Part One: Bees
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.”
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
…and various other ramblings
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
As a parting note for those of you youngsters reading this: These are all things that have happened while I have been alive (source: http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe70s/worldevents_01.html:)
- Nixon was President
- Anwar Sadat became President of Egypt
- 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
- Elvis died
- The original Star Wars is released… and I watched it in the theater.
- Jim Jones/Jonestown
- 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?)
- AIDS identified
- US invades Grenada
- First woman goes into space
- Hole in the ozone layer discovered
- Chernobyl explosion
- Challenger explosion
- 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. 😉
A few days ago, someone to whom I had not spoken in a very long time wrote a lengthy, wonderful, deeply touching bunch of words to me when I really needed them. Much of it I cannot share, because it’s just too much, but this bit – this really helped me to wrap my brain around a bit of why I have been so extraordinarily lucky to have people sometimes pay attention to what I say and do, who wish me well, and who seem to truly care about what happens to me:
We want you to win. We see ourselves in you. You’ve managed to channel the angst and hope and struggle and random joy of life into a strange and wonderful arrangement. We want to know it works, that there’s a better way, or at least another way. “If Erin, that careening pinball, can make it, doing all that crazy shit, maybe I can do this.”
Adding that to my usual “Tornado/Catalyst” self-description lexicon.
What an odd expression, “a line in the sand.”
It has unclear origins, historically, and may be based entirely upon a misunderstanding of words Jesus is said to have spoken.
A line in the sand is quickly blurred, and soon eradicated altogether. A gust of wind, a small wave, a footstep – gone.
Ironically, I have found my line in the sand; I know what it is – at least for the moment, I do. As I have learned over the last three days, “having made up my mind” is suddenly a fluid state of being. I am certain one moment, uncertain the next, and certain of another thing four moments hence.
The gods are having a field day with my life right now, laughing uproariously as I struggle to get a handle on this rapidly-changing, constantly unfolding trainwreck. “Look,” they cackle; “she thinks she’s got it now! Wait, wait – hold my beer,” and they throw something absolutely ludicrous into the mix.
I take the blow, smash face-first into the floor, blink in abject confusion, and then stand back up again, reassessing, beginning the whole process anew, but with different rules, different information, and a deck stacked against me – the deck I myself shuffled, and either subconsciously stacked badly, or just had my usual horrifically bad luck with random number games.
This is all my own doing. I knew going in that it was a bad idea – but I didn’t realize I was going to be the one to suddenly have the shoe on the other foot. My mood this very second is nothing short of absurd – I have tripped an emotional circuit breaker of one sort or another, unplugged my ego, and am being controlled by whatever inmates run rampant in my head when I’m not at the wheel.
I keep hearing this quote from WKRP in Cincinnati back in 1979 running through my head – Johnny Fever is … doing something dumb, I assume. Someone says, “let the chips fall where they may!” to which Johnny replies, “wait… I’m the chips!” Later, as the story unfolds, things get tense, and he murmurs in a very scared voice, “chips are falling!”
All of this is maddeningly vague, I’m sorry. I can’t go into details for more reasons than you can imagine, but these last three days have been a rollercoaster from the depths of hell. A ride of Shakespearean proportion. I half envision a Greek chorus following me around, providing foreshadowing to the audience – none of which I can hear, of course, because the actors don’t know about the chorus.
The irony won’t stop – it steps up its game every time I think things cannot get any more unreal.
I’ve said this many time before, and I’ll say it again – life is not for cowards. My heart-like place is just chaos – it doesn’t know what it is, what it’s for, where it’s going, why it’s here, or whether it’s even a real thing. It is simultaneously dust, and glass, and stone, and tender flesh. This is my life right now.
Unsurprisingly, from the time I began this post until now, the sands have shifted and my line is … if not gone entirely, then certainly blurred all to hell and gone. FOR THE CRAZIEST FUCKING REASON: The least likely person on the planet, almost totally literally, has put my mind at more ease than anyone else has been able to do thus far. We were having two entirely different conversations, depending upon which perspective one took, and it all worked out beautifully for both of us. And I’m at peace. For the moment, of course.
It could be matter of days, hours, or nanoseconds before I am ripped out of this “everything is hilarious/fine” mode – I’m guessing a matter of less than an hour, given the material at hand (buckle up, babycakes!!) – and then who knows what’s next. And then after that. And after that. How long can I keep this up?
Answer: Until I either don’t have to, or until I can’t.
Fuck, I wish I could go into more detail, and maybe someday, I can. But for now – just laugh with me, friends, and wish peace upon my soul. I need both.
My mother taught me a lot of very bad things.
Overcoming them as much as I have has taken decades of work, and there are many casualties lying in pools of blood alongside the path.
In the featured photo, I am far, far too young to realize the patterns I was learning even then. My heart aches for that little girl and the years she has ahead.
Seldom do they serve any useful purpose – they are designed to be precise weapons of terrible destruction, of others and of myself. I’ve used them that way in the past myself, and it’s horrible to witness myself, as if from a third person, wielding them thusly. They are wicked and effective.
I have learned, however, that in gentler hands, they can be used for good. One of the habits my mother taught me was to never show signs of hurt or anger. We bottle that shit up and shut it down, because emotion is weakness. Stay in control, never let them see you bleed. That defensive behavior, in conjunction with its more offfensive siblings, results in what someone once called The Ice Queen.
I don’t like the Ice Queen; she and I are not friends. She is, however, a tale for another time.
Today, running errands amongst the thronging hordes of people, I laughed and smiled and interacted as if my whole world were not burning. No trace of the flames in my heart licked up through my eyes, the shards of glass did not protrude through my flesh – all of that was Contained. Bottled up. Hidden.
Rather than storm throughout the day, being miserable and passing along those bad vibes, I radiated positivity, friendliness, and courtesy. When encountering a genuine smile, more people than not will respond in kind, sometimes even with surprise; this makes my day. So it was everywhere I went this afternoon. I even had myself fooled.
Back in the safety and solitude of my car (which is as black as my mood,) the feelings could no longer be contained properly, and oozed out, coating me in a foul, oily aura.
Home, I gave my roommate the briefest of details as to the situation. I didn’t cry, I didn’t rage, I just stated how I was feeling, loosely describing the mental and physical anguish and distress I’ve been in for the last three days. Going into any meaningful detail would have been a different story, but I even managed to chuckle a few times at his responses, for my roommate is far too impressed with me – “Dude,” he began, “you are on an entirely different level of acceptance in life.”
He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such, but I wonder – is there such a thing as too accepting?
There is, I’m certain – and many of the things on the mental list I just composed of “things one should not accept” are things that I am, right now, accepting. Shit.
I tell you what, friends; life is not for cowards or for the faint of heart.
There is a very fine line between “broken” and “not broken.”
A hair’s breadth.
Is it possible to be crushed to bits, destroyed, yet not broken?
“Broken,” to me, implies being unable to recover, incapable of putting myself back together – I’m not there, not yet.
What I am is ground to dust. My heart, my gut, are filled with the sharpest glass, slowly shredding me. Everything in me is actively on fire.
But I am not broken. Though I may be absolutely crumbled to shit, sheer stubbornness prevents being broken – I am not going to let one cruel, cowardly, lying bastard break me forever. My pride, coupled with whatever sense of self I have, will not let this happen.
My pride, my wounds, demand his immediate and irrevocable banishment. My insecurities demand this, as well, but also wheedle to keep him close. My insecurities are conniving, two-faced assholes. My true self is ambivalent – she is honest, she is destroyed, she is furious, she is grief-stricken, heart-broken, incredulous, and filled with burning, but she loves him and believes at least some of it was real, somewhere. If she’s 100% wrong, then I’m better at fooling myself than I ever thought I was.
Was it real if only one of us was actually living it?
The thing I was living was an illusion – a lie. Of the two of us, only he knew the truth. I was living in a fantasy.
Perhaps the worst part of it all… no, there are many, many “worst parts:”
- I believed a liar, and I doubted myself. I consciously chose to believe his lies. I looked at my gut feeling, and I looked at the words he was saying to me, and I said, “you know, I really don’t believe this, but I’m going to choose to believe him, because that is the most kind and compassionate thing I can do.” So I did.
- Ironically, only recently, I was having a conversation with someone about being suspicious versus believing people. Every time I have this conversation, I say the same thing, and I still hold it as My Truth: It is better to believe someone and be taken for a fool later, than to disbelieve someone who is telling the truth.
- I am furious with myself, as well, because I knew. My gut knew. My conscious brain even knew. But two things kept me from trusting myself:
- I wanted to believe him. Plain and simple, that is what my heart wanted.
- I knew if I started this relationship with Grave Doubts, it would never flourish into everything it could be, and it would be my fault. Now, it will never be everything it could be… but it’s not my fault. I suspect that will be easier to live with.
- Karma/I don’t deserve nice things. This is karma for Jon, this is payback for the times I slept with married people. I am not a good enough person to be this happy.
- I did my best, and it wasn’t enough. I don’t have much of anything else I can do or give. That was what I was, what I had, and he actively chose to shit all over it. If he had me at my best, and that wasn’t enough… what then?
- Jailbreak. I was writing a beautiful piece about how he saved me from my internal prison, how he was the one I’d been waiting for for so long. Now, I look at the paintings, and am filled with unspeakable sorrow and emptiness. I suppose the one good thing is that I was out of the prison for awhile. Maybe now I go back in – this remains to be seen, and is terrifying. The only thing stronger than my stubbornness is my subconscious, and I don’t know what it’s doing right now. I am deeply afraid of it.
- I don’t know whether to burn the paintings, to keep them on the wall as a reminder, or to just put them away somewhere. I hate them.
- I understand his stupid, stupid reasons. I get it – but I don’t get it. I understand his logic, or the lack thereof, but I don’t understand how he could do this to me. To someone he professed to love and cherish, the person he said he had never and would never lie to. As he said he hadn’t lied, that he wasn’t lying in that very second… he was lying.
- I made plans for the future that included another person. I don’t do that. I didn’t do that with my fucking husband, not really, because I know nobody sticks around for the long run. What fucking planet am I suddenly from where after two months I believed? If I could see through the tears to kick myself, I would.
- Blatant disrespect and a complete disregard for THE ONE THING I NEED. This wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a slip – this was a conscious choice, a deliberate series of actions and lies to cover them up. I do not use “disrespect” lightly, for seldom do I feel I am worthy of respect. He made me feel I was – and then he was the one who destroyed that feeling.
- Sidenote. Irony: He may be the person who convinced me I am actually worthwhile and valuable enough not to be treated the way he has treated me. What the fuck do I even do with that.
- I have long been amazed and awed by people in relationships who have such obvious and abiding love, admiration, and respect for each other, no matter what. I thought finally, maybe, I had rediscovered such a thing after 25 years of what I can only call penance. I believed. I looked forward to everything.
- The cruelty. He chose a cruel path. He actively reassured me, built up my trust – encouraged me to believe, believe, believe, only to betray me.
- I legitimately do not know what to do. I am in an untenable position. I have two obvious choices, and myriad variants:
- End the relationship.
- I will be miserable. I will miss him. I will grieve for what we had, and what we could have had. “I couldn’t love you any more, and yet I will tomorrow,” I told him a couple of weeks ago. That would die.
- All of the things I love about him will be gone forever.
- He will never whisper, “you’re amazing” to me again.
- I will never feel that unbelievable sense of oneness as he holds me in his arms – the perfect contentedness of being right where I am supposed to be. Where I thought I was supposed to be.
- I do not become a crazy person, second-guessing myself at every turn. Well, at least, not with him – maybe that’s just going to be a part of my life from now on, becoming less and less trusting BECAUSE OF THE WORDS AND ACTIONS OF ONE FUCKING MAN GODDAMN IT I AM QUESTIONING THE THINGS THAT MAKE ME WHO I AM. FUCK.
- Typing those words made me burst fully into tears for the first time since this nightmare began. Great.
- Try to cobble things back together. Make the choice to work through the pain, the fear, the doubt, and try to figure out if there’s a bearable way forward.
- I will probably still be miserable, for quite some time. Maybe until it ends. I don’t know.
- I will still grieve for what could have been, because whatever lies ahead is irreversibly altered. We will never have “what we could have had;” it’s no longer a viable path.
- Because of that, I don’t know if it’s worth my time, pain, and effort to even try.
- I don’t know whether he would change (read, “stop lying,” and “stop being afraid of conflict,”) or even legitimately try to.
- Instinct says “people can change, but he is not going to change, because he’s not willing;” as he said earlier, “this is who I am.” If that’s who he is, and if he is comfortable with that, there is no changing. If there is no changing, I have to decide whether I can live with a complete lack of trust in my life. I can’t believe I would even consider that.
- How do I look this person in the eye after everything? He will never fathom the hurt, the damage.
- He would still be in my life with all the wonderful things about him – but also with all of … this. I legitimately don’t know what’s worse – having him, or at least the part of him I’ve had to whatever degree that might have been, or not having him at all.
- Common sense says, “you’ll never be sure. You’ll never be totally confident and secure.”
- I have to decide if that’s something I can do. Even considering it makes me feel foolish.
- When he murmurs, “you’re amazing” into my hair when I’m lying on his chest, I will always think, “but not amazing enough.” That is my new truth.
- When I am wrapped up in his arms, will I ever feel that same sense of security and belonging? Did he feel the same when he’s been cuddled up with her? Honestly? That part doesn’t even matter – monogamy is optional. It’s the DECEIT that is killing me. I know we can both be amazing in his eyes for different and similar reasons.
- Do I become a crazy, paranoid police person, always vigilant, always wondering, never truly certain I know the situation? How do I not become that person? Put a GPS tracker and a chest cam on him? Constantly monitor all forms of communication, knowing full well that is easily circumvented?
- I have no interest in keeping track of the seconds that have passed, the steps he has taken, reading all of his emails and chats, ruthlessly discovering what he has or has not done or said. That is exhausting, and it is an unwinnable battle.
- His lies come so easily, and they’re so specific; I’ll never truly know whether he’s telling me the truth. Can I live with that? That’s what this boils down to. Can I have a lesser happiness, a lesser relationship, and be content with that? Will that state with him be better than something else?
- I need assurances. How the fuck do I get them from a pathological liar?
- Worst-case scenario: I try to work things through, really give it my best go, and things begin to go well. Things fall apart as he cannot keep himself from lying. How do I recover from that as a whole person?
- Alternate worst-case scenario: I shut the relationship down, when it could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I spend the rest of my life wondering about him, just as I have about Jon.
- End the relationship.
- Jon. I thought maybe, just maybe, the universe had forgiven me for Jon – that maybe I’d forgiven myself for what I did and said. Turns out, I was just being set up for a comeuppance.
- Changes. I made deep changes to accommodate him in my life, things about which he has no idea, and for what? Just to be lied to and deceived, all because he was afraid. You want to talk about “afraid?” He has no fucking clue the things I had to overcome to get to this place, and him? He was just status-quo’ing it, coasting along as he always has. The demons I have faced in these few short months would blow his fucking mind.
I fucking hate being this weak. As I typed those words, my better nature told me I am not weak – I’m strong for even considering working things out. Working for something difficult and painful, something I want to have, is not weakness. Not making a rash decision after an egregious wounding, is strong. My worse nature countered, “what if it’s just a pipe dream? An impossible fantasy? Is it really strength to pursue that at the expense of your sanity and self-confidence?”
Fuck. That reminds me – I have never felt more confident than I have these last couple of months. The love in this relationship made me a better person on many levels, and has given me strength I didn’t realize I had. Now, knowing I was laboring under a complete delusion, my confidence has shriveled and has slunk into a very dark recess; it is utterly unwilling to resurface for now. I hope it returns.
When I confronted him with the lies, he said he was going to tell me today. Oh, ok. How do I believe that? Even trying to swallow that line makes me nauseated. Here, we go back to “believe someone rather than disbelieve them,” but at what point does that become foolish instead of honorable? This is the first time I’ve had to ask myself that question; I suppose I have been exceptionally fortunate on that front, then. How tragic this is the time I have to ask it.
In his place, I would be fumbling over myself, trying everything and anything, saying any possible true thing I could think of to salvage the situation. He mumbled platitudes, and had very little else to offer. That is infuriating, and makes me feel he doesn’t really care either way. If things don’t work out here, he’ll pack up and go back home, and pick up his comfortable old life that never really made him happy – I’m certain of this.
It’s not like this was months ago – it was goddamned yesterday. It would be one thing if it were “in the past,” but it’s Right Fucking Now, all apparently because his what-I-thought-would-soon-be-his-ex-wife “started being nice to me.” If that’s all it takes to rekindle those feelings, I’m fucked any way you cut it.
I feel especially foolish that I fell into the “but I’m leaving my wife” trap. I didn’t want that originally – I wanted nothing of the sort. At all. But we fell in love, and then he said he was leaving her, and I said “not on my account, you’re not,” and he said “no no, it’s over anyhow,” and then he moved in with me and I actually believed it was all true.
God I’m such a fucking moron.
The truth is, it has only been a few months – I have to get my head wrapped around that fact. It has not been a long time, it is not a loss I could never get over. It will just hurt like a motherfucker for awhile. It doesn’t matter how long it “feels like” it’s been, how all-consuming my side of this relationship was.
“I deserve better.” Do I? Do I really? With the crap person I have been, do I? Maybe I deserve to be played like this, to be made into a complete, gullible, naive fool by someone I believed to be my unflinching ally. How horrible it is to realize my ostensible wingman doesn’t like conflict and had utterly bugged out once my foot touched the battlefield. I didn’t even know he wasn’t there anymore, and I kept walking forward, confident and trusting he had my back when he was actually nowhere to be seen. I am alone, surrounded by hostile forces.
I am used to being alone in the midst of the war – that is what my life has heretofore been; it was the feeling of having someone unquestionably by my side that was new. I can’t decide whether I wish I hadn’t ever felt that security, because now it’s gone, and I have no idea whether I’ll ever feel it again.
Listening to him talk with her on the phone just now, his entire tone has changed toward her; it’s softer and much more gentle. That might be the most telling thing of all. He is over there chuckling at videos, oblivious. I’m over here eating myself alive. Where is the fairness? I’m getting shipment notifications for things I bought just for him, dying inside, wishing they would never arrive. I am at a complete loss.
The only thing I know is that I cannot make this decision right now. I have to sit with it and decide which grief-stricken path I want to take, unless he offers some kind of opinion – which he is afraid to have.
That unto itself speaks volumes about my growth as a person – even entertaining the notion of trying to work things out is orders of magnitude more than what I would have done previously.
Despite being devastated, despite my heart being rent from my body, despite the immolation of my fucking soul, I will stand back up again.
But not today.
Today, tomorrow, for the foreseeable future, I have to figure out how to get from here to there, to pick a path amongst the thorns and pitfalls.
For now, I have to grieve the death of something nearly perfect, and decide which “less than” path to take.
I wrote this for myself, without intention of sharing with anyone, but now I think I have to show him. Verbally, I have failed to communicate where I am; I’m too devastated and angry to formulate words on the fly. So I guess it’s time to show him – provided he doesn’t mind being interrupted.
Today brought a different perspective – at least, later in the day did.
One of the most infuriating things was not feeling heard, understood, and acknowledged. Verbally, there was nothing other than, “I’m sorry,” “I love you and I don’t want to lose you,” and various other superficial sentiments that brought no new understanding to the situation.
Thinking maybe he might do better in writing, I reached out to him via text when we were working, and it did indeed bear more fruit. I have a better idea of where he is – it’s no less painful, the situation is no less dire, but simply knowing he understands how hurt, angry, and betrayed I feel makes all the difference. It’s helping me to allow myself to let go of the abject rage and sense of being completely dismissed and disregarded.
Old edar wouldn’t have let the anger go; she would have held onto it like a precious treasure, clinging greedily to it because it made her feel righteously indignant and justified.
edar 2.0 realized there is no sense in staying actively angry because he has feelings for his estranged wife. What does staying angry accomplish, other than making it all much worse? Nothing.
So, I am letting it go – sometimes great chunks of it break away, sometimes smaller ones, but at least now I can sense there is still a core of me intact beneath the jagged crust and molten rock.
Her flame may be dim right now, but at least she’s still there.
I’ve realized too that I cannot make a decision until he does. Now that I know where he is, and how he feels – that he legitimately may choose her over me – that puts a different spin on the whole thing.
It is situations like this when I become so frustrated with the culturally mandated concept of monogamy. He’s in love with two people, but has to choose one? How is that fair in any way, when he could love us both?
However, whinging about things out of my control serves no purpose. Now that I am getting my wits back about myself, I can apply the usual tools of logic, reason, dignity, compassion, understanding, integrity, and, if need be, graceful withdrawal.
I am not his wife, nor am I at all like her – I will not actively try to “fight for him” if he chooses another path; that, too, serves no purpose other than to frustrate and infuriate everyone involved. He will choose me or he will not, based solely on the merits or lack thereof. If he doesn’t find me worthy, so be it; it will be a loss for both of us.
I will hate it, I will be devastated even more, but I will accept, recover, and move on.
The not knowing, though, that is a fresh hell. Until today, I thought the decision was largely mine; now I know he isn’t decided himself. I knew it when I heard the tenderness in his voice last night, but didn’t let myself accept it until this morning, when he confirmed he didn’t know what to do, whom to choose. Ah.
And so, death metal, and painting. Escape.