The Absence of Presence – Part Three

Continued from:
Part One
Part Two

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.

My mantra while there – “no one deserves this.”

Coming Soon: Part Four

 

The Absence of Presence – Part Two

Continued from Part One:

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.

Continue Reading: Part Three

The Absence of Presence – Part One

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.

Continue Reading: Part Two

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to?

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

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

Borrego, what the hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick gas stop.

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

Bliss for awhile, that is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intelligent Design for a moment seems plausible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brains. Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO DO THE TWO DRIVERS IN FRONT OF ME.

<shriek>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ta.

The Sweetest Thing

“Baby, I think every bad thing that has ever happened to me my whole life was to prepare me for you. And it was worth it.”

His vexation was palpable. “Beg pardon?”

“All of the bad shit that happened to me changed who I was, made me a better person, or a more compassionate person – all of it was to help me become someone you love, who was also ready and able to love you.”

He blinked. “That is the most peculiar and beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me.”

I’m romantic, ho

Many of you are familiar with my complete aversion to online dating – It gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. Nevertheless, having utterly failed to meet any single people who seemed like Dating Material, I decided to enter that particular fray One. More. Time.

Once more unto the breach…

[Incidentally, if you haven’t seen Brannagh’s “Henry V,” fucking do it. Possibly the best Shakespeare film ever.]

There was an approximately zero percent chance I would ever give OkCupid another go – that site is a good idea that turned into a complete shitshow. It’s a nightmare for all genders, an onslaught of both information and assholes. The whole thing is awful. When I first moved out here, I got onto OKC (as the hep cats call it) for about a minute and a half in the hopes of meeting people to ride with or possibly date. Silly, silly me.

I met with one guy as a potential riding buddy (nooooo dating potential at all there,) but he was only interested in dating. That, and shoving information about every detail of his (actually really shitty) old WRX at me. Fine, there’s the door. No, really – go away. No, it’s not the ratty car – it’s your ratty personality. Fuck. Off. Off you shall fuck!

I met a second guy, who is actually wonderful, but who is also 20 years my junior and a fair distance away. He’s perfect for someone, but not for me – we still chat online, and have hung out a couple of times platonically. He’s a fucking phenomenal author, incredibly woke, and just generally super cool. I’ll put that one into the “win” column in terms of meeting someone interesting, even though dating isn’t an option.

A couple of women I know here in San Diego recommended Bumble, an app driven entirely by women — only women can initiate a conversation if both people indicate interest. This cuts down on the volume of dick pics and random assholes by orders of magnitude. The profiles have only a tiny amount of space to try to catch someone’s eye, which has its pros and cons.

However.

I am profoundly outclassed. The devs apparently front-load a new user’s experience with the wealthiest, most classically beautiful people in the fucking world. I joked on Facebook the other day that this is how I typically compare with what seemed to be the “average” Bumble user:

Their profile: “CEO of $THING, singlehandedly funded $PHILANTHROPIC-THING. Clean-eating. Passionate and fun. Here is a photo of me holding a perfect Crow Pose on my yacht in Tahiti – notice my 72 abs. President Obama came to me for advice. Fit, athletic, motivated, spiritual, deep thinker. Love dogs. Invented powdered sugar. I organically grow my own cars. Award-winning National Geographic photographer. Working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. Here’s another photo of me being genuinely happy and quirky in the company of many beautiful people. Work out 18 days a week. Seeking a partner with all these same attributes and more. Ego plus quam perfectum, et ego in æternum vive.”

What I would have to say to such a person: “So… I went to Mexico on my motorcycle once. I’m really bad at yoga, but I do like powdered sugar. I make terrible financial decisions, and I can’t take a good photo to save my life – Chandler Syndrome, ha ha. Wait, you never watched ‘Friends?’ You found it trite and boring? Ok, ok. Anyhow, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. What’s that? Yes, I am 47 years old. What’s that face about? I listen to NPR… I stand up for other people, and I … sorry, I got distracted thinking about powdered sugar. Oh hey, you speak French!!

Par example:

Hi Doctor – 

space cadet nerd atheist,,, awkward dull chubby maybe fun numbers go here… born and raised, um, literally in the middle of a cornfield… traveled also. I traveled to the store just this afternoon, in fact, and also went to the bank. Obviously, I’m going to need a nap after all of that activity. I do not like children. @jupiter (also a planet!) semi-adventurer,like the idea of being an activist but bad at it,animal lover too! I also love spaces after punctuation, so I have to stop that nonsense immediately. Luv 2eat pudding say things breathe sleep watch shows while on edibles… and here I am, talking to you and seeing! Hey, by the way, I have this growth thing right on the front of my face – what might that be? It’s about 6 inches in diameter and smells terrible. OK THANKS HAVE A NICE DAY HEY TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PENIS.

(The penis thing comes in a bit later.)

Those who didn’t sound like completely pretentious tools seemed to be far too conventionally attractive and down to Earth to even give me a second glance (not that I would want them to:)

Hi David –

Jesus fuck, are those your actual arms, or did you have bear arms surgically grafted onto your body? I, too, know some words. Here are some now:

mittens
poodle
swim trunks (is that too suggestive?)
stoichiometry (I IZ SMARTS!)
egg
faucet

I’ve heard people say that I am super awkward and they do tend to stare when I dance, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. But who knows, maybe they were just… no, they were right, I’m a terrible dancer. I have made a series of unfortunate financial and career choices, so I will be working literally until the day I die. WRITE ME BACK OK THANKS BYE.

Hi James, 54!

Born in the middle of nowhere. Lived elsewhere for quite a few years. Ran my own business for 6 years and then gave it away for free to my best friends back home. I, too, am Single, though not really into the sportsball – but I fucking love watching hockey and MMA. Couldn’t tell you a damn thing about who’s competing these days, mind you, because who has that kind of time? Manhattan is terrible. Uniformly. Oh wait, we’re just saying words now! This seems to be a popular pastime on Bumble. Bees, Doritos, tabletop, roof tiles, appetizer! Looking for… you know what? Never mind. You are not at all what I’m after.

Many of these ostensibly “perfect” men and women put literally nothing in their profiles – they rely solely upon their (admittedly fantastic, yet wholly unappealing to me) photos to sell themselves. Who reaches out to someone like this, knowing literally nothing about him?

I’ll show you who – Tamara, who relies on a similar tactic, and is…. oh. Oh my…

Um. Gawrsh.

Gosh, Tamara –

Blush. Stumble. Um. So, live around here often?

A few have interesting profiles, but what the hell would I say to someone like this?

Hi Alexandre –

I’m Erin (nope, just plain ol’ E-r-i-n.) While I have never danced on a kitchen, per se, I have danced in a kitchen – and I broke three toes doing it because there was a fucking table in the middle of the floor. I, too, enjoy eating delicious things in places (it looks like you enjoy seeing lists of places, so here you go: City, country, plains, ocean floor, that bench by the sell-your-plasma lab.) I most definitely cannot afford to purchase an airline ticket to anywhere on the spur of the moment “just cuz,” unless that ticket was to, like, Bakersfield, and who the hell wants to go there at all, let alone pay for the displeasure? I have only one layer to my personality. I WILL NEVER OPEN TO ANYONE MY HEART IS DEAD INSIDE. 

Hi Ken –

DON’T WORRY ABOUT WASTING MY TIME, I DO A GREAT JOB OF THAT ALL ON MY OWN. 🙂 Deal breakers: People who can’t punctuate or spell properly, Labradoodle owners (Labradoodle is a ridiculous word, right? Fuck those dogs!! Figuratively, I mean, obviously.) (j/k – I love dogs, all of them.) POT IS A DRUG?!?!!?!? Fucking hell, thank goodness you were here to elucidate me on that one. Phew. I am lighting all of my weed on fire (though I admit it will be in very small amounts at one time.) I am very kind, and I am also active – just now, I, in fact, walked downstairs to the mailbox. I mean… I used the elevator, but there was movement involved both before and after that. Being transparent must be rather difficult! Due to your disability, I assume I can’t see you in your photo above, and that you are in between the two guys on the left. Have you ever thought about wearing clothes so you could be seen by other people? Just a thought. You do you! I’m totally not trying to smother or change you right now, ha ha ha. You’re still using “I’m” when listing things like “outdoors” (I am indoors myself,) “live music” (maybe this explains why you are transparent – you are music, not a person?) and so on. You’re touching 6′ of what? That sounds a little risque. I can totally solve the math problem at the end!!! If you just need one, subtract 2 from 3, and there you! Magic! Lastly, I notice you mention “fit” in your description. I still fit into most of my clothes – does that count? OK THANKS HAVE A NICE DAY.

After pummeling my self-esteem into the ground, the next day they began to show me people of a slightly different caliber: Those covered in prison tatts. Seriously, teardrops, the whole nine yards. Everyone makes mistakes, and being a felon doesn’t necessarily immediately disqualify someone, but we went from literal millionaires to felons in a heartbeat.

My friends encouraged me to “just get out there!” so I sent a few half-hearted introductions, and holy shit… well, I’ll just let you see for yourselves here in a moment.

On the plus side, just as I was getting ready to give up, I met Someone Kind of Awesome. Pretty cool. We went out the next day (which was last night,) and had a great time. We’re having dinner tonight, too. So, thank you, Bumble, after all. You rocked it just as I was about to bid you adieu, at least I got a friend out of it.

Without further ado, behold – I’m probably going to keep the app around purely for the comedic value. I’ll start you out with the whinging I did on Facebook, and select helpful answers:

Some actual conversations with people I matched with largely no hope of having anything in common – this is where the penis thing comes into play:

#UnMatch

#UnMatch

This one… this one realllllllly made me question what the hell I was doing on the app:

No, wait! David! Come back! I llllllllooooooovvvvvve youuuuuuuuuuuuu – I take it all back, Baby! How could I possibly resist your charms?!?!?!

Sigh. #UnMatch

This poor guy had the app cut him off at a truly unfortunate place, and his prize is winning the title of this blog post:

I sent him a quick note letting him know he might want to proofread his profile.

I don’t even know what to say about this one:

Pros:

  • I know what his bangs look like UP CLOSE.
  • He’s either terribly honest or a halfway-decent troll

Cons:

  • Well. I mean… yeah.

Bumble can be used to meet same-sex partners, too. I picked both genders, even though the likelihood of meeting an interesting girl would be far lower than a dude. Of the approximately 1839 women the app showed me, exactly 3 were interested in women. The rest apparently tapped the wrong button. They were nearly all, however, astonishingly beautiful, incredibly successful, and generally superior to me in every quantifiable way. Whee!

Bumble can also be used to meet…. clowns.

Some people do a fairly decent job of self-description, and then go one bridge too far:

It’s not easy for the dudes, either, I’m sure. More than a few said things like, “I’m X’Y” tall, because apparently that matters a lot here,” and some seem to have just Given Up Entirely:


Hi Mark!

I did actually read that, but I’m honestly more alarmed by your apparent state of entanglement with what I can only assume is some sort of human fishing rig.  Do you require assistance? Please send exact geographic coordinates, approximate speed, heading, bearing, and color of attire, and I’ll see what I can do to help. 

DAVID –

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO THAT POOR ALIEN DOG?!?! You are squeezing her so hard with your … anaconda arms… that she’s about to explode, eyes-first. Stop it. Also, RE: This photo:

I am really sorry you got kicked in the nuts so hard, or that you see someone eating the sandwich you left in the fridge for lunch.

Nurse Cody – 

Fucking hell, you can sure jump high. Not to brag, but I, myself, can jump almost three full inches into the air, unaided. So, did you ever find your way out of the desert? 

Some images defy explanation. Others can be explained by the next image in the series:

Dear Marty –

The hell are you doing to that tiny car? Oh – you are going to crush it into the ball we see in the next photo. Got it.

Like many other men here in Bumble World, you seem to have an interest in fitness and…. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS, MARTY?!!?

Marty, I don’t even know what to say anymore. I was just starting to feel safe with you, despite your car-crushing robot arms, and then you go and pull this shit? Don’t get me wrong – I, too, watched “Magnum, PI” a thousand years ago. HOWEVER. I do not recall Tom Selleck running around in junk-hugging … Speedo… short… things. I’m not sure I can get past this, even though things were going so well between us (well, between your previous photos and me, I should say.) Is there anything you can say in your defense?

Dawwwwwwww. Marty, I’ve never seen this side of you! You’re so fucking sweet, despite your egregious random apostrophe for no reason. Wait, though – you’re a bloody attorney and you can’t figure out an apostrophe? What kind of law do you practice, anyhow? And who are you to make demands on me already, like “court your significant other?” I don’t even know who she is – would I like her? You know me so well, Marty… I mean, there was the whole Porn ‘Stash Selleck Thing awhile ago, but we’re past that, right? This is a whole photo later – entire seconds have passed now. Ohhh no…. country music. And here I was already planning a surprise grammar class for you to improve your skills and to therefore be a more suitable mate for me. Goodbye forever, Marty – it just was never meant to be. Shhh now, no tears.

Hi Michael –

We are so ill-matched, but I just wanted to warn you that your shirt seems to have begun annexing the table next to you. Watch out – who knows where it will strike next.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU POINTING AT, DAVE, 52?! Do you realize we, your audience, cannot see it? Oh wait, is this some kind of bad Saturday Night Fever parody?

Robert –

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but that photo is fucking terrible. I mean, unless you are really proud of auditioning for the voice of Phlegm in an upcoming Nyquil commercial, you really might want to pick something else here. You’re 63, man – time could be short. 

Dear Kamran, 

I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?

Lastly, I leave you with… um…Robert.

Robert –

I am having tremendous difficulty reconciling these two images. You are either the second coming of George Peppard or you are in talks to act/direct/write/exec-produce/produce “Sheldon! The Retirement Years.” We get it, you’re versatile!  Either way, I’m not sure if you realize this, but Bumble isn’t a place to get acting gigs.

I feel like this guy hit “match” accidentally on my profile. Call me utterly shallow and judgmental about appearances, but I can’t imagine ever being comfortable in his presence with my lumpy self, even though he said, “good things come in all shapes and colors, right?” You look nice, Scott – best of luck to you, bud. And can we just talk for a minute about your fucking obliques? SHIT, SON.

 

So, I have once again discovered that online dating is fatiguing. Exhausting. Depressing. Horrible in every conceivable way.

I am spent.

And yet… I did find someone who was really cool, and we met a few times:

"I just kept swiping until I found the nerd girl!"

“I just kept swiping until I found the nerd girl!”

But, at the end of the day, I had to say “fuck this” all over again. I just … I can’t do online dating. Nope. Not for me.

Motorcycles & Relationships

“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?

<crickets>

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.

… Right?

Spoiled brat, c’est moi.

Motorcycles, Politics, Camping, Sex, Compassion, and Bees

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.”
~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…) 

Just a Number

“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 mistakesmany 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.”

Great! Thanks!!

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.
  • Watergate
  • 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. 😉

Sand

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.

The thing about sands is they shift. They move with the slightest breeze. 

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!”

Welp – I’m both the chips and the thing making them fall here.

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.