Part 1: Starting Over and Living the Path Least Taken

The horse came barreling down the mountain so quickly I hardly knew what was happening.

Her dark brown mane was waving in the wind, just like they said it would. She was strong, fast, focused.

She kicked up the cool river water as she raced past me. I stood enamored, shoes in hand, feet touching the sharp rocks on the bottom of the river, speechless.

Where was she headed?

How did she know so much with such certainty?

A month earlier I had arrived in Denver, Colorado with most of my belongings (aside from what was in storage and long forgotten) and my trusted companion, Billy (my 80lb rescue dog).

We didn’t have a plan, not something anyone close to me really appreciates about how I have chosen to live my life. It’s hard to describe why plans seem to suffocate me while they make other people feel so safe.

That’s actually not 100% true, I love a good plan. A business plan, a plan to meet for cocktails, a wedding plan. I just don’t love planning my days in a way that they all run together and I can’t ever tell one from the other because they are all the same.

I had left behind a life that felt really safe. A safe apartment. A safe neighborhood. A safe (and loving) community. A safe bet. A safe existence.

It seems every time I am ready to leave a place most people are looking at me saying, “wow it seems you have finally arrived”.

I haven’t found a way to reconcile these two perspectives so I have stopped trying.

Because for me, and no I cannot explain it any differently, living in that safe existence I often felt really unsafe. I felt underutilized, under leveraged, a woman in waiting.

I was craving something I couldn’t describe— that I could only see in my mind and in my heart. A feeling, an experience, an “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of thing.

I don’t really like stones unturned or questions unanswered or ideas unexamined. And I certainly hate matters of the heart left wide open with you wondering what could have been.

If you’re new here you may not know that in 2008 I watched my beautiful mother take her last breath in my childhood living room. On that day a storm rolled in, positioned itself above my head, and for about 10 years it refused to leave.

I cannot tell you why this moment hit me so hard (Sometimes I feel it hit me harder than it should have, but shoulds are just here to drive us crazy so I try not to think about them).

I cannot tell you why that memory sits with me just as clear as the memory of me brewing coffee this very morning. Time seems to have ticked away since then yet my memory of losing her is as fresh to me as this coffee in this coffee cup.

So I am in Denver, and I don’t know what I am looking for but I know that I will know it when I see it and feel it and touch it.

I have also found myself on the other side of a situation where trusting my gut has led to disappointment.

Have you had a moment like this?

A heart crushing leap of faith that lands you on your back at the bottom of a hill with a lot of broken pieces, some pieces of you so scattered you cannot find them.

Sometimes when we trust our guts and we chase a knowing and we fall flat, it has the power to change us. It can tame us, if you will.

Remind us why it is silly to dream.

Remind us why it is adolescent to not have plans.

Remind us why our hearts are not meant to be trusted.

A setback. A failure. A slap on the wrist from those wiser calloused souls, “See I told you it wouldn’t work out.”

I am in Denver and the pandemic hits, and some pieces of me are missing from the crash landing.

It’s incredibly jarring as you know having lived through the experience with me. This is the kind of time you actually want a plan—you want a safe home and a safe neighborhood and a safe community. You want to know you are safe when the world is shutting down and the economy has been turned completely off and you are not sure where to find toilet paper.

“This is what they all meant when they told me to be careful,” I think as I contemplate the pros and cons of my non plan.

But as we have already established safety is different for me, safety is living full stop—no regrets—even when sometimes living fully leads to crash landings.

I think it will be alright.

That is what I tell myself. It’s never going to be worse than that day in 2008 in my living room, so how bad can it be?

This is something I have asked myself now for nearly 13 years. Can it get as bad as that day your mother died? I don’t think so, let’s keep going.

And that is how I have made choices.

And so while in Denver I have a conversation and that conversation leads me to borrow camping gear and load up my car and my 80lb companion and head to the mountains.

Where can be safer during a pandemic than the mountains? (I would receive validation of this choice 6 months later when everyone else decided that outdoors, camping, or road tripping with an RV was the safest place to be).

I won’t bore you with the daily details of our camping adventure right now, but what I will say is that we ended up in the Tonto National Forest outside Mesa, Arizona and this is where I met the wild horse.

We had waited for days to see her. Several sunrises and sunsets sitting by the river where they say the wild horses come to cross.

I wanted to know what it looks like to be that free.

I had so many questions.

I felt the horses must have answers.

So we waited, and hiked, and days passed and no horses.

I know I am not leaving Mesa without getting answers to my questions and so on this particular day I choose to take a different path, the one not so paved, through the desert.

And there, beyond the path least taken, were the wild horses. 11 of them to be exact.

And if it weren’t for Billy I think maybe I would have stood, shoes in hand, as 11 wild horses raced past me.

Instead, 10 of the horses thought Billy to be a nuisance and ran the other way.

But not the horse with the dark brown mane. She was determined to cross the river in the way she came to cross it without concern for how the other horses felt about her choice.

Strong, fast, focused.

She barreled right through the water to the other side, and as she ran up the side of the hill she quickly turned her head back to Billy and she whinnies to let him know how little regard she has for his attempts to catch her. In this moment Billy cowered down, tail between his legs, and ran back to the river to find me.

I decide there in the cold river in the middle of the Tonto National forest that she is me, and I am her. And I’d like to live with less concern for how the other horses feel about my choices.

And so this is the beginning of the story of how we found ourselves moving to Austin, Texas.

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