Eyes on the Mountains (Part 1)

Musings

I used to fancy myself a city girl. I sat in my humble house in the country, located in a small farm town in Lower Michigan and dreamed of getting out. I envisioned bigger and better. To me bigger and better was New York City. I watched When Harry Met Sally as a teen, and seeing Sally aimlessly walk through Central Park with Harry, or drag her Christmas tree down twinkly streets was so picturesque and vastly different from Fowlerville, Michigan that I latched onto that place and vowed to get there.

All my thoughts orbited around New York City. How to get there, how to make it there, how to have what Sally had. So easy and simple. She moved there as a hopeful writer and voila, she was a writer. She had this friend that kept coming back to her and he fell in love with her. She watched Casablanca and had lunches at the Boathouse with her girlfriends, while bemoaning men.

I moved to New York City, fresh with my newly minted writing degree, down ninety-two pounds from working my arse off on The Biggest Loser and ready to take on the city streets, writing and love with all my know-how from When Harry Met Sally. Imagine my surprise and dismay when the only jobs I could find were waitressing and Starbucks. The only men looking my way were gay (fabulous, but not interested in any sort of lip-locks) and the city streets, while magical in their own right, were also fraught with a lot of trash and noise, making me realize that maybe making it there wasn’t like the movies at all.

I am sure a lot of people could’ve told me that. And there’s a reason Frank Sinatra croons, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!” This is true. NYC is not for the faint of heart. I don’t believe myself to be faint of heart, but I think I gave a lot of credence to my city love (based on a movie and a couple class trips to Chicago as a youngster) and zero credence to my country love.

I was having the worst anxiety of my life while living in New York City. While she was a dreamy place full of fantastic culture, art, cupcakes, architecture and wonder, I felt closed in and manic. I never slept while I lived there. This isn’t one of my dramatic exaggerations. I really didn’t sleep; at least not at night. I had insomnia that wouldn’t go away and I utilized this the best I could by training for my first marathon in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning in bed, fitful with worry and damp with sweat.

I lived in Brooklyn Heights and I would leave my apartment in the middle of the night and start running: across the Brooklyn Bridge, weaving through Manhattan’s skyscrapers, past policemen milling about, fishermen fishing off the pier, kids skateboarding, and the homeless sleeping against fence-enclosed graveyards. And then I would run back and sit on a bench looking at the sun coming up across the Manhattan skyline while rats scurried beneath my feet. I would amble home, shower and lay in bed in utter exhaustion until eventually I dozed somewhere around five, or sometimes as late as seven.

I remember talking to my friend once as I walked to work in the Village, telling her that maybe I overestimated how much of a city girl I was and underestimated how much of a country girl I was. This troubled me, because I wondered how I could be so wrong about a place I had planned on loving for over a decade.

A need for nature kept hounding me, a need to escape to somewhere quiet where I could gather my thoughts, which were as rampant and erratic as the New York City rats. I would look at the skyline and wish it were mountains. I wanted all the hustle and bustle to be forest-still silence. I wanted the murky concrete puddles to be cloud reflected lakes.

My mom blamed all of this on a love who had recently broken my heart and then up and moved to Alaska while I headed for the big city. She thought the reason I saw mountains instead of skyscrapers was because of him. And that the whole heartbreak thing was ill-timing, ruining my NYC experience. And maybe to a certain extent it was. But I think it was more than that.

I think the mountains were in me long before that love came along and broke my heart, long before I saw When Harry Met Sally, and perhaps long before I even knew which way to go.

When things began to promptly fall apart in NYC, around the time I was due to fly back to the Midwest for my marathon, I didn’t much feel like going back. I was in between apartments and without a place to live. I was sleeping in a hostel in the fetal position and sniveling, wondering how in God’s name Madonna had done it, and starting to unravel in a most disheartening way. I would wander into churches and cry alone in a back pew. Or find parks to sit and do yoga-style breathing techniques and then get mad when I heard an ambulance blare on by.

When I told my mom after my marathon that I couldn’t go back, I just couldn’t, she seemed distressed, thinking I was giving up on my dream and that I had to just stick it out—the anxiety and insomnia and noise. My mom wasn’t being pushy, she was being supportive of how bad I had wanted this one dream.

I couldn’t do it though. I loved New York City and truly always will, but I knew what I needed and it wasn’t skyscrapers and bustling streets. In fact a guy I had started dating around this time took me out one day when I was visiting a friend in Maryland. I was still living in New York and was wildly shaken up. He asked if I wanted to go see Washington D.C. and I all but screamed, no! I didn’t want to be in the city. I didn’t want to hear traffic or see people. I wanted him to take me into the country. “Where?” he asked. I told him where the pumpkins and apples grow.

It may have come as a shock to everyone who knew me and knew how badly I wanted the city-girl life when I abandoned ship and ended up moving to Virginia. Granted I was living outside of Washington D.C. in an urban metropolis about as busy as NYC, but I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t care where we lived as long as I had a view of the mountains and easy access to them. Suddenly the mountains became my new focal point.

They were my obsession and I wanted my eyes on them at all times. On my way to work they were on my left; on my way home, on my right. I wanted to talk about them constantly and found myself in a continuing state of awe over their grandeur. I must admit not many people in Virginia seemed to share my amazement. I got a lot of people giving the Blue Ridge Mountains the ol’ brush off and saying, well have you seen the ones out West? I had not, but I thought it was a little disrespectful to discount mountains right in front of us, for even bigger ones far, far away. Clearly these people weren’t mountain lovers.

And with my eyes on the mountains I started rerouting my belief system. About what I really wanted and questioning where I really belonged. I considered that maybe I belonged in Virginia because I had fallen in love with her and the man that lived there. And yet… there was still a displaced restlessness deep down that haunted me. It didn’t keep me up quite as badly as it had in New York, but it was there lurking in the shadows all the time.

To be continued…

That Wasn’t Rock Bottom

Musings

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.