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.

Plan of Attack

    I realized yesterday that I have been focusing too much on what I can't do, instead of what I can, and how far I have come over the last 4 years. I have been down on myself because my fitness level isn't what it was 1-1/2 years ago when I did the 250k. Well, no shit. True, I have been having a lot of trouble with pain from injuries and arthritis, not to mention that nasty (and very painful) little bout with cellulitus that required 10 days of antibiotics. True, I've been having a lot of fatigue the last month or two that has made my motivation slip, I think part of this is residual from the infection and antibiotics. So this is me, pulling myself up by my boot straps, slapping myself upside the head, giving myself a good shake, and yelling, "Get over it!!"  Yeah, it's like that.
    I have been approaching a lot of my leg training as physical therapy in an attempt to be able to run again. This will continue, and get a bit more intense. I've been spending about 30 minutes after each swim (so, three days a week) doing leg work in the water. This has been great. I'm really trying to strengthen my hip abductors and pelvic girdle to give me more stability when I run and cycle. I have been cognizant of stretching in an attempt to loosen up my hips, to decrease my chances of more IT Band issues. I have to interject one thing here, cycling makes for tight hip flexors. I mean stiff, tight, old lady hip flexors. I also have a good, solid leg routine that I do 2-3 times a week of weights, strength training, body weight work, and plyometrics. I am adding to this routine with more stability work to try and better activate small muscles and kinetic chain. Because I don't workout enough, I need to add more. Really though, more dryland training is needed if I am ever going to be able to run at anything more than a hobble for 5K.
    I am back in the running shoe market. Damn shoes. I have some that I really love, but with chronic foot pain I think I need to add more padding than my beloved minimal shoes offer. Especially on pavement. No, I don't plan on running on pavement much, but it is a necessary evil. Even on trails I think that increasing the cushioning in my shoes won't be a bad thing. Honestly, I can't even begin to tell you just how much my feet hurt. Getting older sucks. Now I know why old people move so stiff and slow, it is because everything hurts.
     I am adding meditation to try and move past the aches and pains that are from a body well used, as well as continue a search for supplements, diet tweaks, and physical therapy to reduce the pain as much as I can. I need to be able to function, and a body that hurts doesn't want to train. You wouldn't believe the conversations I have with myself trying to convince me to work past the pain. No, I am not talking about injury pain, just the day to day discomfort that has increased considerably this year.
    That is the current plan of attack. Basically keep doing what I am doing, but do more of it. Remind myself of what I can do and how far I have come, not what my limitations are.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Wild Geese and Art Farm

    I dreamed of wild geese. Canadian Geese, to be precise. A pair, in a partially flooded field. I have no idea what it might mean. In Tai Chi there is a movement called flying wild goose, or it can be flying redtailed hawk, depending on which animal you resonate with. I had always thought it would be the hawk. These days though, I realize that maybe it is the wild goose. The goose is family oriented, very loyal, and a creature of habit. They are protective of their young and their territory.
    These days I am much more family focused than I have been. Family time is more important to me than anything. I spend what time I can with my grandchildren. I have been able to spend a lot of time this past year with my mother and aunt as we have worked to get my grandparents' property cleaned up and sold.
    Speaking of which, today was the last day that the family place is still the family's. By this time tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, the property will change hands. I have spent three days this last week making trips out there to help with final cleaning. Today was the last time I will walk the property and soak up the vibe of my history. It is a sad day for me. I am grieving quietly for the loss of a place that was more than mere property. It is the end of an era. The Art Farm is now just a part of my past, my history, memories of childhood.
    Maybe this is why I dreamed of wild geese? Family, yet transitory. The place does not make the family, since we all migrate from place to place throughout our lives. Family is not a place, it is a place in our soul. No matter where we go, as long as we have a soul, we have our family. But I will still miss the Art Farm.