It seems strange to be talking about the road. I haven’t really been on the road for — I’m not sure how long. I’m thinking it’s been about a year. The last time I took a trip was when I towed my vintage Scotty trailer down to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Houston. I took my time on the way down through Kansas and Missouri, stayed a couple of weeks, and then took my time on the way back through Oklahoma and Kansas. I had a wonderful stay with the trailer at several campgrounds. I fished, built fires, took pictures of beautiful sunsets, spent many hours in my cozy trailer working. Since the pandemic hit at the beginning of last spring, the only trips I’ve taken have been less than an hour away, to Omaha.
I’m feeling the itch, but I think I’ll stay put for a while longer.
That’s not to say I won’t take a trip sometime soon. Some friends of mine have traveled during the pandemic lockdowns, but my heart seems to be telling me to put it off for a while. For me, staying put has to do with more than avoiding the virus. I believe it’s because I’m finding some peace and joy right where I’m at. And I have to say, it’s a surprising and welcome development. After years of fear, confusion and frustration as a result of three divorces, illnesses and financial difficulties, it’s actually really delightful to be at peace!
I have to admit, some days this peacefulness leaves me without motivation. Translation: I don’t know what to do if things are not all messed up and chaotic and uncertain! I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping, resting, thinking — okay, and watching Netflix. I admit it. I used to watch television and read and work to keep my mind off of the horrors of life. After moving to my new home a year ago, seven stories up into the sky, it took a while to believe the lightness is real — to believe the heaviness is really gone.
Now, a year later, I seem to be calming down and allowing joy to insert itself into my life again. Don’t get me wrong — there was always joy. I’ve been blessed with an ability to see joy in nearly every situation. My brain and heart are focused on joy and drawn to it like a gigantic magnet. People around me (i.e., grouchy husbands, surly teenagers) sometimes have felt my focus on joy was disrespectful to their focus on anger, disaster and dread. It’s gotten me into trouble sometimes. For example, during arguments.
Believe it or not, arguments are joyful. It means people are asserting themselves, examining who they are and what they stand for, and taking a stand against something they disagree with. It doesn’t have to be disrespectful. It’s a joy to be interacting with another human being and finding our way together. When we argue, it proves were alive.
I have always assumed that both people in an argument have a piece of the truth and the right to express it. So, when an argument began, I always felt enthusiastic and anticipated being able to move together toward an exciting new understanding or solution. However, it takes two. Not everyone feels arguments are joyful occurrences. I found I needed to pull back and express my respect for the other person by being properly serious and worried.
But that’s not what I want to write about today. Those days are behind me for now. With no partner in my life for almost a decade, I feel as though I have been able to purge much of the residual fear and worry that plagued me over the last few decades. In some ways, fear has been a constant companion to me my whole life. But now, I feel that heaviness lifting. I feel more like myself than I have since I was a teenager! How did I get here? Through introspection I think, and maybe because I was sick and tired of the worry and fear, and I finally made a decision to abandon it and start breathing. Or maybe because I’ve paid my dues and I’m being allowed to rest easy for a while. That’s what I imagine, anyway.
Four years ago, I experienced an episode that most people would think of as heavy and worrisome and dreadful: I had a stroke — a subarachnoid hemorrhagic stroke that had more of a chance of killing me than leaving me alive. It took me a while to realize many people saw this event in my life as a heavy, dreadful thing.
In my mind, although I was worried and in pain during some of those moments, I honestly saw it as a joyful experience overall that verified my humanness, piqued my curiosity, and changed many things around me for the better, including relationships, my own sense of daily gratefulness, my ability to focus on truly important things. It increased my knowledge and understanding of medicine and what patients go through to get well. For heaven sake, I even got to ride in a helicopter, something I had always wanted to do!
How can I look at all of those things as dreadful?
When I look back on it, as with the three divorces, I see the stroke as a gift that I could not have received in any other way. I know that sounds very Pollyanna-ish, but I really believe it. In part, I probably feel this way because I stubbornly choose to. I refuse to dwell on the dread of these situations. I won’t even look at those parts except to learn what the dreadful parts can teach me. If you’re not afraid to die, and you live each day as it unfolds before you, you can look at anything curiously, with joy.
When I think about it, I believe that’s what I was looking for when I began traveling in the Jeep in 2012: joy. Driving over the next hill with an unabashed willingness to experience whatever is there is the ultimate in joy. Whatever you find over that hill is fresh and new and usually surprising and gratifying in some way.
Even the difficulties of traveling can be joyful. For example, a couple of times I’ve been truly worried I would be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no gasoline in the Jeep. In several situations, the Jeep broke down and I was at the mercy of whoever I could reach on my phone to come help. Those situations gave me an opportunity to learn new things about myself. I was able to use my brain to figure things out, to calm myself, force myself to enjoy my surroundings for the moment, surrender to things greater than myself and trust in positive outcomes.
Those were all experiences I never could have planned for myself (although, I could have done a better job planning pitstops). They just happened, and by surrendering to them and watching them unfold, I gained benefits I never knew were there for me to gain. In some cases, my situation allowed other people to help me — another joyful thing I was happy to be a part of.
I hear some people in my circle these days talking about a coming shift in the world, a new awareness of these kinds of things. I hope it’s true, because that kind of fulfillment and happiness is what I wish for all my fellow human beings. I know it sounds corny and a little woo-woo or naïve to some, but I’ve lived my whole life this way and I know it’s real. If the awareness of humanity is rising, maybe more of us will be talking about it — and experiencing it.
For now, I plan to keep on doing what I’ve always done: looking for the joy in every situation, every location, every person. It’s time for me to stop being lazy and find new motivations that have nothing to do with dread and chaos and worry and fear. I wonder what joy will look like on the other side of peace as opposed to disaster? LOL!
I will definitely travel again to find the heart-soaring experiences I know are out there that connect me and my spirit to the earth and the heavens. That’s a kind of joy everyone can understand.