I Still Believe In Love

I climbed up the step-stool to reach the cabinet above the sink, grabbing a box to fill with the medley of cold medicine, antacids and allergy pills. A handful of bottles was too much and two of them fell to the floor below, rattling and popping open, throwing their contents across the tile. I sighed and climbed down the steps and began gathering the small pills. I rolled the bottle over in my hand after retrieving it from the floor. “Patient: May Normand Johnson. Give half a pill with food 2x a day.” My breath caught in my throat, and I leaned back onto the step, eyes immediately tearing up. I was jarred from my manic cleaning by the reminder of my most recent loss and the continuing grief I’d been fighting.

Dearest readers, I have had a truly black case of writer’s block since Sunday, August 6th, 2017. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but something broke in me as I held my dog as she took her last gasping breaths, her heart finally failing her. Failing us. In a short month and half, she had gone from the most energetic and obnoxious dog to a shadow of her former self, unable to play ball due to her shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. She would hold the ball in her mouth, breathing heavy around it, in an act of greatest defiance. She could no longer move around and would frequently pass out, losing control of all of her functions and gagging in a most frightening manner.

On a warm, sunny afternoon playing ball in the backyard, she’d passed out suddenly. Panicked, I grabbed her and took her inside where she came to and looked at me as if I were being silly. She was fine, she said. I took her to the animal ER and her breathing was stabilized with oxygen as she underwent imaging and tests. A couple of grand later, we learned that she had a congenital heart defect that had suddenly worsened. That, for a relatively youthful eight-year-old terrier, she had a bad prognosis of at most two to three months and that there was nothing we could do for her. I spent the next month not sleeping much and spending every moment I could with her, rushing home from work anxiously praying that I wouldn’t open the door to find her gone already. Praying that she wait to go till I could be with her.

And so, on another warm, sunny afternoon in the backyard, it happened. She’d been up all night, unable to get comfortable, so I’d slept on the floor with her, holding her. As the sun came through the blinds the next morning, I had a sad feeling. She looked at me and, though her breathing was still labored, she seemed different. As if she were distant, not present anymore. I opened the back door and took her out to lay in the cool morning grass. She loved laying in the grass, so we lie there together, the sky painfully blue above us. She labored for what seemed like forever. I had coolly thought that, after a month mentally preparing myself for it, that somehow it would be less painful or awful. I’d seen animals die before, but this was quite different. This was my best friend, the love of my life. Save for my parents, no one had loved me more than Normand and, likely, no one ever will again. As anyone who knew us would attest to, she and I were beyond inseparable.

It was awful. It was ugly. I held her in my arms, unable to maintain any composure. She went quickly, but it was death. The whole eyes-dilating, body-seizing, foam-out-the-mouth ugly, ugly face of death. I felt her fighting it, and I held her till she was still. I don’t know how long I sat out in the grass holding her. I’d lost track of all time. Eventually, I picked her up and took her inside to lay her on her blanket. I felt tremendous shame at the feeling of relief that washed over me. So much shame. I took her to be cremated that morning, still consumed with shame and guilt at being able to take a breath in the now overwhelming silence of the house.

By far the greatest casualty of Normand’s death was my other dog’s severe concern and anxiety about what had occurred. I had been dedicating all of my energy for the past two months in the constant care of Norm, which he seemed not to mind. But this event was too much for him. All that he knew was that she was different and then that she was gone, taken away by me. He’d pace for hours at the front door, eager for me to go get her. In my grief, I did not know how to respond to him other than to try to console him through my own tears. He was despondent almost immediately after her death, lacking her constant leadership and guidance. I had work to distract me, but, when I’d get home, he’d be sleeping in her bed. He stopped responding to me and he’d stopped eating by the end of the week. Luckily, he loves my parents’ dog pack and has sense regained his sense of joy since going to stay with them.

I tell you all of this awfulness, dear reader, to tell you this — that I still believe in love. Though my heart is broken and I am changed, I still believe in love because a dog showed me and taught me such an awesome love. She came into my life during a separation and divorce, helped me survive grad school, moved multiple times with me, and braved the cold winters of Maine by my side before making the journey back to North Carolina this year. She had the most enthusiastic and purest love for everyone around her. She packed in so many good memories in her short eight years. I miss her the most when I am driving. Her place was always riding shotgun, Guns N’ Roses blaring on the radio, happy to go anywhere with me so long as we were together. Thousands of miles we’d ride together. Sometimes I see something out of the corner of my sunglasses, and, for a split second, I swear I catch a glimpse of black and white next to me. I guess, in some way, she’ll always be riding shotgun with me.

I know that this is a seemingly dreary post to start off 2018, but I feel that part of my healing will come through sharing my grief. I count myself so very lucky to have been loved by a dog and, as I write more about the other changes going on in my life, I hope to be more of the person she thought me to be. It’s a lot to live up to, but that is my simple goal for 2018.

 

“You’ve been gone for a long long time
You’ve been in the wind, you’ve been on my mind
You are the purest soul I’ve ever known in my life

Take your time, let the rivers guide you in
You know where you can find me again
I’ll be waiting here ’til the stars fall out of the sky
When you left I was far too young
To know you’re worth more than the moon and the sun
You are still alive when I look to the sky in the night
I would wait for a thousand years
I would sit right here by the lake, my dear
You just let me know that you’re coming home
And I’ll wait for you
Years have gone but the pain is the same
I have passed my days by the sound of your name
Well they say that you’re gone and that I should move on
I wonder: how do they know, baby?
Death is a wall but it can’t be the end
You are my protector and my best friend
Well they say that you’re gone and that I should move on
I wonder: how do they know, baby?
How do they know? Well, they don’t”

“Yes I know that love is like ghosts

Oh, few have seen it, but everybody talks
Spirits follow everywhere I go
Oh they sing all day and they haunt me in the night
Oh they sing all day and they haunt me in the night
Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh, and what ain’t living can never really die
You don’t want me baby please don’t lie
Oh but if you’re leaving, I gotta know why
I said if you’re leaving, I gotta know whyOh I sing all day and I love you through the night
Yes I know that love is like ghosts
Oh and the moonlight baby shows you whats real
There ain’t a language for the things I feel
And if I can’t have you then no one ever will
Oh, if I can’t have you then no one ever will
I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes
Oh go on baby, hurt me tonight
I want ours to be an endless song
Baby in my eyes you do no wrong
I don’t feel it till it hurts sometimes
So go on baby hurt me tonight
All the spirits that I know I saw
Do you see no ghost in me at all
Oh I sing all day and I love you through the night”

Sweet Child O’ Mine

I’ve been on a brief hiatus. Partly because I’m working on a set of short stories for submission to a contest this fall. Partly because I’ve been nursing a sick puppy, who recently passed away. Between a lot of changes at work and taking time to enjoy my Normand, it’s been a tumultuous few months, but I am using music, writing and friends to help me get through. I’ll post an actual entry sometime, but the other project will likely take precedence since I’ve been able to break through some of my writer’s block.

In the meantime, here are some of the songs from my most recent playlist. Most remind me of Normand.

 

 

“You’ve got your ball
you’ve got your chain
tied to me tight tie me up again
who’s got their claws
in you my friend
Into your heart I’ll beat again
Sweet like candy to my soul
Sweet you rock
and sweet you roll
Lost for you I’m so lost for you”

 

 

“And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass”

 

 

“Oh, I thought the world of you
I thought nothing could go wrong
But I was wrong, I was wrong
If you, if you could get by
Trying not to lie
Things wouldn’t be so confused
And I wouldn’t feel so used
But you always really knew
I just want to be with you
And I’m in so deep
You know I’m such a fool for you
You’ve got me wrapped around your finger
Do have to let it linger?
Do you have to, do you have to, do have to let it linger?”

 

 

“Don’t leave me high
Don’t leave me dry
Don’t leave me high
Don’t leave me dry

Drying up in conversation
You will be the one who cannot talk
All your insides fall to pieces
You just sit there wishing you could still make love”
“So long ago, I don’t remember when

That’s when they say I lost my only friend
Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease
As I listened through the cemetery trees
I seen the sun comin’ up at the funeral at dawn
The long broken arm of human law
Now it always seemed such a waste, she always had a pretty face
So I wondered how she hung around this place
Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There’s got to be something better than
In the middle
But me and Cinderella
We put it all together
We can drive it home
With one headlight”
“So I’ll start a revolution from my bed

Cause you said the brains I had went to my head
Step outside, summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the fireplace
Take that look from off your face
You ain’t ever gonna burn my heart out
And so, Sally can wait
She knows it’s too late as we’re walking on by
Her soul slides away
But don’t look back in anger
I heard you say”
“Backbeat, the word was on the street

That the fire in your heart is out
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before
But you never really had a doubt
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do about you now
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how
Because maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, you’re my wonderwall”
“You’re falling back to me
The star that I can see
I know you’re out there somewhere out there
You’re falling out of reach
Defying gravity
I know you’re out there
Somewhere out there

You’re falling back to me
The star that I can see
I know you’re out there”

“And it’s been awhile
Since I could say
That I wasn’t addicted
It’s been awhile
Since I could say
I loved myself as well
And it’s been awhile
Since I’ve gone and
Fucked things up
Just like I always do
And it’s been awhile
But all that shit
Seems to disappear
When I’m with you”
“Here’s a toast

To all those who hear me all too well
Here’s to the nights
We felt alive
Here’s to the tears
You knew you’d cry
Here’s to goodbye
Tomorrow’s gonna come too soon”
“Moving forward using all my breath

Making love to you was never second best
I saw the world crashing all around your face
Never really knowing it was always mesh and lace
I’ll stop the world and melt with you
You’ve seen the difference and it’s getting better all the time
There’s nothing you and I won’t do
I’ll stop the world and melt with you”
“i try to remember a kiss
and i only get sorrow
and yesterday’s faded away
now there’s only tomorrow
and everything passes and changes
and comes to an end i know
but nothing is written but old news
again and again
i know that it’s true
there’s too many tears
but angels don’t cry”
“I miss you, I miss you

I miss you I miss you
Where are you?
And I’m so sorry
I cannot sleep I cannot dream tonight
I need somebody and always”
“She’s got a smile it seems to me

Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I’d stare too long
I’d probably break down and cry
Oh, oh, oh
Sweet child o’ mine
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Sweet love of mine”
“But the space between where you’re smilin’ high
Is where you’ll find me if I get to go
The space between the bullets in our firefight
Is where I’ll be hiding, waiting for you

The rain that falls splash in your heart
Ran like sadness down the window into your room
The space between our wicked lies
Is where we hope to keep safe from pain

Take my hand ’cause we’re walking out of here
Oh, right out of here, love is all we need, dear”

Breathing Underwater

I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.
The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star.
-Rumi

I got a lot done last week, learned some things at work and saw a different side to a friend (both good and bad). I also managed to work out almost every day, which is helping me sleep a lot better at night. Oh, and I’m trying to get down another pant size before September so I can get back into my favorite shorts before my Hawaii trip. That and be healthier in general. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like the last year or so it has become so much harder to lose weight. Maybe it’s my metabolism slowing down, but for the same workouts and lower calorie foods, I don’t lose weight as fast. Just means I have to work a little harder at it. It also doesn’t help that my neighborhood is not very runner-friendly, or else I’d be doing that every night. I think my next move will have to be to somewhere I can run from my house in a neighborhood or on a trail. I miss running in the mornings or right before sunset, like I used to in Atlanta. It became so much easier when it was part of my daily routine and I felt much happier with my body. But I do have my stair-climber/elliptical, which helps me remove excuses. Hard to ignore it when it’s literally right next to my bed. I’m going to try to add some weight training this week to mix it up.

I also realize that part of my journey is also appreciating my body as it is, but that’s always going to be something I struggle with. I have good days and bad days, just like everyone else. I do like my hair growing out again. It’s strange, but I’ve always felt “stronger” when I have my long hair. Same with wearing flame red. One of my old friends and I had a whole conversation about our “empowering rituals.” Those small things that you do or wear that bring you a sense of personal strength. For me, when I walk into the big meetings wearing a sharp red blouse, my black pumps and thick mascara, I feel pretty powerful. And feeling it is half the battle, right? It also helps that working out a smidge makes my clothes fit better. Aside from feeling good for myself, it’s also fun to watch guys I work with (I work with a lot of them) do a double-take versus a few months ago when I was essentially invisible. Definitely an entertaining perk. I can’t say that I always like myself, but I’m making an effort to be more forgiving towards myself, which makes it easier to like myself more often. Finding that balance between pushing myself to be better and taking a breath to enjoy what I’ve been able to do is key. I spend a lot of time loving and accepting other people, so I’m working on doing the same for myself, even if it takes time.

“You know some days you feel so good in your own skin
But it’s okay if you wanna change the body that you came in
‘Cause you look greatest when you feel like a damn queen
We’re all just playing a game in a way, trying to win at life

Most girls are smart and strong and beautiful
Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable
Most girls, our fight to make every day
No two are the same”

“Something like flying
Hard to describe it
My God, I’m breathing underwater
Something like freedom, freedom
My God, I’m breathing underwater

Every moon and every star
Knows who you are, you know
So ever if gets too dark
You never are alone”

“I don’t know why I’m scared
I’ve been here before
Every feeling, every word
I’ve imagined it all
You’ll never know if you never try
To forget your past and simply be mine

I dare you to let me be your, your one and only
I promise I’m worthy
To hold in your arms
So come on and give me the chance
To prove I am the one who can walk that mile
Until the end starts

Sooner or Later

I actually got out of the house last week quite a bit, so of course I spent the weekend relatively reclusive, save for a trip to the park with the dogs. I went out with friends from work on Friday for dinner, drinks, and a movie. It was a lot of fun, despite keeping me out past my bedtime (which is like 9:30pm).

I know I haven’t been writing my normal heart-wrenching updates full of meaning and intention. It’s not that I’m not thinking those things still, just that in the light of my gratefulness, many of those thoughts become tempered and softer. I enjoy my job and my coworkers, even when it has been slow making friends. For some reason, I always forget that other people need a lot more time than me to decide if they like people (me) or not. I can usually get a “feel” for people within a few minutes to hours of spending time with them. Now, wait, you say, shouldn’t we take longer when getting to know new people? Aren’t you making assumptions by assessing them too quickly?

I don’t like to think of it as making assumptions. I tend to read people pretty quickly and it has always served me well. In the same vein, despite my ability to read people quickly, I often have blind spots depending on the person. I read people, trust quickly, and then forget to re-read those people, meaning that I dole out trust at times to people who no longer have the best intentions. I like to romanticize this flaw of mine, telling myself that it is always better to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sure, it means I get burned now and then. But I feel that it is an important part of my brand of authenticity.

A candid talk with a friend at work was helpful today. For back story, in our succession planning, my bosses have been asking about what I want for my future–a managerial track or a technical track. Each has pros and cons, of course, which I’ve spent weeks going back and forth over. Meticulously writing lists and playing out possible scenarios in my head. I had a conference call this morning with several coworkers (one here and two in a remote location) that went pretty well. After the call was over, I hung up the phone and almost immediately flew into a frenzy of self-doubt about how “useful” and “efficient” the meeting had been. Reading over my notes quickly. Had everyone gotten what they needed? Did I do things the best way? Had everyone felt heard and appreciated? Did I go into enough detail? Or too much? Did I waste their time?

STOP IT. I know what you’re doing.” I looked up from my notes at my remaining colleague, a bit shocked by the tone of his statement. “You don’t need to doubt yourself so much. It was a great meeting and you’re doing what we should have been doing a long time ago. People appreciate that you care so much, but you gotta give it a break sometimes. For your own sake.” He looked over the edge of his laptop at me, smiled, and then went back to typing an email.

I was grateful that someone had broken me out of my mental spiral of self-questioning. Laughing, I shared my recent frustration with him at having to choose a track and that I was struggling between the ability to be at the bench doing science and being able to lead teams and make a bigger impact. He smirked and admitted that he also had that struggle, but that at least I’d had more opportunities to flex my leadership muscles in my team, which is true. I was grateful for the vent session and also for the wake up call that I had been grappling with a “first world problem” in the presence of someone that hadn’t really had the same advantages. “We both live in the future, so just be open to whatever it brings.” A completely whimsical statement came from a painfully analytical personality and that was comforting to me.

I have no doubt that my job will only get more complicated and trickier as I get deeper into a job role that is both exciting and nebulous, but I know I can do it. I think that every job is really about the people. Cool science is always a perk, but the people make it or break it. Though I don’t know a ton of people yet (or rather they don’t know me well enough yet), I think that I can win them over. And some I won’t. And that’s okay, too. I’m just excited to make some memories. And be around people that remind me to stop and take a deep breath once in awhile.

“Blinded by the glare
I was moving like I didn’t care
But it was more than I could bear
You know I hoped I’d see you there

Staring out the window
I could see into the soul of every passer by
So many lives
So many pairs of eyes

A pure feeling
I’m invisible and magical
If only for a moment
A pure feeling
I’m scared to control it”

“Now I’m flying and everything feels so free
Take me higher, take me
Now I’m flying, and with these broken wings, take me higher
Be free”

“Sooner or later, I swear we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it,
Sooner or later, I swear we’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it
Milk and honey ’til we get our fill
I’ll keep chasing it, I always will
Sooner or later, I swear
We’ll make it there
Sooner than later, sooner or later

The fear inside, the hills we’ve climbed
The tears this side of heaven,
All these dreams inside of me
I swear we’re gonna get there”

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Soooo…in the past few weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity in my life, some of it stressful, but most of it good. I have only recently been able to slow down a bit, rest and reflect on all the past few months. Here are just a few of those events/realizations.

I learned to steel myself against unhelpful criticism and find my value. My previous job was in an industry that I knew about and I’d been there long enough to feel comfortable. After some re-orgs, I wasn’t necessarily appreciated as much by my new chain of command, mostly due to their newness to my job function. Despite multiple conversations where I voiced my desire to make changes or improve myself or processes, I met with a great deal of resistance and sometimes even avoidance. I gave it time, thinking that they’d come around. Well, sometimes they don’t. And, despite my eternal optimism about people, I had to admit to myself that the only thing I could change was myself. In talking with others and getting feedback, I realized that I wasn’t just overreacting–I wasn’t being heard. So, what next? I thought. What do I have to offer? It’s a scary question to have to think through, but it is a valuable one. In revamping my résumé, I had a chance to see what new skills I’d learned and how I had grown. With a strong network of friends and family, I was able to recognize where I needed work still and, at the same time, how much I’d accomplished in the last four years.

I had to figure out how to go confidently into job interviews in entirely new industries where I know nothing. Along with the self-examination that had to happen, I was immediately terrified about having to go “out there” and knew that my next steps would involve a huge investment in social niceties and public speaking. Those are not my strong suit, but I can make it work when I need to. The previous step was necessary before I slung myself head first into the world of job applications, awkward phone screenings and talking myself up (again, something I don’t like doing). I prefer to be out of the spotlight, quietly providing massive support and strategy for my teams from backstage. When in the “hot seat” I am most effective when arguing on the behalf of others, but sometimes struggle when I am in a position to fight for myself. Again, it was a good experience that forced me to face both my social anxiety and develop some salesmanship on the fly. I did survive several months of no replies, replies with rejections (primarily because the companies couldn’t do out of region hires), and some phone interviews that ended in rejection. I recognized fast that while I had gotten comfortable in my current job, I had to stress my ability to learn quickly to get call backs from pharma, manufacturers and other industries. And, in the end, my experience with manufacturing and my adaptability were what helped get me my best job offers.

Christmas was essentially non-existent save for some gifts from my folks, but I was genuinely excited about the New Year for the first time in a while. Due to all of my job chaos, I gave notice in mid-December and then spent most of the month dealing with the aftermath of that. I also did a lot of paperwork and coordinating for the relocation.  So, I’ll just celebrate Christmas THIS year. On the up side, I was actually excited about everything happening, even with the chaos and “unknown-ness” of it all.

I had to leave my friends in Maine (along with my comfort zone). This goes along with the excitement–the sadness and uncertainty of leaving my cozy network of good friends and coworkers in Maine. Leaving my best friend and her new baby was the hardest by far, especially since I know it might be awhile before I can get up to see them again. I spent my last week or so meeting with as many people as I could and, ultimately, had two or three going away parties. I was greatly surprised at the people who came forward to tell me they would miss me–people with whom I had only brief interactions came to tell me how I’d made such a positive impact on them at one time or another. I was moved by their stories and genuinely surprised that I’d affected that many people in a short time, especially considering my general reclusiveness. It was a great boost and I left on good terms with a really grateful feeling.

Moving is always stressful. Moving 1300 miles away is more stressful. Full pack and move services help to lower stress. As generally adaptable as I am, I hate change. Well, change over a short period. I didn’t hear back about my relocation plans until the second week of January and needed to start the new job in the third week of January, soooo…that was stressful. What helped was the relocation package included both monetary help and a full pack and move service to make sure I had minimal manual labor to deal with myself. Fantastic. I’m considering it for all of my future moves. All I had to do was do coordinating via the phone and email and then just get in the car and drive south with my dogs.

For less rent than my 2br/1ba small townhouse apartment in Maine, I now live in a 3br/2ba house with a fenced back yard. The dogs were ecstatic to have their own space to play. The low-cost of living in NC was a huge reverse sticker-shock for me. But in a good way.

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I’ve had to start all over at my new job. I went from being the expert to knowing pretty much nothing. Luckily for me, it’s a feeling I enjoy. For an introvert, I’ve seriously forced myself to be social since my move. And that’s not a bad thing. I am learning so much every day and meeting so many new, interesting people it makes it worthwhile. I know that any social investments I make now will always pay off. I am trying to stay open and to say yes to things, no matter how mundane. It has worked for me before in the past and I’m having good luck with it here, too. Getting past the “I know nothing” phase usually goes faster when you’re willing to put ego aside.

Paying for snow plowing at the old house (for the realtor to show it) while enjoying 60F weather here is the emotional equivalent of taking out a $100 bill every few days, setting it on fire and watching it burn. This is just a given until I get it sold. Fingers crossed that it will happen in the next few months. I can feel my cheapo nerve get set off every time I see the weather forecast for the Northeast.

Mom and Dad can visit me now. With the entire set of dogs! Oh boy! It’s nuts, but great fun! So many dogs!

Trips with Mom to Charleston are now a doable thing. It’s a lot of fun and I’m hoping to be able to plan some trips around the Southeast this year.

Falling asleep after yoga or movie night with new friends in a new bed in a new house with my tired, happy dogs = the best. I have so much to be grateful for these days.

 

“But in times of trouble
I can turn to my mother
And I know that she gon’ understand
So at age 18
I cried to my mother
And she told me, “young man”

“There are moments when you fall to the ground
But you are stronger than you feel you are now
You don’t always have to speak so loud, no
Just be as you are
Life is not always a comfortable ride
Everybody’s got scars that they hide
And everybody plays the fool sometimes, yeah
Just be as you are

 

“My soul, is in Africa with you boy
Looking at the stars
On this diamond sky
Giving you my smile
So you can keep it on your mind
Floating on your blazing eyes”

 

To Build A Fire

Last weekend I was able to take part in the Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Maine Winter Skills Weekend up at Bryant Pond 4-H Center. It was pretty fantastic–I got to be outside most of the weekend with some amazing ladies! For my antisocial self, it was a good balance of groups and being alone. Made some new friends and got to see some old ones, which is always a good time.

Our first day there I went ice fishing with the group on North Pond. We arrived pretty early. I stepped onto the ice slowly and heard it creak a bit, but it felt solid. I followed the group out to the center of the pond about 700 feet from the shore. We drilled holes into the ice and measured it at about 16 inches, which is good for a group and small vehicles. We learned about bait types and how to set traps and jigs. As the sun rose above the hill behind us and hit the ice around us, the lake seemed to come alive. The groaning and loud popping around us was incredibly unnerving. Air pockets that had formed the night before came to the surface and would crack loudly below our feet as we slid from trap to trap.

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I was closest to the first trap to flag and knelt down to pull the line out of the water. The bait was gone, an obvious hit and run. I put fresh bait on the hook and fed the line back into the dark water below. I stood up and turned to watch the sun glistening off the ice and listened to the water moving under my feet. I turned back to the trap after hearing a clicking noise and saw the line being reeled out again. I knelt down, began pulling and soon felt a strong resistance on the other end of the line. After pulling slowly for a few seconds, a pair of beady eyes and rows of teeth drifted to the top of the dark water. No one mentioned we’d be catching prehistoric predator fish. I managed to get the pickerel out of the water by pulling him sideways onto the ice, but not without a fight. Luckily, I was wearing gloves or else the spines and teeth might have been a danger. We took several fish back with us for the cooking class.

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In the afternoon, I learned about placement and building of winter survival shelters and finally about winter survival skills for multiple scenarios with a professional Maine guide. One of my favorite stories of all time is Jack London’s To Build A Fire and so I jumped at the chance to be the first to try to build a fire! We managed to get several fires going by the end of our evening session. We had a great dinner of pork, bear and pickerel, all from less than five miles away.

We went back out on the ice at night to go fishing for cusk, a nocturnal species that is pretty tasty. Being on the ice during the night was both scary and breathtaking with the combination of creaking ice and a vast velvet blanket of pinprick stars. The girls caught a giant cusk fish!

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The next morning was spent at the shotgun trap range, shooting clays with a small group. We went over the different gauges of shotgun and learned about dominant eyes and such. Apparently, I’m left-eye dominant and managed to do pretty well after several rounds–finishing four double clays by the end of the session! Shotgunning was more fun that I imagined, so I may have a new hobby in the future.

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Overall, it was a great weekend. I learned a lot and met other women interested in learning, which doesn’t happen often these days. I am glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone even if part of me wanted to sit on the shore for ice fishing. I think that these small things that I survive while being uncomfortably anxious only serve to keep me grounded. I definitely have to fight my inner monologue in some cases, but it is good for me to step out now and then.

This year’s been quite eventful thus far. I was able to have dinner with Lorraine Warren, the famous demonologist, and her team a few nights ago, but I’ll save that for another post. Let’s just say that it’s only March, and I’ve successfully done several new and scary things for myself: learning how to snowboard, ice fishing, shotgunning, and eating dinner next to “haunted” objects.  I have also been working on forgiveness and letting go of things, both physical and emotional hangups. Clearing out junk in my house and in my mind and heart. I’ve been able to make amends with some people from my past and forgive myself for situations I have been blaming myself for for a long time. 2016 is a good year for forgiveness and courage.

Getting High

January was fun and, though I haven’t posted much, life has gone on. I have been doing a whole lotta nothing since I’m saving for some personal goals. I’ve still had some fun–going to Shawnee Peak at least once or twice a week with friends to try snowboarding. The best part of the whole experience has been coming to terms with my fear of heights. Forcing myself to ride ski lifts has been helpful in that now I can look out and truly appreciate the beautiful sights rather than closing my eyes and wishing it’d all go away.

Ultimately, that’s what I’d like to do more of in my life–look around and take it in even if it’s scary. I am definitely not great at boarding (as in I can slide down a hill but not gracefully). But even so, I am glad I’ve gotten outside this winter and tried something new. I don’t have to be brilliant at everything. This is a big revelation for me since my fear of failure has often kept me on the sidelines.

I was able to go up to Sugarloaf at the end of the month and had a good time with friends. The scenery was beautiful up at Flagstaff. I never thought I’d love winter so much. I was also able to reconnect with some of my Maine family which reminded me to not be afraid to look for friends in odd or unexpected places. Over all, I’ve had a grateful start to 2016.

“Say it’s true, pink and blue
I can share your situation
Been holding our, emotions back
Will only make us cry
If you go, I know, but you know
It ain’t so serious anyway
When that cloud arrives we’ll live on…

Ocean Drive
Don’t know why you’re so blue
Sun’s gonna shine on everything you do
And the sky is so blue
Sun’s gonna shine on everything you do”
“And at the end of the day remember the days

When we were close to the end
And wonder how we made it through the night
At the end of the day
Remember the way
We stayed so close to the end
We’ll remember it was me and you
Cause we are gonna be
Forever, you and me
You will
Always keep it flying high in the sky
Of love”
“Hey love
Is that the name you’re meant to have
For me to call

Look love
They’ve given up believing
They’ve turned aside our stories of the gentle fall

But don’t you believe them
Don’t you drink their poison too
These are the scars that words have carved
On me

Hey love
That’s the name we’ve long held back
From the core of truth”

Good To My Soul

Christmas has been good this year, even without the snow I requested. I got to laugh with family and friends and that’s more than enough for me. I also got some swanky new kitchen gear which has led to my kitchen becoming a disaster from the cooking frenzy. Luckily, we’re supposed to get some snow tomorrow and I’m spending the day home with my puppy. It’s the lovely small things.

I am looking forward to 2016. This past year has had many ups and downs, leaving my head spinning a bit. I don’t necessarily wish for a predictable new year, but I’d like a year of more growth. 2015 was a year of realizations, rationalizations and consolations, though they were all needed, and, hopefully, I can use the new knowledge to better myself in the coming years. I have become a bit more self-aware and independent this year–painful but also powerful.

I am excited to have several interesting events coming up this winter–a snowboarding trip to Sugarloaf with good friends, a survival skills 4-H outing and some snowshoeing. I can’t wait to be outdoors, even in the cold. I’ve always thought that being in the woods is good for the soul. And this next year my only resolution is to be good to my soul.

“I am a sturdy soul
And there ain’t no shame
In lying down in the bed you’ve made
Can you fight the urge to run for another day?
You might make it further if you learn to stay”

“Even when you’re high, you can get low
Even with your friends you love, you’re still alone
We always find the darkest place to go
God forgive our minds, we were born to roam

Wherever is your heart I call home
Wherever is your heart I call home
Though your feet may take you far from me, I know
Wherever is your heart I call home”

October Magic

My tendency is to self-censor a great deal, which can be a bit stifling, leading me to neglect my blogging despite having lots of ideas and stories swirling around my noggin. Fall in Maine is beautiful and so freaking earthy. I have grown to love the crispness in the air and the frost on the ground. I went home last weekend for my cousin’s wedding and realized how I’ve acclimated to this Northeast weather, losing almost all of my tolerance for warmth. This is not bad, just different. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how this place feels so much like home even though I was born and raised in a very different climate and culture. The wedding was lovely and it was great to see everyone again. I did get asked multiple times when I was coming “home.” This question always catches me off-guard, though I know I should expect it. They mean well–they miss me, I suppose. But it is hard to explain to some that “home” really is a new place for me now. I now feel that I have home (Maine) and where I grew up (Georgia).  Those are distinct for me now, and I know that, unless someone has ventured outside of their “home” and felt this same sensation, it is not going to be easily understood.

This year has been very strange. Very much a year of changes and challenges. It hasn’t been bad, per se, just a year of transitions. A break up with someone I had serious feelings for and some health issues have left me feeling raw. I have had two minor surgeries this year to remove ovarian cysts and portions of my insides, rendering me “most likely infertile.” Though I haven’t even been close to jumping on the baby train, I did take this ability for granted. The break up happened near this revelation which compounded my emotions surrounding the whole scenario. I have made it through some darkness this year and am starting to come out the other side. I am able to laugh more these last few months. I can again recognize and appreciate my sources of happiness. I enjoy my job and the people I get to work with–don’t know what I’d do without these friends, these lovelies taking care of someone from away, inviting me into their families. Despite my struggles with depression, I have also found it easy to feel immensely grateful. I consider this a win above all else.

I have found that the best way I cope is through helping others. I’ve found great joy in volunteering time and, in some cases, money. I do think that dating will be difficult for me to manage for awhile since I need some time to reconcile what happened in my last relationship. I don’t harbor any feelings of hate or anger, just sadness and confusion. Out of all of this, I do know that I never want to be with someone who isn’t all in. I know I can be a pill at times, but I know that, for the right person, I am more than worth it. I tire of being around people that aren’t sure of how they feel about me. Love me or hate me, either way is good. I cannot stand ambivalence or uncertainty in any relationships. I accept people for 120% of who they are, massive character flaws and all, delighting in their eccentricities and enjoying even their most irritating habits. I want to be around those who would do the same for me. I value realness, decisiveness and commitment (for or against me).

In my ongoing health saga, I’ve moved to eating less and less meat as it helps decrease inflammation, allowing me to use very little or no pain medicine for my endometriosis and lupus. This simple change also brings me an odd sort of peace since I am “living my truth” or whatever the hell kids are calling it these days. I’ve always loved creatures and, with lots of time spent thinking about my contributions to my small corner of the world, I realized that this is one way I can send some good energy out into the ether. Once a gung-ho bacon and steak fanatic, I have found myself happier and feeling better without them. Let me be clear–this is a personal choice and I’d never pressure anyone around me to adopt my habits. I find it a very rewarding change for myself and that is all.

I know it will certainly take time and great effort, but I want to become a positive force of nature in whatever way I can, for myself and others. I look forward to this part of my journey.

I do like any song that can incorporate banjos. Now that must be my Georgia roots.

So I got edges that scratch
And sometimes I don’t got a filter
But I’m so tired of eating all of my misspoken words
I know my disposition gets confusing
My disproportionate reactions fuse with my eager state
That’s why you wanna come out and play with me”

Saturn Returns

I have taken the last few weeks to really focus on healing. I have been focused on work pretty intensely since last November/December, so I am taking some time off soon to travel and also some time to decompress at home. I have changed my eating habits back to some healthier options which makes me feel better overall. I forgot how much better I feel when I really cut out the sugar (refined sugar, I still eat fruit). Went to the doctor two months ago and then went back again this week and got good news. My cholesterol numbers are all great and my BP/pulse are “like a marathon runner” which is always a bit amusing to me, especially since I could barely make it through my 5K.  My doctors basically told me that I am my own worst enemy (the neurologist: “You can’t turn it off, can you? It’s a wonder you sleep at all.”). I knew this already, so I am now in the process of trying new tools to help slow myself down and manage my thoughts better. This includes doctor recommended CBT, yoga/tai chi and meditation. It is good to know that the rest of me is functioning well aside from occasional abdominal pain or tension headaches.

One of my more whimsical friends says that in our 28th year Saturn returns to the point it occupied at the time of our birth and is often associated with a “first life crisis.” Saturn brings tough lessons to be learned and challenging times, opportunities for us to work through our own blocks or bad habits. Scary as it may sound, I kind of like the notion of a reflective year. A time to think deeply about past events and make positive changes to improve ourselves for our own sake.  Reassess our goals, careers and relationships. Sounds easy, right? I’ve been doing some of this along the way, but I think that it may be a good thing to take time “off” to really figure out what I want to give, what I want to contribute to relationships and to my own small piece of the world. Not going to become a monk or anything, but definitely taking some time to think about what I want in the next few years. Will it be a different role at work? Or maybe a different degree on the side? Doing something more long term for my favorite charities? I think there are several great options. I just need to contemplate and then commit.

I’m grateful to have a good job, but I also feel like it is such a narrow use of my strengths. Because of this, I’ve looked for other opportunities on the side, helping at the children’s center and volunteering at the hospice center nearby. I think somewhere along my career path I lost my teaching/mentoring/helping/”good karma” outlets.

Commitment to much of anything other than work has been an issue for me the last few months, but I think this will get better with time and self-care. My hope cactus is always blooming, so it seems, in a most persistent (and impressive) way. I suppose that it is a part of me, so I should embrace it along with my flabby arms and piggy nose. I realize that this blog has been a mixture of contemplation and sadness the last few months, though it has been helpful to have another outlet. I am moving in the right direction, just slowly. And I am learning more about myself.

I really like Amy Winehouse’s version of “A Song for You” (Leon Russell will always be my favorite, though)…

I love you in a place
Where there’s no space or time
I love you for in my life
You are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and
I was singing this song to you”

“Calling your name in the midnight hour
Reaching for you from the endless dream
So many miles between us now
But you are always here with me
Two words
In your hands
In your hearts
It’s whole universe
You are always here with me”

“Excuse me for a while
While I’m wide-eyed
And I’m so down, caught in the middle
I’ve excused you for a while
While I’m wide-eyed
And I’m so damn caught in the middle

And a lion, a lion roars would you not listen?
If a child, a child cries would you not forgive them?

Yeah, I might seem so strong
Yeah, I might speak so long
I’ve never been so wrong”

“It’s not a silly little moment,
It’s not the storm before the calm.
This is the deep and dying breath of
This love that we’ve been working on.

Can’t seem to hold you like I want to
So I can feel you in my arms.
Nobody’s gonna come and save you,
We pulled too many false alarms.”

 

“It isn’t very difficult to see why
You are the way you are
Doesn’t take a genius to realise
That sometimes life is hard
It’s gonna take time
But you’ll just have to wait
You’re gonna be fine
But in the meantime

Come over here lady
Let me wipe your tears away
Come a little nearer baby
Coz you’ll heal over
Heal over
Heal over someday”

“If I could say anything, anything what would it be?
A good question for our destined reality
I would tell you that I love you
Even when it didn’t show.
I would tell you that I love you, baby,
By now I hope you know.

If you could go anywhere, anywhere what would you see?
Take a step in any direction, it’s make believe
If your mind is always moving
It’s hard to get your heart up off the ground
Yeah, your mind was always moving
But your thoughts never made a sound

And we won’t break if we let go.
You and I already know
We were bound to be set free eventually.
So, here we are now
You can say anything”

River Rocks

I found Ricker’s Hard Cider, a delicious treat from Turner, Maine, during my grocery shopping today. It went nicely with the sweet and spicy baked chicken legs I created for dinner. Yes, created. Like from my mind parts. With no recipe. They are tasty! I would’ve taken a picture, but I was too busy getting all gross eating them. Normand assisted by licking my hands off right after. She’s good like that.

This week has been strange. Not bad, just strange. I have been excited about some things, sad about others and oscillating betwixt the two. My tendency is to barrel into everything I do, head first, like a freakish tornado of enthusiasm and idealism. Knowing this, I have been trying harder to stop myself. To be more thoughtful about my choices and about my reasons for doing things. It is harder than it sounds, and I do struggle with being self-aware during my more manic moments. This is easier to do at work since I have more restrictions and guidelines. On my own, though, it can sometimes be a free-for-all when I sink my teeth into an idea.

I have been trying to watch less TV and read/write more in that recovered time. It has been going well, but people do look at you oddly when you tell them you haven’t seen the latest episode of whatever. Although, in my case, they’re usually already looking at me oddly for a wide assortment of other reasons. In talking with some acquaintances, I keep coming back to the realization that I’m not on the same “path” as most of my cohort. Some of them are sure to remind me of that, as if it were something shameful or embarrassing. I don’t choose to think of it like that, which seems to infuriate some of them. Like I am a challenge, with a trophy given for when I can be brought back around to doing things “the way things should be done.”

Thinking about it, I am a relatively flawed individual. I oscillate between healthy living and bad habits according to my mood that minute. I latch onto emotionally unavailable people easily and prostrate myself until I forget who I am on my own. I self-isolate and make excuses for not connecting with people, and, in the same breath, get angry that I am not connected. I get impatient about the weirdest things, sometimes projecting my desires years into the future without acknowledging the reality that we really only have today. I am too easy on people when I should be hard and I’m hard on people when I should be softer. I am great at starting multiple projects and awesome at never finishing the loose ends. I judge people for their affluence or their elaborate emotional support systems when, really, I harbor some jealousy. How could they possibly ever appreciate anything? They’ve never had to struggle for anything! But that is not my place and it is not so simple. They struggle in other ways, ways I likely will never know or understand.

So, I could try sticking to something for longer than a week. Or only give my affection to those that give it first. Remember who I am and find new ways to connect to others. Stop projecting. Accepting. Learn how to better “speak softly but carry a big stick.” Finishing a project, even a small one (blogging for more than a month counts, right?). Minimize my judgments and allow the comments of others to flow over me. Water over river rocks. Not be afraid to be my own kind of strong and encourage others to be theirs. This is what I desire.

A few years ago, I went out with two friends after a really awful day. We got food and booze and took it back to our apartment. After a couple of drinks I decided that instead of venting about how awful our lives were (a common thing for us in grad school), we would go around and each give a good, long “rant” about something amazing in our lives or something really meaningful to us. After only a few rounds, we were in a delightful haze of good memories and hilarious stories. Even now, with a good job and much less stress, I relive that night with an even greater appreciation. With distance, I can see now how that one particular night changed me. I want to get back to that night, in spirit at least.

“This is never gonna go our way
If I’m gonna have to guess what’s on your mind
Say something, say something,
Something like you love me
That’s you wanna move away
From the noise of this place”

“Don’t let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don’t try
Don’t let your heart get heavy child
Inside you there’s a strength that lies

Don’t let your soul get lonely child
It’s only time, it will go by
Don’t look for love in faces, places
It’s in you, that’s where you’ll find kindness
Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now”

“I’ve made some friends, and I’ve lost some too
Crashed my car, I was 17
My mother in the seat riding next to me
The things I’ve learned from a broken mirror
How a face can change when a heart knows fear
Through all the things my eyes have seen
The best by far is you

If I could fly
Then I would know
What life looks like from up above and down below
I’d keep you safe
I’d keep you dry
Don’t be afraid Cecilia
I’m the satellite
And you’re the sky”

 

Swamp Monsters and Chihuahuas

The last few days have been beautiful. The sun has been out and it even got up to 50F! I did survive my run today–did a decent 3 miles in 30F weather, entertaining myself by turning my breath into dragonesque smoke rings. I did have a fun time sliding down the snowy hill into a mud puddle before I actually started running. I like to think it entertained people driving by. “Hey, why was that swamp creature wearing neon green shorts?”

There is a woman that walks her three loud chihuahuas in a large pram, all of them barking a cacophony at anything that moves. While all of this makes for good people-watching (my favorite hobby), she refuses to move out of the way of cars which makes it difficult for drivers on an already narrow road with residual snowbanks. I managed to time my intervals longer today to miss crossing paths with her too closely.

I was reading an article that touted that you should know why you run. I thought about it WHILE running. While I think it’s primarily stress relief for me, I think that it’s also a self-challenge in part. I spent years doing mentally tricky things, so why not go the next step and see if I can challenge myself a bit more physically. I also tend to think up all sorts of interesting ideas while I’m doing something physical. Similar to Matthew Inman’s in The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances on The Oatmeal. I’m definitely not fast, but I’ve never been a sprinter. I’m more of a stubborn turtle. And I’m okay with that.

Along with working with my friend to reach our individual goals, I decided to actually up the stakes (for myself) by signing up for a couple of local races. The one I’ve helped out with for several years, the Urban Runoff 5K,  is coming up soon at the end of April. We also signed up for the Color Run in South Portland at the end June. That one sounds particularly fun, especially for before and after pictures.

Working a lot lately, which is why my posting is mostly about fun non-work things. Not bad, just busy. When not spacing out to my increasingly electronica-heavy running playlist, I’ve been binge watching Amy Schumer, Britcoms and blues music.

Huffins and Puffins

Whew. This last week has been relatively productive even though I haven’t gotten finished cleaning my dining room table. Last week I decided to start a Couch to 5K program with one of my friends from work. We’re both pretty slow. It still doesn’t keep me from feeling super excited. I’ve been in some pain over the past 6-7 months from some endometriosis-related health issues, but I have started to have more good days than bad. Still have some bad days, but definitely better overall. I knew that once I started feeling a bit better I needed to get back to exercising a few times a week.

There was a time back in Atlanta where I was running at least 4-5 miles a day (even in the heat and humidity) with no problem. I’d like to use Maine’s magnificent Spring-Summer-Fall weather to jump start my way back to that goal. Then, I can figure out something indoors for Winter. I remember feeling so much better after those runs–I relaxed easier, slept better, didn’t have as many sugar cravings, etc. So, it’s the start of my second week. I’m up to 2.5 miles so far.

I love running outside. I caved and spent the extra $20 to get myself some nice running tights (designed for winter running to go under shorts) to go with my winter/mud season running shoes. Both were fantastic investments! I feel warm enough in the 20-40F temps and the fabric does a great job of wicking away sweat. My other favorite piece of running gear is my pair of Thor-lo Experian socks. I won’t wear any other socks when running. Life’s too short. I am hoping to get my summer runners broken in before my trip south to Edisto in May. I want  to do some sunrise beach running with Normand.

This weekend I found myself getting caught up in the Phryne Fisher mystery series by Kerry Greenwood. I picked it up at the library because I liked saying the name “FRY-NEE FISHERRR.” I’m not a big mystery fan, but the heroine definitely has pulled me in. A gun-toting flapper gal solving mysteries in 1920s Australia. Then I found that Acorn TV has episodes of the series online (called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries)! After watching a few of those, I somehow got caught up on the show London Irish, which made me laugh, though mostly because of the strong accents and generally irate demeanor of the characters.

Also, this is currently top of my running playlist (super poppy).

And here’s another from the playlist that’s also got pep.

I need to make a real rock playlist for running. TBD.

Layering

“Love is giving someone the ability to destroy you, but trusting them not to.”    – Suzanne Wright

We all layer every day. You may not think much of washing up then putting on clothes and  jackets before getting into your car. It’s all layers, really. We also layer ourselves mentally and emotionally in accordance to our surroundings and the people present. We adapt our language, mannerisms and posture to those around us without really thinking about it. We might give a quiet chuckle with work colleagues and a hearty guffaw with our closest chums. Layers.

“No one will ever love you as much as I do, ” was one of the last things one of my exes said to me. The same person was also physically and emotionally abusive. So, for a long time, I equated love with pain and sadness. I also judged myself as not having value as a person because the only love I garnered came with a price tag of sorts. I built my whole layering system around pushing everyone away and building up walls. Even close friends didn’t make it to my inner circles for fear of the pain they had potential to cause. I assumed that I was unlovable and, therefore, should keep quiet and do my time. That happiness was something for other people. I didn’t get that channel with my sub-par rabbit ears.

I was able to keep this up for several years before I realized that I was so lonely when I didn’t really have to be. It took a few really great friends to help me see my value. That I was worthy of friendship and love and other good things in life. I came to understand that I had been in my own way all along. It wasn’t that the world was out to get me or that I was worthless, but that I needed to be more open. I needed to invest and be willing to take chances.  To do the hard things. To make meaningful changes over time, no matter how small. If I was able to be my own source of calm and “serenity now,” others would see it and want to be part of it. I found peace and I could sleep at night. I was able to get off of antidepressants and start to FEEL things again, both good and bad. But, oh the joy of feeling life again!

I decided that when I finished the Atlanta chapter of my life that I would use those lessons when I moved here to Maine. I could shed my old skin and start new. This would be a good change–a chance to flex my layers. A chance to let new people in and take some risks. Make friends. Teach. Volunteer. Even fall in love. I have had some successes and some failures. It has not been painless. I feel like I am still growing. Far from perfect, but growing all the same.

My choices are to either return to my fortress of solitude or to shed some layers, taking the bad along with the good. Give myself to the mud in the hopes that I can someday grow into a lotus flower.

Bucket List > 30 Before 30

While I like the idea of having a definite deadline for goals (something something S.M.A.R.T.), I also think a lot of the things I’d like to do are more complex and will likely take more time. Also, I don’t like to rush through life.

So, I decided to transform my 30 Before 30 list into a sort of Bucket List with some goals being accomplished before 30 (the financial goals). It just made more sense.  Accomplishing my financial goals will inherently enable my other goals, so I’ve been focusing on those. Everyone has their own style, I think.

You out there in the dark void of the interwebs–what are some things on your bucket list?