The Journey South - Part Two

{Continued from Previous Post}

In the summer of 2015, I decided to attend Art of The Carolinas in the Fall of that same year.  Art of The Carolinas is an expo hosted by Jerry's Artarama in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I was so excited to go spend a few days to take some classes from Artists that I admired, and to see what was new and exciting in the art supply world.  I went through the catalog and filled my 5-day schedule from 8am until 8pm each day with every possible class I could take.  Keep in mind, these professional classes are NOT cheap but I wanted to focus on being a student and finding out what really moved my creative spirit and invest in my gifts and talents.

The hotel room was booked, the classes were paid for and the drive was mapped out.  But the Fall of 2015 was not to be the year I was to attend this expo.  My husband unexpectedly passed away the week before the trip. When I was able to call and cancel, I was informed that I could not get my money back.  In disbelief, I questioned the lack of compassion on the part of the event coordinator. Losing $1600, although an enormous amount of money, was very far down on my "worry" list but the fine print did say no refunds and I had no choice but to accept it.

Accept everything.

Trust me, I said and did a lot of things I am not proud of in those first few days and weeks after my loss.  I guess one gets a free pass during a time like that, because I lashed out at a lot of people who graciously took it from me. I cringe now when I think about it, because that is not my typical demeanor, but then again, I just wasn't myself.


A few days later, I received an email from the coordinator offering me a credit for the following year. "Well that's just great," I thought. "Like I'm really going to feel like going a year from now."  I thanked her and forgot all about it.

The rest of 2015 and most of 2016 was a fog of worry, stress, and fear. While I just can't write about any of that just yet {if ever}, suffice it to say that art and travel were so far off my radar. Battles were fought, work had to be done, and the future had to be, well, let's just say, 'readjusted.' I spent so much time reacting and responding to everyone else that I ceased being "me." 

God's plan for me would unfold in HIS time, not mine.

In late October of 2016, I had a particularly challenging day.  One of those days where you think you just can't take another step. That feeling of wanting to run away from my life as I knew it was ever-present.  Late that day, an email landed in my inbox reminding me of my credit to Art of The Carolinas.  I couldn't believe it had almost been a year and I thought to myself,

"I'm not ready to go."

But something made me pause and think for a moment.  Just for the heck of it, I went to the website and started looking at the classes.  The art was exploding off the page and something stirred deep inside and I thought, "I can do this.  I need to do this. I am allowed to do this."

“Sometimes the slightest things change the directions of our lives, the merest breath of a circumstance, a random moment that connects like a meteorite striking the earth. Lives have swiveled and changed direction on the strength of a chance remark.” 
― Bryce Courtenay

So one year and one week after my husband passed, I was heading North on Interstate 95 with my art supplies and suitcase in the trunk, a heart full of trepidation, and a tiny shred of hope.

You are probably wondering by now why I am heading NORTH when I said this was a story about traveling south to MEXICO.  Patience friends.  All roads lead somewhere.


First Stop . . . Viva Mexico!

"Oh my word, what have I done?" I cried to my daughter on the crackling phone connection as I stood alone in front of a Tortilla Factory on a dusty road in a tiny, remote fishing village in Mexico. Protectively clutching my purse and trying to roll my suitcase over the ruts and cobblestones with my cell phone wedged between my ear and shoulder, she said, "Mom, what did you expect? You're in a third-world country!" Click. The phone went dead and I looked around as I silently FREAKED out. With my previously cute but now sweat-soaked sundress and little wedged sandals that were caked in dirt and completely inappropriate for the environment, I realized I didn't BLEND. My look screamed "Tourista!" I imagined the locals were looking at me, laughing and calling me Gringa under their breath.

I couldn't have been further from the truth, but that comes later.

First, let's go back a few months to see where the story started and what led me to that pitiful low moment.


Stepping Out On My Own

 You're still here

You're still here

There are many difficult things about being a widow or widower.  Even a divorce is the death of a marriage or a family as you once knew it and there are particular struggles that go hand in hand with loss.  Besides the obvious things like grief, sorrow, loneliness and fear, there are less obvious things that crop up all the time.  How does one continue to do the things that they love without the one they loved doing it with?

Many couples spend their working and family-raising years longing for the days when they can retire and start to travel.  I was so fortunate that my husband was as big a wanderer as I was and we were on the go our entire marriage.  We jumped at every opportunity to fly and explore and move, always with kids in tow, to see what we could find behind every bend. It was exhausting at times, but I look back over 25 years together and can say that I never regretted a single trip.

For me, traveling has been one of those things that has been difficult to resume.  {And I love to travel.ˆ} First off, there is the voice in my head that I drilled into my own kids about "Stranger Danger!" Being aware of your surroundings and not trusting every person you meet. Keeping your travel details quiet and not blaring everything out on Facebook or the blog. Not taking risks but still trying to be adventurous. All things I never worried about when we were together.  Being alone sets off all sorts of alarm bells, but I believe that fear is a gift and I have to listen to that voice.

I remember when my daughter was going to study abroad in Florence years ago and the anxiety my husband and I had about sending her off.  We could keep our princess in a glass castle, or we could give her permission to fly and break the glass ceiling. We let her spread her wings and go, but not before my husband made her watch that movie where Liam Neeson's daughter went off to Paris and was kidnapped because she did something foolish.  {Imagine my husband seeing himself as Liam in this scenario and he would be there to save the day!}  True and Funny story, but something to think about.

The second obstacle, although not a BAD one is, "where on Earth do I go?" I was fortunate enough to have already visited some of the top places on my bucket list with my husband, so that is a blessing. Years ago, we got this book, 1000 Places To See Before You Die, and we would sit up in bed and dream and research about where we wanted to go. Every time we visited a place in the book, we would place a sticky tab on the page to mark our journey. I'm proud to say we made it through a good bit of the adventures found in these pages before he passed--each one a treasured story in itself.

There are a few more adventurous things that I can't take on {like hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey or crossing the Drake Passage to reach Antartica.} I'm not saying I wouldn't ever do it now, I'm just saying I'm not quite ready for the type of reckless abandonment that he and I used to seek out on our journeys.  You know, the road less traveled, off the beaten path, and all that sort of stuff.

So, where to go, where to go?

A screen shot of my TripAdvisor™ profile map was a little surprising!  I'VE ONLY SEEN 21% OF THE WORLD!  My, my I have a lot more to do. Out comes the pencil and journal and random places and ideas start pouring out . . . again, overwhelmed by the idea of it, I decided to do something so unlike any thing I had ever done . . . but that's a story for another blog post on another day!

Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything.. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you.. So you can be who you are meant to be in the first place.
— Unknown

You Are Here

Sometimes I wish this image would pop up in front of me to give me some directional sign of where I am in life.

Of course needing to know "where you are" is a good indicator that you are feeling a little lost. Wouldn't it be nice if when you felt that way, you could just call up this image and say, "oh yeah, okay, that's where I am. Now I know where I need to GO."

Or what if you were being pulled in a million different directions by {well intentioned} people who think they know what is best for you or felt the need to tell you where and what you should be doing?  You could say to them, hold on just a sec,  "I just need to consult my map and my "you are here sign."

And then it hit me tonight at mass. The 23rd Psalm (1-6) was recited:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:  he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

DUH! I metaphorically crumbled up my map and let it fly out the window as I drove away from church. It's so OBVIOUS.  Of course.  Once again, I am trying to figure it all out on my own when I realize that my navigator is Christ and Christ alone. I know I know . . . I am right HERE, exactly where I am SUPPOSED to BE.

And so are you . . .