Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New Orleans or Bust

Many (many, many, many) hours after our tire incident, we arrived in New Orleans. It was pitch black, and the only sightseeing we did took place on the inside of our eyelids. However, we were able to do some sightseeing for a few hours before boarding our ship. All three of us were instantly in love with the blend of grittiness and old fashioned elegance. (The food was pretty great, too.)

We didn't spend nearly as much time in New Orleans as I'd have liked, but that just means I'll be back one day soon. If any of you have recommendations for our next trip, leave them below! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Road(side assistance)trip

Today finds me southbound on I65 with two of my favorite people. I am blogging to you live from the back seat of my Corolla. (Ah, technology!) Kylie (bff), Ryan (bf) and I are heading to New Orleans for a 5 day cruise in the Western Caribbean.

Sort of. We've had a few hiccups along the way.

Our first delay happened before we left the parking lot. We popped the trunk to discover that it's a bit harder to fit three enormous suitcases inside than they'd lead you to believe at the dealership. It took 45 minutes to accomplish this feat.

(30 minutes behind schedule.)

Kylie took the first shift driving. We'd been on the road for less than a half hour when I feel her drift onto the rumble strip, jarring me out of my bookish reverie. Approximately 2.3 seconds later, I realize that she's not on the rumble strip at all. I realize this because I see one of my tires rolling happily across the road and into a thicket of trees.

We all have a small heart attack before clunking slowly to a stop on the side of the road.

It took approximately 5 minutes to take out the perfectly packed contents of the trunk.

It took approximately 30 seconds to realize that while I have a perfectly good spare tire and jack, I do not, in fact, possess a tire iron.

Praise the lord for roadside assistance. At least I have the good sense to be prepared...for being entirely unprepared.

It takes 45 minutes for a grumpy mechanic to arrive. He steps from his red pick up truck with a scowl that says, "Damn kids," shakes his head in our direction, and quickly replaces what remains of my rear left tire.

"How far you plannin' to go? That spare won't make it far," he grumbles.

"Just far enough to find a new tire," I tell him.

He nods, and goes to retrieve some paperwork from his truck. When he returns I am grateful that Ryan is paying rapt attention to his directions, because I am utterly enthralled by his tobacco pipe. I haven't seen a lot of pipes up close, and this one is magnificent. It's made of dark wood, polished and shining, and intricately carved.

Soon we are on our way into Columbia, TN, in search of the nearest Firestone.

"He was sort of rude," Kylie says as our mechanic drives away.

"Yes, but did you see that pipe?!" I answer.

(1.5 hours behind schedule.)

We find the service station without much trouble, and a very friendly salesman helps me choose four new tires. The first incident taught me that I never want to have a second.

"It'll be about an hour," he tells us. "There's not much to do nearby, but there's a sub shop and a BBQ place down the road if you're hungry."

We are reluctant to leave our luggage, so we opt to sit in the waiting room, taking advantage of free water and television.

(2.5 hours behind schedule.)

A little time and $400 later, we are road ready...and famished.

The BBQ our salesman mentioned sounds fantastic, so we head a couple blocks over to a tiny, hole-in-the-wall establishment called Nolen's.

This was very possibly the best BBQ I've ever eaten. Should you ever find yourself passing through Columbia, don't leave town without a heaping plate of this place's pulled pork. Slather it in sauce while you're at it. And pair it with a "giant potato."

(3.5 hours behind schedule.)

Back in the car we go, hoping to make up a little lost time. I'm behind the wheel now, and Kylie serves up nostalgic tunes from the 90s and 2000s, taking us on a musical stroll down memory lane. One song is from our childhood. One is the first song Ryan and I (very awkwardly) danced to. Next up is the song our high school academic team ritually sang on each competition bus ride. Another is a throwback to a much smoother journey.

We barely made it to the next town before traffic came to a standstill.

We are now 11 hours into what was supposed to be an 8 hour trip, but somehow I wouldn't have it any other way. Adventures with these two are the best. I know someday we'll laugh about this series of incredibly lengthy events. Each bend in the road is a new memory. And after all, it's not the destination that matters, in the end -- it's the journey.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Nodus Tollens

If you haven't checked out this video yet, take a moment to do so.

No, really. Take a moment. I'll wait.



I think this video describes perfectly the sense of unease I've been battling these past three years.

Since I was a teenager, I have always loved the quote from A S Byatt -- "This is where I have always been coming to. Since my time began. And when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now, my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere."

Isn't it beautiful? The idea that one moment could so alter the path of your life? And isn't it frightening? The notion that a single event could define your purpose - could be the single climax of your story? There's something in that quote that hints of fate. It alludes to a power greater than our own, some guiding force which steers us in the direction we need to go if we are to find our mid-point.

I thought I had found my mid-point, once. A map of my life hung square in my mind, and I had marked one memory with a smooth red pin. But life...happens. Life is messy. Life makes a mockery of our carefully charted plans.

Heartache is hard for romantics. We don't like to see the gritty side of love. We don't like to acknowledge it's propensity for destruction. We spend hours blathering on about how it makes us brave, makes us strong; then love dumps us on our rumps and we fall silent. What can we say when the one thing we placed faith in fails us? Usually not much that we can stomach.

But here is the truth; here is the horrifying, awful truth that I have never wanted to discover -- OUR LIVES DO NOT HAVE A MID-POINT.

Do you hear me? Can you hear me there, worlds away? Has my voice traveled far enough to reach all you romantics, currently roiling in grief?

A failed venture, however crucial it seemed, does not condemn your story as a tragedy, because our stories do not have a mid-point. We are not destined for one moment. We are destined for every moment.

We were designed to love, and to lose. To burst with joy, and shrink in pain. We weep at both both ends of the emotional spectrum, and for good reason: we were born to feel both sides. Our tears let us know we have succeeded.

In the months after my divorce, I was adrift. My love had so shaped my life that I wasn't sure how to move forward without it. Some days I still feel stuck. But it has occurred to me recently, finally, that my life has been equally shaped now by my loss. And even more importantly, I have been shaped by my rebuilding. I have found, in my pain, more strength than I knew I possessed. I have discovered that my story is far more than one of desperate love.

The map of my life still hangs in the walls of my mind, and on it I have plotted a second memory with a shining red pin. This one marks the day I climbed from my bed, washed the tears from my cheeks, and faced the road ahead.

I am leaving behind this fear of not knowing my story's arc. I have no use for it. I am charting my story every day. And when I am done, I will have a brilliant map covered by a trail of red pins, unfurling behind me like breadcrumbs, marking my journey.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Seven Years Later

(Leaving this here because it sounds a lot better than anything I've tried to type today.)

"Nobody's memory is perfect or complete. We jumble things up. We lose track of time. We are in one place... then another and it all feels like one long, inescapable moment. So, what does it mean? What do we take away? Which pieces will haunt us? Hurt us? End us? Inspire us? It's just like my mother used to say, the carousel never stops turning. You can't get off." - Meredith Grey

Meredith Grey is right, as usual. The carousel never stops turning, and you can't get off, and I'm really tired of chasing the same thoughts round to the same conclusion. But that's life, and even though it doesn't seem like it, the carousel does take you somewhere new in the end.

I do wish though, that it didn't feel so much like my story is all wrapped up, neat and tidy, and complete. I wish it didn't feel like it revolved around one single plot that has already run its course. My head knows I'm wrong to feel this way, but my heart hasn't quite caught up. Even now.

Monday, June 15, 2015

But where have you been?

Oh, I've been lots of places.

I've been to Mexico.

I've been to Grand Cayman.

I've been to DC.

And I've been exploring my own neck of the woods, too.

What have you been up to while I was away?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dear Teenage Dreamer

Hello there, youngster!  It's a fine stage of life, the one you're in now.  You have your head in the clouds.  You march about with a confidence that borders on arrogance; with your thoughts plastered on your forehead for anyone to read: I will defeat the odds. Your is mind set on a road everyone tells you is impossible, and you couldn't care less.  They are wrong, you say. There has never been a youngster quite like me.  I am special.

I know this because I was you not so very long ago.

I have some bad news.

All those people saying you will fail?  They just might be right.  They were right about me, in any case. With all the confidence of a 19 year old romantic, I thought I was living a love story for the ages. What a silly little fool.

I can hear you, you know. You think I'm cynical. You think I'm bitter. Just because it didn't work out for you doesn't mean it won't for me, you're thinking. And perhaps you're right. Maybe you are one in a million, like you believe.

But before you flip on past this post, let me tell you one more thing: Even if they're right, even if you're doomed to fail, chase your dream anyway. Marry your sweetheart. Take that year away from school. Start your garage band. Be an entrepreneur. Be bold. Be fearless. Be a dreamer.

Follow your gut. Forget the naysayers. Take the leap of faith.

And if, when you leap, you fall flat on your face, know these things:

1.) You are in excellent company. The world is full of people who threw caution to the wind, only to find themselves in a sour pickle. We have fantastic stories to tell.

2.) You have accomplished more in failure than some people do in a lifetime of success. Following your heart takes courage, and the things you'll learn along the way are worth their weight in gold. You do a lot of growing up when you're swimming against the current.

3.) You have no reason to be ashamed. Discovering that you aren't, in fact, invincible, is rough. For me, it was downright humiliating. But it is far better to have failed than never to have tried at all. You did your best. You will not lie in your bed at the end of your days and wonder the most wretched question of all: "What if...?"

4.) Do not give up. There are a thousand, million, billion things left to discover. There are still yet adventures awaiting you. Mourn if you must, but pick yourself when your tears have dried. The world is big enough to allow at least one more attempt at defying the odds.

Having my heart broken was wretched. I won't say that it wasn't. But the things I learned from loving so fiercely and falling so hard made it worth while. I can truly say to you: Given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a single thing. I'd run away again and again, because it has made me so much stronger, so much less afraid.

That doesn't mean that, even nearly three years later, I don't still feel pangs of grief for what I lost. Or that I don't face challenges now that I wouldn't have otherwise. Of course it still hurts. Of course my path is altered. It wasn't easy, rising from the ashes of my marriage. But every morning I wake knowing that I have faced the worst possible outcome of my choices, and survived. This gives me the courage to dream again.

I know in my heart I will be a dreamer until the bitter end. I hope you will be, too.



(PS - Did you miss me?)