In 2014, Rebecca and her partner John left her lifelong home of Oakland, California in search of a better life. Their journey will take them to the Catskills in New York State, and eventually onto a converted school bus in which they will travel America.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Adjustment Period

Early Spring in Pine Hill.

I have been here almost three weeks, and a lot of what I have done in that time besides handling the practical matters of settling in is simply...adjusting. Every few days since I arrived, I felt as if a part of myself that I had left behind in Oakland finally caught up and reintegrated with the rest of me. Like some sort of travel-based temporary soul loss. The sense of unreality, disorientation, dysphoria and creeping fear gradually eased off until I felt, if not fully myself yet, much more like it.

Now and again, the fear still hits. I can be walking through the meat section of a New York grocery and suddenly I remember that I'll never see Oakland again. That I am uprooted. That my steady job is gone and I have to make it as a freelancer and crafter, and hope for the best. In those moments, I feel terrified, exposed, like a snail out of its shell. I feel frustration and anger that I had to leave my home in the first place, all over again. Then I breathe deep, focus on what's going on in that particular moment, and push through until the feeling goes away.

There have been anxiety attacks. Especially around my cats' tendency to slip their harnesses (or leak out the front door after an unsuspecting person) and go hide somewhere on the unfamiliar property. Not everyone around seems to fully understand what "emotional support animals for extreme anxiety" actually means. They are my source of unconditional, non-judgemental affection. We cuddle, they purr, I feel better, every time. When their stubborn young-cat stupidity gets them in trouble, I get upset. When people judge me for getting upset, I don't feel bad about myself for what I can't fully control. I wonder instead why they are so insensitive and ignorant. Anxiety is a disease, not some drama I kick up to inconvenience people. But anyway, the attacks have petered out except in cases of extreme stress and drama, proving again that my work to prepare for this trip mentally paid off.

Velcro is in fact a licensed professional. Of course, it's hanging from his collar....

My main focus now is getting an income that is not dependent on place--or at least not entirely dependent on place, since we will be staying here some months. Besides online freelance work, I will be opening an online shop for our crafts, and also publishing some of my fiction in electronic format. I also have some job applications in for local work; I just can't have that be my only angle. They will naturally prefer locals in a place like this, and besides, mobility is pretty key to my being able to keep money coming in.

Meanwhile, I'm taking advantage of the clean air and safe streets by taking long walks every day. I'm up to three miles a day on average, which is twice what I could do in the city without having an asthma attack. I hope to be making five miles daily regularly by the time we move on.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Two Cats, An Airplane, and the TSA

I've landed in New York State and am reunited with John for the first time in four months. The cats and I are recovering. Only now that I have gotten some distance on the flight can I really talk about it.

Lake Michigan's ice floes, outside my plane window.

Above is the one beautiful thing about my flight. The rest was even more of a trial than I thought it would be. Looking back on it now, three things stood out most of all. The constant, exhausting roaring of the plane, the chaos and filth of Chicago airport, and the fact that the TSA almost caused me and countless others to miss our flights altogether.

I left Oakland in the dark. It was before five in the morning. I hadn't slept. I remember being halfway to an anxiety attack before I even reached the airport. I felt terrible guilt over shoving the cats in those carriers, I was scared of what was going to happen on the plane, and of course, I was wrestling with the much bigger question of "will I be able to make it out East?"

I soon discovered however that my ability to make my flight at all was in jeopardy. The airport was very crowded, and despite the number of flights scheduled the TSA had only put one inspector on duty. The woman in question was slow, incompetent and unsympathetic. At one point I remember sobbing in the middle of an anxiety attack with a squirming cat tucked under each arm while she scanned my carriers and then demanded I give up their leashes for scanning as well. They almost got loose in the airport, and by then I was completely falling apart. I stumbled for my plane with all of five minutes to spare, scared cats, chest pains and no idea if my luggage would even make it.

I finally got to the Chicago airport, desperate to get my cats and me some water and time out. Only to discover that the airport pet relief area was outside the TSA security zone. This left me with the choice of leaving my cats in their carriers for the entire damned journey, or go through the line again and risk them getting loose. I had to choose the first. I cried over it. I sat in the waiting area for my next flight and tried to keep myself and the cats together. Meanwhile, raging morons from the ground crew kept going in a nearby restricted access door, setting off the screeching alarms, and leaving us to hold our hands over our ears until a security person got around to turning it off. On average, ten minutes later another group of morons would pop in, hear the alarm go off and walk away without doing anything about it. I waited for an hour and a half that way.

When you have anxiety disorder, the last thing you want to do is have an attack in public. You're scared, you're in pain, you need help, but it's pretty much guaranteed that any stranger you run into is going to treat you like a nuisance, a drama queen and/or a crazy person. Thus making things worse and making it even harder for you to pull out of the attack. So you do your best to hide the hell you are going through. And so I did, and tried to focus my mind anywhere but on what the cats and I were experiencing.

Later, I would pay for it. Later, I would have a day where I had three anxiety attacks in the space of twelve hours, and spend the rest of the day completely exhausted, drained and depressed. But on that day, touching down in New York and carting all my stuff out to meet John and his family, I made it.

Pine Hill's library, the day after my arrival.

Everything since then has been a quiet mix of recovering and slowly pulling together for my next moves. This includes fixing up the room John and I share, getting an income together and handling things like State ID and insurance. I have about a month to get the official stuff done, but I would rather do it sooner rather than later.

Last night John took me to the local pub for their Saturday night buffet. He threw darts while we talked and listened to Bob Seger on the jukebox. We said hello to some of the locals, and I admired the old rifles and cool old ads on the walls. When I woke up this morning, I finally started feeling focused enough to do more than just recover.

But I'm never going on a plane again if I can possibly help it....