Monday, May 07, 2018

On Belay: When the Winds Blow

I am incredibly excited to add a new Blogger to my rotation. I met Shelby Mathis while our husbands were stationed together in the Azores, and she has also come and worked on our farm! She will be posting every Monday!

The first week of April I went on a solo trip to Los Angeles to attend a personal growth conference, and I dropped my phone in a toilet in the Denver airport before I'd even made it 20 miles on the trip. Fantastic start, really. Last week I wrote a chronicle of this journey from lost to found in LA.

It was a challenge to navigate in an unfamiliar city without a smart phone. I couldn't take an Uber. Couldn't call a cab. Couldn't confirm my location on maps. Couldn't text my mom who needs to know I'm safe and well while traveling. Couldn't even sync my watch to the current timezone.

I was reminded of the magic that happens when you look up from your device and see the world. Ask strangers for directions. For the time. For rides.

I made it home, sans phone, with the help of a once-stranger, Ali, who happened to live in the Denver area and was leaving on the same flight as me. Some would say my picking that seat next to her in a theater of 800 women was lucky. I don't really believe in luck. Mostly I believe things, the wonderful and the hard, happen for me and not to me. On purpose. For my good.

I think all of this happened for me.

Yeah, I had a logistically complicated weekend in LA but it hardly started in the Denver airport, and everything leading up to the phone dunk had all happened for me too. At midnight the night before my flight was departing at 5:20 am, my AirBnb host texted me to confirm my reservation. She asked me to contact her roommate or her roommate's boyfriend when I was arriving so they could buzz me up to her apartment floor. I wasn't actually aware she had roommates, and my instinct told me this was going nowhere good. And where would four people sleep in a two-bedroom apartment? That was my first question. Before I could text her back, she asked me to please tell her roommate I was her friend because said roommate doesn't allow her to have strangers rent out her bedroom. My initial red flag became a glaring white flag of surrender. Who does that?! No, thank you I won't lie for you. I won't subject myself to an environment of this level indiscretion and deceit, not to mention inevitable drama. This is not Couchsurfing, for Pete's sake.

I ended up booking a hotel last-minute that was within walking distance to the conference venue. I realized later, without a phone I wouldn't have been able to get in touch with the original AirBnb host anyway. I wouldn't have been able to Uber from her place to the venue anyway. I know the cell phone dive was the answer to my prayers of "let me be present this weekend" and "let me find connection this weekend." I know it silenced distraction, work, and comfort.

That cancellation surely happened for me.

Then I got home and realized I lost my drivers license at LAX or on the plane or at TSA. If I knew, it wouldn't be lost. I realized I'd have to go to the DMV to replace it, which was just as well because I needed to reregister my vehicle. Oh, but the car is 7 years old now so I'd need an inspection. But oh yeah, I can't pass an inspection with the meter long crack across the driver side of the windshield, one of our many scars from this summer's roadtrip where that car was literally our home.

But what happens when the blows keep coming?

I'm buying a new phone screen and a new windshield in the same week and I don't feel protected from the wind -- from the storm -- at all. I feel exposed.

Yesterday was the first day I've cried since I dropped my phone in the toilet at DEN. I only cried then because I got 2 hours of sleep after my AirBnb debacle, the trip hadn't even started and I was already exhausted. I only cried then because I was afraid of the weekend being colored by my not having a phone. That felt dumb. So then I only cried because I felt guilty and shouldn't all these "signs" be adding up to me by now?

I contracted a respiratory infection a few days after I got home that still has me hacking and snotting all over the place. I have spells of vertigo that require I step back from my computer and do something analog. I did my taxes wrong and that deadline has come and gone. I need to replace my eye glasses to see if it helps the dizziness, but I've purchase enough new glass this week. Grandpa has cancer again. Another uncle just passed. I have a million things on my to-do list, and though I chug and tread, nothing gets crossed out. Most of these are trivial. Some are not. But we all have to be taught surrender in our own unique ways.

I cried yesterday when I got a new windshield. I pulled the tape off after the prescribed two hours and got in the car to head to the tech store to pick up my fixed phone. The engine sprang to life but every single electronic across my dash was dead. Like, off. Car on. Lights off. Car on. Clock off. Car on. Odometer off. Needless to say I wouldn't be driving it to pick up my phone. Needless to say I'd had enough.

I returned to the house to call the auto glass shop from Google Hangout on my computer, and they'd gone for the day. I messaged my husband and he was unavailable as well. I considered riding my bike to the tech store, but it closed in 30 minutes and I wasn't sure I could make it. Definitely couldn't make the return trip before the sun went down. There I was. Stuck again.

I logged back on to tell a friend I wouldn't be making it to dinner after all. I cited "hard day at work" and "complicated and exhausting" because the impending breakdown, I knew, wasn't about the phone or the car or the lost ID. It was about control and losing sight of certainty. I decided I would go for a run instead to burn off some of this bad energy and clear my head.

I didn't take headphones. I didn't wear my watch. I just put on the most basic requirements of a windy spring run: tights, thermal top, running shoes, and a headband.

I ran down the sidewalk and through a badly patched parking lot and across the corner of a field on the community college campus a block from our house. The run wasn't long. It was still really windy, and even though my ears were protected, I could feel their insides revolting.

If I have to run, I like running where I can see the mountains of the Front Range to my west. I intentionally put myself on routes that run toward the mountains more often than away from them. The wind storm we had yesterday blew in some gnarly clouds that shrouded every bit of the snowy peaks I should've been able to see. I could've been running east toward Kansas for as flat as the horizon appeared.

That's the thing about storms: they change things, they destroy things, they bring vital rains. Storms sculpt new canyons and erode the hardest of rocks. Storms hide things too. The sky is still blue above the storm system, but we can't see that from down here. On the other side of the funnel is what stood there before and what may stand after. And during the storm, behind all those looming clouds, the mountains still stand. The impermanence of bad conditions on the mountains remains. Even behind the storm, they're still as magnificent, still some of the highest peaks in North America. Still capped with snow and commanding the land from New Mexico to British Columbia. It would take an act of God for those mountains to be moved.

It takes an act of God sometimes for my mountains to be moved too.

During the storm, I freak out and remain calm. I calculate and act on impulse. I am myself and I am not.

During the storm, the Creator of the mountains and the giver of my mountains is always there. The One who knew I'd land in LA resourceless but capable. The One who sat me next to Ali from Denver. The One who kept us all those pitches on our climbing roadtrip where we earned that cracked windshield badge in the first place.

He's always there and always Himself. Always faithful. If I could just get over myself and my emotions for just a second, I'll find He's still far more infinite, more majestic, more powerful than even the Rocky Mountains I look to when running gets hard. These winds only make my legs stronger, never weaker. This wind is for me.

Climb on,

P.S. I have no beef with AirBnb, who after the last-minute cancellation sent me alternative accommodation options, refunded my payment with a little extra on top for the inconvenience, and then awarded me a large credit for having to deal with the drama. Please know this horror story is not the norm. AirBnb rocks!

P.P.S. I also LOVE Couchsurfing and recommend it to anyone up for the adventure. There's an intrinsic trust that comes with honor system stays like that, as opposed to those trying to make a buck in the name of hospitality. In my opinion, Couchsurfing actually expects more transparency and accountability than AirBnb (although the comparison stops there -- completely different travel experiences.) And as a former host in the U.S. and the Azores, I found that those who humbly ask for a free place to stay are so stinkin' considerate and gracious as welcome guests in my home. So, give it a whirl!

No comments: