Don’t Let Friendships Lapse

I’m in Finland, Minnesota, a beautiful environment close to the north shore of Lake Superior. I’m one of a group of 9 people, 4 couples and me, who’ve gathered to have a one week play date outdoors. Sarla would have made an even ten. She is here in spirit, palpably represented by last night’s heart felt toast to her at the dinner table. She would have added liveliness and love to our gathering.

I became friends with three of the men here 50 years ago. We attended Camp Nebagamon, a boy’s camp in northern Wisconsin during the 1960s, and then became staff members at the same camp during the 1970s. Between 1980 and 2012 we took 17 wilderness river canoeing trips together in the US and Canada. Since aging out of big white water rivers 9 years ago, we’ve continued to gather as a group, sometimes with and at other times without spouses, in places that afforded us kitchens, beds, and showers. The women in this group have become close friends of mine as well.

During the past 14 months, I’ve given myself permission to have female friends with whom I could go on walks, meet for coffee, or enjoy a dinner together. It was important for me to maintain exposure to a feminine perspective after Sarla passed away. Conversations sink in more deeply while walking with someone. A couple of the women with whom I’ve shared time and conversation have stated that, unlike other men they knew, my wide circle of close male friends was uncommon. I’m surprised at this observation because I naturally gravitated towards valuing friendship highly and assumed that others, regardless of gender, behaved similarly. The time that I’ve spent alone on this journey has made me cherish friendship even more.

Fred Torzs is in the photograph with me at the top of this post. It was taken earlier this week. He was drafted into our canoeing klatch a couple of decades ago. Fred adds quirky humor to the mix. I can be completely inane with him. Laughter is at the heart of our animated connection. Even though we became pals only 20 years ago, Fred has bridged the gap of coming late to the party. Laughing with Fred activates my tear ducts, wrinkles the skin at my temples, and makes my ribs hurt. My limbs temporarily become weaker and less coordinated. In the words of singer songwriter John Mellencamp, it “hurts so good.”

My psychological health is buoyed by my friends. Losing my spouse was hard. My friends were my emotional backbone. Having close friends floats a lot of boats. I can count on them. Most of the time their company makes me feel better. Even with the limitations of being human, my friends are honest but not parental when I open myself up to them. I hold these relationships deeply.

Friendships have no formal covenant; the structure of the relationship is often inexplicit. I didn’t say to Fred, “You are my friend now, and here’s what we can expect of one another.” We maintain contact not because we are obligated to one another but because we have mutual regard for one another. Friendships can lapse because of time and space. I don’t know what I’d do without these friends with whom I can talk, on whom I can depend, and whose company is my life raft.

My friends and I share language, history, and a common understanding that sustains us. They ask what I’m thinking and feeling instead of assuming that they know. They listen. Our time together is precious. The only strings that are attached to these relationships are the ones related to simply being there for one another in the best way that we can. Regrets when my time on the planet is up will be fewer by keeping these strings tied. The binds they tie make me a rich man.

Life is Messy

Sarla’s birthday was July 28th. She would have been 70. She was prone to offering random commentaries, one of which was that “life is messy.” Though I didn’t always agree with her, and “life is messy” isn’t her originally coined phrase, her assertion proved true. She wasn’t one for keeping things buttoned down and calm. She could get loud while licking her wounds, those of an adult from a broken family of origin. She stirred the pot, advocating for her non-traditional point of view. I was never lacking for someone to bump up against. 

Grief is messy. If the griever sobs, the milk that person poured on cereal is apt to flow out of their nose. My grief in relationship to Sarla’s death has been delayed and complex. In my recent dreams Sarla appears consistently radiant and calm. I can relate to the radiant part because it’s a throwback to before cancer began tearing her body down. But the steady, peaceful part is inconsistent with the person I knew. She broke more rules than she abided. Sarla’s challenges were messy, especially when her illness began to rule the roost.

I love my dog, Lola, but she’s messy. She has dirt magnets in her paws. Every grain of sand and dirt on the ground at campsites where she steps sticks to her paws and makes its way into our rig. A whisk broom and hand vacuum cleaner are tools of the trade without which I’d be up to my ankles in decomposed granules of organic matter. Three days ago I camped next to a couple with three dogs in a motorhome that’s the same size as mine. One was the sweetest and most handsome border collie ever, but his shedding coat adds to the pile of debris that his keepers get to remove from all of the rig surfaces on which their dogs are allowed. I sensed relief that I only have one golden doodle who doesn’t shed. To their credit, the owners of the 3 dog pack had a nonchalant attitude about traveling with their canine brood. They rolled with the mess.

Emotions are messy. Though treated as opposites, laughter and crying come from the same emotional center. Both are releases. You can laugh so hard that it’ll make you cry. In “The Other Side of Town,” John Prine wrote, “A clown puts his makeup on upside down, so he wears a smile even when he wears a frown.” Robin Williams, without whom the world would have smiled and laughed less, was besieged by internal difficulties beneath the surface of his brilliant humor. He drew an extraordinary following. I count myself among his admirers. The astonishment and hilarity that I felt for his artistry was equalled by the pain and sadness I felt when his life ended so abruptly. Life is messy.

I’m in a beautiful spot 14 miles north of Bayfield, Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Superior. Last night’s rain makes today’s air quality even better. While composing this missive, I observed a man walking his dog in the spectacular, cool morning air. The man’s gait was compromised by what might have been a degenerative muscle disease or an accident that screwed up his carriage. I’m grateful that my legs work, that my skeleton isn’t in disrepair. Though I was taught not to stare when I was young, not looking away is equally important. Life is messy.

A lesson I learned from being a retailer and then working in commercial real estate was that a busy street corner with a traffic signal was prime retail real estate. As a result, I chose the corner of Poplar and Evergreen in Memphis for a location in 1988 for my business, Squash Blossom Market. The trash in my parking lot was relentless, precisely because I was on a prime street corner with a traffic signal, a perfect locale for disposition of assorted objects while awaiting the change of the signal from red to green. During my outside clean up each morning, I cursed the sons-of-bitches who littered my property until one day I realized that my ire was neither going to stop the litter nor help me feel better. It dawned on me that I could bless the unfortunate people who didn’t know better than to throw their fast food wrappers onto my pavement. Life is messy but a blessed son-of-a-bitch is better than a cursed one. 

If you still think that life is tidy, then love someone, get a dog, adore artists until they die, laugh so hard that you cry, observe the afflicted, and bless the person who litters while you pick up their trash. 

Courage Is Fear That Has Said Its Prayers

Tim Ferriss is my favorite podcast host. Podcasts entertain and inform me as I travel down the highways. Several days ago I listened to Ferriss’ interview with author Anne Lamott. Lamott quoted Dorothy Bernard, actress of the silent movie era who said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” 

Several friends stated that I was courageous to set out on my journey after disposing of my home, my automobile, and many other possessions, and leaving the familiar, secure environment of Memphis where I’d spent most of my 68 years. After Sarla passed away, an abyss opened up at my feet. I didn’t feel courageous. I felt displaced. The abyss was deeper than a redecoration could cure, or a new home, a new partner, or a shiny new recreational vehicle.

I had a hunch that a malleable road map would place me in a classroom where I might become teachable. I needed to lean in to being afloat. I had no clue, no owner’s manual about how to proceed. I would fill my tank and step on the gas. Though I don’t formally pray, I bowed to the intention to be led through the darkness of fear towards a brighter place. The intention became the spark that ignited the flint inside of me. 

Lamott gave examples of F-E-A-R as an acronym. One is “Future Events Already Ruined.” I considered that I screwed up by signing up for this nomadic test drive in the first place. I was overwhelmed by the size of my rig when I first came face to face with it. My anxiety flared at being behind the wheel for the first several thousand miles of driving. That fear manifested as an accident waiting to happen. My brakes would fail when driving down a mountainous descent, the rig would go over a cliff, and then smash into a tree. Shouldn’t I be driving a Smart Car instead of a 24 foot rig that gets 13 miles per gallon? I despaired about the dead end of coveting the narrower, shorter rigs of others that seemed so much more practical and maneuverable.

Lamott, an addict who cites teachings from the AA literature, also described another example of F-E-A-R as an acronym for “false evidence appearing real.” Though my chest was puffed large, inside I was afraid of the specter of uncertainty about where I was going, of the potential for aimlessness. I painted a picture of this suspense in a number of false ways. I was abandoning friends and family, I was cutting my own throat. I was abdicating responsibility. I would become a stranger on unfamiliar turf. I would run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. My dog, Lola would die.

I settled into being my own priority. My parents raised their three children to be socially conscious, to be attentive to the needs and interests of others. The manifestation of this lesson was to not ask what I wanted, but to ask how I could orient my life towards service. Though this parental guidance had merit, turning my attention towards claiming what I wanted has been a discipline. At times it has felt more selfish than courageous. Identifying and satisfying my own desires is self serving, but the interplay between self care and service to others is huge. 

Lamott speaks of spiritual fitness. In my world, it’s when fear and anxiety abate. After almost three months on the road I no longer identify as an uncertainty junkie. Instead, I feel comfortably clueless about so many things, especially about the path in front of me. Not knowing isn’t a death sentence. The textbook of my spiritual fitness class is writing itself as the path unfolds. One of its key elements is the restoration of my sense of humor. Laughter is medicine. Letting the road rise to meet me is important, but it’s not exclusively serious. Lamott describes laughter as “carbonated holiness.”

Writing this blog is my way of making my world more spacious, where boundaries created by fear begin to dissolve. It’s my courage, my fear saying its prayers.

A First Class Citizen on a Bicycle in a City

I’ve been riding a bicycle since my youth, first for fun, then for transportation, then for aerobic fitness. In urban environments, conflict often occurs when automobiles and bicycles share the road. Bikes and cars are like Republicans and Democrats…so few of them get along. The rules of order are typically unwritten. Bicyclists are often subordinated to second class citizens. As a result, I search for dedicated bike paths and enjoy rides on those paths where there are no cars whenever possible.

I’ve been in Madison, Wisconsin for the past three days. Its proudly pronounces itself the “bike capital of the Midwest.” Madison offers over 200 miles of bicycling trails. In 2015, Madison became one of only five cities awarded platinum level status by The League of American Bicyclists. Madison boasts a greater quantity of bicycles than cars.

While riding today I felt appreciated because automobile drivers showed me respect. Most of them stopped when I was waiting at the side of the road at a trail crossing. Instead of hastily rushing to reach their destinations, the drivers knew that waiting was the right and safe thing to do. I was treated like a first class citizen even though my mode of manual transportation was on two wheels. Four wheelers were riding in the coach section. Drivers weren’t irritated by having to share transportation paths with bicyclists. Instead, they slowed down, conveying good will, knowing that they would still satisfactorily reach their landing place.

Stress can play a role in hurried driving behavior. Ironically, one of the ways to cope with life’s difficulties is to get on a bicycle. It is freeing. Those who are criticized for “driving like my grandmother” should instead be given a medal for driving at a less dangerous pace. Drivers in so many places tailgate, weave in and out of lanes, pass cars from the right lane, and travel at alarmingly high rates of speed. Driving behavior in Madison proves that those behind the wheel can make the roads safer for those of us on bicycles.

Excessive time urgency is a Type-A behavior. It isn’t conducive to management of stress. Children’s book author Lewis Carroll said, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” When your mind isn’t where you want it to be, I implore you to use your body to reach your mind. My mind rides high when I’m on my bicycle here.

When choosing between driving and cycling, consider the ways that cycling helps society. Our roads suffer less wear and tear. Bikes don’t pollute. Automotive congestion is lessened. Parking is less competitive. Neighborhoods are less noisy.

Cars and bikes must co-exist. If you are interested in experiencing compatibility between the two, visit Madison, Wisconsin. Bring your bike or rent one when you get here. You might be surprised at how well the automobile drivers behave and what a joy it is to be on two wheels where cyclists ride in the first class section of the plane.

Nature, a Friend, and a Fish Boil

Last week’s excursion was to Wisconsin, a state where I spent 10 summers as a camper and counselor in the 1960s and 1970s. When one is accustomed to the intense summer heat and humidity that comes with living in the south, the contrast of the cool climate of Wisconsin in July is a balm.

On July 4th I picked up my friend Tom Collinger, someone I met when I was 10 years old. I can share my deepest feelings and thoughts with Tom. He has my back regardless of what gets revealed, flaws and all.

Our first destination was Kettle Moraine State Forest, a park that covers 22,000 acres of kettle lakes and prairies. Kettle lakes are created by the retreating waters of glaciers where the remaining ice formed depressions many moons ago. The weather was hot in the afternoons, reaching 90 degrees. As a result, we hiked in the mornings and swam in the afternoons. Given the choice between swimming in the ocean, a river, a pool, or a lake, I’d choose a lake every time. I felt buoyant, cheerful, and invigorated. We observed a group of cranes next to one of the lakes. They honked liked they were playing bugles.

After three nights at Kettle Moraine we hit the mother lode in Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is on a peninsula in Lake Michigan above Green Bay. We stayed at Peninsula State Park where crisscrossed bike trails are fringed by limestone cliffs. The “wow” factor was large. The skies were blue, doubling the sparkling blue hue of the lake that punctuated the space between the trees as we hiked and biked on the park trails. Sailboats dotted the surface of the water. The park is a destination for kayakers. The woods bathed my inhales in beneficial bacteria, plant derived essential oils, and negatively charged ions.

The German writer Goethe once said, “Nature has neither kernel nor shell; she is everything at once.”

Other than one meal that we made over an open wood fire at our own campsite, our culinary highlight was an evening “fish boil” at a restaurant in the quaint town of Fish Creek. This spectacle consists of freshly caught Lake Michigan whitefish cooked in a vat of boiling water along with red potatoes, sweet Texas onions, and corn on the cob. The bones remain in the fish to prevent it from flaking apart in the boiling pot. Oils from the fish rise to the top of the vat and are boiled over at the end of the cooking process. Kerosene is added to the fire at the end of the boil, causing the overflowing oils to burst into flame that dramatically rises high above the vat. When the flame expires shortly after the pot boils over, it’s time to eat. The fish gets pulled out of the vat, then plated, and served. The flavors are simple and delicious. The traditional end to the meal is cherry pie. We enjoyed every bite.

Spending time with a close friend is a gift. The drive together in the rig, “hang” time at our campsites, and the outdoor excursions fuel the fire of friendship. My heart is full today.

Get Back On The Horse

When I was 17 years old, I was arrested when for underaged drinking at Ann’s Rib Shack in north Mississippi. I was taken to the Hernando DeSoto County Jail where I was placed in a cell with another offender. Me cell mate was incarcerated for possession of marijuana. He was serving a 90 day sentence. I asked him what he planned to do when he was released. His response was, “I’m going to roll a joint and smoke it.” Though his activity choice was dubious, he was getting back on the horse, or not giving up.

I just returned to Memphis again for a couple of repairs. Yesterday I decided that it would be reasonable to drive my rig around the city to run errands. I was wrong. When parallel parking, my awning struck a telephone pole that I didn’t see. The pole survived just fine but the extension arms for my awning were smashed. I was ready to throw in the towel. The internal messages that I heard included, “I’ve aged out of driving a motorhome that requires hyper vigilance,” “I’m an accident waiting to happen,” and “This is too hard.”

Ultimately I heard the wiser voice beneath the mental noise of the moment. It said, “Get back on the horse.” Mistakes are not character defects. My action of striking the pole was an unintentional error. I made light of it by telling someone that the pole jumped out at the side of my rig, and that I’d planned to enter a plea of innocence. State Farm Insurance will unquestionably enjoy my plea and take mercy upon me by not inflating my rates once the damage amount is tallied. At the time of the event I was psychically reduced to pulp. The magnitude of the injury was far greater for me than either the telephone pole or State Farm.

Today I got back behind the wheel and drove my rig to Southaven for its repairs. I experienced sweat droplets and a quivering lip, but I made it. I have a rig mentor that I call at times like these so I can process the experience out loud. He and I discussed options including trading my vehicle in for a smaller unit that wouldn’t be as wide. We discussed my purchase of a small Jeep that I could pull behind my rig. It would enable me to easily run errands, drive to trail heads without concern for parking or turning around, or banging into telephone poles, and sightsee if that tickled my fancy. At the moment, I’ll do nothing more than put my derailment behind me and get back on the horse. The cure for my situation isn’t rolling and smoking a joint like my cell mate from fifty years ago, but to parallel park with allowance and awareness for my awning that sticks out four inches off the side of my vehicle. And I’ll be on the outlook for moving telephone poles. My next repair trip will restore my awning to good as new. I welcome the day when my calendar is without a scheduled repair.

Getting back on the horse is the antidote to this momentary fracture in the amenities of my life on the road.

Boondocking

On Saturday, June 19th I drove my rig to Mt. Vernon, Illinois for the installation of 400 watts of solar panels. The photograph above illustrates the interior components now positioned below the platform for my bed and the masterful work of the engineer at Boundless Power Systems. While this installation was occurring, I spent the week at Cape Cod with friends. The environment at the Cape is glorious. Yesterday I retrieved my rig from Ohio, restarting my journey with more battery capacity and less reliance on fossil fuels to run the devices that require electricity in my motorhome.

I’ll be better equipped to “boondock,” camping without a need for an electrical hookup. The noise, smell, and expense of running my propane generator will be significantly diminished. Sunlight creates an electric current when it strikes solar panels. The electric current will feed into a charge converter that will control the delivery of energy to the batteries that power my “house.” My batteries use the current to produce DC power. Then the power passes through an inverter that converts it to AC for turning on lights, charging phones and tablets, and turning on my air conditioning.

Boondocking is camping off the grid, away from the conventional RV park where rigs are sometimes lined up side by side on concrete slabs. Boondocking is quieter, and can afford opportunities to camp at beautiful destinations that aren’t otherwise available. When boondocking, there are no water, electricity, or sewer connections like you’d find in a conventional campground. Boondocking is often free. The National Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife have lands that are managed for this purpose. There is often a site with durable surface for rig or tent parking.

Boondockers are implored to adhere to the guiding principle that Mother Nature is not our maid. I hope this principle seeps into the consciousness of those who litter or leave trash behind, whether in the wilderness or in our cities. Litter wounds the environment. Willy nilly disposal of trash begets more litter. One empty water bottle left on the ground spoils an otherwise bucolic setting.

I spent my first night in the woods when I was ten years old. I was taught to “Leave my campsite cleaner than I found it.” I’m guided by this adage today as much if not more than I was when I was ten. I’ll pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter whether it’s mine or not. I’ll leave natural objects as I find them and minimize the impact of campfires. I’ll respect wildlife; I’ll be mindful that I’m a visitor in their home. I’ll camp apart from other visitors whenever possible. I’ll enjoy our public lands while protecting them.

Henry David Theoreau said, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” I’m urged by this message to respect what’s under my feet because it is the closest that I’ll ever get to heaven while I’m on the planet. I also take Thoreau’s quote as message to make practical use the power of the sun.

Philosopher George Santayana said, “The earth has music for those who will listen.” I’m writing now on my sister’s back porch in Nashville where the birds are showering me with their songs. I open my ears to the wind and the birds and commit to environmental stewardship.

Let It Be

In a YouTube video I recently watched, Paul McCartney spoke of the uneasiness of being suspended in the haze of the 1960s. His mother had passed away ten years earlier. She appeared in one of his dreams and reassured him that everything was going to be all right. He speaks of it as a miraculous moment when he felt like he was with his mother. His mind didn’t tell him to turn away from her because she shouldn’t be there. His mother realized that he was struggling. When Paul awoke from the dream he opened his eyes, exhaled and wrote “Let It Be.”

When Sarla, my wife who passed away last year was alive, she willingly spoke her mind. She was an open book. Many of her students and friends loved her for being so candid. Some have spoken to me of wishing that they could speak as freely as Sarla spoke. There were also times when her comments were unsolicited. For example, she opined that I could say what I needed to express with fewer words. She also offered unfounded driving advice when I was behind the wheel. Today I’m amused by these moments, even to the extent that I miss the interference.

Sarla has been appearing in my recent dreams. Mysteriously, she quietly recedes into the background of these dreams. When she was alive, I occasionally wished that she would put a lid on her outspoken tendencies. When she appears now in my dreams, I want her to tell me what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling. Just like Paul McCartney’s mom, I want to hear her talk about trusting that everything is going to be OK.

Sarla’s lingering presence also shows up during many of my waking moments, mostly as an unexpected flash of a past experience with her. These moments are sweet. Though I thought my grieving had ended long ago, I think that Sarla’s appearance in my dreams and my waking moments is another form of grief. It’s bittersweet. As Paul described his sense of being with his mother in his dream, I feel like Sarla is with me in these snippets of time. Though death took her precious life away, she is still stepping in to remind me of her presence. It’s as though she’s being defiant, boldly challenging her departure.

“Let it Be” could be taken as a formulaic admonition to not worry because it doesn’t help. I’m keen to the difference between saying the words and living the message. But the message is universal and it’s pertinent every day in numerous ways. There are times when the hardest thing to do is to let go of a troubling experience. At the same time, it’s often the only choice.

Thanks, Paul.

I Lead a Very Quiet, Calm Life Except for What Goes on in My Head

To what degree do I exercise control over the activity in my brain? Through my years of practicing yoga, meditating, and intentionally relaxing, I’ve gained a set of tools that help calm an otherwise bustling mind.

Rod Stryker taught me the concept of “witness consciousness.” It’s a state wherein the observer in me attentively notices the other side of me, the doer. For example, after a hiatus of several days of driving the rig, I sometimes observe an anxiety flare when I begin driving again. Am I staying centered between the lines that separate the lanes? What if forget that I’m driving a 26 foot truck instead of a conventional 15 foot car when I’m changing lanes? I notice that the flow of my breathing becomes less smooth. I initiate equal breathing because there is a direct line between the flow of my breath and the flow of my thoughts. If my breath is even, then my thoughts ought to be influenced accordingly. I silently, repeatedly recite to myself, “I am at ease” until I deem its effect to have taken residence in my mind and body. On driving days my witness implores me to include momentum antidotes. I stop at rest stops, take Lola on short walks, and feel the stability of earth beneath my feet.

My mind wanders to self judgement. Am I spending time well? What are my criteria for time well spent? Is it starting at point A and getting to point B in a satisfactory amount of time without expending more energy than necessary? Is there an effective metric for constructive behavior?

I think about relationships. Is my relationship report card something I’d be proud to take home for the signature of my guardian? Relationship qualities that get my attention include giving and receiving, candor, kindness, listening, playfulness, emotional vulnerability, staying in touch, and adding substance to the bones of conversation. A keen ability to stay aware of thoughts and emotions as they arise is a super power. It could be the difference between having a good realtionship and losing that relationship.

My mind is curious about presence. Am I sharp enough to see what is right in front of me and to sustain that attention? I’ve had the experience of moving from one room to another and then losing awareness of why I changed places in the first place. So far I’ve had the faculty of mind after a moment of cognitive drift to direct it back to the object of my attention. I’m a veteran of loss but if I lose my mind, then I’d rather not stick around. While I’ve embraced the gift of living independently, I’m also clear that being fully alive hinges on relationship to others. If erosion of my ability to be present takes away my friends and loved ones, then you can take me away too. Lola sets a good example for being present. When we play fetch with a tennis ball, the rest of her world disappears. She becomes one with the game.

I don’t want a mind that’s always clam. I don’t have a yen to be complacent. I want a state of mind wherein I’m aware enough to recognize and quell anxiety, to give myself a break where it concerns self judgment, to know what’s best in relating to others, and to be present. Amen.

How Am I Doing? How Are you Doing?

I’m frequently asked how I’m doing these days, and I often ask the same of others. While not inherently insincere, the question can feel pedestrian and the responses are often mundane. Response options include, “I’m living the dream, I’m well, I’m OK, I’m not so OK, and I’m uncomfortable.” The Rolling Stones scripture of 5 decades ago, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” suggests that frustration and disillusion are inevitable. Hearts and souls are wounded every day. But the song isn’t melancholic. There are gospel-like piano fills, and Jagger whoops and hollers. It is an anthem for not having what you want and need, and getting by anyway.

In Homeland Elegies, author Ayad Akhtar speaks of his mentor. He says, “Difficulty had been the flintstone against which her powers of analysis were sharpened.” I’m not an advocate for hard times, but they’re informative. Innovation and creativity arise during difficult times. I’m reconciled to challenge; I like it. Challenges make me face my limitations. When facing them and writing about them, I’m offered glimpses into my potential. Good times can also be an important ingredient of creative fertilizer.

Solitude is challenging. Sarla, my now deceased companion of 24 years, gave me someone to bump up against. I didn’t always enjoy it. But she offered me a vantage point for self observation. Her personality was bold, giving her the tools to push my buttons. Living without a button pusher is freeing, but can just as readily feel like a free fall. Now I can do whatever I want without unsolicited feedback. Solitude flexes its own feedback muscle. I’m bumping up against aloneness. I’ve scripted this time, yet there are moments of yearning for company. I lean into the feeling until it abates and resolve to stay the course. The onset of the 6th week in my adventure feels as though I’m still dwelling in its first chapter. It’s too soon to claim definitive knowledge about how I’m doing or where the path will lead.

When asked how I’m doing, I default to, ”Let me get back to you after more time has elapsed. I’d rather send you a link to my blog and let it speak for itself.” I don’t discount the question, but I’m incapable of a fill-in-the-blank response. Some of you have surmised that this journey isn’t a cakewalk. Reading is interactive. Any value that you might glean from reading my blog is as much about how you relate to what I write as it is about my reflections on thoughts, feelings, and experiences when I draft my posts.

When asked personal questions in a multiple choice answer format, Alfred E. Neuman, the gap-toothed cover boy for Mad Magazine, checked the box for his own leavening write-in entry, “None of the above.” Am I feeling blessed, having a fabulous time, a hard time, or an average time? None of the above.

I’m doin’ OK. You?