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I left Mobile with a smile late in the afternoon yesterday after a last reshuffling of plans and unpacking/repacking of the car.

The original plan, based entirely on cautious habits acquired over the years, was to bring everything with me in case things didn’t work out.

I’ve gotten very good at eliminating all but the essentials. When I left ND to come here I left a fully furnished, down to silverware, toilet paper, and made bed house behind.

This time something had changed. I found myself wanting to load up everything and that wasn’t going to happen because it seems that when the wiring harness in my SUV melted down a few months ago it took out my trailer lights and I wasn’t about to risk another meltdown by attempting to repair them, which meant I couldn’t rent a U-Haul.

There was no way I was going to take everything with and that bothered me.

It wasn’t until a friend stopped by to send me off with a hug and a smoothie (Thank you, Professor!) and began pointing out things that I shouldn’t bother bringing with that it all began to make sense.

I was attempting to pack up something that is impossible to get into a box or a bag and I could spend the rest of my life trying to squeeze it into every available space I could find and never get it all in because its is larger than a $20 blanket or a rug I picked up from the curb:

Home.

I’ve spent so many years without a home that I forgot what it felt like. I even developed this inner philosophy that said wherever I go I’m always going home because the only sense of home I had for so long was the one I carried with me.

Over the last dozen years every time I’ve headed off to a job in the oilfield it eventually lead to another. Then another. And another. Until I ended up alone and isolated.

These things I’ve felt over the last week, the things that have kept me up at night, that frustrated and irritated, aren’t there because I feel alone.

I am not alone.

I have made strong friendships and have the support of people who love me as much as I love them.

The feeling isn’t that of being alone but of becoming alone, again, which is something that scares the crap out of me and keeps me up at night.

I had forgotten what it feels like to belong somewhere. I never would have guessed that place would be Mobile, Alabama and maybe it won’t be forever, but there it is, home.

So I unpacked everything and moved it all to the attic of the mansion I rent rooms in, much to the delight of the owners who were so honestly relieved and happy to know I would be coming back that they hurried to help me.

I left later in the day than I wanted but made it to Missouri around midnight.

When I looked in the back of my little Rodeo I saw that I brought so few things I had room to arrange a makeshift bed. I walked Brown Dog, the best traveling partner I could ever ask for, offered gratitude to the powers that be, shifted a few things to make enough room to stretch out in, then lay down and slept better than I have in days.

Thoughts from the morning before

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It’s 3 am and I’m up with a case of heartburn so bad it feels like a heart attack. I’d blame the blackened red fish I ate for this wretched agony but it’s not that. Nor can I blame the Sazerac that complimented it. No, this is borne of frayed nerves and fear.

It is my last night here in The Mansion, an 1850’s monstrosity of a home in the heart of Mobile, and I am afraid. Afraid that I will always be scurrying to catch up. Afraid that I will never realize the person I am trying so hard to become. Afraid of the journey ahead of me.

Tomorrow, today, just a few hours from now, I will begin the long drive North. 1,800 miles back to the oilfield. Again. Stupid mouse to cheese trap. I have beaten the odds for a dozen years and managed to get the cheese before the trap clamped down on me. One day it will break my back and I’ll stare with glazed eyes at the molding cheese and wonder why I kept coming back for more.

I wish I could roll over and hold you close to soothe my nerves but the bed is empty. It is always empty. There has never been a woman in this bed.

That thought makes the heartburn worse so I throw the blankets back and scramble to the bathroom, sure that I’ll soon lose that excellent meal. The surge subsides before I get there but I’ve had enough nights like this in the last week to know it’s just a small reprieve so I down a handful of antacids to head off the inevitable follow up.

This is not the norm for me. I have been in situations that were far more stressful without suffering any kind of physiological effect.

So why now?

Writing, for me, has become a form of therapy. Visual meditation. A way to explore the thoughts that constantly ebb and flow with a life all their own. So I sit down and begin to write, casting my net with each stab at the keyboard until I snag that one random image that defines what it is I am feeling.

In this case it is the image of the empty bed and what I am feeling is lonely. No, not lonely. Alone.

Big surprise. You’d think I would have caught that as I wrote the cryptic poetry I posted earlier. I guess it was too obvious. So I read the poem again, something I really should do at least a few times before publishing. Write once, edit a hundred times. That, I’ve been told, is the set rule of writing. I should probably try it. The poem is horrid. It has potential, but it really is horrid. All over the map. I don’t recommend reading it. But it tells me what I need to know; I am never alone.

Right now there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people all over the planet feeling exactly the same thing I am feeling.

I close my eyes, slow my breath, and reach out to them. To assure them they are not alone, to let them know that they are loved, that I am here with them and in doing so I offer those same things to my Self and receive them from others and those thoughts, or the combination of those thoughts and the antacids (credit where credit is due), begin to slow the burn and the frayed edges of my nerves begin to mend.

Still, I wish I could get back into that bed and hold you close.


Photo by Josh Applegate

never alone

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along this path of dreams I have walked with feet tenderized
seasoned prime cuts on shards of exquisitely broken memories
laid out in spirals of blues and greens and yellows that
flow up and down the tendrils of my spine
diverting brooks
high walls
bordering towers
babbling riddles
my heart knows
yet reveals to no one
not even my Self
while the shreds of who I was
howl at who I am
meant to be and I
in the middle
ears open
eyes open
heart open always beckoning calling
stand alone
not this time
I cry in confused tones to an empty stare
returned
hands beseeching
empty room
not this time
I will the world
to halt
for just this moment
this night and join me in ecstatic union
not this time
she replies in coy indifference and self denial
the result of a life of tribunal

not this time

this time I travel alone

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Image by Nate Bell

Victories

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I’m feeling a little defeated right now. I’m bruised and bloody. But I’m not beaten.

I had a three day pity party with all the usual guests; disappointment, failure, rage, grief, depression. We all commiserated and growled and grumbled and shed tears in our rum and then I sent them packing. Each with a hug and a “Thank you for coming.”

Now it’s time for a victory.

That starts with me.

First, a long walking meditation to silence the remnants of that black balloon affair where I logged their complaints and handled them lovingly.

They are not me, just my thoughts, and they deserve my attention and compassion, but not my life.

Then I sent out feelers to a few companies up north. Yes, back in the oilfield. It’s not where I want to be but it’s the one place I know, without a doubt, that I can get a job pretty much on demand with pay that is considerably more than I can make here. Maybe I mentioned this before, Mobile has some of the lowest driver rates in the nation. Barely enough to live on. Not nearly enough to pursue my goals. Right now I’m looking for companies that just need someone to finish up the season because I don’t want to make a commitment and I really don’t want to starve through another season of frozen roads, frozen trucks, frozen flesh.

Get in. Get out. Get back to what I’m trying to accomplish.

I am working on two backups:

The first, converting all my adjuster training to work with FEMA, will take more time than I have right now but it’s a viable option down the road. I have started taking the training they provide but to get myself on top of the list of potential hires I want to have a long list of their certifications under my belt. So, for now, it’s something that I will take my time with.

The second is a lead I received less than an hour ago. A company that is looking for adjusters to work from home and pays extremely well.

This second option is a strong contender to replace driving, and I’ll talk with them before making the decision, but heading north for a couple months has a distinct benefit: I still have things in storage in ND that I can simply bring with when I return to Mobile.

Yes, I plan on coming back to Mobile. Fate brought me here for a reason and though I really don’t know what that reason is I have no intention of working against such a powerful force. So I’ve made arrangements to leave most of what I brought with me in storage while I’m gone.

I’ll know more within a couple days.

Here’s the thing:

Shit happens and there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do about it but I am not defined by those things, I am defined by how I respond to them.

Yes, it sucks that I spent a year of my life working intensely to create change only to have it all implode but it’s only a failure if I allow it to be, and it’s not an end, it’s a beginning.

In a way, it’s a gift. I am being forced to start again.

I’ll get it right soon enough.

 


Image by Richard Felix on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waving the White Flag

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Well, I’m back. Though I’m not sure what that means.

First, let me say that I am extremely relieved and thankful that hurricane Florence did not land as the expected Cat 4 even though it means I have no work because I would not wish that sort of devastation on anyone.

I have tried, unsuccessfully, to write about surrender many times now. It is a subject I have a difficult time with because as strong as my faith is and accepting as I can be I still have a hard time separating “surrender” from “giving up”

I don’t want to give up but I do need to surrender.

I have done my best in this last year to change my life and while I have been undeniably successful in many ways I feel I have utterly failed in others. I knew that changing my life would not be easy, but I did believe it was possible.

Now I’m not so sure.

I made just enough money in the week I was deployed to either hold on for another month or to move on. Moving on, in this case, actually means moving backwards, which is something else I have a difficult time with.

At this moment I am seriously considering taking the little money I made and heading back to the oilfield. Trucking has always been a sure bet for me. I can literally go anywhere and find a job driving. The problem is that I honestly despise that life.

My other option is to stay put, dig in, use what I earned to get me to the next storm. The problem is that there may not be a next storm and when the money is gone I will be left without an option. It will be too late in the year to expect to find work in ND and I won’t have the finances to make the move anyway. I will be left finding a driving job in Mobile, AL, home of the lowest driver rates in the nation. Barely above minimum wage.

So I have a choice between a known that I have been trying to escape for most of my adult life, a known that will pay the bills but likely make me want to withdraw again. Maybe for the last time. Or I can choose the unknown. Continue to place my faith in a desire for something better. Accept the possibility of it all falling apart at the last minute and leaving me without any options at all.

For now, in this moment, the best I can do is wave the white flag, retreat from the battle, accept that there are things beyond my control and maybe tomorrow I will begin to make new plans.

But I will not give up.

 

Stormbound

deployed

As most of you know, I have spent the last year of my life focusing on my training as an insurance adjuster in order to secure a position doing field claims as a way to escape truck driving and buy me the time I need to focus on my goals.

I am a writer. It’s where I belong.

Tonight I received a deployment confirmation and need to be in Atlanta on Friday morning for staging. I’m not sure how I’ll make that happen yet but I know I will.

If all goes as expected I will be able to begin focusing on my writing 100% within the next 8 months.

First comes phase two of the plan: Work my ass off to generate at least a years income on my first deployment.

If I can do that then I will spend the next year improving my writing skills and recreating the Caravan. I’ve already put parts of that plan in motion. I’ve began designing mini-courses, built a community site that I can integrate here, and that operates quite well as a mobile app, I established an email server using my domain and started the process of creating member only content (not as a paid subscription and not spam:), and more. A lot more. Some of it technical. All of it designed with a simple theme in mind: Sharing.

I want to build a community of people that support and encourage each other. A place where we can share our journeys, our stories, our talents, gifts, abilities, our hopes, and our fears.

Life is a journey best shared.

Change is often slow and always requires faith and effort. I have to admit that while my faith was challenged some over the last 12 months I never stopped believing and I never gave up. I’m glad I didn’t.

I won’t now even though I know the task I’ve set for myself is, well, it’s grasping. Far reaching.

I am not afraid to reach or to push myself to attain something, better.

For the next several months my posts may become even more infrequent or erratic, or I may find myself needing the outlet as a way to disconnect from the work I will be doing, helping people rebuild their lives after serious losses.

So I want to thank you, all of you, for sticking it out with me over this last year and I hope that you will continue to share in my journey over the next.

Be well!

Storm


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There was I time I thought of myself as “Stormchaser”. It was a label I assigned to offset the difficult times that seemed to follow me as a way of reversing the odds.

I saw myself as not only actively engaging those hard times but as pursuing them in a “if life is suffering and suffering brings enlightenment then, for fucks sack, bring it on” mentality.

I was wrong.

Man, was I wrong.

The hard times pursued like a predator on blood scent and I, tough as the wind, really was bleeding, profusely.

I’ve said before how I’m only now rubbing the sleep from my eyes, but I look back with these blurry eyes and see that young man and rather than think “whaddadouche”, my favorite quote when it comes to ignorance, I can say “good start.”

It really was.

Since then I’ve learned that Life is more often concerned with giving lessons than with leading me to them and that the path of life is much more flexible than I thought.

She is the train
I am the rail
Or more like the spike
Or the ground it’s driven into
Or maybe just a house it passes by
Sleeping

That’s my attempt at Zen poetry, which I’m okay with, in a Zen sort of way.

My point is this:

I have felt the storm.
I feel it now inside me.
I’m not sure it ever goes away.
I’m okay with that.

That, by the way, has nothing at all to do with either Zen philosophy or poetry, it’s who I am.

So right about now you’re probably asking yourself what the hell this post is about so I’ll sum it up in six words …

 

We find what we are looking for.

 

… okay, seven words.

 


 

Audio: “Stormchaser” by J M Greff

 

so close i can taste

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a light rain
more a mist
a wet veil
cools the humid air
that clutches
and claws
suffocating
like some silent
assailant that cant be escaped
it swirls
in slight eddies
like cool water
in a warm pool
sweat runs off me
in a stream
still it feels like spring
life constantly flows here
something always in bloom
mushrooms sprout and die
sprout and die
the resurrection fern
mostly green
sleeping only hours at a time
the rain seems to never stop
yet does nothing
to subdue the humidity
giving life
to all this glorious green
even I
suffocating in the heavy air
grow


Image by Johannes Hofmann

Something Lost

Something Lost

With one foot
Mostly
In front of the other
He shuffles
Back and forth
Left to right
Trying to follow
A boulevard
That keeps moving
Disappearing
One
Retracted
Step
At a time
His eyes
His mind
Blinded
By whatever poison
He has chosen
To end his life
I watch him a while
As he stumbles
Up the stairs
Of a nearby school
To empty his bladder
Then into traffic
Horns wailing
Cautioning
Cursing
He is seeking
Something
Something he has lost
I think
You won’t find it there
You won’t find it there
But I hope you do

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Image: “Anywhere you lay your head” by Bill S. 99