I live in Colorado. On a mountain. In a forest. Winters are harsh and beautiful here. But summer? Summer is every word I can’t seem to find … and every cliche (paradise, bliss) that I try not to use. It’s 70 degrees, blue skies, and a light breeze that rustles the aspen leaves around you. It’s brief afternoon rain, cold as ice on your skin, as storms move over the Divide. It’s wildflowers thick as blankets. It’s the call of a Stellar Jay. The howl of a coyote. The sunlight streaming through tall pines.
It’s abundance. And yet, it’s more.
This evening, as we do most days, my husband and son and I took the dogs for a long walk around the neighborhood. I tried to capture some of the beauty and magic around us in the following photos. I don’t think a lens can capture what it feels like, but perhaps it can at least capture a little of what we see.
I just returned from my first-ever book tour in Texas, promoting Blue Straggler. The trip brought up lots of old feelings I hadn’t thought about in a while — mostly because I spent a lot of time on the tour talking about the main character, Bailey, who in the book is going through a period of time where she is trying to discover who she really is inside, and because I visited many of my old haunts in Texas, which were ripe with memories, good and bad.
Me, at age 30, seemingly in need of a makeover of some kind.
The truth is, much like Blue Straggler’s Bailey, I had my first mid-life crisis when I turned 30. And while I wasn’t technically at mid-life if you look at actuary statistics, I had done a lot of livin’ by that point — some easy living, some hard living.
My 20s had been filled to the brim with highs and lows, board rooms and bar rooms, tons of joy and far too much pain, some of which was self-inflicted. I had some ugly scars, but they were healing. I was successful in my career — the youngest person on the executive management team for a major university system. I was dating both a NASA engineer and a doctor, neither too serious, at the same time. I lived in a sweet 1950s cottage-style house with original wood floors in a good neighborhood. I enjoyed amazing friends who had me over for deck therapy when I needed to laugh. I mowed my yard on Sundays, had a little garden in the back. I was coasting into a pretty good little life.
Then, I hit that 30 mark. And something clicked in my brain.
Restless does not even begin to describe how I felt. I literally felt a physical, guttural pull to change my life. As Soon As Possible.
It was like an overwhelming toothache when you know you need a root canal or a chicken-pox itch that no amount of Calamine lotion could remedy. I could not drink the longing away. (Some might say I gave it a good go, though. Thank you, Ketel One vodka and all makers of boxed wine.) I could not run far enough on my morning runs or swim fast enough at the pool to make it stop. Writing about it only made it even more real.
I Simply Wanted More. Right Then.
What did I want? Well, I wanted everything. I wanted less of some things, more of others. I wanted, wanted, wanted.
I wanted the kind of love that those damn romance novels and fairytales had promised me. I wanted to work in a job that I knew would make a difference in the big, bad world in some small way. I wanted to meet new people who were more like me, less like everyone else. I maybe wanted a child, or 50 more dogs. I wanted to ditch my old self like a snake sheds its skin. I wanted to feel and experience more. I wanted to make my mark on the world, to prove that I was here and alive and creative and oh-so-deep. (Still working on the last one, by the way.)
Now remember, I was on a pretty good trajectory before all this. But the trajectory wasn’t right, and I knew it inside. So, I sold most of my belongings, packed up my (two) dogs and the little furniture I had left, said adios to one of the best jobs in town, kissed two very nice men goodbye, apologized to my mother for leaving, and headed off to the Rocky Mountains, where I knew I could push myself and experience something completely different than my comfortable life back in Texas.
Me, before a hike my first year in Colorado
Did it work? Hell, yes! I highly recommend my approach. I bought a log cabin at the top of a mountain, challenged myself to 10-mile hikes alone on backcountry trails, learned to cross-country ski and snowshoe and how to chop firewood and survive during blizzards, married a handsome man who was unlike anyone I’d met before, adopted a baby, got some more dogs, and began to write and publish writing that mattered to me. Basically, I created the life that I wanted and needed.
And then … I hit the 40 mark. (These darn age milestones just wreak havoc on my psyche!)
Adopting Mac was the best decision ever, even if he does change my ability to pick up and leave on a moment's notice.
Once again, I’m feeling that same old itch. But everything is more complicated now, of course. I have a child and there’s this whole clothing and feeding and paying for karate thing. I have a husband with his own ideas of the future. I have a home that’s lost a whole lot of its value after the housing market crash. I have family who probably needs me to move back home. There are more layers to me now than there were back then (in more ways than one).
Just because every blog post should contain an image of chocolate.
But, I want new layers! (Anyone else craving a chocolate-layered cake right now? Sorry.)
Seriously, I don’t want to fall into what society thinks a mom should be, or a wife should be, or a writer should be. I want to again make my own way. And again, I know there is more out there that I need to experience, and I crave it like an adventure junkie.
So who knows what this mid-life crisis will bring? A move to a foreign country where I’m forced to learn a new language? A move to a new climate, even if it’s just city-life in Denver? Learning a new instrument? Going back to school? Opening my own business? Running a marathon? Taking my kid to live with wolves for a year? (That one’s a probable no.)
I suppose if it’s anything like the last one, it’ll be a good thing, right?
Check back with me when I’m 50, I guess. When the next crisis will no doubt be brewing like a strong pot of black coffee, waiting to be tasted.
Have you seen the new book trailer of Blue Straggler released by 30 Day Books yet?