Under Construction

I live near the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, right on the edge of a vast high plain, the rolling prairie that makes up the heart of this country. And nobody lives out there.

Which is obviously not true. Because the last two trips I took out to the prairie, I hit road construction. And that’s when you find out exactly how many people live in the tiny towns and farms of eastern Colorado. More than you might think. And you learn this by waiting for them to pass you on a one-lane road lined with orange traffic cones and large equipment.

Here’s the thing. They’re actually widening the road. Most of these highways have been one lane each way for years. Now that we and all of the other carpetbaggers have moved in, they need to widen the roads to make room for more people traveling back and forth. But in order to do that, for a while, they actually narrow the road. They need the space to work, for the equipment to park while they clear brush by the roadside and lay down gravel and pave–and for our safety, too, so we don’t go careening into the workers. But it’s a pain in the ass. Because instead of one lane each way, for a few months, we have to deal with one lane, period.

Right now, I am learning a new way to eat. I’ve limited meat and dairy and wheat. And right now, it’s really hard to find stuff that I can eat that I actually want. I know that it will be a good thing for my body in the long run. But it’s a pain in the ass. We’re also potty training Jack (again), and teaching him to be more independent, in general. In order to stop doing everything for him ourselves, we have to teach him how to do it himself — zipping and buttoning and putting the paste on the toothbrush and even wiping his butt. And if you’ve ever had to do any of that, you know the truth. That’s a pain in the ass, too.

And Brian and I are also learning to reach out and contact people in our community and start making friends. And let me tell you — that’s a pain in the ass, too. I never thought I’d ever say to anyone, ever, that I have a hard time making friends. But there you have it.

This reminds me of Liz Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic, which Brian and I are both reading right now, about creativity and making a way for yourself as an artist in any form. She has a section in there that asks, exactly what flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because the truth is, no matter what you want to do, even if you are lucky enough to have found your true calling and vocation, you will always, always have stuff to do that you don’t like. So the question really is, what kind of shit sandwich do you want to eat? Do you want to teach English but have to grade papers all night? Do you want to write for a living but have to revise? Do you want to own your own business but have to deal with the uncertainty of an irregular paycheck?

So here’s my point. I know you’ve been wondering. Whenever we start something new or decide to make a change, we are going to be uncomfortable. We are going to have hard work ahead of us. For a while, we’re going to have to wait on this damn one-lane prairie road until the entire population of Podunk City files past us. And it’s a pain in the ass. It feels like this horrible uncomfortable stage will last forever, and we are never going to get there. Wherever there is. Oh, I know why people don’t change. I’ve seen it in my own mirror.

But why do we want change? That’s the question. We want to be healthier. We want our children to be more independent. We want to make friends. We want to improve ourselves and our lives. We know, in the long run, these dusty prairie roads will be a lot easier to travel, once the work is done and there are two finished lanes on each side. We won’t have to wait behind Farmer Brown’s tractor, pulling our hair out. We can just pass him.

But right now, we’re under construction. And we’re eating that shit sandwich while we wait in line for the road to open out ahead of us again. Make mine with gluten-free bread, please. No cheese.