One of my favorite aspects of reading Lord of the Rings is the very niche verbiage Tolkien uses. The best word he uses, in my opinion, is errantry: the quality, condition, or fact of wandering; especially : a roving in search of chivalrous adventure. If I could use a word to synthesize how I wish my life to be … it would be that one.
Sometimes I think that I am so logistically-obsessed that I never leave room for things to just happen seamlessly. In other words, I always think I’m going encounter some sort of snag or hurdle that will hamper my plans. (It reminds me of a great quote from my grandmother, Joan Rita Laico: “I always assume I’m gonna get screwed over, and I usually do!” … but not that extreme.)
I’ll often consider several contingencies should things not go to plan to assuage feelings of being let down, but it becomes exhausting to live that way. Now more than ever, I try to let things simply unfold — and it seems the more that I do, the more they unfold smoothly.
It’s rung particularly true when I’ve been traveling and exploring. Back in January, Ryan and I visited family friends in Aspen to see the X-Games. We never actually made it to the event, though, because we had such a flipping fun day skiing that we were too exhausted to go out by evening.
Skiing these days feels like a real hassle, which is an incredibly privileged thing to say, I know. I am fortunate to afford an exorbitant ski pass and access world class mountains every weekend; I just have to steel myself to do so. A typical ski day from Colorado Springs to Summit County means waking at 5:30, hitting the road by 6:00, still hitting ski traffic at 8:30. Probably actually getting on the mountain itself at 10:00, best case scenario. If it’s a weekend day, which it usually is, the lift lines quickly start lengthening, to the point that by midday, you may be waiting up to 20-30 minutes. I once waited a full hour. I enjoy skiing when I get there, but it feels like such a process to arrive at the moment that I’m gliding down the slopes — only to have a 3-hour drive home — that I question whether it’s worth it. Given how unsustainable the ski industry has become, I also increasingly wonder how ethical it is. And frequently, I’m exasperated by my company complaining about the conditions or the weather constantly, when the reality is: what we are doing right now is SO improbable. We are strapping sticks to our feet and carving down hills of snow, only to be transported by a chair back to the top!
In any event, Ryan and I were staying in Basalt, a 25-minute drive from Snowmass, so I already knew it would be significantly easier a ski day. But I was still braced for parking shenanigans; waiting for the bus at the beginning and end of the day; difficulty picking up my lift ticket; waiting on long lines (because of the increased X-Games traffic), etc. I couldn’t have been more pessimistic.
We woke up at 7:15? It was National Blueberry Pancake Day, so we leisurely made some Kodiak cakes and got out the door at a cool 8:30. We arrived at the parking lot — not even close to full — casually donned our ski apparel. As we started walking to the bus stop, a bus pulled right up. We boarded, hopped off. I went into the lodge for the lift ticket — again, no line — and was handed a pass in 30 seconds. We strapped on our skis and snowboard, immediately boarded the chairlift, and thus commenced a truly glorious day at the slopes with virtually no waiting and all the fun.
It had snowed the night before and was actively snowing on us. When we took a break at New Belgium Brewing (cashing in on the obviously great deal of a lager + shot for $10), we discovered they’d be giving away swag and free beer two hours later. So we kept cruising down the trails, returning to New Belgium not long after. We got to print custom hats, drink Fat Tire for free, and collect little odds and ends, like chapstick and can openers and stickers.
It was, undoubtedly, the best ski day I’ve ever had. I have marveled about this day for months since, at how easy it was. And the more days we’ve had like this, the more I’ve come to appreciate how simple they are to achieve. All this time I’ve been assuming things will go wrong, I’ve never allowed for the possibility for things to go right — or even perfectly. But if you release expectations and control over a situation, you afford yourself so much more opportunity. It really feels like as long as you put good energy out, you will let good energy in.
We were recently at Red Rocks Amphitheatre to see Hippo Campus, a band I’ve admired for 7 years or so and to which I introduced Ryan last year. I was happily surprised when they played their song “Tuesday,” an older track from their 2017 album, Landmark. As Jake Luppen sang out, “Sometimes I call it Tuesday, sometimes I call it the best day of my life,” I wondered if perhaps you could call lots of days the best day of your life. I’m sure many people can pinpoint a “best” day — their marriage, the birth of a child, a grand achievement. I don’t think I want just one of those days, though. I want best days on Tuesdays, best days when nothing particularly momentous happens, and best days when there’s no reason to deserve seamlessness, but somehow, miraculously, you get it.
A few things that made me chuckle in the past couple months:
- Discovering that not only does Netflix roast you when it asks if you’re still watching, but also will inform you that there’s just “2 episodes till next season.” Twist my arm, I’ve got another 40 minutes.
- Discussing the trend of themed dance parties at small concert venues, a friend informed me of an upcoming Shrek Dance Party. “What kind of music is that?” I asked. “I don’t think it’s a specific kind of music; I think it’s just overarchingly Shrek-themed,” she replied.
- Waiting to board a flight at 5:30 a.m. at Denver airport, seeing a middle-aged dad munching a banana, wandering around, wide awake, totally unperturbed by the early hour or circumstance.
I try to give folks as much grace as possible when they don’t treat me the best. I can’t say that I’m always successful, but I remind myself of all the times I’ve been short or rude to someone not because they did anything wrong, but because I was having a tough day (or maybe month). It’s difficult — if not impossible — to be your best self all the time.
I know that the past couple months I wasn’t at my best. Simultaneously grieving the loss of a job that I loved while trying to carve a path forward, I tried to shield others from all the emotions I was feeling. I tried to narrow them to a select few and not dwell too hard on them. In this process of keeping some pain to myself, I weirdly found solace in strangers — without saying a word.
Early April, Ryan and I were walking down the beach in Longboat Key, Florida, when we got on the topic of Finding Nemo. For the life of us, we couldn’t remember the name of the current that Marlin and Dori need to ride (answer: the East Australian Current). Ryan suggested I ask someone on the beach (he often makes me ask all the questions, probably because I’m going to ask something no matter what). We were approaching this girl standing in the tide, and something about her expression told us that she, like me, was holding onto some pain. We elected not to bother her, but I’ve thought about her since.
Perhaps a week later, I had gotten home to an empty house. It was a weekend night, I had no plans, and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I just knew I had to clear my head, thoughts buzzing around noisily. Whenever I feel this way, I take a long walk and just listen to music. About halfway through the walk, mired in all the angst I felt, I turned a corner and saw a young guy approaching on the sidewalk. He too had headphones in, and by the look on his face — just like the girl on the beach — I felt this tiny point of connection. Maybe he was just out for a walk; maybe he was clearing his head, the same way I was.
The following week, I was at the gym feeling utterly defeated. Gazing at myself in the mirror, pushing myself through a very moderate lift workout, I felt weak. I thought I looked weak, too — breakable. I had already beaten myself up for my apparent lack of emotional and mental resilience during this time, and it felt like it was manifesting in my body, too. I was wrestling with these thoughts in the sauna afterward, listening to a podcast on grief — a dumb way to self-soothe. I’m normally in the sauna alone, but that evening, there was another young woman seated beside me. For the third time, I found myself with a kindred spirit. As we sat there sweating profusely, I watched her face grimace in thought and agitation, and I just knew that whatever she was facing, we were in this thing together. Occupying the same physical and mental space, but differently.
I don’t know if I should have said something to these individuals. I only hope that they felt less alone when they saw me, the way that they made me feel less alone when I saw them.
I dog sit pretty frequently. I never purported to be a dog whisperer, but once I started watching people’s dogs, I began regularly receiving requests — to the point that I refer to it as my “side hustle.” It’s kind of the perfect deal, because I get to spend time with dogs but don’t actually have the responsibility of my own dog full-time. Plus, I like seeing what kind of snacks people have in their houses.
In the past few years of this side hustle, I’ve determined that I have one rule that dogs must follow, and we’ll get along just fine. That rule: no eating sh*t. That’s it. Just one rule.
Regrettably, I’ve had to add a corollary to no eating sh*t: no rolling in sh*t, either.