Thinking Aloud

I suppose I should take it as a good sign that I actually want to write. So often in the recent year, I just haven’t wanted to. Take your pick of excuses; too tired, uninspired, too busy.

Right now, though, I feel like I am bursting with thoughts and, therefore, must write them down.

It is a strange thing to have no direction. I have no plan, no ultimate goal. It makes me feel . . . lost. Conversely, I am also overjoyed at some of the new developments in my life. I feel overwhelmed with happiness. Lost and overwhelmed. What an emotional combination!

On the one hand, I feel like I should be planning for something; setting some kind of goal. But I know not what. It’s as if I am marking time, waiting for something. And I am not good at waiting. In fact, I am terrible at waiting.

On the other hand, I quite suddenly have this amazing presence in my life. It’s like a shiny new bauble. I keep wanting to look at it, examine it (sometimes over-examine it), show it off, polish it until it shines, and keep it safe. Sometimes I am simply ecstatic that it exists at all. Other times, I fear the losing of it.

It is an odd juxtaposition of feelings; jumbled up and tumbling around inside my head and heart.

So what to do?

Someone has told me that I should simply enjoy what is. Do not worry about what could be, what might be. I don’t think I’m built like that. I like plans, I like schedules, I like things to fit neatly into a box. I don’t really like the tumult inside me. But I think they are right.

I am not in my comfort zone. I’m dealing with two areas of my life that don’t fit so neatly together. I can’t tie it all up with a string. It’s messy and unruly and . . . . unknown. And I think this might be exactly the way it is supposed to be.

I had the rug swept out from under me a few years ago. I fought hard to get back to a place that I could control; a place of stability and comfort. But, while stability and comfort are nice and were hard won, this is not the core of who I am or what I want.

I take risks. I close my eyes and jump. I go on adventures. I want to laugh and learn and and explore and be happy.

Perhaps the real problem is that it has been so long since I’ve taken a leap I’ve forgotten how. I’ve forgotten what it feels like. Maybe I’m not waiting for a direction, but looking for inspiration. Although, what I will be inspired to do will be anyone’s guess.

For now, I know I should stop letting certain things make me feel boxed in. And I should start opening my heart to the other joys so recently entering my life. It may not be easy, but I have small suspicion that it will be worth it.


A Bridge Too Far?

I live near the Mississippi River. Some people cross it each day to get to and from work. Me? I rarely ever have the need to be on the other side of the river. Although, today I was. 

As I was driving across the river, I commented to my companion how much I love bridges. It’s true. Bridges are such a strange symbol of human ingenuity. To design something with both strength and beauty that overcomes such obstacles? Is that not a definition of the human experience?

It’s more than that, though. 

Tonight, as drove back to my side of the River, I nearly cried. My weekend was spent in a gentle enveloping of happiness and now I was going back to a world of stress and uncertainty. Crossing the bridge suddenly became this huge metaphor for exactly what I was doing; crossing into a whole other area of my life. 

Lately, I have been consumed with work. Not the work I love, my writing, but the work I must do to support myself. And I like my job, I do. But this is not what I saw myself doing. This is not even what I see myself doing in five years. And, of late, it has become the primary source of stress in my life. So the bridge became a bridge from leisure to pressure, from a life filled with something intangible yet real, to a life that feels sorely without. 

I have said several times lately that vocabulary cannot encompass my feelings as I wish it would. This was true on the bridge tonight. Suffice it to say, I profoundly felt the effect of crossing into something, yet leaving behind something else

Is it any wonder bridges become the turning point for so many? This creation of man that spans something vast and seemingly unconquerable? Someone, at some time, conceived and built the way across. It takes courage to follow that path, to use a bridge as it was intended. A man could easily make it halfway and be confronted by the impossibility of the task. Does it overcome him? Uncertainty, fear and loss, the vastness of whatever void he is crossing; it can blind him to the prospect of actually reaching the other side.  And does it reason that the other side is necessarily better? Is it truly where he wants to go? Or is it the only option?

Yes, I can easily see the indecision at the center of the bridge. The hopelessness that could freeze a man right there, before he passes the halfway point. 

Yet, bridges must be crossed. Sometimes we must go backwards and forwards. Crossing again and again until we are led to the destination we were always meant for. But we cannot stop in the middle. We cannot trap ourselves in the limbo of despair or indecision. 

For my part, this is a new aspect of my life. Switching between one reality and another until I can find a way to merge the two. Taking the bridge one way, to my freedom and euphoria, and then back again to the everyday ebb and flow of stress and contentment. And I can look forward to many other nights crossing into one realm with the profound sadness of leaving another behind. 

Do You See What I See?

I know what my brother will look like as an old man; when his face goes pale and his skin thins and sags. I know this because he aged before my eyes last week. 

You see, my mother (who is only 51, mind you) had a heart attack. By some miracle, coincidence, intuition (whatever you want to label it), I went by her house that evening and was able to take her to the ER. Last Sunday, she ended up having quadruple bypass surgery. When the doctors explained to us what was going on and how much damage had already been done, my brother nearly passed out. And I think I had a little glimpse of our future in that instant. 

Of course futures change. There is an ebb and flow to the tide of life. Where we are headed now is not necessarily where we will end up. But I’ve seen a possibility. And not a pleasant one. 

You see, my mother lives alone. She has a few friends, mostly acquaintances really. She has her parents and she has two children; myself and my brother. She doesn’t date. She rarely goes out and, when she does, it usually revolves around work. She is not the kindest of people. She does not cultivate love or friendship. Not to say she is without it completely, but she certainly doesn’t pursue it. So, for the most part, she is alone, physically and emotionally.

I have decided, especially after this past week, that this is not how we are meant to be. 

I don’t mean just significant others, although that is important, too. But friends, family. We are meant to have partners in life. We’re designed that way. We’re meant to have supportive families, friends who are more like siblings, and a person to stand by us and with us. We’re not meant to be alone. 

Why? Because things happen. Life gets screwy. And some things you just can’t do alone. I’m talking about help and support, here, not love and romance. 

I think this is why we all have that drive to seek out others. To find a partner. To make friends. Yes, love and romance are important. So are inside jokes and bottles of wine with friends. But, at their core, all relationships are about need. The need for help through life.

And maybe sometimes that need carries us away. We choose the wrong partner or the wrong friends or are born into families that can’t or won’t give us love or support. We try so hard to make it work, whatever “it” is. And we get burned. Those relationships end. This is what happened to my mother, 25 years ago. 

Only she never got over it. She never put herself back out into the world. Sure, she had good excuses: “I have kids” or “I’ve been hurt”. In all honesty, though, I think that’s a load of crap. 

Yea, life sucks sometimes. You go through bad stuff. But it’s no reason to give up. And, if she hadn’t, if she had more friends, a boyfriend even, she wouldn’t be at the hospital alone. If she cultivated love in her own home, gave her children a hug instead of an insult more often, she could probably stay with them instead of having to stay with her parents. But that is not the person she has let herself become. 

Yesterday, I was explaining to someone why I like spiders when everyone else hates them. I was talking about spider webs. The web of a spider is this incredible act of faith that the spider recreates day after day. It’s so fragile, so delicate and beautiful. Yet, a blundering animal, a careless human, or a strong wind can rip it to shreds in an instant. And what does the spider do? It painstakingly, with just as much care, builds another one. Because that web is integral to it’s life. 



Dreams of Men

I’ve been told by several reputable psychiatrists that when you dream of a man (or woman), it doesn’t necessarily mean your subconscious is telling you to be with that person. Often, we romanticize dreams into prophetic visions, when really they are simply a part of our brain trying to work through something we can’t fully deal with in our waking life. From my own experience and research, I think this is especially true when it comes to dreams about relationships.

Sometimes, throughout my life, I’ve dreamed about a very specific boy;  a boy I grew up with and loved very much. (For the sake of this blog, we’ll call him Paul). Even when I was with another, Paul would always crop up in my dreams.

I haven’t seen or spoken to Paul in many years, but still, to this day, I dream about him. Why? Is it because we are destined to be together? Are we psychically linked? Nope. I really don’t think so. For one thing, I have no idea what kind of man he has become. For another, (romantic, though it may be) I don’t believe in sitting around and waiting for someone.

So, back to the “why” question.

Well, psychology posits the reason being this: you’re not really dreaming about the person. You are dreaming about the desirable qualities that person possessed.

For instance, Paul and I had a relationship that spanned a pretty big chunk of time. It wasn’t always a romantic relationship (or even a friendly one; I fondly remember teasing each other quite cleverly in kindergarten), but we were always in each other’s lives. There was a steadiness there; solidity. It’s definitely something I’ve missed in subsequent relationships.

He was also a talker. He could hold an intelligent conversation for days. He was sure of himself, sure of me, sure of his faith. A romantic, though he’d never admit that, and decisive. All things I miss in my life and often in relationships.

So, I dream about him. Especially when I am unsure of myself. When I want romance, I dream of Paul; when I look for kindness, I dream of Cory; adventure, I dream of John. (I never dream of celebrities romantically. I don’t know what that says about me except maybe I’m a realist). Sometimes I dream about someone I’ve only just met.

Does that mean that any of these men are my destiny? My One True Love? The person I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life with? No. It doesn’t.

It probably means, especially during this time of year, that I get lonely. That I’m wanting something more from my life or my relationships. Or, in the case of dreams about Paul, that I’m just uncertain or insecure.

In a lot of ways, it would be simpler if dreams really did tell our futures. I’d like to believe in destiny and One-True-Loves. I’m not sure I do, though. We go through many faces, many changes, in a lifetime. It would be nice to have a destination, a fixed point, however unknowable, that we’re running towards. And nice to have someone to run there with. 

When 2+2 = Fish

It seems like such a long time since my last post. My computer was temporarily out of order and I just can’t write a decent blog post from my smart phone (it’s not that smart).

In the time since my computer went haywire, I’ve moved and been promoted. Not huge events really, simple and small ones. However, now that I live on the opposite side of town, I run into a lot of people I grew up with; at the dog park, at the grocery store, at the Chinese place.

It’s strange how this has affected me.

When I moved back to my hometown, I felt defeated and disastrous. I dreaded the thought of running into someone I knew from before; from the days when I had everything to look forward to and little to regret. I was grateful not to see anyone.

But in the past few months, that’s happened so often. I run into someone and we chat and catch up and suddenly it’s not this huge terrible thing to talk about where I am or even where I’ve been. Because they’ve been there too.

You see, we all had these huge dreams. We were told by our parents and teachers that if we just did A, B, and C then those dreams would be our reality. We would be happy, have enough to get to by, maybe more, and someone to share it with. Of course, that was a load of bull.

I had been under the mistaken impression I was the only who attempted A, B and C, but only got halfway to B before crashing and burning. I thought I was the only one with no money, a ton of debt, a string of bad jobs, and a pretty hopeless outlook on the world in general. Apparently not.

It seems the majority of us ended up that way. Whatever our hopes and dreams were, we’ve had to amend our plans or just go off in a completely different direction. Those of us that actually have jobs, have pretty odd jobs. Some don’t have any. And living with your parents? Practically a given for most of us. At the very least we’ve had to do it for a few months.

The thing is, we are attractive, educated young people. We may not be super model attractive and we may not have two degrees plus five years experience, but we certainly aren’t dumb or ugly (inside or out). So how come we got the short end of the stick? How come we’re the ones stuck between “I can’t afford school” and “I don’t qualify for a scholarship”? Between “educated” and “degree holding”? “Entry level” and “Experienced”? “Good” and “Not Good Enough”?

I don’t know. I used to think it was just me. As strange as it sounds, I used to think I was just a failure. Whatever happened (or didn’t happen, as was often the case) it was my fault. I bought into the idea that I just wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, worthy enough.

But now I’m not so sure. Having heard stories from my peers, having seen how their lives turned out? It is all eerily similar to my own story. From relationship troubles to finding a job to going to school. Our lives haven’t interconnected since high school . . . . and yet . . . . there we are; running this parallel, zigzagging course. We run from one closed door to another, to another, to another. Until we are struggling out the window into an entirely new space.

But then again . . . how does that phrase go? “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.”

So we’ve got a lot of living to do yet. And maybe now that we’ve run into each other and traded stories, we can be a little less hard on ourselves. And, just maybe, a little more hopeful.

The Dreams of a Life

Sometimes I just have to stop and wonder at how strange life is. The intricate paths that maneuver us around like so many pieces on a chess board. The losses, the conquests, those frustrating moments when you have no idea what to do next and those beautiful moments when everything suddenly makes sense even when you didn’t see it coming. 

Throughout my life, my wants and needs have changed. There are some things that are constant, like my writing, but some things are only distant memories. 

I had such grand plans for my life as a child. I was going to be an archaeologist and go on adventures like Indiana Jones. I was going to fall madly in love. I was going to travel the world and become elegant and sophisticated and disgustingly rich. 

As I grew older, those dreams changed, but they were no less grand. I wanted to travel in service, to help people, to save people. I wanted to change the world and make it a better place, to fight for ideals like love, compassion, and justice. I would have a tortured romance, maybe, but eventually find love and mutual passion for change. 

And then I did fall in love. And, if I’m honest, it was more out of need than anything else. I needed to believe in love at that point in my life. I think the past few years, I have been grasping at dreams like so many straws. I felt guilty and inadequate. I was ashamed that there was no grandness to my life, just so many common mistakes and wrong turns. So, yes, my romantic heart anchored itself to a love that wasn’t strong or true, but it was there and I needed it. 

Now I’m filled with such simple hopes and dreams. I am almost ashamed at how small they are, but they are what I want. I can accept the outside criticism of them because I have learned, through so much trial and error, that wanting does not have to be grand or extravagant. It simply must come from a true place deep inside the soul. 

I know, too, that my dreams, my hopes and wishes, will change again with time. Some will be fulfilled, some may not be. I can only keep moving forward, not giving up on life or love or family. Continuing until that time when I am called to an even greater form of existence over the threshold of death and into what lies beyond. 

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well” – Voltaire

A Brief Bout of Poetry

Someone inspired me to explore the wonder of being a true Southerner:

I am so southern . . .

My words drip like slow molasses and my voice falls like honey, the sweetest sounds to complement cool, sweet tea drunk on a porch in the mosquito hazed dusk.

 I am so southern . . .

My smile is as wide as the Mississippi River and as welcoming as a rare summer wind cooling a sweat stained brow with a kiss.

I am so southern . . .

I have heart filled with charity and soft, southern comfort waiting for the quiet conversation of creaking rocking chairs amid the firefly light of evening.

I am so southern . . .

I sing my sorrows into the mud and raise my hopes to the sky, planting love into the soil and letting grow into a sultry simmering spice.

I am so southern.


*For a true Southern Lady with welcoming hugs and joy in her heart . . .

ImageBessie Williams 1918-2013