ready to leave for Quartzsite tomorrow. That doesn't sound like
such a big deal, especially since I have been planning this for
about a year now, despite my initial reluctance. When Tab first
asked me about speaking to the "Graduating Class of 2005"
I refused, saying that I hadn't started RVing to plan where I'd
be a year in advance and besides, I'm not a public speaker. But
as time went by and I read the group's postings on the forum, I
was more and more moved and wanted to meet these people, who I felt
such an affinity with. They had been dealing with all the same issues
all we fulltimers have to deal with at some point or another. Like
what kind of RV is the right one for us. Like selling or giving
away a lot of the stuff we'd spent the first part of our lives obtaining.
And then how and where do we store the best stuff we just gotta
keep. Deciding what we must carry with us wherever we go. And how
interesting that process is - determining what is truly important
to us as we embark on this new phase of our lives.
questions and answers about the same issues had been posted for
years on the Escapees Forum and you could look up discussions today
that were being heatedly debated several years ago. But this group
seemed like no other before them in realizing what a big and monumental
thing they were doing by becoming fulltime RVers. Having no other
home but what they drove around, being driven only by what direction
they wanted to head that day rather than a set daily routine in
a sticks and stones home. I'm impressed with how they've supported
and comforted each other through all of the processes and organized
a gathering of over 100 rigs in the legendary RV destination of
Quartzsite in the desert where we'll all finally get to meet those
in person we already feel we know so well and celebrate their "graduation"
into fulltime RVing.
looked forward to it as a major event for a longer time than I usually
plan ahead. But I recently thought about skipping it, feeling like
there was no way I was ready for any amount of time boondocking
in the desert. I had come to associate the desert with everything
bad that had been happening with me lately and I was ready to escape
from dry brown sand in search of greener pastures.
As for Yuma,
the only thing I'll be sorry about leaving behind are two of the
best friends I've met yet on the road. Pat and Mel and I hit it
off right away and felt like old and comfortable friends in no time
at all while we were camp hosting in Oregon. Little did Pat know
the next time we met, she'd be playing a nurse and therapist role
where my mom flew out from following our redwoods tour. It was a
bonus to learn that Pat and her hubby Mel owned a lot here with
full hookups that I could share until it was time to head to Quartzsite.
Only thing I didn't appreciate is that Pat ended up sharing her
flu with me as well. Within a week, I was so sick I would have had
to improve in order to have the strength to die. Some locals call
it the "desert crud" and there's debate about whether
it's caused by desert spores or some such weirdness, or just the
regular old garden-variety virus. Whatever it was, it really got
went to the doctor and was told I had developed bronchitis, so I
was put on antibiotics. I was also given a prescription for a decongestant
because I had managed to become addicted to nose spray by then.
It was also supposed to help me sleep, something that was becoming
more and more rare in my nightlife. But I had a bad reaction to
that which resulted in days of dilated eyes and nervous twitching.
the time I was physically able to get out of bed, I no longer wanted
to. It felt like there was really no reason to - that I had nothing
to look forward to. The dark black cloud of depression had descended.
I knew my brain was not working right - my eyes weren't even focusing
and my thoughts were totally skewed. It seemed every commercial
on TV talked about how depression hurts everyone and how my life
was waiting for me. But there was no joy in looking to the future
- only dread and fear and a feeling of complete hopelessness that
nothing will ever be fun and light again.
to explain what "clinical" depression feels like to someone
who has not experienced its depths. My mom says she's gotten "the
blues" before, but not the debilitating paralysis I felt. It
seemed too much trouble to do the most basic things - brushing my
teeth felt like a major accomplishment - I was exhausted and winded
from doing the dishes - washing my hair felt like a wasted effort
and going outside became a stressful event.
my doctor said antidepressant medication was called for, I was so
resistant to taking it. What about the side effects and am I willing
to be on drugs for the rest of my life just to handle my life? Why
wasn't I strong enough to deal with this on my own? Hell, everyone
that reads my website talks about how brave and inspirational I
am. Well, if they could just see me now. I felt like a fraud - certainly
I was no longer that woman. Inspiration had died within me and I
had none left to impart. I used to tell people that if I could pull
off my dreams, anyone could. I no longer felt capable of pulling
anything off and I didn't care if anyone else did either. I decided
that as soon as I felt good enough to drive, I was going to skip
Quartzsite and just head back to Austin, dismantle the websites
and get back to the "real" world.
coming from getting older and more realistic or from a chemical
imbalance in my brain? Suddenly my aching body tells me not having
medical insurance is too scary and I can't begin to afford that
monthly payment unless I start making considerably more money than
I've made this past year. I had become disillusioned about the possibility
of making my living through writing - maybe if I could give it more
time or whatever, but for now I had stopped enjoyed the kind of
writing I was doing and I no longer had the luxury of savings to
of my early conversations with Chuck about travel and writing, he
told me about an encounter he had with a very special man named
Michael that he met at a beautiful waterfall. When he later learned
that Michael had a debilitating illness that was killing him, Chuck
realized what he could learn from Michael. While Chuck had spent
a few moments at the waterfall to snap a quick picture and then
went back to his RV to write about it for his newsletter deadline,
Michael sat there totally in the moment and enjoying the peaceful
experience for all it was worth.
a big lesson there for me as well. When I started RVing, my passion
was all about the travel and the experiences. Sharing my journal
with my family and friends had nothing to do with publishing or
profiting from it. I found I didn't like the combination of what
I did for a living becoming tied with what I loved doing - I wanted
to just be totally free to experience the moments without trying
to figure out how to make a buck at it.
As I began
to feel better both physically and mentally, I knew I was being
forced to make the decision about continuing to fulltime RV - can
I still handle this? Both the RV and my body need repairs. Maybe
it would make more sense to move back to Austin, sell the RV and
settle back into a permanent job with insurance and stability?
making sense was never a big draw to me - after some thought, being
happy seemed a much better goal to work toward. I may not want to
go back to being a temp paralegal in order to continue to travel.
But does it really make sense to go back to permanent paralegaling
and give up one of the main things that does make me happy? Pictures
of the places I've been blessed to see flash across my computer
screen as my screen saver and I am sometimes amazed at all the incredible
places I have been - I remember clearly how I cried at the side
of the melting Kluane Lake on the way to Alaska just from the sheer
beauty of the experience. Or stood and watched the earth bubble
and boil at Yellowstone. Having bears in my backyard in Alaska and
buffalo cross in front of my windshield in Yellowstone - what do
I really need to have that would be worth trading those kind of
experiences for? How long before I would be full of regret for living
my life based on the fear of what could happen instead of the faith
in the good that could come? One of the things I read that got through
to me was said by Helen Keller:
one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look
so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has
been opened for us."
getting any younger and RVing will not get easier with age. And
it may be difficult, but it is still not impossible, even for a
solo woman of my age at this point. I finally realized it didn't
even make logical sense financially. I'm better off income-wise
having my duplex rented than if I lived in it. I might have to stay
in one place longer, but I had discovered that was my preference
Pat's care and comfort, I slowly started to see light streaming
through the clouds. Her patience and insistence that I had a treatable
condition and that taking medicine for it was preferable to giving
up on the life I wanted began to make more sense. I once described
depression as a condition called the triple A's - when you feel
Alone, Abandoned and Adrift. Pat made sure I never got stuck in
any of those settings and I will never be able to repay her kindness
and concern. A vendor at the flea market saw us laughing together
and asked if we were sisters. We both honestly and instinctively
said "Yes!" - and we both do feel that way. I know I'm
going to go through a serious withdrawal from her presence when
I leave. She is the perfect embodiment of a quote I once heard:
believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet
when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."
Me and Pat
And I was
finally able to get out and meet a few of the class who were staying
in Yuma. Helen & Bill and Pam & Smokey were so nice that
it just made me all the more anxious to meet the rest of the group.
And the continuing support and encouragement of my other friends
online has been a constant source of strength and again reminds
me of my most favorite thing about RVing - the great people involved
Bill and Smokey & Pam in Yuma
So I'm on
my way to Quartzsite - and I'm finally able to look forward to it
again. After that, I'm visiting my brother in Albuquerque to talk
about a job he has in mind that I may be able to do from the road.
Then I'll be in Austin to rent my house out again in May. I'll head
to Sacramento for Keala's baby's birth in July. And that's as far
as I'm willing to plan or think about at this point.
fitting end to this long update is part of a poem I received from
a friend a while back entitled "Start Over."
you've prayed to God so you'll know his will
When you've prayed and prayed and you don't know still
When you want to stop cause you've had your fill...
When you think you're finished and want to quit
When you've bottomed out in life's deepest pit
When you've tried and tried to get out of it...
When the year has been long and successes few
When December comes and you're feeling blue
God gives a January just for you...
It's January, so I guess
that's what I'll do.