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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Closure

Endings are tough, even when they are right. I know this. I've had a lot of practice walking away from people and circumstances when the situation required it (and have watched people I love dearly walking away from me as well), so you think I'd be good at it by now. Not so much (said the woman who stayed in a ten year relationship six years longer than she should have, lol). Even endings that seem fairly insignificant can feel like kaka. Endings are just so...final.

So, I quit my little side-job yesterday. I had been thinking about it for awhile, but the stars just seemed to align in an instant, and the message was clear: Time to go. NOW. So I did. You know, if I'm thinking logically about this, it really shouldn't be a big deal. It's a job I didn't need that I took to help my daughter out. She was the manager at the time, and needed more people. In spite of some misgivings, I decided to be good sport and take the job. And hey, I kind of liked it. I liked the people that I worked with, the atmosphere was fun, and I was only there a couple of days a week so it didn't really cut into anything else I was doing. Then my daughter left, then there was more or less a mass exodus of good people, and then everything changed. It sort of reminds me of that movie Legend, when Lily touches the unicorn and it all goes to sh**. Though there are still a few good people there (who will be missed, for sure), it just wasn't the same. It had come to the point where I had no idea what I was going to have face when I showed up in the morning, and that doesn't work for me. Sure, I know; life is uncertain and all that. But there's a limit to the amount of mental anguish I'm willing to subject myself to for no good reason. I'm not a masochist.

So I walked away. Sometimes it's the only choice you have, especially when other people are involved. Sometimes, no matter how badly you want something or someone to be a certain way, to be what you need, or to just WORK, it just isn't going to happen that way. You can try to stick it out (potentially at the expense of your own psychological well-being), or you can walk away. The "walk away" option is still hard, especially when it feels like giving up. I hate that feeling. But sometimes it's the only good choice. The older I get, the the smarter I get about the "when". Go me, I guess.

So then what? Well, something new. No brooding, just forward motion. For me that means connecting with a trainer, running better and running faster (in my sweatpants, because I'm THAT cool). Really, just choose something that you like that pulls you out of a funk (as long as it isn't, like, alcohol or something harmful, obviously). If you're moving forward then you aren't looking back. But leave some space in your life, because nature abhors a vacuum. Sometime when you end something that isn't working, you create space for something good, something that WILL work. Sometimes life has more to teach us than that things have to end. Sometimes the lesson that's ready to be learned is more about beginnings. I wonder what that will be for me? Hmm...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Giving Thanks

Sometimes, being a writer with a global audience has it's temptations. Just lately, I've been biting my proverbial tongue so hard I've damn near bitten it off. I'm going to be grateful, dammit, even if it requires me to do the psychological equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing "La la la" as loudly as I can to muffle all other *sounds*.

There are things in life we don't choose. Sure, there's a faction of folks who are aggressively "positive" (It's a thing), who like to talk about how all things in life are a personal choice. I have theories about them that range from them being in total denial at least some of the time, to thinking maybe they've never really dealt with anything beyond the average, human-life kinds of stuff. Who knows? I see the value in the full range of human emotions, but obviously prefer to feel calm and happy, so I get the motivation here. Having said that, I come from an understanding that some of the most truly sh***y things that happen are the results of bullsh** actions taken by other people, or circumstances beyond our control in general. There's been an awful lot of the former going on lately, and it's forced me to make some choices about how to respond. That's something we always have control over: our own behavior. Sometimes I BARELY have control over that, but kudos to me for at least trying :-)

So what if my building manager wants to have my car towed (out of the parking space that I pay for) right before Thanksgiving because my registration is two weeks late? That's HER karma, not mine. (FYI, I just parked elsewhere until I can deal with it on Tuesday, neener, neener!)  I seethed and thought about it awhile, and considered that maybe it was worth a satisfying, politely-scathing email that cc'd her boss and sarcastically wished her a Happy Thanksgiving as well. Nope. Her Karma. I'll just deal with it Tuesday.

Annoying, sure. But it's the work drama has been the really sticky bit for me, and my real challenge in terms of disconnection. It's not even my *real* job, just my side hustle, but the dysfunction is hurting people I like. That makes it a little tougher to ignore. They re-hired an ex-employee who was a terrible employee on their first go-round, and who has an alarming criminal history. I'm very pro giving people second chances. We all screw up sometimes. But they didn't just hire this person back, they made them an assistant manager, giving this person some degree of power over their good and loyal employees who have put in the hours and done a good job. Does this person have any people skills whatsoever? Hell no. They have also chosen to speak badly of good people who have worked hard for them (which backfired, because literally everybody else knows the truth). They've lost good people already as a result of both of these situations. Is this my Karma? No, it is not. I know what happens next (I just watched a similar thing happen to another business. They lost all their qualified employees, had to shut their doors and have since declared bankruptcy. They are also under criminal investigation as we speak). But I care, so I want them to change course. I want to scream "YOUR BUSINESS IS YOUR EMPLOYEES, PRIORITIZE THEM!" from the top of my lungs, but to what end? Can I do anything about it? Nope, not a damned thing. What I can do is surround myself in an imaginary hamster ball of solitude, and go in, do my job, and leave. I will do that until the business collapses or until I can't do it anymore. And I'll cash my checks.

I know by now you're thinking "But where are the gratitudy parts? Where is the giving of thanks?" No worries, I'm getting there. I'm grateful that I can take a step back and not react (well, not react-ish. This post is arguably a reaction). Sometimes good things can come from a whole world of stupid. Who knows? Maybe I would have been given a big ticket on my way to the Thanksgiving festivities had my building manager not so kindly reminded me of my late registration. And in trying to distract myself from all the crazy at work, I found a way to finally tame the fire in my left butt cheek! (I have piriformis syndrome. It is literally a pain in the a**). I am calling that a major *good*. I was getting ready to sit on a tennis ball (again, some more) when I found this blog: Duncan Sports PT

So sometimes, things just work. Sometimes, there's peace in letting things go, and wisdom in knowing when that's appropriate. I've been doing it a lot lately. And I'm grateful that I know how and am able to. It's been a frequently repeated theme in my life, and I've had a lot of practice :-P

Moving on, I have a big turkey-day brouhaha to look forward to, family that I'm excited to see and an enormous pile of delicata squash to make into something yummy. Delicata is my FAVORITE squash, so I'm super stoked (Yeah, I have a favorite squash. It's not weird.) I have running to do, a posterior to rehab and Christmas crafting coming down the pike. I love this time of year, and it's that bigger picture that I'm choosing to embrace. The rest of it is out of my hands.

On that note, I wish you all a truly gluttonous, indulgent and awesome day filled with fun, good people and gratitude. I don't say it to my friends nearly enough, but I really do love you guys! Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November

Summer is gone. Gone is the warm sand between my toes, the cool embrace of the lake. It ebbed, it flowed, it ebbed again, lost until a different season. Gone are the sun's warmth, deep blue skies, and succulent greens. Gone are the vibrant fields of wildflowers. No more warm summer nights spent laughing and relaxed outdoors with friends. 

Greens replaced with vibrant color, finally succumb to the greys and browns of November. Fields are barren and bleak. Trees stand bare, nothing left but moody shapes and rough textures. They creak and bend as the wind buffets them relentlessly. The wind rattles them like bones; it cuts through my clothes to my very being. 

Yellow light pours through windows, a respite from the cold. Welcome warmth can only be found indoors. The cotton candy evening sky becomes a bruised and faded revenant. It weeps against my windows, all drizzle and sleet. 

But still, only a hint of what's to come.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Why I Run

I recently had a discussion with a health professional about why I run. She was all about the obvious: The health benefits, the endurance, weight loss, etc. How wonderful that I care so much about my physical health! I didn't have the heart to tell her that all that was secondary. Yes, I enjoy all of those things...it counts even if you don't emphasize it...but my reasons go so much deeper. Actually, I never intended to run at all. It just kind of happened. 

I've walked  for years. I've walked so much that I can walk just about forever. I love walking, especially when it's hiking someplace peaceful and remote, but I felt like I needed to do something more. It started with intervals/hill sprints. I had forgotten how much I liked to run. I used to run all the time when I was a kid, just for the fun of it and to see how fast I could push myself to go. Sometimes I would pretend I was a horse, galloping hell-bent for leather through a field. I loved the wind in my face and my hair blowing out behind me as I pushed myself faster and faster. It was freedom; it was everything. And then I stopped. I had my reasons.

My intervals led me to more running. It felt so good. It became a type of escapism, the only one I had. I don't smoke, do drugs or drink (well, usually), and I so desperately needed something. Life is tough sometimes. Like, really tough. People like to tell me how emotionally guarded I am, and I really do try to be (yes, I know it's not a 'good'). But most people have no idea how miserably I fail at that (I am astounded that my emotional squishy-ness isn't obvious to all and sundry!) Sometimes, existing in the world feels like an act of outrageous vulnerability. Sometime sh** just hurts. No, I'm not always so tough. Ergo, escapism. Running is my out.

When I'm confused, when things feel stuck in my real job, when my (supposedly simple, easy) side-hustle becomes a chaotic, clusterf*** of dysfunction, when my heart hurts, I don't have to just sit there and take it. I can go and I can do. Nothing makes me feel more anxious than helplessness, so it's a relief. I can metaphorically run away while building myself up, making myself stronger. I can focus on breathing, moving. I can feel the wind in my face and become a carefree kid again. I can sweat it out and leave it all on the trail. Yes, running can hurt too, but it doesn't take anything away. It isn't unfair or senseless. There is a point to it, and it builds and strengthens. It adds something positive and uplifting. Even when it sucks (like Thursday, when I got soaked to the bone), it still makes the day a better one.
 
I spend a lot of time living in my head. Sometimes that's fine. I need my imagination to be functional, creative and vivid in order to work on the things I'd like to pursue. Sometimes, it gets away from me and that's less fun. I desperately need the physical outlet that running provides, that groundedness to counteract the mental activity. Being physically tired manages a lot of mental mischief. My busy brain functions best on days that end with me being sweaty, dirty and exhausted. Those days are always the happiest, too.

It love that running is a solitary pursuit. It doesn't require anybody else's support, help or permission. It's mine, and the only thing standing between me and a happy outcome is me. Success is guaranteed if I just keep going, and I know how to do that. I've always HAD to do that, and this time it's for me. I can make myself a promise, and know that I will keep it. Sometimes, just having one sure thing in my life is what gets me through the day.

I know I've put a lot of not-necessarily-traditional reasons out there for doing this particular sport. I've come to accept that my reasons for doing most things are not usual. I'm okay with that. I DO have a few more obvious reasons though. My friends run. I don't mean that they run like me, I mean that they REALLY run, they 'train-for-marathons' run. It would be fun to do 5-Ks with them if I can screw up my courage and deal with the crowd (and hey, T-shirts!) The more I run, the more of a hiking machine I will be, and that's something I really look forward to. And I can, because the only person it depends on to be successful is me. I guess having that control is the bottom line.
 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Disconnect

If you know me at all, you know that I am much more comfortable in the realm of thought than I am with feelings. My ability to think things through and mentally pick things apart and make objective assessments has been a really powerful survival mechanism for me. It's true that sometimes my thoughts get away from me, but usually because of feelings. Ergo my discomfort. Feelings always seem to be something that happen TO me, something I don't have much control over. They range from warm and pleasant, to intense and unstoppable. Sometimes those feelings are a tidal wave that turns my life upside down. But what choice is there, really? I spend time on my computer, using the internet as a buffer, as a way to disconnect. Sometimes the internet is a compassionless and ugly place.

For the last couple of weeks I've felt as though I was walking around with my heart outside of my body. I don't run from my feelings because I don't have any, but because I do. The human suffering in this world doesn't go unnoticed by me, the losses don't go unmourned. Whether those losses are natural and at a distance, whether they are needless and directly effect someone close to me, or whether they are the result of gratuitous and thoughtless violence. There have been a lot of them, and the cracks in my carefully constructed, personal armor are widening and visible. I know what it feels like to suddenly have the rug pulled out from under you with catastrophic consequences for you and your loved ones. I know all too well what loss feels like. Having said that, I would like to take a moment to express gratitude for the security I currently enjoy and the loved ones my life is blessed with. As a friend recently said, "Life can turn on a dime." It's a fact I know all too well.
 
I had occasion to go back home recently. It was for a funeral, but as I embraced my old friends, the people who shaped my childhood, I realized how much I missed them; how much I miss living in the real world, even when it's painful, or chaotic, and even messy. In spite of this realization, I need desperately to retreat and process. The world has been a painful place just lately. But that isn't new. Today I'm supposed to be at the Chase Away 5K. I'm on the planning committee, and it's a cause near and dear to me. I've never missed a year. But I've got nothing left. So I do what I do to heal. I do this, and I walk/run.

Sometimes, It's about running TO something instead of from it. About being in the moment. Sometimes it's my own desire to overthink things that gets in my way, so I run. I allow my thoughts to fall away, and focus on the thud of my footfalls and the rasp of my breath. I revel in the ache of working muscles, and the trickle of sweat at the small of my back. I always take the detour through the woods. Where the path dips over the brook, I speed up; I run down one side and up the other until I feel like my heart is going to burst. And then I stop and I listen. I feel the wind and the sun on my face. I hear the brook and the birds. I am reminded of my own humanity, that we are all flesh and bone, animated by spirit. We are a part of this world and each other. Any harm we do affects it all. But by the same token, any good that we do ripples outward indefinitely. That's the part I need to hang onto. I need that constant reminder, a connection with the gritty and real. I give myself time to watch the squirrels and enjoy the earthy redolence of fallen leaves, and I let it all go.





Saturday, March 11, 2017

Culture Shock

Papa and I in our canvas 'tennisses'
I'm sick again. This never happens. I almost never get sick. This winter hasn't been particularly harsh, and I can't ever remember a time when I took better care of myself in terms of diet and exercise, and yet here it is. I do get it though. I've been having nightmares pretty regularly too, and the tone of them is always the same. Sometimes the dream is about people I love joining a cult that does terrible things. Sometimes it's about people I love having friends that kill and torture people, but they have no issue with it. In my dreams, I always try to talk to my loved ones, and they either answer me in a foreign language and then laugh when I don't understand, or they tell me I need to get over it. Sometimes during these conversations there's screaming in the background. Sometimes it feels like I'm in hell and I can't find the way out. That feeling stays with me into the waking world sometimes, when I remember what the world is now. That's why I'm writing this. I won't stop getting sick until I acknowledge that what I really am is heartsick. What I feel is disconnected, because they changed and I didn't, though they think it's the other way around.

There's all this talk about going back to 'what was', but that's not the direction we're going. We're going in a direction that is as anti 'what was' as it is anti progress. I know what it's like to grow up in one world, and suddenly find yourself in a world that you don't really fit into anymore. I grew up in a small town. I knew and loved everybody. I would ride my bike to the library and know who lived in every house on the way. I always had quarters in my pocket (courtesy of my grandfather) so I could stop at Mr. Alberghini's store for a chocolate bar or some peanuts. If I picked up the mail on the way home, I always made sure to say "Hello" to Mr. McIntyre at the post office. There were dirt roads, farms, cows and horses. There was a roving pack of dogs that spent their days together (our dog was one of them), and who all were home by dinner time. I used to have brand new, homemade hats and mittens to wear to school every year. The town was overrun by kids riding bikes and horses every day in the summer. I went to church every Sunday and to catechism, and sometimes the priest would have dinner at our house. I sat on the front porch in a rocking chair watching it rain while my grandfather sang "Pennies From Heaven" (our family liked to sing), I played pick-up softball with the neighbors in the summer, sometimes until the sun went down. I was a girl scout, and learned to care for the planet and our natural resources. I was in 4-H and learned how to take responsibility for my animals. I learned that no man is an island, and that we are part of a community and in that way are responsible for each other. I watched westerns with my grandfather, and I wanted to be a cowboy (or an Indian. Either one, as long as I got to ride FAST) We went ice skating in the winter. We had a phone with a cord, and if you wanted a private conversation you had to sit at the top of the cellar stairs and talk quietly. We used to wait until it was dark, and then play hide and seek or tell ghost stories. I rode in the back of pick up trucks, my long hair usually in a ponytail and covered by a bandana. I went to drive-in movies and drive-up eateries. I remember when TV would end the broadcast day at midnight.

Back then, kindness and respect were the norm. We didn't have to legislate it or talk about it, because it was just a part of life. People who had respect for themselves treated others respectfully. It's just the way it was. It was part of the fabric of everything I knew. I said "Thank you" to my school bus driver and the lunch ladies every day. I always called folks who were older than me "Mr.", "Miss", or "Mrs." unless told to do otherwise (still do), out of respect. My grandparents weren't just real Republicans, they were real Christians. They always put people before money, and they were generous. When somebody needed help they were there if they could be. Most of the neighbor children had at least one toy fixed by my grandfather, or a boo boo tended to by my mom or grandmother. I learned that 'fiscal responsibility' meant spending carefully, and taking good care of things so that they would last a long time. That way, you'd have the money when you needed it for something important, like people, especially family. I learned that when you help somebody you do it without strings and without need of recognition. My grandparents helped me a lot financially, and they would refuse repayment (Nana: "I'm not taking your money. Do I look that cheap?"). But we grew up understanding that we were very, very fortunate to have the money, and that not everybody was. The lesson was that, as adults, we should be just as willing to share our good fortune with others should we also be so blessed. We also learned to love everybody. We didn't have to like them, but we did have to love them. We learned that it wasn't our place to judge other people, and that hating others was like poisoning yourself. If I came home talking smack about somebody (rare), my grandmother would say something like "Nevermind! You just worry about you!" I didn't really know anything about gender equality issues because my mom did whatever the hell she wanted, and didn't feel any need whatsoever to explain herself. It was through teachers and school that I learned how "scandalous" that was and how difficult my mom's path really had been. I admired the hell out of her because I saw the toll it took sometimes, but she kept on going.

Compared to the world I grew up in, the world I live in now seems cold, crass, tactless, selfish and often cruel. And it's getting worse, on purpose. I think it's part of why I have such a hard time with the current version of the Republican party. I'm an Independent, but will admit to leaning heavily to the left by default. I go where my inner morality takes me, and much of that morality was shaped by my grandparents who helped to raise me. My grandparents were REAL Republicans, when it was the party of the people, of workers rights, of empowerment of the individual through fair and ethical employment, and of fiscal responsibility. If you had asked them which party was more important, they would tell you that they both were important in order to create balance. I was too young to really grasp the specific political beliefs of my grandparents, but I knew and respected their personal values, and have tried (and continue to try) very hard to emulate those values in my adult life. I have to wonder what they would think of today's political climate. I know a lot of wonderful, decent people who still support the Republican party by default, despite it's departure from the party's real values. I have often wondered how that's possible. But I heard a story (parable, tale, whatever) the other day that sort of explained it for me. I can't remember where I heard it (TV?), but it was about how to boil a frog.  As the story goes, if you drop a frog in boiling water it will simply jump out and be on it's way. But if you put the same frog in cool water and turn up the temperature very gradually, the frog wont realize it's being boiled. Kind of a gross analogy, but you get the point. We've slowly, so slowly, given ourselves over to financial priorities. We have reality TV and cable news keeping us complacent and entertained. We've allowed ourselves to be divided and conquered for profit. And I'm so damned angry. I remember 'great'.  Great was ethical, kind, respectful, reasonable, inclusive, and GOOD. It was humane and careful and responsible. That's not where we're headed, not at all. And those good values I grew up with are being erased and made a mockery of. The truly Christian values I was raised with are being twisted and used to punish and hate. We're being sold an enormous lie and we are just going along with it, selling out what's important and to our own detriment. No wonder I feel sick. I wish there was a way I could shake people awake and remind them of who they are, but I don't know how. We're boiling. We're boiling like crazy, and people are cheering about it.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Learning to Listen

Full disclosure: I am sick, a feel like crap. I've had a really tough week, and coughing has meant I'm fairly sleep-deprived. I'm not coming from a place of strength and confidence just now. Sometimes I question whether or not I should even share anything with you all when I feel like this, but inevitably, one of you will thank me for doing so. I appreciate that, it means a lot to me, so here goes.

I had a really nice birthday dinner last night. It was small (family) and at my favorite restaurant. It was late, but doo doo happens, as do giant snow storms, sick siblings and what not. But it was nice just the same. My sister made me a giant pink cake that was everything. It wasn't fancy, it had had to travel a bit, but it was big, pink perfection. Sometimes it's a giant pink birthday cake that makes all things right with the world, and this was one of those times. But I felt like sh**, and a little bit gutted if we're being perfectly honest (again, tough week), and it made me more vulnerable than usual. You know how it goes.

I don't get to see my loved ones often, so when I do I like to catch up a little. I was talking about something that was bothering me about the current state of things, when another loved one interjects with "That's bullshit". It wasn't bullshit. It was something I actually knew quite a bit about. But in order to avoid a "thing" I just clammed up. But that's what we do to each other, isn't it? It didn't matter that I was stating an actual fact. I was silenced by an opinion. Any other day I would have been pretty 'whatever' about it, but I am just so fried. It highlights a problem that is actually pretty huge and relevant right now. Everybody has something to say, but nobody wants to listen. Double that if you dislike the facts. No good will ever come of that.

It reminds me of when I was a child in elementary school. I hated school with a fiery passion. The work bored me to tears, and I've never liked being around a lot of people. I've never been what could be considered anti-social, but I'm definitely an introvert in the extreme. Always have been. Going to a place that made me feel profoundly anxious every day (to the point of physical symptoms), just to be inundated with things I already knew, was like living in hell. I was going to try to find a less dramatic way to put that, but why sugar coat it? There was some discussion about having me skip a grade or two, but my lack of social whatever prevented them from doing so. My subsequent (and inevitable) lack of engagement in the classroom was apparently enough cause for concern that a child psychologist was brought in to deal with with me. He was nice guy with a PhD who meant well and worked with lots of troubled children. I think his only failing was that he'd never been one himself, so there was a giant gap in his perspective that his PhD couldn't fill. That in itself didn't need to be a problem, but he came into the situation predisposed to believe certain things, and he approached me and my issues with those preconceived ideas. Consequently, he didn't listen. He heard things that he wanted to hear, things that supported what he believed. The things that were the most real and important were discarded outright because they didn't fit the narrative he believed in. He was in a position to recognize something in me that, had he been able to see it, my whole life could have been different. Instead, he made suggestions and implemented situations on my behalf that did a whole wide world of damage. Because he couldn't/wouldn't hear me.

I don't bring this sh** up because I'm still grieving it or haven't moved on or any of that nonsense. I think the past is important because it provides context. It's supposed to teach us something and give us some perspective. You have to know what's wrong before you can fix it. But I think getting stuck there, and making every decision based on the past is a ginormous mistake. It's possible to get so stuck in "what was" that we lose the ability to learn and grow. Ahem. But I think the *listening* piece doesn't lose relevance. Failure in our ability to listen to each other is at the root of every social problem we have. It's the reason we have riots and protests. People are so fired up about what to do about this group of people or that one, but nobody is asking the people directly involved. Nobody is willing to hear the answers because they've already made up their minds. Instead, they discredit, dismiss and invalidate, throwing away the truth because it doesn't fit an accepted (albeit flawed/false) narrative that they are more comfortable with. It's like saying "Stop telling me who you are and what you need, because it doesn't mesh with what I think I know about you, and I don't like looking at reality". And that determination to make everything about numbers and policies, about ideologies and money, it's killing us. And sometimes it feels like watching it play out day after day is killing something in me. Don't worry, I won't let it. I won't be sick much longer and I'll get my equilibrium back.

But it's so damned important to listen. Until we're able to understand how profoundly our personal biases influence our beliefs about others, we'll never be able to relate at all to each other.  As long as nobody is willing to listen to the truth, it's all just noise.