The Starting Line

We read in ancient texts and fragmented stories, of a lonely adventurer. A person armed with only an idea, embarking on a great trek across a dangerous wilderness filled with unrelenting peril. Forced to endure personal trials that tear at the fabric of sanity.

Draped across the body, the weary traveler is covered in thin furs which were sewn together by their tired hands. Hanging loose at the hip, a sharpened knife for food and protection.  A small leather bag hangs down the back prepared with only bare necessities. An empty canteen draped over one shoulder dangling by a thin leather strap, and a smooth walking stick clutched in a firm grip. Perhaps the traveler walks the path barefoot; unshaven, unkempt, half starved, exhausted, alone.

Enduring a life altering struggle through vast territories. On a long arduous voyage; be it for self betterment or maybe seeking the cure for a terminal illness for a dying child. A journey of the mind, and/or body, whether for spiritual awakening, or a test of physical endurance.

They seek the opening of the third eye or a connection with the meta physical (in some accounts), or a religious excursion, and the seeker desires to know more than what they already know. A means to an end. A path to enlightenment. A trail of tears, or a never ending hunger for a lost artifact buried among hidden treasures.

The search for a forgotten deity from antiquity, or craving that secret knowledge everyone speaks about in hushed circles. The traveler stumbles across an ancient rumor or overhears a story passed down by an elder. The young warrior happens across information in an old book, or sees a drawing hanging on the wall of a holy sanctuary. A trinket raised high on a pedestal, in a temple, which is notoriously surrounded by a diabolical mystery.

Once the interest is piqued, it becomes something else. It morphs from nothing into something small, yet possibly tangible. A metaphorical seed.

If pondered, plotted, and pursued, it can easily transform into a seed that has a potential to never stop growing.

Once we stumble upon it, or it captures the attention for a fleeting moment, we can carry the seed in our pocket, or ignore it all together. I suppose the choice on what to do with it is all ours. Every once in a while we can roll it around in our palm and smile at it. Take pride in it for a time.

Or, maybe, toss it in a cubby somewhere safe. Perhaps the clutter drawer in the kitchen. Let it bounce around with the other stuff that’s just taking up space; unused and forgotten.

Only when the seed is driven into the soil, and provided the nutrients it requires, can it have a better chance of growing and possibly surviving. Even thriving and blossoming in some situations. These travelers of the ancient times, these folks who hungered for that journey, came across a seed, pondered it’s purpose, plotted, planted and pursued it’s potential.

Once it becomes a seed, or something that’s believed to be of use and value, it then requires planting. The journey to growth must begin. It serves no purpose in the drawer.

If I had my way, I’d have an expansive garden with diverse growth. Herbs, veggies, and fruit if possible. An underground greenhouse would be the bee’s knees. (Sigh). Perchance to dream.

The amount of work needed to maintain a full time garden, doesn’t fit the timeline right now. I’m forced to cater to our few houseplants in the meantime, and instead, continue day dreaming.

In my youth, our neighbors across the street had a garden. We played and ran in the corn rows, had permission to eat the carrots straight from the ground and I could shuck peas with the best of them. I helped the old folks fill buckets with string beans and potatoes. We washed and scrubbed the bountiful yield and were invited to sit and eat homemade stew, with the veggies I helped harvest and prepare. My parents kept a small garden in the back yard and we were active in it’s maintenance. Living next to a local farm and having gardens around our property, and in the friendly neighbor’s yard, gave me a respect for what the Earth can provide. I see the acorn for the tree. I appreciate nature.

Maybe more than some know.

Through my travels, this… crazy, unorthodox personal journey of self discovery, I’ve gravitated towards nature. A magnetism activates in my bloodstream and draws me to what I’ve deemed “special locations.”

One of my favorite spots on this Earth is my front porch. A wonderful panoramic view of the tree strewn horizon, which allows me vibrant colors in the autumn season, a setting sun each night with lavender clouds painted on a blue backdrop and wide open heavens above for stargazing and capturing glimpses, and flickers, of the Northern Lights when they snake across the sky.

I’m pulled towards the ocean to my south and the mountains to my north. If I ever hit the lottery or a super mega millions jackpot someday, I’ll have a small one bedroom villa on the coast and an “A” Frame cottage nestled into the base of my favorite mountain; heated by a wood stove and connected to a generator for emergencies. I’ll have a sailboat to travel the endless coastline, visiting and stopping pier to pier. Engaging in new cultures, experiencing life outside Maine, seeing what I can discover in my travels… but I digress.

For now, I’ll just enjoy the dream and relish in possibility. My dream world is a part of who I am.

Nature holds a special place for me, but I’m not an activist. I don’t protest, or petition. I do however, take advantages of my local environment and absorb it into my being at each chance provided.

For some bizarre reason unknown, I need to touch the sea. I’m compelled to walk barefoot in the cold ocean water, at least up to my shins. Swimming in the ocean off the coast of Maine is a feat of courage. In my forty years, each experience in the sea has left my body numb and shivering, save one time in my youth. Today, I walk the coastline, instead, and avoid the swimming if I can help it.

I’ll jump in for the good of the kiddo’s amusement if need be.

I’ll walk a pier and stare at the beauty around me and do what I can to be in it’s presence, but I prefer warmer waters when it comes to swimming.

I have to feel the wind on my face when driving through the hills. I’m drawn outside during a snowfall and I have to stand on the edge of a cliff and yell into the canyon below, if only to hear it yell back. It’s a necessity to witness the color(s) of the turning leaves, hear the pounding of surf on sand, and be surrounded by all it’s power and majesty.

When visiting a crumbling fortress off the beaten path, or visiting a scenic castle, I have to place my hand on the stone work and touch the history.

In the past, I’ve found solace and peace in these natural, special locations. I’ve visited some of these places numerous times and have named specific “landmarks” for reference.

“Let’s meet up at the Crooked Pier.”

“If I leave first, and we get separated, I’ll head for the Owl Wall. I’ll wait for you.”

“Hit the shops on Cobble Road?”

Personalizing these places, made it mine.

Nancy and I walked Fort Knox, and one of the side yards is now named, Medical Field.

Places that have importance and significance to my personal life, have names, aside from their proper titles.

Over the past six years, these landmarks have become directly responsible for who I’ve become as a person and I have a bunch. There’s personal meaning behind each experience and encounter. Giving them a name is just something I enjoy doing. These locations of importance connect me together like a jigsaw puzzle. Each place has a separate and profound emotion accompanying it, and has been paramount to discovering the seed I had yet to find.

Officer Hulk helped create that seed. It was a starting point for me. A chance to dig my head out of my ass and rediscover what the real world is like. Advice to quit hiding, and fighting life. Tackle the problem head on. Become something better than what I’ve been exposed to. Everything leading up to that night, needed to become ancient history and discarded into that abyss of disregard. I needed a fresh starting line but was confused on the location of the race. A weary traveler with no destination, ready to rock and roll, and no idea how to plant a seed in the soil.

At that moment, I was almost ready to run that race. I was posed and prepared to take off from the starting line and sprint as fast as I could yet I was waiting patiently for the gun to fire. No one was there to pull the trigger.

The seed planted by the magician cop, diverted me back to family. I needed to re-calibrate, slow down life, and think it all through. Water. Shelter. Food. The starting line, is priority.

I love my family and I have a close one. At multiple times through each of our lives, we’ve managed to lean on each other when times were at their worst. Even if nothing more was provided other than a kind voice spoken, or an open ear to listen. I will never regret the path I chose to get to this point.

That night I made the decision to return to family, and coming around a sharp corner, an estimated two thousand feet from the driveway, I hit a patch of fog.

Through the gathering smoky haze, I flipped on my high beams to test my vision restrictions and my heart pounded against my chest when a family of deer jumped across the street. I swerved to the left to miss the herd, cut the wheels to the side, hit the dirt on the shoulder and slid on all four wheels to the opposite side of the road, facing the direction from where I was coming from.

Once I came to a complete stop, and the vehicle stopped shaking side to side, I pulled in a deep gasp realizing I was holding my breath. The deer bounced away as a group and disappeared into the mist, and I shot my attention out the front of the car.

I was face to face and ten feet away from, the Demon Tree.

>>Thank you for reading and following along. If you happen to be new to Tales of the Chronicles, here is the link to the beginning. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts through email. Please like, share with others, or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

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Blues and Reds

Officer Clark towered over the window of my car.

Before he slammed the door to his vehicle and approached me, I had my forehead on the steering wheel, screaming in my mind, “THIS CAN’T GET ANY WORSE!” Shelby sat in the passenger seat and panted her agreement.

I was forced to look above me to see his square, chiseled face. The bright blues strobing from the top of his car lit up his dark eyes under the brim of his wide hat, and the state patrolman was finishing a sandwich as he stood beside my door.

Glancing up to the rear view mirror, the blues caught my attention and I retreated into the dark caverns of my mind for a moment, allowing my consciousness to whisk me elsewhere. How awesome would it be to take off running and see if he can catch you. I needed an escape. I needed a break. A vacation. Something different. His arrogance oozed from every pore, and his Goliath presence was unnerving. I swallowed hard at every possible thought, and winced when contemplating each path the night could take me from there. By default, I anticipated the absolute worst.

Well, you did it, pal. You’re going to jail.

At least you’ll have a place to live. An upside to every downside, right?

How many times do I have to tell you to shut up!

“License, registration, and proof of insurance.” He stood at my side, chewing a mouth full of mushy food looking up and down the street to either side of us, and patiently waited for the documents. Once he snatched them from my hand, he returned to his vehicle. Shelby barked once at the stranger as another human dared to touch her owner’s skin.

I looked to my loyal friend and whispered, “It’ll be alright, girl. He’s just doing his job.” She relaxed and returned to panting when I scratched behind her ears.

After what seemed like hours of making me sit there and stew in my seat, the hulky officer returned and handed me back the paperwork. “So… where’s the fire?”

I dropped the documents into the cup holder, “No fire, sir. I’m just in a bad place right now, and I thought a drive might help clear out some of those cobwebs. It looks like it got away from me. I’m sorry. I’ve never been in trouble with the law before.”

“That’s what I see too. No record. I do see a fine paid for an outdated registration, a couple of accidents, no fault. You’re as clean as a whistle. That means there’s something wrong with you.”

Having been pulled over a couple of times in the Old Life, I was somewhat privy to the routine, “I haven’t been drinking, officer, and there are no guns or drugs in the car.”

Officer Hulk bent down and looked into the back seat, “Are you in the process of moving?”

“You can say that.” I faked a smile and looked to the dog again.

“Well, Jeremy, we have some bridges to cross tonight and some choices to make. The obvious one is to run you through the routine and eventually take you to a holding cell, but I’m guessing there’s a better route to take this time around. What do you think? Want to avoid jail? Want to keep that record blemish free?”

“More than anything, sir.”

He held up a finger, “First mistake. You never want to say that. Ever. Never say, ‘I want something more than anything.’ You’ll never see the consequences coming. Trust me.”

I scrunched up my face and pondered his statement. What the hell are you talking about?

“Kick on your four ways, and join me over here.”

I snapped on the hazard lights, opened the door and stood outside the car on shaky legs. My guess was a sobriety test and I needed to find some focus and get my shit together. Good thing you don’t drink anymore. He approached the hood of the cruiser and leaned on it, keeping his back to the camera inside the vehicle. His meaty leg blocking one headlight.

I approached him slow. Every possible negative outcome raced through my mind and I couldn’t make it stop.

He’s going to shoot you and leave you on the side of the road, dead in a gutter. Then he’ll take out the dog and do the same. Then, with his corrupt buddies, he’ll ditch the car off a quarry edge somewhere and destroy all trace you ever existed. Then he’ll be the one to tell my family I’m missing.

I need to get out of here.

Officer Hulk pulled a box of playing cards from his breast pocket and divided the cards into seven individual stacks on the hood of the car. I came to stand behind my vehicle and crossed my arms as he kept his attention on the piles. He recounted the configuration, hands now empty, and said. “Jeremy, choose one deck and flip over the top card.”

I chuckled and kept my defensive posture as I neared the piles. I glanced over the seven deck options and chose the one closest to Officer Hulk. “This one.”

“Are you sure?” He replied and turned his head slow towards me.

“Yes. This one.” I pointed again and he smiled.

“Okay, flip over the top card.” I reached down and flipped it over. Eight of diamonds.

“Tell me your card.”

“Eight of diamonds.”

“We can both see it, correct? No funny business?”

“Correct. No funny business.” I took a step back.

“Flip it back over, return it to the deck where you found it, pick up each individual deck one-by-one, and create a single pile.”

He had his arms crossed, nonchalantly sitting on his car as I gathered up each of the seven stacks and created one individual pile. I ensured my eight of diamonds was at the top. I could keep a better eye on it that way.

Having not touched the piles since joining him, he crossed his arms and said, “Cut the deck. Go as shallow or as deep as you want. Then once done with the cut, do it again, and again, and keep going until I say stop.”

I shrugged halfheartedly and cut the deck in half, and I cut it again, and again, and again and continued until he instructed me to quit. I attempted to maintain my eye on the eight, but it vanished inside the pile.

Once the singular stack was centered on the hood, and the final cut completed, I tapped the deck into a neat pile and stepped away. The eight of diamonds now lost within. Officer Clark removed his backside from the vehicle and stood beside me. We both stared at the red deck, and as I wondered where all of it was heading, he began talking.

“Nine years ago, I had a problem. I was hooked on gambling. I couldn’t get enough of the cards. Every waking moment, when not on the clock, I was gambling our money away. Online bets. Sports. Our weekend getaways were spent in local casinos. It was an obsession. Have you ever gambled before?”

“Spent a weekend at Foxwoods a few years ago. I actually made some money right before leaving. A slot jackpot of $357.00. Pretty exciting.” I continued staring at the deck.

“Good for you. Good for you. For me, that was the dream. Once I knew it was possible to make money, all my attention was devoted to figuring it out. Have you been back since?”

“No.”

“Good, good. That was my problem. I knew I could do it. I won money on numerous occasions, so I pursued that dream. It was a rush of possibilities. The sky was the limit. As long as I could pay in, I was searching for that rush. I couldn’t stop.

“Then things got ugly. I was secretive. Calculating. When I failed at my dream, I started drinking, hiding, and gambling harder. I back stabbed the ones who loved me. I took out loans and cash advances and got so down in the hole, we were forced to sell our personal items and eventually our home. My gambling addiction led to financial ruin, suspension at work, and one cruel afternoon, divorce. I lost everything. My sense of purpose. Contact with my children. I spent weeks in rehab centers and support groups. I had a handful of therapists and few friends to lean on. My family considered me the black sheep and no matter where I turned, I felt defeated.”

“So what did you do?” I asked, keeping my focus on the cards.

“I found something new to pursue. I discovered a new dream. Something out of my comfort zone. Something unique. Something different to focus on? Something I knew I always wanted to do, but was too afraid to try.”

I nodded and looked to the pavement below my feet. “How did you find what you were looking for?”

“It wasn’t easy. I had to endure some pain, and some suffering. I had to go back to the source of my problems and look at it a different way. Have you gone to the source of your personal conflicts, and the problems that brought you here tonight?”

“I’d like to think so. Sometimes it’s all I can think about. What’s wrong with me? Where did I go wrong? Life shouldn’t be this way…”

“See? That’s your problem. You say it shouldn’t be this way, but never once accepted the fact… that it is this way. Life is hard. Life is a struggle. Filled with ups and downs, hardship and strife. Conflict and fighting. Devastating possibilities. Trust me, I know about devastating possibilities. I never once considered through it all, that my dream would becoming the source of all my problems.”

“Are you saying, don’t follow your dream?”

“No, I’m saying think good and hard on it. Make sure your dream is something worth looking for. It took me years to find mine. I stumbled around it. I debated it’s purpose and how it would affect my self worth.”

“What is it?”

Officer Clark half smiled, shifted his weight and looked at me, “You know those shops along the coast. Those made in Maine businesses. The arts and crafts shops?”

“Sure.”

“Well, I do woodcarving and make trinkets for the shops to sell. Eagles perched on trees. Dolphins jumping through water. Little hand carved wooden frogs, hummingbirds. All that stuff. I suppose the side money is good, depending on the tourist season, but yeah… I do that. Besides being a cop.”

I chuckled and looked his way, “What does this have to do with the cards?”

“Funny you should ask that. The point of the cards is, nothing is ever what it seems. You will always believe one thing, and the turnout will always be unexpected. And it will catch you off guard, take you by surprise and throw you off balance. Don’t take life at face value. There’s always something below the surface. Sometimes it just takes a long time to find. For me it was nine years. I had to search, in order to heal. I’m still healing. Each day is better than the last.”

“I appreciate you sharing that with me, officer. I really do… So… does this mean I’m free to go?”

He laughed, “Yes, you’re free to go with a verbal warning, this time. But first, I want you to flip over the deck, take your eight of diamonds out of there and consider meeting me, a life lesson. There are still some good folks out there who can say they’ve been there, done that, and are doing it right now. Life is all about change and adapting to the change. Will it be a challenge? Yes sir it will. But regardless of any challenge, always stay on track. Keep the focus narrow. If you don’t keep that focus narrow, you’ll get lost among the chaos. Now, get out your card, and go to wherever it was you were fleeing and hiding from. Hit that problem head on and change your life.”

I nodded my head in agreement. It was time for a change, but I was unsure how to change my life for the better. Each card seemed to be against me.  The only advice I could go on was to retrieve my eight of diamonds, and head on back to the place of my invitation. Time to sit with family and have some conversations, despite the fact I wished to be alone.

I rooted through the deck three times and came up empty handed. I checked for adhesives, tallied the number of cards and the count remained at fifty one with each count.The eight of diamonds had disappeared.

Officer Clark reached into his breast pocket again and withdrew a business card. The only writing was a name and phone number in black ink on white paper. He held it between his ring and forefinger, “I know a guy if you want someone to talk to. Someone who can be non-bias and provide you a chance to be yourself. I’ll call him in the morning and plant a seed and if you wish to pay him a visit, just give him a buzz. He’s been a lot of help to me over the years. Life is never what it seems, Jeremy.”

Officer Clark scooped up the cards from the hood, dropped them back in the box and opened the door to the cruiser. The policeman smiled and said, “Slow down a little, will ya? You’re lucky to be alive.” He sat in the seat, pulled the safety belt across his uniformed chest, closed the door and turned the wheels to the road. The officer zoomed away from us and the blues disappeared around a corner, before he switched them off.

Surrounded by the silence of the back woods of Maine, I looked the business card over in the glow of the tail lights, and Shelby barked once. Should let her do her business while I’m out here.

I let the dog wander the side of the road and thought on Officer Hulk’s “life lesson.”

The words that repeated over and over, “Slow down a little, will ya. You’re lucky to be alive,” resonated in my mind. I couldn’t shake the phrase from memory.

Shelby took care of her business and we reentered the car. I pulled out my wallet from my pants pocket and reached into the cup holder to return my driving documents to their proper spots.

Inside the plastic, which housed my insurance information, was a red card.

My stomach dropped to the floor pedals. With quivering fingers I reached into the sleeve and withdrew the card from inside. Hesitant to know more, I turned it over and to my complete surprise, it was the eight of diamonds.

Written with black marker, taking up the space around the white of the card surrounding the diamonds, “Slow down a little, will ya? You’re lucky to be alive.”

>>Thank you for reading and following along. If you happen to be new to Tales of the Chronicles, here is the link to the beginning. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts through email. Please like, share with others, or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

 

 

 

 

 

Altering Life

-Summer of 2013-

-Fifteen months after the safe house-

“Now that she’s left the room shoot me straight, Dr. Smith. What are the odds she won’t survive this? I want numbers. Dig up the paperwork. Open some books. Kick on the computer, get your people in here, I don’t care. Show me some stats. I know it’s your job to tell me this shit, but it’s my job to get everything I can from you. As long as you do your job, I’ll be doing mine.”

“Thirty three percent.” Dr. Smith tapped the pen on the table and looked over the top of her thin wire frame glasses. Sitting there in her stupid smock, with her stupid name tag and stupid medical degrees hanging on her stupid walls.

I shot both my hands in the air, “What does that mean? Thirty three she’ll survive? Or thirty three she won’t. Kind of a wide in between, don’t you think?”

“Jeremy, there’s a thirty three percent chance she won’t survive it. After what she’s been through, I’ll be honest. It’s not going to be an easy road.”

I crossed my arms and leaned back in the chair, “She started to find some solid mobility again. The wounds are fading and scarring up. She can drive a car now and go up and down the stairs. What you’re asking her to do is elevate ALL OF IT to another level. Do you have any idea how life altering this will be?!”

Nancy closed the door to the small room, sat back down at the table and I faked a smile and relaxed. Mostly for her benefit.

Dr. Smith sat up straight and darted her eyes between us as if she was watching a high speed tennis match. “Listen… there’s no easy way to say these things, so if you want me to shoot you straight, I’ll shoot you straight. To bottom line it, you’ll have one shitty summer.”

I butted in, “Is that your expert opinion?”

“No, not my opinion, it’s a fact. The next few months are going to suck.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere.” I interrupted again and turned my attention out the window.

This can’t be happening.

Another Cosmic Joke?

Dr. Smith wanted to drive her point home, “You look at me as though I’m a heartless bitch. Like I get something out of all of this. Will it drain your bank account? Yes. Will it change your environment, what you eat and drink? Yes it will. Will it change your lives? I’m afraid so. But the money doesn’t come directly from your pocket to mine. I get nothing from this experience. It’s not my fault that your life will be different. This is my job. My job is not always pleasant. If you decide not to do this, I can’t be certain of where the future will take you. You’ll be relying solely on faith.”

“It’s funny you say that, Doc. It seems as though what you’re asking us to do, is a faith based idea as well. I have yet to be convinced this is even necessary. You say one thing, but I haven’t seen the evidence. Hell… even Boston couldn’t read the disk. Everyone we talk to speaks about this, all tra-la-la-la, like… hey, it’s not a big deal. Just do it. All we have right now is word of mouth and two options. I’m sorry I’m not responding as nice as you’d like.”

She maintained a professional demeanor. Her back straight and hands clasped on the table top, “All I can do, is continue to provide you the options: Sign off, and let’s get this started as soon as possible, or feel free to head on out the door and maybe we’ll see you in the future someday, and you’ll be sitting right back here again, and maybe it won’t be me… but someone else who’ll tell you the same damn thing. I leave the choice completely up to you. I’ll give you some time to think about it.”

Dr. Smith left the room, the door whispered shut behind her and I exhaled. All I could muster was a statement, “The decision is totally up to you.” I caught her worried eyes with mine and didn’t let go. “What did I tell you three months ago? At the peak of the worst?”

She kept her stare on me and stuttered through the reply, “That-that you’d support my decisions… and, and stick by my side.”

“And I still mean that. You think we can handle one shitty summer? I got your back, Jack. No matter what.”

She looked to the floor and let the tears fall to the carpet. I cupped her chin in my hand and pulled her eyes back to mine. I needed to maintain that stare. I needed to pass my dwindling strength on to her somehow, and hoped osmosis would work. She nodded and half smiled.

Going back three months before, she had undergone a major surgery. Her chest was ripped open from the throat, to inches above the belly button. Hours after the lengthy procedure when I was able to visit, she had hoses and wires running through her, behind her bed, under and around. She was stapled back together with wire and twine. Bags of fluid hung from metal hooks to either side of the elevated bed and she was connected to a wall covered in medical instruments and digital readouts.

When I was able to finally bring her home, where her living space was confined to the couch, I slept on the floor beside her, woke at every noise uttered, held her through every tear shed and cry of pain, and catered to her every need. If her temperature raised a degree, I was making phone calls. I changed her bandages, fought infections, cooked her meals, bathed her when needed, brushed her hair, cleaned her (disturbing) wounds and was at her beck and call until the body was able to heal.

I was provided with lists of do’s and don’t. Rules and regulations. What to watch for and pay attention to.

When the pain was at it’s worst, I looked into her tear soaked eyes and whispered, “No matter what it takes, no matter what it costs, you will not be alone and I promise to help fix you and I will make it my mission in life.” And I meant it.

And we made it through.

I left work for thirty days and every scrap of my energy was devoted exclusively to healing the best thing to ever enter my life.

Nancy healed me, and to this day, I’m not fully sure she even knows that.

It was my turn to repay the debt.

Those three months after her surgery, and the next three months to follow, would be considered the pinnacle of life altering experiences for me. Events that changed me forever.

The birth of my child(ren), helping Nancy rise from the ashes after six months of unending struggle and pain, and that night I was speeding down the back roads of my home state like a possessed madman on the way to nomad land, with no destination in mind. The night before I was to leave the safe-house, forever, and find another place to live with no plan or idea what to do with life. Just me and the mutt at my side, and a backpack of bare essentials.

I should have accepted the invite right away. You never turn down family. But if I had stopped and payed them a visit at their request, I never would have been pulled over by a state trooper for criminal speeding.

>>Thank you for reading and following along. If you happen to be new to Tales of the Chronicles, here is the link to the beginning. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts through email. Please like, share with others, or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

Flight

At a dig in Egypt in 1898, an artifact was unearthed dating back to 200 BCE. It was named, “The Saqqara Bird.”

saqqara_bird_an_egyptian_antic_glider_by_hamzalippisch-d6fm8jz
Image found at Deviantart.

The small light weight “toy” (if it should be called such a thing) was shaped and carved to appear like an aerial vehicle, an airplane or glider of some kind, with the face of a bird chiseled into the front where the cockpit would be located. The trinket was made of sycamore wood and on parchment found nearby inside the tomb it was discovered in, were written the words, “I want to fly.” The story fascinates me to no end.

Even more than 2200 years ago, people wanted to be in the sky.

I am absolutely terrified of flying. Heights don’t bother me. Commercial flight, on the other hand, is something I try to avoid. Flying in a plane is one of three fears I deal with.

One phobia is, ticks. The kind that painlessly burrow under the skin and spread disease. Chewing through the flesh like a mini drill bit; cramming it’s nasty head inside.

The third is having the inability to complete my goals.

Many moons ago whilst living the old life, I had to board a plane and travel from Portland Maine, to Maryland. An idea I did not take well. I suffered in silence and fought overwhelming anxiety.

I subtly debated. I sought alternate venues. I wished to instead load the car with three days of luggage, and just drive the damn thing. It wasn’t that far.

Nonetheless, airline tickets were purchased and I was destined to be confined inside a long metal coffin with wings, traveling at speeds of hundreds of miles an hour, thousands of feet off the ground.

I know… I know. Flying is considered the safest mode of travel. I get it.

But… I don’t understand the fear of spiders, clowns or water slides. The fear of the dark, or thunderstorms. We all have our phobias to face. Mine happens to be air travel.

Some avoid their fears altogether. Some tackle them head on. Despite the fact I suffer with a few, I have managed to kill some phobias in my forty years.

Roller coasters that go upside down and loopy loop. My fear of heights and deep ocean water. I once conquered a fear of driving during a blizzard at the peak of a Maine winter. I’ve always avoided driving during storms, and instead stock and prepare the home before hand to ensure I could stay put and hunker down. I was scared to death of becoming a side of the road fatality.

The household needed medicine, therefore the trip was necessary. Once I was able to navigate the slippery ice and snow covered streets with more ease, and find some comfort behind the wheel, by the end of the excursion I was doing donuts in the parking lot and sliding sideways down the empty roads by ripping up on the emergency break. Ahhh. The good ol days.

Flying was mandatory. Up until that point in my life, I was able to avoid air travel. I never found a need to be inside a plane. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If it’s possible to walk, boat, train, drive, bus or bicycle… that’s the method I desire. Call me old fashion.

The anxiety was so intense, I made an appointment to visit my doctor. The only information I provided on my paperwork detailing the reason for my visit was, “consultation.”

Sitting on the exam table, just thinking about the events yet to come, I was sweating through my shirt and chewing my nails till my fingertips bled.

The doctor came in rifling through his clipboard papers and didn’t make eye contact for a time. He seemed to shuffle through the room and making obvious attempts to ignore me. As though I was wasting his time. Finally he spoke after a minute of silence, “So… what can I help you with today?”

“I have an abject fear of flying, Doc. I know it sounds stupid. The idea and thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. I’ll be in the sky next month and I dread the idea to the core of my being.”

He paused mid stride and turned to glance me over. “Really? I’ve never treated a phobia before. Flying you say? Being in a plane?”

I was back to ripping skin from my thumb with my teeth, and nodded my reply.

He pondered my situation, “OK… OK… I’ve read a peer review paper on such a thing, and if I remember correctly there was some good ideas in the pipeline. Hang on a second. Let me look up something really quick.” He sat at his computer and browsed material on his screen.

I wiped sweat from my eyes.

“Yes. Right here. I found it. OK. We can go a couple of different routes with this.”

“What do they say?”

“… Drugs.”

I laughed, “Drugs? Really? I’m not big on pills.”

He double checked his source, “Jeremy, I’m going to prescribe you with (name) and I’ve never told a patient this before, but you have my permission to experiment with (name). I want you to take a minimal dose of one at first, see how it feels, then up your own dose until the day of travel. I’m allowing you to find that balance that suits your anxiety, and you’ll have enough to get through until the return trip home. How does this make you feel?”

“Experiment?… This is weird.”

“Yes. After you pick up (name) wait a couple of days, think about flying and being in a plane, and if the anxiety disappears after one small dose, then you know what the limitations are. You can set your own boundaries.”

“Ummm. I suppose. If there isn’t anything else you can recommend.”

“You’ll have forty tablets.”

Experiment I did, and I had thirty days to figure it out. I tested my anxiety and prescribed my own doses. Sometimes I’d go days without it, but when the need was warranted, I’d pop a pill or two, find my balance and levels of tolerance and the anxiety would vanish. Indeed a unique experience.

Sitting at an airport eatery on the day of the trip, waiting to board, I was so nervous I popped four pills and drank a double gin and tonic in two gulps. All that was left, was to wait to enter the plane.

I stumbled into a small shop to purchase a magazine for the journey and when I finally crossed the threshold into the flying metal death machine, I was seated directly over the landing gear beside a circular window. I buried my face into the pages, kept my head down low for the entire flight and hoped it was smooth and incident free.

It was over before I knew it. I don’t remember the take off or the landing. I never once stole a glance out the window and every word that came through the plane’s cabin speakers were, “Wa wa wa. Wa wa wa wa wa waaa. Ba ba ba, wa wa wa wa.”

I remember nothing. I don’t recall what I read in the magazine. All I can manage to visualize was a science fiction character on the front cover.

As a result of not remembering the trip above the clouds, I was convinced my fear was conquered. Therefore, once settled in Maryland, I dumped the remainder of the pills down the toilet.

Oh, how I regret discarding my prescription.

The entire trip home to Maine was a personal nightmare. A white knuckle grip on the arm rests. Bouncing knees, stress headache, my stomach assaulted with nausea and unrelenting butterflies, bloody fingertips from compulsive nail biting and I felt every air bump, crosswind, tremble of turbulence and convinced I was a dead man. I must have looked crazy to the other passengers. My fear was still very much alive. I may have even kissed the ground upon arrival.

So, with that said, come spring or summer of 2017, I will be venturing to our Capital airport and look into flying lessons. After some dialogue with a friend, who is working toward a license, after the initial starter lessons are completed and the plane is in the air, the controls are then handed off to the student. I don’t have to take off, I don’t have to land. All I will do is fly.

I think I need to be in control of the craft in order to conquer my fear. I don’t want to pop pills and pound down liquor every time air travel is needed. I may be wrong in wanting to spend a little money to get over my issues, but it’s an experiment I’m willing to try. If it doesn’t work… I’ll try something different. Maybe hypnosis. My own bridge to cross if unsuccessful. I am determined to make this happen. I need to kill my phobias.

After the phone call at the safe-house and the invitation, traveling to a family member’s home with the dog beside me at nine at night, my fight or flight issues kicked into high gear. I decided I didn’t want to be a charity case. I didn’t want to discuss my current problems with loved ones. I didn’t want to be coddled and told everything was going to be fine.

*****

Instead of pulling into the driveway, I screamed by the home at one hundred miles an hour with Zeppelin cranked as loud as I could handle it and continued driving into the night. It was time to consider the life of a vagabond.

>>Thank you for reading and following along. If you happen to be new to Tales of the Chronicles, here is the link to the beginning. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts through email. Please like, share with others, or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

A New Beginning

Halfway through the summer of 1995, I started a new life. Barely out of high school I allowed my heart to guide my path, ditched a trade school opportunity, dumped everything I thought I knew and believed, and moved out of a parent’s home to begin anew. To my dismay, my heart was an idiot. Flawed.

Met a girl, moved in together, worked the jobs as necessary and strayed away from who I was originally in the beginning.

My new life, the new beginning in 95, led me away from education, into the bottle and various other substances and late nights stumbling down the streets. Parties ruled the neighborhood and hangovers were commonplace. I can’t recall how many bathroom floors I’ve peeled myself from, accompanied with a throbbing headache that leads to vomiting the moment the sunlight touches the face and the slightest noise enters the ears.

Yet, I allowed my heart to guide my journey and I ignored my mind. I wished to embrace those things I’d never experienced. I wanted to dabble in the unknowns and mesh with the in-crowd and “cool kids,” feel accepted, and continue to seek… something. To this day, other than a solid buzz, I don’t believe I knew what I was doing or really searching for. Only riding that tide as far as it would take me. It’s all buried and shrouded now in a fuzzy haze.

Luckily for me, I left breadcrumbs behind which I could follow later in life.

I was engaged in a brief conversation recently with one of my confidants and I mentioned my feelings on a topic. What I said (paraphrased), “It took me awhile, but I better understand other points of view now, more than ever. At least I try. It doesn’t make me any smarter on the subject, I still do my research, and listen with an open ear, but I can sit on the fence and glance to both sides and try to see it from various angles now. We exist on the surface. The happiness is under that surface. I couldn’t imagine not being happy. The true definition of ‘self,’ is happiness.”

I believe it’s impossible to be truly content, without knowing who we are as individuals; and that’s a dead horse I’ll probably beat until the end of time. The obstacles that deter us from individual happiness, and block the life we wish to lead, is cause for battle. I can’t remember the number of walls I’ve had to chip away at to find happiness. I’d go out of my mind if the wall was indestructible. I’d lose all my faculties if I was forced to not have access to “my” life.

Absolutely mental. And if you’ve been reading TotC since it’s humble beginnings, I did have my moments of crazy. However in most cases, my crazy was completely warranted and justified.

With that said, sometimes it takes a catastrophe to finally find that missing component. Today and the here and now, isn’t any different. Sometimes we wade through a river of shit before coming out smelling like a rose. Sometimes we’re forced to see the worst within the scary dark, before the light shines through and makes the darkness disappear.

We experience the hurt dolled out by the others, to eventually make our sense of self stronger. Sometimes we walk those fiery coals of Hell, to eventually find a cool peaceful lake to soak our wounds.

I don’t have the same struggles as others. Sorry. My life is not complicated. I work, I parent, I enjoy my relationship with Nancy, I eat, I sleep, engage in my activities of daily living, I socialize within my circle, tackle my responsibilities and I try my best to engage in my hobbies and passions. I am me. That’s it. That’s my life. No more, no less. Boring? Maybe to folks outside my universe, but for me, it’s the best life I can possibly lead and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To quote Christof (The Creator, played by Ed Harris) from one of my favorite films, The Truman Show, “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented,” and I’ve done just that. I accept my reality. However, my reality is under the surface.

People have lied about me, and to my face. Some of my favorite conversations have been with my children who have told me outright, “I can’t believe what people have said about you, Dad.”

“I know, I know. People will say and do anything to make themselves feel better about themselves and their reality.”

People have tried to drag me down and ruin me. Environmental factors have tried to change me and manipulate how I think, and what I should believe. I’ve been called delusional and crazy to the point where I have voluntarily questioned my sanity and pondered therapy. I’ve been stepped on, used, abused, my kindness and loyalty has been taken advantage of. I’ve even watched people burn my things, yet… all of that is OK. Those negative factors have strengthened me and helped me rise above it all. If someone wants to talk trash for the sole purpose of making themselves feel better about life, hey… who am I to think any different. That’s their life. They have their own demons to face.

I’ve battled my demons. Now I scoff at them.

Little bastards. It took awhile, but I think they’ve disappeared back into the depths from whence they came. I haven’t seen them in quite some time, so no news is good news as far as I’m concerned. With inner peace, comes contentment.

Each new day is a new beginning. At night we close our eyes, sleep the necessary time required, and the day once again begins anew. I find my strength and continued stability with each break of dawn. Is it easy for me? Of course not. My struggles are not the same as others in this world. I just do my best to cope through, that, which is mine.

I found my coping mechanisms. Those mechanisms helped formulate my reality. Once I dug my heels in and directed my thinking down a different path, the puzzle started to come together with a more vibrant image. But… I had to find it. It wasn’t up in my face dancing a jig, yelling, “Hey! I’m right here!”

I had to seek what I wanted to find.

My advice, to anyone who may be reading these weekly rambles, is this. Find it. Search. Dig under the surface. Seek those missing parts and pieces. Find the true definition of “self” and happiness.

If you enjoy painting, paint, and show it to the world. Even if it’s not perfect. At least you’re trying. It will only get better and stronger with each brush stroke. If you enjoy poetry, write. Compose imperfect words and read it loud and proud to anyone who may be listening, then be willing to be open to those who wish to help make your words stronger and more fluid.

If you find joy in volunteering, then commit to volunteering and do good things for others. If you play an instrument, make music, crank up the volume, and kick on the speakers for the whole world to hear. If you enjoy writing letters to our politicians, do it. If you excel at public speaking, get out there and speak your voice. Let the voice be heard. If you love paintball, play the sport and engage as hard as possible. YouTube videos, blogs, cooking, creating web content, writing, singing, dancing, gaming, drawing, mechanics, constructing sandcastles on the beach… whatever the passion… do it! Find it and be proud! Don’t be scared. Don’t be afraid of yourself.

The only person who will take care of me… is me. I am my own worst enemy. I don’t expect ANYONE to take care of me. Do I find solace and safety among my circle? Absolutely. However, I don’t expect my circle to cater to my needs. I can only do that on my own.

Now more than ever, we need to find our peace and contentment. This splintered world filled with chasms and holes, hate and despair, division and spite, needs an apocalypse of the highest degree. But not the modern day version of the word.

Today the contemporary definition of apocalypse, the adopted standard meaning of the word, is an end times scenario. Destruction. Chaos. Death and darkness. Hopelessness and pain.

The original meaning of the word can be found, here.

I believe we need to work on that lifting of the veil and our only enemy is self, and the sands of the hourglass trickling away as we watch.

The Tales will continue with the next installment. Be well, be strong, be good to one another, and continue the search. The path leads to happiness if you allow it.

>>Thank you for reading and following along. If you happen to be new to Tales of the Chronicles, here is the link to the beginning. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts through email. Please like, share with others, or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.

Helpless

-Silent Screams-

I don’t take myself too seriously. In fact, I laugh at myself now more often than not.

What’s the point? Why would I take myself seriously? I’m in this life to enjoy it, and my time spent with the others in my circle. I’ve seen what happens when people take themselves too seriously. They get lost. They get caught up in themselves and become so entangled, they can never reel it back in and find focus. They lose their footing and trip, then barely recover from the fall.

Then point the finger and place the blame on everyone else. I know… I’ve done it.

I may not be an intelligent man. I’ve never taken an IQ test or completed college for that matter, but I see my life as multi-layered.

Three things keep me rooted to my reality: My enjoyment of the time I have left on this physical plane of existence with the people I love, no matter what. My attempt to be a positive beacon to those around me, no matter what. The guarantee I never take myself too seriously. No… matter… what. As long as I abide by those three principals, I fear nothing. As long as I maintain my reality, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If we can find the ability to reach inside, locate the personal shortcomings, recognize that nothing is perfect and be willing to laugh and learn, the sky is the limit. Our personal shortcomings and faults are just as important to who we are as people, as the topics we excel at. It’s embracing our weaknesses that provide us with continued strength and stability.

However, learning the principals, almost never happened. It was a retraining of the brain that allowed me to find that footing I was missing.

When I was a dumb teen I intentionally got myself lost in the backwoods of my home state for the express purpose of “something different” to do with the buddies. A “brilliant” idea for a fun adventure with a small group of friends.

“Let’s get lost in the woods, see if we can survive, and make it back before dark. With nothing but what we have on us. We depart at the crack of dawn. Dude… this is gonna kick ass!”

Not the smartest of moves.

A time before GPS and handheld technology. A period of my history where face time, Messenger, Skype, texting, and social media was non-existent. If you didn’t have access to a landline or a payphone, you were not not making contact with the outside world.

We hiked for hours. It reached a point where we had become hopelessly lost and had zero bearing from our starting place. We laughed about it at first, “Mission accomplished! We did it guys! We’re officially lost!” Thick towering pines surrounded us, crab grass clung and sliced across the skin as we navigated around swampy bogs. Mosquitoes the size of fifty cent pieces buzzing by and a blazing sun overhead. Not one of us thought to bring any water, food or supplies.

Roughly six hours into the excursion, panic settled in. Legitimate fear, thirst, hunger and a longing to return home. At this moment, each tree looked identical to the rest and what once seemed familiar, now gone from memory. Each path blocked by the same overgrowth, crisscrossed by tangled branches, knee high bushes, and everything looks the same. The claustrophobic prison becomes more congested, and eventually we reached a moment of pure terror.

towering-pine-trees-james-bo-insogna

We may not make it back, and no one will ever know what happened to us. Through our own stupidity we may have sealed our doom in a forest. On purpose no less.

Kids…

We screamed at the top of our lungs in hopes someone would hear our cry for help. At times we ran, as one of us saw an open field, or what appeared to be a break in the trees, a place for respite, maybe a fence or a rock wall to follow, and all we did was get more lost and deeper in the unmerciful realm of nature.

Help was nowhere to be found. We were at the mercy of Earth and all we had was each other.

We trudged on till nightfall without having had any water, food or hope of rescue, and the moment we decided to drop to the ground and try to get some rest, lights broke through the trees and a noise vibrated around us.

We jumped to our feet and ran towards the source of the light and sound, and our journey brought us to a dirt road where a vehicle was disappearing around a corner. It’s red brake lights now swallowed back up in the night and fading away in the distance. At least we had two options at this point: Follow the vehicle and hope it brings us to a phone or civilization, or branch off to the right and hope the opposite end leads to the same place.

We concluded the vehicle was returning home and walked the dirt road to our right. Three hours later we’d be back in civilization and scarfing down burgers and water at the local fast food joint.

Being lost in those woods, was the only time I had cried out for help in my personal history, that I can recall. My desperate plea for rescue that day fell on deaf ears, but I screamed through those trees just like everyone else as though my life depended on it. It was only through dumb blind luck we emerged from the jungle victorious. Had we been traveling in any other direction, we may have never found home.

Asking for help falls among the accolades of things I have difficulties with. I have issues with reaching out for assistance and opening myself up to others with areas that are personally challenging. I don’t typically ask for help.

I’ve always made strides to seek venues where I could figure it out on my own. Only when I reach a point of desperation will I cry out for help.

The second I landed in the safe-house, I wanted to “go at it” of my own accord. I wanted my choices to dictate my life. It was time to cease the riding of the coattails of others and formulate, shape and mold a new lifestyle in my image.

Unfortunately, life and the relentless onslaught of life events was a continued obstacle. I was still trapped in the forest. It was impossible to dodge the inevitable and I never once screamed for help. At this point in the safe-house, most of my personal items had been dispersed into attic spaces of various family members. My furniture stored in random scattered basements and I was stripped down to bare essentials. It was an upcoming week without the kiddos, so the transition to whatever happens next was easier to bear. While sitting in my swivel chair and spinning in circles at the center of an empty room, less than a day before my journey into homelessness begins, there was a knock on the door.

*****

“Hi, I’m Mary and I’m here to look at the house.”

“Come on in. Make yourself at home. I’ll be out of here tomorrow. The place is almost empty and it’s clean.” I sat back down in my chair and retrieved my fantasy book from the floor beside me. Mary gave the home a walk through, then returned to me while I made obvious attempts to ignore her presence.

She stood at the fireplace and I spoke without raising my eyes from the page, “The dryer in the basement doesn’t work. The bathroom light flickers and the mirror will need to be replaced. The fireplace is clean but not the best heat source. If you like watching a fire, it’s great. The handrail at the back stairs outside is loose and will probably need a look at.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much.” She replied and exited the house without saying goodbye.

I was screaming in my head, but remained silent.

She didn’t leave the property for a span of a few minutes. Instead she sat in the vehicle beside the porch and while I peeked through the kitchen window and observed from a distance, I watched her wipe her cheeks and eyes before finally shifting the car into drive and speeding away.

I stood at the window for quite some time. I leaned on the sink and gazed around the quiet environment and outside the homestead and thought, something good will come from this. Maybe not perfect. Maybe not ideal, but good. For the time being, let’s focus on good. Ideal will come later.

My phone rang and it startled me from my thoughts. I snatched it up and Nancy was attempting a call. “Hey. What’s going on?” I answered.

“You know, I was thinking,” she replied, “have you asked anyone in the family to give you a place to stay until this all blows over? Did you think to ask? Or are you just waiting, and then see what happens.”

Ouch.

“Nancy, I’m in my mid thirties. I’m not asking if I can move back in with my parents. I have to do this on my own.”

“Well, what if you can’t? What are you going to do? Sleep in the car in the parking lot at work?”

“I don’t have options. I have to see if this plays out in my favor.”

“… do you need any help with anything?”

“No. Thank you. I’ll see you around the office.”

The conversation ended, but she planted a seed. I stood in the kitchen staring at my phone and pondered who to reach out to. It was one thing to keep folks apprised of my situation, but to ask for help?

You’ve done it solo thus far. Why change it up now?

Mom? Dad? My bachelor friend?

The phone rings again and I almost drop it. A family member this time. No everyone, I’m OK and I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Please just leave me be.

“Hey, Jere. Please come over to my place and bring Shelby. I have something to show you.”

“Ummm… OK? Yeah, I’ll be there in thirty.”

“See you then.”

I hate surprises. I have things to do and pity parties to throw in my honor. Just tell me what’s going on. For the love of Pete.

I hate my life.

>>Thank you for reading and following along. If you happen to be new to Tales of the Chronicles, here is the link to the beginning. Please subscribe in the provided area to receive a notification of new posts through email. Please like, share with others, or leave a comment if you wish. See you at the next one.