Three great things happened to me yesterday. The first was getting a swim lane to myself when I showed up at Deep Eddy, the oldest swimming pool in Austin, where frigid water temperatures begin at 65 degrees. Me and bunch of other die hard swimmers lined up with our caps and goggles at 7:55 AM waiting for a half-naked Millennial to unlock the gates. At Deep Eddy, you’re lucky if you don’t have to share a lane with two or three other people “circle-swimming.” The shock of the water’s temperature nearly crushed my elation but my pre-menopausal hot feet loved it.
The second present was the call from my CPA. Although I’d filed an extension which I inadvertently wrote on my calendar as, File Tax Evasion, and transferred a hefty number of dollars from my sad little widow’s account to the big ‘ol mean Internal Revenue Service, I still held up both hands with fingers crossed that my April 15th payment would be enough to satisfy the sadistic revenue bastards at the I.R.S. When my CPA’s telephone number popped up, I immediately furrowed my brow and tightened my lips in the same way I might if I found myself in public realizing a bowel movement was imminent. When I heard him say, “refund,” I gasped in disbelief then relief and wondered if I should go buy a lottery ticket.
The third surprise was the free soda at the movie theater. Considering that one needs to take out a second mortgage to spend an evening at the movies, my joy was not out of place. Except, to the teenager behind the bullet proof glass with an air hole at the bottom plenty big enough to fit a gun if someone really wanted to shoot him, my excitement may have seemed amusing. I explained to him and his equally young co-worker about the swim lane and the CPA (because they would of course understand as they make minimum wage) and don’t you know that they suggested a lotto ticket. But the Texas-sized soda was a wonderful end to an okay day that was trying very hard to impress me.
I tell you all of this because last week as I was running the Town Lake trail, the troll in my head said, I think I’m depressed.
After mile two when the head troll returned with the same thought, I screamed out loud, “Depressed people do not get up at 6 a.m. and run four miles! You are not depressed!”
Only two strangers heard me yell at myself.
It took some time to understand my melancholy. This leaving for a sabbatical, it’s a process of regret. There are stages I go through, have gone through, and will probably always go through as I say good-bye to one thing in anticipation of another. And I struggle with this choice not only for the leaving but because I am still comparing this sabbatical to what the “great Australian adventure” was supposed to have been. It’s an emotional flagellation of sorts with letting go and letting go and then letting go some more. But my marriage saw me graduate from the desire to travel solo to the desire to travel with someone, an independent someone — Allan. Acknowledging the irony of my situation did not help but it was a good reminder to turn towards people rather than away during my journey, including the part of this adventure which is now.
I remember meeting three women at a youth hostel in Amsterdam when I’d checked into a backpacker-friendly lodge in 1994. We were all in our 20s and as one of the women and I got to talking, she confessed that her friends bickered non-stop and were about ready to poke each other’s eyes out. Although they’d planned to travel together for two months, none of them had thought to consider that being with another human 24×7 is not only unhealthy, it’s unnatural. She told me how lucky I was to be traveling alone while I was thinking how lucky she was to have friends to share the experience. I’d already navigated my way through four Western European countries by that time, butchering the language of each. Chatting in my native tongue with a fellow American had me believing I should have planned my travel with someone.
It’s not uncommon to want the opposite of what we have, assuming that something different will make it all better, when usually what we have can be made to be fine or at least altered to fit us. But sometimes what we want one day doesn’t fit the next. We have to know ourselves enough to know what our core needs then shift as our wants change.
I cannot hop into the Jeep with another person and drive cross-country through the U.S. If I did that, the next time you saw me would be on a t.v. screen with my arms shielding my face and a caption reading, Woman Stabs Road Trip Companion for Breathing Too Loud. It’s also why Gatita cannot travel with me. After hour seven of her incessant crying, I would slam on the brakes in Texarkana and scream, “Get out!” as I crossed over the state line. (Don’t worry – I think found her a home for the year.)
So as I’m figuring things out, I’m learning that it’s not same-o, same-o and how idiotic of me to have thought so. But now that I’ve had this revelation, I can almost see Hook shaking his head as he stands at the kitchen counter rolling an American Spirit cigarette, his deep voice saying, “It’ll all be okay, babe.” And I’m comforted to know that no matter how far away I might travel, I will never be without him.
WHAT: Shhh about Gatita as I work my magic on her unsuspecting (and not 100% confirmed) temporary owner who, as far as I know, does not read this blog. They’ve met, he brushed her, she lifted her backside. I call that love. The only downside to Gatita is she’s close to 65 in cat years which is sort of like inviting a post-menopausal female with wickedly sharp claws into your home. But again, shhhh.
HOW: Although I’d put off calling the realtor until the second week of June, the house is officially available to lease. That I have not cracked open even one packing box no longer worries me. I now know that my slow poke ways weren’t because I hate packing like any normal person but because I feel like I’m leaving Allan behind. So all of my years of waiting for us to leave this house permanently now have me resistant to moving. Poetic justice or poetic grief? I’m thinking poetic packing.
WHEN: A departure of July 15th is iffier every day but if a tenant takes the house by then, I will be on the road as planned. The Jeep has four new tires and a recent tune-up, and it’s been shampooed and vacuumed inside. When the detailer told me, “Don’t get upset if some of the coffee stains resurface,” I laughed, explaining that his team’s wash was the first time the inside of the Jeep had been touched by soap and water in fourteen years. Oh, I’m also a new premier member of Triple A and they’ll drive 200 miles to change my tire or tow me away and save me from Deliverance.
WHERE: I haven’t really thought much about the where on the long stretch of islands known as the Outer Banks in North Carolina. But the other day, an artist neighbor I’d recently met shared that she and her husband would be heading out to Kitty Hawk on the stretch in the middle of July. We agreed to connect if our travel time there crosses over, and I’m sure I’d be a welcomed third wheel after their month-long togetherness on the road.
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I never should have written that I’d blog, weekly on Mondays. That was the crack talking. It’ll be Thursdays and I’ll try for every other week until I hit the Outer Banks.