Road to Nowhere

You know how the first time you drive somewhere it seems to takes so much longer than any time thereafter? Maybe you’re following some written or printed-out directions, paying very close attention to each turn, watching for landmarks – the fire station on the left, the overpass with the graffiti, the bear left or sharp right. And then you get where you’re going. A relatively short trip to a meeting or someone’s house or a restaurant may have felt much longer due to your alertness, your vigilance. An hour passes, or a few, and when you drive back the very same way you came, you are struck by how quickly you arrive home. Surely the return trip really was shorter, once you knew what to expect, could picture where you were going? But of course, it was all the same, the road, the turns, the markers. Only your expectations changed, your perceptions. On the way home, you relax a bit, let your guard down, listen to music,  the directions creased, abandoned on the muddy floor mat.

I know this is a metaphor for something. If only I could think what. Maybe it has something to do with how no matter how much I write, have written, sometimes it is like I’m trying to follow some unwritten directions to a “T” and I’m all uptight, driving in the slow lane, keeping right, feeling like I’m slowing other drivers down, the ones who know where they’re going and want to speed by me, impatiently or just oblivious. I come here to this white screen space and don’t know where I’m going right now, don’t have directions, don’t have a destination.

I did once, have a destination of sorts. Almost exactly three years ago, I showed up on this road. I was, in a way, determined not to have a map, to trust my instincts and feel my way, to give myself permission to not know for a change, to simply practice showing up. I have hugged the curves and taken back roads and detours, shortcuts and rest stops. I’ve stopped along the way to join gatherings in bright summer fields. I have met some glorious people, fellow travelers to be sure.

And I have arrived. Where, you ask? I bet you already know what I’m going to say. Here. Here on the purple couch, across from Greg, who is watching “Lost” on his computer. Here in the dead of winter, so cold outside you can make out individual crystals of snow, glowing blue under the holiday lights on the miniature Japanese maple in our little front yard. Here, with my growing girls asleep in their feet pajamas, with the dog and the cat, all the usual suspects. Here, in Burlington, realizing after two days in Boston just how desperate I am for time outside of our sweet and sometimes stifling one-mile radius of life and work. Here, two weeks before my birthday, amazed by the lines on my face and the sag of my skin and also aware that I may never look better than I do right now, and that the world needs me to care less about my wrinkles and weight and more about connection and creativity and justice and beauty and leveling the crooked playing fields and raising strong, brave daughters who will help repair the damage.

Here I am, as usual.

The funny thing is, I feel like I’m starting out on a new road. Maybe it has to do with closing the book on the book – really getting clear on how to shape it, what’s next, and committing to working on that diligently in the coming weeks. Maybe it’s that 2010 is around the corner, and with it January, my birth month, my garnet time. I haven’t been writing much lately, and sometimes the silence feels like an ache beneath the rush of days, a constant dull throbbing nothing can quell but the act of writing itself. I don’t have a destination. No map, either. No eye on the prize. How many times have I come to this space to declare no great insight? What is the point? Am I feeling cynical about blogging in general, or just in a kind of liminal space myself? The truth is –

What is the truth? As I get busier coaching, the question of balance asserts itself. How will you do it all? My client relationships mean so much to me. Aviva and Pearl announce themselves on a minute-to-minute basis, changing like the sea itself, here rising up and there settling down, squalls and sudden changes of spirit all challenging me to maintain equilibrium or betray the upset within myself. Marriage giving me daily opportunities to trust the container, to show irritation, resentment, and anger, things I have been habitually afraid to reveal but that fester in my own body when I don’t. Learning, learning. Always.

And writing? That is a question. It’s less about the writing itself really and more, perhaps, about the re-connection with myself. Where am I in all of this? I want the answer to be that I am right there, present, bold and real. But that is not necessarily the case. That presence doesn’t happen by itself. It requires nurturing. That is where the practice comes. Practice speaking my mind when I’m annoyed, without being afraid. Or if I am afraid, trusting another enough to do it anyway, to be honest. Practice holding space for someone else’s sadness or regret without taking it in as if through a straw into my own system. Practice claiming what I need without feeling guilty, knowing that my ability to take care of others hinges on it. Really honoring the fact that I am an introvert living an extrovert’s life in many ways, and I need time alone to recharge. How many times in the last three years have I covered this ground, traveled this road? And yet here I am, again. Having gone nowhere at all, repeating myself in the very comfort of my living room in the middle of a frigid December night.

I’m always inclined to say: Come with me. I don’t even know what I mean by this. It doesn’t matter, the meaning. It doesn’t matter, the not knowing. Take the spirit of it if you will, as an outstretched arm beckoning you to the road that leads to nothing but this, this moment of shared travel, the pure winter wonderland that erases all the landmarks, showing you something altogether new and beautiful, forcing you to see where you are and not where you’re headed.

8 thoughts on “Road to Nowhere

  1. Emme says:

    This is so, so lovely. I can say a hearty me too and amen to just about every word. And I just noticed with a happy jolt that I’m listed in your side bar. Thank you! :)


  2. Gina Farrell says:

    Jena, I hear a little despair in your writing. Yet, it still seems so hopeful.

    It is helpful to hear someone put those thoughts and feelings into words to let the rest of us know that we’re not alone. And, strangely, there is comfort in that!

    Thank you!


  3. Jasmine says:

    Ah…this idea of being willing to show irritation, anger and resentment and trust that it will be safe in a container. I don’t think I’ve identified that as something that I need to have in a partner before. Thank you for helping me to think about that…


  4. karen says:

    Sometimes, I think, it’s simply about the awareness that you’re on a road. The direction you choose, or forging a different path, also options. Always options. Sitting at the side of the road is an option, too.



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