January 3, 2015 — One weekend day a month I travel to Emergency Rooms at outlying hospitals for my job. I work for an addiction and mental health treatment hospital. My Department is a liaison between those who refer patients and the hospital’s intake team.
Yesterday I went to south central Illinois. I hadn’t been in that area for some time. I relied on maps to get me from Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Indiana, across the Wabash River to Olney, and ultimately, Fairfield, Illinois.
The day was sunny. I enjoy being “in the field” as the sales jargon calls it, and it was a good day. After Olney, the GPS system routed me on a county road. I was surprised and somewhat uneasy. The vulnerability was a new feeling for me — a child of the great rural Midwest. As a teen, I drove my parent’s big Chevys all over northeastern Indiana on paved and unpaved roads in Whitley County. As a young mother, I carpooled all over rural Warrick County for Scouts and other events until my son could drive.
What was missing was a sense of control fostered by any knowledge of where I was.
As I moved south on that county road, houses were farther apart. Many natural gas or oil wells punctuated the scenery of fields harvested last fall and now fallow. Random mobile homes dotted the landscapes, surrounded by big trucks, satellite dishes, and crumbling barns. I was uneasy by the rushing waters of the Embarrass River and surrounding creeks that swelled banks and flowed for miles on either side of Highway 50.
Never much to celebrate the New Year, I had an epiphany of sorts as I spent more than twenty miles in this rural, desolate unfamiliar area.
Life is like this Saturday journey. We do our best to plan ahead and control the route. But, honestly, there’s no planning you can do. As prepared as you think you are, a strange path always appears. Friends and family are walking unfamiliar roads now. Roads caused by illness, infidelity, poverty, depression, substance abuse, and loss.
I make this analogy as I see these issues and concerns present to loved ones every day. I attribute it all to my age, but I know it is just life. The other shoe is always waiting to drop. I’m an optimist, and that might sound like a pessimistic viewpoint. I’m also a realist. Cliche or not, we only get one chance at this. We clutch our maps and our helps to our chest, and we move forward every day. We’re wary of the country roads and even unpaved dusty country roads ahead of us.
A piece I saw on Facebook the other day resonated with me, and I’m sharing it now as my pathetic two days after New Year’s message. Peace be with you for the new year. Get your maps ready. When led down a strange road, hang on tight.
Cross-posted at Blog Her