As Steven and I hit the road again from Maine, we made our way down to New Hampshire to meet and visit parts of our family that we did not have the chance to spend time with in-person yet due to the pandemic and living half a country away from one another. Beth, Gary-Paul, Owen and Eli are part of the family that Steven has manifested into his life. Beth is the daughter of Ken and Nancy who are parental figures to Steven and have served as positive, supportive, role-models who have years of experience with this thing called life. Ken and Steven have built a special connection over the last 7 years, when Ken started out as a massage client to Steven which later developed into personal training and mobility. Steven and Ken have transformed their health and well-being into a positive, uplifting and fulfilling life together. Their mutual trust and respect for one another has created a deeper level of connection that fostered their relationship outside of the work environment. Steven and Ken have traveled many places with one another and competed at fitness events together, such as running the Marathon in Disney to finishing the Tough Mudder in Colorado. Ken was a pastor and has always approached Steven and I with compassion, love and understanding. Nancy was a school teacher and has always been inviting, inquisitive, and considerate to us. So, we were excited when were extended the invitation to meet Beth and her family in New Hampshire. We arrived mid-afternoon during the week and met Owen at the house when he had finished his school day. Owen is in middle school and is a bright kid, with a high emotional intelligence, and a brilliant mind. He is observant, inquisitive, and obedient. When he is intrigued by something, he is willing to take the time to learn and understand the concepts and principles of the information at hand. It was beautiful to be in the company of someone who responds to their environment and is lit up by experiencing and learning new things. Owen told us that his “papa” (Ken) owed him $100 because he had only eaten three ramen noodle packs this month. I asked him if he wanted me to show him how to make Pho, the real ramen noodles. He replied excitedly “yes!” So, I went to the store to gather the ingredients to make a homemade Pho that I knew would win his heart over.
As I had arrived back at the house, Beth and Gary-Paul had made their way home from work and Eli was back from his soccer practice. Steven began cutting up the meat and preparing the salad while Beth and I started cutting up the vegetables. I showed Owen how to make the broth and intermittently Steven was showing Owen how to use the pestle and mortar to make salad dressing. We were all cozying into the evening and catching each other up on our lives. We took some time to commit to a gratitude circle and enjoyed the feast that we had prepared. Steven has been into eating organ meats and had snuck in some heart and tongue that everyone tried unknowingly. To our surprise, everyone appeared to enjoy it, except for maybe Beth who knew the meat was of a different kind (haha). The boys were soon in bed afterwards and we had some down time to chat with Beth and Gary-Paul. Beth had some great recommendations on places to checkout while we were in town and was eager to share of places that they had been and enjoyed. Gary-Paul was full of dry jokes, terms of endearment, and an open channel for connection and reflection. We soon made our way towards bed as everyone else had to wake up early the next morning. The following day we made our way to a local coffee shop and treated ourselves to some delicious espresso. We spent most of the day chilling at the house and meal-prepping for our travels across the United States. Once Owen got home from school, we spent some quality time hanging out with him outside. We played frisbee, made up our own rules to a blown-up burrito battle, and Owen showed us his science projects that he builds. He was able to tell us about the scientific principles of each project and demonstrate their function. It was so cool to feel like a student to a child and learn from their pure innocence and imagination. That evening, Beth had prepared a turkey meatloaf for us and we all sat with one another and shared what we grateful for from our day. After dinner, we played a quick game of Uno with Eli to which the theme was yelling “I am going to give you PAIN!” The pain found in the game is when you cause someone to draw either two or four cards and lose their turn. Eli is in kindergarten and is full raw energy with a pure essence. I love being around children and the way they light your heart up. Our time there was short as we had planned to make a pit stop in Aspen, CO to visit a friend of mine before making our way up towards Wyoming. After we said our goodbyes and they wished well on our way, we hit the road around roughly 9pm.
Once we had been on the road for a little bit, Steven stated that he was kind of feeling off and had a headache. We didn’t think too much of it because we had been changing altitudes and environments often and just thought it must be some shifts from our traveling or possibly the sudden introduction of organs into his diet (haha)! We made it about three hours before calling it quits for the night in a Walmart parking lot. The following morning, we rose early and instantly began on our way. Audio books, podcasts, phone calls, and stops in the park were our life savers as we made our thirty-six-hour trek across the United States from New Hampshire to Colorado. We drove through New York, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and then into Colorado. My favorite place that we drove through was the backcountry of New York, it was stunning and filled with similar landscapes that we had seen along the East Coast.
It was a hassle for us to stop and prepare food, especially since Steven wasn’t at his fully capacity and I was spending a lot of hours driving so we treated ourselves to some of our favorite comfort foods along the way. We stopped at iHop for pancakes, some ice-cream at Sonic, breakfast from McDonald’s, and the classic Chinese lunch buffet. I remember turning over and looking at Steven and stating “I think we have had our fair share of unhealthy food and it was fun, but my body is mad at me now.” At this point, Steven was still feeling under the weather and his symptoms had gotten worse. He stated that he was experiencing a migraine-like headache, body aches, and a fever. We postulated that he might have caught COVID-19 since he wasn’t feeling well, but he hadn’t lost his sense of smell and was not struggling with any cold-like symptoms. We decided that we didn’t think it was COVID-19 and that he might just have a cold that he needed to rest off. So, we made the decision that we would get tested once we arrived in Colorado before going to visit my friend. The morning that Steven and I had entered into Colorado we had stopped at gas station and wanted to change into some warmer clothes. When we were changing, I noticed that Steven had a big rash on his leg. We weren’t sure where it came from and I first thought that it kind of looked like a spider bite or the start of some sort of itchy madness. He appeared to be doing better with his symptoms, although not at his full capacity. We were able to go and get our COVID-19 tests and he changed the oil in our car for us before we made our last three-hour trek to Aspen, CO to visit my friend Sydney. We were about one hour out from arriving at Syd’s place when Steven stated that he was really starting to feel like shit again. I told him to pull over and that I would take us the rest of the way.
When we arrived to Sydney’s place, Steven stated that he was in some of the worst pain of his life. I told him that he should try and sleep it off in the camper and if he still wasn’t feeling better that I would take him to the hospital. I stated that I would have my phone on me and if he needed to reach me that he could. Sydney and I have known each other for the last five years and have been good friends since the day that we met. I don’t get to see her often now that she lives in Colorado with her partner, but when I know I am swooping through the area I always try to hit her up. Syd and I began to catch up on our recent life events over a beer. When we had decided to go to a local brewery, I started making my way down the stairs and checked my phone. I hadn’t seen that Steven had texted me stating that he needed to go to the hospital immediately. As soon as I saw the text, I headed down towards the car. When I saw him, he was in the passenger seat wrapped in a blanket. His appearance was dramatically different than when I had left him. His face was washed out and his eye was swollen and leaking. He was engulfed in anger because I had taken the keys and I did not answer my phone right away, leaving him in the car for close to thirty minutes. I instantly told Sydney that I needed to take Steven to the hospital and then jumped into the car. I quickly apologized and told him I was sorry for not answering my phone.
Luckily, when we arrived to the hospital, we were able to get into the prompt care quickly. All of the nurses thought that Steven had COVID-19, so they put on double layers, extra face masks, and shields. He was required to retake the COVID-19 test, except it was worse this time because he had to get the Q-tip that goes far up your nose. The nurse practitioner told us that the test would take about 90 minutes for us to get the results, but she wanted to ask a few more questions. When she asked if he had any rashes I quickly shot up and stated “yes! He has big one on his inner thigh on his left leg.” When the practitioner pulled up his shorts, there was a perfect bullseye around the rash that I had seen earlier in the day. The practitioner told us that she now thought that Steven must have Lyme disease and he was transferred to the emergency department. Unfortunately, his pain for the evening did not end there. The doctor wanted to rule out that it wasn’t spinal meningitis, so Steven had to get a lumbar injection and some blood work done. I was asked to leave the room and they heavily medicated him for pain and to knock him out to get the lumbar injection. When I arrived to the room again, Steven was in and out of consciousness, but appeared to be in way less pain than I had seen him in previously. Prior to the medication, Steven was unable to lay down because it caused him to have way more pain than sitting upright. The COVID-19 test came back negative and the blood work revealed that Steven did in fact have Lyme Disease.
The crazy part about this whole situation was that when we were in New Hampshire, Beth was telling us that they are known for the Hunter’s tick, one that carries Lyme Disease, and to be careful because there are a lot of people who have gotten Lyme Disease there. It was nice to figure out what was going on, but it was hard to say what the outcome would be for Steven since there is little long-term research done on Lyme Disease and how to effectively treat it other than taking anti-biotics for the infection. After we were dismissed from the hospital, we decided to stay in a Walmart parking lot that night so that we could pick up his prescription in the morning and because Syd’s house was about 45 minutes away. We were not quite prepared for the freezing temperatures that were present in the middle of the night in Colorado. I was able to snuggle in close enough to Steven’s hot body and catch a good night of sleep. However, due to the state that Steven was in and his pain medication wearing off over the night. He did not sleep well at all and was up as soon as the sun was starting to peak over the mountain tops. Since the pharmacy was not quite open yet and it would still take time to fill his prescription, I decided it would be in his best interest to try and get some more sleep at Syd’s house and I would come and pick up the prescription later. Steven spent the next day and a half in excruciating pain, laying on the couch sweating out his fever. However, his eye did begin to stop swelling after the first day of antibiotics.
There were times when the Advil would kick in and Steven would be able to get up and be mobile for a little while. But, as soon as the medication started to wear off, he was back in an immense amount of pain. After the second day of antibiotics, his symptoms were beginning to improve. It was a very overwhelming experience and really stopped me in my tracks. My mind sort of went to this negative place where I was like “why are we being tested so much on this trip? What did we do wrong?” It felt like no matter how many times we made it through an unexpected, tragic event, there was still more to come. I needed to break down and just cry it out, to completely surrender to all that was happening in that moment. There was this point where I really contemplated just going back home and being in the safety and comfort of a familiar environment surrounded by family. But, we were already too deep into this trip and we weren’t ready to give up quite yet, despite being severely rattled. We thanked Syd generously for allowing us to crash at her place while we were making our way through a crisis situation and for taking care of Steven and helping him to feel as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, her and I did not get to spend the time together that we had planned, but I am thankful that we were with someone that we knew or it would have been that much worse. We said our goodbyes and started our trek towards Wyoming where we would be staying in an air bnb with Ken and Nancy and exploring the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
(Grand Teton National Park)
Steven and I spent most of the car ride to Wyoming in silence. There was still some underlying tension that hadn’t been discussed about the situation and I think both of us were trying to process exactly what had just happened and its implications as we continue to move forward. For Steven, he is a highly conscious person of his health and well-being and his passions are in fitness. Not being able to be active or really do much of anything for the last week was a huge change in his normal day-to-day functioning. I believe that he was trying to figure out if and when he would be able to return to his normal functioning so that he could continue to train for his Sober October fitness challenge and his upcoming race in November. I was trying to calm down my nervous system which had been severely dysregulated from the tumultuous turn of events and the constant changes in environment. I am an extroverted introvert and require hermitage and deep self-reflection to rest and charge up my battery for social and physical expenditures. I am constantly responding to what life gives to me and I generally need time to process everything that is going on. When your partner is sick, you can feel so helpless because there is not much you can do to take their pain away. You just have to sit there and support them and give them the space to fight through what they are dealing with. I didn’t feel like I had control over the situation and that was also making me feel like I was inadequate.
We made our way into Wyoming in the late evening and stayed in a Whole Foods parking lot in Jackson Hole. The following morning, we woke up and Steven stated that he was feeling immensely better and was able to sleep through the night. He decided that he was feeling good enough for us to go on a hike in Jackson Hole before heading to our air bnb. Wyoming was breathtaking and filled with tree changes from the onset of fall. The mountains were still clean of any snow and filled with wild bushes, flowers, and grasses. It was like a beautiful bouquet of colors dancing with one another. While we were on the hike, we were able to talk about the last week of events and that is when Steven expressed to me that he was upset at me about the situation. Once I apologized to him, he appeared to feel better but this only made me feel worse than I had already been feeling. I tried to repress it the best that I knew how so that we could move forward with more harmony and actually begin to enjoy our travels again, but I couldn’t get rid of the feelings I was experiencing.
Once Steven and I made our way to the air bnb we were met with more resistance. We had a disagreement about how we should downsize our stuff that we were planning to send back with Ken and Nancy which only perpetuated my feelings of dis-ease in my body. Nothing is worse than the feeling that you should be having the best time of your life in a place that is supposed to bring you so much joy and wonder, and you’re not. Now that we were staying in an air bnb and Ken and Nancy were with us, this gave me some time to really sit with my emotions and ask how I was truly feeling. In those moments, I became keenly aware of the source of my dissonance. It was not one experience, but an accumulation of experiences that had caused me to feel repressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. I realized that I kept continuing to say yes to things that were not actually in alignment with how I felt and I was not speaking my truth or honoring my feelings. I was trying to be someone who just puts a smile on their face and is just okay with everything. When you are traveling with your partner, there is very little time and space away from that person. All decisions are being made in the present moment and as someone who likes to reflect and respond to my environment, I realized that I wasn’t taking the time to make choices that really resonated with where I wanted to go.
There were times where I felt like I was being pushed too far out of my comfort zone or giving up too much. I preach heavily on following my heart and staying in alignment with my core values, and here I was feeling like I was drifting further and further away from my sovereignty. I decided that it was in my best interest to go home and truly birth my gift to you all. It has been one of the hardest decisions that I have ever made in my life, and I know you may not be able to fully understand the situation with the information provided. But I want you to know that sometimes our intuition does not make sense and it rips us completely away from all that is known and familiar so that we clear out and let go of old ways of being so that we may fully align with our purpose and stand in our power. This is not the end; this is just a new beginning.
Thank you to everyone that has followed this journey and taken the time to ready my story. In the couple of months that I have taken to step away from my typical life, I have been granted the insight that could only be found in years of experience. I am so grateful for each and every experience that I have been gifted, for they have accelerated my self-actualization and helped me see parts of myself that I had not before. If there is one thing that I could tell you from this whole experience it would be to always follow your heart. Even when you are not sure that you can trust it, even when it is taking you in the complete opposite direction of where you thought you were going, even when it is the scariest thing that you could possibly do. Risk it all, because if you don’t, you will be exactly where you are right now.