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Day 56: Why I returned to Utah

This is a few stories wrapped together that all have interesting side stories. Yes it’s about what ultimately got my ass up and out of Colorado and back to Utah in the Fall of 2001, but it’s also about one of my teachers around sexual energy, staying with a similar theme of healing my relationship with sex once and for all. I’ve told different aspects of this story to a few people, which includes my husband, and I’ve written bits and pieces of this story in writing groups and with coaches, but I’ve never written it all together as part of the bigger picture of my life, until now. To understand why I returned to Utah, let’s first backup to how my relationship with Utah began. I first got to Utah from Dallas, Texas when my family relocated us summer of 1993 (my parents and my brother since my sister was already in college) to Park City, a town where we’d skied for years. I was 16 and a sophomore in high school when I first met Utah and I lived in Park City until the Fall of 1996 when I left for college in upstate New York. My remaining college story unfolded at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and there I had a clear purpose: to experience the experiences and learning that college had to offer in that space of 4 years and a few months. I’d lost some credits when I transferred from NY so graduating took me a little longer. But after college? I was totally lost. I had no clear career path, no clear interests to pursue and no idea what to do with my life with a degree in women’s studies and sociology. Therefore I did what I know best how to do, and I pointed my life in the direction of a boy. His name was T** and we’d met through my roommate in Boulder (I lived with 5 guys at the time) and we’d been casually hanging out since Fall of 1999. T** graduated in the December of 1999, right around the time I was leaving to live and study in Nepal for a month, a country I’d first learned about from him. Unlike me, T** had interests and hobbies he wanted to pursue after college. He was a ski coach and semi pro bike racer, so after he graduated he moved to Steamboat Springs to coach young kids how to bike race and ski jump. I was happy for him that he had direction. I didn’t enjoy being in Boulder so I loved going to visit T** in Steamboat Springs a few times a month. The 3 hour road trip between Boulder and Steamboat Springs got me away from my student life and submerged me in a new experience of real life for the weekend. T** lived on a farm on the outskirts of town and paid part of his rent in farm chores. His room was a large loft above the owner Susanna’s solarium of plants, and his space had its own large bedroom, living space and bathroom. I think he paid $150 plus his chores, it was such a great deal. His space had plants and prayer flags all over it and statues of fat jolly men and elephants, which I thought was obscure but interesting. I’d never been around anything like the scene from his life at the farm. It was quiet and peaceful and I loved it. When I’d go visit T** I’d also accidentally end up spending a lot of time with his landlord Susanna. She was tall, thin, in her 70’s, and always wore jeans, boots, a flannel and a cowboy hat. She always looked ready to do farm work. She’d take me out to feed the horses and chickens and show me where she stored her food and grains. I also was a part of helping them build a sweat lodge on the property, though I had no idea what that was at the time and what it was for. That is until a dark skinned man showed up one day saying he was leading the sweat lodge ceremony that night, and I watched him transform from a normal looking man in jeans and a flannel to a wild Indian with a head dress and leather skirted costume. I was way out of my comfort zone, but still I participated in the sweat lodge ceremony and the Peyote ceremony a few weeks later that unfolded in the tee-pee I’d also helped them build. Each time I arrived to the farm from busy Boulder life I felt like I was going back in time and I loved being part of their healing farm community.

I was told that the sweat lodge and Peyote ceremonies would help with my healing in my present and my healing through ancestral generations, which I didn’t know much about, but it sounded interesting. I felt weird to be asking for healing when I was only 20 years old. Little did I know that all my previous traumas regarding my head injury and sexual assaults were being stored in the cells of my body; that knowledge would come later. T** loved all this healing and eastern religion stuff, so it was fun to participate in the ceremonies with him. He also joined in on my family’s Thanksgiving to Yellowstone in 1999 and seeing my whole family watch T** in bewilderment from the window as he danced outside with a sword in the snow was hilarious. I told my father about some of the ceremonies we were doing together and how it was my intention to heal myself and maybe get some of my memory back from before my accident. He asked if I wanted to remember what happened in my car accident in 1994, and promptly followed that question up with a comment that hit a nerve. What if I remembered that I did something wrong and caused the accident? Well, I guess I’d have to face that too I told him, and he’d drop it.

I stayed dating T** for several months and he didn’t say no when I asked if it was okay to move to his town after I graduated. It was us taking a big step in our relationship, but I thought it was fine because I had my own room and bathroom with an older man with a sweet golden retriever who drove a snow plow at night. T** and I were nowhere near serious enough to be living together yet, but I’d be over at the farm enough that it seemed like I did live there, and it was fun to explore regular sleepovers with a man who was so worldly and kind. But spring of 2001 my relationship with T** shifted into a dark space when my family made the announcement that summer of 2001 we’d all be going on a bike trip to northern Spain to bike the “Camino de Santiago”, and both my sister’s boyfriend and my brother’s girlfriend were invited, but there was no mention of T** also being invited. And so, I just assumed he was invited as well, as he and I had been hanging out for over a year, and he’d met my family and I’d met his. But rather than open the doors of our family trip to Spain to my boyfriend as well, my father told me over the phone that T** couldn’t come because my dad didn’t think T** was the right guy for me. And then he knocked his somewhat inappropriate comment out of the park by saying that he did think the partners of my siblings were right for them, hence the invites. Wow. I was devastated and got furious with my father and threatened not to go on the trip unless T** could come, but my dad stood his ground. And not long after this truth bomb from my father, I began to entertain his perspective that perhaps T** wasn’t my long term man, and thus I began to slowly and cruelly disconnect myself from him, without giving him clear respectful reasons. And then I ended up breaking up with him over an email when he was out of the country.  That was mean and disrespectful, and still makes me cringe to think about. So there I was single and alone in the little ski town of Steamboat Springs for the first time. Fortunately I’d been building a little friend group on the side through my 1 passion that helped me feel different than other women, which was kayaking. I’d learned how to kayak at summer camp in North Carolina and I loved that to become a kayaker I got to use a special paddle because I was left handed. That sealed the deal for me on loving the sport. It embraced something I liked about myself, that made me different than other people; I was left handed. So I spent my time hanging out on the Yampa river with a pack of 5-6 men on summer evenings and we’d be on the river until 8pm. After the river we’d all go hang out at a nearby bar where we’d take out our boats. I loved this group, I felt like I had a place with them. One of my “ins” with them was that there was a brand new kayaking movie that had just been released in the underground world of whitewater, and it was different from other videos. The boaters in the movie toured rivers throughout SE Asia and told a story of connection and brotherhood along the way, and played great music in the soundtrack. This movie called “Nurpu” quickly made the kayakers celebrities amid the whitewater circuit, and they were also the guys from my high school in Park City who I used to hang out with after school in the public pool and practice our rolls. It felt like the kayakers in Steamboat let me into their male only friend group because I knew the Park City guys, but I also hoped it was because they thought I was a also decent boater myself. But the important thing was that I felt like I belonged somewhere. Occasionally a girl would come around to our post river get togethers. It was the ring leader Jared’s girlfriend and her name was Laura. She was pretty but I particularly loved her style, because it felt free spirited and a little funky. She worked as a massage therapist at the hotel spa where I also worked, but I was in the sales office. When she'd come hang out with us after work, she’d enter the room, kiss Jared and take off her coat or sweater to reveal her adorable massage uniform. She tied her hair up in a bun on her head and wore a cute black tank top and black flattering pants that now I call yoga pants, but since I didn’t do yoga then, I wouldn’t coin the pants that way. They were just flattering and comfortable looking pants, and I wanted some. She always had funny stories about her work as a massage therapist, and whenever I saw her she reminded me of the unforgettable dream I’d had 3 years prior that I was a massage therapist myself. But my father had expressed his dismay at me being a massage therapist so I never thought much about becoming a massage therapist until Laura came around. Laura told me she’d received her massage training in the evening over the course of a year from a small local massage school in steamboat springs called Full Circle and the tuition was only $5,000. I was still with T** when I first heard this news about there being a massage school in town, and when I discussed the possibility of me going to massage school with him and Susanna, they were all for it; and Susanna suggested I ask my grandparents for a loan for school. I hadn’t had the courage to make a move on it yet, but the more I saw Laura, and how happy she always seemed to be, the more courage I got to literally go after my dream. The Full Circle massage school was tiny and was located up on a steep hill that overlooked town. It had 2 floors, both with 1 room and a bathroom, and when I’d peer through the windows I’d see anatomy posters, Chinese medicine posters and prayer flags throughout. All things that were foreign to me then, but reflected the learning curriculum I wanted in on. There was no reason not to start school; I had nothing that I loved going on in Steamboat anymore. I was single, I didn’t particularly love my sales job at the Sheraton, and my weekend job of living at a home for disabled adults was a little depressing and isolating. But the thought of going to massage school made me feel so happy, but I also didn’t have $5,000 laying around so I thought about Susanna’s suggestion to ask my grandmothers in a handwritten letter, so I did. And two weeks later I had two checks for $2500 in my mailbox, so I registered for school and was due to start in a month. I was so incredibly excited that I could hardly contain myself; but it was difficult because I couldn’t include my parents on my excitement because I wanted to wait until after I’d started school, since they were so adamantly opposed to it. But I also didn’t need to tell them. I would still be working during the day and making money and going to school at night. I would be letting go of my weekends as a social worker, but it was a must to have that time back to study. It felt like my life was really coming together, so I wanted to be more social; so I left my little house with the quiet man who plowed snow in the winter and moved into a cute little house along the river with a nice handsome gentleman named Ron. He was a bartender from Hawaii and we shared a front room, the kitchen and a narrow bathroom that had doors on either side to both our rooms. Our peculiar landlord lived off the back of the house in an adjoining apartment off our kitchen who’s door stayed locked from both sides and had a kitchen table in front of it. Ron has many girl friends and I had many guy friends and it was an odd but great living arrangement because we kept different hours but still respected the common space for each other. Plus Ron always put the toilet seat down out of respect for me which I loved. Occasionally our schedules would cross over and we’d be at home at the same time, and we’d sit in the living room and drink tea and discuss life. I didn’t have any girlfriends in Steamboat, and Ron saw that, so he was so sweet and tried to help. On 1 particular evening he said a group of his girlfriends were having a ladies night, so he asked them if I could come along, and they agreed. So I had a group date with a bunch of women I didn’t really know, set up by my bartender roommate. It was peculiar, but I went with it. What do you wear to a girls night out? I had a lot of professional work clothes from Banana Republic and Anne Taylor, and then I had my casual clothes, like comfy leggings and a sweat shirt that I wore to the social work house, but what was in between for a girls night? I had an old tailored vest that was flattering, so I wore it with a cute bra underneath, skinny jeans and black boots that went up to my knees. I loved wearing scarves in any weather, so I had a light scarf around my neck. It was chilly at night so I brought my coat, but I hoped I didn’t have to wear it because it wasn’t flattering; it was just my spring skiing jacket. I lined my lips with wine colored lipliner, filled them in with lip gloss, put on my tinted moisturizer and powder and tied my hair up in a cute bun on the top of my head, as I’d seen Laura do. I felt good and I looked a lot better and more put together than my fresh out of the river look when I’d go out. The bar where I agreed to meet the girls wasn’t one I went to often, but it was within walking distance from my house, so I liked that I could relax and have a drink without the worry of driving. You walked into the bar from the Main Street of Steamboat down a flight of stairs to get to the bar, where there were tv screens everywhere; it was clearly a sports bar. I saw the group of girls who Ron had told me about beginning to gather by the bar and I could tell they all hung out often and knew each other well, because their behavior together was light, easy and very familiar. I was definitely on the outside of this circle and as I approached and it felt like I needed to knock on the outside of this ring of women to be let in. They were cordial to me when I reminded them that Ron had told me I could join them, and the seas parted and they let me into their evening. Most of them worked on the ski mountain, but some were waitresses and there was also a middle school teacher. It felt nice to be around them even though I didn’t have much to talk about. I didn’t feel very interesting or that I had a lot to offer the conversation, so instead I just asked about them. When asked how I got to Steamboat, I shared that I came to town for a boy, he and I broke up, I liked to kayak (which none of them did), and now this was my time to be out living life, meeting new people and preparing for massage school to start soon. That was boring me in a nutshell. It never seemed to come up that I’d had a death experience and had to relearn so many things in life again, just 7 years before. But that felt like old news, so I didn’t feel like I added much to the conversations. So I drank my Amaretto Sour, smiled and listened to them talk amongst themselves about themselves and it was as though I didn’t exist and that was fine. But that was the last I remember of that night. I woke up early the following morning naked in my own bed before the sun came up. I felt dizzy and oddly hung over though I only remembered having a few sips of 1 drink. I touched all over my body because for some reason my body didn’t feel like mine in that moment. I felt immediately shy that I was naked because I never slept naked, and I got up to grab my robe off the back of the bathroom door, and I knocked to make sure Ron wasn’t in the bathroom before entering. I immediately noticed that the toilet seat was up; and I knew then that another man other than Ron had been in this bathroom and had left before I woke up. That didn’t feel good to me at all. As I walked around my room and got my bearings I knew I’d had sex because when I urinated I got searing pain from my vagina, and the insides of my legs were sore. When the reality sank in that I’d had sex without my knowledge or consent, I crouched on the floor and cried, and the world began to spin around me with fear and disbelief. Did he use a condom? I wasn’t on birth control. Did the girls from the bar see who I left with? Why did they not check up on me? Did Ron see me last night? I didn’t know where to start with my questions. I made it out to the couch of our narrow living room and stared at the tv for what felt like forever. After some time I heard my bathroom door shut which meant Ron was in the bathroom, which also meant the kitchen would be his next stop so I went there to meet him. I asked Ron all the questions from my head and he said he'd heard shuffling and movement last night from my bedroom, and he'd seen men’s sneakers in the walkway, but he’d just thought I’d met someone out at ladies night and gotten lucky. I had met someone, but I didn’t know who, but what was creepy is that this unknown man apparently knew me if we ended up back at my house. Ron called around his girlfriend group and the reports were all the same. I’d gone to the bathroom and they’d seen me talking to some people, but then I wasn’t around anymore, and none of them had my phone number to check on me and they just assumed I’d gone home. I felt numb when I heard the reports of the night; it felt like a black hole.

I showed up physically for work that week at my sales job, but my mind was elsewhere. I walked Sadie dog, and would go to the grocery store, but I didn’t want to do anything else. I laid on the couch and watched tv, or I was in my room staring at the ceiling. I wanted to call T** and cry to him, but it had been 2 months since we’d talked and I’d broken up with him for no clear reason over email (I didn’t tell him my father didn’t think he was the one). The weekend after the assault there was a big music and river festival in the Canyon nearby and it was a Bluegrass band called “String Cheese Incident” and some others. I drove myself and my kayak there, set up my tent and spent the next two days alone but with 100's of people dancing, drinking, forgetting and paddling on whitewater that was far above my skill set. I was being reckless with my life and my body. Massage school was starting soon and it felt like that was the last thing I wanted to be doing but I didn’t know what to do. I knew I was suffering if something I was so excited about before now felt lifeless for me. Then on one of the days I was lying on the coach in the evening, I saw a commercial for the Utah College of Massage Therapy, in Salt Lake City, which was 25 min from my parents house in Park City. I got an idea and I moved quickly on it. And less than 2 weeks later I found out I’d been accepted into Utah College of Massage Therapy and that I’d also been approved for financial aid. The cost was $15,000, and it would be a 9 month full day program with a clinic day on the weekend. This meant I couldn’t work, so I would need to use the $5,000 my grandmothers gave me for school to cover my living expenses. I knew I wanted to live in Salt Lake City to be close to school, but at that point Salt Lake City had only been where I’d go for airport runs, Costco and REI, so I wanted to take my time to meet the city first, before I jumped into a living arrangement. So that meant I’d be going home to my parents house. And this also meant I’d have to tell my parents I was going to massage school and that I needed a place to live while I got myself together. My parents weren’t happy but they agreed to let me live in their mother-in-law apartment of the house they’d recently bought and remodeled. They made sure to let me know they were not paying for massage school and they weren’t behind this decision I’d made to quit my responsible day job to go to school to use my hands. I wanted to wait until I was face to face with them to tell them the real reason I was coming back to Utah because it wasn’t just because of school. I was coming back because someone I knew in Steamboat Springs, Colorado had drugged me, raped me and left me in my own bed. I needed to get out of that town and be near my parents to regroup and not look back. So yes, I was homeward bound, but in a confusing and round about way. I packed up my stuff, gave a lot away and felt grateful my life and dog fit in the back of my green Toyota Tacoma truck. I dropped off a load at my parents' house but their new home felt almost as foreign to me as my Steamboat place, so I didn’t want to be there full time yet. So I made the irresponsible decision to leave my dog Sadie with my parents and return to Colorado to attend a few more whitewater & music festivals, that I’d already had tickets to. And that’s where I met John from Washington, D.C. who after paddling with me, invited me to West Virginia with him and his friends two weeks later for The Gauley Festival, a well known festival out in the middle of nowhere. I said yes to this week long hangout with complete strangers and bought my plane ticket the next day to fly into Reagan International airport and meet them on September 18th. But then September 11th happened, but that’s another story. But now you know how I got back to Utah from Colorado, and how that night helped build a dark wall between myself and sex. And that night in Steamboat would remain a mystery until 12 years later when after several shamanic healing sessions with my husband, the first memory of that night returned, and I began to see who and what happened. But that’ll come later. Today was a big day of releasing. Namaste

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