When I accelerate I do it slowly, my foot inching its way further down onto the peddle, increasing my speed slowly enough so I can enjoy the sensation of being in control, so I can feel each moment of moving forward. On the road is where I find my deepest connection to self. On the road is where I hear my thoughts clearly, where I meet myself surrounded by nature, where I pause for moments of awe and I allow myself to let beauty move me.
Somewhere between Salt Lake City and Lander, Wyoming, nature woke me up. I didn’t realize I had been sleeping until the expansive plains surrounded me and with the windows down and the smell of cattle wafting through the air, nature startled me so much that it moved me to tears.
When I set out on the first Connection Cure tour to Utah and Wyoming I was prepared to connect. That was the point right? Meet strangers, acquaintances, friends, friends of friends, and share a micro-moment or two, or three, or four. But, here’s the thing about Wyoming – it’s the least populous state in the U.S. so, there was also a lot of time alone. There was alone time by streams and on walks and while sleeping in teepees and exploring. There was alone time while visiting the worlds largest Jackalope, and alone time stopping to look at the Bison on the roadside. There was alone time while singing at the top of my lungs in my rental car and alone time listening to the occasional truck whiz by my open window.
When I planned this project, this was not the connection I had initially anticipated. I assumed connection meant with other people, not myself. Wasn't that what I had been running from? But, when I committed to the “cure” I never quite identified what that meant to me. All I knew was that for the first time in my life, I truly wanted to heal. I never gave guidelines or presumed I knew what healing would look like, and what I realized in my alone time driving across the Great American West was that part of my healing process required me to feel safe being alone with myself.
Being alone in NYC is something I have done quite a lot of. I work from home, see clients at home, and spend nights at home, but here is what I see now - I was never actually alone. I was in a constant state of distraction. For the last seven years I’ve spent so much time inside my apartment that I could go for days without seeing the sunshine. Inside this protected space I would forget to look up at the sky, to touch the earth, to hike, to stroll, to stare at birds, to let nature move me. I’m not mad at myself for this. It’s been a great and grand protection mechanism. Distraction is an incredible way to not feel constant aches, pains, and fatigue. Whenever I would feel a wave of exhaustion, when my brain would get foggy, I would grab my cell phone and scroll through the lives of others. I became masterful at avoiding being present in my discomfort. And what I know about avoidance is that it’s a powerful beast. It takes all the things we need to process in order to move forward and it shoves them under the bed, in a suitcase, where it’s easy to forget what you’ve packed.
On the open road, not only was I unpacking, but it felt like I had grabbed everything inside and tossed it onto the asphalt – the one place I was forced to look at.
With this attention came realizations. As the trip continued I began to notice what my body was longing for, as opposed to what my brain thought I should be longing for. What was strewn across the asphalt were pieces of my past - old parts of myself that I had packed away - and with it all laid out before me it was easy to see that what I had been longing for was grounding.
A few years ago at a friends bachelorette party, camping in the woods in upstate New York, she turned to me and said, “I love you when you’re in nature,” and it moved me to tears. She was holding a mirror up for me to look at, and the tears came because I knew she was right. At the time I wasn’t ready to admit it, because admitting it meant I needed to make a change – leave NYC – take bigger risks.
And now, the mirror returned almost exactly one year later, and this time I was the one holding it. What I met here was myself without distraction, without Internet, without cell phone network, and social media. To my surprise, what I came face to face with was a piece of me that was ready to come home.
In 2nd grade I fell in love with a book called Little Witch’s Big Night. I read it over and over again during reading time at the Town School in midtown Manhattan. Surrounded by concrete buildings in a school beside the FDR drive, I would escape into the story of a little witch who flew her broomstick into the sky, taking her new friends on wild rides above the city. From the sky, Little Witch was in awe of the life below and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to escape to places that made my eyes expand. I wanted to feel magic and surprise. I wanted life to feel scary and adventurous. In 2nd grade, I wanted to feel it all.
It was thirty years later, on a gravel byway, listening to the sound of tires rolling over asphalt and rock, driving through the Wind River Range, that Little Witch flew into the car window. At first I didn’t recognize her; she was a sensation I had long forgotten, a feeling of wonder now awoken by this vast Wyoming landscape riddled with history and culture. When she landed beside me I felt a moment of awe and I pulled over to the side of the road, stepped out of the car, and let the beauty of my surroundings bring me to tears. I feared I had lost her forever, but she was just waiting for me to roll down the window to let her back in. I feared my connection to wonderment, astonishment, and reverence had slipped away as doctor visits grew more frequent and nature visits grew few and far between, but they were just waiting for me to say yes, I will come home. And so, in my complete and utter aloneness, in this rental car in the middle of somewhere, the magic and surprise returned to me.
There was something so precious about my time alone during the first Connection Cure tour. I realize now that my experiences were keeping me company. As I took one baby step towards the first month of a lifelong project, I unraveled "connection," and let the word become malleable and abstract, so often surprising me, shaking me out of the ordinary.
On this particular leg of this particular journey, somewhere between the Uinta Mountains and the Grand Tetons, without another human soul in sight, my connection cure came in the form of open landscapes and awe-inspiring mountain ranges. It was the earth who kept me company along the way. Loneliness couldn’t survive here, because I belonged to it all.