“Oh Lord, What A Mess I’ve Made Of Things”

That’s the phrase that gets you there – to the place where one realizes just who’s to blame, and how badly.

Here’s a quick drawing of the moves that we’ve made since I married Ethel:


Decatur, AL, to Athens, back to Decatur, to Bisbee, AZ,  to Tucson, to Waterbury, VT, to Salt Lake City UT (briefly) to Park City, to Anthem, AZ and then New River just east, then back to Park City, then to Bozeman, MT, then west and north to Whitefish.

And, now, getting ready to move across the highway here in Whitefish.

I’ve always enjoyed moving around; and Kim Puckett has always said that she enjoyed it, too. Going to a new place has always been exciting – new places, new activities, new people.

However, like many things that bring enjoyment and distraction, it’s possible that I’ve become addicted to it. I may have gotten used to staying somewhere for a while, and then running off to somewhere else.

AAs talk about a “geographic cure”, and, as one of the stories in the Fourth Edition points out, there’s something to it – at least in the early stages of the illness, it seems that a major move can sort of slow the illness down or even put it on the back burner for a while. But, of course, eventually the bottle catches up with us.

Well, that’s never been an issue for me – at 108 East Texas Street in Kileen, TX, they schooled me on the Steps out of the Big Book some 12297 days ago, and the illness of alcoholism has not darkened my door since.

And it’s been a great life – “the only good life life I’ve ever known, the only easy life that’s ever been mine”. Eighteen months later I met Ethel, and it’s been wonderful ever since.

And we’ve lived in all of these cool places and done all of these cools things – and they are enjoyable, entertaining and distracting.

However, now we’re HERE, and Ethel won’t go any farther.

We thought that we were moving to Mexico earlier this year – Ethel spent the last two years pining away for the tropics, so we went down and did a lot of househunting on Cozumel, and then decided instead to buy in the Baja, because of the dogs – we can’t drive to Cozumel, and we can’t fly the dogs there, because of the temperature on the tarmac.

So we made a househunting trip to Baja California, and after a week, we had three homes, any of which would work – so we decided to wait until we got home to Montana to make our choice. A nice, mature, sensible resolve.

When we got here, Ethel said, in a very small voice, “I want to stay in Whitefish.”

So we’re staying in Whitefish, and building a house.

But, by that time, my “moving self” had already gotten used to the idea of Mexico. So I was sort of  “leaning forward” and fell over – like the top step on the stairs, in the dark, that isn’t there.

I’ve been adjusting to staying here, but, well, there are things wrong now – things wrong with me. My body is betraying me – I haven’t been able to run a step for months. Doctor says that it’s age – wear and tear on my knees. If I spend a few hours skiing the way that I want to ski, it hurts.

Work is not going well – now, it hasn’t been going well for a long, long time, but sometimes I can stay busy enough to not notice the fact that I’m not productive. That hasn’t been the case, lately.

And so I find myself wanting to run away.

Mexico would be fine – cheap enough so that I don’t have to work, and enough different things to do that I might not notice that I can’t run or ski anymore. And the “new and different” would be nice, all by itself, in that it might keep me from noticing everything that’s going wrong in my life.

But we’re not going to Mexico. And I have to keep working to build this house. And I go do workouts four to six days per week, and even if my knee doesn’t stop me, my age does. I’m not going to get better, or faster, or stronger.

And maybe I just want to run away because I’m used to always changing my life every few years, and maybe I’m now addicted to those big, expansive changes. Change is fun. And it distracts me from the things that are going wrong, or painful, or static, in my life.

But it ain’t gonna happen. And I have brought this on by all of the moves that I have made – that have given me the HABIT of moving, and that have caused Ethel to dig her heels in and refuse to go any farther.

Oh, what a mess I’ve made of things.

  1. Brad Smith said:

    Thought-provoking post, Jim, nicely introspective (but perhaps that’s an oxymoron). As you say, circumstances change constantly, and we can’t stubbornly hold on to what we once thought we wanted. Life is not an Ironman where you just need to do x, y and z as well as you can. Recognizing, as you clearly have, that changing course can work as well or better is not a DNF, and might actually provide a more rewarding finish.

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