Wednesday, October 18, 2017
I just got back from my umpteenth painting workshop in Taos. I am part of the old guard there - the class clown with a suitcase full of uber expensive knitted goods to sell. All the workshops feel a little different and some are more fun and richer than others but this one was probably one of the best ever. I always go into hypomania talking non-stop, running around so much I burn off the luxury meals I'm eating, hanging out with ladies I've known forever - being bad, going to bars at night and dancing like fools. This time I made a friend connection that sucked me out of the vortex of the workshop. It was that kind of connection you get once or twice in a lifetime maybe. I swirled and danced around northern New Mexico with this person and felt a joy I have only felt (well, felt it a lot actually) when the beginning of an Ice stint was happening, and by beginning I mean getting the contract in my e-mail box going to hundreds of dr. appts, getting ticketed, buying workboots and best:boarding the flight from LAX-CHC and then the glorious euphoric days in Cheech and then the 3:00am hang at CDC in full ECW awaiting the cargo jet flight to the Ice. My eyes are welling up as I type that...knowing that two years ago today I was landing in McMurdo, setting up my little dorm room, walking over to the galley for chow...it still feels like a dream...but in Taos my cup runneth over with a limbic connection with another human that seemed to blur the edges of where I started and this other person began. It wasn't physical or romantic or sexual - it was straight up this is one of my soul mates. And for a day or two I didn't think about Antarctica.
So I'm feeling skinless after the trip and everything is going in unfiltered. Shields are down, open for business (and by business I mean meaningful connection). That seems to be the only thing that will tether me to sanity - that and great art, and I get a lot of that living in this town. Saw a film that gutted me recently, and started a busy warehouse job that keeps me grounded. And for some reason the line between art and life has softened quite a bit and I feel that surge of awe after a great film whenever I drive to my warehouse job - the locations seems custom designed for my aesthetic: gutted, ugly old buldgs, rusted farm equipment, neglect, decay and to top it off: a train rumbling by steps from the loading dock. Even though I find his films unwatchable, Harmony Korine said something that could have come from my own lips "there is nothing as beautiful as an old couch next to a dumpster in a glass strewn parking lot." That is not a direct quote but you get the aesthetic. The campus feels like it is in central Kentucky instead of just around the the yuppie hellscape called The Domain. (Which, I actually like).
I wish I could squeeze some beautiful juicy words into rapturous meaning like I saw had happened in some previous posts! I can't look at Facebook when people are deploying...it's just too painful to not be with them. I can't even wrap my head around how much meaning and purpose and joy that place provided for me. I cannot communicate to anyone the insane high after 12 hours of unloading shipping containers in a loud ancient M4K and what it feels like to become one with your rig..to go sleep 5 hours and get back in that noisy green 12K pound monster and crack open another can. I just keep saying no it wasn't lonely, no it wasn't isolating, no it wasn't desolate - it was a big burning man in the frozen dessert - and now what to do with the 30 or so years I have left on this planet. I can't live small...and I have to have everything or I'm restless. And by everything I mean that thing I choose has to have all the boxes checked, no reservations and no ambivalence.
Monday, June 19, 2017
I had to wait until I was in psychic PAIN from not writing to finally sit down and write. I actually have many drafts that I never post because they seem so badly written or worse, not brimming with fresh ideas but then I re-read them and they seem okay to me...okay enough to post! And the thrill of seeing so much writing just sitting there that hasn't been posted yet - fun! Just posted on my Menopause Helmet blog, where I usually post more personal stuff...but here goes...I will just make this up as I go along and see if anything comes of it. I've decided to post it anyway, no matter how rusty, or how unoriginal in topic.
I've been in Austin 7 months and it is the dreaded summertime here. I am handling it well as I decided not to complain about it. I spend most of my time in air conditioning so that is my coping strategy. For some reason living in Austin feels completely different than the time I lived here for 30 years. I don't know if it is because I lived in Oregon for 6 years or because I'm mid 50's trying to do stuff all the time like I'm young, or just a combination of myself and the city having changed so much. When I lived here before, there was the great amorphous yearning and pining for something big that I really wanted and didn't know what it was or if I could have it. Then I got to have it, and have it and have more of it, and it was so good that the first several years of this blog are only about that. Falling in love with that place has informed everything that has happened since the first deployment and continues to affect my life now...I just got an e-mail from a department boss saying they couldn't use me this season ( a department I havent worked for in a while) and I felt a little hard hurtful slice of rejection in my gully. But I was at my fun Austin job, which I have loved from day one because of this rich connection with my co-workers, and the rag tag little crew that we are. We huck books in libraries all over the massive university complex and laugh and bitch and feel like one person with 6 arms at times. It has been a really fun job temping at UT this year and is about it end. I'll go to Oregon in July and spend some time in the cabin deciding if I want to sell it or not, and then come back to Austin to finish out the year in my apt. I have no big plans for my life.
What? Maybe that is why I've been kind of low lately. I thrive on big plans...if I wasn't going to the Ice I was planning very exciting trips and basically traveling all the time. Now that I'm in city with lots of friends and stuff to do I'm having what I call a "straight life." It is not as exciting and mostly just feels like I'm entertaining myself most of the time. My job feels like entertainment - and I do really safe, non risky stuff like go to movies a lot, knit, read books, binge watch. My attitude has been really off - I seem to feel like I've lived more of a big life than anyone around me, and sometimes find myself not really wanting to listen to someone talk about things because they haven't done anything really exciting with their life (but that is very arrogant of me, because everyone has done something deeply meaningful with their lives, especially if they've raised children.) I feel like I fulfilled a huge intention given to me by my self or the universe or my daimon and it took every moment of my 43 years to get to the place where everything finally lined up and I got to go and do it. It is hard doing straight life after driving a farm tractor across Western Antarctica. I have nothing to contend with here; everything is so easy...my life feels like its on easy autopilot: get up and go to work, go to grocery store, look for fun stuff to do on weekends, knit scarves to sell in Taos, paint beautiful paintings that make people freak out, go to yoga and go on some big trip once or twice a year. Doesn't that sound awesome? It's okay but it's not awesome. It is a fine, quiet little life where I'm just tending to my own business and trying not to offend people...but, the thing that is ever present in my psyche is the desire to grab everyone by the shoulders and get all up in their face and insistently ask them what it is that they really want to do?! Are they living their hearts' desire? Are they settling for a straight life? I am currently doing a straight life but I am going to choose to see it as an incubation period for the next big thing. Ohmigod several people have said things like "it's time to retire and settle down and just tow the rope" and "you've already gotten to have fun." Like there is some time limit on fun...like I can't be 60 and take off with a knapsack and roam around the world til I croak...that sounds kind of awesome actually...I have a friend whose 57 who just sold everything and took off...I told him it was about time.
|Paul in a gallery in downtown Austin|
It's been a long time since my last post. I am out of the habit of writing and I've really missed it. And it is interesting because usually I don't write when nothing has been going on in my life much, but since my last post a lot has changed - I've moved back to Austin and am comfortabley set up in a sweet old rambling apartment close to campus and downtown, and am busy doing all the things that an urban lifestyle affords. I go to plays, see live music, walk miles and miles every day and still do yoga too. I've had two little jobs and am on the temp list for UT..everything is just so easy living in a city that I know so well. I am seeing Austin through utterly new eyes. I am just besotted with the things that I took for granted before I moved away: hundreds of familiar people and deep old friendships...ease of getting to shops and work and the airport. I can walk to dozens of restaurants, coffee shops, a giant goodwill store, and hop on an express bus and be downtown in 10 minutes. I am doing everything that I wanted to do by moving to a city...and originally I wasn't going to choose Austin, but something in my aging bones was craving home..and this is my home.
Before I moved here I was in my cabin in Oregon really waiting for the inspiration for what to do next. I knew I wanted to be in a city. I was seriously considering New York or someplace like Madison or Ann Arbor, a smaller city with a lot of culture with a big University. But the last two times I had visited Austin I had just been deliriously happy with the city and seeing my friends and the ease of going out and doing things. I couldn't believe what was happening on the short visit in May and November: I would just walk down a street in a neighborhood I had lived in like Hyde Park or West Campus and every fiber of my being would just be pulsing with joy with the memory of the life I had here. I had not felt this for Austin ever really. When I had moved away in April of 2011 I was bitter about the growth and all the yuppies and the disappearance of the funky, sleepy medium sized town that I fit so well in. But I couldn't get enough of the nostalgia and euphoria I would experience when I walked on campus or the drag or down W 22nd Street where I used to live...and I would just beam and talk to everyone I saw and just revel in my wonderful city that was wooing me and becoming me to come back to it. I just felt so in love...that is the only way to describe it...I was having the same intense connection with this city that I used to feel only when I thought about McMurdo...I was surprised and delighted to experience this around Austin, because this was something I could do, move back here. McMurdo didn't hire me back this season, so I had to have a plan B, and staying in my cabin wasn't an option. I did take wise counsel from friends: they said not to sell the cabin so I didn't. And they said don't think that moving back here is going to be blissful every second and they were right. I have been just as sad and lonely here as I was on the mountain, but I am able so much more quickly to ameliorate it by just walking out my front door and visiting with neighbors, or have meals with friends. I can feel connected just walking down a street with other humans or sitting around them in a coffee shop. Everything I was missing on the mountain I have here in spades, and my life is good. Not great...but good.
I had to adjust my expectations of life when I moved back here. I am a 56 year old woman who lives in city full of young hip people (who apparently have tons of money) and I kept wondering why I was ignored in shops or not having any luck meeting people to date...and then I had to look at the cold hard truth of aging. That thing they say about older women being invisible - well it is Literally True! I would joke around about being "old" and a "battle-ax" and have a running self mocking schtick I would do about being old and undesirable, but what I realized when I was going through a hard time after I moved back here was that I hadn't really accepted the reality of my postmenopausal self and that I hadn't really said goodbye to my younger self. There was some pain with this, but beyond the pain is immense freedom. I had an insight recently that menopause has given me everything that I was trying to get through years of therapy, 12 step meetings, workshops, and all those spiritual workshops - menopause has made me very comfortable in my body, very relaxed and content to be doing something that pleases me without it having to look exciting to the world. My life is pretty simple...even when I have a lot going on...my life is filled with ease and peace of mind. I kept thinking that I would find the TRICK to keeping myself sane (the right therapy, meditation, workshop, trip, church, boyfriend, city to move to, etc.), but all I had to do was Grow Older! With the vanishing of estrogen came a loyal fierceness to my true self, and a centeredness that is worth its weight in gold.
Oh god the freedom of not needing a boyfriend anymore! I still go on an online date once in a while, and even though these men are always nice and okay seeming...I am just so bored after the first 20 minutes of chit chat and can't WAIT to get back to my apartment and my knitting project. Being single for five years deserves it's own blogpost. What I have gained from that is pure gold. I have developed a super juicy relationship with myself...I have time to really be present with my friends and whatever I am doing...and if I every start to feel sorry for myself for being "alone" or "single" I can remind myself about how freakin' lucky I am to have the thing I wanted more than anything else for as long as I can remember: freedom. I am so free...and so independent. I don't have to answer to anyone or ask anyone's permission to do anything. So many times I catch myself in a dark place seeing my situation as bleak, but I'm immediately reminded by anyone around me how damned lucky I am.
I've been doing this long enough to know that when one chooses a particular life that there will be some grieving or wistfulness for the life not chosen. I never wanted a family or children, but every once in a while will feel a sharp pang during a holiday when I am alone knitting and seeing photos of big family gatherings. I have never been domestic and love living alone, but can sometimes get gut punched by seeing a couple intimatley cooking together in a tidy home. And then sometimes my whole story just falls apart and I think I'm full of shit that my life is great and that I was just too afraid to commit to a life that involved deep commitments. But...I can spin that too...I have been Deeply Committed to my dreams and goals and the things I deeply wanted. I was married to McMurdo. I am agog with joy when making travel plans. Sitting on my bed knitting and binge watching provides the deepest contact with bliss that I have ever known...ah bliss! I've experience so much bliss once I knew I was moving back to Austin. And it was so damned fun and easy to pack up my car and drive down here. I am so damed competent at stuff like that. I was so damned easy and fun.