Wednesday, October 18, 2017
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 chow...it 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 deploying...it'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 rig..to 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
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 easy...my 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 fun...like 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 on...my 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
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 traveling...it 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
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.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Sunday, August 30, 2015
|Wayne White - one of my favorite artists|
I have missed writing very much. I also miss art, and being creative, and being around creative people. When my dog died I thought I would blaze out off of this mountain and out of the cabin so fast I'd be just a grease stain on the driveway - but here I sit, more attached to a home base than I thought I would be. When I really thought deeply about moving I just couldn't figure out where to go. I really feel Austin is no longer an option, so I thought about exploring Alaska or Detroit or someplace that gets real winter. My heart wants to move back to NYC, but I'm just too cheap to spend that much on rent. And then there is the thing I haven't mentioned that I always mention:
|just moving one town over was never gonna cut it for me|
the place that I have romanticized and idealized to the point where nothing else really mattered. I have just thinly participated in my life since I've not been on a deployment cycle. Sure I have had moments of sheer connection and bliss, mostly while on trips, but the last four and a half years have been what I can almost call a complete bust as far as creating a life off Ice. I mean, I really tried, but my heart wasn't into it. I was holding out. Holding out until I could go back. And I had a feeling it wouldn't be easy to get back - and it wasn't. Calls and e-mails to everyone I could find in my e-mail folder. Persistent without being desperate & then I got a nibble: South Pole alternate winter-over something or other. So I said YES YES YES and have pq'd for that. And then I started thinking how frustrating it was to have just an alt contract and how I knew myself and that I would wait around and put my life on hold again waiting for the call, and felt the familiar old frustration. Oh well, it was something, and I was plugged in to the system again so I was grateful.
I was walking around the forest behind my cabin pondering if I'd done everything I could to get back. A hunch drove me back to my computer where I made a phone call that ended up snagging me a McMurdo summer contract this main body. So, I am going back to the Ice :-). Possibly for a whole year!
People keep asking me if I'm excited. And I say "yes" but they seem to not believe me...and now I realize that I am more relieved than excited. Relieved that the waiting for 5 years was not for nothing..that I really can trust that the thing I talk about all the time IS the thing that I really want. Some people seem confused that I really want this, like I'm fooling myself, and they look at me like this is some childish desire and why the heck would I want to go someplace like that. I just tell myself thank gawd they feel that way or the competition for jobs would be even stiffer. There have been some fantastic things borne from my stateside stint: a Bikram yoga practice that is an unexpected source of camaraderie, a knitting hobby that is as delightful and delicious as I can ever remember anything being, and the point of it all - that I got to hold my cheek on my little dog's chest to feel his tiny heart stop beating. I'm starting to think that Fergus is why I haven't sold the cabin yet, because this is the the last house we shared together and he spent his last two years here. I wouldn't have bought it if it were just me. I am sure I will start reminiscing about this cabin, this mountain, this State as soon as I get to LAX. I am enjoying living here knowing that I don't have to be here full time. Springsteen wrote so many songs about the long dark road stretched out in front of you that made your heart quicken and the desire to run away and to find a new place, and as soon as that felt stale to keep moving onward into the unknown and to just keep that spark alive, and trust that it would lead you to your own freedom. I see that it was good to have stricture and confinement - it taught me to be patient and to be satisfied with simple things. I think I could be satisfied with yoga and knitting and working seasonally at the ski resort, but life has thrown me another great big adventure and I must go.