A Life of Yes, And

In 2009, on a plane to Santiago, Chile, I realized I didn’t speak Spanish. I did what any industrious traveler would do, and switched my in-flight movie to Español to accelerate my immersion experience. Obviously that didn’t work, but I did get to watch a wonderful movie starring Jim Carrey, called Si Señor. Carrey’s character Carl has been hypnotized (basically) by a self help guru to say “yes” to every option that comes his way, or else face dire consequences. This movie hit me at a vulnerable time: I’d just been bullied by a woman (actually, three separate women) on the plane who were trying to finagle my seat for some reason. I had also just completed my grad school thesis; my partner (now husband) and I had decided to buy a house which would be the first time I’d ever really committed to a location, a person, to anything, really, besides poetry and bicycles. I had been with Evan for two and a half years at that point, and had traveled to Mexico with him, and up and down the eastern half of the United States. I’d also been to Trinidad and Tobago with a small group of writers through Chatham’s writing program. But since moving to Pittsburgh and meeting my partner, I hadn’t been seriously traveling alone, using my own skills, and I was feeling vulnerable both in that comfort and in the newfound vulnerability that most take for granted as “normal.” Heading to Chile, I had a female friend named Kyle who was teaching English through a cultural exchange program, but she wasn’t able to socialize much and lived far out of the city with her host family. I needed to start making decisions right away, and the most important decision I made was to start saying “yes” again.

In Chile, every time an opportunity came up where the answer could possibly be “yes” I took it. I took bus rides down to the Island of Chiloe, just north of Patagonia, and attempted to hire a taxi driver to take me to see the penguins (that’s another story). I wandered the harbors and markets and back streets, each turn and hill a tiny “yes” in my brain. I got off at bus exchanges on my return to Santiago, seeing each individual town and city. I made friends with a man I sat next to on the bus (also another story). I went to anarcho-socialist dance parties/protests in Santiago, wandered the streets with my new friend Alvaro in search of a speak-easy. Together, Alvaro and I hitchhiked up to La Sarena, taking rides from a horse jockey and medical equipment repairman and DJ and farmer. I took a chicken truck up to the shore to again see penguins (also another story). We hitchhiked up to Isabel Allende’s hometown, got rides from astronomers and invited to the observatory to see the clearest sky on the western hemisphere. No one spoke English, so my “yes woman” attitude did indeed turn to “si seniora.” It was an intense, emotional, and irreplaceable trip during an intense and life changing summer.

This year is another Yes Woman year for me, but I’ve made an addendum. I’m channeling David Cross’s Tobias Funke from the show Arrested Development. Bless his naive heart, Tobias wants to be an actor, and through a series of misunderstandings, thinks he is in an improv throw down with a woman trying to work through her addiction to heroin. He (thinks he) plays the game of Yes, And with her, and obviously, hilarity ensues. This Yes, And lifestyle can lead to anything, adding on to the options available, at once agreeing and also offering more. I have been playing Yes, And with myself for the past year, which has lead me to currently be at an Extended Stay hotel in Oceanside, California, working crew/bike tech for Team PHenomenal Hope for their Race Across the West (RAW). So far it’s been a lot of hanging out in the hotel putting stickers on things and switching out cassettes (the rear gear cluster), but I’ll have more photos and stories once we hit the road tomorrow morning.

Yes, And also took me for a 3-day, 30-ish mile hike in Dolly Sods Wilderness, part of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. I took some phenomenal photos of waterfalls, moon-like rocks, and my incredible hammock setup. They’re not uploading, though, so here are just a few cell phone photos I took. More to come once I learn how to use a computer.

A Life of Yes, And

Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

A Life of Yes, And

Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

A Life of Yes, And

Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

A Life of Yes, And

Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

A Life of Yes, And

Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

A Life of Yes, And

Dolly Sods Wilderness, WV

I was nervous how I would fare on the hike. Not that I wouldn’t be able to handle the walk, but that I wouldn’t be able to sleep outside alone, or in the elements, or be able to hang out with two strangers for three days. Yes, And. So I wrote an article for Backpacker on how to deal with social anxiety on a group hike. It comes out soon; I’ll post a link. In truth, it was easy. Krik and Stoney are really nice guys, and Meghan is an awesome woman. The park is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, the southernmost tundra in North America if not the Northern half of the planet, with vegetation changing at every turn from marsh to coniferous woodlands to stony outcroppings to open field. It was incredible.

Now, I’m on RAW crew, about to leave tomorrow for a 2.5 day bike race from Oceanside to Durango. Yes, And. I hope to write about it, but have so many other deadlines coming up. Including flying to Reno almost immediate upon landing in Durango for a week at the Squaw Valley Writers’ Colony.

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