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live.fearlessly

 

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”
– Kevyn Aucoin
I’m back in Mobile after driving 2,000 miles in 2 days. I’m not sure what the hurry was, except to get it over with, and now that I’m here I can’t decide if it’s better to stay a while or get my things and head back to the wastelands. I guess I’ll take a few days to figure it out.

It’s hard not to think about the last year in terms of time lost. Effort and emotion and money that all seem to have been spent pointlessly because I find myself back where I began this journey, working in the oilfields, alone.

While I can’t argue that I gave up a lot in the last year I also can’t argue that I gained much and this situation, however intolerable, is temporary.

Seeing that isn’t easy. I have to look beyond the furnished home I simply gave away to be here. Beyond the debt I created attempting to enter a life I wasn’t born into. Beyond the personal and emotional goals that evaporated like a mist. Beyond the pain.

Beyond all that are the amazing experiences I had along the way. Experiences that opened my eyes to possibilities. Experiences that led me to new friends. Experiences that taught me about love and allowed me to experience it like I never have before. Beyond that is a future I haven’t even imagined yet.

I lost nothing.

Okay, so I’m rebuilding a life from nothing again. I’ve done that before. Experience tells me I’ll be fine. I am lacking direction and goals but I’ll find them or create them. I’m in a sort of free fall and reaching out in a hundred directions but that’s what you do when you fall. That’s how you land on your feet. Leave it to luck and you will almost certainly crash and burn.

But I’ve crashed and burned before and came out just fine. It’s not so bad. Nothing like Hollywood would want you to believe, where the car speeds uncontrolled off the road and invariably explodes.

In real life you never really go up in flames and you don’t “lose” control so much as give it away. Giving up control is a choice. Sometimes it’s even the right choice. Not this time. The crash happens in slow motion in real life. I have time to make decisions. To control the damage. It plays out for weeks, months, even years, but soon enough it will come to an end, I will eject and tumble and roll onto my feet and dust myself off and continue on my way.

Having been here before makes me fearless. It’s scary. It sucks. It’s difficult and time consuming and a real concern at any age but there is nothing for me to fear.

Life is for the living. Not for the worrying about living or the cost of living or the pain of living. Those things just come along for the ride. Life is there to live. For those who live.

Live fearlessly. But wear your seatbelt.

One Pearl Longer

On the eve of each new year I reluctantly don a necklace
of melancholic nostalgia
the significance of which envelops me.
Strung from pearls of wisdom gathered by my former selves.
One per year.
Each radiant globe a diamond of priceless memories
compressed by me into a diminuve crystal ball.
Offering up reflections of immense happiness
tempered by devastang tragedy.
Each precious gem a hard-worn, hard-won epiphany
of the ebbs and flows of life.

Midnight revelry trumpets
auditory triggers of inescapable images.
With each mind’s eye vision comes anew
the heartbreak of loved ones lost forever.
The chain grows heavier and heavier,
constraining tighter and tighter.
Joy and pain, light and dark
intermingle to murky fog.

Come dawn, a fresh new day’s light pierces the gray numb
clarifying each orb until only lightness remains.
The warm beads now comfort me with their familiarity.
Carefully I remove the gossamer strand.
No matter.
Once disturbed, the tenuous connection evaporates scattering mirrored circles of life to places unknown.
Hidden here. Tucked there.
Only to return in their circuitous configuration in 364 nights
to be worn hesitatingly, reluctantly once again,
yet with honor and thankfully
one pearl longer.

– Karen Brown

Image by Karen Brown

Long Nights Moon

Today I woke to this gorgeous nearly full moon illuminating the clouds from within and was reminded that even in the darkest days there is light.

I took some time to contemplate the shortness of our own days, the divine spark that resides in all of us which lights the darkness from within, and the eternal promise of life renewed, and I silently expressed my gratitude for every second of light and life I am given as well as for those inevitable periods of darkness that make the light so much easier to see and appreciate.

Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The sun will remain low on the horizon for three days before rising back into the heavens. The nights will be long and cold.

This solstice is quite rare because it is accompanied by a full moon that brings with it positive change and pleasant and welcome surprises. The next time we will witness a full moon on the solstice is 2094.

To make it even more special it will be followed by the Ursids meteor shower on the 22nd and 23rd. I have no idea when this triple crown will happen again but I don’t imagine it will be any time soon.

It is quite literally a once in a lifetime event so I hope you take the time to bear witness and celebrate in your own way.

Tonight I will celebrate publicly. I’ve been invited to a Christmas party hosted by one of the companies I drive for that also happens to be a company I have contracted with many times over the years and was an employee of until last year. It will be a comfortable gathering among friends.

Tomorrow night I will honor this time privately by writing down my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows, and release them all in fire and an offering of the ashes to the wind in gratitude.

Sunday I will connect with friends, family, and Beloved to reaffirm my presence, my promise, my commitment, and to thank them for being in my life.

However you decide to celebrate or honor this sacred time I wish you a happy and blessed solstice!

Crossroads Moon – October 24, 2018

Welcome to the season of indecision. Buckle up, it’s going to be a roller coaster ride that will either end with nausea and bruises or an elated arm pumping “YESS!!”

It’s also going to be a long ride that won’t officially roll to a stop until the total lunar eclipse on January 21, 2019.

That big box you see in the image is called a Grand Cross and it represents exactly what you might think, a crossroads. In this case, a crossroads of influence.

Think of the image as a flat surface, like a plate, only it’s loaded with pits and peaks and gravity defying turns, and at the outer edge of each direction is a magnet.

Now imagine that you are a steel ball resting somewhere near the middle but already polarized to a particular direction because of recent events and your overall emotional and psychological state prior to this conjunction.

If you were to enter the crossroads unaware or uncaring of the influences there’s a good chance you will gravitate further into that field. Especially if you are already drifting toward those fields where the magnetism is a little stronger. That’s the blue line.

Making sense? I hope so because it’s the best analogy I’ve come up with.

Here’s the cool part: Influence does not equal destiny.

Just because we may feel naturally inclined to roll in a particular direction does not mean we must roll in that direction. We always have a choice and when we make that choice, either consciously or unconsciously, we send energy to one of those magnets and because a charged magnet has a stronger attraction we will invariably be drawn towards it.

This is always true, not just now, and it is our best method of creating desired change. Some refer to it as the Law of Attraction.

So, Mr James, why the big explanation? What’s this buildup all about?

I’m glad you asked.

The magnets here, which mostly deal with love and relationships under this phase of the moon, represent polar opposites of each other: security/insecurity, commitment/abandonment, independence/interdependence, stability/instability.

The natural flow in this case, the position of the charged magnets, is at abandonment and instability. Yay!

Why “Yay?” Because this creates a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow and all I have to do is make a choice and commit to it. Fooo!

Why “Fooo?” Because it will be more difficult to commit during this time.

Therein, as Shakespeare says, lay the rub.

It’s likely that in the coming weeks we will feel both the desire to be in a lasting relationship and the impulse to walk away from the ones we already have. It’s also likely that we will be more inclined to hedonistic urges and (good news/bad news follows) suddenly find ourselves facing the possibility of entering a new relationship, with someone younger or less mature.

If you are single that’s sort of good news. If you are not single it’s going to be a challenge. Either way, it is unlikely to last because those who find themselves in that situation will be drawn there by the negative aspects of those polarities.

But wait! There’s more!

Because this crossroads will basically reverse itself in January the time in between could be a hell of a ride and you may find yourself pinballing back and forth across that plate until you are so beat up you throw in the towel.

Here’s what I suggest:

1. Make a choice. Stick to it. Everything you do is a choice. If you choose to ignore your choices and just go with the flow that is still a choice. So choose wisely and choose now and then focus only on that choice. Indecision is your enemy.

2. Be aware. Going through these next months with eyes closed will only make the ride worse. It’s always best to know what’s coming up and that requires we keep our eyes open and alert.

3. Be excited and unafraid. Getting onto a roller coaster with apprehension and fear will take all the fun out of it and this really could be the best ride you’ve ever been on.

Remember, as with all full moons this is a beginning, not an end.

So strap in close to your partner and enjoy the ride.

Hands up!!

Why I rewrote the narrative of my life

The following excerpt is from my latest contribution to Elephant Journal.

When I decided to change my life, the goal was not only to change who I am today but to change who I was yesterday.

I know that sounds a little sketchy, but follow me for a minute.

One of my brothers and I once had an argument about what color a particular car my dad owned was. I said red, he said blue.

That’s a pretty big difference and yet…


You’d be doing me a favor if you finished reading the article HERE.

This is the oilfield

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It took everything I had to get to Fairview, Montana, 1,900 miles from home, and once I arrived it was not as promised. Some of it was good. Some of it was not so good.

The contracts needing fulfilling have not started. I was told they were not going start until the 8th, a full week later than I was told before coming up here. Two days later I’m told that they were pushed back to the 15th and when I spoke with the brokers myself on Monday I discovered they would not start until the 21st.

In the meantime my prospective employer does me a “favor” by lining up work with his relatives hauling beets for $18 an hour. I talk to one of them who says he’ll “keep it off the books.” That he and his three brothers would each cut me checks to keep the payments under $600, the legal limit for a 1099, and if I needed gas or tires or whatever I could charge it to his account downtown.

This may sound like a fair deal but it is outlaw trucking and it is one of the worst possible positions a legitimate driver can find themselves in. It is a trap. Money is often withheld on promise of payment. Gas and meals are charged back to your account at double the rate. There is no legal recourse in these situations because you are invisible and they most often end with the driver walking away.

It is modern slavery and it is more common than you’d think.

I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s not the first time I’ve had to deal with bait and switch and outlaw trucking and because of that I’m careful and always ready to bail within minutes because it can be dangerous. It is always stressful and rarely profitable.

Monday I talked with my employer. I was polite but firm and persuasive. I made it 100% clear that I would not be driving outlaw for his cousin or anyone else. I let him know I had already made some calls to the broker in charge of the contract he is on and was given the dates and rates. Then I told him I would continue to make calls to people and companies I know here to line up real work for his truck and suggested some sources for him to call as well.

An hour later he calls back with a fresh contract from one of my sources, a company that I’ve worked with before that knows and respects me. The contract pays $110 an hour. I’ll get 25% of that. Not the best money but not bad given the circumstances.

More than that it’s a good contract that will probably last until just before Christmas with people I trust. People that will see to it that I get paid.

Like I said, I’ve been doing this a long time. I know the rules. And I make a horrible victim.

This is not unusual. It’s business as usual and I’m used to it, as much as a person can get used to things like this.

It’s the world I am working so hard to leave behind. I think you can begin to see why.

Here’s the good parts:

Most importantly, I’ll leave here debt free and with enough banked to upgrade the Caravan and buy some time to focus on writing.

I have a home to return to. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that.

The camper I paid $560 dollars for is now in livable condition. It’s not complete yet but the majority of the work is done. Windows have been taped and sealed with plastic and boarded where needed. It’s air tight. Roof is sealed. Cushions are replaced. Wood oiled. New carpet. It’s small but solid and actually quite comfortable and easy to heat and I will make a decent profit from the sale when I’m done with it.

The truck I’ll be driving for work is in good condition and the trailer is excellent quality.

The new boss owns an RV Park outside of Fairview where I am parked for free. I won’t be signing any rental agreement. There is a very nice community building on site with laundry, showers, big screen, and more all in new condition.

The new boss is not a bad man. He does not have bad intentions. Its just the way things are done out here. There are too few of us who refuse those ways and that’s why they persist.

He drives the school bus for his young children. Is involved in the community. He spent the extra money to make a comfortable place for his employees to live. That’s a rare thing.

He was afraid of losing a driver because of the delays and thought he could help his relatives by putting me in a bind while he waited for his contracts to begin. I am certain his relatives can use the help but I’m a hard man to bind up.

There is no way he could know I am as resourceful and determined as I am until he did what he did and no way for me to know this would happen without coming here. It’s always a bit of a gamble because I can’t always fix a bad situation. I’m grateful that I did this time.

No, he is not a bad man.

This is the oilfield.

Journal Entry: Thursday, October 4, 2018

 

When I left Alabama I was smiling because I felt like I have a home to go back to and I like that feeling.

When I got to North Dakota it was snowing. The work I will be doing in Montana is at the mercy of the weather. An early winter means less work. The smile began to fade.

When I was forced to settle for a less than optimal camper to be “base camp” while I’m working because the camper I’d lined up was sold to someone who offered more money in cash the smile faded more. That happens. I don’t blame them for getting as much as they could but it left me without options. The only other camp trailer I could find in my price range (read: cheap) was half the size (a mere 12 feet long), missing windows from hail damage long enough that there was mold and mildew and some of the wood was getting soft, it had neither cushions nor mattress nor bathroom nor propane tanks (not that they’d be of any use since neither the fridge nor the heater worked anyway), and no title. Yep, less than, and it cost more than the complete trailer I had lined up.

When I got to Montana, where I’ll be working, it snowed some more and I was told to expect at least one rain day. It is day two up here and I just got off the phone with my new employer. We are in for an early freeze. All work is canceled until or unless the weather breaks but the forecast for the next week is heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

The smile is gone.

I took a gamble and lost. I should never gamble. Being homeless in Austin, TX is one thing. Being homeless in Fairview, MT is something else entirely so I can’t let that happen. I pretty much depleted my funds getting here. All my cards were maxed months ago, that’s one of the reasons I decided to take the risk, I need to catch up.

The man I’m supposed to be working for feels horrible about it and is making some calls to see if he can line me up with some work. There are plenty of panicked farmers around here working around the clock to get their sugar beet harvest in and he knows many of them. There’s a good chance I can get on with one of them and earn enough to either get me by until the weather breaks, at which point the rock haulers will be in a panic to fulfill their contracts and be working around the clock too, or move to Williston or Watford City and pick up a water or oil hauling job. Not even the worst weather stops production.

If faith was food I’d be fat but I’ll need more than faith to pull this off. A little good luck would go a long way right now.

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

white-flag

 

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!