freedom! ’17

freedom 17_SOM.jpgToday is the 1st anniversary of the last day I worked for someone else. That was not the plan, though.

I was working a short contract position at a theme park as a technical writer. I thought that this was what I wanted to do professionally, even before I graduated from grad school (which I did three years ago last month).

The gig paid well. The people I worked with, for the most part, were great to work with. My team of writers, though, was not. It was icy, insular, and white, like an igloo with the door shut.

I was sad that my contract wasn’t renewed. I knew I had done an excellent job. But maybe politics got in the way. It was a long commute from my side of town, most of which I didn’t do with my own car yet.

So here’s what’s happened to me since then, in somewhat chronological order:

  • I evacuated and went home due to Hurricane Matthew.
  • Went on unemployment
  • Signed up for “content mills”–website that people use to hire writers for cheap
  • Went on food stamps
  • Applied for full-time jobs
  • Had my room flood due to busted pipes
  • Found a steady client for social media work
  • Started to find new friends (online but still)
  • Saw one awful housemate move out and a worse one move in
  • Helped a friend move from Miami to D.C.
  • Lost my car, again
  • Focused on my blog again
  • Went to St. Pete for a women’s retreat
  • Got a new website for my writing business, then switched developers
  • Partnered with a friend to do copy editing and writing
  • Updated my writing rates
  • Evacuated to Chicago for 12 days because of Hurricane Irma
  • Finished two big copy editing and writing projects (just this month)

It’s been a lot, and to have the freedom to create my own schedule, to work from home—even if home is obnoxious a lot of the time—it’s a freedom I’ve experienced before, when I was working as a contracted grant writer. It was nice to get work done in Chicago without having to need anything except my computer. My business is me.

And to even say that I have a small business—that’s really wild. I wasn’t signing up to do the content mills because I wanted to. I didn’t even necessarily want to be on this path. But a solar return (astrological term for birthday) report that I received almost two years ago confirmed that I needed to work for myself.

I just didn’t think it’d be so soon.

It’s been a little harrowing, though—and that’s an understatement. But I didn’t expect to be a small business owner, I really didn’t. All I have wanted since I’ve been in Florida is to support myself, which had gotten increasingly harder to do. The opportunities are here, but they don’t seem to be for me.

But Twitter has especially helped me out–with job opportunities, with fundraising, with emotional support. It’s funny how I came down here thinking I’d get that from the people I knew down here. But Florida has been the land of surprising disappointments. And after this hurricane evacuation, and seeing how easy it was to be in Chicago, I plan on leaving here in 2018. I have long overstayed my welcome, but I’ll write more on that later.

I don’t have much to say except that I am grateful—and maybe a little exhausted. I waded through swamps of humiliation, doubt, and frustration and I feel like things are finally going to be even beyond where I wanted them to be, yet where I need them to be.

Here’s to Freedom! ’17. 🙌🏾🎉🍾🍻

08.12.12

some mysterious fractal

August 12, 2012 is when I finally made it to Florida to start grad school. It was on a Sunday. I was supposed to leave the day before, but the movers I hired were terrible and took too long. I guess I missed my flight? I couldn’t get a hold of any friends to crash with so I had to stay at this noisy airport hotel.

I had to stay with my cousin here for a couple of weeks because my stuff was being bounced around all over the east coast. Such a disreputable moving company.

I don’t even want to rehash all of that because it was horrible and I am tired of complaining about how horrible life has been down here. I think the horror magnifies with how hopeful I was to finally find my tribe, to make a real connection with a blood family member, to escape the cold and growing disappointments of Chicago.

Well, life had other plans for me.

It’s been very transformative spiritually. Going into year six of my life down here, I feel like I’ve unloaded a lot of emotional and spiritual baggage. I feel cleansed and unencumbered. But the journey to get to this very precious place has been very expensive: on my bank account, on my credit, on my body, on whatever I would call my social life.

Has it been worth it? I’m not entirely sure yet. This is a rather 7 of Pentacles moment right now. I’m looking at what I’ve grown so far and knowing there is more work to do.

Instead of regaling you with how shitty and disappointing and heartbreaking and humiliating and scary (and I’m pretty sure this blog has detailed a lot of that, so just peruse the archives for a good gasp, cry, or sigh), I’d rather just pivot from here and say that I’m done with this period of my life–or maybe my (very warranted) emotional response to it.

I’m not like Katrina and the Waves walking on sunshine yet, but I am tired of feeling like my life is one long, painful climb, even if that is the Capricorn way. Eventually, I want to be able to rest and enjoy the views up here…

 

The prolonged money and housing instability has been interesting to navigate as someone who is a Capricorn sun and rising with a Cancer moon. My sojourn in Florida has hit me where it hurts, over and over. That’s probably due to Pluto and his heavy demolition crew obliterating my 1st house of self, where my Capricorn sun and rising reside.

Who am I without a stellar reputation? Without stable housing? Without friends to lean on? Without a reliable stream of money?

What is my home? Who is my family?

I don’t really know what the answers to those rhetorical questions are. I believe I’m making it up as I go along–as we all do. I thought I knew those answers.

I didn’t realize how much I had relied on my plucky nature to get me out of jams, and how I have always had a strong community there for me to lift me up. Even with social media, I had both strong online and offline communities, where even both worlds would begin to meld. I met my last boyfriend in an MSN chat room and then we met in IRL–he lived in the same city and went to college with people I knew from my church.

It’s hard to have these stalwarts stripped away–sometimes very violently, and sometimes very slowly. But all the same, it’s left me very vulnerable and open–well, it’s easier to hear from Spirit in this way.

Looking back over these five years, I don’t have much gratitude for this stripping process yet. Still, because I want to change my attitude towards whatever has been unfolding in my life, I took myself out to dinner downtown.

As a sidenote, I do think it’s funny how some Americans will roll up into a nice restaurant and wear soccer jerseys or whatever else seems like casual attire.

My Cancer moon needed to be fed and nurtured. It felt so good to eat the (sometimes literal) fruits of my labor (I had a peach salad and a peach cobbler). As my current housing situation is driving me a lot batty,  it was also nice to not physically be here for three hours, to breathe healthier air in a different space, to not have the draining energy of this newest, inconsiderate boarder. I could at least afford to do this for myself, to celebrate my survival in a tough, unsympathetic state. That’s an accomplishment in it of itself.

But that’s the reframe right there: survival of losses, not just the losses. It’s what I’m good at. I do like to to triumph over circumstances. It may not be that I got to keep my car or my housing or my bank account at a consistent level. I have survived those losses. It seems right now the triumph is over death, over giving up, over having my spirit decimated.

I’m in a real spiritually desperate place right now. I am desperate for real, meaningful change; desperate to have Spirit move me–both literally and figuratively–to a place where I am nurtured and can be nurtured; to a place of deep fulfillment and appreciation; to a place where I can be fully myself again. I am desperate enough to not solely look to other people to help me. I am desperate enough to shut out the world and to look within for all the treasures that were hidden underneath all of the things I’ve lost. I am desperate enough to not look to myself first and then come to the end of myself–I want to look to Spirit first where there is no beginning and no end.

I’ll be going on a retreat this weekend and I hope that my desperation will be met with opportunities and answers and practical solutions, and maybe a little more patience and strength as I keep journeying from the “here” of discontent to the “there” of “finally!”

By the way, that’s a perpetual round trip we all make, from discontent to contentment.

As the solar eclipse comes closer, I know there’s more coming my way—actually good things, things I’ve been wanting for so long, like stability, like expansion, like love in all forms. Lately, it’s been wonderful to have things to look forward to, not just things to dread.

As I grow older and closer to the midpoint of my life, I feel the pressure of limited time and there’s so much I want to do with my life than just survive. I have to trust that all that I’ve gone through here was not in vain–that there’s a purpose that’s greater than my own soul growth and spiritual development, that the ripple effect will be wider than I will ever know.

It’s really easy to forget, that even within the chaos, there’s some order—even if we don’t understand it yet, like some mysterious fractal that begins to unfold.

I have to trust that this unfolding, albeit painful, is truly both beautiful and beneficial. Otherwise, my life has been utter madness without any method or reason. I’m not talented enough to invent reasons or methodology on my own.

So here I go, with another long trust fall with the Universe. Even as I squirm and question and fret, there’s still a knowing that I am following, that nothing is ever wasted, that at least some of this wild and wacky ride will make sense, soon.

I need your help / How can I help you?

help-me-1546557

The caption of this picture is “help me,” and who can resist a little kitten like this? Unless you hate cats.

Hi folks,

Happy Halloween and Samhain for those who celebrate!

So, I am asking for your financial help while I look for my next job. September 30th was the last day of my last writing gig. During my time down here in Florida (four years and counting), it’s been pretty unstable. I’ve had six addresses and one post office box  in that time. It’s definitely been, and continues to be, a hero’s journey.

The next week with bills is looking a little rough. If you want to donate to my cause of self-preservation, especially if this blog or my tweets have helped you (or entertained you) in any way, you can click here for my cash.me account or here for PayPal.

And, in the future (hopefully this week), I’ll launch my Patreon so you can have the opportunity to support this blog on a more regular. My dream is to put more thoughtful time into this place because through all those unstable times, I’ve learned some thangs! I’ll probably put up a donate button, too.

Finally, let’s talk about how I can serve you. I’ve been a technical writer, science writer, grant writer and editor, an adjunct English professor, and my MFA is in Creative Writing (nonfiction). I’ve been really blessed to have been a working writer, and I look forward to doing that again! If you have any writing needs–from looking over your resume to cover letter to looking over your web copy–I can help! Another dream of mine is to be self-employed; so maybe working together will be one brick in the foundation of that dream. Oh! And if you have any writing job leads, remote or in Florida, hit me up on my Contact page.

If you can’t donate or don’t need my writing skills, I could use your good vibes, prayers, juju, whatever goodness you can send my way.

Thank you, dear readers. I’ll be back later this week with more talk about mud…and flowers.

Peace,

s.o.m.

(self)-abandonment

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Maybe it’s the power of suggestion, but today (Saturday), and yesterday (Friday), I was feeling so antsy-pants. So I walked it out, which I hadn’t done since I left my job that was within walking distance 3 months ago. I took the picture of these azalea blooms, which are located about halfway in my 50-something minute, 2.2 mile walk. Azaleas down here act like semi-annuals, not like the spring annuals I’m used to. It’s mid-October, and spring flowers ever bloom.

So. Anxiety. It’s not really related to the joblessness. I feel confident in that realm  of possibility in my life, as I am laboring to rest until Monday. It’s back to the last post: love.

I recognize the asynchronous development that I have with relationships. When it comes to this area of my life, I feel like a complete failure. I keep planting seeds here, for my own chosen family, my own community. Some seeds sprout. Joined groups, made acquaintances, but not any real friends. Everyone’s dance cards are full. I’m somehow at peace with that, because I know I’ve tried as hard as I could, but that there are other places to try. I look forward to trying things out when I’m more financial stable.

The anxiety I feel is rooted in knowing, somehow, that my singleton days are numbered. I’m happy about that. But I feel very vulnerable, like I’m out in open space, waiting for someone to just drop in on my head, or full-on tackle me and take me down.

Or not.

Either way, it’s been a struggle, to wrestle with my desires, try to pin them down, get the five count of victory, and then, integrate them into me. But it feels really awkward. I’m not really used to this. I skipped a lot of this in my adolescence (that’s a whole other essay). I don’t know how to be earnest about romantic relationships anymore without feeling foolish.

I think back to the first two people I fell in love with: my parents. I don’t feel bonded to either of them, really. Growing up as the firstborn, and with my brother who has developmental delays, my parents implicitly relied on me to not need them. And then I relied on that as my identity: not needed. I’m good by myself. I sublimated my desires, right into the air. I took one for the team, often. When I was 8, I gladly took one for the team when I was presented with the choice of a boy’s bike that I could pass down to my brother, or a girl’s bike. I took the boy’s bike. Thirty years later, I have no idea if I really wanted the girl’s bike, though.

When I was 17, I wanted to go on this cross-country missions trip with my youth pastor who was leaving that fall. My mom decided it was the time to go back home to West Africa and visit for a few weeks. Granted, she hadn’t been in almost 20 years at that point, since she immigrated to the States. It was assumed I’d be the woman of the house. I don’t know if I was really needed, but that summer stunk with my frustration and disappointment.

In friendships, I rarely ask for help, to the point that asking for help felt shameful for me, and when I’m forced to, the compassion I am hoping to receive…it seems to come drip by drip. It’s not that I’m not grateful, but I feel the undercurrent of the assumption, that I’m gonna be just fine, that I don’t need help. Mentally, it’s frustrating because I know that’s not true. Yet I’m the one who has been passing out those propaganda leaflets. “Be my friend! Low drama! No need to even water or feed!” #DoubleCapricornProblems

As you can imagine, this dynamic doesn’t really work well in the pink fluffy cloud land of romance. Ideally, it should–hey, I’m here because I don’t need you. I like you. Let’s do life together. But, somehow, I’m still stuck in the wallpaper of my youth. Sometimes, people see me and try to pull me out. But many times, I’m still undercover, still a charming chameleon.

My time in Florida, which has been a transformative, painful experience, has also been quite disarming. In the last three years, I’ve met four disarming men, one online. I realized that the first was even in this list this week. He was like the third–said the right things at the right time, but wasn’t at all interested in carrying those words through to the real world of actions and consequences. I didn’t really realize how much that hurt until I was looking at an old journal entry right after he shut me out (three years ago), and how careless I may have been with my own heart.

Second guy, I don’t think he will ever know what he was laying down and why I was picking it up. I’ll blame his millennialness, for now. What I learned from our energetic tango was that true caring is starting to be the thing that I value most in people. I don’t think this was cowardice, why he denied the mixed signals. It was a sleeping but powerful consciousness calling me forward into a new level of spirituality (funny, we’re both ex-evangelicals)…but not for anything that would deal with him.

Fourth guy…is a set of ellipsis?

I may have said this in my last post, how I was drawn to him before I even met him, by his name. Kismet calling.

I’m still trying to figure out how I can be that authentically empathetic with people, like he was with me. I’m inspired, I don’t know if I have it in me. He should teach a class. If I could do for others what he did for me…

What’s scary is that I found that I was standing off from my own self when we met. I’ve been on a journey of self-love, like many of you reading this. It’s a lovely buzzword, and if you had some decent parents, you already have a head start. My parents weren’t at all interested in my very vast, emotional landscape, where I lived and thrived. I also was “just fine” being off by myself.

In this journey of being pro-me, I’ve gotten better about not being negative about myself. But being positive and affirmative? Outside of academia and music, I don’t know how to do that very well. So it’s like I’ve been driving in neutral for most of my life, just coasting. I’m not horrible. I’m excellent in a couple of things, and the rest of me is OK. Ordinary. Nothing to scream about. This coasting then became about survival, which I am excellent at. But this summer I realized I was doing more than surviving. I was on my way to thriving, but still had (have?) the mindset of living in extremely hostile conditions.

The fourth guy…I’m not sure what driving metaphor would work. He waved me over? He lurched me into first gear? He stood in my way and I had to slam on my brakes? All of the above?

And in a minute, I’m already going into my feelings about stuff. I had gotten so great at dreaded small talk, and now, here I am pouring my anxious heart into some new acquaintance’s hands, and he didn’t even flinch.

And it keeps happening, and then I leave the conversations not knowing anything about him and I’m flustered. And it’s two weeks later, and I feel chagrined.

I’m past survival, hooray! BUT, internally, everything wasn’t “just fine,” and he knew that. I had said so. And I hadn’t had anyone in town to talk about this. It’s all been online–and I’m grateful for Twitter. All I thought I was doing was sharing this very common professional experience of living in the gig economy. But I was coming out of the wall, so easily.

There are a lot of thoughts about this 4th person, and about myself, and I don’t know how to thread them. There’s the thread of the anticipation/dread which is pretty basic: will we ever see each other again? And that’s not my call. Dude has the digits and the email.

There’s the thread that stands out in a full moon like this: what do I really want? This feeling of easily being seen or this person who chose to see me? Right now, it’s both/and, not either/or, and that’s going against what I’ve had readings on. But I can’t even be spiritually logical and commonsensical about this anymore. This may be a must-take, a mistake I need to make.. Also, the outcome doesn’t matter as much as I feel it does (easier said than felt and realized).

There’s the thread of self-disappointment and sadness: I’m still not where I want to be in my life, circumstantially especially. If anything started, with anyone, what am I bringing to the table? A lot of potential?

There’s the frayed thread of dealing with this idea of being separated from my emotions and my desires in order to pacify and please others. It’s frayed because I basically came into the world with it. I didn’t think this was me–seems very antithetical. That dude held up a mirror and showed me it was.

There’s the thread of fear. I don’t like being vulnerable and open, because people are assholes, lots of them. And, this has been an ongoing conversation with the Universe, of using my flatlining love life as a way to spiritually up-level me. I’d like to declare that season over because it’s exhausting, to gather up my energy and try again, scared to make the same mistakes over and over. Reading the old 2013 journal entry about the first guy made me scared that I was stuck. But no one who has read for me in tarot or otherwise thinks that. Even my own readings tell me I’m not stuck. Things are moving forward. I am ready. For something.

And I have to start thinking about what I deserve in a non-entitled, life has been hard way, but in a more receptive, the Universe has my back sort of way. To be proactive in creating wholeness in my life. To affirm myself when no one else does. Now that the storm is over, the fire is out, the war has ended–I can start to choose what I want to do, where I want to go, and who I want to be with. I’m not beholden to anyone.

Related (or, said in another way): there’s a thick thread of shame, about all of it, it being my realm of relationships. How many more wild goose chases in the name of spiritual growth can I take? This feels like the last one, for many  reasons–the main one being exhaustion. I’m glad I’m efficient in the recycling of my heartbreaks, but this is starting to look a little silly, like I have really poor judgment and poor boundaries (not like those couldn’t be corrected, of course).

Ultimately, it’s the shame of having feelings, of having desires, of not being on the same page with, honestly, most people. I don’t need most people, though. Still, when I get in sync with someone, it seems so rare, like it’s fate. But it could be another kind of fate. And that’s a growth point for me, beyond rescuing myself from self-abandonment. Sometimes a conversation is just a conversation, even if I want more. And wanting more is OK. Even as a double Capricorn, I can only calculate risk so far. The leap of faith beckons. You take your first step in the air. Gravity takes care of the rest.

Sometimes, you have to admit to yourself that you want to him to feel the same way as you do, and that he’ll do something about it. You want to bask in the sun again, the sunlight of recognition and acceptance. Your true stellar alignment comes when you are no longer a moon, gaining light from other stars, but when you are your own sun.

You were already, and always will be, the sun.

 

Taunted, teased, and titillated.

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It’s faint, but it’s there. The rainbow. The prismatic promise.

I took this while walking home from the job I had two jobs ago.

And now, I’m not working, listening to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill Acoustic. And really, that’s all I know.

Oh. There’s laundry that is on the left corner of my bed that is ready to be hung and folded. It’s been ready for two days. I may be ready tomorrow.

I haven’t had any real downtime since I moved down here to the swamps in August 2012. I have a little bit of time, like the rest of the week, to rest before I got back into the onslaught of a true job search.

So. When I say, “that’s all I know,” it’s about the future. As a double Capricorn (sun and rising), I usually try to know, or make it known. So this not knowing, and mostly being OK with it, is new to me. I’m just feeling it all out–intuitively, emotionally, spiritually. My brain is on break.

After grad school ended in August 2014, I felt like I was done, with everything, like I could die now because I had done my life’s work. Maybe that’s what writing your memoir will do. It was a good but scary (and thankfully temporary) feeling. Maybe the last two years have felt like winging it compared to grad school, compared to my life in Chicago that was aimed towards med school, with the arrow landing miles and miles away from that.

Even now, the job I left was a perfect fit for me. But it’s over. I met a man there and I thought he was beyond perfect. And nothing’s begun there, and probably never will.

I’m halfway wrestling with all of that I left, to reaching a level of satisfaction that I’m satisfied with. The car maker Lexus used to have a tagline: “The relentless pursuit of perfection.” I really embraced that as my tagline, but as a recovering perfectionist, it’s rusted over with reality. Even still, my pursuit seemed to have ended in August. Or so I thought.

It’s a little unsettling to, almost effortlessly, get breathtakingly close to the bullseye of your desires, and then have the Universe take the arrows out and say, “Oh girl, you can get a lot closer than that.”

The problem, I don’t have any imagination about what “closer” is. Blogging here is maybe a part of what getting closer is. I’m a writer, and writers write, and my favorite thing is to write about myself. I say that with no ego. Because of my hero’s journey in life, I have learned so much in such a short amount of time, and I’m endlessly prattling about it. So I might as well do that here, for now.

Still, I’m not sure if my lack of imagination is solely about exhaustion or…really, I don’t know. It is scary for me to not have any solid career aspirations. Who am I outside of the office? And who do I want to be when I grow up?

I have very Venusian concerns: love, money, and beauty. Beauty is never really any issue. Florida is a beautiful state and being in nature is easier to do as the temperatures start to drop into more humane ranges. Love and money, though? Those seem to be more elusive creatures.

In the land of divination,  it would seem my life is where I want it to be, or that I’m coming really close. But it’s gotten very uncomfortable for me, to keep seeing these messages about love.

New Love. Ace of Cups. Two of Cups. Three of Cups. Four of Wands. The Lovers. Honeymoon. New Partner. Soulmate. This Could Be The One. True Love.

I’m not out there in the world right now, so it makes me wonder about the things that the Universe has control over–aka things I shouldn’t be worrying about: so, Who? Have I met this person already? How? When? Really?

And it squicks me out to say, yes, that is what I want in my life, in the traditional trappings of marriage. And it’s time for that. It’s probably been time for that, screams my mouldering ovaries. And I guess it’s coming.

I’m not as concerned about the career stuff, because, again, it’s about those things that aren’t my concern–how? in what form? when? And, well, that realm is more under my control. And I’m not as broke as I used to be.

But love. It’s like that faint rainbow. I can see it’s there. I don’t have to even squint. It’s not as intense of rainbows as I’ve seen in Florida, in my life. But it’s there. And it’s real. And maybe who I met, maybe the Universe is saying–this rainbow can be more brilliant, more intense. Don’t settle for this. I don’t know. I do know what I felt, and that changed my life. And for now, in this breath, that’s enough.

An aside of sorts: Every time I see a rainbow, I’m in awe, like it’s the first time I’ve seen one. As someone who came to Earth as an old soul, it’s tough to get to a place of childlike wonder and delight. Rainbows have always transported me to that ageless space. And they always seem so rare. But during the rainy season in Florida, you can see them quite often. Maybe I wasn’t looking for them in years past, but they seem to be around a lot for me this year. They seem to be the sign from the Universe that the worries I have, especially about love, have been heard, understood, and transmuted.

But my impatience is pressing me, squishing me into the present, and into the unknown. It’s not polite anticipation. It’s foot-tapping, arm-crossed, watch-glaring impatience. It’s tres gauche, and I have to be OK with that, too.

The time I spend with Spirit, asking every day, across multiple decks, of what I should know–that’s how I feel I’ve been a bit teased, taunted, and yes, titillated, by my own desires. Sometimes I think that tarot and oracle card readings are just reflections of my subconscious self. And sometimes, it’s startling to see what is staring back in me in the cards.

After years of grinding and hustling, not only for a living, but for my own place, my own state of freedom and being, both internally and externally… it’s weird, and maybe a little wearying, for that activity to all come to a quiet halt. It’s eerie, to be alone, with those big, lifelong desires, the ones that are little higher up the hierarchy of needs pyramid. What are all the hustling for? It was to get up there. And I had forgotten.

And even still: when I’m used to hearing no over and over, what could be scarier than yes? Yes is unfathomable. It’s reaching the bottom of the ocean, a literal place that most of us have never even seen, with unknown creatures skittering about.

And what I mean is…hearing yes to things that your heart can’t even imagine happening.

What’s funny, and a bit sad, is what I want are things that a lot of people have, do, and will experience, and, frankly, take for granted. In the past four years, those two things would be any sense of stability and consistent human connection.

Maybe that’s why I feel like I have no dreams. Those don’t seem like conventional big dreams to me, or dreams at all. I dream of being normal, even though I know I’m never going to be truly normal. I dream of my normal. And, for this month, it’ll be to recognize and embrace my own desires, especially those of having my own family. And, you know, that’s it’s totally OK to want that.

Even though tarot and oracle card readings feel like big teases, they will probably stop talking about what concerns me when I really believe that it’s gonna happen. I think  it was Jesus who said that signs are for those who don’t believe. And I don’t yet fully believe. I still feel like it’s up to chance, that life is utterly, chaotically random, and I just got incredibly unlucky. But I don’t know that, either.

All I know is what I want right now, which seems infinitesimal and eensy-weensy to the things I’ve accomplished and endured. But that’s what it took to get here, to the really basic quotidian but beautiful shit of the human condition.

Just took the long way, the really long way.

 

 

 

Just Enough Light

During Christmastime, I drove back to my hometown of Birmingham, AL. Maybe I shouldn’t call it my hometown. I have four hometowns now. I was born in OKC, then lived in Nashville for three years, then moved to Nashville when I was newly eight years old on December 30, 1985. I have no idea why I remember that date so clearly. I left for college when I was almost 19 and lived in Chicago for almost 15 years. Hometown is a loaded word.

The drive was pretty boring in the beginning–well, in comparison to the rest of the drive. The skies were leaden grey and flat, which actually made the barren trees and landscape more beautiful to me for some reason. I should say that the drive was without incident until it started to pour about 30 minutes away from Tallahassee, where I was going to have dinner with some friends.

Floridian rain is something I had grown accustomed to living in Orlando for over two years now. It’s more like a monsoon, rain coming down in blinding sheets, with windshield wipers whipping vigorously, almost to no avail. For it to be raining so hard during the winter was strange. Usually this type of rain came in the summer, during the afternoon. The overhead signs said that Leon County was under a tornado watch. Not much I could do about that. I had dinner and caught up with my friends and I called my mom to let her know I was about 5 hours away. I really should have left earlier but I wanted to pray at church and talk to the associate minister before coming. Christmastime for me, especially as an adult, has always been fraught with drama and separation. This was the first time in my adult life that I was actually looking forward to going home, which says more about my time here in Mickey Mouse Land than it does about Sweet Home Alabama. I prayed so that there would be peace and harmony. But leaving town at around 2:30pm, even with gaining an hour in central time, was probably not the smartest decision.

I left the restaurant, aided by Google Maps, which lead me to a police blockage. The windy, dark streets of this hilly town were flooded. I went through a flooded intersection, again, against my better judgment, and made it back on the I-10 to join the 231. Rain is still assaulting my vision, but at least the I-10 was well lit.

The 231 which took me over the Florida-Alabama border, was more like a major street than a highway. I turned on my high beams because I couldn’t see much at all. There was one point where my high beams gave me just enough light to see another bend in the road, but the rest of the road was obscured in darkness. And I was angry about it, as if I could do anything about it. My hands ached as I was white-knuckling this drive. I fumed as the Google Maps’ estimated arrival time go from 11:45pm to 12:15am. I couldn’t drive any faster than 60mph, which honestly might have been too fast.

The darkness, the wetness, the length of the drive–these were all conditions that combined into a state of being that I didn’t want to be in: on the way. I wanted to already be at my mom’s place, asleep, to have stopped moving.

My life during and after grad school has been a similar journey. When I saw that my high beams didn’t illuminate miles ahead, maybe just 100 feet, I realized that I had been viewing my life in this way.

Right now, I’m on a stormy journey. I’m underemployed, stuck in a housing situation where I’ve been mistreated and taken advantage of, and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing with my life. My life seemed to have an illuminated path, miles and miles ahead. When I chose to go to grad school, I didn’t really know what would happen next after graduation. I was OK with that when I had a crappy-but-at-least-it-paid-something job. But I was let go in July. That was six months ago today.

Since then, I left an emotionally abusive housing situation, was homeless for about two months (airbnb + staying at a friend’s house), and now I’m here, with another yet another uncomfortable housing situation. I am a tutor without any students, a part-time grant writer waiting to get paid for work that I did in November, and soon-to-be adjunct prof for one class. If all of those things were actually active, I’d be OK. But I don’t know what happens next. Should I move back home to Birmingham? Should I look into moving into LA again?

I’ve always known what would happen next–or so I thought. Medicine was supposed to be a clear path. But then I realized a few years ago that I wasn’t that great at college science. The dream changed. Died. Transformed.

As much as I am a planner, a Capricorn, a firstborn, fiercely independent in all ways, this stretch of the journey has been annoying. But on that road in Southern Alabama, I realized that I am never meant to know the whole way, even with GPS, even with my high beams on. While I was driving, I kind of laughed to myself that I would assume that my high beams would illuminate more of the road than they were designed to.

So then, it comes down to trust. Trust in my ability to drive my car. Trust that I can follow a path. Trust that the light given is enough for this stretch of the journey. Maybe even trust in the Universe to protect and guide me through these dark badlands (of my life). That’s always been a tough one, though, because the badlands seem to have stretched all throughout my life, even when I didn’t know it.

In helping my mother downsize stuff in her home, we came across my father’s financial documents. My father is somewhere in Atlanta, bipolar and unmedicated. Some of the things we came across were shut off notices from the electric company (my mom never knew), old checks he never cashed, an article about him in the newspaper about possible fraud when I was in junior high (neither my mom nor I knew about it), and evidence that he could have possibly saved the house from foreclosure. His unraveling mind, plus his unwillingness to seek help for his condition, put us at risk. I learned so much that night that just floored me.

One could say that my mom’s fervent prayers, along with her friends’ prayers, kept us safe. For now, that’s what I’ll go along with, even though another part of me wants to go off the road and say that trusting someone who was clearly insane was also putting us at risk. But that’s a whole other convo about emotional abuse that belongs in another post or a book.

One thing that having the whole road illuminated can do is have me mentally check out. I already know what will happen. I don’t have to be as alert. I can multi-task. I can rest my brain for a bit. That isn’t necessarily bad. It’s not to say that the journey would be any less harrowing or difficult. It just means that I can prepare for what’s ahead, have a bit more (perceived) control over my circumstances. That’s what medicine would have given me: a train track to stay on and keep on until I reached the destination of Doctorland.

But that’s not the road I’m on anymore.

I’m already in the weeds now, but this is all to say I can only trust in the light that I am given, to drive down the road that I’m on, and I cannot curse the darkness anymore. I can say that this stretch of the journey has been scary, infuriating, painful, disempowering, and lonely. But I’m still driving, to some place called home (not heaven). I’m just not sure where that is just yet. And I can only go as fast as I’m going now.

But I have just enough light for the next stretch of the journey, and all I can do is wish myself Godspeed and keep going.