One of the nice things about being in recovery is that no one expects too much from you around the holidays. 

Then again, one of the horrible things about the holidays is being in recovery.  If one is an alcoholic, one need never touch a drop again; one can leave the table when the wine is poured.  If one is an addict, one can leave the life and never look back. 

But when the problem is food, one must eat to live; face the issue every few hours, every day, day in, day out, every day for the rest of one’s life.

Seems unfair, doesn’t it?

Over the last year, I’ve become much more candid about my struggle with an eating disorder.  Not out of any sense of altruism, or wanting to “help” anyone else, rather, out of a sense of needing to process what the hell just happened to me.  Needing to process what it’s like to stop doing math during every meal; every workout; no longer reading every label and suddenly having all this…time.

I think a common misconception is that this all happened because I didn’t want to be “fat.”  And that drives me insane, this word, “Fat.”  Maybe people with my problem use that word; they use the vocabulary of size because there are no other words in the English language to describe the funhouse-y, distorted feeling of not being able to control how one sees her own shape.  If I told you I looked, felt “distorted,” you’d think I was crazy.  But that’s more how I feel.  If you asked me to point out someone of comparable size or shape, I wouldn’t be able to do it.  What I see in the mirror is actually not what you see

It’s the weirdest thing in the world to me.  I think: I’m a smart girl.  I should be able to see myself clearly.  As if it has something to do with smartness.  Smartness is probably the root of the problem!

I remember very clearly the day I decided to get help. 

I was still taking time off of work, then, and it was a sticky, muggy afternoon in early June.  I had just left the Queen Sofia house where I’d had a Spanish lesson and I was walking down Park Avenue.

“Can you see me?” I called F and asked, “I’m in the white tunic.  Orange flats, orange handbag.”

“No,” he said.  I was calling him in his office in the MetLife building.  I knew he kept binoculars in his office, specs confiscated from a client.  We were playing a game.  We always played games like that–peekaboo on Park Avenue; ordering a selection of overshoes to protect his Gucci loafers; answering the phone with outlandish claims of being pizza parlor and rollerderby employees; juice fasting together.  Our years-long friendship was based on the abjectly absurd.

“Look harder.  I’m at 58th and Park; southbound side.  Under a green awning.”

“I see you,” he said, “I’ll meet you downstairs.”

We met in Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall, the coolness of the stone walls insulating against the heat and humidity of the day outside.

“I took your leftovers after the event last night,” F said, real consternation apparent in his voice.  His critique of my eating habits was the first thing out of his mouth and I knew I was in for it.  “I ate them alone…” his voice trailed off, but I knew where he had eaten them. 

“God, you’re short,” he said, suddenly, “…Tiny.”  More softly. 

I never wore flats around him; I rarely wear flats now.  I was 90lbs then, maybe; am only 5’3″.  He was nearly a foot taller than me, standing there, hovering protectively in the hallway as we discussed our respective problems.

We stared at each other for a long moment.  The silence was telling; spoke more than was probably intended.

“You need help,” he said, “I’m going to get help.  You need to get help.” 

I nodded in recognition.  “I tried the okra last night,” I said lamely.

He squinted at me.  “I’m serious.”

We discussed the mechanics of what it would take; the whowhathowwhenwhere; we shook on it, then and there, in the Terminal.

By the end of the month, he’d gone off to the wilds of what waited for him in the suburbs, and I’d gone off to outpatient, and there would never be a return to the status quo ante bellum, ever again.

There were other moments; other people who impacted the decision, certainly.  But the day in Grand Central stands out in my mind as the tipping point; as the moment I stopped thinking I might have a problem; stopped thinking about “the problem” generally, and realized I did have a problem; that I was worthy of receiving help.

The process of recovery changed me.  It impacted every corner of my life.  And people always see the big victories–the healthy body; the hair that is no longer dull and falling out; etc.–but what they do not notice, always, are the small victories.

Like savoring a small, but significant slice of cake on Thanksgiving, instead of just scraping off the frosting.  I haven’t eaten cake–really eaten a whole piece of cake, no matter how small–in years.

I’ve argued before Judges Posner, Easterbrook and Wood of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; I have submitted significant briefs in key cases before the National Labor Relations Board; I have run half-marathons and the New York City Marathon; I have climbed mountains; I have done all kinds of gratifying and significant personal and professional things…

But one of the things I am proudest of that I have done in recent years is eat a piece of cake; savor a piece of cake; enjoy it; feel good and fine and like I was the same as when I started when it was done.

It is nice, sometimes, to be in recovery at the holidays and have no one expect too much from you…so there is space for victories like this.

I think that Reagan National Airport is one of my least favorite airports in the country; a close second behind LAX, whose layout is so counterintuitive and services so limited for a place that serves such a high volume of travelers bound for far-flung destinations that it is…insulting.

My advice to Los Angeles World Airports Authority?  Raze the thing and start over.

Anyway, I was headed from LaGuardia to DCA this morning.  I have experimented with driving, flying, and taking the train from NY to DC, and have come to the conclusion that they are all roughly as time consuming.  Driving takes about 4 hours and is about $200-$250 round trip (gas + tolls) plus wear-and-tear on the car, and the inevitable probability of me getting (another) speeding ticket.  Flying takes about 3-4 hours (travel time to the airport; security; waiting, boarding; flying; travel time from the airport) and costs between $200-350.  Taking the train is typically the longest, believe it or not, because there is the travel time to Penn Station, the train ride (4-ish hours) and then the poorly managed, astronomically long line at Union Station, which can take anywhere from 10 mins to an hour.  (The train usually costs about $200-300 round trip, but can cost WAY more).

This has led me to the conclusion that it really depends on a) what time I need to be somewhere; b) what my scheduling flexibility is for coming and going (i.e., do I need to be there early; late; and most importantly, have the option of leaving late, since the last flight and train out of DC leave around 10); and c) what I feel like doing.  It all takes roughly the same amount of time; takes roughly the same amount of time; brings with it the same little black raincloud of discomfort and distinctive, unpleasant sensations and smells.  (Diesel; burning brakes; jet fuel; airline food; stale sweat; the cloying smell of Tide that spilled under the driver’s seat of my car…that, of course, is another story for another time…)

I digress.  The real point was that I just don’t like DCA.  It’s another poorly organized airport.  I find the whole DC metro area to be a prime example of too many people for too few resources.  Too many people on metro; too many people on trains; too many people on the highway.  Washington is the only place I’ve ever been where there is 20 miles of gridlock…at FIVE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.

It makes me feel…claustrophobic.  DCA is always packed and the people-flow is poor, which annoys me to no end.  There is no reason, in a terminal with fewer than 10 gates and 2 restrooms, that there should always, always be a line for the ladies’ room.

Personally, I think JFK is the best airport in the world, which is stupid and irrational, but I have gone through the looking glass with my New York state of mind.  Calling JFK the Taj Mahal of airports is like calling Albany the next Portland, but bear with me.  I’ve slept a grand total of 10 hours this week and under these conditions, am prone to romanticising life on the road.

I’ve flown in-and-out of each of the terminals at JFK; I know the parking structures, the waiting lots; I know how the rennovation of the parking structures went; I can pay for parking with my E-Z Pass if I drive (which I never do, but are you kidding me? Old news, but seriously, how great is that?!)  I know which airline corresponds to which numbered terminal.  I love the swell of Saarinen’s legacy as one approaches Terminal 5, restored.  I love the mystery and wonder of a place that is constantly transforming; constantly swirling, buzzing; that is the gateway to the city I love.

If JFK goes down; if there’s a delay; it seems like the world is delayed.  Sometimes, I think JFK is the center of the universe.

I hate being away from the center of the universe.  The pull of gravity is so strong, sometimes I fear my body will be ripped into a thousand pieces.

In light of all of these things–my travel, my recent preference for driving between NY and DC until this morning’s flight, and my sentimental attachment to ports of entry controlled by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey–a friend asked me how I was settling in to my new apartment.

“The place is beautiful,” I said, “I am anything but settled.”

“How so?”

“I’ve barely been home since I moved.”

“This concerns me.”

“I know.”

“Well, how do you like the Upper East Side, then?”

“I like it.  It’s not like Tribeca, where you have to walk a mile to anything, everything.  Everything’s right there uptown.  There are like, four grocery stores within 2 blocks of me.”

“I mean the neighborhood itself.”  There was an edge to his voice, and I got the subtext, finally.

“Oh, you mean the Lenox Hill/Yorkville meatmarket.  They’re more like vampires than vultures, really.  It’s as if, after dark, all these lascivious bastards start trolling Second and Third Avenue for fresh-out-of-college girls.  Lots of smiling men with shiny, dark hair on the street after the sun goes down.  It’s like flipping through a Brooks Brothers catalog.”

I paused, then continued, self-consciously.  “It’s a good thing its dark and they can’t see these lines around my eyes.  I think I can still pass for 21, 22, right?  As long as you’re not looking too closely?”

“Don’t flatter yourself too much,” he laughed, “But sure.”

“But you’re doing okay?”  The note of concern annoyed me.  “You’re eating?”

“Yes!  Why does everyone want to know if I’m eating?!  I’m ordering Thai food tonight.  I’m the only person in the world who runs a marathon and gains 15lbs.”

“You just moved into a new place, alone.  You are in the middle of a divorce.  It’s the holidays and we’re all in misery.  What’s more, you travel constantly.  And you’re a distance runner.  Any one of those things would give a normal observer pause with your history.  But you–you don’t let anyone near you close enough to see what’s actually going on.”

“I’m eating!  I’m eating, and I’m surviving, and I’m okay.”

“Okay.”  I could hear his smile through the phone; we were both smiling tightly in our voices.

The truth of the matter is…JFK has the most edible food, too.  Word to you other American airports and your Gladstones lite and your faux Chinese and your endless counters of slop and goo.

This travel warrior is tired, folks.  So tired of bouncing, pinging, lighting up on command, that the simplest things have seemed difficult this week.

Perhaps driving back and forth to Washington twice in a 23 hr period on Tuesday into Wednesday was the worst idea, ever.  But that…that is another story for another time.

I got stuck in an elevator the other night. 

I’d left my DC office to go get a soda on the floor below the one my office is on; the door locked behind me, trapping me in the stairwell.  It was late; I was by myself.  I hadn’t taken anything with me (you see, I wasn’t anticipating being caught!)  So I was in running tights after coming back to the office from the gym, planning on a bit of a late night to get a document completed.  It was me, in my tights and a sweater, alone with my fistfull of dollar bills and nothing else.  No mobile phone; no wallet; no nothing.

After about half an hour of aimlessly wandering the stairwells–climbing, descending–I managed to jimmy open the door at the mezzanine level.

(This still isn’t an elevator story, you say.  I know.  I’m getting there.)

This left me with the ability to stare down on to the lobby; still stranded; without any way to a) get back into the stairwell; without any way to get back up to my office; without any way to contact any one.  So I did the logical thing: I pressed the elevator button.  At least in there, I reasoned, there would be an emergency phone.

Ah ha!  Indeed, there was.  The door opened, I stepped inside, and there the trouble began anew.

The door shut behind me and I was trapped.  Again.  Like a rat in a cage.

So I picked up the emergency phone, and asked for help.  “I’m trapped inside a building,” I tried to explain.

“Do you have your Kastle Kard?” the voice on the other end of the line asked.

“No, but I’m inside the building,” I said, “I’m inside the elevator.”

This went on for hours.

“I don’t think you’re understanding me, “I said, as we approached hour two, “I’m inside the elevator.  I’m already inside the building.”

“Do you know the number of a coworker we can call to verify your identity?”

“NO!  FOR THE LAST TIME!  I don’t have my mobile on me; I don’t know anyone’s phone numbers by heart.  I don’t know my Kastle Kard number by heart.  I don’t have my Kard on me.  I have NOTHING.  I don’t want you to let me out of the elevator to let me out of the building because I don’t have my keys; I don’t have my coat or my wallet or my bag.  I JUST WANT TO GO BACK UP TO MY OFFICE!”

“I’m sorry ma’am.  I can’t let you do that.”

“I’m a MISS NOT A MA’AM!”

That was when she hung up on me again.

That was when I lost it–the miss versus ma’am moment.  The newly miss-no-longer-ma’am.

They don’t tell you when you get married that your marriage might not last.  And they don’t give you a list of instructions on what to do if and when it doesn’t.  There’s no primer; no contact sheet for people to call when things don’t go the way you planned; when your parents have been together for 40 years and you feel they have these high expectations of what you’re supposed to do and be and when they were supposed to be grandparents and how you were supposed to turn out and show up at home for the holidays, all bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, even when you know it is a lie that they, themselves, ever showed up bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed at their own parents’ homes. 

No one tells you what to do when you have to take the rings off and put them in the jewelry box, and cringe every time someone asks about your husband, and wince when you don’t know what last name to give people, and dread the prospect of giving away your wedding gown.  They don’t tell you where to donate that monstrosity, either.

And absolutely nobody, no person, not a soul…no one…tells you how to handle yourself at 2:30am in an elevator with some kid calling you ma’am when you are tired, jet-lagged, estranged, and down to your last nerve.

I called the operator back.

“I want to get out of this elevator…right now…or else I am going to call the fire department,” I said as calmly as I could muster.

“The fire department does not come out for non-emergencies,” the kid said, flippantly.

“I WILL MAKE THIS AN EMERGENCY!”

She hung up again.

I called back. 

“I want to speak to a supervisor,” I demanded, as if I were taking back a sweater, or asking for a rebate.

I waited for the supervisor.

After another 30 minutes of haggling, I managed to convince the supervisor that I was, indeed, inside the motherloving elevator and that I did, indeed, work in the building.  She finally activated the elevator again, and first deposited me at the lobby, which further infuriated me, and ultimately, took me to my office floor.  When I arrived at my floor, she had me read her the numbers off my Kastle Kard.

“That’s not your Kard,” she said.

“Um, okay.  I’ll get that fixed.  I’m only in this office..infrequently.” 

The next day, some of my friends said things to me like, “You should have called me!”  That angered me after the fact, but I smiled politely.

If I’d had a phone, I would have called the effing fire department; the police.  I was trapped in a goddamned elevator for three hours.  Did you think I wanted to chit-chat?  I wanted out.  It was THREE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING.

Later that day, on absolutely no sleep, I was talking to F as I drove home from a meeting. 

“That was the first jam I’ve ever been in where I was actually afraid that I wasn’t going to get out; that I was afraid my colleagues and the people in the building were going to come in at 7am and find me in ratty old running tights, asleep in the elevator.  I just felt completely alone; exposed; vulnerable.  Panicked.”

“I was in Albany today,” he offered, “I got my ass handed to me by the Labor Commissioner…”

“No, seriously.  It’s infuriating to me that people a) think I’m so stupid that I didn’t call out if I did have a phone, and b) they think I would have called them if I did have a phone.”

“I think you’re over thinking this.”

Both our words echoed on the line, knowing intimately what the other meant.  Work; travel; the mundane; the heavy; the history of how we’d gotten to that moment.  The stuff and things of our personal-professional lives bouncing back and forth from satellite to cell tower to chips and bits.   All of it, shaken apart into nothing; into letters and numbers and pictures and pinks and purples and oranges as the sun was setting over the eastern seabord.  The week was ending.

The heavy things in pieces, we sat in silence for one less-lonely moment, separate and together on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Hudson River line.

I’ve realized that it’s not just me–it’s something in my blood that makes me do this; that drives this wanderlust.

Long story short…my brother and I drove back from Yosemite together so I could go to a party on Saturday night.  I think there’s a bit of anticipation to see what I might say about the event (though perhaps I’m flattering myself here)…but I’ve learned my lesson well, and will let that dog sleep.

All told, my trip to California involved driving from San Francisco to Yosemite; from Yosemite to Fresno and back; from Yosemite to Los Angeles; then flying from Los Angeles to New York.

Which is where the story begins.

I arrived in New York at 1am on Monday morning–a 4pm flight from LAX.  I had realized, halfway through the flight, that my wardrobe boxes (containing all my work clothes) were still with Andrew, as he had not been able to deliver them on Monday when he had moved.  I was due to be in Washington mid-morning.  Not good, as the only clothes I had in my new place were sport clothes.  Not the gymclothes kind.  Like, climbing clothes; ski clothes; run-a-marathon clothes.

Luckily, my flight had been a Virgin America flight and I had worked out a deal via email by which Andrew would leave clothes for me and I would simply take the car filled with clothes and leave upon arriving back in New York.  Simple (albeit miserable) enough, right?  (I should mention here that every shuttle flight and morning train that would have gotten me into DC by mid-morning was booked with holiday weekend stragglers).

I arrived home to find that he had instead left the clothes with my doorman, which was logical enough, but I don’t have a 24-hour doorman–he leaves at midnight.  The clothes were locked in the bell closet with no way for me to retrieve them until after 6am–too late to leave.

I wound up having to wake Andrew, go to his apartment, retrieve more clothes, and hit the road.  In case you were wondering, the New Jersey Turnpike is not as desolate as expected at 3am.  Guidos in their suped up Camrys reclining too far in the driver’s seat, highway lights reflecting off of their tans; truckers bound for South of the Border by dawn racing at speeds too fast for comfort; assholes in luxury cars testing out the paddle shifters; etc. etc. etc. — same as you’d get any other time of the day, but fewer of all types.

I arrived in the Greater Washington Area at dawn; went to the gym; went to work; carried on with my day.  Nothing special, except for the fact that I had just undertaken this gargantuan travel task, tinged in martyrdom and misery.

I saw my aunt and uncle that night, as I hinged on 36 hours of travel, being awake.

They began to tell me about my cousin Dan, who was planning a trip with his wife for after the holidays.

“He was worried he wouldn’t have enough points for upgrades,” Auntie M said, “Then I asked if he was going to be home on Saturday because I needed to drop something off at his house.  He said he wouldn’t be home Saturday, but we could come over any time on Sunday.  At first, we didn’t think anything of it.  Until we found him very sleepy on Sunday…”

As it turned out, Dan had been bumped from a flight about a month before and had received a $200 voucher.  To allay his fears and confirm he had enough points for the trip, he’d taken the voucher, paid an extra $30, and booked a ridiculous cross-country flight that had taken him from Dulles, to Denver, to San Jose, to LAX, back to Dulles: $230; 23 hours.

“Clearly, it’s in the family,” my uncle smiled.  (Though I am sure he will deny having said that upon reading this…)

I laughed and laughed.  But realized, maybe it is.  My father is a management consultant; has traveled the world since I’ve been alive.  His cousins and siblings are all wanderlusters–have been missionaries in parts unknown; have lived in Europe and Asia; have traveled and seen and done and been to parts that many families only dream of visiting, let alone living there.

Maybe, I’m genetically programmed to this lifestyle.  Maybe, I couldn’t avoid driving the Turnpike at 3am, even if I tried.

I went up to bed to find a message from a friend who had, earlier in the day, told me he was en route to LAX for the first time in his life.

But I’d just sent him a postcard of Los Angeles, in which LAX featured prominently, an hour before he’d told me he was going to LAX.  I didn’t tell him I’d sent it, so I was convinced he was messing with my head when he told me he was headed to LA.  Funny.

“How is it?” I asked, “Tell me everything.  Tell me if you can smell the petroleum over sea breeze smell of the Westside.  Tell me where you’re staying; tell me it all.”

“Some Marriott.”

“The wavy one?  The one that looks like it should have balconies but doesn’t?”

“The wavy one.”

We talked about travel for a few moments; talked about life on the road; talked about settling into life; about surviving LA.

He sent me a photo taken through his hotel window, facing out the back of the hotel towards the tarmac–electric green neon of the lights on the hotel nextdoor; shadows of palm trees and 747s bound for Asia visible in the distance.  I could almost hear the roar of the engines; the hiss of traffic on Lincoln Boulevard behind and Century Boulevard in front.

Wednesday, I drove from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park to meet my family for Thanksgiving.  Another day, another rental car.  These journeys–while interesting–have begun to feel a bit tedious.

I just drove from the Bay Area to Yosemite, you know–back in August, back at the start of this project I’ve been working on, back before I knew the people I’ve been working with, back when I climbed Half Dome, in a profound and almost religious experience.  For that trip, we drove from the San Jose area; from 101 to CA-156; through Los Banos.  The Bathrooms.

This time, I took a different route.  From 80, to 580 to 205 to 120 to 49 to 41.  On and on and on.

I’ve seen so much of California in these last months.  I’ve seen the places where the Californians get their water–the deltas from which the central-state breadbasket and the suburban Los Angelenos brazenly steal their life-force; traced the aqueducts and viaducts quite by accident.  I’ve visited the bays and seasides; driven the jagged Northern California coast; walked the sands of the Southern California shore.  Tasted the wines and touched the land and reflected on the wonder of its bounty.

I’ve driven the state from side to side; flown up and down.  Talked to the people; stayed in the major cities.  It still seems like such a strange place to me.  Driving on Highway 41 yesterday, I saw billboards that struck me as being so foreign, so out of place as to be unrecognizable as native to wherever I was from.  Wherever that is.  You know I feel like a native of nowhere.

I’ve come back to family Thanksgiving for the first time in five years; this time, by car; this time, alone.  I can’t decide whether that felt strange or not, because I spent so much time alone as a married woman that spending time alone as a single woman feels no different than it did in my marriage.  Perhaps it felt stranger to be coming back to Thanksgiving in the first place.

After a first, uneventful day with the family, I had to drive back down the mountain to meet my brother and to return my rental car.  I was going to return the car in Fresno and he was going to pick me up on his way to Yosemite.  A win-win.

“Do you want company on the drive?” my father asked.

“No, I kind of like to drive alone,” I said.  I wasn’t sure whether I was telling the truth or not, but my father likes to talk about work; talk shop; talk about projects and life and philosophize about things.  I was worn out; sick of talking about the topics of the moment–work and my marriage.  I wanted to talk about things that didn’t matter, for once.  I wanted to play the satellite radio and drive too fast on the winding road.  I wanted to set my brain on cruise control, and not worry about a thing.

“Really?  Let me come with you,” he insisted.

“No,” I said, “You’ll just talk at me the whole time.”

He walked away, hurt.  But was true.

“Are you sure you don’t want company?” my mother chirped from behind a bloody mary.

“Yes,” I sighed, exasperated, “I’m sure.”

“You really should let your father come with you,” she said, “We never get to see you and…”

“Don’t start.”

“Well, I can be quiet on the ride!” she insisted.

“Doubtful,” I muttered under my breath.  I paused.  “Look,” I said, “I just want to meet my brother and spend some time with him.”

That seemed to satisfy everyone.

I made the drive slowly, for reasons I don’t quite understand.  Maybe it was because my boss kept calling.  Maybe it was because I was savoring the last of the satellite radio (I don’t have it in my own car and I’ve come to really enjoy it).  Regardless, I met my brother on time at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport (“They fly to Mexico and Canada,” my cousin assured me, “I just checked because I couldn’t believe that there was an international airport in Fresno”) where we turned in my rental car and headed back up the hill in his Honda.

Matthew, my brother, has come through the fire and lived to tell the tale.  From addict to felon to top student, he has this sense of humor that can gently mock himself, but still honors the thing that he has overcome.  I never thought I would have a relationship with him.  Two years ago, as I was SMSing my name and contact information to his phone in the event that someone found his body, I didn’t think that he would survive his addiction; his predilections; the company he was keeping.

But now, I can cherish the first time he told me he loved me; the first time he stood up for me; the first time he told me about the thoughts he had about his future.  The moment I saw him believing he had a future.

So recovering addict-probationer-honors student brother and pending-divorcee sister set out back up the mountain to rejoin the family holiday.  To rejoin the 40-years married couples, and the young, happily married parents; or the long-ish married couples working through their stuff and figuring it out.

Matthew popped in a CD he had made.  Just my taste: the Ramones; Queen; Red Hot Chili Peppers; 10,000 Maniacs.

“So,” I said, “You, uh, want to go to the Chukchansi casino?”

“Are you serious?” he laughed.  He lit a cigarette and rolled down the windows.  (Why does everyone who has been to rehab take up smoking?  Do they give you a book about the 12 steps and hand you a carton of cigarettes?)

“Yeah,” I laughed, “I’ve never been.  I’ve spent so much time in Las Vegas this year, I’m kind of curious.”

“You know Indian casinos are super depressing.  Dad calls it the Polish Indian casino.  Chuck Chanski.  It’s not funny at all, but you know Dad.  He thinks it’s hilarious.”

We pulled up to the casino–brother and sister, out of place.  Tall and rugged; short and preppy.  We walked in to find the over-70 mountain set hanging over their walkers and sliding money into slots; shouting at each other amidst the cacophony of a faux studio audience shouting “Wheel OF fortune!” as it emanated from the speakers atop the slot machines.

We groaned in unison.  But our faces were flushed with the excitement of a casino run; of spending time together; of doing something so strange and unexpected.

“So, slots?” I asked.  There were no game tables.  One room of poker.  We sat at Wheel of Fortune machines and slipped dollar bills inside.

My brother kept winning.  I kept losing.  I was on a losing streak, from my last trip to Vegas.

We finished out the $5 we each put in, and then headed out; back on the road; back up the hill.  Back past the familiar, the expected, the comfortably usual.

I’m okay, you know.  I’ve made this visit with the family for the holiday, and I am thankful for this moment; thankful for these things and this strange moment of certain uncertainty.  I am sitting in these days of pondering my status as a newly single woman; as a lawyer, a daughter, a sister.  I am accepting the things I am and am not; contemplating the things I want to be; meeting myself on the highway.  And I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities all around–even if my future is about as wonderfully, unexpectedly strange as a pit stop at an Indian casino and about as certain as playing slots.

I’m on my way to SFO again.  What else is new?

This time, Virgin America–a slightly later flight than my usual United Flight 5.  No need to get up at 3am this Monday.  Tell that to my creature-of-habit subconscious.  I didn’t get to sleep until after 3am.  Tossing and turning; worrying about the future; about work; about all those late night what-ifs that consume a girl between midnight and morning.

Yesterday, I handled the domestic stuff and things that come with moving to a new place.  Hanging paintings; arranging furniture; running out to Target.  My sister CJ was, of course, along for the ride.

“My travel really wreaks havoc on relationships,” I said from the driver’s seat, as we made our millionth turn around in Brooklyn–attempting to get from Ikea in Red Hook to Target on Flatbush Avenue.  (NB: Google Maps likes, knows Brooklyn about as well as any Manhattan cabdriver.  Which, for the uninitiated, is to say not at all.)

“These last months have been hard,” she said, charitably.  She left out the part about how they’ve been more than hard; about how I’ve been back and forth between the moon and New York City–constantly off-kilter from time changes; unable to commit to anything, any date, any event; living as the dreadful type who cannot be counted on for anything.

A pause.

“I was going to bring one of my jackets over, to hang in your closet so you’d have something,” she said, “But I thought that might be weird, since people already think we spend too much time together.”  She smiled.

I laughed a little; smiled, too, knowing that these months ahead will not be time that I spend alone.  “Your friend is your needs answered,” I thought, and it struck me how much I needed her; how much I cherished the support she’s given through this whole thing.

It struck me, too, that maybe we–she and I–would be just fine without the overcoats after all.  Despite all the miles and hours and broken plans that had come between us over eight months.

So I kept driving.  I made another u-turn.  I hate Brooklyn.  A skinny-jean’d hipster passed on a bicycle as we sat in traffic, riding a children’s bike with the seat jacked up to adult proportions.  Requisite scruff; baseball cap and bandana fashionably around his neck; horn rims.  I hate hipsters–Brooklyn hipsters, in particular–with their non-ironic brand of smug irony.  I can see your package and you’re riding a children’s bike.  Take your fair-trade coffee and your microbrews and get over yourself.

CJ and I eventually made it to Target; made it back home.  Dropping our packages, we ventured out to dinner.

“This feels like home,” I said for the millionth time, just to hear it, just to say it.  Just to feel the chaos settle a little and to feel anchored to a place.

“This is where I always imagined you being,” she said as we pushed open the door to a Mexican restaurant.  Chips, salsa, guacamole: we sat and enjoyed the meal, enjoyed being together, blatantly ignoring the fact that I was due to leave again the next day and would be traveling for almost two weeks straight, with just a pit-stop at home on the way.

No one envies my domestic air travel program, really.  Airports before dawn and after midnight.  I don’t know whether it’s funny or sad that I was excited to leave for the airport with the sun already in the sky.  But I love to travel, and I think I would sink, drown without the buzz of having to be in ten places at once.

It’s the trying to be ten things to people all at once that kills me.

I’m headed to the bay area for business, then driving across and down to meet my family in Yosemite.  I haven’t been to Thanksgiving with my family, and now, to come back to the main event as a woman riding out the shockwaves of the ol’ marital sonic boom…it seems strange.  They’re my family and they love me, but are they being nice to me because they feel sorry for me?  Or is it because I’ve changed–really changed–and have become the kind of person who no longer drags down a room with fuss and frenzy and frustration with other people?

Don’t know.  All I know is that I have a suitcase full of Blueprint Cleanse; have accrued an unfathomable number of domestic airmiles; am heading home for the holiday for the first time in ten years as a single woman.

I am sitting on the floor of my new apartment–a gut rennovated unit in a classic art deco building. Bauhaus flourishes on the interior of the building itself. My apartment is 800 square feet. A perfect, polished parquet. Wrought iron railings into a sunken living room; marble bath with modern fixtures. The kitchen, however, is space-aged…but still honors the spirit of the space.

I am an incredibly environmentally sensitive person, and one only need step one foot into this apartment to feel the positive energy; the ambient Meredithness of the place.

I am uniquely capable of feeling at home in the myriad places I’ve traveled over the last 18 months; I had come to rest comfortably the last 75 days, or so, in Northern California. But this place, for once, is all mine.

It’s a weird feeling, you know, to meet youself in the places you don’t expect to find you. To have spent your entire adult life in committed relationships, and then to come, the Friday before Thanksgiving, to a starkly empty apartment that is all your own…and find you have, for once, truly come home.