it feels good to be able to be out of bed for more than an hour a day. That tends to wear on a girl…at least a little. I can’t believe what a disaster my Colorado vacation was. It’s funny I’m still referring to it as a vacation. That’s like taking someone to the DMV and calling it a date. It was really hard for me to enjoy my time there because I was in constant recovery, catch up, and crash mode and the cycle didn’t break the whole time I was there. I had to say no to things and miss out on things which I’m typically “OK” with but this time I felt real sadness and anger about it. I wanted to blame someone, I wanted a reason, I wanted to “talk to the manager” about this. I wanted it to be somebody’s fault and somebody to fix it. But, that’s not how it works. These are the things that teach us grace and surrender and sometimes getting the lesson is the most painful part. By the last night I had broken down in tears just exhausted from being exhausted and feeling like the Debbie of all Downers. This illness tends to turn its victims into high maintenance fun suckers when it’s at its worst, and nobody likes to be around that. By the end I was tired of who I was on that trip and what I required. But my brothers talked me through it and we decided that next vacation we take, we aren’t making an itinerary. We’re not overcommitting to engagements and we’ll try to just take each day as it comes. We’re going to try to effectively do nothing–something I’m pretty spectacular at and most people are still getting the hang of. I’m happy to teach my ways. I’m doing nothing right now!

 

As hard as the last two weeks have been, I feel like it is all starting to pay off because now I find myself in Paradise. My sisters in-laws left yesterday morning for a three-week trip to Africa. When they told me about their voyage months ago my first question was what they were going to do with Mikey–an enormous yellow lab and king of the household. When they threw around options I casually mentioned that Hey, I have nothing to do in August (or any month ever for that matter) and I could watch Mikey for them if they preferred he had a dogsitter. A few days later they took me up on the offer and even allowed me to bring Monty here too. So now, after all the exhaustion, noise, chaos, itineraries, plans and breaking of plans, I find myself in a beautiful California home with two loveable drooling teddy bears, and I could not feel more at peace having arrived. When I wake up in the morning, there is silence, and there is no itinerary to follow. DO YOU KNOW HOW GREAT THAT IS!?!?

 

Truthfully I have always treasured my solitude. If I were a Country Singer, I would write a song called “Solitude Has Always Been a Friend of Mine.” Anyway, it happens at least a few times a year that I require almost total isolation and dream of being locked up in a cabin somewhere and cut off for a little while. It’s like my souls version of food cravings. I have always enjoyed small endeavors on my own. Sometimes I like to eat at restaurants alone, or see movies or go to the bookstore. I love not having to keep up a conversation and going at my own pace, which is usually pretty slow. There isn’t anything so commonplace and exhausting to me as small talk. I have no patience or energy for idle conversations anymore. I don’t like having the “What’s new with you?” conversation. I don’t like to hear how your job is going or how your brothers band got a new drummer. And I don’t like to share news from my neck of the woods either–obviously because I don’t have any. “Yep, still sleeping on peoples couches. Well bye!” I realize this probably makes me sound like an old curmudgeon, and maybe I’m starting down that path at the ripe old age of 27, but there is something about those forced conversations that sometimes even the mere thought of them drains me. They just feel so inauthentic on both ends and since my time out of bed is so precious anyway, it’s hard for me to spend it on a conversation that we’re having to fulfill some duty–or because we feel like we should. This is why having a dog as a best friend works out great for me. No elevator talk.

I don’t care about your job.
Me either!

The other part is, while writing is my passion, it’s kind of  a lonely practice. You can’t do it well with people around. And you kind of have to “strike while the iron is hot” which is typically for me sometime around 3 in the morning. The act of writing is not nearly as satisfactory as the result, and many times the process is grueling. Anyway, the only living thing that can hang out but not disturb me is a dog. Two dogs even. So Monty and Mikey have been great companions. We eat, sleep, swim and write and there’s no itineraries or talking about our jobs. Wanda left me a note welcoming me to help myself to any and everything and to write a book while I’m here. Think I’ll take her advice.

Health, Happiness, Solitude.

Help and Thank You

It’s been almost 7 days and 12 hours that I’ve gone without internet and I am gently reminded just how much a product of the multi-tasking, turned-on tech generation I am. I think going this long without wi-fi is my generations equivalent to camping. I’m pretty sure they call this roughing it. And I’m pretty sure my parents would call me a pansy.

This is an easy problem to fix, as most public restaurants and coffee shops have free wi-fi these days but since I’ve basically spent the last seven days IN BED or using some other piece of furniture as though it is one, I haven’t been able to take my little coffee shop trips like I’d planned.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but since the day after I arrived here, I’ve been crashing about an hour after I wake up. Apparently my adrenal glands aren’t functioning properly and I’m bottoming out after I wake up. And not just “Gee I’m sleepy I think I’ll lay down for a bit” kind of crash. (Since becoming sick I have no idea how a power nap works. I just know 15 minutes could never ever ever ever be enough when I’m in a crash.) It’s more like hitting a brick wall where the only thing to do is go back to bed. If that sounds depressing, well, yeah, it is a bit. But there is no such thing as faking it. I made it to dinner at my cousins Shawns house after three days in bed but didn’t feel like I could keep my head up to play cards after dinner. And we ALWAYS play cards after dinner. That’s what you do in Colorado. That’s what you do when grandma is around. And that was just one of many things I’ve had to miss out on since arriving, which is very challenging emotionally for me. I’m the youngest of four, so basically since birth it’s been my prerogative to just not miss out on anything. But that affect right there is one of the hardest parts of this illness, many times even harder than the physical pain itself.

A few nights ago after spending the last two days straight in bed, I felt like I started to lose my mental strength. My siblings had left to go visit with old family friends who I’d really like to have seen but I just couldn’t make it happen. When I’m sick like that I’ve always felt it’s best to be alone since I’m not a ton of fun to be around and basic “sounds” really bother me. But then after everyone left, I got sad and wanted them to come back again. All of my siblings are here and we have taken over my grandmas little house. My brother has been sleeping on an air mattress in the middle of the living room–and this has really worked out for me, because I basically get to be in bed while simultaneously hearing to the conversations and sounds and chaos that ensues when more than one Gelpi is in a room together.

The truth is, I find myself looking for an answer to all of this and there often isn’t one. There are a lot of questions I have about my life that most of the time I am able to let go unanswered. But during those times like a few nights ago, I can’t escape the questions so easily, and I feel anger about them because it simply doesn’t make sense to me. I was angry that most of my vacation has been spent lying down. Angry that I was missing out on my favorite activities. Jealous of other people’s health. Angry that I rarely get to see all my siblings at the same time, and now here we are all together but I can barely get out of bed. Marc Nepo says it’s our job to make sense out of our pain. So that is what I tried to do the other night as I did the only thing I promised I would do that day–take a bath. Big day for Mary!

During dark times like that, I don’t often have big revelations or hear the voice of God. I just let myself feel the pain and then remind myself that tomorrow is another day and say some prayers. There are two prayers I say when I’m all out of juice and all together they make up three words. And here they are: “Help” and “Thank You.” When I’m too tired to spell it out for the universe, (and let’s get real, I shouldn’t have to spell it out for the universe) those are the prayers I say, and honestly it feels like enough. The help prayer is for strength and the thank you prayer is for my family, particularly my siblings. They have taken phenomenal care of me since arriving, and my sister Amelie has been force feeding me protein every two hours. Even when I’m cranky and don’t feel like moving, talking, or eating. They bring me home leftovers and pick up my prescriptions and lie to me when I ask them if the party I missed out on was any fun. Each of them is an invaluable gift to me. Sometimes I think about my life and think maybe I’ll never get married. Maybe I won’t find “The One” or my soul mate or whatever they talk about on Sex and the City. And then I watch us at work together and it hits me that maybe I don’t need that. Sometimes my mom and siblings feel like all the soul mates I could need. (Monty too of course) That being said, I’m sure they’re all hoping that one day I’ll be able to sustain myself and won’t require an air mattress in the middle of their respective living room floors and I am hoping for that day too. But there is just a lot of love between us and often I feel like my glass is overflowing with the stuff that matters. And pain and exhaustion aside, that feels pretty good. At the end of the day, you ask yourself; do I have what I need? And I do. I have modern medicine and the smell of my grandmas house, 10 more minutes of free wi-fi and unconditional love and the answer is clear. Today was hard, but I had enough.

Health, Happiness, Enough.

City Girl in Mountain Town

Monty and I have arrived in my other hometown- Grand Junction, Colorado. Never heard of it? Don’t feel bad. I remember in my seventh grade geography class everyone feeling a little defeated when we opened our books and saw that Grand Junction wasn’t even marked on the map. It’s grown a lot since then, but it still feels much like the small town it felt like as I grew up here. It’s hard to explain but there is a certain look to Grand Junction. It’s almost distinctly indistinct. But when you wait at the gate in the airport to come here, it becomes slowly evident just where you’re going. Suddenly there are a lot of teva sandals and drawstring cargo Capri pants–on women and men. I’d call the fashion here “Mountain Casual” with a few embellishments here and there. The thing is, it’s a very genuine town. There’s nothing really excessive or fancy about it and that’s how they like it. If Fisher Island is a red Ferrari, Grand Junction is a light tan, mid-sized sedan. A Ford Taurus maybe. I love coming here because while there are new additions every time I arrive, (like The Olive Garden or Lane Bryant) it always feels the same. It has this smell that has never changed–a mix of cut grass and wet clothes in the washer machine. In a word; clean. Even the water has a certain taste to it-also very clean. For comparative purposes, New Orleans water has a particular taste from the tap too- something like garden hose mixed with chlorine and mud. And that is one reason you don’t drink water from the tap in New Orleans. Not unless you’re a real risk taker.

Growing up here I kind of despised the place. I dreamed of big cities with bright lights and tall buildings that stayed open past 10 pm. Cities that had stores like the Gap and Abercrombie and Fitch. In my young mind, what made a city cool and important was whether or not they had tall buildings. Grand Junction has one tall building; Alpine Bank. It’s ten stories. I’ve gathered that most youth have a love/hate relationship with the place they grow up, especially if that place is particularly marketed as “A great place to raise a family.” And Grand Junction is just that. Very little crime. Quality, free public education. Beautiful scenery and four distinct seasons- none of them extreme. No earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards. It snows roughly 5 times throughout the winter, just enough to make it a novelty and exciting. I recently heard that Grand Junction made the top 10 list of US cities in which to retire, which may help explain why being a teenager here is less than exciting. But I look at it now with fondness. It may not be the cultural capital of America or boast the best cuisine, but it’s a beautiful, clean place with really good people. By this point in New Orleans, the heat achieves a whole new set of adjectives. In June it’s terrible and unrelenting. In July it’s suffocating and oppressive, unfair even. It will stay that way until late September. So we’re in a mountain town now that actually cools off at night, and it feels good to be back.

Monty and I are staying at my grandmas house. I love staying here because much like the town, it always looks, feels and smells the same when I walk in the door, and there’s some kind of comfort in that. It’s the most organized and clean house and it’s always been that way. Everything has a place and often a label; your toothbrush, playing cards, scrap paper and “hand cream.”

See?

Also nothing is wasted. Nothing. (I’ll expand on that next time) I gave her my word that Monty would stay off of the furniture, so when he pawed at the bed last night with the look on his face like “Are you going to scoot over or am I just going to have to slowly push you off like normal?” I told him “Sorry buddy, not at Grandmas’s house.” He seemed to understand that sentiment because he grunted and then laid down in the hall under the swamp cooler. Oh, that’s another thing. Swamp coolers. The whole goal of keeping a house cool in Louisiana is to keep the moisture out of the air since most days are boasting at least 90% humidity. Here, it’s a desert climate, and you’ll notice large boxes on the tops of all the houses. Those are the swamp coolers. They keep the air cool by actually pumping moisture into it, the exact opposite mechanism of the south. And there’s our science lesson for the day.

On an another note, I’ve basically been crashed every day since arriving here. We flew through Dallas and a huge storm kind of threw flight schedules out of whack resulting in a lot of cancelled flights and a whole lot of angry people. At first I was stressing because I was worried about Monty getting impatient. Then as we sat there I realized, impatience and irritability are much more human traits than dog. Monty had no idea that our flight was leaving hours later than scheduled, or didn’t seem to mind anyway. He laid there like a champ, like this.

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And he brightened the moods of a lot of other delayed and restless passengers. As one lady noted, “He’s therapy for us!” and then she scratched his belly for the next ten minutes. We didn’t end up arriving until midnight that night and overall travel time ended up taking nearly 12 hours. So my body has been angry at me for the last 3 days and I’ve done very little but rest and eat hearty dinners with my large extended family. Today is the first day I haven’t crashed immediately after waking up, so here’s hoping. I went to bed at 8:30 last night. It was still light outside. What a crazy life I lead.

Until next time.

Health, Happiness, Mountain Towns