I’m just wrapping up a solo road trip. Sure, it was work related. I gave a presentation in Boise at our annual assistive technology training. A dear friend got married down in CA, which made a lovely excuse to pass through southeast OR and northern NV, and then make a big loop back through northeast CA. I made a point of travelling new to me roads. I did not have a plan for where I was to be spending all of my nights, but made sure that I had contacted friends along the way to not spend too much time alone. I brought my running shoes and my swimming suit, my hiking boots and both of my bicycles. I threw in the climbing gear just in case. I had the truck with a cot to sleep in if I needed it, and a cooler to eat from with means to make my coffee in the morning. I’ve wanted to do a solo road trip for years. Since the kids were little. Since long before Jim got sick and died. The last solo road trip that I had taken was the one I had taken to move from WI out to the west. It was a huge turning point in my life, so it was only fitting that I spend a few days in Tahoe revisiting the girl that I was then.
Early on in physical therapy school I was engaged to a boy who was also in professional school. We were mostly done with our internships, which had us separated all over the Midwest when he announced that his feelings had changed. He no longer loved me, he no longer wanted to get married, and our plans to move west after mutual graduations were off. I was devastated, but had work to do, national board exams to study for and take, and suddenly I had to make plans for myself after graduation. The pull west was stronger than the pull of my profession, and when a friend offered up a free place to stay in Tahoe, I jumped on it. I became the caretaker for the Stanford ski team’s cabin. I had a Ford Fiesta (such a great snow car), $600 in the bank, a broken heart, and no clue what I would do once my money ran out. Figuring that I could always clean toilets to pay for groceries, I had a weekend job teaching little kids to ski, and full-time work at a sports medicine clinic within a month. My money didn’t run out. I left the care-taking cabin pretty quickly, and I settled into my first professional job. I had a series of boyfriends, I had money to buy a 4WD car, I met Jim, and I bought skis and bikes. I recreated in the mountains after work and on days off. Tahoe was a very selfish time in my life, and one where I realized that no one was going to take care of me except for me. And, I knew I was up for the job.
Then my sister died while en route to come live closer to me. Though I had a good job, I got tired of being on call every other night, and every other weekend. 2 weeks off a year were not enough to spend time with my family and travel to other places in the great part of the country I had adopted as my new home. Though I had a very sweet boyfriend, his dreams of never getting married, never having children, and never having his own home, did not align with my long-term goals. I quit my job to have some extended time with my family over the holidays after the loss of my sister. I bought a ski pass and returned to Tahoe for a spring of skiing when I wanted without the constraints of a full-time job. I spent more time with the sweet boyfriend to see if there was common ground. I contemplated returning to the midwest, but by then the mountains were in my blood. I traveled a bit, including accepting an offer to visit Jim in OR, as we had stayed in touch over the 2 years since I had met him. I realized that long-term goals such as marriage and children were not something a couple could compromise on. At the end of spring, I left Tahoe. I moved to OR and again picked up work. I shifted from sports medicine to pediatrics, which became a passion. I fell in love with Jim. Marriage, a family. Home ownership and a career. I left Tahoe and I left my selfish life behind.
Shortly after Jasper left for college last Fall, I hit a low point. I had a career, I met and married the love of my life, I raised 2 kids who were well on their own, and I cared for and then buried my husband. Knowing that my genetics, bar some catastrophe, would carry me into my late 80’s at a minimum, I had no clue how I was supposed to fill the rest of my life. I knew what I did not want. I knew that I did not want to live vicariously through my children. I knew that diving into full-time work when I did not need to was a sure recipe for burnout of the passion I still felt for my career. I knew that turning to multiple daily sports workouts was not sustainable in a 50-year-old body without breakage. And I knew that too much travel was just running away from pain that never left because it was still inside of me. I knew what I did not want, I knew what would not work for me. Harder was coming up with what I DID want. I knew I wanted to stay connected to my children and my family. I knew I still wanted to work in the areas of my profession that I still felt passion for. I knew that I needed to live close to the rivers and mountains of Idaho. I knew that the cord of friends and the community of Moscow would hold me even if I travelled away for a time. And, I knew that I did not want to spend the rest of my life alone. I knew that to love with less than my whole heart was not worth it, I was very capable of taking care of myself, but I knew that when it is right, one plus one equals far more than two.
When I met Greg, he was dating other women, and I had just returned from my trip to Panama. I had decided that I was done searching for love again in this life, and that I had it pretty darn good. A home and community, a flexible job in a career I still loved, family and friends to travel with, and a body that pretty much lets me do what I want to do when I want to do it. Very quickly after meeting Greg, he said he was ready to stop dating anyone else if I could make that commitment of exclusivity as well. I replied that it was not a contest between him and 6 other guys, it was between him and whether I really wanted anyone else in my life. I thought it was a great response, but he was not impressed, and told me that would not work. Shocked, I went on a long walk with the dog and thought about it. I was finally able to say, “I know where I am, I DO know where I would like to be in the future, but I have no f—ing clue how to get from here to there.” When he said, “I don’t either, can we figure it out together?” I took a huge breath and dove in. We’ve been figuring it out over the last 5 months and I am as happy as I have ever been in my life.
So, today I return from my solo road trip. It was good to re-visit with the feisty independent girl that I was in my 20’s. It was fun to see old haunts, take hikes and old remembered bike rides, and sleep just off the road in my truck. It was even better to reconnect with good friends that I know will be with me for life. But sweetest of all is knowing that I return to someone who loves me no matter what, who has become a great partner and a mirror for my soul. I am solo, but so not alone.