Sunday, November 25, 2018

A Cross-Country Trip

I've moved across the country three times and made numerous road trips between Southern states and the Midwest but this fall was a first.  My husband and I set out on a three-week cross-country camping trip.  We planned the details of the trip for well over a year, packed and repacked and made a lot of campsite reservations.  Our trip of a lifetime included scenery too stunning to describe or take in, precious reconnections with friends and family, fun museums and attractions and learning more about two ministries to women.

My husband and I share several common traits, one of them being a propensity to obsess on detailed planing when undertaking a project or a trip.  But unlike me, when he gets behind the wheel on a road trip, he becomes the best traveling companion!  It is all an adventure and he relishes it to the maximum. We had maps, cell phones and our car GPS systems but still made several wrong turns.  We discovered, however that wrong turns may not be wrong after all.

Two memorable "wrong turns" come to mind.  The first was on our trip from Georgia to Nashville, TN.  We made a wrong turn and ended up in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park on a rainy day.  As we climbed and climbed into the clouds on the mountain, we saw wild turkeys and elk and beauty beyond description.  Another "GPS glitch" occurred in Utah when we were driving to Bryce Canyon National Park.  At the last minute our GPS instructed us to take a road we had not planned on taking, so we obeyed.  We climbed to 10,000 feet above sea level and were surprised to see the ground covered in snow.  The aspen trees dotting the landscape were in their full golden glory and their color against the deep green of the pine was astounding.  My eyes well with tears as I exclaimed, "I don't think I can stand any more beauty today!"

We planned for the unexpected, which included purchasing a second roadside assistance plan specifically for campers.  We were fortunate in that we had no unexpected glitches in our truck or camper but we did learn that pigs can turn up in the most unexpected places.  While driving through the hills of Missouri, we decided to stop at a small barbecue place for lunch.  As we bit into our wonderful sandwiches, I heard squealing coming from the corner of the restaurant.  I was stunned to see a young piglet playing in his pen!  No explanation--just a pig in the most unexpected place--kind of a metaphor for life, I'm thinking.

As we left the plains of Kansas and began the ascent to the Rockies, my anxiety level rose with each mile.  Would our rig handle the rigors of the Rockies?  Would we find enough gas?  Really, would we be enough for the road ahead?  My husband, on the other hand, was entirely confident that we would be ok and could not understand my concern.  He has learned that embracing adventure makes life more interesting while I still struggle with the "what if's."  Our rig did fine, we did fine and it was an amazing adventure.  And it occurs to me that his approach to travel and life is probably the healthier one.  Regardless of what comes, we will be ok so I'm trying to learn to relax and enjoy the ride.

Check out Thistle Farms for your Christmas Shopping!
My family of origin is quite fractured with deep and enduring divisions.  But family is who you make it and our family of choice may be entirely different from our family of origin.  I'm fortunate to have some adopted "sisters" that I was able to spend time with on our trip.  But we also were blessed to visit with two special non-profit organizations whose missions involve reaching out to our sisters on the street and in prison, to those who struggle with addiction and trauma.  It was a special joy to sit in a meditation circle with some of the women at Thistle Farms and realize that while we may be miles apart, metaphorically and geographically, we are kindred spirits and as such are part of a great big family.

Shirley Combs opened a small store-front restaurant in Toccoa, GA a number of years ago.  Shirley's Soul Food quickly became the go-to place for a real Southern home-cooked meal.  Shirley's purpose in starting the business was bigger than simply making a living; she was on a mission to do something about a problem in her community.  After the noon lunch hour, she invited the community's homeless into her dining room and fed them.  As her business grew and prospered, she turned her sights towards providing transitional housing and has opened a shelter.  One woman with a heart as big as Texas, doing something substantial in her community--it was a joy to visit with her and to enjoy her famous cooking!

Twenty-one days, 5,583 miles through 19 states, 4 national parks, numerous museums and attractions, family and friends, amazing scenery and the companionship of a man I dearly love.  Our cross-country trip typifies what I'm learning life is all about, especially during recovery from relationship trauma.  A wrong turn may not be a wrong turn after all but create an opportunity for discovery, growth and joy.  Expect and accept the unexpected because pigs turn up in the most unusual places and embracing the adventure makes life more interesting and less stressful.  Connecting with kindred spirits, whether we are biologically related or not, is the key to living fully as a part of the human family and is a critical component of recovery.  While our journey through life and recovery is a solitary one in that no one can do it for us, we do not travel alone (or at least we shouldn't).  We join with others and it is through those connections that we find the deepest healing.

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