Let’s Keep Our Side Of The Street Clean

Holding space, humility, and my new narrative with a little more grit.

Pexels: Grayscale Photo Of Broken Vehicles

“God does not change, but uses change—to change us. We’re sent on journeys that bring us to the end of ourselves. We often feel out of control, yet if we embrace the journey, we may find ourselves on the ride of our lives.”

― Jen Hatmaker

Three things happened recently that I did not expect.

I sat down to write an honest, thought-provoking essay on how I’ve been holding up to various post-Camino encounters when, I’m not kidding, the entire house started shaking. 

We had a baby earthquake, just a 5.1 on the Richter Scale, but also the fifth strongest in the history of the Bay Area. The epicenter was twelve miles outside of San Jose. Seconds after the shaking stopped, my daughter in New York sent a family text asking those of us who reside in California if we felt anything. How the hell does she do that? I sort of snickered before running outside to see if Larry felt it too.

He’s painting the house, but didn’t feel a thing, thought I might be running the garbage disposal?

I admit giving the house a facelift was my inspiration, much like the inspiration I had before embarking on a 200-mile odyssey. We’ll see how this one turns out. I spotted the color combination on a neighbor’s house a few months ago, and after several failed visits to the paint store, I was forced to knock on their door and beg for the name of the correct shade of blue. She was completely amicable and showed me the palate of wrong colors she went through to arrive at perfection. The symbolism was not lost on me.

Now I’m bracing for aftershocks as I struggle for the right words instead of the right paint.

As you know, we recently walked our asses off on the Camino de Santiago, and not to overanalyze or dilute such an experience, but it invoked the same feelings as that first 50-mile tandem ride with Larry in Palm Springs. I felt unprepared to survive in such rigorous environments, and I compensated with a false sense of confidence.

I thought my mortal coil had plenty of time to unwind on the plains of Spain, but as we know, appearances can be deceiving, and I wanted to know how long it would last before recoiling as if a spring upon my return to reality.

Okay, I’ll admit to illusions of traveling through the rest of my days with blessed ease, engaging in deeply meaningful relationships with absolutely no drama. My preeminent fantasy was that I would now have the moral capacity to overlook, ignore, or at the very least, generate a compassionate response to any given situation. 

Are you laughing at me? Because I can hear you. 

The person I was at the beginning of that beaten path vanished, yet the core of my being remains because my core is stubborn as hell, and she refuses to leave. I thought the irrational parts, the things I try to disguise with humor, had been released as if prisoners from my weary soul, never to return. Okay, I might lie to myself occasionally, but I don’t believe me most of the time.

I got rather sanguine on that dusty trail as I callously left behind aspects of myself that I discerned as detrimental or, worse, obnoxious. Why not let them go? Of what use are anger, pride, envy, or greed?

Well, I discovered something, and as you know, I find it inordinately difficult to keep my thoughts to myself. 

Surprise number two.

The truth is my biased judgments make me feel better, my envy is why Amazon makes so much damn money, my pride makes me feel righteous, and my righteous anger fights off those virtuous inklings as if a gladiator. But to what avail? 

I’m human, flawed from birth. What can you do?

While scanning the past as I walked, which seemed kind of mandatory given the stretches of silence and long, arduous days. I saw all these outdated vehicles, conveyors of myself, as if an abandoned car lot, with little or no mobility, like one of those apocalyptic movies with thousands of unoccupied cars clogging the streets. It’s disturbing.

I think I’m on to something here, but it could be all crap.

The thing is, I no longer need or want to drive the old minivan we had when the kids were young or the ancient Ford Fairmont my dad gave me while I was in college, not even the Mazda RX7 I drove when first married. Those carried a different person from one era to the next, and although they were great rides, their portability is no longer needed.

A Porsche might be nice, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Believe me, when I say I miss every version of myself, those old cars transported a lifetime ago. Well, some more than others. I think I miss my twelve-year-old self the most. The one not yet influenced by cultural demands placed on women, one that thought she could be the pilot instead of a stewardess, one that cultivated connection instead of conflict with Oreo cookies. I’m a nine on the Enneagram (link to self-test) from beginning to end. As you know, I abhor any sort of change, and I should add the slim Oreos are ridiculous versions of the original.

Can you imagine a gathering of all your past, present, and future selves? How does one integrate so many people scattered across an entire lifetime? I think it’s safe to say we do it every day.

So I returned home with this ethereal sort of spirit, and within twenty-four hours, I was not only headed in the wrong direction, but I welcomed all those newly paroled prisoners back into that fragmented version of my original self, as if slim Oreos, with less stuffing. I am such a pendulate being.

One story, one incident, one plundering episodic tale, and I’m hosting the sinners as if a hellacious hotel for hotheads. What the hell?

In the dark night of my soul, so to speak, when the light of the moon was most blinding, I wandered through the current wrecking yard of my life and realized I didn’t walk far enough, long enough, and clearly listening to James Taylor foiled the possibility of full absolution.

And then I realized something sort of profound. Well, profound to me.

I welcomed my disordered emotions right back in the womb of my being as if the prodigal daughter because someone had the audacity to exalt the underserved while maiming the admirable and good. Really? I have my own shitshow to deal with.

So how do we protect ourselves? 

Here’s the third surprise. Knowing I swing as if a pendulum and it is not possible to grow in the toxic soil of myself, I need to recognize the fragility of newly acquired attitudes and remember how profoundly we influence each other’s reality.

Think about a time when your self-narrative, self-rightness, or perceived goodness was put into question.

I decided I need to keep my side of the street free of abandoned cars and the wreckages of my past, leaving space for the vehicles that will escort me into the future. And by vehicles, I mean the values with which I comport myself. I need to intentionally hold space for those who are generous, trustworthy, and kind, avoiding the ones who need to be towed away at the owner’s expense.

And as Jen Hatmaker claims, “Be patient. Do the best with what you know. When you know more, adjust the trajectory.” Maybe remind me of this when I’m eighty.

My ability to understand why change is often impermanent does not need to deter me from the path that has been put before me because the one thing that increases with age is our grit. If the past is just a day away, I plan on curating mine with kindness, compassion, and as much grace as I can muster. Like my dad used to say, “what goes around, comes around.” I not only love the new color on the house, but I’m enjoying this time of life, fully aware the renovations I’m undergoing are far from done.

I’m Living in the Gap, which is clearly, under renovation. I would love if you joined me in the comments. Thanks so much for reading. Hugs, C

40 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. I heard about your earthquake, but I forgot to ask my kids if they felt it. I like your analogy of the cars of your life. They do represent different times and who we were at the time we drove them.

    Like

    1. The earthquake was powerful but short lived, which micmics most of my life lessons! Right? I need to continue to develop my grit and maybe find a new “vehicle” to comport me into the future. A convertible might go nicely with this stage! How about you? Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I experienced some big earthquakes in Palm Springs that terrified me. I look back on my Toyota Sequoia days as ones filled with joy. We hauled carloads of swimmers and pop up tents to meets. Now I drive a stately sedan.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I didn’t realize Palm Springs was located on the fault line! Let’s hope our little shakker released enough pressure so the “big” one is put off for a while. I loved the swimming days too, it was our minivan that hauled us all over town! And a stately sedan sounds perfect for our current reality! I drive a Volvo! xxoo

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes, Palm Springs is on the fault line. We’d drive out and show it to guests like it was a tourist site. I kept hearing about the “big one” for 30 years living there. Glad we moved. I drive a Genesis and it’s my favorite car to date — although not many memories attached to it. Solid, comfortable and roomy!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. You’d drive out and show guests the fault line that runs through Palm Springs? I bet that made them feel like staying a few extra days! I’ve been hearing about the “big one” forever and it is my hope that these little ones are enough to release the pressure for another hundred years. And you drive a Genesis, that embodies such a creative vibe, as if you are beginning a new life! Which happens to be true for you! xxoo

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, C,…how I adore you and your words! Girl, we’re all junkyards! Your ability to be so raw and honest is just one if a zillion reasons I love you. I’m playing it “safe”, yet with a little adventure thrown in, with my current Subaru. Rather than “paint” I just dumped my old places and cars after many crashes so my narrative of new grit was truly my survival. Look what you’ve done in the last two years! Heck,…your whole life! The cars you’ve driven, the hills you’ve tackled, the miles you’ve biked and trekked ~C, I see you bouncing around in a 4-wheel drive Jeep AND riding comfortably days in a luxury car with heated seats. You know how to “ride” in the least…and you also deserve the best. I miss my 12 year old self too. I really do admire the adult YOU and your perspective and wisdom. And great humor too (I love how you can laugh at yourself!)! No doubt the new paint, grit, and cleaning up the junkyard will make way for the next adventures in learning! It’s an honor to know you and read about your life. PS~I’m so glad you’re all ok! I’ve felt one earthquake in my life, when visiting Alaska, and it’s a strange feeling. Sending you much love and hugs. 💛💕🥰🙏🏻❤️😘

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi my sweet Karla, I’m two sentences in and your comment has me laughing out loud, “we’re all junkyards.” Oh my, that is so true. I love how you are able to dump the old places and cars “after many crashes” because I have such trouble letting go. I’m all about repurposing, repainting, recycling life, the marriage, the relationships, even my faith. I’m in awe of you. Look what you’ve done in the space of a year. You’ve narrowed your focus down to that which is most important, that which you are most grateful for, and that which you are willing to sacrifice everything for: your faith, family, and your health ~ everything else is peripheral, like icing on the cake. You are such an inspiration for all of us walking around with frosting on our fingers searching for the next treat. You’re grounding and I just want to stay anchored to your peace and joy. As always, wrapping you in my love, prayers, and generous hugs, C

      Liked by 3 people

      1. C, thank you so so much. Your words make my soul and heart smile. I had two long conversations this morning with family members in which this theme resonated ~what truly matters and what to let go. I shared with one that our brain worries because we want control ~but once you’ve reached acceptance, control can be let go easier. That describes my journey. I hope I stay grounded, C. I hope the pain never pushes me to a point of crashing again. I know you are wrapping me in love and prayers and truly, without hesitation, it’s those things that are keeping me in peace. I’ll be forever grateful for that. Thank you so much. I love you dearly! 💛💕🥰🍁🍂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Glad that the quake did not cause too much damage… we were in San Francisco in 89 and have no wish to repeat the experience. I have not known you long Cheryl, but I like the you I have come to know, and I am certain that we would have got along at 12 or 25 etc. I do believe that as long as you hang on to hope you keep going. We are looking forward to our next adventure, moving house and part of the country, meeting new people and experiencing new challenges. Once you hang up your spurs you are toast. And as to cars, there is still another low slung sports car in my future, if it comes with a hoist to get me in and out…. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sally, I remember the 89′ quake, we were living in Kansas at the time and it scared the tarnations out of us! I too believe we would have been good friends in the past and I’m grateful to have connected with you in the present, and into the future should we both be so lucky. Hope is key, but so is your resilient attitude, ready to take on new challenges when needed. You’re really shaking things up, driving into a completely new future, new location, new prospects, and with any luck you’ll have a “low slung sports car,” to transport you in style! I’m wishing you all the best in your next adventure Sally, looking forward to reading about it in your posts, and I’d really like a pic of you in the flashy new sports car! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. No low-slung sports cars for us. We bought our Highlander 20 years ago because it was easy to get in and out of. Also I had a frozen shoulder and I could close the door on the passenger side. Andy has a 4-wheel drive Jeep he uses every day to go on the dirt roads to our place in the mountains.

    “And as Jen Hatmaker claims, ‘Be patient. Do the best with what you know. When you know more, adjust the trajectory.’ Maybe remind me of this when I’m eighty.” As you know, Andy and I are both octogenarians (he’s 87, I’m 82) so one of our favorite sayings is, “Doing the best we can with what we have left.” I started saying that to his mother years ago, and she loved it.

    Talking about integrating the parts of ourselves, that hasn’t been a problem for years. I found the idea of psychosynthesis to be helpful so you might look into it. The nice thing about being value-focused is we can get our egos out of the way and focus on what we’re aiming for. Years ago I read that the original meaning of “sin” was “missing the mark.” So none of the self-flagellation that my Catholic upbringing taught. Just get back on track.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh how I love your cohesive response to my jumbled thoughts! First you tackle the vehicle, in my mind, the values with which we comport ourselves. You chose vehicles that work with and sustain your abilities, but more important, they allow you to travel with ease in your own environment. That’s brilliant Your philosophy, “doing the best we can with what we have left,” can be utilized by just about anyone because it refers to more than just time. I will check out psychosynthesis, I’m intrigued, but more intrigued with your definition of sin, as missing the mark. I always defined it as failing to love but that is much the same. Get on with it is all we can do! Thanks so much for reading, responding, and sharing your thoughts. I’m over the moon, hugs, C

      Like

  5. The Camino seems to have opened up a lot of thought processes in your mind. I suppose that’s the point of it.
    Whenever I see earthquakes in other countries on the TV news, I always ask, “Why do people live there, when they know there might be an earthquake?”
    Perhaps it is the frisson of ‘living dangerously’?
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pete, you are ever so kind. I love this, “the Camino seems to have opened up a lot of thought processes in your mind.” As opposed to my husband, who said, “you lost me in paragraph two. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” In other words, my thought processes are not his thing. Bahaha. Thank you for reading away. A lot of people have an enormous fear of earthquakes, but they are quite rare (at least the big ones) and the small tremors are must less alarming than tornados or hurricanes in my opinion. I feel relatively safe, but that could change at any time, I suppose. And you taught me a new word, “frisson,” what a thrill! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you LA, and you’re right about change, it just keeps coming. Keeps us on our toes I suppose but sometimes I just wish those grand-babies would stop growing so fast. I appreciate you taking on my disordered thoughts with such kindness. I bet New York is stunning in the fall! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Greetings pilgrim! I am back in Houston where folks cannot understand why anyone would live in California with the constant threat of sliding off into the Pacific. Meanwhile, they are willing to put up with hurricanes, hot humid summers and unpredictable winters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jim! Welcome home. And yes, we live with the constant threat of the earth shaking us into the ocean but hell at least we have a boat! I’m not sure who has it worse! I miss walking the Camino, I miss knowing what I would be doing each day, and I miss all the people we met along The Way. We’re planning on walking the Portuguese Camino in late 2023 or early 2024! It follows the coast of Portugal, should be a stunner! Hugs, C

      Like

  7. I love this, Cheryl, especially the last three paragraphs where you and Jen Hatmaker summed it up. Isn’t perspective wonderful? And choice? Especially as we age. We get to decide so many aspects of what we’ll carry forward, as well as what we’ll leave fondly behind because they no longer serve us. Sounds like a wonderful trip. There’s nothing like time and silence and nature to awaken our minds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Diana for diving in and not getting nauseous in the process. My husband abandoned ship after a few paragraphs. He’s not a fan of metaphors. Bahaha! I asked him to give it a second try and his response was, “so you want a Porsche? Let me finish painting the house.” I’m glad you made it to the end and narrowed in on the important issues, perspective, choice, and the ability to be intentional about what we carry forward! Be that what it may, there might be a Porsche in my future, but most certainly there will be my favorite pilgrims who are enjoying the ride of their lives. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Of course, he’d zero in on the Porsche. It’s almost a given. Ha ha. Yes, I got through it with some chuckles, and just loved the end. Oh, yes, to be intentional. What a huge gift to craft our futures and have the power of choice. A wonderful post.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. My friend Cheryl, thank you for your thoughtful post. It’s good at our ages that there is “still some shakin’ going on” and instead of being paranoid you think about your “ride”. I value your writing, the vocabulary is exceptional and many fun phrases such as ” Okay, I might lie to myself occasionally, but I don’t believe me most of the time.” 4 star smile for that one.
    I stopped to think about my ride now. Early in my life I crashed and burned a few cars, rolled one on a bridge ramp. As the years went by my rides were less eventful, owned a van for awhile, bought new and kept until I gave them away – I got my full use. One of my vehicles now is ten years old, a discontinued model (Chev Orlando) – just like me – they don’t make them anymore. I think I want my ride to be simple, feel the breeze and even the rain – I am dreaming of a Vespa but “she who must be obeyed” tells me my next choice will be comfortable ride for us to use together. – David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello dear David, you might not be able to see, but I hope you can imagine how your words spread the biggest smile across my face! Thank you for such a kind response. I am so touched. Okay, on to the things that comport us! It makes sense that we learned some powerful lessons about mobility from our earliest rides and today “she who much be obeyed (she might be my new best friend)” chooses comfort and togetherness but that does not exclude a convertible that allows the breeze and rain. Thanks so much for reading and responding, may the weekend be a memorable one, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love that you’re able to find life lessons from things happening around you. When you said “Maybe remind me of this when I’m eighty.” I laughed because that would be my reaction too and also because at 25 I really know nothing 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Let’s hope these little ones let off enough pressure and we never have to deal with the “Big One.” I mean we just painted the damn house, and I’d like to enjoy it for a while! Hugs, C

      Like

  10. I think that trip opened you up to a whole lotta new perceptions Cheryl. Trip of a lifetime for sure. Oye! I am happy to hear that earthquake was short-lived. Still scary nonetheless. Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Debby, I think you’re right, walking has a way of opening up pathways to new ideas and perceptions that I was closed off from or simple ignored! Larry might be regretting our little adventure as I perceived the house needed painting recently. And yes, it was a mild shake, and for that I am grateful. I can’t believe it’s already November and our year is about to come to a close. Oh my, what will 2023 bring? Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Stop being so hard on yourself, Cheryl! That’s also what I tell myself (but Sue instead of Cheryl). I’m getting better about being nicer to and thinking better of myself, accepting the way I am and the way things are. We’ve both earned it. Self-acceptance or changing anything about yourself both take practice so you have to decide what’s more important to you at this point in your life. I like you the way you are!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good advice Sue, “accepting the way I am and the way things are,” is a wonderful way of walking through the world. Maybe the only way? And I think deciding what important is another piece to our happiness. Thanks for the kinds words, I think we’re both doing okay these days. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bella, I had to reread this post so I could respond to your comment with the right context in mind and you’re right! Whoowa! My mind was all over the place here. I guess all that movement on the Camino jiggled a few thoughts loose. But I do like the idea standing in a room and observing all the different people I’ve been over time and what a privilege it would be to meet my future self? But that could go either way though I suppose. Hugs, C

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s