Monday, February 25, 2013

Lemons and a Full Moon

I’m out at dinner. My original plan for the night was to avoid alone as hard as I possibly could, despite a laundry list of things to do, up to and including actual laundry.  And maybe that was unhealthy and maybe not.  Anyway, despite my attempts to find a tablemate,  I’m on a stool watching the tail end of rush hour.  I like to come sit here for lunch during days off or on weekend, and people watch.  Right now, from this same spot, it’s closed storefronts and an empty candy store.

I walked out here, since it was one of the things on my to-do list, and I didn't see so much as a soul all the way up until I crossed the street to get to the restaurant.  I’d say the universe is conspiring, but there’s a big orangey full moon making things a little less dark.
Someone on facebook, the fount of all “knowledge” these days, said something about needing to learn how to be alone.  I think she had a good point, though I don’t feel like one of those people who can never be alone.  Just a weekend or two ago, I spent almost 36 straight hours alone,  watching tornado shows, writing, doing photo projects…

I've had a lot of alone throughout my life, for better or for worse- I tend to think of it as for better, mostly-for the better.  I learned to be independent, and I learned a lot more about myself sooner than a lot of other people did growing up.  I started out as an only child in a single parent house.  I attended a small private school that was not in my town, so my friends didn’t live down the street.
But lest this sound like a sob story- I loved my childhood.  I built forts and collected matchbox cars and my little ponies and tried to fly for just a few seconds using a contraption I built out of butterfly nets and then launching myself off the skateboard ramp the landlord’s son had built in the big meadow that was my backyard.  I was a spy, an Indian, a pioneer, and a Boxcar child.  I read, and I drew and my imagination soared.

I had a special relationship with my mom, and I got unique opportunities as a child to interact with adults more often than most kids do, just because I was there.  I had more to learn about being around kids, I think.  I got a brother and sister when my mom remarried. I was 10.  I had to learn things like sharing a room and whose turn it was for the radio, and how to cope with someone always being in the bathroom.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and it was a piece that my life was missing that I didn’t even know about.

I think there’s different kinds of alone though.  Sometimes alone is teamed up with sad, and on you like some sort of leaden shadow. I’m not used to that alone.  To me, alone is a warm blanket in front of a well-tamed hearth.  But then sometimes there it is, clawing at your throat from the inside, that creeping aching cry crawling out of your heart.

The good thing about people, specifically the people you love, is that when that loneliness creeps in, they can be the warm blanket that keeps it out.   And they do, and they have, and they will again. 
But some nights, it’s you and that shadow, and you have to deal with it.  And you won’t feel strong enough.  That’s how I started this walk.  The full moon was hazed over, no one was around and I was trudging through the mud.  It was cold and icy, and I kept slipping.   And I got mad, because dammit, I was trying, wasn’t I? 

I started to think about all the alone times with the full intention of wallowing.  About being up in Los Alamos and not seeing anyone most days or even most weeks.  About best friends far away from here, about people who probably didn’t see that they were a light in my day. 

And whatever, some of that was bad.  But I did it anyway.  I learned a trade. *I* packed my car up and moved. *I* hiked the canyons.  *I*kept my promise to myself.  No matter how I am feeling right now, I got off my ass, and I walked my mile and someone else’s, and I figured it out.

I’m not ok, and I don’t like it, and I wish it wasn’t the way it is right now.   And I’m consistently 2 milliseconds from unleashed floodgates.  I’m 70 things and none of them are great.  But I’m moving. And I’m moving because I’m brave, and I’m strong, and I’ve got to.  I’ve got no guarantee anything will change, though I hope it does, but I have my own two feet to stand on, and for now that has to be enough.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What I Did

I wouldn't erase the last post. It's the truth.  Right now, I'm extremely sad, hurt, lonely, and scared.  Right now I'm angry, and desperate, and angry.  Had I mentioned angry?  Right now I feel helpless.  Right now I feel like I'm going to watch things burn out of control with a bucket of water in my hand.  Right now, I feel like setting some fires, but I know if I were to do that I would end up chasing every ember so nothing gets so much as singed.

But...I don't want to go to bed that way.  Snow is falling outside and I want half a chance to enjoy that.

My eyes still burn, my throat is dry, and I can't see how I'll sleep in the next two hours, despite the fact that the storm means I'll need to be up at least that much earlier to get to work.

I probably did a hundred things wrong tonight out of anger and sadness and desperation.

But you know what I did right?
I kept a promise to myself.

See, a friend of mine on Twitter and I got in a casual conversation about yoga.  How we used to dabble and wanted to re-dabble.  So we decided to team up, and do it "together" in different states. At the same time, I had been thinking about how I'd started a countdown a few months ago- I wanted to work out for 30 days straight no stopping, to establish a habit and prove I could stick to it.  I think I lasted about 9 days, and I gave it up.  This time, I've counted down from 30 to 16.  On top of that, I started a new partnership with one of my closest friends- we were going to train for a 5k.  I've never been a runner.  I don't think I can be a runner.  But the more I thought about it...why can' t I be?  So I started.  And I got frustrated, and I felt weak, but I kept going.  The way I'd pictured that going in my head was that my friend and I would do our first mile together, and that we'd cross the finish line of a real legitimate 5k together too.  Well, the first mile didn't get run together.  Tonight I found out that I don't have a partner anymore.

But here's the thing.  I've done the work.  I've run. I've run AND kept the yoga up.  I've started paying more attention to what I'm eating and tried to drink more water and rarely if ever drink soda anymore.  And I've done damn well at it.  The yoga reminds me it's great to have a partner.  We bitch about hard poses, we laugh, we are frustrated together...and we keep each other honest.  I'm glad for it.

I'm not one to sit and brag about my acccomplishments but I will say this.  I may not be graceful with my yoga anymore or yet, but I feel the muscles in my body shaping and changing.  I see my balance getting better. I feel it.

I'm doing it.

In the past month, I've gotten 3 photos published to the Chicagoist in their local photographer daily feature. Photography is something I really love, and want to pursue more.  And while I don't have a DSLR yet, and sometimes I only have my iPhone, I've been able to work on it.

I've made huge progress in the project I was working on to move all my photos to a new computer and catalogue them.

I visited with a friend who needed a friend and rediscovered the circle of us from around the fire, and what I always knew, that those bonds would hold.

I started small on my promise to myself to read 12 books this year, and in my fishing found A Calendar of Tales by Neil Gaiman. The project inspired me, and I wrote "Second" yesterday...the first real non-blog writing I've done in a long time.

I'm playing in band on Tuesdays and working hard on the music.

I paid off a school loan today!

I'm spending time with family and reconnecting with friends when I can.  I'm telling the people I love that I love them.

I'm damn proud of the 16 on the post-it note beside my mirror.
Because tonight I am sad and lonely and powerless and angry and hurt and desperate.
But tonight, I kept moving.

Tonight I can't fix the problems, but I can remember what I can do.
This month I've found I focused so much on what I can't do or that I'm not doing right....
I've been letting myself and everyone else tell me I'm not enough.
But I am.  And I can. And I will.

What else is there to say?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


We wake up in darkness these days. Most of the time as we uncurl and uncover from the trappings of sleep, we are faced with heavy blankets of grey. We know dawn is upon us but not because we see its light.  Knowing things in your head does not always remind your heart.

Some days the dark grey lifts, and we search for the warmth of sun soaked summers from the other side of the window pane, careful not to touch the glass and remember the cold.

Stepping outside, we can no longer stay asleep, lungs flooded with the remnants of a frigid night and filled with the scent of snow and frozen ground. Every breath we take floats up to the sky, a smoke signal.
 "I am here."
 "I am alive."

Alive in a world of dead and dormant things.

It's as though we are driving across the pages of a vast sketchbook.  Shades of grey, shocks of white like a blank page before us.  The trees reach to the tops, laid bare, twisted and scratching at the sky.  Men in bright yellow coats and dingy work gloves make their way through rows of trees, sweeping the forest floor of the dead and dying. Bare becomes more barren, rows of trees like hospital hallways, and static.  Tidy little piles of limbs are assembled into half moons.

The river is iced over in some places, but the solid white fades to transparent panes where it thins.  The places the river runs, it is bold and brown, swollen with the melted snow and freezing rains.

We brace for the wind, careful to shield our flesh from the deep, immediate ache of cold on parts we dared expose.  Things are quieter now, the world heard through wool, felt through layers we've carefully put on.  Having nearly forgotten color, surrounded by silence, we paint the world red for a day, creating a flurry of sights, smells and sounds to distract from the dark that all too quickly ends our days. When our work is done, the darkness is already imminent.   We slip into the forest again.  Even as the tires tread smooth and silent, the scent of smoke seeps in.

The grey curls around the trunks of the trees, but the bright orange petals of a bonfire in full bloom are nowhere to be found.  Instead, the forest floor flickers with the subtle glow of a candle behind lantern glass. The world burns slowly, almost imperceptibly.

February fades as flames burn out.  Ashes run with the river, meeting the first of the unfrozen ground.  Life begins again.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

From Inside the Box

I've been trying to get all my favorite photos together over the past few months, and I've been transferring them from one computer to another.  It's been a longer process than I've hoped, not including any inherent-in-my-being procrastination. 

I spent the last few days looking back on some of these. It's a weird time to be reliving all of this from outside of it. When I look at these pictures I see...wide open.  I see an eternal horizon, I see the colors of sunset drizzling down ancient mountains.  I see sagebrush trailing off as far as the eye can see.  Somewhere inside of me, that feeling I felt in Tucumcari, where I had to fling open the doors of my Jeep and just RUN until I couldn't run stirs inside of me, for better or for worse. 

Right now I can't decide which it is.  I'm accomplishing a goal I set for myself right now, and I'm happy about that, and I've stuck with it despite nausea, mood changes, injuries and insecurity.  I've had fun, laughing and going out and doing things with people I love, exploring and indulging and laughing, listening....

But everything feels like it's outside the box I'm in.  I feel like I'm looking at everything from behind a screen. 
What you can't see in the pictures above is the hot wind at your back.  Or the smell of sagebrush and juniper and earth.  You can't feel the way the sun can be sitting on your shoulder, or the power of a wind whipping up the lip of a canyon.  

Worse, I don't know if I built my little plexiglass box or not sometimes.  I'm sure that I did, as I've been trying to fend off attacks and trying to be strong despite getting salt ground into some wounds.  I know that for every brick I took down from my wall to hand to someone, I've taken it up and reinforced it with another now.  It isn't what I wanted and it's probably what no one needs.  If I could hand you back those bricks I would.  Maybe one day...maybe not.  

But I know I'm not the only one.  We build our cages and we lock ourselves in them.  We think it'll protect us, and we're wrong.  We have to fly, or our wings stop working.  We have to feel every muscle even when it hurts, so we know how strong we are.  Physically I'm doing that.  

Emotionally, I'm...holed up in my room watching tornado shows. My heart is screaming at me "People.always.leave!" and I'm trying to drown it out with...dreams of racing up on things that could kill me in seconds flat and feeling their force. Of staring straight in the face of something I've always been afraid of. Behind this screen I can hear the tornado roar, I can watch it toss trees and tear down buildings. My heart can beat a little faster watching a close call.  But I'm safe, because it's just pixels. Nothing is real. Nothing is actually happening.  I can tuck up under the blankets and watch in wide-eyed wonder without so much as a raindrop dampening my day. 

And I guess that's fine, in some cases.  But right now?  I don't want to be in the cage.  I don't want the people I love in theirs either.   I want to smell the sagebrush, I want to feel the wind, and I want to feel the charge in the air just before a storm.  I want to run.
I want to be outside of these walls.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Little While...

So...the absence was notable.  For me at least, maybe no one else out there. But I'm back. 

I guess lately I've been more of the sort who wants to tuck themselves away up in a tower somewhere.  Maybe here at home.  I have a million things that my heart wants to say and for the longest time I've wanted to touch the keys and pour it all here, but I haven't. 

What can you say when you don't even really know how you feel? How can you feel when you're trying so hard NOT to feel?

I feel bottom of the bottle empty sometimes.  I feel sad.  Sometimes I feel better off.  Sometimes I feel like it's time to blast off, and go somewhere.  

New Year's Eve, when I drove with an old friend of mine, my heart sighed out "I want to go home" and home was New Mexico.   

Right now my heart feels too fragile.  I want to go home because I know that when I stand in the shadow of the mountain I'll feel the same way.  I know that the mountain will always be there, sunrise, sunset, storm or clear weather.  I know no amount of digging away at the stone will remove it, even if I dig away every day for the rest of my life.  I know I could tear all the skin from my bones beating at it and NOTHING would change it.  Solid stone, dwarfing magnitude, healing silence.  

I know I could stand at Tsankawi and scream at the top of my lungs and it would carry out to the valley and to the river and that someone somewhere just might look up and hear it, even miles away, and I want that.

I know THERE is something I bought with blood sweat and tears.  I know there is where I was bravest. 
And I need that.

I know what I should do. I know without doubt that it's what I should do, what I must do. 
I wake up sometimes wondering how I'm going to do it without destroying myself. 

I need to feel safe. 

I don't want to be alone, but alone works better for me when I'm like this. 

If this explains the absence, I'm glad. 
Or I'm trying to be.
One step at a time.