Accepting truth doesn't make it any easier to deal with, but it does bring a sincerity to every breath thereafter. It seems to really live is to live your truth. Sat Nam - Truth is my name. Truth does not harm, no matter how uncomfortable. Truth forces us to listen to ourselves and acknowledge where we are in this life.
I'm in a transitional phase as those who have been reading here already know. My world view is changing - expanding. I've become more empathetic. I'm accepting many truths without blaming myself for misunderstanding. Guilt has no part in my process. I'm unashamed. So many things I've realized have been very difficult. The way I am mothering needs to change in order to bring more joy to our days. I've taken action on that. How I am educating my children needs to be more fluid and I have begun to desire a broader experience for them. Action has occurred there. I want to release my creativity in a way that brings it outside of the hobby and into the professional. I'm doing it! I'm finding my voice, asking for what I need, and making new plans. I'm hopeful despite the darkness. I know there's a light.
The hard part about this new truth is that it may be for me only. It's so brand new that I haven't been able to discern what lesson I am to take away from the knowing of it. The fact that it might leave me very alone in the experiencing of it makes it that much more complex. It's just the way it has to be. We land in places in our own time and for our own reasons. It's very much like many episodes of Dr. Who with Amy Pond. Everyone has their own particulars and sometimes things become muddled as they try to glean where the particulars meet to form a clear idea where two or more experiences become singular.
I had to find the courage to admit truth and yesterday as I stoked the fire in the belly, I found it. I decided to lay consequences aside and use my voice. Accepting things as they are is the first step to being able to make things better. With acceptance comes understanding. With understanding comes the ability to build upon what is and transform.
The kicker is that I don't know that I am brave enough to see this truth completely through. As I said, it is one I'm most likely to experience alone. Having been so lonely for so long, going back to that place is a scary proposition. However, in typing that, I just realized, I haven't left that place. I'm still utterly alone on the peer level. I'm still there, grasping at the wind, hoping to catch a ride somewhere.
As exciting as renewing old dreams, discovering independence, reclaiming my womanhood, demanding respect, and shouting victory over concepts that no longer serve me is, I have seen that it would be so easy to just box some of these things up, put them away, and continue in some improved form of the way things were. This way I am not disruptive to others. This way no feelings are hurt. This way I'm not forcing my energies upon another's life inadvertently or otherwise. That would be the easy way. I know I can do that. I have my daughters. I'm writing again, and I have yoga. Those things can be enough to bring me joy from time to time. Yet, I know in my heart of hearts that the easy way is not acceptable if I want to provide the right example to my girls. I don't want them to be ashamed or hide themselves from the world. Therefore, I cannot consider that an option for myself. I have to process this truth in a healthy way. So, the new work begins.
Like running downhill full force...
All things good are wild, and free. - Henry David Thoreau
On Friday, I will be going to interview and tour a cottage school that I am hoping will be a fit for my daughters come August. I'm relieved. I'm nervous. I'm hopeful. This is a big move for me. It means I am also looking for good full or part time employment outside of the home. A few weeks ago, I wrote of my plan to expand my horizons in juggling motherhood, work, and homeschooling, but I soon realized that I was still stuffing myself inside a box of expectations. I was continuing to hang on to these notions of what I should be doing as a person who chose motherhood and chose it completely. I still feared letting people down.
I don't fit inside any boxes. They cannot contain me. I will not allow them to contain me.
I visited my grandparents in South Carolina this weekend. My Papaw is very ill and so is my aunt. My Mamaw is holding her own and trying to not lose her cool. I can't imagine what she's feeling right now with a sick husband and daughter. We just lost my uncle, her son, three years ago. In the midst of all the emotion my family is processing, she sat me down to talk. She always sits me down to talk, without fail. I think this talk was the most powerful I have ever had with her. She told me it was time to step out, take care of me, and show my daughters what I'm capable of. In her nurturing sternness, she instructed me to not wait around another minute. That I must do what it takes to be fulfilled, independent, and in the world. She assured me that I am a good mother. I have done an amazing job with my daughters, and will continue to do so in whatever construct my family takes.
My grandmother spoke to me like a pioneer of feminine empowerment. She was a pioneer of feminine empowerment. Once she completed her education, she worked as a paralegal. Financial independence was always important to her. She gave to those in need. She fed and raised four children. She gave in expansive ways to her community through managing an outdoor theater, writing and telling our stories, genealogy, community service, and diligent, honest work within our justice system. If there is anyone to listen to at a time like this, it is her. As she spoke to me, she revealed that she saw and concerned herself with my lonesomeness and needless self sacrifice.
It's time I allow myself to be wild, and FREE.
Adventure. Excitement. A jedi craves not these things. - Master Yoda
This quote from the wise and infinitely old Yoda has always befuddled me. It felt like a let down. A jedi's life is anything but lacking adventure and excitement. Why should not one seeking these things become a jedi? It's only been the last couple of years that I really meditated on the meaning of these words. (As if Star Wars is the undistinguished instruction manual for life compared to sacred scripture.) I understand now. They don't crave it because in their acceptance of who they are the adventure and excitement find them. They don't have to seek it out, or make it for themselves. They just have to be. I am that I am. There are no exceptions. Acceptance is destiny.
I haven't failed because I'd like to send my children to school. It doesn't mean that I am weak because at this point in time I seek outside employment and independence. Changing plans and feelings is a healthy thing not to be feared, but embraced. The ability to change our minds is an outgrowth of freedom.
Small Town Ghost Town
My step-dad, Wiley Amburgey Jr., worked for the Whitesburg Post Office, the majority of his tenure being at the downtown location when it was the post office and not the tourism building. When I was little, going to town with Wiley was exciting. Me being a holler girl, the change of scenery was nice. There were a few locally owned shops - Hoover's, Dawhare's, Quillen's, and Craft's. The quaint, happy little restaurant and authentically eastern Kentucky and world-centric gift shop (the Courthouse Cafe and Cozy Corner) that was a creation of one of my first best friends mother finished off the corner with class. There was something to see always. The library was downtown. If nothing else, I could go in there and smell old books. My dad's apartment was at one time downtown. Caroline's Diner was there.
By the time I was in middle and high school, walking to town after basketball practice was a regular thing. The old railroad tracks led from in front of my school to town. I'd walk those, crossing the North Fork of the Kentucky River wide-stepping over cross-ties. I'd walk to Madison Ave. to the Appalshop hoping I'd see a friend hanging out waiting on a parent or a ride home. Town was a reprieve to a teenager.
I'm always thinking about how Whitesburg used to be and I think of the other surrounding small eastern Kentucky towns that are like ghost towns compared to they way they were when I was young - Neon, Hindman, and Jenkins. I wonder how to create a new town in those forgotten buildings and streets. A town that will reprieve my daughters one day. I thought about it again when I took a trip to two rural, small Kentucky towns in the central and western part of the state.
My sister and I went to Dinosaur World in Cave City with our children this passed Sunday. We had a lot of fun and saw other things we would have done had we had the time, but for every neat thing, there were two or three novelty businesses closed down. Cave City is home to Mammoth Cave and you can tell at one time it was bustling with tourist attractions.
Later in the week, we were in Calvert City and Draffensville near Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Again, I saw the emptiness. Many tourist driven businesses with closed doors. The shops that were open for the community seemed ran down and drab. For every business that appeared as if it were giving its best effort, there were as many more empty and deteriorating.
It brought me back to our little eastern Kentucky towns. A recent headline in our local newspaper The Mountain Eagle was "Coal employment down 70% here: 25 more lose jobs". With our local economy in swift decline and residents scrambling to make a life here or pack up and leave, it isn't a wonder that sometimes it feels like we are existing in the Twilight Zone when we walk down our main streets. Whitesburg can seem like a tiny oasis among the very small towns in the mountains. Adventurous folks are trying out new business. We are getting positive press (though it never seems to go beyond the "hey, look at this neat thing"). Yet, as many businesses on Main Street have closed doors as new doors are opened. The thing that the towns I visited had for them that we do not is they are off of major thoroughfares - easily accessible. Still, they are in major decline from the heyday.
I don't know if it is our collective American culture that is changing so that the interest in natural wonders and small town tourism isn't as wondrous as it was when I was small, or if it is our country's economic decline that is keeping people at home more. I consider that maybe the American spirit of entrepreneurship and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps is becoming lost as we become more technology driven and commerce and communication is changing within that landscape. It's that change that is getting at the heart of our small, rural businesses. I also believe that the desire to appear equal with the outside world drives where our local people shop and seek their entertainment. There's more excitement about a possible Target coming to Pikeville than any of the unique specialty eateries opening in their downtown.
As I begin making changes in my lifestyle toward being a working mother in the mountains, sustainability and happiness are always in the back of my mind. How best can I serve this community whilst I'm in it? What is my place here, and how will my daughters settle into their own? What will spring forth and what will remain as the whole country moves more toward the urban lifestyle? There's so many questions and possibilities. It's a brave new world among ghostly streets, lots of efforting and imagination, and many risks.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.