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

Delightful Silence

An old friend came to visit me this weekend, which was pretty awesome. It’s been great to get to catch up on about five years’ worth of stories and revelations. I also spent the last week collaborating with some good people at work, which was also a plus. I got good feedback from my new boss and I feel optimistic about my work. I have a busy June planned, but it will be a good one. I have baseball games with friends and other fun things coming up soon, including a play opening that was written by a friend from high school. I was able to go out with friends last week to see Wonder Woman. The movie and company were both good. I was able to mix friend groups–an old friend from grad school with my more recent friends from work and there was no George Costanza crisis of identity. All went well. It was satisfying on a deeper level to know that my efforts to become a less fragmented person may be paying off. My old friends and new ones seem to be seeing the same person and they think that person is still fun despite my hermetic tendencies.

The common theme this last week was working or relaxing with friends in a kind of comforting silence. At work, I had to do some menial labeling of samples and got help from a friend. It was a quiet hour or so working on it and it was kind of delightful. There were a few jokes here and there but it was mostly a good kind of quiet. I also got to spend some down time with my visiting friend at home, where there were also some lovely silences. I did enjoy our chats, too, but I realize now more than ever that some of my favorite moments with people I’m close to are those that are the non-speaking moments that fill the gaps between conversations. The looks and smiles. Those times when you don’t even have to say anything. You just know what they mean. Comforting.

This month I will get to visit with family more and see my new nephew. I can’t wait.

“I want you
To know me
To need me
Smile when I call your name

I want you
To never
Look at
Anyone else this way

So strange
This something
We have between us
And it’s not fair
If you’ve never
Loved this way”

“I am not the only traveler
Who has not repaid his debt
I’ve been searching for a trail to follow again
Take me back to the night we met

And then I can tell myself
What the hell I’m supposed to do
And then I can tell myself
Not to ride along with you
I had all and then most of you
Some and now none of you
Take me back to the night we met
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do
Haunted by the ghost of you
Oh, take me back to the night we met”
But I miss you
But there’s comin’ home
There’s no comin’ home
With a name like mine
I still think of you
But everyone knows
Yeah everyone knows
If you care, let it go
I’ve seen more places than I can name
And over time they all start to look the same
But it ain’t that truth we chase
No, it’s the promise of a better place

The Background

Last week was a strange one. I had an embarrassing interaction with a coworker/friend wherein I invited them to a movie and they brought a date. Another coworker was fired and basically disappeared from our office. I was able to go to movies with friends that made it more enjoyable. And I was able to go to our work’s baseball game to see The Dash. It was a nice day to be able to be outside. I was able to see both King Arthur and Alien Covenant in one week. Both were not what I expected but were entertaining.

That has become a running theme for my life these days–never what I expect or assume but entertaining. I continue to have less than good luck with the opposite sex but I think it gets easier to recover each time it happens. The turn-around time gets shorter, even though it always starts off feeling like I’ve been sucker punched. I suppose that as long as I am interested in human beings, I should expect them to be fickle and idiosyncratic. Not everyone is as comfortable with themselves as I am and I have to keep reminding myself of that. “I yam who I yam” and all. Open to new people, but definitely not holding my breath.

I also struggle with cynicism. Well, depending on the day, I thoroughly enjoy my cynicism. I want to like and trust people, but there’s always something. Always some missed communication, some reason not to trust, some reason to hold myself back. I have had to learn when to conserve my energy when it comes to my investing in people. Not a bad thing, per se, just not how I ideally would like to function. But realistically, that’s how it goes.

Ana, one of my best friends from grad school, is coming to visit next weekend, which I am super excited about. She’s one of the people that has seen me at my worst (grad school is like that) and still manages to keep in touch. We have about four years of life to catch up on over wine. I have missed her and her perspective, so I know it will be a good time. I have been generally nostalgic this weekend during my cleaning frenzy, especially with my musical selections.

I rarely like to look back, but sometimes it does help us remember how far we’ve come.

“And I would never lie to you no
I would never lie to you no
I felt you long after we were through, we were through
The plans I make still have you in them
Cause you come swimming into view
And I’m hanging on your words
Like I always used to do
The words they use so lightly
I only feel for you
I only know because I carry you around
In the background”

“I’ve never felt alone
‘Till I met you
I’m all right on my own
And then I met you
And I’d know what to do if I just knew what’s coming
I would change myself if I could
I’d walk with my people if I could find them
And I’d say that I’m sorry to you
I’m sorry to you
And I don’t want to call you
But then I want to call you ’cause I don’t want to crush you
But I feel like crushing you”

 

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”

A Million Reasons

I really should update more than once a month, but really, life happens. And a lot has been happening this past month. I’ve lost over ten pounds by eating better and doing more.  I managed to successfully sell my house in Maine without too much trouble, though I took a bit of a loss on it. Frankly, I wanted to be done with it since the winter has continued into April up there and I was getting tired of paying for the maintenance on it for snow plowing. Having that done is a bit of a relief. I feel like I can focus more on my new NC life now with that piece completed. Here are some winners from Maine Memes:


I also moved my site to its own host. WordPress is great, but they limit a lot of the designs and features when you’re using their hosting. I also spent the last few weekends building bookcases and a desk so I could finish emptying out some of the boxes in my garage. I managed to get all of my books unpacked along with electronics and other debris from the past. Needless to say, I have filled several boxes to take to donate.

I’ve been making an effort to be more social, which is challenging for me. I have been to several movie nights with friends from work, went out to see a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game in Raleigh and even helped one of them pack for their upcoming move. Luckily, I had plenty of boxes and paper left over from my move, so I was able to recycle them by giving them to her to use.

In other news, I booked a trip to Hawaii with Dad for us to go see Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island. It will be my first real vacation in quite awhile, so I’m very excited! I have a picture of Kauai on my desk (next to my dogs) as my work inspiration. I’d like to think that if I were any of the islands, I’d be Kauai, based on what I’ve read.  It is also the home of many film locations (Jurassic Park) and lots of wilderness, which I dig. I am also excited to see the volcanoes and observatory on the Big Island, another one of my obsessions. Here are some of my favorite wallpapers.

wallup.net
www.richard-seaman.com

wallup.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work is good and I’m learning a lot. I am glad for the change and looking forward to new challenges and making new friends. I’m also excited to meet my cousin’s new baby coming soon! April should be exciting!

“Found my heart and broke it here
Made friends and lost them through the years
And I’ve not seen the roaring fields in so long, I know I’ve grown
But I can’t wait to go home

I’m on my way
Driving at ninety down those country lanes
Singing to “Tiny Dancer”
And I miss the way you make me feel, and it’s real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill”

My Own Light

Recently, I decided to get a Fitbit and start tracking my steps. This also synced with my work’s health program, so I saw it as a double perk–I’d be able to quantify my steps AND have it count towards points and rewards. I thought that it was a great way to get motivated, and, initially, I was right. I started walking 8,000 steps a day and gradually worked up to 10k. I found myself getting a mini-high as soon as my little Fitbit buzzed to let me know I’d met the next step goal. I would salivate and awkwardly walk in manic circles in my cube to finish off the next goal. I would check my progress on my phone and laptop constantly, the task almost becoming a reflex every few minutes. I had also been doing this with Facebook, as it served as my main social connection to lots of people and interesting news.

Then, one night I realized that I’d gotten home, fed the dogs, and spent the next 45 minutes pacing and switching back and forth between my step counter and Facebook. I hadn’t played with the dogs. I hadn’t gotten dinner. I hadn’t started my laundry or emptied another box to get closer to completing my unpacking. I hadn’t even noticed the time going by. I lost 45 minutes and hadn’t even noticed. I stopped and looked down at my dog beasts, both of whom had patiently sat down on their pillows watching me with great concern. They sighed and looked at me with big, sad eyes.

I had a small epiphany. I have felt stressed lately without really understanding why–I finished moving and I am enjoy my new job and my new coworkers. But I still felt panicky at the end of the day. My chest was always tight and sometimes I’d get heart palpitations, all well-known prequels to a panic attack (I have those once in a while). I realized as I stood there, desperately clutching my phone, that I had gotten lost in comparing my steps with friends. And constantly comparing myself with people on FB. So many of my friends have kids now and others are out conquering the world in science and the arts, making my successes pale in comparison. So, on top of my anxieties from a constant stream of stressful news stories being injected into my eyeballs every five seconds, I had added anxiety from constantly wanting to match my step-measuring buddies.

I realized that I’d taken a walk around our campus at work on a beautiful day and all I could remember was how many steps I’d done. Not the birds I saw. Not the other people out walking. Not the newly budding trees moving in the wind. Not the lovely symmetry of the long line of oak trees along the boulevard.  Not the way the sun hit the stones in the cemetery across the road, making beautiful tapestries of shadows on the hill behind. All the things I’d previously delighted in observing were now obscured by my obsession with counting and quantifying how much I’d done. How many steps. How many steps. Gotta catch em all. I’d forgotten how to enjoy my walk.

I think that the step trackers work well for a lot of people, but I decided, in that moment, that my addictions both to being constantly connected (FB) and to quantifying (obsessive step-counting) were too much. I needed to disconnect to reconnect, so to speak. I thought about how much time I could get back by removing some of the noise from my daily life. Time to work on writing I’ve been desperate to get back to. Time to spend with my dogs and  friends. Time to finally unpack and get my house in order. Time to focus on getting healthier while still being able to enjoy, truly enjoy a walk in the park. Being aware and present so I can focus on all the blessings in my life. That is what I desire most.

I think technology is ultimately a good thing, but I am disconnecting from FB and social media for a while (other than this blog). I still check the news once or twice a day via the interwebs, but I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone and uninstalled most apps. Suddenly, I can breathe again. I can focus. Just since Tuesday, my last day on FB and Fitbit, I’ve spent more time with the dogs, more time enjoying my walks and more time connecting with friends. I’ve also managed to unpack more boxes and finish my taxes. Most importantly, I have slept better. I no longer have a knot in my chest throughout the day. No more pacing or forgetting dinner. More music. More love. Less noise.

This isn’t to say I won’t try it again sometime. Or that I’ll be off FB indefinitely. But, in future, I will use it with intention and not as a time-killer. Cause we don’t get much of that on this big rock, so we gotta be thoughtful about our souls’ investments.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my back patio watching the willow tree fronds rise and fall in the crisp breeze, dogs all akimbo in my lap and I’m happy. This is it.

 

“Yes I be speaking my peace up in my seventies
Ain’t worry bout ya threatening me, I’m just being honest
I ain’t buying fear just because it’s all you got left
We just want to make love ’til we wake up
I believe whoever made us envisioned greatness
And you know they want to paint us with the same brush
Wanna enterchain us ’til we fill our grave up
Alright okay but when it’s all said and it’s all done
And I look back at the trophies I won
I will only count one
I’m using my heart for what hearts are for

“You’re the only one that I want
I wanna be around
I wanna be around you girl
I wanna be around
Ooh I wanna be around”

“I know it’s hard
Only you and I
Is it all for me?
Because I know it’s all for you
And I guess, I guess
It is only, you are the only thing I’ve ever truly known
So, I hesitate, if I can act the same for you
And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you
And my darlin’, I’ll be rooting for you

“Love, what did you do to me?
My only hope is to let life stretch out before me
And break me on this lonely road
I’m made of many things, but I’m not what you are made of

Only now do I see the big picture
But I swear that these scars are fine
Only you could’ve hurt me in this perfect way tonight
I might be blind, but you’ve told me the difference
Between mistakes and what you just meant for me”

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”

 

Unapologetic

So, I recently got offered a job in North Carolina. Moving may be happening by the end of the month depending on timing. The next few weeks will likely be a bit chaotic, but also exciting. It’s a great opportunity that will also be closer to family. I’ll write a more detailed post later. 🙂

No there ain’t nothing that I gotta prove
You think your words will make me black and blue
But I, I think I’m pretty with these old boots on
I think its funny when I drink too much, hey
You try and change me you can go to hell
‘Cause I don’t want to be nobody else
I like the chip I got in my front teeth
And I got bad tattoos you won’t believe

 

“I was up in New York City,
Just the other week.
You shoulda seen the waitress face
When I ordered sweet tea.
She said “we don’t have that here”
And I apologized, I said “Please forgive me,
I’m in a southern state of mind.

And those girls out in California,
They don’t understand.
They don’t like it when I hold the door,
When I say yes ma’am.
They act like I’ve done something wrong,
And they give me the evil eye.
I say “honey, I’m sorry,
I’m in a southern state of mind.”

In my mind I’m gone to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t it just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind?
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind

 

Heading down south to the land of the pines
I’m thumbing my way into North Caroline
Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights
I made it down the coast in seventeen hours
Picking me a bouquet of dogwood flowers
And I’m a-hopin’ for Raleigh, I can see my baby tonight

So rock me momma like a wagon wheel
Rock me momma any way you feel
Hey, momma rock me
Rock me momma like the wind and the rain
Rock me momma like a south bound train
Hey, momma rock me
I’m running from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old time string band
My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now
Oh, north country winters keep a-getting me down
Lost my money playing poker so I had to leave town
But I ain’t turning back to living that old life no more”

“Oh I’ve been waiting up so long
I’ve been sleeping out so long in the rain
Rain been falling down
I’ve been stressing all the time
And I can’t seem to find
A little piece of mind

I guess I’ll just vaporize
Everything that’s inside
I guess I’ll just vaporize
I, I, I
I guess I’ll just vaporize
Everything that’s inside
I’m gonna get
high, high, high, high, high, high”

 

“And I know that I won’t be the same without you
Don’t let this moment slip away

I’ll take you for a drive
Kiss me on the corner with your hand in mine
Ooh, say you love me too”

 

I know I haven’t been perfect, but give it some time
There’s not a single day goes by where you don’t cross my mind
And we spend our lives looking for things we can’t find
Oh, but not a single day goes by where you don’t cross my mind

All the days spent on my mind
All the times that I’d say that we’ll be together, we’ll be together, oh
All the ways to see through my heart
I know the good intentions, they won’t be lost forever, won’t be lost forever”

 

“How imperfect a person am I?
Go through your purse and put on your disguise
You see the stars, but they just see the skies
And you see my scars, what do they see?

If I was the question, would you be my answer?
If I was the music, would you be the dancer?
If I was the student, would you be the teacher?
If I was the sinner, would you be the preacher?
Would you be my
N’ dun d-dun dun
I still got a lot of shit to learn, I’ll admit it
N’ dun d-dun dun
I still got a lot of shit to learn, I’ll admit it

 

“When you’re here it feels so hard
Thirsty eyes and hungry heart
Working for the sweet oasis
And all that’s left is on the rocks

Now I’m standing in a wasteland
Of us
bones and dried up places
We lost
Don’t pretend you wanna change
When you don’t
Oh you know you did me wrong
Oh you turn me stone cold
Stone cold
Oh you turn me stone cold
Stone cold”

 

“I know you remember
How the leaves fell in November
The cold wind of December
And how we just fell apart
I know you could hear me
But you pretend you don’t have a heart
Then you took my halo
And you left me in the dark”

 

“We got problems in the streets again
Drowning in the violence, it’s getting pretty tense
A lot of hunger in the faces I see
A lot of bitterness, communal emptiness

Don’t trust the water, friend
Chemicals hide with the skeletons
Don’t trust that false pretense
Counterfeit lies are your best defense
I said, you’ve got to, got to, got to go whole heart
Darling, darling, darling, go whole heart
You’ve got to, got to, got to go whole heart
Yeah, darling, darling, darling, go whole heart

 

 

“The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts, some figures and instructions for dancing

But I,
I love it when you read to me.
And you,
You can read me anything.

The book of love has music in it,
In fact that’s where music comes from.
Some of it is just transcendental,
Some of it is just really dumb.

But I,
I love it when you sing to me.
And you,
You can sing me anything.

 

 

“Fighting flames of fire
Hang onto burning wires
We don’t care anymore
Are we fading lovers?
We keep wasting colors
Maybe we should let this go

We’re falling apart, still we hold together
We’ve passed the end, so we chase forever
‘Cause this is all we know
This feeling’s all we know”

 

 

“I pick up my smile put it in my pocket
Hold it for a while try not to have to drop it
Men are not to cry so how am I to stop it
Keep it all inside don’t show how much she rocked ya

Ooh can you feel the same
Ooh you gotta love the pain
Ooh it looks like rain again
Ooh I feel it comin’ in
The mountains win again
The mountains win again”

Happy

A lot has happened since last May. I bought a house, went on vacation, moved, did lots of home improvement projects, got a new roof, got the dogs new haircuts, etc. It’s been super busy, but I’ve also spent a lot of time disconnecting from some of my electronics, hence the long gap in posting. Taking courses at the nearby college and reading new research papers at work to get my brain parts moving again and to stave off feeling stagnant.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of good times with friends, too, which is never a waste or regret. Two friends got married a few weeks ago. Most recently (as of this evening), one of my best friends gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. And next weekend I am having a cookout with my other best friends here, likely ending with cigars and whiskey around a fire pit. Despite all the changes going on this year so far, my primary emotions have been overwhelming gratitude and joy for the simple things.

Spending a lot of time with my dogs and hanging around the house has allowed me to decompress from some work stress. Genuinely down-sizing and taking many things to donation centers has helped me clear my head and my conscience of the self-doubt that always seems to linger when I’m letting go. I am optimistic about many parts of my life, though I’m sure the next six months will also elicit some major changes for me. I look forward to them, as I always do, forever living in the future while trying to stay present.

My family was safe through Hurricane Matthew. My dogs are doing well. My plants are beautiful. My friends are super supportive lately, and I am finding new facets to them that are both surprising and comforting. I have been able to reconnect with old friends and have it be as if no time has passed, which is the rarest treasure you can find. I could stand to lose a few pounds and I am trying to eat better for myself, but all in all, my life this year has been very much blessed and bittersweet.

“In one year from today, what word do you hope best describes your life?”

Happy.

Here are some tidbits from my most recent lab tunes playlist.

“To love the right,
Yet do so wrong.
To be the weak,
Yet burn to be so strong.”

 

“There’s some things that I should never
Laugh about in front of family
In a week we’ll be together
Try to call you when I’m landed”

 

“And oh my love remind me, what was it that I said?
I can’t help but pull the earth around me, to make my bed
And oh my love remind me, what was it that I did?
Did I drink too much?
Am I losing touch?
Did I build this ship to wreck?”

 

“I see the sunrise creeping in
Everything changes like the desert wind
Here she comes and then she’s gone again

I’m just a traveller on this earth
Sure as my heart’s behind the pocket of my shirt
I’ll just keep rolling till I’m in the dirt
‘Cause I’m a traveller, oh, I’m a traveller
I couldn’t tell you honey, I don’t know
Where I’m going but I’ve got to go
‘Cause every turn reveals some other road
And I’m a traveller, oh, I’m a traveller”

 

“I will make my way across the fields of cotton
And wade through muddy waters one last time
And in my dreams I come out clean
When I reach the other side
Waste away the sunsets
Where rainbows never die”

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”

People Help The People

Sending love out to all those affected by the bombings in Paris, Beirut and Nigeria.

“We won’t live too long
So let’s love for one song
The lion won’t lay down
When the holy man’s in town

You’ve been drinking all week baby that’s alright
You’ve been stepping on me baby it’s alright
You’ve been tearing me apart in the dead of night
I’ll be raising my hands when the lighting strikes
Working on a feeling
Breaking down the ceiling
Digging up a deep end
Freezing on the beaches
Reaching for the sweetest, sweetest peaches”

 

“You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Any place is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we’ll make something
Me myself I got nothing to prove”
“And now maybe
Some would say your life was sad
But you lived it anyway
And so maybe
Your friends they stand around they watch your crumble
As you falter to the ground
And then someday
Your friends they stand beside as you were flyin’
Oh you were flyin’ oh so high”
“God knows what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts
Guess he kissed the girls and made them cry
Those hard-faced queens of misadventure
God knows what is hiding in those weak and sunken lifes
Fiery throne of muted angels
Giving love but getting nothing back ohPeople help the people
And if you’re homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it
People help the people
Nothing will drag you down

High Hopes

It was a little over two years ago that I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a chance at a relationship with a friend. I realized it tonight as I was cleaning out my inbox and my Facebook messages. I reread messages full of humor, excitement and hope. It was honestly the first relationship in which I was open and trusting. One that I chose for myself rather than succumbing to other societal pressures or conveniences. I met someone who shared my sense of humor and appreciated my brains and, likewise, my moments of whimsy and ridiculousness. It was quite moving to feel that I could be so real with someone. To be with your best friend all the time.

Some people say that being the first one to say “I love you” makes you weak or inferior. I don’t believe in that nonsense. As far as I’m concerned, you never know when you might go, so you shouldn’t be afraid to tell people how you feel, especially when it’s a genuine feeling. I did say it first in this case, though I also didn’t expect it to be returned right away. Everyone has to take their own time for such proclamations. I was overjoyed when the sentiment was returned several months later, randomly, while watching a movie and eating takeout. I felt that I’d accomplished something great–I gave someone time while still being true to myself. And it felt amazing. I’d reached a new emotional “level,” so to speak.

A little more than seven months later I found myself wondering what those words had really meant. After a long, silent drive home from a long, cold weekend up North (both outside and emotionally), I was told that there weren’t any serious feelings for me. That they weren’t really into me “that way.” I was blown away by the revelation since I’d taken the words spoken months ago to heart. I was left wondering, how does someone say one thing and then stop feeling it only months later? Or did they mean it at all when they said it? I felt a mixture of frustration, confusion and great sadness, enhanced by the fact that it seemed to be told to me so nonchalantly.

I won’t say that I haven’t struggled with it since then–that’d be a lie. I have gotten to a place where I am good on most days, but I still have moments where I am left wondering about the scenario. About myself. About my own perceptions. How could I not see the reality? How could I just throw myself out there? No safety net. Then starts the self-blame and over analysis. It is hell in my head some days, though I’m sure most people can relate.

Honestly, though, I’m not ashamed for letting myself be vulnerable. While parts of the end were unpleasant, it wasn’t all bad. There were a lot of good times. And I know that, after some time, I will be able to look back on it and pick out all the lessons I’ve learned. All the things I’ve learned about myself and others. All is not lost. There is a vast set of painful feelings and lovely experiences I’ve collected from it, ranging from laughing till I can’t breathe to crying till I can’t see straight. But it’s all there, and, like Casper the Friendly Ghost, through loving someone I’m more human than ever.

At the end of the day, my loving someone was not a sign of weakness nor did it make me inferior. It was most spectacular, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat with the right person. Call it brave or stupid, but I don’t think my hope cactus will ever stop blooming.

After clearing out my inbox and sorting through the good and the bad, I realize now that the only thing I need is a bit of time. Time to heal and time to enjoy the present. Time to spend with good friends, family and a mischievous, most amazing little dog.

“But I’ve got high hopes, it takes me back to when we started
High hopes, when you let it go, go out and start again
High hopes, when it all comes to an end
But the world keeps spinning around”

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”

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”

 

Get Back Up

I have been working a lot lately. And not sleeping much. Which means that I kind of crash when I get home and have to retrain myself to get back to a normal sleep schedule. I think it will improve when I get a real vacation. Luckily, that is not too far away. And the weather has been pretty nice which also helps. I still get terrible headaches now and then, probably stress-related. But, again, I think that is really because I haven’t had a break in awhile.

I have been planning a road trip in July that will cheer me up (details soon). I have been doing a lot of wake up, go to work, come home, wash, repeat. To the point where I don’t know what day it is most of the time and the whole week just blurs together. I even wake up and get ready on the weekend without realizing it until I glance at the calendar. Which means I definitely need to get away and reboot.

Teaching at USM has been fun. I have been able to reconnect with a friend at work, which is refreshing. But I have been dealing with my own things lately, so not as much going out with friends and such. I feel weird and empty some days, like I used to in some of my darker days. And with friends being more busy with their own houses/families/kids, etc makes me want to get in a car and drive. It’s hard for me to sit through painfully dull conversations about landscaping and mulch and cervical mucous and baby spit up. Nothing against those things, but it isn’t my favorite stuff to talk about. I have a pretty small support system here in Maine and not an enormous one back home either outside of my folks and a few good friends in Atlanta. It’s made my wanderlust skyrocket.

My choice is to make new friends or do something different or become a true hermit. Ironically, I think some of the hermiting is just how I cope with things when I’m too tired or down to expend energy meeting new people. Feeling pretty awful the past couple of weeks from endo hasn’t helped. I know it will pass. I need some more sunshine, both emotionally and physically. Normand is great to cheer me and take me on walks. And I got invited to help out at a festival in a week or two.

 

You were my courage
My sword and shield
Grace under pressure
My wall of steel
Baby I’m in love with you
Oh, and I’m missing the sound of your heart beating
Baby you were mine to lose
Oh, and I’m missing the sound of your heart beating

“In a sick way I want to thank you
For holding my head up late at night
While I was busy waging wars on myself,
You were trying to stop the fight
You never doubted my warped opinions
On things like suicidal hate
You made me compliment myself
When it was way too hard to take”

“I’m up here
I’m looking at the way down there
I’m staring through the I don’t care
It’s staring back at me

The beauty is
I’m learning how to face my beast
Starting now to find some peace
Set myself free

Today,
I don’t have to fall apart
I don’t have to be afraid
I don’t have to let the damage
consume me,
My shadow see through me”

 

 

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.