I had a dream last night in which I was in some kind of school/college setting, and everyone else was wearing blue plastic watches given to them by the school, but I didn't have one as I'd just arrived somehow. I took my place at the end of a long conference-type table with all the other students, and tried to figure out what was going on and how to catch up.
At 5am the sounds of the highway next to us started to pick up, and I woke for the first time, the dream nearly drifting away from me completely. Daylight? Why was there warm light seeping through the mini blinds? I rolled over and pried two slats apart with barely functional fingers, and then remembered … we're camped in the WalMart parking lot … the lights never do go off, do they? The lights themselves weren't actually visible as the window was covered in beaded moisture, some of it drifting in rivulets down the pane. A night's worth of breath, condensed and pooling in the window frame. I felt hungry, slightly stirred up, and a bit adrift. Should I get up? Go back to sleep? How cold is it out there now anyway? I picked up my phone and wasted some of the last of its battery life checking the weather. Summersville WV, 21 degrees, but feels like 17.
I chose to haul myself out from under the two wool blankets, cotton quilt, and sheet that keep us toasty on most nights, flipped the covers back down so both Michael and my side of the bed would stay warm and Sparrow wouldn't be covered, and padded to the bathroom, past the green-wrapped bodies of my gangly boys half falling out of their bunks. A pretend flush (you hope you've peed enough to send the toilet paper down without any added water), and I scuttled back to bed, the camper swaying slightly with each step as we hadn't bothered to put down the stabilizers for one night and were still hitched to the truck.
Back to sleep? Why that dream? And the other really bizarre one about part of my toe falling off? Really? I want to write. I need to write. I wish I could write in my head while I half-sleep in that delicious skid towards the deep trenches of rest where you're too far under to dream, and then have it magically transfer itself into a word .doc the next morning. I need to tell the stories, and need to have them read. I don't know where I fit anymore. I haven't a community. Not one I can see, or one that sees me regularly at least, and worries if I don't show up. I feel utterly invisible, except when I blog. Or Instagram. Or post on Face Book. I have incredibly great conversations at every house we stop at, and love every minute of it. Then we move on.
I bring bits of each person along with me … snippets of conversation, memories, recipes, advice, new books to read, things to pray for, and the feeling that I was truly part of their household for awhile. Let in both the heart door and the back door. All in … briefly a very real part of their daily lives, and not just walking past the warm window casting its glow into the dusk, wondering how that family lived and what went on in their house. I can't tell you how many windows I've wondered over in my almost 45 years, it's tens of thousands by now I think. And now I'm actually getting into some of those living rooms, and it's the most fascinating thing ever. A growing trail of places that I know, and people that I love, from the inside.
So why am I dreaming about nondescript school life and feeling behind? Perhaps I have an inkling that living sans-watch, as we do now, is going to make it hard to integrate again into a more fixed life. So be it, but the watch was only part of it. They'd all been together for some period of time, doing life together, and I was just arrived. It's the community that I miss I think. The knowledge that I'm a part of some greater collection than just us four, and that I have a meaningful part in it. I have no doubt that I DO have that, I just can't see it at the moment. Can't feel it a lot of the time, either. It's a new kind of lonely. It always happens, and I just now realized that's part of the process going on in my heart. The more the love, the more the potential for feeling alone. It's happened at with marriage, kids, and how this. I'm stealing from one campfire to the next, taking treasures with me, and my heart now knows exactly what it feels like to stand in Jane's kitchen and chop carrots next to the sink while she stirs the stew and I watch her neighbors run their dogs in the twilight. It knows that Erica's probably planning her outing for Wednesday, and putting Kayla to bed in the next 20 minutes. That John's puttering around his basement getting tools for some project, and Marcie's taking the dogs out for the last time before bed, shivering in the cold but not quite ready to put on a winter jacket. The list is endless, the heart is stretching yet again.
I can't see the whole picture. I feel it being stitched together though, with heart strings and prayer bits and smashed fingers and new understandings and shared lives … I just have to get my bearings a bit every time the scene changes. Figure out how to assimilate what I gained, process what it all means, and check that my heart is intact and my mind still my own. I'm a fitter-inner, and historically have played the chameleon a bit if I'm not sure how my opinions will be received. This no longer works, and in some ways the constant scene-changes are facilitating the growing tendency to speak my mind. I'm just not sure what it's doing to the whole story. The one I'm writing without words, but with my life. I like to KNOW, and this I can't. I like to feel SURE, and that's now reserved for the fewest of the few things. I like to BELONG, but am leery of being boxed in or judged. So I'm gathering up the warmest stones and most interesting bits of fireside chat and relationship gold, and praying that when they're no longer wet from the current (and tears) of this journey, that I'll find them even more worthy of carrying onward.
I did go back to sleep, woke once more to eat a banana in the half dark, and then slept again till just before 8, when a brilliant sunrise started drying up the condensation on Michael's window and warming the room up a bit.