Sunday, December 09, 2018

Fifty Eight, subtitled: Dog Over Ice

Here we are at the end of another year which seemed to fly by in the blink of an eye. I usually don't read my previous posts because I dash them off and feel they are not well written - but I just went back and read my last one and I was surprised at how good it seemed! I know I have at least one reader who reads this blog to see how I'm doing in my life and I am here to report that things are going really really well! I am euphorically happy once it gets cold out and it has been nice and chilly here lately. I have a really fun job working with elections where I'm really busy and getting lots of socializing in with lots of young people as we drive around in vans all day visiting polling sites and troubleshooting issues they may have. It has been truly rewarding and I have been shown that it is possible to have a rewarding job outside of the Ice. The bottom picture is of me and some girlfriends at a Thanksgiving feast that I've been going to off and on for over 25 years here in Austin. It was a joyous day with hanging out with old friends and feasting on massive amounts of foods. Then I went to my old friend Ellen's sister's house and had fellowship with her family and in the evening went over to my high school friend's house and had a nice meal with him and his husband, followed by riding around on those little crazy scooters. The top photo is one I took of downtown Austin. Our downtown is now a glittering metropolis of high rises, and with 200 people a day still moving here the non-stop high rise and luxury apt building continues at a furied pace.

I spent about a week fretting about whether to renew my apt lease for another year or not. In the end I decided to do it as it felt like the most comfortable option. I still haven't sold my cabin in Oregon so that weighs heavily on me as it's costing me $600/month to sit empty. It will sell eventually, but probably not until springtime as the winter is a slow time on Mt. Hood. I do miss it sometimes, but I have so much more of a life here and unlimited activities per day of fun and enriching stuff to do. I knit and watch movies a lot while not at work, and go out to eat with friends a lot. I have a short trip planned to NYC in January so am thrilled about that. No big trips planned for next year, but I'm sure some stuff will come up as I will need to escape the heat of summer.

Probably the most exciting news is non-news and probably not too interesting to anyone but me, but it is around a topic that has the power to affect my whole psychological being; a subject that inspired the creation of this blog, and the thing, the place, the continent that is the love of my life. I seemed to have gotten to a place where I have accepted that I may or may not go back to the Ice and I am okay with for now not being there. This is huge, because I have been upset about it pretty much every season that I haven't deployed and I want to be bigger than that. I made a decision that I am not going to focus on where I am not but to really mine this place where I am for all of it's goodies. I have two amazing therapists/bodyworkers who I see who work mainly on the central nervous system and trauma, and the work I have done with them has made me so comfortable in my body and my skin, and happier with my life as it is unfolding day to day. For the first time in eights years (since I stopped going to the Ice for Fergus) I seemed to have let go of this big story I created that I cannot be happy if I am not on the Ice. Now for a while that was true. And I continued to go as long as I could until I made the choice of dog over Ice. And for four years I cried every fall (most of the rest of the year as well) that I didn't go and then I went in the fifth year and now I  have missed three more deployments but have matured my relationship with myself enough that I don't let myself go down the rathole of pining and FOMO and that my joy is down there and I have to suffer here. I changed the story, and my nervous system went online with the new story - and the new story is I love and miss the Ice with all my heart and soul. I diligently apply for jobs every year and if I don't get a job I allow myself to feel the disappointment and then I immediately turn my thoughts to the life I am currently living and dive into all the good stuff about that. I have to mentally do gratitude lists and I write about all the good things in my paper diary (even though I rarely post here I do write for an hour or two almost every day in an old school diary). The whole process was sort of like a psychological and spiritual exercise on acceptance and letting go - two things which are not easy for me at all, as I feel that everything I've gotten in my life is through dogged determination and a rabid single-minded focus on the goal. I am glad that I have this part of my personality but around the Ice I've had to let it go and I may use it to pursue other goals. The two years I have spent in Austin have helped me fine tune and mature some aspects of my's happened through a lot of hard work on my part. 

Thankfully, I love hard work.

I thought "dog over ice" sounded cool as I saw I had written it above so went ahead and stuck in into the title. I have been thinking about getting another dog lately. I spend a lot of time alone and don't date and don't get any physical touch in my life. A dog supplies a lot of love and oxytocin. But when I think back ( and read back) and how terribly upset I was during the four years I chose to stay with Fergus and not deploy, I'm still not sure it was the right choice. Sure I loved that little guy to death and was very happy to be there with him when his little heart stopped beating, but the tradeoff seemed too high at times (this sounds like literally word for world something I have written here before). Yes I could have given him to a any of the several people who offered to care for him during that period, but I felt committed to sticking it out with him. I never want to be in that position again, so I will wait until I am sure the Ice is a part of my past...but if there is any possibility that I could go back, I would drop everything today and go. I would drop everything and go.

So excited to go out and spend all day running around Austin on this 45F degree day to do fun things!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Baltics & Beyond

This is my first real post of 2018...the previous two posts were dashed off quickly and not posted when they were written months ago as I felt they were so rough and unedited, but I have felt so self conscious about this writing lately that I haven't been writing at all and it has affected my soul...this little semi-dead blog calls out to me and wants my attention and I have been ignoring it...seeming to go through a period of embarrassment about exposing myself in this way, which never bothered me in the past. I'm just going to try and work this out as I write it now...which is a technique that has been serving me since the late 60's...writing has always connected me to the most solid part of myself.

I've been in Austin almost two years now and the quality of my life is better and I think I am happier in a surfacy way, but I still really miss the intense work/lifestyle/meaning provider of working on the Ice. I have pretty much always been able to count on travel as getting me back to my center of joy but I've had a few experiences this year that have upended that theory. I just got back from a Baltic cruise where I went to all the Scandinavian capitals and Russia and I was not able to contact that giddy fun part of me that is euphorically happy on trips without fail. It just didn't happen this time. And it did not happen in Taos in May, which was really disappointing. I'm lying when I say it was disappointing because what it was was scary. To have had a miserable experience in Taos and then a grin and bear it trip to the most beautiful place in the world has upended my sense of who I think I am and what I was counting on to get me through the next 30 years....maybe I'm being too dramatic, and probably am, but it was really chilling to spend six grand and not really have that great a time, and really couldn't wait to come back home - which has NEVER happened to me. Is this little crumbling apt in central Austin really my "home?" There are other things that have happened this year that I cannot talk about here, but they may have contributed to this change in my psyche and it may be that my priorities are changing and that that is actually a good thing. I did notice that I was having a hard time letting myself have a good time, and that is an old way of being for me that I thought was gone forever. I feel like I am going backwards in confidence and bravery instead of forwards. There's a small sense of feeling defeated, that I might be trying to recreate something that doesn't exist anymore, and I can only guess that that comes from not deploying the last few years. It could be as simple as a low level long grieving of not having something in my life anymore that I loved beyond imagining. I still think about it everyday. I still apply for jobs and pursue leads there on a frequent basis.

As the words tumble out I am feeling better...since I learned how to write words on paper they have always set me straight. I don't know who reads this anymore and I'm assuming nobody does and that gives me a certain amount of freedom to just be as gutted as possible. I have been doing a couple of types of body therapies that have gotten me so sensitive that that might have contributed to this self consciousness. I have been working a lot in Austin and that has been good, and one of the little bright spots is serving at the homeless shelter, which may be having a bigger alchemical affect on my being than I may realize. As I was on this cruise being swathed in luxury and indulged by the gracious staff, there was a nagging feeling of boredom and play acting on my this scenario had been working for me for about 10 years but it's not really working anymore and some aspects of my travel life need to really be revamped and fine tuned. I may need my travel to include service from now on, but since I don't like going to hot places that is really limiting me a lot..and every place is hot now! Moscow was sweltering! I almost got heat stroke in Helsinki! WTF northern Germany heat wave!

Something new and awesome in my life is the IDW...a big new world of intellectualism that I was starved for and have at least one friend to talk about it with. I am going to Taos in 12 days and it is going to be better than in May when I was going through something really really painful that I cannot talk about here - mainly  because I'm not sure what it was really about. It is good to go back though and have this constant in my life for 20 is probably childish to think that every trip overseas and every painting workshop will be deliriously happy. My big fear is that aging is making me more bitter, which is something I am going to have to fight off like a Mel Gibson in Braveheart - just pull it out by the roots.

I heard Jordan Peterson talk about how there are no primal, powerful myths with women as the hero. That women being independent is a brand new thing. As we are designed to take care of children and be crippled by pregnancy we were not free to go on journeys and fight dragons and come back evolved and whole people like the great mythological stories that are always centered around men. This comforted me as it gave me a glimpse into why I feel so alone at times: I am a single woman who supports herself and travels around the world by herself and takes care of all her own needs, and is wrestling with internal dragons on a frequent basis (external as well, in the form of ill treatment by a society so threatened by the childfree middle aged woman who is not just a sweet old spinster biddy), and I have to take a deep breath every single day and drum up courage - courage to take on the world and say I am here, and still valuable as an employee and friend. Sometimes I feel like such an outlier that I will behave or dress more how I feel society will accept me as an older woman, but then I instantly rebel and kick out in my all back and skull booties. This is starting to ramble but it was really good to do...I feel more myself now and yes I could have just kept it in my paper diary and not posted it for the entire universe to read but what the hell  - ever onward, pushing forward.

Home For Sale

This beautiful scene is just steps from my beautiful cabin in the Mt Hood National forest. Or should I say former cabin. It is currently for sale, after a year and a half of living a busy life in Austin, a place I never thought I'd return to, but always seem to return to. I had frequently thought of selling the cabin and went back and forth over it in my mind every time I would visit, or go on a trip, or be in it for an extended time and realize how nutty I felt in a rural area. Now that I've been away from it I look back fondly on the 3.5 years I lived in it full time and my whole 6 years in Oregon. I've just returned from emptying the cabin and it sits for heart felt utterly broken as I was leaving it, piling up Fergus' toys and bedding and carting them off to goodwill...selling bits of furniture and snow tires, having a blast with my friends on the mountain. I felt like I was ripping my heart out, like I was participating in a pattern I seem to have to reenact every few years by having something I love taken from me..always in the past by a man, this time by tearing myself away from something beautiful and safe and wonderful that I created: a beautiful little home, and and a warm and loving community that held me lovingly in it's arms. Why would I do this to myself? Do I not believe that deserve to have comfortable and lovely things? Is safety and security so alien and terrifying to me that I have to run from it every time if presents itself?  Is my idea and safety and security utterly different from everyone elses? Some or all of that might be slightly true, but it is not the whole story. I could have kept it and just visited it now and then, but it was costing my a lot of money and I was not allowed to rent it out via park rules. I was underemployed the whole time I lived on there, was over an hour's drive to an airport, and drove 50 miles every day round trip to do yoga - which I sort of turned into a job. In Austin I have been working almost the entire time I've been here. I have a new bestie who I look forward to hanging out with on the weekends and seeing great films with and having lots of laughs. I am around smart people and belong to a film society and have several fun volunteer gigs. I have a quick 20 minute uber ride to the airport, and have lots of friends to have meals with. Life is good here. I have always been very restless and easily bored, and there is always something to do here that is a short walk or very short drive to go to. Everything I yearned for on the mountain I have here in abundance. I have been single a long time and don't date anymore, so have literally no drama at all in my life. There are some very dark and horrible things in my psyche that still will wreak havoc in my life in the form of hellish all nighters verging into psychosis and colored by feelings of hopelessness and utter abandonment. It doesn't happen very often anymore, but at least I can say that it is not buried. Wow! That sounds so fucked up! And listing these things I do sounds really simplistic and shallow...okay I get it, I do lots of stuff, but it sometimes feels like it's just entertainment til it's time for my dirt nap.

Since I am writing this story I can write it however I want and I choose to spin it more to my advantage. I'm tired of seeing myself as a victim of my own self-sabatoge - but I know I tend to get rid of things quickly that are beautiful, that I love, or that bring me comfort and joy...there is such a dark mistrust of these things that I have not overcome yet. But at the same time I have no worries or hardships in my life..I work around my travel schedule. I look really good for my age. I LOVE getting older...what an incredible journey aging is...all the things I get to shed that don't serve me anymore. And travel, my biggest childhood dream, is mine whenever I want it.

The thing on the mountain that brought me the most joy I still have: my little tight knit community of friends there. There are always so happy to see me and love me so much. They will do anything for me - they are the loving family that I always wanted. And I can go visit them any time I want. And then there is the name I haven't spoken...the name of the greatest love of my life...the place, the faraway place where my life had more meaning and purpose and joy than I could have imagine existed. If I could wick up that girl again...the one who had everything in front of her, and who was already 43 when the big magic happened. I'm only 57 and not ready for the surprises to be over...I need a third act and I want to be as unconventional as I feel it needs to be.

Fifty Seven

here goes the logorrhea, the diatribe, the long detailed pining, the yearning for things (things not within reach or things not appreciated when I had them and cast aside), the intense FOMO, the luxury problems, the obsessing over which European vacations to take to avoid the wrong people, the shock and awe of my undeserved good fortune, the nasty little trip into the black yawning maw of insecurity that takes several days to climb out of, the self absorption, the occasional stepping outside of myself, the repeated and repeated over again tale of the Ice and how my life began when I went there and seemed intolerably painful when I was not there. The infantile dependence on places as my source as places cannot abandon me...the surprising ability to be lifted into joy by the exiting of an airport security line into the gate. The flight. The buildings. The city. The Ice. The white. The gritty tumble-down buildings. The two great loves. The two places - one full of outrageous tall buildings the other a frozen patch on bottom.

here goes the fears and insecurity that seem to attack from nowhere, the steel wall ripped off the heart by a surprisingly small gesture, the cluelessness of what is happening with another person, the utter and complete inability to go with the flow and just relax, the hardened steel like composure and coping skills that are needed to survive this shit, the days of feeling untethered and unloved and unsure if there is any place to land if one falls, who do I call if I can't get out of bed, oh yeah I belong to this amazing program full of helpful people. But first I have to beat myself mercilessly with my own mind before I will let my self calm down and relax. Sometimes the peace and serenity and the joy of small things of daily life can intrude, unwanted, as I want my joy big and hard won and expensive.

here goes the euphoria of the getting to the hotel or lodge or ship on the first day of a trip and the instantaneous forgetting of the addled state that preceded the trip. This is what trips are for I have found out - to allow me to be in a perpetual limbo that feels utterly soothing. Feeling alive and with so much purpose and meaning that doesn't make sense to me of how that could be purpose and meaning of what? Feeling so alive I could burst and don't even have the container for so much joy, but it is happening, and holy moly I hope there is no price to pay but if there is one it is not sleeping. When I am entering an airport I feel like I have won some sort of personal lottery. I am leaving. I am going away. I am free.

here goes me getting tired of writing this way as it seems to have petered out...I'm in the "rest of it" part of the blog title - no Ice, no travel (though I've been on 6 trips this year)...wanting the next big thing...wanting it badly. And this writing feels whiny, and self-indulgent borne of narcissism or the gentler sounding navel gazing. Paul Shrader said "write it so you don't have to live it..."

[This was written a long time ago and was just sitting in my drafts folder - I will write something in a fevered frenzy and re-read in in horror thinking I can never post that, and a year later I'm so grateful to have all these posts, already written, that I can just toss out here. Grateful for my shamelessness at times.]

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things...

Previously Unposted - Good Enough for Now

Taos Pueblo

Here I am forcing myself to write again when it used to come so naturally. I looked how few postings I've done in the past few years compared with when I started this blog - and actually just read a random post from 2012 that was so good I couldn't believe I had written it...the meaning borne or heartache is so rich! Also I assume no one is reading this blog so I am free to be as sloppy and bereft of meaning as I feel - but that is not me; I only feel like writing if I have some deep vein of truth I've discovered and am titillated about or am agog at some big dream coming true that I hadn't even dreamed in the first place...that was just life handing me presents and me wondering why the hell I was getting them.

I just got back from my umpteenth painting workshop in Taos. I am part of the old guard there - the class clown with a suitcase full of uber expensive knitted goods to sell. All the workshops feel a little different and some are more fun and richer than others but this one was probably one of the best ever. I always go into hypomania talking non-stop, running around so much I burn off the luxury meals I'm eating, hanging out with ladies I've known forever - being bad, going to bars at night and dancing like fools. This time I made a friend connection that sucked me out of the vortex of the workshop. It was that kind of connection you get once or twice in a lifetime maybe. I swirled and danced around northern New Mexico with this person and felt a joy I have only felt (well, felt it a lot actually) when the beginning of an Ice stint was happening, and by beginning I mean getting the contract in my e-mail box going to hundreds of dr. appts, getting ticketed, buying workboots and best:boarding the flight from LAX-CHC and then the glorious euphoric days in Cheech and then the 3:00am hang at CDC in full ECW awaiting the cargo jet flight to the Ice. My eyes are welling up as I type that...knowing that two years ago today I was landing in McMurdo, setting up my little dorm room, walking over to the galley for still feels like a dream...but in Taos my cup runneth over with a limbic connection with another human that seemed to blur the edges of where I started and this other person began. It wasn't physical or romantic or sexual - it was straight up this is one of my soul mates. And for a day or two I didn't think about Antarctica.

So I'm feeling skinless after the trip and everything is going in unfiltered. Shields are down, open for business (and by business I mean meaningful connection). That seems to be the only thing that will tether me to sanity - that and great art, and I get a lot of that living in this town. Saw a film that gutted me recently, and started a busy warehouse job that keeps me grounded. And for some reason the line between art and life has softened quite a bit and I feel that surge of awe after a great film whenever I drive to my warehouse job - the locations seems custom designed for my aesthetic: gutted, ugly old buldgs, rusted farm equipment, neglect, decay and to top it off: a train rumbling by steps from the loading dock. Even though I find his films unwatchable, Harmony Korine said something that could have come from my own lips "there is nothing as beautiful as an old couch next to a dumpster in a glass strewn parking lot." That is not a direct quote but you get the aesthetic. The campus  feels like it is in central Kentucky instead of just around the the yuppie hellscape called The Domain. (Which, I actually like).

I wish I could squeeze some beautiful juicy words into rapturous meaning like I saw had happened in some previous posts! I can't look at Facebook when people are's just too painful to not be with them. I can't even wrap my head around how much meaning and purpose and joy that place provided for me. I cannot communicate to anyone the insane high after 12 hours of unloading shipping containers in a loud ancient M4K and what it feels like to become one with your go sleep 5 hours and get back in that noisy green 12K pound monster and crack open another can. I just keep saying no it wasn't lonely, no it wasn't isolating, no it wasn't desolate - it was a big burning man in the frozen dessert - and now what to do with the 30 or so years I have left on this planet. I can't live small...and I have to have everything or I'm restless. And by everything I mean that thing I choose has to have all the boxes checked, no reservations and no ambivalence.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Straight Life

I had to wait until I was in psychic PAIN from not writing to finally sit down and write. I actually have many drafts that I never post because they seem so badly written or worse, not brimming with fresh ideas but then I re-read them and they seem okay to me...okay enough to post! And the thrill of seeing so much writing just sitting there that hasn't been posted yet - fun! Just posted on my Menopause Helmet blog, where I usually post more personal stuff...but here goes...I will just make this up as I go along and see if anything comes of it. I've decided to post it anyway, no matter how rusty, or how unoriginal in topic.

I've been in Austin 7 months and it is the dreaded summertime here. I am handling it well as I decided not to complain about it. I spend most of my time in air conditioning so that is my coping strategy. For some reason living in Austin feels completely different than the time I lived here for 30 years. I don't know if it is because I lived in Oregon for 6 years or because I'm mid 50's trying to do stuff all the time like I'm young, or just a combination of myself and the city having changed so much. When I lived here before, there was the great amorphous yearning and pining for something big that I really wanted and didn't know what it was or if I could have it. Then I got to have it, and have it and have more of it, and it was so good that the first several years of this blog are only about that. Falling in love with that place has informed everything that has happened since the first deployment and continues to affect my life now...I just got an e-mail from a department boss saying they couldn't use me this season ( a department I havent worked for in a while) and I felt a little hard hurtful slice of rejection in my gully. But I was at my fun Austin job, which I have loved from day one because of this rich connection with my co-workers, and the rag tag little crew that we are. We huck books in libraries all over the massive university complex and laugh and bitch and feel like one person with 6 arms at times. It has been a really fun job temping at UT this year and is about it end. I'll go to Oregon in July and spend some time in the cabin deciding if I want to sell it or not, and then come back to Austin to finish out the year in my apt. I have no big plans for my life.

What? Maybe that is why I've been kind of low lately. I thrive on big plans...if I wasn't going to the Ice I was planning very exciting trips and basically traveling all the time. Now that I'm in city with lots of friends and stuff to do I'm having what I call a "straight life." It is not as exciting and mostly just feels like I'm entertaining myself most of the time. My job feels like entertainment - and I do really safe, non risky stuff like go to movies a lot, knit, read books, binge watch. My attitude has been really off - I seem to feel like I've lived more of a big life than anyone around me, and sometimes find myself not really wanting to listen to someone talk about things because they haven't done anything really exciting with their life (but that is very arrogant of me, because everyone has done something deeply meaningful with their lives, especially if they've raised children.) I feel like I fulfilled a huge intention given to me by my self or the universe or my daimon and it took every moment of my 43 years to get to the place where everything finally lined up and I got to go and do it.  It is hard doing straight life after driving a farm tractor across Western Antarctica. I have nothing to contend with here; everything is so life feels like its on easy autopilot: get up and go to work, go to grocery store, look for fun stuff to do on weekends, knit scarves to sell in Taos, paint beautiful paintings that make people freak out, go to yoga and go on some big trip once or twice a year. Doesn't that sound awesome? It's okay but it's not awesome. It is a fine, quiet little life where I'm just tending to my own business and trying not to offend people...but, the thing that is ever present in my psyche is the desire to grab everyone by the shoulders and get all up in their face and insistently ask them what it is that they really want to do?! Are they living their hearts' desire? Are they settling for a straight life? I am currently doing a straight life but I am going to choose to see it as an incubation period for the next big thing. Ohmigod several people have said things like "it's time to retire and settle down and just tow the rope" and "you've already gotten to have fun." Like there is some time limit on I can't be 60 and take off with a knapsack and roam around the world til I croak...that sounds kind of awesome actually...I have a friend whose 57 who just sold everything and took off...I told him it was about time.


Paul in a gallery in downtown Austin

It's been a long time since my last post. I am out of the habit of writing and I've really missed it. And it is interesting because usually I don't write when nothing has been going on in my life much, but since my last post a lot has changed - I've moved back to Austin and am comfortabley set up in a sweet  old rambling apartment close to campus and downtown, and am busy doing all the things that an urban lifestyle affords. I go to plays, see live music, walk miles and miles every day and still do yoga too. I've had two little jobs and am on the temp list for UT..everything is just so easy living in a city that I know so well.  I am seeing Austin through utterly new eyes. I am just besotted with the things that I took for granted before I moved away: hundreds of familiar people and deep old friendships...ease of getting to shops and work and the airport. I can walk to dozens of restaurants, coffee shops, a giant goodwill store, and hop on an express bus and be downtown in 10 minutes. I am doing everything that I wanted to do by moving to a city...and originally I wasn't going to choose Austin, but something in my aging bones was craving home..and this is my home.

Before I moved here I was in my cabin in Oregon really waiting for the inspiration for what to do next. I knew I wanted to be in a city. I was seriously considering New York or someplace like Madison or Ann Arbor, a smaller city with a lot of culture with a big University. But the last two times I had visited Austin I had just been deliriously happy with the city and seeing my friends and the ease of going out and doing things. I couldn't believe what was happening on the short visit in May and November: I would just walk down a street in a neighborhood I had lived in like Hyde Park or West Campus and every fiber of my being would just be pulsing with joy with the memory of the life I had here. I had not felt this for Austin ever really. When I had moved away in April of 2011 I was bitter about the growth and all the yuppies and the disappearance of the funky, sleepy medium sized town that I fit so well in. But  I couldn't get enough of the nostalgia and euphoria I would experience when I walked on campus or the drag or down W 22nd Street where I used to live...and I would just beam and talk to everyone I saw and just revel in my wonderful city that was wooing me and becoming me to come back to it. I just felt so in love...that is the only way to describe it...I was having the same intense connection with this city that I used to feel only when I thought about McMurdo...I was surprised and delighted to experience this around Austin, because this was something I could do, move back here. McMurdo didn't hire me back this season, so I had to have a plan B, and staying in my cabin wasn't an option. I did take wise counsel from friends: they said not to sell the cabin so I didn't. And they said don't think that moving back here is going to be blissful every second and they were right. I have been just as sad and lonely here as I was on the mountain, but I am able so much more quickly to ameliorate it by just walking out my front door and visiting with neighbors, or have meals with friends. I can feel connected just walking down a street with other humans or sitting around them in a coffee shop. Everything I was missing on the mountain I have here in spades, and my life is good. Not great...but good.

I had to adjust my expectations of life when I moved back here. I am a 56 year old woman who lives in city full of young  hip people (who apparently have tons of money) and I kept wondering why I was ignored in shops or not having any luck meeting people to date...and then I had to look at the cold hard truth of aging. That thing they say about older women being invisible - well it is Literally True! I would joke around about being "old" and a "battle-ax" and have a running self mocking schtick I would do about being old and undesirable, but what I realized when I was going through a hard time after I moved back here was that I hadn't really accepted the reality of my postmenopausal self and that I hadn't really said goodbye to my younger self. There was some pain with this, but beyond the pain is immense freedom.  I had an insight recently that menopause has given me everything that I was trying to get through years of therapy, 12 step meetings, workshops, and all those spiritual workshops - menopause has made me very comfortable in my body, very relaxed and content to be doing something that pleases me without it having to look exciting to the world. My life is pretty simple...even when I have a lot going life is filled with ease and peace of mind. I kept thinking that I would find the TRICK to keeping myself sane (the right therapy, meditation, workshop, trip, church, boyfriend, city to move to, etc.), but all I had to do was Grow Older! With the  vanishing of estrogen came a loyal fierceness to my true self, and a centeredness that is worth its weight in gold.

Oh god the freedom of not needing a boyfriend anymore! I still go on an online date once in a while, and even though these men are always nice and okay seeming...I am just so bored after the first 20 minutes of chit chat and can't WAIT to get back to my apartment and my knitting project. Being single for five years deserves it's own blogpost. What I have gained from that is pure gold. I have developed a super juicy relationship with myself...I have time to really be present with my friends and whatever I am doing...and if I every start to feel sorry for myself for being "alone" or "single" I can remind myself about how freakin' lucky I am to have the thing I wanted more than anything else for as long as I can remember: freedom. I am so free...and so independent. I don't have to answer to anyone or ask anyone's permission to do anything. So many times I catch myself in a dark place seeing my situation as bleak, but I'm immediately reminded by anyone around me how damned lucky I am.

I've been doing this long enough to know that when one chooses a particular life that there will be some grieving or wistfulness for the life not chosen. I never wanted a family or children, but every once in a while will feel a sharp pang during a holiday when I am alone knitting and seeing photos of big family gatherings. I have never been domestic and love living alone, but can sometimes get gut punched by seeing a couple intimatley cooking together in a tidy home. And then sometimes my whole story just falls apart and I think I'm full of shit that my life is great and that I was just too afraid to commit to a life that involved deep commitments. But...I can spin that too...I have been Deeply Committed to my dreams and goals and the things I deeply wanted. I was married to McMurdo. I am agog with joy when making travel plans. Sitting on my bed knitting and binge watching provides the deepest contact with bliss that I have ever known...ah bliss! I've experience so much bliss once I knew I was moving back to Austin. And it was so damned fun and easy to pack up my car and drive down here. I am so damed competent at stuff like that. I was so damned easy and fun.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Viking Passage

Just some random images from The Netherlands, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland. The last two pics are from St. Johns, Newfoundland where I had a lively time downtown connecting with people hanging out on the streets.

Iceland and Greenland were the last big places on my bucket list and they were so amazing. Greenland was surreal as the two towns we visited felt so intimate and soulful - an interesting edginess borne from the hardened Inuit population dressed in modern Danish clothing. Iceland had the barren feel of the Scottish highlands mixed with an almost lunar landscape. I feel so lucky to have gotten to go to these places, this having been my second month long journey this year. I'm feeling oversaturated and spoiled with travel, which I had not thought could happen or was prepared for. I am so rusty at writing and it shows!

World travel was the thing I have always wanted the most and now that I've done a lot of it I'm not sure what to aim for next. 55 seems like an odd age to reinvent oneself but it looks like that is where I am at again. I don't have an Ice contract so I am looking at the options available: staying in my cabin (incredibly cheap rent) and looking for work around here, or moving to a city with more jobs and stuff to do. It is curious to me why I have not sold my cabin as this is what I thought was holding me back. I guess I crave a home base more than I realized. It is hard cycling down from a trip, and even though I was really happy to be done is also hard being back on this mountain and having to drive 100 miles a day to do yoga and/or go to the grocery store. But the hardest thing is trying to feel my way into something that could be as exciting as going to the Ice has been. Twelve years ago at this time I was getting ready for my first deployment, and that's all my life has been about ever since, even the four years I took off. I guess it will take a while to integrate this as something in my past - and it doesn't even feel like something in my past, but something in my bones that will be with me forever. I just don't want to miss it and pine for it like I did. I want to be able to move forward and find something to get excited about again, move forward with anticipation instead of resignation. My body wants to relax, wants to be semi-retired. My brain still thinks it is 19 and that I have to reinvent myself every year...finding that middle ground will be the challenge, especially for someone like me who loves extremes.

Sunday, May 29, 2016



Shanghai at Night






A month after I returned from the Ice I flew to Hong Kong and started a three week journey through China, Korea and Japan. I loved these countries much more than I thought I would - especially China. I had heard negative reports from my friends' travels there so I expected to be dazzled by Japan but not China. Now Tokyo was amazing as I got to spend 4 whole days there, but China affected my soul more deeply. Shanghai was so vibrant and shockingly wonderful I wonder why I had not known about this fabulous city. We walked around with our mouths gaping for two days in Shanghai, feeling intimate and connected despite the 27 million population. And this was one of the smaller cities on the trip. Beijing was like Hong Kong on steroids, and the scale of the apartment buildings was transcendent. Hong Kong was like Manhattan on steroids, and even though interesting enough, was the one place I don't feel I need to go back to. Every place else deserves a deeper look.

I don't know if I've travelled so much that I'm spoiled or that I hadn't quite rebuilt myself after the deflating experience at McMurdo, but I found myself out of sorts and addled on this trip quite a bit. I'm also thinking that living in the cabin in the mountains is making me more sensitive to the violence of in your face destinations and a shockingly fast pace of ingesting new cultures with little time to digest them before moving on to the next. But I could travel differently and take more time in each place, but at this point in my life I want to see more with less money, so I go on boats and pay a fraction of what it would cost on land. And I don't have to do it all on my own, which appealed to me when I was younger but not currently.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

On Penguins, Flat White and Fata Morgana (Not)

I'm so rusty at writing so I hope my dear reader(s) forgive me for the logorrhea that follows. As you all know I pined for 4 years to go back to the Ice & I got to go back. Now I am nesting in my darling chilly cabin on the mountain in Oregon. It happened so fast and I settled in here so immediately that I feel like this whole season passed in the blink of an eye. I mean I am sitting here in my bed with my laptop like I was never gone! Which is strange because the season was so complicated and intense in ways that I am not going to go into detail on this public blog, but there was so much gutting of my psyche and such surprising leveling of my pride that I could barely feel my badass self at all.

Photos can be so deceiving: look how much fun I am having; look at my amazing life; look how adventurous and mold-breaking I am for a 55 year old woman! Yes there are moments where I really felt the bliss of being in Antarctica all over again. But they were overshadowed by a twin stream of difficult situations that I had to contend with all season and put me through an emotional wringer. One of the situations I had to deal with and the the other I didn't have to deal with at all, I just must have really loved the feeling of torturing myself. How, I asked myself, after a zillion hours with therapists, healers, spiritual helpers, writing and meditating, could I end up feeling as lost and insecure as I did as an eight year old kid. How could I let myself be traumatized by the perceived rejection of just a handful of humans.  How, after 23.5 years in a program that teaches me not to rely on people as the source of my good feelings about myself, did I let someone's attention/lack of attention on me control my self worth? And most startling: despite the most physically and mentally demanding job I have had on station that I gave my all to and with very little free time, that I could be as self-absorbed as I was when I was unemployed and had so much free time that navel gazing was second nature. But I didn't have anything pressing on me off Ice. There I had to deal with personalities on top of me 9 hours a day. I don't know if I've changed or if I just had too high an expectation for what this continent could do for me, but man I sat through some keeningly sharp emotional times there. The good news is I behaved well through it. I sucked it up and plowed through and always had my day off to look forward to. I got through it. And it has made me curious about how I can grow myself into the person who does not fall apart over simple (perceived or real) rejection.

So there was the hard parts but there was also the part that I thrive on: the rigid structure of the work-camp lifestyle, the galley ritual, the wild dancing parties on Saturday nights. The holiday parties and two day weekends were so much fun that they almost made up for the difficult stuff. I came back looking younger and 15 pounds lighter and feel more content than I've felt in years. I had a goal and I achieved it. Yes there were searing moments (days) of a black hole feeling in my chest cavity that made it hard to breathe, but the happy times were really, really fun. Reconnecting with so many people I know from previous seasons and all that attention from men was like manna from heaven to me. Unfortunately, the one I chose to fixate on all season had me like a fish on a hook, flopping around never knowing when the green light was on or whether the gut-socked pain of the cold shoulder was what I was in for. Was every season like this and I just forgot? Was being so much older than my co-workers a factor? Questions to explore for sure. The most surprising thing to me was how raw and skinless I could feel down there. Usually I have a protective shell I can put on when needed but I couldn't find it this time. Maybe I haven't needed it for so long that it fell away. My coping skills seemed to work and are fairly healthy, and I was lucky enough to have a roommate situation where I basically lived alone. I had knitting and movies and reading as my solace.

I feel bad for those who want to read an Antarctic blog to hear about penguins and wildlife and stumbled upon this one - I think there are many out there! The one thing I know after 8 seasons is that whatever hidden aspects of myself that are a dull ache (or I'm not even aware of) stateside, those become dark side gremlins that demand full attention on Ice. I have to deal with them there. Antarctica has always been the big personality-defect revealer for me and this season was a doozy for exposing old and ineffective aspects of my character. I got to see where I am still a crumbling mess, but thankfully I am so much more capable of dealing with it now - and the crumbling mess is pinkie sized now instead of what used to feel like my whole being. Yes, I am spinning this all into a positive - I went, I suffered, I had joy, I survived, and I had me some fun. I didn't let the bad stuff drive me off station as I saw it do several of my friends.

There were many bright spots! I got to go to the South Pole for 5 days and it was really incredible. I had connections with people that were deeply satisfying. I got in the best physical shape of my life just from my job. I got so many loving cards and gifts from people stateside.

I must remember to be grateful for how fortunate I am. I get to carve out my own life, and no one ever said that going after something you really want does not come with a cartload of pain and heartache. I used to hate my weaknesses and vulnerabilities and tried to drown them with alcohol. Now I just get to see that they are not going away so I have to accept them and possibly even make friends with them. This is what going to the Ice does to me. I did no hiking! I went on no boondoggles! I only felt the searing intensity of my relationship with this continent.

Forward and onward through this mucky life.