Wednesday, August 19, 2020

5009 Miles

I prepared for a few days after worrying for a week or so wether I should go on this trip at all...was concerned about covid, people's reactions to me traveling, how safe it was out there, etc...but I knew I would not be able to keep myself from blazing across the country to Oregon once I gave myself the go ahead...I needed to be with these sweet mountain people who loved me dearly...

I got up at 6:00am on July 29th and drove to Amarillo and spent the night...drove out to the Cadillac Ranch and took some photos...the next day was a long drive to Flagstaff and after checking into my hotel did a quick jaunt down town to walk around...wasn't much going on so pretty much stayed in hotel room and ate noodle bowls I brought with me...knew I'd be getting up early and the next day's drive to Atascadero was super long and stressful, but I had a friend there that I've know for over 20 years and it was so great to see her and have a nice meal outdoors on a cool patio with her and her husband. I decided to stay an extra day there and not we had a super fun day driving around the central coast and visiting all the little towns. And I stayed in this lovely downtown boutique hotel and just loved every minute of being away from Austin. The next day I drove to Rocklin (outside Sacramento) and stayed with my friend Steve and had a wonderful day where I felt just so taken care of and such a warm sensation of being with someone that I've known and loved for a really long time (I always tell people he was my best boyfriend ever). Steve has a big heart and presence and takes care of those around him well. I hung out at his wonderful comfortable home with his dog and sweet 4 year old son Jasper. At first I thought I wouldn't be able to handle staying at someone's house, especially on a couch in the living room, but as soon as that warm family glow spread all over me I knew I would stay at Steve's. I slept like a baby and awoke to his sweet doggie sleeping with me and drove to Bend, OR to break up the drive. I could have driven straight to Welches but didn't want to arrive at my hosts house too early and had heard great things about Bend. It was a mistake to stay there - Bend is a shithole and my cheap hotel's wifi went out around 7:00pm and I had kind of a meltdown which turned into a grieving session that lasted in me bawling for hours. At first it was just frustration about not having internet and really being sucked into Hell on Wheels again, but then I was forced to confront those juicy old deeply crusted over wounds/desires that seem to only emerge with a 5 day 80mph road trip. It's happened to me on every road trip: I spend most the day in euphoria/raptor like focus on the road...followed by a gradual falling apart and vulnerable period where I feel sad and weepy. All ancient grievances are re-hashed, and only when I park and get into the hotel am I relieved and hunker down for deep sleep. What happened in Bend was some familiar stuff I've been dealing with for a few years with therapists in Austin; also a love jones that had me spinning in Austin and took 5000 miles to forget about. But then something very familiar happens at the end when I think all of my unhappiness is a particular person's fault: I unconsciously open my computer and look at the McMurdo webcams and go into a zone of what it is I am really grieving - missing the place that gave me everything...gave my life 24/7 badass meaning and purpose and joy every day. Before McMurdo I dated big tattooed guys/bikers to feel badass...then I got to become that badass I tried to get on the outside...she lived in me and just needed a place to manifest...this is hard, this time of year as people start to deploy, as I see pics of people in Christchurch getting ready for that C-17 ride to the Ice runway...something I got to do 7 times (1 time was by boat)...a situation that still rips my heart out every time I think about it because I miss it so much. I have a job now that almost gives me that much satisfaction, but it barely rates in comparison. It's a familiar patten when I start to feel sad: let the feelings overtake and dive deep into grieving, cry long enough to realize I miss my home. I still apply every year for positions, but have fallen out of the loop and much younger people deploy...and I keep trying to make my life here feel like the one I had there...and I have a very good life here, but it is hard for me to accept that the best is behind me...I can't even imagine there could be something that could be that fulfilling to my being, but maybe I should start trying to believe that there is.

But wait, I was writing about my road trip, which was one of the best trips I have every I get to Welches at about 10:00am and my host is playing golf and his wife is gardening. I have a lovely little room in their beautiful home on the river. I am euphoric driving over to the RV park I lived in and just traveling that familiar little road in the beautiful forest...I was so unhappy there most of the time but I love going back...what I didn't realize when I moved there was that I would form this community of people that I love - that I feel so close to - that can't wait to see me and welcome me like a beloved relative. I spent 10 days at my host's home and it was delightful...I saw so many friends and went to Portland and then when I left I had another exciting road trip with some wonderful discoveries: Helper Utah and Canon City, CO...two fantastic little towns that need to be visited again. The joy of the trip has evaporated with some realities of being back in Austin. I am happy to be in my apartment and be free for a few weeks, and then back to work for this insane presidential election.

I was so happy for the 3 weeks I did this trip. It could not have been time I just need to make it longer...I had been planning to do this ever since I got the gently used Lexus as a gift. She performed beautifully. I had a mission, a goal, a destination, and all of it was wonderful...I just feel so loved by that mountain. I just can't live there full time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Nineteen Eighty Four - Rego Park, Queens

It's fall of 1984 and I'm living in a basement apartment in Rego Park Queens. I found it by looking in a newspaper, finding an agent and giving my parameter of $500/month rent max. I still remember this unusual guy and he said "I have a PALACE for's an enormous PALACE! He drove me to this kind of ugly 3 story newish building in the heart of Archie Bunker style Queens houses. He took me to the basement, and it was indeed, enormous - enormous and fully furnished with a vintage 50's stereo cabinet. There was a little window over the bed that let in light from the backyard and he sold me on the value per square foot. Also it was close enough to a subway stop to get me to my job at 61st/Madison so I signed a years lease. Without going in the stürm and drang of my first few months in the city, here's the cliff notes: I moved to NYC upon graduation from UT in late summer of 1983. I stayed on the Upper East Side with G for a few months and decided I needed to live on my own. I had mailed out tons of resumes to film companies and got a few letters back, and some calls (pre cell phone and internet days kiddies!). I ended up getting a job with a high end watch wholesaler who had been handed my resume because it said I spoke French, and the company was based in Paris. My boss was a chain smoking, smolderingly handsome Portuguese man named Carlos. This was my first non fast food, first big girl job, AND it was in NYC and I was excited/nervous. I wanted to be perfect and was terrified of authority and of making mistakes. A condition that would haunt my work life for many years.

For six months I went to work 9-5 every day in stomach clinching fear, mostly hungover, and not knowing how to do my job very well (and not knowing that I needed help or how to ask for it). I had only an electric typewriter, and my boss would yell at me constantly and was always on the phone schmoozing to people in French or Portuguese, wrapped in a cloud of cigarette smoke. He was trying to get his watches in all the high end retailers in the city and I was writing the letters to the head buyers. He said they looked like crap and made me redo them. I sensed that he liked me and was trying to have a jokey and fun time with me but I couldn't go there. I was a highly boundaried (not in a good way) employee who felt I was so below a boss, and deathly afraid of making mistakes. I can't even really remember why I was so scared but I think I had to do a lot of accounting stuff with an adding machine (10 key by touch!)...and I am not confident with my math abilities so when I didn't know what to do instead of asking a question I would just get scared and hide what I had done. Carlos would eventually find a mistake and blow up at a me. After he blew up he'd be over it and ready to joke and laugh...whereas I would be completely traumatized and would not be able to recover until I plunged into the Irish bar across the street from my office every evening. (The antics at this bar I could write a book about - I had to stop going because of how much trouble I got in).

It was unfortunate that it took a very long time (my last boss I was terrified of was from 2000-2003), but I no longer cower with bosses. I have several male bosses now and I get up in their faces and bare fangs if they overstep. I say NO a lot. And it works. They respect me. O the suffering I could have avoided if I'd learned this lesson as a wee one. Punch back at the bully. But to continue...

I hated going to the office and just got sicker and sicker fantasizing on how I could escape or quit. It never occurred to me that I could just quit - I was so obedient and conditioned to focus on a powerful and scary person's needs and to squash my own that that was how I was at work. Outside of work I had boyfriends, lovers, friends come stay with me from out of town, wild debauched early 80's new yorky stuff (white) all around me and had what I thought was fun at the time, but looking back I think I was pretty lost and just didn't know it because I was so busy feeling like a trapped animal by day and going wild at night. I recently told a friend who knew me at this time (he was in grad school at NYU) what I was doing on my weekends and his mouth was hanging open in shock. He got serious about his studies after we hung out my first few months and I was off onto the dark after hours underbelly at night.

I am finally getting to point of this long (yet endlessly interesting to me) and rambling post: one Sunday about six or seven months into this job I decided I was going to call in sick on Monday. I had never called in sick to work (and now, 36  years later, can count on the fingers of one hand how many times I have called in sick, and most of those times I was not actually "sick"). Something in me just said fuck it I need a break from this relentless cycle of hell of this confusing job world. I was nervous all day planning how I was going to do it and what I was going to say, and early Monday morning I left a message on the office answering machine that I was feeling ill and wouldn't be in. Then I unplugged my phone.

I had noticed one of those old art deco single screen movie theaters in my neighborhood and that was where I was going to spend my day. I decided I would go to the afternoon feature no matter what the film was. I was a terrible film snob at the time and did not see current Hollywood fare but told myself I was gonna go no matter what was showing. I walked to the theater and bought a ticket for "Footloose". I remember how cheesy and goofy the film was and how silly the music but I didn't care. I had decided I gave no fucks for Carlos and his stupid watches and this Monday was my own and he didn't own me. I wish I could remember more about the day but what I do remember is going back to my basement apt. and seeing the red light on my answering machine blinking a bunch. I had about 14-30 messages from Carlos. He had been compulsively calling me all day, utterly dependent on me and my cheap labor (I had looked at the file of applicants when I applied for the job and they had all asked for twice to three times as much money as I had). His calls were ridiculous and creepy...acting like he wanted me to call and talk about what I was doing (so weird to me), but he was scared I wasn't coming back. He needed me. And I had flipped him off by being not contactable.

I did not call back, and don't remember exactly what happened when I went back but shortly thereafter I got the euphoric news that the company was being sued and they were high tailing it to LA in 6 weeks. I had an out! Carlos begged me to move to LA and offered to buy me a car and partly subsidize an apt. I said no, but that I would go out to set up the office for two weeks. It was a hideous/hilarious two weeks of me staying with some friend of his (and her kids) in Beverly Hills, walking to work dressed in all black, having to hide in the home as there was some ex driving by threatening to shoot everyone in the house. I hated LA and knew that I would. My last day of working for Carlos ended with me treating my hostess to dinner, and while at this fancy restaurant she was telling me a story about a recent date she'd had (I had just drained a giant smoothie from a glass-this is important), she was describing his physical appearance saying he had a "lump" and I said where was the lump? And she said no, what is the word for it (English was not her first language) and she stood up and pantomimed a person with a bum leg. And I said do you mean a "limp?" And she said YES, A "LIMP!" We started laughing so hard that I started gagging...I still had smoothie in my throat when I started laughing and the gagging turned into I was going to throw up...she looked at me in alarm and held the empty smoothie glass under my mouth for me to hurl into. I filled up the glass to the brim. Goodbye LA! Never heard from Carlos again.

Yesterday when I was thinking about this memory before my writing class I started googling stuff in Rego Park, and I think I found the little theater I went to. Just like before I moved where I am right now, I have getting very very sentimental about a place I have lived before...looking at the house I lived in on google maps and seeing my subway stop. I don't know why this memory is so compelling to me but this is the 3rd time I have written it out in several feels like time again to jettison the cobwebbed Austin life of the known and move across country again. And why not? I never lose anything when I do this -.  I just seem to gain, and I must be wired so differently than most people as they say they cannot imagine "uprooting" and moving somewhere and leaving all their friends. This is my soul's magic place...gleefulling getting rid of my stuff, packing my car and moving across county. If I have ONE friend there I am good - I will start forming a tribe or life pretty quickly...the clan I left behind in Oregon are some of the dearest people to me on earth. Six years in Oregon - only fond memories (though my diaries from that time show a screeching internal hellscape).

As a solo movie goer for my entire adult life, and as a daughter of a mother weaned and raised by solo theater outings (she has told me she went to the movies every day after school) it was (and still is) a solo act that has seems to have a high feminist and self care component - it's an act of courage for people who say they could never go by themself, and in these times especially, a few hours that one is utterly unavailable.


Some other things that happened at that first NYC job: I was sent on missions to interesting places all over the city for various errands. I slinked around inside what felt like the walls of Grand Central Station to find this ancient darling man in an ancient dusty office repairing and tinkering with old timepieces. I was sent to Hell's Kitchen (early 80's, scary) with a suede briefcase filled with expensive watches handcuffed to my wrist up a rickety walk up next to an abandoned building to meet "some guy" who wanted to buy "some watches." I was sent to luxurious high rise offices with views of the city that made me swoon. Carlos' famous finance (main model on the Price is Right!) came to the office and Carlos called to tell me to hide his condoms and cigarettes in his desk. Janice glided in and threw her mink into my arms. These are the things that stick with was all good - the horrible and the beautiful. I almost miss being that naive and young and being so besotted with a place that I would put up with anything to be there.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Twenty Seven

This is kind of a goofy picture of my face but I couldn't really see the screen very well on my phone as it was leaning on a tire outside my improv studio. I get excited about Halloween and cold weather and autumn (and going to NYC next week!) that I decided to get dressed and do my annual birthday photo. I'm fatter this year, but don't really care, as why the hell should I? I went to my 40 year high school reunion and saw my demographic: I look pretty good for the mileage.

I got gut punched pretty hard seeing people deploying to McMurdo but sucked it up. My cabin has sold, I have exciting travel on the horizon (though I've been everywhere I want to go so am revisiting some favorites), have loads of work and some super fun creative outlets. I want a dog so bad it hurts - but the intoxicating freedom I am experiencing not having one overrides that desire.

I feel kind of self conscious writing this as I know someone is actually reading it now...when I go back and read some of these postings I cannot believe I wrote them as I don't remember writing them and they seem better written than I remember. I have been going to this writing class at a Zen Center  that is in a part of Austin that I lived in while in college and I can feel the ghosts of that time when I walk around this area. I am having such a nostalgic trip here in Austin and it has been 3 years now that I've been back. The writing we do is prompt style, where we go in cold, get a  prompt, and write for 30 minutes, then sit in a circle and read it to each other. I write so fast and furiously that I can barely get everything out that I want to say...then there is a lull around the 20 minute time...then a burst of blissful coming together of the piece. The best part is when we get to read aloud. It's exactly the same stuff I write on here but I am reading it to strangers. Something happens when I read this stuff to people who don't know me (and one person there knows me fairly well)...I notice that what I've written takes on a life of it's own and changes as my voice rounds out the words...sometimes I edit as I'm reading, and my voice gets much more powerful (and doesn't quite sound like "mine" anymore) as I get to the end. When I'm done reading I feel like I've climbed a mountain...and I see the faces of my peers and everything is different. What I have written has changed in the reading of it, and more importantly, in the landing of it upon the ears of the others. I can see, or rather sense in a rather strong way that what I have written has had an effect; it has had impact. And the impact seems more ephemeral or dare I say, "spiritual" than some sort of concrete impact. I'm not explaining it well, but when I start to read what I've written aloud I feel some sort of cosmic shift in some sort of internal/collective universe. The meaning, the loadedness, the shock value, the trauma and tragedy of what I've written recedes into the background and there is a stillness that I guess can only be said to be the present moment. What I've written is no longer me or mine, or necessarily a true document of a past event, but more like a smoke signal sent up into the air to intermingle with the millions of other words people are writing down everyday...I feel a peacefulness and relief that I am not unique  and my stories are not hard facts...they are just a part of the big cosmic swirl.

I just finished driving a giant cargo van for 3 weeks during early voting and Election day, and am now pulling out the sites. I went through a major meltdown about having to drive the van in Austin traffic but I did it and felt a huge surge of pride each day that I parked at the county and successfully rocked my shift and unloaded my van. I spend a lot of time doing very unusual and unique things in this job - like going into tons of elementary and middle schools and churches all over the county and smelling the smells of an old school and feeling a warmth for the young children. Today I barged into a church and people were huddled together fretfully praying and in another room people were making lunches for meals on wheels and me and my co-worker were strapping down tables onto a giant metal box and making a lot of noise. Knowing that this job will have lots of work for 2020 would be the main reason that I would stay in Austin another year...this job is almost over for a couple of months, the weather is gorgeous (40's and rainy), my improv class is really fun, and recently a man told me with the utmost sincerity that I was an "incredibly beautiful woman." I immediately made a face like "gross no I'm not" and then caught myself and really let myself take it in that it might be true. I was feeling close to him and then I pushed him away. I feel the lyrics of the song "Desperado" imprinting on my soul and my heart seems to be incased in a block of ice : you better let somebody love you before it's too late. I used to so easily be able to melt into the arms of another person, and now it feels like something I need to go to college to learn how to do again (and is it even possible for me to do again, and more important: is it something I actually even want to do again.) I've been single so long that I've gotten really good at I could teach a masterclass in it. What would it be called...How to Date Yourself...How to Do Everything Yourself...How to Travel the World by Yourself and not feel utterly awkward at tables full of couples...blah blah blah.. the list goes on...onward!

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Thirty Five Years Love Affair

Healy Pass
Black Sheep

Slea Head

Just finished an 11 day journey around Ireland with a small group tour company and it was incredible! I was the only solo traveller and by the end we all felt like one big happy family who'd gone through this amazing experience together. I live alone and spend a lot of time alone so spending 16 hours a day with people I had just met was  something I feared might be too much for me, but it ended up really being great. Just jam packed, on and off the bus all the time and super luxe accommodations.

This was my fifth trip to Ireland. My first was in 1984, then '92, 2000, 2009 and 2019. I will be back. I love this country. I actually fell in love with it before I ever came here - was just infatuated with it for some reason and don't remember what started it - but it started around college time. I talked my two girlfriends into coming here when we flew to London in '84, when we were all 23 years old. We were backpacking and had very little money, but traveling was pretty cheap back then. We had no plans, no reservations, and spent our first night (after taking the sea ferry from Holyhead to Dublin) in Dublin at a very grotty hostel downtown (when Temple Bar was still a slum!). We got up the next morning and asked some locals where we should go and without even having to think of it they said "The Dingle Peninsula". So we went to the train station and took the train to Tralee, and rode the bus to Dingle, til we walked around and found a B&B we could afford. We hit the pubs and drank Guinness with locals for weeks...there weren't too many Americans around at that time and Dingle was still only slightly touristed (now it almost feels like Disneyland). Me and one of my friends immediately fell in love with two Irish boys and spent a week with them before we tore ourselves away to tour the rest of the country. I stayed in the Republic while my two girlfriends with North with a plan to meet at the train station on a certain date. I hitchhiked around by myself and had some boring and weird experiences, and finally went to the train station where my friend did not show up (today, we could have just texted!). When she didn't show up I felt despair and decided to hitchhike back to Dublin and go home early. I was hitching to Dublin and a guy picked me up and I ended up in Galway after riding around for a couple of days with him. He dropped me off in a park and said he'd pick me back up at 5:00pm to take me to Dublin and he never showed up. Just writing this makes me feel sort of sad for my 23 year old self - that I was so gullible and did not take agency over my own life - but how could I have known any better? I think of how utterly different I am now, 35 years later, where I can afford to travel exactly how I wish and don't cut corners and deeply, deeply take care of myself. Just writing that makes me see how far I've come. Being sober is a huge part of that. Anyway, back to the story (that I was not intending to write!), I made another Dublin sign and spent all day hitching and no one showed. I went to a phone booth and called the restaurant in Dingle where the boy I had fallen for worked and he begged me to come back. I did not know he felt that way so I got back to Dingle somehow and we reunited in romantic bliss for the next few weeks. We even blew off our plane tickets (my girlfriend had come back to be with her man also), and I think I remember us crying together on the ferry back to London as we said goodbye to this country that we had fallen in love with and in. I flew back to NYC where I was living (rather dreadfully to tell the truth) and she flew back to Houston. We talked on the phone every day from our jobs and obsessed over going back to Ireland. I moved back to Austin in January of 85 and she moved back to Nebraska (her home). My Dingle boy came to the US (I have a stack of a year's worth of beautiful love letters) and we met up the next summer of '85 in NYC and had a nice reunion, but my feelings had changed, and when a few months later (after working in NY for a bit) he wanted to come to Texas to see me and I said I was involved with someone else. That was the LAST time I spoke to him before two weeks ago. I had spent the last 35 years hoping for some sort of reunion or meeting of some kind, and to apologize if I'd hurt him in any way (and to be honest, hoping that there might still be a spark). On my second day in Dublin, which was a Monday, I knew that was my chance to go find him. He had not responded to my Facebook messages and I thought maybe he wanted nothing to do with me or was just too busy to be bothered with some 58 year old lady who is enraptured with sentimentality about this time in her life (talking about myself in third person now: interesting). I had looked up where his doctor's office was (surprisingly close to my hotel) and made a plan to just drop by at some point that day. I got up early and rode the hop on/hop off bus around Dublin (those always sound like fun but usually suck; this one was particularly bad) and got off around Temple Bar area and nervously made my way the two miles or so to his office. I stopped off for a bite to eat and then used a hotel bathroom to freshen up and make sure there was no food in my teeth, and then marched to the Georgian townhouse where he performs surgeries. I got there and balked. I paced around and walked up and down the street thinking this was a really bad idea...but then I just sucked it up and said to myself What is the worst that can happen? fully knowing that no matter how horrible the outcome could be that I would KICK myself for not being brave enough to do this. I walked up and rang the doorbell. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. I am never that nervous so shaking hands is a very surprising thing for me to have. I tall man answered the door and I said real fast that I was an old friend of the doctors and could I just leave a message I don't want to bother him. And the man said I'll see if he's available! And I go sit in the waiting room and I hear this familiar voice say "Marsha Kendall!" and bounding down the stairs is that tall & handsome man I met 35 years ago. He was delighted to see me. We went and had a lunch around the corner and tried as much as possible to catch up on our lives. He had somewhere to be so we only had about an hour together. I walked back to my hotel and don't know if I even tried to process it...I had to  get up early the next day to go on my tour so I don't think I wrote much about it - maybe to my NYC friend who gets my TOMES(!!!). All I know is that when the trip started I felt a bleakness that was raw and hollowed out and I off. I was tired, I wanted to go home, and I'd only been in Ireland for 72 hours with THREE WEEKS to go! I think a part of me felt like I'd done what I came here to forward to today, where I only have one week left and am on my break in Dublin between tours. The trip was wonderful beyond words (the bleak feeling dissipated quickly) and there were such beautiful, tender moments of connection with the country and it's citizens. We all really bonded on the bus and everyone was kind and gracious. I surrendered to the tour and had a great time. 

The two days in Dingle were a deep dive in the layers of limbic memories where this 1984 love story still lived. I felt like I inhabited my body in a way that I hardly do anymore: younger, sexual, full of future short: being a young woman. A girl. There is nothing like entering the crone period of one's life to truly, truly appreciate what it was like to be young and to not have realized at all what you had. I just thought of myself as an edgy party girl, and that guys liked me because I was funny. But they liked me because I was cute. Cute...and Young. And now my deep limbic love feelings get stirred when I interact with babies or children. I could not be more delighted that this has happened. I spent the shorter of my overseas flights next to a boisterous baby who I played peek-a-boo with for two hours and his mom was so happy that I helped keep her baby entertained. I say what I always say...that this was an absolute treat for me as I don't get to be around babies very much. But back to Dingle, my body was obsessed with tracking the route from my Hotel past the B&B we first stayed in, down to O'Flaherty's Pub, up past Dick Mack's and back to Benner's. It was my own Ulysses. I walked it over and over again in the two eyes hungrily taking in every molecule of those streets, as if somehow I could relive those days once again by just following this crazy circle. I made myself hang out in both pubs, as awkward as that can be as a non-drinker. I ordered my sparkling water everywhere so I'd have a glass with something in it, but it never felt the same. It was ancient, it was mind could tell me that buy my bones and my soul ACHED to feel that sense of freedom again. Yet I have even more freedom now, so memory is an interesting character.

Wow. What a rambling, all over the map post this has become! I was going to write about this tour but ended up writing mostly about the 1984 trip and ended up with how much I love having the grandma gene. I suppose what is really interesting to me is how aging changes what one loves, or what one thinks is the source of what will bring one love...for most of my life I thought only romantic love could save/cure/rescue me. I had felt so love starved in my youth that that hunger drove me for has only subsided in the last 7 years (with lots of help and work), and what a blessing that has been...all the other forms of juicy love that are available have rolled gently into my sphere the fill the space vacated by romantic yearning. Interacting with babies and toddlers everywhere when I catch their eyes, giving food to homeless men at a shelter and feeling the oneness with them...getting to inhabit my own body and feel all my edges and practice the incredibly hard job of actually trying to love myself, and the riches that that has brought. When I think about how many hours a week I spent focussing my attention on romantic drama it amazes me that I figured out how to break free of it (or that I needed to). I was stuck in a pattern that I did not create and did not even know what it was until very recently. Without going into the amazing insights I now have about that part of my life, I am making a new map into an unknown place that I am traveling as I am overhauling it. It is truly a journey into the unknown and filled with lots of sharp points that I have to stop and bandage. I am making new neural pathways in my nervous system...ones that flourishes on safety, security, and kindness...(I just looked at that last sentence and cannot believe it came from my fingers), and not on drama, lack, and chronic abandonment reenactment.

I won't write about the details of my lunch with the Dublin doc I met in Dingle, but something about it felt like we had just been hanging out the day before. It was so comfortable and fun...and the details of his life were surprising enough to me to realize that no, I hadn't sabotaged love for myself, I had created something so beautiful and wonderful as to have it's own life and beauty and to be the inspiration for this blog's inception. I hadn't sabotaged love, I had held out for the greatest love of all: the carving out of my own beautiful life, of which romantic love is a really sweet piece, but just a piece...not the whole pie. My relationship with this country and the romance with the Irish boy now has an ending. And it was a really, really great story that I got to tell everyone on my tour van!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Forty Years Love Affair

just got to town!

on top of my hotel - love the Pod!

walking across Manhattan bridge with Kat00n!

Just got back from 5 days in NYC and my legs still want to walk non-stop every minute of the day except for about an hour of sitting for meals. It's not just that I love the city and the energy and the bolt of joy I feel every morning when I exit my hotel in the uber excitement of mid-town, it's that something happens there that is beyond and bigger than just joy or happiness or excitement. My reptilian brain, my deep limbic system that attaches me to the collective unconscious feels electrified and a broken refrigerator that gets a shiny new plug and then is plugged into the wall and hums and glows and all is right with that refrigerator. It's not doing anything special or doing a dance or trying to stand out from all the other just comes alive and starts functioning perfectly. That is what is going on underneath  my excitement and joy and happiness when I am there. And I'm not really doing a whole lot of different stuff when I'm in the city...I'm basically just walking. Walking and walking and walking. Averaging about 10 miles a day. I usually don't do any sort of New Yorky stuff (except this time I did go to two broadway plays) because all I want to do is walk around. I do midtown for the first day...then I take the train down to NYU area and walk that part, and this time I went to my friend's house in Clinton Hill in Brooklyn and we waked from there to Chinatown over the Manhattan bridge (where I got that beautiful bottom photo). I've said this many times since I've been staying in a hotel in the city the last few years: "I have to move back here." And I will. Probably not this year as I just signed a lease, but I will start planning for it during the year, and hopefully my cabin in Oregon will sell this summer and I can forget about that. A part of me thinks it's crazy to move to NY in the same year I turn 60, but I seem to still have that restless spirit that gets bored living in the same place too long. I have been in Austin two years and it has been good to me. I have a pretty good social life, have worked almost the whole time I've been here, and belong to a lively film society so life is good...I just feel like I need to give NY another shot and live there when I'm mature and sober. The one thing I know that I have proved to myself for 40 years is that I can always come back to Austin.

As soon as I got back from NY I did two days of serious adulting. I went to my investment guy and we did a big plan to convert all my funds into a safer, more annuity type product planning for my full retirement at age 65 (only 7 years away!). I have been investing for almost 20 years, have my UT pension that will kick in when I retire, and hopefully a tiny little social security check (which kind of burns me how small it is after working 42 years in a row). So I left his office feeling very clear and clean about my financial life, and loving the fact that I can still work as much or as little as I want and take time off to do trips as well.

The second adulting thing I did was go visit a doctor with my new ACA health insurance. When I worked at UT I had health insurance and used it maybe once a year for my lady parts check up. When I started going to the Ice I had to have a comprehensive physical every year that was paid for so I felt really taken care of then. I have never gone to a doctor at any other time except for birth control reasons (I've always paid for my therapists and bodyworkers out of pocket) so health insurance is not something I really ever thought about. Now that I'm older I was getting concerned about having catastrophic insurance. I could always go to the cheap clinic here and just pay cash if I really needed to, but I wanted some sort of security in case of a major medical expense. I have such a negative attitude about health care in this country that I just decided I'd ignore it until I went on Medicare, but then this free organization here in Austin that helps people get on ACA insurance helped me get a really cheap plan. I was thrilled to be paying a low monthly fee that what seemed like a really good plan. I thought it would be super lame but called a phone number and got an appt. the next day with a gyno and after one hour had done all my bloodwork, had my full lady parts exam, had my IUD yanked (that had been floating around up there for 20 years) and have 5 more appts. for all that stuff one is suppose do now that I'm old. And I LOVED my doctor. She was awesome and sweet and I felt so taken care of. Now I felt like I was on an assembly line as the doctors and nurses were talking so fast and the doc was typing into a screen the whole time she was talking to me and hadn't really looked at me. She asked "are you periods nice and regular with good flow" and I realized she had not even looked at the form I filled out that had my age on it and I said "lady, I haven't had one of those in 8 years" and she paused and looked around the screen, and saw how old I was. I guess I could be flattered that she thought I looked younger. But all in all it was a great experience and I can't wait to go back to all my other appts.

In the midst of all this order a bit of chaos happened. I am still feeling conflicted and angry/hurt/sad about it but have already starting to see that it is really no big deal in the grand scheme of things. I called UT, where I have been temping for two years, to get in the pool to get another assignment. My temp contact who knows me pretty well called me and told me I'd been terminated from UT. After two years and many assignments with glowing reviews I had one dud review from the last assignment and I was fired permanently for being "uncooperative" and "not giving notice". I went into full injustice warrior mode and made phone calls and dashed off e-mails and researched who to write for grievance stuff and called a lot of people and then found myself driving to the store to buy a deep red lipstick and went to a fantastic movie and and hung out with a good friend at the film society and people watched. His notion is why the hell would I want to work at this chump-y place when I don't have to! I told him that I had had associations with UT for 40 years now (entering as a college student in 1979) and that the University was part of my DNA (my father was a student there as I was coming down the birth canal), and that is just seemed so unfair to fire me to be canned after one bad review. I could understand if this was my first assignment but I have had so many "excellent" reviews and many of my supervisors call the temp office asking for me specifically because I am such a superstar worker. It seems to me that my whole temp performance could be weighed in with this awful, terrible, suckola job that I hated so much that I left giving one day notice. It was a temp job so I thought that was not so terrible a way to exit. I feel I'm being punished as if I did something truly terrible (stealing, inappropriate behavior.) Anyway,  I've spent almost 72 hours throwing a lot of energy into this and I'm done. I'm ready to move into a bigger and better space around work,  life, moving to NYC, world travel, and laughing and having fun for the next 30 years.

I don't take for granted for one moment how lucky I am to be able to live the life I have right now. It is magnificent. I am truly, truly grateful.

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.]