Three Stages in Three Weeks
I recently made a trip back to Texas. My visit there was over a 3 week period that was literally compartmentalized in to 3 completely different stages. It was a lot of miles and a grueling schedule, and it cost me health-wise. I have been resting and healing. That’s why I’ve been absent from blogland for awhile, but it had to be done. And ... it was totally worth it. At least I think so. See what you think.
From Lake Havasu City, AZ to Denton, Texas
It would normally be a 3 day trip, but I shared in my last post that I battled high winds the first day, and that made me very tired. So I slept late the next morning (12 hours total), and planned on driving slowly, traveling very few miles. The pic above is the one I sent my tribe that morning to let them know I was okay.
The leisurely pace changed my arrival time in Denton, but the great news about the delay is that it allowed me to have lunch in Midland with my cousin I had not seen since 1986!
He knew I was having to be very careful to avoid seizures so he asked the manager if we could sit in the quietest place possible. They did what no other restaurant has ever been willing to do. They asked the staff, and a waitress volunteered to wait on us in a back section that wasn’t even opened! The wonderful visit, the break from the road, the good food and the quiet was exactly what I needed. Thank you, Jeff! What fun!
Before he went back to work, Jeff told me about a park straight down the street from the restaurant that was perfect for walking the dogs. The added benefit was that it was easy to get to and it was easy to get right back on the road.
From the dog park I took a new route that Jeff told me about. Wow, what a guy. The new road was a back way to 380 which was by far less traffic than the interstate. Plus there were interesting things to see.
It added drive time to the trip, but it was so much easier on me it was totally worth it.
Side Note: This trip was most likely my last long-haul trip on my own. I love vandwelling, but this trip was outside of that realm. As you read about the adventures on my Texas trip, please remember that I was in touch every day with my tribe. They always knew where, when and how I was. It’s also important to remember that I didn’t push it. I rested whenever I needed to for as long as I needed to. You know, because I could. Still, I probably won’t risk it again. Not because I think traveling alone is dangerous. I don’t. I feel perfectly safe in my van, but this trip with its packed itinerary was too hard for me, and on me. Vandwelling is respite and healing. Long-haul solo trips are not.
Still, as I said at the beginning of this post, it was totally worth it. The real success of the trip, and the driving force behind the trip being urgent was the deadline on my storage unit. The goal was to get rid of my unit by March 1, and I did. A huge shout out and thanks to the manager on-site for being such a wonderful person. She let me park on the secure grounds for five full days while I went through every single box in my unit. I got rid of everything that would not fit into my van. Everything.
I initially began the arduous task by going through each box and taking pics of everything I thought I might want to keep a record of – either for sentimental, legal or medical reasons. But that didn’t work so well. It made me mental, and by the end of day one I had only gone through 3 of the 37 boxes. I then only had four more days so that pace definitely wasn’t going to cut it! I was tired, and I was beginning to feel hopeless on reaching my goal of getting out of there by March 1.
When I talked to Colvin that evening he gave me a great idea:
Phase I – just go through everything without reading anything or taking pics and put it in piles of (1) Yes, (2) No, and (3) Maybe. If need be, there can be a Phase II of doing the same thing with each of those piles, and so on.
That worked. I began going through the boxes quickly, carrying each item to one of the piles. To make it work perfectly, I soon realized I needed to add 3 more piles: (4) Photos, (5) Giveaway and (6) Archival. I methodically picked up each item in every box and carried it to one of the six piles.
I often tell people that I can still do a lot with my brain injury – I just can’t do it if it’s something I have to “think” about, or if there is noise, or interruptions of any kind, or if I have to hurry. And I absolutely can no longer multitask at all on any level. It’s not that it’s difficult for me; I literally cannot do it. I think that is part of why I tested out at the age of 72 on a lot of things. One of my doctors summed it up well, “We all get there. You just got there a couple of decades early.”
When I first heard that portion of my prognosis my initial reaction was, “Well that’s just great. That sucks.” But actually it has turned out to be a blessing. I can still do a lot – just within very strict parameters. That makes me one of the lucky ones; compared to most TBI thrivers I went through rehab with. My strict parameters are why living in a van works for me. As it turns out, living in a van – even in the secured parking lot of a storage complex – works great for me too. I was able to sort items into piles and didn’t have to think much. There was no noise, no interruptions, and I didn’t have to hurry. I did one thing at a time, and I took my time. It took me 3 full days to go through 37 boxes, but I did it!
In fact, other than taking a break when my friend Connie came to see me – that’s all I did. All day long I sorted items into piles and I was very grateful for the opportunity. Here’s a pic of me and my friend Connie enjoying my break and having a great lunch at Chili’s. Love you Connie!
The Yes pile – things I definitely wanted to keep in my van.
The Maybe pile – things I wanted to keep in my van, but wasn’t sure they would fit.
The No pile – that was the easy one. I was blessed once again by the manager because she let me put all of these items into a nearby empty unit. I didn’t even have to do anything with them other than leave them there because she offered to sell them in one of their upcoming “garage” sales! Badda-Bing Badda-Bang. Boom. Bam. Done.
Photos – Again this was fairly straight forward. It was either a photo or it wasn’t. The issue was that I ended up with 7 huge boxes of them! I had decided to go with the Photomyne phone app to take pics and catalog all of my photos, but 7 boxes?!? There was no way I was going to be able to pull that off.
Enter my sweet niece, Samariah. She came to pick up some of the things I had for her, and is also going to archive my photos for me. She has earned her wings for this one! Thank you Sam! I love you!
The Giveaway Pile – These were things that really meant something to me. They were all the things I had left, that I had acquired over a lifetime, that I really didn’t want to donate, throw away, or give to just anyone. I wanted each item to find a good home. That may sound silly, but it was important to me. One of the things that made this ordeal easier for me was that I was able to do just that – find a good home for all of the things that meant the most to me.
My jewelry, childhood treasures (what few there were), and antique Santa Clauses went to Samariah.
My coin collection that my birth father had started went to Colvin.
My school annuals and memorabilia went to a high school friend that wanted them, and had been sad to no longer have hers.
My Christmas ornaments and decorations went to my niece Tiffany, and my Harley vest and first cowgirl belt went to her daughter Alyssia.
My tent, camping supplies, and outdoor patio items went to my niece Elisabeth and her husband Cody. They are so sweet and in turn gave me a gift that goes with my new lifestyle and fits perfectly in my van!
There are more examples, but you get the drift – good homes for all my special items. They went to people I love and the ones that I knew would appreciate each item the most.
The Archival pile – This was the hardest. First, I’m going to tell you about the last day, February 29. Thank God it was a leap year! It gave me an extra day, D-day.
I began the morning by opening my van and setting up my folding table at the back doors. Basically, there were 4 drawers in my van that the piles of Yes and Maybe needed to fit into. So I started by sorting those two piles into 4 piles that represented each drawer. Then I pulled everything out of the 4 drawers in the van and added them to the piles. From the combined collection I could only select what would actually fit into the drawers.
Here is an example: My clothes drawer boiled down to 2 pair of jeans, 2 shorts, 2 capris, 2 leggings, 1 skirt, 1 shrug, 4 short sleeve shirts, 4 long sleeve shirts and 4 sleeveless shirts/undergarments. That’s it. Everything else had to be donated. I went through the same process for my toiletries, dishes, and electronics. It either fit or it didn’t. It took all day.
By that evening, I was left with 3 boxes that made up the Archival pile. This was the painful stuff that I had been carrying around with me for years – literally and figuratively: divorce papers, medical documents, legal papers around the loss of my house, legal papers around the loss of Christopher, police reports and medical documents from my brain injury, and childhood stuff – some good, but most – not so much. Three boxes of it!
I need to insert something personal here for clarity around the depth of emotion those 3 boxes represented. First of all, there is no rhyme or reason why I survived and lived through the abuse suffered during the first decade of my life. The few childhood items in the boxes were reminders of that – as well as the good times. The next decade of my life was spent surviving and acting out. Some of those painful reminders were in there too – along with the good. The acting out extended into the next decade for a few years but for the most part, my 3rd and 4th decade was devoted to recovering from all that. It took years of consistent therapy and eventually a spiritual awakening (not religion) to help heal the holes inside that I used to run from. The many years of recovery and healing took a LOT of courage and hard work. I had to look at all that “stuff”, learn from it, and let it go. My therapist used to tell me, “You lived through it. You can survive talking about it and doing the work to assimilate it.” Why I still held on to some of the physical items that were remnants of all that was beyond me. But there they were. All of “that” had boiled down to 3 boxes.
It should also be noted that the culling to get to this point had taken place over a period of 10 years. I had started with a 3/2/2 home with a 12x20 storage building. I dwindled down from there to a 2/2/1 duplex; then a one-bedroom apartment and a storage unit. Later I moved into Fiona, my Class B van, and then a bumper pull trailer – always with a storage unit (or two). The storage units and my living quarters had decreased in size over time. So this day, D-Day, had been a long time coming. It felt like a miracle to me that I was now looking at just 3 boxes. THE boxes. Ugh.
I originally thought I would go through all 3 boxes, take notes and make a timeline of my life. It would be awesome to be able to see it all laid out because after having gone to an average of 3 schools per year, and surviving multiple, abusive stepfathers growing up*, plus multiple moves and marriages as an adult, countless jobs and a brain injury, it is almost impossible for me to recall what happened when. There it was; my life in 3 boxes. And the sun was setting. I was running out of time.
I had worked hard for 5 full days, and I realized I didn’t want to put that crap in my van. Still, I thought, perhaps I should go through the boxes one more time and maybe at least boil it down to a box or two that would be manageable. My thought was that I could get back out to the desert and take my time going through them. I bolstered my courage, took a deep breath and opened the first box. Anxiety was building and tears were already looming, but I thought, “I’ve come this far. I can do this.”
I picked up the only childhood dairy I had ever owned and randomly opened it to an entry from when I was 8 years old that read, “Mother apologized this morning for hurting me.” I was flooded with vivid memories. I slammed the diary shut and threw it back in the box.
I stood there staring at the boxes for a minute and in a bold decision I put the lid on the open box and taped it shut. I then taped the other two shut as well. I went to my van and got out 3 lawn and leaf bags, and wrapped each box in its own black burial bag.
When I hauled the last one to the dumpster and heaved it up and over, it fell with a loud thud. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I was relieved and bawling at the same time. I walked back to my van and once inside I let the sobs flow freely, releasing even more things I should have let go of long ago – figuratively and literally. Finally, it was done. It was a feeling I cannot describe and one I will never forget.
I hugged my furbabies, got in the driver’s seat, turned the ignition and left the parking lot that had been my home for almost a week. I felt great peace, joy and relief that kept expanding as I drove further away.
I could not have gone through that final process a second sooner, but I wish I had been able to do it years ago. My life is infinitely better. I am infinitely better. I wondered if I would have any regret about any of the items that got tossed that day. It’s been a month now, and the answer is, “I have no regrets at all.”
I am free.
If there are “things” in your life you need to let go of, I encourage you to take a tiny step today toward getting rid of them. If I can do it, you can too. It doesn’t matter what it is, figuratively or literally: Let It Go.
And if no one has told you this lately, please know you are infinitely, profoundly loved. You are love. I believe God flows through us as us, is absolute love, everywhere present, omniscient. ALLness. There is nothing else and there is no separation - in spite of what some religions teach. You are never alone. We are One.
You’ve got this. I believe in you. Be bold!
* (from above) .... Late in life I was blessed with a wonderful stepfather, John Whittington, 12/24/1928-9/16/2011. I miss you Dad. I love you always.