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”

Matter of Time

Thanksgiving was great fun. I loaded the Norm into the car and drove South. We had good weather and got to listen to some great tunes on the way down. One song that played several times was the new Vanessa Carlton song below. It is a bit haunting and I have been hooked on it.

Seeing the family was refreshing and it’s always entertaining to catch up on all the latest stories and happenings. I did need some time away from work and found myself really enjoying doing a whole “lotta nothin.”

Christmas decorations were being put up as I packed up and headed North again, which does make me happy. I always like this time of year the best. It is a bit odd that winter is one of my favorite seasons–I think the last few have put it even above autumn on my list.

Everything gets quiet and crisp and cold and the air feels so thin. People are generally nicer and more helpful (at least those I am around). And then there’s the snow. Then people help each other out of snow banks and help clear walkways for those that can’t do it for themselves. There’s hot cider and warm bread and cozy blankets for puppies and their humans.

I guess I’ve always been nostalgic and this time of year combined with the weather just intensifies this feeling. I think it’s the time of year that people are most appreciative of what they’ve been given or what they have in a way that isn’t really seen in the other seasons.

I never thought I’d enjoy some of the things I like now–living above the Mason-Dixon, snow, beets, etc. I suppose that it’s part of growing. From what I’ve seen of my family and friends, we’re never really done growing and changing, so it’s best to enjoy the ride and those willing to come along on the ride with you.

Some friends have been worrying over me in a most delightful way, not wanting me to be alone during the holidays. While I definitely look forward to having a few holiday parties to go to (I do have some fantastically funny friends), I don’t really feel “alone.” I kind of enjoy the alone-ness without feeling lonely. Hard to describe, really. It’s not a bad or sad feeling. It’s a grateful feeling.

It’s coming in from helping someone out in the snow storm while having a good laugh, getting to play with your best friend/4-legged rascal and enjoying warm coffee with a great new book in your warm house. Like for a whole four months. Not so bad with the right boots. Not bad at all.

“Give her all your darkness
Give her all your light
Love is like a carriage
It’s no spirit in the night

Like a wishing well
Where your pennies fell

He said it’s only a matter of time
Before your heart is mine
Have you been searching?
You’ve been looking the world over

When is it time to let go?
And is it then that you know?
All the peace that we’ve been bringing out of each other
Out of each other

Flowing like a circuit
Through a curse of neon signs
Writing her a letter
What’s the curve of your desire
When the cycle starts its run
And we become what we become

He said it’s only a matter of time
Before your heart is mine
Have you been searching?
You’ve been looking the world over

When is it time to let go?
And is it then that you know?
All the peace that we’ve been bringing out of each other
Out of each other

When is it time to let go?
And is it then that you know?
All the peace that we’ve been bringing out of each other
Out of each other

Give her all your darkness
Give her all your light
Love is like a carriage
It’s no spirit in the night

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”

Snow, Sass and Whoopie Pies

Many people have asked me why I live in Maine. For those of you who don’t know, I was born in Atlanta, GA and grew up in a small rural community in Northeast Georgia (basically the other end of the Appalachian Trail from here).

Things to Know

Your face will get super dry and crackly. And your hands. Any exposed skin, really.

Driving on snow is more fun than driving on ice.

Storms are slow-moving and relatively predictable here. Which is better than any tornado.

Mainers are hardy, resourceful and typically helpful. And like to keep to themselves. “You do your thing over there, I’ll do my thing here.”

Massholes/Quebecoi = Our Floridiots

Dress for comfort, not for style (at least not what the rest of the country calls style). Because no one cares. You think we look ridiculous in our giant coats and balaklavas. We know you ARE ridiculous attempting to navigate snow in your strappy high-heels and super stylish flowy blouses made of tissue paper. Unless you’re a native Mainer, in which case 40F is shorts and tshirt weathah regardless of the amount of snow still on the ground.

Get winter boots. Seriously.

Food here is different. More potatoes, less spice.

You have to “know people.” Ayuh, I know a guy.

Having distinct seasons is amazing. And very cathartic.

The trees here are worth the cold weather.

There is very little housing here compared to many other places. Finding an apartment in the Portland area is tricky and often you have to “know somebody” to get a decent rental price.

The Portland area has an awesome food scene.

Dunkin > Starbucks.

You don’t have to have an AWD vehicle, but snow tires help.

State inspections mean higher auto costs over all combined with winter road salting.

Mainers have amazing festivals.

While you should always be safe, winter is generally more beautiful than scary.

Mainers have a very earthy and genuine sense of humor. And some dry, acerbic sass when they like.

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You learn to spot Vermonters and New Hampshirites very quickly. They are their own unique groups with their own quirks separate from Mainers.

Mainers are relatively private and will not likely hassle you about your religion/sexual preference/personal choice of ass cream, etc. Which is incredibly refreshing. They expect the same from you.