Three Surprising Ways Road Trips Resemble Relationships

Good evening, Dear Reader! I just want to say that tomorrow is a beautiful day to get a colonoscopy (consider this your PSA if you are over 50). I’m headed over to do just that in the morning, and {insert sarcasm} I am so incredibly excited…about the large pizza and frozen custard I’m going to get as soon as it is over. I’ve been doing all the prep stuff for the last two days – the clear liquid diet, the delicious gallon of prep-juice they make you drink, and doing my best to stay close to home just in case I…um…well. Yeah. Anyway – I just want to tell you, Dear Reader: If you ever thought I was completely full of shit, I assure youI. Am. Not. At least, not anymore.

Now, all of that is out of the way. Let’s kick off the weekend early because of, well you know, by setting up today’s post. 

Last Saturday I found myself with an infrequent day of bliss. All my ‘people’ had other commitments, and I had none. So I jumped in my car and headed out to finalize one of my 2022 Bucket List items. I located the Sandy Creek covered bridge near Hillsboro, MO, along with a lovely state park. This completes my goal of seeing all four covered bridges in Missouri. (Watch out, Arkansas. You are next.) Before heading out, though, I had the wherewithal to pack some car-camping stuff and used the HipCamp app to locate a place to sleep. Hummingbird Hollow is a lovely private (primitive) camping site at an animal rescue sanctuary. And, it just so happened that it was the night before the full moon. When I stepped out of my car at 2:30 a.m. into the pitch black night to potty, the Hunter’s Moon (literally) was breathtaking. Or maybe it was the 32* weather that took my breath away. {Shrug}. Nonetheless, it was exceptionally awe-inspiring.

(I wasn’t drinking and driving. I was in for the night.)

I say all that to finally get to my point of today’s post. So, if you are ready, let’s go over my musings and how I realized that road trips and relationships have a lot in common.

Grab that drink. Settle in. Try to follow along. Here are three surprising ways road trips are like relationships.

1) Hazard lights are vital to your safety. If you’ve ever traveled east on I-44 through the Show-Me State, you’ll get this reference immediately. Once, my fella and I were traveling to the home of Mark Twain and rounded the corner on the interstate to find ourselves face-first in a traffic jam. He, the experienced transportation guy, immediately punched his hazard light button, and I remember thinking…“Oh yeah. Those.” Up until that point, I thought those things were just for when you were stranded on the side of the road. Well, I experienced the same thing on I-44 last Saturday. I topped a hill just east of Conway and realized traffic was at a stop. I hit my hazards and held my breath and watched, via my rearview mirror, while a Prime Trucking, Inc. semi-truck nearly ended my life. (Sorry, Mom. These are the things I don’t tell you.) I was slightly shaken by this and exited at the World’s Largest Gift Store to regain my composure. But, I thought about that near-miss all day. I sat on my bumper, resting for a bit and sipping my coffee at the bridge, and something occurred to me. Several times in my life, my internal hazard lights begged to warn me about some of the relationships I was in. Some only required a slowdown, and some were downright dangerous. It would have been nice if I had remembered my internal hazard lights in those cases, listened to my gut, and exited the relationship immediately.

2) Nothing fun happens on the interstate. After said near-miss, and a purchase of fudge in Uranus (I. Am. Not. Kidding.) I exited just past Rolla (hoping to run into the infamous Joshua Rogers) and decided to take Highway 8 towards Potosi and then north on Highway 21. First, let me just say: Both of these roads feel a little like a drunk toddler designed them, but if you can stomach switchbacks, there are a lot of fascinating sites to see along the way. The same goes for relationships. You gotta mix up the stuff sometimes. Frankly, getting out of my normal routine for a fancy, expensive dinner takes effort on my part. I know this. If you haven’t guessed, I’m more of a backyard-firepit-grilled-steak-two-shots-of-Scotch-via-lawn-chair kind of gal, preferably dressed in my “mom clothes” while I listen to Alan Jackson sing about what time it is somewhere (bonus song!). But every once in a while, a nice dinner out where I am required to wear a dress and put on perfume, or a trip to the beach for the holidays instead of watching Home Alone and Elf for the forty-millionth time, is nice. More than nice, really. Possibly necessary. So – get off that relationship interstate and have a little fun, for goodness sake. You may discover something about yourself and the person you love that surprises you.

3) Use a map, but reserve the right to take a detour. When I turned 18, I wanted to drive to Rockford, IL to see my friend, Ryan. My mom was nervous, but my dad handed me a road atlas, highlighted my route with a yellow marker, gave me $50, and said, “You’ll go North or East. On the way home, you’ll come West or South. And for God’s sake…stay out of East St. Louis”. To this very day, I always have a Rand McNally Road Atlas in my car. I have a $50 bill tucked away in a secret spot. And, I do my best to stay out of scary spaces (although some rural Ozarks counties are just as spooky as East STL). My point? Every relationship requires goals. Planning for the future together is essential and possibly life-saving. But I always reserve the right to live in the moment and throw caution to the wind. I may want to take a side road here and there or slow things down a bit. Let’s suppose you know a thing or two about generalized anxiety disorder. In that case, you know that anxious people are hyper-focused on the future. And…90% of what we worry about never comes to fruition. So, I try not to get too ahead of myself in life and in relationships. It’s just more fun that way. 

So, with that I leave you with a fourth bonus analogy: Sometimes the road…and that relationship…gets bumpy. Hang on and stay the course. As always, I leave you with a fun little song today. Send me good vibes, and let me know your relationship advice. Or, drop a comment below and tell me about your favorite road trip. I’m always in the mood for ideas. (Saturday, off to Eureka Springs, AR to meet James Dean, the author of my favorite children’s book, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Read my post about that book here.)

As always, if you liked this and thought to yourself, “All my friends need to read this!” then do all that social stuff that makes us all famous and paranoid.   

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge – Hillsboro MO
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Buttons Come and Buttons Go

Good morning, Dear Reader. One of you mentioned that you noticed I had gone ‘radio silent’, which is true. And thank you for noticing.

During the first week of absence, I had COVID, and while I wasn’t on my deathbed, I wasn’t well and didn’t have the energy to write. The following week ushered in the full moon in Aquarius and all its nonsense, which kinda sucked. The next week I just didn’t feel like it. How’s that for honest? I’m rarely at a loss for words when writing, but truthfully…I had a case of the blahs. I was all out of plant analogies, and sometimes, when your heart is not ready to share…the keyboard is, well, a foe.

I’d love to tell you that the autumn season may have finally arrived here in the Ozarks. The weather has been in the upper 80’s which has been a blessing, but you gotta love Southern Missouri and her fickle nature. I bet we are in for a few high temp days still yet, but for now it’s cool enough to walk around the block without passing out, and I ordered a hot chocolate at Scooter’s yesterday, so there’s that. 

The ‘fall’ is coming early for me regarding moods and transitions. I felt a shift coming on a few weeks ago, so I haven’t had a drop of whiskey since early August (or wine or coffee). There is no need to throw depressants and stimulants into a body that is already feeling some funky vibes. Feel me? 

So, I guess…grab that drink and settle in. I’ll join you with a cup of Earl Grey with milk – you know, British style – and we can talk about change.

I won’t go into any personal details today, but there’s always change, right? That’s the one thing we can count on in life. I used to fight it like a Highlander in the middle of a Scottish revolution – gathering my sword and blindly swinging, kicking, and screaming the entire time. (Too much Outlander, maybe?) Now, I just think, “I’m not sure I really understand what is happening here, but it’s happening. I’ll just buckle up and close my eyes.” Not great in war. But okay when anxiety levels are through the roof. Amiright?

With all change, it doesn’t just affect you, I’ve learned. Others are either directly involved or catch some shrapnel in the process. When I make inevitable decisions, my heart breaks – not only for myself but anyone else who may suffer the fallout. As much as I wanted to sell a recently shared home with a relative, I also knew that she would be sad. That made me sad. I’ve been a people-pleaser for so long that I sometimes can’t separate my feelings from those of others. Being an Empath can really suck at times. My sense of loyalty encompasses me in a shroud of guilt, even when I know the change is best for me. I guess I haven’t really learned the difference between ‘selfishness’ and ‘self-care’ as much as I’d like to have by now. I ‘grin and bare it’ so often that there are moments when I just can’t move for fear I will explode into a million tiny pieces.

When I struggle with certain decisions or challenges, I (as a writer) will typically look to children’s literature for the answer. Adults can make life so complicated, and sometimes I need a new view. Take Charlotte’s Web, for example. This novel is a great children’s story even if Kansas banned it once. Stupid, Kansas. If you think about it, the story is one of vulnerability, friendship, diversity, inclusion, and grief. Reading such a book through the lens of adult experiences reveals themes one can’t visualize as a child. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve experienced all of that, right? We can see how mean that rat is. How much Wilbur wants to have friends. How grieved all of them are when Charlotte dies. (Ooops. Did I just spoil the ending for you? Sorry ’bout that.)

This entire month, I’ve wrestled with change, and while I cuddled in my blanket in a quiet space, I reminisced about another story that was one of my son’s favorites. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean is – at it’s core – a story about non-attachment, letting go, and moving on. It is a story about accepting that change comes and goes, and it’s up to us to decide how to handle that change. (That link is an audio version of the book. Come on. Take five minutes. It’s really good.)

When faced with change, we can do one of three things: Accept, fight, or ignore it. I don’t recommend that last one. The change will happen whether we participate in it or not. If we can stop kicking and screaming long enough, we might see that change often happens for us, not to us. And sometimes…sometimes…the lessons amid change are not just your lessons. Maybe, just maybe, there are lessons others are to learn during that time, too. 

I don’t know. Too deep?

{Sigh} Okay. Well. 

Maybe it’s a job. A relationship. A pattern of behavior. Whatever. We can always find something in our life that is begging for change. Transitions are complex – I’m not invalidating that at all. But there are some ways we can navigate change to stay as calm as we can during it. I can offer two nuggets today. That’s all I have the energy to deliver.

First, admit to yourself that change is hard. Change can be both good and challenging at the same time. Give yourself time to process the change. ‘Sit in the space’ and accept that you don’t know what will come next (Buddhists call this space “emptiness”). I’ll readily admit – this is absolutely terrifying to me. The Type A, Virgo, INTJ gal that I am prefers the ‘waterfall’ method rather than Agile (That’s project management speak. You can google it.) But rarely is life consistent with the ‘waterfall’ method. Most of the time, in life, the minimum viable product is all you get. At some moment, it will all be clear. Not usually during the process, though. The hope is that in the end, we all have what we need and what we want. But the process can be daunting and frustrating. I won’t lie to you about that.

Secondly, avoid asking everyone you know for their help and opinions. I went through my most recent change in absolute silence. I only shared with others after the change was in motion. I don’t know if that was helpful, but it was certainly out of the norm. I knew though that I didn’t need a bunch of other people clouding my thought process and projecting their own fears and anxieties on me. So, I didn’t gather the masses and start asking for their advice. I went to Spirit, and I listened to my heart. My heart. Not my head. Big difference.

How do you like them apples? Fun times today, huh? Yup.

And, in my melancholy mood, I leave you with a song. Life’s changes can feel like a landslide at times, but there are so many seasons of our lives, and each one brings a new direction if we let it. You may be going through the worse time of your life right now – and I empathize with you. I really, really do. I also know that it will, eventually, get better – especially if you lean into it.

(Oh, and next week is my birthday. Send me good vibes. I’d love some of those.)