Six years ago today, I arrived in Colorado, having made my exit from Hotel California with my Muttley Crew — Lily, Dusty, and Mindy.

Dusty and Mindy

Exit is more straight-forward than arrival, especially when it’s irrevocable and the result of a decision driven by necessity. Arrival is a little more complicated. Sometime this past year, I fully arrived in Colorado psychically. You don’t abandon 30 years of your life in an instant. I think I arrived when I was doing my reading from As a Baby Duck Listens to Thunder at the Narrow Gauge Book Coop last October.

Life is a strange thing. You can be going along and everything is fine. Things get a little rocky, so you make hundreds of small adjustments and you keep on. Then something happens that nullifies all the small adjustments, and you are suddenly in the midst of a major life change.

I was propelled out of my (happy) life in a truly desperate moment. I lost my main job due to some Machievellian machinations by the college of business in which I taught. The income I needed to hold my life together wasn’t just threatened; it was gone. Not just mine; but three other teachers with contracts were upgefucht, but they were not sole-providers. They were married to someone who was employed. A little different situation.

I remember my first thought was to attempt a continuation of small-adjustments to keep the life going, but then it was clear, “This party’s over, sweet cheeks.” All of my attention then went to making the huge change as quickly as possible.

So there I was, September 20, 2014, rolling into the parking lot of the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, Colorado, where I’d rented a cabin for at least a month. I called it “My Giant Dog Crate in the Mountains” because, well, three pretty big dogs took up most of the living room.

It was nice, the perfect place for us to land. Not home, not not home. I began the process of living in Colorado, in a place I didn’t know, where everyone was a stranger. I’m a Colorado native, but it was impossible for me to afford a home in any of the places I’d lived before. Necessity drove me to Heaven. ❤

Lily T. Wolf and Mindy T. Dog happy to have landed.

I’d thought this morning that I would write about independence. I recently read a meme that said that extreme independence was the result of trauma. It listed a bunch of causes, life events, that make a person turn to themselves instead of others. There were six on the list and four of them happened in my life, a couple more than once. Those that applied to me were abandonment/loss, abuse, experiencing a natural disaster and witnessing death. The meme led to an article in Psychology Today. I read it. It said that such a person had lost the ability to trust and needed to work to rebuild that.

My first thought was, “Why?” Isn’t it acquired knowledge that — for an example — a huge wildfire can come and threaten (or succeed) to wipe out your town, your house, your LIFE? Or that someone can say they love you and beat you up? That your nearest and dearest parent can suffer a terminal disease and die? Life is a pretty long litany of stuff that doesn’t pan out. What is the big deal with trust in an untrustworthy world? Does it make a person happier?

I wondered why independence is considered a pathology. Not long ago a friend said, “You’re extremely independent.” I asked her why she thought so, and she said, “You moved here all by yourself and you didn’t even know anyone.” I remembered my students telling me I wasn’t like other teachers. OK, but what are OTHER people like? How did other teachers teach? I have no idea. But, when sold my house and packed my stuff to move here, I heard all time time. “You’re so independent. I could never do what you’re doing.”

Friends thought I was embarking on a great adventure, like one of the early explorers setting out for unknown places across wild and mysterious oceans. They talked me into writing a blog about my “adventure.” “Adventure?” I was doing what I had to do.

So, I don’t know. Maybe I am extremely independent, but I still don’t get why that’s a bad thing.

51 thoughts on “Independence?

  1. Knowing one can rely on oneself is not a bad thing, but perhaps it becomes so when we don’t let others help when needed.

  2. I don’t see independence as a pathology. It connotes an interdependence with Self that expands within and outside so that you relate to Your Life, Your Way. Good for you! Even if difficult, you sounds like you are being present. When doors close, the Architect in me simply says call a locksmith or remodel, and/or both. Best to the adventure in doing what you have to do.

      • You’re most welcome, Martha.:) A Psychologist might even agree, might even go further to say the independence indicates a high probability of being able to raise up one’s head, have perspective, and not be the tallest blade of grass is the first to get cut. Though, of course, I can only speak for myself in that regard. I find that labels and names are to be taken with a grain of salt until one thinks and feels for themselves about them.
        Heck, the DSM is not really a roadmap of the psyche. It is simply a very long list which is not diagnostic as much as it is an Insurance Coding Manual.
        My joke is, “Do you wake up tired in the morning?” OMG. Write this down. I have this! 😉

        • I look at the DSM as a list that might tell someone, “This person might need some help,” definitely not a road map to the psyche.

          I was thinking more about independence on my long drive to the grocery store. I think it’s also a survival strategy, as you say, not being the tallest blade of grass… 🙂 And ultimately, to whom should our life have the most value? It should have the most value to ourselves, I think, it’s the “pearl of great price,” a treasure.

          • Exactly Yes to that. With our Inner Inheritances, Know Thyself and know the universe. And, when we do, it feels to make for more reciprocal connections outside as well. Comfortable inside, comfortable outside. Your LONG drive to the grocery store reminds me of the weekly-ish MAIN grocery trip from The cabin in Red River to Taos with the ice-filled cooler as a “fridge” for the perishables on the way back. Plenty of think/feel time there.

            • I like the drive. I get to see how the crops are doing, I get to see the Sangres in one direction, the San Juans on the way home. One of those drives inspired one of my better paintings. I like listening to the car radio. It’s not that far — only 20 miles — but it’s a change of dimension in its way. Red River area is beautiful.

              • I resonate that the drive takes you places other than just the road reeling out to unfold under the tires. With both sets of mountains, one on either side, your drive sounds like a beautiful antonym to “gauntlet.”

                Red River is beautiful. Up at the cabin in Bobcat Pass it just gets even better. So OUT there and so HOME at one and the same time.

  3. Independence is, maybe, the greatest teacher. It’s a series of problems to solve with emotions scattered about. Every once in awhile, joy sneaks up on you and gives you a hug.

  4. Once again, welcome to colorful colorado. Still love that sign!

    Independence is an interesting thing. As someone who is very independent as well, I find it valuable. I also do have a hard time asking for help, as it often doesn’t occur to me to do so. And when I do ask, if its not there, or worse yet, promised then not happened, it does pretty rotten things to my trust and I will often become even more self-contained. The challenge, I think is to have both independence, trust in oneself and one’s resourcefulness, as well as connection and interdependence, as most of us do want some human companionship and support from time to time. Darn balance things.

    • I love that sign, too. This one might be my favorite because the spot — down there in the most desert part of the 4 Corners, was NOT very colorful in late September 2014. I laughed. My physical challenges (beginning with the knee injury in 1992) have taught me to ask for help, but not expect too much. I called a guy to come and give me an estimate on the mess in my yard, he said he’d come yesterday, he didn’t. THAT really pisses me off because I would pay him to do a job I can’t do. I HAVE done a substantial amount of the clean up (of course, I would). So… My life has made me very committed to keeping my word if I give it. I’ve also learned about boundaries from all this. Human companionship is important, I guess. I don’t want full time human companionship because that leads to endless negotiation instead of action. Besides, who’d have me? 😉

      (Irish joke: Fergus and Maeve had been engaged for 50 years. One day Maeve said to Fergus, “Don’t ya tink we should be on about tying the knot, then?”

      Fergus replied, “Aye, but who’d ‘ave us?”)

      I value my friends very very very much and I’ve learned living here how much that matters. I didn’t have the luxury in California when I was working all the time of forming purely recreational connections and that’s something I cherish as much as I cherish being back in Colorado.

  5. A memorable anniversary – leaving a place you’ve called home for so long. I get that. Yup, it takes years to get used to a new place before it really feels like home.
    I don’t think that being independent is a bad thing. I think it scares some people who don’t recognize it as a positive or have never seen it in themselves. I also wonder if women/girls get labeled that way (as less than positive) more than men/boys. Would a guy who did what you did – all by himself – have gotten the same astonished questions? Mmm… I wonder. Just saying.
    The connection with trauma makes total sense to me. I hadn’t heard of that before. “Independence” could also be another term for “survivor.” Asking for help is difficult, since depending on others can be disappointing (if I could just clone myself to take care of me, I’d be all set HA). 🙂

  6. I really get this, and have had to make major changes in my life more than once. People would ask ‘how did you do it?’ And u would honestly say I don’t know other than it just had to be done and you find a way. Like you, I am quite independent but the journey had not always been easy . Bravo to you

  7. Independent – I see that as a good thing. I’m not so sure that moving to a strange town and starting from scratch is being independent, it sounds more like courage. “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” ―John Wayne

  8. ” Isn’t it acquired knowledge that — for an example — a huge wildfire can come and threaten (or succeed) to wipe out your town, your house, your LIFE?”

    Yeah. That and all the other things you mentioned. It seems like the whole point of the modern world is to isolate us from various nasty potentials and have us live in security and safety. Even though such safety is an illusion and the security we seek is often a trap. People who don’t experience the hard things often don’t realize they exist – for them – and don’t want to find out.

    The result is complacency.

  9. This is so relatable. I too had to leave places that I knew like the back of my hand behind because things had turned sour or I just needed something more.

    I left my island when I was 19, in a desperate search for freedom but I only ended up om yet another path paved with heartbreak and painful painful days. Then when I was 20 I packed my bags to move to Ireland and left ruins behind.
    I didn’t know anything, anyone and for another year & a half, I was still a lost soul roaming the streets of a country ten thousand kilometers away from my home.
    But eventually, it all lead me to today where I like to think I have found the real things that matter in life and I can also finally bloom with my art & my music.

    Anyways. My friends & family still give me to this day this “Wow you are so brave” but I think I was really just fueled by despair & maybe some sparks of hope. It wasn’t so much an adventure as they envision it but a pilgrimage?

    Like you said “Necessity drove me to Heaven”. ♥

    Everyone dreams of freedom and independence but they require a great sacrifice, that of your security and the apparent stability of your life.
    That is why more often than not it only remains a fantasy for most, the stuff of fairytales, an “adventure” only others can go on.
    It is easier to remain in the same place and keep rebuilding it and playing it “safe” as hard as it gets.

    When I left my favourite quote was “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down”(Bradbury I believe?) and that is exactly what I did and what you did. Leaving all you’ve ever known behind, as attached to it as you were/are, and build yourself a new life in this strange strange land where no one knew your name. Not because you wanted to but because you had to.

    Sorry this is a gigantic comment but yeah, you got me thinking x)

  10. Inspiring read. We’re in the process of major changes ourselves and reading this assures me anything is possible. Thank you 😊

  11. “Then something happens that nullifies all the small adjustments, and you are suddenly in the midst of a major life change.”

    This. It’s exactly what led me to Atlanta three years ago. I could no longer make small adjustments to be happy.

    And why Colorado? Because you had lived there before?

    • Colorado has always been “home.” I didn’t want to move away in the first place. I like winter and I like to ski. I’m a mountain person. I even moved to the mountains outside San Diego, and my Aunt Jo (in Montana) said, “Well that’s as close as you could get to home without quitting your job.” Added plusses were I found houses I could afford and I have friends in the state. 🙂 For all my hardcore punk roots, I still cry when I hear Rocky Mountain High.

  12. I’ve been asked the same questions as you Martha. Lily and Mindy were beauties and I just loved your first dog “crate” of Colorado. I was forced to do things on my own because the other option was…..well, there wasn’t an option. I have a twin who has been fortunate to have someone by her side 30 years. It’s a blessing to have a partner indeed. After my tribute to Fall I told you of my fender bender? And then I replaced a faulty drain pipe in camper, things broke, adjusters called, a funeral occurred, and I just thought “I’ve got this!” Granted I have an awesome life friend who is handy when he can help, but yet, in all of those things mentioned in the article such as what you read, I experienced similar situations that led to my “independence “….or what I’ll call my glorious survival 💚 by the way, I watched a grand movie on Netflix; “Enola Holmes”. Elona is alone spelled backwards. It was a perfect ending to my week. Finn and I woke up this morning thinking of you Bear and Teddy! 🐶💚 🙏🏻❤️

    • I love that, “Glorious survival.” I’m afraid I look at mine more as a “Fuck you” to the world’s expectations, but I’m not angry or bitter in the least. It’s kind of a well-humored F U. I remember not too long ago trying to explain to a man why nothing ever happened between us (he’s in Italy anyway) and he really did not “hear” (or read) it. I think it was just too far away from his idea of women or normal. So strange. I’ve learned in my life how people really do (and I include myself) look at life through the lens of their own experiences. Some people think independent women are “strong” but I just think we’re realistic, optimistic and resilient. ❤

      • I understand 💯. I’m giggling at the well-humored F U. Yes, these little issues this week would’ve drove “some” completely off the edge. I was told by a therapist I had experienced more at 40 than what one would “expect”? in an entire life. Well,…I call it living. I had no alternative, like you, when left homeless (had to find transportation too). I had my career and I’m so blessed to have been able to at least “bank” on that when every other truss of trust collapsed in my life. What do you do? I chose to not die. I hate to admit I’m strong when others say that because, darn it, I don’t want to be all the time. We all sure do look at life through our own lenses. I’ve worn so many pairs of glasses I find it easy to empathize, show sympathy, to FEEL the tragedy someone else is feeling,…and for those that have had no hardship, no forced hand at a complete life shift, …perhaps their seeing through single vision only. They haven’t entirely been independent?
        Oddly I’m seeing through transitions now and I like seeing close to me, about midrange, and even seeing clearer what lies a little further. Although I love writing my memories, I’m leaving my tragedies in the rear view mirror. I never want to appear like the “I’ve been there, done that!” kind of gal. But most times I have. And so it makes me smile a bit and pray for those that have not been hit by a flying brick yet….boy does it hurt. Yet what you learn is breathtakingly beautiful when you can lace up your boots and live for each moment. I grew grit. 💚

        • This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. ❤

          "I chose not to die." Yep. There was a morning when I realized that I, me, myself was the biggest threat to my life. We don't all get born with the same brains or the same moms and dads and family stories or idea of what love feels like. I think there is a thing in understanding the power of our own WILL. I've written about my dad, my mom, my brother and my own breakdown at 43, but I have never written about — and won't — about the other things. But they gave me the knowledge to step in when I could see tell-tale bruises on the arms of a girl student. When I was cleaning out my journals I found a note from one of those girls. ❤

          OH! And the one story I wrote about it won first prize last year in a local writing contest. So all that life experience was at least worth 50 bucks! 😀

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