I usually don’t like to blog out of order, but right now I’m compelled to share what’s going on. So, you’ll have to wait to hear about some of my unique and unexpected Arizona road trip adventures. For now, I want to tell you about my journey back to Santa Monica. After 5 months on the road, I knew it was time to face my Los Angeles demons. For months my apartment has sat empty, leaving a $1700 monthly drain on my savings account. I either had to return to pack up my things and move out, or I had to return to live. It was with these heavy questions that I found myself in tiny Williams, Arizona, which promotes itself as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon. Indeed, it is. It is one of the closest cities to the South Rim. After splurging for a $25 day pass, Yoda and I spent 4 hours walking around the Rim. I’m sure no one will be shocked to read that yes, I cried the entire time. I’ve found my road trip tears to be healing, but usually they are limited to private time when I’m behind the wheel of Princess. The reasons for my Grand Canyon tears were two-fold. First, I was not ready to return to LA. For the past few years LA has represented stress, unhappiness, angst and feelings of being completely lost without a sense of control over my life. I didn’t yet feel I’d found the inner-peace (Shama) necessary to give me the strength to call LA home again. The second reason for my tears was just days before I had recently made a decision, a HUGE decision that is wildly out of character for me. I’ll tell you in a moment what that decision was, but lest I ruin the punch line, for now, let’s just call it “the Decision.” Usually when I make a decision I evaluate it from every angle. Will people judge me? Who will agree? Who will disagree? Is my decision responsible? If my decision doesn’t pass every litmus test possible, I don’t make it. I’m starting to realize that I’ve spent my entire life making decisions in my life for everyone but myself. This is completely asinine when you stop to realize that NO ONE CARES. Everyone is too busy living their own lives to really pay attention to mine. I have wasted so many years living in fear of the judgment of others. This realization combined with the fact that I had finally made a decision, The Decision, without first considering what others would think of me, left me second guessing if I was ready to break out of my old unhealthy (but comfortable) way of processing things.
After the Grand Canyon, I was looking forward to spending a couple days with a close friend (let’s call him “My Friend”) at his house in Nevada. My Friend is one of the most grounded, stable, supportive and wise people in my life. For months now we’ve been planning to meet in Nevada right before I returned to California. Now it seemed extra important to spend time with him because I desperately wanted My Friend to agree that The Decision was a good one. Ah yes, I realize in retrospect that this urgency to have My Friend’s blessing was falling right back into my old pattern of decision making. And then, when My Friend called at the last minute to say an emergency had just come up and he couldn’t make it to Nevada that day, I knew I was on my own with The Decision. Yet I didn’t really have time to process that thought because I had a mere 40 minutes before hotel check-out time to figure out where I was going next. I sat at my computer and quickly typed in “hot springs near Las Vegas.” I found one in California called Tecopa Hot Springs. In a rush, I didn’t research the place or really even know where it was. I only knew that it was going to take me 5 ½ hours to get there.
After a few hours of driving I crossed the California border. It had been months since I’d been on California soil, and when I saw the WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA freeway sign I felt a rush of hysterics threaten to bubble to the surface. I questioned if this road trip had been a complete bust. 5 months on the road and in that moment I felt that I had achieved no inner-peace or growth at all. Was this entire journey just a colossal waste of my time? How in the world could I face Los Angeles when I didn’t feel any stronger, or any less lost, than when I left? My mantra for the trip was still taped to my dashboard in the form of a decade old Post-it note that says “I Welcome Change.” Oh my God, had I really not changed at all during this journey? It was then that I looked around and realized that I was in the middle of the Mohave Desert heading into Death Valley! My tears instantly dried and were replaced by a racing heart as I noticed I had one bar left on my gas gauge and no cell reception. For the next hour I drove as fuel-efficiently as I could. I’m still not sure about the formula for driving fuel-efficiently, but my version involved something along the lines of turning off the music, turning off the A/C, rolling down the windows and driving at a slow but steady speed all while I held my breath. It was probably the breath holding that did it, because I finally landed at a gas station with one very thirsty car.
I arrived at Tecopa Hot Springs, a warm and inviting place with loads of pottery on the property and well loved simple cabins that are described on their website as “camping with four walls.” I love that sort of thing. As long as hot springs are involved, give me clean sheets and a friendly property manager and I’m in! After purchasing some license plate art made from plates a local artist had found in the desert, I took a meditative walk around Tepoca Hot Springs’ labyrinth which was on a hill overlooking the desert that was lit up by a rainbow of colors as the sun was setting. Afterwards, while soaking in the hot spring, I was overcome by a tremendous sense of peace and contentment. The symbolism of my visit to Tecopa Hot Springs proved to me that indeed, I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment. The fact that I was in Death Valley symbolized the death of the tightly wound depressed woman whom I was when I embarked on my road trip last year. The hot spring symbolized rejuvenation and the birth of the woman I am meant to become. The labyrinth symbolized inner peace, which in that moment I realized I’ve been feeling blips and spurts of for a couple months now. And the license plate art that I purchased was not only made up of plates from states that I have visited, but it also says “Jah Love,” which to me means Universal Love. I’m not sure what I believe about God and the Universe, but I can say without question that a power higher than me has made certain that I’ve been exactly where I’ve needed to be on every minute of my road trip.
So let’s get back to The Decision. Something interesting happened during my 5 months on the road. In between all those hours of crying, soul searching, questioning my life and trying to find myself, I fell in love. I’m going to keep private the details of how we met and how he swept me off my feet, however perhaps one day you’ll read about some of it in my book. For now, trust me, he’s wonderful. And The Decision is, I’m moving to Houston, Texas to continue to explore things with him. While there, I’ll finish my book and use Houston as a launching pad for more road trips. This time those road trips will be of shorter duration than 5 months at a time, because quite frankly, I now have a reason to stay put.
After my epiphany at Tecopa Hot Springs, it was with a resilient spirit and a calm strength that I returned to LA. I realize now that the change I so desperately prayed for during the past 5 months is finally happening. Right now I’m sitting at my Santa Monica kitchen table surrounded by boxes preparing to leave on another road trip this week…this one involving a U-Haul truck. I have no doubt that the road will continue to teach me many lessons, yet quite possibly, the road will often be the one right outside the front door of my new Houston home. I’m still searching for Shama, but interestingly, the process is starting to make sense to me. I have a feeling that searching for inner-peace will be a lifelong quest. The trick is learning to trust that the road will always be under foot with each new step I take.
Read me on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christine-buckley/