This is it: I AM Grown Up

every child

Crayon image courtesy of http://www.public-domain-images.com

This is how I remember our house in 1977: green shag carpet, a brick fireplace in the center of the family room wall and padded bench seats built in on either side. I kept my paper and crayons inside one of those benches. I had a little table in front of the bench, and that corner of the room was my artist shop. (I was only five, so I didn’t know that artists have studios.) My mom would place orders for pictures and I would draw them for her.

Once, instead of a piece of paper, she let me draw on a long envelope. Because of the shape of my “canvas,” I drew a parade. I have a fragment of memory of that drawing, pencil horses attached to a circus wagon. In my memory they look just like high-stepping white horses with pretty arched necks. But I know if I were to get my hands on that drawing today, they would probably look more like kidney beans with legs.

I was going to be an artist when I grew up.

Like every kid, I changed my mind about this pretty often. I went through phases: a veterinarian, an actress, a truck driver, a writer. (The truck driver phase was inspired by “BJ & The Bear,” a television show about a truck driver who had a chimpanzee. When I understood that the chimp wasn’t standard issue, I let that one go.) But my earliest aspiration was to be an artist.

Fast forward 37 years and here I am, doing marketing for a specialty contracting firm. It’s not awful, but it’s a far cry from art. Over the last couple decades as a working mother, there’s been little time for creative pursuits. There have been scrapbooking sessions with my girlfriends and the occasional art class or workshop—those have been some of the brightest stops in the march of my days. But the truth is that art—the regular practice of it—has been missing, and I feel the lack in an anxious, pent-up way, like a dog that’s been kenneled too long.

My easel is collecting dust in a corner. My paints are dried up in a drawer in the garage.

This is not acceptable.

Today’s prompt in the writing challenge was to write about loss—and make it the first of a three-part series. I’ve written too much about loss already; I’ve wallowed in loss these last few months. I don’t want to write about loss anymore.

Instead, I’ve chosen to write about things that I plan to find again, losses I can take back. Art is an easy one.

I began this blog as a way to examine some of the questions of midlife, and here’s a good one: now that my kids are grown and my time belongs to me again, what am I going to do with it?

I’m going to make art, damnit. I’m going to set up a little corner artist shop like I had when I was five, with art supplies at the ready, and I’m going to default to my easel or my journal instead of my television at night. I’m going to draw and paint and collage and whatever else I can get my hands on.

I believe that the beauty of art is as much in the practice and meditation of creating it as it is in the finished product—in my case, probably more so. I think it’s important to flex your creative muscle whether you produce something “good” or not. So I’ll post about my process and how I’m taking back my inner artist. I’ll even show you my crappy circus ponies or whatever else I churn out.

I would love to hear from any of you who have managed to maintain a regular artistic practice. How do you incorporate art into your daily life?

 

Weekday Escapism: Bat Swimming in Baja

The air in Baja may be thicker than the air here in Orange County. I remember it heavy and soft like a blanket. When we deplaned onto the blazing tarmac, it hit me smack in the face, smothering, like my older brother had jumped out of nowhere and thrown it over my head. But that night by the pool, the blanket was cuddly and lightweight and welcome, sweet to the touch.

Of course, I was pretty drunk.

I could only feel the air on a portion of my face, the rest of me being submerged. When I relaxed completely, only my nose and lips broke the surface. Back arched, I floated dreamily as the glowing, balmy water lapped around me, filling my ears with those rushing, underwater sounds. The pool was empty; at two in the morning, most of the resort guests were still in the disco or paired off and cavorting somewhere.

I will never forget the view, straight up from the center of the pool, in the wee hours of a Mexican morning on that resort in Loreto. An enormous full-moon overhead, palm trees soaring on either side, their fronds fringing the edges of my vision, and something—I thought it was a bat, and I like bats—something swooping over the surface of the water.

The bat—it could have been a bird, though I know not many birds fly at night—was diving at the water. My impaired reasoning told me it was hunting, snatching up the bugs that floated on the surface.

There weren’t a lot of bugs. This would not be a pleasant recollection had the water been bug-ridden. As I recall it, however, with the good-natured bat hunting for appropriately distant bugs, this is one of the most relaxing memories I own.

Do bats eat bugs? I don’t know that either. It wasn’t important at the time.

I was twenty-seven, and it was my first time on a resort. My employer had taken the whole company on an incentive trip. As I have been most of my life, I was a broke, single mom and I left for an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico with fourteen dollars in my wallet and zero dollars in reserve, trusting that they really meant it when they said ALL expenses.

I wasn’t disappointed. Having grown up as one of six children, I was not accustomed to travel or resort vacations, or vacations at all, really. While I understood the concept of all-inclusive resorts, the pleasure of it didn’t really sink it until I got there. Yes, there really are unlimited free tacos and unlimited Coronas, even first thing in the morning, and you can pick any restaurant on the resort and yes, it’s actually free. Wake up in the morning, decide if you feel like swimming or kayaking or watching a show or doing a dorky activity and no, there’s no charge for that. Do whatever you feel like doing and it’s all free. I was in single-mom heaven.

At night we went to the disco on the resort, a place with air conditioning so violent it would have frozen me solid if I didn’t rush to the dance floor. Earlier that day we’d learned how hard it is to catch a buzz in Mexico, the common theory being that in 110-degree weather, you sweated it out before it hit your system. (Science!) I subsequently learned that gin will get the job done in any weather. Since dancing, in my case, requires a fairly significant level of intoxication, I ordered the resort’s featured special, the Singapore Sling, and proceeded to get my groove on.

The disco throbbed with bass-heavy dance music and sweaty tourists. I contributed my own gin-fueled moves to the melee, shaking it with friends, co-workers and strangers in a big, rhythmic huddle that even that ferocious air conditioning couldn’t penetrate.

Several Samurai Slings later, dripping with sweat, holding my heels in my hand, I padded out of the disco barefoot and swooshed back to my room. (When I am drunk, I have a heightened awareness of my feet propelling me forward, and I feel my deliberate, hurried walking like a swoosh.) It must have been 85 degrees in the dead of night, and though 85 was a delicious break from the scorching day, my disco-fever demanded a remedy. Only a night swim would cure me.

In my hotel room, I peeled off my sweaty clothes and tugged on my still damp bathing suit. I watched my feet propel me, swoosh, down to the pool deck.

It didn’t occur to me that swimming alone while schnockered was not very wise. The water felt substantial, dense like jello. I floated without trying. My hair spread out around my head like a mermaid’s, and my limbs were weightless.

I don’t know how long I floated. Five minutes? An hour? To this day, however, I clearly recall the thought that finally motivated me to clamber out of the pool. I became concerned, as I floated there with only my nose poking out of the water—I feared the bat might mistake my nose for a bug. They don’t see well, you know. I like bats but I didn’t want it to eat my nose.

There were several all-expense paid trips to Mexico from that employer, whose M.O. was to grind employees to an exhausted, stressed-out pulp, until we were all ready to quit, then revive us with margaritas and poolside limbo contests. Each year we swore we wouldn’t fall for it again. I fell for it for four years.

But to this day, when I am broke and stressed and longing for escape, I flash back to that tipsy swim in Loreto, alone with the bat and the moonlight.

Yoga Realizations: Abundance & Scarcity

Yoga. I never bothered to try it, because I assumed that a large, inflexible, uncoordinated woman with poor balance would not be able to do yoga.

About a month ago, I finally gave it a shot. All my girlfriends were doing it, and I just wanted to be cool. Peer pressure caused me to experiment with yoga.

I was correct. I can’t do it. And I love it so much, I wish I had tried it years ago.

I didn’t realize that yoga is magic. When you require your body to attempt what it really cannot do for a good solid hour, until you’re sweaty and exhausted, your brain apparently winds up in some kind of crazy super-freedom state that allows you to think beautiful new thoughts.

(Aside: I suppose this must be what certain drugs do for you, too….except if you do a whole bunch of drugs you wind up looking like shit, but if you do a whole bunch of yoga, you wind up looking awesome.)

I can tell you that I must look ridiculous in my yoga practice, which is okay because I can’t see myself. I’m sure I never look like a warrior or a tree or a crow, but at the end of class, I’ll be damned if I don’t think like a yogi.

This is good news, because my thoughts are kind of shaky these days. I’m still off-kilter from my recent breakup, and I spend a lot of time either sad, angry, or in a state of rigid avoidance. But for some reason, when I’m physically exhausted and instructed to clear my mind and focus on my breath, amazing thoughts radiate through my consciousness.

I know I sound dramatic, but here’s what happened in my brain at the end of a recent yoga class.

We’re sitting cross-legged (sukhasana! I’m learning!) and the instructor quietly suggests, “Extend your spine, take a deep breath and thank your body for all the hard work you put in today.”

Thanks, body. You did great!

“On your next exhale, round down over your feet and extend your fingers towards the front of your mat. It’s important to recognize how hard your body works and to appreciate all that it’s capable of. Hold that pose for five breaths.”

Hey, feet. Thanks for the hard work.

My feet are okay. They’re not weird-looking or anything and they never give me any trouble. I love my feet.

You know, I actually love my whole body. Hear that? I love you, Body. I have an abundance of love!

….I have an abundance of love.

….I’m not afraid of being alone because I have an abundance of love.

I really thought those things, all in a row, like popcorn popping in my brain. I was probably a little oxygen-deprived in that moment, because sitting cross-legged and bending forward like that causes the bulk of my belly to be crushed up into my lung-space, but whatever. It was worth it for that brilliant realization: I HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF LOVE.

The class progressed into the meditative portion, where you’re supposed to lie flat, clear your mind, and concentrate on your breath. So of course, that’s when my brain goes nuts.

This “abundance of love” notion rolled right into a burst of clarity regarding my recently-ended relationship. While our relationship was good in many ways, it was always marred by possessiveness and jealousy. I’ve never had that particular problem before, and I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why those problems kept surfacing, when I didn’t feel like I was doing anything to trigger them. I didn’t understand why we were constantly fighting over nothing.

And right there in yoga class, it came to me. Abundance versus Scarcity.

I have learned about abundance before, but I have always heard it applied to material things. An abundance mentality says that there is plenty for everyone. We can afford to be generous because there is enough to go around.

Scarcity is the opposite of abundance. People who live in scarcity feel that there is never enough, and so they are constantly fighting for their share.

I never applied the notion of Scarcity and Abundance to human relationships before, but BAM!—yoga clarity!—I suddenly saw how it works.

I come from a big, loving family. I was raised with the certainty that I am loved. I have a great circle of friends. I have kids who love me. I recognize that I am extraordinarily fortunate to feel an abundance of love.

I’ve never been one to feel jealous or suspicious; I’m very trusting. I’ve also never cheated on anyone; I don’t see the point—just love who you’re going to love. I have this crazy theory that almost all hurt feelings between friends are the result of misunderstandings, because I truly believe that people who love me would not intentionally hurt me. That’s what my life experience has taught me.

Not everyone has had that life experience. I suppose if you were raised in an environment that was abusive or unstable, or if you suffered through abandonment or infidelity, you might feel emotional scarcity. You might feel like you need to fight for affection, guard it and keep it to yourself. Once you have someone’s affection, you might feel like you could lose it at any moment, and easily become suspicious or jealous.

Suddenly all those fights, all that jealousy and possessiveness made sense. Why I felt so smothered, and why I felt like I could never do, or be, enough. We’re talking about opposite worldviews here. No wonder we couldn’t get along.

That just took me 900 words to explain, but during yoga, it flashed into my brain on one big exhale, like I breathed all the clarity in and all the confusion out.

Peace in… fear out.

Abundance in…scarcity out.

I’m telling you– you gotta try yoga.

Goodbye, Swoony McLovestruck

Seventeen months ago I posted about the absurdities of internet dating. Ironically, that very same night, I went on an internet date with a guy who knocked my socks off, triggered a series of lovestruck posts, and started me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could step off the dating merry-go-round for good.

Alas, dear readers; that is not how the story ends. Oh, it ended. Just not like that.

My big romance is well and truly over. So, I’ve taken the usual steps: crying, ranting to my girlfriends, buying shoes, drinking, eating, buying more shoes…and all of that helped.   I’ve taken healthier steps, too, like painting and taking long walks. I even tried yoga for the first time. (Wow, yoga! More on that later.)

Mostly, I’ve done a lot of thinking. It was hard for me to let this relationship end, because I wanted so badly for it to work. This is the first time in my adult life that I really threw my whole heart into a romantic relationship, because this is the first time that I felt like I’d found someone who was worth that kind of risk. I fell hard, and I think in the process, I forgot something very important.

I went through a lot of crappy internet dates to learn this important lesson, and one sweet romance almost blew it right out of my head.  A year later, when things were starting to unwind with my beloved, the lesson came back to me.

Here’s the short version: I can’t control what another person wants, and I can’t become what another person wants. Instead, I need to decide what I want. I need to be who I want to be, and find someone I want to be with.

When I was younger, and I first started dating, I worried all the time about whether guys would like me. Was I pretty enough? Thin enough? Sexy enough? Wholesome enough? Should I be more open? Or more mysterious? I’d be out on a date, gripped with insecurity, always worried about whether I was what my date wanted.

Then I got a little older. The beauty of getting older is beginning to accept yourself.  I’m not perfect, but I’m perfectly acceptable. I started to see what a waste of time it was to try to be what someone else wanted. When I look at myself now, there are things I want to improve and things I struggle to accept, but the bottom line is this: it is what it is, and really, it’s just fine.

Instead of trying to be what someone else wants, I need to decide what I want for myself.

That outlook greatly improved my dating life. I began to go out more, because I stopped ruling myself out.  In my early days of dating online, I’d look at someone and think, “I’m not his type”—even, sometimes, when he approached me first! I started enjoying my dates more, because instead of trying to prove myself, I focused on each person I met. I’m sure that made me a lot more fun to be around, too.

Eventually, this strategy led me to my boyfriend ex-boyfriend. (Ouch.)  For the first year, it seemed pretty close to perfect. When problems cropped up, I thought, well, all relationships have problems; this is worth working for.

So I tried hard to not cause the problems. I tried to be more tactful; I tried to be more communicative; I tried to be more available; I tried to be more feminine; I tried to be less independent; I tried to be less stubborn; I tried to be more open; I tried to guard my words; I tried not to upset him. I found myself apologizing for things I never knew were wrong. I found myself trying to change things about myself that I’d always been proud of.  I tried and tried and then I remembered:

I can’t become what another person wants. I can’t change what he wants.  I can only decide what I want.

The fights continued, but instead of trying to prove that I was a good girlfriend, I began to try to evaluate our relationship. Am I being reasonable? Is he being reasonable? Are we really compatible? Are we really loving each other?

Is this what I want?

It sounds selfish; I know. “Meg, really? It’s all about what YOU want?”

Well, yes. Because I can’t control what he wants. And I can’t be what I’m not.

Sure, I can work to improve myself, and I can work at being better in a relationship. “What I Want” includes standards for me, too: I want to be reasonable, gracious, forgiving, open and kind. I know that I fall short of those attributes sometimes, and I know when I’m not at my best. But I trust my own judgment. I know when I’m trying my hardest to be the person that I should be. I want to be in a relationship that allows me to be that person.

And I wasn’t.

So it’s over.

It hurts; I wish I could breeze through this on the confidence that I’m doing the right thing, but it’s not that easy. The right thing hurts too, sometimes.

And the question now is… what do I want next?

Wide-Open Writing

riverI love writing this blog. I haven’t posted anything in several months, but it’s never far from my mind.

I feel that my responsibility as a blogger is to give my reader some kind of takeaway: a laugh, a different point of view, a helpful insight…something of value. So, as I consider topics to write about, I’m always looking for that takeaway—what is the punchline? What is the lesson? What is different or interesting about this post that makes it worth reading?

Unfortunately, these last few months have been so overwhelming that I haven’t been able to boil the chaos in my head down to anything useful. I’ve been swept along in the current of my life– new job, new home, new relationship status/living arrangement, newly empty nest—and it’s been tough to stay afloat.

When I used the expression, “swept along in the current,” what I actually envisioned was more like falling off my raft on a whitewater rafting excursion: me, totally unfit for whitewater rafting in the first place, bobbing and flailing in a churning, twisting river with rocks all around. Periodically my head breaks the surface and I suck in a big gasping breath and then bam, back under I go. I’m not trying to swim in any particular direction; I’m not even trying to avoid the rocks. I’m just trying to remember which way is up and when I have the opportunity, breathe.

Over these last few months, my creativity feels dead. No writing, no painting…any creative effort I begin seems forced and frustrating.

Today I am feeling particularly overwhelmed. I googled for a lifesaver and found this gem from Pema Chodron:

Take the whole teatime just to drink your tea. I started doing this in airports. Instead of reading, I sit there and look at everything, and appreciate it. Even if you don’t feel appreciation, just look. Feel what you feel; take an interest and be curious. Write less; don’t try to capture it all on paper. Sometimes writing, instead of being a fresh take, is like trying to catch something and nail it down. This capturing blinds us, and there’s no fresh outlook, no wide-open eyes, no curiosity.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling to find something blog-worthy to write—I’m trying so hard to capture something and boil it down that I have no fresh take, no wide-open eyes, no curiosity. No wonder I can’t find anything new to say.

A long time ago I learned a lesson about creating for the sake of creating, without fear of failure or pressure to achieve an expected result.  It was one of the most memorable days of my life. (You can read that post here.) Even so, the lesson seems to have gotten buried and writing this post has reminded me of it.

For writing, for painting, for whatever your creative process– and that includes the life you are creating for yourself–you don’t need to know how it will turn out. You don’t need to fear that it won’t be right.

The nature of creating is venturing into the unknown. True creativity is making something NEW, bringing something into existence that didn’t exist before.  If you’re in a true creative state, you’re not traveling an established path. So how can you possibly know you’re right?  More importantly, how can you be wrong?

See, I spend a LOT of time worrying about screwing things up. Can’t write this blog post; it might turn out stupid. Can’t paint a painting because I don’t have any ideas, or for that matter, painting skills. On a bigger scale, I have life decisions staring me in the face and I’m paralyzed that I will choose the wrong path.

So I started writing today not to achieve a tidy result, but just to feel what I feel, to look around me with wide-open eyes, and to practice creativity for its own sake.  As often happens when I start writing, a shape starts to form and I figure out what I’m writing about after I start writing it. In other words, I found my takeaway. It’s mostly for me, but I know there are others in my shoes who might find this helpful, too.

We create our lives. You are the first to walk your path, and I am the first to walk mine. Therefore, there is no established way: no right way and no wrong way. So we have nothing to be afraid of.  We can’t know how it will turn out, but we don’t need to fear that it will turn out wrong. It’s ours to create, and the process of creating is where the joy lives.

Thanks again to every one of you who encourages me to keep writing. You can’t possibly know how much that means to me.

Philadelphia Flourishing

So, it’s been two weeks since I left my daughter in Philadelphia.  I’m doing alright. She’s doing alright. I miss her. It was harder than I thought, letting her go.

I listened to Pema Chodron talk once about getting through emotional difficulty. She advised that if you feel like you’re going to get swallowed up in grief, or loneliness, or fear—try to step back and imagine you’re watching a movie of your life. There are sad parts and happy parts, funny parts, romantic parts…all in the course of the movie.  You feel sad in the sad parts of a movie, but you don’t lose yourself; you don’t come undone with sadness.

This is a helpful tool for me. In the movie of my life, this is the part where Maddy and I are separate for a while. It’s the part where I resume my own life, now that the hands-on, daily parenting part is over.  I know there are more happy parts coming. I feel sad, but I won’t come undone.

The part in Philadelphia was really hard. I watched it like a movie. The harder it got, the more movie-like it became.

It was a movie starring me, Maddy and Benjamin Franklin. Really.

Before the movie, I imagined the part where I had to say goodbye to Maddy. I imagined all the wise, inspiring, helpful things I would say. When it came time, standing in her dorm room, I couldn’t say anything at all. I just stood there, crying in her hair, and finally managed to choke out, “Please be careful.”

Then I sat on a curb outside the building, waiting for the crying to stop long enough for me to call a cab. Only I didn’t have to call one, because this is a movie, remember? And in movies the cab just drives up and you wave at it and it stops. So that’s what happened.   “7th and Pine,” I mumbled to the cab driver, because my tourist map labeled that corner “Antique Row.” I had four hours to kill between leaving Maddy and catching my flight back to Orange County.

You may know me as a dramatic sort of person, and I admit that I’m all for exaggeration if it gets me a laugh or makes my point. But I say this with no trace of hyperbole: if you had asked me, that day as I wandered through the city, what it feels like to choke on your own heart, I could not have replied because of the lump in my throat. But I would have known the answer.

The antique shops weren’t open yet but the buildings were beautiful, and the windows were full of antiques so old they blew my West Coast mind.

I found a community garden, a cheerful pocket of green between the buildings, and snapped a picture of this plant because of its stunning purple pods.

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There is a character in an Ann Tyler book who wonders, as she prepares for the funeral of a loved one, whether it is possible to experience grief so severe that you stop observing yourself in it.  I reminded myself of that character, hurting but watching myself in my movie, walking alone with tears running down my face in such a picturesque place. I felt ridiculous and cliché. I laughed at myself, then realized that laughing must make me look even crazier.

I walked another block or two, taking in the lovely old architecture all around me, thinking how fortunate I was to have such an amazing setting to walk off my heartache.  I turned a corner and saw this building:

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It’s the Pennsylvania Hospital, the oldest hospital in America, founded by Ben Franklin in 1755.  It’s still a functioning hospital, though this original structure contains offices now. I wandered through the park-like grounds til I got close enough to the building to read this sign. Read the words; I love them:

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“Well Mr. Franklin,” I thought to myself, “I am certainly miserable. I could use some relief.”

There’s no way he could have known, when he wrote that inscription 258 years ago, that the city was going to crowd up around his amazing building, and a heartbroken mother was going to stumble through it and find herself in this restful place.

As I sat there, thinking about that inscription, thinking about the brilliance of Ben Franklin and his reach through the centuries, I found myself comforted by the phrase, “Philadelphia Flourishing.” It’s a beautiful phrase, just the sound of it. I’m a hoarder of words and phrases. All day long I’d been drowning  in weepy words like “bereft” and “alone” and “empty nest” but then here was this lifesaver: a definitive, triumphant, bold-stroke of a word–flourishing.

The phrase hung around all morning as I continued to explore. The city surrounded me with fascinating historic distractions: Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’ house. History is like wilderness, the way it can make you feel small and your problems seem insignificant.

The people reached out to me, too. I ducked into a used book store where the clerk took one look at my face and said, “Can I help you? I mean really…you look like you need…something?”   Touched by her kindness, I burst into tears again, and choked out, “I’m just having a hard day.”

Then I stopped at Lore’s Chocolates where I met two sweet, senior ladies working there. “Oh, you’re from California? Did you enjoy your time in Philly?” they asked.

More tears. Yes, I said, but I left my youngest child this morning at Drexel…

”Oh honey,” one of them sympathized. “That’s going to hurt a while. I remember when I sent my son to school, and he wasn’t nearly so far away. I cried for a week.”   They gave me extra samples. Chocolate and sympathy is a good combination.

I visited Ben Franklin’s grave on my way back to the hotel. It was definitely underwhelming, which may be appropriate given Franklin’s earthy, democratic nature, or inappropriate, given his monumental genius and contribution to society.  (And his supernatural ability to speak to sad, modern-day moms.) Then I hoofed it back to my hotel at Penn’s Landing, where I had just enough time for a beer before catching the shuttle to the airport.

*       *        *

Woman waits alone in an airport terminal, holding a magazine but not reading it, looking back towards the city with tears in her eyes. Then she closes her eyes, shakes her head, and laughs at herself.

Roll closing credits.

So. Much. Change. AllAtOnce.

I haven’t blogged in over two months. So much has been happening, I don’t even know what to blog about. If you could screw off the top of my skull and release the contents of my brain, the thoughts would come leaping and scrambling out like clowns from a tiny car.

Remember the post about job hunting? Well, I have a new job. That job includes a new schedule and longer hours. Still haven’t figured out how there’s time to cook dinner and get some exercise and write and pay attention to my family and my boyfriend all before bedtime. (Plus there’s Netflix; damn all those TV shows.) I know that working moms all over the country do it—heck, I did it for years—but it’s kicking my hiney right now because I’ve had this cakewalk schedule for the last two years. Welcome back to the world of grownups, Meg.

Also, I moved. I read once that moving is the third most stressful event for humans, after death of a loved one and divorce. (Pretty sure “job change” was high up on that list, too.) So, I guess it could be worse, but yeah—it’s pretty stressful. Also included in moving stress: I shacked up with my sweetheart and we’re ADJUSTING.  “Adjusting” involves trying to fit two households into one home and trying to remember how to share space with someone after you’ve been single for 15 years. I’ve only freaked out once so far.

And the big, downhill-rolling boulder that is my daughter’s departure for college continues its rapid descent onto my poor mom-heart. Maddy leaves in less than a month. She needs plane tickets and dorm furnishings and a laptop and luggage and a warm winter coat. Hopefully I can come up with the money to pay for all of those things and still have enough left for a case of Two-Buck Chuck to drown my sorrows. It’s pretty bad. I’ll be driving down the freeway or doing the laundry—just minding my own business– and out of nowhere, BAM! Emotional ambush!  Fine one minute, a weepy mess the next.

So, all in all, this is a good time for me—new job, taking the relationship to the next level, kids are growing up and doing what they’re supposed to do—but it’s also a boatload of transition all at once. I’ve got no cause to whine because all my transitions are good transitions, but most days I feel like my life is racing ahead of me and I’m being dragged along behind it with a death-grip on the bumper.

Oh! Suddenly I thought of a metaphor! (I really thought of this right now, spontaneous-like.)  My life feels a little bit like parasailing right now.

Victor & I went parasailing a couple weeks ago. (Because, you know, things weren’t crazy enough—let’s get suspended 600 feet over the Pacific Ocean while hauling ass in a speedboat!)

I was totally game for the parasailing, when Victor asked me to go– I didn’t feel afraid at all. That was stupid, because as it turns out, parasailing is actually pretty terrifying. I was fine until it was time to go up.

We were on a boat with two other couples.  The staff harnessed us up in strangely loose-fitting harnesses, and offered no safety instructions whatsoever, except to say, “If you want to hold on, hold the rope; don’t touch the metal hooks. “

IF! IF you want to hold on! Holding on is optional! So my rational mind knew that it had to be pretty safe—they let any schmuck do it; you don’t have to be fit or strong or know what you’re doing, and obviously you can’t screw it up or they’d give you more directions. Must be safe, right?

We climbed up on the back of the boat in our big, loose harnesses and they hooked us up and ZOOOM! Up we went! 600 feet! It felt just like an elevator. My harness felt just like a swing. My boyfriend was with me, taking pictures all around with his iPhone, dangling next to me without a care in the world.

And I was CLUTCHING the ropes for dear life. White-knuckled, rigid arms—clutching. I understood that I was safe, that I could not fall, that holding on was optional—shoot, Vic was right next to me, happily using all his limbs—but NOTHING could have pried my fingers off those ropes. Nothing.

We were up there for about 12 minutes, I think. I managed to take in the amazing view; I marveled at the coastline and all the tiny people on the beach—probably pointing up at us lunatics dangling over the ocean—and I even enjoyed it when the captain reeled us in and dipped us low so our feet could trail in the water. But all the while, I held onto those ropes like my children’s lives depended on it. I squeezed so tight that my arms started to fatigue, and I was terrified that my strength would give out and I’d have to let go.

Vic took this...how's that for perspective?

Vic took this…how’s that for perspective?

There’s the metaphor: clutching. My life feels like it’s flying out ahead of me and all I can do is hold on. All this frantic feeling…all this desperate clutching for nothing…questioning my own strength when my strength is irrelevant, because this ride won’t stop no matter what I do.

Just like I knew I was safe in that harness, I know am safe now.  Everything is going to be fine. The clutching is instinctive, self-protective, but it’s not necessary, and I’d enjoy things so much more if I could just let go.

One way or another, I will let go. I’ll either wise up or wear out. And either way, I’ll be fine.