Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One Person's Crazy is Another Person's Courage

"To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become; that is courage." ~ Charles Dubois

"Crazy is as crazy does." ~ Forrest Gump

A year ago this week, I chose to leave my life in Portland, Ore. After three difficult years, my decision had the tone of reactionary. I tried not to view it as rash. It felt necessary for survival. I wanted out of Hell. I don't use this word lightly and do not direct it at the city of Portland itself. Portland is world class. Progressive, eclectic, sexy, infused with food and fanatics. I fit into Portland, personality-wise. We just had poor timing.

I anguished over whether to leave. The allure of the place had definitely hooked into my ego. Portland caters to writers. If you're a writer, go there. If you're already a writer in Portland, stay there. It carries great potential along with cachet. Even if you're a bad writer, the line "Portland writer" on your resume puts you in a different section of the train car -- one reserved for notables.

The writing scene there is vibrant, supportive, irritatingly creative. I had stars in my eyes, literally. Cheryl Strayed, Chuck Palahniuk. Powell's City of Books paraded all the literary roadshows through its cavernous rooms. No name in publishing would pass up a chance to read at the distinguished standard-bearer for independent book stores.

Powell's was a scene unto itself. A tourist destination, of course. But an overdose of nook-and-crammed; book lovers left drunk on lit. I suffered Powell's Paralysis. I'd browse and end up empty-handed because of the overwhelming choices. When everything is at your fingertips, the best choice is elusive. (Blame it on being a Virgo.)

I left it all behind. I left a good job. And two writers' groups and professional support networks and my growing group of writer friends and parenting cohorts. Phhtt. Gone.

I fled because my husband died.

I fled because I thought it would make me feel better.

I fled because my extended family lived 2000 miles on the other side of the country.

I fled because when life gets too hard, you cut your losses and hope a change of address will bring you peace.

I fled because I felt insane.

An ironic, but important, aside: The comment I heard frequently about my decision to relocate, solo-new-widow-mom, across the country was -- you are so courageous. 

For a month on the road, I felt pretty good. Maybe a tad heroic. It's easy to feel good when you don't have a house to keep up, an electric bill to pay, a clock ticking in the night beside your bed, calling you to wake up and make some money.

Friends commented before, during and after my escape about my incredible journey. Someone, she knows who, called me Oh Wandering One. It was sarcastic, meant to goad me back to the ticking clock.

My clock ticks now. As I write this. Maybe a digital would be better.  A year later, my plan to leave the strain behind has disappointed me some. Would it surprise you that there are days I pine for Portland? Of course not, you say. It could be a longing for the normalcy of my old neurosis. The bad that I knew. Not the bad that is new.

Did I make a courageous choice to leave? That's debatable. I wear my stiff upper lip headlong into single parenthood, into discovering myself again, into holding my breath, into dating (oh, what a blogpost that could be -- my working title is Sex, Grief, and the Young-ish Widow; or maybe, Girl, Don't Date w/o Meds).

All is not bad. I arrive at a place with possibilities. More specifically, this is a time full of potential and not a physical place in the road. Change often evolves when great adversity strikes. I have been struck and struck again. It isn't time for another change of scenery, but a change of psyche.


  1. Ah, Jennifer. I know about changes of scenery. I made the decision to more here because I was tired of the scenery I grew up in. I love Portland for all the same reasons you do. However, I never realized how much I would miss the family and friends I left behind. I wish they were all here with me. Still, some of them would be miserable here. Fortunately for me, I have my best friend with me. That makes a difference.

    And, Jen, you're always welcome to come home. ;o)

    1. Leave the proverbial place at the table for me.

  2. I have been contemplating a move for much of the last decade - an attempt to leave some rusty, sharp-edged stories behind so I could begin a shiny new one. But family has kept me rooted to Colorado, so instead I move often in my head to keep the ol' psyche off balance. Mostly I travel by fiction - including a couple of stories you wrote, by the way. It's not quite the same thing as packing up a truck and pointing it toward the highway, but then again, I tend to live mostly in my head so sometimes it's almost enough to fool me.

    And about that dating blogpost? You should definitely write that. I haven't dated in nearly a decade (long story, more book than blogpost), but the last woman I dated offered this explanation for why I shouldn't call her anymore (much to my relief, actually): "I talked with my brother and he said I shouldn't see you anymore. And he's in the mafia, so you should probably stay away."

    1. s-the lure of the road is a strong one for me. i'm staying put, for now.

      as for the dating, i wrote something today but will likely submit it somewhere that might have more readers. i understand the giving up part. i think i'll try that on for a while.

    2. Be sure and let us know where that post ends up. I'd like to read it. I am a fan of your words and ideas.

    3. My story manifested here:


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