The writer, Anais Nin wrote, “I write to live life twice.”
I imagine she meant she had the pleasure of experiencing all the good stuff twice – once in real-time and again through writing and remembering. This may be quite true, but I love this quote for my own quirky and slightly ironic reasons.
Writing actually helps me to fill in memory gaps. It’s a bonafide occupational therapy tool. Sometimes I go out into the world, have experiences and then promptly forget what just happened. Writing creates an important record for me. Reading my writing later can be a slightly surreal experience, but at least I get to read about it! Occasionally, when I read things I know I’ve written but don’t actually remember, I have an inner voice that says, “Oh, wow, I can so relate to that!” So, it’s helpful in a whacked sort of way.
I have to laugh at the absurdity of this statement but it often reflects my truth. Maybe it might be more accurate for me to write, “I write to live life when I make time to read about it later!”
I’ve had these lapses in memory throughout my life; they relate to trauma, and I now understand they are quite common for people recovering from experiences which were frightening, confusing and threatening.
.For most of my life, I didn’t realize I was experiencing “gaps” at all, so had no way to understand or explain the “uncomfortableness” of being alive. I thought everyone regularly wondered if they were in “real life” or a “dream.”
I just couldn’t understand why they didn’t talk about it. So, I learned not to talk about it.
I also assumed most people would describe being human “like being a balloon” : airy, floaty, vaporous and tethered to the earth by a thin string.
Relationships were difficult because they were hard to build on. I could remember great volumes of what others spoke to me, but my own words seemed to evaporate as they came out of mouth, floating away on the wind; gone. The result was I never knew what my friends knew about me and often discovered they knew much more than I remembered sharing with them. This made me feel vulnerable so I would often pull away before risking the humiliation of confusion. I call my very oldest friend the keeper of my memories. She knows more details about my life than I do.
For many years, the only way I understood these experiences was to view myself as a visitor on a planet I was clearly not born on, to a race I was not born of. But of course, only crazy people talk like that, so I kept my kind of crazy deeply buried inside, and just tried to blend in.
I became an adept listener, insatiably curious about the experiences of “others”. If I could understand “how humans worked” perhaps I could be of service while I was here. I have always understood why many seemingly “lost” and suffering souls pick up garbage, or tend abandoned gardens. If we are helpful, there is a chance we might find a place in the tribe.
I understood that humans experienced a “me” and “I” and over the years found myself quite adept at assisting others navigating through complex thinking patterns. I remained baffled, however, if presented with pronoun questions related to “myself”. I became a closet voyeur of the human race.
I really didn’t understand the trauma-connection until I was injured and fell into the hands of a number of health care professionals who found themselves responsible for getting me back on my feet. My problem, by then, was that when I looked at my feet, I was not convinced they were mine.
They gently and patiently provided me with names for the symptoms I was experiencing – dissociation, dissociated identity, depersonalization and anxiety – and placed it in the context of an injury that has a name, being PTSD. This, of course, just made me angry. I was special, not sick. Are you people blind? I was clearly capable of overcoming things others could not, for reasons I did not understand. This made me super-human. Otherworldly, dammit.
And when I finished with being all of those special things, I found I was just plain scared. I was fortunate to have been gifted with two amazing children which helped a lot. Being a mom is probably the clearest, least complicated experience I have ever had and for years they were my tethering force. Being Pippa’s mom has been a close second 🙂 These relationships sustained me when others confused me.
I write all this now, because in order to write this last day of “A Month in a Minivan” I needed to read the entire month’s writing to see what I’d been up too.
Did you just hear me laugh out loud at that ridiculous segue? But it’s true! I did have to read them all to remember. And I’ve learned to laugh 🙂
So, I read the whole month and noticed a handful of themes. These are my Month-in-a-minivan “take-aways.”
And although they do reference the specific challenges I face, I hope anyone with any kind of challenge might be able to relate.
1. Wherever you go, there you are.
I couldn’t out-distance my mental health difficulties, and I couldn’t drive fast enough or be smart enough to leave my addiction behind either.
If you want to hit the road, and also have the pleasure of living with these companions, it’s likely best to make room for them in the van. Don’t imagine they will be quiet riders. Imagine a handful of three year olds with too much sugar. Keep them up front where you can keep an eye on them. Use approved restraints. Be kind, but firm.
I was on the road six months in active addiction (while still trying to drink “normally”) before I had the experience that scared me enough to seek help. Even then, it was a delayed reaction. If I can persuade one person to not have that experience on the road, I will have done my job here.
This may sound obvious, but It’s ok to get help before you leave. If you have a doctor, sponsor or therapist, see if you can continue to connect with them while on the road.
Addiction support is plentiful out here and since making a decision to get help, I have made a new handful of friends in recovery everywhere I have gone. I don’t ever need to be alone again in this problem. Even on the road.
If it’s not addiction following you, other things will for sure.
If you mange money poorly at home, you will overspend on the road. If you get angry with people easily, you will find someone to yell at out here. If you leave a relationship, the attached issues will be there waiting for you to do emotional housekeeping. If you allow romantic partners to belittle you at home, guess who is going to find you on the road? Van life is a quick fix to absolutely nothing.
A cool thing is that being “solo on the road” however, is it affords one lots of time to really get a good look at what’s going on “inside” and make adjustments.
In all those quiet hours, you come to hear your various “companions” chattering, and if you listen carefully, you can be an active participant in some really meaningful conversations!
You will also be further away from the voices of actual people who may talk too much in your life, who may not always be helpful to you!
2. Wait Five Minutes
I couldn’t help but notice how slowing down resulted in a really cool expansion of experiences. How often do we give up on something important just a little too quickly? Whether persevering on a hike to experience a surprising view, or lingering in a conversation long enough to receive important information, slowing down sure seems to offer a wide variety of gifts. When things are tough, “Wait Five Minutes” can also be translated as “Don’t give up” or “Hang in there just a little longer!”
Whether I’m consciously slowing down or patiently waiting for an answer to a problem to appear, both have helped me enjoy life on the road. People in recovery talk about waiting for the miracle. I love that idea as well. Don’t quit before the miracle happens. It could be only five minutes away.
I’m learning to challenge the voices that tell me what I should and shouldn’t do, who I should or shouldn’t be, or what I should or shouldn’t feel.
We pick these voices up throughout our lives. The cruelty of classmates. The criticism of a parent. The scorn of a teacher. The harsh words or hands of a lover. I imagine this is a human struggle, one perhaps we never stop facing. It’s something I have known “intellectually” forever, but am only now learning emotionally and personally.
How does this relate to “van life?”
Well, there’s only one way for you to do “life on the road” and that will be your way! You will be the boss of you, more than ever before. You might pick up all kinds of information about the “how to” parts, but ultimately, your life will be yours and only yours. Instead of turning to the outside for direction, you will be challenged to start looking inside. And I believe you will find, you are stronger than you know!
4. Nature Heals
If this isn’t an ongoing theme this month, I don’t know what is!
I’m sure there is science around this. Science about the how the rhythm of waves connects us to memories of safety in the womb, how the sound of the wind connects us to the vastness of space or how the endless stars remind us we are all swirling balls of pure energy.
The more conversations I have with Nature, the more connected to this life I feel.
Being in nature is the strongest medicine I have ever taken! Being in nature is grounding and balloon folks benefit from regular grounding.
Living with little Pippa, another beautiful expression of nature, is an experience of the same medicine.
5. We are Stronger, Together.
The most profound learning of all.
I began this series in the loneliness I felt at the end of the WRTR. I thought it would be therapeutic to write. If nothing else, it would help me fill the time where people used to be and create a record of where I’d been for when I forgot.
What I found was a bigger community of people!
Not just “any” people, but people wanting the same conversations I was wanting and needing.
I’m learning to be perfectly imperfect. This became my safe place to practice that. I’m sure this has also given me courage in meeting new people face-to-face too. I’ve spent a great amount of time this month with new friends.
This was a long bit of writing today. It was hard to write and I had to come back to it multiple times. It felt like an end, but I know now it’s really just a beginning.
If you have stuck it out for the full 28 days, I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here with me. For giving me permission to be vulnerable. For being gentle, encouraging, and most of all for sharing yourselves with me in return. I am so grateful.
Soon, I will respond to your messages of kindness you left here for me. They have meant so much to me, and helped me carry through to the end.
Whatever your journey, may you find your very own vehicle for change to take you there.
Much Love & Safe Passage,
Kit & Pippa