[Excerpt 2 from CYCLING in the CITY — How I Got My Confidence Back.]
Moving to California: September 1989
It was late August when I made the trip to Carmichael from Purgatory, and it felt even hotter than summertime in my attic apartment. Fortunately, I wasn’t traveling alone with my two cats that had never been in the car except for the annual two-minute drive to the vet. Kathy was with me. She had been a housemate in the latter half of the academic year from hell. And although we got along well, I had never told her what I was experiencing then.
Kathy had been one of the non-traditional students in the professional teacher program at the college. She had already experienced a life before coming back to college to get a teaching credential. And she had taken a room in the 4-bedroom cottage I called Mom’s House when a vacancy showed up.
I had bought it so my mother could visit after my step-father passed. Mom could not have visited me otherwise, because I lived in a tiny apartment with outside stairs for the ten years after my divorce, and she had Parkinson’s disease. So, I had leveraged that trusty old adobe/stucco building to buy a house for Mom.
However, after one visit, she decided she liked Texas better than Colorado, and Mom’s House became a sort of coop where bedrooms were rented to help pay the mortgage.
Kathy had been looking for a place to rent at the exact same time one of my housemates suddenly moved out to follow her love to Connecticut. Kathy was thrilled when I invited her to join us, and I felt grateful she accepted, because I would not have been able to pay the mortgage without her. She was intelligent, street-wise, and funny.
And when I got Catherine’s offer for a place to just be, to recover from my physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion, Kathy stepped up to be my house-sitter. She would rent the downstairs rooms to three college girls and take over my sanctuary upstairs when they arrived.
In that interim, before the girls came and the fall semester started, we played lots of Cribbage and Backgammon. She seemed to especially appreciate those rare times I played guitar downstairs, out of my sanctuary, and wailed country tunes.
It was one such night over Backgammon that I had somehow managed to convince her to join me on this journey.
“Wish I could go with you!” she said.
“You can! And I could sure use your help with the cats.”
“But how will I get back? I can’t afford to fly.”
“Then you’ll take the bus.”
“Not the bus! I hate the bus!”
“It could be an adventure! Think of what you’ll see along the way! Or if that isn’t interesting, think of the time you’ll have for reading! Trust me, after my days and days of bus rides in Mexico, I speak with authority when I say a bus ride can be a real adventure, no matter how you do it. It’ll be great. You’ll see.”
I watched her face as she pretended to be planning her next move in our game of Ace-y Deuce-y, a modification of the basic Backgammon board game.
Suddenly, she picked up one of her checkers. She replaced my lonely, single checker on that triangle with hers. And she put mine on the bar. I’d have to roll doubles to get it off and I’d have to re-enter the game on her home board if and when I did roll doubles. But each triangle on her home board was completely covered with two or more of her checkers. She had built a wall for exactly this moment, and I was blocked. No possible entry for me.
“Nicely done, Kathy!”
“Okay, okay! I’m in!” she exclaimed. I gave her a big hug and grabbed the guitar while she put the game away.
When departure day arrived, we were ready to roll. I had traded the old Saab for a used Honda Civic wagon, and it already had been loaded and locked the night before. For myself, I took my desktop computer, suitcase of casual clothes for the different climate, and a box of toys (books and recorder). We had a litter pan and bowls for water and food for the cats when we stopped. The cats would ride in contained carriers that could be shaded to prevent sunshine from the windows making them too hot.
As we approached the gas station on our way out of town, I remembered the experience from my first trip to Sacramento with Catherine, and laughed.
“Is this it? Is this the gas station where you filled up for the trip to Grand Junction and left your wallet on top of the car when you drove away?”
“It is! But as it turned out, that wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Getting that feeling that I had to turn around and go home was perfect. Because I responded to that compelling urge to go home, I was there when the boy called to say he had found my wallet. And that gave me confidence to take the trip by myself, considering I’d never been to Grand Junction before.”
“Well, don’t do it again. My money is for my bus adventure back to Purgatory!”
I admired that about Kathy – her ability to laugh and go with whatever weirdness I was doing. But remembering that story was fun for me, because it more or less set the tone for this trip.
It reminded me that the Cosmic Cops were always watching. And the insistent urge to go back home, despite my reluctance to ever go backwards, reminded me of their constant guidance.
I sensed that this was a sign of how it was going to be – that I would be watched over and protected, even by strangers, like the boy in the filling station who had phoned to say he’d found my wallet.
It simply reaffirmed what that little desert lizard had reminded me of when it spoke to me on that first camping trip with the shamans in Mexico – that all my needs would be met even before I realized I had them. I believed that my life was guided moment by moment, but I had to be open to it and be available to follow it when it came.
But I wasn’t as crazy on this trip as I was when I departed solo to meet Catherine in Grand Junction. This time, I had a strong woman on either end of it. Catherine in Carmichael offered me sanctuary to heal myself, to get over the loss of confidence and self-respect from burnout. And Kathy, my house-sitter, made the trip with me not only to make sure the critters were okay, but to provide company for me.
And I did not leave my wallet anywhere!
With one overnight in a motel along the way, Kathy and I arrived at Catherine’s by early afternoon the next day. And Amber and Sophie, my precious critters, were so happy to feel grass under their paws! While they were checking out their new digs and the other cats that already lived there, Kathy helped me unload.
The next morning, Kathy had me drive her to the bus station. She said she wanted to be at Mom’s House when the college girls arrived to set the tone for living there. I totally understood. That is what I preached in my Classroom Management course. But I was disappointed, because I had imagined she’d get a day or two to explore Sacramento. Somehow I missed the fact that the two days by car and three days by bus had eaten up her free time. And that this was not an adventure for her, but a gift of love to make sure I got here okay.
She handed me the box of personalized stationery she’d created for me. There were 500 sheets of paper, and maybe 100 envelopes. The address at the top had a rose (for my middle name) and the words: “Pamela R. Young, Address Unknown.” I gave her a big hug and she whispered, “Write to me.”
I knew I would, and the first letter included a description of life in California.
Update re’ My Weird Indy Publishing Project:
LIFE stepped in and I have stepped back from writing to do the dance with my life. At first it was simply “do the taxes.” After that, this past month was about getting the vacant apartment ready to rent; and then there’s a 2-3 week period of getting the tenant settled. As soon as she was, the other tenant gave notice — moving so she can have a puppy — so it starts all over again. That, and the early spring that requires my attention in the yard, the warmer temperatures that means “find your summer clothes, store the winter ones” because here, spring lasts about two days.
Even in this brief separation from writing, I have come to doubt this project — spending so much time and love and money on each book, having zip return for the efforts. It’s going to take a Herculean act of faith to pick it up again in face of the facts (thanks to IRS I am stunningly aware of the facts).
Never before have I had such a costly behavior in my life. Smoking and drinking never cost me as much as writing does. I wonder if it will be as easy to quit writing as it was to quit them?
And the CEOs of writing will say, “Write to market.” Write what people want to read. But currently, that looks like romance books (ewww) or thrillers or finely-tuned-tiny-niche sci-fi books.
Why can’t I write what I like to read?
And Sean of the sci-fi trio would probably say, “You can — as your passion peace. But if you want your habit to pay for itself, you have to write what THEY (the people who buy books) want to read.”
One of my respected reader friends wants me to write about my “condition.” I want her to write about her “condition.” At this stage in life, most people seem to have one. How many people want to read books about that? I don’t, although I confess to reading John Grisham’s non-fiction book re’ the tumor.
Lots to think about…
Till next time — please be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows. ~Tzaddi