my favorite laugh.

When Evan finished his first semester of—official—nursing school, I did a little celebratory dance for the occasion.

And—of course—I watched the video over and over, because I’m addicted to that laugh. The beginning of this journey feels like so. long. ago. Because it’s been a really long journey—this whole Evan-in-Nursing-School thing. He has worked nights at a local restaurant to make it all work financially. He has worked nights at a local restaurant to make it all work financially. He has pulled multiple all-nighter to study, write, and make it all work academically. He has been there for me as a husband, friend, and teammate. I’m amazed and impressed. And SO PROUD.

So for the end of his LAST semester in nursing school, I had an idea. On a trip with Allison, I told her about my idea to lip-synch a mutually beloved Drake song for Evan. Her response: “Well, obviously, I should do the Nicki Minaj part.” [this—and many more reasons—is why I love her so.] So we proceeded to have a weekend in Jackson where I relived my best middle school sleepovers and recorded MANY music videos. [the best. the funniest.]

So we went for it. And then we thought, “Maybe this would be even MORE fun if we asked some of Evan’s friends to participate.”

Evan was officially done with classes on Thursday and we were both just so ecstatic. Ev had to work Friday night, so I set it all up. I wrote on our chalkboard, “YOU DID IT!” I left him a card…

omg_youre_done_2

…with a bottle of whisky. The card included the reference, “I want some whisky!” which was from the night Evan found out he was accepted to Montana State University’s accelerated nursing program. A bookend bottle of whisky. [note: that post ALSO includes a strong Drake reference.]

I tried to stay up and wait for Evan, surprise him with all this love and then surprise him with this video I had waiting.

But I fell asleep on the couch. And could not be awoken. It was a long day!

So the next morning, I was shakey and excited and nervous and just wanted to show Evan this video. This ah-mazing video that our friends made so incredible.

So we were drinking coffee and I said to Evan, “Ohhh noooo… shit! I just got some bad feedback on a video I’ve been working on for FIB.” [lies.] [also, FIB = First Interstate Bank… a regular client.]

He was bummed for me. [gotta love him.] I asked if he’d watch the video with me and tell me what he thought of it. He stopped working on bikes to gladly watch. I set up my computer to secretly record on the coffee table [black tape over the Photobooth light, brightness turned alllll the way down so the screen is black… you’re welcome].

Oh my goodness. That laugh. So much of that laugh. Worth all the late nights. All the hard weeks. All the shitty months. All the alone togetherness. All the tears. Worth it.

I love it. I love him. I love this laugh. I love this video. Don’t even try to make me stop watching it thousands of times over.

[and all I can say is…]

findings.

There’s a lot of What am I doing here? happening lately in my life. I sit down at my desk at work each morning and it’s one of two types of What am I doing here?

It’s either the, Alright. What am I doing here? where I scramble to figure out how to juggle my workload efficiently and sometimes literally google how to do certain aspects of my job.

Or it’s the bi-monthly, What am I doing here? that is part of the constant existential crisis I have of wanting to be more and do more with my being.

Today, as I sat down next to the only other person in the office today and we both put on our headphones to indulge in our separate screen worlds, it was both kinds.

So I did what I do when I’m overwhelmed with first-world identity problems and I went for a walk to get a latte.

On the walk, I saw a young (age five or six) blonde girl sitting on a bench. Next to her—very closely—was a pretty rough-looking guy with tattoos up and down his arms. I almost didn’t give it a second thought until I heard him say…

– So where are your parents?

I stopped in my tracks and showed up to this scene.

The little girl wouldn’t say a word. And this man kept pushing. I figured out that he was truly trying to help, but he was being kinda scary. He would look to me every so often and say…

– I just found her walking down the sidewalk by herself!

With still no peep from her, I gradually got closer to the girl with each question. I saw a glimpse of trust in her eyes as she looked at me after a while and then I made the executive decision. I reached my hand out to her and said…

– Okay, c’mon. Let’s go to the coffee shop and find your parents together.

She edged up and almost took my hand before looking past me and darting off. She saw her brother down the sidewalk a bit and ran towards him. I then saw the two of them sprint to their parents—who were VERY far away, by the way.

The rough looking man and I kind of shook our heads and smiled to each other before parting.

Waiting for my latte, the little girl’s family came into the same coffee shop. She was a part of a gaggle of children—no wonder they lost one! I watched them trip over each other in line and navigate their worlds at different latitudes—the parents’ eyes on the chalkboard menu, the children’s wandering yet down. The little girl found me looking at her. Quickly embarrassed, she hid behind her father.

We almost had a grand adventure together. We almost had coffee together. We almost sat and solved mysteries together over hot chocolates and muffins. But instead we’re embarrassed of each other now. Almost strangers is always more uncomfortable than strangers.

———

This evening I procrastinated going to the garden until I was challenging daylight. I went out to a pretty muddy plot, since the sprinklers had already gone off. There were still a handful of tomato starts to plant and many weeds to be pulled. So I put in my headphones to listen to a podcast and took a few sips of wine out of my coffee cup and got to gardening.

About a half hour in, a man yells at me from the path. I take out an earbud and express that I didn’t hear him the first time.

– Have you seen a little girl??

– No. No, I don’t think so.

I study this man in these seconds. Oh my god, is this the same dad?? Did he loose her again??

– What does she look like?

His first descriptor knocked the wind out of me. The ones following did not help…

– She’s autistic. She’s probably in just a diaper and a t-shirt.

– No, I haven’t seen her. I’m sorry.

And with that, he sprinted off in his shorts and flip-flops.

Immediately, I regretted my answer that mimicked how you would answer the question, “Have you seen my sweater? I think I left it around here.”

Why didn’t I say, “Oh my god, do you want me to help you find her?”

As he took off, I threw my gloves down and pocketed my headphones all together and took off down a second path he left undiscovered. Running in my muddy sandals, I heard a child of some sort across the way and sprinted towards the sound only to find myself in a neighborhood with children abounding.

I walked along the stream praying I didn’t find her. Not like this. I wandered in circles. Looking. Scared. Confused. Looking. In tall grass. By the stream. Down roads. Down paths.

I didn’t find her. I don’t know if she was found. I went back to my garden and my podcast.

Finally, after a whirlwind search for a girl I’ve never seen, I went back to my garden and my podcast.

———

As I drove home from the garden, so close to dark, dusk holding on by spider web strings, this song came on the radio…

And like out of some indie film I want to make, I saw a neighbor girl run down the street barefoot in her navy pajamas. Her youthfully perfect blonde hair was flowing in the innocence of summer. She ran and looked at something before smiling and yelling back at her dad, back at their door. She turned on a dime and ran back to him, into his arms.

I parked the car and let the Lumineers finish as I cried a couple tears. So many little girls running, lost, found. I couldn’t help but wonder why they all intercepted with me today—found or not found. I couldn’t help but think of the niece who feels so lost from me. I couldn’t help but wonder if she’ll ever be found. I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ll ever find a little lost girl and help her find the world. If she’ll find me.

Would it be easier then to answer to all the What am I doing here?s

[who knows.]

FOUR.

[I started this blahg post four days ago. I truly thought I would start and finish it four days ago, but here we are. this first part was written four days ago. then—now—we are four days, four years later.]

What a day.

Today, is the four year anniversary of my tragic ski accident. It feels like it was a lot less time ago. And in that vein, it feels as though I’ve talked about this accident a lot. I talk about it “a lot” because it changed me… a lot. It defined so much within me and made me declare, “I want to be here.

It also made me start defining my years. The year of my accident was a bad year. A year of just surviving. Then there was the year of thriving. Then the year of change.

And now we’re here. I take January 21st and celebrate the birth of a new year, because it is when this huge, heavy calendar within me flips all at once—it’s heavy momentum hanging in my chest for a half second, before dropping all together.

This year has—frustratingly—been a year of stagnation. Stagnation might not be the exact right word. Spinning wheels and getting nowhere is the feeling of this past year. Evan has been in nursing school and it has been so. hard. Near the beginning of 2016, half of my company was laid off. It was horrible. I said goodbye to working with many of my friends this year. And while I worked 50-hour work weeks, I still feared for my own job for most of the year. Evan and I did so much moving, spinning—so much work—but felt like we were getting slowly pushed back or pushed down by some force of frustration.

This year of frustration and moving backwards has also been prominently obvious in our nation’s politics. It feels like huge steps backwards. Huge steps backwards for so many things I care about—women’s rights. environmental causes. funding for the arts. health care. racial equality. immigration empathy.

Today is a big day. I am sitting with Evan in a coffee shop in Helena, Montana—our capital city. We are getting ready to march with thousands of other Montanans who are fired up and upset about our newly elected president.

In a couple hours, we march.

[end of four days ago writing.]

We marched.

We marched, we teared up, we held hands, we yelled, we smiled, we laughed, we banded together, we felt empowered, we knew this was the beginning.

We marched.

Then we drove to Jackson. I drove while Evan studied for an exam. We drove to Jackson and went to watch Ira Glass speak about creativity and perseverance.

We drank too much whiskey and wine with friends and finding time before midnight, I raised a glass and said…

– I just want to make a toast… because it’s my FOURTH anniversary from my accident. And I’m just so happy to be alive.

I was. I am. The stagnation doesn’t change that and never will. Friends all agreed that they couldn’t believe it had already been four years. Me neither. Or can I? It’s back and forth so much that I end up in the same spot.

Over Christmas, Evan and I took a trip to Seattle. We stayed in our friend Dale‘s apartment. We were there to recap the year, celebrate art and togetherness, and plan the next year. It was hard—harder than expected. This year has just been an exhausting journey to seemingly nowhere, so we wanted to rest. We rested in each other. We did things around Seattle that gave our souls rest.

One day we had a tour of KEXP. I listen to KEXP every morning—have for ten years, because my friend Anna insisted we must when I started working at Alpinist magazine… when I moved to Jackson, Wyoming ten years ago… and didn’t know a soul in that very cold town.

The tour was exciting, empowering, inspiring, and joy-filled. We met a friend on the tour and her daughter. We ended up hanging out afterwards and talking for and hour. About life, bikes, music, children, nursing, living, loving, coffee, and all that lives on the stage of life and in the wings.

It wasn’t moving forward, but it was dancing in the now.

I figured out that this last year wasn’t moving, but it was dancing, crying, grieving, staring, meditating, reading, yelling, loving in the now. And that’s worth something.

kexp_time

this found photo in KEXP’s performance space captures the wanting and excitement.

There has been much nowness—and I need to appreciate that. This last year—I want to call it stagnant—but I think it demands to be something more along the lines of “introspective.”

This next year—this next year, though!—will be more movement, more outro-spection.

I will submit essays like a motherfucker until I’m published.

I will protest and write and call and yell until my colleagues think I’m crazy and my representatives know I’m not going anywhere.

I will run until my lungs are joyously impressed.

I will create like it’s urgent.

I will love like it’s necessary.

I will dance like it’s obviously welcome.

I will create. I will aim high. I will be loud. I will be persistently going forward.

I will not be still. I will be moving.

This next year.

[four.]

 

i need an answer.

Things have been hard. Other things, yes, but the election and days following have been very hard. A few days after the news, I received a group email from a strong, fired-up woman of a friend. It was addressed to several other strong, fired-up women. The email was titled “What the fuck?”

It was asking how we’re all doing and what we’re all doing. Replying to it was more therapeutic than I thought it would be. The woman who replied before me included that she was 2/3rds into a bottle of wine.

I want to share my reply to this email chain, this time, all of it:

“I’ll cheers to that… mostly the 2/3rds of a bottle of wine, you’re a glass ahead of me.

with all of this, I’ve got nothing. I feel empty and suffocated at the same time. I immediately felt oppressed as a woman. I keep saying over and over, “I don’t know.” or, “I’m just sad.” or, “I’m just tired.” but mostly, “I don’t know.” and then sometimes, “not great.”

Evan is in the poorest part of Montana right now—on an Indian Reservation six hours away. he’s there for a nursing school rotation, giving general care. he’s sleeping in teepees and going to sweat lodges and connecting with tribe members. I’m so jealous. it feels like that’s where all of America should be right now.

Saturday, after I finally got myself out of the house, I walked downtown and the sky was beautiful and the light was perfect and I kept repeating, “there is light. there is light.” on that same trip, I saw a man holding a sign that said, “LOVE EACH OTHER.” and then I saw two drunk frat guys approach him and accuse him of being someone “who voted for Hilary, huh?” then they “had words” for him, trying to start a fight. and I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t tell them to stop. I didn’t call the cops. I didn’t ask if that guy needed help. and I couldn’t figure out if there is light.

I feel a bit dead behind the eyes right now. hoping to not feel that way soon, but not really doing much to not feel that way. yesterday, I went as a mentor-esque figure to this event on campus. I wore a blazer and felt a million years old. two young women were talking to me about how it’s Ladies’ Night (some shopping discount thing downtown) and then there’s a Broad Comedy (all female comedy troupe) show this weekend.

Young Woman: It’s gonna be an awesome feminist weekend!

Me: Yeah, get it while you can.

they looked at me as confused optimists do and then I mumbled something about the election and then that Debbie Downer womp womp sound played and I excused myself to eat all the cheese they had on hand.

I am psyched to be on this chain, though. this conversation feels good. refreshing. needed. thank you for including me.

I am dead to mansplaining as well. “You know how money works, right?” was an actual question I’ve been asked in a client meeting. because of you and your re-upped efforts, I’ll make more of an effort myself. damn you and your inspiring words.

what I’m doing:

• listening to this on repeat: 

• crying a lot.

• writing a lot for this writing class I’m taking. writing about mammograms! and contraception! and addiction! and having a vagina! take that, Montana!

• drinking wine.

• doing a lot of Tarot card readings for myself. looking deeply at myself and deeply at the world around me.

• putting this shirt on my christmas list.

there’s a whole other—less self-involved—list of things I think/know I should be doing. but I don’t feel there yet. I am tired. I am sad. I don’t know. not great.

love y’all to the moon.

xxo,
ray.”

There have been other light times. There has been light.

Watching—with some kick-ass ladies—an all-women comedy troupe slay it on Friday.

Hearing my 16-year-old neighbor learning to play Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on the piano. Hearing her fumble through the keys to find the right ones and then move on. Beautiful.

Being a part of a rally in Bozeman. Hearing our police chief say that the police are not apart from our community, they are a part of our community. It was powerful and wonderful.

And I really wish I hadn’t sold my Hamilton tickets.

So that’s where I am.

[be with the one that you love.]

checking the mailbox // a story + playlist.

Tonight, I had my first writing class of a series. We did some free writing. Get a prompt. Write for five minutes. Share.

The third prompt was “I remember…”

For unclear reasons lately, I’ve been thinking about mailboxes. What they mean for homes. What they mean for love. What they mean for communication. And in the instant the of the prompt, I remembered a mailbox. Here’s what I wrote…

I remember the mailbox. The mailbox so empty, every time. My heart so broken. Every time. I had no way of knowing it could feel this bad. I was 17. I was in love. And after two years together, he went off to spend a summer as a camp counselor. I was so sad… but we wrote each other all the time. I had to get my wisdom teeth out that summer. The feeling wasn’t pain. The feeling was life underwater. Slower because of the drugs. My head was light, but my mouth was heavy, full of gauze. He just so happened to be visiting home the day after my procedure. He looked at me. Me with my chipmunk cheeks. And he told me we were over. “Whaaad?” I asked, muffled and swollen and crumbling into the pain now. I don’t remember much after that. I just remember the weeks to come. Checking the mailbox every day. Feeling inside the empty tin. So hot. So empty. I wondered if I could climb in, shut the door, and be in that darkness instead.

I assured my classmates that I am happily married now.

Checking the mailbox. It means something different to me now—thank god. It means something, though. I’ve put together some of the songs—old and new—then and now—full and empty—in a playlist for sharing. I hope you enjoy the tunes.

checking_the_mailbox[click me.]

[hoping the hot tin burns.]

evan… on the hunt.

Evan and I shot a wedding this summer.

ERIN_DAN_322.jpg

Wading through the over 7,000 photos to select and edit, I was way more joy-filled than I ever thought I would be. And partly it was because I came across this sequence of Evan so in the zone. So excited about working like this together. So excited to capture love.

ev_1ev_2ev_3ev_4

I can’t explain exactly why… but I love it.

[so so much.]

a nearly grand anniversary.

One Year. 366 Days.

One year ago from Sunday, Evan and I set out on a great adventure—marriage. But we decided to make the actual day an adventure, as well, so we set out on bikes from Jackson, Wyoming to String Lake in Grand Teton National Park [28 miles], waited out the rain, vowed to love each other forever [do note: “every second of every day” is different than “forever”], and then danced into the night with so many loved ones at a ranch in Wilson.

It’s been a year. A big year. So we wanted to celebrate in a big way. With a big day. We decided we wanted to climb the Grand Teton on our one year anniversary—August 14th. I’ve never summited the Grand. Evan has many times. I was hungry for a summit and excited for a day in the mountains with my love.

The first night in Wyoming, we arrived later in the night to our camp spot. We drove the van around, listening to an anniversary mix I made for Ev and talked about our favorite moments of the last year. I couldn’t have been happier. I told Evan…

– I love this. I love you. I could drive around forever.

I’m glad we didn’t, because as soon as we stopped and got camp ready, Evan surprised me with the. best. anniversary present. A year ago, we had a “cheese cake” for our wedding.

sidneymorgan-4321

Mary at the Jackson Whole Grocer helped us put together a dream of a wedding cake for me.

Evan contacted Mary again and had her make us a mini wedding cake! Just like you’re supposed to do for your first anniversary! I died. So exciting. The best. He even brought our cake topper, made by the ah-mazing Lindsey Yankey. It might be my favorite thing from wedding times… besides, you know… my trophy husband.

cheese_cake!

We drank wine and ate cheese and talked into the night. A perfect beginning of anniversary weekend.

Saturday, we couldn’t get a high-country permit for camping near the climb, so we spent the day getting ready, running around String Lake, swimming, cooking, and getting to bed very early, in preparation for our big day.

zoomingstring_lake_smeethenscooking

We woke up at midnight. After coffee and oatmeal and drawing a Tarot card each [he drew the King of Swords! I drew the Queen of Swords! a couple! on our anniversary!], we set off on the trail in the dark, alive with excitement and love. We had 7,000 feet of vertical gain in front of us and we were ready.

Just kidding.

Here’s a hot tip that you probably don’t need: Don’t try to climb a 13,700 foot mountain off the couch.

The first seven miles were great—for me. I was kicking ass and taking names, but Evan wasn’t feeling so hot. He started slowing down, because his stomach was hurting so bad. We got above the upper saddle [farther than I had ever gotten!] and Evan had to emergency veer off the trail to tend to his belly.

Even when he went off the trail and stayed there for a while, I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes for a bit. I wouldn’t admit to myself just how tired I was, just how un-ready my body was, because I wanted to summit so bad. I wanted us to be on top of the Grand together on our first wedding anniversary. I brought my wedding dress in my pack, to maybe even put it on on top of the Grand.

Evan came back from his trip off trail and told me he wasn’t feeling well. He then dry-heaved for a bit while I looked away and started to tear up. He said he didn’t think he could do it. I told him we could just go home and go back to Bozeman; I was so upset.

We should’ve turned around. But we didn’t. Evan gave me some indication that he might might be able to do it and I told him…

– Make a decision. You either need to buck up so we can do this or you can call it and we’ll bail.

I think I even said something like, “All this for nothing!” I was upset. I was tired. We had been hiking for almost seven hours and I thought that not summiting at that point would be the worst. I am not proud of this moment of our anniversary. I am not proud of this moment at all.

Evan entertained the thought of us getting to Wall Street—the first pitch of the technical climb—and seeing how he felt. I was so excited. We started that way, but were going at a snail’s pace at this point—stopping a lot.

We should’ve bailed. You know this. We knew this—deep, deep down. But we didn’t. Getting on rope in the Tetons with his favorite person made Evan whole again—for moments at a time. He was so happy. We started each pitch by saying…

– Happy Anniversary. I love you. You’re on belay.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you, too. Climbing.

– Climb on.

It was the best. Until it wasn’t. Until we started moving even slower. Until we had a route-finding problem a handful of times. Until after five pitches, I couldn’t imagine climbing again. Until the wind crushed my soul and then the sun burned my face. Until I started really bonking. Until we realized, “Okay, we’re really not going to make anniversary dinner reservations.” Until we realized, “Shit. We are not in a good place.” Until we saw the sun getting to a place it wasn’t supposed to.

We had two pitches left. We got to the top of the second to last, the sun was setting, we were hardly speaking to each other. I asked Evan, where do we go now?

– I went the wrong way up there. The way we were supposed to go for the summit. We’re going to bail. I’m so sorry.

I lost it. I started crying. All this for nothing! ALL THIS for NOTHING. I’m tearing up thinking of it now. Evan apologized over and over as I berated him for everything under the sun. [again, not proud.]

I just kept thinking, “What the hell does this mean about us as a couple?! How did we get here?? Is this day symbolic of our marriage? We’re fucked.”

[do note: there are no photos from our time actually in the mountains… for obvious reasons. I think our lack of selfies is very telling of the fact that we were miserable.]

We headed to the rappel and I could not stop crying. Just your casual silent sobbing. There was another climbing party on the rappel who we shared a rope with. I went first as Evan was still coming along. The woman who shared her rappel with us was there climbing with her brother. She was so friendly and struck up conversation with me, probably because she could tell I was upset.

– I wouldn’t be upset you didn’t summit. Look how beautiful it is!

– [through not-s0-sneaky tears] Yeah, but we just went the wrong way. And it’s been a long day.

Evan came down the rappel and the chatty, nice woman asked him his name.

– Evan.

– Evan, I’m Kim. Where you from?

– I’m from Jackson, but we live in Bozeman now.

Kim took off her sunglasses and lunged towards Evan…

– Hey! Evan! Oh my god!

Of course. Of course they went to college together. Of course they’re friends.

– What’s new?? You live in Bozeman now with your beautiful… girlfriend?

– Wife. Rachel’s my wife. And she’s pretty upset with me, because I’m a dumbass.

– Rachel! Don’t be upset at Evan! He’s the nicest guy in the world!

Here’s a hot tip everyone always forgets: When someone is in the throes of anger, telling them to not be upset is risking murder-suicide.

[Disclaimer: Kim is lovely and I am so psyched I met her, but she caught me at a rough time.]

– I know he’s the nicest guy. I do know that.

We continued the descent down back to the saddle while Evan caught up with his old friend and exchanged news about ever person who went to the University of Oregon from 2002 to 2008, while I trudged along in the back, wondering if you can die from the affects of suppressing anger weeping.

We parted ways with Kim and her brother and had a moment together. It was starting to get really dark. I told Evan…

– We didn’t summit and we don’t get to have fancy anniversary dinner and I’m just so tired and sad!

– I know. I know; I’m so sorry. And I even had a surprise for you—I got us a cabin at Colter Bay.

I collapsed in tears. Sat down, head in hands. I just openly bawled. I’m sure the whole valley heard me yell-crying…

– I COULD BE IN A CABIN RIGHT NOW?!? WHY ARE WE HERE?? WHY DID WE THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?? HOW DID WE GET HERE?? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?? I COULD BE DRINKING WINE IN A CABIN!!

I composed myself and we started down the trail, in the dark.

We had about seven miles to get out. In the dark. We were wordless for a while, before I stopped Evan to apologize. I apologized for being a loose cannon of emotion and way too blamely and for not listening to him when he was trying to tell me we should bail ten hours ago. I told him…

– I’m deciding to change my attitude right now. We’re in this together. I love you. I’m sorry. If we can laugh again at some point on our hike out of here, I’ll call this a win.

He looked at me with eyes that made it clear he was unsure if we’d ever be able to laugh or even smile, ever again. But we headed on.

We had to get to the van. We had to get through the dark and to the van.

So we banded together. We took turns losing it. Completely losing it. We lost ourselves in the boulder field. Then we found the trail again. Then we lost ourselves again, in the second boulder field. We lost ourselves for a while. We walked in circles. We lost it. We cried. One at a time. We took turns seeing things. We took turns freaking out. We took turns, breaking down, telling the other one, in a shaking voice…

– I’m losing it, babe.

Then one of us taking the other by the shoulders, comforting them, and saying…

– It’s okay. You can do this. We got this.

We realized we had been awake for 26 hours. We thought about calling Search and Rescue. We talked about how stupid we were. We talked about how dumb this was. We walked in circles around boulders. We tried new strategies. We finally saw headlamps of new adventurers, heading up the mountain, coming towards us on the trail. Saved! We walked towards them and found the trail again.

Only four more miles to go. Oh my god.

This was the hardest time. These last four miles. Our legs were aching. We were delirious. Evan was feeling so sick. Evan threw up. I thought my knees would be forever damaged. We had to take so many breaks. We thought we saw scary things in the woods. We fell asleep walking. We stumbled. We fell.

But we laughed. We laughed at ourselves. We laughed at memories. We laughed at our situation. We laughed at these parts of each other that we only get to see in the deepest of breakdowns.

How, when times get really tough, I get this weird camp counselor energy that makes me ask get-to-know-you questions to keep spirits up. What did you want to be when you were little? What’s your favorite thing to ski in Jackson? Did you ever think about not following me to Missoula? [okay that last one was a little deeper of a question, but made for great conversation! for a while! spoiler: he definitely did consider not moving to Missoula. dummy.]

How Evan will deliriously recite pop songs and when he gets tired enough, he’ll be quiet for a long time and then excitedly say…

– Wanna hear my new song?

– Of course.

– Ohhhh, child… Three more miles… Oh, hot damn… Gotta make it to the car.

It made as much rhythmic sense Sunday night as it does now… none at all. But we laughed. Hard.

Here’s a hot tip for music enthusiasts: Think hard before you put those ironic pop songs on mixes before big days in the mountains, because those the catchiest songs will be stuck in your head for HOURS.

That song put on there because we got doooooown to it on our wedding night:

rachdroppinit_2 copy

That one actually made for some amazing call-and-responses throughout the day…

– Baby, how you feelin’?

– Feelin’ good as hell!

Or more accurately…

– Baby, how you feelin’?

– Like I’m gonna die!

At one point, while walking, Evan said…

– Ray? You okay?

I literally opened my eyes, standing up still…

– Were we just having a conversation? Or was I dreaming we were.

– You were dreaming we were.

Shit. Wow. I was walking and sleeping. We laughed… in a sad way… but still… laughing.

We—finally—made it back to the van. At 5am. 27 hours car to car.

We did it! We comically high-fived. We kissed.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you, too.

Evan passed out immediately, but I was determined to drive 20 miles down the road to our cabin. I drove in delirium. Don’t worry, I was safe. I was determined.

I saw the biggest elk I’ve ever seen, right by the road. [or at least I think I did… delirium.] He had a rack that reached well above the van.

– Oh my god!

I yelled, as Evan snoozed in the back.

I pulled up to the check-in and the man at the counter was semi-impressed with my literal sob story.

– So, you think you’ll make it another year?

– I mean, I’m gonna try. A very late check-out would help.

We got to the cabin. I woke Evan up and he was way too tired to function. I set his flip flops down on the ground in front of him and the van. He looked at them, looked at me—so confused, looked at them again—more confused. I bent down and turned them to face him and moved them closer. It was like he couldn’t figure out what these things were and what he was supposed to do with them. Laughter again.

We got to the bed. We slept for as long as they would let us. It was glorious. We took showers. We felt like brand-new people, who knew a lot more about ourselves and each other and could hardly walk down stairs.

We called Monday “Redemption Day.” I put on a white dress. We went to a fancy-ass lunch and had cocktails. We exchanged gifts. We took our leisurely time driving the van home, stopping at sites we wanted to see, picking up hitchhikers, listening to the anniversary mix over and over, making memories. We walked around Yellowstone and held hands.

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We got ice cream cones. We came home and drank fancy bourbon that was gifted to us on our wedding day. We ordered Chinese food and listened to records. Redemption Day. Living up to its name. Its made-up name. A fresh adapter, that Redemption Day is.

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This morning, the reality set in like a heavy haze. I drove to work and then the dentist and faced scary deadlines for each. I suddenly missed the mountains—delirium and all. As this rush of missing came over me, Evan texted…

“As ridiculous of an adventure that was… I enjoyed every minute of it because I was with you. I’m exhausted. I can’t believe you’re at work right now.”

I agree. It’s true. I enjoyed every minute. Because we were together.

This life is crazy and stressful and hard and beautiful and hilarious. And it’s all of those things, but brighter when I’m with Evan. It’s an adventure that I know will be hard and I know might not yield all the results I want, but that doesn’t matter as much as it matters that I’m with him through it all. It’s a crazy thing to realize—this power of this love. But I can’t stop smiling about this realization.

And for Year Two celebration, we’ll be ready [training, climbing, trail running, a push-up or two] for the Grand. And—just in case—we’ll have another kickass Redemption Day planned.

[one.]


 

Alternative Title Considerations for this Post:

“Five Steps for Your Crying-est Anniversary Yet”

“Blame it on the Tetons… or Your Poor Husband”

“Youths Report: The Up-and-Coming Hip Part of the Grand is Right Below the Summit”

“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Hallucinating”

“My Husband Made Eye-Contact with a Grown Man Whilst Having Explosive Diarrhea on our Anniversary”

“Symbolism – It’s Overrated!”