Renee on the Road: Day Two (The Reroute)

wrong way road closed

This could also be known as “Day One, Part Two,” because yesterday Renee was on the road, alright…for about 30 minutes.

At that point, a few random dashboard lights started flashing, the stereo started cutting in and out and suddenly, the car shut off. Shut off. In the middle of the interstate. I managed to get off the highway onto the shoulder and then it was just…done. In the span of about three minutes. Lights, camera, no action. The opposite of action. Unless you count me, sitting on the side of the road waiting for the AAA tow truck, “action.”

So — as it turns out — I will NOT be taking my epic, solo, heavily-dreamed-about-and-prepared-for road trip. I’ll be flying to Santa Cruz instead (because I do still have to go), and the flurry of dark, cloudy emotions I feel around that is surprising.

Well, not to me. But it’s surprising to almost everyone else.

I encountered a lot of resistance when I first introduced this trip to my loved ones. My parents were incredibly worries, and offered to buy me a plane ticket months ago when I first told them I wanted to drive (oh, the irony). When I said no to that, they suggested I stay in hotels instead of campgrounds at night (I was planning to car camp, though I eventually caved on that one in favor of A/C while driving through the Mojave Desert in July). Nick, too, was a little incredulous and confused.

“You’re just driving straight through,” he’d tell me. “It’s one thing to take a road trip if you’re going to be able to stop and enjoy the places you’re driving through, but you’re just on I-40 all the way to California for 10 hours a day. What’s the point?”

To be fair, I was planning on taking my time (and taking Nick with me) on the drive back to do just that. So yes, straight through driving on the way out there probably didn’t seem rational. But I had my reasons. Here’s the thing, though:

I still don’t really know what my reasons are (were). I don’t really know why it felt so important for me to drive across the country by myself.

To prove my self-sufficiency, to myself or others? Maybe. But everyone who knows me knows very well that I can take care of myself.

To get some alone time? More likely. I mean, when else are you going to have five uninterrupted days to listen to books on tape and catch up on podcasts and listen to your favorite music while having imaginary conversations out loud? (We all do it, and you know it.) If you do those things at home, you’re deemed lazy (or crazy). “Oh, I’m just going to take a full work week to sit and ponder my own thoughts or listen to other people talk or sing.” Sure. Give that one a try and let me know how it goes.

Because the journey felt just as important to me (if not more so) than the destination? This feels the most accurate so far, though I don’t quite have the understanding to elaborate much further on it yet.

But this road trip WAS important to me. It felt so important. That’s why I was doing it even though I couldn’t determine a firm, satisfactory “why” to give my loved ones. I assumed I’d figure it out along the way. Some things you can only learn about yourself by just doing them, and this was one of those things. So I said: “It just feels important.” That was as close to a why as I ever got.

And now, as I sit in the kitchen at home while my car sits immobilized in the driveway until Monday at the earliest (much too late to start my road trip when I have to arrive in CA by midday Tuesday), I’m still dealing with what I’ve dubbed my “disappointment hangover” — where your expectations aren’t met and something you’ve been planning on, preparing for (literally and mentally) and looking forward to, suddenly falls through. It honestly feels a little like a break up I didn’t see coming, and we all know how much those hurt.

They’re a surprising and unexpected loss that stuns you, then confuses you, then angers you, then saddens you, then numbs you, then does it all again (in a different order, of course, just to keep you on your toes).

And I went through (am going through) all of those things. Stunned that the reality of my road trip came to a close before it even really began. Confused by the fact my car had been completely fine driving around town and then shut off 30 minutes into a real road trip (as if to firmly say, “You may want to go to California, but I don’t).

Angry — so angry — that I’d spent the last two weeks of June with my car in and out of the shop, replacing spark plugs, engine coils, and brake rotors, getting her inspected, getting her new registration, standing in line at mechanic shops and license plate agencies, for her to still manage to malfunction and effectively end my trip (like…how. I fixed EVERYTHING. I had EVERYTHING checked out. By professionals. And my father, who is better than a professional. To whom I gave a solid sixth of my savings to cover said parts. Just…URG and UGH and WTFFFF and WHYYY and I told you I was angry).

Then really, really sad because I felt so brave and so ready to just be in solitude for few days (which is hard for me, the Gemini/Enneagram 7/ENFP who is ever-social, over-commits to plans and very rarely has “nothing” to do). I was ready to be alone with just me and my brain and my heart, and maybe start to call a truce or write a treaty because they disagree a lot and it’s exhausting. I just needed time with them and my car that I love and landscapes that are new and responsibilities that are a couple thousand miles away.

Without driving, I’ve lost 12 days of that planned “me time,” and time like that is so hard to get and even harder to justify to others, and I’m sad that my lovely opportunity for this elusive time is now rotting away in the driveway.

And before I get to “numb,” I arrived at another unsettling point in the disappointment hangover: shame. I was going to say embarrassed or sheepish, but I’ve read enough Brene Brown to know that it’s just shame. I feel shame because I made a big deal out of this road trip — to friends and family. To myself. To the internet (seriously, my car had to shit the bed 30 minutes after I posted the “Day One” blog all over social media? Really? REALLY).

I feel shame because we have a van and I have the perfect camping car, and not taking the opportunity to go on a cross-country road trip makes me feel like a fraud. I feel shame because this road trip was going to be so “interesting” and I was “taking a chance” and “getting out of my comfort zone” and “look at me go, bravely ‘spreading my wings’ and doing something I never thought I’d do” and all of the other things that (when I’m deep in my shame cloud) sound cliche and frilly and like I can hear the world rolling it’s eyes. Shame invalidates me, and I’m really not a fan.

So finally, I felt numb, because that felt better than feeling all of those other things. I gave myself permission. I came home (i.e. was driven home in the tow truck), dug into my cooler of road trip food and watched movies I’d seen before just because I knew the endings made me happy. I ignored phone calls from friends and loved ones because I didn’t want to talk about it or think about it or rehash it. I had my mother help me find plane tickets and a rental car because I couldn’t deal (and honestly because she’s a wizard when it comes to finding those things at incredibly low prices. It’s a genuine, mystical gift). I went to bed early and slept for ten hours. My face was still puffy this morning from all of the ugly crying.

Then I worked out in this morning until I was disgustingly sweaty (hooray for exercise and endorphins). Then I sat down and wrote this blog.

I still get to go to Santa Cruz. It will only take me a day to get there and a day to get back. I still get three weeks of alone time and feeling out my ability to work from anywhere and getting to explore new places in my favorite state. There will still be time for introspection and brain/heart meetings and getting out of my comfort zone. I’ll still be writing about my trip (although my shame was very insistent yesterday that unless I had a road trip to write about, there was really no point in documenting some privileged 20-something’s trip to Santa Cruz, which, incidentally, is what my shame makes this trip feel like now. I’m working through it).

There are many, many, many reasons to be grateful and I feel them and appreciate them (the biggest and best of which is that I broke down 30 minutes from home and not the-middle-of-nowhere-Arkansas). I am an expert at re-framing and I’m getting there slowly, but I also don’t want to gloss over the sticky, heavy feelings that come with a disappointment hangover. They suck but they’re important, and if you ignore them, they only get bigger and stickier and heavier.

I have a tendency to berate myself if I don’t look on the bright side almost immediately in the face of negative circumstances, but I firmly believe that jumping straight there from intense disappointment is its own recipe for disaster. There is a line between wallowing and moving on, but it’s actually not a line, it’s a football field — and you get to wander around the large expanse without having to firmly pick a side for as long as you need to when you’re learning from yourself and your shock/confusion/anger/sadness/shame and figuring things out. I get to be both grateful and sad. I get to feel both gain and loss. This upheaval gets to be a really big bummer before it becomes a blessing-in-disguise, and even if/when it does, I still get to miss The Trip That Wasn’t.

I’m still going to call this series ‘Renee on the Road.’ Because regardless of how I get places, I’m still traveling and exploring and learning and being, and that’s what ‘on the road’ means to me.

And even though I have yet to leave Asheville, this is still “Day Two” of my trip, because even though nothing has gone according to plan so far, a journey did just begin — and the fact that it all fell apart almost immediately feels like it could be the start to very interesting story (or at least one that I tell for laughs at Thanksgiving or around campfires). So I’m still interested. And I’m still going.

It’s just appears that my car is not.

See you on Tuesday, Cali…(god willing. Fingers crossed, eh?)