Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013, Winding Down

    Hah! I made the conscious decision to neither go out and party for New Year's or stay home moping. How, you may ask yourself, can she not do one or the other? Easy-peasy, just take matters into my own hands. From the moment I got off work I raced around accomplishing small errands that lead to greater things. Some quite mundane: hauling loads of stuff to the dump and Goodwill to help free myself of clutter. Others, still mundane but slightly more creative: Hit Home Depot for a hallway light fixture, semi-gloss paint to freshen the molding in my home, and a sample tile to re-do the bathroom floor, and hit the grocery store for delicious, nutritious, delightful food to fuel the amazing engine that is Me. Then I hit the pool for an epic swim: Three miles; 107 Laps = 5350 Yards = 3.039 Miles = 4.89K. If I would have known I was about 100 meters shy of swimming a 5K I would have done 3 more laps... Next time.
    There is a deep sense of satisfaction to be found in even minor personal achievements. Simple things like clearing the clutter from my life, hauling it away, simplifying, calming the chaos of my personal space. Also, having the materials on hand to work on my long To-Do List. I have a To-Do list that covers half of my refrigerator. I'm not kidding. A list that I have not made much headway on this last year or so. I worked so hard the first six months that I was in my little house that I burned myself out. I needed to take a break from always being the responsible adult, with some project always underway, needing my attention, taking me away from being able to just go have fun and play. Now I want to find the middle ground, finish a few of the projects hanging over my head. Top on the list are some of the electrical and lighting issues plaguing my house. Of course, when one is in Home Depot, one can't just walk out with the one thing that was on the original list, there are so many materials to lure in the pie-eyed do-it-yourselfer. And now I am on a vendetta against clutter and chaos, I am sorely tempted to tear out the manky rug in my living room.
    But what has really left me feeling accomplished tonight is my swim. Honestly. It was a helluva thing. It is said that a 3 mile swim is the equivalent energy output to a half-marathon. I believe it. I didn't sleep well last night, not that  have been sleeping well on any night lately, so I was tired when I got to the pool at 4:00. The first mile was tough, and my goggles didn't want to hold a seal, so I kept having to stop and adjust them. It didn't help that my left shoulder and right elbow were giving me grief. But I knew I would swim until I either hit my goal, or had to give up due to injury. After the first mile it got easier, I settled into my I-can-do-this-all-day pace, and just swam. Half the time my eyes were glazed over and nearly closed,  the chaos in my head calmed down to peaceful murmuring, and I just swam. Yes, by the end I was feeling the fatigue in my arms and shoulders, but I kept good form, and swam long and strong clear through the final lap. It felt great. Beyond great, amazing. To know I can set a goal, and push myself hard, without any outside influence, and no reward other than the knowledge that I can do it, gives me an inner peace that is unmatched. 2 hours and 20 minutes of steady swimming, with minuscule breaks to tweak goggles or take a mouthful of honey water. It was totally cool.
    Now home, with a fire crackling in the wood stove, a belly full of homemade chicken pupusas piled high with fresh guacamole, a cup of rosemary and mint tea at my elbow, muscles still tingling from my workout, my beloved dog snoozing at my feet, and a cat draped across the back of my chair purring loudly, I am content. As 2013 winds down and quietly passes, I can look back over the year and see my triumphs. I had declared 2013 as The Year of Grand Adventures, and then made it be so. I attended and graduated Firefighter Academy as Firefighter 1, passed the Emergency Medical Responder course to become a certified First Responder, learned to drive a fire engine (which is totally epic, by the way), got a job at the Harley-Davidson dealership, ran a multitude of small road races from 10K to 10 miles, an obstacle course race, several adventure runs, two trail half-marathons, swam countless miles and overcame my phobia of open water to the point that swimming in The Cove became my escape from the world, cycled hundreds of miles on my dear Joshua, trained hard day after day, and followed the number one rule of Ironman training; Train Every Day. All the training culminated in one fabulous, magnificent day, when I completed my first half-Ironman race, but in reality, I enjoyed the journey as much as I enjoyed the destination. I love to train. The most astonishing, exhilarating adventure of 2013 was being on the first engine in on a 4 alarm fire, getting to man the first attack line on a massive structure fire, and knowing that our district kept a tragic structure fire from becoming a devastating, deadly conflagration. 2013 was epic.
    Yes, there were disappointments and defeats, but there always are in life. I choose to look past those, count them up to "lessons learned," and move on. It is my victories that I see in my highlight reel, victories that are mine and mine alone. Triumphs won by sheer determination, stubbornness, and my own desire to chase after my dreams. In 2013 I reached for the stars, and found myself with armloads. 2014 will be a continuation of journeys started, the excitement of journeys yet to begin, and the thrill of new beginnings. 2014 The Year of New Beginnings.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Out With The Old

    Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, one of my very least favorite holidays. Yeah, it's cool to get New Year's Day off, but I don't get paid for it, and won't have tales of epic debauchery to make up for less money on the next paycheck. I have become increasingly disillusioned with New Year's, it is another opportunity to feel like there is something, or someone, lacking in my life. The big hoo-haw over getting kissed at the stroke of midnight hasn't been in the cards for me in a very long time. Last New Year's at least I was at a party, and had a date, but I felt out of place, alone in a crowded room, and I don't remember there being any epic midnight kiss. This year's plans have gone askew, granted it is now apparent that they were only plans in my imagination, a fantasy to be played out in short skirt and tall boots, but it seems the scheme was one sided. Oh sure, I have been invited to several parties, and have played out scenarios in my head, all of them with me totally rockin' the short skirt and boots, but all end with me standing alone at the stroke of midnight, feeling out of place, alone in a crowd. So, in typical introvert fashion, I have made my Out-With-The-Old-And-In-With-The-New Plan. I am off work early tomorrow so the first stop is the dump. Intriguing, yes? I have my truck loaded with detritus and clutter, garbage and chaos, all to be left at the county dump, and the Goodwill donation site. Nothing like clearing the unwanted from hearth and home to make way for New Beginnings. Then I am hitting the pool. I am going to swim until I ache. I will have three solid hours at the pool, and plan on swimming three miles. That will be my longest swim to date, and according to those who know these kinds of things, the energy output equivalent of running a half-marathon. I think that is a great way to end 2013. Then I will come home to the one who loves me with every fiber of his mighty heart, Hugo, my big, lunkhead mutt. He is one who will never be "done" with me, cast me aside, let me slip away, or be just "not that into it." Yes, feeling a bit lonely and bitter tonight, which has been my traditional New Year's feeling for over a decade. Tomorrow though, I will purge chaos, both material and emotional. I will swim until the ache in my muscles makes me forget the ache in my heart. I will come home to my tidy little house, and adoring dog. I will relax over good food and hot rosemary tea. And if I have the fortitude, I will do some much needed soul searching, take my heart in my hands and examine it for damage, find it strong and worthy and return it to my sleeve, where I always wear it. Out with the old, in with the New Beginnings.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

All Things All At Once

    It's not one thing or another, it's all things all at once. That always seems the way of it. One thing at a time I can face down and manage, but when it seems to come from all sides I meltdown. I realized this after a long conversation with my beloved eldest son, who is currently living nearly as far away as he could possibly be and still reside in the continental USA. We hadn't talked in quite some time, and to say I miss him would be like saying Alexandria had a decent library. After we talked I felt a calm restored to my soul that had been missing for a bit, and I realized that the angst of not knowing how life was treating him had been weighing heavy on my heart. Add to this the strain of long hours at work, the pressure of the holidays, cold weather, car problems, too much month at the end of the money, recent heartache and the self esteem bashing that goes along with it, and abject loneliness all piling up during the darkest days of the year, and I am set up for a cataclysmic crash. The key is to see all things all at once, separate them, understand them, and deal with each in its own way. I have gotten better at this over the last few years, having spent so much time flaying myself open in an attempt to understand and mitigate cause and effect. I was told recently that I think too much, over-analyze everything, and my first reaction was a desire to apologize and change. Apologize? Change? That is like asking the tiger to apologize for her stripes, and change them to spots. It ain't gonna happen. I am who I am. I have to remind myself of this, especially at times like these. I am who I am, no apologies, no changing. Yes, I do try to modify behaviors that I know are not healthy for me, and I have done this quite well over the years. One behavior that I have tried to change is my desire to make everyone happy, even at the expense of my own happiness and sanity. I can be too compliant, to malleable, shaping myself to fit whatever I think is expected of me, accepting blame when it is not mine to accept, apologizing. This is one trait that is fabulous in the workplace, as I can fit into nearly any setting, blend in, become "one of the guys." But it is not a great trait out in the real world. Sometimes I feel like a schizophrenic chameleon being forced to run across a multitude of colors and patterns, trying to shift my coloring to blend with each one, until Brain wants to implode, Body is exhausted, and Spirit feels wrung out like a manky dishtowel. I have gotten much better over the last few years, though I catch myself sliding back into my chameleon role when I feel alone, lonely. I find  myself wanting to say, "But I can change..." Yes, I can, but I won't. Not this time. Not again. I have spent too many tears over the past few years, bartering. Bartering away what makes me unique, offering to lose my stripes. Being malleable is blessing and curse, like that super power no one really wants. I would much rather be Wolverine, unbreakable, tough, super healing powers, bad attitude, nearly invincible.
    But, I digress. I had not meant for this to be a rant about my malleability. Funny the roads my mind goes down the moment I peel open my skull and start to tinker with the contents. All things all at once, with a straw that breaks the camel's back, that is actually where this was supposed to go. Having a talk with my son removed enough of the burden that I have regained some sense of balance, an ability to shoulder my load once again, instead of wanting to just drop it and sit in the middle of the road weeping. Speaking of balance, we all know that you can lift and carry so much more if you can balance the load. A good portion of my balance comes from finding and holding on to a strong sense of self. Knowing who I am, understanding my own nature, remaining true to myself. If nothing else, I know, I have to remain true to myself.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Making Sense

    I come so close to wanting to turn this into a weepy, woe-is-me, pity party. Days like today. I want to write, words are ricocheting around inside my skull like essays on crack. Thoughts, emotions, pain, rolling around in a molten morass too thick to pour out into a comprehensible stream of consciousness. So I sit, staring at the black and white of my keyboard, typing and erasing, typing and erasing, trying to make sense of the mess. There is no sense, really. And I tell myself I should just stop trying, stop trying and move ahead. Move on. Get back to finding my own path, my own life, my own reality, my own true reality instead allowing myself the luxury of hoping, wishing, dreaming of living a life that seems meant for all others in the sphere of my little world. Once again, I think my path does not resemble that of other people, try as I might, I keep finding myself alone, in the shadows, forging my own way through the brambles that seem to grow up around my feet. It is okay, I am not afraid, it is a path I am quite familiar with. I wonder why I even try to walk other paths, paths of light and ease, companionship and trust. As delightful as those easy paths appear to be, they are not my reality, they are fantasy, smoke and mirrors, on them I am a stranger in a strange land. Always, I come back to my narrow, single track path, nearly too narrow for myself as I feel the tugging of tendrils of underbrush growing in the shade, definitely no room for two. I walk the narrow path, through the shadows, in the deep silence of solitude. So soundless the air is a pressure on my ear drums, and I can hear the blood coursing through my veins, hear my pulse pounding, and no voice is there to break the silence. I know I can find peace in the solitude, calm in the quiet, ease in the shadows, if I can only sort through the chaos inside my own head. So I write, or attempt to. I spill words across the page, meaningless, incomprehensible, blatherings of a fool. I pick through them as an archaeologist sifts through soil, hoping to find the smallest tidbits of truth, sanity, stability. I sort through my brain, knowing that somewhere within the cacophony is balance, peace, serenity. If I can only make sense of it all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Keep Moving Forward

    Funny, when I convince myself that the voices are merely my demons, whispering  falsities, scheming to drag me down into melancholy, it turns out that the voices were truly my own insights into truths that were hiding in plain sight. The nuances, so subtle as to fool the naked eye, did not fool the inner eye. My inner eye saw with clarity, but my mind would not pay heed. This has happened often enough in the past, and my writings bear this out. I have gone back and read, gone back in time and listened to my own scrambled ramblings, and seen the foreknowledge that lay in black and white for all the world to see. I have pondered this before, musing to myself, is it prescience? Am I foreseeing? Or am I writing a script that I will unconsciously play out over time? Do I somehow manage to manipulate my life to fit into some scattered idea of what is bound to happen? My writer's imagination manufacturing worst case scenarios, then following the notion, step by step, until what once seemed a paranoid fantasy becomes a foregone conclusion? I can't imagine that I am that clever, that manipulative. It is far more reasonable to conclude that I am just optimistic, naive and gullible, but deep down inside I know that my trusting nature is just leading me along the garden path, setting myself up for another failure. Each time, as I look around at the shambles my gullibility has brought about, I wish I could be less trusting, more guarded, more reserved. But I can't. It is not my nature. I can't hold myself back, keep myself in check, be the responsible grown up. It is not my nature to take it slow and cautiously. I am not reserved. I think this is where and how I fail. Leap before I look, again. I did see it coming, but had convinced myself that it was only my insecurities and rampant imagination at work. But no, it was reality. Reality sucks. So here I sit, in nappy, leopard print housecoat, rosemary tea at my elbow, shoulders aching from a punishing swim that was an attempt to leave problems in the pool, belly full of ridiculously healthy food instead of the rum and chocolate for dinner that had sounded like a solid plan earlier today. Here I sit, pouring out incoherent ramblings in an attempt to wrap Brain around the fact that I am alone again. Alone again, naturally. I will say, this time is a bit less painful, mostly because I have tangible defenses and remedies already actively in play. I have my training, and that keeps me level headed, and doped up on endorphin and dopamine. There have, and will continue to be, bouts of weeping. I can't help that. But I feel solid, stable, secure. I am not sure why, or if it will last, but for the moment I am okay. I have yet to let myself stop moving, or let Brain dwell too long over what I have lost. Okay, that is incorrect, because what I thought I had was not reality, so I imagine it can't be lost, but I still feel the loss, reality or fantasy.
    Today has been rough, I won't lie, but the actuality is that it changes very little of what I have been moving towards. I still feel that I am at the dawn of new beginnings, it is just that some things end before new things can begin. And that hurts. As well as alters some of my hopes and dreams. But it will not keep me from moving forward, taking on new challenges, reaching for new stars, I still refuse to settle for the mundane, the ordinary, the plebeian. I am well down the path of a journey that has taken me to some interesting places physically, mentally and spiritually, and that will continue as planned. I am on a path to bring together Body, Brain, and Spirit into an invincible, unstoppable force. This has not changed. If anything today's events have solidified my resolve to attain balance, inner peace, and calm. I will not let myself be beaten down by woes of the heart. But I do need to learn to stop leading with my chin.
    For now, tonight, I will try to suppress the wailing of my heart, at least long enough for me to get some sleep. If I can just hold my heartache at arm's length for a few days, then when I am ready to deal with it, it should have cooled down from a fierce pain, to a dull ache. Until then I will keep moving ahead, working Body until Brain and Heart are quieted. I can do this. It has happened before. I am good at being alone. Alone again, naturally.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hot and Cold.

   As always, this time of year, I never know from day to day just where I will land. Oddly, of late, it seems as if Body has taken over from Brain the task of running hot and cold. Literally. It is as if Body has shouldered the bulk of the burden by fluctuating wildly from feverishly hot to chilled to the core. Frequently making me frantically shed clothing in an attempt to dump heat into the atmosphere before I am consumed in an inferno. Then, as suddenly, I am cold to the touch, hands icy, joints stiff with cold. It has given me an excellent physical focus for the insanity that often lurks about the edges, quivering in my peripheral vision, soughing in the shadows, whispering unintelligibly from just over my shoulder. In the night, instead of being roused by demons, I am rousted by the urgent need to kick off blankets and expose sweat drenched skin to winter's frigid night air, then to toss and turn, feeling heat emanating from me in near visible waves, until I cool enough to drop back into restless slumber. Wakening again, cold, shivering, to huddle under the blankets, alone, lonely, with no source of warmth to soothe Body and Soul.
    Through this all, I am fighting to remain balanced, centered, calm. For the most part I have things well in hand, but some days, some days, like today, are harder than others. It is when out of the depths stir the feelings I had thought long buried, things too strong to remain buried for long, those feelings of my Strange Aloneness. Those moments, hours, days, when I feel at odds with the world, an outcast, misfit, stranger in a strange land. Try as I might, it seems as if there is no place in the world that I truly fit. Always the loner, the hermit. By choice or consequence? Nature or necessity? I have wondered this often enough in the past. Am I so alone because I don't fit in? Or because I throw up bulwarks to protect myself? Or am I just unworthy? Or am I just sleep deprived and worn out, making every internal dialogue that much more dramatic? But it seems as though when I do steel myself to extend a hand, to ask, to allow myself to need, that it goes unanswered, or ignored, and then I feel more alone than ever before. I open myself up, allow a crack in the armor, lower my defenses, and just find myself alone, standing in a field, feeling vulnerable, melancholy, lonely. So is it just easier, safer, to retreat to my hermitage, my solitary confinement, my fortress of solitude.
     Tonight I find myself  retreating to my armory, repairing the chinks in my armor, barring the windows, bolting the door. I have pulled out many of the weapons at my disposal to fight off the melancholy that lurks in the night, just beyond my stalwart walls. I have a slew of weapons, amassed and honed over the years, years of battling the same enemy that comes at me with different visages. Tonight it comes in the body of loneliness, this melancholy of mine, and my strongest weapon against it is the reminder that Alone and Lonely are not one and the same. I am alone, but that does not equate to being lonely. Or so I tell myself. Repeatedly. And now, as I wrestle with such nuances, Body comes to the rescue, distracting me with a flush of hellish heat, so strong my skin feels sunburnt and fiery. I am even beginning to flush, looking the part of one who has stood too close to the fire for too long. Shedding clothes between sentences, I am suddenly distracted from whatever morose maunderings have been wreaking havoc on delicate Brain. Hot and cold, better for Body than for Brain. Once again, Body to the rescue.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Dawn Of New Beginnings

    Once again I feel on the verge of new beginnings. I am always trying to keep moving, moving ahead, growing, changing, challenging myself. It is a journey that began a few years back, after years of letting myself coast through life, taking it on the chin, being led about by situations that I told myself I had no control over. Then I took control. It was not easy, but not nearly as hard as I had imagined in my mind for those years. Now, I am so far removed from the person I was then, yet somehow the person I used to be, and more of the person I want to be. I strive, always, to be a better person in Mind, Body, and Spirit. Every day I hope that I can make one small step towards becoming the person I know I should be, will be. I have set challenges for myself, material, physical, mental, emotional. And met them. I own my own home, am a firefighter and drive a fire engine, am a triathlete and completed a half-Ironman, I am in the best condition of my life physically and mentally. All this in two years. Not too bad. Yet I still know that there is so much more to be done, challenges to set and meet, improvements to be made. Although I know that perfection is impossible, I yearn to be as near it as I can, in my own imperfect way. Perfectly imperfect, or imperfectly perfect.
    Even with all I have done of late, I want more. I refuse to settle for the mundane, the easy, the plebeian. I am not one for New Year's resolutions, I never have been. But with the ending of this year, and the dawn of 2014 just a few weeks away, I am mindful of what I want to do, and where I want to be next year. The last 18 months have been a time for me to work diligently on the physical, and now that is such standard routine that I can afford to shift my focus a bit without concern that I will slack off in any way. As a matter of fact, I am already setting new goals, and instigating the training plans to achieve them. But this coming year I will turn my attentions inward, to continue my path towards mental and spiritual enlightenment and balance. I know that I can't achieve all I wish to without Brain and Spirit being totally onboard with Body. To move ahead I need to quiet my demons, hush their negative, belittling commentaries, banish them to a far off cavern where they will be unlikely to ever interfere with my dreams and plans. This has been a heavy burden for me over the years, those naysaying voices in my head that try to convince me that I am a failure, second rate, girl on the side, from the wrong side of the tracks, a nobody that would not be missed. I know that no matter what achievements and successes I may enjoy, until I can silence the demons, I will never be able to think of myself as successful, in any way. So, this is my goal for 2014, to merge Brain, Spirit, and Body into an unstoppable force, a vehicle that will take me wherever I wish to go. I will find balance and peace, calm and quiet, strength and power. I am on the verge, my feet are heading down this path, towards new beginnings, new challenges, new victories, my imperfect perfection.