I am still in New Orleans. When I arrived, I was filled with elation to be in this city. Despite the circumstances, I was still swept away by this grand, gaudy, and grimy town. Crossing into the city limits was a figuratively intoxicating affair. Not long after that intoxication became a literal one. Two weeks later, I’m sitting in a dive bar staring at all its patrons with upmost disparagement. Not for them, but for myself. I’m still here. What am I still doing here? To that question, there are a multitude of answers. I’m still here because my sister Melissa will be in Florida on April 3rd. There is nothing I want more than to see her and her friend Jamie in St. Petersburg. I have calculated that it will take me roughly 9 days to ride there. So if I leave New Orleans on the 24th, I will synchronize my arrival with Melissa’s. So that’s why I’m still here. Another is Katie. Nearly every morning I walk her to work. And nearly every night I greet her from the same spot. My actions are not too dissimilar from that of a canine. At least a dog isn’t conscious of its submissive tendencies. But I enjoy the time I spend with Katie, and she tells me the same. I’ll have to take her word on that. However, every single day we have to reteach ourselves to emotionally detach from the other person. It’s a troublingly exhausting affair. Most trysts are. Our time is limited. We remind ourselves of that on an hourly basis. As a result, I feel that I have conditioned myself to remain constant in a self-generated state of emotional purgatory. Nasty business it is, really. I have convinced myself that I will not be alleviated from this state of mind until I extract myself from this city’s limits and from Katie. However, today is the 21st and I have three more days between me and my expected departure. I refuse to wait idly by and count the hours. As the great band Givers once sang, “Don’t get stuck in the meantime.” Pretty simple to comprehend, pretty difficult to apply. Nah, that’s bullshit. It’s easy to apply. Don’t get stuck in the meantime. Instead of staring at the calendar, anticipating the 24th, I will instead savor the final few days I have left in New Orleans and with Katie.
This bar is depressing. I just came for the Wi-Fi. Well, the Wi-Fi and the beer. These bars, they’re all the same. The tacky paraphernalia on the walls may differ, but the clientele always remains constant. A fly at the end of the bar makes sullen eye contact with me. One eye shouts cheerful numbness, the other cries out in agony. His face is the picture of misery. “Once they come down to New Orleans, they never leave. I think they put something in the water.” He points to his half drank beer. . I thought I’d be back on the road today.
A long time ago I rode out of my driveway and refrained from looking back. I was so naïve back then. I’m still naïve now; I was just naïve back then too. I had no idea what awaited me. Elation rooted itself in my mind that whole first day. I didn’t have a care in the world. I was probably the closest I was to sharing the same mindset as a child. They don’t worry about the past, they don’t care about the future, and they only concern themselves with the present. No worries, just freedom. Freedom of the mind. Freedom from the mind. We spend all our time as adults attempting to re-attain that mentality. Some find it, some think they’ve found it, and some give up on it. I had it. But I don’t have it right now. Not in this bar.
Katie lent me a book entitled The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I read the entire book at the bar. It’s a self-titled ‘wisdom book’ There were a few things written in it I completely disagreed with. And at times I found his prose to be contradictory. Ruiz promotes the idea of personal freedom, but urges that it is unattainable without the help of God. But he also argues that everyone is God and holds the same power that we’ve deemed God to possess. Basically, he writes about four ways in which we can make ourselves better as human beings. Those are:
- Be impeccable with your words. (Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- Don’t take anything personally. (Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
- Don’t make assumptions. (Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
- Always do your best. (Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
I just realized that this is Tiffany Lamson’s copy of the book. Tiffany is the female vocalist/percussionist/guitarist of the band Givers. Six degrees ya’ll. I know I still have a lot of work to do in order to better myself. Maybe I could apply some of Don Miguel’s writing to my daily life. I don’t know. Maybe. It’s not easy carrying out these agreements. Don acknowledges that: “So if you fall, do not judge. Do not give your Judge the satisfaction of turning you into a victim. No, be tough with yourself. Stand up and make the agreement again.” One thing’s for sure, over the course of the next three days, I’m certainly not going to get stuck in the meantime. A band just started performing. They’re playing some muddy jazz. I’m going to tap my feet and nod my head in approval.
“If you do your best in the search for personal freedom, in the search for self-love, you will discover that it’s just a matter of time before you find what you are looking for. It’s not about daydreaming or sitting for hours dreaming in meditation. You have to stand up and be a human. You have to honor the man or woman that you are. Respect your body, enjoy your body, love your body, feel, clean, and heal your body. Exercise and do what makes your body feel good” –Don Miguel Ruiz
That was probably the most enlightening passage I took from the text. One must pursue. You cannot sit idly by and expect progress to occur without your hand. You must pursue it. I will pursue these final three days in New Orleans. I will pursue the present. There’s no time for the meantime.
I laugh more often now.
I cry more often now.