Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Summer Has Passed Me By

    The summer is coming to an end, and I dread it the way we dread an old friend moving to the far side of the country. Yes, it has been a brutally hot summer for this region, and wildfires are burning all over the Northwest. The majority of the locals are praying for rain and the cooler temps of autumn. Yes, we need the rain, we are in a drought. Yes, I agree, a few good days of rain would do us all a world of good. But I am not ready for summer to pass me by.
    And that is the point: I feel that summer has passed me by. Last winter I had glorious plans of what would happen this summer.  Of course, the first dream was a repeat of my race of last season, the Epic 250K. With the cancellation of the event, that dream was derailed, and it took me a bit to regain my focus. I switched gears, went from training focused to play focused; hiking, races with my friends, climb a g'damned mountain, and capping it with a half-Iron in September. Well, my knee injury during the first race of the season caboshed those plans. I still haven't run, even my cycling has had to take a back-burner while I recovered. So, no races with friends, no hiking, and no mountain climbing. All my plans and schemes were dropped on their heads. Now, here it is, the end of August, and I am feeling as if I were deprived of so much. I did not get to go out and play like I had planned. I am struggling with a combination of post-season depression, injury caused depression, and the dread of winter looming.
    This time of year is always a bit of a struggle for me, I won't lie. As one who likes/needs to have plans, and always looks ahead, I know what is waiting. Cold, dark, wet. To counter this I am pushing hard to finish my Fort. The space that started as a whim. Actually, the project that started as a need to replace rotten siding on the south end of the building. It has taken on a life of its own. I am just a few weeks out from completion, I think. This space, my Fort, my Fortress of Solitude, my studio, has come to be a beacon of hope to help me power through the dark days of winter. It will be my workshop. No, not for messy projects. It will be Brains studio. It will be my writing space. Not connected to the internet, no distraction of Netflix, no workout gear staring at me from across the room. It will be where I go to think, write, read, decompress, meditate. Brain and Spirit will reign supreme in their own private retreat. It will not be a party space. It will not be open to the public. Yes, it will make a great guest house, which was its original purpose, once the whole project got underway, and before I decided it was turning into an epic space.
    So now, as autumn looms, with winter close behind, I have to make a valiant push to get the project finished. Even as I continue to train for races that won't happen, building Body to keep Brain and Spirit sheltered is more important at this time of year, just for my own sanity. I still feel as if summer has passed me by, but it has been a crazy busy season after all.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Simple Life

    There is immense satisfaction with the simplicity of my life. Getting off work, putting in a shoulder burning swim, home to the exuberant greetings from my two goofball dogs. We play in the yard for a bit, Sadie wants nothing more than to fetch her Kong, Hugo wants his back scratched. I get to unwind even further. Then a quick sampling of the seasonal abundance of my little homestead. The Green Gauge Plums are ripening, I climb a ladder up into the foliage, my beloved Hugo puts his front feet on the lower rungs in anticipation. He and I share a handful of the sweet-tart deliciousness. Hugo loves plums almost as much as he loves apples. Silly dog. Then I put in a bit of time with tape measure, miter saw, and salvaged materials building the platform that will be the diminutive, built in "dining table" in the Fort. The sun is setting, time to harvest dinner. The Sungold tomatoes are at their peak; warm from the sun, sweet and tasting a bare hint of pineapple. The yellow crookneck squash are finally coming into their own and are delicious when sliced thin and sauteed in butter. A cluster of White Himrod grapes from the vines I planted my first spring here will be dessert. The grapes have gone insane this year, and make a beautiful, wild, green sculpture on the rebar arbors I made. I wander my property for a few minutes, admiring fruit and foliage, the sunset is a rich orange and it bathes everything in a celestial glow. I feed my animals, cook my dinner, ponder tomorrow's work on the Fort. Life is simple, rich, sweet, and satisfying. I love my life.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


    I am introverting with a vengeance these days. The new job has me on the fly, face to face, constantly interacting, problem solving, socializing, talking, soothing, charming, joking, on stage for all the world to see. All the things that drain the energy from me. I get home feeling absolutely bled dry of all my social skills. All I can do is turn on a BBC murder mystery, "Midsomer Murders" being the current obsession, with its genteel carnage, soothing voices, charming characters, quaint settings, and sweetly haunting music, then put on my workout gear and sweat until I feel some of my psychic energy begin to replenish. I feel my sanity on the verge of making a run for the border, and I am doing all I can to keep it from becoming an expatriate, enjoying sunnier climes. Most people can't, don't, or won't understand this. It does make me come off seeming like an angry, irritated, irritable asshole. I have been accused of this more than a few times. "You are so grumpy, I just stay clear." It is not grumpy. It is being overwhelmed to the point of near shut down. I wish I didn't feel the constant need to explain myself, or apologize. But I do. I know how I must appear to everyone: antisocial, monosyllabic, hostile. It is sheer protective mechanism, I can assure you. Fortunately my dogs understand, and don't talk to me when I get home. I want to apologize to the world, but I won't. I shouldn't have to.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Zen of Swimming

    The difference a day makes. A bit of sleep, healthy food, and a long swim always seems to sort me out. The zen of swimming settles my mind like nothing else I have ever known. My mind can be a hamster on a wheel when I enter the water, but a few laps in and Brain has settled down and starts putting the jumbled fragments of my chaotic thoughts into a cohesive pattern. It is likely the perfect combination of controlled breathing, rhythmic movement, and increased oxygen flow through Brain and Body. With my head under water all external noise is blocked, all I can hear are the bubbles of my own expelled breath as they rumble past my ears. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.
    The last few days I have felt my stress level rising. Despite all my best efforts. Despite practicing calm, peace, harmony. Despite my recent sabbatical from the internet, most of it, anyway. Last night was the crescendo. As with all my meltdowns, major and minor, Brain starts circling around one point of anxiety. A dog chasing its tail, circling, circling. Never stopping. Never catching the tail. I have so many tricks in my bag, weapons in the arsenal, all designed to help prevent a tumble into the bleak. I was pulling out a few of my favorites. The tools with handles worn smooth from frequent usage. I was managing to keep things in check to a degree, but panic was sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear. Panic is such an asshole.
    Yesterday I was getting weepy over song lyrics. Trigger songs that I love, but when I am melancholy they stab at my psyche. "Like a break in the battle was your part in the wretched life of a lonely heart." My life is not wretched. I am rarely ever lonely. But there are times when I think how much easier life would be with someone to share the load. That is when I do have a lonely heart. I have shouldered the burden alone for so long that I doubt I could surrender it, even to a willing and able victim. But there are days, brief moments, when the burden seems to crush me beneath its weight. I stumble, stagger, then rise up, stronger than before. This is the difference one day makes.
    In the cool, clear water, bubbles rumbling past my ears. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. There was sudden clarity. I regained my focus, laid out a plan, found my cadence. No more floundering, not at the moment. Today I gathered my strength, shifted the burden a bit, and got back on my way. All because the Zen of Swimming let Brain get it all sorted. Sorted and back on track.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Artistic Floundering

    The anxiety of "starving artist" is hovering about like a swarm of gnats. Nothing too painful yet, just an annoying buzzing that threatens my peace and harmony. I admit, I have not been focusing any energy on money making endeavors, not short term money anyway. I did have the nice influx of cash at the end of June, from a very labor intensive job. That money has gone, of course. Now, underemployed, I am holding onto the idea that I don't have to spend all my days working for someone else, doing something that I wish I didn't have to, just to make enough money to survive by the skin of my teeth. I hate the idea that all my physical and mental energy has to be spent to line the pockets of someone else.
    I have discovered that I don't have the temperament to make a living with any artistic endeavor. I am too emotionally invested in everything I do. Any problem that arises feels like a personal attack, a slap in the face, an assault on my fragile ego. To have to put a price on art seems somehow vulgar, painful even. For the amount of time I spend creating something, there is no way I will make even minimum wage, and yet I feel as if I have to apologize when I ask for payment. I do not have the confidence in my worth. Too many years of being undervalued in almost every aspect of my life has left me with a gaping wound where an ego should be. Why does does the ability to make an honest living with my talents bring me face to face with my own feelings of inadequacy? It isn't fair. I have made so many attempts over the years to hawk my wares, only to be made to feel as if I am not worth a few dollars. I have heard it said that you are only a failure if you give up. That may be true. But how many times do I need to fail in order to finally succeed?
    Now, as bills come in, and I see them side by side to money owed to me, it is hard not to feel angry and bitter. This is why I can't be an artist. I do not have the ability to stand up for myself, demand what is owed to me, feel confident in my own worth. It is all good and well to have people shower me with praise for my level of skill, but that sure as shit don't pay the bills.
    Yes, this is a Pity Party, table for one. I am trying to dig deep into the heart of my own feelings of inadequacy. Hoping to find an answer within myself, not have to look to an outside source for validation and approval. But really, that is what being an artist is; your worth and validation is based on how other's value your work. There has to be a spark of self-promotion, ego, vanity. That is not my spark. My inner fire is so far removed from the realm of self-promotion that I panic at the idea of having to ask for money. I need to find a way to tap my own Fire. There has got to be a way for me to walk my own path, be comfortable in my decisions, and still manage to make a living doing something that I love. But I am floundering. I need to focus. I need to regain my footing. I need to find my way. Damn, I need sleep. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Tattoos and an Attempted Public Shaming

    The woman interrupts me, as I give her the home improvement advice she had requested, "Can I ask you something? I know it's not any of my business, but why did you do that to yourself?" She asks with an ingenuous smile, pointing at my tattoos. "You are such a pretty woman, why would you do that to your body?"
    No, it isn't any of her g'damned business. I feel my friendly, customer service smile get tight, hard, and a trifle less friendly. The implication is that I have made my self less attractive, ugly even, I won't rise to the bait. "I like tattoos," I answer simply.
    "But how will you feel about them when you are ninety?" This is such a pat question.
    Fixed smile still firmly in place, "When I am ninety, I'm pretty sure the last thing I will be concerned about is my body art, or what people will think of me."
    I want to tell her that I already don't care what people think of me, or my tattoos, but I keep myself in check. I am practicing calm, picking my battles, and this is not worth the energy. I know that nothing I say will change her mind about her close-minded opinion that I have somehow violated my body by adding tasteful, Celtic art to the outer wrapping.
    What I do wonder, in cases like this, is just what makes people think they are justified in being critical? It really is a case of attempted public shaming. Of course I was not shamed. I love my tatts. But it is just another example of why I choose to isolate myself from society. Pick my companions. Live a life of relative solitude.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Write. Edit. Write.

    This year I have been so focused on life, projects, training, family, that my writing has fallen a bit off the track. I know I need to be writing consistently, even if it is just a few brief words. I had a college writing professor that said, "If you only write three words, that gives you something to edit." He was a firm believer in editing, paring down, removing extraneous words. He also said that there was always one perfect word to use as a descriptive. He frowned on using words like "very."  "He is not "very sad," he is distraught." Amazing how 35 years later I can still remember these things. But he was an integral factor in how my writing style has grown. I still edit and pare down my writing. I think I would never be able to write a very lengthy novel simply because I do not like long, flowery descriptions, or overly detailed bits of trivia. I like to write simply, and to the point, and then edit it even further. I have decided to try to write, if not daily, at least far more frequently than I have been this last year or so. And not just jotting down my physical training and nutrition escapades in my training blog. I need to get back to the deep, probing writing that I do best when I am having a mental meltdown. I need to learn to be as capable of soul searching, and vivisection of my psyche when I am feeling hale and hearty. So, let the experimentation begin. More writing. More probing. Less lunacy. Okay, I won't go overboard, I kinda want to keep the lunacy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Media Vacation

    The news has gone through another spate of horror these last few months. Okay, since the beginning of the new year. Our country seems to be falling into chaos and violence, even more so than usual. The Us versus Them mentality is reaching an all time high, with groups of all kinds breaking into opposing factions. I even see this among my friends on social media. It weighs down my heart in a way that is physically painful. It is possible that I am just feeling hyper-sensitive, allowing it all to build up to the point that my spirit says, "No More!"
    I have been a news junkie most of my adult life. I like to know what is happening around me, and around the globe. I read global new, financial reports, politics. I tend to avoid sports and Hollywood gossip. My first real news blackout came after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It broke my heart. I cried for hours. Let me say here, I am not inclined to cry over news, but that was too horrifying for me to assimilate. I cut myself off from the news for over a year. Oh, it has a way of trickling in, but I kept my head down and my guard up. The problem is, I have a need to know. A need to know just how rapidly the world is spiraling into decay. I am not sure why I want to punish my psyche, but it is like the proverbial train wreck. I just can't seem to look away.
    But a few days ago I decided to take a break. A mini-vacation from social media. So much in-fighting seems to be going on between friends and acquaintances. The angry debates over gun control, police actions, abortion, religion, politics, and bridge hangers, and culminating with a poached lion. The killing of the lion seems to have sparked a wildfire that has spread uncontrolled. I even fell into it with posts trying to drag people into seeing a wider picture of grief and man's inhumanity to man. That is when I knew I needed to just back away. I make it a personal policy to promote love and peace, not hate and violence. I have since deleted my posts. It is not that I fear offending people, or of expressing my views, but I feel that by posting inflammatory messages we are feeding right into the hands of those controlling the masses. If we are so busy fighting among ourselves over the rights and wrongs of hunting, or basic rights, then our attention is turned away from the major issues that are wreaking havoc on our planet, our home. The only place we have to live is being destroyed right under our noses and yet we mock the few people who try to rally the hue and cry against mega-corporations who are plundering the planet with no regard for the damage they are leaving behind.
    As you can tell, even taking a break from news and social media, I cannot turn off my fear. I wish there was a way to channel the energies spent on arguing and finger-pointing and aim them towards the groups behind the curtain. The few powerful entities pulling strings behind the scenes. But that is a pipe dream. I wish I had the power and pull to begin a revolution. A peaceful revolution based on love; love of Gaia our Earth Mother, love of each other, love of all living things, and mostly love of self. If we can shine a light into the dark corners, then the darkness can't remain.
    Instead, I will turn myself away from the barrage of negativity. I will focus on the loving, peaceful aspects of my life. Maybe I can find a way to let that energy flow out and away from myself, and it will help shine some light into dark corners. If nothing else, limiting my time on the internet has given me much more time for living.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Two Lists

    A few months back I wrote two lists in the little book that has become a combination journal, spell book, and To-Do list. In a sense, these were To-Do lists, but not in the home improvement sense. These were about life, living, sanity, and health. I haven't shared these lists with a single soul. But I read them over and over. I keep them in my mind and heart as I move through life. Even now, I hesitate to share them. But I feel as if by listing them here, for any and all to see, that it will make them even more tangible. I don't fully believe that if you think hard enough on an idea that it will manifest, but I do believe that we have control over our destiny by controlling how we perceive the journey that is life. The two lists are these:

What I Want
Self Employment
Alternative Income
Self Reliant Home
Become Debt Free
Another Ironman
Train Harder

What I Need
Moderate Income
Task Completion
Self Reliance
Spiritual Reconnect

   These two lists made me realize just how little I need to be content. The two lists are different, but only by degrees. Mostly they speak to me of my very basic need for physical, mental, and spiritual health. All else is unimportant if any of these three things are absent.
    What inspired me to sit and write these? It was an item near the bottom of the Need list: Spiritual Reconnect. I was feeling as if something very vital had slipped away while I wasn't looking. And I felt empty. I knew I needed to find that spark, the spirituality that makes me who I am. I can say that just the acknowledgement that it was missing opened the pathway for its return.
    No, just writing these lists has not made all my dreams come true. But I have become deeply aware of just how much control I really do have over the course that my life takes. Even when things feel out of control, I know that my hand is still firmly on the tiller, I just have a rough bit of sea to sail through.