Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mountains of Yellowstone, New Beginnings

     The Tennessee River cuts through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the southeast corner of Tennessee.  Alternating ridges, valleys and mountains define the landscape.  Atop one of these mountains is a small community where Stephanie had spent her life.  She was just two years old when her family purchased a three bedroom house on a corner lot just a short walk from the small commercial district of Signal Mountain, a bedroom community of Chattanooga.  Back before the Civil War, there was an outbreak of disease in Chattanooga.  Some of the wealthy families believed that the bad air in the city was the cause of the illness.  They established a small community on the top of Signal Mountain.  Homes were built along the ridge line providing grand vistas of the City, the Tennessee River and surrounding countryside.

     Stephanie pulled out of her driveway and headed for the interstate .  She was in a Ford F350 Super Duty pulling a twenty-nine foot fifth wheel trailer.  It was nineteen hundred miles to Yellowstone and Stephanie planned to make the trip in seven days.  She had a job waiting, working in a campground for the summer season in Yellowstone National Park and she had to be there by the first of May.  She was doing it for the experience and the ability to live for six months in one of the most beautiful and majestic places in the world.  It had taken years to get to the point where she could make the trip.  She had always wanted to travel and explore but was tied down by her career and family.  The time had finally come and she was on her way.   Her husband was supposed to make the trip with her, but at the last minute he backed out.  His excuse was that he wanted to work a few more months to buy himself a new toy, a high performance Mustang.
     This was a return trip for Stephanie, she had vacationed in Yellowstone with her husband and son years before.  It was a wondrous place and she was looking forward to spending the season there.   Stephanie was burnt out, feeling hopeless and had come to the end of her rope.   She was trying to jump start her life.  She decided to make a change and see if things improved, see if she could shake the depression and hopelessness she felt.  Stephanie had wrestled with these feelings for years, not knowing with any certainty why she was unhappy.  She had not found happiness in her marriage and had drifted apart from her husband.  He just wanted to go to work and sit at home watching TV.  Her son was a joy that turned into heartbreak when she had trouble letting go after he grew up and went to college.  And then there was her practice.  She was a veterinarian and the burdens of running her business had gotten to the point were they were overwhelming.

     The tipping point for Stephanie came out of left field.  She came to her decision to take action after attending a continuing education program at the local Veterinary Association.  The speaker presented a program that spoke to Stephanie.  The speaker’s program was about compassion fatigue within the Veterinary practice. She had been a Veterinarian for twenty eight years and had never heard the term.  She listened with interest as the speaker described the condition.  It was a malady that afflicted individuals that work with the victims of trauma such as nurses, first responders, therapist and yes animal welfare workers.  People who suffered from Compassion Fatigue exhibited symptoms of  hopelessness, constant stress and anxiety, a decrease in the ability to experience pleasure and a persistent, pervasive negative outlook on life.  As she listened to the speaker, she felt as if he was talking about her.

     Stephanie was confused about her feelings and had struggled long and hard trying to determine why she felt the way she felt.  She had never considered the possibility that pet euthanasia had anything to do with her feelings. This was just one more thing to think about, another item in the list to ponder.  It had been Stephanie’s tipping point.  She knew in her heart that she could not wait any longer, she had to change course, find a new life.  She wanted to be happy.

     The truck roared to life as it accelerated up the on ramp onto interstate 24 and headed west.  After a short dip down into Georgia the interstate turned north, crossing the Tennessee River.  She motored up Monteagle without any difficulty and turned left when she reached Murfreesboro.  Stephanie wanted to see the country side and planned to bypass as many big cities as she could on this trip. She did not have a lot of experience driving the truck while pulling the trailer and did not want to get tangled up in any big city rush hour traffic.