Wasn’t always taken care of
Old as it is
It shows the scars
Of its rough history
Lacks the luster of its early days
Is cracked and stained and torn
Sometimes it requires repair
I have the tools
I do what I can
But some of the work
Is too little too late
And it breaks down
If I could do it again
Start from the beginning
With the skills and knowledge
I have today
I would take better care of it
So it would last longer
It would shine
It would have fewer dents and scars
A better life
But I’d keep the engine from this one
Because I run good
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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 …
The Buddha was once asked if he was a god to which he replied “No.”
“Are you a wizard, then?”
“Well, are you a man?”
“No” he said.
Confused by his answers they asked “So, what are you?”
The Buddha said, “I am awake.”
I can not claim that I am fully awake yet. I still lay in this bed I made and rub my eyes, trying to make sense of the world around me, but that simple answer, for me, begins to define the answer to my own question:
Who am I?
Over the last few years finding that answer has felt somewhat more critical because of the things I am trying to accomplish in life, and while I admit that I feel like I am no closer than when I began, I have begun to understand that it matters less than I originally thought.
Instead, I am finding that it is who I believe myself to be that is more important and that the expression of those beliefs is an expression of the things inside me that I give life to.
Those beliefs come from experiences and those experiences are interpreted through my previous experiences.
If I believe myself to be compassionate it is because I believe compassion to be of more value than indifference and yet indifference, selective and focused to achieve a positive goal, can have value as well. Much like not caring if I smashed my thumb with a hammer because that happens from time to time and does not mean I deserved it or am a horrible carpenter.
However, I would never describe myself as indifferent. In this way my views of Self are presented as more than expressions of those things I believe myself to be, they are expressions of who I hope to be, who I want to be.
So, who am I?
It really is simple. Much simpler than the explanation.
I am the sum and expression of my experiences, I am who I want to be, and I am who I believe myself to be.
I believe that I am on the right path. Making the right decisions despite their outcome because those decisions are based on faith and hope and love. I believe that everything will be okay. That my life will be everything I want it to be. All of those things require that I believe I am already the person I want to be regardless of how transitional my life may appear because that is how I become that person.
Life regularly spins out of control, beyond my ability to keep it in check. Road blocks appear from nowhere or I look around my self and realize that I have no idea where it is that I am going.
The truth is that I am so deep on my path that much of my future is already decided no matter what I do. Knowing that will not prevent me from continuing to alter that path by taking careful steps that improve life. Not just my life, yours, and truly, all life.
Maybe that’s expecting too much from myself but it is what I am working, and most often failing, at.
How easy it is for some people to do those things. Some seem born into it. Gifted from birth and then guided through life while I seem to always be restricted. Prevented. Partly because of decisions I’ve made in the past and partly because I was simply born into a world that lacked proper guidance. Most of the guidance I have received has been either internal, and therefore slow to process, or divine and therefore impossible to interpret.
But maybe that’s the plan. Maybe I’m supposed to learn slowly and to exert myself rather than have it made easy, to focus my efforts in the wrong places along the way in order to learn by mistake rather than by success.
I don’t know.
Honestly, I don’t care.
Why should I?
Life is a steady progression of difficult decisions for everyone. It would be delusional for me to think that I might be exempt from that fact and it would be a loss of faith to believe that I will ever be let down or led astray by the Divine. She has never done either, something I am always grateful for, so I have no loss of faith.
I’m human. So I am bound to doubt myself from time to time or feel completely unworthy of the goals I have set for myself or have fears. Human. Go figure.
In the end I know, despite the fact that I have very little control over what happens, everything will work out exactly as it should and I will guide positive change as much as I possibly can and accept whatever it is that is beyond my sphere of influence.
I may not control the ocean that heaves this ship with waves the size of mountains to force it in new directions, but I man the rudder.
The further along the difficult path of spirituality I started long ago the more clear it has become that the answers I seek are less likely to be found among religion or spiritual teachings or gurus and more readily obtained through careful consideration of the mundane.
A single line of poetry in a obscure work, something a co-worker says without being aware of the implications, the flight of a red-tailed hawk as it rises and falls with the wind. These things all hold a higher value than the books of a modern day self proclaimed messiah or the doctrines of any antiquated or recycled movement.
The truth, though transient and subject to the interpretation and experiences of the observer, reveals itself in its own way and is a personal experience.
The Universe is constantly calling for us to join her but our own voices are so loud that we seldom hear her. My job is to recognize those truths when they are presented and to be grateful for the gift that they are, to quiet myself and the voices of the egocentric prophets and listen when she speaks, to filter out the untruths and find divine perfection in the world around me.
Those are my truths.
Find your truth. Live it.
Image: “Universe Speaks, We Listen” by Laura “Pelick” Siadak
I will be swallowed by
the things that threaten
I’ve worked so hard
not to be
that in accomplishing my
I will be left
with the mistakes I’ve made
along the way
that in attempting to
something I will never be
I will become
just a shell
filled with good intentions
that I will
and make their life
in my attempts
to make it better
that in attaining
by accident alone
all that I strive
I will lose the chance
to reach higher
all that I may ever be
and in that dark place
a place I’ve come to know
I find solace
if I reach for it in faith
in the depths
a peace that envelops
with the utterance of
a single word
spoken with firm conviction
who I am
meant to be
I’m supposed to be
going exactly where I need to be
In a few days I will be loading up my car once again and heading North for a short while. The decision isn’t an easy one, there are many reasons for me to stay put; this is my home, my heart belongs here, I belong here.
But it is something I need to do if I am to continue forward on my chosen path.
I wasn’t aware of the Astrology involved when I made the decision to briefly return to North Dakota, but I am not at all surprised to see such strong energies in play.
May 29 the moon falls in Sagittarius and will rest between the Heart of Scorpio (Antares) and the Eye of the Bull, Aldebaran, which rises under the influence of Gemini.
It is the Flower Moon. A time of growth when the flowers bloom. A time to expand your thinking and extend your will, to learn new things, explore new places, take steps to improve yourself, and be open to opportunity. If you want a different life, a better life, then this is the perfect time to do something about it.
Truly, I could not have chosen a better time.
I have loose ends to tie up. Most of what I own was left in storage there, including my camper van and boat, and those things are dividing me, delaying my progression, holding me back. In order to move forward they, and the past that the situation represents, must be dealt with.
I have given myself a budget to work with and schedule in which to achieve attainable goals and when I return I will be fully present. Undivided. That will make my next steps easier and more meaningful.
It feels a little like I’m going backwards, and in a way I am, but sometimes in order to go forward one must take a couple steps back to settle the past.