Monday, March 10, 2014

Little Miss Adventure

To celebrate Huck's new job, which is in every possible way a profoundly better fit for him than his old one, we decided to stay at the Davenport, Spokane's stay-cation of choice. The newer building, the Tower, as it's called, is done in a safari style with taxidermied and bronze statues of African animals, complex stained-glass ceilings and walls, ornate chandeliers and a crap-ton of jungle prints.  It is a pretty stunning set up that seems a little imperial/colonial, like, if the hotel had it's druthers the whole place would be staffed with scrawny little black boys you'd call "boy." Spokane doesn't have a real connection to African themes but what it does have is a long and rich history of classism that's unusual for the Northwest. It's an old, old railroad and mining money town run by just a few families. So the African theme is a little suspect here, but beautifully executed nonetheless.

My friend, it's been so long since I saw you
The ironic thing about that 10th floor room was that it looked directly in to Huck's old office.  He was able to point out each desk, name the framed awards, and label the binders on the book shelf. 

I could've stay-cationed alone. I needed break from my life but being alone wasn't appealing to me, especially since half the crap I need a break from is my own brain, so I opted for a few hours instead of the whole shebang. All I did in my hour or two alone was watch TV, which was pretty overwhelming.  For those, like me, who live under rocks, you should know that TV shows now have multiple things going on: quotes and votes and little e-paperdolls roaming around the bottom of the screen. I am not able to handle that much stuff and I can't filter it out. I did not enjoy my time alone.

Huck and I left the kids watching the Olympics (the thing you miss when you don't have regular TV) and we trotted over to our gluten-friendly favorite, the Wild Sage. It was full but quietly humming, which meant that I could handle it. Eating out didn't used to be much of a treat since what we did at home was once better than anything we'd find out in the world. This meal was a true treat, especially in comparison to what's been going on during the head injury era ("Lots and lots of frozen pizza" - Blue.  Oh god, I hope it's been cooked...).

1:30 am the fire alarms in the hotel all went off.  And they beeped and beeped and beeped. And announced and announced and announced that we all had to evacuate the hotel.  I kinda wished the recorded announcement would have been more like the elevator.  The Tower elevator announces in a sultry and breathy voice "Going Dooown." Huck said the "on you" is implied.  I joked later that the announcement should have been like that: "I've having an eeemergencyyyy, nooooow."  Huck responded in the elevator voice, "It's so hotttt in here!"

As you may remember, I was involved in a hotel fire nearly 20 years ago.  I worked graveyard at an old old hotel in Petersburg, Alaska.  I'm not wanting to detail the whole night, but I was brave, actually, and did what I needed to do, which in the early part involved an utterly failed attempt to vacuum soot off a wedding cake where I ended up punching it full of nozzle prints.  I also evacuated all the guests which involved crawling along the top floor beneath several feet of thick, billowing black smoke, dimming lights, trying to find the one last guest who, it turned out was staying at her lover's house, just using the hotel bill as a cover.  The building collapsed, took other buildings with it. And I was left with some PTSD which has made me behave is some funny ways over the years, including but not limited to running out of an apartment naked because I awoke to the smell of smoke which turned out to be a neighbor's cigarette and nothing more, checking smoke detectors in every hotel I stayed in for years, foolishly running in to a burning building and dragging a man out, among other hilarious forms of fear.
Scandia House, December 16, 1994

As you can imagine, I was fully triggered. The idea that the place could actually be on fire was very real to me in a way that I'm not sure anyone else was experiencing as they joked and jostled in the fast moving hoard in the stairwell. I tried not to think about the fact that if I collapsed from fear, my children would be panicked and I would probably be trampled by the drunk girls giggling and stumbling down behind us. I focused more on the fact that this part of the hotel had been built in 2007, had all current fire-prevention standards, the stairwell was un-burnable cement. Around floor 4 there was intense smoke smell, but that was more cigar than anything else.  Out in 20 degrees, we waited, finally heading over to the old building's ornate lobby for warmth and chairs. Being only 10 minutes from home, we discussed just returning.  But, my god, a queen size bed at the Davenport instead of the full size at home... I just couldn't walk away from that.

We all worked hard to calm our racing hearts and eventually fell asleep in the Davenport Tower at 3:30 AM.

Yellow Willow at home at Slavin Reserve
The pool was big draw for this stay-cation.  Spokane has no indoor public pools, which I find odd.  I've lived in smaller towns with more pool (Pullman, Hello!).  The last time I'd swam was in July and I was very nervous and uncomfortable with the way the water messed with my non-existent equilibrium.  So I delicately, slowly entered.  And I felt fine, if a little cold, and I began doing laps, without the somersaults at the walls, of course. I worked hard, to the limit of my ability.  I swam fast.  I felt incredible, powerful, great in my body. It was all muscle memory (from that one year on swim team during which I was a disaster, ignored by the coach because my build is more skier/cowgirl (solid saddle padding with high trot-tolerance up top.  Seriously, at the dude ranch where I worked we were almost all built the same) than a shouldery swimmer until one day I swam a heat that so embarrassed our team that he finally taught me how to move and I finally began to improve) propelling me joyfully through the water, and my mind was happily bored. I recently tried Tai Chi and although I love the Qi Gong movements associated with it, it's over-all too complex for my mind right now.  The swimming was simple and I could do it and I felt like I could do it.  And then the kids and I played "water-bending wars." And I felt happy and amazing.

Left to right: T-Bone's ass, My ass filling the saddle, T-Bone (a goofy horse), Home Ranch, CO 1998
Huck, sidelined without his suit, got all emotional noting that I could never have done that even a few months ago. I'm getting better. It's all getting better.  And it wasn't even the end of February.

Buoyed by my success, I set a goal.  I would hike Slavin Reserve's (the spot with my favorite yellow willows and my heart aches with missing them) two miles of uneven terrain in June. I used to back pack for days on end, sometimes with a baby on my back. I SHOULD be able to do it right?  I might even join a gym with a pool! So, I enthusiastically leaned in to life.  I donned a pedometer.  The first day I did 3500 steps.  The second day 4500.  I even cross country skied (with 20 years of muscle memory) out my front door for 20 minutes. I'd skipped skiing all last winter because at this time last year my big challenge was to sit outside, upright, for 10 minutes a day.  And then... that pedometer... I'm not a competitive person. Except with myself. I ramped it up to 6500 foot steps.  And then... well let's let the pedometer tell the tale: 2000 steps. I crashed hard, so hard, into a downward spiral of exhaustion, migraine, anxiety and sleeplessness. My reset button, Cranial Sacral Therapy, got sick and had to cancel. For more than a week, on into March, I hit my head against rock bottom, day after day.  I was too out of it to be depressed.  But depressing it was.
Me in my world map jacket, 3rd from L, Ski Class, Copper River Basin, Alaska, Jan 1994

The lag time between when I can first do something and when I can consistently and routinely do that thing (like walk 1/2 mile, or swim a few laps) is something like 6 months.  The first rush of success is so thrilling and I think: I CAN DO THIS NOW!! I am AMAZING! I am BETTER! and then I can't, and I tumble back down that Sisyphus hill, crashing at the bottom.  Before this, my self-discipline and self-restraint had been a boon; my goal-orientation was a marketable skill (poorly marketed, I admit).  But this has tested it all again and again. My hobby, my goal? It must be this One thing only: healing.  And that path has a mind of it's own.  My self-restraint is applied to not having any other goals as I restrain a self  --that I barely recognize now-- to not having any other goals before Me. It's torture and it looks and feels like the exact opposite of what it is.  Laying around all day is "restraint"?! Yes, yes it is. Pacing. I learned it a year ago in speech therapy and it looks like I have to relearn it again.  Pacing. Again and again I circle back to this spot: healing is my goal, and it can only be approached as an un-goal.  Pacing. Again and again.

I took this photo: the horses let out after a long day's work of pacing themselves for the ranch guests
So, I finally took some heavy hitter pain medication and I don't know if it was the morphine-based medication or the fact that I didn't have a crushing headache, but I spent one fabulous day laying in bed, smiling, totally useless but in the best possible way, too relaxed and happy to be useful. I tried to journal, but my mind was pretty convinced that it was fine if you got most of the letters in a word, and those letters didn't need to be in any particular order for it to be, in essence, that word. I mean, I wkon tahw I nmea.  And that is way better than being too much in pain to be useful.  (Apparently, I just want to be a useful engine for Sir Topham Hatt.)  And there were no rebound headaches.  It stopped the spiral. Sleep and peace returned to me.  And then I got my Cranial Sacral Therapy and I feel a lot better.  But the pedometer is going back in my top drawer again, along with my children's baby teeth and the hat Blue sewed me when she was five, and my swim suit.

But somehow, this whole episode from fire alarms to morphine-ettes was the perfect Sarajoy-sized adventure. I am satisfied. For now.

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