Month: August 2016

Sleepless in North Carolina

It’s another sleepless night.  What exactly is keeping me awake:

* rehashing every conversation I had today

* thinking about all the things I did today

* regretting all the things I did not do today

* going over in my head all my past failures

* start worrying about how many hours are left until I have to wake up; assuming, that is, I ever fall asleep

* wondering if I should have a snack

It’s no wonder I cannot sleep.  My brain will not shut off.  If, by some miracle, I am able to shut one part of my brain down, something else pops into another section and it starts all over again.  Why do I do this to myself?

I could ponder that question but it would only leave me unable to sleep.  Maybe one night in five do I find enough peace to actually sleep most of the night.  All the other nights I wrestle with problems, have conversations that will never occur and generally beat myself up for everything I have ever done and said or didn’t do or say.  Basically it seems like a no-win situation.

As I sit here with only lights from my mini Christmas tree (it is one of the few things I kept from my old life) and the light from my iPad, I feel content in some strange way.  The absolute quiet is really peaceful except for the faint ticking of a distant clock.  The world is quiet for a while.  I should be making better use of this time instead of making myself feel bad I should be doing something positive like writing, reading or praying.

I think subconsciously I get some strange pleasure out of making myself feel bad.  The healthier I get, the more sleepless nights I have.  As if my mind is saying, sure things are better in here but I still control it and I can make you sad at a moments notice.  It’s like some sick obsession that stems from my uneasiness with feeling too good.  In the back of my mind I feel if I am too happy something bad is going to happen.  This leads me to have low expectations of life.  Don’t expect much, never be disappointed.  

Now I realize that is plain stupid thinking.  I wonder how much joy I have missed just because I was afraid of it.  So things go well and I have to sabatoge myself.  That has to end. I can never feel better if I continue this line of thinking.  If I raise my expectations, does that mean I will never be disappointed?  Heck no.  Disappointments are going to happen, that is the human condition.  But for the times when there is nothing particular to be disappointed about, there will be joy.  Joy that I was afraid of before but now I embrace for the lovely moment it is.  

I’m going to start to stop that disruptive behavior and concentrate on seeking the joy.  If I quit criticizing myself all the time, then maybe I will have peace enough to sleep or, at least, be positively productive.   I’m going to try this new theory right now.  Either I fall asleep or use the time in better ways.  I have beat myself up enough, I have worried obsessively about things that have never happened and I played out more than enough conversations I will never have.  It’s time to put on my big girl panties and take charge of my thoughts instead of vice versa. I’m going to sleep now, I hope.  


Lessons Learned from Dean Winchester

It is no secret that I have a serious crush on Dean Winchester.  It’s been going on for almost nine years now.  Never heard of him?  He is one of the brothers on the CW show, Supernatural.  

And I have actually learned a few things from Dean (yes, I am aware he is a fictional character).  

10.  Classic rock is still the best music.  Having grown up in the seventies myself, classic rock holds a special place in my heart.  Dean’s most famous quote…”driver picks the music…shotgun shuts his cake hole.”  Words to live by.

9.  Bacon cheeseburgers, ice cold beer and pie, of any kind, are enough to keep one alive and happy.  They are his favorites and happen to be mine too!

8.  Love and take care of your ride.  Baby is Dean’s 1967 Chevy Impala.  Baby is more than just a car, she is family. Devi is the same to me.  Devi provided me with the ability to even consider my epic journey.  I’ve slept in her, eaten in her and pretty much lived in her.  She is my safety net and I’m lucky to have her.

7.  No matter the job at hand always do your best.  Dean fights monsters and overall evil.  Sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses.  That is how life works, one day you are in top of the world and the next you are at the bottom of the heap.  The outcome doesn’t matter as much as the effort you put into it.  Dean takes his victories where he can and that is a great lesson to learn.

6.  Minimalistic living relieves the burden of stuff.  Dean has lived on the road since he was a young boy.  He has not accumulated a lot of possessions.  After watching the show a while, I started to think about lightening my own load.  This where I got the idea that if it doesn’t fit in the car, I do not need it.  This lesson has served me well so far.

5.  Family does not end in blood.  Most of Dean’s family have been killed by evil things.  But friends are his new family. Just because they are not blood, doesn’t mean the are not family.  Dean would do anything for his brother Sam, he has died for him a couple of times.  He would also die for those friends he considers family.  Family means everything and I agree.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to create our own family.

4.  Dean has been nomadic all his life, he knows nothing but the road.  Watching the show before my journey made me long for a life on the road which I was able to ultimately enjoy.  He never stays in one place too long.  We share a passion for the road.

3.  Dean has self-esteem issues.  He has never seen his real value as a human being.  He never feels he is worthy of good things happening to him.  He is heavily laden with a lot of guilt from his past.  I can relate completely.  Guilt and low self-esteem have plagued me all my life. To see him struggle with the same issues, has help my personal struggle. 

2.  Dean does not strive for success in the terms we have grown accustomed to, such as money, power or prestige. Those things do not matter (he does need enough money to live).  He has no aspirations of great fame. He knows he will be a mostly unknown person and he is comfortable with that.  Outer accolades no longer interest me either.  Life is simpler when you no longer strive for those things.  Knowing in your heart you did your best in a situation is the best reward.

1.  Dean may have questioned Gods presence in the past but not any longer.  I may have questioned God also from time to time, but now I see Him in the mountains and the streams.  I can see His hand in my life. That knowledge has been a game-changer for me.  I look at my actions differently now.  I don’t want to be the same screw up I have been before. I know want to be a better person because I know God. I think Dean feels the same.  

Those are the things I have learned from a fictional character.  It may seem silly to take life lessons from someone who does not even exist.  But in the same way a painting, a song, or words from a book can change you, so can a fictional television character.  Inspiration can come from many places and if it stirs something in you to strive to be better, than the source matters not.  Some of this list is light hearted, but some of it speaks to basic human conditions.   For that I am thankful.

Here is a shout out to Jensen Ackles who brought this character to life, to Eric Kripke for creating him and to the writing staff who breathe life into him every week.  Here are to all the unusual places one can find solace and inspiration. 

Dark Country Roads and Static on the Radio

It is a weird thing when a random memory pops into your head.  Depending on the memory, all kinds of emotions can come flooding back. I recently had a memory fill my brain. It was something I had forgotten about.  

As a child, I pretty much went everywhere with my dad.  The shooting range, poker games, biker bars just to name a few interesting places I visited as a youth.  I can remember doing my homework on the bar of one of the worst pubs in our area. No one ever bothered me and I got to drink as much Coke as I wanted.  I never worried because I knew my dad, even if he was off doing something else, always had eyes on me.  I was as safe in a bar as I was in a church pew.

Many times he and I stayed out later than might have been considered prudent for a young girl.  Late nights racing cars at the local drag strip or the very late night, aforementioned, poker games meant driving home in the dark of night.  This may be hard for young people to understand but back in the seventies am radio (that’s usually what we had in the car, not fm) cut their transmission power by half at nine pm.  When this happened you could be listening to a song and then just static.  On a really clear night you might be lucky enough to pick up a Detroit station or you were stuck with static. 

When I was young, I was deathly afraid of the dark.  Not much has really changed on that front over the years.  I love my she cave to be dark, but there is just something so uncertain about the great outdoors in the dark.  My young mind would come up with all kinds of scary scenarios. I was seriously terrified. 

The memory that came back to me had me sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s car, listening to the radio as the sun started to go down.  My head pressed against the passenger side  window watching the scenery pass by.  Street lights were not that common out in the country.  As the sun descended and darkness covered my world I could feel a twinge of fear run up my back.  Then the radio would go to static and mix with the hum of the tires as they met the road.  The darkness and the noise combined to create a surreal feeling.  My world went black and white like an old episode of The Twilight Zone.

I would try to get small so if anything was out there it might not notice me.  The darkness also brought cooler temperatures and my breathe would start to fog the car window where my head would lay.  I would be transfixed on the warm and safe glows of lights from houses we passed.  I longed to be in one of them rather  then a sitting duck on a lonely country road.  I was genuinely afraid…not just once but whenever I was out at night.  Then Dad would roll up our driveway and I knew safety was close now. I would jump out of the car and run as fast as I could into the garage to turn a light on. Once safely inside, I would be so thankful the monsters in my imagination did not get me. 

The other day I was driving at night and had the radio on. In the mountains, it is not uncommon to lose radio signals.  That’s exactly what happened.  The road grew dark, the music disappeared replaced by static and the car grew colder.  I got the same chills up my spine that I got as a child. And I started to remember all those nights as a young girl. One thing was different.  My very tall, very protective father was not in the car with me.  His presence made me feel safe even when disaster could happen at any time.  I thought about him that night and I calmed right down.  Not to say he was riding shotgun or anything, but I think I remembered those times in order to remember the other component, my father’s presence.

I no longer have my dad by my side but I do have my Holy Father who watches over me.  I forget sometimes that even when I feel alone and afraid that my Heavenly Father is close to me.  I need to cling to him on those dark nights and I will be okay.  Funny how that realization came from a seemingly random childhood memory. I need to remember both my Dad’s and their love for me no matter how dark the night.

Child-like Wonder….Where can I Get Some?

Bejeweled.  Yes, it is one of my addictions.  I love the game and have since I owned my first computer all those years ago.  The version I now have on my iPad was free (the only versions I get) but it has ads that play before every new game. Most ads have that very important SKIP button that allows me to skip the ad and get back to my game.  One commercial, however, has caught my eye to the point I cannot wait to see it again.

The commercial is for Coldwell Banker.  I’m not even really sure what they do these days with the housing market in the dumper. Their ad, though, is pure and simple.  It opens with some loud, crazy classical music and an absolutely adorable baby sitting on a couch with a piece of paper in its hand.  Then you see a grown up hand tear a piece of the paper.  It must be the sound, but this baby starts to laugh.  It is the most perfect, genuine laugh I have ever heard. The grown up tears another piece and the baby’s legs start to kick and the laughter continues.  There is no way you cannot smile when you see this ad.

All I want to know is…where do I buy child-like wonder?  I want to tear a piece of paper and laugh.  I want to see life through the eyes of a baby or child.  It must be magical for everything is new.  I want to play peek-a-boo and think that it is the most coolest game in the history of games.  And the naps, don’t get me started on just how lucky babies are to be able to nap anytime and anywhere.  Lucky ducks!

I know there must have been a time in my life, all our lives, before all the hurts started to stack up.  A time before you learned that not every wish or dream is possible.  A time before disappointment and disillusion.  A time before knowing grief and loss.  The time existed, but we were all to young to remember it. What a cruel joke!

The simiplest times in life happen without the benefit of memory to capture the times.  Take a snowfall for example.  For a child it means no school, sled riding, snowman building, hot soup and warm Mom hugs.  As adult it means cleaning and scrapping the ice off the car, hoping you don’t end up in a ditch, being on the road with other drivers who either go too fast or too slow, and praying the furnace works so the pipes don’t freeze.  It is a no-brainer, I want to see life as a child does.

Is it even possible?  I am not sure but I know one thing…I have to try. I believe it starts with an attitude adjustment.  An adjustment that sees the wonder in the simple things of life.  A start to dreaming again and wishing.  Sure I know it won’t all come true but it is still fun to do.  I am going to put down the iPad more and read magical books that transport me to magical places.  I’m going to start looking for the fun in life. I get to taking it all so serious at times, I’m not a brain surgeon.  I don’t generally make life or death decisions.  I can find the time to laugh a bit.  I am going to watch more kitten videos.  If anything can bring out the kid in me, it’s an adorable kitten video.

I’m so glad I watched that ad.  It reminded me that a good laugh is food for the soul.  I don’t know if I will ever find tearing paper to be laugh inducing, but given the right situation and attitude it just may be.

Rockin’ it Southern Style

I always prided myself on being a northern girl.  All that is changing and it feels weird. I have written before in this blog about how North Carolina is changing me and changing my life. After only a few months here I really feel like I am home. Sitting in my apartment, drinking a Bud Light longneck, listening to Wagon Wheel (over and over as I tend to do) and watching the sun set behind the Great Smoky Mountains I feel comfortable in my skin for the first time in 54 years. 

There is a chill in the air and I don’t mean the temperature.  A smoothness to life down here that I cannot understand or comprehend. All I know is that I want it.  As I sat alone a few nights ago worrying about the next work day and pulling my fingernails off at the quick, I realized if I don’t let go of my old baggage nothing would change.  All the things I wanted to leave behind would show up here. Same problems, different location.

If I can part with almost all my physical stuff, why can’t I unload my emotional baggage too.  That’s when I realized some of my sadness of late was just because I was hanging on to things I no longer needed or wanted.  If I am going to make a really fresh start then I have to say goodbye to my old friends, fret and anxiety. We’ve been together a long time but there is no place for them here in the mountains. 

I had to take stock in my new life. I get to ride a train for work.  Yes, the work is demanding and stressful but only because I have made it that way.  I’m going to try to embrace my new life and start enjoying the work like I did when I first started.  When I started this job you could not wipe the smile from my face, then in a short time I started to feel the grind of it all. This has happened to every job I have ever held.  The joy runs out like the water from a leaky faucet.  I now realize that I brought that attitude with me. It followed me on the epic journey and it followed me to the mountains. I packed it right next to my toothbrush. Today I got rid of that bad attitude.  Hopefully, gone for good.

The other day at work I was walking on the rail to the car I was working on, mountains all around me, sun shining so bright it was hard to see, greetings from coworkers, and blue skies above.  I walked past the immensely large diesel train engine. I was dwarfed by the size of the old girl and it started to put everything into perspective.  I made my issues much larger than they actually were. Realizing that I’m just one piece of a much bigger puzzle made it easy for me to see the grind I felt was blown out of proportion. Then I noticed that the Diesel engine was dwarfed by the mountains.  And the mountains were dwarfed by the sky and so on. Today’s anxieties have no place in my life, they are dwarfed next to my joy.   Worrying never solved one problem anyway. 

For today I want to embrace this beautiful southern vibe.  I mentioned before that the mountains are healing me physically, now it’s time to let them heal me emotionally. I want to start chilling southern style.  Gone are the negative emotions from my previous life, here today is peace and joy blessed from God and extended to me from my new beautiful home.

Sorry…A Sign of Weakness?

I was working on the train the other day when there were a couple of small malfunctions.  It was a hot and steamy day in North Carolina and the drink machine went out of service in my car.  My co-workers quickly got on the problem and worked to correct it.  In the meantime, I explained the situation to my customers and promised a quick resolve. Out of my line of sight and barely audible I heard someone utter that saying sorry was a sign of weakness.  I thought nothing of the comment at the time as I scrambled to catch up on my schedule of tasks that was severely behind.

As I sat alone later that night the comment from earlier in the day flooded me.  I had been raised to value manners and to be respectful. Admittedly there have been times in my life where I may not have followed that path but those core values were always in my heart. In my older age, I see their value and strongly believe in the absolute importance of good manners.

Please, thank you, and you are welcome are all phrases I say often and with meaning. Not meaning them would be empty and fake.  When I speak these words, no matter how often, I do mean them. Saying that I am sorry is another thing I say, probably too much, but always heartfelt. When I apologized that day on the train, even though that particular issue was not of my doing, I still felt bad for the inconvenience and the sentiment, therefore, was real.

Was I being weak when I was polite?  Did I feel vulnerable as I spoke the apology?  I guess I felt a little out of control because of the situation but I doubted I felt weak.  Feeling weak is basically relative, in my estimation. Much of my life has been spent feeling inferior and, yes, weak.  The older I get the more strength and resolve I feel because I know who I am and what I believe as my truth.

Our society today is all about looking out for Number One, for climbing to the top of the heap and not caring who you walk over to get there.  I do not believe in those societal concepts. I still believe that a civilized society, hence the word civil, is a polite one and one that cares for fellow man.  I see people look at me with pity in their eyes like I am a wounded baby deer or some other small woodland creature. But my strength lies under the surface and can be utilized when necessary. I once was weak but now am strong because I understand my convictions and values. When those things were foggy to me, I was indeed weak  but no longer.  

Then I became sad when I realized that their are a lot of people who believe sorry is actually a sign of weakness. I am sad for them because that way of thinking, at least for me, would leave me feeling empty. One of my favorite songwriters, Bob Seger, sings a song about a “Beautiful Loser”.  He is polite, is the perfect guest and never worries about being second best. I relate to the guy in the song. I don’t need to be Number One. I don’t need all the attention the first fellow in line gets.  Does that make me weak?  No, I think it makes me strong because I rely on my self worth and life experiences to create my strength.  If others cannot see that fact there is nothing I can do about it. It is their perception not mine.

I am more determined than ever to be as polite as I can be.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying you are sorry about a situation and meaning it. So thank you for listening and I’m sorry if you do not agree but this is who I am and I will stand tall, albeit quietly.  I harken back to a gentler time when people were courteous to each other and looked out for one another. For that I will not apologize.