I was going to write this blog post about the fabulous trip I took to New Orleans this past week. But then I realized my June post was about going to New York City to receive an award, and my July post was about going to the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas, and if I posted about yet ANOTHER wonderful trip, it was going to seem like I had the most perfect little life ever!!
But that's not exactly the whole story.
Because the truth is I got divorced last December, and the carefully constructed life I'd spent the past 20 years building fell apart. The reason that I went to New Orleans was that my ex-husband was taking the kids to Disney World and I didn't want to be sitting at home alone.
But that's not exactly the whole story either, because that makes me sound like a sad victim. And in many ways, things are better now, they really are. Without going into the details of the divorce, now my ex can be who he really is. He's no longer angry at me and the world for reasons I can't understand. Now we're co-parents, and dare I say it, friends, or something close enough to it.
Even our kids seem okay, my older daughter telling my mom, "I'm so lucky to have two parents who love me so much!" Though I have to admit, sometimes it breaks my heart that my younger daughter will never really remember us living all together.
No matter what you say, it's never exactly the whole story.
In any case, I've had to accept that life is full of changes, some you see coming, and some that rock you so much all you can do is hang on. I've been trying to cling to the virtues of compassion (both for myself and others) and resilience. Sometimes I do better than others.
Which brings me back to freedom. One good thing about my situation is that I've had more free time, more freedom than I've had in years. So I'm trying to use it, whether it's learning to salsa dance, or making new friends, or going to New Orleans. The truth is, I didn't decide to take a trip by myself just because I didn't want to sit at home alone. I also went because a long time ago I decided I wanted to visit all 50 states. I put that dream away for a while, but I'm dusting it off again. Louisiana was number 49.
And I had a great time. From talking to a woman on the plane who gave me lots of tips about where to go, to listening to a crazy (yet fabulous) Russian guy singing in a packed club, to having beignets with a couple about to graduate from college, to sipping a glass of wine in a piano bar in a candlelit building built in the 1770s, to taking a streetcar, to thinking about the death and birth of dreams in one of those New Orleans cemeteries. And yeah, did I feel a pang where I saw those romantic couples walking hand and hand down the street? Yep, I sure did. But that wasn't the whole story. Sometimes I felt happy and sometimes I felt lonely, sometimes I laughed and sometimes I cried, but it was a wonderful, complex, marvelous trip. I didn't squander or waste or curse my freedom, and I have to admit, that felt really good.
So next summer, I'll see you in North Dakota!