Monday, October 25, 2010

Serendipity on the Road: Mount Hood, Oregon

Kee Kee & Yoda in Redwood National Park
An important rule of travel is to be flexible with your plans.  Things rarely go as planned, so the more open you are to change, the more likely your trip will be a success.  I'm starting to learn that the same rule applies to life.   I've always been an overachiever with a fixed menu for my life.  I set my sight on something and by George, I'm going to make a winning entree, no matter how much resistance I meet along the way.  The problem with living one's life with this bullheaded mindset is that (i) it is near impossible to change the ingredients of the recipe one has set for one's life even if it is clearly not bringing happiness; and (ii) once one has mastered a dish, there is always another left to conquer. It's an addiction to the adrenaline rush one gets when a new rung on the ladder of success is reached.  It's all about the destination, with very little attention given to the morsels of delight one is fed during the journey.  Ultimately, this pattern of living brings very little happiness or contentment to life.  It’s an exhausting and depressing way to live.

Princess driving through
an old growth Redwood tree
Already in the first week of my road trip I’ve experienced the disappointment of things not going according to plan, followed by the joy of realizing that something far more delicious took its place.  
Paul Bunyan & Babe the Blue Ox

I left San Francisco on Wednesday with a passenger – a man from the Portland area whom I met in Italy this summer.  He was in San Jose on business, and because the timing worked out perfectly we agreed he would make the trip with me through the Redwood National Forest to Portland.  I had planned to make his house in the Columbia River Gorge my home base for a week as I explored Portland.  However, as we drove two 11 hour days through the beautiful Redwoods, it became very clear to me that we are, simply put, a terrible match.   An SOS call to my pie-baking friend Beth Howard  (you’ll hear more about her when I visit her historic home in Iowa, the American Gothic House), resulted in me heading to Mount Hood for the next 3 days and nights.  
Marty's Mount Hood Paradise
 Visiting the mountain certainly wasn’t on my itinerary.  However as I drove through miles of orchards straight towards the magnificent mountain vista I realized how liberating it can be to simply let go of one’s plan and see what the Universe presents. 

Mount Hood
What was present-ed in this case was the heavenly mountain home of Marty Rudolph – 20 acres of forest, a teepee, a hot tub, a full guest apartment, 2 friendly dogs, a fire pit, a sweeping view of Mount Hood, and miles of well groomed hiking trails.  However the best surprise of all was Marty herself.  She’s one of the most compassionate, creative, energetic and interesting women I’ve ever met.  A former marketing executive, she created a yoga program and published a fabulous pocket book called Park Bench Yoga (this program has been implemented by the State of Vermont at highway rest areas throughout the state), owns an art gallery in Hood River, chops her own firewood and lives a rich country life on the mountain.  Oh yeah, and her great-grandfather invented Cracker Jack! 
Marty's Teepee

Hiking in Marty's forest
My three days on Mount Hood have been a welcome reprieve from all the driving I've done in the past week.  Marty generously took me under her wing: taking Yoda and me on a long hike through her forest 
Libby & Marty with blueberry pie
(I'd get lost if I tried to do it alone...and besides, Yoda and I were both a bit timid walking amongst the large bear droppings - we are city folk, after all), inviting me for wine and pizza with her friend Libby on my first night, sharing a glass of my traveling bottle of V.Sattui Angelica wine, and taking me to dinner at her friends' Holiday and Don's nearby mountain house. 

Holiday is a well-loved and very respected Portland area yoga instructor, and her husband Don is a financial planner/wine connoisseur with a infectiously gentle spirit.
Dinner with Holiday and Don

Holiday's apple sauce
In typical country gener-osity, Holiday and Don sent me off with a bag of organic Honey Crisp and Swiss Gourmet apples freshly picked from their orchard, as well as a jar of apple sauce Holiday had made just that morning.   
It was with bittersweet emotions that I left the mountain this morning. 
I filled my water jugs with the best water I've ever tasted (straight from the glaciers and into the tap!), packed up Princess, said goodbye to my new friend Marty, and then, for good luck, hugged a tree.  Now I'm off on my next adventure.  In the spirit of the road trip, and of my new outlook on life, I'm open to whatever that may be!   

Traveling bottle of wine

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Circle of Friends - San Francisco

Travelling bottle of wine
There is something about being a transplant in a big city that makes a select few of one's friendships very deep and meaningful.  Since many of us don't have family living in these cities, our friends become our surrogate local families.  We spend holidays with them, they collect our mail when we are out of town, they are our emergency contacts, they watch our dogs, they know our house alarm codes and have spare keys to our front doors.  I've been blessed with a large handful of these friends.  The week before I left on my road trip was such a whirlwind of packing and planning that I regrettably wasn't able to say goodbye to most of my Los Angeles "family" before leaving for almost 3 months.  I hope they realize how much they mean to me, despite the fact that I wasn't able to tell each of them in person.  When Yoda and I reached the San Francisco Bay area I was reminded again how lucky I am.  We arrived at my high school friend Aaron's house in Oakland on Sunday night, dirty and tired after a night of camping in Big Sur
Aaron making Pumpkin Pear Soup
Our mutual friend Jake met us there for dinner.  As I made an immediate beeline for a much needed shower, Aaron performed his culinary magic in the kitchen while Jake gave Yoda some very appreciated play time.  Yoda has missed his Uncle Jake!
Jake & Aaron eating our scrumptious first course

As a thank you for the hospitality, I brought Aaron a bottle of V.Sattui Angelica, a mix of Muscat and 19 year-old pot-still Carneros brandy.  It tastes like a fine bourbon and the 3 of us savored a glass over dessert.

Travelling bottle of wine
The Angelica will keep for at least 3 weeks, so Aaron insisted I take it with me to share with all the friends I see on this leg of my trip.
Eugenia in the Redwoods of Fairfax

On Monday Yoda and I headed to Marin County to visit my friend Eugenia, a former comrade in the film industry who worked up the courage years ago to move her family from, in her words, the vacuum of Los Angeles.  She's never looked back.  I'm inspired!

Holly and Krista
Yoda finds a new friend
After spending the after-noon writing my last blog post while
sipping latte at the charming, warm and inviting Piccolo Teatro in Sausalito, Yoda and I headed back to San Francisco to spend the next night on Jake's sofa in the Mission District.  An impromptu dinner party ensued, the guests of which are all close friends of mine.  I can't tell you how much joy it gave me to gather together 4 friends and see them all laughing, talking, and getting to know each other.  As the 5 of us toasted with cups of my travelling bottle of Angelica (thank you Aaron for the suggestion!), I quietly felt my heart swell as I looked around the table.  Here I am, jobless, homeless, broke, lost and confused, yet these friends still love and accept me.  I don't need the glamorous Hollywood job, fancy title or thick wallet in order to be accepted.  They are here for me, supporting me on my crazy journey to find myself, opening their homes and sharing their food, and loving me just because I'm me.  In this first week of travels, I realize that thought alone will probably be my favorite and most valuable  lesson of the road.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Like a Lotus - Camping in the Mud

Yoda & Kee Kee's Footprints in the Sand
It seems fitting that the first three days of our road trip consisted of near constant rain and muddy paws.  The weather reflected the storm in my heart and the tears on my cheeks.  I suppose it is hard to understand how numbing LA can be to one's spirit without having lived and breathed its essence on a daily basis.  It's an intoxicating city with spectacular weather and a ridiculous ease of access to the ocean and mountains.  However, it is also a city that thrives on youth, physical beauty, fame and wealth.  It's a hungry city and it takes a strong person with a solid moral upbringing to survive without her self esteem being eaten alive.  I spent over 13 years as a senior executive with one of Hollywood's top motion picture production companies.  Movie stars constantly walked past my office door, I was completely at home on film sets, and I can't even count the number of red carpet events I attended or films and soundtrack albums that listed my name in the credits.  Yet slowly, as the years went on, I realized how empty, shallow and completely meaningless these things are.  LA will chew on your soul, swallow it whole, and then spit it out again if you let it.  And I just about let it.   I think that is why I have crashed so deeply and so hard.  I just about lost my grip on the things that truly matter in life.  I miss me, but I don't even know me anymore.  One thing that has always mattered to me, and that has consistently rejuvenated me, is nature.  My most spiritual experiences in life have all happened when I've been in nature.  I think this is why I have been hit with such a deep need to take to the road.

Sunday morning, after filling our bellies at the Pismo Beach 64th Annual Clam Festival, Yoda and I continued our drive (IN THE RAIN!) up the California Central Coast.  Even in the rain, this part of the country has a magical beauty of which I will never tire.  The truly surreal rock formations are jaw dropping, and I swear the water gets more blue and clear the farther north you drive.

Elephant Seal Colony at Piedras Blancas

We stopped on  Highway 1 just north of San Simeon to see the Elephant Seals.  It's early in the season, but still, there were a solid thousand of these giant sea mammals beached on the sand looking perfectly content napping in clusters in the chilly downpour (in a few months there will be up to 15,000 elephant seals on the beach).  My visit with the elephant seals was planned this time around, unlike my first encounter with these captivating creatures. In 1996, during my first California road trip, my boyfriend and I pulled over to walk on the beach after a visit to the Hearst Castle.  Imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon these magnificent mammals.  We walked amongst them and even posed for pictures next to them (little did we know they actually have quite the dangerous bite if provoked).  The elephant seals first commenced their now annual journey to this beach in 1991 to molt, breed and birth.  It was a special experience to privately happen upon them when we did.  The beach is now protected with a fence, and the public views them on wooden walkways from a safe distance away. 

Our tent cabin in Big Sur

Kelp forest at Partington Cove
After a couple more hours of driving, we landed at the Fernwood campground in Big Sur.  Our home for the night was a tent cabin under the Coastal Redwoods right on the bank of the Big Sur River.  Other than two other tents and a couple RVs on the other side of the campground, we had the place to ourselves, due perhaps to a mix of the inclement weather and it being a Sunday night.  When we pulled up there were wild turkeys and deer grazing right in front of our tent.  Thankfully the rain stopped, and we still had a couple hours of daylight, so we visited a nearby cove with a kelp forest and a respectable population of sea otters before settling into the camp for the night.  Kelp forests are a fascinating and important underwater ecosystem.  Kelp is used in everything from toothpaste to ice-cream, and is being talked about as a possible source for renewable energy.  I picked up a piece that had washed up on the shore and it was as big as a fire hose and its texture was rubbery instead of slimy as one would expect.

The sun had set when we arrived back at the camp so I built a campfire and Yoda and I ate dinner by the light of my headlamp.

My roaring campfire

Dinner:  2 hardboiled eggs, avocado from
 roadside stand,  kettle corn from
Pismo Beach Clam Festival
I love camping.  I've even
 in the middle of the Amazon rainforest with my friend Angela - an experience that involved bathing in the stream, boiling our drinking water (it still tasted like fish), making our own rope by peeling the bark off a tree, and bats screeching and dropping fruit on our tent all night long.  Fernwood is hardly hardcore camping.  Although there was no electricity and I had to bring my own sleeping bag (thank you Dawn for lending it to me!), the campground has bathrooms with electric lights, there is a convenience store up the hill, and I was in a tent cabin (meaning it has a wood floor and a door with a lock).  That said, as I sat in the dark by myself next to the dying embers of my campfire, I choked with emotion when I realized this was by far my most ambitious camping experience to date.  Why?  Because I did it by myself.  I wasn't scared in the dark.  I built my own campfire.  I snuggled up in my sleeping bag alone.  And I loved it.  I've been hoping this road trip will bring change to my life, and in that moment I realized the changes have already begun.

My friend John likened this rainy, weathered beginning of my journey to a lotus flower.  In Eastern philosophy a lotus is viewed as a symbol of rebirth and a spiritual reawakening to life.  The lotus grows in muddy, murky waters, emerging from the surface in pristine hues of white or pink.   It is a symbol for rising out of life's hardships.  Well, life certainly has been muddy lately.  Yet just as the rain has finally abated and the sun has begun to shine, I'm starting to see the first hints that my inner-lotus may finally begin to emerge from the muck of life.  I'm grateful for these first lessons of the road, and I'm looking forward to many more in the coming months.
Pfeiffer Beach

Yoda and Kee Kee on the beach

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day One: Happy Town, U.S.A.

Kee Kee and Yoda's home for the next 77 days
I did it.  I really did it.  I left the keys with my house sitter at 11am and promised him exclusive use of my apartment through the end of December.  I then spent the first 2 hours of my drive with a fistful of tissues during my obligatory cry as I headed up the coast in the rain.  Christine Buckley doesn't do things like this.  Christine Buckley is responsible.  Christine Buckley always has a plan.  Who exactly is Christine Buckley?  I don't know. But what I do know is that I haven't been happy and I need change. 

My 2001 Post-it note
In my first post I mentioned a Post-it note I taped to my dashboard in 2001 that stated "I Welcome Change."  I blasted that wish out to the Universe and change eventually came.  It was good.  It was powerful.  It was life-altering.  Yet almost a decade later, here I am again needing an even bigger change.  Imagine my surprise last night, the eve of my road trip, when digging through a drawer I actually unearthed that same Post-it note!  I was shocked that I had saved it.  It is weathered and torn, but its message still rings true.  I immediately performed a make-shift laminating job and duck taped it to my's now taking center stage on this road trip.

Given the recent state of my emotional health, I decided the first overnight stop should be Happy Town, U.S.A.  Parade Magazine just reported that San Luis Obispo, on California's central coast, is the happiest place in the States.  I'd like a shot of that Kool-Aid please.   It's crazy, but as God is my witness, the rain stopped and the sky cleared just as we entered San Luis Obispo county. 

Pismo Beach Monarch Grove

After parking Princess at the Pismo Beach Motel 6 (they welcome dogs!), I realized we were a mere 1/2 mile from the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove.  Pismo has the nation's largest gathering of Monarch butterflies.  Perfect - I had to go see the Monarchs! Butterflies symbolize rebirth into a new life.  That's me - I'm transforming myself, seeking change and rebirth, so what more perfect way to kick off a self-discovery road trip than by being surrounded by thousands of butterflies?!! Well, the made-for-TV moment ended there. Harrumph. Yoda and I walked for a solid hour through that grove of Eucalyptus trees futilely searching for any sign of a single butterfly.  It seemed we arrived too early in the season.  Crestfallen, we turned to leave, when there, on a branch high above us, was a small cluster of Monarchs.  It seems the Monarchs have only just begun their journey to Pismo Beach, just as I am just beginning my journey.  Perhaps the symbolism is perfect after all.

Pismo Beach surf

Pismo Beach rock formations

Cave on the beach

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tapped Out

Middleton Pool Lifeguards, circa 1988

I'm tapped out. Drained.  Sad.  Lost.  Life is heavy.  However one thing that sustains me, body and soul, is water.  I just watched the documentary "Tapped."  Without getting into my political views about bottled water (don't buy it!), I realized how much water is a part of my life.   
July 2010:  Visiting the healing waters of Montecatini Terme in Tuscany

Up to 70% of our bodies are made of water.  We physically can't survive without it.  In my eyes, this makes water the world's most precious natural resource.   I love water.  I've always loved water. I'm at home in water.  My childhood was defined by swim team, water skiing, boating, and hanging out on Lake Namakagon in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin every summer during family vacations.  In my sister Debbie's words:  "The Buckleys are lake people!"  In college I was blessed with my favorite job ever:  lifeguard and swim instructor.  In 1996 my first great love introduced me to hot springs...something that has likewise become a great love in my life. I've visited hot springs all over the world in search of soaking in their healing properties.  I've even packed my hot spring maps and a towel and I hope to find a few during my road trip.

2008:  APECA's Earth Day booth on the Santa Monica Promenade
In recent years water has become a passionate cause for me.  As part of my crusade to save the rainforests, I served as Vice-Chair of the Board for APECA Peru (Association Promoting Education and Conservation in Amazonia).  Part of APECA's multi-faceted mission is to provide clean drinking water to Amazonian villagers.

Yet, despite all this, what water means most to me today is a temporary reprieve from the stress of my crumbling life.  When I swim laps at the Santa Monica Swim Center, I feel pure joy.  The minute I slip into the water I feel swaddled, safe, protected.  I imagine it is much like being in a mother's womb.  Yet instead of the soothing sound of a mother's heartbeat, the only sound I hear is bubbles when I exhale.  The steady rhythm  of my strokes is meditative and I lose myself in counting my laps.  I am completely in the moment, and that's a beautiful thing.  I'll miss regularly swimming laps when I am on my road trip (I leave in 36 hours!), but with any luck I'll be able to find a pool in some of the cities I visit.  I'm packing my suit and goggles just in case.
Santa Monica Swim Center, I'll miss you

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spa Day for Princess

 Yes, it's true.  I named my car.  Her name is Princess Leia.  Princess, for short.  Why this name?  Well, her GPS voice sounds like a princess.  But more importantly, her regular passenger is Yoda (I almost said Yoda regularly rides Princess Leia, but people, please, I know you well and not only would I have to shovel your minds out of the gutter, but Star Wars fans everywhere would have my head for spreading a blasphemous rumor).   I simply love my Prius.  That's a huge statement for someone who is admittedly not at all a car girl.  I remember in grade school one summer I was splashing around in the deep end at the Middleton swimming pool and Bobby Meicher asked me what kind of car I wanted to drive when I grew up.  I told him a Spider.  Keep in mind, I didn't know then, and still don't know now, what exactly a Spider is.  A Google search shows Spider cars made by Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Ferrari and Mitsubishi, and really, none of them do it for me.  Anyway, I said "Spider" because I wanted Bobby to think I was cool.  It worked.

My childhood dream car:  a 1973 Buick station wagon
 The truth of the matter is I lied.  I secretly wanted a 1973 Buick station wagon because that was what my Mom drove.  In my 6th grade mind, Mom + station wagon = cool.  I never was any good at math. 

Up until Princess, I've looked at my cars simply as a means to get me from point A to point B.  But Princess, well, she's different.  Her Prius personality means she has a fuel-efficient, smooth and very quiet drive.  She's rarely let me down when using her navigation system (although there was the one time she led me on a "short cut" through a military base without me realizing that the GPS signal would be blocked, leaving me driving aimlessly for about an hour until I finally reached the other side).  Her lumbar support is like heaven, and she has a shockingly large amount of space in the back hatch.  Big enough that Yoda and I can both comfortably sleep if for some reason I can't find a hotel on the road.

This love for Princess is why I just gifted her a spa day in prep for our road trip. I've become a coin car wash girl ever since my salary tanked over the past year along with our economy.  Gone are my film executive days where every Wednesday morning the mobile car wash guy would collect my keys from me at my desk and return them an hour later, leaving a finely detailed car in my parking spot.  Both Princess and I miss those days.  However today, courtesy of a free car wash coupon, I treated her to a real grooming at Bonus Car Wash.  She was vacuumed, soaped and polished, and afterwards, I swear I heard her navigation voice giggle with glee.

Kyle from Rack Solid working his installation magic

The second part of spa day was getting fitted with racks and a car topper.  Last Friday my sister Betsy pointed out the obvious:  despite Princess' spacious interior, I wouldn't have room for any of my things once Yoda, his food and bed were packed.  I hadn't thought this far ahead.  A trial packing session proved Betsy to be right.  Panic arose until a call to Toyota led me to Rack Solid, the only rack specialty shop in Los Angeles (which happens to be a mere 3 blocks from my house).  Now that Princess is rocking a new Thule car topper, I should probably begin to think about packing.  I leave in 5 days and now have a lot of space to fill.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Will You Still Like Me?

"Who Am I?"  This has been a burning question for me throughout my life.  I can't be the only one tormented by this question, can I?  Do others easily recognize and embrace their true essence?  Or do most people just ignore the question and complacently accept the status quo?  Oh how I wish I could live in that blissful protective bubble of ignorance.  But I can't.  I've personally never been able to ignore the question of "who am I?".  This very, very heavy question which I always, even as a child, carried around with me like a boulder strapped to my back, has finally flattened me.  I have to find my answer if I am to ever find inner-peace.  Will the road provide answers?  Am I insane for praying it will?  Have I lost my mind for sharing bits of this inner journey with friends and family on a blog that was initially created just to show them the places I visit while on the road?

Improv Artist Me: on red carpet for premiere of "The Rat Race"
I think I've always been afraid of searching for the true me for fear that I won't like what I find, and for bigger fear of other people rejecting the girl who is left standing at the end of the day.  Close friends have lumped me into two very different categories:  Film Executive Christine and Yoga Christine.  There is also Jewelry Designer Christine, Yoga Rug Inventor Christine, Improv Artist Christine, Save the Rainforests Christine,   Zen Buddhist Christine, Perpetually Single Christine and Mommy of Crazy Dog Christine.  All these identities, yet do any of them really reflect the real me?  A therapist once told me that I was one of the most complex people she has ever met.  This complexity is probably why I've never found lasting love.  How can I possibly find someone to love me when even I can't figure myself out?  Perhaps this is also why I've always felt angst in business.  I've often felt like I was playing a role during my work day.  Trust me, it's a painful thing to wonder if you are not being true to your authentic self in order to draw a paycheck.  

Kee Kee Designs
Upon hearing of the reasons for my roadtrip (I leave in a week!), people have told me this is my Walkabout, my Dark Night of the Soul, my Rumspringa, my Vision Quest, or quite simply my turn at having a midlife crisis.  Whatever it is, I desperately want to find me.  If I do, I really hope I like me.  I hope you will still like me too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Security in the Jungle of Life

Several times over the past month my friend Chuck has observed how important security is to me.  Security in business and knowing I'll have a paycheck.  Security in relationships and knowing friends and business partners will have my back, just as I'll always have theirs.  Security with my savings account and knowing it's building and not dwindling.  Security in love and knowing that any man with whom I fall in love is free to love me back.  He's right, of course, on all counts.  However there is something to be said for having too much security in life.  I'm starting to learn that security is an illusion.  I'm not sure it really ever exists. We often cling to our daily routines, afraid of taking any risks for fear of losing some of that perceived security.    Unfortunately, too much routine breeds boredom, and too much boredom breeds depression.  I've been a victim of this toxic cycle many times in my life, which ironically peaked when I had the "glamorous" job of making Hollywood films for over 13 years.  It was supposed to be exciting work, but instead I felt dead inside.  
2005:  With Fellow Amazon Research Volunteers

My solution was typically over-the-top Christine:  I ran away to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest for 3 weeks on a hardcore conservation research trip.  It was dirty, sweaty, buggy, hot, humid, exhausting...and I loved every minute of it.  My love of the Amazon was born and I followed that initial trip with 2 subsequent trips to the jungle.  Escaping from everyday routine into the rainforests has been my drug for years to make me feel alive.

2007:  Observing monkeys in Costa Rica
Of course, most people aren't able, and don't need, to take extreme steps out of their comfort zone to start feeling alive again.   Study after study has shown that mental stimulation can improve brain function and actually protect against cognitive decline.  It also spices up one's life.  Taking a risk and doing something out of one's routine can be as simple as driving a new route to work, or moving the sofa from one side of the living room to the other.  A woman once told me that when she feels "stuck" she'll sleep with her head at the foot of the bed in order to break the cycle.

2008:  With Angela, visiting a remote Amazon village

Like any drug, my jungle expeditions were a temporary fix to a life that I found stagnant and dull.  Now, not only am I unable to afford a trip to the Amazon, but I am seeking a more permanent change to feeling lost and without direction.  Oddly, packing up my Prius and hitting the U.S. roads with Yoda for 2.5 months seems a much bigger risk than any of my jungle trips.   There is no security in what I am doing.  None.  No guarantee I'll find my way, no guarantee I'll find myself.  All I know is that since making the decision to take a risk and leave Los Angeles on a road trip, I've had bursts of optimism that the future will be okay and I have increasing confidence that at the end of it all I'll find myself exactly where I am meant to be.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Who Rescued Whom?

Sweet Yoda
 My travel companion in life and on this road trip is Yoda, a Boxer/French Bulldog/Large Munsterlander mix who rescued me 6 years ago when I was reeling from a broken heart.  "Yoda" in Sanskrit means "warrior," an appropriate name because he was a little warrior by surviving on the streets before we found each other.   Ask any Star Wars fan, and Yoda is also the wisest being in the Universe.  He is.  I swear.  You see, Yoda continues to rescue me every day.  He gets me out of bed on the mornings when I want to pull the covers over my head and hide all day from the weight of the world.  He burrows his forehead into my chest when I am sad - so hard that I'm convinced he is desperately trying to get as close to me as possible in order to comfort me.  He presses his back against mine in bed, which, even on these humid hot nights of late, provides a comforting reminder to me that I am not alone.

I've been having panic attacks about the current mess of my life for the past 6 weeks.  My heart races, I have trouble catching my breath and I break into a cold sweat.  When they are happening I've tried all the standard tricks to stop them:  shots of tequila make the room spin, Valium makes me nauseous, pacing makes me dizzy, meditating oddly makes the panic escalate, and ujjayi breath (a calming and balancing yogic breathing technique that has always helped me when I feel anxious) makes me hyperventilate.  I had another panic attack today when Yoda and I were leaving Centinela Feed.  We had just bought 2 1/2 months of road trip supplies and food for him, and I looked at my receipt and realized the $101.36 that I spent marks the beginning of me living completely off my meager savings account.  I drove the short drive home with white knuckles gripping the wheel and tears welling up in my eyes as I tried to stay calm.  Have I lost my mind?  What business do I have taking 3 months of my life to prep for and then take a road trip to "find myself" when what I should be doing is spending every waking minute trying to figure out from where my next paycheck is going to come?  But then again, how can I not take this trip?  I'm so lost that it is the only thing that actually makes sense to me right now.  I feel deep in my bones that I NEED to do this, I HAVE to do this, I AM GOING to do this.
Yoda and his road trip yummies
Panic attacks are new to me.  But they are not new to Yoda.  Like some rescues, he suffers from a severe panic disorder called separation anxiety.  When left alone he's jumped through a screen window, punched a hole in the front door, broken out of a metal crate, and scratched and gnawed a bloody mess out of the molding around my front door.  I've spent the past 6 years working with animal behaviorists, trying different anti-anxiety medications, and trading ideas with members of my Yahoo support group for owners of dogs with separation anxiety.  We are finally to the point, with proper prep, stuffed Kongs and an exact repeated ritual of me leaving, where I can leave him for a bit over an hour without him having a panic attack.  But that's it.  1 hour 20 minutes tops.  I can't go over or he regresses.  The only reason I've had any semblance of a social life since Yoda's adoption is a combination of doggy daycare and the generosity of my dear friends John & Lisa who regularly invite Yoda to play with their lab Penny.

Despite Yoda's own struggles with panic, he seems to understand what I need.  He's the one thing that can calm me down when I'm having a panic attack.  He'll head-nuzzle into my chest, he'll snuggle into my lap, or he'll tease me with his stuffed coati toy until I snap out of it and play with him in the yard.   My Yoda really does have the Force.   With him at my side I'm leaving on October 16...we'll drive to wherever we are supposed to be.

In the words of that other famous Yoda,  "Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future...the past...old friends long gone."

Yoda and Kee Kee, hiking in the Santa Monica mountains