Friday, February 28, 2014

When the Wheels Fell Off

A sure sign I need a break is when I pull a photo album from the shelf and try to will myself into the pictures contained within, which always depict a more blissful time. Interrupted sleep, overflowing schedules, verbal missteps, and a general sense of disconnection all converged this week, sending me to the shelter of old photographs and unearthed memories. If tumbling out my back door onto the concrete patio and the dog is when the wheels fell off this week,* reminiscing of my journeys out west is the mechanic I so desperately need.

My first trip to the Four Corners region of the United States--where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona meet--was in 2006, and I have felt an unusual connection to the place ever since. The rocky landscape, nearly devoid of vegetation, is a stark contrast to my green Ozark hills, yet the simple beauty shot straight to my heart. Red, tan, yellow, and gray rocks jut from the earth in natural sculpture onto a canvas of blue sky so clear and bright, it nearly hurts to look at it. And yet, you cannot look away. The crystal clear sky captivates the eye and refuses to release you back to where you came. It has you, locked tightly in its embrace, and breaking free from its grasp is far from your thoughts as you surrender to it. Photographs do not do it justice. You must feel it, be surrounded by it, and let it speak to you with its silence. Indescribable and transforming, New Mexico never fails to heal me. That makes it only natural for me to pull those photographs this week.
Monument Valley offers unbelievable vistas in the Four Corners region (I believe these buttes are technically in the state of Utah).

I likely would have never visited New Mexico had it not been for my dear friend Georgia who lives there. Some years ago, we met at a conference in Dallas, Texas, becoming fast friends, and since then have tried to plan a vacation together each year, whether a week or a weekend. I am usually the one who has trouble clearing my schedule, always thinking I have too much to do, but eventually the wise words of my friend bust through my excuses and hit the mark. She is direct, and I need that. So. Very. Much.

Knowing my tendency to postpone trips after we begin planning them, last year Georgia simply sent an email containing electronic tickets for an excursion train to Silverton, Colorado, dated the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend. Well, there's no rescheduling now--she's bought tickets! God love her, she took all my usual excuses for rescheduling and tossed them in the trash. Why do I resist?

We get lost in our day-to-day, believing if we do not do everything we are expected to do that our world--work, family, friends--will suffer in some way. But what about us? We push ourselves to do for everyone else, leaving ourselves last on the list and wondering why we feel out of balance. Then we hit a week like mine where we feel depleted and worn as we stand next to our little-red-wagon-selves, staring at the busted wheels and asking what went wrong. And we do it again and again (or is it just me?). We should put ourselves higher on the list, and rededicate to self-care, so we have the energy care for others. What do the safety instructions on airplanes tell us--put the oxygen mask on your face first, then give it to the child or incapacitated one next to us. We cannot fully care for others if we ourselves are not fully cared for.

Thankfully, help is on the way for me and quickly--a workshop tomorrow to help stretch my mental muscles, a postcard writing project that warms me to my core, and two (yes, TWO) online classes offered by creative souls in New England. The mere thought of these mental escapes act as a salve on my bruised spirit, and I am uplifted with anticipation just thinking of the rejuvenation each will bring. Meanwhile, I have New Mexico--or at least the photographs--to remind me to slow down, find the beauty in what is opposite to my familiar, patch up the wagon, and roll on.

 *yes, really happened

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