The Ten Best Things about Truth or Consequences, NM

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The New Mexico towns I’ve spent the most time in are Taos and Truth or Consequences. Each is special in its own way to me. In my next two posts, I’ll share my ten favorite things about each town. Since I was in Truth or Consequences when I wrote this post, I’ll start there.

The Ten Best Things About Truth or Consequences

#1 My favorite thing in T or C (as the locals call the town) are the historic bathhouses with hot mineral water for soaking. Especially when it’s cold out, I love to soak in that hot, hot water. (Read more about the Truth or Consequences bath houses here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/05/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/06/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/08/truth-or-consequences-hot-springs-my-experiences-part-2/.)

#2 The town has a really cool name. Originally the town was called Hot Springs, NM, but in 1950, it became Truth or Consequences to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the radio program of the same name. (Read more about the name change here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/?s=+truth+or+consequences.) I appreciate the reminder to tell the truth or face the consequences.

#3 T or C is warm (or at least warmish) in the winter. When Northern New Mexico is too cold for me, I head south to this town in the Chihuahua Desert. According to https://weatherspark.com/averages/31751/Truth-or-Consequences-New-Mexico-United-States,

The cold season lasts from November 22 to February 14 with an average daily high temperature below 59°F. The coldest day of the year is December 25, with an average low of 28°F and high of 50°F.

#4 Miner’s Claim (318 N Broadway Street) is one of the best rock shops I’ve ever visited. The store is crammed packed with gems, minerals, beads, incense, jewelry, knickknacks, and shiny rocks. The guy behind the counter owns the store, and he’s friendly and knowledgeable. While he does stock high-end items, his prices are fair, and there’s plenty in the store for folks on a limited budget.

The turtle that gives Turtleback Mountain its name.

#5 There’s a turtle reclining on one of the mountains overlooking the town! I love geological formations that look like animals!  (To read more about Turtleback Mountain, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/25/another-geologic-formation-that-looks-like-an-animal/.)

The sculpture Joy, by R. William Winkler with one of the Pelican Spa buildings in the background.

#6 Truth or Consequences is an art town, and I don’t just mean the work on display in galleries. The town boasts lots of great art on public walls and in front of businesses. From murals to sculptures, there’s lots of cool art to see while walking around T or C. (Read more about the art in T or C here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/10/art-in-truth-or-consequences/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/02/12/more-art-in-truth-or-consequences/.)

#7 The town is so into art, it has an Art Hop on the second Saturday of each month. (https://www.facebook.com/Truth-or-Consequences-Art-Hop-2nd-Saturday-of-every-month-6-9pm-188812578899/) The Art Hop is a great excuse to meet up with friends and see what’s new in the galleries. (For a list of art galleries and shops in Truth or Consequences, go here: https://www.sierracountynewmexico.info/shopping/art/.)

#8 The plants are cool in T or C. There are more cacti here than in the Taos area, and the ornamental rosemary grows in huge bushes. I like to break a small branch of rosemary off a bush and tuck it behind my ear for a smell more delicious than any perfume. The last time The Man and I left T or C, we cut several large pieces of rosemary from a plant in front of a gas station and arranged it on the dashboard for a great smelling van.

The Rio Grande as seen from Rotary Park.

#9 Folks can get up close and personal with the Rio Grande in Truth or Consequences. The river runs right through town. It’s accessible from Ralph Edwards Park, as well as Rotary Park. People fish in the river from Rotary Park and south of it too. If a person wanted to, s/he could wade right into the Rio Grande in T or C.

A panoramic view of Elephant Butte Lake from the campground in the state park.

#10 If the Rio Grande isn’t enough water for a desert dweller, T or C is less than ten miles from the 40,000 acre Elephant Butte Lake State Park. According to https://www.sierracountynewmexico.info/attractions/elephant-butte-lake-map/, Elephant Butte Lake is New Mexico’s largest body of water. The lake offers miles of trails, two marinas, sandy beaches, fishing, boating,  and a campground.

I took all of the photos in this post.

Any questions about Truth or Consequences can be left in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

More Kindness

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In the late 90s, when I was in my late 20s, I worked the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

For folks who never heard of it, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Womyn%27s_Music_Festival) says,

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival…was an international feminist music festival held every August from 1976 to 2015 in Oceana County, Michigan, USA, near Hart Township, in a small wooded area known as “The Land.” The event was completely built, staffed, run and attended by women. The 40th Festival, in August 2015, was the last one.[2]

Several of my lady friends had worked at the festival, some for multiple years. After hearing their stories of music and empowered women, I decided I wanted to work there too. I applied for a short crew position and was given a spot on the Disabled Access Resource Team (DART).

Some of my experiences at the festival were wonderful. Three times a day, I lined up in the workers’ dining area and received a plate of delicious food. I became friends with many delightful women and engaged in hours of stimulating conversation. I attended a workshop on bisexuality and found I wasn’t the only bisexual woman among the thousands of lesbians. I also listened to incredible music.

All these years later, I only remember one of the performances I witnessed that August in Michigan. Her name was Toshi Reagon. She was a woman of color in her mid-30s, and she sang and played her acoustic guitar. I liked the way she sounded.

I ended up with her CD Kindness. I can’t remember if I  bought it at the festival or if I ordered it later from the Ladyslipper catalog. (Read more about Ladyslipper’s support of women’s music here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/03/cold-rain-and-snow/ or on the Ladyslipper website: https://www.ladyslipper.org/.) I do remember listening to that CD over and over and over again.

One of my favorite songs on the CD is called “Kindness.” To this day, I love to hear Toshi sing

If you are down and troubled

and you have not got a dime

you can come over to my house

and this is what you will find

there ain’t much to go around

but I will give you my hand

if you are down and troubled

and you have not got ten cents

because I believe in kindness

I believe in sweetness

I believe in peace and love

that is all I’ve been thinking of

Every since I titled my last blog post “Kindness,” I’ve been thinking of Toshi Reagon and singing her song of the same name. If you believe in kindness, sweetness, peace, and love, take four minutes and twenty seconds and have a listen to this wonderful song.

Kindness

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The man and the little girl were walking past the tables of goods set along the side of the highway. I don’t know if any of the other vendors noticed them, but I heard the man say to the girl, We could spend all our money buying something from every table.

The man was probably in his 30s, bearded, rugged and outdoorsy. The girl was six or maybe seven, slender and pale, with longish, straight hair. They didn’t look like hippies or travelers or a family in any way down on its luck. They just seemed like normal people, a dad trying to teach his daughter the limited nature of money compared to the limitless number of desirable items available for purchase.

The girl was drawn to the jewelry on Poppy’s table. She went right up to look at the bracelets and necklaces and rings laid out in black velvet boxes. Her father followed close behind her.

Poppy is a native woman in her late 50s. She is a good friend to me, always quick with a smile, a kind word of encouragement, rocks for my table, supplies for my crafts, or a snack when she has extra food. She is a talented, prolific jewelry maker who supports an extended family (children, grandchildren, brothers, sister, father) by selling her wares.

The man asked his little daughter if she wanted to pick out something for her mother. Her mother’s in the hospital, I heard him explain to Poppy.

Pick out a bracelet for your mom, Poppy immediately said to the little girl. Pick out a bracelet your mom would like, she said, and I’ll give it to you so you can give it to her. Poppy showed the girl which bracelets she could choose from.

As the girl weighed her options, I heard Poppy tell her, My mommy was my best friend! She was sick for a long time, and I took care of her. She had a bad disease, and she fought it for a long time, but now she’s up in Heaven. At least three more times, she told the girl, My mommy was my best friend!

The girl chose a bracelet and Poppy put it in a little plastic bag for her. I’m going to pray for your mom, Poppy told the girl.

She could die, I barely heard the child say softly to Poppy.

Your mom is going to be ok! I heard Poppy tell the girl with complete conviction. I’m going to pray for her!

I glanced over and saw the man looking at Poppy with wonder and gratitude. Thank you. Thank you so much, he kept repeating to her. I’m sure it’s not every day he meets a craftsperson willing to give away her wares so a little girl can make her sick mamma happy.

Of course, the interaction was about something more important than a craftsperson giving away a $5 bracelet. The interaction was really about a stranger affirming the special connection between a mother and a daughter, a stranger comforting a little girl by reassuring her that her mother would get better.

When I glanced over again, the little girl was on Poppy’s side of the table, standing next to the chair where Poppy sat. The woman and the child were hugging, the girl’s pale little cheek pressed against Poppy’s dark round one.

I witnessed the love passing between Poppy and the child, and I was blessed by the reminder of the power of kindness.

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes*

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My life has moved beyond a mere change of plans; my whole life has changed.

I met a man at the recent Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, and we hit it off. While it wasn’t love at first sight, we had an easy friendship from the beginning. Our conversations were deep and exciting. I felt as if doors that had been shut were flying open. Since we weren’t under the pressure of dating, we didn’t put on masks in hopes of impressing each other or hiding who we truly are.

We talked about our exes, what went wrong, what roles we’d played in the disasters, what we’d learned. We talked about our past adventures on the road, as well as adventures we still hoped to have. We talk about our spiritual and mystical experiences and of the magic our lives have been blessed with.

Although I thought he was handsome from the moment I laid eyes on him, I didn’t think I had a chance to be his gal. He wasn’t looking for a relationship, he mentioned in conversation. He was newly free and wanted to stay that way. He didn’t think it was a good idea to have sex with someone he didn’t know well because he thought sex tends to bond people and he wanted to be careful about who he ended up bonded with. I hadn’t been trying to get him into my bed, but I figured he was sending me pretty clear messages that he had no desire to go there. I resigned myself to the fact that we’d be friends but never lovers. I was ok with the lack of romance. I’d pretty much accepted I’d spend the rest of my life alone. I had no reason to hope this man would love me the way I wanted to be loved.

After knowing The Man for about a week, I offered to let him and his dog sleep on the floor of my van. It was cold out, sleeping in his car was killing his back, and the wind had mangled the tent he’d manifested from the free pile. I trusted him and knew letting him sleep on my floor was the right thing to do. I pushed aside any thoughts I had about him being my man.

We decided to go to New Mexico together. He’d been offered a van, available for pickup in Oklahoma in April. We figured Southern New Mexico would be a good place for him to hunker down and carve wood spirits until it was time for him to hitchhike to his van. I had a friend in the town, and I thought I could schedule some readings of Confessions of a Work Camper, maybe sell a few copies. I thought I’d help The Man get settled, then we’d probably go our separate ways, even though I liked him very much. I didn’t even hope we might get together, at least no time soon. It’s just didn’t seem fair to ask someone to do something he so clearly didn’t want to do.

There were bits of banter between us. Once I asked him if he had touched my ass when I knew good and well he hadn’t. Another time I told him my three favorite of the seven deadly sins were sloth, gluttony, and lust. He played too. One night I let him hold the best of my shiny rocks, a beautiful, large amethyst crystal. The next day he asked if I’d put a spell on him because after he’d held the stone, he’d gotten really horny. I vehemently denied casting a spell on him.

Then he got sick. We were both still sleeping in the van, me in my narrow little bed and him and the dog on the floor. The second night of his sickness, after we’d settled in for sleep, he asked if I’d rub his back. I readily agreed, not thinking it was anything more than a friend asking for help for his flu aching muscles. Honestly, it was a relief to touch him, but I was still totally surprised when he offered to rub my back, simply flabbergasted (and pleased) when, in a heartbeat, our relationship took a sexual turn.

I didn’t let myself think about loving him. The thing we had going on was short term, for a limited time only. Soon I’d go back to MegaSuperBabylon to dog sit, then I’d go to the forest to work as a camp host. Besides, he didn’t want to be in a relationship.

I got sick too. The Man offered to take care of me, and I basically moved into his tent to recuperate.

We continued to have a great time together sharing lots of laughter and more deep conversation. It was easy to be together.

The day came for me to leave. We had breakfast. We said good-bye. I drove off, listening to Old Crow Medicine Show sing “Wagon Wheel” and watching him in my side-view mirror, watching him watch me go. How bittersweet it was to leave behind someone so wonderful.

I’ve already written about what happened next (http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2017/02/22/plans/). Before I could leave town, I got a text from the woman I was supposed to house sit for. She’d hurt her back and had to cancel her trip. My future was wide open.

I texted The Man, told him what was up. I said I needed a nap in hopes of getting over my lingering sickness. I suggested we get together in a couple of days. A few hours later, I got a text from him saying we needed to have a talk. I texted back and said he could call me, but his next text said we need to talk in person. Uh-oh! I was worried.

Turns out he was afraid of hurting me. We shouldn’t have had sex, he said. He didn’t think we should have sex anymore.

If you don’t want to have sex with me, then we shouldn’t have sex, I told him.

It’s not that I don’t want to have sex with you, he said sadly. He just didn’t want to hurt me.

We talked and talked. He said he still wanted to be my friend. He still wanted to hang out. I could stay at his camp, he said, and we could still snuggle. Basically, only sex was off the table. I decided I could live with the new situation. The sex had been great, but it wasn’t the most important part of what had been going on between us.

I spent two nights in my van, stretched out and sleeping good in hopes of chasing off the persistant cough the cold had left me with.

When I went back to his tent, he put sex back on the table.

I don’t want to have sex with you if you’re going to feel conflicted about it, I told him. That’s what’s going to hurt my feelings. I suppose he worked out his conflicts because he hasn’t waffled since then.

We were still taking life day-by-day, moment-by-moment. We weren’t in a “relationship;” we were seeing how things went. Sometimes he’d slip and talk about the future in a way that made me think he expected us to be together for a long time. One morning he slipped and called me honey, then got a little sheepish and shy.

One day we figured out how long we’d be apart. I’d leave in April for another house sitting job, then in May I’d go to the forest. I’d leave the forest in October, house sit in November. We could see each other in December. See you in eight months seemed like an impossible time to be apart.

The Man takes things happen for a reason to the point of entertaining a belief in determinism. Do things happen because they were meant to happen? Do things happen because of destiny? He wondered aloud if the Universe had conspired to keep me there with him.

The more we were together, the more sweetly romantic we became. We walked arm in arm into Wal-Mart. He leaned down and kissed me in the supermarket. We danced to an 80s pop song in the thrift store.  I shouldn’t be surprised that the more time we spent together, the closer we grew

I’d been falling in love with him for weeks, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to mention it. One day we talked about how we’d both felt we’d never find anyone who’d love us. I used to sit in my cabin and wonder who would ever love me, he told me. My heart broke to think he could go through his life thinking no woman had ever loved him the way he wanted to be loved. Later that night, I whispered to him, Don’t think no one’s ever loved you, because I love you.

Oh no! he teased. You broke the rules. You weren’t supposed to fall in love with me, but he was clearly pleased.

The person who’d offered the van to The Man had decided not to give it up after all. The Man really wanted a minivan anyway and wasn’t too disappointed. However, he quickly realized the town we were in was a difficult place to make money from his wood carvings. He figured he could survive there, but probably wasn’t going to be able to save enough money to buy himself a minivan.

I’d planned to go to Northern New Mexico to sell jewelry and shiny rocks during the Texas spring break, then come back to town for a house sitting gig I’d gotten through a friend. The ten days of house sitting would be the last we’d see of each other for a long time.

A week before Spring Break, we got into a long conversation about our wants and needs. He said eight months was a long time to be apart. Our lives could take different paths, he told me. In eight months, I could be in Maine! Yet, he said he didn’t want to be in a relationship. It was too soon, he said, although being with me was so wonderful and easy. He asked what I wanted.

I realized I didn’t have anything to lose by putting all my cards out on the table. I like you, I told him, and I’d like to be with you. I can live my life on my own–I’ve been living my life on my own–but it’s just so hard. I want a partner, but I know that’s not what you want. I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do. I don’t want you to be anyone but who you are.

I left it at that and went down to my van to clean it while The Man took a nap. I thought about his belief in determinism. If we are meant to be together, we’ll be together, I thought, and he can’t do anything to stop it.

A couple of hours later, he showed up at the van. He stuck his head in the open side door and looked around.

What are you doing? I asked.

Seeing how I’m going to get all my stuff to fit in here, he said.

I was genuinely confused until he explained he did want to be with me, he did want to be in a relationship with me, he did want to go to Northern New Mexico with me. Oh happy day! (The next day was even happier when he walked up to me, looked me in the eye, and said, I love you!)

This change in his wants has brought about other changes. I reorganized my belongings and got rid of stuff I didn’t really need. The Man built a double bed for us, with storage underneath, then we moved all his things into the van too. I’m no longer single. I’m no longer a single woman traveling alone in her van. I’m now traveling with a man, my sweetheart, and his very nice dog. I called my boss in California and told him I wouldn’t be working as a camp host this summer. I’m back to selling jewelry and shiny rocks by the side of the road, and I don’t have to wear a uniform.

The new life hasn’t been without challenges. I’m not writing nearly enough, and I haven’t been promoting my book or working on a new one as I’d planned. I also have to think about another person’s (and a dog’s) wants and needs. But I will learn to work my writing into my new life, learn to compromise so we all get our most important wants and needs met.

Overall, my new life is fantastic. The Man is caring and loving and generous. He thanks me whenever I help him. He cooks breakfast every morning and tells me I’m wonderful and beautiful and interesting and smart. Life is so, so good.

* Thanks to David Bowie for the title.

The Magic of the Free Pile

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As always, the free pile at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous was fantastic. Oh, there were plenty of items useless to me, like the dozen pair of reading glasses and the women’s clothing in sizes so small I wouldn’t have fit in them as a fourth grader, but I got so many great things from the free pile. I know other people did too.

I snagged a brand new red folding camp chair (retail price: right around $10 at Wal-Mart) for Coyote Sue. Once she arrived, she snagged for herself a large metal watering can, a decorative mirror in a wooden frame; and a four-plex birdhouse. One day while we were free pile shopping together, I found a container of dried black beans and handed them over to an excited Coyote Sue. She may have been the one person at the RTR who loved the free pile as much as I did.

Because the free pile required no money, we allowed ourselves to take risks.

The Divine Miss M picked up a folding cart on wheels. She took it to her camp for a few days and experimented with its uses. When she found it difficult to fold and discovered the plastic it was made from was cracking, she returned it to the pile. It wasn’t long before we watched a musician folding it up and packing it into her car. Maybe she had better luck with it than Miss M did.

I found food besides the dried beans I gave to Coyote Sue on the free pile, although not as much as in previous years when the cans left over from the cooking of the chili and soup dinners were donated. One day I scored a can of Del Monte (OH! Name brand!) peas. Another day  I snagged about a dozen Wal-Mart Great Value granola bars. Later, I scored a chicken and noodle MRE; I put it in my pantry for lean times. When I saw a donated container of doggy treats, I snatched it up for my friend’s pooch.

The strangest consumable I found on the free pile was a nearly full case of cans of Miller High Life beer. At first, I thought the carton was empty, but when I peered in, I saw only two or three cans were missing. Then I wondered if the cans in the carton were empty. Maybe someone had left a carton almost full of empty cans as a joke. However, when I nudged the carton with my toe, its heft told me it was almost full.

Did someone really leave beer? a fellow free pile peruser asked after I pointed out the carton.

It’s in the free pile, I assured him.

I do like Miller beer, he said.

You should take it, I encouraged, thinking of all the sober children in China, while also feeling a bit guilty about encouraging unhealthy behavior. Maybe I should have taken the beer when I first saw it and emptied the cans in the scrub.

I would have been really excited to find that beer when I was twenty, I said as the man carried the beer over to his bicycle.

Heck, I”m 41, and I’m pretty excited, he said.

My friends gave me first dibs on some items before they were offered to the general free pile public.

Mr. B. brought over a digital camera he’d fixed. (I take apart anything broken before I throw it away, he told me. I figure I should put my education to use. Apparently taking apart the broken at least sometimes leads to repair.) I decided to hold on to the camera in the event I need to replace the one I’m currently using. (I realize taking on a spare can be a dangerous precedent for a van dweller.)

Lady Nell sent Mr. T to me with the laptop he was about to offer up to the free pile. I passed on it because the operating system on mine is newer than what Mr. T’s had. Mr. T was skeptical anyone would want it, but it was already gone on my next visit to the pile. To someone without a laptop or tablet, it must have been quite a score.

Gee also gave me a preview of her free pile donations. From her I got a beautiful reversible silk wrap-around skirt; a pair of black leggings lined with soft black fleece; and a pair of light-weight, brightly colored, slip-on Sketchers. At first I thought the Sketchers were too small, but after wearing them a couple of days, they stretched a bit, and I love them! Slip on shoes are great for van life! Alas, while the leggings fit around my middle, they were way too long for my short little legs. I passed them on to Coyote Sue, whose long Viking legs are better suited to their length.

One day a woman I’d met briefly stopped her pickup near my camp and asked if she could park there for a few minutes while she carried some things to the free pile. I said sure and offered to help her. She offered to show me what she had before we brought it all to the pile. She explained another lady had given her the items and asked her to donate them. I found a pair of brand new Duluth Trading Company canvas pants which fit me in the waist and were only five inches too long! That’s a major find for a short, fat gal like me. The pants are my new favorite piece of cold weather gear. (I also got a light blue shirt with a hood, also from the Duluth Trading Company, also in my size. Double score! Alas, I have already spilled curry on the blue shirt, and I don’t know if I am going to be able to scrub it out.)

Two of my best free pile finds were a small cast iron skillet (hello, portion control) and a stamp collection. I rummaged through the collection for stamps that had not been cancelled and found many. I gave a bunch of cancelled stamps to Coyote Sue for her collaging needs and kept the rest to sell on the Etsy shop I want to open to sell collaging and scrapbooking items I pick up cheap.

The real free pile magic happened for a friend of mine, but I was involved.

He was living in his car and hadn’t figured out a way to sleep comfortably. We’d talked about how sleeping in a tent might be better, but he was flat broke, so couldn’t rush out and buy one. Maybe I’ll find one in the free pile, he said.

I’d driven out to see a friend in a nearby town that day, and I was excited to explore the free pile when I returned. since it’s always more exciting after several hours away. I didn’t see anything good but half an hour later, I watched a man deposit a red beach chair on the pile. I thought surely someone milling around the pile would grab it, but no one seemed to want it. I went over to the pile and retrieved the chair for myself. (It’s the perfect height to allow me to sit comfortably in the van and see out my side window.)

Five minutes later, I was talking to my friend, who was still trying figure out how to sleep in his car. I told him I’d seen some foam bed padding on the free pile and offered to go see if it was still there. I went over to the pile and saw the padding was gone. Bummer. But then I saw an interesting nylon bag. Could it be? I peaked inside. Yep, poles and more green nylon. It was a tent.

I picked it up and carried it over to my friend. Heres that tent you manifested, I said as I handed it over.

 

Plans

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When I was traveling with Mr. Carolina, I’d sometimes ask him about his plans. Whenever I’d utter the word plans, he’d throw back his head and laugh uproariously. Mr. Carolina knew we can plan all day long, but the Universe does what it wants when it wants and our schemes mean nothing.

These were my plans for 2017:

Attend the RTR

Spend a few weeks in the Arizona desert

House and dog sit in MegaBabylon

Work on writing my second book

Spend a few more weeks in the Arizona desert

House and dog sit again for the same woman in MegaBabylon

Work some more on my second book

Get paid to score student responses to standardized tests

Head to California to spend my summer working as a camp host and a parking lot attendant

Those plans were supposed to get me through the middle of October 2017.

I made it to the RTR, but after that, the Universe had other ideas for me.

At the RTR I hit it off with a very nice man (who has a very nice dog companion). We up and decided to go to New Mexico together, where we both came down with terrible colds. I still managed to do two readings from my book, Confessions of a Work Camper. I sold ten copies of the book, as well as some jewelry and shiny rocks. Life was good, even though the man and I were sick.

I had a lovely birthday in New Mexico. The man and I soaked in hot mineral water, then joined two more friends in the park for ice cream and pie. It was a wonderful day.

The next day I was scheduled to leave New Mexico and head back to MegaBabylon for my house and dog sitting engagement. Saying good-bye to the man was bittersweet, but I’d decided to travel back to New Mexico to see him again between my two house sitting gigs. He’s a carpenter by trade and had offered to transform wasted space in my van into storage space. I was going to borrow power tools from my host family and work with the man on a van project. I was excited about the project and excited about seeing the man again.

When I got into the van that morning, there were no messages on my phone. I looked out of my side-view mirror and watched the man watch me as I drove away. I listened to Old Crow Medicine Show sing “Wagon Wheel” and tried not to feel sad. I’d known this day would come. I’d known all aspects of life are fleeting. I’d known all we have is the present moment, and I’d done my best to enjoy each moment I’d had with him to the fullest. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t already miss him.

Before I got on the interstate, I had to stop at Wal-Mart. I was still sick, and the sickness had settled in my lungs as a cough. The coughing had kept me up the night before, so I really wanted to be able to take a big swig of cough syrup when I arrived at the free camping area I’d decided on as my stopover. I thought my best move was to get some cough syrup before I left town.

When I stopped the van, I checked my phone, as is my habit. The screen showed a notification saying I had three messages. Three messages? What was up with that?

I went to my messages and saw they were all from the woman I was supposed to house and dog sit for starting the next day. She said she’d hurt her back and was just leaving the hospital. She’d had to cancel her trip. She didn’t need me until April.

I was reeling. What to do? Head back to MegaBabylon anyway? Stay and spend more time with the man? Something else I hadn’t even yet imagined?

It took me a couple of days and a couple of long conversations with the man to figure things out, but I made some decisions. I could tell you my plans, but what’s the point? The Universe is going to send me wherever it wants me to be.

 

 

I Am a Good Person

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Trigger warning: This post is about a past violent relationship.

I wrote the following words on Sunday, January 29, 2017, when I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep.

For a few weeks, I was waking up every night right around 3am. That’s what happened to me the night of January 29. The next day, when I mentioned to a friend how I’d woken up at 3am and how waking at that time kept happening, she told me I should pay attention to what I was thinking about when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, maybe write it all down. I told her that’s just what I’d done.

My friend said (and the Power of Positivity website [https://www.powerofpositivity.com/if-you-wake-up-at-the-same-time-every-night-this-may-be-why/] confirmed),

If the time that you awaken is between 3:00 am and 5:00am, it could also be a sign of your Higher Power alerting you to pay attention to messages that are being sent to align you with your higher purpose.

In any case, the following words are what I wrote that night:

The fear is not just that he would hurt me, but that I would go back. I’m scared I’d set eye on him and feel his power over me again, succumb to it, run into the sickness with open arms.

It hurts to say I participated in my own abuse. We’re not supposed to talk about this aspect of the violence, but the truth of the matter is, I stayed. Sure, he threatened to kill me, my family, the dog, my friends, everyone I ever loved, if I left. Sure, he said it would be my fault if he ever ended up back in prison, the thing he feared most. He said I’d pay if he was ever put back in a cell, that he knew people and had connections and could have me killed. But I could have left, walked away and never gone back, as I finally did. What took me so long? And after the first three times I left in grand and bold ways, why did I go back?

I had hope, I suppose–hope that this time could be different, hope that this time I could be different, hope that this time I could be the person he wanted me to be, hope that maybe this time his anger would dissolve.

No one ever told me hope can sometimes hurt. No one ever told me hope should sometimes be released. No one ever told me that sometimes a situation really is hopeless.

I gave up on him changing early on. He was a pillar. He was steadfast. His anger was not going anywhere.

How can I bring out the worst in a person I love so much? I often wondered.

Now I understand I wasn’t a catalyst for the worst, but an excuse.

Why didn’t I leave?

I thought we were cosmically linked. I thought our stories were meant to be intertwined forever. I believed it was us against the world.

I believed his lies. I believed the lies I told myself.

I thought maybe I was so flawed, that this was the best I could ever do.

I hoped under all the bullshit, he really did love me.

I thought maybe he was capable of hunting me down and hunting down my family and hunting down my friends and killing us all. I thought I was responsible for protecting all the people I’d ever loved. I thought I was responsible for protecting him. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I was responsible for protecting myself.

I’ve forgiven him, for the most part, to the extent forgiveness can extend to someone I still fear.

You don’t have to hate him on my behalf, I told a friend once. I’ve let go of any hate I felt for him. I feel great compassion for him, he who’s been locked in cages since he was 12. I wish him peace. I wish him love. I wish him to stay as far away from me as possible.

I’ve mostly forgiven him, but it’s just occurred to me that I need to forgive myself. I am my own most precious gift, and I squandered my own safety and value and self-worth to appease a bully, The hardest thing to know is that I sacrificed myself all for nothing; I gave up myself and it wasn’t enough for him. I could never give up enough of myself to satisfy him.

So now I’m working on forgiving myself for staying, for loving him and protecting him more than I was willing to love and protect myself.

My new mantra is I am a good person.

I say it to myself before I go to sleep at night. I am a good person. I say it to myself when negative self-talk creeps into my head. I am a good person.

I say it to myself when I want to say You really fucked that up or No one’s ever going to love you because you’re so fucked up or You’re going to die alone and no one will even remember you. Instead,  I say, I am a good person.

Currently, I chant it frantically. I am a good person. I am a good person. IamagoodpersonIamagoodpersonI amagoodpersonIamagoodperson.

I’m hoping if I say it enough, I will come to believe it; the thought will become automatic; it will be true. I am a good person.

I’m hoping eventually I will be able to say it calmly, slowly, from a place deep within me. I. Am. A. Good. Person.

Because I know I can only let go of the fear of drifting back to him by loving myself enough to truly believe I deserve better than his bully bullshit.