As a rule, I’m not up-to-date on the latest news. I find it increases my general feelings of paranoia and fear, which make it (more) difficult (than it already is) to love my husband and kids well and maintain a thriving business. It’s harder than you’d think these days to maintain a blissful state of ignorance, when social media feeds, email blitzes, and everyone on the street are primed and ready to talk about the latest and greatest shit storm brewing just outside my front door.
This morning, I received a text from my friend in Houston, who serves the all-important role of keeping me informed enough not to devolve into an ape: Did you see that the entire state of Montana is under a winter storm advisory? Aren’t you happy you left?
Wow, I thought, I am really out of touch with the goings-on back home. So out of touch, in fact, that it took me a moment to compute the information. You see, I woke up this morning to brilliant, crystal clear blue skies. Again. I stumbled out of bed, shuffled into the kitchen for coffee, and not once did my toes scream to be shoved into cozy warm slippers. Dressing appropriately for my day didn’t take me 500 hours of layering garment upon garment, swaddling myself like a baby about to emerge from my igloo in the Arctic. I simply grabbed the nearest pair of shorts and a thin, cotton T-shirt, pausing briefly to consider whether a tank-top might serve me better today.
It is incredibly hard – dare I say, impossible – to wrap my mind around the fact that my friends back home are, almost literally, freezing their tookuses off. It’s difficult to imagine the drifts of packed snow, despite the fact that my snow boots are here, stuffed into the most remote corner of Nick’s truck bed, reminding me that they were, at one time, a necessity. In some ways, I feel bad for them. When will they be used again? Will it be by me, or some California stranger who comes across them at Goodwill, curious about the sensation of heavily outfitted feet?
Time will tell.
It’s hard for me to believe that parts of the U.S. are cold right now, but it’s even harder to believe how quickly we acclimated to this new reality. When we planned out this adventure over a year ago, I wasn’t sure how we would feel when we finally set it in motion. I have always considered myself a homebody, and my son seemed to take after me in that regard. I truly felt that this trip would be an enormous exercise for both of us in living outside of our comfort zones and expanding our idea of “home.”
But the kids have done nothing but surprise me again and again by their capacity to try new things, explore unknown places, and adapt to astronomically different circumstances. I’ve even surprised myself. See, even though our temps are getting warmer (making life, in many ways, a whole lot easier), we’re constantly being confronted by new things. And new can be hard. New is unknown. It can be scary. It can be uncomfortable.
In each new place – New Mexico, Arizona, and soon, California and Costa Rica – we’re immersed in new sounds, sights, smells and experiences. We’re learning to embrace the new things we enjoy, and roll with the punches when they aren’t quite so convenient. No washer or dryer for our perpetually dusty, sweat-soaked clothes. No pots, pans, or cutting knives for cooking. Less-than-hospitable neighbors who are ready to pounce on any music, kids, or dogs who offend their sense of peace and tranquility.
We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Uprooting ourselves and plunging headfirst into drastically different surroundings every 30 days should feel hard. Right? And it does. But not as hard as I’d expected. Because, even though our surroundings are changing, we’re changing, too. We’re adapting to our circumstances. We’re facing up to the old habits that make change more difficult, and shedding the heavy baggage keeping us from enjoying the journey.
I’m realizing anew, with every new location, how dependent I am on my creature comforts, and how very much I take them for granted. Good kitchen knives, a working washer and dryer, a neighborhood filled with people who look and think like me – these used to be “necessities.” But really, they were just things to which I’d become accustomed. They are things to be grateful for, but not things that are owed to me. As an “adult,” I feel like this is a lesson I should know by now, but I’m beginning to think it’s one that bears repeating throughout my time on this planet.
And I’m glad that it keeps resurfacing, because every time I’m confronted with a change that inconveniences me – like being friendly with my unfriendly neighbors and “killing them with kindness” when I much prefer to respond in-kind – it recalibrates my gratitude meter and teaches me a few things.
It reminds me that house walls may keep at bay the discomfort of being accosted by strangers, but it also keeps you from getting to really know people. And that boundaries can keep you safe, but when they become impenetrable and immovable and wider than an ocean, they can also keep you stuck.
It reminds me that a healthy, supportive family isn’t guaranteed, but makes for a foundation of potatoes that’s delicious enough, all on it’s own. And that all the other good things I have are just gravy on that already hearty mountain of potatoes.
And if this trip wasn’t enough to remind me of that, last week’s post-Super Bowl episode of “This Is Us” sure did. I kept thinking, through my tsunami of tears, what a special, fortunate opportunity I have here to reconnect, outside of my typical daily grind, with the overwhelming beauty of waking up to my kids and husband (and the dog’s okay, too), doing my best to connect with the community around me, and to enjoy the landscape (and weather!) before we move on.
That’s all we’re really here to do, anyway. But for me, this trip, Arizona, and these warm, sunny days provide a much-needed reminder.
And now, I’m suddenly craving potatoes.