be braveIt has been 27 days, nearly four weeks, almost a month. I have not pried open my laptop and let my fingers move gingerly across the keys. Instead, I have avoided. I have shut out the noise. There has not been any lack of fodder and my life has not stopped moving. Circumstances have arisen that have given me pause and prompted me to think but nothing has allowed me to cross over the line and actually write.

With Turn to Stone, I literally turned to stone. I exhausted myself but, oddly, thankfully, something inspired me today. After being in hiding with my flesh wounds still raw, my pain exposed and my heart laying naked on the table, I decided to peek my head around the corner to see if the coast was clear. Is was finally time for me to return to my commitment to myself to tell my story, be brave and courageous and step out into the light.

Earlier this month, I was in Kansas City working and visiting with my friend. I love Kansas City because it is so different to me yet feels so familiar. It often amazes me that I have grown such affection for the city when, up until a few years ago, I honestly could not have located it on a map. Being a native New Yorker, my geographical knowledge never spanned far beyond the major cities on the east and west coasts. Chicago comprised the whole of the midwest and Florida encapsulated the south. In my adult life, as a result of my business travel, I visited places I never expected to see like Dallas, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Arkansas, Denver and many other wonderful cities and states that allowed me to truly expand my horizons. I stumbled upon Kansas City because I started working with and befriended someone who lived there. Initially, I needed to go there for work and, after several trips, I found myself really looking forward to my visits, thinking about my favorite restaurants and being comforted by my growing familiarity. When I first traveled there, I had anticipated something very different from what I ultimately experienced. I did not expect the beauty of the architecture, the culture, the diversity, the amazing cuisine. It has become a special home away from home for me. And, it does not hurt that I have some dear friends there too.

During my last trip, I asked my friend if I could borrow his car and do some exploring on my own. He was planning to make dinner for us and his partner and, rather than just feeling like a houseguest, I wanted to treat this like I would a dinner at a friend’s home in my own town. I wanted to get some wine and dessert and decided I needed to go out and do this on my own. After having been there quite a few times, I had some ideas of where to go but I decided to break away from my planned route and see what would happen if I just wandered out. Sometimes the most wonderful experiences happen when we give up our plans and just let things happen on their own. Relinquishing the control and allowing the universe to guide you is often a rewarding and gratifying experience. For me, there was a serenity that came with being free in this city that I had come to love and finding whatever places crossed my path.

I suppose this hardly seems a story worth telling as, I recognize for most, it might seem like quite the banal experience of driving around, finding some shops, walking through neighborhoods and doing some shopping. Yes, for some, it might very well be run of the mill. But not me. For me, it was bliss. For me, it was freedom. For me, it was a connection point that I so desperately craved. For me, it was truly extraordinary.

I don’t go off course. It is a rare occasion when I let go of the structure of my life and allow myself to let loose. I spend so much time being focused on not fucking things up. I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the bad directions the road can take me in. I rarely stop and smell the flowers. I have been conditioned to worry. I have been well-trained to plan for the worst case scenario. And, for good reasons. The worst case has come my way more times than I care to recall. Yet, I have thought long and hard about my desperate need for structure and whether it fits into my life anymore. I have pondered the notion that perhaps I am carrying around some old baggage that no longer suits my life. Sure, my life is complicated. There are bad things that happen but maybe – just maybe – the worst case is not as bad as I remember it being. Maybe I have new tools that allow me to handle the obstacles that cross my path and present seeming roadblocks. Perhaps they are just pebbles or loose debris that I can drive around or even drive over without feeling the bump. I have not yet allowed myself to imagine that reality. I have embraced and clung to my ideas around survival. And, as a result, I have missed the possibility of actually living and experiencing life from a very different vantage point.

Fear holds me back. It is debilitating at times. The uncertainty of what might occur when I give up the control and stop trying to predict the outcomes is terrifying and paralyzing. How can I survive when I do not know what is coming my way? I remember one of my mother’s favorite expressions being “People plan and God laughs.” I hated when she said it because it was so contradictory to how she lived her life. She never left room for imagination. Everything had to be structured and anticipated. She reprimanded me whenever I took risks or lived outside the lines. I never contemplated her reasons for having to live such a structured life but I understood that my own need was rooted in the fear of complete destruction. If I can at least see the lights of the train as it headed in my direction, I might have enough time to jump off the tracks and save my own life. But, of course, that suggests that I believe that there is usually a training heading around the corner and I am in jeopardy of being decimated. Perhaps, instead, I could feel confident that I can boldly walk the tracks and know that, in the off-chance this abandoned track line actually sees a train, I will have the wisdom and strength to jump out of the way in time. I really don’t need to see the lights in the distance, I just need to be able to react when the whistle blows.

I have thought a lot, in the past few weeks, about my day in Kansas City. There was something about the warm air, the sunny skies, the lack of responsibility (my husband and children were at home in NJ) and the possibility that filled my lungs as I breathed in and out. I parked my friend’s car in a cute little section of town, in search of a store where I could buy a card for him and his partner. I wanted to find a little something special for them. I walked from shop to shop and stumbled across a wonderful little store where I discovered an array of goodies that were just what I was looking for.

After I paid for my purchases and I was getting ready to leave the store, I looked up at the wall and saw a print that literally took my breath away. It said:

Be brave.

I thought maybe

if I wrote the words down,

read them every day,

traced them with my fingers…

I could live them.

I could let go of this “maybe” life,

and be brave enough to say yes…

brave enough to say no.

And then, in all the uncertainty,

around me, I could be certain

of this, that I was brave

enough to love, to laugh…

to cry…to be me…that I was brave

enough to really live.

Well, well…maybe the universe was, in fact, behind the wheel driving me around that day.