Rest Stop

I’m halfway across Michigan, a third of the way to my second destination on what will prove to be a 3,600-mile road trip. I spent a good, long weekend with my son, watching the sun set over Lake Michigan, hiking, napping, playing mini-golf, and in between helping him get ready for summer study in Liverpool. I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time—the sad part is, I’m still uptight!

My stomach is tied in so many knots, the sea scouts would be proud! Square knots, slipknots and half hitches—they’re all in there. I left later than intended this morning, and am headed to my sister’s home just north of Pittsburgh. I am making good time, when a rest stop sign comes into view.

I (i.e. my bladder) do NOT need to stop at the moment; my soul, however, whose voice is getting harder to ignore, tells me in no uncertain terms that it is definitely time to “GET OFF THE ROAD. NOW!” Ok, ok, I get the message. Against my “better” judgment (the part of me that wants to make up for lost time) I grumpily make the exit.

I park the car and ask myself: “Ok, so NOW what?” I notice there’s an empty picnic table sitting in the shade. I get the sense that I need to write, to do some soul searching, or rather, some soul emptying. I take myself to the picnic bench, plop down with my journal, and take a look inside my knotted stomach.

And horror of horrors, it’s like a DUMPSTER in there! All this old, broken-down leftover junk, floating in a pool of toxic soup. Somebody forgot to take it to the dump!

Maybe I don’t have to “work through” all of it? Can I perhaps just get rid of it? Dump it off a cliff somewhere, bury it in a landfill, or maybe plug my nose and call in roto-rooter to suck out the sludge? I know the only way through is through, but is there a difference between taking a shortcut and just wallowing in the bad stuff?

AbruptIy, I get an image of an old man shining a lantern into the dumpster, shedding light on its contents. And I suddenly realize there might be some treasures hidden among all this old clutter and toxicity. If I simply give it the old heave-ho, I might throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, and what’s the use of a clean bathtub if I’ve thrown out its most precious contents?

There just seems to be so much nasty stuff in here as well—it looks like a daunting, if not insurmountable, task. Yet, I know at some level, at the level that’s a little older, wiser, and a few steps further along the journey than the rest of me, that, like eating an elephant (one bite at a time) or taking a journey of 10,000 miles, (starting with just one step) this task, too, must be undertaken slowly, painstakingly, piece by piece by piece.

All my life I’ve been straining toward whatever’s next, whatever is just beyond my reach. Surely I’ll learn life’s lessons, become mature, get my act together and THEN, magically, everything will flow and make sense, and I’ll be able to be truly happy.   But today I’ve learned something important. Life isn’t like school—we don’t graduate and THEN practice our profession. In life, every day’s a school day. There are lessons to be learned right to the very end. This I have learned this year from the passing of our fathers.

It’s taken me fifty-some years, but how liberating to finally understand that my goal in life is not to become a perfect person, but rather to figure out how to be fully human, wholly and unabashedly ME, warts and all, whoever she may be.

And I suspect, that if and when I finally do get to the bottom of my dumpster, separate the junk from the treasure, the wheat from the chaff, liberate the gold from the dross, then, and only then, will I receive my diploma and a roadmap for the next leg of the journey, the transition from life on earth into eternity.

My soul is done emptying for today. I climb in my car, pull back onto the highway, and head for Pittsburgh. I’ll be a little late, but it will be ok.





1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. greggsema
    Nov 16, 2014 @ 03:43:31

    WOW! Thank you, my darling daughter, for sharing this with me. As Ken has always said to me “We are all works in progress.” I am so proud that your work is progressing wonderfully.

    I love you so much!




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