Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Finding Your Way

Recently I was contacted by someone who is going through the same kind of journey that I’ve just been on.  For complicated reasons, I can’t contact her directly, but I believe she reads my blog, so I hope the following post helps her and anyone else out there who needs some reassurance right now.

I flew from Los Angeles into the Kansas City airport, collected my luggage and received my rental car at the curb.  Normally a Honda Civic driver, the sight of the huge Tahoe intimidated me.  However, later on in this trip I was going to be a driver on a road trip for five, so I needed the large vehicle. 

The skies were getting dark, and it was beginning to rain as got into the driver’s seat.  There was no GPS system in the car and the portable one I had packed was deep within my suitcase which was waaaaaay in the back of the Tahoe. 

I hurriedly asked the rental car guys for some directions to get to my old hometown where I would be spending the night with one of my best friends.  I heard numbers.  I heard the words “south” and “west.”  I tried to remember what they said to me as I pulled away from the white zone.  

The radio was on some sort of weird, static-filled talk station and at that point I couldn’t divert my attention from the road to even snap off the sound.  All the controls on the car were unfamiliar, but I managed to find the wipers as I looked for a place to pull over to get my bearings.  Alas, there were none.   All the roads out of the airport were busy with hurried drivers.  I joined the stream of travelers out onto the busy highway.

Now, this was not new territory.  I had made this trip dozens of times before. Kansas was my childhood home and it is absolutely lovely at the end of May.  The lush green hills rolled around me, but I was too busy concentrating on the road and worrying about the turns I would have to make.  The rain was coming down harder now.  They were big, full raindrops--the kind you only get in the midwest.

It was getting late, it was getting windy and the sky was a strange hue.  Thoughts of tornados entered my head.  I thought about what I should do if one were on the way.  Growing up in Kansas I had been through all sorts of tornado drills.  When I lived there, all that training had made what to do almost instinctual, but now those instincts had flown out of my head.  Or had they? These days, I am trained in what to do in an earthquake, but same precautions do not apply to both disasters. Would the right ones appear should I need them?  I drove onward, hoping that it would be just a windy rainstorm.

My stomach was growling but I was too busy squinting through the rain at the green and white signs above me to eat anything. The windshield wipers were on high now. God, this vehicle was big!  Was it 435 South or North?  Or West?  Would the road to Topeka take me to Topeka or would there be an option to get off at Lawrence? I flipped on my cell phone and called my sister for directions.  No answer.  I called my friend with whom I would be spending the night.  No answer.  I looked around.  The roads did not look right.  They were somehow familiar but they did not look right.  The traffic was getting heavier and soon I realized I was headed into Kansas City—the wrong way. 

Then I saw them:  familiar names on signs.  For a split second I felt relief at seeing the familiar and then came a sickening feeling. They were the signs that led to my ex-husband’s childhood home.  Renner Road.  Holiday Drive.  We use to take those roads to visit his parents.  After we’d visit with them, we’d head up other highways to go to my parents’ house for a visit.  

My first instinct from out of the blue was to call him.  He knew these roads.  He could tell me what to do. He would know which direction I needed to go to get to my friend’s house. 

I shook my head.  Whoa!  Where did that come from?  That was not even a possibility anymore. After all we went through during the divorce, I was stunned that that instinct to call him for help came up at all.  We no longer speak—about anything. My mind flashed back to my earlier thoughts about reactions we have for survival for tornados and for earthquakes.  Are the instincts that come first the correct ones or merely the most ingrained?

Emotions enveloped me. I was alone, I was hungry, I was lost, I was driving an unfamiliar vehicle through some sort of storm and I was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness that I wanted to shake off as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, I did so by turning on myself in anger.  Why was I even thinking about that?  Get over it!  I should be able to do this.  It was stupid that a grown woman would let herself get in this predicament.  Why hadn’t I planned better?  Why couldn’t I just make a simple trip over terrain I had been dozens of times before? 

An exit.  I could get off and turn around. 

Pulling over, I saw a McDonald’s.  

That’s where I stopped. 

I stopped the car and then, with great effort, I stopped the negative voices in my head.  

There in that parked car, I talked aloud to myself, like I would talk to friend who needed some encouragement.   “Breathe deeply.  You can do this thing.  There is no rush.  You are fine.”

Then I marched myself into the restaurant as if I were my own mother and ordered a big meal which I promptly sat down and ate every bite of. 

Breathing deeply, I opened up the back of the Tahoe, and dug around in my suitcase until I found the portable GPS.  I sat in the driver’s seat, programmed the Tom Tom, found a radio station with some music I liked, and listened to some soothing songs as I watched the rain lessen in intensity. Looking around, I could finally enjoy the lush green that surrounded me.

Mandy, the GPS lady, was waiting to guide me about the same time my friend called me back, apologizing for missing my call.  I told her that I was fine and I’d be there after dark.  I could hear the warmth in her voice as she told me she’d wait up for me.

Just before she hung up, she said, “I can’t wait to see you.  The porch light will be on for you. Drive safely.  I love you, you know.”

I pulled onto the highway.  Soon, I once again drove past those road signs to my in-laws’ house.  I gave them a smile and a wave.  No one familiar lives down those paths anymore, but they hold good memories of my in-laws and their love for me that can’t be taken away, not even by present circumstances.

A familiar song came on the radio and I hummed along.  No more rain fogged my vision.  My lights were on and lit the way ahead for me.  I was on the right path before I knew it.

I tell this story for the benefit of my friend or anyone else out there who is going through a tough time in life. 

Yes, your life is strangely unfamiliar right now. 

You are traveling through some storms in a way that feels too big, too strange to you.  The familiar controls of your old life are gone and have been replaced and rearranged with unfamiliar buttons and knobs.  Confusing static of a new language fills the air.  It is the language of law, of loss, of leaving.

While others seem to maneuver these roads just fine, you slow down, and are hesitant.  That’s OK.  Take your time and don’t let others rush you.

You doubt yourself.  Even the simplest task that you’ve done dozens, hundreds of times before can seem monumental.  That’s OK too.  That will change eventually.  

Yes, you will lose your way once in awhile and when you do, don’t panic or fall back on old habits. 

Just Stop. 


Take a deep breath.

Turn off the static of others and fill the air with the sound of of your own strong voice.  (It won't sound so strong at first, but keep talking.  It will get stronger as time goes by.  You just haven't heard your own true voice for awhile.)

Be kind when you talk to yourself.  Treat yourself well.  Feed yourself well.

Trust yourself.

Believe it or not, you have all the tools you need to find your way.  (Yes, it may require going through baggage, but that’s just a part of the process.)  

Give yourself some time. Compose yourself. 

Wait for the current storm to pass, for the rain to lessen.  (It will.  It always does.)

When you are ready, buckle up, and adjust your rearview mirror to a setting that's right for you, and get back on the road.

It’s a long journey though the dark, and one you will have to make mostly on your own, but when you get to the end there will be a light on just for you.

And I promise you, there will be someone waiting there, arms open, ready to love you.


Shelly said...

What a FANTASTIC piece! I think this needs to get published somewhere. Such wisdom in it~

Leah J. Utas said...

Yes. So very true, Betty. Excellent reminder/advice.

Empty Nester said...

Beautifully written- as always.

My Mind's Eye said...

BB your writing is beautiful and heartfelt....and oh so true!
Blessings to your blogging friend traveling down a dark road we are sure there will be lights left on for her too
hugs madi and mom

Nancy C said...

Amazing revelations Betty. We ARE all we need.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Stopping and taking a deep breath was the best thing you could've done at that point.

Cranberry Morning said...

Beautiful and poignant post, Betty. I am sure it will be a help to many who are going through this and many who may be in the future.

Momma Fargo said...

Oh, Betty! I am going through the same exact thing. Hugs to you. We will get through it. It makes us stronger and ready for that some day.

BECKY said...

Beautiful post, always! I'm so sorry I haven't stopped by in such a long time. Hope you know I think of you often!

jenny_o said...

This is a perfect analogy. I hope that people in need are able to find your wise words.

Marty said...

Great post. The phrase "words to live by" come to mind. Glad I found your blog!

Ms. A said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent!!!

YrHmblHst said...

Damnation girl... such eloquence. Again.
But mcdonalds?!?!?!? and a h*n*a?!?!?!?
We need to talk...

Gigi said...

Oh Betty - what amazing words of wisdom for whatever journey any of us may be on. Hugs for your friend. And yes, this should be published somewhere; it's that beautiful and touching.

Sueann said...

This was so beautiful and uplifting...I love it! And I feel so empowered. I am not on a strange road right now...but they always come up...just around the corner. You think you know where you are going and then...pow!! You find yourself hopelessly lost! Sigh!
I knew I had to get a GPS!! Ha
And thanks

Catherine said...

You were on a long journey and sharing it will no doubt help someone.
Sending you a big hug today!
xo Catherine

Hilary said...

Beautifully written, Betty. I could sense the symbolic events along the way but you summed them up in such a perfect package - as only you can do.

Nicole said...

Oh Betty I adore you. Thank you!

Peggy K said...

I wish you could see the smile on my face right now. I only wish I had these words to give to you when you needed to hear them. And now you are giving to others. You are an amazing women, friend, human being. Thank you for your beautiful words!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Those little things pop up that remind us of losses. I had two big reminders today of losses and I was feeling a bit sad. But then my daughter joined me sitting on the front porch and soon we were laughing and chasing away the blues with shared sunshine.

Pat Tillett said...

Great post Betty! You are so smart and very healthy on an emotional level. Sometimes we just need a face to face talk with ourselves. I'm not much of a fast food eater, but I'm sure that McDonald's looked like sanctuary and at that moment in time it was perfect for you. Right now, I want a Big Mac and fries.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - great post and I sure hope your friend reads it .. you've had your trials, your anxieties ... but that background memory bank that you can do this on your own, as you've proved.

Lovely to have a friend waiting for you with a warm big hug and love .. congratulations - love the story .. cheers Hilary

Leanne said...

Beautiful post, Betty. Warms my heart. You give some wonderful advice, and I pray that your blog-reader-in-need will read those heart warming words. I admire you greatly, dear friend. Big time.

Baby Sister said...

This was a beautiful post, Betty. It had some wonderful advice that we could all use.

Unknown said...

So well written. And I am SO PROUD OF YOU!