Archive for October 21st, 2009

Well Under Way

While it was never my intent for this to be a diary, relating “today I went here and saw that,” to those of you who have been checking back and pointed out that it’s been over a week since I’ve posted anything new, I apologize. I never meant to go so long without updating this blog. But I also didn’t want to post just for the sake of posting – I wanted to wait until I had something to say. And between all the driving I was doing to make it across the country in a limited timeframe, and being a person who requires time to process what she takes in, it has been many days since I’ve updated this blog. So thanks for checking back and returning to read this!

I am now fully more than a third of the way into this journey. Here’s what I can tell you so far:  The first teepees appeared in Virginia, as did the first log cabins. Tennessee has the “World’s Largest Beef Jerky Outlet (over 400 varieties),” and proffered the first dead armadillo, belly-up roadside west of Nashville. (My friend John swears people scoop these up and take them home to make roadkill dinners. Ick.) And beyond more dead armadillos and a huge sign outside of Hope shouting “Birthplace of President Bill Clinton,” Arkansas was quite dull. Until I hit the fog, that is. I got so fogged-in in Texarkana that after first missing my exit, I spent 40 minutes driving around like an idiot, unable to find the hotels. Literally. The big illuminated signs normally screaming from the side of the highway were socked in and rendered invisible. When I at last located the hotels, I found nearly all fully booked. Who knew Texarkana was such the hotspot? Finally settled into an overpriced room at a Courtyard Marriott, (and stuck only three hours from my first rest-destination of Dallas), I made the best of the situation by walking across the parking lot to Red Lobster, where I got snokkered on hurricanes and ate crab cakes before taking a soak in the hotel whirlpool. Not so bad after all, Texarkana. The remaining drive into Texas was wet and miserable, though mercifully brief. Although the weather stayed lousy, the welcome of good friends in Dallas-Ft. Worth made it worth going out of my way to have a safe haven to unwind for a couple of days.

While on the road, in addition to taking copious notes, I’ve started logging the “playlist” of my walkabout; that is, what music I’m listening to, and during which legs of the journey. As I did promise comedy eventually, here’s a freebie: I don’t have an mp3 player, and actually do have a cassette deck (in addition to CD player) in the car. And yes, I had the tape deck installed after market. Go ahead, laugh. But a child of the 70s, most of my favorite road-trip tunes are on tape, tapes for which I never owned the album or CD. So I’ve been listening to a variety of music, and somewhere in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, while listening to Andrea Bocelli, the music (soaringly cheesy and beautiful), synced up perfectly with the light, the scenery, the pace of the road, and my mood, yielding the overpowering effect of a movie soundtrack.

This got me thinking about the fact that through much of my life, I have routinely forgotten that I am not invisible. Not in an “I-have-superpowers” kind of way. It’s more that I will be in a public place, people-watching, and completely forget (or suddenly remember) that I can be seen as well, by those other people. So there I was, feeling the afternoon sun shoot through the trees of Tennessee to the strains of Andrea Bocelli’s Toscana album, and realized that I suddenly felt not invisible, and this despite the absence of witnesses. The music was like a soundtrack to my journey, and for the first time I could recall, I felt like the heroine in my own movie. Which, as my friend Pedro later pointed out, I always have been. Of course, he’s right; but while I always felt like a main character in my dramas, I never felt at all like the heroine in my own movie. So I courted this feeling further, trying to be with it and not shut it out as soon as I’d thought of it. This kind of awareness is what this trip is about, near as I can tell. And I suspect the whole of it connects with becoming an active agent in my own process or destiny.

After my marriage ended, I went through a period of feeling as though I had been cracked open, and it was truly exhilarating. I perceived throughout my being the complete lack of control we have in this life, and the refreshing whoosh of freedom such a thought can bring. And, for a time, I was really able to embrace the glorious chaos, and be OK with it. But unless you are really ready, have really done the work of preparing to cope with the ultimate ambiguity, that state of openness and exhilaration is not sustainable over time. And so I closed again, without ever meaning or trying to; life steadily closed me up again from without, just as it had suddenly opened me. Several years later, I survived what could or should have been a fatal car accident, and went through another period of feeling, quite literally, cracked open. That time, close upon turning forty, I went overnight from bemoaning my upcoming birthday to saying with unfettered joy, “Yippee!!! I get to turn forty!!!” And I meant it, again. But once more, the state was unsustainable. Now, this trip perhaps, at last, represents a change:  that of choosing to be an active agent in the process of breaking open. Perhaps parts of me or my life were cracking anyway; so rather than having it “happen” to me again, I have elected to be (or at least participate in) the force that is breaking me open. And while this process is not particularly comfortable, I suspect it will be more sustainable in the end.

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