Thanks for your support from last week, and welcome to the next edition of The Sister Lode! I am attempting to post on Sunday nights, hopefully to provide a bright spot for your upcoming week. This post was written a few months ago in preparation for this blog, but the message is timeless.
It wasn’t right to leave Suzanne behind, but it wasn’t right for Gail and me to stay home either. We were caught between a hard place and a rock, so we rocked on-without Suzanne. Something about a new job and not having vacation time yet. I am going to have a word with her boss.
We rocked west, toward the Rockies. We lingered in the Springs—Colorado and Manitou—as we typically do on our biannual trips, then began the ascent. This year, as part of our effort to shake it up, we took my car, instead of Gail’s. We further shook it up by not stopping at our usual waystation at Limon, deciding to donate a portion of our proceeds (before any losses) to deserving people we met along the way, staying in a different room (we have a favorite room at our favorite place), and multiple other small twists that, unfortunately, didn’t twist our fate at the casinos in the direction we hoped, the direction it had never taken in our multiple trips here.
One thing we will never change is our Rocky Mountain High ritual. On the final stretch of the last leg of the seven-plus hour trip, we pop in John Denver’s Greatest Hits CD to play—you guessed it—Rocky Mountain High. Except this time we both forgot our CDs. And we had no wifi that deep in the mountains, so we couldn’t bring it up on our phones. So I turned on satellite radio to fill the airwaves in the car. I hit the preset to the 70’s station. An Aerosmith rock tune was finishing up, and even though I didn’t particularly like the tune, I left it. A few moments later, there it was–you guessed it: John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High.
We were as speechless as I am wordless to describe it. At that moment, at that place, there it was. It was a gift from Above. I don’t even know what else to say. Except that it was Dad’s birthday—he would have been 83. We took that as a gift from him.
So there’s Christine. She is our favorite shopkeeper-turned friend; she is soft as whipped butter and sweet as powdered sugar, and we patronize her store—9494. It is a unique gift and jewelry shop named after the town’s altitude. We come to town with lots of sparkling pretty bling, and we leave with even more.
And there’s Mike and Rick. They are the proprietors of the Cripple Creek Hospitality House, the former Teller County hospital-turned-B&B. They love us, we love them, and we now stay nowhere else but there. They treat us like royalty, which, of course, we think we are. It wouldn’t be fair to include a picture without Suzanne on this epic trip, so this one is from last year, on the steps inside Mike and Rick’s place.
There are a number of dealers and pit bosses Gail has gotten to know quite well. She is the only one of us who plays the tables, and she knows no strangers, so naturally, she has made friends with most of them. This time it had been a year since we were there, most times it is only six months. Of course they still remembered her.
Tonight, it’s Don. Don is the “nocturnal innkeeper” of the Hotel St. Nicholas, another B&B. We stayed here three or so years ago, and we met him then and never forgot him. Tonight, we realize, he didn’t forget us. We stopped by and found him in the basement bar, aptly named The Boiler Room. We are enjoying a drink with him, catching up on local news—both bad and good.
Because this is an active gold-mining town, the linings to the dark clouds are golden, not silver. While we had to do a synchronized walk of shame away from the casinos after we lost all our gambling money—or so we told each other–we both had an ace in the hole. We had tucked away cash to get home, and to buy back some of our dignity.
Greater than that little stash of cash, though, was the sure knowledge that we were bigger winners than anyone at the casinos. Even bigger than David, the blackjack player sitting next to Gail who would bet, and then win or lose more money in a single bet than either of us brought and lost all weekend. David had a poker face until we broke through, then his smile was there to stay.
We seem to have that effect on people.
After we lost our money, I had a moment of profound awareness: I had just lost X dollars, yet I felt so rich. I was a winner. After the frustration, disappointment, shame, guilt, anger (at myself for thinking yet again that I would win) and emptiness fell away, I felt joy filling me up inside:
*I was nestled deep within the splendid beauty of the Rocky Mountains; in one of my happiest of all my many happy places.
*I was with my older sister, one of my two best friends in the world. (We missed Suzanne dearly, but we persisted, just as she wanted us to.)
*I had the gift of health and physical ability to get myself here.
*I had the means to take such a trip, I even had the means to throw money away in the casinos. I save for this trip all year in an offshore account. And, as the captain of my career ship, I decide when to set sail.
*Win or lose, I get to determine my own happiness–or lack thereof. No circumstance, and most importantly, no other person decides that for me. Neither one should decide yours for you either.
I found a charm pendant with the newly popular phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted” just before our trip, so I bought one for each of us. It became our mantra for the weekend. It was famously uttered in reference to a noteworthy woman named Elizabeth. Our mother was named Elizabeth too; she was noteworthy in a much more profound way.
First, we persisted in throwing our money away, and after licking our wounds, we then persisted in finding the good in this loss. We have made it our way in life to find whatever good we can in a situation, whether it be a set of circumstances, a difficult person, or the weather. We persist in our quest to see the glass as half-full, and we generally succeed. We realize it is a choice, and even though some see us as Pollyanna-ish, we don’t care. We’ll let them see the negative if they choose. That doesn’t work for us. It never has, and as time passes, more certainly, it never will.
No foolin’—even though it was April Fool’s Day on Saturday of the weekend. You have the choice to look at your cup and call it half-full, just as easily as you can call it half-empty. Your call. Others may tell you how it really is—in their minds. Usually it is dark in their sky, and they want yours to be clouded over too. Their cup is half empty with a crack in it. Don’t give in, don’t buy it. Let them wallow in their own emptiness and darkness, and follow the fullness and the light—your light. Your choice.
We have our own light, and we welcome you to follow it—except you can’t follow us to Colorado, or anywhere else, for that matter. Our trips are highly exclusive and private, because we need this time alone with each other, even if it is only two of us. The third will always be present in spirit if there are more trips of only two in the future. Be it just two or all three of us, we will continue to offer our positivity here to nourish yours.
Persist. Push through. Keep your chin up, and your sights high.
Nevertheless, sister, persist.