The Groundhog Was Right

Six more weeks of winter. Isn’t that what Punxsutawney Phil predicted a few weeks ago? Seems like forever ago. As I revealed in my last entry, I decided to move on from my most recent job to new adventures. It hasn’t even been two weeks, but two weeks seems so long ago now. Much to do, much to plan. A few moments of anxiety in between.

However, let’s get back to the weather. In all seriousness, where would all of humanity be if we didn’t have to weather to discuss? Well, things have been rather interesting around here the past week. Old Man Winter made his return, in a rather spectacular fashion, a day or two after I set out on my new existence. Hm. Not sure how I feel about that. I’m not one for omens, especially bad ones.

I can’t remember the last time we had this much snow, this late in the winter. (Apparently, we had a foot of snow in mid-February 1995. I don’t remember a bit of that.) Nonetheless, this week we’ve had not one, but two, somewhat significant snowfalls. If you’re from the Midwest or East Coast, please just ignore me. Our two, four-inch snow “storms” are probably laughable. This is a West Coast blog, OK?

As this city enjoys the opportunity to shut down for a few inches, this week has pretty much been awash. Why even bother to try to do anything significant? Sit back and enjoy the winter beauty with the rest of the crowd. Maybe that’s what was making me so anxious – taking snow days when I feel like I have so much to do. All I wanted to do was cook delicious pot roast in my dutch oven and curl up under a soft blanket. I need my early Spring energy and mojo back!

Alas, even though a few flurries fluttered to the ground at sunset this evening, the snow is melting. The days are longer. I didn’t turn on the porch light until after six. Buds on the flowering trees are eager to bloom, even covered in snow. The sun feels much warmer when it makes an appearance. The aisles of my local grocery store are lined with plush bunnies and chicks, pastel-colored baskets, and bags of plastic eggs. Oh, and a rack of delicate, mini-daffodils outside the main entrance, holding on for dear life against the elements. Spring is on the way. Renewal, rebirth, and new chances await. The past week or so has just been a little test. Can you withstand a bit of frosty adversity?

And so I keep moving on. Of course there were moments during the past week when I marveled at the quiet beauty of winter snow. Waking up at 5 AM a couple of mornings ago, to experience the majesty of a snowy, winter sunrise. Watching night turn to morning, against the glowing winter snow. This evening, I gazed at the snowset. (My word. Can I trademark it?) The blazing sun taking over, as if to let those frosty flakes know their time was limited. Made me think of Heat Miser and Snow Miser from “The Year Without A Santa Claus.”

Find the beauty where you can. Everything will change soon enough.



Everything Changes, Nothing Changes

Today I decided to move on from my job. In common lingo, I quit. Nothing dramatic, like throwing papers, giving a dramatic speech, and marching out the door. No. My exit was quiet. A nice, formal resignation letter and email. Professional and lacking emotion. I do have a knack for cold, concise business writing. And this wasn’t a sudden move. I’ve been pondering the pros and cons of leaving for at least three months. I just finally pulled off the band-aid this morning.

Trust me, the decision wasn’t an easy one. Giving up a comfortable salary with benefits, good working schedule, reduced cost mass transit pass for… Likely back to the uncertain life of a contract worker. Ah, but now I can return to the book. If I give myself a month of writing, every day, non-stop, I should be able to at least finish a rough draft. Then, I can get back to the mundane business of office work. I’ll have to live like a pauper for the next month, but I’ve done it before. And nothing makes me happier than writing. These are the things I’ve been weighing in my mind over the past several months. My head was telling me a million things, while my heart told me one thing. Finally, this morning, they met in the middle.

After the deed was done this morning, I didn’t want to wait around the house for the likely texts, calls, and emails, imploring me to reconsider. I didn’t have the heart to suddenly intrude on the roomie’s usual weekday alone time. So, I left the house just as I would to go off to work, and explored instead. The sky was a perfect clear blue and, by afternoon, the sun had permeated the brisk winter chill.

I bought a day transit pass and boarded my first train. I headed out West, toward another former employer. The book smelling business. Now that was a strange job, one that I thought I would like at first. However, it quickly went to strange places when the boss told us to make sure we weren’t listing pornographic materials. Uh, ok. Are these cheesy romance novels what you consider porn?

Once that little jaunt down memory lane was over, I headed back into town. As I passed the zoo, I reminisced about the wonderful summer concerts. Chris Isaak, multiple times, Rick Springfield and Pat Benatar last summer. I considered hopping off and wandering around the zoo, but I had other places to visit. Besides, I’m now on a super strict budget. Can only afford free attractions at the moment.

The train traveled under the Vista Bridge and my mind wandered back to that cool June night in 1997. The one and I shared our first kiss on the bridge, after a midnight walk. I was wearing the blue print dress; he was wearing that blue jacket, and Levi’s, of course. One of few truly romantic moments over what would turn into an almost 20-year relationship/friendship/not-quite-sure-what.

Got off the train and strolled around NW. I stopped at the store, bought a box of hair color, and found a bag of mini-Heath bars, made some small talk about favorite candy bars with a nattily dressed and chatty old woman. I passed the building where the one used to live with our mutual friend. Still that light yellow color. I gazed at the big window where he used to sit and wait for me during the Summer of 1997. He was always strumming his guitar, with his feet propped up on the window sill. We used to spend hours listening to his vast record collection in that apartment – Stan Getz Bossa Nova. Tom T. Hall. Boston – More Than A Feeling, in particular. Funny… That building now houses $400,000 condos. Twenty years ago, the rent was $700 for a two-bedroom apartment. Spendy in those days. Oh, this city.

Where to next? How about heading toward my childhood and young adulthood? Nothing more comforting than thinking of those days when things are a little crazy. South of the city this time. As soon as I stepped off the train, and looked at the familiar, yet new, surroundings I thought, “Home.” OK, there are an alarming amount of tweakers in that part of town these days. However, enough of the old remains to make me immediately recognize the place as home. Walking through JC Penney, where I had my first job after high school and into my first few years of college. Those were the easy days, even if they seemed hard at the time. Working and going to school, my entire adult life ahead of me. I had yet to experience real heartbreak, as I would many times later. I was going to save the world back then! Idealistic Sociology major.

Everything seems so big, wide, and expansive out there in the ‘burbs. I’ve spent the past 26 years living in the inner city. I’m used to crowding. Almost makes me want to return to the suburbs. My 25-year-old self would be aghast!

Finally, I headed North, toward the airport. The afternoon sky was especially blue. I love watching planes take off and land against the sparkling sky. I stopped at Target, to grab a few necessities while I still have the money. Then, I ordered a delightful Valentine’s Day-inspired Cherry Mocha from Starbucks, found a bench, and watched the planes with the afternoon sun warming my face. Lots of Southwest and Alaska planes. Short flights, I imagine. I wondered about that Delta plane. Was it an international flight? My omnipresent wanderlust. I need to squelch all thoughts of international travel, at least in the near future. That’s definitely one of the cons.

It was getting close to 4:00. I longed for home. I needed to start planning and plotting this new phase of my life. Yet another new phase. I seem to experience a new phase at least once every six months. As I walked in the front door, I felt different than I have the past year. The roomie was oblivious. I unpacked my belongings and thought about dinner. And writing. And sticking to my budget for the next few months. Tomorrow I’ll still wake up early, knowing I did what I had to do, what I thought was best for me, and move on. I’ll write, tweak the resume, scan the temp gigs, obsessively revise the budget. It’s also Valentine’s Day. Look at that.

The Winter Tree, 2018 Version

I took a moment to look at the Winter Tree yesterday. The usual bare branches stood firm against the gray January afternoon sky. The 2018 version of the Winter Tree is pretty much the same as the 2017, 2016, 2015, etc. versions. The branches are the type an artist would sketch to depict the bleakness of winter. Although, compared to last year, this January has been downright balmy, Pacific Northwest style. The Spring Tree and it’s little green buds of hope isn’t far behind.

What prompted me to gaze out the window at the sturdy Winter Tree was a commotion. The sing-song chirps of many birds, as they glided in and fluttered down for a landing atop the bare branches. What a delightful sight! So much life, so much activity on a blah winter day.

I was reminded that, even in the darkness of the season, life goes on. Nature doesn’t stop for a gray day! Birds don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Quite the contrary… They take joy in sitting on their favorite tree branches, leafless or not. They keep on living their lives. I need to follow their example. Another life lesson, courtesy of that magical, old tree.



The Letter

This is the letter that I’ve written in various forms. Some I’ve sent in emails; some versions go the way of the recycle bin. The thoughts are filed in my brain. The feelings now part of my soul.

Dear (Insert Name),

Where do I start? I hope you are well, in the way I hope all of humanity is at peace. Oh, who are we kidding? I know you are doing well. Social media tells me so. It’s weird seeing you so happy and light-hearted. I was there during one of the worst times of your life. Not necessarily by choice, but I was there. Or have you forgotten?

Maybe you’re doing the right thing by conveniently forgetting those years. Yes, years. Not a few months, rather years. Believe me… I try to forget. However, I’m left with the reminders. I think I finally threw out your old, well-worn cowboy boots. Or perhaps I buried them in the attic among the boxes of holiday decorations. I still have the weird unicorn art you sent to me from middle-of-nowhere Montana. I enjoy it as a bizarre art piece. Looking at it reminds me of better times, at least between the two of us, back when I thought we would be BFFs forever.

I tried. I swallowed my pride and gave you your space. Yet, in the end, none of that mattered. You made your choice. Over two years now. I thought you would be ready to speak to me again after six months. Not this time. What else can I do but respect your decision?

Just because I accept your wishes, it doesn’t mean the hurt dissipated into the atmosphere. It comes and goes. I’m good at distracting myself when necessary. I have a new job, new people in my life, am celebrating the holidays with as much joy as ever. You used to call me the holiday lady. That made me giggle.

What hurts the most? Not that we are no longer in each other’s lives. I know people come and go in life. For the universe’s sake – I’ve come and gone from many lives! My issues stem from your ability to completely deny that period of your life ever existed. You’ve completely erased me from your history. I gave you shelter and worried about your well-being, when no one else did. Ah yes, I’m the martyr. The invisible martyr.

When I am able to put the hurt aside which, believe it or not, is much easier to do two years on, I feel like a survivor. I’m as independent as ever. I might be good at playing the martyr, but I’m not bitter… well, most of the time. I’m human. I have my moments. When I look at our past, I see someone who survived the kind of heartbreak I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So, thank you for making me stronger. You may float around in my head a little too much, yet you’ll never break me.

And now for the strangest part of all this. I feel vindicated. You were always a potential Trump supporter, even eight years ago. I, of course, was not. You gave me holy hell for being, what was it, a lefty, too liberal? More than one of our arguments stemmed from you watching Alex Jones on my computer, under my roof. Well, look at the state of things now. Guess you were wrong, and I was right. Silly and childish? Perhaps. A vindicated survivor. Thanks again, dude.

So on we go about life, travelling down separate roads, with new people and old friends. I really do wish you well, in a broad sense.

Keep it real.





And Then the News Broke…

All my introspection from earlier this morning seems pointless. Well, not pointless, just a little self-centered and woe-is-me. Leave it to world events to bring me out of my own head. I’m talking about the horrible, disgusting, violent shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas today. Here we go again, I thought. We live in a society where violence is the norm. As a lifelong pacifist, I don’t know whether to be cynical, sad, or both. This is how people lose hope.

Yet again, both sides of the political aisle will be bickering and yammering, and nothing will be accomplished. See, I am a bit cynical. I am one of those nutty types who doesn’t think this is an entirely either/or issue. We have a mental health crisis in this country, particularly among white men, and we sure as hell have a gun crisis in this country. What are we going to do about it? Nothing, again? You reap what you sew.

I’m not a religious type. Wasn’t raised as such. I was raised in a household where you were free to believe in God, or a god, but didn’t have to attend church every Sunday to prove it. However, there is something peaceful and serene about churches. Maybe it’s the stained glass windows, the floral arrangements, the candles, the organ, the dark wood. Old churches are beautiful, architecturally speaking. Even the most non-spiritual person likely feels a little spiritual pull when stepping into a church, or any place of worship. They are sanctuaries from the chaos of the outside world.

Schools and churches are supposed to be safe places. However, the violence they have endured over the last couple of decades is heart-wrenching. And no, I don’t want to live in a society where teachers and preachers are packing heat.

So yet again, I’m left to ponder why people choose violence over peace. I know the answer is complicated, a mix of society and psychology, and easy access to killing machines. I might not pray for peace, but at least I can hope for it.

The Season of Introspection

I haven’t written an entry in so long. I’ve tried several times, but the brain block is there. I have things to say, yet they seem like the same old musings. And life has a pesky way of getting in the way. I’ve been working at a job for almost a year, and while the pay is good, the job is a big bundle of stress. Not what I was looking for when I ventured out in the world from my previous, long-term somewhat stressful job.

Perhaps age is catching up with me, or the stress is getting to be too much, or a wicked combination of both, but my body has been failing me. Serious back pain for the first time in my life. The headaches of my 20s have returned. I can’t stay awake past 9 PM, yet wake up at 2:00 in the morning on most work days. Time for another life change, me thinks. No one else is going to do it for me, so I might as well make the change myself. Job change is the easy part.

Now for a more difficult type of change – changing the thoughts that spin around in my active brain. I need to just turn it off every now and then. I’m doing better today. The cool, rainy weather makes it easier to relax on the couch, watching Virtual Fireplace on YouTube while listening to my 70s Folk Radio station on Pandora. (I started off with Peaceful Holidays; a bit too early for that.) Two hampers filled to the rim with laundry are staring at me, wondering why I haven’t started my usual Sunday laundry party. Maybe in a few hours, maybe not at all. I just cleaned the bathroom last Sunday – why do I have to clean it today? It can wait another week. I feel like giving myself a break today. The extra hour due to the end of Daylight Saving Time has actually made me feel lazier.

The aforementioned insomnia struck last night. Rare on a Saturday night. I had the usual obsessive work thoughts. Once I was done with those, my mind wandered to relationships, specifically those with the menfolk. Friend, companion, whatever, I have had an awful tendency to wrap myself up with individuals who think they can mansplain the world to me, point out my deficiencies, and then expect me to talk to them the next day like nothing happened. I don’t know what it is about me – tenuous self-esteem, probably – that draws these types into my universe. These days, I’m happiest living alone and not being in a relationship. Plain and simple. Took me a long time to figure out plain and simple, however. Still, I have things to learn, and I slip from time to time.

Introspection has brought me to that place where I analyze and deconstruct my greatest heartbreak a little too much. Overall, I have successfully moved on, and realize we both contributed to that disaster. Rarely is it ever the fault of one person. However, I still think about our relationship more than I ought to. Perhaps that’s just the way it is. Since we are not on speaking terms and likely never will be again, certainly for the best, I have no idea what he thinks about our situation and the way it ended. I know, I know. Just focus on me and my thoughts. I can’t help but wonder if he feels any regret, any desire to make peace. Knowing him as I do, I doubt it.

(Slightly amusing related story. A few weeks ago, I received a postage due notice from the Post Office. I was half-hoping he had written me a long letter and didn’t affix enough stamps. My heart was a little disappointed when I picked up the item, and it was related to a financial matter. Why would he send me a freakin’ letter? C’est la vie.)

Why should I want to make peace with someone who treated me like crap at the end? I can walk away without smoothing things over. Just leave, mentally. See, no matter how far I’ve come, I still have things to work on. Seems like a never ending process sometimes.

I’ve been listening to the song “Iridescent” by Linkin Park a lot lately. I really like, and can relate to, the dramatic, stirring part where they sing, “Let it go…” I feel the need to let it go. Seems to be such an easy solution, but is obviously life’s greatest challenge.

So there ya have it – random seasonal introspection. I’m thinking I’ll do my laundry on Tuesday night. A couple of little naps seem like a good idea this afternoon. I have a mildly annoying sinus pressure headache, likely caused by sneezing triggered by dust from the vents. It was so cold this morning, I had to turn on the furnace for the first time since last April. I haven’t had a chance to change the filter, hence the dust. Although, there is something cozy about the smell of burning furnace vent dust.

My body is going into seasonal food craving mode. Domino’s sounds like a plan, although that would mean putting on a bra. Hm. Maybe I’ll stick with leftover Mushroom Stroganoff. This morning, I was pondering an anti-inflammatory diet. Right before the holidays? Brilliant idea!

Blankets, pillows, hot chocolate, food, music, and Kindle books. Sounds like a perfect November afternoon. Just don’t let me get too lost in seasonal introspection.

A Crystal Blue Skies September Morning

That morning 16 years ago had the same feeling as this morning. Crystal blue September skies and a nice, cool breeze before the heat of the vibrant afternoon sun arrived. I wasn’t working that day, as I’m not today. However, 16 years ago, I was between jobs, as they say. I was still a kid, an adult kid, trying to find my way in life. Today, I’m off by choice. Needed one last three-day weekend before summer ends. And, I have lots of odds and ends to accomplish. I figure I’m more likely to do them on a weekday.

I woke up relatively early the morning of September 11, 2001. My significant other at the time was off to work, and I was off to develop yet another life plan. I fired up the old Dell desktop. You know the one – bulky, beige monitor and tower, clunky keyboard. (I still have the speakers and subwoofer from that thing.) I needed to check my Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail , or whatever webmail I was using in the early 2000s.

I’m pretty sure the homepage was set to MSN. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing on the screen… A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I assumed it was some horrible aviation accident. I switched on the TV and started watching CNN. I don’t think I changed the channel for days. I soon realized we weren’t talking about one plane, rather planes, and one was missing somewhere over Pennsylvania. In that moment, sitting alone in the living room in my PJs, the blue skies suddenly seemed surreal. Was I still asleep, dreaming? What would normally be a bustling, Tuesday morning fell still. I was glued to the TV and news on the Web.

I listened for planes in the sky. Nothing but silence. I felt a sense of relief, why, I’m not sure. The initial fear and shock I suppose. Even though we were an entire continent away, the city shut down. My significant other came home early from work. We decided to head downtown, to grab a bite to eat and wander around in the silence. The mall was closed, but lo and behold, Ross Dress for Less was open. I bought a black winter coat, with faux fur around the neck and wrists, a popular look in 2001. 80 degrees and I bought a winter coat. What is more American than spending money on something you don’t really need? I think I ended up wearing that coat once, maybe twice, before shipping it off to the Goodwill.

We returned to our apartment, turned CNN back on, and watched into the wee hours of September 12th. I remember falling asleep on the couch awash in the glow of the television set. I woke up later that morning, knowing nothing would be the same. Boy, was I right, and then some.

I miss not being able to walk right up to the gate and watch as a loved one boards a flight, fighting back tears as the plane slowly rolls away, down the tarmac. We’ve lost something as humans by not being able to experience this. I love traveling, but now getting there and back has become such a burden. Although, I was complimented by one agent on my superior carry-on packing skills. Oh, I studied that guide. Still, kinda sad that I had to.

The flying thing is a mere inconvenience, I know. What strikes me much more deeply is how so many people choose to live in fear these days. Fear of everyone different than them, fear of the world. I thought there would be a little backlash 16 years ago, but not to the extent I see today. Certain individuals have let that day change them, for the worse. Or perhaps it just emboldened them to express how they always really felt about the world and its inhabitants. Who knows? Maybe, with enough time, we’ll get past the fear. I hope.

This morning, I came across an article in my Twitter feed about the photo from 9/11/01 of The Falling Man. It was probably the most poignant and well-written article I’ve read about that awful day. On this day, I choose to remember the individuals who suffered, perished, experienced something no one should have to go through. I’d rather think of the individuals and who they were, their names, life stories, than frame the day as Us vs. Them. The crystal blue skies, vibrant sunshine, and refreshing September breeze make it easier to reflect and to have hope.