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.