What’s waiting for me?

It’s been several weeks since my last blog post, and I’ve thought often about what it would be about. In fact, I’ve mentally composed a few as I traveled the Texas highways only to fall asleep once I made it to the hotel. You see, I simply can’t move from point A to point B without stopping along the way to explore and capture what I’m seeing in pictures. Most recently, it took me nearly eight hours to drive from Del Rio to Fort Stockton, TX, a drive that should only have taken two and a half hours. The scenery was breathtaking, and the landscape and terrain were unlike anything I’d ever seen, except maybe on television or in pictures but neither of those can prepare you for what you actually experience seeing it in person for the first time.

Aside from my stops at the Amistad National Recreation Area; the Amistad Dam, where I stood in the US and Mexico simultaneously; the Pecos River; and Langtry, TX, where Judge Roy Bean held court, much of my time was spent stopping along that long stretch of Highway 90 photographing the mountains and canyons as I passed through them.

But back to what I intended to be the topic of this blog post. While in Del Rio last week, I decided to drive into Mexico and while entering Mexico was simple enough, my return to the US was quite another story. The border guard asked me twenty plus questions while the K-9 unit searched my car before I was allowed to reenter. Fortunate for me, I’d had my car serviced that morning and had removed every bag and piece of luggage the night before. If I hadn’t, I would still be in Mexico and I mean that in all seriousness. And even though I’ve already written several paragraphs about that event, that isn’t what I want to write about today either.

I saw Tyler Perry’s latest movie, Good Deeds, this morning and left the theater inspired to share why I so identified with Wesley Deeds, the movie’s main character. I related to Wesley not because my parents groomed me to live a certain life but because I assumed a role as a teenager that I felt was expected of me. Daddy was very ill at the time and had been hospitalized for several months. Initially, he was in a nearby hospital but as his condition worsened, the doctors moved him to a hospital almost two hours away in Savannah.

[Wow, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me to write this but in remembering that time, I’m also reliving those emotions.]

I don’t recall exactly when but Daddy eventually wanted Mama to stay in Savannah with him. I was fourteen at the time and though not the eldest of nine children, I was the eldest living at home. Mama explained the situation to us, and we understood that she needed to be with Daddy. Never did we think that she was abandoning us (and we still haven’t, Mama); we simply understood that she was doing what needed to be done, and we wanted to do our part. So, as the eldest, the responsibility of the household and my four younger siblings fell upon me, and I assumed it without question and without trepidation; I simply did what needed to be done.

I don’t recall how many weeks this continued but we went to school, did our chores, shopped for groceries, cooked our meals, and endured many sleepless fear-filled nights until Mama and Daddy returned home. I was often afraid but I couldn’t let Mama or my sisters and brothers know because they were depending on me to hold it together. It was then that the facade began.

Daddy lived about a week after being sent home, just long enough it seemed to say goodbye to us and his siblings. After the funeral, we went on with our lives, relieved that Daddy was no longer suffering and totally ignoring the loss we had experienced but that’s a story for another time. The point I’m making here is that I assumed a role at fourteen that I continued until only recently. I believe that a primary purpose of this road trip is for me to fully release who I became back then so that I can become who I am supposed to be. We tend to have perceptions and expectations of each other and while I love my family, I needed to break away in order to free myself from that persona; the facade that dictated that I be reserved and closed because I didn’t want anyone to discover the truth as I saw it: that I really didn’t have it all together.

The only way I could live my life fully and authentically was to get rid of the mask and as I travel around the country, I see that happening. The fact that I’m even sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings in this blog is evidence of that peeling away.

So yes, Wesley’s statement at the end of the movie resonated deeply with me and while I don’t know how long I’ll be out here or where I’ll end up, I do know that it’ll be perfect for me.

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January 2, 2012…

That was the day I embarked upon what I’ve often referred to as my “journey of discovery.” As I write this, I’m sitting in a Houston hotel room after passing on the opportunity to have breakfast at the renowned Breakfast Klub that Nakia Laushaul mentioned in her latest book, Running from Solace. If you haven’t already, check it out. I was looking forward to fish and grits but the line at the Breakfast Klub was simply too long for me on this rainy Saturday morning; perhaps I’ll try again before I leave.

I thought often about what I’d write in this “milestone” blog and thought I had it covered but as I sit here, I don’t know anymore. Should it be a chronicle of where I’ve been over the last 32 days, or a chronicle of my thoughts and observations? I think the problem here is that I’m distracted by ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, a favorite movie that’s on right now. I should turn off the TV but can’t seem to pick up the remote.

The truth of it is that I expected to have written this already but I’ve been unable to focus on it for the last few days. I faced some truths last week that led me to make what will very likely be a life-altering decision so I probably needed time to process through it. Even though I’ve known for some time that I needed to let go, it seems that I was unable to until I confronted the underlying reason as to why I couldn’t. I heard it said recently, too, that as long as we’re holding on to what’s not working, we can’t pick up what will.

Aside from all the sights I’ve seen, this shedding of old habits, doubts, fears, and insecurities has been a constant theme of this “journey.” Change can be a scary thing but I’m loving the changes I’m seeing in me! I’m loving how I’m learning to go with the flow and not worry about anything, not even where I’ll be staying until I stop for the night. The old me would need to have solid reservations in advance. Not worrying about the details frees me up to enjoy the journey. Sure, I have moments when I wonder if I’ll have the resources needed to complete this journey. I wonder what I’ll do if something happens to me or my car while on the road but it’s ego’s job to keep us in fear mode, isn’t it?

I saw the King Tut exhibit as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston this week and it was amazing! I missed it when it was in Atlanta and was excited to learn that it was here in Houston. There’s something surreal about being so close to sculptures and artifacts that have survived the passage of so much time. It speaks volumes about the knowledge and the abilities of the Egyptians who made them. I was a bit saddened by the fact, though, that the pharaohs and the objects that were to accompany them to their afterlife weren’t left to rest in peace.

Wednesday, the day I went to the museum, started out rainy but by noon when I left the museum, it was clear and sunny. I drove around sightseeing and taking pictures before spending the rest of the afternoon at the hotel. When I left for Galveston Thursday morning, it was raining in Houston. I considered not going but went anyway since I’ve often gone to the lake at Indian Springs in the rain and/or cold.

It rained practically all the way to Galveston, but the coolest thing happened before I got there: the rain stopped and the sun came out! I drove around the town awhile and when I found the Galveston-Bolivar Ferry, I decided to ride it across to the Bolivar Peninsula after one of the ferry security screeners told me that I’d have a good chance at seeing the dolphins. I didn’t but it was ok because it was great just being on the ferry.

But sitting on the Gulf, now that was something special!! It was very foggy and windy, the waves were crashing against the rocks, and the seagulls were flying overhead doing what they do but it was so peaceful. I really hated to leave but to compensate, I had a rare treat at the local Starbucks: a Caramel Macchiato. Yum! Oh, and guess what? It didn’t rain a drop until I was back on I-45S heading back to Houston. Thank God for favor!

Friday was errand and chore day but the 2012 African-American Read-In was Saturday afternoon. Since hearing about it from Nakia last week, and I debated whether I would go. Why? Because the only person I knew would be presenting, and I’d be on my own. I decided, though, that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear authors ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Bonnie Hopkins, Nakia Laushaul, Jacquetta Smith, Dr. Cherrye Vasquez and 6th grader Callie Holley discuss and read excerpts from their various novels. The event was very inspiring, and I even talked with several of the authors afterwards. I was out of my comfort zone, and it felt great!

As for Houston in general, I like it but wouldn’t wanna live here. The skylines are amazing, and the buildings are beautiful! I now know how Mama feels when we drive through downtown Atlanta because every single time I drive through Houston, I get excited and want to take pictures! It doesn’t matter that I already have 200 shots; I just want to capture what I’m seeing and feeling. I’m unable to capture some of the best views, though, because I’m either on one of the many “spaghetti (scary) junctions” or in a mass of traffic; all I can do then is ooh and aah, and I do!

It was in Houston that the enormity of what I’m doing hit me. Here I am, Lydia Bess from lil old Glenwood with its one traffic light, roaming around the country without an itinerary or schedule. God is truly good, or as the gentleman sitting next to me at the Read-In Saturday said, “He’s better than good ’cause He made good.”

Many thanks to you, Nakia, for your part in my journey–Saturday’s Read-In that was so inspiring; the loaded baked potato topped with chopped barbecue at Goode Co. that was so delicious; and church at Fountain of Praise this morning that was so edifying. I’m looking forward to your next book, be it a novel or more poetry. Yes, I heard what you said but….

I’ll be off the road for a week starting Tuesday when I fly home, and I wonder how it’ll feel. It will be great seeing family and friends, but I’m sure I’ll be anxious to get back to my car and head to San Antonio.