Today marks 365 days on the road living the #VanLife dream. Today marks “Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes” of truly feeling grateful for this journey. Therefore, please indulge me for a moment while I reflect and paraphrase one of the greatest songs from one of the greatest musicals/movements of all time: “Seasons of Love” from “RENT”:
When you think of Texas you are probably like me. You think it’s a very large dry state and it’s known for BBQ, large portion sizes, ranchers/cowboys, oil fields and the occasionally good sports team. Congrats, you are like me and 99% of all other Americans. BUT WAIT…
Well, it was bound to happen. After endless awesomeness on the roaming front, we hit a flat spell.
Over the course of this amazing road trip, I wanted to ensure that I’m not portraying, through social media and our blog post, life as a pile of puppies (one of Pamela’s favorite things/expressions).
The trip as a whole has been smooth. We do not fight…we don’t. We communicate about things, or I hold it in for a bit, then my mood changes and we chat and we move on :-). Ellie (The Van) has been outstanding, minus the recent leak in the rear of the van, where the factory camera would have been installed. And Penny Love has been just that…a bundle of unconditional love during this journey and in our lives. I can’t imagine our lives without her and what she’s done for me over the last 3+ years. She is four years old now, but that first year of puppy hood almost broke me 🙂
Pamela and I wrote a piece about why we are on this trip and how we are making up for lost time. I agree with our first piece about this trip and I wouldn’t change or trade anything about what happened to bring us here. All these moments in life make us who we are and shape us to be better people (in most cases), right?
One of the things Pamela and I have written about is the crazy year that was 2013 and how it has shaped us. Frankly it has deeply scarred me. There are many layers to the 2013 onion and some of those layers carried over to 2014 including stress and personality conflicts at work. Trying to move forward and heal myself mentally has been tougher than I thought.
A month or so ago Pamela and I saw the movie trailer for Patriots Day, a recounting of the hideous attack during the Boston Marathon, a day that will be with us forever. Not just because we love the event and what it means for Boston (being New Englanders), but because we were a part of it. As some of you might recall I was a mile from the finish and Pamela was across the street from the second blast. Our initial reactions to seeing the movie trailer were mixed. Pamela said NO and I was on the fence. Our friend Amanda, who was not only with Pamela at the finish but works at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital (the the hospital that I ran in support of that day and where many of the victims ended up at for physical rehab), told us about the HBO documentary, Marathon: Patriots Day Bombing. She said we needed to watch this before we might see the motion picture. She also told us the motion picture is more about the victims than it is about the attackers and day-of events (she saw an early screening along with survivors given the hospital’s involvement). So with Amanda’s blessing and insight we watched the HBO documentary. The documentary is emotionally moving and it offers insight into what some of the victims are continuing to deal with on a daily basis at a physical level and also the emotional toll they and their family members are going through.
What took place that day in Boston follows Pamela and I. I have moments of being mad, sad and deeply depressed and probably always will be. Granted I was “safe” from what took place given my distance from the finish line, but once I knew what was taking place I’ve never felt so helpless and useless to Pamela and her family. Through mental massage (i.e. therapy…just what I like to call it), I’ve dealt with some of the layers from that day and year. I’ve also found a great way to Control + Alt + Delete (reset) my depression by using the Headspace app, which I find to be the perfect mental tool. Generally I’ll do a 10 minute session when Pamela goes for a run, her version of Control + Alt + Delete. She thinks I sit around and do nothing (mainly because I said I would teach myself to play the ukulele and I haven’t…YET. LOL). The other great emotional tool I/we have is Penny. Her unconditional love and instinct when things are off is amazing. Plus, she loves to cuddle and just sit on my lap. See, a puppy pile really can be distracting.
The sadness and depression I have from that day is related mostly to the lasting effect it has on Pamela given her proximity to the blast and the aftermath that occurred of trying to evacuate the Mandarin Hotel. She’s never been one for large crowds (who is really) or waiting in lines. Since that day she has the mind of a master chess player, always four moves ahead, and always looking for a way out just in case. She also knows not to put herself in a situation that will make her feel anxious. Sadly, this limits some of the things we might want to do or experience in life and on this trip, but self preservation is important. Life has been forever altered by those attacks and at times I still feel helpless for Pamela.
Depression is a part of the rollercoaster of life for me now. It is also something that I and others who face it shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of. With Pamela’s background in neurological rehab and an understanding of post concussion related issues, (depression, sadness, mood swings etc.), she’s helped me see that a series of severe concussions, the latest being the most impactful (car vs. bike incident in 2013), have taken a toll on my pea sized male brain. I’m more emotional at movies or during moments that occur in life now, great, and that indicates to me that I’m not a robot…Or could I be? Have you seen Westworld? I seem to float in and out of moods more easily. Or at least I did a few years back, pre trip. Sometimes the blue feeling creeps up without any instigation. Other times I start to feel blue about things that occurred at work, thoughts of Boston, life, family planning, the vanity of social media etc. and I can’t pump the breaks on the thoughts. Rather, they seem to just run their course. But over time the mental massages started paying off. In addition to the talk sessions, I went on a very small dose of antidepressants to help kickstart my healing/coping. I wasn’t as blue as often. I wanted to exercise more (a great natural antidepressant ) and I wanted to hangout with friends more often. My tolerance or hang-factor isn’t has high as it once was and this is a byproduct of concussions, being affected by visual and audio stimulation more easily. Now I just have to tap out earlier and do and Irish goodbye and that is OK.
This trip is just what the doctor ordered to help combat my depression. Again, the trip is not all rainbows and unicorns.
I’ve had a few days of feeling a little blue over the last 9 months. Some of the blue days centered around wondering what is next, when this 14 month odyssey is over, why some people I consider friends seem to have disappeared; maybe they don’t feel the need to check in because they “see” what’s taking place through social media, who knows. The most recent blue feeling occurred this week after Pamela and I toured Ruby Falls in TN. It’s a water fall that is 1,400ft below the surface. Yes it’s cool to see and a bit contrived given there is a tour guide. Getting to the falls was a nightmare for Pamela and I felt horrible afterwards for suggesting we do such an expedition. It’s 1000’ down in a mountain where you have to take an elevator then walk half a mile in and the only way out is the same way in. No escapes and the quarters are a little close down there. During the walk to the falls she had moments of wanting to escape and it brought me back to Boston and feeling helpless. It also made me see just how deep her scars are from the attacks. I wish for no-one to experience anything that Pamela now does, post Boston.
In the end, I’m grateful for having an opportunity to travel, explore, reenergizing my creative side and escaping the real world as it may be (crazy crap that happens each day that TV networks bombard us with doesn’t help anyone really) and for spending more time (by more time I’m talking 23/7) with my wife, who is a consent antidepressant for me.