The Long and Winding Road
GREENWOOD VILLAGE, COLORADO: Summer, 2014
Leah: What a summer. I know it’s been ages since we posted anything, but I’m in a place where I want to write and I feel the need to expound on what it’s been like the last few months. As always, truth is paramount and I won’t be sugar coating anything, so bring on the updates- and hopefully in some sort of sequential narrative at that. I’m also solely speaking for myself, not Steve.
Speaking of my husband, he returned to CA shortly after our April/May road trip so that he could hike the beginning of the Pacific Crest Trail for a few days. It was such a personal and transcendent experience for him that he chose to keep his stories to himself and neither blog about them, nor even fully fill me in on the details, which I completely respect. Just know that it was well worth it, even if he eventually lost a toenail as a result (it literally died and could be plucked off- yum!) After his return he jumped into work with the same landscape estimating firm he worked with in San Diego, but at their CO branch. It’s been an adjustment, as we knew it inevitably would be, but it once again felt like he was contributing to a bigger picture and the paycheck didn’t hurt matters either.
In short, the post-trip, reverse culture shock crash I hoped I had staved off finally reared its ugly head and we’ve been waging war most of the summer, with me losing the majority of the battles. Whereas I think Steve had a harder time initially and I held steady, those roles seem to have reversed over time and I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why.
I was drowning in misery, aching to feel like I fit in back at home and mourning the loss of the trip- this “entity” that I had willed and worked into existence over quite a bit of time, experienced for another few years and was now suddenly living without, completely cold turkey. It felt like a devastating death all over again, but how do I explain grieving for the incorporeal, especially when it was on time delay and I seemed initially okay, only to yield months later to the effects? Then I’d get irate with myself for my “First World” problems when I have a loving family, friends, life partner, food, shelter, income and health. What the hell kind of perversely spoiled brat was I to bemoan my life when I had so much that so many will never have? Besides, I had a phalanx of people who love me unconditionally and to whom I could reach out at any time, yet I wanted to be alone, avoid everyone and wallow in my misery.
So I trundled on and did what I could to keep my head above water, including summiting my very first 14er with Steve, my sister and a few friends. For all those none the wiser to the Rocky Mountain region, there are over 53 peaks in Colorado surpassing 14,000 feet, lovingly referred to as “14ers” which range across the board in terms of difficultly, height, distance from the Denver metro area, etc. Despite living here on and off for almost 20 years, I had never actually climbed one. Therefore, when my intrepid friend Sarah announced that she would be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in support of an African initiative to support girls’ rights to education and needed some serious practice in the next few months, a few of us gamely joined her and took on Mt. Bierstadt (check out her story and consider throwing a few bucks her way so she can reach her fundraising goal if you feel so inclined- she's so close!).
However, an absolute highlight was meeting up with some of the girls, nay, young women, who used to be in my HIV/AIDS peer advocacy program from work, one of whom I hadn’t seen in four years and had recently graduated from college. Every one of those ladies felt like younger sisters and they were my professional life blood when my actual job turned toxic. They never failed to amaze me and I still swell with pride when I talk about their accomplishments and zest for tackling the uncomfortable. Re-connecting with these ladies, hearing about their latest collegiate and high school triumphs and knowing without a doubt that they will change their own corner of the universe for the better, I felt like the proudest parent on the planet- or at least what I imagine that sensation to be. I can die happy filled with joy honestly knowing that I’ve shared in their successes and that’s a feeling no synthetic drug can ever fully recreate.
Now that we have jobs, a save-for-a-house-plan, and even a vacation in the works (Alaska in January anyone? Anyone? No?), daily life feels better. Not where I’d ultimately like it to be, but better. I know at my core that just as with every other death, it’s simply going to take time to process, heal and feel like the world isn’t upside down anymore. John Mark’s parents have promised me that they’ll use me on the weekends so I can continue to be a part of his life and now that we’re about to have actual insurance, I’m not too proud to employ professional help in the form of therapy if I think it will help. We prepped extensively to take the trip, were gone for two years and have only been home for about five months; I have to remind myself that it’s not rational to expect that I’ll instantly feel like I belong anywhere. Readjustment will be a long and winding road, but that too is part of this journey and will inevitably bleed into our next great adventure, whatever that may be.