We all end up alone.

Abandonment. Textbook abandonment. Whatever that means. For any child isn’t it sourced ultimately at the disappearance of a critical figure. A parent, a sibling, a close childhood friend. People leave. Accepting that is part of your life forever.  Or should I say making peace with it, or maybe never making peace with it and wrestling it forever in some type of Promethean torment. Consciously. Unconsciously.

Maybe I did carry it around. Maybe I still carry it around. I will admit that a cornerstone of my last relationship was built on a feeling a safety I don’t remember having previously. I spent over 9 years feeling like I had one less worry. That I wasn’t going to have to concern myself with being alone. I had a family that I made, even if it was just the two of us. I had a teammate, a partner. Someone to help tread this weird path we’re all on. Help me along. Take care of me if it all fell apart. Love me even if my body or mind failed and make sure that I wasn’t left discarded at the side of the road. He said forever. He meant it. I meant it when I said it. Then forever changed.

That’s the thing. I still want those impossible promises to be made. Knowing they can and likely will end up being broken. Maybe that’s what marriage is for non-religious people. The subscription to the belief that you are trying to make the same kind of iron-clad promise, that’s your intent. We all want forever but I don’t think any of us knows what that means, we see the end but we don’t see the journey. Here’s the point A, the goal is the point B, seems obvious right. But what about that fact that the path we’re talking about is this undefinable road. The not knowing is what you’re trying to use that promise as a shield against, to plow forward, to keep going, to free yourself from one of the litany of worries we all hang on to.

No one wants to do this alone. Not the exhilarating bits or the dull ones or the simple agony of being alive. It’s intended to be shared. But gods how we fuck that up.

The only peace I am ever going to make is accepting that the only constant in the entire world is knowing things will always change. We’ve been defiantly shouting it at each other since the 8th grade. NOTHING IS FOREVER EXCEPT CHANGE (ACCEPT THE CHANGE). If it was a thing when we were younger we’d all have shitty tattoos that said it. We tossed it at each other like we had an inkling of what it meant. Fuck we were idiots. Beautiful, optimistic, children. Thinking we’d sort it out, we’d find some impenetrable shield in each other, in our relationships to navigate it together and ride these changes like some epic tidal wave. But you can bet that we assumed we’d be on top. In charge. Adapting and doing it with grace and success.

It’s all an illusion. There is no grace anywhere to be found sometimes. And the success, the bitter reality of redefining that is understanding that success means getting your ass kicked again and again. Your heart broken. Your sense of stability obliterated. And standing up and moving forward because you are too stubborn to give up.

Kittens clinging to cliffs on shitty motivational posters.

Hang in there.

Sometimes that’s all that I feel like I’m doing.

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Guess What? It’s the Same.

All of that shit you’re waiting on. Dreaming about. Stressing over.  That list of obstacles or goals or specific life events you feel like if you could JUST get those done, you’d feel differently. Paying off your car, moving, getting through some specific project at work. Or maybe it’s the larger and more far reaching stuff. Divorce. Student loans.

You envision these milestones a bit like carrying around a stack of concrete blocks on your back. Only the truth is, even once you free yourself from those specific things you’re focused on, you will simply trade one block for another.

Life, if you chose to focus on it that way, is mostly the same. Atleast in the ways you’d imagine. The predictable routine of your ability to adapt to experiences, or changes, good or bad.

I sold my house. I got divorced. I moved. I paid off all of my debt (save for my car). My credit score is 825. I am Jack’s sense of pained irony.

And don’t get me wrong. It felt good to do all of those things. Necessary. Elemental even. To strip out the clutter in my life by moving, ending a relationship emotionally, legally and changing everything. To move towards something and feel like in the restructuring I was learning about what the things I’d already experienced meant.

Knowing that I can save money for the things I want. That I enjoy a level of freedom and flexibility that has in some capacity eluded me for the duration of my adult life in 40 years. It’s grand.  But it’s not such a sweeping mind-bending change that I don’t still wake up and throughout the course of a day, become preoccupied with the same petty trivialities that bothered me before.  Those larger successes that I waited so long for… they’re not a magical inoculation against manufactured anxieties. I still worry about dumb shit.  Different dumb shit, but by and large. I am not so dramatically changed that I have unshackled myself from the pitfalls of what it means to be a person. Forever struggling against your own patterns, habits, tendencies. Making hard won progress.  But only through dogged persistence, luck, and will.  None of those requirements change.

So now what’s the moral of this ramble. Hey look at that, I think it’s the same as the last post I wrote. Don’t do it. Don’t dig yourself into the promise of someday as a solution to your state of mind. Because all that matters is right now. You will arrive, perhaps – I won’t even add “if you’re lucky” because luck is irrelevant and it may not be lucky anyway – at your desired destination.  You will pay off that car. You will get rid of that student loan. You will move to that new city. And you will still be you. In a different place. And you will have done all that waiting. That anticipatory promise of changes, solutions, a blank(er) slate and you will still find yourself wanting. It’s a giant waste. A pile of misdirected energies. Speculating on how different you will feel with certain obstacles out of your way. The only actual obstacle is the barrier you created in your own head. Crush that shit and move on. You, are really the only thing in your own way.

Year 40. Day 1.

I woke up. Brushed my teeth, puttered around. Picked up coffee and breakfast and drove to the park. The latte I finished en route and I ate most of a protein box in the car.  And then I went hiking by myself. Which… unless you count my exercise runs in the woods I’ve never done.

Matthew Inman (creator of the Oatmeal cartoon) wrote a thoughtful missive on the confusing and pointless idea of continuous permanent happiness. That’s how I interpreted it anyway. It’s not a destination you arrive at. Or a fucking journey either. The idea that you’re in this achievable stasis of contentment is just… wrong. It’s a recipe for frustrated failure that completely abandons the idea of nuance.

I am not always happy. Fuck, in the course of a single day the range of emotions I can, or may experience would read like a seizure of brain activity.

I think my goal for being 40 is just acceptance.  And by that I don’t mean passivity. I mean that for me there will never be enough. If I get hit by a car and lie bleeding in the street tomorrow, my dominant emotion will be frustrated rage, because I want more and it’s not enough time.  But what I realized when I laid with the arms of the person I’ve waited most of my life to be with riding out the last minutes of my thirties, is that… that same statement will probably still be just as true if I were 80. So I have to learn to take moments of satiety and accept that those are enough. I can’t use the word satisfaction, that doesn’t sound transient enough. I will feel… in moments, fulfilled. Not perpetually. Not as a single thing of achievement. Just here and there. And that sometimes I feel frustrated with the struggle to achieve, or to nail down what it is that I feel like I “should” be doing.  Not for anyone else, or record keeping, or comparison. Just… true attunement to the frequency I run on. That I have given myself enough fuel and space and input to know what it is that feels valuable and meaningful to me. To stop and pay attention to myself and go into the woods or read or write to listen to music and remember what I’m supposed to be doing.  Create. Thrive. Adapt. Struggle. Suffer if I have to, at least if the pain is part of intelligent growth, in pursuit of something meaningful. Because it won’t all be glorious joy, it can’t be.  Acceptance of the fact that the elation is always the counterpoint on the pendulum to sadness, grief, stress, struggle. And none of things are bad. They just are.

The kind of pain that’s pointless is the stupid external measurements and restrictions you apply to yourself that are part of a system or idea or goal that isn’t something self identified.  WHY are you doing what you’re doing? Is it for you? What purpose does it serve? If the struggle is truly in pursuit to be your own person it matters, it will have results you won’t feel frustrated by or stress that isn’t just an irritating pointless wave.

I need to spend more time deliberating. To… Exercise. Write. Read.

The end of my marriage was the start of something. The universe answering a question I spent a long time figuring out how to ask. Here’s a milestone birthday. Use your one lifetime wisely.  Weather the unexpected with as much patience and grace as you’re able, forgive yourself when things don’t go exactly as you planned. Chase the things you want. Love big. Leap, push, grow and don’t stop to look around to wonder what anyone else things about what you’re doing.  Don’t waste the time, because you can’t ever get it back.

Live. Live. Live!  because you’re eventually going to fucking die!

Notes from Trip 39 Around the Sun

It’s been an interesting year.

I ended a nearly 10 year relationship with my best friend & we’re now divorced. Amicably but necessarily distant. People change. To me the idea of doing nothing was ultimately more difficult to swallow than completely starting over. He’s a person I respect, admire, and love but it was no longer working for me. I feel immensely grateful that, with a few completely understandable bumps, we handled the entire thing like two people who respect and care for each other … and I learned that happens far less often than it should.

So if you’re reading this and don’t know what to say, don’t sweat it. I realize it’s an awkward thing for people to respond to. Now you know. No condolences required. It was a difficult thing and I am a much different person than I was 9 months ago.

I am more than ok. Things are great.

My family above everything else are happy, safe, and healthy. The rest of it, while trying at times, is just part of being alive. Through all of this they reminded me that I never have to doubt their love, support, and loyalty. We do insanity well, and no one goes it alone.

My friends are extraordinary. Patient, compassionate, brilliant, brave people. To anyone I doubted ever, even just to myself, I’m sorry… that was always about me, never about you.

My job. Has transformed into more of an actual career than I could have ever anticipated. Getting the hell out of the toxic environment I was in over a year ago was far and away was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I work with some of the coolest, smartest people I’ve ever met. I feel stupid every day but never without resources. Humility means growth. I work in a culture that actually is …so much more about people’s intellect and ability than anywhere else I’ve ever worked. I have flexibility that I’ve never dreamed of and like every popular article about modern start-up culture, unlimited PTO, and flexible work environments preach, if you treat people right they will give you their best. Sometimes my best in the last year has been lacking a bit while I navigated a gigantic tidal wave of personal changes… but I truly feel like I work in an environment where my personal desire to perform well is something that my colleagues share, just for the sake of building something cool. After my first year and the departure of my boss/a company founder I inherited a lot more responsibility, and actually got a raise I feel like I deserved and didn’t have to fight with anyone for it. I try never to take it for granted. I’ve had a job since I was 15 and I’ve been through my share of shitty employment. I know how bad it can be.

I sold the first house (condo) I ever bought. I lived without a car for 7 months & bought a new one. I moved into a fabulous apartment with one of my oldest friends.

I PAID OFF ALL OF MY REMAINING STUDENT LOANS AND MY LAST CREDIT CARD. I have a car loan. That’s it. I have never been this kind of *debt-free* in my entire life. Finally. FINALLY. I will never get tired of reading that.

I’ve traveled. I went to L.A., twice. To Philly. To Florida to surprise my Grandma for her 80th birthday. To Portland for work and for fun, twice in less than 7 months. To Baltimore, Richmond, into the woods. I’ve gone to shows, baseball games, to museums, to restaurants, movies, happy hours, dinners, taken road trips. I started work to complete my large tattoo (all the road trips). I cut my hair (see the photo duh). I celebrated my Mom’s retirement (how is that even possible – neither of us is old enough for that). I’m going to spend TWO weeks at the beach (some of it working).

I started over.

I fell in love. Hard. That’s a long story for another day. Probably not here. 😛

I read a story somewhere, possibly fictitious… it doesn’t diminish the sentiment.

A little girl and her younger sister are at the pool. The older sibling is in the deep end trying to coax the younger sister to dive in. “But I’m scared” insists the little girl. They go back and forth, unaware they’re being observed. Finally an older woman, watching the exchange swims over to the younger girl at the edge of the pool. “It’s ok to be scared. Be scared and do it anyway.”

It’s a concept I try to embrace, daily… but also when faced with major decisions. I’ve said it a lot, to numerous people. I’ll say it again here. Fear is a terrible motivator. If you’re doing, or more likely NOT doing something, because you’re afraid – it’s a really good idea to divert all of your energy to figuring out why and most of the time, to do the thing anyway. In the last year I’ve done some of the hardest things I could of previously imagined and survived. Sometimes the real challenge is trusting yourself, you have to learn how to just get out of your own way.

When people talk about deathbed regrets they are never things you’ve done, they’re all of the things undone. The choices made by apathy. Surrender to attrition. The last year of my life was an utter refusal to give in to that. If I sound like I’m boasting, I no longer care. I make no apologies for being a driven, imperfect, fierce individual. I’m proud of the choices I made because a lot of them were incredibly difficult. They ran the gamut of pain from basic anxiety to near-paralyzing terror.

I was scared, I did it anyway and I am happier than I have ever been. So I’ll enjoy these last few days of my thirties, but by all means bring on 40… I can’t wait.

Escape from Suburbia

Maybe it’s because I spent over two hours in the car (a car I just bought less than two weeks ago) trying to get from the city into Arlington out to the suburbs. I’m moved yesterday. Like a privileged adult I paid two guys to move all of my shit into a truck for me. I feel almost embarrassed to be this exhausted because I didn’t actually do anything, I mean I did, but comparatively speaking.

My move has been this prolonged, looming, never-ending saga. Endless packing. Multiple hit or miss apartments before we finally landed one. The stress of selling my first house, negotiating the money situation with my ex, handling all of the logistics of staging, selling, putting things into storage, pulling things out of storage, scheduling, arranging, cleaning. Just the mental energy to deal with all of the logistics, none of it even touches on the emotions. I’m back to renting. Into the land of beige and cohabitation with a non-romantic partner (a really close friend but still… it’s not the same), there is some whiff of failure around it, temporary or not.

So I’m thinking of this as an adventure. Temporary in nature. So the washing machines are upstairs and require an ongoing commitment to a bucket of change – at least they’re big and I can get a bunch of shit done all at once. Besides I work from home and that’s easy to knock out during the day. There’s the rooftop pool – what a kick ass way to spend a lunch break – again with the working from home bit. And I’ll get to actually save some $ and go back to cooking for myself and I’m living with someone that actually eats well. I’ll have an actual walk in closet. I can cover the ugly ass beige with area rugs. I will live in a neighborhood that I can actually WALK to things. to get my nails done. To the fucking pub. There’s a bus that rolls right into the city and puts me a 15 minute walk from the office. Did I mention that my boyfriend will be right across the street?

It’s all good, when I orient myself correctly. And then in a year… on to the next adventure. Not into the suburbs.

Arlington is farther away that I thought I’d ever want to be. Moving into the city 4 years ago, even if it was the same city my entire life has been situated around since junior high, still felt like escape, or elevation of a sort. In some ways I feel like I failed by never moving away. Never lived in another city, or another country. Getting to DC at least it was different. Less than an hour but still enveloped by an entire lifestyle that seemed more _real_.

I expect to spend a lot of time weighing how I feel about this to evaluate that next step… wherever it goes.

Best Year Ever?

I’ll drink more water. Start there. Take your vitamins everyday. Sleep. Stretch. Read. Go outside. Maybe let that timed electric toothbrush make it the full 2 minutes. If you add all of that up does it mean I’m doing it right? I’ll turn it into a clickbait top 10 list, BUILDING THE NEW YOU. I’m fine with the current me (you), I’d like to just treat this person right.

I am starting this year in a completely different place. I have a new-ish job, that in the 6 months since I’ve started has turned into one of the more rewarding and stable aspects of my life, some of that is by virtue of comparison (to previous jobs, to other facets of my life) and some is because there is not enough I can say about working within a culture that rewards intellect and skill over being the appropriate shaped “peg” to jam into a corporate setting. Being freed to stop dressing up like someone else (a normal cubicle jockey) and being allowed to focus instead on the work itself rather than the personal drama of the workplace is so fundamentally liberating it pains me to think of going back to an environment that diverts so much energy to the bullshit of office politics over the actual work of contributing to the business. Oh, and working for assholes < — never again.

So as far as my professional outlook, 2017 is already kicking 2016’s ass (unless you count landing this job as a 2016 accomplishment and let’s just call that an even split.

I’m living solo for the first time in… forever. Roommate-less, legit solo. On the couch in my underwear, dishes piled in the sink if I want (ew, no), hey I should take that trash out, a-l-o-n-e.  I cut my hair differently.

I’ m still making pottery, three years running now. I think I’m finally in a place where I want to start pushing myself to try harder and more complex projects. Bigger, more intricate, more focused. I’ve considered upgrading my status in the studio from student to community artist but I’m going to hold off a bit longer while I wrangle with some financial items. (see the whole…  living alone thing – it’s a bit more expensive).

I had dinner with a friend a couple of weeks ago and she said that she’d read a “resolution” challenge that suggested you find three specific words to define your goals or motivations for the coming year and she’d thought about it and opted for one word instead. A part of my brain spent the remainder of that dinner ruminating on what that particular word would be for me. Everything I come up with sounds like a word a stupid college girl would get tattoo’d above her ass but it seems inescapable so fine, passion. That’s what I choose.

This year will be the best year ever, if only because it will be about both the things I want and don’t want. What I don’t want is to waste my time on anything that I don’t feel passion for. Hobbies, activities, people.  Life is achingly short, this is true if it lasts until you’re 25 or 50 or 100. If you’re doing it right, it’s never going to be enough time.

So yes, this is the year that I’m getting divorced and turning 40 and possibly having to sell my house and the first time I will likely owe the IRS money (fuck me). And I live alone and I’m starting over and I’ve spent the last three months running around not taking the best care of myself (exercise anyone?). But I refuse to let any of that bog me down. I have spent a lot of time in pain, doubting myself and wondering what idiot lived inside me that thought I had anything figured out, for the record I don’t, and neither do you.

But I started the year in a good place. I traveled to California to visit my best friend. I have a job I that I enjoy. I get to make art. I fell in love with someone. And so fuck the milestone birthday and the taxes and the reboot, the year will be good because that’s what I can control, how I deal with it, what I decide. So this year will be about music, and art, and travel, and books, and food, and the amazing people in my life, all the things that make me feel better about being alive, hideous-facist president, rapidly-dying cultural icons, total life-upheavel be damned.

This year I will (want to)…

Hike, go outside, walk, spend time in nature whenever I can.
Read. Put my phone down for fuck’s sake when I could have a book in it instead.
Travel  – near and far, whatever makes sense
Push myself at work so I feel better about what I’m contributing (classes, conferences, what else?)
Art – view, witness, create. Go to exhibits, plays, events. Make pottery, take more photos, find ways to combine my interests (getting my tattoo finished this year makes me feel really good about this too)
Music – shows, shows, shows.
Self-care – exercise, food, sanity, (also omg this is dumb but I’m going to start carrying a knife again). I’m good about these things but they’re the first to be neglected when routine is stretched. Find a new hobby (yoga studio?, get a bike?, start walking literally everywhere haha)

 

 

 

So You’re Getting a Divorce?

The heart wants what it wants. Ha. I googled it – Emily Dickinson. That’s something that no one tells you. That it can happen. That you can be perfectly content or distractedly content, or in some sinister state of utter denial –  too busy, or dishonest or scared to stop and clean off the lens so you have an accurate picture of where you are. And then something will happen.

You will be standing in the shower and realize that you’re about to initiate a conversation that you’ve had before but it feels different, truer somehow. You’ll send another email, you’ll both agree that while you’re happy that things are not perfect, and actually they’re far from ideal. And you’ll agree that you both want things to change and that the impasse is because you’re both stumped about what to do, which feels true when you say it, but another part of you that is sort of slowly waking up … is calling bullshit on that. That’s only part of the truth. The other part of the truth is that there is a solution but it’s utter destruction. A truth that’s existed far longer than it’s been acknowledged as viable. Ofcourse that’s always an option. Start over. But you can maintain what you have, and part of you really wants to sustain that, solve it, refine it and continue to believe that it’s something that can survive. You built your life entirely around one other person. They’re your family and interwoven through every element of your life. Why would you change that? Deliberately inflict so much pain, invite chaos, alienate yourself, leave yourself without the family you chose, quite possibly end up alone. Who does that?

You do. That’s you. You took the lid off this Pandora’s box and it was this uncontrollable unraveling. Could not un-do it. You wanted to lie. To yourself, to him, to everyone. Because it would have protected you and meant you weren’t walking away from the life you’d built to completely start over.  You knew you would do it. You just had to slowly turn around and face it.

It’s been like tearing apart the worst onion. Ripping off layers. Yes, your marriage is over. And when you’ve been with someone for nine years you’re breaking up with everything. Your spouse, your life, your routines and comforts. Ripping off an endless series of bandaids. Tell your family, tell your friends, wait to be judged, hated, pitied. Relieved because work is new enough that you can hide there, smile, try to just enjoy being in a good spot with smart and interesting people. The previously perceived source of stress (new title, new responsibilities, surrounded by brilliance and intensity, trying not to fail) is usurped by the utter insanity of the complete unfamiliarity of the rest of your life. There is nothing to prepare you for waking up every day and feeling this crushing sadness, panic, resignation.

You go home and realize that no one is coming back. You don’t own a hair dryer any more. You gave up your car. You really need to remember not to take the trash into the alleyway at 11 p.m. because there’s no one there to look for you if you get jumped and you’ve been gone for 30 minutes. You stop wearing your wedding rings. You realize you have a fridge full of groceries for two people and a life that no longer exists. For awhile every day you have these moments of abject terror. It’s been weeks since you’ve been able to eat normally, waiting until you’re starving to even try because you’re not sure you can choke anything down. You’re already full… of this pulsing sense of anxiety. What the fuck are you doing and each day that passes you realize that it’s harder and harder to go back, to undo the path you’ve put yourself on. Until you realize that your worst fears, that you got it wrong, that any smug sense of success you felt about how you’d “won” your life was delusional. That the thing you thought was the worst possible thing, your permanent partnership ending, was already happening, and you weren’t so broken that you couldn’t continue. You realize that you knew that there was no permanence to anything, that you, like everyone else were measuring something with a set of rules that made no sense at all. Success was not, IS NOT, finding a single person and making it work forever. The cultural and social forces that sold the entire western world on that notion are assholes.You feel vaguely foolish for ever thinking you got anything right.

But you feel guilt for feeling brave. It’s not really confidence if you truly feel that you have no option save for starting over. That’s where the reality lives. You can want, to want something, but there is no bridging the gap to make that true if your heart has already decided it’s not about the work. It’s not that you wouldn’t work, if there was something to work for but it’s like a fire that’s already gone out, you can’t bury it in more fuel if there’s nothing left that will ignite. You have the memory of the warmth and the feelings of all of the experience that existed before it went out, you remember that it had kept you warm but not anymore. Not because someone stamped it out, or dumped water on it.  It burned up what was there and turned it to ash and before you knew it that blaze you already carried around was chewing through fuel you didn’t realize you were feeding it but it was a completely different fire.