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On a plane over the Pacific Ocean, I have an unfortunate juxtaposition of two opposite emotions when I think of Arno. I am more confident and trusting in this man than ever before; more than seems reasonable or rational. I am nearly certain of a future with him, I am on the edge of ready to commit completely. If he asked me today, I would marry him. That is how self-assured and healthy I feel. I am coming back to life again, becoming the woman I knew was buried somewhere deep, deep inside. A woman who is now filled with joy, peace, faith, and eager anticipation, and hopefulness, and expectations of being finally able to enjoy the goodness and beauty of having a regular life without constant damage control. And I am scared to death.
On a given day my emotions wander all over the place, of course. I’ve been mostly on a happiness track ever since I met him. Well, actually, ever since the pain of leaving my last relationship with Mark began to fade, I was happier. My reality includes many ups and downs, and within the happy path that has gradually traveled upward (and out of the muck of my dark history) – in the way that awesome corporate earnings might climb up a chart – there are times when I have been merely pleased and times when I’ve been euphoric, and it averages into a happy medium. (forgive the pun) Today, though my emotions overall remain happy, the track plunged.
This morning I was looking for a notebook to take onto the plane with me, since for some unexplainable reason I always want to write when I am airborne. I came across a spiral-bound notebook that I recognized as one of my old journals. I flipped to the back in case there were some empty pages and I could add my Hawaii trip entries. The journal was filled to the very last line of the very last page, and in discerning this, my eyes grabbed at some of the words.
I was talking about Mark. I couldn’t discern the date because I only marked the month and day, not the year. So… not sure about what part of my Mark experience it was. We were still living in Fitchburg, possibly new in the relationship, because I was talking about trying to ignore my fear and trying to allow myself to feel love again. That’s similar to my current thoughts with Arno, so I stopped paging through, and read it.
At one point I had written that I had “a history of living with ill men, and becoming an ill woman,” and though my past self didn’t recognize this: my journal entries about Mark were a continuation of that sickness. I didn’t see it then, and my intent was to point out how Mark was different from my terrible past men.
I wrote about his selfishness, his lying to me, and his own self-deception. “Of course I can’t be mad at him,” I wrote, “because he doesn’t do it on purpose. He doesn’t even realize he’s lying. When I point it out, he doesn’t know what I’m talking about.” How can a person be so blind to the fact that she is embracing a poisonous environment?
I wrote how he didn’t take responsibility for his own positive emotions. Rather than express his pleasure first person, he asked questions so that I was forced to carry the weight of expression. “What are you doing to me?” he asked over and over in his moments of pleasure. He wouldn’t even wear his own emotions, but made me express it for both of us. I felt like I could have been a blow-up doll and he would have been equally pleased and equally present.
I kept reading in the journal, and saw right there, in black and white, how I had clearly analyzed what was wrong with our communication, but would then go on to say how he was a good man deep inside, so the only obstacle to our improved communication was my ability to perceive his intended messages differently. I made him into some kind of hero. I talked about how he ignored me, disrespected me, and I wrote that since he is such a great person, then it is my job to “re-frame” his words and behavior into something that makes more sense for a good person. “He just doesn’t realize how hurtful it is, so it really isn’t his fault,” I wrote. “I know with patience I can understand the true meaning behind the mindless, empty comments.” Or, “I know he means well, and he’s very thoughtful and caring, so I must remind myself of that more often so my feelings don’t get hurt.”
Oh my god! What in the world makes a woman as sick as that? I have always been intelligent in every single aspect of life EXCEPT for relationship dynamics, and there I am a complete idiot. Why?
I wasted six years of my life being mentally sick with him. I got so unwell I spent the last two years of our relationship going to therapists who never helped a damn thing. I took medications that made me even more miserable, but at least they stopped the panic attacks and the voices and laughter I heard that were terrifying and frequent. My last therapist even tried to tell me to get out of my relationship, but I didn’t realize it till much later. In one of our last sessions, she was saying, very gently, “Some people, when they are feeling the way you are, might consider a change. Sometimes the options they consider might include different personal relationships, perhaps a change in setting. Please don’t think I am encouraging it, I only want to suggest what other people might have in their minds.” I had no idea what she was talking about. And I didn’t ask. I just let her words slide incomprehensibly past my mind.
Alright, alright. My intent here is not to simply to portray what a bad relationship I was in. No really. My point is that I didn’t know that I was in one even when it was making me crazy. In the past I had not seen for years how ill and abusive Tara’s father was. And how self-absorbed and sick Vic was, and Kevin, and Miguel, and all the awful men I always end up with. What is frightening to me today is that I could NOT SEE what was going on. I wanted to be in love and wanted to be loved so badly that I willingly allowed myself to be blind. I saw the abuse, recognized the betrayal, and then spun it somehow into a story about my own shortcomings in not being able to forgive enough, not being sufficiently understanding, or not accommodating the obvious signs of a wounded man who needs to be loved for who he is – because, wasn’t I asking to be loved for who I was? I told myself that I was the stronger person, and therefore I needed to be the one to accommodate his weaknesses, not vice versa.
At one point recently, I broke down and cried when I was with Arno, and told him of my secret terror. I want to love and to trust, but I am very aware that I cannot protect myself. At least I never have. The only means of protection I know is not to fall in love. Or, if I can’t help myself, at least to hold part of my heart back and not give all of myself. Loving Arno is frightening to me because I do not know if I am seeing things clearly. Since I could never tell before, how can I know if I can tell now? Am I currently blind? Do I love him because I am lonely? The fact that I opened up enough to allow myself to express those thoughts shows how deeply I care for him. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t be so scared. Thus it also tells me that I am sufficiently emotionally involved to again be at that dreadful place where I cannot see what is happening in my own life.
Am I there? How is it possible to know?
But remember I said ‘a juxtaposition.’ There are emotions from opposite sides of the spectrum pulling at me: isn’t that how it always is? Fear, yes, but also hope. No, even better than hope: certainty. Assuredness. Confidence and deep unconditional trust in Arno. I am not making excuses for anything about him. I don’t need to. He’s got his own self-assuredness, patience, practicality, and joy to carry him along, so he doesn’t need to suck it out of me. He has no need to bluster and sputter about things I say that could be twisted into a far-fetched insult. He does not remind me of how I should be grateful for what he gives me. He does not tell me how I could be better, or how my behavior is superior and distasteful. Or childish and immature. He does not spend any time at all bragging about himself (unless I remember to ask), but seems intent on convincing me that I am a wonderful person. Arno lives a full, satisfying life, and has chosen to make himself available to me. He loves me unconditionally. And he already told me that if things don’t work out between us, he won’t be sorry we met, because he is already happy with the positive impact I’ve had on his life. “You have already shown me that I can live my life in a better way. You have proved that there are other people like me in the world. You physically express what I have in my mind; you ACT what I am feeling! I can’t envision my life without you in it,” he said to me.
Fear, yes. But happiness as well. And each new day as I learn more and more about him, and find that his words are in perfect resonance with the way he lives, I can trust him more. There are no incongruities, there are no shameful character traits to learn to tolerate, there is no embarrassing bravado, there are no heartbreaking nights of trying to defend myself from misinterpretations. Every new morning I wake up with a peaceful heart, and the fear evaporates a little more. One day it will be gone completely. With Arno I believe I can become whole again.
Arno wasn’t scheduled to leave Phoenix till 10 pm Sunday evening, so we decided to go north to Sedona for some more hiking and return to the hotel in time to get ready for the flight. I had seen the town the previous weekend on my Grand Canyon tour trip, and was not impressed. However, people told me the real draw of Sedona is the surrounding landscape, and the many trails to hike through it.
We were on the road relatively early and made our first stop at a U.S. Forest Service Visitor Center just south of the Village of Oak Creek on highway 179. It was the perfect first stop, and we received immediate personal attention once inside. Coconino Forest employee, Norris, asked a few key questions and then made his recommendation that we hike the Cathedral Rock trail. He said he’s been on them all, and this one is his favourite. He pulled out photos from the trail, and gave us large scale maps as well as zoomed in maps, and marked how to get there from where we were. He gave us hiking tips, reminded us to drink lots of water, and then recommended a place to eat because we were starving! If we had any extra time, he added, there was a viewpoint not to be missed, north of Oak Creek and near the airport. We should also stop and see the Chapel of the Holy Cross. He gave us meticulous directions to those attractions, as well. Finally, Norris took our photo with the eye-catching Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte in the distance, and sent us on our way.
We arrived at the Marketplace Café at 10am but the note on the door said it wouldn’t open till 11am. We decided to use the extra time to go find the viewpoint and the chapel. The Chapel was pretty close and I was glad to go check it out. I had spotted it from the tour van the previous week, and wondered what kind of church it was. The building is a sharp geometrically precise wedge rising from a red rock outcrop. There is a parking area and we were soon at the church; an actual Catholic church with a spectacular view.
Next we found the vista, and even found a parking place in the shade! The views were stunning, indeed, since the road had taken us to a bluff, which meant the valley opened up into a 220 degree panorama. After snapping photos we headed back to the restaurant and had an incredibly delicious meal. It was without question the best meal I had eaten in Arizona so far.
We drove out Verde Valley School Road and found the Cathedral Rock trail at just about noon – probably the worst possible time to begin a hike in the desert in July. But we loaded up with water and were soon on our way. The trail we used begins with some tree cover and parallels Oak Creek for awhile. We passed a couple of swimming holes jammed with people, hollering children, dogs, and inflatable toys. Much as the water tempted us, the people repelled us. We knew the river remained close to us (though we could not see it through the trees), so once we were entirely out of earshot between two major swimming holes, we left the trail and cut through the forest. We came out in a section of creek that did not have the appealing access and deep pools that the other places had, but there was absolutely no sign of humanity. I took off my boots and climbed right down into the creek in my clothes and got soaked. It was amazing!
Arno was not too far behind me. Once we splashed around a bit and got cooled off, we sat smack in the middle of the creek and talked for about twenty minutes. It was probably the first time I had been cool outside since I had arrived in Arizona weeks before. Like heaven. We sat relatively still, and soon the forest creatures returned to their daily routines. We particularly liked the cardinals darting above our heads, who constantly caught our eye with their flashy red feathers.
On the trail again, the afternoon heat was no too bothersome in our wet clothes. I took a couple of videos, and many photographs of the scenes that captured my imagination. Though we had hiked a really steep trail the day before (Camelback Mountain), this one also offered a steep option. My quads were only slightly sore, and Arno was game, so we decided to hike up to the saddle between two of those red rock spires. This trail did not come with the metal fence or railing to hold onto, of course, and much of the “trail” was a slick rock scramble right up the face of the mountain. I came to a stop at the bottom of the worst stretch of it. “Um. I’m actually not so cool with this,” I told Arno.
I had never (note the definition of “never”), never hiked directly up a sheer rock face before. I was keenly aware that my hiking partner was a rock climber. My heart began to thump wildly just looking at the “trail” in front of me. (Don’t ask why I keep referring to it as a trail, except that there were elaborately constructed cairns suggesting that some official entity was thinking that our route was a trail…) The only reason I went forward was out of pride: 1) there were people coming down the sheer rock face as I watched, who were obviously not professional athletes, and 2) there was an athlete standing right next to me, telling me “go, I’ll be right behind you.”
Yeah right, buddy! Try and catch my pathetic ass as I roll down the mountainside past you! I envisioned the return journey, standing at the top of this 400 foot slope of rock with a deep valley below me, planning where to put my toes, and it seemed impossible. The pounding in my chest was getting close to panic stage and the only way to deal with panic is to not let it happen, so I launched myself ahead and up. Arno, happily set his feet and hands securely into place after me, and as he climbed, he began trying to give me reassuring suggestions about what to do if I slipped. “Don’t talk to me!” I snapped loud enough for him to hear behind me, though I did not dare turn my head. “I need to keep going; so I can’t think about anything!”
And up I went, toes desperately balanced on one small lump or crack at a time, continuing to move ahead almost by will alone. There were times when I had no place to grab, and just laid my hand flat on the rock surface and used the friction of my sweaty palms against the red rocks to pull me up. Any time I got a decent purchase with a toe, I would push hard, to use the forward momentum in case the next few handholds were worthless. Soon I was at the top, heart still raging against my ribcage. Arno says, “You actually went up pretty fast.” Oh, bite me.
The rest of the route to the saddle was an actual trail, and I calmed down by the time we reached the top. Whoo! What a rush! The top was a narrow ridge (4 feet across?) and a serious breeze blasted us once we got there, which was very refreshing. We scrambled around the ledge for one more agenda item before we headed down. Norris had told us about a place to our left where a crack had opened in the earth to allow magma to surge up. The red rocks have worn away and left a striking grey wedge of volcanic rock. It seemed intriguing by his description, and was very very cool to see (and climb over) in real life. From that same vantage, Arno pointed out a sill in a nearby rock tower, where a horizontal layer of deep maroon rock lay between the terra cotta red rock like the frosting layer in a cake.
Our trip back down was less dramatic. I had good boots on, and was able to plant them flat against the slick rock section and simply walk down the side of the mountain. When we got back to the creek, we were totally dry and hot again, so we jumped in again. This time at a deep pool where we could actually swim. It was late afternoon and we had to get back to Phoenix. We stopped in and ordered dinner to go at Marketplace Café (I am telling you – VERY good food!), then made the long journey back to the city.
Sadly, Arno only had time to shower and cram everything into his suitcase and jet out the door in order to catch his flight in time. So I was forced to eat his dinner for lunch in class the next day.
There are advantages to living in the city. I talk about those advantages on a regular basis in my blog: fairs, art shows, parks, and people. There are also disadvantages, such as being awakened by screaming cops and flashlights blasting through your bedroom window in the middle of the night.
Oh yes. I crawled up to consciousness from the foggy cobwebs of my dreams, because someone was shouting and explosions of white light were blasting into my bedroom. I looked at the clock: 1:33 am.
I live in a neighborhood called Montavilla. It’s in Portland’s southeast, blocks from major streets in any direction, and not at all a place I would have expected to see the culmination of a police chase. At the old Morrison Street house, we were two blocks off Stark/Washington, and heard sirens all time, often heard shots discharging. But not where I am now: it’s very quiet. Usually.
“We know you’re back here!” I hear men yelling. “Come out. Come out NOW!” The whole time this German Shepherd is going off: bark! bark! bark! bark!
I scrambled out of bed and gingerly pulled back the bedroom curtain. It’s one of those low hung windows, so the bottom of the sill is at about my kneecaps. I stood behind the curtain so that I was less visible. I could see four uniformed police officers in my back yard. The officer with the dog was 10 feet off to the kitchen side of the house. Two of them were yelling “come out!” and two of them were blasting flashlights in every direction. One blasted me in the face within two seconds of getting the curtain back. Dang, those beams are BRIGHT.
Suddenly I was struck by what a personal space my back yard is to me. It felt like a violation to have it filled with officers. All these implications hit me (I’m terribly existential at the weirdest times): I pay taxes for just this: It is my privilege to have uniformed strangers and their crime dog barking away on my property: When I say “my yard” I delude myself: It’s a communal existence, we want it to be so, we insist that it remain so, yet we do not admit it even to ourselves: When we are faced with the reality of what we have created…it is a shock.
I let go of the curtain and ran to the kitchen. I ran up to the window, gasped, and took two steps back. They were right there! Wild flashlight beams are frantically dashing in every direction – into the shrubs, up onto the roof of the separate garage, at the house. From my new position, the living room was alight like a disco with red, white, and blue glittering across the walls.
“He’s in the garage!” One guy yelled from the yard. I imagine he had discovered the window at the back, and hit it with his own nuclear flashlight beam.
“We know you’re in there. Come out!” another guy yelled.
“I’ll let the dog loose!” threatened a third voice. The dog is going bananas the whole time. Bark! Bark! Bark! Did I ever tell you I was attacked by a German Shepherd once? They are serious dogs. The officer eases his hand down to the dog’s collar, at the ready, and the Shepherd goes airborne with eagerness at each bark.
All this yelling and barking and flashing lights are RIGHT THERE next to me. The dog is at the base of the steps out the back door. Four feet from the window I’m watching through. Then BLAM! I’m hit in the face with another nuclear blast beam of a flashlight from officer #5, who is in the driveway on the side of the house. He leaves it on me and I am virtually pinned to the spot. I have folded my arms in front of me, because I suspected I might be spotted, and I want to seem non-threatening. But I just have to watch: this is my own property.
Tension builds, they continue to yell. “Come out!” they yell at the dark. And to an officer they warn, “Get back from the door!” And with the same incredible drama of a television show, the garage door begins to open. No, with more drama. It’s like a shock wave. I can’t believe officers have this kind of thing happen on every shift. A building is surrounded, and slowly a door opens….
A 30-ish, black man emerges. He looks like a regular guy, but with his hands in the air. Damn you! I curse silently at him. How are we supposed to erase stereotypes if you’re only the second black man on my property since I’ve lived here, and you’re running from the police? Aren’t you motivated to uphold the law simply because you’re black? Just to shove it in our faces?
The aggressive flashlight beam in my face has completely blinded me, so I move backward into the living room, and the beam drops from the window. It was aggressive. I can’t explain why I knew that. It was a clear message: “Butt out, lady.” I see shadows as all the officers move a man in handcuffs along the driveway to the front of the house.
Bam! Bam! Bam! On the door at the kitchen, where I had been standing. I hear creaking on the wood floors down the hall, where my sweet little girl has also been pulled from slumber and comes to investigate. At the door is an officer who explains that they just apprehended a man from my garage.
“Yes, I saw that,” I confessed. Totally up front: that’s me. I saw it, and I saw that you saw I saw it. No sense in pretending.
“I’d like you to look in your garage for anything that does not belong to you. We’ve been chasing this guy for an hour. There were two of them; they fled an accident scene,” he pointed. My girlie was in the kitchen, so I went to her first.
“Are you ok?” I asked.
“uh huh,” she answered.
“The police caught a stranger in our back yard,” I said. “It’s ok.” I kissed her on the forehead and went out to the garage.
“He was carrying something,” the officer continued. “We think he may have hid it in here.” I poked around, but …seriously. Who can find stuff in a garage under any circumstances, much less in a sleep-haze, in pajamas, directed by a police officer? Ha, that’s almost funny.
“I think I should try harder to remember to lock the garage,” I said. Aside from existentialism, my humor tries to come out at all hours of the night, too, apparently.
“Yes, would you please?” agreed the officer. “In fact, I’m locking it for you now,” he said, turning the lock and pulling the door closed behind us.
I went back inside, and tried to slow my breathing. I crawled onto girlie’s bed and gave her some quick snuggles to reassure her. I crawled into my own and glanced at the clock again. 1:44 am. Wow! That was a jam-packed 11 minutes. I closed my eyes and saw the image of a black man, lit up by white-hot flashlights, emerging from my own garage. The dog was still barking, as well as one of the neighborhood dogs. A stranger. A fugitive. Why were you running? I asked him silently. Don’t flee a scene, stay there. You have rights, don’t run. Don’t give them the opportunity to pin race on you. Damnit.
Am I the racist? Am I deluded?
Bam! Bam! Bam! This time, the front door. I leapt from bed to get to the door to avoid more banging that would disturb my kid.
“Hello Ma’am. How are you tonight?”
“Tired,” I answered. (Seriously? What kind of question is that?)
“We just apprehended a man in your garage.”
“Yes, I saw that.”
“You saw it? Yes, well, he is being arrested for trespassing. Do you recognize this man?” He held up the man’s driver’s license and shined his flashlight on it for me. (I had no idea what a critical tool the police flashlight is) I didn’t recognize the face, which looked older and more tired than the vibrant face I had seen minutes before. “Is there any reason why this man would be in your garage?” The officer held up the light, not in my face, but to illuminate my face. It was interrogation; eliminating a possible lead. I played my part.
“No, sir.” I looked right into his eyes and held the gaze for a beat. No fear.
I gave him my name, my phone number, the zip code. He told me the DA’s office might be calling me later. He filled out a Victim/Complaint Information Form on my behalf, noted the charge was Criminal Trespass. I asked if I did find something in the garage, should I call the DA? He gave me his card and said to call him.
I view the episode as a very entertaining paragraph in this chapter of my life. I was never scared, not even a little concerned. I was riveted. I will do a better job at locking my garage now, but only to make sure no hoodlum steals Miss T’s bike. Maybe I should lock the house too. What a pain.
I just don’t fear as much as everyone else, apparently. Fear is a terrible waste of time and energy, and it’s bad for one’s health. I have as much chance of dying from a frozen block of toilet water falling from an airplane, as getting attacked in my bed by a criminal, as eating poison mushrooms. If I’m going to be realistic about fear, then I should commit to it and be afraid of everything that could happen, right? That’s the only way to be honest about it.
But to actively respond to legitimate fears of every possible trauma in a person’s life…that would be ridiculous. Every person who is afraid has chosen to be afraid of a particular thing, or things. So, I choose not to be afraid. It’s my prerogative. If it’s my time to suffer tragedy, then it’s my time. The odds are greatly stacked against it though. Criminal attacks and winning the lottery: they are equally represented in my life. Which is: I won twenty bucks with Lotto last year, and my kid’s bike was stolen once.
Entertaining as it was… and despite the fact that I got a blog post out of it… I continue to look forward to the day when I can move back to the country, where there are less flashlights.
I was just browsing through old photos and found this one on my flickr accout. My girlie two years ago, her friend Polly from Brazil, and Sara from Boston’s inner city. I love this photo. There is a lot of joy captured here, and it spills over me whenever I look at this picture.
Mark helped me out of a panic yesterday (it’s a good thing we take turns freaking out, that way we can always be there for each other, heh). I was struck because tomorrow is February first, the day the mortgage is due. It will be the third month in a row we can’t pay.
I honestly believe we have done what we can to find Mark a job. He applies for every single thing that comes up – no joke. From water bottle delivery person, to Home Depot cashier, to secretary at Bonneville Dam. And yes, every single environmental job of any kind that is advertised, he pours his effort into, because he’s a soil scientist.
We have spread the word to friends. He’s got all his buddies at his AA meetings keeping an eye out, like the guy who hooked him up with an interview at CH2M Hill. The Uncles work for TriMet, and we’ve asked them a couple of times to bug the ears of the hiring squad. My co-worker DB and her husband who works at the US Army Corps of Engineers has also been giving us regular updates and keeping us inspired.
….there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. The team leader from CH2M Hill actually called Mark up yesterday and told him the company just can’t afford to fill the positions they had advertised, and they canceled the hiring altogether. He apologized to Mark, and said when they do start hiring again, he’s one of the top people on the list. Well. That’s something, anyway.
So when you’ve done all you can and it isn’t enough, a person is tempted to FREAK THE HECK OUT!!
But Mark reminded me that it’s only scary to think of losing the house if we are convinced we have to have the house for happiness. “So what if we have to leave this house?” he said. “Then we move into an apartment. It’s not a big deal, we’ll be fine.”
He said he has been really focusing on a morning meditation where he thinks of all the good in his life and and evening meditation where he takes note of all the good of the day he just lived. He says it’s really working. (Thanks Brian)
“I just got tired of waking up at 2 am full of fear,” he said. “And this coming from me, Mr. Negative.”
Well, I’m generally the most positive person in the house. But even upbeat people can get beat down some days, and I’m glad glad once more for my perfect family.
This question makes me think of courage.
I am filled with fear. Fear is an excellent tool for introducing caution into my life, and my challenge is knowing how to accurately assess the dangers and how to move forward in a wise way.
I have decided that to “live fearlessly” is to have the courage to make decisions within a dangerous atmosphere. Have the courage to face up to the consequences of my thoughts and actions. Have courage to fail, and have the courage to succeed and face the consequences of THAT.
Should I let my little girl ride her bike to the park by herself? Scary. Should I apply for this incredible job? What if they reject me? What if they offer me the position – can I do it well? Should I strike up a conversation with that interesting stranger? When the crazy bum on the street starts talking to me, do I engage or hurry past? Should I give my heart completely to someone I care about? Should I default on my mortgage? Should I call up my mother and apologize for what I said? Do I have the courage to call up my daughter’s father and exchange information about what’s going on in her life?
In all of the above circumstances, it is tempting to NOT make a decision. Just let things sort of slide on by and hope the decision gets resolved without me. But that is not how I live authentically. In order for me to like myself, I can’t shy away from things that introduce fear.
My job as a meteorologist for 11 years helped with that. In some parts of life there is no way to know the outcome. Meteorologists are painfully aware of this every day of their lives. Despite that, a good weather forecaster needs to understand that their job is not to be perfect, but to make wise choices amongst limitless data which may or may not be relevant.
Another great thing about forecasting weather is that there are time limits. The longer one waits, the more data comes in. A person can be tempted to wait for that one magical piece of information which will make the right choice clear. But we usually don’t get any sense of what would have been the best choice until long after a choice has been made. Nothing to do for it but take that leap! As the deadline approached, I had to decide, and then make it public. And I had to be prepared to justify that decision.
Like meteorologists, we don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to do the best we can with what we’ve been offered. AND, we have to make those choices within a reasonable time frame, and be prepared to face the consequences.
If I can do that, it’s as close to fearless as I get.
Can anything more possibly go wrong?
uh, nevermind. I know the answer.
Hey Universe. Humor me and give us a freakin’ break already.
Comments from the old blog:
What’s going on? Seems to be a hard summer for many of us. I’m sorry your family is suffering, too.
Big hugs and I love you…..April
Oh honey, nothing shocking. Just the usual – life is hard as well as wonderful. We at least have each other (though not all together), and we mostly have our health (but not Mark, and we have no insurance), and there is a roof over our heads (and we pray daily to the gods to keep our foundation from crumbling in till we can afford to fix it). One of us is employed, and right at the moment, most of our creditors are somewhat satisfied, and all the other people owed money aren’t necessarily asking for it this weekend.
…you know? Not that life is bad. I have a good life with a lot of love. And I’m so tired of struggling. And the sun is shining. And there are people at war. So I’m a big puss and I’m angry at myself for getting tired of my personal struggles. But… I’m still tired.
Whew! I made it all the way through.
This week off didn’t go quite as planned, but it was full. I like my life to be full. Now I’m just sort of exhausted. I am looking forward to going back to work so I can wind down. Hm. That doesn’t seem right.
Did I say good? I need to say that too. I spent the week with my family – my amazing daughter especially – and that is good soul food and something I really needed.
It’s my daughter’s Spring Break from the 5th grade. Since it’s my turn to spend Spring Break with her instead of her dad’s turn, I took the week off work to be with her. (I love that my job allows me to just take time off when I need to)
My mother showed up the first Friday, with her husband. She has been going stir crazy ever since we bought this house, wanting to come for a visit. She brought two boxes of tools and supplies, wanting to do fix-up work with us. I thought she was nuts, since she was only planning to be here for 2 1/2 days, including Easter. I think my head is more firmly centered in reality. But I let her have her Mom dreams, and didn’t say anything. Who knows? Maybe it would work out.
Ug. I forgot how completely draining it is for me to spend time with Mother. I don’t think it’s entirely her – though she is one of the most challenging personalities in the world to entertain – but it also has a lot to do with our relationship. My perception of our time together is her constantly judging, criticizing, lecturing, and whining. And then sporadically telling me how much she loves me and loves my daughter, which doesn’t boost me as much as it could, because I get confused. Perhaps that is not what is going on, but that is how it feels to me.
Anyway, generally within a week of an anticipated visit from my mother, I begin to freak out. It’s mostly subconscious. This time I only burst into an angry fit and yelled at my partner once – the day before her arrival – and he was good enough to figure out the source of much of my stress. While she’s here, I freak out non stop. I become hypersensitive to her whining complaints, and somehow feel it is entirely up to me to make her life the way she wants it. (Note: this is very, very, child-parent stuff… it’s like I’m 12 and afraid of getting grounded again. Very unhealthy and scary to me that it happens so thoroughly and so quickly when she’s in my presence.)
I am much better than I used to be, so I am pleased with my growth. That, as with so many things, is due for the most part to my amazing partner, who continues to teach me how to stand up for myself, and how to disagree with someone I love, and how arguing does not mean I care less about the person I’m arguing with. So, Mom would whine and judge me and criticize, and I was able to let a lot of it just slide through my ear canals and pass on back into the air rather than find a crevice in my head to fester in. At the same time, ever since I’ve been practicing standing up to her, she has stopped being so critical. I think she finally realized how hurtful it is for her to be like that without any sort of reign on her tongue. I can see her earnest effort to try to keep her lips together, and I really really appreciate it. This is the kind of thing that lets me know my mother does love me.
She decided to extend their visit. ha! Just one more day, and that made more sense. Friday night we went out to dinner at Seasons and Regions, a great seafood place on the West side. Saturday we went to Hawthorne and hit Buffalo Exchange, Peets, Noah’s Bagels, and all those really truly great shops down there. Finally the sun had warmed us up, so we spent a few minutes at the ever-lovely Laurelhurst Park coming into full bloom, then went down to the Waterfront Park near where the giant Cirque du Soleil tents are set up for Corteo (my partner begged me to go, but at $85 per ticket, I scolded him out of it – we can barely afford groceries). We were all getting hungry, so wandered up to the Saturday Market and bought lunch – each of us at a different stand. Tara had corn dogs, my partner a big chicken, rice and vegetable plate, Mom and I had falafel pita sandwiches, her husband had pizza. How fun is that?
Saturday afternoon was Easter stuff: decorations up, coloring eggs, and winding down. Sunday morning, pouring rain and cold of course, so Tara found her eggs in the sopping wet. We had fun making the day special for her. She’s 10, and in the age of finding out the truth about things like the Easter Bunny. She truly was surprised that eggs were already hidden, and I could tell her young mind was trying to figure it out.
She still chooses to believe in some things, even when she learns a different story, which I like and encourage. This may offend some of you, but I am committed to this: If you believe it, that is what makes it true. It works for Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, elves, faeries, and God. Yes, God too. I don’t believe in a god, so no gods are working miracles in my life. BUT! I do believe in Mother Earth, who works constant miracles, and I believe in faeries, who play tricks and cause mischief in my life. I believe that human beings have magical powers, so I even create miracles in my own life. You may say “well, that’s God” and I agree with you. That’s why it’s so beautiful. When God is real for you, God is a personality in your life and you see Him in the lives of others.
So anyway, my daughter is a staunch believer in Santa Claus, and she also believes in God. She’s still making up her mind about Easter. ha ha.
Mother brought a stack of recipes she wanted us to cook while she was here. I picked one, and we spent much of Sunday shopping for food and cooking this meal. I was beginning to weaken against Mom’s onslaught, and her husband was getting bored. Luckily, my daughter is old enough to take him for a walk, so Grandpa and the kid took off on a couple of walks. Once they went to Target and Grandpa bought her a whole bunch of stuff for her upstairs bathroom which she has decided needs a “bamboo” theme.
Monday, my partner went back to work and I had to handle the folks on my own. By this time, my poor man had about been driven over the edge. Mom is hard enough, but on top of it, I was crumbling into a mess, and my partner had completely run out of patience. He spent Sunday in the basement ripping down the interior walls which we both hate. It was good hard labor and kept him away from our guests and away from me.
The weather improved on Monday, and my step-father offered to haul a load of debris back to Idaho if we wanted. He had been looking for a way to help us out, and this was a true gift. We live in a city. You can’t get rid of anything that doesn’t fit into the pre-approved trash cans, or doesn’t fit specific guidelines. Since we moved in, we’ve been accumulating a heap of things we just don’t know what to do with. Well, it’s all gone now! Even the plywood and 2x4s that my man ripped out of the basement. While my step-father and I filled the bed of the pickup, Mom and my kid did yard work. They worked hard and it made such a difference. I am very grateful.
Tuesday everyone left. It was a dramatic change for sure! My partner left at 5:30am to begin a two-day work trip to the field in central Oregon. Mom and her husband took off by 6:00am for their 6 hour drive back to north Idaho in the snow. That left my girl and me for two entire days of just each other. I finally let her sink into her computer as she had been wishing for (Club Penguin and Diablo II mostly), and I began taking care of business. By Thursday, I had been to the dentist, took my car for a tune-up, figured out how to check our phone messages with Comcast, had a phone meeting with my Ameriprise advisor, gassed up the car and the lawn mower, got my taxes off to a tax specialist, found birthday gifts for my nephew and niece, bought groceries, did about 16 loads of laundry (ok, maybe only 11), finished some legal paperwork for my attorney, helped my daughter get through two books of required reading, and YES, even worked on my book a little. Man! It feels so good to get so much done.
Part of why my week ended on a down note are the results of some of that stuff. The car hasn’t been in for a tune-up in its whole life, and I feel fortunate for getting it out of the shop after only $2036. Actually, I feel good about that in a big picture sense. Haven’t been to the dentist in too long, and my teeth cost me $285, which is a lot. But that is even tolerable. The problem was that I found out the reason I have been losing tiny chips of my teeth and thus experiencing terrible sensitivity is because I am freekin’ stressed out. I grind my teeth in my sleep, which causes “abfraction” which weakens and chips my teeth. The dentist told me to just tell myself to relax. Um. Yeah. He suggested wearing a mouth guard like football players wear, when I sleep. I think it’s a very good idea, and I’ll try it.
The one that FRIES me is a very bad experience with the tax person. The woman is an offensive know-it-all who repeatedly offended me and showed herself to be lazy as well. By the time I was fed up with her, she was on the phone telling me my taxes were done, so I just decided to pay her and have it overwith. I owe over $3000 in taxes, which is a shock. I have never ever ever had to pay. I always get taxes back. This sucks, but it’s probably accurate. Also, I have done my own taxes every single year except for once, in 1995. This year my stuff was just really complicated and I needed help. So it’s hard to absorb the cost of a tax preparer when I’m used to it being free. She’s charging more than $300 for insults, mistakes, and yes, for doing my taxes. At this point, I do not have confidence that she’s done it right, or well, but I guess I’m assuming her company will take responsibility if there is ever a future problem.
This week was a big week for my partner. Tuesday was his 20th anniversary of being clean and sober. In AA, they hand out “coins” for certain anniversaries that former addicts and alcoholics can earn. I carry his 18 year coin in my pocket, because it inspires me. I like to be reminded that my challenges are only difficult in my mind. There are other people who have bigger struggles than me. The coin helps me with my perspective. My partner only carries the one day coin. It’s white plastic. It used to say “AA” on one side, with carved decorations. Now it’s smooth and blank, worn thin. He tells me that he needs to remember that his battle is only with the day he is living, not with the years ahead or behind him. He carries the one day coin to remind himself that he needs to get through one day, and that the present day is the only one he needs to worry about. Yesterday was his birthday. I bought him a T-shirt that says “Surly” and the first two books of the Golden Compass series. I made him chicken enchiladas and a lemon birthday cake.
Whoo! Tomorrow I go back to work and I am looking forward to it! I miss my friends there, I miss my routine, my morning workout, my busrides with weird Portland people. My daughter goes back to her dad’s house tonight. I’ll miss her. Last night we stayed up to watch Teen Nick Choice Awards, hosted by Jack Black. I was really amazed at how many famous adults were there: Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, Orlando Bloom, Usher, and Will Smith, to name only a few. Yes, they’re promoting their stuff, but still – it’s a kids show. I’m glad they took the time. Harrison Ford got majorly slimed. Come on, he didn’t need to do that. It’s awesome that he did. Oh yeah, my point. My daughter is growing up. She’s a spaz, like any pre-teen girl. She went bananas over the choices, and waiting to see who would win. It’s stuff I really don’t care a whit about, but it is important in her life. She is truly an individual and I love that.
Thanks for this little peak into your life. I always appreciate when I get a chance to witness your world. : )
Love you, April
Well, I think I know about 3 people who would read that one all the way through. I sort of had you in mind as I kept going. I was thinking “Geez, this is a book, I need to just stop.” Then I realized you would read it, so I kept going. Ha!
Thanks, love. I know you like to hear about my life here (cuz I’m so terrible at real live letters and direct communication). Kisses!
Oh yeah, I meant to tell you that I might have to have a face-to-face mother experience next month for Isaiah’s graduation. Should be interesting since we hardly ever speak to each other anymore. Mom, Angela and I have not spent time together since the Christmas crisis over two years ago, and there have been a few more crisis since. But right now she seems to be doing better…finally back in church and therapy, which is the formula to keep her from descending into darkness. Part of me hopes she can’t make it due to work or something, but another part wants so much to reconcile by accepting each other exactly as we are now and building a new relationship from that, instead of one poisoned by the past. I can’t pick and choose how this new opening of my heart applies to the people in my life, so it’s time to truly let go of the negativity with the people who are hardest to love.
Wish me luck.
I’m am nervously checking the clock as I prepare to go to work on my first day there. Wouldn’t you know it, the power went out during the night, but living out of boxes served me well for once. My alarm clock is still packed, so I had to use my cell phone as an alarm clock. The power bump didn’t affect me in the least.
I haven’t had a full time job since May of 2003, when I left my last one to go to school. It makes today pretty momentous for me. I sort of want the first week to be done already. I want to know who I’m working with already. I want to know what I’m doing when I go in. I want to know where I can put my stuff, and where to sit, and … what to say when the phone rings, how to make myself a cup of coffee, and what the password is to log on to the network. I want to know the name of the security guy that will run me through metal detectors when I arrive, and I want to know where everybody goes for lunch. I want to know how often the #17 bus runs on time, and if I’ll have any trouble parking near the bus stop. I want to know if this is one of these offices that keeps the air cool and blowing all day long, so I have to keep a jacket there at all times.
Patience. We musn’t be so hasty, as Treebeard might say.
Off I go!
In several ways!
Patience and perspective are always the order of the day. Right now I worry about money and that just seeps into everything else. I am not sleeping well, I feel pressure and I’m afraid of the future. My growth is in resisting panic, maintaining my happy spirit, letting go of things I have no control of, believing in myself though I am not getting validation in the form I wish for.
I am still unemployed, and it’s hard to keep my demons quiet. In the midst of persistent mortgage payments, mounds of educational loans, and the need to get my daughter equipped with all her school gear, I ask myself, “What was the point of going back to school? I should have just stayed in that job where I was miserable, and worked rotating shifts and had no chance of advancement… At least I had a paycheck to take care of my family.”
Icky dark thoughts. They do nothing but promote more dark thoughts. Perspective helps me remember what a beautiful life I have, which is full of so many gifts: my daughter, my partner, my family and friends who love me. Though I whine about the cost, I have a home. Though I whine about dipping into my retirement fund, at least I have one to dip into. The things that bring me the most joy don’t cost anything at all, so what, really, have I lost by being poor? I’m not keeping up with the Joneses.
Well! If that’s all it is… I guess I’m just fine after all. Thank goodness!
Comment from the old blog:
Hello my beautiful friend, First, thank you bunches for my birthday gift! It’s so lovely and perfect for my altar. Second, I know how tough this has got to be for you so I’m happy that you’re focusing on the lesson of patience, staying in the beauty of the present moment (perspective), and faith/trust in being supported by the Universe. The whole job hunting process is so hard (even when employed like I am). The job I’m being considered for right now is $10,000 more a year than I’m making and since we’re barely scraping by, with a car that’s about to fall apart, that could make a huge difference for us. I keep telling myself as I go to interview after interview that it’s like dating–it’s about the chemistry, not my worth as a person/employee. Love you and thinking of you…Ophelia