Friday, August 29, 2014

One Year On: "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been"

Beginning words. As I write these words – the first words in a long while in this mostly-defunct blog – it lacks only a couple of hours being exactly the time one year ago that I left Topeka, Kansas, with everything I felt I had to have packed into my little Kia Soul, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Credence Clearwater, The Eagles, Triumph, Gordon Lightfoot, and many others blasting the night and the miles away as I drove toward the town I had left almost exactly 30 years before: Rome, Georgia.

Rome hasn't changed all that much in the last 30 years, at least on the outside. All the things I always liked about being from Rome are there: small town, friendly folks for the most part, sweet tea most everywhere, Krystal, and all the things Southern that helped form who I am. Mostly, my family was still here. That's what brought me back.

But, as always happens, I had certainly changed in the last 30 years. I wasn't the same person, in many ways, as the 18-year-old preacher-boy who left for Dallas, Texas, sure he was going to be God's next Big-Deal-Preacher-Man, ready to change the world. Back then, fresh out of high school, I was a religious zealot, dogmatic to the point of legalistic in what I believed, and proud to be a part of the emerging Religious Right that would evolve into the nightmare-disaster-embarrassment that the Tea Party represents to me now. I was, barely 18, a dues-paying member of the John Birch Society (which, for those who may not know about that particular group, was more right-wing, anti-communist, paranoid, and conspiracy-driven than anything the Tea Party ever came up with). I was supremely confident that I knew the answers, even if I didn't know what the questions were yet.

Thirty years later, I returned, not religious (though my faith is as vital and vibrant as ever, even if it wouldn't fit into the box it used to fit into), certainly not part of the Religious Right, with plenty of questions and very few answers.

What? This ain't Texas!” For years, whenever I thought about getting off the road, I thought I would move back to Dallas – Texas has always been where my heart has felt most at home (and I wrote about Texas a while back in this blog in a six-part series called “My Texas Odyssey” if you want to read it). But, after my grandmother (“Nanny” to me) died in December, 2012, something changed, and my heart began to yearn to be closer to my flesh-and-blood family. I have recounted some of that story in previous entries of this blog.

Anyway, last year, feeling the call toward family, and feeling ready to get off the road after almost 10 years traveling the highways of this country in a big truck, I started making plans to leave Kansas. By the time I was ready to leave one year ago, I had the promise of a job that would get me off the road, and, to my surprise (because this happened after I had already decided to move back to Georgia), I had gotten back in touch with an old acquaintance from high school days, and there was (I felt, hoped) the potential for something good.

Within the first two weeks of crossing the Georgia state line, the promised job had evaporated, the potential relationship had ended, my small bit of money was gone, and things looked pretty bleak. Then there followed four months looking for work, being pushed against the ropes financially, and a very dark time for me in every way. Finally, in December, I found work, still driving a truck, but able to be home every night. But then, even after that, health problems (including a heart problem that required a stent to be put in), medical bills, and plans-gone-awry kept me in a whirlpool of emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual chaos (some of that is reflected in my last entry in this blog from October).

From the vantage point of a year, looking back, I can say with great confidence: if I had known what it would entail, I would never have moved back to Georgia. And there have been times in the past year that I sincerely, desperately, wished I hadn't.

And yet . . .” In spite of all the challenges, struggles, disappointments, surprises, setbacks . . . even though I wouldn't have chosen this particular part of the journey on purpose . . . one year later, I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, in exactly the situation I am intended to be in.

I am here. I am connected deeply to people I love and who love me. I have a job that I mostly enjoy, working more hours that I would have dreamed were possible when I was looking for any kind of work, and I am doing well physically.

I am learning the lessons I came here to learn (even if it's sometimes kicking and screaming, lashing out in anger, and being put in time-out pretty often): trust, acceptance, purpose, possibility.

I am grateful, I am at peace, and all is well. And that's really all I ever wanted.

Until next time, I leave you with this reminder: you are loved, you matter, you have a purpose. Love and peace to all who may read these words.