A red line of brakes lit up the highway as I topped the hill, northbound on I-25 tonight. I have a vague recollection of a sign stating nighttime repairs. "Oh, was that this week?"
I zip off at the next exit, right before the slowdown, and I think, "It's cool to know your hometown well enough to find a good route from any exit."
I made it, all green lights, to the next North/South thoroughfare and turn off. It's an old part of town I rarely drive through, century old houses and a divided road with mature trees in the median. They don't build like that anymore. And that's as deep as it gets until I see the next yellow arrow in the lane ahead and realize that I am on yet another road in the midst of construction. I get that it's construction season, but working on two major N/S roads seems like poor city planning to me (but I digress).
Because after I follow the detour sign, I realize the orange cones, yellow lights, and squiggly detour arrow are a sign of how my month is going. Not according to plan.
I want to talk about balance and revisions in the next couple of weeks, but right now, I need to talk about detours. The year of living fearlessly is not about being physically fit and/or spiritually centered. It's about writing and taking risks and preventing fear from running my life, personally and professionally, and I took the wrong highway when I went in search of balance.
I can be a better person next year. This year, I need to write like a crazy woman.
On the road, the detour signs point me back on the straight path. No more construction and I speed down the street (more green lights!). I am nearing the Interstate again and plan to get on for one exit to cut a few minutes off my trip when I notice yet another line of tail lights. Stalled traffic on the highway.
Road widening project. They work at nights. Another detour.
"Okay," I think, addressing God or the Universe or whatever force is pushing me at the detours. "I get it. Time to detour off the course I've set for myself this month."
I had just left a writers workshop where a new writing friend kindly but firmly pushed me to finish a quick revision I need on my opening before submitting. I had an agent ask for the proposal at a writer's conference and I have let my "busy-ness" get in the way of a real opportunity. And my new friend isn't letting me get away with it.
Good for her!
That's good for me. How awesome to have a friend who is willing to hold me accountable. Coupling her firm pressure to get it done followed by not just one but THREE detours, I think I get the message.
I'm taking a detour from my planned goals this moon cycle. Like knowing my hometown well enough to find my way home from any exit, I know myself well enough to find my way back to the year of living fearlessly..
I'm have a real tough time with this month's goals. How are things going for you?
Wherein I do not discus goals
because.... I need a break. And, John Wayne is my hero and I like talking about heroes.
I loved the parts John Wayne played, not the man himself, yet the man chose the parts, so they are indelibly connected. He chose that one-eyed old fat man fighting an impossible fight (Rooster Cogburn). He chose the rugged cowboy who had to hire boys who grew up on the long trail (The Cowboys). He was The Green Beret and the cowboy from Stagecoach. He was larger than life.
John Wayne never backed down, even if outnumbered; or especially when outnumbered. He fought every bad guy stereotype ever created on the big screen, including cancer, and he didn't back down. It wasn't in his nature. He only died in three movies*, and the thought of them still brings a knot of tears to my throat. In some ways, he reminds me of my father, and they're a tough act to follow.
Having men like my father and John Wayne as heroes makes it hard to live up to my own expectations. For a long time, i dealt with the fight by not having one. You know, the old War Games line, "the only way to win is not to play." You can't lose an impossible fight if you don't show up for the duel at dawn. John would not approve.
Neither would my father.
Yes, I have passively accepted a tractor-load of manure in this life, and I have avoided many a duel along the way, but that was the first act. The part where the character gets beaten down, like Rooster Cogburn waking up hungover and smelling like rot. That is the opening, not the story.
The stories of my father are more morality tales, not stories in the common sense, because they merely tell us what he did--and what he did was heroic--but they don't tell us how he got there. Was he afraid? Did he dither? How did he get from being wronged to making it right?
That's the real story, and the part I missed by losing him so soon in my life. And, maybe, just maybe, because I listened to those stories, I thought I should skip ahead to the part where I triumph over evil, make the right choice, and live the righteous life. In all reality, I would love to skip to the hard part.But that skips the whole second act.
The second act is life. Period. Not lived perfectly, not even justly, but lived to the best of our ability with the best of our knowledge at that particular moment.
I do not know how my father got from wronged to making it right, but I've watched enough John Wayne movies to understand how it works. It's done by acting. Not in the Hollywood sense, but in the life-is-an-action-verb sense.
We cannot sit and wait for life to happen or for happy endings to appear. We have to earn them. Life requires action.
We cannot go gently from our life-story opening to the close. There is too much joy and grief and love and hate to sow in the between, in the second act of our lives. Yes, there are mistakes to make and troubles to brew and wine to drink. There is much to do in the between times, so that when it is over, we can know we fought the good fight. Not as a morality tale, but as a story, lived-well, a happy ending earned.
When my mother passed, she had my brother read a poem at her funeral. I cannot tell you what it was, because I was appalled that it seemed accepting of the inevitability of death from a woman who had fought longer and been stronger than anyone I knew. Even John Wayne.
I was appalled that she should accept and squander life after having fought the good fight for so long. I wanted Dylan Thomas, raging against the dying of the light
, because that is how she lived.She missed the point of her own life story.
I would like to avoid the same fate. I do not want to "go gentle into that good night." I want to begin life now as I mean to go on. I plan to "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
New moon time.
How did the last goals go? What's on the next agenda?
Last month, for me, was about silence. Personally, a slow torture, but necessary (and dangit, really, did it have to work?). Silence was necessary. I needed to slow down and realize what the heck I was about. And what I was about was change (as always). And recovery. And new beginnings. Just like a new moon.
The new moon is on May 10, so that means we have a future goal to set. You mean I can't be silent for the rest of the year?
I wish! But in case you're keeping track at home, silence would be a no! So where do we go from here?
Recap. I've set serious writing goals that make me cringe from the boldness and lack of fear (because inside...). I've set serious physical goals for physical growth. And last month, I set serious spiritual goals with silence. Who knew that would be the hardest!So what is next?
I'd like to say absolutely nothing, because it's late and I'm really tired, but that's not how I roll. New moon requires new goals. Of the extreme variety. Of the I'm living fearlessly variety. And that means....
Bold goals for a bold girl (and you too!).
Spring requires balance. You remember balance, right? That means getting it all together, with the physical, spiritual, and creative. Hell, I'm just setting myself up.
But, it's what I need most.So, from new moon to new moon, I will....
I will balance the physical, spiritual, and creative with the three by three:
- Workout 3X3, meaning 3 miles 3 times per week (yep, physical goals that stretch me)
- Find a spiritual renewal 3 times in the next moon cycle (as in, get ye to the spiritual realm, girl)
- Write 3X3, meaning 3 hours 3 times per week (necessary!)
I'd like to take the easy way out (is there a cheaters way through life? because I'd like to find it), but focusing on one plane of existence doesn't do it for me. I need balance. I need 3X3. I need a little bit of everything in moderation. Sounds like the Mediterranean Diet. :)What's your goal for the next moon cycle? You deserve one. You need one. Share if you dare!
Whenever silence and "change" enter my life, this song finds me. Must be a reason this Pisces girl connects to this song. If I close my eyes, I can picture myself on a boat on Grand Lake (no ocean here), and I can somehow visualize exactly what I need. Close your eyes. I bet you can too.
Am I the only one with that nasty middle-school teacher voice in my head asking me "who do you think you are?" Nah, can't be. That question sparked at least one 80s movie. Remember the premise behind The Breakfast Club? "We think you're crazy asking us to write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us."
Okay, so I have to admit to a bias against actors turned writers. Plus, being a Fan Girl
aside, fame doesn't impress me much. Not that I don't love the movies, but when I was itty-bitty, my dad took me to see John Wayne at a horse auction in the middle of nowhere Colorado.
Meeting John Wayne in the flesh was life defining. So after John Wayne, well, everyone else ISN'T John Wayne. See my point?
But I'm off topic. Again.
When I saw the event notice for Andrew McCarthy, I thought Pretty in Pink. Not writer. Still, a chance to see Andrew McCarthy. So yeah, no brainer.
I had done a bit of research beforehand, enough to know that he was a travel writer, and not of the Sunday paper variety. A year ago, as part of my masters program, I took a Travel Writing class, and decided that its definitely a direction I want to go, but a year has passed, and so many classes have followed, and I'd forgotten the reasons I liked travel writing.Enter Andrew McCarthy, writer.
He spoke for an hour, and locations aside, it was what he said about travel that struck a chord with me. He was saying things I knew, but had forgotten.
Travel writing is about personal transformation. It isn't the destination but the change in ourselves that makes travel worthwhile, and through writing, we can affect that change in others. Yes! That's it exactly.
Travel is how I discover who I am. --Andrew McCarthy
When I was in middle school, I entered a short story contest and failed miserably. I still have a yellowed copy of the story, but I never read it, because I know it must be awful. My English teacher, a wretch of a woman, wrote critiques on my entry that she didn't realize I would receive back, so they were especially harsh. Her words became that voice in my head that asked who the hell I thought I was to think I could write. It's that voice that constantly harps at me:
Who do you think you are?
When I push myself to the limits, like climbing Pikes Peak, I peel all the crap from my life to reveal who I am. I feel like the bossy little girl who was afraid of no one or nothing when I'm doing these things. I remember who I am supposed to be. The me without the fear.
That's what travel does for me, but it's more than that, because when I write it all down, I realize the lessons I'm trying to hide from myself. And I face them.
Travel doesn't make everyone feel that way, but good travel writing can remind people of truths they have lost. Good writing, period, is a discovery process.
Who am I? is only the beginning.
Well, not actually meet, really, more like, I was in the same building with him, along with a hundred or so other women of a certain age and a dozen men (two of whom were bartenders). BTW, I think having a bar at a booksigning is a stellar idea and should be encouraged at booksignings everywhere. But I digress.Andrew McCarthyThe local library hosted an even
t for him to promote his new book. Yeah, I didn't know either, and we'll talk about that tomorrow, but tonight I am hyped up on the almost meeting Andrew McCarthy thing that I just want to share. :)
At the end of his "conversation," we had the opportunity to do the meet and greet thing (something I'm never comfortable with) and have a book signed. Of course, they sold out of books and the idea of having him sign a cocktail napkin didn't appeal, besides, I have this Fan Girl fear. As in I don't want to be one. Add to that, I recently got Invisalign to help with some TMJ issues, and today I put in a new set. I had this image of spitting on the poor guy, since the foreign plastic in my mouth increases the saliva, or worse, I had this image of the entire Invisalign popping out and landing on the table in front of him. Wouldn't that be attractive?
Like Ugly Betty meets Blane from Pretty in Pink
I think it would have been less intimidating to meet Molly Ringwald, because she's the image of the quirky friend we all secretly want to have in our life, but Andrew McCarthy is more Blane. Unattainable.
But, if I could have spoken, it would have been with the utmost respect for him as a writer and speaker. This is what I would have said (sans Invisalign or spit disasters):
What you said resonated with me. In regards to your travel writing, something that I aspire to do, and do well, you said that travel is how you discover who you are. That's it exactly. It's why I joined the Air Force and why I came home. It's why I climbed Pikes Peak. It's behind every trip, every hike, and every effort to stretch myself outside my comfort zone.
Since that concise little paragraph would have come out, in a public setting, as "hey, that was great" with a slight Invisalign lisp, it's a good thing I'm just sharing it online with my Internet friends. Some day, Andrew McCarthy
, editor-at-large for National Geographic Traveler, will be reviewing my travel writing, and I'd hate for him to remember that awkward Invisalign moment.
Seriously, though, before listening to Andrew McCarthy speak, well, I was going to wait for the book to come to the library. But after listening... I am going to do the unthinkable. I'm going to buy a non-fiction book. Shhh, don't tell anyone.
They might think I'm a Fan Girl.
PS, if you know Andrew McCarthy, I really do want an autographed copy of the book. :(
Climbing Pikes Peak last summer, I discovered a trail marker I'd never known before. Called Cairns, they're stacked rocks that mark the trail.
When I first noticed them (sadly, several hours into the hike...so much for my powers of observation), I thought they were merely cute displays, like snowmen, that resting hikers had created. Instead, I learned, they are guideposts leading the way down the trail.They are also prime examples of balance.
Somehow, these stacked rocks survive winter weather and animals and winds and inexperienced hikers. They remain, steady in purpose, throughout the seasons.
Moving from a place of inaction to action, I'd forgotten about balance and what it means to me. Every person has different needs, but I learned in my North Texas days, that balance for me requires three things.
And then I had children. There is no such thing as balance when you have babies. It just is. But my children aren't babies anymore, and my times of solitude these past days, my need for meditation, has helped me to realize that all my frantic movement was just movement for movements sake.
Don't get me wrong. It was ABSOLUTELY necessary to create forward momentum, but now that I have forward momentum, I need to recreate myself and my life in the best form for me. And that means balance.Frantic
As I may have mentioned a time or two, I have *big plans* for my writing, and my goals have been very bold in that arena. Also the right thing to do, but I am more than my writing, and I realized that I tend to get tunnel-vision when it comes to my goals, at the expense of other arenas of my life.
Last year, preparing for the Pikes Peak hike, I let other areas of my life slide as I focused my energies on becoming physically fit for the hike. Now I'm putting on a little flab as I work tirelessly for my writing. And all of this has created a strong need in me for solitude, for meditation, because I haven't let that be my focus in... awhile.Like a comforter in a washing machine, I'm out of balance.
All that I've done is right for me, but I rush in headlong without finding the right balance between my goals and every facet of my personality. And it's been to my detriment.
The hiking and physical fitness are a strong need for me. I am a better mother and a better person and a better writer when I am physically active and fit, but I don't have the easy lifestyle that dedicating my time to fitness requires. At the same time, I need my writing to keep sane, and that's not poetic license. Creativity is what holds me together, what connects the disparate events in my life and how I express myself in the midst of the chaos. But when I focus on those things without refilling my well, I get burnt out. Fast. My spirit needs to replenish. I need all of those things to be me.
Not one at the exclusion of all else. I cannot move through life in a series of frantic progressive actions followed by months of inactivity. Physical health requires consistent action. Writing requires consistent progress. And the spirit needs time to refill.
These things together give me balance. They help me to remain steady through the darkest days, the least loyal friends, and the greatest fears. Balancing these disparate rocks in my life keeps me steady and gives me a guidepost to follow through the trail of my life.Balance isn't everything.
But it is a very damned important thing. At least for me.
PS. I thought that particular cairn looked like a frog wearing a floppy hat, but who knows? I might have been hypoxic (oxygen deprived).