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What happens when the things we hold dear start to crumble? Join us as our first storyteller faces a heartbreaking choice: let go of her family legacy, or fight for a piece of the past while making a discovery about nonperminance in herself. And facing loss isn't just about places, our next storyteller defies death itself, a therapist grapples with a hidden truth while our final storyteller navigates an unlikely love friendship running out on the trails.

Transcript : Close to the Edge - Part 2

Marc Moss

Tickets are on sale for the next live in person Tell Us Something event. The theme is “Going Home”. In collaboration with Missoula Pride, Tell Us Something is excited to bring you this evening of true, personal stories featuring many voices from the LBGTQ+ community. Learn more and get your tickets at Tell Us something.org.

Welcome to the Tell Us Something podcast. Tell Us Something is a nonprofit that helps people share their true personal stories around a theme, live in person and without notes. I’m Mark Moss, your host and executive director of Tell Us Something. Sometimes adventure is chosen. Sometimes it’s thrust upon you. In this episode of the Tell Us Something podcast, we delve into the journeys of four remarkable people.

What happens when the things we hold dear start to crumble?  Join us as our first storyteller faces a heartbreaking choice: let go of her family legacy, or fight for a piece of the past while making a discovery about nonperminance in herself. And facing loss isn’t just about places, our next storyteller defies death itself, a therapist grapples with a hidden truth while our final storyteller navigates an unlikely love friendship running out on the trails.

Kathleen Kennedy

I was simultaneously indignant and sympathetic, but I also had this feeling like I would love for squatters to come there and light a fire and burn it down like, problem solved.

Susan Waters

And the voice said, do you want to stay or do you want to go? And without even thinking about it, I said, if I still have work I need to do here, I want to stay. And the voice said, okay.

Annabelle Winnie

I do wonder if what we think of as traits for neurodivergent, if they’re really adaptations, is there ways that the body adapts, behaviors adapt, and even the brain itself adapts to a world that often feels too bright, too loud. It’s just too much.

Amanda Taylor

We were texting each other every day. Morning. Tonight we call them play by plays, which I also loved because it made me feel sporty, like, yeah, we’re sending play by plays.”

Marc Moss

We acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional lands of the Salish, Ponderay and Kalispell peoples who have stewarded this land throughout the generations. As spring unfolded, vibrant colors and rejuvenates the Earth, we recognize the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of honoring indigenous knowledge and practices. In this season of renewal, let us commit to fostering a deeper understanding of indigenous culture and history.

Take time to learn about the traditional ecological knowledge of the original inhabitants of this land, and incorporate sustainable practices into our daily lives. Together, let us strive to be mindful stewards of the land, fostering harmony and respect for all beings who call this place home. A tangible way that we can do this is to practice. Leave no trace principles when we are outside recreating.

We can pick up our dog’s waste when we are out hiking. Don’t get it on the way back from our hike. Get it when it happens and carry it with us. Pick up trash where we see it. Observe wildlife from a distance and avoid feeding them. By practicing, some of these leave no trace principles, we can be stewards of the land that we claim to love so much.

We take this moment to honor the land and its native people, and the stories and knowledge that they share with us. 

Our first storyteller is  Kathleen Kennedy. Kathleen’s cherished family cabin, a symbol of precious memories, faces the relentless grip of time and erosion. A cancer diagnosis adds another layer of urgency, forcing a confrontation with impermanence. We call her story “Lessons in Letting Go” Thanks for listening.

 

Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy

 

When I was three years old, my dad began digging a trench that would be filled with concrete and form the foundation of a small cabin that he built by hand on the coast of Northern California. I can still see him, the shovel in his hands. His foot on the kick plate,  he’s wearing a white t shirt, he’s got zinc oxide on his nose and his hair.

 

His wavy brown hair is blowing in the breeze, there’s Bishop Pines behind him, and the mighty Pacific Ocean to his left.  My memory might be aided by the 8mm  home movie camera that chronicled much of this process,  but  when I say he built it by hand, I’m not exaggerating. We didn’t have electricity until the mid 90s when we got neighbors, and so every board was cut with a handsaw, every nail hammered in by hand.

 

And so it was a really slow process, but being teachers. My parents could load us up in the Volvo station wagon each summer, and we’d go camp in the redwoods of Guadalajara. My dad would go up to the lot and build. We were like a little hippie family. My sisters and me, we were wearing our plaid pants, our crocheted ponchos.

 

We had bandanas taming our really long stringy hair. But my parents were not hippies. They were about as straight as the nails that kept the framing together.  But, Once we could sleep inside the cabin, those times were magical. We could go down on the beach and play unsupervised, explore the tide pools.  We could look for the tiniest of seashells. 

 

And when the tide came in, we’d just go into the cabin and play. to the second floor and look out these magnificent windows onto the Pacific, and there was always something to watch. We look for gray whales, we watch osprey and brown pelicans, birds that were recovering from the ravages of DDT. And when I think about it, It’s really where I fell in love with the world and it’s likely why I became a science teacher. 

 

So  one year there was an El Nino event and the heavy rains and surf washed away about the last 15 feet.  long wooden staircase that led us down to the beach. And, you know, we didn’t mind. We just tied a rope around a post, and then we rappelled down. And, and when we did that, we’d go through this, like,  It was like mudstone, like a scree of mudstone.

 

And we didn’t really pay much attention to it. All of this material that was just kind of crumbling down from the cliff. And, you know, El Ninos occur on pretty regular intervals. So over the years, more of the cliff would erode. And then eventually the top started to erode as well. So, you know. And I distinctly remember sitting in my UM Geology class and learning about slope and a material’s angle, angle of repose and just having this sinking feeling because  suddenly I thought about that material and from that lecture hall I started to worry. 

 

I always knew I was going to retire there, there someday, you know, I would be content to live that simple life. Um, and I, I continued to visit and I put that out of my mind. But as an adult, my worries really shifted to my parents. And  my dad was showing some signs of dementia. And because I would travel from Missoula to the Bay Area and go up to the cabin to get my ocean fix, I was, I was aware of it.

 

I, each trip would notice more cognitive decline and I tried to tell my sisters and my mom and everyone was in denial until one day there was no denying it. And a few years later, he died of an aortic aneurysm. And I have to say, somewhat thankfully, he spared us from what would have surely been a painful, long goodbye. 

 

But,  I continued to go to the cabin. It was my happy place.  My mom, she struggled to get up there. But I would take her when I could.  And one trip I arrived up there and, and the ground was kind of sinking and there was a tree that was leaning one of those Bishop pines and our neighbor’s deck was sinking and they had hired a geotech firm to figure out what was going on.

 

And I took all these pictures so I could report back to my sisters what was going on. And,  you know, the building didn’t. It wasn’t worth much, but it was my dad’s legacy. And that view was priceless. And I started to really, like, campaign to save the cabin.  And so we did try.  We hired that geotech firm and we got a plan and we moved the cabin  and then we put it on.

 

Kind of an, at an angle because the lot was getting smaller and smaller, closer and closer to the edge, if you will. And so,  did that on an emergency permit. We couldn’t obtain a full permit until we got approval. And so it was up on these supports.  And then COVID hit, and the county planning office closed down, and they weren’t doing anything.

 

They were not going to approve any permits because no one was there. When they finally reopened, suddenly the rules had changed. And now the height variance was no longer going to be grandfathered in, and they wanted a rare plant size. survey. They wanted an archaeological survey. Um, they did not like what the geotech firm had proposed for the foundation.

 

And we were sort of stuck. And you know, the money was going out to sea much like the material from the cliff. And we really didn’t know what to do. There were no more liquid assets. And so we just kind of paused while we gathered ourselves.  And then that cough that I had always attributed to Missoula’s, uh, smoky summer air, it turned out to be stage three lung cancer.

 

And suddenly, like, my whole world was crumbling. And so,  I was not thinking about the cabin, but I was also thinking how much I would have loved to be able to be there to recover from my treatment, but I couldn’t go because it wasn’t on a foundation and therefore uninhabitable. And about the same time, we had these new neighbors.

 

They were part of that, like, COVID urban exodus.  And they started to call and email, and they had a lot of complaints and questions and, you know, they were saying things like, hey, this is an eyesore and a fire hazard and we’re worried vagrants or squatters might come. And I was simultaneously indignant  and sympathetic. 

 

But I also had this I was feeling like I would love for squatters to come there and, and light a fire and burn it down, like problem solved.  So they, they were really relentless and, you know, we’re just like, Hey, she’s dealing with cancer. Like you can’t do this, but they didn’t care. And so finally I said to my sisters, we got to hire a lawyer.

 

And so we did. And then we, uh, said, hey, why don’t you ask them if they would like to buy it and perhaps deal with the expense, like a demolition permit is really expensive there, as is disposal. And miraculously, they said yes.  And then I had to  figure out how to let go, how to let go of this place that meant so much.

 

And so I tried to remember all of my Buddhist studies and think about impermanence and non attachment. And I finally came to a place where I was like, okay, yes, this is what we have to do, I understand.  And,  I also couldn’t stand the thought of certain things being demolished, and I had to go to retrieve them.

 

There were these little wooden, um, plaque pieces, scraps of wood that people wrote messages It was to my dad at his memorial and we were gonna put it in the fireplace there and burn them to send those messages up, but we never did. But I knew right where they were.  So my friend Sheila and I decided we’d go on this retrieval mission.

 

And we bought hard hats and gloves and, you know, wore these old clothes, and we drove up from our place in Marin, and we had to break in the door, because  it had settled. And when we opened that door, it was like this multi sensory assault.  Um, there were mouse droppings everywhere and mouse carcasses. It was almost like the mice died while they were moving through, scampering across the floor because, I don’t know, it was so clear that it was the right decision.

 

There was nothing that could have been done to bring that place back. And so I retrieved the things and I went up the stairs and I said, you know, kind of my goodbye and I looked out. The window, it had been turned and I looked at the view and it wasn’t anything like what I loved. Um,  so I cried and I took my leave  and now that I’m dealing with a cancer recurrence,  I’m trying to.

 

I’d like to just summon those lessons again to remember that clinging to something,  it often just delays inevitable, um, the inevitable and that it can often bring you even more pain.  And that, But the reality of impermanence, there’s no escaping it. So as I move through this next round of cancer, I want to remember those lessons.

 

I want to let them inform me  and inform how I choose to spend the rest of my days on earth. Thank you.

 

Marc Moss

Thanks, Kathleen.

 

Kathleen Kennedy grew up in Oakland, CA, and is a science teacher at Big Sky High School, with 24 years teaching experience. She has won a variety of prestigious teaching awards. She won the EcoDaredevil award in 2009, and in 2011 she was a Fulbright Japan-US Teacher in the Exchange Program for Education for Sustainable Development  She was an Adult Participant in American Youth Leadership Program’s Trip to Thailand in 2015, and continues to be passionate about her students and teaching. When she’s not busy saving the world and working towards a sustainable future, you might find her enjoying the beauty Missoula has to offer, rocking out to Pearl Jam, or dancing along to her favorite Dave Matthews song.

 

Next we join Susan Waters on a journey that transcends the physical.  Hear the voice that offered a stark choice at death’s door. Susan defies the odds and lives on to continue her work on this corporal plane. Susan calls her story “Fade to White”. Thanks for listening.

 

Susan Waters

One of the great joys of many outdoor recreationists is mountain biking.  There’s that incredible sense of freedom, being able to go far and fast.  And the burn of the muscles as you grind up those hills. And the precision and the focus it takes to do the single tracks.  And then that screaming exhilaration when you’re flying downhill. 

 

So it’s September, 2005.  Beautiful, late summer, Missoula day that you just don’t want to let go of.  I had just finished a group trail ride up in Paddy Canyon.  And everybody’s relaxed and happy, and they start heading back into town.  And I lingered behind because I wanted to take some photographs.  So when I was ready to come back down to town, I loaded up my bike, and started heading down Paddy Canyon Road by myself. 

 

And for those that don’t know, it’s a paved two lane road, generally in pretty good shape, light traffic,  um, but windy.  And I’m cruising along, not a care in the world.  And the last thing I remember is this visceral feeling that suddenly something huge was in front of me. And it happened so fast, and I couldn’t hit it, so I slammed on the brakes,  and black. 

 

The next thing I know, I’m pulling myself off the pavement,  onto the gravelly shoulder of the road.  And I’m stunned, and I have absolutely no idea what had just happened.  I was there for a while, and this little pickup truck comes up the road.  And a man who spoke very little English asked if I was okay. 

 

And, you know, stubbornly, I said, ah, you know, I’ll shake it off. I’ll, I’ll just, I’ll be okay. And I tried to get up, and I couldn’t.  So he stopped.  There was another bicyclist that came up the road, and he summed up the situation pretty quickly and took control and said, you need to go to the hospital.  So they load me up in the truck. 

 

We’re riding down Pattee Canyon Road,  and I keep losing consciousness,  and I manage to crank down the window.  And stick my head out so that the water, the, the air would hit me in the face and keep me awake.  And my consciousness kept fading to white.  And then there was this voice.  And it was genderless,  very kind but neutral, and matter of factly said, you know you can die from this, don’t you? 

 

And I thought, well, it’s looking a little worse than I thought.  And the voice said, do you want to stay or do you want to go?  And without even thinking about it, I said, if I still have work I need to do here, I want to stay.  And the voice said,  okay.  And from that point on, I had absolutely no fear.  I had an unshakable faith that I would be okay. 

 

And for once in my life, I surrendered into that. 

 

And I was at complete peace.  And this was way before the hospital drugs. 

 

So we have a bouncy ride back down into town.  We hit the downtown traffic, and it’s heavy. So the two guys in the truck are yelling at the other motorists in two languages to get out of our way.  We get to the ER, and things are relatively quiet. And that’s it. And, the crescendo starts building up, there’s more people, there’s more equipment, there’s all these sounds, they’re stitching me up, they’re taking me into scans,  and a doctor comes out, and is very serious,  and says,  you have a concussion, you have broken bones,  and you have severe internal injuries,  we’re gonna have to put you on life flight to go to Seattle. 

 

And I’m sitting there, taking a minute to take it in, and I’m like, okay.  So I’m laying on the table, they’re prepping me, and there’s two nurses, just right outside the door in the corridor.  And one of them says, I don’t think she’s gonna make it.  She came around the corner, and she saw me looking at her, and she was horrified. 

 

But I had to smile at her.  And I think I even winked at her. And I wasn’t upset at all.  Because I knew she was wrong. 

 

So now the hospital drugs are kicking in.  They wheeled me out on the tarmac at the airport  to get me on the life flight plane.  And I’m in one of those ridiculous hospital gowns, you know those really thin ones that make you feel really, really vulnerable?  And there was a big wind,  and my thought was, oh my god, what happens if the plane crashes?

 

And this is all I’m wearing. 

 

So the flight,  the pain,  boy, it hits hard  and I’m so uncomfortable and I turn on my side and my blood pressure crashes.  My angel paramedic brought me back  and I’ll never forget looking up at those warm, comforting eyes  that were so reassuring. And his gaze never left mine, that entire flight. 

 

One of my friends was able to get to the ER quickly, and they talked her into getting on the life flight with me to be my medical advocate.  And at one point in the flight, I looked up and I saw her. She was in a jump seat facing toward me. And she had those big headsets on. And her face was deathly white.

 

And her eyes like saucers. And she looked so small and so afraid.  And I just wanted to hug her and convince her that everything was gonna be okay. 

 

Seattle was nuts. Yes. I mean, if ever there was a time to check out, it was then.  There was so much noise and chaos and they were just tossing me around that I just surrendered again into this  peaceful sea of white. 

 

I regained consciousness about a week later in the hospital.  And then a couple of weeks after that I was released back home to a very long recovery. 

 

My helmet,  helmets,  and trauma medicine saved my life, and for that I will always be grateful.  The people were so skilled and so caring,  but the system is very strained,  and they don’t have a lot of time  to give individual treatment.  So after about a year of recovery,  An extreme physical therapy, it’s a sport. 

 

They were proposing some really invasive and scary surgeries.  And it just, down to my bones, did not feel right.  So I decided to go another direction. And I started looking into alternative health.  And there was no stone left unturned. And hey, it’s Missoula, you’re all out there. 

 

I did mental health therapy, I did eastern medicine, sacred,  indigenous,  all of those medicines  that are ancient and so wise.  And all of these practitioners took the time  And they were really present and really listened. 

 

I have to acknowledge I have a lot of privilege.  That I was able to,  I had a lot of options.  That not a lot of people have.  And they should.  Equally. 

 

And I also acknowledge that I had a lot of fairy dust. Good luck to.  So, do I regret  staying?  To be honest, at times, yes.  The following years were the hardest of my life, and it wasn’t just the recovery.  I lost both of my dear friends, lifelong friends, prematurely and tragically. Both my parents died.  I lost several animal companions. 

 

And I lost my livelihood.  But I’m on borrowed time,  so I have to be grateful, because I got to spend a few more years with those friends.  I got to hold both of my parents hands before they died. 

 

I played hard with those pet companions in the mountains and in the rivers.  I made tons of new friends, beautiful, wonderful friends.  And my family expanded,  and the love multiplied.  And I was so inspired that I studied and trained and I opened my own wellness practice. 

 

And  every day,  I’m so moved to be able to help other people find their light and their voice.  And gain the skills they need to navigate through their changes and challenges,  just as my teachers had done with me.  And they,  and beautiful, quirky Missoula and community that we have here,  all rallied together and motivate me every day.

 

To find joy and gratitude. And to keep looking for all of that work that I’m still left to do. [Applause]

 

Marc Moss

Thanks, Susan.

 

Susan Waters is an avid outdoor recreationist, family and friend cultivator, and animal lover. Raised in Missouri and Colorado, she was drawn to the laid-back and nature-focused lifestyle of Missoula in the 1990s. She has had many livelihoods, including working as an artist, writer, filmmaker, photographer and communicator for numerous environmental and social causes. Active in the community, Susan cherishes all of her daily connections and navigates with an open heart and a well earned sense of trust.

 

Coming up after the break,

 

Despite professional achievements and a happy family, a deep unease lingers for our first storyteller after the break, until a surprising discovery unlocks a door to self-understanding

 

Annabelle Winnie

I do wonder if what we think of as traits for neurodivergent, if they’re really adaptations, is there ways that the body adapts, behaviors adapt, and even the brain itself adapts to a world that often feels too bright, too loud. It’s just too much. 

 

Marc Moss

and our final story about two women exploring a new friendship, running on epic trails, pushing both their bodies and their hearts to the limit.

 

Amanda Taylor

 

We were texting each other every day. Morning. Tonight we call them play by plays, which I also loved because it made me feel sporty, like, yeah, we’re sending play by plays.”

Marc Moss

 

Stay with us.

 

Thank you to the Good Food Store who, as the Story Sponsor, helped us pay our storytellers. Learn more about them at goodfoodstore.com. Thanks to Spark Arts who provided childcare for the performance. You can learn more about Spark at sparkartslearning.org. Thanks to our Stewardship sponsor, Blackfoot Communications, who helped us to give away free tickets to underserved populations. Learn more about Blackfoot, celebrating 70 years, at goblackfoot.com.

 

Thank you to the Good Food Store who, as the Story Sponsor, helped us pay our storytellers. Learn more about them at goodfoodstore.com. Thanks to Spark Arts who provided childcare for the performance. You can learn more about Spark at sparkartslearning.org. Thanks to our Stewardship sponsor, Blackfoot Communications, who helped us to give away free tickets to underserved populations. Learn more about Blackfoot, celebrating 70 years, at goblackfoot.com.

 

You are listening to the Tell Us Something podcast where people share their true stories around a theme live in person without notes. I’m Marc Moss. Storytellers in this episode shared their stories in front of a full house on March 26, 2024 at The George and Jane Dennison Theatre in Missoula Montana.]

 

In our next story, Annabelle Winnie, a successful therapist and mother, grapples with a lifelong sense of dissonance. Despite outward competence, she’s navigated years of therapy, seeking answers for a struggle she couldn’t quite grasp. Annabelle calls her story “Belonging.” Or…”Another Way to See.” Or “Another Way to Be.” Thanks for listening.

 

Annabelle Winnie

I’m in my new therapist’s office.  We’re sitting under the branches of her indoor ficus tree. Across the room are bookshelves. There’s a sculpture, or maybe it was a print of a caregiver embracing a child. Because this is Missoula, a few of you may be wondering, have we had the same therapist? 

 

I’d gone to see her because I was having a dilemma of dissonance.  I guess people often see me as competent, composed, confident.  This was about 10 years ago. I was the mother of two young boys, married, and a successful professional.  And yet, I’d been in and out of therapy most of my life. More in than out.

 

The first time I went, I was seven or eight. My mom brought me because I seemed like a miniature adult. And it worried her. 

 

Yeah, hi mom, it’s me. I, I, yeah, I’m in my mid forties, I know. We haven’t really talked about this in decades.  But you remember in third grade and sixth grade, I didn’t understand what was happening. I just didn’t get it. It was terrible. It’s still kind of like that, I just fake it,  but I don’t understand what’s going on. 

 

This is when information about women and autism was just hitting the mainstream media. Because of my job, I had to read about it and I had to understand it. And the more I read first person narratives and interviews, the more I identified. It was starting to tear me up in part, apart, inside.  I tried talking to family, friends, even some close colleagues.

 

For the most part, I felt like, I felt like I got this look that said,  I don’t want to hurt your feelings, Annabelle, but I don’t see it.  And, and this  just  hit me in a very painful way.  I am a therapist,  and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback pretty consistently about my work. And yet I was understanding myself in this new way that made so much sense to me.

 

It just organized so many struggles I’d had.  But at this point, I was like, well, If I’m autistic, does that mean I can’t have empathy for other people or I can’t understand other people’s internal world? Here I was, I couldn’t understand my own internal world. I was starting to spin out. It was coming out sideways with my kids.

 

I was behaving with them in ways that I knew weren’t good for them. And so when this latest therapist suggested, as I myself had done already a couple of times, she is. Suggested that I get assessed, and I agreed. 

 

03a p2 Annabelle Winnie.wav

 

 It was kind of like a drug deal.  I had to cross state lines and it was a cash only  kind of a transaction.  I couldn’t. I couldn’t bear the idea of going to someone that I might interact with professionally and there’s no way this was going to be on my medical record. So I found a clinic in Denver, I went, I poured my heart out, they talked to my family, I took their tests and then I waited. 

 

I’m in my car behind my work building when I get the call, I take it right away.  Okay,  email, assessment, next week, talk, thank you.  They diagnosed me with mild autism. It’s still really weird and it was kind of painful.  It made so much sense. For the first time as an adult, I had a sense that there was a rhyme and reason to the ways that I had so consistently struggled. 

 

I read the assessment further. Yeah. Yeah.  Turns out,  I’m actually really smart. 

 

This really surprised me because  I knew I was very good at a few things, but I struggled with a lot of things that I didn’t hear people talking about as struggles. 

 

I’m not very smart visually. So I have a very high discrepancy between my verbal capacity and my visual capacity.  And again, I started to wonder, is this why not once, but twice as a child, I ended up in the emergency room because I kept walking into telephone poles and concrete pillars.  I wondered if maybe my brain just didn’t know what to do with visual social information. 

 

It’s like, who cares? Words are so much more interesting.  And then maybe my brain doesn’t put energy into my own nonverbal cues,  visual cues. So sometimes I may seem a little flat or wooden. And  I started to think about myself as a plant.  And this was very, very hopeful for me. 

 

We do share over 60 percent of our DNA with bananas. 

 

It’s true. 

 

I imagined, I really had hope, like autonomously as an adult, I had hope for the first time.  Like a plant, if I could just figure out  what are my sensory needs, what do I need to process a little more fluidly? What do I need to learn social, emotional  information or experiences? It’s not intuitive for me.  I imagine that if I understood this about myself and I could develop a deep acceptance, a radical love, that like a plant, I would just  grow. 

 

Nowadays, I feel more like a dog.  And like a dog shakes off excess water and mud, I just want to shake off preconceived notions, labels.  I just want to be myself.  There is a Maori.  A  linguist and educator who created a dictionary of mental health and addiction terms in the Maori language.  Some of the words he had to create because they didn’t exist in his language.

 

Takiwatanga is the word that he created for autism and it means in a person’s own time,  in a person’s own way.  He created this definition based on his experience of having been friends with a man with autism from as children and through adulthood.  I do wonder if what we think of as traits for neurodivergence, if they’re really adaptations, there are ways that the body adapts. 

 

Behaviors adapt, and even the brain itself adapts to a world that often feels too, too bright, too loud. It’s just too much. 

 

I’m in my late twenties. I’m in an intensive care unit. My grandfather just had bypass surgery. He’s on a ventilator. He can’t speak. His arms are restrained to the bed. My aunt and my mom are there. It’s a mess. I’m holding my grandfather’s hand. He’s he’s looks terrible.  This is my grandfather, a very quiet man. 

 

His humor was so subtle and so dry, if you sneezed, you might miss his jokes.  He was a physicist and he was a researcher and it wasn’t until after he died that his family, we knew how, um, accomplished he was cause he just didn’t talk about it.  He would reference chaos theory to try to motivate him to do housework. 

 

I’m going to go make some order out of the chaos, he would say, and rub his knuckles together in this very rhythmic, um, familiar way.  As he would go upstairs to work in his office. So I’m standing there with him, I’m holding his hand, he’s squeezing my hand, I’m squeezing him back, he’s squeezing my hand, and it comes to me in a moment, this is my grandfather who was a telegraph operator, that was his first job out of college.

 

He’s giving me SOS, I look at him and I say, you’re giving me SOS, and I wonder if he thinks he’s dying. I explain to him what’s happening, he’s on a vent, it’s going to pass. He’ll be able to talk again. And I, I do wonder if these questions of identity become so important for us as humans because it orients us toward where we belong and to whom we belong. 

 

Marc Moss

Thanks, Annabelle.

 

Annabelle Winnie has lived in Missoula since 2011. You might find her walking or biking around town, acting as chauffeur for one of her 2 kids, or taming the wild raspberry patch in her backyard. 

 

Rounding out this episode of the Tell Us Something podcast is Amanda Taylor, who learns that the path to love isn’t always smooth, and Amanda and Heather learn that the most powerful relationships can exist outside the box. Amanda calls her story “Heather”. Thanks for listening.

 

Amanda Taylor

 

 I Always thought that I needed to be perfect to be loved  and then I met Heather and Heather is almost six feet tall. She casually looks like an athletic supermodel without trying  she has naturally like white blonde hair and incredible calves  We first met at a Griz game, which is funny because I am not sporty at all. 

 

And we met at the game, and, you know, we stayed in touch afterwards via social media. And this was about 13 years ago.  And I would see her posting about going on runs, like the Missoula Marathon, or the RUT, which is a, if you don’t know, it’s a race in Big Sky where people pay money to run up a mountain where there’s, like, off the sides and they say that it’s fun. 

 

Um, and I would just hit love on those posts 

 

and I would run into her around town and she would say, Amanda, you have to come running with me. And I said, yeah, totally.  It’s like, I, I won’t be running with you.  And then about seven years ago I went through a breakup.  And I decided to reinvent myself as a trail runner.  And I remembered Heather. And so I reached out to her and I said, Hey, would you be up for showing me some trails around town?

 

If you just show me a few, like you, you don’t have to keep going with me, but if you just go with me like twice and show me where to go, then I can go alone and I’ll stop bothering you.  And she said, sure. And within five minutes, we had plans to meet up that week to go run at waterworks. And we did a loop around waterworks and talked about our jobs.

 

And I probably talked about dating like I always do.  And she, uh, you know, we didn’t share a whole lot. And then, um, she asked if I wanted to go on a steeper run and I said, sure, if we can go slow and she said, yes. So then we met up a few days later and went up Sentinel.  And as we made our way up, and my calves are burning, and my lungs are burning, and I’m trying to be sporty, um,  We hit this ice field.

 

It’s like a 3×3 ice field.  And I was like, ah, I’m scared.  I’m like, frozen. And she steps across the ice field with her giant calf.  And she reached across the ice and helped me across. And I was so embarrassed. I figured she would never want to go on an adventure with me again.  And then we got to the top and she went to give me a high five.

 

And I just did, you know, Cause  I’m not sporty.  And, um,  and then things kind of escalated after that. The next thing I knew, we had a workout schedule Monday through Saturday. 

 

With, um, runs and weights and yoga and Pilates. And, uh, we were texting each other every day, morning to night. We called them play by plays, which I also loved cause it made me feel sporty.  I’m like, yeah, we’re sending play by plays.  Um.  And then, um, you know, over time and many miles and,  and hours in the woods and up and down mountains and many pairs of shoes, I started to sense that there was something sad about her. 

 

And you can’t really approach someone and say, why is your soul sad?  So I thought,  I’m going to crack this nut, um,  I’m just going to share everything I can with her.  And then maybe she’ll tell me why she’s sad.  And so,  you know, and we had tons of time out there. Um, so I just shared everything about my life, a bunch of things that I will not be saying into a microphone tonight. 

 

Um, and things that were really shrouded with shame. And she would take all of them and say, Oh yeah, I could totally see how like given your life and what you’ve been through, like that totally makes sense that you would do that.  I was like, Oh, okay. She’s still here. Cool. Um,  and then she began to share a little bit about the relationship she was in.

 

And basically the conclusion that she had come to was that it wasn’t really love, like big love that makes your heart explode. It was just okay.  And he was a good person and they had a good life. So that’s what she was going to do.  I was like, ah, that’s where it is. Um, And so also why we were running all these miles is because she had gotten into a 100 mile trail running race and for some reason she thought I should pace her in it. 

 

And so we were training for this and I was going to pace her for the last 20 miles.  And we went to Idaho for this race, and, uh, during the race, at one point,  you know, she’s at mile 80, and I have fresh legs, so I can keep up, and, um, oh, if you’ve never been to a 100 mile trail running race, it is a spectacle.

 

Um, So, um,  Everyone starts out super pumped, they’re like full of smiles. And then you meet them at aid stations along this hundred mile route, up and down mountains, through the woods, through the night.  And as they go to aid stations, the life just slowly leaves  their faces.  And their, like, bouncy running becomes like a zombie shuffle. 

 

And they just look more and more sad every time you see them.  So I was there with her, mile 80,  and by this point she was having a lot of pain in her knees, and we were on a ridgeline, and I just remember watching her moving in pain. And behind my sunglasses, I’m crying. Because it’s so painful to see her in pain, but I’m supposed to be the strong one, like watching my clock, making sure we make the cutoff so she can finish.

 

So I did my job, I kind of held it together, and you can’t like, when you’re a pacer, you can’t touch them, you can’t hold their hand, you can’t hug them. So I just had to watch her suffer, and it was awful. But I kept saying, we got it, we just have to keep moving.  Eventually, we did get to the end, and, uh, she was the only female finisher of that race. 

 

Woo! 

 

And then on the way home, we sat in the back of the car for a lot of the ride, and she slept with her head on my leg. And I remember just wanting to cry about how much I loved her.  And I just thought, gosh, this is a really intense friendship. 

 

And, um,  It was. 

 

And then we got home and a couple days later we went for a walk to the river and we sat by the river and debrief the race and how she won and um,  and then she got serious and she said, Amanda, I have to ask you something. I was like, okay. And she said, what do you think about my relationship?  And I said, do you really want to know?

 

Because this is going to be hard. And she said, yes.  And so I said,  I don’t think that you’re happy and I love you so much that it  causes me pain to know that you’re not happy and that you’re not giving yourself a chance to live your happiest life.  And I said, I can’t.  I don’t think there’s any way I could sit.

 

Oh, I think I forgot to say, at some point in there they got engaged. So pretend I said that.  Boop! Little rewind. Um, so they were engaged and I said,  I don’t think I can sit at your wedding and watch you knowing that you are not happy. Like, that would break my heart.  And then we just sat there and stared at the river for a while. 

 

And then in  classic Amanda form, just blurting out things I feel uncomfortable about, um, I just said,  also,  I want to make out with you. 

 

And she said nothing. 

 

So I thought, great. I just made the greatest friendship of my life really weird.  Made it weird again. Okay. Bye.  And, um, I said, Oh my gosh, did I just ruin everything? And she just grabbed my hand, and we stared at the river, and she said, You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re fine. I just need to figure out what I’m going to do with my life. 

 

Which is such an easy task, right? Um, so,  um, I said, okay, and we parted ways. And then later, or a few days later, we met up to go for a run, because a hundred miles wasn’t enough.  Um, and I got to the trailhead, and she said, get in the car. And I said, okay. And, uh, and then she said, Amanda, I’m just gonna tell you everything.

 

Mm hmm.  And she said, I have loved women since I was four.  And I have loved you from the time that I helped you across the ice.  The timer doesn’t count if I’m trying not to cry.  Okay. 

 

Um, 

 

and she said,  I was dying when you wore that black dress to the trail running festival. And I was dying when you hung out in a swimsuit and a flannel all day.  And this whole time I have just been trying to be respectful and not see you like that, because I love you so much.  Whoo,  and then for the first time in my life,  I kissed a woman. 

 

And her Her hands were soft, and her face was soft, and her lips were soft, and there was no like, scratchy hair 

 

exfoliating my face. 

 

And we were basically together after that. And then,  you know, we were late for everything because we were in bed. And um,  And then the bliss wore off  and I was still the person I was with my issues and she was still the person she was with her issues  and the romantic part of our relationship did not work. 

 

But  we made a deal to be friends and to not give up on one another. And after that was a year, a very tumultuous year, or maybe a little longer of the most difficult conversations I have ever had that I never want to have again.  But,  um, 

 

now, um, she is the greatest, one of the greatest cheerleaders of my life. And she is living her happiest life with her girlfriend. And. And I am living my life knowing, even though I forget for moments, sometimes I know in my bones that I can be imperfect and loved.  Thank you.

 

Marc Moss

 

Thanks, Amanda. Amanda Taylor is a lover of laughter and of love. After sharing a story at Tell Us Something one year ago, she finally followed her dream of trying stand-up comedy. Now she is a local stand-up comedian, even though she feels like an imposter saying that. Amanda is on a lifelong journey of living in alignment with herself, and is forever grateful to each person who has loved and continues to love her along the way.

 

Please remember that our next event, in partnership with Missoula Pride is on June11 at the Glacier Ice Rink in the Missoula County Fairgrounds. The theme is “Going Home ”.  Learn more about Tell Us Something and get tickets for the next event at tellussomething.org.