Fearless – 5 secrets to survive your new love in a tiny home

“2 people. 32 square feet. And barely enough cash to get to where we’re going. What could go wrong?”

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … remember how I met a man in Maine, a new sparkly love, and invited him to travel back to the desert Southwest and live in the truck with me for the winter? Right, because living in 32 sq feet wasn’t challenging enough by myself, I guess.
I seriously questioned my sanity at the time, and I panicked a few times before departure. But in the end, you know what killed the cat … There was no way I was leaving without him. We left fearlessly on December 1st and traveled “all over this great Earth”, as Jim liked to say. Here’s a map of our roaming adventures. jimandmeltravels

8,700 miles in total we traveled. From the sand dunes of Death Valley, to the gigantic Redwoods of northern California, via the Sierra Nevada, the rocky mountains, the Cascades, the wind-swept Wyoming plains, through a couple of hot springs, a sunset over the Pacific Ocean, a years’ worth of Brussels sprouts and a new love for green chilies.

Jim flew home a week ago, a month later than he had originally planned.
“Come here, Lovey Bumpers.” he said right before crossing the TSA queuing line. I cried as I watched him leave, and that was a good thing. That meant we still loved each other, after all this.

So here is a short list of advice for you, if you wish to embark on such an adventure. 5 lessons I’ve learned from our wild journey, and also a few insights on what I wish I had done differently.

  1. Unjustified confidence.
    Before we left, Jim predicted we’d make it. When I asked how he was so sure, he replied “unjustified confidence.” He was right, as long as we both chose to believe that we would make it, our perspective-goggles remained focused on what did go right instead of what could go wrong. This self-congratulating attitude set the stage to create more of the same. If there are ups, there must be downs, and vice-versa. So as the roller-coaster goes, keep your eyes on the horizon. I failed at this a little bit. When it was up, I assumed it would keep going that way. When it was down, I quickly jumped to cutting bait conclusions and threatened to fly the man home. I wanted justified confidence, but sometimes, I’ve learned, keeping the peace just takes good ol’ blind faith.
  2. Com-mu-ni-ca-tion.
    You cannot sit and stew, when you live in 32 sq. feet with someone else. You might think you’re avoiding an argument, but your heart is emitting the energy of the unspoken words you’re attempting to save your partner from. And said partner picks up that energy unconsciously and projects onto it much worse than the actual problem at hand. So speak up, whatever it is. Clear up the air early with truthful, calm, open communication. After a month of adapting to each other, Jim and I established a daily “check in” – a safe place where whatever was coming up or moving through us could be shared. I loved the daily check-ins. In hindsight, I wish I had learned sooner that if frustration reaches a boiling point, it is best to walk out into the desert or the forest and discharge that energy first, before the check-in. I mean, isn’t that why we live in our vehicles? So we can have all this open space at our disposal? Use it. Open space doesn’t mind loud noises, but your partner does.
  3. Respect all Alien life
    Living with someone in the truck’s tiny space is like having a microscope on full zoom on each other’s quirks. 90% of the time, these quirks will make no sense to you whatsoever. Why do you need to keep this desiccated piece of wood? He just does. Why must I wear pajamas in bed? Because it’s my bed and I said so. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but your beloved will suddenly seem straight outta Alpha Centory’s third left moon. This is a good time to sit back, relax, and dismantle. We are all programmed from birth to what society and our parents deemed right and good. Others’ programs might overlap, or they might not. We only get upset if we believe that our programming is superior. Understand, it is not. On the partner’s home-world, that quirk is what is right and good. And if you can laugh at the differences, you get bonus points.As a recommended extra step… Reinforce respect with daily small appreciations.
    “Thank you for packing the truck this morning.” “Thank you for the hot water for tea.” “Thank you for driving me all over this great big Earth.” Feeling seen and appreciated fills up the space with good vibes and makes the aliens feel at home.
  4. Space and your personal frontiers
    No matter how tight you like to snuggle, you will need breathing space to survive. And it might happen that it is pouring rain out, for days, and that neither of you feels like walking out into the cold. In such times, a good skill is the ability to create a bubble of privacy in your mind. Quiet space is private space. You can also sleep in opposite directions. Having someone’s feet by your face somehow feels more private than breathing their breath. Keeping a private journal and separate social media are essential. One partner can also get dropped off at a coffee shop or a library for a few hours. If the rain stops, then go ahead and walk away. Hike different trails, find each other at the top. Consciously choose different experiences to ensure that you always have some exciting stories to share with each other.
  5. Strap yourself in and feel the Gs.
    If this was a “normal” relationship, one or both partners would go to work all day and reunite for a few minutes between dinner and some TV show in the evening. On the road, a two-year relationship gets crammed into each week. So, you can expect two years worth of “stuff” coming up in that time-span. Here you are, thinking you’re on a geographic journey … 8,700 miles, 20 states, 5 national parks, etc. That is nothing compared to the internal space explored. The person with whom you started at mile 0 is gone by mile 1,000, and they’re not coming back. They were changed by the shared experience and by the constant contact with you. And you are different too, even if you don’t see it. Feelings, expectations, plans, preferences – everything changes. Your partner is not inconsistent, he or she is evolving. So, support their growth with love, and honor yours with self-respect, because in the end that is what the journey is all about – that, and nothing else.These are the biggies on my mind at the moment. But Jim only left a week ago, and I suspect I will continue learning as layers of memories are revealed in order of increasing subtlety, like layers of an onion.

    Until the next adventure …
    Jim and I
    To Jimmy James. Thank you!
    XOX – Loves.

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I think I just panicked … as told to my Dad.

Here’s (slightly edited) bits from my correspondence with my Dad about what went down since I last posted here:

[…] Sorry it took me so long to answer. The past month has been a little rocky. But it was all me that rocked the boat. Jim flows on life calmly, unless he gets excited about an adventure or an opportunity to build something.

This one didn’t start like my other relationships. My other relationships started in flurries of lust and googoo-love-eyes. This one was easy, familiar, natural. It felt like a long-term relationship that accidentally started in the middle of a happily-ever-after story. I settled in the feeling that I had found “my one”. And of course, I wasn’t going to leave without “my one”, so we agreed that when the wind of migration called me south for the winter, he would make the journey with me.

We drew plans to modify the truck to accommodate two people, and I contacted Benny of Earth Tours in Sedona to see if he’d have work for me. He did. Benny had just acquired a 15-passenger van for the Grand Canyon trips. Not only I could guide, I would also train the other guides about the geology of Grand Canyon. Everything looked good ahead, so Jim grabbed a few thick boards and within two hours had completely transformed my back-of-the-truck home.

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The modifications were a work of art, but the reality that I was about to share my 32 square-foot home with another suddenly hit. I think I just panicked. You know I love and I need my personal space. That’s why I’ve been living alone in the desert all this time. Suddenly, everything about Jim was wrong. I turned into a chronic complainer. He listened and tried to help, but *everything* about him was suddenly unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the country was voting for Trump and everybody else was going crazy too. People’s fear came to the surface, people’s hatred came to the surface. It’s still going on now, but I think people are calming down a little bit, now that the first shock and disbelief has passed. In the end, what doesn’t break us, makes us stronger. I see people being now more committed to peace and loving and accepting each other than before. I don’t know what will happen with this country, but I think we will stand tall in our integrity. If people are racists and have nazy-tendencies, I would rather know about them than have it hidden.

So, the same process went on for me, internally. If I have fears about intimacy, about sharing my space, about my needs being not met, I want to know about it. Once I realized all the fears that were coming up were just that, fears – not reality – Jim and I sat down and discussed how we each felt about this journey. I believe he will honor my need for space, but for him, this is the trip of a lifetime. He has never been anywhere. He’s always wanted to see oceans, volcanoes, caves, deserts, but by the draw of life, was not able to. And here I show up, ready to take him away. It almost feels like fate or destiny – but I believe in neither fate nor destiny. I believe in choosing our path and knowing you can’t go wrong, because regardless, you’ll have an adventure, and you’ll learn things. If I go back to the desert alone, it’s the same thing I’ve done for the past 4 years. If I go with Jim … I get to learn something and grow.

So, we leave right after thanksgiving together. I hope to have a lot of guiding work from January to June. Jim is a carpenter and a master builder – he creates homes with natural material, like traditional log cabins or hand-made brick houses. I’m not worried about him. He’ll find himself a project. My only lingering concern is that we’ll have one vehicle for two people, only one of whom knows how to drive a manual, so far. But I can let the Little Crazy in my head continue to rock the boat with its fear-mongering or I can choose to trust and love instead, and just go for it.

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“Shadows coming forward and forefront to be experienced and released is an integral part of the evolution process. Love will prevail. There is no other long term choice. So feel your fears and honor them. Fears will lock into your survival mechanism. It’s just how they operate. But we are not dying. We are not even doomed. We are growing, clarifying, self-defining in contrast. In fact, we might just have been gifted an exceptionally potent catalyst. We’ve chosen a shortcut, a kick in the pants of status-quo comfort. Strap on your seatbelt. Fast growth could be a hell of a ride. It’ll be worth it. Mark my words.” 

Written on the morning after the election, in my journal, to myself on the topic of my relationship. Then I heard the global news. As inside so without. 

Tinderized

It’s time to tell you this story. I was sitting on it because I’m superstitious and didn’t want to jinx the Magic. But with the Facebook photos of the truck being converted to a two-person sleeper and of cabins in the colorful northeastern woods, anybody who’d care has already figured out that this Bobcat’s on a whole different kind of adventure than her usual.

It starts with a dream, so let’s back up a bit …

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … I was released from the hospital with a mystery. The doctors had found no obvious cause for the belly pain that diverted me from my AT thru-hike. As Western doctors – even well-intentionned ones – are known to do, I was released with a laundry list of catastrophic potentialities – cancer, ulcer, tumor, etc – my asymptomatic mystery still could carry, and a busy schedule of ongoing medical tests I would need. A week and a half after my release, I dreamt of my Grandpa Henri. Henri died when I was 14 years old, but I never met him, and I only know what he looked like from one small photo my Grandpa Alex gave me.

I approached Henri’s casket in the dream. The family was gathered around, but nobody I knew. He opened his eyes and looked straight at me. Was this normal behavior? Maybe just some leftover nerves. Nobody moved. He sat up suddenly, pale as death, and the family ran. With both eyes still fixed on me, he swung his stiff legs over the casket and stood up.
“You can’t get up.” I told him, “You’re dead, remember? You died of cancer a while back.”
He didn’t care. He jumped out of the casket and skipped on down the corridor.
“Henri! You’re dead!” He finally turned around to acknowledge me. His face was young and fresh, full of vitality. “I chose to die back then because nothing could be done. But now there are alternative, holistic, earth-based medicines. This is a good time to wake up.”

I woke up with a knot in my throat. Was this a message? Was it saying that the pain in my belly is cancer? A flash of fear ran the length of my spine. I breathed thought it and sat with my own mortality. Relax! Henri is right, there are alternatives. I decided then that if I had cancer, I would not follow the western path of radiation and chemo. I would follow the earth-plant-holistic path. And if I failed? Then I’d die. And that was fine. In that moment, I felt such gratitude for my life thus far. It has been exceptional by my own standards. The best life I could have ever wished for. I’d want to know that my truck was in good hands and that the story in my book  lived on. Other than that, I felt perfectly fulfilled, content and at peace with what was and has been.

So it was with surprise and confused fascination that I watched myself roll over to my phone, download the Tinder app and create a profile.

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I don’t remember the first man that was presented. Jimmy James was the second. He looked kind, handsome, and could do a handstand. I “liked” him. In the following hour, I swiped “no” to at least 300 undoubtedly wonderful men. I “liked” two others, not out of interest, but because I felt I should at least have three eggs in this basket. But the other two eggs never hatched.

I understand that it is customary to exchange Tinder messages for a while, then move on to personal texts, eventually a phone call, and way down the line, finally a meeting face-to-face, once compatibility and sanity have been fully checked and vested. Ugh! Who has time for that? My Tinder flame’s truck had just landed in the shop, his wallet was just stolen, and his phone had just fallen and shattered. It seemed to me the man needed a break from a bad luck streak, so after a few texts, I drove to Maine to pick up Jimmy James.

First impressions – A tall man, a peaceful demeanor, long white dreads, torn jeans, bare feet, a joyous gait, an army bag topped by a rolled wool blanket.
“Great! I just drove an hour to pick up a homeless hippy”, I though, but instead I said “Hey, here you are!” as genuinely as I could fake.
“Yay, here I am.” He walked to my truck as though he always had and naturally placed his belongings in the back with mine.
“Where are we going?” I assumed he had a plan, since we were in his town.
“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought any further than this meeting right now. We can go anywhere.”

As I turned the key in the ignition, I sensed an adventure had begun, one beyond the miles we might cover that day. The calm joy of that man in the cab of my truck – Certainty, solid ground, landmark, and a launching pad for a rocket ship combined. Suddenly all other adventures were canceled. THIS needed to be explored. And what was this? I’m not sure yet. But it’s that thing that makes you take your shoes off – unless you’re already barefoot – and run through fields in the sun, and laugh, and dance, and blow milkweed puffs in the wind. It changes the flow of time and reorganizes your life like the advanced stages of a Tetris game. It’s that thing you didn’t know you were missing in your “perfectly fulfilled, content and at peace with what was and has been” life. It makes it not okay to die. Not at all.

And it gets worse.
This one comes with two more – a two year old and a four year old. A man and two boys to steal my heart and deconstruct my well-oiled solo roaming life.

So, this is the end of this post, but the beginning of what could be my biggest adventure yet. There will be more stories. I have already climbed a physical and metaphorical mountain with the boys. Now the Cat-mobile is being converted to fit two people. Our sights are to the southwest for the winter. We have known each other a little over a month, have no money, and will be confined to a 32 square feet home for the foreseeable future.

You think I’m scared? You damn right I am. But …

“There is nothing more pathetic than caution when headlong might save a life, even, possibly, your own.”
~ Mary Oliver, Felicity:Poems.
 

 

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