I've been back in Canada since May and I am certain I am losing my mind. It's a certainty that takes hold of me, every year.
We come home because we have to. As Canadians, we can only stay in the Untied States for a maximum of six months at a time. This past year, we stayed just shy of five months in the United States and, another two, down in Mexico. We drove back across the Canadian border with a few days left to spare. This dates-in-da-States wiggle room is important as I sometimes have to head south for work. I'd rather not get into dutch with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Being back in Canada for half the year is , a must if we want to hold on to our sweet-ass socialized medical care (which we totally do.) and for my wife to return to work. While she's a certified dive instructor, she also loves the land-locked gig she works for half of the year. We also come home because we want to. I have few friends and work remotely. Disappointment and distrust have left me happy in the small company of my partner, our pooch and a few well-chosen friends that I seldom see. My missus? Not so much. Community is important to her. Her sister's family—now my family—means the world to her. Reacquainting herself with her people, each year, brings her a happiness that I try hard to understand. I love to see her light up around her friends. It brings me pleasure to hear her pop into work mode on the phone. They're secret, sideways glances into a world that she shares freely with me but I have never been able to bring fully into focus.
This year, we set up shop on a ranch, just outside of Calgary. The owner is lovely and, as a perk, is often absent. The affluent board their horseflesh here. Rich children come to ride. I've heard that they assume us to be hands, here for the season. They've no reason to think otherwise. I work from home, ergo, I work on the ranch. Everyone is pleasant to one another. We smile, we nod. They watch me pour shit from our honey wagon in to mingle with their horse manure. I mouth a hello as I wander through their barn in a bathrobe, flip-flops and when ever possible, a profanity-laced T-shirt. The shower in the barn has amazing water pressure. The weekends are busiest. During the week, I hear more noise from ravens and the hawk that hunts the paddocks here than I do from the privileged. Most evenings, I welcome the dusk with a the local coyotes. I sip. They howl. I read a lot. I walk. I work and, a few times a month, I go to counseling in the city.
I have been in treatment for a number of years now. I adore the woman who treats me. I despise what she does to me.
The trauma from the poor choices of my youth are never far from my mind. I cannot sit with my back to a door. I often forget that I am safe. I cry or rage with no clear understanding of why. Living in a small space, like an RV, helps. A daily cocktail of painkillers and anti-depressants make it possible for me to get out of bed in the morning. I take another assortment of pills in the evening so that I can find a path to sleep.
A few days before an upcoming session with my psychologist, my nighttime pills stop working. I fret over seeing her. I stretch for what I might say at my appointment. Once I'm there, she is kind. There is care in her eyes as she rips me open like a bag of chips. I have cracked a molar from clenching my jaw during a session. I have yet to leave her office without feeling that my body has been worked over by an energetic sadist with a baseball bat. What starts in sadness and shame, for me, so often ends in physical pain. So, More pills. A massage. Then, back home and back to work. I curse our being back in the province. I miss Texas. I miss the Mexican heat and the friendly people. This is the cycle of my time at home. I would refuse it, if it weren't for the fact that, at times, I notice the difference that my treatments make in my life. I am kinder to my partner. Sometimes, I am even kind to myself.
For the past few years, this constructive torment has been punctuated by our time in the south. This year will not be one of those years. We will winter in north central Alberta. We're not ready to give up traveling yet: but the next stage of our life demands we save money, pay down debt and plan for what comes next. We want to spend more time away. Where it is warm and the people speak Spanish is where we are often the happiest. It may be that we may leave Canada, for good. My partner's wish is for a life on the water. My mind is calmed by new experiences. My body aches less in the heat. To have these things, we will sacrifice out freedom, in the short-term. I worry that I may, in staying still for longer than I have, for some time, also be sacrificing something of my sanity. The thought of how my hands, face and neck will ache in the chill of a Rocky Mountain winter brings me no cheer. I'm frightened of what an uninterrupted year of counseling will look like.
But I'm driven to stay still so that we can move forward. I suppose we'll see how she goes.