Monday, May 26, 2008

Destination: Harmony

this post is a continuation from the previous post, Divine Discontent.

My sister and I stood in line at the book signing. By 10am, it had easily reached beyond 80 degrees. We were fortunate that we arrived a little early as the line was growing rapidly and there was no shade until you reached the tent where Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand sat signing books. We were about 30th in line. I really did feel especially peculiar all morning but wrote it off to what we were doing and the unusual heat. We stood there in silence for awhile, gazing at the crowd and flipping through the Hillstrands' book.

As we neared the tent, my sister turned to me and said with absolute conviction, "one day I'll be at your book signing." She said it with the equal certainty and plainness of a statement like, "we are going to eat after this." This statement had an incredible impact upon me. Not only did I find it so incredibly wonderful that she truly believes this but it forcefully reified my own belief in myself as a writer. I wasn't hopeful in that moment, as is usually the case when I think of myself as a writer... hoping that I might publish something worthy of a book signing. I was absolutely certain.

After meeting the Hillstrands, my sister and I headed back to the car. The peculiar feeling started giving way to an awareness that so much of my restlessness and indecision about where to go and what to do stems from my multi-dimensional nature. Here we were at a book signing with two crab fisherman. That same night, I could be watching Masterpiece Theater and reading Voltaire. I might also be simultaneously baking cupcakes and taking swigs off a bottle of Jack Daniels.

I enthusiastically seek out and celebrate such paradox within other people (I really think this is the good stuff!) but I battle with my own paradoxical nature, always trying to negotiate those different aspects of self. Not only am I paradoxical in my preferences and characteristics, I am highly paradoxical at the core. This can prove highly challenging when people may only want certain aspects of me. It is also highly challenging when I only want to own certain aspects of myself. My wandering nature has been difficult to own at times. It doesn't offer much security and company. But I always overlook what it does offer.

Decisions I usually make require approval from only one or two of these dimensions within myself, usually whichever dimension(s) might be dominating at a particular time. So, ultimately, those other dimensions are neglected and left wanting. And it is only a matter of time before they push to the surface and try to snuff out the currently "ruling" dimension(s). So, choosing one direction comes at a cost to all the others and after a time, I'll inevitably overcompensate and shift directions abruptly. And so, the cycle perpetuates. Thoughts of all this only send me spinning on a merciless merry-go-round, my already active mind on ridiculous overdrive.

As odd as I think I am for feeling so acutely aware of this constant inner struggle, I feel certain that we all possess such struggle. Maybe some are better at quieting that struggle than I am. Why is harmony with our various dimensions so difficult to reach? I laughed when I came upon this road sign for a town named Harmony. Population 18? And an elevation of just 175? Yeah, that sounds about right. Relatively easy to reach, few actually live in Harmony.

As we approached the Columbia River Interstate Bridge, my sister and I talked about my metaphorical crossroads and in her typical matter-of-fact way she said, "I don't understand what is preventing you from just going, just getting in the car and going." We started to cross the bridge. The sun flashed over the steel beams above us, creating dancing shadows that met with the water. We moved across the bridge from north to south and the river below us moved from east to west, headed to the Pacific Ocean. In that moment, suspended between the borders of Washington and Oregon, I knew.

The cloudiness, the confusion, the angst, the restlessness... it all rushed out to sea with the Columbia that day. Clarity was suspended before me. My various dimensions, my wandering spirit, my passion for nature and humanity in its many forms... all require freedom and harmony. Right now, there is not one fixed place in which that harmony can be achieved.

So, I am headed to Paris in July. When I return in August, I will be traveling around the United States by car for an undetermined amount of time. My decision to travel the States over Europe at this time comes as a surprise to no one more than me, a disillusioned American. But that very disillusionment is the fundamental inspiration for this journey, on a very sub-conscious level. Confronting that which we no longer have faith in and challenging ourselves against it... that appeals to me very much. And a great sense of harmony emerges at the very thought of such a journey.

There is so much that brought me to this moment of awareness including the myriad of symbols that consumed me for months. I'll save that for another post, along with my feelings about being American and how this journey is my own personal search for that lost identity. For now, Paris is the only absolute and that is immensely exciting to me as even Paris has tremendous surprises to reveal. I will be giving up my apartment before Paris and thus, the only security will be my job. I'm no trust funder and being able to work remotely was the key piece to being able to realize this journey now.

I am excited beyond words. I am finally embarking on my own Hero's Journey. I suddenly feel a courage I've never known. Of course, I will blog my entire journey and before Paris, I will even start contacting publishers with a book idea centered upon this journey, a step that just weeks ago seemed absurd and impossible.

As far as my road trip, there are a number of places I have in mind but am open to all possibilities. I welcome any suggestions anyone might have and am hoping that this trip will allow me to meet some of you in person along the way!

First image from here.
Second image from here.


Je ne regrette rien said...

breathlessly exhilirating, the prospect of what you are undertaking. B, it seems you might be nearby? I am in the Portland area. are you? if so, coffee might be fun... I've never met anyone from the blogosphere!

Anonymous said...

Try Friendship, Maine. Much like Harmony, not many live there, but a wonderful place to visit.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Seattle. I wanna get in on that.

Anonymous said...

This is fabulous! I'm happy to know that you can work whilst on the road traveling. It's a nice feeling isn't it?!

In 1996, my dog Sammy and I rode tripped in a 2-wheel drive truck. We drove from Portland to Augusta Georgia and back! I slept on the side of the road and at rest stops, ate bologna sandwiches and saw a lot of things. One tip... Nebraska is BORING. Don't go there. In my truck I only had a radio...nuff said.

Cassoulet Cafe said...

That is wonderful and I think that it is a fantastic idea. I think it will help you with your disillusion of Americana, and find things in American culture to enjoy. (I'm sure you're talking deeper issues here, though).
Anyhow, I traveled across the USA and back by car once and I never regretted a moment of it, even though it wasn't all joy. It was one of the most eye opening experiences in my life.
I, too, know you'll be having a book signing...and I'll be in line waiting for a signature! :)

Randal Graves said...

Paradox, paradox, confounding, beautiful paradox. I love this post.

I wouldn't say these different aspects are even battling, merely jumping to the forefront, only to immediately recoil into the shadows. It's difficult getting others to understand because most people (though I'd imagine NOT most of us floating on the internets, for example) don't have all these disparate parts; the world isn't designed for such beings. You are A, you are B, you are C, as you were, are, and ever shall be.

If the b-mobile finds it's way into Ohio, feel free to stop by Cleveland. :)

You'll get that book published. You have to, so I can get your autograph!

La Belette Rouge said...

I am insanely happy for you. And, I could not agree more with all that Randal said. I actually have had writers block around what to say to this magnificent post. My impulse is to jump and down for you and to pour a cup of Jack and to toast your journey.

Not only are you A,B,C,D and the entire alphabet of interests---it makes so much sense that your journey would be full of a multiplicity of places and adventures.

I do not think it is hyperbole to say that you will write the 21st centuries answer to the Odyssey and to Kerouac's little road book. It is a book I cannot wait to read. Publisher's, what are you waiting for? Sign this woman!!!!!

Your courage, your writing, and who you are is and always will be endlessly inspiring to me. I cannot wait until your outer journey begins. And, I will be in line for that book signing too.

I am so happy for you and I celebrate this and all the successes that will undoubtedly be yours. Just don't forget to pack your fancy and sassy pants.;-) xo

chicamericaine said...

I very much look forward to your book. After living abroad for so long, my home country feels very much like a mythical place (in all the good and scary senses). I'd love to make that journey, if only vicariously. BTW, my cousin Coleman is a captain who was featured in the first season of Deadliest Catch (our grandparents were Norwegian immigrants, so I guess it was in his blood). I've never seen the show as it doesn't play in Paris and in any case we have no tv. But it sounds like something I'd enjoy. Maybe on DVD some day. In the meatime, I'd love to meet you when you are in Paris, so I can tell everyone I knew you when!


Betty C. said...

That Harmony roadsign is a classic.

Driving around the USA is an inspired idea -- do it while you can! I took a mere three-day road trip from Washington to Colorado last summer, and learned a lot just from that. The urban PNW is lovely and cultured, but pretty insular in some ways too.

our juicy life said...

Ah - so exciting to drive around the US..I have visited every state except Sept. we are driving from Los Angeles to New York to catch the QM II to England and then on to france. I hear that the drive from LA to SF and then up oregon coast up to Washington coast is beautiful but I'm sure FOT and JNRR can tell you more about it.
I drove from NYC to Los Angeles 18 years ago and nebraska, iowa and Kansas are a snoozer!!!!

b said...

Je ne regrette rien... Thank you! It is so exhilarating. As soon as I committed to this journey, everything just righted itself, you know? Such a freeing feeling! Yes, I am in the Portland area and would love to meet up for coffee!

Anonymous... I took a quick glance at Friendship, Maine online and it does look like a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for the suggestion and for visiting my blog!

b said...

F.O.T... I know, you are so close. Why haven't we met up already?! :) Being able to work remotely is huge and not only does my job allow it but my boss is absolutely wonderful. I'm very fortunate.

Oh, your trip with Sammy sounds so great. One you'll never forget! I know that Nebraska is boring but driving through it was beautiful when my sister and I drove from Baltimore to Portland. The corn fields and farms. My dad grew up on a farm in Illinois and reminisces all the time. I guess, driving through those Midwest farms make me nostalgic for him!

b said...

Cassoulet... Thank you!! I really do think that this journey will help deepen my American identity. There are so many things to appreciate and identify with and I do long to experience a bit of that Americana. Small towns, different people, food, lifestyles. I'm so excited.

Oh, you are so great to say that about my future book signing! You're wonderful and I'm so grateful for your encouragement!! :)

b said...

Randal... Beautiful paradox, indeed!

I like your outlook on dimensions. Maybe they aren't battling with each other, but "merely jumping to the forefront, only to immediately recoil into the shadows." I think parts of me can linger longer at the surface than other aspects. I think it is I who is battling to find a way not to suppress some at the sake of others.

Do you really think that most people truly do not possess disparate parts like us? Or is it that they are just unacknowledged, unrealized, or worse, denied more "successfully"? I don't know. I do know that quite a few people in my life think I am out there!

Hooray! Look out Cleveland, here I come! :)

Thanks, as always, for "getting me." Your insights, encouragement, support... all have inspired me in huge ways!

b said...

La Belette Rouge... It does make sense that my journey should embody those various places and adventures. I don't want to limit myself or my dimensions. I just want to go, to experience life fully and allow myself to just be in the moment.

It really is great to have fellow blogging friends like yourself, who seek out the same fullness of life. And you are FAR TOO KIND to mention my book in the same breath as Homer and Kerouac! :)

You are always so very kind and encouraging. Thank you so much for all that you bring to my life! There will be many successes to celebrate between us and this moment is surely one of them!

b said...

Karen... Thank you so much for this lovely comment. Even living here in America, that identity does seem mythical to me in a lot of ways too. I would so love to discuss this further in person some time and hear more about your experiences living abroad. And yes, I would absolutely love to meet you in Paris.

You are so very kind to say that about my future book(s). Your faith in me means so much and inspires me greatly! Thank you!!

And how great that your cousin Coleman is a captain from season one of Deadliest Catch! It has been quite awhile since I watched season one but I'll have to go back and look for him! How exciting! I have Norwegian blood on my mother's side and my mother's family is very proud of that fact! I really do love the show and so get into it.

b said...

Betty... something about a road trip is just so exhilarating, even if it isn't a very extensive one. It just opens a person up to so much beyond themselves. I do love the PNW and can see myself back here one day but yes, it can be insular (I suppose any place can be) and I need to break free from that for at least awhile.

b said...

Our Juicy Life... That's impressive, every state but Maine! The drive up the Oregon and Washington Coast is beautiful. It's been quite a long time since I made that drive. It is so exciting to me, to think of all the places and routes to be explored and perhaps, re-explored.

Just as I mentioned to FOT above, I drove cross country with my sister a couple years ago and we crossed through Iowa and Nebraska. We both loved these states... the cornfields and farms. A lot of it is nostalgia that my father instilled, sharing stories about his life on a farm in Illinois as a child. When we stayed the night in Iowa City, I awoke to the most amazing thunder and lightning storm I've ever experienced. It shook the building, the power went out, and the flashes were blinding. I loved it!!

I think that is so great that you'll be driving cross country to catch the Queen Mary II! What an adventure leading to more adventure, and yet more beyond that.

Randal Graves said...

I think - and I have no field work to back up this claim - MOST people do have that potential for being multifaceted in their loves, however you want to call it, but for whatever reason - society, personal environment, experience, just plain bad luck - they aren't given that opportunity to approach it.

Of course, not everyone would do so, even given the chance; some are perfectly happy with their one, two or three things, and that's not bad and doesn't make us better (just more interesting ;-) but I can't imagine NOT feeling this way, having so many interests and loves and wanting to explore them. Which is exactly what YOU are doing now and will be doing on your roadtrip and through your book. There's so much to see in the world. Why not see it? (too bad everything costs more nowadays!)

Marie said...

hmmmnnn .. i wonder what b stands for.. barbara,bethany,brittney (ugh),bettina(very german), bambi,bernadette,beatrice,becky,bailey ...hmmmnnn

b said...

Randal... I agree. And definitely, by no means are we any better than those who don't embrace their multifaceted selves. Sometimes I fear that in making such professions of paradox, I come off as trying to assert superiority. And really that is not the case. More than anything, I just have to assert my need to embrace paradox, lest I should abandon all efforts or settle again. Exploring and embracing that paradox is less a choice for some of us than it might be for others. I am rambling, aren't I? :)

This trip will absolutely allow me to explore those various aspects of myself. I'm really excited!

b said...

Marie... haha. Interesting guesses. But Bambi?! Really?! :)

Riana Lagarde said...

What a wonderful idea and good place to decide it (i have crossed that same bridge many times over that powerful river). We are doing a month long road trip around the PNW, but nothing compared to your trip. Very exciting and I look forward to reading about it. I know a lot of people that you can couch surf with there and in France :) bonvoyage! et bonne route!