I didn’t want to start a blog.

Blogs these days are too topical, often monetized and lacking in authenticity. (Let me tell you how grossed out, heartbroken, confused, frustrated, etc. I am by the lack of authenticity in the world these days. God forbid I ever fall into that racket.) But I desperately needed somewhere to exercise my tiny writing muscle and a small audience to share with, and I wasn’t sure where else to turn.

As with many modes of writing there’s a kind of formula or expectation with a blog, such as length of posts, a theme or a topic, including photos in posts and updating regularly, at least if you want it to be a good blog. I worried a blog would make me feel too constricted in my writing, interfering with my flow. And it did for a minute. But I am not here to become a famous internet blogger. Fuck that. I just want to write and keep it authentic, so I will. My posts may be long, short, sporadic, whatever, I don’t care, doesn’t matter as long as I’m enjoying myself and my needs are being met.

This for me is more of a baby portfolio than a blog.

I haven’t posted anything in awhile because I started to write about my trip to Utah and it’s turning into this very long, convoluted something or other about the last year with lots of time-hopping. I have no idea what it’s going to turn into, when it will be complete, if I’ll ever share it here or what. But I am enjoying the hell out of writing it. For the first time for as long as I can remember, I’m in a flow state with my writing. It just feels really good, like Ah, yes, memories, details, all coming together, yum. I don’t care about an outcome. I’m just doing it.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.

And I can stop feeling embarrassed now about having this damn thing. “Oh, Candra, you have a blog?” Ugh. Stop. Yes, it’s true. I have a blog, but I don’t wish to be part of that world or to participate in the internet all too much. (Social media traumatized me.) Maybe that sounds stubbornly immature and stuck-up. Or maybe in true hypocrite fashion I’ll sell out before you know it. As soon as I finish writing my NYT’s best-selling memoir ripping off both “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Wild.”

Moab

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Chesler Loop, Canyonlands National Park

A year and five days ago I hiked the Chesler Loop in Canyonlands National Park after finding out my grandpa had passed away. I had terminated our relationship long before, so I wasn’t particularly grieved. I recall my day being soured by his departure only because I couldn’t decide whether or not to cut my trip short for his funeral. My only reason for going would have been to support my mom, so I called my therapist. I felt like he died right when I got to Moab on purpose. (Sidenote: I’ve forgiven him now for all of his hurtful, harmful behaviors. No one comes into this world an asshole.)

Next week I’m going back to Moab for no real reason other than I just want to. When I say Moab I’m really referring to the surrounding areas: Canyonlands, Arches National Park, Monument Valley. It’s ungodly beautiful out there and I want to sleep and freeze to death under the stars next to the Colorado River, surrounded by deep red canyon walls.

Moab. It’s a place for me. Do you know what I mean? It’s more than canyons inside of canyons inside of canyons and carefully balanced rocks on top of hoodoos, more than sandstone fins and arches carved out by time.

What I recall most about my first trip to Moab: It was a respite from my life dropping out from under me.

I had just learned that my mother’s lung cancer, which she’d just completed treatment for six months prior, had metastasized to her brain while I was wrapping up my first full semester at Ft. Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Looking back I still don’t know how I did it.

Wall Street, Arches National Park
Wall Street, Arches National Park

A guy I had been seeing wanted to get me out there before I left town. He was a strange mutt, very handsome, rugged and masculine yet quiet and a bit awkward with stooped posture. He was a kind but moody wild-land firefighter from the Midwest who secretly liked musicals. He sometimes spoke in 50’s vernacular, but overall he didn’t speak much. Mitch. I was in love with him for some reason. We would play Ty Segal and T.Rex on the jukebox and dance our asses off, just the two of us, at the Roadhouse in Durango, the only smoking bar in town. We were usually pretty toasted in those moments, but it was fun. He was also completely emotionally unavailable, so naturally I loved him even more.

I think I really fell in love with him when I found out my mom might be dead in a year.

Emotionally unavailable men can actually be okay in those situations. I guess. I haven’t really thought about it until just now. He would tell me things like, “Candra, you’re a real swell gal and you’re brave.” It was nothing, but it was something, you know?

So, to Moab we went in his snug single-cab Toyota pick-up. It was a truck made for circus clowns. My knees nearly hit the dash and I’m 5’3″.  He looked comical folded up behind the wheel. Old mannish. We listened to a Marty Robbins c.d. on the way.

We arrived in the afternoon and hiked to the iconic Delicate Arch, “the one that’s on Utah license plates.” What do I remember? Dragging my jaw through the sand, Mitch reminding me to drink extra water, lots of people, and the near impossibility of getting a photo of the arch without people in it.

It never occurred to me until that trip with Mitch that I should be in any of my photos. I just never thought about it, and I rarely liked how I looked in photos that I didn’t take myself. But he said, “Your mom doesn’t care what you look like, and it’s about what you’re doing anyway. She will like it.”

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Me, in front of “the one that’s on Utah’s license plates.”

The sun was making a quick decent by time we got back into town to buy groceries for our campfire dinner. We decided on steak and macaroni-n-cheese, then proceeded to find a campsite in the dark.

We made our fire under the Milky Way, bright and crisp against the colorless sky. Where else would we have made the fire though? Mitch did the cooking thing while I chatted away excitedly about who even knows, when a light on the Eastern horizon caught my eye. “What is that?” I thought maybe it was the glow of a distant city. Mitch wasn’t sure. We looked on and soon realized it was an enormously round dandelion moon rising up at an observable pace into the night sky! Okay, maybe it was a harvest moon, I don’t know, but it looked like a dandelion to me. Its golden light washed away any trace of the Milky Way. I was okay with it though. I believe I even hooted and hollered, true to my Texas roots. I had never seen such a sight in all my life. That moon alone made the whole trip worth it, and I think I said it about ten more times between then and the moment we got back to Durango and at least a hundred times since then.

We slept that night in the bed of Mitch’s truck, sandwiched between overlapping camping pads and a few sleeping bags layered with wool blankets.

The next morning we woke with our coverings covered in frost. It was fucking cold. I sat up, looking around at what I couldn’t see the night before. Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly what color the sky was. Probably a few colors, naturally, peach, pale blue, lavender. Seems about right. All I remember for sure is that there was a warm hue to the light. To the northwest I could see pale purple snow-capped mountains far in the distance. Nearer to me I could see rust colored outcroppings and hoodoos. And then! There was that damn hot air balloon suspended between those damn far away mountains and those damn otherworldly outcrops. I thought I had to be dreaming. What’s the difference anyhow?

We had coffee. We had oatmeal. We packed and headed for the next trail. We had more coffee. We hiked all day long, this time in Canyonlands which for whatever reason I liked far better than Arches. (Fewer people?) We posed for pictures to share with our families and we wore ourselves properly out before heading back into town for burgers and milkshakes.

That whole weekend I didn’t think once about cancerous tumors, my mom’s mortality, powering through the end of the semester, or leaving all my friends and my life in Durango. I only thought about that event of a massive moon, ancient seabeds and the way Mitch always smelled like a bizarre combination of exhaust fumes and fresh air with a sometimes hint of something maple.

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On the way back to Durango I slept, crammed somehow comfortably in the cab of Mitch’s tiny truck, my boots off, knees folded to my chest and head resting against my purple Carhartt jacket wadded up as a pillow against the door. I later found that I had smashed a forgotten banana in one of the pockets. It was okay though. I had been to Moab. I experienced the Utah desert and I have photographic evidence.

A month and a half later I was living back in OKC and mom had already began radiation.

Welcome, I think?

It’s almost midnight.

I got home from work around 9:30, took a long bath with some shit on my face made out of some shit (oatmeal, yogurt, honey, moringa powder, tumeric) I found in my kitchen, washed my dishes, made some chamomile tea, ate a dill pickle.

And now here I am.

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I just started the most self-conscious sounding ever first blog post about not knowing what my voice is supposed to be on here and blandly told a story about the time I took acid and discovered that most of my thoughts occurred in the form of social media status updates.

I just had to mention LSD because I need you to know that I’m edgy. I’m cool. I used to drink men twice my size under the table and party and get really introspective on psychedelics and really disgusting on other things. I know that’s the kind of stuff cool people are into reading about, at least I always was, so I just had to find a way to integrate it into my first post. (And look, I found a way!)

Clearly, I’m still a bit attached to my former carefree, no-fucks-to-give identity. She was cool. People liked her. I think. It didn’t a matter. I was drunk a lot and that was enough. (People did like me. Until I did something like sleep with one of their friend’s boyfriends or laughed at someone else’s expense while in a black out.)

Man, I really don’t want this to be a recovery blog.

I mean, recovery is so goddang inspiring, troublesome, unpredictable, beautiful, touching, frightening, etc. It has all the elements of some shit you might want to read about when you’re bored in your cubicle or trying to ignore your partner. And while I will forever be in recovery because that’s just how it works and I’m totally okay with it, I long to have an identity that extends beyond overcoming my beloved neuroses and addictive disorder. I mean, I already do have an identity that extends beyond all that.

I just don’t want to pigeonhole myself, the way I pigeonholed the rock climber guy I recently went for coffee with against my better judgement. To be fair, he totally belonged in the pigeonhole I holed him in. I’ve sort of dated four rock climbers in my life (This wasn’t by any means on purpose.) and they always find a way to relate everything back to climbing. Oh god, just like I will probably always find ways to relate everything back to sobriety, “my therapist” and spirituality!

Oh my god. I am so not totally comfortable with this new person I am.  I like her and all, kind of love her even, but she’s not someone I imagined myself ever being best friends with, you know? She’s got her shit together. Sort of. She hasn’t made any real messes in a long time, at least since the end of her last menstrual cycle in a hormonal fit of anxiety, and it wound up being a very manageable, deeply reflective, learning experience. I think I’m slowly becoming my aspirational self. Maybe I’ve actually surpassed my aspirational self.  Or no, it’s more like I took some detours then came back for her, so like, she’s here but it’s so much more. Come to think of it, I don’t know if I ever aspired to be much more than just relatively stable, so definitely surpassing her.

Anyway! I didn’t come here to start some easy-bake recovery blog.

I came here at the suggestion of my grandma (So edgy.) who I still and will forever call ManaMana, I don’t care if it makes you uncomfortable, who in sweet grandmotherly fashion thinks I’m brilliant and have some good things to say.  And because I wish to take my writing outside of the notebooks I’ve been filling over the last four months and get over my fear that someone may read what I have to say and actually like it.

Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself particularly gifted. I just have a lot to share.

Baby CansI’m a 30 year old Millennial who grew up typing away late at night about the minutia and pain of adolescence on Xanga, who secretly thought she might actually have talent because she made B’s in A.P. English without even trying. Because she had no idea that trying was how people actually made it in the world. In that case, have I really changed at all?

Change will definitely be a running theme in this blog. We can’t escape it, and just as we witnessed in the unfolding of this first post there are plenty of constants threaded throughout our stories as well. There are parts of us that will not die, for better or worse. We can relish the admirable parts and learn (with a whole lot of self-compassion) to work with the others.

All that being said, I wanna tell you my stories!