Police: Help or harm? Relief or fear?

During the ride to my sister’s house in yesterday, my niece had to pull off the freeway because her infant son appeared to be choking. Caution lights flashing, we parked on the shoulder of Maryland’s very busy I-95 freeway between the far right lane and an entrance ramp.

While my niece sat in the back seat comforting her son, flashing lights flooded the vehicle as a state police cruiser pulled in behind us.

“Oh good, someone’s here to help!!”

BUT no, our collective response was fear, not relief.

So, while the officer approached the car and my niece went into defense mode, we resolved to stay calm and explain the situation. After all, we wanted to survive the encounter.

The officer approached the front passenger door, flashlight in hand, and asked if everything were ok. My niece hurriedly explained what had happened and defended that she needed to get her son home quickly. The officer—who seemed confused as I think about it now—retreated without offering assistance, and we went on our way.

Yes, it’s sad that our first response to seeing those flashing lights was fear instead of relief.

It might sound melodramatic to some, but it’s the harsh reality for a people who’ve been brutalized and killed during minor traffic stops.

New Years Day 2015 and 2016

As I entered 2016, I was wrestling with a situation that was causing me considerable stress. I had prayed for clarity but until New Years morning, I was still very much embroiled in the emotion of it. I’d asked God a few days prior to help me trust His will with regard to the situation, but I was still wrestling. This morning, however, I resolved to trust God with it and remove myself from that roller coaster of emotions. God’s peace then showed up a little while later as I perused Facebook. Following is what I posted after reviewing events of New Years Day last year:

This was my situation on New Years Day last year—spending the morning on Tybee Island after bringing in the new year in Savannah with my sister Lyn and her family. I also got to spend wonderful time with cousins I hadn’t seen since the early 80s when they were in elementary school. Last night I brought in the new year in Maryland with my other sister Sheila, her family, my nieces Jennifer and Kariesha, and their families.

My journey since June 2010, when I resolved to learn to trust God completely, has been an amazing one, and I’m grateful every day for the adventure that is my life. I’ve released things I never thought I could live without and in return I’ve gained much that I can’t imagine living without. Letting go can be hard, yes, but I’ve discovered that trying to hold on to what we need to let go is much harder. It took me a few “minutes” to get that but the moment I accepted that “God’s got me”, the skies opened up, and I began to soar!

I may not know what tomorrow brings, but I know who brings tomorrow. What I know, too, is that God loves me and as His daughter, I’m destined for His absolute best; all I need do is allow Him. My new year wish for everyone is that you let go of the fear, trust God, and let Him do what He does: equip us to live our best lives and take us places we’ve never imagined!! Happy New Year, everyone, and more of God’s peace and His many blessings!!

After writing that, I came across the following on the wall of life coach Cassandra Nkem-Nwosu:

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how for you can go, just remember how far you’ve come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, all the fears you have overcome.” –Unknown

Then there was the Marianne Williamson’s quote I posted on my wall last New Years Day:

“Think of one person you are tempted, for any reason, to withhold love from, and pray for their happiness. In that moment, your pain will stop.”

I closed my eyes, prayed for happiness, and was enveloped in peace.

Journal entry: “Powerful! Amazing! God!”

Reckless writer

I stood there in the shower, the water cascading over my head, pondering how I’d say what I needed to say. My thoughts flowed, and I imagined my words flowing as easily and as perfectly.

I considered waiting until the next day instead of getting it over with. It was, after all, something I was uncomfortable doing because I’d never done it. I wondered what they’d think of me, but then decided it didn’t matter. I was going to do it and let the chips fall where they may.

When I entered the kitchen, they both were sitting at the table as though waiting for me. I asked if they had time to talk and took a seat when they indicated that they did.

I took a deep breath, looked toward the refrigerator, then cleared my throat.

“You know, it seems that everything is fine with me,” I said, “but the truth is that it isn’t. My funds are low, and I feel lost. I don’t know what to do or where to go. All I know is that I must leave the farm.”

I said those words, yes, but not nearly as composed as I imagined I would. I managed to choke them out between sobs. It’s a wonder they understood me at all!

When I finished, he leaned toward me and related his impression of me as one floating, anchor-less. He said, too, that I should stop going here and there, that I…

I wrote the above on June 23, 2013, as my “Reckless Writer” exercise from Elizabeth Berg’s Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True. Her instructions were to “think of some event that happened in your life that made a real emotional impact on you. It can be any emotion— anger, fear, sadness, nostalgia— but let yourself remember the event fully, so that you can feel the emotion all over again. Now set a timer for ten minutes and write— very, very quickly— from that place of feeling…Do not chew on your pen and ponder what to say after the first sentence. Keep that pen moving the whole time.”

What you just read is as far as I got in my allotted ten minutes. The story was about my first experience being vulnerable, after which I felt totally and uncomfortably exposed. But it’s gotten easier.

Fast forward now to October 12, 2015.

I spent the evening trying to catch up on a backlog of email, many of which were articles I’d emailed to myself to read later. Interestingly enough, ‘awakening intuition’ and the ‘art of stillness’ were recurring themes throughout the articles and when I sat to read this morning’s devotional, the very first line was “TAKE TIME TO BE STILL in My Presence.” His message clear, I resolved to spend the day being still and listening for what She had to say. Perhaps She’d have the answer to the question I’d posed to the Universe last night about my need for adventure.

My phone and tablet off, I ran up upstairs to retrieve the charging cable for my laptop. While there, the journal I use for my writing exercises caught my eye as did Dancing with the Universe: A Journey from Spiritual Resistance to Spiritual Release by Dianne Rosena Jones—a book I hadn’t seen for a couple of years, retrieved just a few weeks ago, but hadn’t picked up again until today. (Spirit’s synchronicity is amazing!!) I grabbed both and headed back downstairs.

As I leafed through the journal pages, I saw letters I’d written to God and several pages of my first attempts at automatic writing—my efforts to connect with Rachel, my paternal great-grandmother whose story I want to tell. I never met Rachel; she left North Carolina for Georgia when slavery ended, and was dead long before I was born. What little I do about her I learned from the memorial author Brainard Cheney published upon the death of my grandfather “Pa Robin” Bess, Rachel’s son, and Cheney’s “Adam” in This is Adam.

Then I came across the reckless writer exercise. What I’d been feeling as I wrote it back then was all too familiar because, despite the years since, there I was feeling the same thing again! Spirit’s message was clear: “It’s time to do the work, Daughter” [for real this time].

With help from Dancing with the Universe, I began the work, acknowledging that my spiritual practice needs improvement, that instead of awaking each morning to check text messages, emails, and Facebook, and Twitter (yes, that’s my truth!), I must devote that part of my day to Spirit.

I acknowledged, too, that inherent in my “need” for adventure was the need to not only explore but to escape a reality that often feels directionless, a reality that I, because of my perceived lack of resources, often feel powerless to change.

It’s true that when I’m in one spot for a while, I get stir-crazy and start planning my next adventure; there’s nothing like the exhilaration I feel while traveling, exploring, experiencing new things, and meeting new people!! Admittedly, it’s a high but that can’t be a bad thing, can it? After all, Spirit has been instrumental in getting me where I want to go and where She needs me to be. And aside from my trip to Abu Dhabi in February, I’ve managed to log several thousand miles around Georgia and up the east coast since my car was stolen in January. That fact alone confirms that there’s definite purpose to my travels. That fact should also have reminded me that I’m in very capable hands. Our tendency, though, is to focus on the burden of our season (what we don’t have) rather than on the blessings of it.

I can’t say yet that I’ve totally overcome the part of my sojourn that’s been hiding in the shadows, the “secret shame” as it were. What I can say, however, is that I’m determined to shine some light on it, change what I can, and make peace with what I can’t. And if I’m to continue this sojourn empowered and worry-free, I must spend more time with Spirit and less time distracted by the phone, computer, social media, and TV.

Encounter on a train

My friend Ruth and I parted ways at Union Station, she to Hampton via Greyhound for her brother’s funeral and I to my sister Sheila’s via the Metro. We connected at the Amtrak station in Atlanta, walked to the train together, but sat on separate rows. I’m so glad I accepted her invitation for coffee then breakfast a few hours later. 

I listened as she regaled me with stories from her life’s journey. There was difficulty and pain, yes, but springing from that was hope and eventual love and happiness. We should all be open to such encounters; we never know what gifts await us. 

Included here is the pic of LOVE at the Culpeper, VA stop. I made it from the dining car window as Ruth and I sat enjoying each other’s company. 

  

Saying goodbye

I purchased my Jeep Cherokee Sport brand new in December 1998. She was forest green and a lot more fun to drive than the Grand Cherokee I’d traded for her.

Since that time, she and I have traveled nearly 300,000 highway and dirt road miles. We even mud bogged a few times on the slippery, rain-soaked dirt road leading to Mama’s house.

I listened to many hours of the Tom Joyner Morning Show in that truck, laughing along with Tom and Sybil at J. Anthony Brown’s antics and murdered hits.

I sang along with my favorite songs and listened to countless hours of audio books and sermons.

There were even times when I worked through unresolved issues while talking them out into the voice recorder I kept in the truck for that purpose.

I ran countless errands and racked up thousands of cell phone minutes talking to friends and family during the commute home from work.

I visited many of Georgia’s state parks and lakes, dipped my toes in the Ocmulgee and Chattahoochee Rivers, and walked the shores of Georgia and Florida beaches with nieces, sisters, and friends.

A friend and I took what we refer to as a covered-bridge tour through Athens to Comer, Georgia. One bridge we saw, another we felt.

I visited a Georgia civil war battlefield still haunted by the soldiers who fought and died there, soldiers who continue to march and whose footsteps were so clear that I looked over my shoulder several times to see who was approaching.

I spent five months driving 20,684 miles on a cross-country road trip that took me across the state lines of 27 states as well as the borders of Mexico and Canada.

We drove the Pacific Coast Highway in California and walked along the Boise River as it ran through Boise, Idaho.

We crossed the I. B. Perrin Bridge into Twin Falls, Idaho and saw the spot where Evil Knievel attempted his jump across Snake River Canyon.

We crossed the Pecos River in Texas, Deception Pass in Washington state, the Rio Grande as it ran between the borders of the US and Mexico, and sat on the steps of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston.

We visited 26 state capitals (I missed Sacramento, California) and spent the weekend in Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, whose grounds were so beautiful and serene that I hung out there not once but three times! I also saw the C&NW Railroad Bridge, the only remaining swing bridge in South Dakota.

Yes, I did a whole lot of living in my Jeep and because I was gonna drive her “’til the wheels fell off,” I expected to do a lot more. I’d even been toying with the idea of a road trip up the east coast, visiting those states I missed on the cross-country trip: Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Michigan.

That all came to an end, though, that day in late January 2015, a few days before my trip to Abu Dhabi, when parties unknown decided to take her from me. At 8:45 am, she was parked in front of my sister’s Atlanta apartment but by 1 pm, she was gone. The police recovered her, but she is no longer driveable.

With the shock, anger, and grief behind me, I now await the appearance of my next road warrior, the one with which I’ll create new memories, cover different ground, and photograph some new sights. Or perhaps there’s a different, even better plan afoot. Time will definitely tell but until then, life remains grand.

 

A freedom journey

Nearly five years ago, I chose a lifestyle of freedom that was brought on by a desire to, as Wayne Dyer put it, “travel light”. I discovered along the way, though, that traveling light involved more than ridding myself of possessions: of getting rid of those three closets of shoes; the five closets and drawer upon drawer of clothes; the shelves and cases of CDs and DVDs; all of the gadgets, doodads, and knickknacks I’d packed away decades earlier; and most difficult of all, my library of hundreds and hundreds of books.

I discovered that I also needed to rid myself of attitudes and beliefs that no longer served me; of emotional voids that dictated a search outside myself to be filled; a deep-rooted fear that didn’t allow me to see the possibility of anything beyond what I was capable of doing myself; and the anger and sadness that revealed themselves in ways I was unaware. I NEEDED TO BE FREE!

So, after two years of gradually getting rid of stuff and wrestling with the fear of living without a steady income, I gave up my job of almost fifteen years; a job that was challenging, rewarding, and had terrific benefits. The problem, though, was that I’d begun to feel as though it were sapping my life blood; I only had energy enough every evening to eat and sleep. So yes, it was definitely time for a change.

Sure, I could’ve looked for a different job, but there was something deeper at work than the call to freedom and minimalism, and it was my need to trust God in a way I never had before. So, I heeded the call and began what I’ve recently begun referring to as my freedom journey.

For the most part, the journey has been one of revelation and adventure. A review yesterday of just a few of the thousands of pictures I’ve made along the way reminded me of just how blessed I am. I’ve explored parks, rivers, oceans, streams, mountains, canyons, flatlands, and badlands in towns and cities from the east to the west coasts of the United States.

I spent a month recently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) marveling over its deserts, sand dunes, camels, and mountains; the food, coffee, and tea; the Persian Gulf; the Sheikh’s palace and mosques (both regular and Grand); as well as the country’s reverence for God as evidenced by the calls to prayer that go out five times a day everyday.

Those are the fun times…the times when I feel the most free and the most blessed.

Other times, however, I’m required to look within for the reasons why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. The past several days was one such time.

First of all, my car was stolen and recovered right before I left for the UAE. As I processed through the emotions of that violation, I moved from shock to disbelief to anger to grief then back to anger again. But when I boarded that plane for the fourteen-hour flight to Dubai that Sunday evening, I resolved to leave it all behind. No, that violation would not be interfering with this trip of a lifetime, and it didn’t.

Back on US soil a month later, however, I was confronted with my car situation as well as the jet lag from the nine-hour time difference, and it was not a pretty picture. As I made call after call to resolve repair of my car, my emotions were all over the place. I was so frazzled that I finally decided to just rest and allow my body clock to sync.

More than a week later, I started the process again, and again my emotions were all over the place. Thus began my journey to get to the bottom of what was really going on.

I had to acknowledge first that I was dealing with the shame of not having full coverage insurance on my vehicle. Why I’d be ashamed of that, I don’t know…well, yes, I do know. It’s not uncommon to carry only liability coverage on older vehicles and since my car was sixteen years old, I’d cancelled the comprehensive part of my coverage. But the Lydia who always made sure her ducks were in a row in the past now found herself needing to repair a vehicle and not having the funds necessary to do it. That, too, would’ve been unheard of for the Lydia whose life was planned out and lived in the fear of “what ifs”; that Lydia made sure she was prepared to handle every “what if”.

I decided a few days later, though, that it wouldn’t be prudent to repair the car; the repairs would cost more than the car was actually worth and beyond that, I couldn’t be certain the repairs would resolve all of its issues.

“What to do now?” I asked. I can’t afford to repair the car, and I’m certainly in no position to buy a new one. My journal entry that day reads, “My question then is what will I do without a car?” As I wrote that entry, I heard, “What are you doing without it now?” I chuckled because I was, in fact, doing ok without it and even had access to my sister’s car for the next several days while she was in Los Angeles.

Yes, I knew that God would provide what I needed–He’d proven that many times already–so I didn’t go into panic mode as would have been my first stop a couple of years ago. That’s progress!

As I type this today, I’m also “recovering” from the further realization that I still had shame attached to my lifestyle choice. I discovered in the process that my old voice–the voice that’s strong, loud, critical, and condemning–is very much alive and that we’ll have to battle from time to time.

Yes, hers is the voice of fear, shame, and condemnation and while I may be unable to silence her completely–and may even fall victim to her sometimes–I know that I’m equipped to overcome her jabs.

I’m in good hands–the BEST hands; the evidence is all around me: in the family and friends who’ve supported and blessed me in ways too numerous to mention; in my sisters who assure me that the judgment I sometimes feel isn’t from them; in the fact that I always have what I need; in the many places I’ve visited and the photos I’ve made since embarking upon this journey; and in the fact that I live a lifestyle of freedom in not only a state of belief and trust, but in complete knowing that everything’s gonna be ok. The evidence, too, is in God who made all of this possible.

A friend said to me the other day that, “I have no desire to step out on faith like you did.” I totally understand that. I don’t know exactly why I was called to do it but what I do know is that it gives my life purpose; it gives me the opportunity to inspire others in ways I would’ve been unable to otherwise; and it gives me the opportunity to relive–or live for the first time–the times I missed because of fear and adult responsibilities as a child. 

Another thing my freedom journey has taught me is that it is never too late to live my dreams and for that, I’m immensely grateful.

Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum

There’s something about visiting historic landmarks, of walking the same ground, of sharing the same space as people of long ago. This experience was no different. Except for visitors, the Sheikh Zayed’s palace, situated near the Hili Oasis in Al Ain, is empty now, but I imagined the life energy that once inhabited it—the Sheikh and his family, the workers, the visitors.

Historic decisions were made, yes, but the plain old stuff of everyday living happened as well and I felt it all, or maybe I just imagined I did. Either way, I was moved as I traversed the halls, stepping inside the majlis (meeting rooms) and visualizing the discussions that took place between the leaders and elders.

I was moved as I imagined the children studying then playing in the courtyards, the women having tea or coffee and tending their children, the cooks stirring those oversized pots as they prepared meals fit for a king.

I pictured the Sheikh driving his Land Rover back to the palace as he returned home from his regular visits with the Bedouin.

I imagined the aroma of frankincense, myrrh, cassia, and cinnamon as its fragrant white smoke wafted from the burners placed throughout the palace.

I imagined, too, how hot it must’ve been and wondered if I could’ve survived the 100+ degree heat there in the desert.

It was all there, and I felt it…or maybe I just imagined I did.