My eardrums began to buzz. The vibration expanded and expanded until it filled my entire head. As it permeated my brain, it became increasingly loud. The sensation was a little freaky, but I recognized it, because it had happened to me once before.
A few years earlier, during a particularly painful phone call with my father, the same sensation occurred. First there was the buzzing phenomenon, but then there was a sharp tangible interior sensation that felt like a CLICK. My conscious mind, existentially imperiled, completely shut down mid-conversation. With the flick of a switch, my throat closed, my body quaked. My brain went dark, my light went out. I couldn’t hang up the phone fast enough.
Sorry, I digress. Let me start over.
In the 1980’s I was living and working in Washington, D.C. Young and single, it was typical for me to go to happy hour several nights a week after work. Also, throughout those years, every summer I rented a beach house in Delaware with a group of women I called “my beach house friends.” We were a clique of young urban professional women seeking escape from life’s pressures, in search of carefree fun in the sun.
One mid-week evening in late August, the beach house cohort gathered at some bar in downtown D.C., just as we had countless times before. Nothing was different or unusual that night. It was the familiar scene of superficial banter, flirting with men, and excessive drinking.
The buzzing sensation started after the first sip of my third beer. As its volume rose, I found myself wafting into deep interior silence. I could still hear my friends’ voices droning on and the cacophonous chatter of the background din, but I completely lost touch with all of it. I was drifting away inside. I marveled that I was so far away, but no one seemed to notice.
As I retreated into the cavern, I heard my inner voice echoing: “I can’t do this anymore.” More emphatically: “I can’t DO this anymore!”
That night was the last time I went to happy hour with these women. And it was the last summer I shared a beach house with them. I decided to make a dramatic change. My life had been a confused mess for quite a while. No need to share the details here, but I was feeling somewhat desperate to hit the reset button. This unexpected buzzing encounter woke me up and prompted me to act.
Within days, I decided to move out west. Get away from everything and everyone and just start over someplace new completely on my own. Two potential locations appealed to me. Seattle, Washington and Denver, Colorado. After a little research, I decided Denver would be the better choice. Seattle was too far away from the east coast where most of my family lived, and Denver was sunnier.
Things moved swiftly. Conveniently, my apartment lease was expiring the end of September. I gave notice at my job, packed up my belongings, determined what I would take with me, what I would have boxed ready to mail to me when I was settled, and what I would leave in storage at my brother’s house. I cashed in my 401(k), bought a one-way airline ticket, and made a reservation at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Denver.
That was the full scope of my plan.
Not surprisingly, my father was adamantly and derisively opposed to this latest harebrained scheme of mine. Not surprisingly, his protests were merely grist for my determination mill.
I don’t recall the flight to Denver, but I do recall the four-piece set of blue and maroon Samsonite luggage I brought with me. I recall landing at Denver Airport and gawking at the mountains from the tarmac. I was happy. I was excited. I was free.