Monday, July 30, 2012

Single-Handed Feminist Pop Artist

Tonight my son asked to borrow my laptop “just for a minute”.  I didn’t give it a lot of thought when I passed it over to him.  I have been working on some intense feminist pop art and there are a few assorted photos of T&A awaiting text outbursts and survey results depicting what makes a good or bad girl.  These are just an easy click away.  Which isn't a great big problem, it's not like he never met me before...I looked at him briefly, he explained he was looking for a transistor for a speaker he is creating and I decided to pass it on over. 

A nano-second later he is chortling and offering up a huff or two with a big grin as he quickly reviews all of the sites I have open.  He can’t help but laugh at me.  And this is why I love this guy! He gets to just laugh right at me and he is generally dead on.  These are the sites: Woman In Control, my blog, Ms. Magazine e-edition, New York Times article about women in the Olympics and More Magazine, for women over 40, most of whom are struggling with one thing or another but right on the cusp of….something.  He continues grinning as he orders said transistor and I laugh a little as I attempt to explain.  He laughs harder and says, “No, really, it’s ok.”   The funny part of this is I have been catching myself lately in these big old conversations about the plight of womanhood as his eyes glaze over.   “Damn!” I think, I am training him to become one of those men whose eyes glaze over!  But tonight I am in low spirits on my way back up to “what the hell?” spirits and the next stop is carry on and leave the spirits to ghost busters or a martini glass.  I’ll take a Hendricks martini, thank you very much- I need the juniper vapors to move me through the low-down spirit invocation and onto the other side. 

My sometime in this decade divorce process has opened up the flood gates to my feminist side.  Well, that’s not even true.  I’ve always been a staunch feminist.  I guess I am flailing about in my feminism as I attempt to make sense of how I ended up feeling hoodwinked and unprotected not exclusively by the man folk, but by myself.  I somehow stopped paying attention to my feminist side-which incidentally is 360 degrees and 5 dimensions and a tad bit difficult to ignore.

As he looks at me with his eyes glazed over or ready to pounce if only he could, you know that hungry look? the one that animals have right before they bite down and then lick their chops, yeah, you can pretend your kids don’t ever look at you like that, but you're just not paying attention.   It’s the same way you look at them when they share a mouth full of stupid.  Anyway, when he looks at me like that I don’t always react the right way, or in my own best interest.  I try to cover ground, I start acting like Brer Rabbit all full of anxiety and convincing.  This is what causes the glazing, try it, it’s quicker than Benadryl in a baby.  Not that I ever tried that… I try to offer up stats and examples of how far away women are in the fight for equality, or the struggle, or the wimpering sighs.  He has to try a new approach now, he squarely looks at me and states something about divorce and him and not all marriages or all men….

Here’s the worst part of all this.  I believe, channel Whitney for me here, somebody please… I believe in marriage.  And men.  I believe that marriage can work and does work. I believe women can be treated with dignity and respect and most of all with equality.   I don’t believe men are the only ones keeping us down.  (Read that any way you wish.) I know first hand that I gave myself full up and stopped attending to my predominantly feminist self, or perhaps simply, human self with ideals and expectations of fending for oneself and somehow ended up all sorts of on the wrong side of womanhood and wifedom.  

So in my flowery sundress and 3 inch wedge sandals I return to my feminist pop art project and come to terms with some of my own struggles as a single Mom, single-handedly raising a young man.  This was highlighted for me yesterday when I was asked, after someone met my beautiful, strong son, “Is there a Dad?”   I’m always awaiting the question but just as quickly thrown by it.  I’m staring it down once again, do I cover, and protect or do I speak plainly, in truth?  Is there a Dad?  Would a fierce feminist know what to do?  This fierce feminist does, finally and with more ease and comfort.  Asking the question, answers the question.

There is a mom grinning happily, in the knowledge that I have a beautiful, strong boy who can laugh down a fierce feminist and live to talk about it.  I have another, beautiful strong son and a fierce beautiful daughter making her own way in the world that is still not offering equality, but making strides each moment.  Single-handedly I continue on, occasionally wiped out and exhausted in it and just as quickly cheered-on or laughed at by my beautiful children who know me best, as I do them.

Friday, July 27, 2012

All That And A Pepsi Cola!

“All that and a Pepsi Cola!”  That’s what an old friend used to say to me, about me.  I think he must have preferred Coca Cola….It might not have helped that when he said it, I always asked for lemon.  “Make sure you save room for the lemon twist.”  I would add.  I think that made it clear that I was probably going to be a little bit of work, and would certainly need to finagle my two cents in.  I wasn’t going to be altogether quiet and go along with things.  I haven’t learned all these years later how to smile demurely, bat my eyes and say, “Oh you big hunk of man, you! Stoooooooopppp.”  Which would mean, “Go onnnnnnnnn.” 

When I explain to friends that dating is the biggest nightmare for me they don't believe me.  “It’s impossible.” I tell them.  I have even shared this with a potential date or two.  It doesn’t take too long for the potential dates to believe me and slowly back up and run down the street in the opposite direction.  The friends don’t buy it so easily.  They typically roll their eyes, and say something to the effect of  “Oh C’mon, You?  You’re all that and a Pepsi Cola with a lemon twist.”  I’m not. I’m fair to middlin’ and about average.  But in the scheme of things and if you shop at Walmart, or have ever been to the DMV or any water park, fair to middlin’ is looking pretty damn good these days.  They also tell me dating is hard for everyone.  At this point they generally roll their eyes and mutter, “Why does she think she has the worst problems in the world? Jeeeeeeze."  And they snuggle up to their partner, spouse, significant other, or lover and feel fortunate not to be in my boat. Leaving me to paddle away, but I drop my paddle and fall into the lake attempting to retract it. The friends roll their eyes and look away.

Thirty some odd years ago, the last time I was in this position, there was help.  Or I considered the large metallic barrels with pumps and spigots attached, help and they were indeed very helpful.   I suppose they were really called kegs but why get lost on the technicalities, the minutia?  The helpful kegs would loosen me up, (easy, here…I mean they would help me relax socially and not be so intensely crazed and all sorts of nervous tension).  Of course everyone was getting help and everyone looked good and everyone was happy we weren’t drinking Pepsi.   Maybe it’s time to get help?  OK, not really, not that kind of help.  Although, my son might think that's a great idea, or he might slowly back away and run to his older siblings and try to get answers regarding my new approach to life. 

I was explaining to a friend that I seem to have two methods in dealing with attracting a hot stud, or a dull stud, or a fair to middlin’ one for that matter.  She encouraged me to get out there and "work it" after seeing my new haircut and winning smile.  "I’m not so good with 'working it'.  I'm more like a character from a horror movie." I share.  I’m either the evil, satanic protagonist or an extra from whichever town filming was taking place in.  In the case of the latter, I’m usually playing a dead zombie, lifeless and unmoving in a field. 

I don’t start out as Satan’s spawn but it inevitably goes there when I remember there is no keg in my kitchen, or garage, or near the dance floor, or over where the band sets up.  I seem to be attempting to over compensate for the fact that I know I will become intensely shy and awkward and dim witted, until I have nothing but a blank stare and a lifeless, spineless and torpid manner to offer.  These are not good manners to present when one is attempting to win another over or look remotely attractive.   It’s like flat Pepsi, when you reeeeaaaallllllly neded a Pepsi. 

I’ve only recently started this new and disastrous technique.  I sort of decided, I want to live life, full on and worrying about being shy and awkward is not going to cut it.  Only my new approach is going to cut and slash and bludgeon small villages if I don’t reign it in and figure out how to just present me, as I am without a keg, or a sharp instrument or a firecracker popping, tap-dancing, fire-eating, juggling routine. So far I’ve noticed, I talk too much.  Like way too much.  Like I have to explain and share and retell every thought that comes to mind in the madcap hopes that one of my thoughts will be appealing or important.  I think they just come off as desperate or intense instead.  You know like a man's worse nightmare.  I think I also start blabbing  and vomiting information and explanations because I’m not being asked, and I want to make sure that nothing goes unnoticed.  Like vomiting information, at which point the potential stud is left praying for pea soup or blood.  I don’t allow for mystery or intrigue or fantasy and high hopes.  It might also be OK to decide if the potential stud isn’t asking, that could very well be a signal for me to back-up and run in the other direction.  Maybe it just means, we’ll get there, in due time, if things work out.

I believe this new ineffective approach has been enacted because I want to somehow present that just because I’m divorced, twice, doesn’t necessarily mean I have loads of troubles or that I am Satan’s spawn.  Except that my attempts sort of validate that I must in fact be and have.  I also believe I want to be active and participating, to compensate for a long period of inactivity and becoming an unlikely and unwilling spectator of nothingness. 

I seem to be rubber-banding as I move along the road toward single and confident.  Occasionally I am keeping up and then I go too far ahead until traffic stops and builds up in perhaps an attempt to stop and quiet me.  A few false starts and failed attempts isn’t such a bad thing.  I’m not supposed to be in a rush here.  I’m not looking to hook myself up to a hitching post and grab on tight to anything that comes along.  Although there is the appeal that I could be released from this part of the nightmare….

I have realized that talking and texting is not going to be my area of strength but being severely quiet and lifeless will not work either.  OK, fine, I didn’t just realize this, I have known it for quite some time.   I have been considering setting up a lemonade stand on my front lawn and selling cold drinks and kisses.   That might  be enticing to some hot, dull, or fair to middlin’ stud somewhere, dontcha think?  If it doesn’t work, I wonder if ebay sells "help", or kegs….

I suppose patience is a virtue and I am missing two of the four cardinal virtues these days, prudence, restraint, justice and courage.  (Feel free to guess which ones I have.)   Fortunately I still have, hope, faith and love.  Oh and a really good haircut.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vaguely Styled People

At the same time it is not well to run counter to public opinion as a general thing, because there are laws which govern it which cannot be set aside without an injury to ourselves. So although we should not heed the mere conjecture of the future opinion of humanity, vaguely styled people, yet we should so conduct ourselves that we shall not overstep any of the boundaries of propriety and the barriers of society. From a Manual of Etiquette by Daisy Eyebright, 1884.

Basically, I think the above passage might mean, we don’t need to live perfect lives in fear of what others think or say, but we may want to carefully define our own boundaries of propriety and how they might be applied, or tweaked and retrofitted for those barriers of society and our own individual needs, desires, propensity toward or away from the spotlight or the hot seat. It might even be important to determine the members of society we might be concerning ourselves with or freeing ourselves from. 

My interest in this social caveat is deep and personal.  I have been struggling and combatting and attempting to forgive and make sense of my journey. Overthinking, checking, reviewing and determining the when, why and how of it all.  In the end it doesn’t matter so much, as long as I can recognize and move forward without repeating some of the patterns and habits that are not helpful, healthy or otherwise harmonious with my overall need for happiness.  Many of my traits seem cellular, genetic and above all culturally sanctioned.  So I attempt to recognize:

I have been wrestling with the unpleasant reality that I have been governed by some big, hairy threat of unruliness and non-compliance, and my propensity toward joy and a wee bit of free-spiritedness.  I have feared and begrudged the judgment of others akin to the wrath of an unforgiving God.  In my research around cultural identity I stumbled upon this little gem from Monica McGoldrick, the Director of the Multicultural Family Institute in Highland Park, New Jersey; Children in Irish American families are generally raised to be polite, respectable, obedient, and well behaved. Typical familial injunctions would be, "What will the neighbors think?", "Don't make a scene", "That's a sin", or "You'll go to hell".  (McGoldrick, 2009)

Having been raised in a small working class Long Island community within rigid Irish and Catholic cultural norms, it was well-known that the “neighbors” were watching.  It was also widely accepted that the neighbors could never be trusted to treat any falls from grace or slight missteps with compassion or confidentiality.  In this climate, trust was not something that was nurtured or expected, ever.  In fact, the neighbors should not bare witness to any scenes that might call attention.  This belief was possibly the first bit of paradoxical conflict introduced to me.  As you may be aware, many Irish Catholic working class folk can’t move from point A to point B without making a scene, inciting a rumble, or bellowing to one or another within whisper range. We are a loud people.  We are a fighting people. My rightful need to be a rabble-rouser of sorts in one event or another, would create all varieties of deep self-reflection and vows of sanctity and all manners of guilt based on what the neighbors might now hold against me, or “think” of me.  Until the next time that I needed to move from Point A to Point B. 

As a mother, I have harped about those neighbors.  I wasn’t quite as direct as those that came before me.  Yet, my worst moments as a parent revolve around some unpleasant neighbor sharing information with me about my children and me in turn letting the children that fell from grace know the deep shame they had brought on the family and some such gibberish about me not being able to hold my head up in public.   I wish I had looked some of those neighbors squarely in the eyes and winked and smiled and said, “Well isn’t that a hoot, then.  A chip off the shoulder, aye?”  Thrown in my carefully constructed brogue in honor of my matriarchal grandmother and slapped them on the ass as I turned and walked away.  The worst part of this, my children’s run in with neighbors were so minimal and all three of them in their worst moments paled in comparison to one summer of my youth.  Any one summer, each having it’s own wild escapades. Which still in fact did not involve any murders, vandalism, grand theft, bestiality, or police involvement of any type.  My children’s run-ins with neighbors was typically about homework, talking back to a substitute or some minor infringement that was developmentally appropriate and hardly worth mentioning.  My neighbor neurons were highly sensitive and awaiting reports to pounce upon.

In retrospect,  and in comparison to others, my escapades were fairly mild and so long ago.  I settled down and married at such a young age and gave up a great many aspects of myself in an effort to conform and comply and no longer be viewed as trouble.  And then there is this little gem; The Irish tend to view people moralistically as good or bad, strong or weak. The family often designates a good child and a bad one, and they may ignore aspects of a child's behavior that do not fit their designated roles. In one Irish American family, for example, the mother always spoke about her three children as "My Denny, Poor Betty, and That Kathleen." (McGoldrick, 2009)

I wasn’t that thrilling it turns out, in spite of my belief or my role in the family as the rebellious one. And my family was not privy to my pursuits, I respected the boundaries of privacy and upheld them.  No wild orgies.  There was some inhaling early on and long ago. There was drinking and laughing, much laughter.  There was interest in gaining knowledge and experience intimately and/or sexually due in part to the direct contrast of the repressed and forbidden aspect of this topic in my home.  This was an area I was seeking to assimilate in and shed my cultural tie with but it was carried out discreetly for the most part or awkwardly and sloppily as is developmentally in keeping within a normal range of functioning. Of course this is also a rite of passage and an expected part of the adolescent experience in spite of my Irishness.  I believed myself “bad”, rebellious, trouble.  I was, it turns out closer to the dull side of safe and nearly mediocre, well maybe not, who can tell really?  I don't know what all the neighbors children were doing, I can only speak for myself.  Although I have a couple of good times to look back on they are so few and from so long ago they may be exaggerated in my memory, but allow me that much. 

The next daunting contradiction of my cultural experience involves the use of alcohol, y’know how the Irish are, so to speak, and my being Irish and all that… Of course the paradox and tension caused by drinking and loud behavior in direct conflict with being pious and private was an overarching theme in my growth and development.  Drinking accompanied my growth. It enhanced some of my growth and it also impeded it at times.   It may also have been partially to blame for stunting my growth as an adult.  I began fearing it and cursing it.  I made serious vows at a young age to do so many things different than my own parents.  A few I have been successful at.  A great many of these few I wish I had not been quite sooooo successful at.  Drinking was a big ticket item to alter, in terms of consumption and the freedom it might create or enhance, the unpredictability of it’s effects on others, as well as the shame it could potentially befall upon a family.   I did not want to raise my children in a home darkened by it.  This was not an area I was so successful in. 

More so than any of my own conflicting cultural crack-potness, it was the viewpoints of another vaguely styled person that I gave myself up to.  In Monica McGoldrick’s article she states, “Irish women have generally had little expectation of, or interest in, being taken care of by a man. Their hopes have been articulated much less in romantic terms than in aspirations for self-sufficiency (Diner, 1983).…..An Irish woman is likely to try to do it all herself and never ask for help. She may not expect to rely on a partner for either intimacy or contributing his share of the burdens of family life. This reflects, of course, a common gender assumption, but also a specifically Irish tendency not to articulate needs and feelings and to assume that if you are really loved, the other will know your feelings without having to be told.   (McGoldrick, 2009) It was easy to contain and control and isolate me. I wasn’t expecting a great deal in return, I was groomed not to expect anything, and to be thankful for that much.   Looking back, it was not without my consent, indirect or otherwise. 

I lived in fear of drinking too much, laughing too heartily, singing too loudly.  I lived in fear of being “found out” only there was very little to find.  I wish I had been at least enjoying some wild exploits and thrilling pleasures to endure the amount of anxiety and isolation I lived in and under. I did drink occasionally and rarely I drank heartily, but just the same, the shame and quilt and fear of it all made me a hot mess of tension and tightly wound madness. I spent a great deal of effort protecting the privacy of another in exchange for my own well-being. Clearly this cultural belief system has contributed a great deal to my becoming one big pile of exciting and contained, feisty and deeply private, resentful and hopeful.  I spent a great deal of time waiting to be understood.  Self-sufficiency has this way of communicating I don’t need help, but wanting help to be provided was supposed to be a secret puzzle to be solved.  And then there was the added loophole that the puzzle of me could not get solved or even attended to and I should be content in that wisdom.  Can’t say if I won or lost that round.

And so in the spirit of absolution and for the freedom from further guilt, I have a confession to make.   We Irish Catholics, understand confession.  We aren't generally expecting it to be life-changing, or free us from suffering, but we are ever hopeful and tend to follow rules in spite of all the kicking and screaming about them.  So here it goes. Bless me anyone that gives a hoot, it's been a really long time since my last confession....  In 1999, I danced on a table at a neighbor’s house party.  It is true.  It happened.  I had recently moved to a new town with a husband and three children.  I had not been out or around other adults socially, in quite some time.  I had a few drinks and I really like to dance.  What can I say?  I was fully clothed and I thought I looked fairly good, but most of all I let myself get lost in the moment and I had fun.  It was short lived. I spent the following eleven years feeling the shame I might have brought on the family had the children seen me, had I stripped naked, had I thrown up on the neighbor’s sofa, I had not. I had fun. I have a tendency toward fun that appeared to be potentially problematic and threatening.   It was clearly communicated that it was surely going to be an issue if I didn’t keep it in check.  This message has been directed my way for so long, I stopped having much fun.  I became very successful at repression.  I suppose keeping it in check became a much larger issue, but in the end it set me free. 

The darkness of alcohol came to my home, and stayed far too long hidden in every nook and cranny.  I could not stop it.  Instead I attempted to keep the neighbors from it.  I locked my doors and closed my windows.  In this way nothing was able to get in, and nothing was able to get out. Or so I thought.  The darkness grew in these conditions and could no longer hide.  Finally the darkness came crashing down from every direction. It was not until then that I left to shine my light elsewhere. I wanted my children to see my light and recognize their own abilities to shine, and have joy, and even to fall.  I will be there to lift them and we may enjoy a beer or two as we celebrate our triumphs and our fresh starts.  Occasionally we might even cry in our beers in plain sight.   There’s no telling what’s next.  I might just sing loudly on my porch, or slap a few people on the ass.  I will be avoiding vaguely, styled people or at least not concerning myself with them.  I will be dancing until I can’t anymore. I will remain a hot mess of wild Irish spiritedness and I may try to add a bit more American cockiness, but not too much….that’s just wrong, and bad, and what will the neighbor’s think?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Exposed and Free

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.  - Jim Morrison

I went on a road trip to accomplish several heady tasks.  I wanted to honor a new found “freedom” and mark the occasion of new beginnings and the ending of long endured pain.  Or to put it plainly, I wanted to end my divorce, after ending my marriage, with a bright and exciting view of the present and maybe even the possibilities that lie ahead.  I also wanted to let go of far too many negative and restrictive thoughts and beliefs.  I wanted to test my chops and push out beyond my comfort zone.  My comfort zone was decorated and accessorized with a great deal of discomfort; fears and anxiety-producing elements of “I can’t do, say, be that.”  My need to move out of my so-called comfort zone, was long overdue.  I also went on this road trip to test drive my fast approaching empty nest-ed-ness.  What will life alone be like?  What will it mean after 25 years of being command central for three beautiful, busy, intense, outlandish, sweet, energetic, thoughtful, active, struggling, creative, unique individuals?  The last bird has gotten his wings and nothing but nothing is keeping him earthbound.  He is ready to soar.  And so might I, again, but for real this time.

It is this concept of freedom and flight that I am facing head on.  I could drive 80 plus miles per hour along route 10 across several states and still not break free from my self, my desires, my fears and my apprehension to just be.  Me.  I needed to release my tight grip and let go so that I might be able to grab onto anything and everything else out there that I might experience.  I have been restless and uneasy.  I have built a life that has not fit.  It has been restrictive and isolating and damaging, and my wings have lost grace and speed and my predisposition toward flight has been prohibited.  I have lived in fear of this penchant for flight.  I have believed it to be “wrong” and I feared that I was incapable of making true and deep connections.  I saw myself as somewhat out of control, or at least lacking great amounts of self-control.  I wanted and needed to be tethered, or so I believed.  Only I did not realize how tightly wound the ropes had been, how I watched them getting tied and I looked away, submitting, permitting. 

I decided to go on my trip without a great deal of puzzling, worrying, questioning and rationalizing.  There were moments that I questioned the purpose or the need.  I let go.  I gave in to the adventure.  I invited a few guests along for the ride, via cell phone, visits along the way and updates on FaceBook.  I was never far from friends and well-wishers.  I had an incredible amount of support and cheering on, and I felt connected and tethered and in-control throughout.  I opened myself up to the world and was received and nourished.  I welcomed occasional coaxing and daring and the challenging of some of my inhibitions and self imposed restraints.  I played.  I took a few risks and while the taking has caused some uneasiness and uncertainty, I understood the danger and I am content with the deeds done.  This is perhaps, let’s just say monumental.  Big.  Huge, in fact. Maybe even Gi-effing-normous.  I have attempted freedom and adventure occasionally and rarely over the past 20 years by moving close to a few flames and then self-flagellating, punishing and permitting another to stifle and shame me into remorse and regret.  My risk-taking behaviors are quite tame, for the record and incredibly harmless.  Yet, simultaneously, freeing and slightly spirited.  

I had attempted to create a life built upon safety.  Safety seemed to be my fortress and it was built tall and covered in barbed wire and surrounded by land mines.  I need safety.  I want safety.  I want the ability to trust and be trusted.  I want to be protected and to protect.  I want what everyone wants.  Wanting these things makes me vulnerable, and vulnerability just never feels safe.  So I built my fort and I lied down inside waiting to feel safe.  I neglected to see and understand that forts do not protect you from those that you invite in and sometimes the one that you open up yourself to the most, is the one that takes you down the furthest and the deepest.  My fortress did not protect me, it simply tethered me to a life that I should have taken flight from long ago.  It isolated and contained me and intensified my need to be free.

I have been examining my need for safety and the abundantly false sense of it all around.  As I began considering this trip, more than a few advised against it.  It would not be “safe”.  I am a woman, and women are not safe, alone.  Unfortunately for some, and thank goodness for me, that type of advise is exactly the type of encouragement I needed.  I am a woman.  I have spent every moment of every day, loving and hating what that means to so many.  I am a woman.  Sometimes, I am not safe. The truth is I have been least safe in the company of those that professed to love me.  I have been least safe at my own misgivings.  I am not safe.  No one is safe.  We have no control over this big, hairy, concept of safety. I could not save my children from sorrow, or illness, or demons and fears of their own.  I could not protect my seven year old self from the bogey-man. He came regardless.  I don’t have any control over what might happen.  I am safe in the wisdom that I will no longer be controlled by the illusion of a safety that is created by staying still and quiet.  It helps to know women are out there, in the world, in each town and neighborhood.  They live and breathe.  If they can be there in Savannah, and Tallahassee, and Tuscaloosa, so may I travel through, a woman, safely or not.

I did build in safety nets to get my bearings on the road ahead and alone.  I did hear the fears of others and I didn’t want my need to regain my sense of self to prove anyone “right”.  I stayed with friends.  They fed me and loved me and rallied me on.  Initially, when I went out on my own after the visits, I kept a friend on speed dial along for the ride.  He encouraged and pushed and listened as I wrestled and fought and finally, tore down the last bricks of my fortress.  I occasionally fought him instead of staying focused on my own journey.  He may or may not have tolerated that so well.  He has struggles of his own. I occasionally have needed to put my gloves on to repay the favor as he has fought me.  Overall, I think he has had my back.  Mostly, he has validated that I have a pretty good handle on my own back when I’m not attempting to bob and weave and get at him from behind.  Maybe, I have attempted to cover too much ground on this trip.  Freedom and Safety and Solo-Flights are big enough.  It isn’t time yet for me to weigh down and wrestle anyone else in my path.  Letting go and allowing for life to come to me is not an area that I have been known to function, safely in.  I have a tendency to drive fast right towards life and step out of the wreckage, bloodied and stumbling and wondering why no one wants to play with me.  Ah, another clear view from the road has been revealed to me.  Heavy sighs and well wishes and boxing lessons needed or safety brakes and good concealer.  I’m not really so equipped just yet.

There are two telling moments of my trip that underscore safety and freedom in ways that could not have been planned or ever considered.  The moment of freedom came as I pulled into Perdido Key, Florida.  Beach.  My haven, my restorative manna from the heavens.  My reminder that I am small and my troubles insignificant in the universe amidst the crashing, pounding of waves, and the brightness of the sun and the sinking sands that surround and gather me in.  Perdido is Spanish for lost island.  I have needed to unload all that was lost, what better place?  I was planning to stop for a couple of hours and push on to see my son.  I was excited and looking forward to getting to New Orleans.  This beach, though, stopped me and held me in it’s beauty; aqua water, finest white sand, miles of natural, uninhabited shore.  I got out of my car and stood at the ready with camera in hand believing that I could capture and save and forever have, Perdido Key.  And then I swam.  I played.  I dove into the waves and I did a head-stand flip thingy in the ocean just because.  I swam some more.  I decided to go for a walk and take pictures and take in as much as I could before my time ran out and I had to push on.  Out of nowhere, blue herons, flew and landed inches from me.  I was stunned and elated and joyous.  (I have an odd affinity toward blue herons and as much as I know it’s odd to admit this, I think they fly over me sometimes just to let me know, I am safe.  I know it’s odd.  I know they fly over lots of us.  But its not hurting anyone for me to believe this and it makes me happy.  Joyous in fact. And here they were).  I get a gazillion pictures of them and I go back to the ocean and swim, and float. I float for a long while, embraced by the ocean.  Letting go.  And then I decide to call my son and tell him I will see him in the morning.  I am sleeping tonight on Johnson Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore.  I am going to primitive camp along the 5 miles of uninhabited beach.  I camp in spite of the fact that it is thundering and lightening and my tent was packed without any poles.  I am free and I am happy.  I wake up and pack my unpoled tent and my paints and canvases and my varied camping accessories and the other half of my bottle of wine and trek back towards the car to push on. But I am not finished yet.  The herons return and land at my feet.  They call to me, but I don’t understand heronese, except that they tell me that I am safe in my freedom.  And as I stand at the sea, freedom surrounds and comforts me.  I put down my pack and calmly undress as I walk into the ocean, carefree and exposed and at complete peace, uninhibited I swim.  

Safety reveals itself in contrast.  I arrive in New Orleans tired and road weary.  My son is at work.  I go to him and walk right up and give and get my hug and the smile that reaches the sun and glows down at me.  I order breakfast and eat heartily and meet his co-workers at Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar on Magazine Street in the garden district.  I leave him and venture into the city, hot and humid and full of life and vibrant color.  I take pictures and stop in stores along the way.  I finally return to my car close to the end of his shift, tired and road weary and hot.  I rest and doze until he comes out to find me.  We go to his apartment and enjoy his belated birthday cake and plan the evenings activities.  We meet up with friends and go on a walking gallery tour before heading out to Maurepesa’s Food Inc. for dinner.  The company is easy and pleasant.  He has done well, my son.  He is surrounded by kindness and energy and ambition.  Artists, dancers, educators, dreamers all.  Dinner is fantastic.  We leave his friends and return home.  Other friends join and I slip off to bed, charmed and delighted.  I sleep.  Exhausted, I let go and sleep stays with me.  I awaken the next morning and my son goes off to work, Surrey’s, his day job, so that he might create and dance, and dream and paint.  He has choreographed and performed at several renowned venues in and around the city.  He is going to celebrate his first professional installation in a gallery in September and he is writing and creating other works, on going.  New Orleans agrees with him.  I stay in bed, writing, uploading photos and creating.  I go in and out of sleep. 

I finally decide to get up and explore New Orleans for a while before my son returns from work.  As I am preparing to leave, I realize that the key is gone.  His roommate took it not realizing I would be in need of it.  The issue?  I am locked in.  Not locked out, in which case my son could have remedied that situation upon his return. While being locked in might seem the safest place to be, for me, it is not.  I have that need for flight and being untethered thing going on.  This is the type of event that could have and certainly would have in the not so long ago past lead me to crazy and fast.  I might have demanded that he come home at once to save me from this prison.  I might have tried to unscrew the bars from the windows, or broken down the doors to get out.  I was locked and contained and I never before felt so free and safe.  It might have helped that I have been to New Orleans several times now and was not feeling as though I was missing out or being cheated.  It might have been that I was exhausted and relaxed.  It might have been that I am starting to learn to permit life to come to me and I am open to it.  

I am free, still.  In this moment. Today, several days after returning home, alone.   I will continue to struggle and wrestle and fight down some of these deeply rooted beliefs and fears.  They will reemerge.  Sometimes I will just stare them down and laugh, and sometimes they will beat me down and I will submit to them.  I will stay open to what comes my way and occasionally I will try to put on my boxing gloves and bob and weave myself into a few sloppy attempts at trying to outsmart the universe.  You have to give me credit for trying….

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.   - Viktor E. Frankl

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Saddle Me Up and Let's Begin

My journey south toward embracing and accepting freedom, my own exciting self, and anything else the universe provides includes several states, a few safety nets and I hope a couple of surprises along the way.   I decide to maybe throw in Texas, just because, and if time allows.  Texas is added because I’ve never been, it’s there and this is a once in a lifetime trip. I can build this in during my stay in New Orleans, I think…

As I began the journey, a friend encourages me to take what is mine, in so many words. Specifically, I was encouraged when charging into Texas, to shove a few big-haired Texas girls to the side and take myself a cowboy.  With a little more encouragement and a lot more freedom, or tequila, I might attempt to take two.  I do believe it would be great to exude enough confidence and presence to just march in and take what I like, when and where I like it.   Cowboys?  Perhaps. I can think of one cowboy, or another, that would have a mighty troubling, but altogether amazing thrill were I to just go for the gusto and take him, full on,  Unnn huuuuummmm.

This has become the “You Go Girl” Tour in the hearts of many.  From some of the excitement my trip is inciting, it might seem like this is more about the "Go On Get Happy Tour", or the "Re-Awakening of My Own Deep South Revival" Tour, but for me, it’s really about the freedom to be me, to test some limits, push myself out of my tightly orchestrated comfort zone, take a few risks and maybe just let go and allow things to occur.   It’s about reinvigorating what I like and what makes me happy.  It’s about what I want to have, as much as, what I want to cast aside. This journey is also about coming to terms with loss and reconciling what may have been forcibly taken, and what was passively given away.  Much of this journey is about looking closely at what makes me tic, gently re-winding or readjusting those inner mechanisms and calmly going forward a well oiled machine, humming and purring toward whatever comes my way.  It’s also about letting go of the need to look so closely, so frequently and allow for missteps which may lead to a path not considered…

I am reminded by my friend that a long car ride alone is a great place for primal screams.  I like the visual, but I don’t have much of a scream left at this point.  Not out of depletion and defeatedness, but out of healing and balance.  I have moved a great deal of marital loss, as well as a few newer aspects of trust trials and bad starts into nothing more than a diminishing point in my rearview mirror.  It’s the sights ahead I am focused on.  No primal screams on this tour. But I’m wondering about whistling through Dixie and I’m looking forward to shouting a few “Hell Yeahs!”

Gratitude and groundedness seem to be the shawl I’m wearing on the first leg of this trip.  The safety and security of staying  with friends helps a great  deal.  It functions a bit like training wheels for the intrepid spirit.  Once I am steady, I am sure to take off.   I start with a visit to my college friend in the greater Washington DC area.  It is comforting to be with old friends.  The ones that know you and accept you as you are, and where you are at any point along the journey.  They help prop you up and sometimes just get a blanket when you fall.  Old friends.  They know exactly what you need.  Or sometimes, they know exactly what they like, and are certain if you would just open up a bit you would like it too.  Sometimes they have all sorts of strange ideas about what would be good for you, least of all anything you would ever be caught dead with or doing.  I love my old friends.    

I was determined to start my journey with a night of dancing in this nation’s fine capitol.  I really enjoy dancing.  It’s like the primal scream only it covers every inch of the body and deep into one’s soul.  My friend knows I want to go out dancing, that this is a required activity and the kick-off to my nomad traveling tour as a free and spirited woman.  She is a good friend, so of course she asks what I have in mind as there are a variety of dance clubs in the greater metro area.  I share my desires.  I want a place with great music.  I want a place that appeals to a range of ages, with our age being the median, say around 49 or 50.   I know there aren't a lot of clubs that appeal to this age group, but I also know that there are a couple here or there and I just want to dance.  I don't want to be in a club and have to worry about giving small children night tremors at the view of what's to come like some Dickensian ghost of Dance Fever future.  I don't want to swing dance or turkey trot.  I wouldn't mind being looked at for my enticing hip sway and booty swing.  But old friends know what you really need and so we end up at the UltraBar a swank and swinging child care center for developing dancers.  OK it was a hot, pulsating nightclub for the hip and sexy 21 year old set.  I love how old friends really listen and know what you need.

UltraBar, the nightclub we entered was four throbbing, beating floors of grinding, primal pumping and steamy displays of affection, or a blind person’s attempts to read a person's face by touching their private parts and packages.  I'm not sure which.  No, it was more aligned with steamy displays of Hieronymus Bosch-like tableaus.  For those who don't know this reference, google it, or think, wild insane writhing orgy with the most unattractive people in the world, loads of them, hook noses, sagging dripping eyes, warts and smells.  There were a few grinds 4 or 5 deep on the dance floors on this night.  Considering the heat, 105 degrees deep into the night, I think that was impressive or a condition of heat exhaustion.

My goal was to dance, and dance I did.  Sweat, sway, move, and laugh.  I was not going to let the small children deter me. Ridiculously, I laughed at the one brave soul who imagined he was going to climb aboard and take me down. Or dance with me.  Aside from the fact that I have the ninja equivalent of an Irish matriarch in the form of my grandmother pumping through my veins with equal amounts of spit and fire, I am a bit hard to pin down in couples dancing.  I can do the lean onto each other and hold on tight as we barely move dance during the slow dance that gets randomly thrown in at high school dances, but that's not the type of dancing I'm interested in on this night.  I also typically have this chemical release when an unknown man person approaches for physical contact.  I am a bit awkward here, let's just say. I give off some repellant, and when that doesn't work, I freeze up.   Not always.  But around about 98% of the time.  What this looks like on the sidelines is a combination deer, or more like rabid chipmunk frozen in headlights with a mix of touch me and I will flying dragon up your wazoo.  It does not translate to come hither, not by a long shot.  So whenever anyone approaches and the stars are aligned, and it's 105 degrees in sweatshop-like surroundings, you just got yourself a golden ticket to the land of try me.  What the hey? You only live once, right?

The brave soul approached, and tried to move in.  He was trying to quietly come in for the kill, which made it all the funnier.  It was apparent that he was trying to make his way toward contact and ultimately the grind.  Maybe he had too much to drink, because his focus and gaze were intense, his pelvis and legs seemed to be ready, but having a harder time complying.  He was watching and readying himself to get on board the way a rodeo clown might mount a moving train.  His eyes were fixed, but his body was slightly brushing and backing off, as though he needed a running start.  Then he needed the steady gaze to right himself to try again.  This went on a couple of times, while I continued to dance, sweat and laugh.  At one point as he attempted to grab my hand I held on and twirled.  Of course I twirled him, this may have been too hard on him, the steady gaze and sway toward me was thrown off again.  At this point I considered turning around and offering the international stance for a piggy back ride.   I wanted to stop and say, "OK cowboy, giddy up, climb on up, and I will gallop through the club, but then it's really time for nite-nites.  Not too hard on the reins there big boy."  Perhaps then he could have made contact and I could have felt like I did my duty for the fine men of Washington DC.  Instead, I gave another twirl and said my fare-thee-wells.   

Dancing for me is a solo sport.  Just me and my body’s response to the music, others can enjoy by all means, but if you want to climb on board, you’re going to need to be strong enough to contain me, and stealthy enough to catch me by surprise.  And, it should feel a bit like a firm handshake, like you mean business. Like riding the bull at Gilley's for some lucky stud. If that comes together,  Halleluiah! I’m going to hoot and holler and push a whole lot of big-haired Texas girls out of the way, because this will be the adventure of a lifetime!  

I thank the little feller and salute him, we are in the nation's capitol, it only seems right.  Time for me to press on and continue grinding my way through the southern states, or find myself a real cowboy.  And my friend?  She's the best.  When she visits me?  I think I will take her out to enjoy a game of Bingo somewhere and do some scrapbooking. She will love it.  I know she doesn't do either of these activities now, but friends help each other.  We have each other's backs so we can safely test our limits and open up a little.  Aren't old friends great?

Nature Girl On the Loose

I am on a great adventure to test my chops, see part of the country, visit my son, and sort out a lifetime of fighting the essence of what it means to be me.  The route of my long journey takes me as far South as Tallahassee, Florida. The journey changes shape and occasionally purpose as I reach different friends along the way, or through contact as I go.  I have spent far too much time in my car, which means I have spent far too much time in my head.  It’s time to get outside and get into the natural environs, so naturally I decide to check out the nature preserves and hiking attractions in and around Tallahassee.  I’m in the Florida Panhandle area for whatever that’s worth.  It doesn’t mean very much to me, except I know there are swampy areas with alligators, but that can apply to large regions of most Southern states.  I decide to do a brief search to discover which nature trails or preserves are nearby and I decide on Leon Sinks Geological Area, which is part of the Apalachicola National Forest.  I think this is a nice way of saying swampland.  I leave the hotel and take this detour before heading west toward Perdido Keys, and New Orleans, the midpoint.  As I approach the parking lot of Leon Sinks, I am elated to see an entry sign warning of alligators, and get this, black bears.  Now that’s a weird little habitat pairing!  I can’t recall if David Sedaris used this pairing in his last book,  Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary it’s definitely worth a consideration for later writings if not.

I start off excited to locate my cancer enhancing deet spray for real woodsfolk, not the strawberry kiwi or linen flavored bug repellent for the house to car sorts (you know who you are).  I spray, liberally knowing I am in Florida Swampland.  I alert the masses via FaceBook, or the 70 or so “friends” that are following my pursuits, share that I am going on an alligator hunt and start on my way.  Five minutes in, OK seconds, the mosquitoes are relentless.  I am determined.  If nothing else, I am determined.  Really.  Sometimes I am determined at the cost of all else, but I am determined.  I am going on this hike, I am probably going to spot an alligator and wrestle it, run screaming, or knowingly nod and offer it it’s rightful props.  But I will not be stopped by mosquitoes.

But the five minutes, or seconds reveal the full extent of the mosquitoes.  They are determined and relentless more so than I am.  I am prompted to recall the last movie I saw.  Snow White and the Mutant Albino, or Woodsman or some such movie.  There is a scene, the same scene occurs in hundreds of movies.  Girl alone in woods.  Girl flailing and tripping and frightened out of her mind at her surroundings.  Trees coming alive, animals ready to kill, usually a vampire or werewolf or some big bad thing.  And this is how I appear, as I am batting and flailing and swinging at mosquitoes in spite of the cancer-enhancing 100 proof bug spray I have used.   But, this is my Freedom Tour, or Woman on an Adventure Tour,  or Woman Alone Able To Just Do Whatever She Pleases tour and today finding an alligator is what pleases me. I do have the hopes of wrestling it and making it scream uncle so that I may be finished wrestling all of my fears and frustrations and move on in my life.  I decide Snow White and all the other damsels in distress and occasional dudes, think Ichabod Crane here, were not possessed by demonic trees, they were tormented by mosquitoes. 

Mosquitoes don’t have this impact on everyone.  You needn’t go for a gentle, calming trek in the woods and trip and fall to your death because a mosquito is bothering you.  In this particular incident there were at least 5 million bothering me, and I am allergic to mosquitoes. I won’t die from them, but I might swell and disfigure like Jim Carrey in about 7 of his movies. This is not a good thing because I am expected to be in New Orleans by nightfall with the goal of getting my groove on or at the very least, being recognized as a human.  When I was 6 or 7 my family went on a summer vacation in the woods.  My family did not possess the means to go on too many vacations so this was a very big deal.  The mosquitoes came.  They landed.  They had their way with me.  My body swelled.  My foot became the size of my head or the head of a lion.  It was big.  My arms and legs bore welts.  I think there was a collective fear of popping or exploding.  The trip ended early.  I have not had this type of reaction again, but there is potential.  I really don’t like mosquitoes.

I continue, tripping, flailing, and batting.  I would love to see an alligator, safely from a distance.  The wrestling is more about fighting my fears, or releasing some very large, very angry, very frustrated aftershock from my sort of recently ended marriage.   Honestly, maybe the wrestling is more closely related to my need to wrestle myself, and some of the choices I have made, or refused to make. I find myself calling out to the alligators in hopes they will save me from the mosquitoes. “Here, gator, gator, gator…..” I know they are within chomping distance.  I am sure the kingpin is rolling his eyes at me, drolly telling his comrades in bite to leave me alone.  He recognizes I have far too much entertainment value in the natural universe.  Like a young Chevy Chase only female.  Not that I’m young, or he’s considerably old.  He just doesn’t do physical, slap-stick humor anymore and I have mastered it in the natural world, or often when I move. 

I continue moving at my New York City pace.  I haven’t lived in New York City for well over 27 years, but as my mother likes to say, “You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl”.  I walk as though I am going to offer the city the deal of the century, and announce it  on Wall Street, or as though I’m going to fight city hall, and win.  That’s another little ditty my mother likes to share, “You can’t fight City Hall, Ginger.”  She always adds my name to this one.  Only I don’t have any interest in fighting City Hall, I have smaller fish to fry, or catch and release.  Anyway, I am walking quickly, I am sweating profusely, I am armed with my camera and I am determined to find an alligator.  Or a Black Bear.  We’ll see how the hike goes…

Shortly after I got out of my car to begin this hike, two women from the Tallahassee Bible Thumping Book Club, started their hike.  I assume this is their sacred affiliation because the van they park boldly advertises such and the t-shirt one of them wears also says, “Tallahassee Bible Thumping, Can I get a Hell, No?”  I am surprised not to have caught up with them, or overtaken them with my New York City pace.  I let it go, because I think this journey is about letting go more than anything else.  It is about being in the moment and letting my free spirit rise and shine and sing out it’s Glory Glory.  I decide they must have gone the other way and we will meet at the half-way point and say a little howdy do. 

Along the way, there are beautiful sights, if no wildlife.  I have my camera and hope to photo journal the adventure.  Whenever I stop to take a picture the mosquitoes begin some sort of group violation and attack full force.   I am sure the photos will all be a blur, as I swat and bat and click.  I am sweating profusely and hopeful that I am almost at the car.  By now I am a little crazed, wrestling alligators, and somehow happy to be holding two special giant sized southern pine cones.  Don’t ask me why these two are special, they just are. When I decide something like this is special, it must be.  I realize there are a gazillion giant sized southern pine cones everywhere, including in the parking lot right next to my car.   

I realize with all the necessary swatting and batting and tripping over exposed roots and possible werewolves, holding two extra large pine cones doesn’t make a great deal of sense.  This is confirmed by the Tallahassee Bible Thumping Book Club committee, moments later, near the start of the trail.  Hmm? Where could they have been, they didn’t pass me, nor I them.  One of them says, “Ooooh, You have your big pine cones.”  She says that in the way that only a southern woman can with two parts southern charm and 98 parts southern smackdown.  Y’all know what I mean.  She is smiling too thinly, and lilting too highly while still suggesting I am the dumbest ass on the trail.  What she means to say is, “Hon’, what the hell do you need two big, ugly ass, pine cones for, and you can have 100 of those right near your car.”  She knows I have been sweating and swatting and all around tripping myself up freely and quite unnaturally.  I look up and notice Mrs. Hell No’s pants are unbuttoned and there’s more than a few pine needles in her hair.  I want to say, “Yes, and aren’t you two enjoying God’s humping and thumping divine pleasures?”  With a Yankee Doodle snarl and my carefully constructed stink eye.  Only instead I say, inaudibly and embarrassed, “Yes, I have my pine cones” smiling weakly.

In the end, as I approach my car, I recall something my son said on our many hiking adventures sans mosquitoes, “You are afraid of heights, your knee pops and grinds, and you freak out about mosquitoes.  Why do you do this?  Why is this your hobby?” He implored.   And so it goes, another moment of the big reveal on my journey toward me and beyond.  I love the natural world, and I have some hell-bent conflict with it.  Y’know like man against man, or man against self?  I am woman against nature.  But I am also a certifiable nature girl.  But most of all, I do this because life is going on out there and I want to live it.  I want to participate even if the participation is the solo variety.   Although I have a very entertaining, slapstick physicality in the living, moving world, I need to move.  I also like the challenge and the benefit to wrestling; self, alligators, real or imagined, and my fears full-on. 

In my car I suddenly realize, I don't have one mosquito bite.  The cancer enhancing bug repellant did the trick.  Next time I will wear earplugs  and take some great photos, and lunch with the bear and alligator.  I may even admit to the Tallahassee Bible-Thumping Book Club Co-Chairs that it was a bit silly for me to carry those two giant pine cones around that way, but I will continue to share, that I can't explain it, but that's just one of the many unique and special features that God Almighty blessed me with.  Does anyone want to share a testament of faith and see my lucky quarter or the bent and rusted railroad nail in my car?  Feel free to admire my pine cones. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dark Chocolate, Mocha Java, Salty, Oily Marcona Nuts…Alexandria, Virginia

Freedom, alone time, life post-divorce, call it what you will.  After several months of pondering, planning, waffling, excuse making and finally deciding it is time for me to stop being afraid of life, men, myself unchecked, my best self and my worst self, roads without guard rails, shadows, and demons real or imagined, I knew I needed to plan and take this journey.  Two and a half weeks on the road from my lovely home near the Hudson in Rhinecliff, New York to New Orleans.  I decide to start my trip visiting an old college friend in Alexandria, Virginia.  Wild, raucous friend with much love and big-heartedness.  Wild, raucous, friend with limited filters and wild, raucous, thrill seeking tendencies.

Let’s just call her Wild Thang, or WT.  When I call WT she is excited and happy and delighted that I am coming.  We have seen each other when life has permitted, sporadically over the years, recently when she returned for a High School reunion, as I live close to her hometown.  We have remained in contact and supportive through life’s ups and downs.  We are quite different on almost every level but we have had many good, hearty laughs.  And that’s my weak spot.  I like to laugh.  If  you have made me laugh or laughed with me a few times, you’re in and probably for a while.  WT and I laugh well together.  The laughter starts when I call and she whispers, “Do you like, the……dark chocolate………men?”   The laughter isn’t exactly shared, it’s more of disbelief.  I don’t typically speak of the men this way.  I do like dark chocolate but I’m not looking for any particular flavors quite yet in the men.  She continues without the filters a couple of days later in another phone call two days before I am planning to hit the road.  “Do you want me to set you up with a booty call?”  I can’t say I have ever been offered this…offer….?   I don’t have rich and amazing experiences, I have a limited, scary idea of what this could mean, but I start imagining the logistics.  So is this like an escort service, I wonder.  I did see American Gigolo about 30 years ago, maybe it’s like that.  “No thank you, I’m good.”   I reply politely.  I’m not really good in this area of my life, but I’m definitely not interested in WT’s offer. 

I share this with my support group.  I needed a little extra support the night before I left.  I don’t exactly have a support group.  I have fabulous friends, angels and vixens, cheering me on and happy for my newly reclaimed happiness.  They giggle.  They laugh. I do say out loud, “I can’t manage to  attract anything to the fine piece of booty I have been blessed with, she can arrange booty calls for others?”  What is this land I have not lived in or shaken my booty to?  I’m sure I hear at some point, quietly, on the gentle moaning breeze of desire, “Mocha Java……yummmmmm.”  There is a shared quiet as the breeze gently goes on to the neighbors yard, catching them unprepared, I am sure.  Powerful thing, the beckoning booty calls of others…We laugh more, eating foods of restoration and support.  Olives, cheeses, wine, friendship offered the night before I journey on.  As I leave, Vixen offers nuts for my trip.  Heavenly gift.  Salty, oily Marcona nuts for my drive and "Godspeed".  Angel hugs me warmly.  The breeze follows me home to pack and rest and wrestle out last worries and desires. The breeze has died down.  

The next morning I load up the car, slowly.  Enjoy my coffee with a friend, a couple of cups.  Happy with the knowledge that I have great friends supporting and cheering me on, I leave.  I get to Alexandria safely.  Pull up to the home of WT, arms wide open for an embrace and eyes sparkling with laughter.  We talk. We laugh. We sigh about the years that have gathered behind us.  We dress and primp and ready ourselves for a night on the town.  We go to a couple of dance clubs in Washington, DC and dance and laugh, carefree of the years that have gathered.   I survive, sweaty from dancing, booty still uncalled.   There is no breeze in DC.  107 degrees and stifling.

Restored and filled up with love from a wild and raucous friend.  Free to laugh and dance and enjoy time alone and time with friends.  With the full, ample, blessed, ummmm hmmm   sense that this is not the booty tour at all, but the freedom tour.  

I am venturing out to see the sights in Old Town Alexandria today.  The first stop will be Fort Ward, a  preserved Union fort built to protect Washington, DC during the American Civil War.  I love forts!  All mighty and protective, hey, wait a second, that might be the flavor I want to eventually find...what flavor is mighty and strong and protective? 

My trunk (teeheeheee) is packed up again and I am ready for the next leg of my journey.  Pavement bound 6 am tomorrow....