Catching Up: A Quick Review of 2015.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

My first non-book-review post of 2016! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written about my own physical life adventures, so I thought I should take a moment today to write a post I’ve been putting off.

2015 was really hard. I started out last year having really high hopes. I was living and working in a beautiful snow-covered Rocky Mountains winter wonderland, learning and loving to cross-country ski, and having a job I pretty much enjoyed. All that fell apart pretty quick; the snow melted early, I stopped having the time and energy to ski, my housemates were mostly various kinds of awful, and I worked with half of them on a daily basis. I tried to make the best of it, but depression hits pretty thoroughly sometimes, and I spent the rest of the time basically gritting my teeth and waiting to escape at the end of the season. It sucked, because I wanted so hard to be able to appreciate the amazing place I happened to live it at the time, but all I wanted to do was hide until I could run away.

My spring road trip has been, eventually, fully detailed in the blog, as have parts of the following summer drama in Colorado. Suffice it to say, summer was basically a repeat of winter, but with added “fun” of getting injured in my right shoulder and unable to work the majority of my time on the ranch. Cue depression and alienation, with the side bonus of lost wages and extra paperwork.

I clung to plans of escape when the season was over, and left as soon as I could, leaving the ranch for the final time in the early dawn light and not looking back. Shortly after my return to the Northwest Coast, the region I’d been daydreaming about with nostalgic feelings of being as close to home as I can get these days, Mum came over from Hawaii to visit.

As glad as I was to escape the people and politics of the Mid-West, seeing my Mum was incomparably better. I played the driver, and took Mum up and down the northern part of the Washington coastal region while we visited her parents. We got to spend the last few days together, just the two of us, and getting to spend all that time with Mum…well, my heart is aching and I’m getting an about-to-cry feeling again just thinking about it, I miss her so much. If I could stand the bugs and the weather and the job market and the housing issue and all the rest of the stuff that comes from living in one of the poorest parts of the jungle side of an island in the middle of the biggest ocean, well, I won’t hesitate to be closer to my Mum. My sister is pretty astonishingly lucky that she managed to make it work.

Anyway. Mum left and according to my plan I should have started immediately to figure out the details of moving to Portland. I didn’t. I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to be in Portland eventually, but over the course of about a week I realized what I need to do first was give myself time and permission to just STOP for a while. Stop running from one thing to the next, stop pushing myself to keep going so I can’t feel how burnt out I’m getting, stop trying to fake being okay so hard. I needed time to wallow, to hurt, to distract myself, to be lazy and indulgent, to get to do all those things in a place where I was safe and not judged for it. I needed to let myself let go of the past year so I could finally start to process and heal from all of it. I needed to do those things before I could have my fresh start.

So now it’s 2016. I just left Seattle finally, and am staying with an Aunt and Uncle in Tacoma while I gear myself back up to really actually for-sure-this-time start to act on my plans for Portland. I’m less hurt emotionally than I was before I took time off from being a “responsible adult”. I still feel the wounds of the past year, still have the new battle-scars, the aches and wariness, the depression and lingering suspicion. But I also feel more confident, more self-possessed, more me. It’s not perfect, but then, life never is perfect. The trick is to learn how to embrace the messy bits and make them into a new kind of perfect. Not the all-encompassing kind; the quiet contented kind that creeps in during the little moments.

I’m typing this upstairs in the guest bedroom, warm orange-red walls reflecting the soft yellow glow of the overhead light down onto the desk. Outside it’s overcast and has started to rain enough to hear it through the window and on the roof. This morning I woke to the smell of baking bread. Right now I can hear the rain, and muffled traffic, and the music I’m playing very quietly, and voices from whatever my aunt is listening to downstairs. The house has a faint and constant scent of incense and essential oils that’s saturated into the walls and the paint and the rugs over the years. There’s nothing big or flashing about this moment. But when I stop to notice it, I feel a sense contentment and home-y-ness that’s as close to perfection as I ever really need out of life.

Now I just need to figure out how to create and support this for myself in Portland…

Wish me luck, my friends, as I wish you luck in finding your own kind of perfect in the New Year.

Love,

GeGi.

Travel Log: First Leg.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today I basically woke up inside a cloud. With me inside this cloud is the city of Portland, OR.

View from the bedroom/living room window.

View from the bedroom/living room window.

After my adventures in Montana, I took the scenic route back into my old home-state of Idaho, driving on a two-lane highway winding alongside and back and forth over the Clark Fork river. I added several hours to my trip, but it was worth it for the beautiful scenery, the more relaxing experience, and the avoidance of a monotonous freeway.

I took a break from the road in Sandpoint, ID; the next largest town to where I grew up. I walked around a bit, seeing familiar sights and noticing changes from the last time I was there. It’s the first time I’ve been back since I moved out on my own, seven or eight years ago (I think… It might have been longer).

Back in the southern reaches of my old stomping grounds.

Back in the southern reaches of my old stomping grounds.

From here I continued on the more scenic highway until I got to Spokane, WA, where I finally relented to the necessities of time and got on the freeway to cross Washington. I headed towards Tacoma, and made it to my aunt and uncle’s house in time for dinner!

First order of business the next day — after tea, breakfast, and visiting, of course — was swinging by my storage unit to drop off as much as I could reasonably part with for the next year. After that, I took my car in to get a pre-road trip check-up, and then I was free to just relax and have fun the rest of my visit!

It was awesome getting to hang out with some of the family again; I went to a couple yoga classes with my aunt, went out to dinner with two of my cousins, hung out in the incredible apartment one of them just moved into (and meet her cat!), got treated to lunch by another uncle… I love my Washington-based relations, and it’s always a good time when we get together.

In the middle of my Tacoma stay, I took a quick trip up to Seattle and Bellevue to visit a few more friends. In Seattle, we went out for dinner at Some Random Bar (one of my favorite places — check it out the next time you’re there. Seriously.), and hung out afterwards watching a favorite show back at their home. In Bellevue, we test-ran a tabletop RPG one of the household has created, and had a total blast. That’s got to be one of the funnest gaming experiences I’ve had, and I absolutely want to play again!

After a short week in Washington, it was time to move on. I drove to Portland, OR yesterday, and am now enjoying the hospitality of a fellow unschooler and twitter-friend! Last night we listened to Welcome to Night Vale (the feral dogs episode), watched some Classic Doctor Who (Tom Baker era, “The Brain of Morbius”), and watched the first episode of Galavant. Much geeky fun was had by all (obviously!).

I’ll be here for a couple days, hanging out and exploring Portland. On Friday I’ll be taking off again, driving through Oregon, and meeting up with my brother for the first time since we were all last in Idaho. I’m so excited to visit him! I’ll be spending a long weekend at his place before I venture on into Territory Unknown…

I’ll keep you posted.

Love,

GeGi.

On The Road Again…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I’m writing this from a cafe several towns away from the Montana ranch. My season there has ended, and I spent Easter packing the last of my things into my VERY full car, and taking a scenic highway route that added about two hours (compared to the freeway route) to the first leg of my month-long trip. The extra time and mileage was worth it; it was beautiful, for one thing, and for another it gave me time to really put some mental space between me and work.

Since I last wrote here, some interesting things happened at work. It happened one morning when I walking into the housekeeping building, and discovered the two co-workers who had been scheduled to open were not there, with no sign that they had ever been there since I’d left the night before. I called the boss, who sent me to wake them up. When I checked their rooms, it was obvious they had both packed up and taken off in the middle of the night, leaving us short-staffed by half our crew. Oh, and this was the weekend our VIPs (the owners of the ranch and a bunch of their friends, plus a few others) were showing up.

After some mad scrambling and last-minute rescheduling, we actually pulled off a very successful weekend for our veeps (fortunately they were really low-key and low maintenance). By the time the dust settled, the three of us who were left (me, the boss, and the boss’s assistant manager) realized that pretty much all the tension and drama we’d been experiencing all season had gone with the two who ran off. Ditto for the tension, drama, and dirty dishes back at the shared housing.

Needless to say, the season ended strong. We all felt more relaxed and mellow, and had a lot more fun. We finished our Deep Cleans of the cabins with a day to spare, while working about four hour days. My end-of-season review with the boss was the best I’ve ever received from anyone — to the point where I’m actually considering returning next winter. And my remaining co-worker and I were getting along so well by the end of it we even went out for lunch together on our last day!

Now my road trip begins; first stop is visiting the family I stayed with on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, and hanging out with one of my internet friends. Next, if it works out (I need to make a call and find out if I have a place to spend the night), I’ll be visiting my old hometown in Idaho, which I haven’t seen in seven or eight years. Then on to Tacoma to stay with an Aunt and Uncle, and more visiting of friends (a common theme of this trip). After a short week there, I’ll head south to Portland (another friend), then Grant’s Pass (my brother, who I haven’t seen since we left our old hometown). After that, there’s just a few more confirmed stops (an old friend in Utah, another in Colorado, the one in Texas), which I’ve mentioned in a previous post. It’s going to epic.

I’ll try to post at least semi-regularly throughout my trip. My new replacement laptop/tablet should help with that — it’s smallish, easy to use, has a great battery life, and connects with my phone. And of course I’ll be on Twitter most days, too, at least a little bit. If nothing else, writing a blog post gives me a great excuse to hang out at local cafes for hours, which is totally one of my favorite things to do in a new town!

I’m also going to try and write more on my sci-fi novel. I’ve been taking a break from it, because my old laptop had a bit of an accident which shorted out the keyboard (hence the new replacement), and using an on-screen keyboard when it isn’t a touchscreen is a MAJOR pain and very time-consuming. Obviously, I could have kept writing with pen-and-paper, but my writing style — my “voice” — changes with different mediums, and I wanted to maintain consistence. A forced break can be good, though; I’ll be seeing the plot and characters with fresh eyes and a replenished well of ideas.

Adventures await…

Stay safe out there, friends, and happy travels on your journeys — even if it’s only your journey through Life.

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.

Pass The Tissues, Please…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Third Star is one of the most beautiful movies about death and friendship and life I’ve ever seen. The Welsh film is directed by Hattie Dalton and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Burke, J.J. Feild, and Adam Roberson.

The basic story is that four friends are taking one last trip to Barafundle Bay before one of their number — James, played by Benedict Cumberbatch — dies of cancer. He’s just celebrated his 29th birthday, and everyone knows he won’t be around for another.

They take a special cross-country wheeled chair, because he’s too weak to walk the several day journey, and they take his medications and morphine and some special things like a tree one of them grew from seed and wants to plant at the Bay.

The film progresses a little like a road-trip movie — without the car — with montages of travel across the beautiful Pembrokeshire landscape breaking up each segment of events; a fight at a pub, an encounter with a beachcomber, and so on.

The interactions between the characters really play off perfectly as a group of friends who’ve known each other forever; they joke, they fight, they tease, they carry on. Nothing feels forced or overdone, it all seems genuine. I love seeing relationships done right in movies!

The moments of each scene in Third Star really counterpoint each other well, too. As in real life, the tragic parts mix and blend with humor. Life continues in the face of sadness, and there are absurdities happening even when it feels like nothing will ever be funny again. Death and dying bring out the whole gambit of emotions, from anger to sorrow to laughter. So it goes.

I’ve gone through losing my best friend at too early an age. It was under entirely different circumstances, but some things are true no matter what the trappings. I could understand what they were feeling in this film, because I’ve been to a similar place. The most beautiful part of Third Star to me were how they were able to accurately capture that surreal time in life when a loved one is dying and surrounded by friends.

This is a quiet and understated sort of story, which is exactly as it should be. It’s showing intimate things, both death and friendship, and the strain and relation those things have on those experiencing them. This film feels honest. There’s nothing noble about what these people are going through, but there’s nothing ordinary about it either. It’s real and it’s what happens, the good and the bad and the strange.

This story really hit home for me, especially right at the end. Yet I didn’t find it to be sad or depressing. I did cry, quite a bit, but it was good tears. It was kind of… death affirming, I suppose, though that might not be quite what I mean.

You’ll have to watch it to find out.

(And yes, the title is a Peter Pan reference.)

Love,

GeGi.

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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