I want to live in Montana. I will probably die in New Jersey. I am trying to reconcile these two facts.
I long for wide, open spaces. I want to be in the middle of a plain, with the mountains in the distance and no neighbors in view. You don't need a doctorate to decipher my motivation. I live in a house with eight other people in the most crowded state in the union. And on the surface, this dime-store diagnosis makes sense. But I've been trying to look below the shimmer, into the muck of my soul, to understand this yearning.
When I was ten years old, my family rented a Winnebago and traveled across the country. We took a northerly route, and stopped at all the big national parks. I've seen the Gateway Arch, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Yellowstone, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, and more than I can remember.* It was a life-changing trip for me, but not in a way that can be quantified. It's more of a feeling, an imprint, that lingers within me. And sometimes it makes me restless.
I am not going to leave my family and head west. I may be twitchy, but I'm not Thelma or Louise. I love my men; I would be lost without them. My relocation fantasy includes the whole pack, which has given me a clue to its symbolic meaning.
Montana represents simplicity.
My life is hectic and often overwhelming. Each day I wake up full of optimism and energy, and almost every night I go to bed feeling like I didn't accomplish anything beyond the bare necessities. I argue every day about homework and housework. I am in a constant battle against electronics and social media. I may repaint my van yellow and black, so I can begin charging for my taxi services. There are not enough hours in my day.
But in Montana, the Montana of my dreams, there are no electronics. Except for my laptop, because I am a writer. The children play outside, and wander through nature. I even let them have ATVs, because we own hundreds of acres of flat land. At night we eat dinner together, everyone does their homework, and we play board games. I kiss them all goodnight, they go to bed without arguing, and then the Captain and I sit in front of the fire. It's idyllic.
I know that this will not happen. We are not going to move. The Captain works in Manhattan. His parents live with us, and all of his family plus half of mine is here in New Jersey. We're not going to leave them. I could significantly alter the fantasy and make Montana the retirement destination. But after a lifetime of working, the Captain will be looking for a place he can golf for more than three months out of the year.
So I am tasked with trying to find the peace and simplicity I think exists in Big Sky country. That seems nearly impossible, which means my only alternative is acceptance. Last week, the blogosphere kept sending me messages: things are perfect; the world is exactly as it should be; everything happens for a reason. And you know, after a while I gave in and agreed, because it's tiring and nonconstructive to be restless. I am trying to focus on what I can control, and what makes me happy in my real world.
When I start to daydream, I remember when the Captain took me to Montana two years ago. We were at the rodeo, really immersed in the experience, and I looked over at the group of riders waiting to compete. Most of them were teenagers, looking spiffy in their fancy shirts and hats, high up in their saddles...texting.
There truly is no escape.
*"The Corn Palace, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River!" she remembered when she awoke, disturbed that her brain was apparently so old it did not recall staring at a giant hole in the ground.