Drowning in Beauty

May we all have a happier new year.

Don’t know whether you remember I was running away for Christmas to visit my friend in Arizona and take a trip to Moab in Utah. Well, I did, and there was very little evidence of Christmas in either place. I hardly even thought about ritual abuse. Mission accomplished!

Moab was incredible. The first day there we went for a drive, and it was so beautiful I burst into tears. There were all these red rocks on either side of the road towering hundreds of feet above us. Hundreds. I am not exaggerating. The town is in a little valley and every place you look, 360 degrees, there were red rocks.

This is high desert country, with elevations between 4000 and 7000 feet. Outside of town you look across barren ground broken only by sparse grasses and small shrubs. The ground is reddish because the soil is made of tiny particles eroded from those gigantic rocks. The vegetation was brown because the rainy season hadn’t started; however there was enough water and nourishment for rabbits and deer and other critters. It reminded me of driving through the Australian desert and seeing Ularu soaring up in the middle of nowhere. Except here, Ularu was all around us.

Christmas Day, we stayed in out little cabin, loafed, read magazines, and watched the snow fall gently around us. That was the only day it snowed and the rest of the time we drove through the La Sal mountains, Arches National Park and, on the last day, Monument Valley. We shared the road with deer, who were fearless, and cattle, who were just as fearless when we leaned on the horn. We saw ravens and buzzards and some tumbleweed, even though it was the wrong time of year. I was in heaven.

I did none of the driving, so I felt very well taken care of. We had been good friends for several years but we had never spend that much uninterrupted time together. We both are in chronic pain and when we are tired we get sort of grumpy. So much time together could have been a recipe for disaster, but we both were understanding and forgiving. The last couple of days were a real treat – we went over our ways of communicating and figured out patterns that cause misunderstandings. I’ve only done that in therapy, and that is pretty one-sided. I learned so much about her and about myself; when I am not clear, when I jump to conclusions about the other person, when she thought I was saying one thing but it was another.

I don’t want to give the impression that all was well 24/7. The day we were supposed to check into the cabin we arrived after the sun set. Of course we got hopelessly lost in back-country roads, up in the mountains, no houses within sight, no useful map, snow on the road, and no snow tires. After about two hours I suggested we call AAA and ask what to do. She heard AARP and thought that was the stupidest thing she had heard in a long time.

Finally we found a place with cell phone reception and called the company that managed the cabins. A sweet young guy talked us down to the road we were supposed to be on. Except we were twenty miles away from the turn off and he thought we were just a few yards from it. Eventually that got straightened out. Boy did we sleep well that night!

I was happy that I walked more than twice as much as I do on a good day at home, even with the altitude and getting out of breath. I hadn’t walked in snow for twenty or thirty years, and I could do it without losing my balance. Except one time, when I misjudged the steepness of a little slope, my weight was too far back, and I fell over backwards. I rolled to the right, so I didn’t hit my head, but my ankle is badly bruised. That’s the risk you take when you go bravely into an unfamiliar situation saying, “Of course I can do it” rather than, “I’m too scared. You go and have fun and I will stay here in the car and be bored.”

In case you hadn’t guessed, I want to go back next year.

PS I wanted to include pictures, but I am working on Windows and have no idea how to do anything. I’ll show you some fantastic pictures when I get home.

Twenty-Four Years of Slow Change

I came back as planned!

The trip was fantastic. My best friend and I got along great, and it was a wonderful reminder of the days we travelled together early in our friendship. I felt very loved and very loving.

Not everything was the way I imagined, but that usually is the case. Some things were — the desert in Coober Pedy is every bit as beautiful as I thought it would be. I wish we could have stayed a lot longer. Tasmania was gorgeous. Wombats look like I thought they would, and guess what — Tasmanian Devils sorta look like small wombats. We saw a duck-billed platypus, a whale, dolphins, seals, a pandemelon and tawny frogmouths (I’ll let you Google them), a koala, kangaroos and emus with chicks along the road. That was far more than I expected.

The low point of the trip was when a hungry kangaroo in a petting zoo clawed me and then ate all the food I was giving him, and the paper bag, too. The ones I had seen before were sweet and gentle and well fed. I couldn’t hold it against him — he was a wild animal and seemed to be given mainly hay. With a diet of hay, I would have lunged for goodies, too.

My back was horrible, and remains so. It feels worse, probably because I don’t have new experiences and all that beauty to distract me. I’m having a hard time accepting that this is my new baseline and I will have to make a whole lot more accommodations. My guess is that this was my last big trip, and that makes me very sad. Funny how my body is going downhill even as I get better psychologically.

Rereading what I just wrote, I notice that there are no references to ritual abuse or its after-effects except for the last word of the preceding sentence. A while ago it would have been all about RA, and Australia would have been barely mentioned. When I look back on the day when my memories first exploded into consciousness, I cannot believe the change. If you had told me then that I could ever feel like this, I would have thought you were lying in an attempt to keep me from killing myself.

I wish I could tell those in the early or middle stages of coming to grips with ritual abuse that it can get better, miraculously better. I can tell them, but I can’t make them believe it, any more than I could have believed it in the beginning. There was no room for hope then, there was only the grim daily struggle to stay alive. And, oddly enough, what I did to stay alive led, small step by small step, to where I am today. There is so much to be grateful for, so much to celebrate!

Can an RA Survivor Take a Vacation?

I’m talking about me, of course.

Yes. No. Maybe. Depends.

Yes. There is no reason I can’t take a vacation just because I was horrendously mistreated as a kid. No. I am too scared and timid to go because I was horrendously mistreated as a kid. Maybe, if I do a good job of talking myself into being brave and fearless.  Depends on how well I plan the details and how thoroughly I prepare myself.

Can I take a vacation without feeling guilty? Are you kidding me??? I can’t do anything without feeling guilty! I’m going to make my cats unhappy. I’m going to use scarce resources and contribute to global warming. Don’t say everybody does it — that doesn’t make it right. Even if my carbon footprint were zero I would feel guilty that I wasn’t planting trees and making speeches 24/7. Guilt is just a given.

Nevertheless, I have made up my mind and I am going to do it. I’m sick of being confined to my apartment, sick of these four walls. And I need a break from my beloved computer, too. My writing seems stale to me and I haven’t filed anything in weeks, if not months. I want to once again be brimming with ideas and projects and energy and enthusiasm.

My best friend and I are going to Australia, my favorite country in the whole wide world, for two weeks. We are going to see lots and lots of desert because that’s my favorite part of Australia. About five years ago I was in Australia for two weeks with my daughter and grandkids and we spent three twelve-hour driving days going through the outback in a bus, mostly on unpaved roads. One night we stayed at a cattle ranch under millions of stars, and they had an illegal pet kangaroo named Mary. (Don’t ask me why they are illegal, they just are.) They fed her tea with milk and a slice of bread for breakfast and gave her a beer at dinner time. She held the cup in her little racoon-like hands. We won’t see Mary this time, but we will see lots of other things.

First stop is Coober Pedy, which is the opal capital of Australia, if not the world. They noticed that it was cool in the mines, so they dug holes and made houses inside them, and hotels and bars, too. Lots of bars; guess there isn’t a whole lot to do in Coober Pedy. The outback around Coober Pedy looks fantastic.

There will be no 36-hour bus trip this time, but there will be a 12-hour train ride from Adelaide to Melbourne through five hundred miles of beautiful nothing.  I just love trains.

Then, for contrast, there will be a week in Tasmania, which is very rainy. The outback — also called bush — there is lush and green and full of all sorts of birds and marsupials. If it is a clear night, you can see just as many stars as in Coober Pedy. The night sky will look totally different because it’s the Southern hemisphere and the constellations are all unfamiliar to me. I’m hoping to have a Tasmanian specialty for dinner one night: mudbugs. They are extremely large crawfish, quite edible. I’m also hoping to see a wombat, which is a short fat marsupial rodent the size of a small German Shepherd.

As you might have guessed, I’m pretty excited. This trip will be all the more precious because my back tells me this may be my last big adventure. I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like my spine is going to continue getting worse. The pain as well as the lack of mobility clips my wings considerably.

We won’t have access to the Internet, because what’s the point in going halfway around the world just to use a computer? So there will be a gap in this blog. I’ll miss the 10/30 entry, and I’m quite sure I will miss Halloween festivities, too (Hooray!) I plan on an 11/10 entry but it will be late.

Oh, and I promise to come back.