Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Year of Sand in the Car.


Truthfully I’ve been staring at this blank screen for at least the last 30 minutes with absolutely no clue how to start. As I’m typing this, I’m about 95% sure I’ll go back and change it later before I hit publish. Susannah is curled up in my lap…poor thing, I feel like I’ve been running around so much lately that when I am home, I’m typically collapsing straight into bed, so our time together has been extremely limited. Although all she really needs from me is to sit still so she can cuddle up and take a bath (somehow my lap is her chosen bathing spot). I can feel her tiny sandpaper tongue catching my leg every few licks.

I am writing this ahead of time of course, but by the time you read this, October 10th, we have lived in Charleston for exactly one whole year. It has also been almost one whole year since I last wrote on this blog, hence my hesitation with how to begin. I’ve forgotten. I thought so many times about sitting down to write something about our experiences here, but I have been too afraid…even just to write for myself. Writing has become incredibly therapeutic for me, and I knew it would help me digest some of what’s happened over the past year. But. BUT. I just couldn’t. I knew that whatever came out would be too much for me to handle and would certainly not be enjoyable for anyone else to read.

It’s funny going back to that blog post I wrote after we got here – I sounded so hopeful. I guess “funny” isn’t the right word after all. Shortly after we arrived and settled into our apartment and our new life, I hit rock bottom. In fact, I found a new bottom. I can’t really pinpoint it to one thing in particular, but it’s never really that easy, is it? I was so much more homesick than I anticipated I’d be. I started working a full-time retail job, which meant a lot of weekends. I thought that would be an ok change for me. Besides, it’s not like we knew anybody and I’d really be missing out on anything, right? Wrong. I knew Gabe, and I loved Gabe, and basically all time with Gabe up and vanished. I want to make it clear before I continue that I do not blame that job for this, because it’s not the job’s fault. It’s no one’s fault really. I just thought it was a change I would enjoy. I misread myself, I misunderstood what I needed and I took a path I thought I wanted. But it was sadly far from it. I’ve mentioned this on Instagram before, since that’s apparently where I do most of my writing these days, but basically I came home from work every night and cried. Even when I didn’t have to go to work, I cried. This is how I made the transition from a life I knew to a life I didn’t. By crying my way through it. I went to movies by myself on my days off because movie theaters are familiar and comfortable, and I’d drink wine in the middle of the afternoon and cry there too (I admit I was seeing a lot of very sad movies, so that obviously didn’t help). I became a pro at crying in public places in general – there were quite a few restaurants I was afraid I’d never be able to show my face at again. I tried to find a gym and the right kind of class and a schedule that worked and helped me feel like me again, but like anything new, it took time. And when you are at rock bottom, at least from my experience, you want whatever you think will make you feel better to make you feel better NOW. I very much felt like I didn’t have the luxury of time. On more than one occasion I knew the only way I’d feel better was by disappearing.

Here’s the thing about moving to a new place and feeling the most depressed you’ve ever been in your life: it puts you in a terrible position to make new friends. Obviously we all know it’s hard enough to make friends as it is, especially as an adult, but then to throw oftentimes crippling depression and anxiety into the mix…let’s just say I wasn’t selling myself very well.

Hello person I am meeting for the first time. Do you want to be my friend? I cry a lot, I will most likely spend most of our time together complaining about shit I can’t control and I will debate you at every turn when you try to cheer me up. No? Yeah, didn’t think so.

Who truly wants to be friends with that person? That person is exhausting to be around. Unfortunately that person was me and I found her to be pretty exhausting as well. I spent a lot of time wanting to crawl out of my own skin. I was basically one giant exposed nerve, just walking around waiting to brush up against someone or something that would undoubtedly cause me to spiral out of control all over again. The reserves of strength I needed just to make it through the day intact were being depleted at an exponential rate. The more homesick I became, the more strength I needed and the less I seemed to have. My stupid and cruel anxiety brain told me over and over again that I was a failure. That moving here was an experiment that went horribly wrong and therefore I had failed. I was having a hell of a time finding work outside of retail (which after the holidays had become part time for my sanity’s sake) and so I had failed there too. My days were consumed with doubt, regret and emotional self-harm. Even now I’m not sure if I can forgive myself for some of the awful things I believed were true about me. They are hard to shake.

OOF. Ok. Deep breath. Have you made it this far? Bless you. See, this is why I couldn’t write about this before. Six months ago this blog post probably would have ended after that last paragraph. Depression, as is its nature, gave me blinders to anything positive happening in my life, so it felt like misery as far as the eye could see. What happened to change that? Time. Honestly though…just time. Both the most annoying and the most true thing. There was no big revelation, no big event that turned everything around. Eventually things just started to change. I discovered RedZone and finally got myself into the gym on a regular basis after a new location opened around the corner from the store downtown. I found coaches who challenged me. I felt like I might pass out during every workout (still do), which is perfect for me because I’m sadistic and weird. I stopped worrying about my weight and how I looked every second of every day, mostly because of sheer lack of the energy it takes to do so. And lastly I started to let people into my broken heart. It should come as no surprise that is both the hardest thing to do and the thing that helps the most. You meet someone new and you have to go on blind faith that they won’t let you down. Some do. Hell, a lot of them do. It’s happened to all of us and will continue to happen forever and ever amen. But by luck or happenstance or whatever you want to call it, sometimes you find some of the good ones, the ones who want to stick around. Or rather, they find you.

Can I just tell you how much I love the phrase “here’s the thing”? Because HERE’S THE THING. The biggest thing that this whole experience has taught me thus far. I came here thinking that it was as simple as picking up my life in Minneapolis and transplanting it to the beach. I understand now how little room I left myself to just let Charleston be what it was going to be. I thought I knew the kind of job I would have, the kind of people I would meet, the kind of life I would live day to day. But how could I possibly know that? Don’t worry, I’m shaking my head at me too. I let the relentless control freak inside of me try to tell me that I had failed at all of this, when in fact it was just the opposite. I had done it. I had left everything I knew behind and made a life somewhere else. It might have been a big f***ing mess at first, but sometimes life is a big f***ing mess. I needed to learn to get out of my own way and stop judging whatever was happening here.

Eventually I did get out of my own way, which is how I said yes to becoming a RedZone coach. And how, after a short training period that included a couple of light panic attacks about being on a microphone, I fumbled my way through my first few solo workouts. With every workout I lead, I feel stronger. I feel more sure of myself. A person who has become very important to me once told me he thought this could save me, and he was right.

I think I’m starting to lose track of what I wanted to say here, so it’s time to bring it on home. Are things perfect now? Hahaha. No (who needs perfect anyway). Are things better? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve met some truly wonderful people here, people who have surprised me with their kindness, their support and the fact that they wanted to be friends with me at all. Slowly I am coming back to myself. Slowly this place is becoming a home to us. You can have more than one home, right? I hope so, because pieces of my heart have always been scattered all over the place, and now I’m leaving a bit of it here too. BUT SERIOUSLY CHARLESTON, GET YOUR TRAFFIC UNDER CONTROL.

Oh, also, we have a lot of sand in our car now.

EF1A5263Sadly I have not taken many photos for myself lately, but this past weekend we found ourselves in Beaufort and I brought my camera along.

It felt right to document some of the people who are bringing joy into my life here, one year later. ♥







































Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Eckers Move East.

If I had been smart, I would have taken out my camera earlier into this process. I would have carried it around with me all summer, photographing the things I love (and now miss) about Minneapolis. On the other hand, I filled my phone with images while I was running around with all the wonderful souls who have put Minnesota permanently on the map of my heart. Still counts.

When we signed the lease for our apartment, it was before Gabe was offered his job, which is how he ended up down here before we were able to move in and I spent our last three weeks in Minneapolis alone packing up our house. I was overwhelmed at the prospect of course, but it ended up being the best thing for both of us. Moving creates so much stress that I honestly think it probably saved us from a lot of pointless, stupid fights. We each had the space and the time to focus on the tasks we had in front of us. All we were able to do from afar was cheer each other on as we dealt with the logistics (Gabe) and wrapped up everything we own in copious amounts of paper (me). Turns out we ended up in the roles that we excel at, so clearly the universe was looking out for us. Also, I pack like I wrap presents…with too much tape, just like my grandma.

When Gabe flew back, all we really had left was to run some errands, load the truck and say goodbye to our home of six years. Ha, I say that like it was easy. Well, the loading the truck part was easy because we have very kind and extremely gracious friends who helped us out. But the saying goodbye. Obviously that was never going to be easy. One of our last nights, we went to Punch Pizza, and I bawled my eyes out on my way home. And I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t about the pizza at all. Because it was mostly about the people and the place and the fact that I had called Minneapolis home for longer than I had anywhere else in my life. But it was a little bit about the pizza too. YOU GUYS. It’s so good.

Right before we left, the day that we were cleaning and finishing everything up, I walked through our empty house and it hit me how important this story is going to be in the grand scheme of our life together. We finally did the thing we had talked for so long about doing. We packed up our life, said “see you soon,” to the some of the very best people the world has to offer, and drove off to something new and completely unknown.

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Our first stop was in Chicago, where we got to see my parents one more time, our pets got to rest (and also be like, WHAT’S HAPPENING), and we got to watch The Weather Channel pretty much nonstop.

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Next, we stopped in Nashville. At this point, it was clear that Hurricane Matthew had other plans for us, so we booked another night in our luxe La Quinta accommodations and spent the following day exploring Franklin/spending time with our wonderful friends Amy and Steven and their two beautiful boys. I mean obviously it would have been preferable for there to be no hurricane at all, but we’d take any excuse for extra time with these folks.

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We made a firm decision to return to Nashville and made our way toward our next destination. The gorgeous drive sort of helped make up for having to leave such lovely people behind.

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Not bad for a rest stop, yeah?

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And then we were on to Greenville. We found an Airbnb there for a few nights while everything in and around Charleston was shut down (including the major highway going into it). Not a bad place to bum around for a weekend. There are, if you haven’t noticed by now, a lot of pictures of our pup. She now shares with Gabe the title of “favorite thing to photograph.” Also, she needed exercise, so we came with us everywhere.

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This is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Thank God for Total Wine (they carry it).

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Chuck got to run free all over the fenced-in acres of our temporary lodging. She was in heaven.

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This is the deluxe riding situation we set up for her in the backseat. Dog hammock, bed, blankets. She was a rockstar the whole way down.

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I just really appreciated the fact that there is a town that exists called Pumpkintown.

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On the way back.


So turns out our Airbnb is also a certified wildlife refuge, and home to three sweet pups (one of which is a wolf dog named Koia, see below) and four gorgeous horses. You would have thought I had never seen horses before.

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Finally. This photo is probably too small to see, but that sign says: “welcome home.” And it’s one of the first things I saw upon entering Charleston.

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The remnants of almost a week on the road.

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After a long week of trying to figure out where we’re going to fit all of our stuff, we snuck away to the beach and introduced our girl Chuck to the ocean for the first time. She spent a decent amount of time just wanting to play volleyball with these guys in the background.

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More or less the state of things around here.

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The weather has been insanely beautiful every day since we arrived. Like one perfect summer day after another without a bit of humidity. From what we’ve been told, it broke early this year (probably due in no small part to the hurricane), so basically we joined everyone and their brother outside last Saturday, wandering around downtown soaking it up.

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Cool shirts, bros.

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I miss a lot about Minneapolis already, but I fell in love with Charleston hard and fast when I first stepped foot onto its cobblestone streets last year, and those feelings come rushing back every time I unbury myself from all the boxes and unwrapped paper long enough to enjoy it. Unpacking is temporary, I have to keep reminding myself. And this place is pretty damn magical. But I miss the people so much it makes my heart ache, and that is not temporary. That is another new part of life now that I need to get used to. But isn’t it kind of wonderful to have people in your life who mean so much to you that you hurt to be away from them? It’s a glorious kind of sadness, in a way. You can’t have those lows (where you find yourself somehow listening to Rick James and sobbing your way back home last Wednesday) without first having the beautiful highs.

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Anyway, life is crazy. And I live here now.

xo, M.

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