It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. It’s just that I’ve been too busy doing the things I want to write about to write about them. Now, summer is coming to a close (the days always seem to speed up at this time of August, don’t they?) and I can sit down, close my eyes and think about how lucky I’ve been, and enjoy that for awhile before launching myself back into the routine of work.
Last summer was spent on the couch, watching everyone else around me hit the road, pitch tents, wander away to far-away places and generally enjoy life while I sat, very much not enjoying life, although that’s not to say I wasn’t grateful for it. I shipped my kids off to day camps so that they’d be occupied, and although I’m sure they were mildly entertained it didn’t touch how we usually spend our summers. I vowed this summer would be different. And it sure has been, although it hasn’t been what I would have expected. I guess, as a friend pointed out, I decided to say yes. To all of the questions to which my answer was no last year, I have tried to answer yes. To the little thoughts that could become big ideas that could become actions, I have also tried to say yes.
Let’s start with the little thought that occurred to me a few months ago: I’d like to photograph the desert. Normally, that thought would have been followed by oh yes wouldn’t that be nice, or maybe someday. This time, my next thought was who can I convince to come with me, which prompted a series of phone calls, two refusals, one yes, and then another yes, which followed a bottle of wine and my finger hovering tantalizingly over the purchase ticket button on my air miles site. Two takers, two airline tickets, one very packed truck courtesy of my very well-equipped gear-happy friend in the prairies, and we were off. We said yes.
I was so looking forward to driving that trip. Unfortunately, when my turn came to drive, I learned what one of my triggers is for this anxiety beast I’m currently wrestling (I do think I’m winning, most of the time. But he’s tough.) The unexpected. Being surprised. Blindsided. Something as simple as a phone call I wasn’t expecting was, at the beginning of this summer, leaving me shaking and ‘zappy’ for several hours afterward. On the road trip day in question, the combination of getting very scary news about a dear friend, driving someone else’s vehicle, and those sneaky mountains that spring up around corners when you’re driving through Wyoming woke that anxiety monster up and rattled it, resulting in me trying to drive, and feeling like there were electrical currents (somewhat ironic, given the nature of the emergency concerning the very dear friend) shooting through my body. I tried to breathe my way around turns and up hills, and I gripped the steering wheel with sweat-drenched hands at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, as one should, but after about two hours of fighting agoraphobia and vertigo and suffering through full-body sweats and yoga-breathing, I had to admit defeat. Which meant that, until we returned to the very-flat landscape of Montana on the last day of our trip, until I had received good news about my friend, and until I had done enough little scary things to make my confidence a bit stronger, my two fellow road-trippers did all of the driving. They did so without judgement, and without complaint, and for that I am eternally grateful. It meant that I got to watch all of the unapologetic beauty that frames the (very long) drive to Goblin Valley State Park, where we were lucky enough to stay for our time in the desert. We set up camp there in the dark, as we had the night before on top of a very high, very cold mountain (it’s very difficult to light a fire when you’re up over 7500 feet!), and woke up to this.
Saying yes. Should I climb the rocks? Yes. Should I risk the road-trip I can’t afford? Yes. Should I zip-line, and let go with arms and legs open wide so that I can see that joy in my kids’ faces? Yes. Should I go swimming? Yes. Should I wander down to the shore in the dark just to look at the moon by myself? Yes. Should I introduce myself to the homeless man I recognize and whose story I’ve always wanted to know, and buy him a beer? Yes. Should I drive the extra six hours to revisit the place where I learned French, and share that place with my kids? Yes. Should I send maple syrup to the man who wrote about honey? Yes. Should I change flights last-minute to sit with the friend whose accident terrified me? Yes. Oh. And should I try driving again before the road-trip ends? Yes. Because I’ll be fine.
Saying yes this summer is helping me to shake that monster that’s been haunting me since March. He’s not gone; he’s sneaky and he’s very tricky. But he’s learning to keep his distance. Yes scares him off just a little bit.
You just never know how many opportunities you’re going to get to say yes. My two cents? Say yes now. Don’t wait.