Running down this muddy trail felt incredible. The sound of my feet on the loose volcanic soil, mud splashing, and exchanging hellos with friendly mountain bikers. My soul felt over joyed. The happiest I can ever recall. It radiated through me. I was reminded in a brief moment, that this joy I felt was only by way of a long struggle. Not in spite of the struggle… but because of the struggle.
It began long ago. The plot was set before I could see it. I became aware that something was shifting in my life the Sunday I returned home to find my kitchen engulfed in flames. The wake up call. The moment felt devastating… like I had truly lost it all. What I didn’t know was how many more times I would feel that way in the three enormous years to follow.
I felt that devastation again in Spain. Michael and I were having a tough time on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. It started as witty banter that quickly turned into an argument. At it’s conclusion we both admitted we felt so lost. What was left of our possessions after the fire were now in a storage unit on another continent. Flirting between staying in Europe indefinitely or ending our trip early… we both felt so confused. I remember feeling so utterly terrified that I would lose him. That the stories in society are true. Couples go through hard times and it slowly tears away at the fabric of your marriage. After a good nights sleep and a long talk we began to put in the effort of reconstructing us. So much of our identities were tied to the lost belongings in the fire and the past military career. This was the time we needed to find our new way of being.
The next time I would feel that devastation was only six short months later. Recently moved into a new house in the beautiful town of Bend, nothing was working out. Again that consumptive feeling of terror began to swallow me. The ramifications of my choices sat in front of me like a neon sign that read “IDIOT.” The private practice I had built was gone. The comfortable house in the town I grew up, gone. The reliable military pay was gone. The relationships I had built over 30 years were now a days drive away. I felt stuck in a position of constant questioning and second guessing.
Then, the mother load of devastation. We took what was left of our savings and packed up and moved across the country to Asheville. There I sat in a home that smelled like one would imagine an episode of Hoarders would smell. Dog shit and urine lining the walls of the dining room. The house we were promised was no longer a promise but a threat. Like graffiti or a letter one might receive in the mail with words like “die” or phrases like “you will die soon” spelled out in magazine clippings. The real devastation had begun. And I would be kept there in that devastation for 4 months.
I had a lot of time to reflect on all that I thought I had lost. All of the possessions, earnings, and merits that didn’t follow me to Asheville. Most of all I had a lot of time to reflect on the complete lack of familiarity in my life. With the exception of my beloved dog and husband, it felt as though I was trapped in Freaky Friday. Completely taken out of my life and placed in some other persons life. The beautiful thing that began to happen though, was for once the devastation began to shift. It was no longer this “oh shit!” moment but rather an unwritten chapter in my life. The shift was triggered by a podcast episode in which some one shared the “Utter dismantling” of their life. They described that feeling of terror I had been feeling and how it was like the Universe was so clearly corralling them in one direction.
So I began to write. Write physically in the form of journals like I used to when I was a teenager. And write my new life. One that would now include trail running, cycling, yoga, and meditation. I shifted from the hopeless place of focusing on all that I thought I had lost and replaced it with a new way of being in the world. One a little less dependent upon where I lived, what I owned, and how I earned money.
With all that being recalled you can imagine now why it is so hilarious that I ended up back in Bend. I had to go through a series of painful trials to become the person I dreamed I could be living in Bend. I had to move to Bend via Asheville, it was an integral part of the plan.
I can’t express enough how grateful I am for this journey. It has included a whole rainbow of emotion. Each one the deepest most extreme version of itself. The deepest depressed blues, the most exuberant happy yellows and everything in between. In a world where more and more people choose to medicate these feelings, I am so grateful to have felt each one. To let each one consume me, guide me, and inform me.
As I ran down the same muddy trail I ran just a few days before we left Bend last year, I became filled with joy. Joy to be awake and alive. Joy to have known loss. Joy to be in touch with the inevitable ebbs and flows of life. And most of all, joy to feel so deeply connected to my soul and who I was put on this earth to be. I physically felt this joy in my whole body as I ran down that familiar trail, so much stronger and so much more connected.