Still Alive.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Yes, I am still alive — despite not having updated this blog in how long?

In my last post, I was trying to decide what to do and where to go with my life. Well, I guess I did because by the end of summer I’d told my boss I’d come back for winter! I spend the autumn off-season driving back to Seattle, telling The Mansion folks I’d be moving out, finding a new storage unit, packing up all my stuff again, moving it into the storage unit, and basically being stressed out and worried that I wouldn’t get everything done in time. I also managed to fit in a quick trip to Portland to stay with my writer friend, AND FINISHED MY NOVEL. So, all in all, it was a pretty epic off-season.

Then it was back to Montana. It’s been quite the season, best illustrated by two phrases I’ve been saying a lot this winter: “Never a dull moment.” and “This place runs on Alice In Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass logic.”┬áDespite that, I’ve actually had a pretty good season (helped by the fact my boss made a point to get me a private room for housing). I got some truly magical cross-country skiing in, too, which involves not only gorgeous scenery and great full-body exercise, but is also fantastic for getting perspective and losing stress. I’ve also made a point of attempting a healthier diet, which isn’t always easy in this line of work, but I think it’s been helping with everything else to keep me slightly more level in my moods.

So it’s actually been one of the best seasons I’ve done so far. I think I’m starting to get a handle on my chosen lifestyle or something. Maybe I’m just getting better at life in general. But I’ve told my boss I’ll be sticking around indefinitely — or until something better comes along — and she’s pretty happy about it. I am too; it’s nice to know that after the off-season, I know what to expect from my next job, and I don’t have to even apply for it! The pay and the perks are both pretty good here, it’s hard to imagine someone better than my boss to work for, and personality-wise I’m well suited to my job. I’m basically set until I decide it’s time to shake things up again.

Various other good news:

  • This coming spring off-season, I’ve already bought tickets to visit my family in Hawaii, after far too long apart, and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
  • I’m participating in a NaNo event for the first time (finally), using the April NaNo Camp to work on and hopefully finish the research and editing to my first novel that I’ve been putting off.
  • My writer friend and I are collaborating on a new project together that we’ll be metaphorically unveiling soon, and I’ll post more here about it when we’re ready to share it with the world.
  • I’ve become a full-blow fountain pen convert (not good news for my savings, but fantastic and fun and so pretty and all the other things anyway).

And that’s pretty much it! The past half a year or whatever summarized. I’ll try to post more often than that; at least regularly during off-season travel and anything especially cool or interesting I do during my work seasons. Maybe I’ll aim for once a month updates, with “specials” extra posts for anything else…? We’ll see.

I have a lot of projects going on right now, and unfortunately I’ve let this blog get pretty low on the priorities list. Hopefully that’ll change, because once I actually sit down to write a post I always remember how much I love blog writing! My “voice” here is really different from my novel writing voice — much closer to how my constant inner monologue narrates my thoughts and life — and it’s so much fun to do this kind of writing once in a while as a break from the fiction writer struggle of consistent characters’ voices.

In the meantime, stay safe and stay alive.

–GeGi.

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The Tattoo.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I have this tattoo. I have several, actually, but there’s this one in particular.

before

It was my second time going in to get tattooed. The first time, I had finished designs ready. The second time, I had what apparently looked like a finished design. It was a rough draft actually, but I went to the same artist as before, and he assumed it was finished like the others, and I was too shy and scared and intimidated by, basically, the world, and not in a good head-space for sticking up for myself at the time due to lots of screwed up things that had been happening in my life, and basically, well, I got the tattoo anyway, even though it wasn’t right.

Of course, this not-quite-right tattoo is the one everyone sees all the time; out of five tattoos, this one is the biggest and in the most visible location. People always comment on it, and every time they do, and every time I see it out of the corner of my eye or in the mirror, I’m reminded of that time, and how it isn’t what I wanted, and how I didn’t speak up about something so permanent and important. It’s a reminder of who I never want to be again.

In one week exactly, that tattoo is getting modified and expanded into something I do want. I’ve spent about five years (give or take a year) waiting for this moment — that’s how long it’s been since I got it in the first place, if I’m remembering correctly. I’ve spent all that time thinking about exactly what it was I wanted in the first place, and what I want now, and finding images and writing plans over and over so that I can get exactly the right thing this time.

Today I stopped by the tattoo shop with the best reviews, and talked to an artist there. We talked over the ideas I had, he sketched a few things out and took notes and pictures, and we kept discussing it until we both felt sure we were talking about the same thing and both getting excited about the concept. He has a week to design something beautiful, and will send me pictures to approve before my appointment.

That is the experience I should have had five (or so) years ago. That is the experience I wasn’t capable of having five years ago. The fact that I can do it now — even, especially, when I’ve been feeling depressed and anxious and lost and burnt out — proves how much I can and HAVE changed and grown. Even when I feel like I’ve gone backwards in my growth and stability, I’ve proved it’s not as far back as I think.

This new version of the tattoo will be a reminder of this lesson, a constant beautiful image that strength and growth can’t be taken away, even by ourselves. It will be a reminder that something amazing can come out of something unfortunate. It will be a reminder that mistakes don’t have to be forever, and they don’t have to define us.

Stay strong, even when it doesn’t feel like strength. Some day, it will.

Love,

GeGi.

“A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Most of the time, I try to be pretty cheerful and positive on this blog. This is not always an accurate picture of who I am in physical life. (I prefer calling it my physical life instead of my “real” life, because the internet can be just as much a real part of life as the physical bits.)

I’m sure that’s pretty true of most blogs; still, though, I want to talk a little about why I make that particular choice with this blog. However, first I want to mention why I’m going to talk about it.

Over the past year, give or take a bit, and especially the past month or two, I’ve become part of an online family of friends. Two in particular — real life sisters — have been through a few ordeals of their own recently. They have been amazing through the parts of it I’ve heard about. The vulnerability, honesty, and openness that they have shown in dealing with trauma is nothing short of awe-inspiring bravery. Their strength has encouraged me to start sharing a little more than I normally do.

By exposing the parts of ourselves that are most wounded, perhaps we can start to heal. By telling our stories, perhaps others will feel less alone in their own. By recognizing and naming the bad, perhaps we can start to build the good.

My own family hasn’t been the greatest at doing this. They kept a lot of secrets that I had no clue about, stuff they just didn’t talk about. For example, I didn’t know depression was prevalent in both sides of the family females until I was breaking down weeping after years of silent struggle. Imagine what a difference that could have made, if I hadn’t felt like something was broken in me for so long, if I hadn’t felt so alone in my pain.

Not talking about the negative things isn’t healthy, and it isn’t helpful. If everyone else keeps the bad stuff hidden and not talked about, it just leads to feeling isolated when we go through it ourselves. Those who have the strength and courage need to drag it kicking and screaming into the open, point at it and proclaim “this is real, this happens, this happened to me”. Only then can those without the strength begin to do the same.

So, on to my personal story…

This blog has become a kind of therapy, giving myself an exercise to find positive things to say and to think about. Here is why that is so important for me:

I struggle pretty much daily with anger and depression. I have for, well, about as long as I can remember. Even as a small kid, I had a lot of anger and a short temper — ask any of my family and they can tell you the stories.

Looking back, I can recognize the isolation and frustration I felt then, the fears and worries, the things that were just part of life to me. I didn’t know how else to be, what other options there were. I didn’t have any control or channels. Those things came much later, and with much deliberate work.

Teenagehood made things worse in a lot of ways. It’s always a difficult transition for anyone, I think, and it was no different for me. The depression got worse as the isolation and frustration got more prominent. The resulting anger turned more inward, bursting out in not-always-expected directions. And there were other things — like my best friend and first love dying — that made everything more intense and difficult to deal with.

The first part of my twentiesomethings were spent living alone, in a city; two things I had no previous experience with. I won’t say I wasn’t ready for it, because I don’t think I could really ever have been ready for it without actually having done it.

I made a lot of choices that I look back on as stupid mistakes, but I recognize that they were part of a learning curve. They made me the person I am now. I am lucky that nothing worse happened, and I recognize how much worse things could have been. For the record, I like who I am now. Mostly. Basically.

Still, I eventually hit my own personal rock bottom. I was in a living situation where I felt unwelcome and unsafe, in a relationship where I felt unappreciated and used, isolated once again from friends, and working at a job that was stressful and miserable. I was being emotionally abused and tormented, to the point where I couldn’t recognize what was true or not, and conditioned to blame myself for all wrongs. I was seriously considering killing myself. I needed help, and I needed out.

Two-and-a-bit years ago, I got those things: I moved back to living with my parents. Not in the house or even the state I grew up in, but in a place that I was still familiar with and felt like a second home. I spent some time recovering, having the safety and freedom to start to process all that had happened while on my own, good and bad.

Then I started to push myself in new ways. I started making long-term commitments to projects, like my photo blog and massage school and bardic training, that I would never have seen through before. I started finishing those things. It was a first, and it felt good. Unreal, a little, but good. I’m proud of myself for those things.

I went back to the city to visit friends, and started to realize how much I’d changed, how far I’d come since I left. I started to feel whole unto myself, for the first time that I can remember.

It’s a struggle, almost every day, to hold on to those positive feelings. There are always things to trigger old thought patterns, years of behavior and social influence, that hurt me. It is so important to have tools to counter those things: good friends, healthy habits, outlets, distractions, commitments with positive reinforcement. This blog is one of my tools. I didn’t realize it for a while, but I recognize it now.

It’s so easy to slip back into being negative, into being harsh or depressed or scared or apathetic. There are a lot of reasons out there to be that way. Sometimes it can even a healthy choice to be that way. It can certainly be a reasonable one.

But for me, for now, it’s a healthier choice to stay positive and reinforce cheerfulness here on my blog. It gives me a chance to practice having an up-beat voice in my head, countering all those worn-out endless loops of criticism. And I have other places to let out the occasional rant and rage, or breakdowns and depression. This place is not for those things.

I hope you all have a positive, cheerful experience in your day, and healthy outlets for dealing with the rest. Whatever your situation, I wish you care and safety.

Be gentle with yourself, and take time to smell the flowers!

Love,

GeGi.

Trip Log Seattle: Post Trip.

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I’ve been back in Hawaii for a day and a half now…

Yesterday I unpacked; today I’m diving straight into looking for work. That was always the plan, but also it feels like I’m keeping myself busy in order to not have time to be sad about being home and leaving my friends behind.

The last days in Washington were a bit of a emotional roller-coaster; some unpleasant issues arose that I hadn’t expected, but they were counter-balanced by some people being awesome that I also hadn’t expected. And in a way, that made leaving a little bit worse, because my time in Washington was filled with awesome people. I felt at home in a way I don’t — and haven’t — in Hawaii, or much of the time I was living in Seattle, or even back in Idaho when I was growing up. I felt like I was “among my people”.

But at the same time, even though I’m not going to see most of them again for a year, I feel so much happier and more comfortable and confident in myself now that I got to spend time with them in the first place. Just knowing there’s somewhere I can belong makes not being there that much easier.

The past year in Hawaii, I had a lot of healing and processing and growth to do. It was a lot of solitary internal work that I needed to focus on, so I didn’t mind that I didn’t really have a “peer group” on the island. I wasn’t ready for a social life of my own, so being around the social life of my parents was enough of that sort of interaction, for the most part. I didn’t miss having friends of my own very much, because at that point I wasn’t used to them and couldn’t see the benefit.

Well, that’s certainly changed now!

As I talked about before, being back in Washington was a way to open up that growth and processing a little, to compare it to where I was at when I started. I was able to see my progress, see which parts were healed over into shiny new scars, which were still scabs, and which were still painful to poke at. I was able to honestly talk to friends about what I had gone through, which I hadn’t done before I left. I could assimilate and integrate the work I had done on my own, with the surroundings and people I had to leave behind to do it.

And I could start to make new friendships, renewed relationships, and fresh associations and memories. It was probably the healthiest, most rewarding, funnest three weeks I’ve had in years, if not ever. I’m grateful for all of it, even the parts that were difficult, because it taught me just how much I’ve come into my own and how much I’ve gained in the last year, and in the last five years.

Even though I miss being around friends, I’m excited to see where my life goes now, what opportunities and adventures arise in the next year, and the year after that. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I have a feeling it will be good…

Love to you all, cyber-friends.

–G.G.

Trip Log Seattle: In Northgate and Bellingham.

Being back in Washington state was a little surreal. Air travel always has a bit of a strange reality feeling to it, but coming back to a place I haven’t seen for over a year really adds to the feeling.

Walking through the neighborhood where I used to live, back when I first moved to Seattle, seeing what businesses have changed and which are still around, recognizing landmarks… It all really brought home just how much I’ve grown and changed since I lived here. I kind of like it. I kept imagining it must feel similar as to when a graduate college student returns to their old campus after living out in the world for a while and making it. There’s the nostalgia, but not exactly any regret about not being there anymore. And after the drama I went through while living in various places in WA, it felt cathartic to visit the beginnings again. The much-needed time and space to heal those wounds was tested, and it held.

It’s been fantastic to see my friends and family, and I’m really enjoying spending time just hanging out with them. I really wanted this trip to have that kind of relaxed ‘just become part of their lives for a while’ kind of feel, rather than an official visit with an agenda, etc. We do special things, still, but it’s all very low-key and not stressful.

I’ve only been gone a few days now, but it already feels so natural to be here.

–G.G.

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