Fact: Texas is more than 268,000 square miles. I can drive for hours in any direction and still be in Texas. This is precisely what I did yesterday. I took a “Texcursion.” Otherwise known as a day trip. As a Texas native, I am pretty accustomed to the idea of driving at least half an hour one way to get where I need to go, so a 2 or 3 hour drive really isn’t anything. I know that may not be the case for my readers in other states and countries. For many, a 2 or 3 hour drive means landing in a different state or country, so it really is exploring from the outside. But, for me, everything yesterday was previously charted territory. I’ve had almost 30 years of Texas exploration. But, I was determined to make yesterday’s trip different. So, I changed my approach.
This was the first stretch of my trip but in total I was on the road about 3.5 hours, one way. I went to see a piece of property in far East Texas where there are these beautiful green pine trees and bunches and bunches of colorful wildflowers. In the past, I would make this drive and fail to really appreciate the scenery. I would drive as fast as I could to get where I wanted to go and then drive as fast as I could to get home to my cats and my bed. Probably the need for speed was a need to get away from my own head.
Speaking of which, because I have had some issues with being in my head lately, the prospect of 3 uninterrupted hours of thinking time was a little daunting, even though I love road trips. In order to not dwell in the dark corners of my mind I decided to approach the drive from the perspective of someone who has never been to Texas before. This was a surprisingly easy task, despite having made this particular drive about a dozen times before.
The first thing I noticed, tons of BBQ signs:
I have a mostly vegetarian diet so I guess it never occurred to me to pay attention to these signs before but when I was looking for things that are “distinctly Texas” this stood out. There was a BBQ place on almost every exit.
And, of course, the quintessential Texcursion is not complete without cows:
This photo pretty much epitomizes East Texas: cows, trees, water, flat land, and blue skies. Not so bad, huh? We also, of course, have lots of horses here but no, we don’t typically ride them to work or school or the store (though, yes, sometimes that does happen):
These I took while making a stop at what used to be Serenity Horse Haven, a non-profit horse rescue. They had to shut down because of lack of funding but they still have a passion for animals. They kept the horses and now also have ducks, chickens, and a turkey:
Looking at Texas through the lens of someone who might be looking for the stereotypes I definitely get how Texas got its reputation. It is really sort of fascinating to be able to step back and see one’s own home this way. I’ve never actually felt much appreciation for the beauty of this state but it kind of does have some things going for it:
Those are some of my favorites: wildflowers, sunsets over water, and tree lined roads. The tree lined road actually led me to this tiny cemetery which was probably one of the most moving parts of my trip. Maybe that’s weird but there was something about stopping a moment and appreciating the lives that others have lived or the lives they never got the chance to live.
There were so many stories contained there which to me is an incredibly beautiful thing, even though some of those stories were painful to think about, particularly the grief that must have been felt by the parents of lost infants. Below are some of the photos from that part of my trip (maybe you too want to take a moment, appreciate how we are all cosmically linked, and wish these souls peace and rememebrance?):
I hate to sound cliche but something about contemplating the lives of these strangers gave me greater appreciation for my own life. It made me, at least briefly, give thanks that I still had more story left in me, despite my recent efforts to end the story on my own terms.
And, of course because the child that lives inside me was at the point of asking “are we there yet”, what I decided to do with that story in those moments was enjoy some delicious, sweet treats. There is too much uncertainty in life to always deprive ourselves of the things that make us happy. And, you know what? Cookies make me happy! So I indulged at one of my favorite little bakeries:
Collin Street Bakery, not actually on Collin street; they’re known for their ice box cookies… whatever that means. The cookies are delicious, regardless. I bought like 3 of every kind. I have no regrets.
I think all of that, yesterday, was exactly what I needed to hit the reset button on the mental health issues I have been experiencing recently. Of course, it wasn’t like an easy button where I’m magically all better; the deep well of sadness is still there, but I kind of get the whole mindfulness thing now. Just being in the moment, noticing, looking at life from a different perspective, it made a difference. I noticed myself starting to go to the dark place on my way home (because it was too dark outside to do any of the noticing) but I was able to talk myself down. I reminded myself of all the things I did that day. I reminded myself that sometimes we don’t have answers in life and that is okay. I reminded myself that I am the kind of person who generally thinks people are inherently good, so even when my mind wants me to think they have ill-intentions, probably they don’t. And most importantly, I was able to remind myself that pain is only temporary.
It is so much easier to grasp that physical pain is temporary because I have experienced that pain ending. It really has a concrete beginning and ending that can be marked. I realize that emotional pain doesn’t work that way. It is harder to believe that the deep well of sadness won’t last forever but I was able to experience happy moments and reflective moments yesterday and maybe that’s what it really means for emotional pain to not last forever. It isn’t that it goes away, it is just that we find ways to carve out some sweetness and peace in the midst of the storm.