The time has come again–I don’t know if I’ve messed up but I’m starting over again (and again and again…). Its been almost 3 years since I moved to Colorado and I’ve learned a shit ton. I’ve done things I may have never experienced—climbed mountains, rafted rivers, counseled children, fell in love. I’ve been waking up between 3 and 4 everyday and go through periods of crying and smiling. I look at the lives of others and wonder what is this life for—what is my purpose?
I’ve been doing this ritual each day where I pull a card from a deck of animal medicine. I recently pulled the mountain lion and find some solace. The book says “Mountain Lion can be a very difficult power totem for you to have, because it places you in a position to be a target for the problems of others. You could be blamed for things going wrong, or for always taking charge when other cannot. You could become the perfect justification for the insecurities of others.” Is this true? Is my animal medicine bringing out fear in others and then hate?
I drug up an old blog post about living in a small town and making big mistakes. In my head, I have the negative comments and actions of myself and everyone around me playing like a record who’s needle never meets the end. I think in list form of all the people I’ve pissed off, all the people I’ve come to realize aren’t for me and just the general state of my being. I am not wrong, I am not right and I’m stuck in the limbo of my own identity. I was a runner, I was a lover, I was a counselor, I was a hippie And now I feel like a shell. And this shell is my home.
The blog I wrote was only 9 months into my tenure in a small town and now as I roll up on several years I look back at my writing. This will be a recycled blog, or perhaps just edited as I continue to edit my experience. It is most likely I won’t stay here but I’m hardly running away. I’m writing this in the first place because I stopped writing for a moment because it was just becoming another way I was deemed to be unworthy of ski bum status, unworthy of being a girl with flowers in her hair. I want to add all to this list, make amends, find closure in my own heart but nothing will ever be wrapped up neat like a package although life is always a gift.
Every other time I’ve written of the past 9 months (now 29 months) its been romanticized, dramatized, creatively approached, over-analyzed. And now, I will tell the story of how I made enemies in a small town. I moved to Alamosa in July to work at a college where I thought I might be able to make a difference. I left home, and arrived in Colorado ready to make friends with anything that breathed. I was in a job that I was pretty awful at, as a dorm director. I have no idea how to supervise and I’m no good at giving directives. I did not do a good job at managing people or a dorm.
In the midst of feeling sad about losing my dog of 16 years, my Grandma, and my home state I made some pretty out of character moves that I’d spent the last 7 years of my life trying to absolve. I was Tindering like crazy and that was my first sign. I went on a few dates with men I wouldn’t look at twice. Some dates turned into overnights and I started manifesting behaviors of college. It didn’t matter though–here I was in Colorado and had taken a demotion to come here. I was ready to be open to that identity stage of life. Who was I? A woman who Tindered, clearly.
(New Content) I took a demotion. I took a risk. I gave up health care, I gave up retirement, I gave up stability. And now it seems I’m moving another direction. I’m going to get pension. I’m going to work a lot. I’m going to delve into my dharma, my life’s work which I’m still unsure of. Was it my life’s work to be a sparkly eyed gypsy? Or is my life’s work to be a helper, a healer, a confident woman? I’ve done the litmus test of “will this matter in 5 years?” Fuck yes it will. I will never forget this time. I will never forget who I met here—at least those who saw my soul. I am still a woman who Tinders, a woman who frustrates herself and everyone around her. I don’t know if I’m ready for this new identity, this new stage of life. As the story goes, life has put me right where I need to be and I guess I don’t need to understand.
I deleted a paragraph in which I detailed the man I dated since I got here. The man I moved to Pagosa Springs for. He did not ruin my life. He said a lot of mean shit, but I’m Mountain Lion. I will balance power, intuition, physical strength, and grace. Grace says that man lived the only life he knew. While it hurt to be called names or to fight, it was nice to explore my full self and to understand that I am inclined towards a different world that him. I didn’t mean to get here with my masters and I have regrets (forever in debt) but there is nothing wrong with me. Everything is already alright, always alright. I fell back in my sobriety and lived the ski town life. Everything is always alright, and maybe it was right for that moment for that time.
Another paragraph deleted in which I gave that lover so much power. But that is the totem of the mountain lion—to stand in my own convictions and lead myself where my heart takes me. My heart took me to Colorado and I fell lost in love following the dreams that might not have been mine but that I still attach to. My heart is a little hurt and it needs to heal. I recount the quote saying something about how adventure isn’t always going to new places but seeing old places with new eyes. Other quotes about how I have the entire universe within me. It looks like I’ll be heading home on another odyssey to find the hero within. To a space about 100 miles where I was born–the genesis of me. Going back to the womb to fester a bit more, to be reborn yet again.
I couldn’t quite figure out how to mesh the new and old blog but next I previously started talking about some awful landlords I had who still haunt my life. The female is now teaching a yoga class I started and held space for. My gift to her. I’ve been teaching for years and now its her time. The male just wrote a book and now its his time to stand in his own strength in words. I could recount how awful shit was but its buried. I’ve found that these rural areas, mountain towns, transient places all bring people who are looking for something, too. Usually after being shaken up. Who am I to describe how the dirt settles. Another saying goes folks come to Pagosa Springs to heal, hide, or take a hike. I healed in many ways, I hid for months, and now I’m taking a giant hike back home.
As I continue I delete more and more paragraphs to rewrite my life. The paragraphs recounted all the ways they thought I was less than, stupid, a pawn of capitalism. There’s my shit, there is other shit, and there is our shit. What will be said to the next young professional female that tries to make her way? She will encounter the same folks. They make like her. They may not. It no longer matters to me anymore because I’ve rebuilt who I know I am. I explored dual identities and I’m okay with what’s going on in my heart. The tears and deep breaths help me know I’m alive. If you don’t like my fire, then don’t come around. I may burn you or myself to the ground.
Turns out, I’ve kept maybe one paragraph of the old blog. But I’ve kept my old enemies. The old landlords became friends with the old boyfriend. The folks I let live in my home are in this camp as well, probably some old employers, some folks from around town. What can I say, he was a nice man and he is on his own journey heading north on the Pacific Crest Trail while I head north toward wide open spaces. They may speak of me, of the Mountain Lion, but she has once again retreated and will be elusive. Leadership is the main lesson of Mountain Lion and due to that leadership quality, others try to knock you off the proverbial mountain. I’ve been knocked off these San Juan Mountains and now I head to the Big Horns to heal, hide, and hike again.
I’ve agonized so many nights over who I became trying to be who I’m not. I became my 17 year old self trying to survive trailer parks hanging out with felons, looking for escape and comfort. I became paranoid, researching folks on the internet to prove to myself that I had encountered a huge abusers club. Researching mental health in rural areas to prove to myself that they collect poor, uneducated folks with a clan mentality. I know at the end of the day I have a handful of folks in the world who think I’m the worst person they have ever met. And that might be their experience but this is not how I experience myself. I see myself as someone who will forever struggle with addictions. I became addicted to the same old stuff and I became addicted to abusive people. I feel like the world has become inverted and anyone who has lived in a ski town could say this may be true.
And so, now, I’m getting better. (Add on: I’m learning I want to be better). I’ve been offered a few jobs with sweet ass benefits because my paychecks can’t always come in sunsets, and sunsets are everywhere. I’m still a licensed therapist in Colorado and Wyoming. I still have a skill set. Far healthier people with excellent boundaries are watching my every move. And here’s what my counselor training has taught me: healthy people do not respond to a boundary by sending cruel and threatening text messages. Healthy people do not take time out of their day to talk shit on a woman they knew less than 3 months. Healthy people do not find any excuse to party to the detriment of their relationships and family. And so I will be a healthy person. I will understand that my behaviors got me here. Going back and forth with that man enraged him. Refusing to stay in a home with enraged landlords. But, in no case will rage set anything right.
I kept this last paragraph of the original post. These mistakes have turned into grand opportunities. I can shame myself for feeling warm fuzzies from a pension. I can shame myself for deciding to help my family. But I am denying a part of who I am. That’s why I came here in the first place. I wanted to have a conversation with that ol’ hippie, that college girl who knew what she wanted and didn’t give a shit what people think. And I can be both. I care if I hurt someone. I care if I’m hurt. I want to travel both the world and my soul. I can do both. I’ve looked up climbing gyms, ski areas, yoga studios, unitarian churches. I’m looking up exhibition training plans and areas where I can gain over 1000 vertical feet—I’m still Jen.
I would still sit down in a room and apologize to all in this small town who I have caused pain. Lets all get some couples counseling cuz this ain’t working. It takes us so much energy to hate. Let’s all get some individual therapy because there’s some serious mental health issues at hand here—mine included. Set boundaries out the gate—we can all survive together and still be sweet souls. I’ve done wrong. I’ve hurt some folks who I thought I would love. I’ve done right. I’ve loved the person who I will spend the rest of my life with–myself. And so, I will leave this small town and I will find wonderful people who model healthy interactions. I will think about my life and what I want. I want to be free of poor boundaries, free of the drama that comes with being a big turd in a small toilet. I will do better, I will be better, and I hope to meet you in my next destination to prove it.
“You left and the world didn’t crumble. I owe the universe a dollar.”