In August of 2017 my family took a vacation to Montana. When we left for our trip I was unsure about a lot of things. I was anxious and nervous all the time. I was unsure of my treatment plan or what would come next. I was also trying to figure out the right mix of meds to help with my fogginess. I had been put on a low dose of a medication to help prevent my migraines. My family quickly noticed a change in me and I didn’t believe them. I didn’t realize how bad I was until I went to see my oncologist and he said he felt like he was talking to me through a screen. I immediately was taken off the medication.
I spent most of that summer at the barn or shows with Joe. I just didn’t feel like myself. I knew it was bad when I didn’t even want to go out and ride. Luckily my family helped me and got me out of the house or would encourage me to go ride. I slowly fell back into a routine that included getting up and getting my ass to the barn to ride. This was a core part of my life that helped give me a reason to get up and get moving.
As I packed my bags and got on the plane to Montana with family, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was excited, scared, nervous, anxious, pretty much every emotion you can think of. Whenever I travel my biggest fear is what would happen if I got sick. I would be outside of the comfort zone of my hospital system and the doctors who knew me and my story.
When we arrived at the resort I felt something I hadn’t in a long time. I felt like I was coming home. It was like seeing an old friend after a long time and they welcome you with open arms. We checked into the lodge we were staying in and I immediately unpacked. I loved the design of the house and the huge front porch that overlooked the landscape of the ranch. It was quiet and no one knew who I was or the baggage I was carrying around.
To say I enjoyed Montana would be an understatement. We spent the week doing various activities that ranged from fly-fishing on the Blackfoot River to trail riding. I thoroughly enjoyed anything that involved a horse. I went on a trail ride one day with my brother-in-law and we also did a cattle drive on another day. I had a blast with my horse, Midnight. You could tell that he loved his job. There’s nothing like cantering through an open field, walking along a stream, and marveling at the scenery in front of us to center your soul. We even did a twilight trail ride with my mom and sister. We went on a high ropes course, an ATV tour, went to the spa, and even took a tour of the entire resort one afternoon. You bet your ass I asked for a tour of their equine facility. The list could go on and on of all the stuff we did.
We spent our various nights at dinner at the main lodge that overlooked the vast landscape. There was a BBQ on the lawn one night that included live music, various activities on the lawn, and a s’more-making contest. While at the resort you quickly recognize other families from the various activities or when you go to the main dining area for meals. We got to know some of the families that were there for the week on vacation like us. We met one family whose child made it into the top 3 of the s’more-making contest. Yes, I was that person who was cheering for him like crazy when they announced he was in the top 3. Typically at horse shows people stare at me appalled when I shout like I do. Clearly it hasn’t fazed me. I always picture myself like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman when she yells, “well done”, at the polo match followed up with a, “whoop whoop.” We also went to a chuck wagon dinner one night too. The resort was filled with the kindest people I have ever met. They treated you like you were part of their extended family. I could go on and on about this amazing place for pages upon pages.
What I loved most about Montana was that it helped to shift my perspective. I was able to see the whole picture again. It allowed me to marvel at what was in front of me. It took me going to Montana to realize that the marvel is wherever you are if you allow it to be. I mean it was one hell of a landscape that helped me click back into place. I woke up eager every morning to throw on my layers and just sit on the porch. I sat in silence and just looked out over the scenery. That quiet that I had been longing for had always been within me. I was letting all the outside distractions and noise take my attention rather than marveling in the moment.
We all have times in our lives when we are too focused on looking at what happened or what will happen to us. We don’t just focus on the now and what’s happening right in front of us. It’s like riding a horse backwards or being afraid to jump again because of the fear of falling off. If you are constantly comparing your past to your present, you will never be in the moment. You’ll waste your energy on always trying to be perfect and compare yourself to others. Don’t be like those people who make it their mission to always be right. They are the people who always one up you or make it all about themselves. Yea, get those assholes out of your life. While I was at a weekend at Kripalu with my sister, Elizabeth Gilbert said, “There is always one asshole in the group. If you can’t figure it out then its probably you.”
For me, Montana was where I found my groove again. I loved being able to wake up in the morning, throw on a pair of jeans with my flannel and t-shirt and finish off the look with a good pair of boots. Not to mention a hat. Even though I had hair when we were there, I still had to protect my skin from the sun. The trip slowed my life down and it made me reevaluate what was truly important to me. If anyone knows me, my family will always come first and our friends that have become like family. We all have had our shares of ups and downs. The only difference is that when something happens to us we dust ourselves and get back up. At the end of the day what matters most is how you feel about yourself and whom you choose to surround yourself with. Pick people that support you and love you for who you are. People may come and go in your life but the good ones will tough it out with you. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”