Thoughts from the Roof, the Road, and Points in Between

I’ve often written about life as a journey. In many ways, that is the guiding metaphor for my life recently.

Because of that, interesting things happen when you commit to taking an actual journey. A compact version of the journey of life, with the only difference being you know your destination (home), your traveling companions (Nathan, Sarah and the Dogs), and your general route (East).

Other than that, the past several days have been a physical as well as an emotional voyage filled with sights, sounds, thoughts, doubts, fears, inspiration, frustration and hope.

First, of course, I bonded with a gorilla, a reminder to me that we are not the only creatures that think and feel in the universe.

Different gorilla, but this is how I felt yesterday when I learned I still haven't been (and won't be for a while) paid for a job completed last April.

Different gorilla, but this is how I felt yesterday when I learned I still haven’t been (and won’t be for a while) paid for a job completed last April.

From there I floated in leisure (with a few moments of effort) on a canoe filled with both memories and dreams–memories of canoe trips past, and dreams of living in a place where I could have easy access to everything I love to do.

DSCN0751

I watched my daughter fall in love with reading as she devoured a book of old fairy tales–not the sanitized modern versions. I wondered if anything of mine would ever be read that intently, by someone sitting at a cabin in the woods.

 

I played with this image a bit because I thought it was so lovely.

I played with this image a bit because I thought it was so lovely.

At Sarah’s request, I went into the legions of hell, also known as the Mall of America, where I met the memories of the child she was and the young adult she’s becoming. I had memories of moments snuggled together as we watched Backyardigans and, my favorite, Miss Spider. Then we went into a store and bought her something that proves she is growing up. Sigh.

DSCN0769

While Sarah had a sleepover with some old friends, followed by an adventure on her own involving a 9 mile bike ride without adult supervision, Nathan and I (along with friends) wandered through the strange landscape of Franconia Sculpture Park as we attended a taiko drumming performance, which brought with it more memories of my journey, in the form of poetry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The cool thing about the poem is that I found the perfect place to write it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The poem itself reflects my inner journey. I call it Tadaima which means, in Japanese “I’m back” or “I’m home.”

Tadaima

Taiko drumming its way into
my memory
thousands of miles
before today
a past that calls
to dreams unlived
and future hopes
yumei
onegai shimasu
tadaima
Will I ever say
I’ve come home?

Yumei means dream.

Onegai shimasu is a formal way to say please.

The journey continued at a barbecue where several periods of my life met.

DSCN0870

And then it was time to say goodbye. We decided to take a different route home, since we’ve driven across I90 so many times, so we took the carferry across Lake Michigan for a slightly different perspective.

DSCN0882

Today was a more traditional day of driving, with a pause to wander through a park in Toledo, Ohio.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve been stuck in my head all day, and I think it’s time for me to get out of that space and focus on letting go. I’m trying hard to do that.

The only unusual part of today’s travel involved the configuration of sleeping figures in the back seat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We have a long day of driving tomorrow, but then we will be home.

I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

 

 

 

 

 

Endings and New Beginnings

The Roads We Travel“Today’s show, “Hit the Road,” stories of heading out into the unknown during the time in your life when it means the most, specifically when you are still figuring out who you are.” (Ira Glass)

 

The above quote from Ira Glass can be heard when he introduces Act II of “Hit the Road” on This American Life. I listened to a downloaded podcast of the program as I returned from driving my brother back to my mother’s house after his most recent stint playing “Uncle Dad”–helping me out with Sarah so I could work after school programs while Nathan is away at a summer theatre job.

The statement struck me, because I wonder if anyone ever stops trying to figure out who we really are. Is there ever a time when we aren’t taking the next step into the unknown?

The thing about living and working in creative fields like theatre and writing–as well as working in academia–is that all projects are finite. Classes change semester by semester; even if you teach the same ones, the students are always different. Shows open and close. New projects come and go. New ideas appear and disappear.

Whenever I finish a project, even one with a bumpy ride, I go through a short period of mourning or of postpartum. Saturday I finished a program called “In Our Own Voices” intended as an after-school program to improve literacy through drama. It was supposed to be a 16 week program that, because of the powers that be, extended to a 20 week program which was much too long. I worked at 3 inner city schools. The program had many ups and downs, mostly coming from administrative chaos, but also from one of the schools with kids whose lives are difficult on all fronts. This project gave me many moments of sleepless nights, tears, anger and feelings of failure–although there were moments of joy and laughter as well. I’ve never been so relieved to see a program end, and end well (for the most part).

 

A student acts out "The Race" by Jennifer Trujillo.  Photo by Steve Kramer

A student acts out “The Race” by Jennifer Trujillo.
Photo by Steve Kramer

A little bit of Juan Bobo fun. Photo by Steve Kramer

A little bit of Juan Bobo fun.
Photo by Steve Kramer

 

Yet, I still feel this sense of sadness, of emptiness, and of fear even though I was ready for it to be over. Why? Because now I have to step back on the road to the unknown. For the summer my time is my own (for the most part). I achieve or don’t achieve based on my own plans. I have one “paid” job for the summer theatre–as outreach coordinator touring (and directing/maintaining) a show called “What’s the Difference?” which explores the issue of bullying. I’ll be taking it to area camps and library programs, etc. and facilitating the discussion after each performance. But that won’t take up all my time.

So I have no excuses. If I want to create, it has to come from me. If I want to feel like I’m accomplishing things, it has to come from me. If I want to feel fulfilled, it has to come from me.

Projects that I want to work on include:

  • The complete revision of my current manuscript, because I’ve decided to move it from 3rd person to 1st person (for the most part). I’m about halfway done with the rough revision, but will still have to go over it a few more times.
  • The complete restructuring of my Introduction to Theatre course for two reasons:
  1. I am bored to tears teaching this class for what feels like the millionth time, so I need to do something to keep it fresh.
  2. I am teaching both a live version and an on-line version. I have to figure out how to teach a course that–when I teach it–usually involves on your feet activities to a virtual classroom
  • A revision of my upcoming Theatre for Young Audiences classes to allow for working with some area high school students with severe developmental challenges who will be participating in the course.
  • I want to write more short stories and submit them somewhere.
  • I want to get started (or continue to work on) another novel that is in the early stages.
  • Re-organize my house to maximize shelf space.
  • Getting myself fit and losing some weight.

Beyond that, I again move into the unknown and wonder what the future holds. I’m still trying to figure out who I am.

Are you?

The Path Forward (100 word challenge)

As you can tell, my posts seem to be following a theme this week. Please forgive. ;)

The sun shone but could not penetrate the shadowy darkness under the trees, except in tiny ribbons reflecting through dancing leaves. Elaina could only see a few feet down the rough dirt path. She hesitated, looking back, before entering the dimness, fearful of what lay ahead. Four steps in and the silence grew overpowering. Her skin tingled with the feeling of eyes watching, hidden in the depths of the silent trees. “You can do this,” she whispered to herself. “Your future lies ahead.” Slowly she moved deeper into the mysterious trees, accompanied only by the knowledge that this was the path meant for her.

Thanks to Teresita, who managed to provide another perfect image to reflect the thoughts I am trying to portray with this post. Visit her original post for a lovely walk in the woods today.


On the Road Again . . . Into the Unknown

I’ve always had the secret fantasy of becoming a singer in a band, sharing music with the masses as I travel from town to town. I have the hidden urge to be a song writer, but that would require me to become much more fluent in the language of music then I currently am. Of course, I can read it a little better now, since I decided to start studying piano last year, but I lost the fluency of my youth.

But this post isn’t about music, or about my secret dreams. It is about journeys and our path through life.  I would have to argue that “journey of life” is one of my guiding metaphors, but I’ve forgotten that recently. In my desire to “find home” or find a place to belong, I’ve forgotten the motto I adopted earlier this year in a post called “The Journey” .  [Some days I AMAZE myself with my creativity and originality :P ]

We are about to embark on the next journey.  Literally and figuratively. If I can ever get my family moving, we will begin the 8 hour drive back to Independence, KS. Then we begin the job of packing our little house up to begin the journey to the next phase of our lives in Massachusetts. We still don’t know for sure where we will live once we get there (but I have found a rental I hope). I still have no idea what work will come my way once we get there (except for a definite class in the spring).

We say farewell to our summer home, which is always bittersweet. Okoboji Summer Theater is a unique and magical microcosm, that is almost a fantasy. We are surrounded by people who love creating good theater. We live and breathe quality work. We do not need to worry about food, or shopping, or any of the basic chores of survival (beyond laundry and cleaning up) and we can walk out the door and be at our work. In many ways, this is heaven.

For me, this summer has been complex, to say the least, but overall rewarding. My family hopes to return next summer, and I do to.  I only hope that, in that return, I can feel more confident in my own purpose here and contribute a little more. I have already applied to teach for the ArtsLIVE camp that I helped out at this summer, and if that comes through I’ll feel more confident about the whole thing.

But again, this is not about our summer, it is about life’s journeys.

Today our journey continues. I wonder where it leads?

The Journey of Shared Stories

Will forests, like this one on San Juan Island...

Image via Wikipedia

“The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” (Jean Shinoda Bolen, Crossing to Avalon 273)

Yesterday I shared a dark gray part of my story. This, along with a few other recent posts,  triggered a reaction of concern from several people who care about me. It also triggered people who sent me colors of yellow, orange, and brown–colors to warm the grayness.

The responses touched me.

Today I finished reading Crossing to Avalon and I had a revelation, similar to the one a few posts back, that I am writing for a reason.  We all write for a reason, as expressed simply in this poem by a fellow blogger; but sometimes my reasons become unclear to myself. Yesterday I felt like I had revealed too much, shared too much pain on an open forum, raised too much concern.

But today I understand. I am on a journey and currently that journey is not one of light:

Periods of darkness, times in the forest and the underworld, are times when we are in the cauldron, more aware than during ordinary times of the necessity and possibility of regeneration and healing, in the place of surrender and choice. (Bolen 272)

Right now I am in the middle of the forest. But that is not a bad place to be, it is where I need to be. Part of the journey through the forest, however, includes sharing my story. Through sharing stories we build connections with each other and can help each other find our way from darkness to light.

So I apologize if my words lately have taken a darker turn, but they are stories I need to share. I am sorry if this raises concerns for people who love me, but that love is helping me move forward to where I need to go.

I cherish the stories that other people share here: those that make me laugh, those make me cry, and those that make me think or feel. I hope that my stories, in some way, help you on whatever part of the journey you are writing.

Thank you all for sharing stories, they are life blood.

The So-Called “Real World”

Universum - C. Flammarion, Holzschnitt, Paris ...

Image via Wikipedia

What is the “real world” of which people speak?

When you graduate from high school, people say now it is time to move into the real world. But then you go to college, and that is definitely not real.

When you graduate college, people say “welcome to the real world.” But then, if you are like me, you search for the job, the life, the home, the career that makes you feel real. My search continues to this day, and I’ve been out of college for a long time.

Does the world become real when you get married? Or have children? Sometimes I feel that those facts are the most surreal of the real. For me, while family is comfort, it is also this bizarre commitment to be with people even when sometimes that may not feel right. Watching my daughter grow sometimes feels like watching a stranger infused with growing and learning magic. Some days seem real, but others seem like I’m walking in a story of somebody else’s making. This does not mean that I don’t love my family, I do, but if this defines reality than I don’t know what is real.

Is going to work part of the real world? There are days when it feels like all we do is eat, sleep, poop, and work. The work never ends. Even for someone like me, who often has multiple short-term projects going on, it sometimes feels like an endless cycle. Is this what reality is all about?

I don’t believe in the real world, anymore. I think it is a term created by people who want to define reality in one certain way. Just like those in our country who believe that we all have to live  speaking the same language, believing the same things, not deviating from the “norm.” I’ve never agreed with those people. I’ll never be normal. Actually, I think that here is no norm. There is no reality.

As of this moment, I am embracing my non-real world. I don’t quite know what that means, but I believe that I have to carve out a life for myself (and my family) that truly makes me happy. I cannot let “real world” things, like work, money, etc. suck all of the joy out of living. It is simply not worth it.

The Journey

wichita-ks-j2004tornado.jpg

“The Journey is the reward” I’ve been thinking about that quote ever since I saw it engraved in an overpass in Wichita, KS the other day. I realize that, despite the fact that my life so far has been a wondrous journey, I have to train myself to live by this quote. For some reason, whether it has been taught to me or is ingrained in my personality, I seem to always pursue outside vindication. If I don’t get the award, the accolades, or the recognition than I view my life as a failure. But, if I can change my mindset to view the journey as the reward, then my life would be completely different and every day would be a joy. Even the simple days where nothing really happens can be part of the journey. My time here, on this bizarre adventure to Kansas will simply be part of my life’s journey; part of the untold but rewarding story that is me. Now, the question is how to really make myself focus on that? How do I let go of this need to be recognized and rewarded by external factors? How do I truly learn to embrace the journey?

Maybe I need to remind myself where this journey has taken me so far:

  • I learned my passion for words (reading, writing, and spoken) at an early age, and I still value them.
  • I learned my love for languages at an early age. Since then I have studied Japanese, French, Spanish, Hebrew, and a smattering of other languages. I can learn more, and that will be a reward.
  • I lived on my own in Japan for three years, and I thrived there.
  • I wanted to be a director, and I have been a director. So what if I’m not famous. I’ve been privileged to work on some wonderful productions (as well as some not so wonderful ones) with passionate, creative people . . . that is a reward.
  • I have always been empathetic and that has led me in so many directions as a mentor and a friend. While I may find it difficult to meet new people (I am secretly shy) my true friends are treasures that I value. They are the people who will stay with me for the rest of my life, even if time and distance separate us.
  • I have learned that I can do anything that I set my mind to. My journey has taken so many twists and turns, and I cannot see clearly where it is heading. But, with each challenge I’ve learned new skills, and embraced everything. I may not have loved every task assigned to me, but I do love learning new things, and not being limited to one label. My reward is flexibility, and that is something I will treasure always.
  • I’ve always wanted to write. I have now had a few articles published. I have also written several stories and poems that have yet to find a home. My proudest moment was completing my book for middle grade readers. It may never get published, but those I have shared it with love it. And, I am proud of myself for doing it. I believe the next part of my journey will include another venture into writing, even if I don’t know where it will take me. The words are the reward.
  • I found someone kind and caring, who loves me despite my insecurities and general craziness. Together we have created a wonderful little girl who has the potential to live an incredible journey herself. I hope that she learns to embrace the journey, but I know she won’t if I don’t truly embrace it.

When I look at my life this way, I see that I have lived an incredible one. There have been ups and downs. There has been good and bad. There have been times of boredom and times of excitement.  I’ve faced sadness and I’ve lived joy. My journey is not over –it has truly just begun. That IS my reward.