Some time ago I endured a road trip that I had both dreaded and looked forward to. I worked on a project this last winter that has given me the opportunity to visit numerous communities in northern Manitoba, communities I have never visited before. It has given me an appreciation for the vastness and beauty of the province I live in. Furthermore I have had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of people. Quite frankly it has been an amazing experience. An added bonus has been the fact that I have done this work with a friend and colleague.
So back to the road trip. Some of you may have watched Ice Road Truckers. I had watched a few episodes and now have experienced that kind of road first hand. Hence the anticipation and the dread all mixed together in one. We traveled winter roads and ice roads as we made our way to Pukatawagan. That’s right. Pukatawagan. We were never sure quite where we were. We hoped we were on the right path and, quite frankly, calling it a path is being somewhat generous. A trail cut through the trees with the occasional rock and lots of roots poised to rip something from the undercarriage. It was always a relief when we came to a lake because on the ice it was relatively smooth and we were able to make up some time. Go figure.
I drew the short straw as the driver for the trip in which later I was rather thankful for because we did the same trip back in the dark. My passenger was rather nervous and on numerous occasions suggested, rather passionately, that I needed to slow down. How do you slow down when you are basically at a crawl? Looking back me thinks the trip in the dark was probably more relaxing as we were not able to see all the perils of the journey.
We had been told it was a mere one and a half hour trip if we, and I quote, “were law abiding citizens”. As it turns out it took almost double that. Because we felt that we were driving as fast as the conditions would allow we began expecting to see the community of Puk around every turn, and there were lots of those. It got to the point where we began to wonder whether we had missed a turn. We did make it but it took close to three hours. As the sun set in the western sky we headed back. It was interesting to note that when we got back to a main road the return journey had taken the same amount of time as the trip in and yet it did not feel as long. Simply put our expectations had changed which totally altered our mindset and made for a shorter trip.
On the trip back, when it was my turn to watch nervously and do my best to be encouraging with my driving advice, I reflected on our trip. It reminded me of the journey many of us have traveled and are traveling. When we live with a mental health illness we often wonder when that journey might be over, when we will traverse that last curve in the road and finally find our destination. A destination that will bring relief to the anguish and hurt we experience. Often times our expectations are not realistic and so we expect that relief around every bend in our path only to find more challenges we have to face.
The good news is that with enough patience, resilience, and a helping hand from those supporting us on our journey, there is hope and there is relief. There are simply times when we need to reset our expectations, to understand the journey and not give up. And then some day you can look back at the road you traveled and be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back because you made it. Make it a good one.
“This too shall pass. It may pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.”