Saturday, June 30, 2012

strangers or not, we're in it together

i said this twice today, and meant it more each time i thought about it:
we are not meant to be here alone. life is about the journey, but it is also about the community that we are meant to find along the way. we are not in it for ourselves, we should not be out to choose ourselves day after day. life is beautiful because we can share the joys and share the sadness. 
if we weren't meant to wrap our arms around our fellow travelers, then they would not be so welcoming or soft. conversely, when we are in need, we would not have our hands fit so perfectly with another's hands.

if we believe that we are here to serve ourselves, we are grossly missing the point.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

the art of self-interviewing

somewhere near Albemarle, NC
what do you get when you take a country drive with yourself? when you look at the map and purposefully detour yourself with no where to be, no where to go, and no one in your passenger seat... as a single woman, this adventure in the countryside of NC makes a great parallel with my life.

of course there are times when you wish you had a co-pilot. a navigator to keep you from looking at your phone while driving. because adventures are better when they are shared. a companion who will help you pick wildflowers on the side of the road. someone who will romp on a stranger's property, even though you are convinced that the owners are home and they have loaded guns. you find yourself wanting someone who will smile when you pull the car off the road; someone who was already unbuckling their seatbelt to grab the picnic blanket and beat you to the top of the hill. when you're driving down a country road, you may wonder if your hair is the same color as the fields of wheat, and you wish there was someone in the car to confirm it.

there are times when we all want someone to go along with us. someone who willfully chooses to be next to you on whatever adventures you choose. and maybe you remember that you are not traveling with a companion, but that  doesn't mean the trip isn't worth the drive. it doesn't mean that the time alone isn't valuable, it just means that you have to think for yourself. agree with yourself about where you want to go [the long way home!], or pull over [look at this cotton field!], or what song you want to belt out [Jenny by Walk the Moon], or whether the windows should be down or up [down!].

when you go down a long highway, alone with your thoughts, you get to have a self-interview.

my drive in the countryside wasn't a pointless way to waste time or gas. my drive in the countryside was an indulgence. not in the way that dessert after a big meal is an indulgence, but in the way that you can surprise yourself. you can always choose monotony, predictability and comfort, but every now and then, you will get a grin that spreads across your face and you feel and know that you can do whatever you want. this mood struck me as i headed back to Raleigh.

i felt as free as a feather floating on a breeze. it was just what i needed.

i hear my own voice as i harmonize and sing along with the songs that i choose (Brandi Carlile, Avetts, Norah). i hear myself squeal and apologize out loud to a snake that i accidentally ran over (shiny and black, it was too late before i had already hit him). i find myself daydreaming about how differently the people who live in Richfield, NC live their lives. i appreciate a slow drive where there are no stoplights, a road where a slow tractor goes 20mph and makes you wait to pass him, but i didn't pass him because there was no rush. a stretch of highway surrounded on both sides by green fields. these people grow their own food, they do not wait for it in a drive-thru. they do not have a data plan on their phones, because they still have landlines, and my 'smart' cell phone would stress them out.

i found myself planning things in my head, even though i knew i would forget them because i wasn't writing them down. "i want to have a garden! i want to have a greenhouse! i want to have a tree house for my FUTURE children! [etc]" i waved at strangers in the small town of New London not because i knew them, but because i wanted to brighten their day [and mine!]. to acknowledge that i saw them, and in hopes that i could give them my smile. a smile between strangers is one of life's littlest treasures, and i'm saving up for the laugh lines i will have earned.

as i drove, i chuckled when i thought about how a single woman would not have been on a leisurely drive in the Carolina countryside just 100 years ago. both of my grandmothers would be shocked to know that i willingly drove a car, by myself, into a National Forest, with no phone signal. a wilderness where no one knew where i was, on a dirt road, just to talk to myself.

i drove down unnamed US Service roads in the Uwharrie National Forest, not to be dangerous, but to invest in myself. to develop my character. to do something that makes me SMILE. to be alone with my thoughts and to kick them around a little. to try new thoughts on for size, to release old thoughts, and to flesh out my own ideas about why i am here and what i want from my life. i basically did a long-version of sitting down with my journal. this 'journaling' exercise was all out loud and not recorded.

i will freely admit that there were long stretches of time in and after 2007 until about 2010 wherein i was terrified to be alone with my thoughts. the idea of any amount of time without 1-music, 2-tv, 3-chatter among friends, 4-a phone nearby, or 5-my computer, was NOT welcome to me. i hated to be alone with my thoughts because i was stuck in a cycle of kicking myself for mistakes i had made. the long car ride from Raleigh to Charlotte started with crying, and ended with crying, and there was a lot of crying in-between. i habitually cried in the shower because no amount of reading the shampoo bottles could keep my thoughts from circling me like a vulture over roadkill. the darkness would creep in. i would lie on the shower floor with the water as hot as humanely possible, water drops falling on my face as i cried, unable to stand. i did not relish talking to myself. i avoided it. i wouldn't say i hated myself, but i didn't trust myself. i was brokenhearted and discouraged and at rock bottom.

in the time since mid 2010, i've been able to focus on the things that bring me joy. i have been able to scale back on what i commit to, who i commit to, and i slowed down to be more gentle on myself. i worked at forgiving myself. i worked at understanding myself and my decisions. i didn't ask for much help, but i finally asked for help. and the people around me have lifted me out of where i was in a way that can only be described as miraculous. people truly are amazing, and i have been blessed to know the people who have helped me climb out of my wallowing pit.

nowadays i spend so much of my time meeting new people, (retail job) that i will freely admit to being a little burned out on my own great idea of interviewing strangers. i am starting to get to a point where i want to sit with the strangers in coffeeshops again. to ask them what is going on in their lives and learn some of their life lessons vicariously through their eyes. recently, i've been digging into my customers again, hoping to learn what they do when they aren't at my store, and they respond. they look at me like i am not just a sales-girl, they look at me like i am a real person because i remember that they are real people.

i'm getting back in the practice again. people are finding their ways to me: a novelist, an escape artist,  a blogging/traveling family. customers who smile at me and tell me that they are glad to have met me. there are stories to tell, stories to experience, stories to create.


who's next? maybe you.