Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ongoing Ponderings

    An ongoing train of thought/contemplation for me this winter, as well as over the last few years really, is wondering What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. Actually, it is because I don't want to grow up, but I still need to financially support myself. I toy with so many different ideas. Ideas, plans, dreams, schemes, fantasies. My mind goes off on all tangents. Sometimes when I swim my mind launches into some amazing scenarios. Sometimes it is merely what I would like to do with my home and garden, sometimes it is ideas to make money, other times it is closer to the fantasy of being able to be a reclusive artist. I don't know what to do. I feel like time is running out for some routes, since age is definitely a factor for anything requiring lengthy schooling. Other ideas, I look towards my grandmother Pearl, who was an artist right up to the end. What to do? I don't know. I wish I had the courage to just jump. Just go after whatever I want to do and damn the fears of money. But that isn't realistic is it? I do have financial obligations (including back taxes that scare the hell out of me). For now I think I just need to find the motivation to complete projects that are all around me. Little things, in my house, in my garden, in life in general. I need a sponsor.

All Things All At Once

    I feel I have been avoiding writing because I don't want to spend too much time dwelling on all the external forces that are doing their best to make me feel beaten down. But it builds, with the inevitability of a pending storm. Today I feel it looming over me with dark storm clouds that are more oppressive than the ones I see out my window. So much. Some little, some overwhelming. Our current political situation has me constantly on the verge of panic, Fight or Flight, but it is mostly beyond my control. But all adds up to the straws that may break this camel's back.
    My car is dead, from a deep water incident followed by an attempted theft. It is too rainy to work on it with my meager knowledge and I can't afford to have someone else fix it. Thankfully I have my truck, but it has dodgy tail lights and guzzles gas like a parched alcoholic; Work is maxing me out with the ongoing "do more with less, and for less" mentality that is pervasive among most companies these days. I would like to find a different job, but can't until I have more dependable transportation; My dogs are fighting, so they have to be kept separate all the time, cutting into the peace of my home life; The rain isn't stopping, so everything is squishy, muddy, soaked. My plants are drowning and my septic is backing up; It is cold and wet, preventing spring plantings, and keeping my heating bill high and my spirits low; I have back taxes that are coming back to haunt me, with threats of wage garnishment, and I have no money to pay; I have chronic pain that drags me down over time, makes me feel tired and drained, and hampers my wishes to run and train with any intensity; My weight is up a little, and my energy is down a lot. Cause and effect, one way or the other? Metabolism? Hormones? Weather? I think the long, cold winter is the biggest culprit, sapping my will, encouraging hibernation; I am feeling a twinge of loneliness, knowing that a partner would make a lot of these problems have less of an impact, but having little desire to have to conform my life around someone else (yes, I do love my solitary life 95% of the time... it is that other 5%)
    Financial, physical, emotional, meteorological. It feels as if all aspects are dragging me down, weighing me down. Every small task takes a major effort. I am doing what I can to manage all the forces that seem to be coming down against me:
    Weather? There is nothing to be done there, but I am going out into the cold and wet to handle the chores that can be done. I have been cutting blackberries with a vengeance, starting out easy then going all Edward Scissorhands until I am bloodied and I have piles of brambles higher than my head.
    Taxes. That is the big stressor, no doubt about it. I was notified in November that I had failed to file my Oregon taxes for 2011 (?) and by their estimated filing, with interest added, I owe about $3500. I can't argue. That was when I moved into my new home, was reeling from a disastrous, toxic relationship, and was having a mental meltdown. I don't know if I filed or not. But I have to pay. I finally called and talked to a nice rep, I am trying to work it out, but it has me stressed to the max. I will do what I can, but you can't squeeze blood out of a rock.
     Financial. See "Taxes" above, but also the ongoing stress of living at poverty level. Yes, this is partially my own doing, because I am choosing to work less and spend time on the things that money can't buy. Even if I were working full time at my job I would still be at the poverty level, but I would be stressed beyond my ability to manage. I would be dysfunctional, depressed, and angry. I would not be able to spend time with family, or working on my own home. I would still not have enough money, and would have no time for what I need to keep my sanity. So, sanity takes precedence. The frustrating part is doing a job that should pay about twice what I am being paid, and knowing that there is no raise anywhere in my future. It just won't happen where I work. But, again, I am working on finding ways to increase income and reduce debt, so there is that. I still lose sleep over it though.
    Physical. Damn, this is a tough one. I hate that my body hurts all the time. I keep swimming, that has been my fountain of youth. I have increased my strength training with the idea that if I can't be fast I can at least be strong (ish). I am currently doing 30 days of no grains, no baked goods, no dairy, and very minimal added sugar (I decided I still want my tea sweet). In some ways this is not that tough for me since I am already gluten free, eat minimal dairy (cheese only, and that in strict moderation), and don't eat many sweets (I am missing dark chocolate, I admit), and don't add much sugar to anything (except tea). On the other hand, being vegetarian it is tough to not have whole grains. I am used to rice, quinoa, teff, and some pasta now and then. But in the week that I have been doing it I am down a few pounds, feel less sluggish, and seem to have less tendon stiffness and pain (that might be a coincidence, but I will take what I can get).
    Emotional. Nothing to see here, just move along. Seriously though, I am not looking for someone to "complete me," I am very complete as it is. I have had too much experience with emotional vampires, manipulation, lies, betrayal, toxicity. But everyone has, so I won't dwell. My past has made me who I am; tough, resilient, self reliant, independent. These characteristics, fertilized and grown to fruition by past relationships, are also what makes me disinclined to pursue another relationship. I am not appreciated for who and what I am, there are expectations of making me change, become somehow less than what I am. I won't. I will not change who I am to conform to anyone's idea of what I "should" be. I will be me, all the way, head up, and confident. No more, no less.
     So life goes on. I dream of sunshine and warm breezes. I envision my gardens, herbs, and fruit trees growing verdant and laden. I will swim, train, and fuel my body. I will treat my body as the temple and fortress that it is. I will let magic and art into my life wherever and whenever I can. It is all I can do. And hope for sun.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Call It A Day

This week has felt a bit too familiar, with demons popping up like whack-a-moles. I know it is because my birthday is around the corner, combined with nasty weather, car problems, and the death of my favorite cat. Yesterday Mania paid me a visit, which was fortunate, because I needed that frenetic energy to make it through the day. I could have used it again today, but it abandoned me to the less desireable embrace of Melancholy and stress. Can't have one without the other, I know. But g'damn, Mania could have hung around for a few more days, I need the ambition and drive that it brings, even if I have to fight the brain fog, attention deficit and ping-pong thought process that skips along hand in hand. Can't say that Brain got back on track today though, it was every bit as scattered and spastic, but without the benefit of hilarity. By the gods, I am tired though. The last 36 hours have drained me dry. What a difference a day makes.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Find Your Focus

The current state of the nation, and the world, has me, like many others, on the verge of a panic induced nervous breakdown. So much negative news to process. So much mis-information to wade through. "Alternative Facts" that make me feel like we have slipped into the pages of a dystopian novel and are sliding down a steep slope into a quagmire that will keep us mired for years to come. It is making it increasingly difficult to look ahead with my normal optimism.
    There are so many hot button issues pulling me in every direction. I want to be able to raise my voice in dissent and protest to each and every one of them. But I know that would have me spinning my wheels, exhausted and weak, and out of energy long before the battle reaches its peak. Instead I have decided that I need to Find My Focus.
    This is my advice to all my friends, each of who is mired in the same vortex of doom. Find Your Focus. We all want to see the right thing done, we all want to stand against tyranny, injustice, deceit, and "alternative facts." But we can't be on every frontline. This is a battle fought on so many fronts, and no one can be everywhere and be effective. We know what is right, we know we need to stand together, there has to be a united front. But if we all try to support every cause we will fail out of the sheer weight of the load.
    Find Your Focus. Mine has become Public Broadcasting, and our public lands. These are two issues that speak to me. Public Broadcasting is our source of untainted news, in depth coverage of issues and events around the world as well as in our own backyard. It is a source of education for all, from preschool on up. It is publicly financed, as well as receiving government grants. Well, those grants may dry up, so if we want our PBS stations to continue we need to step up our own support. To me, this is an easy decision, and a relatively easy fix. I put my money where my mouth is and became a sustaining member, and discovered just how many friends I have that are already members as well. We need to keep our access to information if we want to have the true facts, not "alternative."
    Public Lands is a whole other scenario. Within days of coming to power the current administration is taking steps to sell off lands. They are not posting maps or information on which lands. Yes, some land could be sold or traded, but to whom and for what? Once these lands are gone, developed, logged, mined, whatever, they are gone. Gone. This speaks to me of a rape, pillage, and burn mentality. I have seen enough land clear cut in my time to know just how much it effects the entire ecosystem, including our clean water, and the air we breathe. We need our wild lands, our hiking trails, our access to untainted forests and waterways. It is vital to our well spiritual being, our sanity, and our health. This is an issue I will be watching closely, and trying to figure out where I can be of some service.
    Yes, there are so many issues that I support, but I have to narrow my focus to I can be effective. This does not mean I will not be supportive of all the other people finding their passion. We need to support each other, have each other's backs. Just because I am not marching at your side does not mean I think my cause is better, or more worthy than your's. With a strong solid base, we can win. If there is in-fighting over who has the more worthy cause, we will lose. I was disappointed to hear the gas-lighting of the Women's March by other protest groups. Really people? This is not middle school, it is not about which social group is the best, it is not jocks versus geeks, or stoners versus the chess club. We have fallen into such an "Us versus Them" mentality over the last few years that we can't seem to recognize allies when we see them. If nothing else, remember: "The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend." We have to stand together, everyone. I don't care where you live, where you grew up, what your religion is, your gender identity, sexual preference, skin color, or what your personal goals are, we need to support one another. We need to see that we are all fighting the same war, but with different weapons and in different trenches. But it is one fight. We all need to recognize that we are allies.
    Find Your Focus. Pick your battle. Stand beside your allies. We can do this. We have to do this. If we fail we fall into dystopia, and may never find our way out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Please Don't Take My Public Broadcasting Stations!

    Facebook is the modern equivalent of the old fashioned bulletin board. We post notes and posters for our favorite music, books, events, rallies, protests, politics, and opinions. Of course the bulk of the postings lately have been in regards to the political scene in the U.S. of A. and how it is all starting to manifest in our darkest nightmares. I made the comment, "We need to rebel in whatever means our personal gifts allow." For me, currently, that is the gift of words.
    I have always managed to remain what I consider "apolitical." Yes, I vote. But I vote my conscience, not along party lines. Yes, I have opinions. Most opinions I have kept to myself, knowing that no matter what I could say it will very likely not influence anyone else's opinion on their political beliefs. Add to this the fact that most people can't talk politics or religion on even the smallest scale without getting defensive and offensive. So I choose to keep my political thoughts to myself, much as I keep my spiritual beliefs to myself, and live as a solitary practitioner.  
    But desperate times call for desperate measures. The new POTUS is beginning to hack away at the guts of the regulations protecting our rights, our freedoms, our education, and our environment. Every aspect of what truly makes "America Great."  Under the guise of "budget cuts" he is even cutting funding for PBS and NPR, our best hope for untainted, unbiased news. Our best source for scientific, political, and literary information. So much of what I have learned over the years was sparked by an episode of Frontline, Nova, Oregon Art Beat, or one of the many fabulous documentaries offered free of charge through our local Public Broadcasting Station. Since the election I have limited my news source to National Public Radio, since it gives balanced news stories from all sides, and in depth reporting instead of easily misconstrued sound bites. My younger brothers, and my children (as well as millions of other children) were given their first taste of the delight of knowledge from shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, Electric Company, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. I have learned countless recipes from The Frugal Gourmet, America's Test Kitchen, and Natalie Dupree, to name a few.
    Without access to intelligently designed and researched information we are left to the mercy of Google. I am not knocking Google, I use it frequently. But I have learned how to fact check, and sort through the garbage, because I learned at a young age that truth and facts are vital to a good end product be it a book report, science project, or chocolate cake. As they say, "Garbage In, Garbage Out." If we rely solely on the internet for our "news" stories we can be fed a steady stream of what have now been called "Alternative Facts." I can guaran-damn-tee you that PBS and NPR will not feed us the bullshit that seems to be flowing freely from our highest offices. Without truth, knowledge will be replaced with ignorance, understanding with bias, cooperation with alienation. The dumbing down of America could reach unfathomable depths.
    Even if you think I am over-reacting on this particular issue, think of the millions of lives touched by PBS. Can you honestly say that you have not been influenced on some level by Big Bird, the Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, or Mister Rogers? How many children learned their ABCs, numbers, and shapes with the help of Jim Henson's Muppets? How many children were made to feel special by the kind words of a sweatered Mister Rogers? That impact alone is enough to defend funding for our Public Broadcasting. Even though I am well below the poverty line I am making a donation to OPB, and will try to send money when I can. I think it is the American thing to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Today is The Day

    Today is the day. The Time-to-pull-myself-up-by-my-Bootstraps Day. January has been a tough month. Between my standard winter depression, post-holiday blues, politics, bitter cold days that had me iced in with cabin fever and cut into my swim days, freezing days at work that left me drained, fighting off a cold/flu that has sucked all of my energy and motivation, and a weird series of events this week that is dredging up demons from my past, I have been struggling to make myself get out of bed in the mornings. But, last night, as I crawled into bed, aching and tired and having skipped my evening workout, I decided that today would be the day to make myself get my shit together and get back on track. I am returning to the "make no excuses" mentality that has carried me through the last few years, through thick and thin.
    The weather is cooperating. The sun has been shining through scattered clouds, the snow and ice are long gone, the wind is drying things out nicely. I have done a quick perusal of the property and I seem to have escaped any storm damage, thankfully. I am getting the itch to start prepping my garden area, but it is still a bit brisk out, and the ground is far too wet. Instead I will peruse my seed and garden catalogs this evening for inspiration.
    High on the list of getting my shit together is getting my house clean, and I'm already well into a day of doing just that. The last few weeks of ennui have left me devoid of any desire to maintain my housekeeping. The resulting clutter and dust only adds to my feelings of dissatisfaction. I learned long ago that being surrounded with disarray only adds to any depression issues that are lurking about. Time to declutter home and mind.
    One area that has remained fairly consistent, with few blips, is my standard regiment of nutrition and training. True, the weather cut into my swim schedule, but that can't be helped. I have increased my strength training in all areas, and am loving the muscle definition. I have been on a bit of a sugar binge (binge compared to my usual low intake... but nothing compared to what I was doing years ago at this time of year), but am still keeping to the concept of rocket fuel for my body. I have known for decades that the best thing I can do to get through the dark, grim days of winter relatively unscathed is to workout daily, and eat healthy. As the years have gone by I have refined and increased my diligence all around. But this last week, with illness dogging me, I was only able to do daily maintenance, instead of  pushing myself as I prefer to do.
     So, Today is the Day. I've had a few weeks of wallowing, it needs to stop. I can't face the chaos of the world around me if I allow myself to flounder. Time to move ahead.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Political Ramblings

    Rarely do I talk politics. It is rarer still for me to write anything remotely political. But this morning I lay in bed for nearly an hour pondering the upcoming inauguration that is now looming like a shadow over my country. I could go on and on about all the things in his past that make him unfit to hold any political office, lack of experience being the least of them. But if the American people were willing to overlook allegations of child rape, sexual abuse and harassment, misogyny, prejudice, and Russian hacking, then why would they care that he is in the hip pocket of powerful people and groups that are eying the United States like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked and squashed into jam for their own table?
    Pondering this, while I lay in my cave-like room, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, my mind went down a path to the Big Picture.  A man has been elected to our most powerful office, without the popular vote, who will very likely implode in a most spectacular manner, sooner than later, I think. There is no way he will manage to stay in office for a full term without something from his past (or many things), or some series of bizarre actions on his part (actions that are already lifting their heads), that will have him deemed "Unfit for Office."  By then his cabinet will be firmly in place, and he will be swept under the rug as an embarrassing moment in history.
    Does this make me feel any better. Not by a long shot. He is a puppet. Plain and simple. How else could he have made it as far as he has without the machinations of some very powerful people and groups pulling strings, covering scandals, and manipulating the truth? He is not intelligent enough to have led such a behind the scenes campaign. He may be wealthy, but not compared to the real power brokers of the world, and despite his own feelings of self-worth I don't believe he has that kind of clout.
    Wandering further along the path of the Big Picture takes me to his choices for his Cabinet. It reads like a list of the top of the financial food chain. He is selecting, with suggestions from the behind the scenes puppeteers, no doubt, a conglomeration of people known for their lack of ethics when it comes to filling their own pockets. Our country will be at the mercy of Big Pharma, Wall Street, and Big Oil. These are people with long histories of trying to game the system, get past regulations, and with no concern for us peons. They will rape, plunder, gut, and salt the earth. We are on the cusp of falling under the reign of people so wealthy that all they care about is more wealth, no matter the cost to us, our children and our grandchildren, and I am truly frightened. And so many people are falling right in line, with the all consuming thought that it may (or may not) create more jobs. They will be content with the crumbs falling to the floor, with no thought of what those crumbs are actually costing us.
     Already the president-elect is showing his propensity for spoiled, child-like behavior. Temper tantrums and rants put out publicly for the entire world to see. He has discovered his power over the stock market, with a few offhand remarks he can cause a company's stocks to plummet. He has threatened to take us deeper into a cold war, wanting More Nukes, and yet seems to be a crony of the  biggest threat to our safety.
     As I see the tableau unfolding, with his childish, boorish behavior, I can only think that his masters are hoping he will manage to keep his mouth shut just long enough to get sworn in, and have his Cabinet choices firmly locked in, before he erupts into full meltdown.
    My prediction is that well before his term is ended he will be taken down in a spectacular manner, deemed Unfit, and removed from office. Then his VP will take over, knowing full well how to work the system, milk the country for all it is worth, destroy our rights from the inside, and leave our country destitute emotionally and physically. All the pieces are being put into play, and I feel helpless.
     The Optimist in me thinks that maybe we are just in another cycle of the pendulum swing. All through history we see this happen. Most recently, with us, it was the McCarthy Era. We had to swing so far to one extreme in order to come back and find balance. Maybe that is all this is, the extreme before we can return to balance. I had thought the Great Recession had done that, but instead we managed to become even more divided, the Us Versus Them that has brought our country to the brink. The pendulum swings. The Pit and the Pendulum? Gods, I hope not.
    Now that I have spilled my guts out, airing my own personal Conspiracy Theory, I need to purge myself of the shadows. I need the warmth of my family. Feel the love of those I hold most dear.