“Are we still on for dinner?” I receive a call from my good pal while we are en route between Tooele, Utah and Las Vegas. I confirm we are still on. “Great! I’m calling to set an agenda. Four items pertaining to myself, two items pertaining to you.” She explains. These are my people.
Our first two weeks on US soil were spent in Utah. We met our new niece, visited with family, enjoyed a beautiful and gluttonous Thanksgiving meal. I made lists ten feet long involving all the administrative tasks I must complete to feel productive and responsible: dissolve LLC I never used for anything, rejigger our 401ks, get my eyes checked, back up my photographs onto the cloud. I pile on photography and writing projects, I make the pearls we found in Manihi into jewelry, I make vanilla extract, I plan and re-plan my Christmas gift giving strategy. Our calendars fill with social engagements, mountain bike rides and ski trips. Don’t accuse me of being unemployed! There is no grass growing beneath these feet! I HAVE A TASK LIST!
My mother points out that if I went on this trip to "find my zen", I have failed. I stick my tongue out at her like a 4 year old.
After two weeks in Utah, Andrew's itchy feet send us on our way. We load up Andrew's Mom's van with sleeping bags, backpacks filled with clothing and bicycles. We hit the road to Las Vegas to visit friends and mountain bike. Although we have friends hosting us, we are living out of a van. We jump from guest room (and more importantly guest shower) to guest room. We don't want to over stay our welcome anywhere! We meet people along the way who ask: "Where are your from?" This remains a puzzling question to answer. I think what these people mean is: "Where do you currently call home?" A boat in Tonga or a Van in Las Vegas? In reply, I say "Do you want the long story or the short story?" Short story: I am from the here and now. I wave my hands "woo-woo" style.
I tour the office, and my former fearless leaders try to assign me a project or two while I’m in town. I scurry away, shaking work off my leg like one would shake a biting dog that won’t let go.
We see faces we love, and laugh over stories from their year and ours. They apologize for talking about themselves, but that’s what I am here for. I love to watch their faces light up when they tell us their highlights from their lives - engagements, babies, grandbabies, travels, work travails and triumphs. They apologize for asking: “What was your favorite place this year?” And we love to tell them. I want to say: “Thank you for caring enough to want to know.”
Our people live on both sides of the political coin. One friend has etched #MAGA on her whiteboard at work, laughing maniacally in the face of liberals sobbing outside her door. Another friend carries "Dumps for Trump" doggy-poo bags. Some of our friends avoid the "Great Debate" completely, and with others, we dive headlong into political discourse. We spend several hours on YouTube catching up on Saturday Night Live Skits we could not load on Tropical Internet. Finally, we understand America again...sort of.
We stop in to our house to visit the tenant. He has Andrew’s job (the exact same job - he’s Andrew’s replacement), our furniture and our house. We step through the front door and everything is just as we left it, including the company computer on the kitchen table and the water testing jars packed up in a Fedex box. There was this moment of confusion amongst all three of us - who is the guest in this scenario? We go to Andrew’s favorite Thai place to have lunch and chit chat. Our favorite waitress still remembers us.
We walk through the local hardware store and pause, mesmerized by the aisle of gloves. An entire aisle of different types of work gloves. Every size, color, style you could wish for, on display for your choosing. Where we have been there is one style of glove - take it or leave it. We have returned to the land of options.
Like a sneeze, the desire to be normal comes on then leaves again. It usually happens when passing stores offering wrinkle free cardigans in solids, neutral, paisley or subtle two tone pokadots.
I pay $4.70 for an 8 ounce coffee cocktail and fly into a rage. Starbucks has raised their prices.
I am asked, “What is your five year plan?” Sail.
“Yes, but after that?” Get a job.
“Yes, but what job?” I don’t know. I’m trying to remain open to opportunities.
“You should write a book.”
And I go home to hug my knees, rock in the corner, and hyperventilate. I spent ten years working to free myself for this very experience, and now that I am here I can’t shake the nervousness that I’m supposed to be somewhere else. I am working hard on projects of my own; I have even set my alarm for 3:00 a.m. to get the best internet for uploading blog pictures. But the caricature of “gainful employment” at a desk with a boss and a paycheck is sketched so deeply in my psyche that I haven't erased its mark even in the span of ten full months. When employed, I looked out the office window and longed for the freedom to explore the world, a day of mountain biking, the chance to sip coffee with a friend for as long as the conversation flows on. In this moment, my life matches the fantasy I set for myself. And yet, I fret that it isn’t “enough”. Enough of what?
I decide to complete some gratitude exercises.
We end our week in Las Vegas boozing it up with the Heeling Art racing team and wearing Lucidora (sp?) masks, sombreros and Mad Max costumes. We sang Christmas carols and each drank from the Mug of Champions. Now this is a valuable use of my time.