Into the Light


I’m in Brooklyn, trying to write in a hipster coffee shop, with alternative music blaring, where hipster types (if you’ve been to Brooklyn lately, you know what I mean) have flocked to sip iced coffee and get out of the heat. I don’t blame them, beastly hot here. Libby’s at my son Pat’s apartment around the corner. I was never so glad to see one of my kids in all my life! He’s working today, no wifi at his place unless you hang out the window…

Brooklyn Digs

My new view

so I gave up on that and actually came to the source of the wireless I was trying to get for free. Now I’m having separation anxiety from Libby.

I’m so damn emotional!! Is this what happens when somebody does a wild-ass thing like quitting your job and leaving your home and friends and family behind to set out on the road to revive your writer’s voice? Holy shit, it’s like a fucking roller coaster!

I got all choked up when I crossed the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn yesterday. I was so proud of making it even this far. I’d never driven into New York before and when I saw the Manhattan skyline it really got to me. Neither Libby nor the guy behind me gave a flip about my benchmark, as I wiped my eyes and got back to my GPS.

The other thing I was feeling satisfied about, I suppose, was fighting my way back from the dark side I’d slipped into, two stops back. The vulnerability, when you’re on the road alone, can swallow you up — physically, spiritually, emotionally. It started nicking me as far back as Akron. I’d had a great day, found so many nice folks at the dog park, but with the sun going down and understanding that they were going back to everything familiar and I was rolling along on through the night, it dogged me, kinda like whistlin’ past a graveyard. The next day, in Youngstown, I decided to stay over a 2nd night, to catch up on writing and besides, the place was just so damn nice….

Pool Closed for the Season

No dip at the EconoLodge.

But once the Puerto Rican bikers split….

Libby and Latin American Motorcycle Association Bikers

Viva El Camino

and the parking lot emptied out and it was just me and the Indian motel maid who talked about leaving his Labrador Retriever behind in India, I began to feel lonely, off the grid, off my pace, scared again. “What in the hell have I done?” I laid on the bed, crying, asking the dog. She had no answers.

Food, I thought. Food, that’s what I need. I haven’t eaten anything but a granola bar today. Cracker Barrel, surely there would be some comfort there. Nope. Made me feel worse, because the after Sunday church bunch was there, (honey, you should have SEEN the hats!) and while I don’t normally frequent Cracker Barrels on Sunday, (or ever…) the “normalcy” of it kinda smacked me down. There were FAMILIES there, normal people, husbands with wives, kids in strollers….and not too many 56-year-old women on a coast-to-coast sojourn with their mutt hound.

I ate my fried okra, I deflected, I slept it off — got on the road the next morning and headed to Philly, where I make a call to an old friend from the news biz, Matt, had not talked to him for seven years, and like the drop of a hat he says, “Stay with us tonight.” It was great! It felt so good to be in someone’s home and he and his wife are great, their kids, like poster children for adorable. Libby was in hog heaven and all over the couch.

Libby Hogging the Couch

Libby chillin’ on the couch

But I have to level with you, maybe I’m just a little raw on this journey, but their house was almost a carbon copy of the house we  used to live in in North Carolina, when our kids were little, back when we were a normal family too.

Being there was bittersweet — the same summertime routine I used to keep, library, swimming, family vacation coming up, it reminded me of what once was, back when we were innocent, my babies and me, back before the man of the house checked out, off the grid, sucked into the darkest corners of the web, and eventually into prison. Surviving it takes all your energy.

Sun-dappled Libby

Sun-dappled dog

The rear view mirror gives you perspective. I didn’t dwell on the loss, who has time when you’ve got four sets of eyes looking to you to make it all okay? But sometimes a person needs to feel how they feel.

We had it “all”; two good jobs, four great kids, a house in the burbs, mini-van in the drive, money in the bank, security, comfort. I was a good wife. I’m sure it crosses his mind, from time to time.

I focus on the road and keep driving.

About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Everyday’s a new adventure and just remember that while it might not be “normal”, you’re out there livin’ the dream you’ve had. Maybe it’s a little scary, but what’s scarier – being out there and exploring the world or being back here wishing you were out there? Just hang with it Jean! You can do this because life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving! Like Auntie Mame says, just get out there and LIVE!
    See for yourself!

    Hang in there, Jeaners!

  2. Jean, I am enjoying your adventures and as I read this blog I thought immediately that you really didn’t have it all-you just thought you did. Things were hidden and trust and betrayal were really just right under the surface. Now you are living your truth and I admire that you did it-you quit, you got in your car and hit the road with Libby. I can’t wait until you get to LA.

  3. Alysa S. says:

    If you have time and access to it online, I think you might like La Fontaine’s fable, “The Dog and the Wolf”. Freedom isn’t always something that goes hand in hand with comfort. And yet…so many of us wouldn’t want to live without it. I think of this journey you’re on every day, and sigh and wish I could do something similar. You go, and I think you are so much stronger than you know.