Beauty in the Shit Hole

Being on a disabled pension and not having a home of my own leaves me with quite the paradox of limitless freedom and agonizing dependency. I can go anywhere I want, stay as long as I’d like and do anything with my time I desire but I often must depend on others to host me in their homes where I must carefully manage mysel(ves) to not impose, to stay to long or to be too much. While my foray into the vagabond world was unplanned, I was originally excited at the idea of the open road and extended visits with loved ones. Perhaps I should have run that idea past my loved ones though – because as my friends have dwindled and my family has demonstrated their general reluctance at having me in their homes unless I’m there to house or pet sit in their absence, it has been a very large and very bitter pill to swallow.

Now – before I go too far and start to sound like a victim, I must remind myself of two things: (1) My friends have dwindled over the past two years because I’ve grown healthier and developed boundaries that helped me realize many of those I called “friend” were actually toxic relationships that couldn’t survive my newfound self respect and I needed to release these in order to have room in my life to (someday) develop new healthier relationships and (2) my family has demonstrated exceptional love, care and acceptance for me for many years as I battled my demons and depended on them to help me find upright and right-side-out when I turned myself upside down and inside out and none of them owe me a damn thing. These things being said, my recent isolation has kicked my ass and I want to throw a tantrum on the floor; kicking and screaming and crying about how nobody loves me.

Since I last wrote, I’ve left my sister’s house much earlier than I originally planned and have landed in a sweet little Airbnb in a tiny little rural town of less than 2,000 residents in north central Kansas. Over three hours away from my family in Missouri and six hours away from my family in Colorado, I’m smack dab in the middle of endless cornfields and nowhere in particular. The overweight and unkept man two houses down waves at me from his yard when I drive by his confederate flag themed home, the local beautician offered me the “full experience” when I went in for a pedicure and followed this up with a cringey imitation of someone speaking Vietnamese and the unmasked locals stare at me in a weird angry way when I am out and about wearing my face mask. The local grocery store sells catfish in their seafood section, promotes itself with signage simply stating “Cold Beer Here” and isn’t open on Sundays. I am in a perfectly preserved midwest shit hole.

Were I not from a small backwards (unintelligent, racist, small-minded, completely fucked) small town in the midwest, all of this would be overwhelmingly shocking and unsettling but instead it’s just a sad reminder of my humble ignorant roots. Sometimes I want to regret my choices in life that have led me to the point that I’m a “not lost wanderer” but having this chance to become reacquainted with the kind of town and people that make up Trump’s voter base, I can only be grateful – grateful my own dysfunction as a teenager led me to making choices that took me away from this kind of town, that opened my mind and eyes to the experiences of others not like me and that brought me to a broader understanding of the world than the city limits of my small hometown could offer. I’m glad I never fit in where I was raised and I’m grateful to be where I am in life, even if where I am currently (geographically speaking) is so repulsive.

Even as I type this, I regret the tone it’s taking. I realize I sound like an asshole and that truly isn’t my intent. My initial intent was to write about finding the sunset in the picture above. One of my few remaining friends drove in from Kansas City and visited with me a couple days ago. Her arrival brought some fresh air to me just as I was starting to suffocate and thinking about taking the financial loss from my nonrefundable reservation here and finding another place in a more tolerable (less Trump-y) town. She reminded me that people aren’t places and places aren’t people. She motivated me to find myself and my happiness within and in the things I love despite those around me. She kicked my ass out of my self-pity and into self-reliance. Everyone should have friends like this.

The night before my friend left, we explored this little town and found a surprisingly well maintained and beautiful lake with gravel roads that allowed easy access into and travel around the manicured parks and picnic areas surrounding the water. While we were there, we saw blue herons, gliding geese and large jumping fish. And on the east side of the lake, we found a comfortable and sturdy bench beside the water that offered a perfect view of the sunset. I was awed. I was humbled. I was reminded to look for beauty in even the most repulsive of situations.

Since it is illegal to firebomb this shit hole, I’ve tried to make the best of it for the rest of my time here and have found a nice little comfort zone of isolation and daily routine within and on the front porch of my little rental house. If the looming civil war breaks out while I’m here, I’m completely fucked and definitely in “enemy territory” but as long as that doesn’t happen in the next two weeks, I’m fairly certain I’ll be able to finish out my stay here in relative comfort and safety. My friend is gone now, but for the rest of my time here, I’ll go each evening and find my bench to watch sunset and be reminded of how small I am and how blessed I am.

…and perhaps I’ll also work on a plan to burn that fucking confederate flag next door before I leave.