Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25, 2014

In the middle of nothing is everything. In the middle of everything is nothing. Memories of the past are fuzzy, but the past is clear. Thoughts of my future are clear, but the path is fuzzy.

The simplistic will refer to what I see as duality by the all too easy zodiac sign; the Gemini. Sadly, it is far too complicated a life to look to some meaningless alignment of stars as the sole basis for the conflicted mess that has become the mind of man today. Would we assume that these alignments are to blame for all duality? Are only those born under the sign of Gemini conflicted? If not, then signs of the zodiac cannot begin to explain our daily duality. No. That explanation lay considerably deeper. This is simply my story of conflicted development.

As all stories have a beginning, so too does mine. Reality, though, says that the beginning is no different than any beginning. The beginning is not the story, but the story only exists because of the beginning. I was unaware of where the story began until this moment as I reflected on the events which brought me to this place.

Several years earlier, I began this journey. At the time, I had only the knowledge that I was moving somewhere. Forward, I assumed; or should I say hoped?

I found myself, after several years of rapid development, without work looking for the next step in the ladder I had been climbing. After several weeks of what felt like disregard, I took to the road. This was not a vacation, it was a soul discovery road trip under the guise of a mind clearing drive to the coast.

I had spoken frequently to the young mothers I counseled about the importance of goal setting. “Begin with the end in mind,” I taught.

Choosing to ignore my own words, I simply set to the road. Driving South, I thought the answers would arrive within minutes. I had been fortunate enough to save well during the five years that had passed since graduation. Though no one would confuse me with Bill Gates, money, it would seem, would not be a deterrent on this trip. Deterrents would arise, though, and more swiftly than I had imagined.

As I backtracked towards middle America, I found myself in Boise.

“What'll it be,” asked the attendant.

“Fill it with regular.”

“Where you headed?”

“You know, I'm not sure. Taking a trip, but just not sure where I am going or how I am going to get there, other than by car.” I did know, though. I was going away. Fear of the known was driving the Lexus, I was merely along for the ride.

“Really? Always wanted to do something like that, just never had the balls to go on the road without a plan.”

“Not sure that balls is what it takes. This started because I had nowhere to go, and no one with whom to make the trip. I simply got behind the wheel of my car and started driving,” I confided.

I could have gone on for hours, but certainly the thick man with deep-set brown eyes and jet black hair had no desire to listen to the ramblings of a man who had no real knowledge to pass along. It really exemplified the state of my mind. I was headed East; I was driving, but the truth is, I was headed to the middle. But which middle I did not yet know.

It was a bright, sunny August afternoon. I had left Seattle early in the morning thinking I was taking a scenic trip to the Oregon coast. The jagged rocks and crashing waves always gave me a sense of comfort. Though it seemed that August days were nothing but misty haze along that particular stretch of beach, the truth of the rocks and waves were always something to behold. When I reached Portland, though, I turned East.

At home were many of the regular creature comforts that many had grown accustomed to; nice furniture, flat screen television, an apartment full of that which I thought proved my successes. I had graduated from Lewis & Clark College, a small private college in Portland five years earlier. In those aforementioned five years, I had rapidly developed in a career working with underprivileged families. This was not the typical underpaid social worker environment. I had graduated with a bachelors degree in psychology before earning a law degree. As an advocate employed by a division of the Knight Foundation, I worked with underprivileged families scarred by mental health trauma. Many of the families I had worked with suffered from various forms of mental and physical abuse.

I was unsure exactly why I chose to confide in this attendant. I guess I needed someone other than myself with whom to speak. On these long trips, I frequently turn the music up very loud if for no other reason than to temporarily drown out my continuous thoughts. I was quite familiar with controlling topics of conversation and guiding conversations along a pre-defined path.

As I headed out of the store front towards my gleaming silver Lexus convertible, I turned back and asked the man, “Is there anywhere peaceful that I could stay?”

“Idaho Falls isn't too far, but it will be another 300 miles or so.”

“Yuck. I've been on the road all day. Maybe I'll head up there tomorrow. Know any good places to eat nearby?”

“Depends on what you're looking for. Most people don't know this, but Boise has one of the largest Basque populations around. There's a really cool little Basque restaurant over on Capitol. If you want more traditional, there's a place over on Protest or an awesome old-fashioned drive in restaurant that serves prime-rib over on State Street.”

“Basque, you say? You know, it always seems easier to go with what I know. Think I'll go a different direction. Guess I am on an adventure. How far is it?”

“It's just up the road a bit. Get back on the 84 take the 184 towards downtown, at the end, you'll be downtown just a couple blocks away,” said the attendant.

Feeling up to a new experience after a long day on the road, I asked for the name of the restaurant.

“Easy. Bar Elkano. I remember that because I love elk meat and the name of the place was real close to that. They have lots of different lamb stuff on the menu,” he said.

“Thank you,” I replied. Wanting to show a friendlier side, I scoured for a name tag. Just as I was walking out, I caught a glimpse of the name; Todd. “Thank you Todd. I appreciate all your help.”

As I got into the Lexus, I called information to get the address. Plugging in the address to my GPS, I headed right to the heart of downtown Boise.

As I approached the door, I saw that they were open until one o'clock. I was thankful as I had not eaten much. So consumed with driving, I had only stopped for gas and snacks. I was desperate for some good food. Maybe, too, I was looking forward to being in the company of others. It had been a long day of lonesome driving. Though I kept the music loud, the thoughts still crept out and invaded my consciousness.

I had taken quite the circuitous route from Seattle. Almost ten hours on the road had taken its toll on my eyes and my body. The Lexus was comfortable; but ten hours is a long time to sit in a car grinding along long stretches of nothingness.

Driving through the Columbia Gorge, I saw plenty of National Scenic area signs, but most of it was vast stretches of brown fields running alongside the Columbia River. While a student at Lewis & Clark, I had explored much of the West end of the gorge, near the Portland metro area, but had rarely gone past Cascade Locks. On a sunny day, it was a peaceful drive, but not much on the scenery. Once I headed up the mountains, though, that changed. The Blue Mountains were quite picturesque. Not in the way that say Mt. Hood or Crater Lake would have been on a warm clear afternoon. More so how any pine tree lined stretch of highway would have been. There was a small river along much of the stretch.

I pondered as I moved from the bleakness of the fields in the gorge to the wondrous mountains just how it had been so long since I had truly noticed what surrounded me daily. Far too often, when in work mode, the ind switches to auto-pilot. We are conscious of everything we pass, but are not conscious of of our consciousness. It baffled me that I could be so close to such vastly varied landscape without even considering any of it for more than a moment.

I couldn't, though, as there was always somewhere to be; always working; always in meetings, it seemed.

Surely everyone who loses a job goes through this same thing, I thought to myself. Suddenly aware of everything around them. Suddenly cognizant of their own lack of consciousness.


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