Sunday’s visit was “better,” all things being relative. She was more alert and I’m fairly certain she did recognize me at times. Dad wondered if taking in photos of me when I was younger might stir some recognition, so I went through and found a few representative pictures, including one of the two of us together when I was eight or nine.
When I arrived, she was sitting in her Jerry chair in the community room. There were perhaps eight or so other patients in there, sitting alone or around a table, and Mom was off to the side, staring off into whatever her mind was trying to show her. I pulled up a chair and sat next to her.
I laid the photos on her tray. She clutched at them, almost reflexively, but did not hold them up herself. I held them up, one by one, explaining the photos were of me, of her and me together, and I think she might have had a second or two of recognition there.
Due to background noises, my bad hearing, and her quiet volume, I could not hear or understand most of what she said. Once home, I imported the video I took into Adobe Premiere Pro and amplified the volume. I think she said at one time, “hug me… if you can…” but I did not hug her because I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Heart-breaking. Of course I would have, had I heard. Once, she said fairly clearly, “help me.” Oh, my, I wish I could.
To be completely honest, there were a few moments when I thought I should end it all for her by gently, ever-so-gently, holding a pillow over her face until she quietly suffocated to death. It would not take much, or long. However, I realized that forensic science (should that be called upon,) would quickly discover the cause of her death, and I certainly did not want to spend any time in prison, even for such a crime of compassion. I thought about suggesting to the nurses they give her “a little extra PRN” (as-needed morphine doses,) and very quickly realized that was just a terrible idea. This was Mom’s path to walk alone; no one else could legally help her along.
One thing she asks often is “why…?” At times, it seems like a full question unto itself, at others it seems like she has something more to add but then trails off after the first word. I don’t know whether she’s asking why in general, or why about something specific, but there is no answer I can give her. There’s no good reason for any of it, other than pure human frailty being a motherfucker sometimes.
She manages to communicate snippets, incomplete thoughts. Not long after I arrived, she mumbled something about “my sisters,” but I don’t know what she was saying or asking about them. She has two younger twin sisters, only one of whom has she seen in recent times.
“I want you to stay…” she later said, I think to me, but wasn’t sure.
She is typically very agreeable – when someone makes a suggestion or asks her a question, her response is often a weak, simple, “okay,” with an lift at the end, like a small child. Unless she really doesn’t want the thing being suggested, and then there will be a “no…” with varying degrees of intensity.
I wonder where she is in her head, what she sees, what she believes to be true.
I settled in for this last visit, and, like millions of children before me, I reversed our roles and wiped my mother’s nose; I helped get her fed and changed and bathed; I soothed her to sleep with my voice as I stroked her hair. I thought of singing her a song my parents made up for me when I was a toddler, but didn’t think I could bear it myself.
Perhaps the most important thing about this visit was Forgiveness, and I thought long and hard before saying anything about that to her. I weighed out the pros and cons of lying versus actually being able to forgive versus not saying anything at all. I don’t know that I can forgive her – I don’t even know all the things I need to forgive her for, there’s so much. Then again, this person in front of me was not the same person who committed all those acts of maternal treason years and years ago.
Yet how do I forgive a person who cannot remember the things that she’s done to me? How could I not? I know that forgiveness is as much for me as it is for the person receiving it, but my own benefit has never really been a good motivator for me. If it were a lie, it would be for her, and how could I begrudge her that?
I don’t even know that it was a true thing when I said I loved her. It’s been so long since I’ve thought of her with any shred of positive emotion that I no longer actively feel the love for her as my mother. What I felt was compassion and kindness and despair for a fellow human being who was suffering and who should be let go. I felt a generic sort of love for a now-gentle and helpless person. Subconsciously, of course, I’m sure all sorts of havoc was being wreaked.
I cried or struggled not to cry a lot on Sunday. I’m sure some of the tears were related to the painful past we shared, and, to some degree, acknowledging that my mother was in fact dying no matter how estranged we might be. The first time I really felt certain she recognized me was … profound, I suppose. It wasn’t long after I arrived Sunday, when we were still sitting in the community room. Our eyes locked, and hers seemed clearer for a moment. She clutched at my hands, reached out on her own and touched my face. Not long after, I cried a full-fledged cry, surrounded by strangers in various degrees of suffering, in various degrees of awareness and lucidity. One of the nurses kindly and silently brought me a box of tissues when she saw me, and her compassion renewed my tears.
I thought to apologize to her, but I realized that crying in situations like this is normal and natural and healthy. Nothing to be ashamed of, although I am always ashamed when I cry in front of other people. My traditional “Stuff all the feelings down just like this casserole” Midwestern upbringing forbids ugly crying in public or in front of … well, in front of anyone, really.
Here, however, it would probably be more peculiar if I did not cry. In the face of this kind of suffering in any living being, how could anyone not be moved to tears? What kind of monster would not cry upon seeing her own mother in such a state?
In the end, everything is stripped away, everything but the most basic needs, the most basic thoughts, the most basic feelings, wants, desires. The need for human contact, the need for physical comfort, the need to be cared for and reassured. There’s nothing left of any residual badness or evil or unkindness from the past; all of that has been cleaved away leaving this empty husk, a bare shell of a woman who seems very sweet, very gentle… and full of needless suffering. So much pain.
Her former business partner and close friend wrote some kind words about Mom to my aunt, and I realized once again how the outside world knows a very different Lynn than I did. No one else experienced her as a mother, and most people from her public persona would never believe the things she said or did. How could such a kind, generous, sweet, compassionate woman be so cruel? Because untreated Borderline Personality Disorder, that’s how. She was both personae, now she is neither… though she is closer to her public persona than her private. This is a good thing for her and for everyone around her.
She’s obviously suffering so much. She is in constant discomfort, even while she’s sleeping, and she is obviously distressed in her thoughts as well as in her physical sensations.
This photo shows, starkly, the overall tone and sentiment of my visit with Mom Sunday, the second day. Both of us overshadowed by the agony of her affliction.
One of the fears I had about visiting her was of making things worse. If she did recognize me, would it cause her stress, anxiety, too much excitement? What if she did recognize me, and was reassured that I was there… and then I was suddenly gone? Would that traumatize her anew? These were among many fears and concerns I had to stare down in their red, beady eyes.
I’ve read about how people try to interact with dementia patients, though it was suddenly very starkly clear I was unprepared for this. Things are different when it’s personal. Things are different when 48 years of life and experience are scattered and flung to the four winds, leaving me standing alone in the barren field of her dementia. She was there, but not there, caught in some purgatorial hinterlands of her own failing mind.
I knelt before her, having no idea where to start.
“Mom? Hi. Hi, it’s me, it’s Erin. I’m your daughter.” I managed a weak smile. She was fairly sedated, and could not keep her eyes open for long. When they were open, it was difficult to get her eyes focused on me (or on anything, for that matter.) After awhile, same nurse who told Mom I was here knelt with me before her chair with the tray removed. She took Mom’s hand and put it on my face and took a very authoritative, loud tone.
“Lynn, Lynn – your daughter is here. Your daughter is here. She came to see you. Touch her, hug her! She’s here and she loves you!”
I had not yet said “I love you,” and I wouldn’t for awhile. I didn’t want to lie, and I didn’t know whether it was true. I was still trying to adjust to this wretched figure before me being my mother.
I had the feeling the nurses’s words were as much for my benefit as for Mom’s; she didn’t know our history, she only knew Mom had been asking for me and that I had never visited. She kept trying, kept putting mom’s hand on my face, kept trying to get her eyes to open and focus.
Then, after getting virtually no response from Mom, she said to me, “Oh my God, her brain is just gone, it’s gone.” Mom’s hand fumbled on my face and neck limply and without much response. “Lynn! Touch your daughter, she came to see you from California. Lynn! Lynn! Your daughter loves you!” This was the first time I came to tears – the kindness of the nurse, coupled with her stark words, mixed with the enormity of our relationship, of the situation.
My mother’s house was a very nice two-story Colonial in a good neighborhood, full of her books and beloved possessions. Here, she was sharing a room with another dementia patient, with only a few scattered belongings to remind her of home: Some photos, my old deacon’s bench that held my toys for so many years, one of her favorite paintings, a few knick-knacks on a bookshelf. Nothing more.
Mom walks almost continuously. If she is not sleeping, she wants to walk. This is apparently common in dementia patients, and in her case, they believe she is looking for me. She very frequently talks about “my daughter, I have to find my daughter,” and worries about me being in some kind of danger relating to water.
Sunday morning, my dad told me of a time when I was 4 years old and we were at Lake Michigan camping on the sand dunes. My mother was back at the campsite, while Dad and I were playing on the beach. I took it upon myself to wander off, he thinks maybe back toward the campsite, but I didn’t know my way and I got lost. I was only away from my parents for maybe 10-15 minutes at most, he said. However my mother was in an absolute panic, and I’m certain it felt like a small eternity to her and probably to my father as well. He wondered (and now I do as well) if that’s where she thinks she is, and why she feels like I’m in danger and need rescuing. Cruel. Stuck not in happy times from her past, but horrible ones.
We got her laid out on her bed, only ever so briefly before she struggled to get up again and resume her endless march, and I looked over her tiny body closely.
I recognized the mole on the back of her left calf, and not much else. Her face… no. Her entire person… no. There was no visible sign of my mother. She had been devoured, erased by this disease.
I went through the video, grabbing still shots and editing them, finding ways to express how she had faded away:
She was kept fairly medicated for pain, as she had fallen recently and had a huge, awful bruise all over the right side of her bottom and back of her right thigh. Because of the physical pain, she often wore an expression of anguish, which I amplified in some to show the awful, ugly reality:
One of the wonderful caretakers told me she had recently gotten Mom to smile and dance a little bit, but her dancing was just moving her shoulders back and forth. I was happy to hear she had a moment of fun. She told me that before Mom took a radical turn for the worse, she had a friend, Phil, on the floor who would walk with her. They would sometimes stop and kiss. Sweet.
The patience of these women was profoundly humbling; I could never hold a candle to a one of them. It is exhausting and difficult to keep track of my mother as she carries on in her search which will always only end in failure to find her goal. She can no longer walk alone, she has to be accompanied so she doesn’t fall.
Trying to get her into bed, even when she is literally falling asleep on her feet, is impossible. She has a nearly superhuman strength, apparently also common with dementia. It took everything I had to try to keep her lying down, or to get her to lie down – it was impossible without hurting her.
They could restrain her, it would be the easiest thing for them, but instead… they walk with her. They ask her questions, they try to get her to engage. When all else fails and they must attend to someone else, they sedate her further and wait. Her tolerance is so high, they have to dose her repeatedly to get her to calm or sleep. She seems to be more comfortable in her Jerry chair than in bed, so we try and try again to seat her for more than 30 seconds at a time.
She wants her hands held almost all the time, she wants human contact, and reaches for every hand she sees. While she was lying down quietly for a rare moment, I held her hand for the first time.
After awhile, convinced I would keep close watch, they left me alone with her to walk the halls. Eventually, I closed us in her room, because she was so medicated that when she stopped to turn around at the end of the hall, she stooped over asleep. I wanted to keep her close to her bed and chair, and so we walked in circles around her room. She would sometimes try to open the door, but I held it shut. She shuffled to the other end of the room and seemed to look at the photos on the bookshelf or out the window, but I don’t think her eyes actually saw anything external. I’m fairly sure her eyes were closed, and when her grasping fingers touched upon and gently held the picture frames, she was only keeping herself upright as she fought the many milligrams of morphine.
At one point, she said, “itch my back,” and I thought maybe she recognized me at that moment because she would make that request of me sometimes, but perhaps not. Saturday was mostly just incoherent walking. I talked to her a little, and, when she was clearly in physical agony or was excessively worried about something going on in her head, I would reflexively say, “everything is ok.” What an exceptional lie. Nothing was ok. Absolutely nothing at all was “ok” in her world of turmoil.
I left after perhaps four hours, after which time I was exhausted. It was not a productive or satisfying visit in any way, I had not reached her at all. It was only ceaseless shuffling and struggling, punctuated by seconds of calmness. I went home to my dad and step-mom’s house to ponder, to recover, to wonder.
I began writing this on November 6th while I was back in Michigan. Things have happened since then, and will be in the next few posts.
My mother is dying.
For many of you, this statement strikes a powerful and poignant chord in your hearts as you envision how you would feel were your own mother dying, or as you remember how you did feel when she passed. I empathize with you deeply, and envy you having a relationship with your mother that was different from me with mine.
My mother has Borderline Personality Disorder, which brings with it histrionic, manipulative, and generally cruel behaviors. While she stopped short of physical abuse, the emotional and psychological abuses were vicious. Because I didn’t know how dysfunctional our family was until I was in my thirties, I felt “close” to my mother for a few decades before realizing what we had was not closeness at all, but a wildly co-dependent relationship. I was the very definition of a preoccupied child.
My mother raised me to be both ego-maniacal and incredibly insecure. Depending upon her mood, I was both the best and worst possible child a mother could ever have, and I’ve written about that elsewhere on this blog. To this day, I still wrestle with low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and other psychological and emotional issues as a result of her unceasing, relentless judgment. Fortunately for me, a gang of wonderful millennials taught this old dog some new interpersonal and personal tricks, and I’ve been so enriched by following their example. Thus, anyone who denigrates millennials as a whole will receive an entire earful from me about “not all millennials,” and how my particular kids have given me a lot of hope for the future of our species.
I don’t remember why she was crying here, but this was before The Great Schism.
In 2010, my mother was in a very minor 5mph car accident in which she hit her head including a direct blow to her Broca’s area on the driver’s side window, which left her with very bad paraphasia, visual disturbances (including the inability to make sense of written words or letters,) bad coordination, and terrible memory issues. Her life was irrevocably altered in an instant due to the misconduct of one reckless driver, as was my ability to reconcile any issues from my childhood with her – she simply did not remember them, and, cruelly, could not remember why I resented her so much. She only remembered the happy times, whereas I mostly remembered the bad.
I’ll spare you the lengthy details of the ensuing legal battles with her insurance company, but suffice to say she was completely screwed from every quarter. Despite the fact we had not spoken in over two years, I became her legal Guardian and Conservator, as well as her primary caretaker for over a year. It was unpleasant for both of us, and I admit I resented her the entire time.
Due to the duration of the legal battle, and the pitiful insurance settlement she received, she lost her car, her home, and most of her belongings. After 15 months, I could no longer stand it, and I surrendered Guardianship and Conservatorship to a law firm who specialized in those things. They’ve done a good job, as far as I can tell.
Since surrendering responsibilities, I have not seen or spoken to my mother. I learned she had been placed into an assisted living apartment because she was not safe living on her own. Then, she went into full-fledged adult foster care in a hospital facility. Last month, her case worker phoned to say she was not doing well and I should come see her if it was important to me to speak to her before she died. She wasn’t expected to pass immediately, so I had some time to decide.
I debated a lot as to whether I wanted to go back home to say goodbye. 90% of me did not. I sought my friends’ advice, which was overwhelmingly (and gently) this: Go, because you may regret it if you don’t. Go for yourself, if not for her. Go, in case she might recognize you. Go, unless it will truly destroy you as a person. Go, because you’re more likely to regret not going than having gone. Go.
Thus, when I received the call last week that she was in the end stages, I booked a flight for the next day and made arrangements.
This was how she looked about a year ago in a photo taken by my aunt:
Such a lost, yet hopeful expression; it just about makes me cry to look at.
Driving over to the facility, I made attempts to steel myself for this visit, but I had no idea what to expect. I realized I couldn’t very well prepare myself for whatever lay ahead and surrendered to whatever was going to happen. I was both relieved to be alone and also really wanting “Walter” with me. Business had taken him back home, and he could not come along. He told me I was strong, and that I could do this. Part of me believed him. Part of me was glad he wouldn’t see me crumple because that would surely inevitably happen.
When I arrived at the absolutely wonderful rehab facility that has been her home for the last year, I parked and went inside. Registering at the desk, I received her room number and directions. Exiting the elevator, I knew I was scant moments from seeing what I didn’t want to see, but had to see.
I approached her room, which was near the end of a hall. Inside, two beds, both empty. Some personal effects I recognized as inherently “Mom.” The beds’ mattresses were thin, much like camp cot mattresses atop frames that could be hand-cranked to raise and lower head and feet. There wasn’t much in the way of noticeable smells.
I knocked softly and called, “hello?” as I peeked inside. To my immediate left, two nurses had a gruesome figure in the shower. I saw this wretched, skin-and-bones, whimpering … the only word that comes to mind is “hag” of a woman being held up and firmly but gently sponge bathed. I don’t use “hag” as a derogatory term here: It is the only word I can use to convey the grimness of the apparition before me. Skin hung off her bones from head to foot, her breasts swung around her waist, bones jutted from her hips and legs, her normally dyed-dark-brunette hair was shoulder length, wild, and completely gray, her face a contorted rictus of misery. She was whimpering in misery almost constantly, in obvious physical and emotional distress.
The expression she wears here is how she appears most of the time – in agony. In hell.
Thus it was I saw my mother for the first time in over five years.
I would never have recognized her.
I stepped back into the hallway to preserve her privacy in such a state of misery and nakedness. I was stunned, heart-broken. My aunt had sent me a photo to help prepare me for what I was going to see, but even it didn’t show anything near the depths of despair to which my mother had sunk. When she went into assisted living, I would imagine she weighed well over 200 pounds. Now? Perhaps 100. When I last saw her, she was oriented and aware of her surroundings, had a sense of herself, and could remember some things about the past. Here? No longer.
When I told the two lovely women who I was, they were astonished. “Lynn!” exclaimed one woman with a beautiful central African accent. “Lynn! Your daughter is here!”
I heard a whining, barely-audible mumble from the skeletal figure. The nurse replied, “I’m not lying, your daughter is here!”
After a few minutes, they had finished bathing her and dressing her in what must have been clothes from the Goodwill, and then helped her teeter-shuffle out of the bathroom. They managed to get her into her Jerry chair, a wheeled medical chair with a locking tray to hold her in – an adult-sized high chair, as it were.
I knelt before her, overwhelmed with compassion and sadness.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
“Do you really need more than one?” is a question commonly asked by non-riders. N + 1, baby; N + 1.
I have dated many men and women over the decades, and I’ve run the gamut of good relationships and bad. Of the <cough><insert number here> people who have been in that mix, vanishingly few of them have ridden motorcycles – which is simultaneously a tragedy and a blessing in disguise.
On the “blessing” side, having partners who don’t ride guarantees me a certain measure of Alone Time, no matter what. I’m an only child (“ooohhh,” people always say, nodding; “that explains a lot,”) and I needs mah Space. My soul gets restless and itchy if subjected to people non-stop for a long period of time.
On the tragedy side, if someone doesn’t know that irresistible beckoning of two wheels, hasn’t ever experienced the promise of a full, cold tank of gasoline pressing against their thighs, hasn’t ever had to dodge an errant cage driver, hasn’t ever downshifted and rolled on through a big, long, smooth sweeper… can we really connect? Yeah, of course we can… but there’s always going to be that impassable gulf between us. Stopping and taking a break on a particularly breathtaking ride and being able to share the view and the whole damn experience with someone I care about is superb. I miss that.
Non-riders look at motorcycles and see Machines; we look at them and see beautiful, endless possibilities. Miles of ’em.
Fuck yes, I want this between my legs more than most things most of the time. This is apparently difficult to understand. No, it has nothing to do with vibration.
Too, I don’t just ride – a ride a lot. It is, after all, the biggest reason why I moved to San Diego. It’s November 26th, and I just got home from a spectacular five-hour ride that was only a little chilly at the beginning of the morning. My poor Michigan friends, as well as our other northern bretheren, are stuck making vroom-vroom noises in their garages for another 5ish more months.
Time and time again, so many of the married riders I know (men and women alike) who don’t have a spouse who enjoys riding lament their misfortune. They speak of “kitchen passes” and sometimes have “curfews” and limitations on how many days per week they’re “allowed” to ride. Others are more fortunate and have understanding, gracious partners who happily allow them the time they need to bond with their machines and riding buddies, which makes the time they choose to spend together all the more fantastic. I love seeing my friends happy in their relationships – it’s such a refreshing change of pace from the all too common bitching and moaning about a less-than-perfect marriage.
My ex-husband just didn’t get it, and over the brief six years we were together, the more time I spent on the road, the more he came to resent my most treasured hobby. When I bought a Harley in 2012 (sssshhh, we’re all friends here, no judging,) he was so furious… he called his mom to tell on me. Oh gosh – Stuff just got real. He was a great guy, make no mistake, but our compatibility fell well short of where it should have been in a number of areas. Eventually, I had to flee to save both of our sanities.
Now, having uprooted myself and relocated cross-country for the third time, I am faced with a dilemma – Am I willing to compromise on this key area again? The bigger part of me says “of course!” but there is a nay-sayer in the back of my head, clucking her tongue and inhaling through her teeth if someone isn’t a rider. “I dunno,” she says, skepticism virtually dripping off her words, “is s/he going to start getting shitty when I do overnight trips with other people? What about when both weekend mornings are consumed by club rides? Are we willing to sacrifice that?”
Sure, if I’m head-over-heels in love, I’ll compromise, but “head-over-heels” seldom happens. I am a seeker by nature, and it takes a lot to get me in it to win it. Once In It, however, I’m 100% there as long as everyone’s happy.
Cue the inner pragmatist, who seldom sees the light of day: There are a lot of damn pitfalls in any potential match – politics, monogamy versus poly, incompatible schedules, lack of geographic proximity, hatred of something important to the other… should I really narrow my field by another order of magnitude?
Sure, I could drive up here… but it’s soooo much more fun to ride.
Thus far out here, every rider I’ve taken a liking to has already been snapped up by some other lucky human, and I have painfully learned my lesson about keeping my hand out of that particular cookie jar. Granted, there are a lot of good things about being single – a whole lot. I am beholden to no one, I set my own schedule without fear of reprisals, I don’t have to check in. “Is there money in the bank? Yes? Sweet, let’s go!” “Do I feel like just not coming home tonight? Fuck it, I’m staying in Borrego Springs until morning.”
Of course, there’s the distinct lack of sex, which is problematic. But these are the choices I make. For now. <twitch>
Meeting people is a bit tricky when online dating doesn’t work for me. I need to meet someone organically through a common thing – motorcycles, for example, would be great. Or shooting pool. Or snorkeling. Shooting. Photography. Or whatever thing we have in common that provides a foundation to build upon other than, “Hey, so I hear you’re looking for someone to date, too!” <awkward laugh> OKCupid is a fucking nightmare. Tinder? Ick.
It would be fun to have someone to Do Stuff with (it’s difficult to talk random friends into cage diving with Great White Sharks to the tune of $3000,) but at what expense? As with all things, I need to relax and just let time play its track out. I’ve sort of settled into being single for the rest of my life at this point – I’m 47; my dating pool is shrinking by the nanosecond. The last several people I’ve dated have been in their twenties, but obviously, while super fun, those sorts of gigs aren’t going to be terribly long-term due to the sheer magnitude of experience differentials. At this point, I’m seeking a grown-ass person who has their shit together, who, for one reason or another, is single. Oh, and who would find me remotely interesting. Where they at?
Alright, enough bemoaning the woeful state of my non-existent love life, y’all. I am so exceptionally fortunate in damn near every other area, I think I can be cool missing out on this. Right? Right.
Some days we never want to end, others cannot expire soon enough. This past weekend held a little of both, though the good certainly outweighed the bad and the ugly.
As one might surmise from the title, this is going to be a long one, folks, and we’re going to cover a lot of ground (badly, and without much in the way of Organization, might I add.)
Let’s start with the bees, because they’re important, they’re dying all around us, and three of them had important cameos this week. Wait, lies – Let’s start with this weekend’s plans, because they factor into everything.
On Tuesday, I decided to tag along on a group motorcycle camping trip to the Salton Sea from Friday through Sunday. I’d not done motorcycle camping since 1996, and what better way to get back into the swing of things than with a gaggle of other like-minded folks?
Ok, now the bees.
That morning, I had found a very sickly looking bee on my patio furniture. I see dozens of dead bees around my apartment complex, which is always a sad thing. I have to assume there is some kind of pesticide they’re using which is killing them off in tragic droves, one by one, dozen by dozen. I find them lying on the sidewalk every day. I don’t know what sort of bees they are, or whether they are solitary, but I do know we need every last one of them that’s left on this Earth.
“To understand many things you must reach out of your own condition.” ~Mary Oliver
Thus, when I saw the wee girl on my chaise lounge, I didn’t have much hope of her being alive. I gently blew across her wings, and she reared up into a groggy but distinctly defensive position: Middle legs and stinger raised, wings outstretched, facing this new unknown threat. Immediately after assuming this posture, she lost balance and tumbled onto her side. Oh, dear. Poison? Cold? I have no idea how to distinguish a poisoned bee from one that is simply too cold. I watched her for a few seconds as her legs clumsily churned in slow motion, trying to get her upright.
I can’t stand to see animals suffer; it causes me anguish in a deep, sensitive, delicate area. My first instinct was that she was dying, and that I should end her suffering. That’s such a final solution, though – I wanted to give her the chance to survive. Hoping she was cold and that I could warm her up, I placed my index finger alongside her body so the heat would radiate out to her. She immediately perked up and began scrabbling toward me – not in an aggressive manner, but in a keenly interested one: Her antennae and front legs reached forward ambitiously, her abdomen and stinger remained relaxed.
As quickly as she could, she climbed up onto my finger, legs frequently missing their steps and wobbling with every one, but she got there and then she sat quite still – only her antennae moved, daintily touching my skin, perhaps trying to figure out what I was, whether I was food, or just a heat source.
“This is quite an exercise in trust for us both, isn’t it?” I murmured.
I waited. After perhaps two minutes, her movements became more regular and coordinated, and after a minute more, she adroitly took to the sky where I hope she will live out a normal, healthy bee life. Thursday, the spectacle repeated itself as I found a similarly beleagured bee clinging to the wall near my elevator. She took much longer to come around, but eventually she, too, flew off into the sun. I videod that one, which is probably only of interest to me (and maybe Steven and Leslie:)
I hope this is amongst the right things to do, and isn’t causing them harm or more stress that will lead to terrible things. Thinking back to both of these times makes me feel happy: Altruism serves the self, too.
Flash-forward to Saturday night around a campfire burning in a large metal pit. A pale, half-inch-long spider ran in circles for over an hour along the rim of the pit, sometimes stopping to inquisitively check out its surroundings, but mostly just running around the rim fairly quickly. For awhile, no one else seemed to notice it, then Chuck pointed it out. We wondered why the circles – if it was too hot, why didn’t it simply hop off the edge into the cool darkness? Around and around and around, sometimes at what seemed like its top speed. Others began to notice it and watched.
I was worried someone was going to knock it into the flames – people are so often mindlessly cruel to tiny beings, particularly when we find them distasteful – but as far as I know, nobody did. I watched them watching it, trying to figure out what everyone, arachnid and human, was thinking. Naturally, I’ll never know. At some point, I looked for it, and it was gone – I hope off into the night to hunt some bugs, and not into the flames to briefly wither and then die. I was heartened, though, that at least for a half hour or 45 minutes, the humans elected to let it live. This brings us to:
Part Two: Compassion
We are strong when we show the smallest of beings compassion. Humans, lacking any real predators (though I do hold out hope for the bacteria and viruses to rein us in, perhaps soon,) might think we have little to lose or to gain by stepping on a spider or by putting it outside, unharmed. I posit we have everything to gain through compassion. The simple act of choosing kindness over cruelty or even over neglect actually changes our brain chemistry and our bodies. For the better. You can read a summary of one such study right here: Compassion Meditation. Scientific article here: Compassion Training Alters Altruism and Neural Responses to Suffering
Beyond quantifiable results, though, lie the more immediate, personal, less tangible ones: We feel good when we do good. Some might feel a sort of smug satisfaction when squishing an insect, but is it really a good feeling? Perhaps for some. If you’re someone who likes the idea of Power and Control, what greater satisfaction is there than to have the ability to decide whether something lives or dies? In the grand scheme of things, one spider, one bee, is meaningless to most of us – but it’s pretty fucking important to the spider and to the bee.
Let’s flip this around for those amongst us who aren’t of a mindset to live and let live. Let’s think for a moment about wild dolphins – these are powerful, intelligent animals, capable of quickly, easily, and efficiently killing humans in the water. Seldom does anything ever go wrong when people dive with them, though. Sure, there is the odd, misguided attempt at coupling, or a “rogue” habituated dolphin getting cranky, but most dolphin “attacks” get no worse than this – spoilers, no actual attack occurs, just enjoy:
They could kill us, but they choose not to. There’s a lot of power in that. Wild-animal-related human fatalities typically happen under circumstances that are usually the fault of either that particular person (getting selfies with wildlife, trying to pet or feed wildlife, provoking wildlife, et cetera,) or of People in General (areas where wildlife is often fed, encroaching onto territories, et cetera.)
Predators other than humans don’t tend to attack without cause – the stakes are too high, even for the apex predators (wolves, sharks, bears, et al.) They forever live in a PVP, very permadeath world (non-gamers, click the links to learn the lingo.)
All of us have the physical ability to intentionally harm or kill lesser beings should we so choose. There have been (thankfully rare) times in my past when I was needlessly cruel that to this day cause me the greatest shame I have ever felt. I don’t know why I did the things I did, and I wish more than anything I could go back and not do them. Instead, I have to live with those memories as a reminder of what I was capable of when my worst self took over and beg the forgiveness of a vast universe.
That Ian Malcolm quote, though: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” We all know how that ended up, don’t we: Velociraptors. Right? Right. The next time you see a spider or an ant that is not especially in your way, choose to let it live and see how that sits with you. I hope it takes, not only to benefit those critters who might otherwise be harmed, but also to benefit you, yourself – walk into the warm light, man; it’s really nice here. For all of us. I promise you won’t be any less of a badass by being kind – in fact, your level of badassitude will increase immensely because you could choose pain or death, and you instead chose kindness and life. That? That is the ultimate in strength.
I have digressed, per usual. My point: Be compassionate, because you can afford to be. It costs nothing to extend kindness, and I suspect that even the most calloused, blackened heart can be warmed through its practice.
Let’s get off this particular soapbox and move on: Part Three: Motorcycles (coming soon…)
The ends of our lives is often not an easy subject for us to discuss. It is, in many ways, taboo to give off even a whiff of being at peace with no longer being alive. We are supposed to cling to life – anything less is unforgivable.
Friends, I am here today to tell you that I am not afraid of dying. If I were to die Right Now, even if I were aware of what was coming, I would be at peace. I have no attachment to this life, no fear of things not done. I would feel pain for those people who care about me who would be saddened by my passing, but nothing more – even with this amazing new life unfolding before me, it would be ok.
Whether it was being killed in a motorcycle crash or an airline disaster or a heart attack or a shooting – In those final seconds (should I be conscious for them) I will be mentally ok. Curious, maybe nervous, but not afraid.
Why am I saying this? Because, when our friends and loved ones are ripped from us, it is traumatic and horrible for those of us left behind. Even if we know the person is “no longer suffering,” it is difficult not having them here anymore. We miss them. We love them. We try to figure out how to go on without them. We think of something we want to tell them, and can’t. It can be horrible to be left behind.
If we were not present for their passing, and we so often are not, we wonder if they suffered, if they were afraid, if they wished for something, if they had any last words, what their thoughts were. The not knowing is devastating.
I am telling you now: I will have no fear, no personal regrets of magnitude if I cannot carry on.
What I am afraid of, however, is lingering. I am not someone who wishes to be kept alive if my quality of life will be very small. Brain damage? Let me go, man. Paralyzed for life? Same – let me go into that good night.
If there is a solid chance I will come out of a coma, sure, give me a shot – otherwise, if the outlook is grim? Please find a way to make peace with it and let me go.
I understand most people want to stay alive, many at all costs – they have things they want to do, they have responsibilities or children or bucket lists. Are there things I want to do before I die? Sure! But should I die before doing those things, it won’t matter – I will no longer be here to want them.
Rather, I will have moved onto the great mystery – I’ll either know what comes next, or I will cease to exist, and I am very excited about the former, while being completely ok with the latter.
I was until this second certain I had written the following paragraph here or on Facebook, but apparently not. At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll share something that formed and shaped my view on death at a young age:
I first heard that song in 1984 at age 14, and I was so moved by it, so struck by the idea that we don’t have to only be sad or afraid of death, but keenly curious and interested, that it never left me.
Like so many of us, I’m very curious as to what comes after. I am not so much afraid (other than a very small, niggling, irrational concern that Hell might actually be a thing, and I might actually be sent there for not believing in the Christian God) as anticipating. While there are times when death sounds quite peaceful and relaxing, I’m not actively seeking its release. However, I’ve had a few dreams over the years which have been exceptionally vivid and felt 100% real at the time.
There were some that involved being stabbed and bleeding out or falling from an enormous height, but the one that left the deepest impression was this: Walking in a freezing winterscape, I fell into a swiftly-moving river that had ice on the banks and would soon kill me if not by drowning then by hypothermia.
As I was swept along in the current, watching the scenery go by, I had a crystal clear thought: “This is the last thing I am ever going to experience. I really need to pay attention to what’s going on right now, every thought, every feeling, every sight and sound.” It wasn’t a scary thought – just a powerful one. I realized I was about to die and I was ok with it. It was emotional in a sense, but nothing bad, nothing negative.
Many times in dreams, I know I’m dreaming – I’ve had other, lesser dreams that involved something that was going to kill me (falling, usually) but I knew it wasn’t real and therefore didn’t have the same thoughts.
It was intense and peaceful at the same time.
Mostly, I just hope people won’t worry about what went undone in my life: I’ve been so fortunate to have experienced a great many things, I’ve met exceptional people throughout my life, and I have squandered a ton of time. I could have done so much more, but I chose not to. It’s all ok. Promise.
It wasn’t until Wonder Woman came out that I fully understood how deeply I had been missing legitimate female badass characters on that scale and of that quality. We’ve all been aware of the very few roles that have heretofore fallen into that category because most of the scripts with those types of women also had men that did one of a few things:
1.) Bailed them out when they got in over their heads;
2.) Resented their power and were assholes about it;
3.) Betrayed them and caused them to question everything, ultimately finding the real meaning of love with another man;
4.) Et cetera.
In terms of the writing for the women characters themselves, the badass women were often bitches, hardasses, man-haters, childless, incapable of love, commitment, or relationships, or were just utterly cliche. There were precious, precious few otherwise “normal,” functioning human beings.
Years and years ago, I wrote a blog post about my favorite female characters in media. It begins by saying, “I may not be remembering correctly, but when I was growing up, I don’t recall many totally independent, strong female role models in television.” I want to reach back in time to my thirty-year-old self and pinch her cheeks. “Oh sweetheart,” I would say, “you’re remembering just fine.”
What brings this to mind is watching “Continuum” on Netflix. I’m only a few episodes in, but right from the first minutes of the show, I was struck by the complete normalcy of the lead character’s life outside of her badassedness. She is happily married with a child. Her husband just grins when she beats up a punk on the train and doesn’t try to stop her or back her up in any way – he knows she’s got this and he loves her for it. He just grins and lets her do her thing.
There are other shows now which have similarities: “Game of Thrones,” “Once Upon A Time,” and so forth, and they make me super, super happy. Farther back, “Buffy” did a pretty good job, too. Xena? Ehhh, not so much, really. “Firefly,” definitely.
This gives not only women something to reinforce what being a strong woman can mean, but it also helps men who might not understand that accepting and embracing a woman’s skill and strength is possible – it doesn’t have to be threatening. Some men of course just know this, but as a society, we do not – men and women alike, generally, don’t understand what’s possible because we have been told these stories since birth.
The media has done its damage to both genders, and part of what it’s done to men is to train them to be misogynistic in many ways, both large and small. Much like how racism is so ingrained in this culture, some of us with the best intentions and mindsets might have these things we feel or think and believe to be true that are only figments of what we’ve been told about race. It’s work to overcome, and such important work at that.
I think it probably takes a lot of mindfulness to be a good man in this world when it comes to women. Everything screams at them to behave in these certain masculine ways to their detriment and to women’s. They’re taught to believe that what I guess I think of as the “frat boy mentality” is the way things should be. Women are taught to believe this, too (myself definitely included,) and that steals away from us. Speaking from a heteronormative perspective here, we’re taught an entirely skewed meaning of sex: It’s the male’s job to convince us to “let them” have sex with us, and it’s our job to deny that unless it’s some kind of reward. We’re taught that denying sex to our partners for any reason will lead to smoldering resentment that will force him into the arms of another woman. “Isn’t it easier to just give in than to worry?”
Louis CK, for all his flaws, is one of my favorite comedians; I think he’s one of the most genuinely funny people alive today. I love watching his shows. In my most favorite of his shows, “Live at the Beacon Theater,” he does a bit on Pussy. You can see it in full here, with an introduction about how hormones make men stupid. The Pussy Bit begins at about 1:45 in. That’s the mentality. About four minutes in, he offers some redeeming thoughts about women having just as much sex drive.
This Saturday morning, I attended the breakfast before our BMW club’s group ride. Typically, breakfast is from 8am until about 9am, and then we ride. Today, things were not wrapping up on time. I found myself wanting to say, “You guys are worse than a bunch of women, let’s GOOOOOOOO,” and realized “… wow. That old saying actually has some important shit behind it that I never really thought about.”
In years past, I thought could utter that phrase “without harm” because I’m a woman – typically the only one present – and it should be funny and perhaps shame the men a bit into action. It must be obvious I don’t really believe all women have this problem, I know better, right?
Wow. There’s so much wrong with that, and I never saw the full scope of it until that day.
First, there’s the obvious dig at women in general because we (I first wrote, “they”) can’t contain their talking to get anything done. Next, there’s a woman saying it, reinforcing that notion. Last big one, it’s implying that men should feel ashamed to be compared to women. How the fucking hell was I so obtuse as to miss these points? Crossed that off my list of go-to phrases.
At the midpoint of the ride, there were four of us left in the group. Two of the men took off their helmets and immediately began combing their hair. Before I could think, “Look at you two, doing up your hair. Worse than women!” spewed out of my mouth and flopped onto the pavement like a dead animal. Everyone had a chuckle, but inside I was filled with shame.
Oh my fucking hells.
I know I’ve said these things countless times in the past; it’s an old habit. Old, stupid, wrongheaded habit (as habits often are.) I had made some similar comment in a group forum probably 20 years ago and another female member said, “wow, internalized misogyny much?” I scoffed, offended. This bitch doesn’t know me, she has no idea. I am, quite clearly, certainly far too self-aware to even entertain the idea of buying into that sort of misogyny. I’m being ironic, I convinced myself. This was before the term “ironic” was obliterated by millennials, mind you, and actually meant “ironic.”
Clearly, this must stop. I can soooooo easily see nuances of racism, but sexism is apparently an enormous blind spot for me – because a large part of me bought into it part and parcel. Some incorrect beliefs about myself, sure, but a huge number of absolutely 100% wrong notions about the entire swath of the female sex.
At my going-away party back in August, I was showing people how to play AudioShield in VR and likened it being like Wonder Woman fending off blows. I asked one of my favorite male friends, “do you want to feel like Wonder Woman,” in a mostly-joking kind of way, with overtones of sarcasm. Without missing a beat, he said, “Hell yes, I do!” and jumped in. Because Nathan is awesome and he knows it would be super fucking cool to be Wonder Woman. [EDIT: After reading this, my longtime friend Alex sent me the following fantastic link: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/halloween-gender-non-conforming-kids_us_59f7712ce4b09b5c25682078?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009 ]
There are so damned many blind spots, so many nooks and crannies that have been saturated with bullshit for so long, they don’t even recognize it anymore. In March of 2016, I underwent The Great Girly Transformation of eDar: I spontaneously fell in love with clothes and shoes and make-up for no reason I could think of.
This sent me into a tailspinner of an identity crisis, man – a whole bunch of Who I Was had heretofore been tied up in jeans, t-shirts, and engineer boots. Motorcycles. Guns. Cars. Planes. You know – Guy Shit. <sigh>
Part of me wonders if it’s because I’m a large person, and I perhaps subconsciously gave up on ever being the “perfect” vision of femininity, so I violently and completely rejected all the trappings of it. Maybe I saw the roles and stereotypes and couldn’t figure out how to reconcile those with who I was and wanted to be, and wasn’t bright enough to realize I could blaze my own feminine path. I dunno.
Recently, the universe has, through various means, dictated I now have two pink riding jackets. I’ve come to accept them, despite being wildly uncomfortable at first. I have violently hated pink for most of my life because it is girly. Far too girly for a non-girly girl such as myself, right? I wanted nothing to do with it. (“Internalized misogyny much?”)
Indeed, I’ve started actually embracing these pink jackets, and even bought matching pink gloves the other day because fuck yeah I can wear pink and still be a badass. I don’t have to try to disguise myself as Not A Girl – that’s silliness and insanity.
Yesterday, riding home from the club’s Sunday morning excursion, I stopped at a light near my home. I looked to my left and saw a little girl’s face pressed up against the car window, eyes wide, mouth literally agape. She was quite young – maybe six or seven, and she rolled down the window, but didn’t say anything; she just stared, eyebrows up as high as they would go. I grinned and waved at her. She giggled and waved back before hiding under the window. Her very young dad grinned, too.
This happens from time to time – young kids noticing a girl on a motorcycle and just going bonkers with surprise (usually followed by delight.) If I can inspire a few kidlets to shed stereotypes and be awesome? I’m very, very happy with that idea.
When I first starting creating website content for myself circa 1994 (before “blogging” was a word,) my main objective, my mission, was to connect with people and to put myself out there – warts and all – in the hopes of helping other people feel “ok.” Life is not television-show neat. Life is messy and complicated and human beings even more so. Some of my friends at the time objected, thought I was going too far, “showing my ass in public,” as it were, and they were in some cases absolutely right: There is such a thing as TMI sometimes. By and large, though? No regrets. I’ve met some of my closest friends from writing things on the internet.
With the advent of Mommy Blogs, that 1950’s Perfect Housewife mentality began making a resurgence, but a funny thing happened ten or so years after Mommy Blogging became a super lucrative venture: The mommy bloggers who wrote about imperfection, rather than having everything together, started to take off even more than those who portrayed their lives as neat and tidy. People who put their struggles and failures up got more traffic, and more loyal return traffic, than many of their “perfect” competitors. I have no hard data to back this up, mind you – I have over 10 years in the web hosting industry, and my source is purely anecdotal experience.
So, fellow humans, don’t hide, don’t buy into the shame, don’t isolate yourselves out of fear or anxiety. Connect and support and love and indulge and communicate with each other, warts and all. Steal the stigma away from those powerful talismans (mental illness, “embarrassing” health issues, feeling scared or small or like an imposter,) and talk to someone about them. If you don’t have someone in your life you feel won’t judge you, seek the anonymity of the internet (mind the trolls, obviously, but there really are Actual Safe Spaces for just about everything and everyone out there – moderated, supportive places.)
Having, as usually, strayed quite far from my original point, I’ll leave you with this: If anyone would be inclined to talk to me about anything at all, my ears and my heart are always open. I have made so very many bad decisions in my life, I’ve done so many things I regret and am ashamed of, I don’t judge. I can’t – I know what it’s like to be imperfect – it’s my every waking moment. If I seem like I have stuff together, that is an illusion: The Swan Defense – Serene on the surface, paddling like fucking crazy below. You can talk to me if you want. Anytime. <3
If you follow me on Facebook, you know things are happening very quickly for me right now, and man – I need to write this stuff out to get it all clear in my head. We’re going to cover a lot of material here, and I’m going to digress many times, so I won’t blame a soul if you get three paragraphs in and say “FUKKIT, TLDR.”
One of the roadways in the complex. This, to me, screams CALIFORNIA!
I have somehow managed to stumble through life riding this immense wave of luck on so many levels. When I step back and really look at where I have been, and what I have done… holy shit I have been incredibly fortunate. I am not saying this to brag in any way – I am saying it because I recognize I have not done anything to deserve it; it is LUCK. None of this happened because I earned anything. I have careened, headlong, into the most amazing people, places, and experiences. I am awed to my bones. I am grateful. I feel unworthy.
My day-to-day luck on the little things is often terrible – from the airline lying to me about carry-on sizes to almost losing my luggage to my Lyft driver getting lost several times an nearly getting me a parking ticket to computers loathing and despising me to a laughable first class “upgrade” to catching every red light… these are little things. These, I can handle.
The big stuff, though, and I realize I am tempting fate by saying this aloud, tends work out well. For this, I am thankful and humbled.
This is not a “humble brag,” nor is it fishing for reassurances or compliments – you guys already take care of me on that front very well. This is honesty – I don’t feel like I deserve you, or some of the good things in my life, but holy wow am I ever glad you have, for reasons I may never comprehend, taken a liking to me. I hope I am able to give some of that back to you – I pour my love into you, I carry you with me in my heart every moment of every day, but I don’t know if that shines through. I surely don’t tell you enough. I let my hermity ways interfere with socializing too often.
The Next Adventure
Because I work from home now, I can live pretty much anywhere on the planet I want (well, anywhere I can afford, anyhow.) While I love the idea of going ex-pat eventually, for now, I’ll stay state-side.
Right now, I’m in San Diego, in this lovely AirBnB house, hosted by a wonderful woman named Jessica. That I got this house at all was pretty much a small miracle unto itself – she is constantly booked, but just happened to be available for the duration of my time here. She is friendly and chatty. Originally from Jalisco, she’s now an American citizen, though that journey unto itself is quite a tale. We bonded quickly, and yesterday, we spent three hours talking while she colored my hair (she runs a hair studio next door.)
I’m here in San Diego (henceforth SDO because Lazy) because I wanted to scout it out as a potential place to move when my current lease is up. I must get out of Michigan. There is no other option. I am so miserable there in that environment – my people have made it fun and wonderful when I’m with them, but the every day of living there is just an ordeal, even with my beautiful friends backing me up. I resent it, because I know there are far better places out there. I have seen them. I’ve lived in some of them.
Riding around with my friend George today, I mentioned I’ve been on anti-depressants for years, but how only recently have I begun to feel Not Depressed. “Oh, they took years to start working?” he asked. I talked about how the drugs were doing their job just fine, but I wasn’t doing mine – I was just… coasting. I wasn’t doing the things that would make me happy. Increasing my serotonin uptake can’t make me happy in a city where I am miserable, or erase decades of self-doubt and self-loathing: That took a team effort.
This Job, Though
I am so fortunate Justin found me on LinkedIn. I almost didn’t answer him, because who ever gets legit, interesting offers there? I bumbled my way through the technical evaluation and my first few months. I am still not great, but he’s happy with me, and that’s what matters.
This man has my undying loyalty. He is a wonderful person, a generous and kind person, a laid-back and flexible person. He is not perfect, but he is in the top three people for whom I have ever worked. I will do whatever it takes to keep him happy with me…even if it means… learning Python. <shudder>
This job has, literally, changed my whole life.
I’ve noticed over the last few months it’s not just that I don’t feel depressed anymore – I think I’m happy. The weight of financial stresses, the enormous pressure from my last job, the fears of not succeeding at the new job… all of these things have sort of melted away, leaving me able to breathe for the first time in a long time.
George and I have wrestled with many similar issues, but have taken very different paths as a result. I still feel a deep kinship with him, though, as our mental states have a great deal in common. It was really nice talking with someone who understands what it’s like to be chronically troubled in some of the same ways I am.
Over the course of my life, I have met the most amazing people through completely random happenstance.
I met my Iron Butt friends on a total fluke – I was on a Honda 4-cylinder, single overhead cam motorcycle list, and heard of this “crazy guy” doing a record-breaking long-distance ride visiting all 48 contiguous states on his motorcycle in a ridiculously short period of time. He had a huge network of friends helping him with parts and logistics, but the ride itself was incredible.
My first reaction was, “wow, what a colossally stupid, dangerous thing to do!!” Then I read more. And more. And I joined an email list.
Less than two months later, I rode my first 1000 miles in 24 hours with my friend Troy, going from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Plano, Texas. There, I met icons of the motorcycling world – too many to name. They were warm, welcoming, and immediately adopted me as one of their own. I’ve known these folks for almost 20 years now, and they’re no less wonderful, though living in Michigan has kept me apart from them for a decade.
Two icons of the endurance riding world raising hell in Gerlach.
Thanks to them, the country opened up to me – I never would have considered pushing myself that hard, but once it’s possible to ride 1623 miles in 24 hours (my personal best,) travel becomes Different. I rode to some of the coolest places in the nation, and saw amazing things, thanks to extremely clever (and devious) rallymasters.
Similarly, in 2004, I walked into the Olympic Air Museum on a whim for a tour, and, on another whim, asked if they needed volunteers. They eagerly said yes, and I was accepted. I gave tours, washed the planes, marshaled air shows, and just generally helped out. Once again, the group took me under their literal and figurative wings, and I ended up not only spending time with, but being tossed around the sky by some of my childhood heroes in the most amazing planes. It boggles me to this day how incredible that summer was.
I was able to arrange a flight in a WWII plane for my dad, an even bigger plane nut than I am, and I will never forget the look on his face when he landed:
I got to do that for him! One of the things that makes me happiest is being the catalyst for someone else to experience an amazing thing. Whether it’s my dad in a Yak-11, or George piloting a sailboat, or getting Jim a tour of Fifi, or taking Heather on an unscheduled boat ride in the Gulf of Mexico, or getting Wes to finally tear down his garage or giving Adam the bike that Wes gave me… I love making things happen for people. I think I may enjoy that even more than experiencing these things myself.
Historically, when I am not out there being the enzyme, being the catalyst, and I am alone – I shut down. My attention turns inward, and the brain weasels come out to play. Like many people, my childhood scarred me, and left me with baggage I carry to this day, though I am slowly shedding much of it.
Some of you have heard the story of my last encounter with therapy. My counselor was a very nice woman, who was very good at what she did. However, I wasn’t ready for our fifth or so session, when she made me look into a mirror while she said nice things about me.
I never went back. I made excuses and cowardly exited the whole process. Like many people, I crave compliments and positive feedback, but when I receive them, I become deeply uncomfortable – self-esteem issues, of course. I have so many narcissistic traits, yet I am completely at war with myself. Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Society! Thanks, people who dragged me down a a young person!
Lately, though? I don’t eat myself alive and tear myself to shreds.
“eDar, you are my favorite planet.”
My amazing group of friends gently, but persistently, pulled me out of that dark place over the course of two years. My friends at Liquid Web and elsewhere really did save me from myself. They filled me so full of love and faith that I had no choice but to accept that maybe… just maybe… I am a person worthy of those sentiments. This has made a huge difference in not only my mindset, but also in how I comport myself. I owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude.
I am a sucker for Stories. I so truly love hearing about peoples’ lives and experiences, things I’ll never see or hear or experience myself. I’ve gotten slightly better at telling stories myself, but I really lack the knack. Toward the end of Jessica doing my hair, she mentioned she belongs to an anti-human-trafficking organization, and asked if I wanted to come with her to a meeting Right Then. Surely!
She told me most of the ladies were older, and so I took about 45 seconds to cast off my Dr. Whisky t-shirt and ratty jeans in favor of a vintage pin-up dress, stockings with ribbons at the heels, and incredibly awesome vintage dancing shoes, hoping to offset the crazy teal-colored hair and tattoos with nice clothes and a kind smile. Jessica has taken some kind of crazy shine to me, calling me “so cute!” and giggling when she introduces me to her friends as her sweet friend “Erin, who wears these clothes and I did her hair and she rides motorcycles!”
When she spoke of this organization, she was surprised I wanted to come to the meeting, because it was “kind of dangerous to be involved.” Her brother-in-law was killed, apparently, for helping some of these women. That just made it all the more appealing to me, in truth – you know me, eDar the Adventurous.
As I drove us to the meeting down the street, I envisioned this kind of cloak-and-dagger scenario, meeting in a dim room off a dark alley, speaking in hushed voices, pulling up case files of the woman who had most recently called the rescue hotline, organizing plans for extracting them from their entrapment… you know, that kind of thing.
I pulled up to the Lemon Grove library, which they had publicly reserved.
We walked in the door, and there were about 20 women present, as well as a snack table in the brightly-lit community room. The average age, myself included, was about 60. I was initially regarded with some strange looks, and some people looked outright hostile about my presence.
Rather than planning emergency escapes, they were planning… a chili cook-off. To raise funds.
They held a drama-fraught election for their Treasurer – “fraught” because there were tense words between the two candidates. The responsibility of their tiny budget was too much to treat any less seriously. I wasn’t supposed to be there for that, which was quite embarrassing for both Jessica and me, but everyone eventually decided this top-secret process was ok for a guest to witness.
They organized organizing their storage unit.
They wrote things down by hand. On paper.
Well, this was certainly not what I expected. This was most definitely not The Front Lines of the Fight in any way, shape, or form. This was a tiny, local, volunteer fund-raising thing. Le sigh. But ok, I’ll roll with it.
One of the things I strive for in life is to be a good ambassador of the things I “represent:” Motorcyclists, tattoo-bearing people, people with crazy hair colors, white people, you name it, I’m going to try to make a good impression and let people know I’m nice to shatter some of the stereotypes. It gives me such pleasure to win someone over who previously regarded me with judgment, and to perhaps help open someone’s eyes that even the “odd” people like me are just folks. This has long been a life mission.
One woman solicited toiletry donations, and I told her I would send her some homemade soaps if she could use them. A few eyebrows raised at my offer – maybe I wasn’t some random punk-rock interloper. Incidentally, I never thought of myself as “punk” at all – but that’s how Jessica has labeled me because of my hair color. She’s so tickled at the color she gave me – “it’s my first punk hair!!”
A short time later, they began discussing their online presence – or rather, their lack thereof – and I offered to host their website for free, to help with tech things, and so forth. People started actually meeting my eyes and smiling.
After the meeting was adjourned, most came up to me to compliment me – not on my offers to help, but rather on my dress, stockings, and hair. They were quite friendly after the meeting was over. The sternest women kept their distance, but by everything holy, I will win them over.
At any rate, this is one example of how things are coming together nicely for this big shift in my life. I want to give back, and an opportunity came at me when I least expected it. Whether it’s the right fit remains to be seen, but it’s a beginning. One of many.
“I will fight and I will love and I will give”
I wrote all of the above last night, and tonight, I saw the film Wonder Woman. I had tears streaming down my face for most of it – it was powerful on so many levels. I have’t stopped being weepy since I left the theater, as I replayed scenes in my head. The line that keeps resonating in my head is the one above: I WILL FIGHT AND I WILL LOVE AND I WILL GIVE.
That is what I try to do, what I want to do: Fight for justice and equality, love unconditionally, give unceasingly, pour myself out into the world. I will keep trying.
For the last six or so months, I have been riding a surging tide of strong emotions. I cry when I least expect it, I love more deeply than I ever have, I am humbled almost to the point of collapsing to my knees at times. Music moves me more than it ever has in every way. I sing.
As I sat in the darkened, comfortable theater tonight, surrounded by three friends and several dozen strangers, I was in tears within the first few moments. In the past, I would have fought them – bitten my cheek, looked away from the screen, thought about hockey, whatever it took to keep my lip from trembling and the tears from spilling over. I never wanted to cry in front of anyone – it was “weak,” and I am not a “pretty crier,” and it would make me “too vulnerable.”
I stuffed and squashed and hid all of that as much as humanly possible – until recently. Tonight, I let the tears flow openly to the point of dampening my sweater. My lower lip did what it does when I am profoundly moved. The film stirred and challenged and validated and gratified and comforted. It was immense.
As I drove home to Lemon Grove, my heart was full of something I cannot describe – it was powerful, an enormity, and I had an epiphany: I cannot fight and love and give if I do not also forgive. And so, I sent three lines to my last boyfriend, with whom things did not end well at all. I have carried around bitterness and hurt and anger and resentment and a bizarre sense of gratitude that we had what we did, however short-lived it was:
i forgive you. despite the lies you told to me and about me, i forgive you. i release it all, and wish you peace.
It was this person whom I felt rescued me from my dark, imaginary, soul prison. But it wasn’t – it was me. He was, perhaps, the catalyst, but he didn’t rescue me, and no one else could have, either. I rescued myself. He may have provided what I felt was a safe space into which I could emerge, and for that… I am grateful. I am happy to know I can love that deeply, to trust so completely, to make room in my heart, my home, and my life on that level. It is sad that things did not work out – but they so often do not.
I bought this shirt awhile back, and will treasure it always.
I spent decades in that cage, and can only imagine this is what it feels like to be free, what many people must feel like all the time, and it is wonderful.
Things happening quickly
A series of things happened over the last several days:
I mentioned to George I was struggling with the logistics of moving my belongings, a car, and two motorcycles to SDO. He offered to drive my car for me, for the price of an airline ticket. Problem solved: I can tow the motorcycles behind the truck.
My current lease expires at the end of September, so I planned to move sometime that month. I found a perfect apartment, available August 7th, which they would either a.) hold for me until September, or b.) use my deposit if another, top-floor unit became available before my move. Perfect.
When I put my deposit down, I really didn’t know what part of town I was in, relative to anything else; I thought I was quite far out to the northeast – nope. It’s 10 minutes from everything. Five in light traffic. There is a trolley stop at the complex which runs downtown, if I don’t feel like driving. The location is perfect.
My adorable, planet-loving friend Luke asked me if he could maybe take over my lease, as his is up in August. Hm. Interesting.
This morning, I got a text from my landlady saying they were thinking of selling the house I’m living in, and did I have any plans for staying or leaving? I told her I would be happy to leave in August if she would let me, and also that I had someone interested in taking over my lease and/or renting it next term. She is considering these things.
Barring crazy, unforeseen circumstances, SDO will be my home in either two or three months – tops.
My new home
The apartment I will be renting, to me, borders on the absurd. It is so nice, so beautiful, so big… so expensive. It is at the upper limit of my budget…but within my budget. When I first walked into the leasing office, and was looking at the floor plans, I first looked at the smaller two bedrooms as the likely targets. When I saw this one, I said, “wow, I wonder what it must be like to be able to afford that.”
Nancy, the agent, and I bonded instantly – that is her job, of course, but you know when someone is being genuine. I was wearing my dia de los muertos skull sweater, she liked it and commented on it, and she was so warm and friendly, she immediately put me at ease. This is a girl I’d like to get to know.
Nancy’s the kind of girl who can get along with anyone, but I like to think maybe we bonded a bit more than the usual agent/client relationship. When I went back for a second viewing, she gave me a big hug, and we chatted about all kinds of things. I just adore her.
The first time we spoke, I didn’t even mention to her that their largest unit was something I would consider – surely there was no way I could afford it. Then she asked what my budget was, and I told her “less than $2800, hopefully.”
“Girl,” she began, “why are you not looking at this one?! It is perfect for you.” And she was right – it is.
It is bigger than my house by at least 50%. It is also almost four times more expensive. But this is where I will live and work. It needs to be someplace I love. And I do. The windows and the community and the perks are just… well, better than I should probably have. Photo album here: No Facebook account required.
The unit I’m holding is a third-floor apartment, which doesn’t have the topmost windows in the master bedroom, as it has a slightly lower ceiling. However, Nancy is on the lookout for me if a fourth-floor unit becomes available. My hold can be applied to anything in the complex, thankfully, even something smaller if need be.
There are three fourth-floor units available right now, but those are likely to move before I do.
I put down a deposit to hold the unit. And then I had a minor freak-out about money.
I know talking about money can make some people uncomfortable, so skip this next section until the bold if you don’t want to see specifics about my finances – trust me, they are not impressive.
I am bad at money – this is no secret. Just when I got myself into a stable financial state, with a credit score over 700 for the first time in over a decade and money in my savings account for the first time ever, I went batshit crazy, turned into a girl, and came damn close to maxing out my credit cards buying clothes, shoes, jewelry, make-up, and toys. I went from a few hundred bucks on my credit cards to over $11,000 in the course of a year.
Since getting this new job in March, however, I have been aggressively paying that down, knowing I needed to move, and soon. Currently, I have less than $5,000 on my cards. I took out a loan at a lower interest than my high-rate retail cards and paid them all off. My remaining bank cards are at 10%, I have about $1,000 six months interest-free on PayPal credit, and less than a grand on Home Depot interest-free until next April. I owe about $850 on one motorcycle.
I’ll have most of that taken care of by the time I move, whether it’s August or September, so I feel like I’ll be ok on that front, and that my credit score will get back to where it should be over the next year or two (it fell to 680 when I opened several new accounts.)
I’m going to meet with a financial consultant to talk about my state of affairs, including my abysmal retirement outlook – at present there is about $50k in my various funds, and I am 46. Not good.
You might say, as George has about a dozen times, “but edar – get a smaller apartment and save more money! Jesus!” And you’d be right… but life is for the living, and I am all about The Moment. Future edar may well fucking hate me for this, but it will be ok. I’ll work until I die, and that will be fine.
SDO in General
When I first saw Seattle, it reached into my soul, gathered me up into its arms, and welcomed me home before I knew I would move there. It was an immediate, intense, passionate connection, and I was a part of it instantly.
SDO did not do that: I initially found it “nice.” I love lush, green things, and jagged mountains, and flowing waters and lakes. SDO doesn’t really have those things (though they’re not terribly far away north.)
However, it does have its own beauty, especially as one moves out into the desert. The mountains aren’t the young, rough, sharp peaks I’m accustomed to: They are old, worn down, eroded, exposed. They are a visual reminder of the immensity of history. They are living evidence of the passage of time.
More important than the landscape, though, are the other things here. Sam and kphelps are 10 minutes away in Lemon Grove. George is two hours north in LA. Chuck is 30 minutes east in Poway. Various other friends I haven’t seen in a small eternity are near or nearish.
Gerlach, and pretty much everything west of the Rockies is a day’s ride away.
The roads are spectacular and perfect for motorcycles, and I can ride year-round. The weather is paradise. The ocean is less than 10 minutes from my apartment, and Kevin has a sailboat harbored there.
Remember how my people saved me? Being in SDO means I am not with them, that I will seldom see them. Sure, sure, there is Facebook and Slack and email and whatnot, but I can’t grab Smuj, Cait, and Lilith and go to Jumbeaux for lunch on a whim. I won’t see Han and Forty whenever we like. They will be physically out of reach most of the time.
I won’t hear Nat’s giggle, or see Kev’s eyes, or listen to Jack rail against the evils of customer support, or hear Gary’s genuinely tickled laugh, or hang out with Sarah, or listen to my little spaceman’s fork-bomb stories, or hear tkillian call me “kiddo,” or have Sewell come to me in person for advice or to fix whatever most recent computer plague ails me.
No after-work drinks with Brueggy, or seeing Nicole’s newly-found confident smiles, or having Byerly regale me with tales of his hilarious love life, or getting hugs and dinner with Lexy, or going drinking with Russ and Jordan, or watching ckelly’s man bun mature as he does, or helping out when Jenn gets her lungs, or seeing Stephanie at Jumbeaux, or hearing mattador’s crazy sneezes, or watching Josh L get stupid drunk and silly, or witnessing the many moods of Siena, or calling Jerry a giant Asian man, or standing by and admiring Ani be the powerful being she intensely is.
No seeing dpock’s dancing eyes, or talking politics with Calvin, or having Wineland fix something in 18 seconds flat, or catching up with gamborg, or getting to know John B better, or going riding with Jim and Mary and Brandon and mtodd and Sam and Steven, or watching McBride shuffle around in his sandals in the middle of winter, or tasting Lucia’s cooking, or hearing Tommie’s soothing amazing voice, or hearing Jaspers laugh, or watching Misty tear out her hair at the latest work shenanigans,
No more getting hugs from Alex K, or going riding with Alex O, or going dancing with Deakin, or seeing Cal’s “dammit, edar” face, or watching in amusement as Luke bounds up to me like a giant puppy with his latest ideas in tow, or seeing Shooltz’s smirk, or hearing Bianca agonize over some thing she rrreeeeallly wants, or watching Zack blossom into an amazing adult, or watching mrjung’s face light up when he talks about his passions, or, or, or.
I am leaving so much. But I am also moving toward many things.
Ok. Enough now.
ALL OF THIS CAN BE SUMMED UP THUSLY: BE BOLD, MY FRIENDS – BE BOLD.
Fight, Love, Give.
Do the things. Live it. I can’t say this strongly and loudly enough – BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE. Fuck everything that stands in your way: Find a way around or through it, find a way to be yourself within it, make peace and move on – just do it.
“Age is just a number,” if we are to believe the cliche.
It’s such a lie an alternative fact – technically true as a fact, but “age” is not “just a number;” it encompasses so much more.
I understand the sentiment behind the well-meaning saying, of course; “don’t worry about your age; people don’t judge you by how old you are.” The blissful ignorance of that statement is precious and lovely, but also naive and ignorant in so many circumstances. Hanging out every day, sure – it’s not necessarily on everyone’s minds. On an employment application? Age can mean the difference between getting a job or not.More to my point here, though: Folks, it’s not just the age – it’s the miles. It’s the shit we’ve witnessed and lived through and cried over and laughed at until we couldn’t anymore (often at ourselves.) We have seen absurdity and serenity, abject cruelty and profound compassion, acts of altruism that make us burst into tears from their sheer beauty and acts of hatred that leave us enraged and hopeless.
We have borne witness to events much bigger than any of us are, as well as millions of simple, repeated, everyday moments, and that leaves us with little choice but to expand our awareness, to become mindful of how little we know, and, for many of us, it leaves us with a deep and abiding sense of smallness. Humbleness.
I should note – that humbleness does hibernate at times. I am reasonably certain my ego, if unchecked, would run absolutely amok. You have only the smallest idea.
I know plenty of people younger than I am who look like they were ridden hard and put away wet for decades; the sun, their lives, their kids, illness, jobs – something shriveled them, some from the inside out, some from the outside in. I also know people older than I am who look a decade or more younger.
I’ve been fortunate to apparently have good anti-visible-aging genes, and it probably helps that I’ve never spent a bunch of time sunbathing, or wearing a shitton of chemicals on my face. But the wrinkles are creeping in – first, around my eyes, now a bit around my mouth. It’s making me panic just ever so slightly, just occasionally. Now and then. Infrequently.
For now. I am certain it will increase and intensify if I do not get ahead of this looming trainwreck.
That ego is glancing around the edges of the mirror, finding each and every pore, every imperfection, every scar, every smidgen of evidence I am Not As Young As I Once Was, and she wails in despair. Oh, the unfairness of it all. Youth is wasted on the young! Get off my fucking lawn! Et cetera.
Both helping and hindering reconciling ego with reality is this: Since 2008, the vast majority of people in my life have been significantly younger than I am; I work with primarily twenty-somethings, with a few thirty-somethings peppered in there. Almost no one at my company is 40 years old or older. Most of the kids I work with are remarkably more mature than I ever was at their age – hell, some of them are more mature than I am now – and I have remarked before upon how much they have helped me to grow and develop as a human, for which I am eternally thankful.
I’ve been very fortunate that my team/tribe has been very accepting of an older person in their midst. For a long time, most of them did not realize how large the age gap is between us, but they recognized it was there. Many politely suggested they thought I was in my early-to-mid thirties (thanks, good genes!) and seldom have any of them seemed to really judge me for my age. There have been times when I’ve felt like Jane Goodall – even to the point of having mental conversations/note-taking sessions in that vein:
The young tribe members are wary and uneasy today; I let it slip I had never once in my life played a Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario Brothers game. This was a rookie move; my inclusion has ebbed slightly as a result. I must find a way to regain their trust and once again move with them as a troop member. “Hey, how about those Pokemons?!” did not have the desired effect. I will consult with my source text – The Urban Dictionary – for better vocabulary consistency.
Sure, it’s a source of some good-natured teasing, and a lot of groaning on my part when I realize these people have zero context for formative parts of my life, and indeed, most were not alive before I went to college. It’s sobering. Humbling.
But it’s also helped me come to terms with things much better. I hid my age pretty obsessively until the last few months, when I decided “oh, fuckit. If Dana Delaney can be out and proud about turning 60 and looking fucking amazing, then who am I to keep hiding it?” Out of the mid-life closet I tumbled.
She is 60 years old. Yes, seriously. Right?! She looks a hell of a lot younger than I do.
I am 46.
I spent most of 2015 and 2016 saying I was 46, when I was actually 45, but whatever.
The guy I was dating until about a month ago was 28. The guy before that – 26. My husband was 9 years my junior. Thus, I have a bit of a history with younger men, sure, because I’m fucking surrounded by them and have no life outside of work.
The person who just asked me out is about 24. He’s an insanely mature 24, but I think that is too young even for me, no matter how well-traveled, well-read, ridiculously attractive, and generally amazing he might be. My entire brain balks at that number – nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, NOPE.
Of course, were he to know my age, he’d probably be NOPE-ing right along with me.
Men dating (often significantly) older women is quite a trend now, according to some sources, so I’m apparently not alone, but I’m not entirely comfortable with that large an age gap.
Per usual, I have digressed.
Just as I cannot fathom the perspective of someone 15 years my senior, these kids cannot fathom the things I have seen and done, and why I have answers to many of their questions. Why I can offer seemingly sage advice – it’s not because I am “wise,” my friends; it is because I have made a fuckton of mistakes, many of them more than once. I learned the hard way most of the time. I’ve seen many other people make similar mistakes, and have learned from them, as well.
When older people say, “someday, you’ll understand,” we’re not trying to be patronizing or dismissive of your life experience – we just know it to be true in more cases than not. Just as once cannot innately understand how the Krebs cycle works until we’ve seen it in action and have actually put the time in learning about it, we cannot expect to have the life perspective we’ll have 5 years hence.
Aging, like life in general, is not for the faint of heart. Today, a Physician’s Assistant at my doctor’s office told me (of my extreme sciatic pain,) “ah, you’re almost as old as I am; yeah, this is probably going to keep happening, and it’s probably going to get worse as you age.”
Naturally, that reminded me (as many things do) of a Louis CK bit:
Apollo 15 lands on the moon and uses the Lunar Rover vehicle for the first time.
The microprocessor was introduced.
The environmentalist group Greenpeace was founded.
Roe v. Wade legalized abortion
Beverly Johnson became the first black model on the cover of Vogue or any other major fashion magazine. (Important aside: THAT IS HOW RECENTLY SHIT LIKE THIS HAPPENED. IN MY LIFETIME.)
The United States Bicentennial
Microsoft and Apple come into being as companies
The original Star Wars is released… and I watched it in the theater.
Three Mile Island
Iranian hostage crisis
John Lennon killed
The wreck of the Titanic is discovered
First woman appointed to Supreme Court (not so long ago, eh?)
US invades Grenada
First woman goes into space
Hole in the ozone layer discovered
DNA used for the first time in a criminal case
Berlin Wall came down
First computer virus reported
Exxon Valdez disaster
This brings us to 1990, a time by which most (but certainly not all) of my people were at least born, if not fully aware of the world around them.
I am as susceptible as anyone else to think of “anything that happened before I was around happened forever ago,” (for example, I spent the first 10-15 years of my life thinking Black Americans had been treated like equals for easily 50-75 years – that racism was truly a thing of The Past. Tragic.)
I was about to launch into another whole thing about Trump and the things he’s destroying that we’ve worked so hard for during my lifetime, but I’m spent. Thank your lucky stars. 😉