A Book Title - More Than Meets the Eye

 

 A Book Title

More Than Meets the Eye

 

the book

( photo & design by Webchick Web Services LLC, Lancaster OH )

           

            Often there is more to a book title than meets the eye, which only becomes apparent following a conscientious reading of the work.  I recently published Hitting the Road Without a Map . . . and other miscalculations.  The title was an attempt to somehow convey the nature of the book to a casual browser during the brief seconds their eyes may stray across it - so this one is probably about travel and apparent mistakes.  Originally, the title was RV Trip West, with the final published title serving as the subtitle.  That first title iteration certainly indicated what the primary subject was about, but it failed to allude to the critical subtexts – hence the subtitle.  A publisher who rejected the manuscript used the subtitle when referencing the book in an encouraging note sent to explain that while they enjoyed the chapters submitted, the subject matter was not what their publishing house focused upon.  It struck me that this was actually the better title.

 the story behind the book

             An acquaintance of mine offered to drive a mutual friend’s giant RV from Ohio to Oregon, providing she had not managed to sell it before she moved to the Pacific Northwest, and suggested I go along.  As it turned out, the beast did not sell as quickly as hoped, and she did need to have the RV moved to her new home so she could sell it there.  That was the genesis of a trip which may or may not have been required.  I thought the journey would be interesting, if to no one other than me, no matter what transpired.  So, I decided to keep a journal along the way to facilitate writing an essay about the trip, as a personal record of the experience, upon my return.

            We literally hit the road without the benefit of an actual map because the whole undertaking came about so quickly.  But within the first day it became obvious that we needed a plan better than the hubris of self-confidence and a na├»ve reliance upon modern technology.  A serious navigational error had been made.  While the mission of the trip remained the same, in spite of this error, its nature shifted.  Having acquired a Rand McNally Road Atlas to avoid future navigational faux pas, the task of getting from Point A to Point B remained, however, our attitude and approach to completing that task changed dramatically.  This psychological upheaval transformed the job from resolutely hurtling down the highway toward our perceived endpoint into an unscripted journey full of opportunities.  Along the way, other challenges cropped up involving mechanical breakdowns, weather surprises, and personal issues.  We approached all these issues with the same open-mindedness, and the outcomes were truly transformative.

            The trip essay morphed into a much larger story.  My wife encouraged me write a book about the whole experience, for she could see that something had changed in me, and it was good as well as important.  What happened was much more than merely racking up miles and checking off states.  Obviously, those were major aspects of the trip, but an equally and more profound personal journey was about consciously incorporating a fresh attitude and outlook on life into my very being.  The situations encountered created a platform for me to put various philosophical and spiritual beliefs into practical and sustained use.  An internal transformation took root in me which resulted in a deeper and profound inner peace which has never left.  My co-driver spoke of having a similar experience.  The published book touched upon all these aspects in order to explain why the journey was important.  However, I essentially wrote a travel story, but time and contemplation has revealed deeper meanings to the title – and therein lies the real story.

 deeper meanings

             Some vague direction, or objective, is nominally sufficient to make a start on most of life’s endeavors. That vagueness leaves room for spontaneity and improvisation as new information or situations are encountered – providing one is willing to be flexible.  Those who bend with life tend not to be broken by it.  Expectations and preconceptions stifle our ability to see other possibilities, for those positions allow no room for anything other than the goal.  On a typical trip, for example, firm plans and expectations stipulate that if it is Tuesday we should be at such and such place, or the night will be spent at a specific location.  When that does not happen, we usually get upset or frustrated because our tightly held goals have not been achieved.  This is especially true if money or an appointment is involved.  The feelings of disappointment and displeasure are the result of not getting our way and refusing to accept things as they are. 

            The trip described in the book began with a goal but had virtually no plan.  When we hit the road, we did not have an exact end location nor a firm delivery date for the vehicle we were driving.  Instead of feeling frustrated or fearful due to the lack of details, it was a liberating experience which we embraced, and we ran with it.  Granted, it was not a normal situation, but the personal knowledge and deep understanding we acquired can be conscientiously put to practical use on a daily basis.

            “Mindfulness,” or “living in the now,” is a challenging concept to incorporate into our everyday lives because it runs counter to many of the action-oriented and high achievement messages society and our careers bombard us with.   We are perplexed as to why life feels like such a struggle or why we often feel disappointed and frustrated much of the time – basically we feel trapped, and out of choices.  The situations and realities my partner and I encountered on our trip presented us with the choice to either live day by day, and accept each moment, or to fight the changing circumstances.  The full impact of choosing a mindful attitude, as a true asset, hit us many times during our trip.  Resistance was futile.  Yet how often in our daily lives do we expend great emotional energy trying to bend life and situations to our will?  I still do that, though much less so now, for I am more in touch with the possibilities of choices in my life today.  As long as I maintain a spiritual consciousness, and am not being guided by my own self-will, choices are revealed in an almost intuitive manner.

            The letting go of internal and external struggles, whenever possible, has yielded a deeper inner peace.  A sense of calming trust fills me when I try to be more in harmony with the world, and thus I find myself on a more spiritual plane and aware of a Universal force, or God if one so choses, which flows through everything.   I do not have to agree with everything, nor do I have to like everybody, but I do have to accept what is before me – and what is before me does not necessarily last forever.

            These deeper connections of living were present in my life long before the trip and the book.  I did have some understanding of these principles for living and had tried to utilize them to some degree over many years, but I was rarely consistent about it.  However, I did not fully grasp how necessary this attitude was for my peaceful coexistence with all aspects of the world about me.  This trip forced me to be acutely aware of each minute, hour, and day - and I made the conscious decision to be wholly present, welcoming, and mindful as life revealed itself moment by moment.  That was when a deeper spiritual connection was made for me.  The goal now is to maintain and strengthen that connection each day.  Spiritual growth, on a daily basis, had been one of my objectives for many years – the trip expanded my consciousness a lot further as to its practical application to all life situations.

 other issues – relationships & fear

             Another subtext to my book was dealing with fear – my own fears, as well as those of my wife, and navigating a relationship under stress.  Fear is not something society seems to be comfortable with admitting, let alone discussing, even though it is embedded within us all.  Our decisions and relations get distorted as we try to hide the fear from ourselves and others by refusing to acknowledge it.  Regarding the story in the book, my fears were many, starting with whether I could even drive a huge RV, as well as what it would be like to live in such a small space for days on end with someone I barely knew, with no way out.  Virtually everything about the proposed trip seemed to knock me out of my comfort zones and routines.  Meanwhile, my wife feared the trip would somehow negatively impact our relationship.  Then, while I was on the road, she experienced a frightening medical issue.  She had to cope with it all alone and was upset that my absence placed her in that position. These fears impacted how we communicated with each other until we confronted them and honestly discussed what was going on within each of us.

 moving beyond the book title

             A fuller understanding of the impact of what transpired has taken time and has been another journey all its own, which continues to this very day.  This is what my book is about even though I did not hammer away at it.  Instead, I touched upon it lightly.  From having the strength to hit the road without a map, then accepting we may not know everything, and were probably way off track meant the decision to literally buy a map was not a hard one.  Armed with the facts, we then weighed the options whether to expend time and energy to get back on a more expected route or use the error to embark on a completely different path.  The next spiritual reality check was to make sure we did not embrace the new path so tightly so as to be reluctant to change course once again if circumstances, or other miscalculations warranted it – or if further options just struck our fancy.         

            Life is to be lived and enjoyed.  There are sorrows and disappointments, and we have to accept them – not fight them.  Each day I must endeavor to not manufacture impediments by holding on too strongly to perceptions and fears which may prevent me from appreciating the blessings from God.  I want to be intentionally aware of the wonder of living moment to moment.

            It is not necessary to take a trip to force us out of our comfort zones in order to experience challenges in our lives.  Daily living is all that is required to make a decision to alter our approach to the universe.  For some perverse reason, we humans tend to reach these conclusions through encountering pain in our lives, or some sort of crisis, which may then cause us to re-evaluate our concepts and attitudes about how we live – or double down on our dearly held concepts.  The choice is ours, and we must choose wisely.  The direction our lives take in the following moments will be as the direct result of our attitude, outlook, and the choices we make. 

            So, Hitting the Road Without a Map is a book title, an actual occurrence, plus a frame of mind or philosophy and outlook on life.  That is a lot of freight for a book title to attempt to convey.  It is up to the reader to resonate with the philosophical underpinnings, or simply enjoy a story about life on the road as experienced by two people rolling along many roads across the West. 

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