I woke up early this past Saturday morning, in a slight panic as I took deep breaths. I hadn’t wakened from a nightmare, or even a particularly jarring dream, but was instead having trouble comprehending the depths of the breaths I was sucking in, gulping air like I’d never tasted such sweetness. Frankly, it scared me. My dear, sweet husband sleepily attempted to drag me back down to lay my head on the pillow, but that was it, I was awake.
It was the first Saturday morning we’d shared in a few weeks, the first day we’d had off and away and completely to ourselves. We spent the weekend traipsing through the Thumb, making the trip ‘round Saginaw Bay for the Annual Yard Sale Trail. We start in Port Huron, spending the evening with my grandparents who are not only wonderful hosts, but pretty epic storytellers. Thank God for grandparents, otherwise, who would hand over our own history? I learned some neat things about my grandfathers further down the line, and it gave me something to grasp at as I let the undeniable feeling of homecoming sink in as we drove deeper into the middle of Nowhere.
Now, I’m a city girl. I’m all about being able to walk to the corner store for something, and it better be AT the CORNER, and not at the corner three miles down the road after taking a few miles of highway to get there. I love the conveniences that cities have to offer. I love the sense of community and the buzz of its inhabitants. I say I wish I could live somewhere where I couldn’t hear sirens, but as I look back at my life, there have been many nights I’ve fallen asleep to the sound of someone else having a bad day. I guess I should be more worried about there not being those sounds available when I needed them.
Then we get out there, to the rolling fields, the greenest trees, the endless shining waters of Lake Huron… and my resolve to live in the concrete jungle breaks down, washing away like the marshy fields and the dilapidated farmhouses that dot Lakeshore Road. I loved them all, wanted to make them all mine to bring back from the dead. I mourned for the loss of the bustling towns they once were, and started wishing I could have a piece of that serenity.
Wouldn’t it be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice to live here, in the quiet, in the peace? Wouldn’t it be nice to live twenty minutes away from “Up North?” Wouldn’t it be nice to live near the prettiest beaches, the wildest flowers, the thickest forests? Wouldn’t it be nice to the majesty of our home state so evident and obvious in our own backyard? It’s that Camp Fever, the ridiculous but very real desire to live off the grid, that Camper’s Optimism that overcomes each person who contemplates buying a tent and super-deluxe sleeping bag thinking it would be “fun.” Oh yes, it is, but imagine how much fun with three children, two of whom are very much millennial children, attached to their iCrap like glue; one of whom has the mind of a spider web, so delicately crafted and so easily destructible.
So there are complications. Hurdles that scream in my face, “THESE ARE VERY OBVIOUS RED FLAGS.” Money hurdles, school and work hurdles, housing hurdles, and my ever-changing list of priorities that I just cannot seem to manage. Isn’t everything equally important all at once, always?
Ugh, yes. Always.
But there, I did not feel those things. I felt a sense of “what the hell is happening inside my chest right now?” I took a breath, and another. Then another. Suddenly, it dawned on me that what I was experiencing was not death, nor a precursor. I was feeling life. I was aware of my own breathing, and startled by the opportunity I had been given to do so.
I took a thousand breaths or more this past weekend. They were wonderful. The air at home had grown stale, the views had become monotonous. The sounds around me had been reduced to a fuzzy droning, and I felt as if I were plodding through each day in a pair of waders, full to the brim in daily bullshit.
I came home to the same things I left. This tells me that I cannot run from my responsibilities and I cannot change my regrets. But something I’ve learned is this: most of the times I’ve been lost, I’ve changed my path too soon. I’ve taken a road I deemed easier, closer, smarter, or safer, and the shortcut has caused me to lose precious time. I thought about that a lot this weekend.
What am I doing? Where am I going? I’ve been to Nowhere. I’ve been to Heaven, I’ve been to Hell, I’ve been to Rock Bottom and I’ve been some places that feel like another world, but I’m still looking for home.