The Marvelous Miracle of the Human Brain, Time, & Relativity

In my eighth grade Physics class, they had us read a short book by Einstein, the title of which escapes me. One of its teachings was that 1 + 1 does not always equal 2. WHAT? Okay. Eighth grade me rolled with it.

It was a small group at breakfast this morning, but five of us set out to help Scott R. break in his brand-new tires. We took a leisurely stroll down Lyons Valley (I now understand how to keep up with Scott on Lyons Valley – put nails in his tires so they are always new) to Japatul, where we were treated to a 15-minute demonstration of a helicopter trying to pick up and reposition a power pole section. The flagman is the nicest I have ever encountered – he apologizes repeatedly for how long it was taking, explains their policies, and generally looks guilt-stricken. We reassure him it’s fine, and to not get himself fired by letting us go, anyhow.

Eventually, the pilot gets things sorted, and we carry on. I feel, and I can almost feel Scott feeling, an insane desire to chase the two sportbike riders who pass us – just to show them we can – but Scott has new tires, so we behave.

I parted ways with the group as they turned toward Julian. I needed more miles. A hell of a lot more. My brain was going faster than the GS could keep up with, and there are only a few ways to get it to simmer the hell down (“miles,” of course, being my favorite.)

Sunrise Highway was practically deserted and glorious, offering vistas of the desert that were stunning in clarity and detail, made all the more beautiful with shadows cast by the scattered, puffy clouds.

If one stops to ponder the act of riding a motorcycle, it is incredible we don’t all just die all the time. The minutiae are overwhelming to stop and think about. Our brains are processing a metric honkload of information every single nanosecond and still somehow manage to tell our bodies to do whatever needs doing in an instant. We react without even realizing. Amazing. All that, and we still have spare processing cycles to Think About Stuff.

Toward the end of Sunrise, I flipped around and putted down Pine Creek to enjoy the scenery and the quiet. Sunrise was pure focus on speed, lines, road detritus. Pine Creek was relaxing, almost like a soak in a mental hot tub. I paused frequently to breathe it all in and forced myself to take no photos (harder than it sounds.) At the bottom, I was so awash in memories and nostalgia that I almost forgot where I was (my brain being less remarkable than most, perhaps.)

Where to?

Hoping to run into my infrequently seen pals, Frank and Donald, I mushed the GS up the fast side of Palomar, finding it necessary to dodge a few large dollops of gravel toward the top in the most inconvenient places. My brain did all the things it needed to do to avoid them without much thought. Miracles.

Most of you would know Frank and Donald if you were to see them, and Donald is actually a member of the club. I haven’t seen Frank in months, and Donald in weeks. Today would not break that streak, sadly, so I enjoyed a slice of Mother’s apple pie and contemplated my many choices.

Borrego, what the hell.

Back down East Grade at maybe a 6 out of 10, enjoyable, not stressful, following familiar curves like tracing a finger along a known human body. I thought of my riding buddies back home, especially Jim and Alex, and missed them intensely, wishing I could show them these roads that would absolutely blow their minds. Someday.

As I crested one of the final hills before the left turn onto Montezuma, I saw two LEO’s coming at me, lights fully ablaze, pace just short of “frantic.” No sirens. I politely pulled to the side and waited for them to pass.

After the left turn, another, but no disco lights. A beat, then two more. A mile down the road, three more. What was this, a parade? All told, nine officers of our law passed me by, and it wasn’t until about the fifth that I slowed way the frick down and just chilled out rather than continually get puckered about doing 75 where I perhaps ought not to.

Once through Ranchita, the road mercifully cleared of all traffic. Coming over that final hill to a perfect view of the Salton Sea and distant peaks time froze for a moment into a perfect still-life, and I said “thank you” aloud to what I hoped was a receptive universe.

I remembered the time I met Homemade Bob in Borrego Springs for lunch, and how we chased each other down this road with me having no idea who he was.

The wonder and the perfection of this area when it is free of traffic is just … overwhelming. The road unwinds before me like a river flecked with gold and white, weaving its way through the wind-battered peaks and flood-worn valleys. Time is visible here, and my mind boggles at the immensity of it. It is… a bright abyss of sorts, a thought exercise that cannot be solved.

At the turn into Borrego Springs Proper, I see three sportbike guys I know from The Chairs heading back the way I came and wished them the same good traffic fortune I had experienced.

Quick gas stop.

Onward through Yaqui Pass, thinking of John Hermann, and this road is also remarkably free of other vehicles going in the same direction.  Bliss.

Bliss for awhile, that is.

After passing Scissors Crossing, I see many cars going up the hill and decide to catch up and pass them before hitting Banner Grade. The GS was certainly game, and while I will not mention specific speeds, I’ll impart unto you an IronButt Association term that will live in infamy forever and ever (R-amen:) “Higdon Triple-Veiner,” or a “Triple Higdon.” In short, that is how many veins on his forehead would threaten to burst upon hearing a specific speed mentioned in an email.

The cars were moving a fair bit faster than I expected they would be. Fun. Still do not want to be stuck behind them on the Grade, so I go all-in.

It was not the fastest I have gone on a BMW, but it was close. And it was uphill. I do so love this bike. I catch up, but it’s too late to pass at that moment.

We all pop over the hill, one by one, our suspensions stretching and reaching for the ground as we go over the top. There was oncoming traffic, so I politely waited for it to pass, putting on my left indicator a few moments prior to moving into the oncoming lane. Plenty of room, though I was aware the first curve was drawing closer with each second, and I had four vehicles to put behind me.

I waited to make sure none of the four cages in front of me were going to hop out, and then I proceeded.

We were still at Ludicrous Speed, all of us moving together, a hurtling caravan of metallic death just waiting to happen. My brain was processing everything in real time, like you do, noting the roadrunner on the left, the distant oncoming white van, the beautiful clouds, the new, disconcerting vibration in the front end, THE BLUE SPORTS CAR I AM PASSING LEAPING OUT INTO MY LANE.

Time slowed, very convincingly, to approximately one millionth its normal pace. My eyes see the car jerk toward me as I was abreast of its rear wheel. My mouth opens to gasp, my left wrist instantly pushes, resulting in an ever-so-slow-motion change in course which is, of course,actually happening at an unwise speed. To me, it feels like molasses.

Why does my landlady insist upon starving her outside cat? She’s onto me sneaking him food at night, I have to adjust strategy there.

The GS is not pleased with the abrupt input at such a pace and begins to wobble, one oscillation every ten minutes or so. The car is halfway over the yellow line now.

1+1 does not always equal 2, eighth grade me piped up uselessly, but insistently.
Three-year-old me reminded me of the days when I could walk up to wild bunnies and pet them.
Thirty-year-old me admonished her because Parasites.
Present-day me rolled her eyes because Immune System. Also, imminent demise; can we please focus here for a moment, girls?

The left white line lazily drifts toward me and my wobbly bike. My right wrist has instinctively pegged the throttle to even out the wobble and to get ahead of the car – brakes now would be suicide. My subconscious brain knew this reflexively and acted, while my conscious thoughts were reflecting back over events both recent and not.

Intelligent Design for a moment seems plausible.

I should start painting again. I wonder where my easel got to in the move? I should look up that tutorial I never finished. Do I really want to go visit my apparently dying mother? (NO.)

My head gradually turns toward the encroaching car, and I am now even with the driver. I see him see me with a look of sheer terror in his eyes, his mouth is wide open in a rictus of horror. He thinks he’s about to kill me. I think I think so, too. An absurd part of me wants to reach out and boop him on the nose – he’s that close.

The white line has stopped coming closer, the wobble is almost under control, and it has only been a mere three hours since I began my pass.

Are modern kerosene heaters safe? Building a fire every night is going to get really old, really fast.

Right wrist still utterly pegging the gas. Body lowering into a crouch to more easily maneuver or to leap off the bike before running into whatever it was I would run into first.

I remember the time my buddy Dale split a deer in two on his ST1100, went off into a deep ditch, did his best Jeremy McGrath impression, and came back onto the pavement unscathed, but covered in blood and deer shit. A piece of that deer poop would rest, unnoticed, upon his mustache, haunting him for the rest of his many miles to Reno, where he would meet up with Chuck Hickey, me, and various other IronButt Lunatics and regale us with his story.

The sports car driver jerks as hard as he can to his right, scant inches away from my thigh. I wonder what his brain is pondering, how slowly time is moving for him. I absently hope he doesn’t careen off the road.

I remember the water line under my kitchen sink is still leaking and make a mental note to check that when I get home. As if my brain will remember. Ha. Every song lyric from the 80’s? HELL YES. What I did two hours ago? Forget about it. NOPE.

My gaze leisurely returns to the road ahead. That first curve and that white van are much, much closer now, or at least seem to be, and I have one more vehicle to pass.  Oh, and I also have to survive the next few seconds (or hours, relatively) and navigate back into my own lane.

And I do. No problem. SUDDENLY… Nothing Happened.

The GS calms herself, the flow of time returns to normal, and I have miraculously not pooped myself or died in the process.

Leaving what I can only assume to be four fully puckered drivers in my wake, I carry on.

I wind up behind another ADV rider (so advertised by a sticker on his pannier) as we enter Banner Grade, and we two soon find ourselves behind The Slowest White Van in the History of Ever, which is followed by The Biggest Dodge Dually Belching the Most Black Smoke Ever. This is a painful, horrible combination. I quickly become annoyed, and I have entirely forgotten that, literally two minutes ago, I was in a seemingly protracted battle for the road.

Brains. Wow.

The other rider gave up and pulled over after a couple miles. I stood up out of sheer boredom and rode vertically. The driver of the stenchy Dodge was clearly as annoyed as I was, waving his arm out the window in a “WTF?!?!?!” gesture as he looked at me in his side mirror.

I mime shooting myself in the head. He does the same.

The van driver remains steadfast in his slow, deliberate, 10-20mph tour of our lovely Grade. Brakes on the whole time. Slowing for each. And every. Damn. Curve.

First gear is barely low enough. I have to feather the clutch many times.

The dually’s exhaust causes my head to throb, but it’s only a few more miles (which potentially equates to actual hours, not slow-mo ones) until I can make the turn onto my Wynola Road.

There it is. There’s the sign. I put on my signal.

SO DO THE TWO DRIVERS IN FRONT OF ME.

<shriek>

They come to such an abrupt and unexpected full and complete stop, I barely have time to sit down and get my foot down before toppling over. Falling down on pavement is PHIL’S job, not mine (said she, thusly dooming herself to fall gracelessly down whilst leading tomorrow’s NMR.)

I am faced with a choice: Follow this asshat presumably all the damn way down Wynola, or keep going straight and fight tooth and nail to get through “downtown” Julian for the second time today. No thank you, please: I’ll enjoy the scenery.

We pause for a long, LONG time at this intersection, because there are (horrors) cars coming off Wynola, and the van driver doesn’t think he can negotiate the tight turn with them there. Everyone is waiting for someone else to make a move, including oncoming traffic. I begin quietly bashing my helmet into my gas tank. I swear I heard the ADV rider behind me (who had caught back up with us long ago) laughing before he went straight instead of turning.

So, Wynola. At 6 mph. With no chance in hell of passing two large vehicles. I was standing most of the time, taking the opportunity to practice low-speed maneuvers whilst on my feet.

The triple-digit dodge/wobble/recovery incident is a distant, vague memory. This new frustration consumes my every molecule. Each breath brings too-rich black exhaust into my burning lungs, which complements the glowing embers of anger awfully well.

Ok, eDar, get yourself together. Enjoy. The Damn. Scenery. Already.

FINE. Oh, look – TREES. A meadow. Ok, it’s actually quite lovely. I relax. Deep inhalation and sigh, followed by a coughing fit from the exhaust. Ahhhh, my life in a nutshell, right here.

After a small eternity, we reach my driveway. I have been so lost in thought that I … drive right the eff by it. Shit.

Fine. FINE. I’ll go to The Chairs, see if anyone is there.

Both the dually and I pass the white van on that final straight section of Wynola, and we both gesticulate wildly as we do so. I stop short of giving him the finger.

Turns out Dually Guy is going to The Chairs also, and is an off-road rider. Cool. After parking, we look at each other in amazement. What does one say? “Holy SHIT, dude,” is all I had to offer. “Yeah,” he replied, shaking his head.

The three Borrego sportbike guys were also there, and we all shot the breeze for awhile before I needed to get moving again to appease the brain weasels. Still no Frank, no Donald. Darn. I hope Frank is ok (I know Donald is, he found me on email earlier this week.)

It’s been a long minute since I did Mesa Grande, so I do that. I contemplate Black Canyon, but think better of it. I contemplate taking another run up Palomar, but it sounds less appealing than simply going home.

I turn around and screw up every line on the fast side of Mesa Grande. Since changing my suspension from single rider, no bags to single rider, with bags, everything is a little “off,” but I love the way it handles, and I also love not scraping things off the bottom of my bike anymore.

I do not love the loss of precious footing, however.

Ok, enough. I have no point – I just felt like sharing something today. I suppose I should admonish everyone to be safe and to be vigilant while passing, but I know Eddie will chime in with “Ride Fast, Take Chances.”

Three-hundred-ish miles, still not enough, but it will have to do. Tomorrow, I’ll do my best not to get the NMR group (should there be one) lost or killed.

Ta.

Thanks, Mom. No, Really.

My mother taught me a lot of very bad things.

Overcoming them as much as I have has taken decades of work, and there are many casualties lying in pools of blood alongside the path.

In the featured photo, I am far, far too young to realize the patterns I was learning even then. My heart aches for that little girl and the years she has ahead.

Seldom do they serve any useful purpose – they are designed to be precise weapons of terrible destruction, of others and of myself. I’ve used them that way in the past myself, and it’s horrible to witness myself, as if from a third person, wielding them thusly. They are wicked and effective.

I have learned, however, that in gentler hands, they can be used for good. One of the habits my mother taught me was to never show signs of hurt or anger. We bottle that shit up and shut it down, because emotion is weakness. Stay in control, never let them see you bleed. That defensive behavior, in conjunction with its more offfensive siblings, results in what someone once called The Ice Queen.

I don’t like the Ice Queen; she and I are not friends. She is, however, a tale for another time.

Today, running errands amongst the thronging hordes of people, I laughed and smiled and interacted as if my whole world were not burning. No trace of the flames in my heart licked up through my eyes, the shards of glass did not protrude through my flesh – all of that was Contained. Bottled up. Hidden.

Rather than storm throughout the day, being miserable and passing along those bad vibes, I radiated positivity, friendliness, and courtesy. When encountering a genuine smile, more people than not will respond in kind, sometimes even with surprise; this makes my day. So it was everywhere I went this afternoon. I even had myself fooled.

Back in the safety and solitude of my car (which is as black as my mood,) the feelings could no longer be contained properly, and oozed out, coating me in a foul, oily aura.

Home, I gave my roommate the briefest of details as to the situation. I didn’t cry, I didn’t rage, I just stated how I was feeling, loosely describing the mental and physical anguish and distress I’ve been in for the last three days. Going into any meaningful detail would have been a different story, but I even managed to chuckle a few times at his responses, for my roommate is far too impressed with me – “Dude,” he began, “you are on an entirely different level of acceptance in life.”

He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such, but I wonder – is there such a thing as too accepting?

There is, I’m certain – and many of the things on the mental list I just composed of “things one should not accept” are things that I am, right now, accepting. Shit.

I tell you what, friends; life is not for cowards or for the faint of heart.

 

A Fine Line

There is a very fine line between “broken” and “not broken.”

A hair’s breadth.

A moment.

A choice.

Is it possible to be crushed to bits, destroyed, yet not broken?

“Broken,” to me, implies being unable to recover, incapable of putting myself back together – I’m not there, not yet.

What I am is ground to dust. My heart, my gut, are filled with the sharpest glass, slowly shredding me. Everything in me is actively on fire.

But I am not broken. Though I may be absolutely crumbled to shit, sheer stubbornness prevents being broken – I am not going to let one cruel, cowardly, lying bastard break me forever. My pride, coupled with whatever sense of self I have, will not let this happen.

My pride, my wounds, demand his immediate and irrevocable banishment. My insecurities demand this, as well, but also wheedle to keep him close. My insecurities are conniving, two-faced assholes. My true self is ambivalent – she is honest, she is destroyed, she is furious, she is grief-stricken, heart-broken, incredulous, and filled with burning, but she loves him and believes at least some of it was real, somewhere. If she’s 100% wrong, then I’m better at fooling myself than I ever thought I was.

Was it real if only one of us was actually living it?

The thing I was living was an illusion – a lie. Of the two of us, only he knew the truth. I was living in a fantasy.

Perhaps the worst part of it all… no, there are many, many “worst parts:”

  • I believed a liar, and I doubted myself. I consciously chose to believe his lies. I looked at my gut feeling, and I looked at the words he was saying to me, and I said, “you know, I really don’t believe this, but I’m going to choose to believe him, because that is the most kind and compassionate thing I can do.” So I did.
    • Ironically, only recently, I was having a conversation with someone about being suspicious versus believing people. Every time I have this conversation, I say the same thing, and I still hold it as My Truth: It is better to believe someone and be taken for a fool later, than to disbelieve someone who is telling the truth.
    • I am furious with myself, as well, because I knew. My gut knew. My conscious brain even knew. But two things kept me from trusting myself:
      • I wanted to believe him. Plain and simple, that is what my heart wanted.
      • I knew if I started this relationship with Grave Doubts, it would never flourish into everything it could be, and it would be my fault. Now, it will never be everything it could be… but it’s not my fault. I suspect that will be easier to live with.
      • Eventually.
      • Maybe.
  • Karma/I don’t deserve nice things. This is karma for Jon, this is payback for the times I slept with married people. I am not a good enough person to be this happy.
  • I did my best, and it wasn’t enough. I don’t have much of anything else I can do or give. That was what I was, what I had, and he actively chose to shit all over it. If he had me at my best, and that wasn’t enough… what then?
  • Jailbreak. I was writing a beautiful piece about how he saved me from my internal prison, how he was the one I’d been waiting for for so long. Now, I look at the paintings, and am filled with unspeakable sorrow and emptiness. I suppose the one good thing is that I was out of the prison for awhile. Maybe now I go back in – this remains to be seen, and is terrifying. The only thing stronger than my stubbornness is my subconscious, and I don’t know what it’s doing right now. I am deeply afraid of it.
    • I don’t know whether to burn the paintings, to keep them on the wall as a reminder, or to just put them away somewhere. I hate them.
  • I understand his stupid, stupid reasons. I get it – but I don’t get it. I understand his logic, or the lack thereof, but I don’t understand how he could do this to me.  To someone he professed to love and cherish, the person he said he had never and would never lie to. As he said he hadn’t lied, that he wasn’t lying in that very second… he was lying.
  • I made plans for the future that included another person. I don’t do that. I didn’t do that with my fucking husband, not really, because I know nobody sticks around for the long run. What fucking planet am I suddenly from where after two months I believed? If I could see through the tears to kick myself, I would.
  • Blatant disrespect and a complete disregard for THE ONE THING I NEED. This wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a slip – this was a conscious choice, a deliberate series of actions and lies to cover them up. I do not use “disrespect” lightly, for seldom do I feel I am worthy of respect. He made me feel I was – and then he was the one who destroyed that feeling.
    • Sidenote. Irony: He may be the person who convinced me I am actually worthwhile and valuable enough not to be treated the way he has treated me. What the fuck do I even do with that.
    • I have long been amazed and awed by people in relationships who have such obvious and abiding love, admiration, and respect for each other, no matter what. I thought finally, maybe, I had rediscovered such a thing after 25 years of what I can only call penance. I believed. I looked forward to everything.
  • The cruelty. He chose a cruel path. He actively reassured me, built up my trust – encouraged me to believe, believe, believe, only to betray me.
  • I legitimately do not know what to do. I am in an untenable position. I have two obvious choices, and myriad variants:
    • End the relationship.
      • I will be miserable. I will miss him. I will grieve for what we had, and what we could have had. “I couldn’t love you any more, and yet I will tomorrow,” I told him a couple of weeks ago. That would die.
      • All of the things I love about him will be gone forever.
      • He will never whisper, “you’re amazing” to me again.
      • I will never feel that unbelievable sense of oneness as he holds me in his arms – the perfect contentedness of being right where I am supposed to be. Where I thought I was supposed to be.
      • I do not become a crazy person, second-guessing myself at every turn. Well, at least, not with him – maybe that’s just going to be a part of my life from now on, becoming less and less trusting BECAUSE OF THE WORDS AND ACTIONS OF ONE FUCKING MAN GODDAMN IT I AM QUESTIONING THE THINGS THAT MAKE ME WHO I AM. FUCK.
        • Typing those words made me burst fully into tears for the first time since this nightmare began. Great.
    • Try to cobble things back together. Make the choice to work through the pain, the fear, the doubt, and try to figure out if there’s a bearable way forward.
      • I will probably still be miserable, for quite some time. Maybe until it ends. I don’t know.
      • I will still grieve for what could have been, because whatever lies ahead is irreversibly altered. We will never have “what we could have had;” it’s no longer a viable path.
        • Because of that, I don’t know if it’s worth my time, pain, and effort to even try.
      • I don’t know whether he would change (read, “stop lying,” and “stop being afraid of conflict,”) or even legitimately try to.
        • Instinct says “people can change, but he is not going to change, because he’s not willing;” as he said earlier, “this is who I am.” If that’s who he is, and if he is comfortable with that, there is no changing. If there is no changing, I have to decide whether I can live with a complete lack of trust in my life. I can’t believe I would even consider that.
      • How do I look this person in the eye after everything? He will never fathom the hurt, the damage.
      • He would still be in my life with all the wonderful things about him – but also with all of … this. I legitimately don’t know what’s worse – having him, or at least the part of him I’ve had to whatever degree that might have been, or not having him at all.
        • Common sense says, “you’ll never be sure. You’ll never be totally confident and secure.”
        • I have to decide if that’s something I can do. Even considering it makes me feel foolish.
      • When he murmurs, “you’re amazing” into my hair when I’m lying on his chest, I will always think, “but not amazing enough.” That is my new truth.
      • When I am wrapped up in his arms, will I ever feel that same sense of security and belonging? Did he feel the same when he’s been cuddled up with her? Honestly? That part doesn’t even matter – monogamy is optional. It’s the DECEIT that is killing me. I know we can both be amazing in his eyes for different and similar reasons.
      • Do I become a crazy, paranoid police person, always vigilant, always wondering, never truly certain I know the situation? How do I not become that person?  Put a GPS tracker and a chest cam on him? Constantly monitor all forms of communication, knowing full well that is easily circumvented?
        • I have no interest in keeping track of the seconds that have passed, the steps he has taken, reading all of his emails and chats, ruthlessly discovering what he has or has not done or said. That is exhausting, and it is an unwinnable battle.
      • His lies come so easily, and they’re so specific; I’ll never truly know whether he’s telling me the truth. Can I live with that? That’s what this boils down to. Can I have a lesser happiness, a lesser relationship, and be content with that? Will that state with him be better than something else?
    • I need assurances. How the fuck do I get them from a pathological liar?
    • Worst-case scenario: I try to work things through, really give it my best go, and things begin to go well. Things fall apart as he cannot keep himself from lying. How do I recover from that as a whole person?
    • Alternate worst-case scenario: I shut the relationship down, when it could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I spend the rest of my life wondering about him, just as I have about Jon.
  • Jon. I thought maybe, just maybe, the universe had forgiven me for Jon – that maybe I’d forgiven myself for what I did and said. Turns out, I was just being set up for a comeuppance.
  • Changes. I made deep changes to accommodate him in my life, things about which he has no idea, and for what? Just to be lied to and deceived, all because he was afraid. You want to talk about “afraid?” He has no fucking clue the things I had to overcome to get to this place, and him? He was just status-quo’ing it, coasting along as he always has. The demons I have faced in these few short months would blow his fucking mind.

I fucking hate being this weak. As I typed those words, my better nature told me I am not weak – I’m strong for even considering working things out. Working for something difficult and painful, something I want to have, is not weakness. Not making a rash decision after an egregious wounding, is strong. My worse nature countered, “what if it’s just a pipe dream? An impossible fantasy? Is it really strength to pursue that at the expense of your sanity and self-confidence?”

Fuck. That reminds me – I have never felt more confident than I have these last couple of months. The love in this relationship made me a better person on many levels, and has given me strength I didn’t realize I had. Now, knowing I was laboring under a complete delusion, my confidence has shriveled and has slunk into a very dark recess; it is utterly unwilling to resurface for now. I hope it returns.

When I confronted him with the lies, he said he was going to tell me today. Oh, ok. How do I believe that? Even trying to swallow that line makes me nauseated. Here, we go back to “believe someone rather than disbelieve them,” but at what point does that become foolish instead of honorable? This is the first time I’ve had to ask myself that question; I suppose I have been exceptionally fortunate on that front, then. How tragic this is the time I have to ask it.

In his place, I would be fumbling over myself, trying everything and anything, saying any possible true thing I could think of to salvage the situation. He mumbled platitudes, and had very little else to offer. That is infuriating, and makes me feel he doesn’t really care either way. If things don’t work out here, he’ll pack up and go back home, and pick up his comfortable old life that never really made him happy – I’m certain of this.

It’s not like this was months ago – it was goddamned yesterday. It would be one thing if it were “in the past,” but it’s Right Fucking Now, all apparently because his what-I-thought-would-soon-be-his-ex-wife “started being nice to me.” If that’s all it takes to rekindle those feelings, I’m fucked any way you cut it.

I feel especially foolish that I fell into the “but I’m leaving my wife” trap. I didn’t want that originally – I wanted nothing of the sort. At all. But we fell in love, and then he said he was leaving her, and I said “not on my account, you’re not,” and he said “no no, it’s over anyhow,” and then he moved in with me and I actually believed it was all true.

God I’m such a fucking moron.

The truth is, it has only been a few months – I have to get my head wrapped around that fact. It has not been a long time, it is not a loss I could never get over. It will just hurt like a motherfucker for awhile. It doesn’t matter how long it “feels like” it’s been, how all-consuming my side of this relationship was.

“I deserve better.” Do I? Do I really? With the crap person I have been, do I? Maybe I deserve to be played like this, to be made into a complete, gullible, naive fool by someone I believed to be my unflinching ally. How horrible it is to realize my ostensible wingman doesn’t like conflict and had utterly bugged out once my foot touched the battlefield. I didn’t even know he wasn’t there anymore, and I kept walking forward, confident and trusting he had my back when he was actually nowhere to be seen. I am alone, surrounded by hostile forces.

I am used to being alone in the midst of the war – that is what my life has heretofore been;  it was the feeling of having someone unquestionably by my side that was new. I can’t decide whether I wish I hadn’t ever felt that security, because now it’s gone, and I have no idea whether I’ll ever feel it again.

Listening to him talk with her on the phone just now, his entire tone has changed toward her; it’s softer and much more gentle. That might be the most telling thing of all. He is over there chuckling at videos, oblivious. I’m over here eating myself alive. Where is the fairness? I’m getting shipment notifications for things I bought just for him, dying inside, wishing they would never arrive. I am at a complete loss.

The only thing I know is that I cannot make this decision right now.  I have to sit with it and decide which grief-stricken path I want to take, unless he offers some kind of opinion – which he is afraid to have.

That unto itself speaks volumes about my growth as a person – even entertaining the notion of trying to work things out is orders of magnitude more than what I would have done previously.

Despite being devastated, despite my heart being rent from my body, despite the immolation of my fucking soul, I will stand back up again.

But not today.

Today, tomorrow, for the foreseeable future, I have to figure out how to get from here to there, to pick a path amongst the thorns and pitfalls.

For now, I have to grieve the death of something nearly perfect, and decide which “less than” path to take.

I wrote this for myself, without intention of sharing with anyone, but now I think I have to show him. Verbally, I have failed to communicate where I am; I’m too devastated and angry to formulate words on the fly. So I guess it’s time to show him – provided he doesn’t mind being interrupted.


Today brought a different perspective – at least, later in the day did.

One of the most infuriating things was not feeling heard, understood, and acknowledged. Verbally, there was nothing other than, “I’m sorry,” “I love you and I don’t want to lose you,” and various other superficial sentiments that brought no new understanding to the situation.

Thinking maybe he might do better in writing, I reached out to him via text when we were working, and it did indeed bear more fruit. I have a better idea of where he is – it’s no less painful, the situation is no less dire, but simply knowing he understands how hurt, angry, and betrayed I feel makes all the difference. It’s helping me to allow myself to let go of the abject rage and sense of being completely dismissed and disregarded.

Old edar wouldn’t have let the anger go; she would have held onto it like a precious treasure, clinging greedily to it because it made her feel righteously indignant and justified.

edar 2.0 realized there is no sense in staying actively angry because he has feelings for his estranged wife. What does staying angry accomplish, other than making it all much worse? Nothing.

So, I am letting it go – sometimes great chunks of it break away, sometimes smaller ones, but at least now I can sense there is still a core of me intact beneath the jagged crust and molten rock.

Her flame may be dim right now, but at least she’s still there.

I’ve realized too that I cannot make a decision until he does. Now that I know where he is, and how he feels – that he legitimately may choose her over me – that puts a different spin on the whole thing.

It is situations like this when I become so frustrated with the culturally mandated concept of monogamy. He’s in love with two people, but has to choose one? How is that fair in any way, when he could love us both?

However, whinging about things out of my control serves no purpose. Now that I am getting my wits back about myself, I can apply the usual tools of logic, reason, dignity, compassion, understanding, integrity, and, if need be, graceful withdrawal.

I am not his wife, nor am I at all like her – I will not actively try to “fight for him” if he chooses another path; that, too, serves no purpose other than to frustrate and infuriate everyone involved. He will choose me or he will not, based solely on the merits or lack thereof. If he doesn’t find me worthy, so be it; it will be a loss for both of us.

I will hate it, I will be devastated even more, but I will accept, recover, and move on.

The not knowing, though, that is a fresh hell. Until today, I thought the decision was largely mine; now I know he isn’t decided himself. I knew it when I heard the tenderness in his voice last night, but didn’t let myself accept it until this morning, when he confirmed he didn’t know what to do, whom to choose. Ah.

And so, death metal, and painting. Escape.

 

Loyalty

loyalty

This is a difficult post to write, because I am going to reveal one of the biggest character flaws I have carried with me throughout my entire life. I’m working on overcoming it, but haven’t won yet. For most of my life… I never understood true Loyalty as anything other than an abstract concept.

This explains a lot, doesn’t it? I’m sorry. Truly.

Growing up, I didn’t learn a lot of the lessons, behaviors, and mindsets most people take for granted. As an only child, I naturally missed out on what it feels like to have a sibling; in our household, though, that was further compounded by a lot of unhealthy family dynamics. Not only didn’t I have a sibling to talk to, but my family just… didn’t talk. I remember having my first high school boyfriend over for dinner, and how shocked he was we just sat and ate and didn’t really say anything. Granted, he was coming from a family of 10, so dinners were largely chaos, but when he said that, it was the first inkling I had that something was odd in my family. I was fourteen at the time. Little did I know how many other things I took as natural and normal would be revealed over the years to be completely insane at worst, really dysfunctional at best.

The issue I’ve been focusing on immensely of late is Loyalty: I didn’t grow up with anyone who always, always had my back – including my parents. My mother would turn on me like a snake when I made a mistake, or when someone perceived me as having done or said something wrong. She believed anyone else over me (which then led to years of me lying about just about any mistake I made in an attempt to seem like a good child, even when it could be easily proven I had lied.)

I’m sure she took my side once in awhile, but I cannot think of a single instance when she actually did – I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt here by assuming she did sometimes.

Where some parents turn into mother bears when their children are attacked or criticized, my mother joined in. Not only did she judge me, demoralize me, and berate me, but she would call my grandparents (and even some of her own friends, or the parents of my friends) to shame me by regaling them with the tales of my escapades – they were always “escapades” – with more than a trace of vicious glee in her voice. She would backbite my father and me at what I perceived to be every possible opportunity.

She would say nice things about me to others when it made her look good. When she focused on my faults, she played herself as the victim of a horrid child (incidentally, she had absolutely no idea how good I was, compared to how bad I could have been: I was a damned good kid.)

She was inconsistent in every way. Everything was conditional. My relationship with her was always on this crazy knife’s edge – there were a number of times when she “disowned me” during or after an argument or incident. In 2007, I temporarily moved into her house while I was trying to get myself established after coming home from Washington state. It was a fiasco, a nightmare for both of us, and I admit I was not easy to live with due to how miserable I was there. In her classic dramatic fashion, though, she waited until Thanksgiving Day to throw me out, and I was required to be out that night.

Some of this is not her fault. She is histrionic, she has Borderline Personality Disorder, and she is a very intelligent woman – she obtained her PhD in psychology and developed a successful practice. I suppose I can’t say she’s intelligent anymore after her brain injury… but that’s another thing entirely. She has … a complex mental situation going on, most of which has been there since before her accident.

I know she is the product of her own upbringing, her own dysfunctional environment, and I try to be as mindful of that as possible. It’s difficult, though, trying to extend grace to a woman who has destroyed me as a person in so many ways from the moment I was born until I broke off all contact with her a couple of years ago.

As the oldest child of an alcoholic father and codependent mother, and as a sexual abuse survivor, she curried favor wherever and however she could: It was a survival mechanism. As much as I can understand that intellectually, I still cannot truly come to terms with forgiving her for continuing those behaviors as an adult, and for teaching me to live as she did. Indeed, I cannot forgive myself for following her example for decades, because I literally didn’t know any better. I was oblivious.

I feel as if my dad had some loyalty, but he was neck-deep in his own trials with my mother, and I suspect that sucked most of the life and energy out of him. Today, I know (intellectually) he will defend me; but emotionally, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

Thus, my primary role model for such things, my mother, was terrible. I never learned that family irrefutably, unquestionably, has my back. I didn’t even realize that was a thing until I started seeing it amongst other families – in college – and it didn’t even sink in then as a behavior in which I myself could engage. I saw parents, siblings, spouses, and friends standing up for their loved ones – even when their loved ones were wrong. They stood by and defended, rather than pile on and henpeck. They surrounded that person emotionally, helped him or her to feel better, despite whatever was going on. How does that even work?

What a feeling that must be, knowing with complete faith and confidence that someone is going to be on your side. I’m pretty sure I had that with Mike, but not knowing to look for it, I never saw or understood it. Unconditional love – what a concept.

Sadly, I learned my mother’s way of doing things. It takes a lot of work to overcome that, even to this day. I’m still unlearning the old, learning the new. That is really embarrassing to admit: At my age, I don’t know how to person!

Don’t get me wrong – I love and have loved people deeply. I was just missing a key component of what that love should include, and how to receive that aspect of it.

The people I have in my life right now are wonderful examples to learn from, though. Seeing best friends steadfastly supporting each other, witnessing spouses finding strength together, hearing my own friends saying kind things about me when they don’t know it will come back to me… these blow my mind. It is an amazing thing I thought only existed on television.

The end result is this: I am a social and relationship moron.

I have spent my entirely life feeling almost entirely alone in my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, when in truth, the only thing I’ve been alone in is my mind. People have reached out to me – I just didn’t know the extent of what they were offering, because I didn’t speak the language.

I’m getting a small grasp on it now, day by day, lesson by lesson. Becoming a supervisor a few years ago helped immensely – I knew it was my job to support, protect, and defend my team more than any other function I might have. Because it was in a professional (and not personal) context, it was somehow easier to develop the skills from scratch. Thankfully, this helped me to become a more loyal person on the whole – not just at work. It helped me to develop new neural pathways which led away from the bitter emptiness of speaking more ill than good.

To everyone I have ever known – I apologize humbly and sincerely for my shortcomings, in this area and in every other. I hope I am worthy of forgiveness.

Thank you to those of you who have tried, and who continue to try, to turn me into A Real Human. There may be hope for me yet. <3

 

Familiar Terrain

November 28, 2011

In the Long Distance Rider world, a realm in which people far greater than I ride motorcycles more than 2000 miles in 24 hours, or 11,000+ miles in 11 days, there are many iconic figures. Chief amongst them, in my mind, is Robert Higdon. Bob will say he doesn’t ride well or far, but these are untruths of modesty.

Bob is a lawyer – I can only imagine he is outstanding in this field – and some of the liability aspects of the Iron Butt Association and its now-copious members occasionally pulse his blood pressure.

It is one thing to ride a motorcycle fast and far on public roads; it is quite another (in terms of potential liabilities) to write about it upon public fora, email lists, and websites, particularly if the riding occurred during the course of an organized event. Thus, back in the day when the LDR email list was slightly more civilized, and contained more signal than noise, we did not discuss Specific Speeds. We had a code of sorts, and that code revolved around Bob Higdon and his forehead.

The most egregious recklessness was referred to as “triple-Higdon speeds,” referring to the number of veins one would observe popping out on Bob’s Higdon’s forehead, were he to read such an account.

I miss having a little Higdon in my world from time to time, but I carry him with me, and he continues to mentor from the comfort of an overstuffed leather chair in my brain on an almost weekly basis.

What does Bob Higdon have to do with today?

My everyday life has been, for the last few months, a combination of single- to double-Higdon stressors, with the occasional triple-veiner burst. I’ve been trying to simply abide, to muddle through as best I can, but I slipped too far down the slope with the addition of a job I loathe, and in trying to climb back up to the precipice’s edge, I lost my tenuous grip and tumbled far down into blackness.

I am upright, lucid, moving around, taking in stimuli, but I am essentially the walking dead. I don’t know where I am, internally, and worse, I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what used to make me happy, let alone would make me happy now.

Common sense tells me what I should do, but I can’t be arsed to do it. It’s like there is a line on the ground – I can see the line, and I know what it represents. To start down the road to recovery, all I have to do is to step across the damned line. That’s it.

But I can’t find the motivation to do it.

I can’t even really look at the line itself; I have to take it in with a furtive, sidelong glance.

People who have never been depressed, who have never suffered from a lack of motivation, will read that and say, quite correctly, “That is absurd. Walk across the fucking line, you incredibly silly person.”

It seems so easy to them, and it probably is. Except for those of us who can’t even look at the line, let alone interact with it or walk across it.

I maintain an uneasy awareness of the line, and its relative proximity. Some days, it’s right there and I feel ready to try … but balk at the last second after getting a good look at it from right up close. Other days, I sense it vaguely in the distance, a far-off brightness in the grey evening light where I have been living.

Being around other people is difficult at best, impossible at worst, but is of course part of what one must endure in day-to-day life. My job is to provide technical support (from home) to troubled, confused, angry, and frustrated customers over the phone, via support ticket, or in a live chat. The support ticket is the preferred method of communicating with customers, as it places no real-time pressure on a person. There is no opportunity for real-time abuse or desperation. Everything is held at arm’s length, and we like it that way.

However, some customers prefer to “talk voice” (as we used to say in the old days of the internet.) I’ve never been any good at distancing myself from my customers’ emotions, and this is especially true when they are on the phone with me. If the customer is polite with me, and civil, despite their broken technology, I take on their frustrations at a personal level. If they are friendly and sweet, this amplifies my take on their emotions.

The simple solution is, “don’t do that,” right? I’m a highly-sensitive person. I am empathic, sympathetic, wanting to make people happy. I literally do not know how to back away, how to put up healthy barriers, how to keep a person needing help out of my personal space.

To compound matters, I hate computers. I’m not saying this to be funny – I truly hate them, and the feeling (as far as I can tell) is mutual. When I am near, computers sometimes behave in completely unpredictable ways. Incidents that might otherwise be written off as “flukes” or “once in a million” are fairly standard behavior when I am using them.

You, likely being a rational, sane person, read this and think, “that’s probably not quite the case, slightly-crazy lady; you are simply doing it wrong.” I used to think the same things when my mom reported bizarre computer problems I could not reproduce. However, the older I get, and the more quirks I see, the less I am able to dismiss the oddities that happen to me daily.

This is neither here nor there, really – the main point is, I am trapped in a job I loathe, and I am not skilled to do anything else.

This place where I am is not entirely unfamiliar – indeed, I know the landscape pretty well. Thanks to a series of piss-poor decisions in my first years of college, I opted out of the career path where I belonged (life sciences) and squandered most of my fairly expensive education (seven years at the University of Michigan, a place where I could have done great and wonderful things, had I chosen to avail myself of its resources and opportunities.) I could have done real and lasting good, I believe, had I not seen all the math and chemistry on this path and frantically fled in the opposite direction.

I landed in Information Technology, because it was there, it was easy, and I didn’t hate it yet. I have never been extraordinarily gifted with computers, but neither did I utterly fail with them, and I found work mostly in this field for a good fifteen years, right up to the present moment. Not being particularly interested in computers means a lot of the details do not stick with me. I am not compelled to discover how they work, or why they do not. I do what I need to do, and I provide excruciatingly good customer service as I do it.

Each phone call, each live chat, each ticket, takes a little piece of my soul because I hate it so much. Each failure stays with me, affects me for too long. Each triumph seems hollow and meaningless, apart from making someone happy (or at least less pissed-off.)

It is because I hate my job so much, because I am so disenchanted with my life, that I am writing this post from a very nice hotel on the beach of Lake Michigan. There is an absurdly large jacuzzi tub in the bedroom, a living room, a modest bathroom. A view of the canal leading to the lake. I will be here for two days.

Years ago, I would watch the movie “Switch” with some frequency. I loved Ellen Barkin’s portrayal of a man suddenly in a woman’s body. I may be mis-attributing the quote, but as I recall, Ellen Barkin is talking about a desire to get away from it all, and references Gaughan “chucking it and moving to Tahiti.” That line remains with me, and adequately sums up the feel I sometimes – a powerful urge to chuck it and go someplace new, start over. Have some drinks on the beach.

Tonight, I chucked it and came to St. Joseph, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The drive took over three hours, thanks to unholy traffic at the intersection of the two main highways I had to travel. It was raining, windy and cold, but my urge to flee was at least being sated, even at 5 miles per hour. I fled from my job, from my marriage, from my home – basically from my miserable life. A change of scenery to jolt the system, however temporarily.

Benton Harbor, the town next door to St. Joseph, is under political assault right now from our state’s Governor. The divide between the affluent, predominantly white St. Joseph and the poor, predominantly black Benton Harbor is a bridge that would take less than a minute to walk across on foot. I’ve driven through Benton Harbor twice this season, and each time I’ve thought, “this doesn’t look like a city that would be in the news.” It looks like a city that’s fallen on hard times, made worse by a series of events which culminated in the Governor removing the city council’s right to govern itself. . It looks like parts of Detroit back in the late eighties and early nineties. Benton Harbor is depressed and lost, and in those respects, we are alike. I might feel more comfortable over there, in fact, than in the touristy, upbeat, expensive-boutique-laden cove of Silver Beach in St. Joseph.

My hotel is nice, but not extravagant. They use compact fluorescent bulbs and other power-saving measures. They are environmentally conscious.

Still, as I stepped into the jacuzzi tub which I had filled with probably 150 gallons of hot water, I was Erin the Great Consumer of Resources. I wondered how many peoples’ thirst would be slaked by the water I was simply bathing in for pleasure. Unable to carry the water to them at the moment, I climbed in and did my level best to let the water jets soothe away the guilt. The tub’s enormous proportions made it impossible to get really comfortable. While I will normally enjoy a soak in the tub for a good two hours, I was out within 45 minutes, guilt not appeased and in fact made worse by the short duration of the water’s use. It drained away, taking a good fifteen to twenty minutes to do so, not taking my anxiety or lack of motivation with it.

The day after tomorrow, I will make the trek back home. The vividness of this trip will sustain me for a few days, maybe a week, and then I’ll be back in the gray lands of full-blown depression, trying to find the line, and then shying away from it.

I sometimes wish I were a wanderer, life able to be packed in a bag or two, no roots – free.

Free.

I don’t even know if freedom is attainable anymore.

I Woke Up

November 5, 2011

I woke up in my forties astride a Harley, and realized I had done everything wrong.

Every shred of potential I ever had, squandered. All the amazing people who cared for me over the years, systematically pushed away. Huge opportunities for personal growth, ignored.

These days, I power-down when I’m not around other people, but by the same token, being around others wears me out utterly.

I don’t know how to be a person.

When I’m sad or depressed, I cannot look people in the eye. I feel autistic, I can’t make myself do it, and I don’t know why. I haven’t looked at my husband in over a week. He notices.

There have been points in my life when I’ve been happy – they are typically fleeting. I didn’t grow up “a happy” child; I was “an excruciatingly self-critical” child. Hyper-aware of every move and expression, thanks to my mother’s exacting judgment.

At age 10, she taught me to start hating my body by encouraging me to bleach my arm hair when I became self-conscious about it. She could have simply reinforced a positive self-image, but she was too far gone down the rabbit hole of society’s expectations. She gleefully foisted those onto me.

When I was 12, she began forcing me to let her tweeze my eyebrows, lest they be too thick and unfeminine. Heaven forbid I end up “another Brooke Shields!”

In high school, she had me shove my C-cup breasts into minimizing bras.

She forbade me from wearing tucked-in shirts because they were unflattering to my high waist and oddly-shaped hips.

When I was a size 8 in high school, she wanted me to diet.

She made me hyper-conscious of every possible physical flaw – something I never outgrew.

These things, and so many more, crushed my young self-esteem and joy into coal, stopping short of diamond by fathoms.

But wait – I started out talking about the Harley. I bought that Harley after one test drive because of that moment of awakening. I was connected at a spiritual level with that machine… and I hoped it might make me feel alive and awake all the time.

I tried to prepare my husband for the purchase I had already made in my heart. Rather than buy it outright, I put down a deposit and made my case to him. He didn’t really seem to have strong feelings one way or the other, but wouldn’t commit to a “yes” or a “no.”

It was a futile gesture, really – I was going to buy it, regardless. And I did. One day he came home and it was parked in the garage. He was so livid, he stormed down to his office basement and called his mother. I didn’t realize this until I picked up the phone to use it myself and heard him speaking to her.

Rather than come to me and hash it out like an adult, he ran to his mom.

That is a theme unto itself, though – he and I cannot communicate. We just… don’t. We co-exist, we cuddle up at night, and we carry on with our dreary, frustrated lives.

Motorcycles break me out of that foggy existence. It is nearly impossible to be riding a motorcycle down a road and be dead inside. Two wheels and a twisty country road make my soul hum in tune with the engine.

He does not understand this at all. He resents me for riding, I think. I resent his resentment.

So it goes.

Now that I’ve had that moment, is my life going to be radically different? Changed forever?

Not yet. I’ve had the bike for several months, and while I’m Awake riding down the road, I am in twilight still at home. I’m not sure what catalyst I need to jolt me into full-time Humanness, but the Harley was just a stepping stone on the path.

But at least now, I can perceive there is a path.