My drive to Missoula last week was not as easy as it was last year when I made the same journey. Although I’d scouted the weather reports for two weeks and determined that my desired window of travel looked like clear sailing, Mother Nature is often unpredictable and she threw me a bit of a curve ball. I left my mom’s house and almost immediately drove into some light snow flurries. As I headed north into Wisconsin the snow increased in intensity until I crossed the Mississippi into Minnesota. Adding to my anxiety was the fact that for the first time ever I had my bike mounted to a rack on the back of my car. After 8+ hours of driving, I arrived in Sioux Falls, SD quite tired but certain that the snow was behind me.
I was wrong. The next day, as I drove across the interminable expanse of South Dakota, snow squalls interspersed with very short breaks followed me almost all the way into Wyoming. With nothing in that area of the state to break the howling gusts of wind, the snow blew and drifted and froze across the interstate, leaving only one lane moderately clear and limiting visibility considerably. Numerous cars slid off into the median as I crawled along, determined to make it to Sheridan and my waiting hotel room no matter how long it took. 10 1/2 hours later I arrived as the skies finally cleared and the sun shone brightly before setting around 4:30 behind the mountains. I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a bourbon toast over the phone with good friends while watching Louisville in their Bowl game. Exhausted by the long stressful drive, I fell sleep around 9.
I woke early on the final day of my trip, eager to arrive in Missoula and be done with driving. I checked the road reports and the weather, both predicted to be fairly clear. After grabbing some coffee in the hotel lobby, I departed at 5:15. The stretch of I-90 between Sheridan and Montana was eerily void of any other traffic in the wee hours of New Years Day, and I felt increasingly alone as I drove along the dark and icy interstate. I felt pangs of longing to be back home with my mom, or back in Louisville with Kat and among my friends. I took the opportunity to ask myself why I was feeling the loneliness so intensely. The answer came quickly that I was looking for comfort and reassurance from others rather than from within myself.
As the sun rose that morning, it lit up the most amazing and sparkling hoarfrost coating the outside every tree along the way. I arrived in Missoula around 1pm and began settling into the same little condo where I’d been so happy last winter. As I unpacked my car and brought my belongings upstairs, I took the tv remote to turn on some New Years Day football, only to find out that the cable wasn’t functioning. Mildly disappointed, I continued unpacking. Throughout the rest of the weekend, as I continued to organize my little condo, the full impact of my decision to move and the resulting consequences hit me full on. I had moved away, not temporarily this time, from all that was comfortable and safe to me. The city in which I’ve lived for 18 years. My best friends. My gym and my buddies there. VOICES, the most supportive part of my life in Louisville. I felt the most loss from the breakup with Kat and the separation from her and the kids, as I realized how much my life centered around them. I even felt the absence of the comfort of the TV in the background in my condo, and it hit me again just how much I searched for external means to love, comfort, and validate me.
This is my real lesson, to be able to be for myself what I’ve always tried to get from others. This was exactly what I had asked for and intended to do – to take away all my safety nets so that I could not fall back on them, to force me to learn to rely on myself for love and approval. It’s easy to say – but I didn’t realize until right now how difficult it really is.
I’m a huge fan of Mike Dooley and his book The Top Ten Things Dead People Want To Tell You. He describes setting the intention of your life just like you program a destination into the GPS system of your car. You put in the address, and you put your car in gear. You know without a doubt that the GPS is going to take you to your destination. You don’t question it when the route looks unfamiliar, you don’t stop and turn around, thinking that it has failed to do what it’s programmed to do. The Universe works the same with your life dream, Dooley writes. You set your intention with the Universe, you put your car in gear by taking inspired action, and you sit back, enjoy the trip and trust that the Universe will take you to your destination. It makes perfect sense to me.
I’ve thought of that analogy over the past several days since arriving here in Missoula. This journey that I am on now is so unfamiliar, so scary and unknown, that I want to turn the car of my life around and return back to my starting point. To run back to the comfort and familiarity of the life I had in Louisville. But that is unfortunately in the wrong direction and will not help me get stronger. I’m so scared and have felt so lonesome since I’ve arrived, second guessing and desperately doubting my decision and my inner strength. But at one point over the weekend I looked out my window, at the expanse of mountains surrounding this city, and a calmness washed over me. I thought to myself, “I will let life lead me.” I remember my own inner GPS destination and the intent that I have set with the Universe, and I trust that I am on the route which will take me there, no matter how scary it looks along the way. Having faith that everything is going to work out is the best comfort I can give myself.