A Prosperous Mouth

In case you were wondering I haven’t completely lost my marbles and I am not trapped in Fargo. I didn’t even have to dole out bj’s to pay my way out of Fargo. I kid! I would never resort to doling out bj’s. It wouldn’t come to that. I have too nice of friends. At least 7 of which offered to take care of my car issue. So all is well.

Well-ish, I should say. But well enough. The men in Fargo sort of fixed my car and it got me into Wyoming and then the exact same issue started happening again. My check engine light came on and my car started to lurch and bog. I still had four hours to go so naturally I wanted to just pull over on the side of the road, put my car into neutral on a cliff bank and watch her ease down into a canyon in a blaze of fire over my aggravation.

Alas I didn’t resort to that.

This is why:

I hadn’t gotten very far on the day I left Fargo, maybe five hours. I was almost to Montana. But the sun slipped down and with it went my somewhat uplifted spirits over being on the road and Westbound. I suddenly felt all sorts of glum all over again. I turned around, because I had recently passed some motels and I decided there was no use in hoarding the last of my money. It would be gone shortly enough anyway and what did I care?

I found a red motel called the Cowboy Inn and I checked in.

I peeled off my clothes and socks that I had been wearing for two days because my car was an explosion of disarray and I was too lazy to find clean garments. I showered and curled into bed without brushing my riotous mop of curls.

I woke up to hair that looked exactly like Gene Wilder’s. But if he were taking a bath and dropped a hairdryer in it. I crawled back into bed because though I thought a night of unencumbered rest at the Cowboy Inn would cure me of my blues it had not.

I lay there feeling frozen in fear over the state of my life and again asking myself—as I had done many a time before—why I did such whimsical things like buy one way tickets to places, or crash on people’s air mattresses in their living rooms, or sleep in strangers homes, or sell all my earthly possessions, or pack up my car to drive West with nothing to support myself other than one fancy red sequined Jessica Rabbit dress, no job and no real ideas other than that my soul seemed certain on this one particular place. Much like it had felt certain on lots of other things before.

Because I listen to my soul more often than I listen to my brain. And I won’t say this gets me into trouble, because my troubles are never really troubles. They are more so cheeky calamities. At least that’s how I view them once I am outside of them.

But at that moment in Belfield, North Dakota, I wasn’t so much in the cheeky calamity realm. I felt troubled. Deeply troubled. And so I told my mom I was not going to leave this cozy, seventies motel room, with cowboy cartoons in the bathroom and mugs with mules on them.

“Nah,” I said. “I am just going to stay here, and I am going to buy some whiskey and lay in the fetal position drinking it amongst the cowboy tapestries, until the motel people drag me out.”

My mom, nonplussed with my mood and my melodramatic declarations suggested I get a nice omelette and get going.

So practical for a woman who birthed ten children who all have these sort of whimsies and theatrical flairs. Well maybe except Nick. Nick probably would never threaten to drink whiskey in Belfield. Nick’s perfect though and isn’t prone to flights of fancy.

I did like the thought of an omelette, however and the simplicity of the advice struck me. All I had to do was one thing and that thing obviously wasn’t figuring my life out. That was too large a task and impossible to do with some sixty-nine dollars left in my checking  account while I sat dallying in a cowboy motel in the middle of nowhere.

I could, however get out of bed. Which I did. I still didn’t brush my hair. I took two pictures with thumbs-up of the large curled tufts and sent them to my best friend. Because this is something I like to do. Send her morning pictures of my wild bed hair.

This made me feel small-ish-ly better. Then I made coffee. I took two sips and it was revolting. I set the mule mug down and got dressed, abandoning the caffeine. And I got going. I didn’t get an omelette because I feared it might be a little ‘spensive. So instead I ate up the sunset. And then I played nothing but Ted Talks and sermons on my radio while I cried and nodded along with Joel Osteen’s peppy declarations: like stop having a poor mouth and have a prosperous mouth. I didn’t care if people say he’s a feel good preacher. I wanted to feel good.

I listened to Tony Robbins and Rob Bell. I listened to Lewis Howes (still don’t know who he is, but he mentioned something about being an athlete and talked a lot about greatness in a very manly voice) and David Steindl-Rast—a Benedictine monk—and Mike Rowe. And a whole bunch more.

So by the time my car decided it wasn’t actually fixed, I had the wherewithal not to drive it off a cliff—and also to call the place in Fargo and say, hey you did not fix my car, I want my sister’s money back!—and to simply take Joel Osteen’s sage advice of trusting that God was working behind the curtain of my life and I really had no need to worry. So I told that to myself for the next four hours while my car lurched and bogged and refused to accelerate properly until I got safely to my destination.

And though driving into Wyoming was akin to the happiness I felt with a really proper orgasm or a hot donut dipped in a decadent French roast, I naturally still had all new freakouts a day later upon evaluating that I still needed more money in my account than I had (very little) and that a job was in order and all that other noise. Adulthood can be a real racket, I’ll tell ya that.

I feverishly repeated Mr. Osteen’s advice while applying for jobs and having God on speed dial. I had worked myself into a bit of a lather when my sister Kirst called and said she was having much the same day as I was. It was her first day alone at her new job, and she was filled with nerves and she broke a glass and then wanted to slit her throat with the glass.

And this is what did it. Perked me right the hell up. Knowing that I was one-hundred percent not alone in my melodrama and that life can be just as uncertain and unforgiving for someone whose thighs don’t touch and always has a man falling about her feet, because Kirstie is as striking as a Wyoming sunset.

We went back and forth telling each other the things we wanted to do in order to deal with our hunger for art and our desperation at making it happen despite having to hold down customer service jobs. Kirst said she contemplated cutting off all her hair. I told her I was on a whiskey fixation and wanted to spend my last twenty dollars on a bottle. Kirst said she had a shot of whiskey when she got home and ordered a pizza. I bought a bag of peanut butter cups and ate one after another while debating if I could live out of my car in the mountains.

And then we felt better. And agreed it would be hard. It’s always hard when you want it real bad. But Tony Robbins said, how bad do you want it? Where is your hunger? And so Kirst and I agreed we had to get real hungry for our art because we wanted it real bad. We had to hunker down in the bowels, while not cutting off all our hair or developing a drinking dependency.

We understood each other and we understood the hunger. And that for the moment cured me of my need to understand everything and instead understand that God was behind the curtain and I couldn’t have a better hand orchestrating the rhythm of my wildly fanciful life. And there’s no amount of whiskey that’ll give you that kind of comfort.

Advertisements

That Wasn’t Rock Bottom

Moving home and the breakup and going for broke and the looming big 3-0 all seemed like really good contenders for rock bottom—ah-ha, so nice to see you again, you rotter, long time no see—But no, no that was premature. That was a very, very premature statement. And I fear I was remiss in thinking it.

Let me give you a piece of advice, friends. Don’t ever say you have hit rock bottom. Don’t even dare think it. Because if you think you are at rock bottom—you are in fact not—that is just the sludge, and you can sink infinitely deeper into the mire than you ever thought humanly possible, and that may be rock bottom, but it’s hard to say. It could get worse. Don’t tempt fate.

I had decided after being home all of two days and having the onset of pretty heathenous panic attacks, that I simply could not live in the Midwest for anything, not love or money—though neither of those things were batting at my door. And I decided I would turn around and go right back to Wyoming.

However, my fundage was not exactly ideal. I had enough to get back and the ever-so-smallish cushion of once I got back, having a teensie dot to work with should I need to fill up my gas tank to go apply for a job. Being footloose and fanciful, I thought that was fine.

Though I feel I should interject with this little tidbit: before I left the Midwest I was having chest pains, reminiscent of what I thought were heart attack symptoms. Perhaps that was premonition. I even went into my chiropractor in a tizzy of distress and said, “is it possible I am having a heart attack?”

To which he laughed and asked how old I was and promptly told me no.

My cousin—also a chiropractor—told me it could be residual effects of heartbreak. Cool, awesome, I thought snidely. During my first breakup, I got so stressed out—to be fair there were other factors then as there are now—that I started to give myself hives. All. Over. My. Body.

Now, I had simply worked myself up to heart attack symptoms. My breakups are bound to kill me in time, it seems. This is why I should probably just date the mountains from here on out. If those kill me, at least I will be respected and revered as some sort of mountain woman and not some overly sentimental fool.

I digress. Naturally.

So how did I go from deciding to move back to my beloved Wyoming while somehow manifesting my life into wild writing success plus owning a ranch, to heart attack symptoms and crying in a car repair shop in Fargo, North Dakota?

Well, you see it went like this: I thought taking the more Northern route seemed fun for a change of pace and to see things like the famous Fargo, and the Painted Canyons. It was only forty five minutes off course, anyhow. Big whoop. I made it to Fargo last night and had good intentions to keep going. But see, I haven’t been sleeping all that well, on account of the chest pains and the worry, so I was plum tuckered out and my mom rather insisted on an airbnb.

So I found a nice single mom with a bed to spare in her house for $32. I slept poorly even though the gracious hostess gave me a heaping glass of Chardonnay—she didn’t know about my nerves but I had told her I just drank a coffee amped up on espresso and probably wouldn’t fall asleep.

I woke at 6, to my harp sounds alarm, which no matter how you dice it, is always irritating. It jarred me from sleep, but still I felt exhausted, but once I was awoken, I couldn’t fall back asleep for my constant companion Incessant Worry was now up too.

I packed my things, wrote a note to my hostess, and got in my car. Only to have it lurch and sputter and barely accelerate while the check engine light blinked at me as manic and pulsating as my heart.

I made it to a McDonalds where I got out, tried my mom and sisters, to no avail and then broke down and texted my ex. Because I am mostly an idiot. But I am also a sad and distressed one at that. He gave some suggestions, and made me laugh, to his credit and then my mom called. I began to get hysterical upon hearing her voice, because by this point I had driven to a car repair place and called several and apparently “free estimates” are not a thing that is done in Fargo, North Dakota. Everywhere starts out around $100 to simply tell you what is wrong.

What else was wrong, was that my mom was calling me from the hospital for chest pains of her own.

I began to have visions of being stranded in Fargo. Of something happening to my mom. Of truly being in a sad, sad state where things definitely could go from bad to worse. I checked car repair, after car repair, only to be told diagnostics were around $100. And that is when I lost it on one of the men:

“But what if I pay you $100 only for you to tell me it’s a $200 repair?! I don’t have that kind money!” I yelped with a wavering voice. He just shrugged and said, he was sorry.

I get it. He is sorry. Sorta. But he can’t give me preferential treatment because I am a sobbing girl and my life is scaring me to my marrow and my mother’s in the hospital. I get it man. And I told him that I got it. He was running a business, not a charity. But that is when I calmly-ish-walked back to my car and all hell broke out from my attempting to hold it together by repeatedly telling myself this would one day be funny, when in reality my emotions needed to overflow.

How dare you think that other stuff was rock bottom! I berated myself while I sobbed big gut shattering sobs. That was clearly not rock bottom. Now, possibly having to live in Fargo, North Dakota to work off a car repair I cannot afford, while my mom is in the ER and I am not there because I am a flighty human, is definitely in the vicinity of rock bottom.

I looked up and saw that my eyes were the color of a mermaid’s tail reflected underwater and I noted the irony of their beauty when I was truly at my most downtrodden.

I called a friend who is very calm and helpful in these situations and she took the reins and made me a car appointment and told me to go in because nothing could be done until the problem was diagnosed.

So now, here I sit. I think I’ve worried all the worries right out of my system because I actually don’t have any more.

At any rate, what can be done really? This is the exact mire I am in right now, and the beauty of rock bottom—yes there is beauty, and no it’s not that you can only go up, gag, I hate that cliche—is that I think I am about to be on the threshold of brilliance. I deal very poorly with initial curve balls, but once I adapt I am very resilient.

Plus one of my favorite quotes of all time is from one Ms. Incredible J.K. Rowling stating as follows:

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

I guess it is rebuilding time. Also I am going to learn how to fix my own car. And have a proper savings account that has more than $5.70. I guess I’ll start there.

Bold Instead of Blue

You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and realize you’re okay.
-Cheryl Strayed

I am feeling full of despair today. I am not sure why. Maybe it was simply time for a swell to pull me under again because I have been feeling above the waves—almost powerful and light-footed. Or maybe it’s because I dreamt about the cowboy. And not even in a good way, mind you, like where I actually saw his face or touched him. No my fanciful brain that can allow me dreams in which I am flying or am a Japanese Samurai apparently didn’t have the capacity for that—or maybe it did and it spared me. But no, all I dreamt was that he texted me, how are you doing, lover? It was summetime in Wyoming and I was driving through the mountains.

He had never called me lover in real life, for starters. And second of all, I was then mulling over his text in a playground with Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels. None of us were working out, but we were watching people workout and Bob was lazily smoking a cigarette while swinging back and forth on a swing. Also, preposterous, but that’s dreams for ya.

Anyway, maybe it’s that or maybe it’s not that. As the day drug on, and I say drug because sometime after lunch I wanted the day to be over and it simply didn’t listen—it is still today, unfortunately—I got progressively more fretful and blue.

And not just about the cowboy and his jarring absence in my life, but the whole of it and what to do with myself and my wild ways. I know, I know, there is no sense in worry. There really isn’t, but sometimes it attacks me from all sides and my shackles are down and I simply succumb to the onslaught.

I did for awhile. Succumb, you see. I laid there and felt bleak and panicky, bleak and panicky. And then I told myself to at least move. To do something in the arena of being bold instead of blue, and I liked that. I liked that very much. Bold instead of blue, I repeated to myself as I put socks on and then my boots, in which one of my boot zippers got stuck and split open halfway down my calf. I started cursing under my breath, saying to the boot, not now! Please not now! You are my only pair of cowboy-ish-boots and I can’t afford new ones! I felt manic and like the broken zipper might be the end of my day because it signaled everything in my life was truly broken shit.

Then rational me chimed in with firm motherly tones, suggesting I take off the boot, get the zipper unstuck and go from there.

I unstuck the zipper.

Oh okay, so alright then. No need to be psychotic, clearly. I put the boot back on, re-zippered it and all was well. I walked out the door into the crisp 14 degree day and meandered down the street to the library.

And here I sit. Still sort of craving a cry and a coffee. Though I’ve had plenty of coffee today and crying seems like a lot of work. Plus I am in public. And ya know, it’s a whole thing, with mascara and looking like swamp-thing and having people legitimately think I’m a crazy person.

Although, there has been this weird rattling above one of the light fixtures across from my table the entire time I have been here and it’s been irking me to no end. Instead of just moving to a new table, I chose to sit here and have fantasies about knocking down the terrorizing light, perhaps with a sword—I have been reading too much Highland lore—and then running up and down the aisles freely having just destroyed something. Maybe I am a crazy person.

Anyway. Attempting bold things like emailing people I know in Wyoming and asking them if they know cattle ranchers who want a handy gal to mend fences—I don’t know how to mend fences but they don’t know that—admittedly is improving my mood. As is the idea of breaking the light—of course I will not break the light; I am a civilized lady—and writing about my blues.

So maybe I will now go get that coffee and skip the cry. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Cheers to Naysayers

Let’s have a little talk about naysayers, shall we? Naysayers may seem like the bunion on the toe of life, but they are very much the opposite. At least for me anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not surround myself with naysayers, because constant naysaying or negativity would surely bring a gal down. No, no. But a well-placed naysayer is motivational gold.

I just had one the other day while I was waitressing. My last day of waitressing in fact, so the timing was impeccable.

It was a couple that I liked as I had them many times before. They weren’t awful tippers, they were kind and jovial, and they were always very understanding if I got swamped and couldn’t tend to them in a timely manner. Overall, I had no beef with these people—still don’t in fact. Toward the end of their meal, however, we got to talking and I told them I was leaving Wyoming, but that I would be back one day to get me some land.

I thought it was a nice thing to say, complimenting their state and all, but this is where things veered into the naysayery.

The woman of the pair, squinted at me, and said, “Land here is very expensive,” like she was imparting some great wisdom on me, because clearly I didn’t know land in the jutting mountains of the West would cost a pretty penny.

She also looked entirely certain that my coming back to buy land was preposterous as she carried on with her wisdom-giving.

“Maybe if you go to school one day…” she said looking hopeful that I could make something of myself other than glorified food-schlepper.

“I’ve been to school,” I said matter-of-factly. “I have my Bachelors.”

“Oh?!” she beamed brightly, “what in? Nursing? Because we are always looking for nurses and that pays well enough.”

Side note: Why does everyone and their cocker spaniel think being a nurse—I commend you nurses, love what ya do, but I could never, ever be you—is a viable solution to my wayward artistic dreams? I cannot tell you how many people have suggested I become a nurse. My parents even did at one point, encouraging me to do it for the job security, probably fearing a likelihood of my living in a cardboard box near Union Station. That hasn’t happened yet, though I was vaguely homeless for a spell in NYC, but that’s a story for another day.

It doesn’t matter that the sight of blood makes me queasy and the only math I like to do is computing tips when I go out to eat (for the record folks, 20% should be your baseline and I encourage you to go up from there). I actually have no idea how much math is actually involved in nursing, but I will tell you I considered being an interior designer once and when the woman I job-shadowed told me there was math involved, I promptly closed the file on that career choice. That is how much I despise math. Math in my opinion is like dating a redhead. It should be avoided at all costs. Unless he’s Scottish. Then all bets are off.

I digress.

I informed the woman that I did not go to school for nursing, but that I was a writer. Her brow furrowed once more, clearly determining that I was a hopeless case.

“Well,” she floundered, clearly out of ideas on directing me to make enough money to afford land.

I smiled and firmly told her I wasn’t worried.

She decided to worry for me anyway, the dear. I said my goodbyes and she wished me well on getting back to Wyoming one day.

I was ecstatic. I hadn’t had a good naysayer in so long. One who really lit a fire in my insides. While this woman was in no way mean-spirited and in all respects just seemed a practical sort, I loved that she seemed none too confident that I could ever A. Purchase my own land or B. Make enough money as a writer to purchase aforementioned expensive mountain land.

I felt like the Grinch when the lightbulb goes off to steal Christmas and his smile goes up to his hairline in unadulterated glee. The last person who told me I couldn’t do something was an elderly chauvinist who spewed what a waste of money horses were on top of the fact that poor hapless husbands were the ones getting saddled with the bill for the whole lot.

“Why does my husband need to buy me a horse?” I asked him curiously.

He also looked as taken aback as the woman who thought a waitress could ever buy her own damn land.

“Who else would buy it?” he nearly spat.

“I would,” I looked him in the eye.

“You?! How?” he asked, like I’d just told him I was in fact running for president while working at a mountaintop lodge.

“With my own money…” I said, trying not to insinuate he was dense.

He harrumphed and shook his head, like it was impossible.

“How?” he insisted.

“I make my own money now,” I said patiently, though I wanted to scream, what do you mean how!? “And I will make my own money later too, when I decide to buy a horse.”

He still didn’t believe me and muttered declarations under his breath about a woman buying her own horse, now he’d heard everything.

This guy honestly annoyed me a great deal, but I of course channeled that annoyance. Filed it away for a rainy day. Now that was stacked upon this woman not believing I was capable of purchasing anything other than a candy bar.

Now I had some serious ammunition. A man telling me I could never afford a horse. Check. A woman telling me I could never afford land. Check. Now all I needed was someone insinuating I couldn’t make it as a writer and I will be fully locked and loaded. That’s gun terminology right? I don’t really know. But I do know I also want a pistol when I go back West.

My favorite naysayer example was this “friend” I had from high school who told me she’d always prayed I would never lose the weight because I had such a pretty face and she didn’t want the competition in the man department. She said this to me after I had grown progressively chubbier in college and we were on a walk where I was bemoaning said weight. Her response was to happily confess her feelings on my weight loss. She said it with a giggle too, like it was all so amusing, but wasn’t it nice that I was pretty? I had that at least and shouldn’t fret over being fat, especially when it would coincide with her dating life.

I used that wonderful naysayer to help me land a pretty sweet gig on The Biggest Loser. And while I am currently no Kate Moss, I have never loved myself more, cellulite or otherwise. So thanks, girl. I appreciate your hideous confession, without you I fear I may not have gotten all the gumption for the life change I needed.

My point with all this is that having good friends and family be your cheerleaders and have your back is vital. I couldn’t accomplish any of the things I have accomplished without all of their well-wishes, pick-me-ups and unwavering support. But I tell ya what, just a couple solid naysayers sprinkled in the mix with their doubt and snark are just as vital to my making it. Because you know what’s happening here? I am charging forth on a path with fiery determination to prove myself right—I can afford a freaking horse and land! Okay not in this exact moment per se, but mark my words, I can and I will. Also should I procure a husband before I have purchased land, or a horse, I will firmly insist on buying them myself anyway. On principle.

So. Here’s to you, naysayers. I raise my mug—of hazelnut coffee—to you and your doubts and criticisms and sexist assumptions. Thank you kindly for believing a woman to be incapable, or helpless without a man, or feeble or a downright idiot. I look forward to the road ahead. And I especially look forward to proving you wrong. Cheers, mates.

Where I belong

So remember how I said I had two days of being a bawl-bag and then I was fine? A-okay? A juicy peach ripe for the picking? Okay that last one I don’t even know what that means, I just wanted a third thing indicating A-okay-ness.

Well that was before Illinois. I had two days on the road dallying in the West, drinking fine coffee in Sioux Falls, then spending the night at a friends house in Madison where we talked relationships and how bleeding fickle they are, while he plied me with wine and hand cooked vegetables.

And then right about the time I exited Wisconsin, accidentally leaving my favorite insulated water bottle at a Dickey’s in South Dakota and leaving my makeup bag at my friends house in Madison—because God knew my brain was losing functions—I merged into Illinois and began to feel it. Wrong. It all felt very wrong. And I am not even talking the actual breakup from my boyfriend anymore, I am talking about the breakup from Wyoming. This one felt like a huge mistake and like I wanted to call Wyoming and say, I didn’t mean it! I’ve loved you all along! It has always been you and it took leaving to truly know for sure.

With every highway sign that said East and not West, my stomach lurched and my brain begged me to turn around. With every billboard that popped up touting adult superstores and gentlemens clubs because we were nearing the big cities, I felt a queasiness that could not be quelled. With every smokestack puffing fumes along the dismal grey horizon, my soul sunk into a kind of sadness that was entirely matched by my surroundings. It was like Illinois could sardonically point out, hey I’ve got ill in my name, this is natural. (And I mean no disrespect Illinois, I am going through a breakup you see and I feel very melancholy and prone to these bouts of sad punnery).

One of the toll-booth operators along the way asked what part of Wyoming I was from and I explained the Bighorns, not wanting to reveal that I wasn’t actually from Wyoming. He said he was from Laramie and that he owned some land in Wyoming but that he didn’t get there much as his wife liked to vacation in Grand Haven or Florida. I wanted to tell him his wife was an idiot and that she didn’t deserve Wyoming and could I have his land if it wasn’t being put to any use?

By the time I reached my exit for Fowlerville, I was in a state. Boy was I in a state. Underneath the sign for my hometown I was surprised I didn’t see lettering in parentheses (where dreams go to die). I told you I was in a state. Grim was now where I was located. Not Fowlerville, Michigan.

I walked into my house and looked at the walls and my siblings eager to give me hugs and I was kind of quiet and shaky. I sat down at the counter and tried to picture the comfort I was supposed to feel in my childhood home that my mom had decked out to look like a shabby chic lovers dream.

But amidst the cool whites and turquoise antiques I felt nothing but panic. Like a deer who thought he had time to cross the highway into the safety of his forest and then headlights come around the bend and he knows. He just knows he made a mistake in judgement.

I have left places before. Many in fact and each time I have felt a certain kind of acute sadness for leaving people I loved and a place I had grown accustom to, but none like this. None with such a strong urge to get back in my car and turn around immediately. I said it to my sisters as I sat in my old room, that was now occupied by my fourteen year old sister and a slew of stuff that didn’t belong to me.

It wasn’t just that the West is grand and open and full of an untamed beauty that is both bold and inviting, perhaps mirroring my spirit, it was that the West is kind. And not oppressive, because it is vast. And it held me in a way that made me feel like the kind of person I am supposed to be. The kind of person that can flourish because I hiked two hours to the top of a mountain by myself. And that kind of thing bolsters a girl.

I have to go back, I wept into the pillow, mascara staining it in splotches. My sister rubbed my back and said, “then go back.”

I didn’t have a plan at first. I still don’t really have one now, but as I lay on a little carry-away bed on the living room floor of my parents house, having begged my sister to get me one of my mom’s Xanax so I could sleep, I felt in my heart that the West was where I belonged, knowing it more than I ever felt in New York City or Virginia or any other place I’ve roamed. I adored those places sure, but for the entirety of my time in the West I have known it was my home. The home for me. Maybe not my sisters, maybe not anyone else, but it is where I belong.

And if leaving created in me such a vile, hostile, almost allergic reaction then I know what I’ve got to do. I am not saying I am just turning around, though that is very flippant and like me and I probably could wing it. But no. I fear maybe I am getting too old for that.

I am just going to find a way, a better job, a situation in which I can take care of myself and save for land. And my ranch. And my horses. And a barn. And a dog. And then some goats and probably an old Ford pickup, but one thing at a time.

Here is the thing though. I am a very determined person. Especially when I am agonized. And last night I lay there feeling like my entire existence was hurting me. Everything hurt. All of it and I felt overwhelmed to a degree where a Xanax was definitely in order. However, in the cool (admittedly still grey) light of day, I had fiery action pulsing through my veins.

My mom must’ve sensed it, because before I could even tell her how wrong it all was, she said, “you want to go back? Just go back.”

Just like that. Supportive as ever and not for one second believing me to be the idiot I often deem myself to be—one who doesn’t really think big life decisions all the way through and instead relies on her emotional state and then second guesses it anyway.

I couldn’t think about the suckage this morning, instead I focused on action plans combined with thankfulness that being home meant that my mama had a constant pot of black coffee on and would fill my cup (both literally and figuratively) every time I needed it.

So I don’t know what I am doing or how long I will have to do it, but the West is my great love, and if you are foolish enough to leave your great love, just know that if they’re truly great they’ll take you back, forgiving your tiny little misjudgement.

And at any rate, I had the best naysayer before I left the West and if you know me at all, you will know how much I adore naysayers and how much they motivate me. But more on that later. I have to rope you in somehow. See what I did there? Rope you in. Like a cowboy—I don’t feel like saying cowgirl, because I think they’re a little too flashy and fringey for me. So yeah, like a cowboy.

I meant what I said.

The Breakup

I knew leaving Wyoming would feel like a very bad breakup, with me agonizing over what I could have done while looking back the whole way. What I didn’t know was that while I was breaking up with Wyoming, my cowboy would break up with me.

He opted to do it via email three days before I was due to leave Wyoming. Leaving Wyoming, in fact was about him in part and being closer to him and a relationship that had felt like it was moving steadily forward in love and commitment. Ironically, I was wrong. When I got the email upon arriving to my morning shift at work three days ago, I had already had a pit of doom in my stomach, almost sensing it coming for some reason.

While I won’t go into the particulars because they are all cliché and unimportant and along the lines of it’s not you it’s me, I did nonetheless have a smallish breakdown. The restaurant felt like it had suddenly tipped on its axis and so I stumbled into the bathroom and held onto the door. And all my thoughts went in a rapid-fire succession like this: you’re an idiot/he would break up with you when you are moving back across country to be closer to him/you’re turning 30 soon and this is a really nice cherry topper on the anxiety sundae that is your life/now you’re not just a loser ex-waitress and leaving Wyoming and a wanna-be-writer, you will also be bunking with your parents again (and your cats)/ did I mention you’re an absolute fuck-up loser?

I could feel tears and I saw the mascara instantly blackening my under-eye. I wiped them away and feeling very much near nausea, went to locate my boss and tell her something, anything, but that I just had to go. I couldn’t find her and I felt dangerously close to high-hysteria, so I found her assistant, told her I would be right back and ran home.

Upon rousing Kia, by whipping open her bedroom door and whispering, “he just broke up with me in an email,” I began to sob.

And I cried for the next two days straight.

I couldn’t write about it at first—technically I could have but I fear it would have been nothing but F-bombs and I know some of my readers don’t cotton to that (hi mom)—because I was so deranged with agony. Also I was angry. Really, really angry.

I wanted to be angry at the cowboy for the coldness I felt in being emailed that our relationship was over, but instead my anger was mostly directed at God. Just a few months prior I had sat down on the bathroom floor and cried—exasperated with my experience with men—petitioning God to only send me serious suitors from here on out. Ones who weren’t half-wits or assholes, or defamatory to God, or who liked ESPN more than they liked me. I pleaded with Him to simply not waste my time, because I was tired of the let-down.

And then voila! In walked the cowboy. As if hand-delivered by the Lord himself. A God-loving, horse owning, uninterested in sports watching, riot of a man who also seemed taken with me in the worst way. But I didn’t want to believe it, you see? I almost refused to believe it. He was too handsome. He was too funny. He knew how to build things with his hands and he sent me love letters and he made me feel cherished and oh so beautiful. And he was insistent. I was nervous that he wasn’t real and that I would have my heart pulverized again and I voiced as much. I said I was scared. I had been burned before. I told him I didn’t want to believe that something so good could happen to me.

But when he invariably convinced me anyway, convinced me that he wouldn’t be cavalier with my heart, that I was unlike any girl before, that I was worth loving and would continue to be worth loving, I let down my guard and let him in because he seemed steadfast and true. I went full hog into the perilous waters of love.

When he sent me a Christmas card that said all the beautiful things that I had ever wanted said to me, things that in only two months time, I had never heard in a year and a half with my ex, I cried on the couch and told my sisters I couldn’t believe I’d found the kind of love I had always looked for and didn’t think I deserved.

So when three days before my move, he told me he’d let me down, and though I was perfect and he loved me, he couldn’t do it, he just couldn’t, I naturally put all the blame on God. You did this God, I wanted to snarl and shake my fist (except I would never shake my fist at God—that seems disrespectful even in worst-case scenarios). I was hot with anger and rage, where normally the first thing I do during a break-up is hunker down with God, like I’m British and blue and he’s my hot cup of tea.

It was different this time. My anger was there and beside it was guilt. I couldn’t be angry at God, though I wanted to because it was all His fault for getting me in this mess in the first place. But anger directed at God felt foreign to me and unacceptable and so I settled on disgruntled. I told God I was disgruntled with Him. But all day the anger persisted anyway, hot and pulsing beneath the surface, refusing to leave me. Until finally I confessed to my other sister over the phone that I felt so angry at God for letting this happen when there was no point. I had already had ample heartbreaks and why did I need another especially when all felt so right? I pointed out in an epiphany that maybe if I could be mad from time to time at my brothers and sisters and mom and dad and even my ex-cowboy, that perhaps I was allowed a little anger at God.

She told me it was okay to be angry at God.

And so I stopped saying disgruntled and got mad. I am so angry with you, God! I said over and over and over again. I felt like a petulant child kicking rocks when their parents said to come in for dinner and they wanted to still play. I knew God was being patient with me because He knows my heart, and He knew full well I’d come around but if I needed to be mad at Him he could take it.

In the midst of my anger and crying I attempted to do that whole pick myself up by the bootstraps bit, but unfortunately I was utterly consumed with my anger and fresh rounds of tears and that took up all of my mental space. Also the tears were like the flu. Purge and feel better. Get nauseated with the sadness and compulsion to sob again while feeling surprised because I thought I’d got it all out on the last purge and so I’d purge again. And again. And again.

My darling sister Kia tried to console me on the first day by taking me for pizza and a movie to distract from my pitiful state. I had no appetite and could barely choke down bites. Then she took me to see Joy, which seems un-aptly named for a post-breakup flick, but despite the heroine’s pluck and overall success the film did depress me a great deal anyway. Holding back tears for two hours in public however, led to my immediately exiting the movie and crying again in the parking lot.

My sisters even had the decency to cry with and for me. When I had first burst into Kia’s room to tell her the news, she saw my shoulders hunched and my face dipping down between my knees for breath, because I was crying like a just-gunned-down banshee, she too began to bawl and later told me that during my shift (the one she offered to cover so I could stay home and be a psychotic sad sack) she had to take repeated bathroom breaks to cry herself. Kirst confessed that she sobbed while doing the dishes later that morning and tried to rationalize things with God, telling Him I didn’t need this.

I betchya don’t have sisters that feel your hurts as keenly as you do. Or if you are broken up with feel as if they too have been broken up with. And if you do have those kind sisters, consider yourself one lucky fool, because that my dears, is love of the finest quality and caliber. I may not have won the man lottery, but I definitely won the sister lottery.

But here’s the thing. The two days post-breakup came and went and while I cried because of the break-up and then cried for Wyoming and the thought of leaving her and cried because I assumed I was a fuck-wit and cried also because I assumed I was a fuck-wit who happened to be unlovable, I came back to myself and came back to God.

I hadn’t been able to see reason or have understanding for the why’s of heartbreak or why some people stay in your life and why some people leave, but because I am prone to happiness and not despair and prone to love for God and not anger, I came to this conclusion while sniveling my final little snivels the other night in bed:

I am lucky.

Yup. I said it.

If knowing what I know now, if I could ask God to have gone back and intervened and given the cowboy’s table to someone else or prevented me from knowing him, I wouldn’t do it. I would start over and do it all again.

And not that bullshit that it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I hate that phrase, because the losing really reeks, folks. I mean, it is truly rank. No. It’s that with the cowboy I felt more love in three months’ time and experienced more of the kind of things I had searched for in every other relationship and had never found. And if I got three months with a man who made me laugh so hard I cried, and took me flying and wrote me love letters and sent me heart-shaped things, and made me feel more beautiful than all of the Kardashian girls combined, well then by golly it’s a start.

And my mom, God love her, said the best thing. She said, “but Cassandra, your boyfriends are getting better each time! Like significantly better. Your next one is going to be AMAZING!”

I like her logic, though I gotta say I want to go back to simply dating the mountains and my cats. Eh, you’ll have that.

Forever West

I have loved my time in the West so immensely, that I naturally wanted to do a salute to my experience here. I am mostly at a loss for words as to how to tell you of my deep and abiding love for this place and so without the words for it, I have instead rounded up some (errr a lot) of my favorite photos from my time spent here in the mountains.

I hope you sense the love.

_DSC0595 - Copy DSC_0629 _DSC0662 _DSC0666 _DSC0667 _DSC0676 _DSC0675 _DSC0674 _DSC0670 _DSC0669 _DSC0775 _DSC0791 _DSC0794 _DSC0797 _DSC0802 _DSC0811 _DSC0823 _DSC0858 _DSC1021 _DSC1023 _DSC1030 _DSC1033 _DSC1037 _DSC1041 _DSC1081 _DSC1160 _DSC1152 _DSC1151 _DSC1086 _DSC1082 _DSC1193 _DSC1276 _DSC1301 _DSC1338 _DSC1339 _DSC1369 _DSC1364 _DSC1363 _DSC1361 _DSC1348 _DSC1381 _DSC1382 _DSC1386 _DSC1556 _DSC1563 _DSC1577 _DSC1576 _DSC1574 _DSC1573 _DSC1569 DSC_1062 _DSC1579 _DSC1582 DSC_1063 DSC_1064 _DSC1585 _DSC1589 DSC_1059 _DSC1170 DSC_1066 _DSC1209 _DSC1199 _DSC1186 _DSC1181 _DSC1179 _DSC1217 _DSC1230 _DSC1254 _DSC1256 _DSC1257 _DSC1262 _DSC1100 _DSC1115 _DSC1131 _DSC1136