it was worth all the while

Graham spent the first year of his life as an 'only child' dog.

He didn't know how to bark until Molly showed up, fourteen pounds of absolute chaos that tried to pull his ears off and stole his toys and collapsed on top of him panting after romping madly and muddily through the backyard. In truth, I was afraid to bring her home, because I thought my love for Graham had taken up all the extra space available in my heart. I was worried that the only way to love her would be stealing some away from him. But what I've since shared with everyone who seeks out my counsel as the unofficial Should I Get Another Dog spokeswoman, and more importantly, what I've learned from the decade I've lived in Colorado, is that love doesn't work like that, boneheads. Love is an infinite resource, it is the most durable power in the world. It sounds overly simplistic, but it's true. Share it freely and more will twine up around you, love beams back, a joyful boomerang of plentiful sunshine. Not every time, of course; sometimes the act of giving love is nothing more than pissing wastefully into the sucking vacuum of a black hole. But nearly, always.

When I moved to Indiana in 2018, I was angry and resentful. Underneath that was a very great fear, because I was only looking back at everything left behind. My friends, my dirt roads, my scrambling around in the mountains and brilliant blue skies and hauling ass back from Lyons on 66 simply because it feels so fucking good to hunker down in the bars and fly over the sweet curve of the earth, deadlifting and rooftop bourbon and handstands and chasing stars and ironman and skinny-dipping in snowmelt two miles high just to win a bet over a bottle of tequila, my bikes, my athletes, half my dogs, half my heart. On the way to Bloomington, we pulled over in Kansas a half-dozen times for me to sob in the backseat and beg to turn around as if I wasn't the boss of deciding to leave. I felt so keenly that I didn't want to go, it wasn't time to go, I shouldn't go, I couldn't. And amidst the horrific conditions of the world - both across the globe and within my own more trivial existence - I have been not-so-secretly delighted to piece together the better part of another two years here. To nestle back into the comfort of my little blue house throughout the rage of a global pandemic and a broken heart and a political revolution and my angel babies and a PhD and Nespresso discontinuing my favorite flavor of coffee with literally no warning. I'm a rocky mountains girl through and through. Colorado is the first place I've ever felt safely at home, my soul is soothed by thin air and relentless sunshine, and for years I would have told you that given the choice and the chance, I'd never leave. 

And now, by chance and by choice, I'm leaving.

In the time that's passed since I took a job - one that I was deeply delighted and honored to accept - I've been struggling with this move, but it feels different than it did in 2018. I'm sad to go, but I am at peace. Earlier in the job market, I didn't get a position that I really wanted, and I was crushed. I couldn't see the big picture then - and quite honestly, I'll be fucked if I can see it now - but it has become excruciatingly clear that there is some insane master plan out there, that the universe remains confidently in charge. It would be understandable to discover that I had lost my faith through all the trauma and loss and pain and death I've survived. I’m surprised to realize that it's instead cemented my belief that some choices are bigger than us, it's affirmed my trust in the uncomplicated truth that certain things are quite simply meant to be, and I can fight it or I can fold to it, but the universe always gets its way in the end. Always. 

In Colorado, I learned how to love the absolute shit out of life. The friendships I've made here, the happiness I've experienced, the people I've loved, even the many losses I've grieved, it's changed me. It's changed how I face the world. I've hosted probably eight billion standing-up-in-my-kitchen gatherings over this last decade, shoving together my personal collection of delightful misfits, refilling wine glasses and shooing away dog noses and making someone else babysit the grill and laughing, god, so much laughing, so much hummus, so much forcing people to take leftovers and then eating cake in my pjs instead of breakfast for a week. I truly believe in the more the merrier, because I know that love expands to fill the space it is given, that people, friendships, showing up - this is what matters most. It's all that ever matters. Love can be so swift in its transformation, a single relationship with a single human being can change your life forever, if you are brave enough to let it. But if you're not paying attention to the magnificent radiance that is love in this world, if you're taking it for granted or asleep at the fucking switch, you'll miss it entirely. You'll continue drifting complacently down a path that is leading you further away from where you're meant to be, from who you are meant to be. It's troubling to dive deep into what the universe has to offer. Marion Woodman, if we don't tend to the fire inside, it will kill us. But if we nourish it, it will guide us. We often silence it because of our own fear, because listening to this voice will demand our greatness, it will require that we accept the adventure life is calling us into. In Colorado, I learned how to crack wide open and splash like sunlight into every dark place, to thank all that is holy for the gift of workout bikinis being alive, to let my joy and nonsense and nearly killing us all taking selfies on the bike at 25mph spill messily out into the world.

Colorado taught me to be brave (except about spiders with big butts and whatever is under the bed), to always leap with the doors of your heart flung open wide, because you never know when you might win. It's true that this is a terrifying and perhaps idiotic strategy for life, because there have been many times where I've leapt and gotten absolutely fucking clobbered, where I've spun the wheel and lost. But what about when you get everything you've ever wanted; but oh, my love, what if you fly? This is why we are alive, to leap, to fight, to breathe and try again. In Colorado, I learned that sometimes you don't even realize you've rolled the fucking dice and then a few weeks later the universe hands you another shot at a dream you thought had died. God laughs. That's when it's worth it, when you come up double sixes, the sardonic irony of Boxcar Willie turning out trumps. Sometimes the universe catches you softly in her arms, dries your tears, smooths your rumpled brow, and carries you home. In Colorado, I fought for the man that I believed was the love of my life. Eventually, I lost. I am left behind, shattered in the silence, abandoned alone to raise the family we created together out of love. But on balance, I'll take it. I'll hang onto the courage to chase every failure, every flop, every stumble, every broken heart. Maybe bravery lives next door to love, it requires fearless generosity, it multiplies when we decide to launch ourselves at a wild and possibly irrational chance for greatness. And even if not, I still choose it over the stark isolation of quiet desperation, over allowing life to steamroll forward without me while carrying away a locked basket of dreams that could have come true, over a lonely and wistful heart hiding behind years of stifled resentment, over the vicious and blistering fire of regret. I choose failure over fear, over the heartburn of mediocrity, over any life where the I love you darling falls false from your lips with a hollow clang, an overripe apple plopping onto the hard ground with a meaty and sickening splat. I choose to try over being left to rot, unseen and unheard, while the spark that could have been your dazzling and magnificent future sputters weakly and dies, leaving behind a meek and unsatisfying wisp of smoke instead of a blinding legacy of love. Life moves on without us, whether we're brave or not. Time goes by, and in Colorado I learned to spend it wisely, or at least to do my damnedest to try. 

Over the last few months, I've gone through every picture I've taken since moving here. Flipping through photo albums in hospitals, airports, waiting rooms, sitting in the parking lot at the vet, one by one so I could build a goofy video about my time here (while I'll embed at the bottom if I ever stop vomiting words onto this page). Going through all these years answered a lot of questions, and not just, do you ever close your mouth or put on a shirt or get off the bike? (No). What I see in the rearview mirror is all the love I've been given, the sweaty hugs, the overlarge cowboy hats, the snorts of laughter, the curly fries, the tears cried on my wheel, the bikinis, the coffees, the dog walks, the smashing ridiculousness I bring forth into this world (sorry), everyone who made me feel like sunshine. Colorado will forever be my true north, the home in my heart, and if it’s meant to be, I’ll be back someday. But one of the most beautiful things about finding your home is that you can always return, you're always welcome, everyone who loves you isn't going to stop just because your zip code starts with a 9 now instead of an 8. You can't get rid of the people who matter; that's what love is, it keeps right on showing up, friends who will bring you potato chips and crank up the crap music and hug you in the ditch when you cry and get on a plane to fly halfway across the world and take a zillion-dollar Uber to a random hospital in the middle of sunny nowhere because you're frightened and sick and hurt and alone. 

Love breaks so easily, if we aren't careful. You can lose sight of your future in spite of it being right in front of you, laid delicately at your feet by a universe that has been listening to your silent and desperate pleas for decades and only waiting for the exact right moment to set fire to everything that was never enough. You can live without living, breathe without breathing, love without ever experiencing the enchanting chaos of love. You could wake up tomorrow to find that you blew your last chance, you can feel without allowing the feelings to scramble deep into your soul. It's easy to do, to let it all slip away, piece after fragile piece. It's easy to allow fear to drive the bus when the ground rumbles beneath you, when the cracks start to widen, when the train is about to crash. And instead of watching your life burn in the knowledge that it will purify you, you run. That's fear. I could have been too scared to bring Molly home all those years ago. I could have let cowardice hold me back from signing up for ironman, from moving to Colorado, from quitting my job to take coaching full-time, from climbing the mountain, diving out of the plane, running up the volcano, cannonballing into the hot springs, swimming after the sharks (man, I sure do a lot of stupid shit), packing the bike, booking the flight. Rolling the dice. I would have avoided a lot of heartache, I'm sure, if I had sat square in my funky house in DC and chosen comfort, chosen safety, chosen to hide myself away from a world that will always have at least a little bit of pain. But look at all the joy I never would have found, had I been too afraid to change my life. 

This is the divide I stand at now. Again. I choose to leap, to trust in a universe that I have to believe still wants me to find my way. Because to live without leaping is to die without dying. The next six months are fat and flush, pregnant with the hopeful promise of new beginnings. There is an entire series of life-altering changes ahead to my home, my family, my job, my future. I'm lucky to look back on the last decade without an ounce of regret, secure in the knowledge that I've soaked up every molecule of the thrilling greatness of being alive. I don't know that I have another decade in me, but if I do, I hope that I can say the same about wherever this road takes me next. In Colorado, I had the time of my life. I'd do it all again in an instant, for every moment running wild beneath the endless sky, reaching delicately but deliberately for the sun. Because as the man says, for what it's worth, it was worth all the while.