Where did the summer go? It seems like just yesterday Heath and I were saying goodbye to my beloved dogs, friends, and community in Norfolk, CT, and saying hello to a new future that was yet to be determined
At least that was the plan. We also managed to squeeze in a short housesit in the Portland area before heading to Northern California. Things unfortunately went awry when our car was broken into while we spent the night at a hotel in Crescent City, CA. Not having a window in the back of our car thwarted our trip up the Pacific Coast Highway. We recovered the best we could, enjoyed 9-weeks in the Seattle area, and even managed a few days touring around the Olympic Peninsula.
Cape Flattery, Olympic Peninsula
Hall of Mosses, Olympic National Park
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park
After that, our next steps depended on whether I had landed a new job or if we had found a place where we both thought, yes, this is it! We both want to live here.
Since I do not yet have a new job nor did we find a place we both wanted to call home, we opted to keep housesitting. Yesterday we started a three-week housesit in Fort Collins, CO.
Well, the truth is the couple we’re housesitting for asked us. I had favorited their housesit listing on TrustedHousesitters.com because 1) Heath really liked Colorado despite altitude insomnia; 2) The dogs looked cute in their photos; and 3) The house looked comfortable. I had also favorited several others, but this housesit was the only one to reach out and ask us to apply.
In a summer of rejection from agents, editors, and employers, it felt good to be wanted. So we applied and now here we are.
Everyone, say hello to Willow and Mookie.
Willow, a 4-year-old sheepadoodle; photo by Heath Hughes
Mookie, a 6-month old golden doodle; photo by Heath Hughes
Where did June go? I can’t believe we only have a few days left in Colorado. In addition to taking naps and my usual writing and creative endeavors, I’ve been working on a Foundations in Positive Psychology specialization through the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a five-course sequence that provides knowledge of key theories and research in the field of positive psychology and application opportunities. Had I been aware of positive psychology in college, I’m pretty confident I would have gone into that field of study and been much, much happier in graduate school.
For anyone not familiar with positive psychology, it’s the scientific study of human flourishing. The coin was termed in 1998 (one year prior to my college graduation) by Dr. Martin Seligman who looked at the field of mental health and thought something along the lines of perhaps we should also look at ways humans can thrive with mental health, as opposed to the emphasis on mental illness, negative emotions, and maladaptive behaviors. His thinking is similar to the idea that prevention is worth so much more to our individual and collective health than treating a disease once we have it.
I’ve been informally studying positive psychology for years now so when I came across this opportunity I thought I might as well make myself legit.
My previous experience and knowledge mean I’m acing the courses, which feels good and feeds into my need for achievement.
The problem with having this knowledge formalized is that I really have no excuses for putting it into practice when I find myself languishing (the opposite of flourishing).
I’ve enjoyed being in Colorado for the most part. But I find myself feeling lonely. Earlier this year, I led a podcast discussion for the Norfolk Library of Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us podcast interview with former surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy. Brené and Vivek discussed the different dimensions of loneliness:
Intimate or emotional loneliness: the longing for a close confidant or intimate partner.
Relational or social loneliness: the yearning for quality friendships and social companionship and support.
Collective loneliness: the hunger for a network or a community of people who share your sense of purpose and interests.
I would argue that there’s a fourth dimension, spiritual loneliness (the desire to feel connected to something larger than yourself), but I’ll save that discussion for a different day.
One of the things I miss most about Norfolk is that I belonged to multiple communities within the town. I had my collective community of professional work at the library and the volunteer work I did for the congregational church, the Land Trust, Norfolk NET, and Botelle Elementary. Not to mention all the dog lovers I formed an informal collective community with whenever we would run into each other out and about in town.
I’ve often compared Norfolk in my mind to a college campus because no matter where you walk you often run into someone or a dog that you know. It’s those collective social interactions I miss being here in Colorado.
So what’s a lonely psychologist studying positive psychology to do?
That’s right — I found a sunrise photography hike at Roxborough State Park to attend in an effort to get out and meet people.
Heath initially said he would go with me. But when we received an email the night before the hike saying the amount of mud on a particular trail would refocus the hike on wildflowers instead of landscapes, Heath decided to stay home. I had to leave at 4:30 am to get there on time so I understood.
I’m delighted to report that science wins again because the hike was exactly what I needed! For those 2 hours hiking among the red rocks, I had a small community. I met new people with a similar interest and I learned new skills, all the while being immersed in nature.
We even got to see some spectacular landscapes despite the mud:
The next time I write a blog post I’ll be coming from the Portland metro area. My goal for the 10 days that we’re there is to find a community event, this time with dogs. If you see any of my canine buddies, especially Annie or Fergus, please give them some extra pats for me. I miss them all so much!
A few years ago, I got the idea that I wanted to live in Colorado. Maybe not forever. Just to give it a try.
This idea was much in the same vein as my desire to live on a New England beach. I even started looking for jobs in Colorado after a particularly bad night in Norfolk when multiple nights of narcolepsy-related sleep deprivation culminated with a nearby house having a loud, never-ending outdoor party (complete with DJ). I thought Heath might have to take me to the hospital to be sedated I was so agitated. The police were also unavailable to help. Seriously. I called them multiple times between 9pm and 12am, begging them to put a stop to the noise.
Anyway, I eventually recovered from that bout of sleep deprivation. But my desire to live in Colorado continued.
So when we found out our 6.5-year housesit in Norfolk was finally ending, I immediately began looking for a housesitting job in Colorado. We found one for five weeks in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, applied, and got it. YAY US!
We left Norfolk on May 14th and arrived in Highlands Ranch on May 24th. We were immediately blown away by the area.
For starters, this house is so well-designed! I could say that about the entire Highlands Ranch area. Everything seems new, as well as intentional. This neighborhood, in particular, has tons of walking trails. Not only among the houses, but also at the back of the neighborhood where trails take you through 8,000+ acres of wild backcountry.
The only thing I found weird about the neighborhood was that after meeting many dogs, none of them were golden retrievers. I reported this observation to Annie’s human mom, which I called “highly suspicious.” Sure enough, a few days later I met two goldens. Annie apparently has magical powers to bring goldens to me, wherever we land. I always knew she was an extraordinary dog.
Annie, the magical and extraordinary golden retriever
Now if only Annie had magical powers to fix my sleep. It turns out that sleep issues are a common problem when people move to high elevations. Highlands Ranch is over 5800 feet above sea level. Most people experience fractured sleep at night, with less time spent in deep sleep. Essentially, I have narcolepsy times two now. Suffice it to say, I am tired. Three-naps-a-day kind of tired.
So it’s probably for the best that we decided to test drive Colorado as a potential place to live. It may be beautiful, there may be a lot of dogs, and it may be fun. But none of that will matter if I can’t stay awake!
Roosevelt & Watson, who I met at the Home Depot in Highlands Ranch