country drives and a strange dream

December 31, 2012

I wish I could go for one of those long country drives tonight, the way I used to do when I lived in Bloomington.  Turn the stereo up on my car and head out on a two laner going south or west or both and look for some interesting smaller road to take and then somehow end up down by Oolitic or over by Spencer.  All the while passing small houses sitting back from the road, with lights on inside and sometimes a dog still outside and barking. Silhouettes of cars and trucks in the driveways. Maybe a 4 x 4.  Maybe a tractor too. A barn every now and then with clumps of trees beside it and clumps of trees behind the house and clumps along the road and fencing stretching out for miles running along side the shoulder until the road crosses another little one just like it and then the fencing turns the corner and everything’s lit up by big pole lights. And the road curves and goes up and down and over little hills and passes small stretches of nothing but maybe a field or what used to be someone’s very small farm. And if it’s clear there would be stars. Not stunning like out here.  More like fireflies, but miles away. And I could drive out in that for hours, singing songs to myself, and getting myself to stop thinking for a little while and then coming home late, after midnight, and not turning on any of the lights in my house and crawling into bed in the dark.

I had a strange dream last night where I somehow cast out 17 or 18 versions of myself onto a small race track and sped all my selves around it, like my selves were human versions of Indycars, low to the ground and lightening fast. And my one version of myself that was most me, stood back and watched and there was a crowd watching too, like in a grandstand. I think I was what they’d come to watch. Because every time I cast out a new me, I’d say, “watch this.”  And the track and grandstand were in a clearing in the middle of the woods that felt very much like the Oregon Country Fair, and like something special was supposed to be happening.  And the more me’s I cast out the more chaotic the race got and the crowd was “oooohing” and “aaaahing.” Finally I said “watch this” one last time and I threw a big metal ball, a ball as big as a car, right out onto the middle of the track and all the Indycar versions of me flew up into the air or skidded into each other or tail spun out while I stood and watched, kind of detached, kind of curious, kind of like, “oh, fuck.” I kept thinking to myself I wonder if I’ll ever be able to put myself back together again.


counting down and thinking

December 29, 2012

Somewhere in the back of my brain I’ve instilled a small voice that says “move,” as in get on your bike, take a walk, go for a run, lift some weights, and amazingly I actually listen to that voice. Cold riding tonight and way dark out, but dry, which made it totally worth the part that hurt a little because of how my hands don’t move on the bike and neither do my toes nor my face cheeks. Unfortunately, with less bikes on the road, drivers seem  more jerkish — passing too close, making quick left turns and cutting me off at the last second, rolling through stop signs — but I got to see the moon and notice the sky and look at some nice holiday lights. An excellent trade off, I think.

Lately, I have been noticing there are sea gulls over here on the east side of town. At first I just spotted one or two in my neighborhood, and that was a couple weeks ago, but then on Xmas I saw a whole bunch on Cooper’s street in NE. I swear I’ve never seen gulls on the east side of the river. I don’t know that it means anything; it’s just interesting.

This year is quickly ending and part of me wants to do something to mark it because it was a year where some big things happened. I have no idea what that would look like, marking it I mean, and maybe I can just say some things in my head and my heart. I don’t know. It’s not my typical m.o. to want to ritualize this kind of thing, but there it is, I might want some outward signs of a big inward year.

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recapping 2012

December 21, 2012

I’ve been starting the thing I do some years, where I look back and reflect on the year that is about to end. Sometimes the process has resulted in making lists of things: books I’ve read, favorite songs or records, highlights I want to remember. The other day, I started a random list of stuff that I’m really glad or grateful happened in 2012 like going to Hawaii, spending a bunch of time with Adele, turning 50, writing poetry, listening to music again, playing music again, lifting weights again, watching the Hoosiers play basketball again, going home to Indiana and spending time with my family and friends, driving Jeremy’s Miata convertible out to Waycross and going to the camp reunion with Howie, Remy moving in my house, getting a note of writing encouragement from Cheryl Strayed, riding my bike at night, doing readings with the Thank You writers and getting to read with Val, making a peach pie and a pecan pie, pickling with A.M., spending 4 days with Martha, spending a weekend with BDF and A.M., spending Thanksgiving break with MTB, spending Halloween and a Mrs dance party with J and MTB, at least 1000 other  MTB moments but I don’t want to be obnoxious about it, fixing up my Dad’s old lighter, fixing up my Bridgestone bike, fixing the railing on the side of the house, taking 100’s of photos from the tram, realizing the tram is magic, realizing I’m not as fucked up as I’d been telling myself forever. I think I could keep going with this, but as it is, I think it’s a a pretty good snapshot, because what 2012 seems to have been about was opening my heart. Tons of small things made that happen and I’ve talked about that a lot in my blog, especially beginning with August – friends, bike rides, sunsets, cooking food, the sky, etc.. But also a couple really big things made that heart opening happen too; one really cracked my heart right open. I’ve mentioned these, but they involve other people and are more private and I don’t talk about them all that directly; mostly I allude to them. What I can say is that everything changed at the end of April and then everything started changing again on a super hot day in the middle of August and then it was like “hell, yes, September.”

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something magical did happen

December 20, 2012

It was cold enough this morning for long underwear on the bike ride in to work. And glove liners. I guess Portland winter is actually here; so now its just a matter of settling in for January and riding it through until sometime in February, which is when spring usually starts. I’m think I’m going to experiment this year with trying to dive into the cold and dark, keep riding my bike and maybe go for some runs, finally rake up the October and November leaves in my driveway and on my front sidewalk and cut a fees things back in the yard.

Yesterday morning when it was snowing, MTB and I walked over to the park near my house. The flakes were big and fat and not really sticking to the ground, but they did hang on a little to the trees and bushes, at least for second or two. Everything seemed like a movie or a photo or like we were somewhere else besides Portland. We walked the paved path that loops around the park and MTB spied a clearing that she said looked like a place where something magical could happen. “Is anything happening?” she asked me as she stood on the grass in the middle of the clearing. At the time I said no, because I suppose I was looking for some big or grand gesture. But when I thought about it later, I thought yes, something magical was happening – it was snowing and MTB and I were out walking in it together, on a Tuesday morning, and she was holding a coffee cup with coffee from my house and smiling big and trying to catch snow flakes on her tongue and no one else was around and if you stared at the snow straight on it looked almost dizzying. And on the way back to my house we saw a big bush with more than a handful flowers still in bloom.

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there was light behind the clouds

December 17, 2012

I went to get my haircut this afternoon and then rode up Mt Tabor.  I hadn’t planned on that kind of ride, but the rain had let up some and the sky was light behind the clouds; I wanted to get out from under the trees to see the white part, which seemed so hopeful to me. Hopeful is not the right word, though. I think I just wanted to know the sun was right there, even if I couldn’t see it. Also, I haven’t been on my bike since Thursday and when I don’t know what to with myself or my heart, I know I should move my body. So without thinking too much about it, lungs and legs worked up the side of the small mountain, which still feels weird to say instead of a giant hill even though I’ve been living out here for 14 years. I geared down and did silent fist pumps for the runners passing me on their way down the mountain, admiring their rock hard thighs and pacing. I smiled at the two big shaggy dogs tied to the side of the truck, probably waiting for their owner to finish taking a piss. Pine needles everywhere and still some orange and red and yellow leaves on a few trees.  I slowed down at the top and looked straight down Hawthorne below me and followed it to the west and to the thin stripe of white above the west hills. I felt like I was in a story book or a dream. Coasted almost the whole way home in the rain, which picked up, soaking my shoes and gloves. And now it’s dark.

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this shit is insane

December 16, 2012

I turned off the news sometime before the election and have not turned it back on since. So I learned about the recent mass shootings, here in Portland and then in Connecticut, through friends or people talking at work. In the past, with tragic events like these, I have been glued to the radio or the TV, in a manner that has  almost always ended up making me feel a little gross — like I was on the verge of crossing some line between “witnessing” and understanding the tragedy and potentially gawking. I went online today to read, for the first time, about the Connecticut shooting. I read a list of the victims names. I’m not sure  I need much more from the news media than that.

Does it really take shooting six years olds for this country to tackle gun control? Jesus. Seriously. Jesus. Christ. At least 88 people have died this year in mass shootings and everybody was somebody’s someone – a sibling, a parent, a best friend, a favorite colleague, a room mate, a spouse or a partner, someone’s teacher or student or coach or neighbor or favorite or cherished whoever that they looked forward to seeing or talking to every day or every week or month. And all of them are gone now. And that’s just people being killed in mass shootings. In 2010, over 8000 people were murdered by firearms.  Those people were somebodys’ someones too. And they gone forever too.

It is amazing to me how in this country, civil liberties have been eroded over the last 11 years, and how as a citizenry we’ve gone along with the erosion. So now we’re up to our eyeballs with scary bullshit, like surveillance and wire tapping and detention and national ids and government secrecy, etc. Just gave away the store for so called  “national security.” But back the fuck off of “personal security,” right?! Because in this country you cannot touch the right to have a fucking assault weapon. Maybe this is weak line of reasoning and it’s flawed thinking to compare the two things, but I can’t help but thinking that there’s some thread there about our collective unconscious or conscious.

Oh, and after we talk gun control, maybe we can talk mental health services.


rules for blogging

December 13, 2012

Kinda. Rules. It’s more that I am having a public conversation with myself, which is really what my blog is all about. But anyway I have been “talking” with some friends and my family about the kinds of things I reveal about myself on my blog. Talking may not be the right term; it is probably more accurate to say I have been getting feedback. I think there is some concern that I reveal too much personal information. So I’ve been checking in with myself.

I do have some loose rules I follow about what I post on my blog: 1) don’t talk about work, 2) don’t post things I wouldn’t be willing to share out loud, and 3) respect people’s privacy. I say “loose” rules because every now and then, I mention work in a post. Also, I do occasionally write about other people, but I check in with them if I think I might pushing against the privacy comfort zone.

Mostly, I write about my interior process of figuring myself out, of becoming self-aware, of not taking my neuroses too seriously and working with my fears and anxieties and feeling more alive on some days and less alive on others and wondering why that happens. The personal stuff I write about is about the practice of opening up and potentially connecting with people who read my blog about stuff I’d like to connect about. And trying to say that what’s going on inside of all of us, most times, is not nearly as scary or as crazy as we’ve made it out to be. We’re all beautiful and nuts inside and flawed and amazing too. I’m hoping to capture some of that humanity.

The other thing, specific to right now, is that I am editing out an epic mountain of personal stuff from my blog. Like, for instance, even if I blog right now about my 50.5 birthday, which is not something I ever thought of celebrating (but MTB got on the band wagon, insisting that 50 is a big deal and she missed getting to celebrating it with me) I am going to edit the crap out of the how that went down. I will just say the whole thing blew me a way, a knock out in the first round but I stood back up. A week later I’m still trying to take it all in because there was – so. much.

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showing up and doing this thing

December 12, 2012

Late last night I walked outside for a second to get something from my car and the sky was amazing. Clear, blue black filled up the large space right above me and a big pile of ghost clouds were gathered off to the north. I though about MTB sitting on her porch earlier and wondered if she saw the same thing or if maybe she was looking out from under the ghost clouds to where its clear. Hard to to judge sky distance and what exactly was above her, but I imagine it was something amazing too. This morning, riding into work, the clouds were stretched out across the sky with streaks of deep, clear blue riffling through, making those first 5 to 10 minutes on the bike so sweet. I found myself riding a little slower, looking around, thinking about all the amazing sky things I get to see on my bike, wishing I didn’t have to go to work and could just ride around in it and knowing I probably wouldn’t be up this early and be riding around if I didn’t have to go to work. (A tenable contradiction). In the 20 minutes it took me to get to the bottom of the tram, the clouds had grown thick and had covered up the sky. Looking out to the east as I rode up the hill in the tram cabin, it was mass of  various shades of grey. No pink peeking through. No glimpse of an almost undetectable strip of clear blue. Car lights snaked across the Ross Island bridge. Downtown sparkled. The Willamette trailed off into the big trees and an almost mist, looking like something the pioneers might have seen.

I felt so lucky like that I was up and awake last night and this morning to see the sky the way it was, looking kind of magical. Ever since the end of August, Friday August 17th to be exact, I have been so aware of moments like these, of showing up for something, even if I didn’t know at the start what I was showing up for. And now I am doing this amazing thing. And it’s like I just keep opening the door and saying, come the fuck in.


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things i definitely don’t need anymore

December 5, 2012

It all came together today. All these strands of things I’ve been thinking about and letting simmer in the back of my mind. It’s so gratifying. I have this story I’ve been telling myself about myself for what seems like forever. And the basic outline is that when it comes to intimate relationships, I’m somehow broken. I have different versions of this story. There’s numb me and checked out me and shut down me. And for years now I’ve been convinced that I just can’t do closeness or can’t sustain it or can’t nurture it along in a real way. And today I was vaguely thinking about what I wrote yesterday about contradictions and also thinking about something MTB said, and it dawned on me that this is such a bullshit story and I’m so sorry I’ve saddled myself with this crap. Because the thing is, numb me, shut down me, checked out me – that’s not some inherent flaw – that’s me coping with choices that don’t fit, that’s me trying to make untenable contradictions tenable, that’s me trying to convince myself that a situation where it doesn’t feel safe to open up and be vulnerable is because I don’t know how to do those things, as opposed to the situation being unsafe. Checked out me is me being in all the way in my head and dismissing my gut. Shut down me is me hitting my logic hard and ignoring my intuition. Not that these things have to be mutually exclusive, but good god, I know there’s something wrong when I go numb. And the big ass lie I’ve been telling myself is that something is wrong with me.

I’m not letting myself off the hook for my many flaws and short comings. I am so incredibly imperfect. For fucking sure. But of course I can open my heart to someone. Of course I can trust someone. Of course I can nurture and be nurtured and struggle along with people who will speak to all of that, who can hold me accountable to bring those qualities to the table. And of course, totally of course, I figure out when and who to do things with and and who and when not to. I know there’s no guarantee I won’t get fucking hurt in the process. Right?! Best case scenario, fucked up shit happens to someone at some point, but life is short and hopefully I can figure out ways to handle my hurts and losses. The thing is I am not inherently broken. Not at this point in my life. And I really don’t need this fucked up story any more.

It’s just so fucking funny that it’s taken me soooo long to figure this out. But maybe it’s turning 50 or the cusp of my 1/2 birthday. And/or looking at the possibilities that are around me now. And/or having friends who will hang out with me for 8 hours straight and let me whack the crap out of shit in their yard with a machete. And/or the magic tram and bike rides and sunsets and night skies and food someone made or ate.


a heart lesson: the contradiction of trying to keep quiet about feeling blow away

December 3, 2012

I felt viscerally blown away in my heart one day last week and I came home from work early. I hunkered down in my bedroom. I closed my blinds. I cried. I put on sweatpants. I worked while laying in bed. I took a long nap. When I turned off the my bedside light, I imagined it was snowing outside. Which seemed easy to do, given the quality of the late afternoon light and that whiteness was the only thing I could see around the edge of my blinds. I wanted to feel like there was no reason to leave the house or even get out of bed. Maybe, also I wanted a little to feel like I was back in Indiana. Not that its snowing there right now, but I definitely associate snow with home way more than I do with Portland. While I slept, I had funny dreams; I had strange dreams. I woke up and it was dark. I didn’t feel any less blown away. I wanted to cry some more. I closed my bedroom door because I couldn’t figure out what to say to Remy, who in her kindness and concern would have asked me if I was alright, and in my head it sounded so ridiculous to try and say out loud “I’m literally blown away in my heart and I’m staying in bed until I can figure out how to make that blown away feeling less terrifying.” I read, even though the book I’m reading is heart breaking. I heard Remy come home. I heard her stop for a second and stand outside my door. I imagined she stood there and waited to see if I would say something and went back and forth in her mind about whether or not she should say something. We both stayed quiet. I kept reading. I cried some more. Over the book. Over feeling scared. I texted some with MTB. I didn’t say anything about my day or how I was feeling or that I was hunkered down, riding out a wave of visceral blown awayness. I figured it would pass. I would see her the next day and I would be my normal self. Open. Smiling my ass off. Ecstatic to see her. Laughing about how sometimes when I walk in her house I have to remember to breathe. And sometimes she does too. I didn’t see the big ass contradiction in my approach, i.e. in feeling so very fucking open with MTB, but then deciding to not be open with her about how feeling so very fucking open was making me feel.

Ultimately, I couldn’t make that contradiction work, which was weird for everyone, at least at first, because I had thought I could, but then it just spilled out, all unrehearsed and maybe messy. (Also, I think I am somewhat embarrassed that I am not more skilled at being open hearted and close and trusting.) In reflecting back, it was all a good thing. For me to manage contradictions like that and the dissonance that inevitably results from them, I have to get a little shut down. I have to check out. I have to do some small version of numb me. This can be a valuable set of skills when I have to detach from a messed up situation or not take on someone else’s shit or deal with inherent inequalities and crap we all have to deal with to live in this culture, but its the exact opposite of valuable when I’m wanting to be connected and nurturing and close with someone.