Sunday, September 15, 2019
For the most part, my last year and a half living in a rolling home has been amazing, memorable, and for the most part the people I have encountered have been kind, hospitable, encouraging, and even envious.
Sure, it's had its challenges, trials, and tribulations. There has been a series of repairs, though no breakdowns which stranded me. I switched vehicles in mid trip which was a journey in and of itself. There have been some health challenges which seem to have been mollified for now. There have been longer than unexpected layovers where I spent much more time in one place or another than I had anticipated. And some of the shows and sales I have had haven't been up the financial levels I am use to.
However, all in all, my surprise life in a rolling home has been an adventure I wouldn't trade for anything and one I would recommend for almost anyone wanting to learn more about themselves and the world in which they live.
And then there are moments that just make me shake my head...
During my continued and extended stay in the Ozarks Mountains I rolled over to a retreat center/ministry place I have a deep and loving connection with. The people who run the place are absolutely the best and I count them as dear friends. Their hospitality, generosity, and kindness is the kind one rarely finds in this old world of ours but one often shared in these here Ozark Mountains. These folks and their ministry are a blessing to me in every sense of the word.
I had been staying there in my motorhome, Milton, when a wedding party booked all of the lodging facilities on the grounds. This didn't really affect me as, in the lyrics of an Arlo Guthrie tune, I was boondocked "off the side of a side road" and was in fully self-contained mode with no hookups, nor need.
I had been out and about on the town with a friend, when we returned to the motorhome to find a fellow wanting to speak with me. He was with the wedding party.
Now let me say, never wanting to be a burden, I had checked with the team at the center to see if I needed to move off the grounds to make room for anything or anyone from the wedding party. They had assured me that I was fine. I reiterated yet again my offer to vacate and they assured me everything it really was okay for me to stay there. Being parked barely off of a gravel road leading to several houses down the street and plenty of distance away from any loding or building and completely out of sight of the wedding circus tent they were raising, I thought I was in a pretty out of the way place.
This fellow with the wedding party didn't think so. He said that they were going to use that area for parking.
Now, my motorhome is a mini motorhome. It's five feet longer than a conventional full sized van and at twenty-two feet, just one foot longer than a 1972 Oldsmobile Delta Eighty-Eight Royale Convertible that I use to own. Milton takes up a single parking space and a half. For an RV, he has a small footprint.
So I looked at the fellow, looked at the proposed parking area, looked at Milton, and asked a gentle and yet pointed question,
"Do you really think that a parking space and a half would make a huge difference in the parking spot availability?"
Seeing the logic in my question he shifted tactics...
"Well, the bride and groom want to take some pictures with an uninterrupted view."
"And a grassy knoll parked with the cars, trucks, and vans of wedding guests wouldn't obstruct the view?"
By then I knew what was up, they simply objected to the motorhome itself. Milton is an 1985 model and though he's in good shape for his age, he is not, however, the most beautiful boy at the dance. I find most motorhomes and RVs to be terribly ugly and older ones can be even more so. Milton might not be the most beautiful boy at the party but he ain't the ugliest one either. One might gently describe him as homely, a fitting description since he is my home.
I quickly kicked into patronizing wide smile mode and was in the process of assuring him I would move and that it would take me a little bit of time to have everything ready to go, when he asked a question that triggered no small amount of egotistic irritation in me.
"Does that thing even run?"
I didn't say what went through my mind at that point. My southern manicured manners wouldn't allow it. I won't even write it but instead I'll leave it to your colorful imagination. I had previously turned around and was getting ready to climb in Milton to ready him for departure but this fellow had hit a nerve in me and he now warranted my full seething attention so I slowly turned back around.
As I turned I let slide across my face the most southern deprecating smile I could muster. One that spoke volumes - with curled lips and almost fiery glaring eyes. One that would make small southern children quake in the realization that they just had just crossed a point of no return with their teacher and had better retreat quickly. One that would make Pastor John rethink his refusal to the invitation to Sunday dinner from Sister Margret when they shook hands after the service. I think I even straightened my shoulders and squared them off a bit when I offered,
"Why, yes of course he runs! I've traveled in him quite a few places and in fact I live in him. I am a longstanding visitor and guest to this place and am here, like you, with permission."
My ego got the best of me and to my shame I pointed out that not only was I a frequent guest and visitor there but that I had also, at times over the years, held mass there in the chapel and conducted other gatherings and retreats on the grounds. I am ashamed of this part of the conversation as the proper and humble thing was to simply say nothing but smile and move on. However, my perception at the time, rightly or wrongly, was that somehow he was treating me less than and talking down to me and that poked my usually slumbering ego into waking.
At that exchange the fellow looked at me differently and began to backpedal, trying to offer several alternative parking places for me, none of which would have really worked for the wedding party or for me but he was trying, bless his heart. He now looked a little less condescending and aggressive and perhaps even a little penitent and I dare say sheepish.
Inwardly I smiled at his new found humility and as quickly, felt revulsion and guilt at my own shameless display of peacockery. I recovered my sanity and stinging with disappointment in myself, smiled tiredly and gently said,
"Well, that's neither here nor there. I'll gladly move just give me a few minutes."
I told my friend that I'd be ready to go in a few and where I planned to rendezvous with her to figure out where to head next. To my friend's ingenuity, and while I was readying Milton to move and the wedding fellow was still trying to find a compromise, she called her landlord, whom I had previously met, to see if I could simply park in the driveway overnight. The lady and lord of the land graciously consented and we were off. My friend and good old fashioned Ozark Mountain hospitality had saved the day.
In VanLife or RVLife people in more traditional homes and living circumstances can sometimes and often do, refer to us as homeless and I think they honestly see us that way. They question our quality of life, the sanity of our choices, and often try to project their own needs, desires, and insecurities upon us. People have even suggested I am punishing myself by living the minimalistic lifestyle I live. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I always counter with: I'm not homeless, my home just rolls where yours stays in place. And with: I'm not deprived at all but quite the opposite, I feel like I live a decadent life of comfort, freedom, and ease. They then almost always ask solicitously, "But you really want a real home don't you?"
And I answer, "I have a real home."
The maybe unconscious condescension in these types of questions and assumptions sometimes challenges me. It did so during this encounter. It may have been my own projection onto this fellow with the wedding party and I own that but it seemed to me that he began the conversation treating me as a seemingly homeless person in a broken down vehicle who was something to be pushed aside from the view of the bridal coronation that was to take place. As something less than.
The whole exchange has offered me the gift of introspection. After all, the only thing I can honestly do is to look within myself for a change in my own heart, rooting out my own insecurities and my own stinging pride and to change my own reactions when such encounters happen and they will always happen while I choose to live in a real home which just happens to be on wheels.
The wedding party fellow was only acting out of ignorance, wedding stress, and within a construct of societal norms and projections. All of which were temporary, forgivable, and able to be addressed within the context of mind-expanding education. He gave me a great gift though, one of self-discovery and exploration, and for that, I thank him.
It also gives me further insight into how people treat others who unlike me and those of us embracing this #VanLife or RVLife lifestyle may have been forced into a living situation such as ours, and how those unfortunate people may feel with the kind of condescension that often comes from others in regards to their forced lifestyle. That's another gift of this encounter, one of broadening and deepening my empathy and again I'm thankful.
Hopefully, in the future, I will be more sensitive to everyone concerned with this kind of issue and in this kind of encounter. Until then, I'll work on my own ego and tendency to project.
I will also work on my deprecating southern smile. I don't really think it was withering enough! More evidence that I've spent too much time in the northern states.
Happy trails! Do what you love and love what you do!
Saturday, August 31, 2019
Dreams, hopes, expectations... We all got 'em...
A friend of mine wrote me a note and she started it out with, "when I grow up..." She went on to outline what she might picture her life to be like as she grows older or perhaps what she might like it to be. Her note made me dive deeper into my own desires I held as child and through much of my adult life; comparing and contrasting those dreams with the progression of my life and the trajectory it has since taken on.
I always pictured myself owning a two story home in a downtown area of an artsy college town; some place with brick streets, architecturally pleasing homes, and delightful gardens. To some extent that happened but it didn't last...
I almost bought a beautiful Victorian home in Eureka Springs Arkansas, an artsy town nestled in the Ozark Mountains. I was also looking at that time for a home in my hometown of Springfield Missouri, just a few miles away from Eureka Springs. I ended up purchasing the home in Springfield. It was twice the home for half the price. It was sold five years later.
I always wanted to find a place where I could develop experiential continuity over the years. The kind of continuity that wears down stone steps and makes well worn paths; ones used day after day, year after year. I wanted a staircase bannister that would show the wear it had endured from a well placed hand as I descended in the mornings to spring forth on a new day. I wanted a home that shared a deep and abiding commonality of life with me, my family, and my friends. I pictured myself growing old in such a place, planting flowers, giving dinner parties, sitting on the porch, loving people, pets, and a life well lived.
Instead of realizing this dream, I spent much of my adult life moving almost every three to five years, always with good reason, forethought, and hope on the horizon. In fairness, most of my moves have been vertical moves instead of horizontal moves, often bettering my life or living conditions in some way, shape, or form.
I have never found the continuity or commonality I have been seeking...
From my earliest memories I wanted to have a little shop where every morning I would unlock my door, sweep off my stoop, turn my open sign around and go to work. As a child I didn't know what this shop might sell or entail, I just knew that it was to be. As an young adult I soon realized it would most likely be an art gallery/studio of some sort. To my credit, I've had several such places and have had a good career as a lampwork glassblower. However, like my living conditions, I've never kept a single location open longer than five years. Again, my moves were almost always vertical with better opportunities for the growth of the business and or my personal growth as a glassblower. Interestingly enough, one of them, my last gallery in Eureka Springs, really fit the daydreams I had as a child, almost exactly. I kept it for only one short year.
In the note my friend sent, she said she could picture her life with a partner or not but suggested she would like to have someone to sit on the porch with watching the sunrises and sunsets as they grew old together. I have had much the same kind of dream as does most every younger person I suppose, but to my surprise, that too has eluded me for the most part.
As much of my life has transitioned from place to place in living spaces and gallery/studios, so has my personal life. Interestingly enough, while most of my deep friendships have endured throughout my life, most of my more personal and intimate relationships have not experienced such longevity. Many of my more personal relationships, one that evolved beyond more than just friends, have lasted a few years and no more, with two exceptions, one of eighteen years and one for twelve.
Unlike my living and working environments, I wouldn't want to categorize my personal relationships in hierarchical descriptive terms such as vertical or horizontal. They have all been special, endearing, and important to me in their own ways, the ending of which, also offered unique angst, despair, and no small amount of turmoil.
I've been thinking about my reality for some time and wondering, what has prevented me from accomplishing that which I have desired so very much.
Am I fundamentally flawed?
Did I not try hard enough? Did I try too hard? Am I just never happy because of some mental deficiency, or emotional immaturity? Am I lacking in some fundamental ability or skill to obtain continuity and interpersonal longevity in my life? Am I so damaged by an abusive childhood that it is beyond my ability to stay in long term relationships with places and or lovers even though that's what I have mostly desired? Do I really self-sabotage in some sort of weird masochistic self-fulfilling prophetical way?
Or is it something entirely different?
Does some part of me instinctively know when things just aren't right for me and subconsciously rebels against my status quo dream of going along to get along? Does some part of me seek freedom at all cost, just to be free in and of itself? Like the birds I have always admired and identified with, does my yearning to fly free override my desire to gather a permanent nest? Or am I an experience junky looking for my next fix, hopping from one experience to the next collecting experiential data, sensation, and feeling: looking for the ultimately elusive nirvanic high?
Do I really think the grass is greener on the other side?
I don't think I have the answers to any of these questions but I continue to ask them of myself. I continue to try to grow in awareness of those things which have made me who I am and how they still invisibly and visibly continue to play out their own realities in my life, creating a future which all at once eludes me, surprises me, delights me, wounds me, rebuilds me, encourages me, and sustains me all at the same time.
I don't know what my future holds. I've given up trying to control it, manipulate it, and mold it, and instead I'm going along for the ride good or bad, quite literally since I've moved into a home on wheels. Maybe this has been the secret all along. Who knows?!
I do know, though, that unrealistic expectations can rob the joy from the now and so I'm trying to keep my expectations in check and enjoy that which is, instead of focusing on that which was or that which could be. I'm trying to enjoy the now. I hope you are too. Time is short. Do what you love and love what you do!
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
It's hard to believe that I've been living in a rolling home for exactly one year as of today. So much has happened since that fateful day, some of it wonderful, some of it extraordinary, some of it beautiful, some of it challenging, and some of it beyond heartbreaking. In short, what a ride it's been!
There's an old John Lennon lyric that goes something like this, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans."
I learned long ago that the sentiment expressed in that simple observation was profound and it certainly has rang true for me this year. I started out with one set of goals, dreams, and vision and ended up with almost none of those plans working out or even mattering now. What a difference a year makes.
This leads me to ruminate on something that I've been working on for a while and that is, that I think it's important to manage our expectations. Expectations left to their own devices and desires can run amok in our lives and steal our joy if we let them.
Now I'm not suggesting that we do away with hopes and dreams but what I am suggesting is that we don't let our natural expectations define our moment. I don't think we should use them as a litmus test of success but instead, we should use them as a measuring device of where we were, where we hoped to go, and where we are now. We should always try to look for the joy of the moment, even in despair, frustration, and or perceived defeat. It's there, if only we'll look.
My journey in #VanLife, when I first started out, was littered with expectations and if I let them, those expectations would convince me I had failed in my journey. Almost every one of them played out in a different way for me than I had expected.
Some of those ways have been very hard to adjust to and some of them have been very uncomfortable but they have all introduced some much needed introspection and ultimately personal growth for me as a person, a glassblower, a writer, and as a person of faith. It's important to state that, left to my own devices and desires, I would have not chosen a single one of them for myself and yet, here I am.
For those of you thinking about embarking upon #VanLife I would invite you to hold your expectations lightly. I would invite you to be gentle with yourselves as you approach a new way of life. I would invite you to be open to the beauty of the moment instead of getting caught up in perceived projections and or half-assed assumptions. Try to be supple rather than rigid. You won't break that way.
Let yourself be; let yourself breathe; let yourself grow. Give yourself the gift of time and exploration. Don't rush or try to control the journey but rather simply live it.
For what it's worth, that's my reflection after a year of living on the road in a rolling home.
I will turn half a century old soon. Statistics would suggest I could easily live to be a century old before I retire this ole body. Regardless of how long I have left, I plan on living my life radically different than I did for the first fifty years.
I'm going to try to let myself be; let myself breathe; let myself grow. I'm going to give myself the gift of time and exploration. I'm going to try not to rush or control the journey but rather simply live it. I would invite you to do the same.
Be safe and do what you love and love what you do!