Route 66 Or Flat Tire Soul-A 10 Minute Poem Challenge

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The sadness I feel

Circles the earth three times

And travels from Illinois

Straight into my strangled heart

Like old Route 66

Following towns that have died

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Their 1940’s hotels

Deceased

With doors opened wide

And nothing left in those vacant rooms

But tarnished dreams

And a solitary piece of Wrigley’s gum

Which shall remain for eternity

Because it is non-biodegradable

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Next door pieces of theRoy’s diner sign

Remain

Paint peeling blood-red

The only thing left

Of Roy… Born in Brooklyn resting in Boot Hill

Is that dilapidated sign

Promising hot flapjacks

Slathered in broken dreams

Which you can find spilled along the highway

Today my heart looks like old Rt. 66

Full of potholes

Beer bottles littering the road

And tumbleweeds which barrel across

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This empty stretch of wasteland

Which held so much promise

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And like a once beautiful lady

Turned old, calloused and slightly bitter

Sitting on the porch of her

1950’s trailer

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Roof about to cave in

Sides sand blasted by years

Of exposure

I look towards the dark clouds

Gathering in the east

Wondering whether the storm in my heart

Will unleash a torrent of tears

Or if there are no longer

Any drops left to fall

For a deep unrelenting sadness

Seems to be percolating

Across the plains of my heart

Depressing any movement

Out of this hell hole

And like a useless old tire

A nail driven deep into it

I sit idle and unable to travel farther

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Along this old road

Which runs from Chicago to LA

And ends here

Somewhere near Bakersfield

On the corner of

Lost and Hope Streets

My heart split in two

Like this road

Which leads to the dreams of the dead

And to my future

Which lays in the middle of no where

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Maybe…

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A month ago B told me that he was going to China for 10 days. I wasn’t invited and I was hurt as going to China has become somewhat of an annual pilgrimage for us. Besides, although it is for “business”, in truth, he doesn’t really need to go. His partner can take care of it and B doesn’t speak Mandarin anyway. It is really an excuse to just get away from the daily grind of home, office, family and me I’m afraid.

Then about 10 days ago I asked if B was going anywhere else besides the town he usually goes to because it seemed to me that 10 days in that one spot was unusual. He replied “Oh, I am also going to Taiwan” Really? When did you think you would inform me of this news? Oh, and not with your partner…by yourself. How interesting! Oh its part of your business plan now to tour facilities? So are you really going to do something different because of this knowledge you will acquire? Well no. I didn’t think so.

When I mentioned to B that I was hurt about not getting an invitation to accompany him his reply was that I was taking Gracie to Florida for a diving competition. Really? That’s the best you can come up with? I get to go somewhere with bitchy back-biting diving moms and worry about schedules, practices and hauling around a 12-year-old who has recently decided to get strung out on teenage girl hormones while you have 10 days basically to yourself. Hmmmm. Someone is getting the better end of the deal and it isn’t me.

So I asked B if this was the start of us taking vacations apart from one another. He looked surprised and said no. But I feel like this separateness is saying something in and of itself about us, about him, and about our relationship. It worries me. And so, after much thought on my part,  I told B that I think it is the start of something new for us because I will also be going on vacation alone just like he is. That I need time alone and adventure too.

Now part of me feels guilty about this. The woman who doesn’t value herself enough thinks that perhaps I am not deserving of this time alone. Most mothers don’t get it so why do I need it? The devoted wife thinks…come on…there is a difference between going somewhere on “business ” which B is doing and going just to go which is also what B is doing. There is the financially responsible person in me who says you need to save your money…you have been plenty of places so don’t be a bitch. The weary mother of boys with autism and a marriage that is still mending says…go…recharge your battery. Use this as a time of self discovery outside of the usual daily carpooling routine.

And so I am torn. Trying to decide if I am just seeking a kind of perverse tit-for-tat “revenge” for the disappointment I feel at being excluded, if I am trying to make a statement, or if I am looking out for myself in the best possible of ways and giving myself what I need to grow spiritually and emotionally. Maybe a combination of all. And as I contemplate this I am perusing the internet of exotic places…India, the Seychelles, Africa…dreaming of what it would be like to have the freedom and the guts to take a trip for me, myself, and I, with no remorse or guilt on my part. Can I do it? I’m not sure at this point but I think that 18 months of therapy and a marriage that was teetering on the brink might have taught me a few things… the primary one being is that I matter. That my dreams, needs, and thoughts matter and for some foolish reason I let go of that strong confident ball-busting young woman I once was… and that I miss her…a lot… and that I want her back. And I also wonder that if I take a chance… if I just step out and up…if I might find that confident, intelligent and oh-so-sure of herself slightly older  and more colorful woman again somewhere in India because I haven’t yet found her here.

Does going somewhere new and doing something different change you? Does challenging yourself help you grow balls? I’m not sure… but I think I would like to find out and if I do I can only hope that I will bring back so much more than I left with.

 

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The Other Side Of The Mountain

 

The other day we were driving up to the cabin. The wind was quiet and the sun bright as we climbed higher into the mountains. It brought me back to a year ago when I was making the same drive. My marriage was a mess and I was a wreck. It seemed like nothing was ever going to get better and I wondered if I was ever going to feel happiness again. Last year it was a hard drive and I made it alone.

This year the drive was different. The wolf spiders were out along the roads doing their mating dance. img_1929

The leaves were just beginning to turn with brilliant yellows and a few orange ones dotting the landscape. The birds were singing and the deer were just frolicking with one another in the backyard. We also felt lucky as we saw large embers from the fire laying on our deck knowing how easily the cabin could have gone up in flames as the embers were carried by the wind.img_1933

B and I just enjoyed our time together and wished for nothing more. It was a fantastic day.

When it was time to leave we opted to try a different way home. It was a road we had never ventured on before and we hoped to see how close the big fire of a month ago had made it to our cabin. About a mile from our place we left the pavement and headed down a dirt road. Further and further back we climbed until we could look back upon the entire valley. It was clean and clear. No sign of a fire anywhere. We climbed higher, the trees in thick clusters, more colors to their leaves. We were high on the mountain and you could feel the tightness begin to shape your lungs like the blue rubber bands you find on bunches of celery in the grocery store.

Finally, we came to another paved road. Here we found signs still mounted on the trees which read THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS and STAY SAFE. But still no sign of the fire itself. We saw the red fire-retardant splashed on the road that had been dropped from airplanes that once buzzed through the smoke choked sky. But there was still no trace of the devastating fire that had ravaged the mountains just one month ago.

As we descended, we realized that we were on the backside of the mountain which usually takes us up to the cabin. It felt like an entirely different place. Long grasses lay flat and swirled around massive tree trunks creating a kaleidoscope of colorful designs.

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Huge boulders the remnants of dinosaur days dotted the landscape in odd places looking like they had been dropped there by some humongous creature playing chess. It was the other side of the mountain but it could have been worlds away from where we had started.

Finally, after another 10 miles we made it back around to our usual road, the one that could take us back up the mountain. As we hit that mile marker I realized that our marriage in the past twelve months and this trip to the cabin shared many commonalities. For over this past year we had the courage to take an unfamiliar road which brought us new things to see/contemplate which eventually brought us to a happiness/coziness that we find amongst the trees. We also fought the flames of divorce, and while we did get singed, we didn’t get burned. Our marriage, just like this new road, looks different from the other side of the mountain at which we started our trip.  And today, more than at any other time during this journey; I feel blessed that we were able to traverse the vast unknown and make our way safely home from the other side.

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Sparkle

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Several months ago I wrote about the chandelier that has been sitting in my garage for the past year.  You can read about it here Assigning Meaning To Things

The fact that B knew the emotional significance to me about having this hung and it never was done still stings a little but for the most part I have let it go. He is busy. We are busy and he hates doing electrical. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt that not hanging the chandelier is not an indication as to the depth of his love for me or how he feels about our relationship. It is all I can do.

All this week B has been up at Boy Scout Camp with the boys. He takes a week off of work every year to make sure that they have that experience. It is hot. It is dusty and he has to work very hard to make sure that Andre’s autism does not get in the way of him having fun and building memories. It is a fun week but an emotionally tough one too. Sleeping on cots in tents is no longer my idea of fun so I am grateful that he does this because he loves our kids and wants them to experience all that they can.

While B has been gone this week, I decided to make myself happy. I decided to take a chance on the goodness I see in our relationship and where I think it is headed. So I called out an electrician and…HAD THE DAMN CHANDELIER HUNG!. It looks beautiful. It is shiny and looks perfect in the room. And it makes me happy which is the best reason of all to have hung it. IMG_9903

So there you go…happiness in a box; happiness within me.  May it inspire me to sparkle and shine everyday as it does. For it no longer matters to me who put it up; I am just happy that it is there.

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Conquering Fears

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Today I did something that made me uncomfortable and in the process  I semi-conquered two of my fears. If we measure our days by doing things that provoke discomfort by intentionally facing down our fears; then there are very few precious days during our lives that we get to experience the elation that comes when we find that our fears really weren’t so scary after all. Oh, the power we give to things that don’t deserve it!

All my life I have been afraid of two things…heights and relinquishing control to others. Both make me break out in a sweat and I have spent way too much time giving these fears too big of a place in my life. I have avoided, rejected, over-analyzed and spent time over- compensating for those things (fear,control) that have had me tied up in knots.But not this afternoon. Today I made a change.

After spending eight hours visiting  and cooperating with a doctor, I promised my son that he could do something special. Turns out the thing he wanted to do was indoor skydiving. Frankly, it sent shivers up my spine and after his broken ankle this summer I feared a repeat. I really wanted to say NO but didn’t.

Yet, once inside the facility something strange came over me. I decided that I WOULD FLY too, come hell or high water. After all, I rationalized, it would kill two fears with one stone…flying HIGH and RELINQUISHING CONTROL of my body to someone else. And even through it was expensive, I found I could justify it by invoking  rule #378 from the Book of Life “Do it if the price of a shrink will cost you more.”

Now, usually I deny myself these “opportunities” to stare down my fears in a multitude of ways. Lifetime favorites include:

  1. I say we can’t afford it and “save” money by siting on the sidelines watching everyone else partake.
  2. I believe my kids should have these types of opportunities and deny them to myself because … (go back to #1)
  3. I convince myself I am too fat, too skinny, too uncoordinated, too old, too young…or any other such thing that would cause the idea to come to a screeching halt.
  4. Hey, someone has to take the pictures… don’t they? Damn straight and I am the perfect person to do it!

So instead of “listening” to my usual playbook of excuses I plunked down my Visa and before I knew it the time came to suit up. This didn’t mean that there were not plenty of anxious moments in between. As I watched members of the group ahead of us fly I began to list all the reasons I shouldn’t be doing this in my head. This included such things as:

  1. At my age, all my wrinkles would be pushed back into my face and with little bit of collagen I have left… they just might become permanent.
  2. That money thing again.
  3. Broken bones scare me along with signing release of liability forms which emphasize dislocated shoulders and other rather painful injuries that may occur should I be stupid enough to do this.
  4. The thought that wetting my pants could cause a floating vortex of pee spinning around me and the instructor was terrifying. I mean at least in a swimming pool no one knows but this could prove problematic and I knew that should it happen it would be up on YOUTUBE in 2.4 seconds!
  5. I might kick the instructor unconscious and slam my body all the way up the glass only to be stuck at the top of the tunnel… kind of like Charlie of the Chocolate Factory fame.

Then, just as I was about to go and ask for my money back, Paul with all the exuberance of an 8 week-old puppy said, “Mom, I am so glad you are doing this with me. We will have so many memories of this time together that we can share for the rest of our lives!”

And that was when I had my AHH-HAA MOMENT. That is when I realized just how much I had let my fears hold me back from more than just myself but I had let them hold me back from creating memories with the people I love the most. And so I did it! I got in that flight suit, I put on those goggles, I put in the ear plugs and I strapped on that helmet….and I had a blast!  And for several minutes I didn’t care how high I went, if I broke something, or if I should have bought  Depends…I let myself be free and I willingly let someone else take over.

Now this doesn’t mean that I have entirely conquered my fears but I have got them roped and tied. From now on am going to make a conscious effort to get into the Game of Life and not just watch from the sidelines. I have vowed that once a year I will actively work to decrease the amount of influence a fear has on me. And who knows, maybe even sometime in the future I may just decide to jump out of a airplane …according to my 28 year-old Aussie accented instructor I am a natural at this sort of thing and I wouldn’t want to let him down!

 

Books And Fear

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Every once in a while you read a book and think with a smile, shudder, or frown, “Hey, I know that character!”

A Man Called Ove was such a book for me. The main character, Ove, was really my father in disguise. He was a man I knew well and as I read further into the story gained insight into what kind of man my  real life father is and why he operates the way he does. Sometimes these discoveries made me happy and some made me sad but it brought to light things that I was able to put under the microscope and examine in a way that I had not been able to before. I have a real appreciation for books that are able to do that. Those books that can bring clarity into some part of our own lives are amazing. They contain stories teach us, provide insight and make us think of our own experiences in new and different ways. That kind of writing is rare and oh-so-special.

I am a good short story writer. That is why I write for magazines. But I dream of being a novelist. A good one. I dream of writing the type of book where it takes six months for you to get it after putting it on the reserved list at the library. A book that is meaningful. A novel with characters that the reader connects with from the first page and cry with at the last.

I have a half-dozen half-started novels in binders and on my computer. One day I would like to finish just one but I find that I have difficulty sustaining the thoughts/actions of my characters after many chapters. And so I stop. Thinking about them, developing them and challenging myself to work harder to figure out exactly who they are. Because I am afraid. Afraid to push myself harder. Afraid to commit. Afraid to find out who I am so I can find out who they are. Afraid of adding anything else to my plate.

I am afraid and I am ashamed of this fear for it is unlike me to tuck my tail between my legs and run. But run I do…I sprint back to the safety of what I do well instead of  walking towards the unknown outcome of my dreams.  I suffer for it and settle because of it. Fear binds me and wraps its chains around me and I don’t even struggle to break free.

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Where Do I Go From Here?

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My plane lifts off for Shanghai in thirty-seven hours. Between now and then I want to play with the grandkids (ages 2 and 7 months). They bring such joy and happiness around a house filled with the angst of teens and tweens. I want to enjoy and appreciate my kids and have my love surround them when I am gone. Each and every one of them.But in real life time, I also have to work at a diving meet tomorrow and then stay to watch Gracie compete. I have to shower. Do my hair. I have to pack. Decide what to bring and what not and whether or not to take up precious room in my suitcase by bringing along eye candy for my husband. Red or green? See-through or make-you-guess? Right now it is a 50-50 chance one of them will make the cut. Later I have to drive from my house to the airport which is four hours away IF there is no traffic and that is a BIG if. Thirty-seven hours  to go and I am nowhere near ready and I am unsure what I want to do with the 24 hours we have in Shanghai. Still. But I think I might have an idea.

I have been investigating Shanghai for the past four hours. Considering whether to take a tour. Or maybe a private car (never have done one of those). Even a taxi. But within the last two hours I think I have decided to be brave and take the road less traveled by many foreigners. I think we will take the subway from the airport (line 2), go eleven stops, transfer to line 16, go 6 stops, exit the subway station, cross the street and take bus 628 go past the Government Building and get off at the next stop. Then walk towards the direction the bus is going, make a left and then I should see the Ancient Water Town of Xinchang. At least this is what Doug on Trip Advisor says. Every Doug I have ever known has been a nice guy so I am going to assume that this Doug is too and that he is not leading me into some sort of den of iniquity which might be interesting in of itself if B was not along for the ride.

It is always intriguing to me how we choose the places that we visit. I used to think that is was a science but I have now come to believe it is haphazard and you end up going where you are suppose to be. So many times I have set out in one direction and ended up somewhere else. Usually some place better than I had ever imagined and I have met people that I never would have had I followed my Itinerary.

That is what I am hoping for when I go to Xinchang. I hope to meet an old man who takes me into his ancient house in the ancient river and tells me stories. Stories of what life was like when he was young. Stories of the war. Stories of his family, his work and his loves. Stories that help explain things I can only imagine. Stories that bring tears to my eyes and a laugh to my heart. For really, its only the ancients that can tell a great story in a way that makes you realize you have to live much longer, take more bounteous risks, and love much deeper/fearlessly in order to create a story that hugs a heart like that. A stick-with-you kind of scenario. An I-want-to-do-better-myself type of thing.

So I am crossing my fingers about today and the days to come. They are crossed for Gracie and her first diving competition of the year. About my suitcase weighing less than 50 pounds. They are crossed and white knuckled about airplane trips. About de-icing planes. About making sure my kids are okay. They are crossed tightly about having a clear day to look up at Mt. Everest. About B and I discovering more to love about one another during this trip. About meeting little old men with great stories so I can earn the basics of a few good stories of my  very own. And my fingers are crossed because maybe, just maybe, this journey of a lifetime will actually renew a love that was suppose to last a lifetime; as we look towards a mountain that has withstood it’s own test of time to become a beacon for those with love in their heart, determination in their minds and passion in their souls. One can only hope.

 

 

The Road Not Taken…335 Days To Fix This…29 Days Yell Free

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Robert Frost’s A Road Not Taken is a mystery to poets and critics alike. To author, David Orr, Frost’s poem is, ” a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives.”

And I think that could be true.

For we all practice self-deception of one sort or another in order to stay with our significant other. We re-write the stories we tell ourselves about why we love, why we stay, who we love and the games they play in order to make the story comfortable to us. We all make up stories which allow us to go on with our lives. “He won’t hit me again”, “He’ll fall in love with me again”, “We can survive this,” are the words some say in attempt to change the storyline and make it “fit” into how we imagine the story of our lives should go.

In this vein, I suspect if you asked most men when they hear the words ” The Road Not Taken”  they would say it takes them back to the  women who have inhabited their lives. For it seems to me, that men are often following that Road Not Taken back to the past; wondering if Anna would have been a better lover, if he would have had more in common with Jane at this point in his life and if Jennifer would have been a better mother.  Often, it appears to me that men “regret” losing the woman on whose path they did not travel, while women “what if” or “if only” the road they chose to take. Men seem to let go of their culpability in the demise of a relationship while women, well we, “if only” ourselves to death. “If only I was thinner I could still be married to him.”

Me, I am trying to take a fresh approach on Frost. I think that what he meant was that we as people are altered with every decision we make when we step onto one road and leave one behind. As a result we need to make decisions that will bring us to our best and true self. And that whatever road we have taken we must make it the best road for us. One full of life. One full of hope. One of love, compassion and grace. We can’t turn around and take the “other” road but we can enjoy the one we are on. So today, I am going to take hard,strong, meaningful steps on my path. I will leave the tip-toeing around for another day.