Thursday, September 22, 2011

Riding the Rails

    I do find that I think in metaphors a good part of the time. I think it is a self-defense mechanism to help talk myself through the frequent rough spots of life. Just this morning, as I was pulling on my leather jacket in defense against crisp morning air at 70 miles an hour, I was thinking how easily I can get derailed. I get on an idea, and charge ahead with glorious dreams of making the fantasy a reality, only to hit a snag and get myself tossed painfully off of the rails. Derailed. Again. An advantage I have (and maybe my metaphorically  inclined brain helps with this) is that over the years, out of neccessity, I have become very good at picking myself up and getting back on track. I have to do it, because no one else will. It is difficult to be the loner. I am the only one I have to talk me down, talk me off the ledge, talk me back into a sense of purpose. It is great that I am such a good cheerleader, so optimistic, analytical and philosophical. I can find analogies and metaphors to help myself through the all too frequent downturns and defeats that I seem to stumble upon when least expected.
    I hear so many joyous reports of friends' successes achieved with the help of friends, family, partners, and I am often envious to the point of near physical pain and nausea. I know this is unfair of me. That I should revel in their triumphs, feel joy in their success, congratulate them on a job well done. But instead I feel that evil entity of envy. It is my own damned fault. I am not inclined to ask for help, preferring to work towards my dreams on my own. I am not sure if this is a learned behavior from years of having no other option, or an ingrained trait buried deep within my DNA that makes me seek the lone path. Regardless, it does make for a tough, uphill battle. Do I wish I had help? Yes. I cannot deny how often I have wished for an easier route. Could I get help if I asked? Not really. The few times that I have asked, it has done little good and only caused me grief and feelings of rejection. Oh sure, there are plenty of people out there that can offer platitudes and words of encouragement, but little to nothing in the way of solid assistance. I don't blame them, their circumstances put them in situations where they couldn't help even if they wanted to. And as for platitudes? I have become a regular Kreskin at pulling those out of my own hat.
    I am not inclined to voice these ramblings outloud. Mostly because I don't want to sound like a whinebag. But also because it does me no good, and there are plenty of people who have had a rougher time than I have over the years and are struggling with problems far deeper than mine. This doesn't keep me from knowing that my problems are more important to me. They are, after all, My Problems. It doesn't diminish how hard I struggle just to keep my head above water sometimes. How often I cry at what feel like a hundred roadblocks for my simple aspirations. The numerous Pity Parties, attendence of one, that I throw for myself. The multitude of times I see the success of others as failures in myself.
    And this is when I derail. When despite my efforts to move forward, even inch by inch, I find myself lying in the gravel next to the track silently cursing whatever glitch on the rail vaulted me off to join the cinders along the tracks. But then this is also when my metaphorically inclined Brain starts to find correlations  between my life and any journey by any means of transportation. I believe that by seeing parallels between my life and the journeys and struggles of inanimate objects I can manage to emotionally distance myself from the problems confronting me. When I can take my emotions out of the picture, even for a brief moment, I can collect my thoughts and dreams, rebundle them a bit, and climb back onto the rail to attempt to make it a few more feet down the line.
    I have been accused (or lauded) of being too rational and logical, not emotionally invested enough. This may be true. I make every attempt to channel emotions into logic and rationality. It isn't easy for one with a tempestuous nature and the desires to race headlong through life at a breakneck pace. But I have learned the skill, trained myself in cool, calculating thought. Chained the emotions that have no place to go except to shatter on the floor as they are mishandled. I keep my emotions in check, carefully guarded and protected, because they have been mishandled too often and are far too fragile to survive further mistreatment. And so in steps Brain with metaphors, symbolism, logic and rationale. Thank the gods for Brain. Brain, who keeps me calm despite the chaos of my life. Brain, that may run gibbering in circles at times, causing derailment, but then calls a halt to abberant behavior and returns to calculating logic. Brain, that despite repeated derailments (self inflicted and otherwise) manages to keep me riding the rails, inch by inch.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cemetary Solitude

    Of late, my favorite place for the evening dog walk has been the Zion Memorial Cemetary, established in 1886. It is a large tract of land, crossed by half a dozen asphalt lanes lined with gnarled old Ash trees. The dogs and I have been walking there nearly all summer, choosing it partially for the well tended green grass and shade trees. It is an attractive place, one end has a stand of old growth Doug Fir that were probably young trees when the first bodies were laid to rest. There are names that I see and recognize, names that have long connections with this area. Family plots that bear the same names as local businesses, roads, parks and praries. The connection between the past and the present, our history and our future.
    Some may think it a morbid, or gruesome place for my evening constitutional. Maybe. But for me it is peaceful, quiet and calming. The rare glimpse we get of another human rarely results in any kind of interplay. Most people visiting a cemetary are there for solitude, grieving, healing and peace, not for chatting up the strange looking woman with the rumpled hat and a handful of leashes restraining slobberingly friendly dogs. I still vividly remember the first person I saw at the cemetary. He was an elderly man carefully tending a gravesite. Even from a distance I could see his gentle, caring cleanup. I steered clear, not wanting to invade his loving visit with who I imagined to be his beloved wife. And in all honesty, he was so involved with his task that I am sure he never even noticed us.
    There are several graves I have developed an attraction to, a bond, an interest, a desire to know their stories. There are the graves of Edna and Tess. Born months apart in 1914. Edna was a respectable 89 years old, Tess 79 when they passed. The grave lists a single last name, implying spinster sisters. What first drew my eyes to their headstone were the items imbedded in the concrete: a wrench and a Ford logo. Not your typical girly symbols. These "Sisters," were they maybe not quite what they presented to the world? Maybe not "spinsters" but a devoted, loving couple? They obviously were more than a couple of old ladies at home baking cookies. I imagine them as two women who lived life their own way, independent and strong.
    Another "friend" is Raymond. Raymond was barely 20 years old when he died in February of 1945, a U.S. Marine fighting in WW2. I think of him, so young, dying in a strange land fighting for our freedom and for the freedoms of people totally foriegn to him. He made the ultimate sacrifice. I visit Raymond almost every day.
    The first graves that caught my eye, drew me in and captured my heart were "The Babies." That is how I think of them. Siblings. A little boy, not yet 2 and a newborn infant that was never even given a name. They both died in the late winter of 1917, months apart. The tragedy of losing two children in such a short time would be unbearable. The Babies graves are a bit overgrown, I plan on visiting them alone one day soon, and pulling the tall grasses that grow around the thin, lichen coated tombstones.
    Today, for the first time, I found a grave decorated with a dozen Hot Wheels cars. Of course I had to look. I found myself weeping over the loss of a 4 year old boy, "beloved son," who died so, so young. It seemed that so many of the graves I saw were of children and teenagers. 4 years, 15 years, 17 years old. Too young to die, and too tragic for me to not feel a heart wrenching pain for them and the ones they left behind to grieve. The grey skies, and shortened daylight only seemed to add to a sadness that I feared would overwhelm me, leaving me disfunctional for the rest of the weekend. I know there are children buried in every cemetary. The Babies are a daily reminder to me. But it doesn't make it less of a tragedy.
    I had to pull myself from the gloom that threatened. I continued walking, tears stinging my eyes, when I found myself at a familiar grave stone: Tess and Edna. Seeing their familiar names, the wrench and Ford logo, knowing that they lived long, and I like to imagine interesting and fulfilling lives, gave me strength. And cheered my heart. I have decided to research just who these women were, maybe find out who puts the flowers on their graves, and find the meaning behind the wrench and Ford logo. I want to learn about Raymond as well, and several other residents at Zion. Who knows what I will find. Who knows who I will meet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Patience of a Three Year Old

    I have the patience of a 3 year old. I know this. It is a truth about myself that I have accepted and embraced. Yes, I can force myself to be very patient, and appear calm and accepting to the world, but inside I am a roiling mass of angst and turmoil. I want it and I want it NOW. Is that so hard to understand? Is that wrong? I think not.
    Want what? There is a list. Top of the list, of course, is my own home. A sanctuary of my very own. A domicile to do with what I want, with no one to raise an eyebrow at my less than run-of-the-mill design concepts. A place that I can develop into my ideal space, inside and out. It is a dream that has been on hold for about 8 years while I have been waiting for the volitile real estate world to settle back in to some semblance of normalcy. I have kept my eye on the bubble, knowing it would burst, and knowing that eventually prices would return to a sane level. It has been a long, agonizing wait. And trust me, I have not liked it one bit. Not one bit. But now, I feel I am on the verge. Calls have been made, contacts contacted, balls rolling, paperwork started, house selected. Now for the damnable waiting. Of course, I am sure that the house I am dreaming of will be gone by the time the slow gears of government finance grind through my application. I watch, with bated breath, knowing that I will lose out on what may possibly be the perfect (or near perfect) home. It is making me crazy. yes, I know that there are other houses on this glutted market, buit it seems that now that I am actually pursuing the reality of realty that the choices are slim to none. At least for what I am looking for with a price I can afford. I am making sure to not overextend myself financially. I may lack paatience, but I do not lack common sense (thank the gods).
    Second on the list is a satisfying, fulfilling, altruistic job. Yeah, I don't ask for much. Apparently I am too particular to be satisfied with a tolerably decent paying job that is about as secure as anything can be in these uncertain times. But in all fairness, I am relieved to be in the same dead end job at this particular moment. Why? Because despite my frustration with my job, I have been here for a solid 5 years and in the industry for 10 years. Makes me look good to the mortgage peeps. So, dream job search is on the back burner for the moment and dream house takes precidence (as it should be).
    There are other things on the list, but I think they will fall into place easily enough once goals one and two are accomplished (especially #1). So I will force the appearance of a calm demeanor so as not to alarm the sheeple and frighten off prospective realtors, lenders and employers. It is an Herculean effort, I would rather clean the Augean Stables.
    But I am working towards goals that are important to me, my self worth and my satisfaction. I am making great strides, closing the gap. But I want it Now. I feel I have been waiting on the sidelines for far too long and am finally in the game and ready to run. Now if I can just score a goal, I can be content. For the moment anyway.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


    Every day a new challenge rears it's head. I try to think of them as Challenges and not Obstacles, Road Blocks or Dead Ends. Some days this is tougher than others. But today I feel up to the task. I shouldn't. I should be feeling battered, drained and nearly hopeless. But that is not my nature (despite what some may think). It is not in my nature to give up in the face of overwhelming forces, I prefer to think of it as a "target rich environment." Okay, that may be stretching it a bit, but the point is that no one will take care of these "Challenges" for me, I must do it on my own.
    Honestly, sometimes I think that I am at my best when I am battling adversity. Yeah, I may bitch and moan, I may even have hysterics and cry, but then I shake it off and get back to the business of My Life. I hold no one else responsible for my life, it is My Life to do with it what I will. Of course the chaos of the world around me sometimes affects my abilty to make rational choices, or do much more than sit in the corner dithering and drooling, but I can usually manage to see beyond the chaos and know what needs to be done.
    Some days, living My Life boils down to mere survival. Doing everything I can to make it from one day to the next emotionally, physically, financially. But even when I am in survival mode I have a vision of where I want to be, where I need to be with my Life. This vision has not altered much through the course of my life. It is not much different from the Dream-Life I had when I was 16, or even 12. I still want too may animals, some private land, maybe some forest, and a giant rumpus room with an indoor swing and trampoline. Granted, the Rumpus Room of the "mature" me would also include my workout gear, heavy bag, speed bag, and barre (ballet barre, not beverage bar.... in case you were wondering). I also wouldn't mind a climbing wall and obstacle course, though this could go outside if need be. Yes, I am currently in survival mode, I usually am, but I am also actively pursuing the Dream-Life. The Dream-Life that incompasses home, career and life in general. It is hard work. I get up early, spend the day doing everything I need to survive, then try to fit in a few hours of hard work towards the Dream-Life, and finally head to bed too late and very tired. Only to rise early and start all over again.
    I cannot be content to be unhappy with my circumstances. I work very diligently to maintain a positive outlook on life even when I am feeling battered and grubby. I know I have mentioned many times about feeling as though Life kicks me in the teeth, but I try to follow that with the fact that I pick myself up, dust myself off, bandage the road rash, and get back to the business of pursuing my Vision. I won't allow myself to accuse others for my shortcomings, though this is hard at times, times when I would rather shirk the blame instead of admitting that I am the only one responsible for Me. I accept my culpability for my situation, even when choices were made based on the actions of others, they were my decisions and I made them. This is not the time for blame games, self-recriminations, finger pointing, or martyrdom. It is a time for self-fulfilling prophesy, productivity, achievement, attainment. It is time to fight for the Vision, the Dream-Life. It is not, nor ever will be, time to roll over and give up. I will not let Challenges become Dead-Ends. I will, however, meet Challenges head on and turn them into opportunities and learning experiences. Target Rich Environment.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


    I am feeling adrift in a vast and lonesome sea. I have no oars, my tiller is damaged and dysfunctional, my anchor has broken loose, the hull is cracked and I am taking on water. The sea, grey and cold, tosses me about like so much flotsam. The wind hits in vicious gusts, suddenly, unexpectedly, randomly, without direction, hitting from any direction and then dying to dead calm. The sea foam seems more substantial than I am right now. The dark, chilled waters brighter and warmer than my spirit.
    As I drift, I have to cling to the hope that I will sight land, find a safe harbor. Even a tiny cove, or narrow strip of sand. Anything to let me get my feet back on solid ground, even if it is a strange and hostile land.
    I remind myself that at least my small ship is well-stocked with basic supplies. I will not starve, or die of thirst. By sustaining my body I will survive my ordeal at sea, until I can regain my footing, my sense of stability, find my stretch of land, my private beach, my desert island.
    Will I end up as Caruso? Alone on an island of my own making? With my dogs playing Friday to my Robinson? Will that be enough for even one as solitary as I am? I don't know. I can't say. At this point I can't even look beyond each individual wave as it hits the prow of my leaky craft. I scan the horizon hoping for a glimpse of anything but the endless sea.
    Loneliness engulfs me, but does not defeat me. Loneliness has been a long time companion and so does not frighten me, although it is an exhausting and not always welcome visitor. I know I have to realign my spirit, my sense of self, my view of this vast, empty ocean. Shift from Lonely to Alone. I am familiar and comfortable with being Alone. Alone is often my room mate, and is a welcome and comforting ship mate. I can be Alone, I cannot allow Lonely.
    My small boat, adrift and taking on water, may be battered and leaky but it is the only craft I have. So I will repair my tiller, bail the water that pools at my feet, dress the lines and patch my sails. I will manage to stay afloat until I find land. I will survive my lonely, cold, desperate voyage. I have no choice. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Personal Energy Conservation

    I am learning. Slowly but surely, I am learning. I try to force change, and it merely bounces back and kicks me in the teeth. I am trying to practice patience, the Zen of allowing change to happen, and steering myself through these changes, not forcing issues. But this really is not my nature. I want to MAKE things happen, and I know that in order to achieve success, attain goals, that there really is a certain amount of energy that must be expended to create change. And in order to make changes within my own life, changes that I control, there is a definite level of force that must be exerted. Steel will change with heat alone, but you need the hammer to make it take cohesive, functional, beautiful form.
    Where I find myself biting my tongue is when I want to force changes in my surroundings, changes that I really have no control over. The changes that must be made by other people. I cannot be responsible for others' actions and reactions, even when it affects me. Even when I have to feign happiness and enthusiasm in the face of my own disappointments as I see choices being made that force me to rethink my own plans, dreams and schemes. I have made a difficult decision today, to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself (tough for me, seriously), and try to sit back and see how events unfold. I know I could have some influence by letting my opinions out of their Pandora-like box, but I have decided I would rather see how the screw turns without my input. This is not easy for me, and I can't guarantee that I can hold on to this commitment for longer than a few days, but I shall try.
    Why not unleash my opinions on the unsuspecting public? Because I have. And to no avail. So why keep beating a dead horse? Instead I will continue to focus my energies on the few things that I do have control over, use my energy where it will actually reap some benefits, and stop burning energy and emotion where it just flows out into the ether. Wasteful, unproductive, unappreciated, inefficient use of energy. Today's code word is: Conservation.

Pixie Sticks

    Does anyone remember Pixie Sticks? Not Pixie Stix the powdered sugar/ascorbic acid candy, but the game played with brightly colored wooden skewers. I don't know if it is even available anymore, because the gods know that putting anything pointy in the hands of children will probably lead to tragic, untimely death. Okay, we did stab each other on ocassion, but not often. And never in the eye (usually just the knee or back of the hand... not vital areas). I do seem to remember that at some point the nicely jewel toned wooden skewers were replaced by garish plastic ones, which did not have the same visceral appeal, and did not perform nearly as well.
    My point being, as I slowly get around to it after prolonged reminiscing over my long lost childhood, is that the old fashioned game of Pixie Sticks seems an excellent analogy to my life. I do seem to find much correlation between my life and games these days. Is it because I think life is a game? Or there are rules to follow if you aren't a cheater? Or just that it seems no matter how long I play the game, I can't seem to manage a win? I'm not quite sure. Maybe I'm just thinking in weird symbolism due to chronic stress and sleep deprivation.
    Now, back to Pixie Sticks. The game (for those of you under 40 who have probably never heard of it) involves a handful of colored, smooth wooden skewers, pointed on both ends and about ten inches long. The Pixie Sticks are held a few inches above the smooth, level playing surface and dropped to make a scattered, entangled pile of Sticks. The object is to remove the Sticks, one at a time, without making any other Stick move. It is harder than you might think, and better for eye/hand coordination than any video game ever created. We used to play for hours, sprawled on the floor, wiling away rainy afternoons (this was long before video players, computers, a gazillion channels, "kids networks" etc... back when you made your own entertainment and were not entertained by electronic devices, multi-media players or non-stop texting with fifty of your Best Friends).
    Okay, back to Pixie Sticks as an analogy. As a kid, playing the game, it makes you see how interconnected everything is. How each Stick touches many other Sticks. Moving one risks moving another and losing your turn. Yes, at the beginning of the game there are a few Sticks that are off on their little lonesomes and can be taken with no risk. These are the Sticks quickly snatched by the first player, so if you aren't first nothing comes easy. But Sticks gained with no risk are not nearly as fun as extricating an entangled Stick with delicate precision. That is a victory. Pixie Sticks teach the obvious eye/hand coordination, but also patience, viewing the big picture, understanding cause and effect, knowing that for every action there is a reaction, and (here's the main point of this rambling soliloquy) that every move I make to disentangle myself from the pile may well lead to me losing my turn but that without the attempt I will definitely lose the game.
    So as long as I can keep from poking myself in the eye, I'm going to keep playing with my Pixie Sticks Life. Maybe one of these days I will have the most Sticks and win the game. But until then I will just keep enjoying the entanglements, challenge, building of skills, delicate extrication, and the pretty colors .

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Slipping Gears

    Another day of brain slipping gears (okay, more like weeks). I can't keep my mind on any one thing for any length of time. At all. As hard as I try to get involved in a project (of which I have too many) I am as A.D.D. as a squirrel. I take that back, even squirrels can manage to stay on track when gathering their winter stores. I can barely stay on track long enough to wash a handful of dishes.
    I know it is because I have too much going on in my life. Too many changes, too many dilemmas. The only thing that seems to be going smoothly is my art. For that I am truely thankful. When I paint I can submerge myself in the triumph of creation, soothing brush strokes, flowing lines. Maybe I am more productive when stressed, because I close myself off from the world, hide from other responsibilities, avoid decision making. When I am creating the rest of my mind can relax and let thoughts mature and come to fruition on their own, until I know the decisions will be closer to appropriate. There never is a guarantee that any decision or path will be the correct choice, but if I allow my mind to percolate on my problems I do find that the solution will eventually present itself. More or less.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Skewed Reality

    It is amazing how my life can suddenly take a 180 and leave me feeling adrift, scattered, alone and numb. And with this sudden, inexplicable skew in my reality comes the difficulty of reconfiguring my brain to match. I have felt that changes were in the air, I have been striving to make positive changes in my day to day existance as well as my long-term perspective. But this latest cataclysm actually blind-sided me with its destructive potential. No, it is not the end of the world, nor is it fatal or apocalyptic. But it has altered my life, lifestyle, perspective, potential, and path. Altered it irrepairably, irrevocably and irrationally. What was true yesterday morning when I awoke, is far from the truth today. As I rode to work, shivering in the cold, crisp morning air, it seemed as if the bright sun rose on a whole different me and mine.
    It is hard to get my mind around how my life will be affected in the next days, weeks, months. I have a solid feeling that by the new year there will be very little that is recognizeable about my life. And that is hard to grasp. But as yesterday proved, there is no gaurantee of any reality staying true to its course.
    If I were to hazard a guess or prediction I think it is safe to say that by the new year I will be living in a communal household, striving to become debt free, struggling to launch a business venture, submersing myself in my craft to the exclusion of all else, totally lacking a social life, definitely lacking a sex life, having flashbacks to my Thin Mint House days as I co-habitate a large old house with half a dozen 20-somethings and a band in the basement, regressing into my punk-rock mentality/personality, and trying hard to not become the crazy lady on the 2nd floor with too many animals in her solitary room. Like I said, suddenly skewed reality. It is a far cry from what I was imagining as recently as 36 hours ago... a far, far cry.
    But if there is one thing I learned yesterday, it doesn't take much to cause a reality shift. It does not take a cataclysmic event, a death-ray, a paradigm shift, a cosmic twist... all it takes is a chance statement, a reaction, a brief conversation that hits the dark, salient points. So I imagine it is quite possible that I may get blasted into yet another reality at any time, around any corner, and most likely it will hit me when I am thinking that my course is straight and true. That is the actual reality of my life, that there is nothing certain, nothing dependable, no path that leads straight and true.