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.]

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things...

Previously Unposted - Good Enough for Now

Taos Pueblo

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

Straight Life

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

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

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


Paul in a gallery in downtown Austin

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Viking Passage

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

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

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