Friday, November 5, 2010


In the springtime, I walk around Portland infected by the same young lust embodied in the blossoming flowers and twitterpated squirrels.  Every man and woman are attractive to me and I want to let them know it.  It becomes my unofficial profession to perve on these fine humans and all their beauty and ability, their flushed, dewey skin and all that potential.  It's a springtime thing, I think you know what I mean.

In the fall, however, my attention turns to vans: camper vans, ten-passenger church vans, RVs disguised as vans, cargo vans, EuroVans, and, in desperate situations, even minivans!  As the rain starts falling, taking the leaves with it, my own sensual self yearns for sleep.  I begin to covet isolation, to crave solitude, and to consider throwing everything away in exchange for a fresh start somewhere, anywhere, else.  Vans symbolize an opportunity for escape; they are adventure, growth, solitude, and fun with the dog all rolled into one big old beast of a freedom machine.  And that is a beautiful opportunity, indeed.

Two weeks ago, one of my dearest friends moved to New Hampshire.  Don't mistake the gravity of this!  Lucie lived ten blocks from me, worked with me for a year, and was a Jazzercise student of mine as well.  We saw each other nearly every day.  We drank coffee together, worked out together, talked and talked and talked together, made mix tapes for each other, got drunk on bottles of wine together on Monday afternoons, gave each other books, and built a private little culture all our own.  Example!  We had this thing where we would buy two different sandwiches at lunch and swap halves, thinking that we were not only genius for having come up with the arrangement, but also that we were lucky to have someone else who totally understood the predicament of equally wanting both the tuna sandwich and the caprese.  It was like we were lovers.

She moved away from me!

Now, I knew I was going to miss her when she left.  I counted on being sad.  What I didn't count on was that suddenly my whole life looked barren.  My job was suddenly desperately unsatisfying, my single-gal lifestyle was lonely, I missed my brothers and sister, and shouldn't I have achieved more with my life by this age?  Shouldn't I be, like owning a home and married and in a fulfilling career by now?  Suddenly I felt like I had nothing.  It was time to get in The Van again, to escape.  There was nothing to lose.

Know what though?  Even though escape sounds appealing, there's now a side of me that recognizes and really appreciates the value of sticking it out.  Though it would be a fun adventure, running away with Ralgh in a van isn't going to solve anything.  Instead, I need to look at exactly where I am and take stock of what I have, which isn't nothing after all.  I have tons of pals.  I have a cozy apartment.  I have community.  Two good jobs.  I have unending access to some of the best coffee in the world.  I have a crazy old dog (13 in November!) who I love to bits.  All these things are things I can work with, and I'd have to give most of them up to go on another Vantasy.  And then what happens when I come back?

What I've learned is that adventures are great; we need them.  I plan to always find them for myself throughout my life.  But traveling, constantly moving around, can also be dangerous in that it is a way of retarding the growth of your career, home, and relationship investments.  When I get the most desperate to leave everything, I find it's because I want to run away from some problem.  I want to avoid dealing with the ways I've mismanaged certain aspects of my life.

So I'm settling in for now, in spite of all those beautiful vans out there, to discover and learn about how to make this every day life into something neat.  I'm practicing nurturing the quotidian goals: job, friends, soy cappucinos, exercise, owning a home... and looking forward to a more distant, less tangible payoff.  I'm taking a focused, but relaxed look at my life.  I'm making thoughtful decisions on what to do next.  I'm not freaking out and selling all my stuff in order to move into a junky old van. I'm. Chilling. The. Fuck. Out.  For once.

Dang.  I think I'm finally growing up.


Shannon said...

13 dog years = 91 people years! wow, Ralgh!!!!

John Judy said...

Growing up is over rated... But we have cookies!

Trina said...

I'm so fortunate to have such a wise friend. Hooray for being grown-ups together! I don't know what I'd do without you.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy for you.