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.