Life, it’s been a long road thus far. Funny thing, I’m only 45 years young, yet, I feel as though I’ve been on life’s journey for double that. Interesting how the weight of existence can falsely augment your time in years. Maybe that’s not true for some, but damn, life has been tedious and I’m not even half-way there. Fuck. But I do have a story or two to tell.
This summer while in South Dakota, I was fortunate enough to spend the Fourth of July weekend with a very dear friend of mine. I traveled to her off-the-grid abode late Friday afternoon and arrived a bit before her. True to her beautiful form, she was running about (in town), preparing to host a memorable holiday. I settled in with a book to bide the time until she arrived and basked in the silence that was intermittently broken with an eerily, but sublime, howling wind – a reminder that I was part of the vastness known as the Great Plains.
Our evening was lovely – great conversation, adult beverages and amazing food – a sanctuary that fostered genuine uniqueness – you could simply be yourself. It was therapy that can’t be bought – founded in love and respect through a bona fide friendship. At one point, we lost power – so, we enjoyed dinner and wine by the light of the full moon. I was pacified by the luminescence, feeling connected to the prairie, to my friend and to myself.
The next morning, I awoke to sounds that can only be heard on a prairie that is full of life. Birds sung their morning choir; bumblebees buzzed in accompaniment to their feathered friends as they did their most important pollinating work. To me, it was an open invitation from the natural world to begin the day with gratitude. I RSVP’d with an emphatic, “Hell yes!” and joined my friend on her deck for some morning coffee and casual chatter. After we lazed in the morning sunlight, we then geared up for a walk down the long country road.
We began our jaunt, Bloody Mary in hand (yes, Bloody Mary – it was a holiday, after all) towards the main road, just west of her studio. The sun’s rays shone down, warming our skin and providing healthy doses of Vitamin D. Insects buzzed about, and birds zipped in playful patterns around us. As always, the conversation was rich. The wide, open space created a candid conversation that was raw, truthful and at one point took my breath away. I shared something that I haven’t talked about in many years – a youthful mistake I’d tucked away – it was an intoxicating release coupled with shame and regret.
That country road colloquy stirred retrospection, which unleashed a jumbled playback of 45 years of history – failures, accomplishments, triumphs and questions concerning the meaning of my existence. For me, that type of hindsight becomes a heavy burden. An onerous weight that puts me in shambles and has me thinking, “What in the fuck am I even doing in this life?” I place my life’s work (professional & personal) on a dissection pan, pinning down any potential growth and using the, ‘I suck’ scalpel and the ‘you don’t deserve happiness’ forceps to keep me lifeless and stagnant.
Eventually, I become unpinned, placing temporary bandages on my cuts and stitching together the incisions, so that I can once again begin that march down the long road. At times, I find myself looking too far ahead, squinting at a future that’s just an oasis of assumptions, blinded to what’s right in front of me. I stop to rest – idling in the redundancy of everyday life and then taking steps back as I look over my shoulder to troubles of the past. After some pit stops and regressive slips, I take a deep breath, reclaim my composure and put one foot in front of the other, slowly regaining my momentum and delving into what life has to offer.
With caution, I will continue this crazy journey, preferably with a drink in hand, spellbound by the fond memories of that much needed and pivotal July Fourth weekend. Guess it’s fair to say that life is akin to that long country road I walked that beautiful Saturday morning… dirty, unpaved & bumpy, flawed in its natural design, yet a pathway to alternate routes and adventures.
So, I will keep exploring, living life despite all its hardships, and authentically honoring the blessings and times of happiness. A long road… I will always travel.
I want to dedicate this piece to my very dear friend and sister from another mister, Jill O’Brien. I couldn’t imagine traveling this long road without one of the most beautiful and amazing humans I have the pleasure of knowing. Thank you, Jill, for your unconditional love and for always accepting me, warts and all.
Photo Cred: Jill O’Brien