As I stated in the first entry of “Poop and Love,” a series on my blog, The Impossibility Movement, about my dealings with the chronic condition known as ulcerative colitis,
If I’m having a flareup, it’s very likely that my zen is off, and I need to check my mojo.
The stressors are high, the guts have been wavering a touch lately, and it’s time to check that mojo, which means I’m aiming to make you piss yourself laughing, and/or inspire you with an authentic story from yours truly. Dear reader, come find your humanity within mine. It’s a story of laughing, crying, mental meltdowns, getting shit-faced, defective bowels, finding clarity, and you might even chuckle or get hit in the feels once or twice. Enjoy.
Road trips. Solo. Duo. Bus load. I love them. I’ve slept in crap lumber bunk beds stacked four high with ten unshowered strangers crammed like sardines, waiting to jump out of a plane the next morning. I’ve slept in swanky hotels with the most beautiful of women. I’ve slept solo in a certain motel chain with questionable stains on the curtains. Damn, I love the road.
I can scarce recall a bad road trip. There’s always something, a laugh, a moment of beauty, a fond memory, a breathtaking view, that returns with me. But every once in a solar eclipse, we all have a less than stellar experience with something that we love. I’ve learned at the very least, though, that I’ll bring back a lesson or two, which in the case of this particular entry, presents me with a few nuggets of wisdom to share on attaining clarity in life, even through my own shitty experiences. So let’s break out the power buffer and polish the shit out of this turd. Sometimes life has the strangest way of (not so) subtly grabbing you by the throat and reminding you what your purpose is, even as you run away from your higher purpose like The Sex Pistols from a Bee Gees convention.
I didn’t really plan this particular trip. But as of late, a the stress has been piling up, with a few recent stressful events triggering a desire to get away. And it just so happened that I stumbled upon a six-day stretch of being off duty as a trauma nurse, which, come to think of it, happens, well, almost never. I came to this realization about a week prior to the actual first day off. After a fruitless search for last-minute cruises and beach hotels, all of which had zero vacancies on account of the gatrillion spring breakers who had actually planned their drunken shenanigans months in advance, I opted to head north to a frequently visited spot for two of my favorite things to do: hiking and poker.
I budgeted for two poker tournaments, the first of which I played on the first night there. I faired well, but didn’t make the bubble (cash in). I was pretty exhausted by this point and crossed the street back to my hotel where I passed out.
I slept in the next day, grabbed a bite and that afternoon headed back to the casino for my second poker tournament. Some of my latest life stressors were still floating around in my head, and I wasn’t on my mental game as much as I like to be when playing. I busted out of the tournament early, got a little frustrated, and exited out the side entrance to get a breath of fresh air. The night was still young, and I didn’t feel like going back to the hotel yet, so I opted to re-enter the casino, hit the bar, and see if I could make a few new friends.
Here’s where I became aware of something that I obviously was oblivious to previously. Upon reentering the main entrance of the casino, I realized the usual middle-aged crowd of chatters and drinkers from past trips had been replaced by a more . . . polarized . . . age group on opposite ends of the spectrum.
On this particular Saturday night, I noticed that a bowling alley had been built at the main entrance of the casino. I found myself wading into a sea of around a thousand screaming kids and preteens, playing games in this essentially horrible replica of a Chuck E. fucking Cheese’s. How in the royal hell had I not noticed this the night before? I was dodging eight-year-olds like they were stray rounds fired from semi-automatic snot rifle. Jesus, I wasn’t even half tipsy.
I shuffled and shimmied my way to the security desk and provided my ID to the security guard, who let me into the casino, where I THEN beheld a sea of chain-smoking senior citizens jerking off slot machines, which immediately begged two questions. First, how were these two fossils manning the Megabucks machine, wearing portable oxygen tanks AND smoking Winstons, not presently engulfed in flames like a 17th century pagan on the wrong side of a witch hunt? Second, where the actual hell were the Chuck E. Cheese orphans’ parents? Was some godforsaken slew of 30- and 40-somethings floating around in the Bahamas, congregated on a massive cruise ship, the offspring of whom were left behind with Grim and the future victims of emphysema?
I rarely drink alone. Through friends and mentors, I’ve discovered for myself that with my personality, and in my profession of emergency medicine, drinking alone is usually a sign that I’m coping piss poorly with life. But on this night, in a radiantly blatant display of pure humanity, I trudged to the nearest bar and proceeded to get absolutely shit faced.
It’s splotchy, but I recall meeting two veterinarians down for a conference of some sort. They told work stories of getting the shit beat out of them by rare exotic animals. I told work stories about getting HUMAN shit THROWN at me by humans. I recall the bartender leaning over the counter and whispering “careful” into my ear as I asked this chain-smoking leather-skinned cougar sitting one stool over how to work the mini-slot machine at the bar. Either the barkeep thought I was wearing PROFOUNDLY remarkable beer goggles, or she was trying to keep me from pissing away her tip playing video poker.
As it happened, I dropped a little cash into the machine, punched some buttons, and it proceeded to light up and howl like some coked up R2-D2. I panicked, my drunken eyes darting hither and yon, watching for the rent-a-cops to come taze my intoxicated ass for tampering with the machine. Turns out I hit the jackpot on the penny slots, and on my first deal turned two bucks into twenty, which I promptly tipped to the bartender, thanking her for keeping my evening roofie-free. I called it a night and stumbled back across the street to the hotel.
My colitis-ridden guts usually handle booze OK, but occasionally (and especially if I’m stressed) the hard stuff will make for some excruciating pain. I woke up the next morning with a wicked hangover, and my intestines were happy to add salt and pepper to the wound (as if my life’s vision wasn’t clouded up bad enough the night BEFORE). I decided this was a good day to hit the hiking trails, to clear my mind and to meditate.
I had two prime trails I wanted to tackle. I packed my gear, loaded up with water and trail snacks and drove over a half hour to the vicinity of the first trail, where to my chagrin I was met with a “Road Closed” sign and no alternate routes. I huffed, spun the
truck around, and drove almost another half hour toward the second trail. A few miles before the trailhead, I was diverted by yet another road block. I don’t know if it was the hangover, the perturbed guts, the stress bubbling over, the general bad mojo of this whole trip . . . hell, maybe the cougar put a hex on me, but for whatever reason, then and there, I snapped.
At this point I made a choice to have what I call a conscious meltdown. Let me explain. I refer to most choices in life as “conscious” because, well, this life transformation I experienced several years back left me with an ever present awareness of the voice of my higher being, my “conscience” if you will, which I’ve affectionately come to refer to as “the Self.” I almost never just blindly lose my shit anymore. These days when I have the occasional meltdown, the Self is usually there, reminding me of what a feeble asshole I’m about to be. It says things like “Hey, spaz, why don’t you take a breath before you speak?,” or “You’re totally allowing this other human to dictate your actions right now,” or “Why the fuck would you throw a flip flop at a fucking mailbox?”
Anyway, when I’m acting the proverbial fool, it usually means I’m telling the Self to shut it, so that I can throw my stupid tantrum in bitter bliss. In this case, whilst the Self persistently voiced its opposition to my oncoming actions, in B.F.E. with only Mother Nature to witness, I deliberately kicked open the truck door, stomped onto a desolate highway, threw my hands toward the sky, and at the top of my lungs screamed about a forty-syllable expletive that would have made my grandpa (God rest his soul) shed a prideful tear at my ability to craft such a complex and brilliantly vile phrase. And when the vocalization had depleted all the breath from my lungs, there was total silence.
I pictured a nearby mother eagle, comforting her babies in the nest: “Jesus, kids. I don’t even know what the hell. Just keep quiet and the lunatic will be gone shortly.”
And in the tranquil fallout of my nuclear verbal assault to the sky, the Self whispered softly, “See? Don’t you feel like total asshole?”
I snapped back, “Sometimes I wish you would just shut the hell up for five seconds.”
The Self continued unfazed, “You didn’t come here to get away. You came here to run away.”
I resisted no more. My eyes glistened with the harsh truth. Grief, pain, unnecessary suffering of which I was previously unaware, manifested in the form of salty tears, soaking my face and hands. Several weeks ago with the help of a friend and mentor, I got very specific about what I wanted in life. Now, on this desolate highway, I was struck with the realization that all of my actions revolved around running away from the desired life that I had defined.
Going after what you want in life is some scary shit. For most of us, it requires mentally separating ourselves from the everyday life that, although marked by chronic dissatisfaction, is comfortable, nonetheless. We clock in. We work. We clock out. We go home. We eat. We do the laundry. We do the dishes. We sleep. We go out on occasion. We travel. We repeat. It can become bland and routine. But it’s FAMILIAR. And when we’re living in fear of the changes we might need to make in order to live bigger and better lives, the everyday routine can become a perfect mechanism for escaping from our higher purpose, our best version of life. And in my case, even a road trip with enjoyable intentions can become a method of running away.
Sometimes I go back and review old posts for a mental recharge. Shortly after writing this post, I went back and reviewed “A Quick And Dirty Guide To Happiness” which outlines a method for living a life that you love. Do you have a burning desire, a higher purpose, a dream? Getting specific about what you want in life and going after it is scary, yes. But perhaps equally as scary is a life lived in safety and comfort. I’ve discovered that the feared changes required to revolutionize our lives will undoubtedly require us to step out of our comfortable routines. Let the force of your higher purpose pull you. Cheers.