Thursday, June 16, 2016

Seeker?

    Throughout my life I have had times of dissatisfaction. Nothing tangible, just a vague feeling, like an oppressive weight hanging in the air. A need to change, throw life into chaos, shake the snowglobe. An indefinable itch that I can't seem to locate well enough for a satisfactory scratch. Sometimes it feels like a faint power vibrating inside my marrow, an undischarged jolt of static electricity. A desire for a madcap dash into the unknown. In times past this has led me to make major changes in my life. Dramatic upheavals that have altered my path, pushed me in whole new directions. I don't foresee that at this time, there are too many aspects of my life that I am satisfied with. I love my little house, so won't do anything to jeopardize that. Besides, a girl's got to have a roof over her head, it might as well be my own. But all other tings are subject to change.
    I do fantasize about what it would be like to have zero responsibilities. Be able to take off at a moment's notice for an adventure, be it simple or otherwise. But then I come back to how much I do love about my life. My colorful home, my beloved family, my loyal dogs, the trees I have planted with my own hands that are bearing fruit, The Fort, the greenhouse under construction. So many things I have done to make my corner of the world be exactly what I want and need. And I have done it myself, for me, just how I want. My hermitage, my sanctuary.
    Much of my life is exactly what I could want. But there is still a need for change, a desire to alter my path, find my True Nature. I could say it is my job. The need for money that keeps me tied to the Real World. A job that, though not terrible, is still stressful, underpaid, and feels like a waste of my talents. But that comes back to not putting my little house in jeopardy. Yes, I live on the edge of poverty, but it is by choice. I chose to have less financial gain so I can devote more of my time to my own endeavors. I have made the conscious choice to put less valuable energy into the wants and needs of others, and more into my own. But what are those? What are my needs? What endeavors? Money is not the issue, except for the tool that it that makes life comfortable.
   What is it in the air that has me retreating into books of magic and fantasy?  It is not as if I expect to accomplish Great Works. It is not as if I were hoping for my Happily Ever After. Is it merely that there are so many horrible things happening in the Real World that I am escaping into the realms of fairy tales and fantasy? That does not feel right either.
    Is it because I feel like a Seeker on a Quest? Looking for my purpose, my grail? A bit of Parcival the Fool, I think. Naive, gullible, the eternal optimist? Maybe my role as Seeker has nothing to do with what lies at the end of the quest, but with the quest itself? I do find myself most content when I am seeking knowledge, even if it is just for the knowing, and not for any concrete reason. I love to search and research. Is this my Destiny? My Path? The simple need to learn of anything and everything? That still does not feel right. Close, but not quite.
    Whatever the cause, this feeling of Impending Something has been riding me like one of my demons of old. Though not quite as noisome. It does have nearly that same prescient aura that would precede a trip to the edge of the abyss, though without the feeling of impending Doom. The same, but different. Those were times of wild, manic change and growth. This feels slightly less manic and wild, but no less pressing. Another time of growth and change? A new Path to traverse? Changes that need to be made, but what are they? They invade my dreams, both waking and asleep. If I think of myself as a Seeker, I will continue to seek. Knowledge, for the sake of knowledge.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A New Endeavor

    The oppressive heat and humidity, combined with yesterday's exertions, have kept me relatively inactive today. I've been drinking iced tea and reading, mostly. But I can't let a day go by without doing something productive (other than housework). So, I opted for working at my computer. I have started on a task of intimidating magnitude. It is something I have pondered and planned for quite some time, but procrastinated because it is an intimidating endeavor. I have wanted to take the bulk of the postings on this Blog, my Random Ramblings, from the very beginning, and compile them into book form. The diary of someone fighting to find their own path through a lunatic world. As I copy and paste my earliest writings from over 5 years ago, it gives me chills despite the heat. Reading between the lines I am in awe of some of my foresight, and proud of the strength I had as I fought my way through some brutal changes. But it is taxing. Even though I won't let myself stop and read every post, I am catching enough words to make me falter occasionally. The raw emotions; fear, anger, joy, loneliness. My stubbornness and determination to forge my own life shine through on nearly every page. It is revealing, a little heart-wrenching, exhausting, and uplifting. I kind of amaze myself sometimes. I hope I have the patience to see this through, it is a bit tedious, kind of like cleaning out an attic. The attic has a lot of little treasures, and I have to keep dusting them off and getting them organized without getting too swept up in all the details. This will be grubby, sweaty work. But worth it in the end, I think.

Day of R&R

    Lethargy has set in today. Not in a bad way, per se, but in an "I deserve a rest day," kind of way. Yesterday I played hooky from work (well, actually I requested a day off and found someone willing to work my shift) and got to spend a long morning with my fellow firefighters burning down a house. Burn to Learn. Yeah, it is as fun as it sounds. There is s certain twinge of insanity involved in climbing into heavy clothing, intentionally starting a fire, playing with said fire until it finally manages to escape the attempts to tame it, then standing around in record breaking heat to watch it burn. We left the our station at 7:30 in the morning, and were back, slightly dehydrated, exhausted and pleased by 1:00 in the afternoon. By then temps outside had reached 99, which is a bit ridiculous considering that a few days ago it was 65 and raining. Welcome to Oregon's spring. This did leave me with a free afternoon to get in a 90 minute workout at the pool, a trip to a local greenhouse for plants, and home by 4:00. I figure I did enough yesterday for a whole weekend, so spending the of my time reading and chugging iced tea while outside temps soar is totally justifiable. Right? Anyway, mostly I wanted to scribble a few words so I could post a cool picture. Not my usual m.o. for my blog, but what the hell, neither is taking a day off.
(yeah, that's me on the right.... rocking the shiny new turnouts)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Plotting and Scheming

    Plotting. Scheming. Maniacally organizing my tool room. Nothing may come of it. But then again, something might. I need to figure out a path, even a meandering one, that will lead me forward. One of my biggest flaws, or most epic traits (depending on perspective) is that ideas flow so fast and free that practically bubble out of my ears. There are so many things I want to do, and yet feel like a kid in a massive toy store being told, "You can only pick one."  I know that isn't quite true. I don't have to limit myself to doing just one thing. But I do need to try to narrow it down to just a handful. I don't want to, but I get so overwhelmed by everything that I want  to do, and everything I need  to do, that sometimes all I manage to do is get in a couple of hard workouts in. No matter how scrambled Brain feels, I can always manage a workout, or two.
    I could make a list. Or lists. 'Though I've tried that before and all it does is remind me of all the things I want to do, and all the things I need to do, and still gets me no further down the path of getting shit done. Oh sure, I get plenty of stuff done. My day to day existence requires a certain amount of functionality. I workout, cook healthy foods, clean up after myself (mostly... okay, kind of half-assed cleaning anyway), feed the animals, clean up after the animals, workout again, get to bed at a not unreasonable hour, spend time with family, spend time at the fire station, and still have a few projects that are mostly done. Mostly. Here I have to insert the confession that Task Completion is not one of my stronger traits. I lay this at the feet of always having to many projects in the works, too many irons in the fire, and never enough time in a day.
    One path that must be traversed is creativity. I need to be creating things. All kinds of things. Writing, art, construction, home improvement. This is the path I wish would lead me to an alternative source of income. I would love to make a living creating Stuff.  All kinds of stuff. My fantasy would be to have half a dozen different avenues, each bringing in a bit of money. Just think, six different creative disciplines, each making a few hundred dollars a month. That's all I would need. I don't think that is asking too much of myself. That would let me be the scatterbrained artist I am inclined to be. It would give me the ability to work on what was consuming me at the moment, not what I "should be" working on. Now I just need to figure out how to get myself moving successfully down that particular path of creative freedom. Back to the plotting and scheming.

What To Do?

                        "If you do not like where you are, change it. 
                                   You are not a Tree."

     I woke up this morning with that strange unrest that hits me now and then, usually in late Winter, when I am feeling like a malcontent. Oddly, this has been a growing feeling over the last year or more. I think It came about after my Grandmother died. That set a series of changes in motion that were inevitable; weeks spent at her property cleaning through the detritus of an interesting and artistic life, time spent with my mother and aunt who have interesting lives, fantasies of the "what ifs" that revolved around the property lovingly called The Art Farm, the acquisition of so much salvaged building material, the building of The Fort with some of the aforementioned salvage. All these seemingly small things that add up to a realization that I still can't decide what I want to be when I grow up.
    I have moved through the bulk of my adult years doing whatever job I happened to get that paid tolerably well, that I was good at, and that fit around being a mother. Being a mother was the full time job that I took seriously, excelled at, and let define who I was for the better part of 20 years. I know this is typical. Get married, get pregnant, have babies, put all else on hold. Then the children grow, the marriage dissolves, and here I am with no formal education or training, a work history of what really amount to menial jobs, and to top it off; a serious lack of desire to be a paid lackey.  I hate to think I am ever typical, but can we say, "Empty Nester?" Not really. Not in the sense that I don't know what to do with myself with no kids in the house. To the contrary, I am busier than I ever have been, but something is lacking.
    I know plenty of people who think it is because I am single, and have basically remained so for a very long time. Yes, there were various relationships over the last 15 years since the dissolution of my marriage, but I haven't cohabitated with anyone other than my sons before they launched themselves onto the world. The reality is, I Love Living Alone. Really. Solitude is my dearest friend, silence being a close second. I can't even imagine having someone around that I had to talk to every day, it would drive me batshit crazy. This is one reason I am single; most guys don't get it. They do not understand that I don't want to chat every day, or text, or "hang out." It's nothing personal, but it makes men feel unnecessary, and unneeded. No one likes not being needed. So, my sense of disquiet and unrest is definitely not linked to my romantic life, or lack thereof. I am a hermit by choice.
    What I keep coming back to is "What do I want to be when I Grow Up?"  Nothing? Everything? I want to do it all, on my schedule. The other day I said, "I wish someone would pay me just to be Me." It is the truth. I am the square peg in the round hole. At work I am a rabble-rouser, voicing my jaded opinion on today's lack of respect for the working class. I feel like an old coot when I say "I remember back when good insurance was paid for by the company... when raises were available... when paid holidays were the norm..." These days every company seems to want to cut every corner possible to make a little extra profit that goes right into the pockets of the owners, never into the pocket of the underpaid over-worked employee, who is being asked to do more and more with less and less. Egads, you've got me monologuing like a cheesy super-villain.
    Back to the question: What do I want to be when I grow up? Maybe I just don't want to grow up? This question, asked when I was still in school, I always said "Veterinarian." Always. That was the dream for years. I wasn't a great enough student to make it into pre-med, and I knew it, so the dream fell to the wayside. In my late 20's I got to be a Veterinary Technician, and it was a great job, but I realized that I am too emotional. It was a heartbreaking job on so many levels. Plus, there is still the aspect of being at the mercy of an employer. In my early 20's I wanted to be a musician, and I was. Sort of. Bass player in a punk band that morphed into a rockabilly/surf band. That was fun, but I knew there was no money in it.
    One dream from my childhood that became a reality is being a Firefighter. I love it, but it is not a career. There is no money in it, it is all volunteer. The pay is in the satisfaction.... and getting to drive a Fire Engine. I am too old to make it a paying career, and would I want to? No. Go back to the reason I couldn't be a Vet Tech, too emotional. It would break my heart over time. But, I get to drive a Fire Engine, and help when and where I can.
     This all still leaves me with the question. Last year I sat in The Fort and wrote two lists:
What I Want:
Self Employment
Alternative Income
Self Reliant Home
Independence
Love
Debt Free
Another Ironman
Train Harder
Solitude
Harmony
Health
Writer

What I Need:
Moderate Income
Task Completion
Self Reliance
Independence
Solitude
Spiritual Reconnect
Harmony
Health
To Write

    I am revisiting these lists. A few things have changed. Many have remained the same. Most are long term goals. Some are Lifestyle. Some are day to day challenges.
    Also, on the page with What I Need are these scribbled notes:
"Bring Art into everyday Life."
And:
Health
Harmony
Peace
Happiness
Abundance
Protection
    These are all goals. Ways and means to move forward with Life. Changes. But I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Seams To The Outside

    It is a seams-on-the-outside. barefoot, silky boxers, and Pink Floyd kind of evening. When I have reached the point that seams in my clothing, wrinkles in my sock, or any fabric not satiny smooth against my skin feels abrasive, irritating, and almost-but-not-quite painful. The point when most sound becomes incomprehensible and cacophonous. In times past, this kind of mood was a prelude to a tiptoe along the edge of the abyss, a visit from my demons, a precursor to sleepless nights. Now it is the aftermath of a morning being where I don't want to be; working for someone else.
    I am not quite sure when I became incapable of working a regular job, 40 hours a week, filling the coffers for someone else. Giving away my valuable time so someone else can pursue their dream. I think it has been a gradual awakening. It began at the office job that was an emotional black hole, and a huge trigger for what I affectionately refer to as "My Nervous Breakdown." (My Mom hates that phrase, by the way). But what that job had going for it was that I was left alone in an office about 75% of the time. All alone. Key word: Alone. Yes, the other 25% was intolerable, and I felt like I was watching the clock tick away my life in a soul-sucking dead end.
    The final Awakening was when I got laid off from a job I loved. It was the understanding that as long as I was at the mercy of someone else for my paycheck and job security, that it was all just bullshit. There is no such thing as job security, you are a prisoner of  the whims of another, be that owner, manager, crazy coworker. You are at the mercy of their perception of your value, of their perception of the economy, world stability, gross national product, whatever.
    Today, after leaving work, Brain was running hamster circles on the wheel. Work has a way of raising my stress level, even though it isn't that stressful of a job. But there is a weird, underlying current of chaos that I shouldn't have to deal with at my pay grade. I won't go into the nagging details, the seemingly petty grievances. Leave it be said that it took 30 laps at the pool before Brain quieted, and another 30 before Body was released from the leaden stress that permeates my muscles some days. When I swim it is as if the cool water eventually rinses away the cloying, oily residue of work, letting Brain clear, and Spirit unclench.
    Once Brain stopped spinning its wheels, relaxed, and let the thoughts flow, I came back to the thought that haunts me: I need to stop working for someone else. I need to find a way to free myself from the bonds of servitude. There has to be a way I can make just enough money to pay the bills without prostituting myself to an employer. I don't mind a few days working with people, but I can't manage more than a few without losing my mind.
    So, here I sit, in UnderArmor boxers, my favorite running shirt that also poses as pajamas, no shoes, and Pink Floyd filling the background. I am listening to my favorite Floyd album, "Animals" and my favorite section Dogs:  "Gotta admit, that I'm a little bit confused. Sometimes it seems to me as if I'm just being used. Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise. If I don't stand my own ground how can I find my way out of this maze. Deaf, dumb, and blind you just keep on pretending that everyone's expendable, and no one has a real friend." All the lyrics on the album are even more relevant to me today than they were 35 years ago when I first heard them. Back when I was naive in thinking how grownup I was, and before I had the understanding of the world that makes me appreciate the genius of the reality behind the words. I have listened to this particular track countless times in the last year or so, the angst of trying to find your place in a cut-throat world, in the backstabbing rat race, of being forced to either run with the pack or get chased in the flock. And besides the poignant lyrics, the guitar is infectious.  At the end of the album, when the Sheep rise up against their oppressors, "Bleating and babbling I fell on his neck with a scream. Wave upon wave of demented avengers marched cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream." ......Okay, I can tell I'm tired. Not only are my eyes dry and scratchy, but I am starting to have to suppress a giddy giggle as I think on the image these lyrics raise behind my eyelids. Enough rambling on the genius of Roger Waters, time to drag this boxer-clad ass to bed. It has been a long day, my dogs are telling me it is time for sleep. Maybe Brain will come up with a money making scheme while we sleep.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Her Legacy

    The last few weeks I have been helping with the final clean up of my grandparents' property getting it ready for the closing date of the sale. The cleanup began in February of last year, and I have been it since the beginning. The property was sizable: 30 forested acres on the foothills of the Coastal Range, with a large main house, the spacious Hill House, a pottery studio with a one bedroom apartment, plus multiple large outbuildings, all filled with Stuff. My grandparents' moved on to the property in 1972 and started building up a small artist commune on the fringe of society, and 5 miles from the closest town. There was so much stuff left from decades of artists coming and going, seminars, classes, tours, and just the lifestyle of the artists in residence. We filled three 30 yard dumpsters. Yeah, stuff.
    But until this last week it felt as if the place would always be a family place, part of my history that would always be there for me, with that familiar feel. As the closing date neared, the reality began to hit. This was not going to stay with the family, it was time to let someone else shoulder the responsibility. But the knowledge of what a physical and financial burden the property is, doesn't help me escape the "What if..." fantasies. Over the last year I have rolled so many ideas through my brain, unfortunately, the reality is that they all pretty much start with, "If I had a million dollars." That is the cold hard truth. Brain knows, Heart can't accept it.
    Now, the end is here. I didn't find a million dollars. I couldn't come up with A Plan. So the Art Farm now becomes part of the past, and is now the fantasy of a new family, strangers. I can't go and scavenge bricks. I can't wander the place finding random bits of sculpture and pottery to drag home and find a niche for. I can't dig plant starts from the massive perennial garden. I can't wander through the house, with the familiar sights and smells. The house is empty. The sculpture and pottery are mostly gone. The garden will bloom without us. The new family will bring their own decorating style, and it will no doubt suck compared to my Grandmother's eclectic awesomeness. It is time to let it all go. And it is depressing.

    I did not sleep well in the days leading up to the end. I had strange dreams and insomnia. I realized that, although it is a relief to pass on the burden, my heart is grieving the loss. I will get past it. I will nurture the plants that I brought home. I will put pottery and sculpture in my own gardens as a visible, daily reminder of Grandma and her awesomeness. I will pass her love of beautiful things to my children and grandchildren, as she did to her children and grandchildren. It is her legacy. Not the house, or the property, but the love of art and beauty, vivid colors, and that surrounding yourself with creativity and art makes for a beautiful life. That truly is her legacy. But I will miss the Art Farm.