Thanksgiving Writing Retreat

1 Dec

This year for Thanksgiving, I decided to get drunk in the woods. This brings to mind two types of stories. The first is a tale of self-discovery and acceptance of all my shortcomings from which I return to the life I had with a little less baggage and wiser than when I left. The second is a horror film where I am murdered in an abandoned camp ground rented out by black-market organ dealers.

Thankfully the second plot was not the story of my weekend. However, I don’t see any Hollywood tycoons banging on my door for the film rights to what actually happened either. Media taints our perception of reality, we know this. I wasn’t expecting much, but at the same time I was expecting something, it is human nature when you are raised in the 20th century.

Let’s start at the beginning shall we?

I rented a cabin somewhere in Arizona I had never been called Lyman Lake. Simple, cheap, and out in the middle of nowhere (aka away from humans…I am slowly morphing into a hermit). The Friday after Thanksgiving I drove my hung over ass, my dog, and my high hopes five hours through several different forms of precipitation to a lake hidden in the mountains of Northern Arizona.

What I expected:

  • Monumental progress on my romance novel
  • Finishing the book I have been reading for months now
  • Plenty of hiking with Kali, my dog, so she got all the nature she doesn’t get at home
  • A blazing fire both nights over which I would cook bratwursts and foil packets of potatoes like I had seen on Pinterest

What actually happened:

  • I wrote about 3000 words, which isn’t even half of a novella
  • Still have 300 pages shy of the end of the book I have been reading (although I did make progress, I think I just read slower than I think)
  • One hike, just one, on the first day. It was about a mile and I had to stop several times to just breath.
  • No fire. Not one. I ate bagels and carrot sticks the whole time.

It sounds disappointing, but even though the weekend didn’t meet my expectations, I loved every second of it. I got a lot more writing done than I would have at home. I have been trying for months to make progress on this idea of a book, and I actually feel good about the direction the story it taking now. I spent a solid four hours just reading. I never let myself do that at home. There is always something to clean or errands to run or Netflix to catch up on. I was out in nature. Maybe I was’t stomping through it with my hiking boots, but I saw petroglyphs and actual stars splattered across the sky in all their unadulterated glory. Kali got to run and play and sniff new things, which for a dog is a big deal. She saw snow for the first time and realized it was cold, very cold. I swear those big brown eyes looked at me and thanked me for living in Phoenix. We walked more than any weekend in the last couple of months and that is progress. I even did about two minutes of yoga because the crappy cabin mattress made my 32 year old back ache like the dickens.

I can’t spin the food with a positive light though. I’m still mad I forgot a lighter and the brats I brought sat in the cooler the whole time. At least I ate my veggies though!

What I wasn’t expecting was the complete lack of pressure and the calming quiet of the mountains. I was more at peace than I could have even imagined I would be. There was zero cell service or wifi and that level of disconnection gave me permission to take my time with everything I chose to do. There were hours and hours to fill so whatever idea of a schedule I had come up with was thrown out the window. There were no messages or social media to check so I barely even looked at my phone which meant I didn’t have any idea what time it was unless I intentionally looked for it. I can’t even tell you how freeing that felt.

Am I going to run off to the woods to live off the land? No, clearly I am not built for that. Did I have any personal growth opportunities that will make me a better person? No, absolutely not, but it was nice realizing I could sit in silence and not literally go crazy. Am I going to be one of those people that deletes all the apps on their phone other than contacts and maps? FUCK no. I need to stalk people to know I am not the worst human that has ever existed and make sure my exes aren’t happy than me. Maybe one day I’ll work up to a weekly social media detox…one day.

What I will do is try to take more trips with just a book and my dog…and my laptop, I’m not an animal. And a bottle of vodka, that shit really gets the creative juices flowing. I will try to make time to do the things I actually enjoy and not just what I have to do to survive. I will take Kali on more walks.

I will continue to be the person I am, but maybe I will also manage to sometimes be the person I found in the mountains.

I will remember I don’t hate the snow as much as I think, it is nice in small doses.

Selling Myself

10 Aug

A tale about the failed American Dream, lies Millennials believed, and the cynicism that sets in in your thirties.

Three weeks ago I went to Disneyland. I love Disney, it makes me feel like magic still exists. I know the company has its problems, the parks cost too much, and everything in them is overpriced. Yet, there is nothing like walking down Main Street U.S.A, forced perspective in full effect, and seeing Sleeping Beauty’s castle off in the distance. That, my friends, is mesmerizing.

About a month before I went to Disneyland, my summer cash flow was questionable at best and I started to realize I couldn’t afford to go to the most magical place on Earth if I didn’t find a new revenue stream. I was processing this predicament with a few coworkers one day and one of them mentioned how they used to donate plasma in college. I was never very strung up for cash in college so I had never explored the venture, but I was aware of the concept. It took me a bit to work up to it, but eventually, I went in and got myself signed up. I’ve been going fairly regularly for almost two months now.

Before I started going and donating my plasma, I had a preconception that the people who frequented these places were drug addicts or homeless or working at McDonalds (the fact the I always pick McDonalds is also a bias I need to confront, but that is for another day). I have been privileged in my life and I understand that when I have these thoughts, they are not always true. I do believe, however, that we are only going to get over them by being honest and owning up to them. I have discovered that while there are people who are clearly struggling, there are also a lot of people who donate who are probably a lot like me. People who are in a tough spot because of a few poor financial choices, have a bit too much credit card debt, and have their student loan companies breathing down their necks.

At first, it was an uncomfortable experience for me. I felt judged and not just by the people around me in the clinic. I don’t feel that way too often when I go now. Maybe I grew numb to the inner voice or maybe it just became a familiar enough place that my anxiety decided to categorize it as normal. Either way, recently it has just felt like another chore. A job I go to for a couple hours at a time to make a bit of money.

It paid for my Disney trip and I kept going after to see if I could cut down my credit card balances. I did that math and if I keep going regularly, by the end of the year I will have made almost two thousand dollars in almost six months.

I don’t feel shame in this side hustle, but sometimes I do feel anger. Anger at a system that set me up with an idea of what my future would be that doesn’t match the reality. I don’t think I dreamed big. I never had hopes of owning a Maserati and a summer home in Paris. What I thought was attainable was much more conservative. A job that pays the bills with a little left over to grab drinks with friends a couple times a week. Enough set aside in my savings that I could take a vacation somewhere nice once or twice a year. I wanted stability.

Instead what I have is debt and anxiety dreams about paying back that debt. I can’t blame it all on the system. I made some decisions that had a negative impact on the stability I dreamed of. I take my share of the blame. There are things that were and are out of my control, however, and they make it hard to recover. I was young and dumb for a while, but I don’t feel like I was abnormally idiotic. I don’t know that the punishment for my crimes is a fair one, and that is where the anger comes from.

I am only 32 and, God willing, I have a lot of years left to make up for the mistakes I made, to learn the lessons that might get me to the promised land. For now, I will just keep selling pieces of myself and hope that I don’t sell the pieces that make me me.

6/10

3 Oct

It has been almost a year since my last post.

So much has happened.

My heart just wants to cry out to the void. Maybe someone will care.

Maybe not…and that’s ok too.

 

Sometimes you just need to pour your heart out to the unknown because you want to hold onto the image you have with others so badly that you can’t tarnish with words of regret or disappointment.

 

I don’t want to let you down. I don’t want you to think poorly of me. I want to be the strong and positive human I strive to be. I just find the story of tonight ironic.

 

Work was hard, but then on a drive to the grocery store for wine and ice cream, I decide I am going to be happy. I can plan it. I can force it. I make a plan. I will wake up everyday with a happy tune. I will tell myself to fake it ’til I make it. I will become the person I dream of one tiny baby step at a time.

Then that song comes on. Not even THAT song, just the one that reminds me that this is all temporary and makes me ask the question, “how much does it actually matter?”

I cry in the car in my driveway.

I remember it is all so transient. Hopelessness sneaks in again.

I stare into the night until I convince myself to go cuddle my dog.

A few glasses of wine later, I am listening to the saddest songs Dodie Clark has to offer and reminding myself how extraordinarily alone I am. I know I am not alone. That doesn’t keep the thoughts and questions out of my mind. The reminders that my irrational brain finds to say that I am alone. Why bother? What does it matter anyway?

In those moments I try to remind myself all the people I could call before my fingers fail. I remind myself that I do this to myself before another tear falls. I scream (in my head) to just give up the act because my life isn’t all that bad. None of it matters when the anxiety, my best friend, has its fingers twiddling the strings.

Thoughts from the Mad

10 Oct

A lot has happened recently. If one of my clients was complaining to me about this shit, I would say something along the lines of “life’s hard, get a helmet.” I can’t find my helmet.

Work is difficult to live with, and more difficult to leave.

My anxiety is overwhelming and destructive.

My relationships seem to be unravelling and I don’t know how to mend them.

There is just too much going on, the ship is sinking and I can’t fins my fucking bucket. Well, I found the one with the hole in it, but the water is coming in and the one without the hole would be really useful.

Every time I think about my blog, I think “gosh, I need to write more,” but how do I write more when it is so hard to think and/or be sane.

I have ideas and inspiration at all the most inconvenient moments. Then, by the time I find a pen or a keyboard, the inspiration had fizzled. Have you ever seen Jane the Virgin? She knows what I mean.

I was listening to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast while walking my dog this evening (I have one of those now!), and inspiration smacked me on the back of the head, but it took me 45 minutes to get home. It went something along the lines of finding meaning in the simple moments. Finding fulfillment when it seems inconvenient.

In addition, I have been contemplating a move to the event planning field and taking a break from the social services where I was so committed to spending my life serving. I was unsure and in a moment it washed over me and I realized I felt selfish. My commitment was to service, to bettering the world, and now what? I want to make more money and be more at peace? How long until I hate that and then hate myself for leaving something that was at least karmically fulfilling?

So many thought, so little sobriety.

2016 in Review

10 Mar

This is late (very late) in the year to be posting this, but it is finally done and I am a sucker for tradition. It has been a while since I have posted anything, but sometimes you have to deal with your shit and forgive yourself for sucking at the extra curriculars (more to come on that later…that is going to be a prevalent theme in this post…foreshadowing!)

10 Highlights…

  1. At the start of the year I finished all my obligations to the courts
    After all the frustration and shame that came with my DUI scandal, I am happy to say I have dutifully completed all the requirements the court required of me. It is my sincerest hope I can put that behind me and move forward.
  2. My Lucky Penny and I had a lovely handful of adventures that for the sake of space, I condensed into one highlight
    At the end of January I travel to LP’s new home in Portland and got to explore a new city and celebrate her birthday. In Septmber, LP returned to Phoenix or a visit and we went to see the Patriots play their first game of the season against the Cardinals (we may or may not have peed into a tupperwae cereal box while tailgating in my car). Finally, and most amazingly, LP moved back to Phoenix permanently in December!
  3. For the first time in my life I moved into an apartment of my very own
    All the dreaming and scheming I did as a kids, looking forward to the time I could be entirely independent and have a place to call my own, was finally realized in April, and it is the most free and independent I have ever felt. To think some people go their whole lives without that experience.
  4. Despite the ever deteriorating feelings of my job satisfactions, there were a couple victories this year
    I finally got my promotion to BHS2, I created from scratch and an entire curriculum for the outpatient program I was running, and I finaly got to switch to the school shift I have been coveting for quite some time.
  5. I hit some really awesome shows (primarily with Anarchy) this year
    My favorite of which was in May when we drove to Tuscon to see Harry and the Potters, The Driftless Pony Club, and Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers.
  6. Travel
    In June, I flew home to see my family, including, for the first time literally in years, my grandfather. In July, I visited my lady friends in Wisconsin (and my puppy loves). October brought the girls to me (and us to Vegas), as well as my old work husband from Massachusettes. I got to sho him around town a bit and we went for a weekdn to San Diego. Finally, I went on my typical treck home in December for th holidays.
  7. Budding Romance
    A coworker and I started dating in an entirely unexpected way and it turned into something more than I could have imagined. More to come on that later.
  8. Birthday Road Trip
    I may detail the whole experience in a later post. The cliffnotes version is that a long time friend from back East came out for a week in August and we went on a crazy, amazing road trip for my birthday. We went from Phoenix to Sedona to the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas to just outside Monterey down the PCH to LA to San Diego/Carlsbad. We hiked, explored, partied, went scuba diving, finally went to Harry Potter World and so much more.
  9. A Brief Interlude Back Into Church
    I have been wanting to start going to church again for a while. I met someone (someone I kind of wanted to impress/get in the pants of) who went to church regularly. One thing led to another and for a few weeks I went to his church and it was honestly really great and fulfilling, but also confusing. When things got awkward with that person though, I stopped going all together, which is a lesson in itself.
  10. Movies…or really just Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them…but also Rogue One
    The new Star Wars feature was amazing. I loved it, I talked about it for weeks. However, for me, nothing compares to sitting in the theater and reimmersing myself in the Potter universe. There are no words to describe the overwhelming sense of coming home.

10 Disappointments…

  1. The Big Bang
    Another thing I may explore in a later post, but Michigan and I imploded in the worst way about a month before our lease was up and he moved back to Michigan.
  2. Dating Fails
    In an attempt to get over Michigan and move on with my life, or mostly just get the fuck off my couch, I dived into the world of online dating. Some of the people were kind of nice, some of them were creepy or gross, but overall I was disappointed with my options. I don’t regret it, it got me back into the groove of things and put me in the mindset to find someone worth my time, but I still wouldn’t recommend it since the most I got out of it was a few free drinks and one really anxiety provoking go kart date. There was also I  must add, a handsome, but very young man that was a breif, but exciting interlude between POF dates and true love. I don’t know if he could have been real or if I just wanted to climb him like the tree he was, but I guess that will jus have to remain a mystery.
  3. My (Still) Shitty Job
    The fucks I give at work are in a steady decline. I still love my kids and the work I do there, but if I have to deal with anymore office drama, I am likely to murder at least half of my supervisors…which I am pretty sue would be frowned upon. Yes, I am applying to other jobs.
  4. My Travel Buddy Expenses
    My travel buddy also happens to be my car…and man was she a bitch this year!
  5. Falling Back Into Cynicism
    Along with my exploration back into religion came the return of my lack of faith in the community of faith. When the first time I go to a small group I am bombarded with women pining for men or talking about how great their husband are while doing arts and crafts inside while the boys get to have snacks and a slip and slide outside, well you can extrapolate from there. Why is the church so behind when it comes to feminism?!
  6. The Cost of Finding Love
    I got my first STD y’all, and yes, I am sad about it, but also it has been an eye opening experience. Yet again, more on that later.
  7. Hiking Failures
    I am not good with cardio. More often than not when I exercise, it is my lungs that give out before my muscles (thanks cigarettes and sedentary lifestyle!). My new love interest and I kept trying to go hiking and each time it ended poorly, me sullen or us in a fight. I take full responsibility because it was my own insecurities affecting my reactions, but I applaud him for continuing to try anyway.
  8. My Inability to Keep Up with ANY Workout Routine
    I am just going to be honest, I am lazy. I accept this about me, but I also really hate the place I have let my body get to. Those things don’t really go hand in hand, but it seems no matter how many things I have tried this year, none have stuck.
  9. Trump
    Do I have to say more? Unfortuantely this also led to the most intense fight I have had with my family in a very long time.
  10. Self Image Issues
    This goes along with number 8. My mental health has been on a seesaw and a lot of it has had to do with my issues with health and ability to maintain a healthy weight.

3 Game Changers…

  1. My (briefly named) “single girl apartment” and finding a new level of my independence and self-preservation.
  2. Breaking up with, and then getting over, Michigan. I haven’t had that level of heartbreak in a decade.
  3. Letting myself be open to new experiences, adventures, and connections when it could have been just as easy to wallow in self pitty for a majority of the year.

3 Things I focused on…

  1. Not letting deafeat define me
  2. Self care and weeding out what is actually important to me
  3. Trying not to get hang overs

3 Things I forgot…

  1. Applying for Grad School (Again)
  2. Figuring out a better solution for my student loan problem
  3. Staying active

Reflection…

Everyone keeps talking about what a horrendous year 2016 was and to some degree, I can concur. However, not all of it was abysmal and I think it is important to remember that life is made up of dichotomies. I had some big personal upsets and some long time issues facing me head on, but I also had some pretty big triumphs. I don’t know if in the long run I will look back and see 2016 as overall good or overall bad, but I do know I am thankful to have lived another year, learned some new lessons, and faced some big challenges that could have been the end of me, but weren’t

Adventures in Bullet Journaling

18 Jun

I recently fell down the bullet journal road and have been raving about it to my friends. We are in a honeymoon phase, my journal and I, which may or may not turn into a serious commitment. Isn’t that the mystery in any new relationship?

A friend asked me for my advice on how she could start hers (hi B!) since the internet is full of an overwhelming amount of information that can be hard to navigate. Being the opportunist I am (and since it has been a while since I posted), I decided to write a quick diddly on my initial thoughts.

I started with just a simple Shinola journal I had started using as a gratitude journal (a failed expedition) forever ago that had fallen into disuse.

journal ouside

I didn’t want to invest money into this thing until I knew it would be something I would use regularly. I just clipped off the section I had previously used and started fresh.

clip

I used The Lazy Genius Collective‘s post as a guiding light after watching the tutorial on the bullet journal website.

My absolute best advice is to not try to do too much all at once. Start simple!

I set up my Index first then set up a six month Future Log.

Index fuure lo

In the future I think I am going to set up my future log with a calendar look because that feels more natural to me.

calendar

My next step was to setup the first month and the Daily Log.

June June daily

I kept it incredibly simple and accepted it would not be perfect the first time, sort of a rough draft I could adjust in future months. On the left page, the month and a space for each day. On the right page, my list of things to accomplish. I didn’t have a Key at this point to delineate between tasks, events, etc. so it looks a little messy.

My Daily Log I intend to use as a basic journal. I suck at journalling, but I want to keep a log of events and big moments so that is my intention for this space. If that doesn’t interest you, you can utilize it differently or leave it out all together.

After using June for a while, I realized some of the downfalls to such a simple set up (and saw some fun things on Pinterest), and adjusted when I set up July. (PS can you tell I don’t own a ruler)

July

I needed space for my work schedule because it varies so I added a column on the left of the dates to write in my hours. On the right hand page I separated it into four categories for easier reference.

I also made a key for myself to keep track of different things on my monthly to do lists. There are a lot of cute symbols other people have use, but again, I kept mine simple. This is on the last page on my journal for easy reference.

Key

The last thing I did was set up a few pages of things I wanted to keep track of.

saes shows o wach Readin Lo

These can literally be anything important to you and they can be added anywhere in the journal. Just add them to the Index at the beginning for easy navigation.

That is one thing I am realizing I left out! Number all your pages!! Each time you create a new page in your journal, add the page number and title to your Index so you can easily flip through to find it.

I think that is all for now. Please feel free to ask me any other questions you might have about my experience and have fun with your own if this is something that appeals to you!!

Sexting with My Ex

21 May

In February, my partner of 2 1/2 years and I broke up. However, since we were still under a lease together, the two months that followed were possibly the most draining of our relationship. Living in the grey area was one of the hardest most confusing things I have ever done. I don’t know if it made the separation easier or harder now that all is said and done. I don’t know if I will ever know, but time gives clarity and I am still waiting and hoping for answers.

I have heard that one of the hardest things one can do is letting go of someone they still love. I didn’t know how hard until that February evening when Michigan told me he was no longer happy in Arizona and he was planning to move back home in April. I wanted to hate him, to be angry, but all I felt was blinding pain coursing through my veins. It had been so long since the last time I felt that way, I had almost forgot how entirely debilitating it could be. I am a stronger person now than I was the last time my heart was torn asunder, but no one is strong enough to withstand that kind of assault unaffected.

I know I acted the craziest I had acted since he knew me and I didn’t care. All walls were down and I was not above yelling at him one minute and begging him to stay the next. I drank a lot and cried even more and I made him watch it all. I would say I am sorry, but I am not. He was the man I loved and he was leaving me. He was not above it all, I knew it was tearing him apart to do it too. Love is a funny thing, even when you know it is not enough, it still feels like everything.

I felt like he had never really tried to make my home our home. Like I wasn’t enough to make him happy. Like all the things he had told me were lies that were now set alight. Of course some of those thoughts were overdramatized, but I think some of them had merit as well. He felt isolated and insecure which only amplified other issues we had. Of course it all makes logical sense now, but in the moment nerves were raw, exposed.

Our last few days were a roller coaster. Our last night was a passionate embrace. Our last morning was a waterfall of sorrow.

In the moment, I felt like that was the end of the story. In my heart of hearts I knew the healthy thing was to accept the failure of our hard won relationship and move on. At first I tried. We would text, but I would be vague and distant. I dated other people, tried to open my heart to options yet to be in my imagination.

Then, I let things slip. It was too hard to pretend I could fall out of love that quickly and move on to the next one. Especially knowing his feelings remained intact. We talked about more intimate things; we talked more often. We talked to end the day, and then we talked to feel something again.

LP one day observed that Michigan and I had returned to the state before things became difficult. Before he moved in, before our sex drives were incompatible, before we stopped communicating. I have no choice to agree, but I also know that things are different here at the end than they were at the beginning. We are different, and most importantly we aren’t together. In a way, I got what I had been asking for, freedom. The irony is that I no longer want it. It has been a month since I have seen him. I haven’t slept with anyone else despite the handful of dates I have been on. Maybe for some this is normal, for me this is incredible. This leads me to believe that what I actually wanted wasn’t what I was asking for.

I still keep analyzing all the things I could have done differently, but I wonder if it would have changed anything in the end. Sometimes what we want is impossible, and accepting that feels equally insurmountable. Sometimes fate just has other plans and we have to keep an open mind to see where we end up.