While we often joke about me being an introvert, I am one – and that comes with certain needs. Last year, Dave sent me on a trip with a good friend for a few days. Sheer bliss! Seeing the impact that retreat had on me, he decided to make it an annual thing. I’m astounded at his generosity and my good fortune. This year, I went to Asheville solo.
It’s been a frenetic spring after a very busy year, and even finding the time to get away was pretty tough. That said, finding myself alone in an airport and slipping into my own personal silence and space felt incredible. Arriving, finding my way through the airport into my rental car, and navigating my own trip from Charlotte was like having somebody rip two pieces of Velcro apart. Maggey the mom, wife, employee, and Maggey the traveler are different pieces of the same person. I haven’t used my solo skills in a while.
As I coasted along the highway, admiring North Carolina’s beautiful forests and hills, I reveled in the freedom of driving a tiny car as a single person and making all of the decisions about where that car would go. I usually travel with a plan or at least a few significant itinerary anchors. And always with an extraordinary collection of carseated backseat drivers. For this trip, I had none. I stumbled across a road sign for Chimney Rock, and without thinking took the exit. Roadsigns from that point on were almost nonexistent, as was cell service.
At first, it made me nervous to be flying blind down a tiny road. How could this possibly be going anywhere?! Every time I was looking for a turnaround, I stumbled across another sign promising progress. I found my way to Lake Lure, which I’d never even heard of. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen, and reminded me of one of my favorite places in the world in Austria. I hit a huge traffic backup, and finally realized it was from Memorial Day in two tiny towns. I shrugged. It occurred to me, as I contemplated getting lost in the countryside, that I can’t be late for a nonexistent agenda. Being late would just be part of my trip. So I, the queen of road rage, settled in to the long line of sluggish cars creeping down to one lane road.
When I got to Chimneyrock, heavy clouds were looming overhead. I went into the national park anyway, and had a great little trek to see a beautiful waterfall. As the storm broke, I headed back onto the road. I coasted just ahead of the storm all the way to Asheville. I got settled at the massive hotel, parked myself in front of the window with a book, and enjoyed the mountains and trees and sun on storm clouds.
On the ride, I unpacked a lot of my stress from the last few months and sorted some of it out. Close to Charlotte, I drove past the town where the twin boys who were not ours live. The last time we were here, I was hoping for family. It came; just not the way we expected. I feel no pain driving past that town, just a sense of what might have been. I drove through landscape that reminded me of a great love, who is no longer with us. I mourned him and the life he might’ve had, but felt no wrenching heartache there either. Another plot line that ended.
I contemplated that Velcro feeling, in the sense of aloneness and liberation that came from it. It reminded me of Shell Silverstein’s book, “The Missing Piece”. As a kid, his story irritated me immensely. Of course a circle missing a piece was incomplete! Why would the circle, who spends the whole story seeking the missing piece, separate from it after finding it and feel happier? That makes no sense! And yet here I am, away from the family that I treasure and a life that satisfies me beyond all expectation, reveling in my solitude. I too chose to part from my “completion” for a short while.
Apparently, I wasn’t meant to understand that story until now. My family completes me and makes me whole, as does my entire life these days. Still, traveling alone reminds me that I do exist completely as just myself. Stepping away from the intricate web that is our schedule, being beholden to no one but myself, eating at odd hours and breaking a book open at a historical treasure – That independence is the greatest luxury I have today. Nowhere in the story did it say the incomplete circle and its missing piece couldn’t find each other again a short while later.
The kids and Dave and Elise are doing great. (It helped that Sassy brought over enough food to feed them for a month!) The kids ask about me, but aren’t surprised to hear I’m away for a few days and aren’t traumatized. Dave gets to nerd out with his buddies all week long in the evenings, which is how he recharges. He’s delighted! And I am still enjoying all of my alone time. The luxury of silence, the lack of social expectation, the ability to go to bed at 9:30 or 2 AM. It’s divine.
By the time I head back, I guarantee you I will be missing my family fiercely, and I’m already full of new ideas for work. But right now, as I gaze out my picture window at the mountains at the end of a day of exploration, I am enjoying missing a piece for just a little bit longer.
Update: sorry for the delayed post! I came home to a whirlwind of family: snuggles, dinners, swimming, and griffin’s first haircut! It’s been wild.