I am at a point in my life that I did not think and did not know I could reach. It’s a place where, for the first time in a long time, there is more open road ahead of me than broken road behind me. And it’s great to be able to taste the flavor of potential again. The sweet feeling of being able to do and accomplish whatever I want to do.
Speaking of sweet, I would like to take you back to last week. Lee and I went to visit her family in Headland, Alabama. Sweet home Alabama. Just 90 miles north of Tallahassee, Columbia is a quiet town in a quiet corner of the South. I was nervous at first to go visit her family, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But the visit was more than I thought it would be.
We stayed with Lee’s Aunt Mary and Uncle Terry. A more hospitable couple you will never meet. Not only did they take us in with open arms, they did something better than treat me like a guest in their home. They treated me like family. And if you’ve ever lived in the South, you know exactly what I mean. That feeling of family togetherness is something wholly unique to the Bible Belt, and it was wonderful to share that experience with Lee.
I was also able to meet Lee’s sister and brother-in-law, Tammy and Heath, her cousin Denise, and a handful of her friends from back home. Everyone was just so great, and I am looking forward to going back again sometime soon. Hopefully, we will be able to stay longer than just a weekend. Besides, I need to catch that sunuvagun catfish that kept tormenting me that Saturday morning. I would explain in greater detail, but that requires a whole blog entry unto itself.
Fast forward a bit to Thursday night. Lee and I were at the House of Blues in Orlando for – you guessed it – another Sister Hazel concert. Our eighth in 10 months, and this show was just as amazing as all the other ones. If anything, Thursday’s show was so much greater because it was an event to raise money for Lyrics for Life. In addition to their performance, Sister Hazel shared the stage with Emerson Hart (of Tonic), Jason Ross (of Seven Mary Three) and Aslyn. The format was arranged so that it was not one performer followed by another. Rather, Sister Hazel sang songs with each individual artist and each singer was able to do a couple of their own songs solo. It really was a great, great show.
I need to take a minute to thank Otis and Ffej, two loyal and popular Hazelnuts, who gave us the sweet VIP hookup for the show. We were able to get into the HOB before doors actually opened, and we were also able to take part in the free beer available with the passes. Lots and lots of beer was consumed that evening, and I tip my hats to Big O and the J-Man (I just made those nicknames up). <Thanks again, fellas. You guys rock!> The following night several Tampa area Nuts got together to celebrate the birthday of a fellow SH fan. For me, it was 2 days of taking part in lots of Hazelove with all of our newfound friends.
So I look back at this week and all the wonderful feelings that were felt and experienced and shared. I look back at the events over the past seven days and I smile as I think of the stretch of emotional highway that has gotten me here. I take a deep breath as I compare the feelings of freedom and opportunity that I have at this moment to the myopic and suffocating thoughts I carried just last December. I allow myself to feel proud that in six months I am able to think what I now think and believe in something I thought I lost a long time ago.
The open road I see now is made possible by several things. The first is, and always will be, my kids. I know that if I did not have them, I would have given up on everything at the first opportunity. Next is Lee. I think about a future with her and I smile. I think about continued visits to Miami and Alabama, and it fills my heart with warmth. I dream about my family becoming hers and vice versa, and I am reminded that in many ways this has already happened.
Lastly, my new horizon is made possible by the entire Hazelnut community. I can’t even begin to accurately describe what it’s like to take part in something as wonderful and special as being a Hazelnut. It can’t be explained, only experienced. The truly amazing aspect of it all is how the music of five down-to-earth guys has inspired thousands of individuals to come together as family. I am blessed to be a part of it all, and I am honored to be able to share myself with them.
I saw the sun set on my life late last year, and I thought it was all over. However, I neglected to remember that with every sunset there is a sunrise, and with the help and support of my kids, Lee and all those Nuts, I will never lose sight of that again. The sunset may give way to the night time, but in order to get through the darkness you must always continue chasing daylight!