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.

KLS

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Crickets and Starlight

Summer is winding down. How is that possible? It just started, yes? The weekend trips have come and gone. The weddings are over. The annual family birthday celebration, a Hawaiian luau this year, passed by in the blink of an eye. Oh, and, we still have Eclipse Day tomorrow, with the moon inconveniently placed between the sun and Earth on a Monday workday. Some clouds rolled in this afternoon. We’ll see how it plays out tomorrow morning. An eclipse in the Pacific NW is always hit or miss, even in August.

Eclipse mania aside, we are now in late-August. Summer is wrapping up. The crickets sing a little louder at night. The sun sets a little earlier. Not even 7 pm and the sun is blaring through my west-facing window. Every blade of grass is a crunchy brown. We had a horrid heatwave in these parts a week or two ago. Day after day of 100 degrees plus, or close to the century mark, followed by days of drenching humidity. Are our idyllic NW summers disappearing? Blasted climate change!

This evening, I pranced through the crunchy backyard grass and resilient dandelions, and picked a few blackberries from the blackberry vines hanging over the fence. Even with sturdy garden gloves, not an easy task. I came away with about 10 berries. Just something I had to do. A late-summer ritual. Makes me feel in touch with the Earth, even if I don’t end up eating a single berry.

Where did my personal summer go? I spent most of it working. That’s what happens when you start a new job in May. I have been taking lunchtime strolls along the river, which have contributed to my faint summer tan. That’s something, right? It’s just really weird dealing with the stress of a new job during the hazy, crazy, lazy days of summer. Although, how many summers did I spend working at a tourist attraction, ahem, museum, enduring the stress of the busiest time of the year? Perhaps someday I will know the feeling of a real summer – lots of days off and early exits from work. Or not. I tend to lead the road less traveled, if you know what I mean.

Alas, in the midst of all the dead grass, heat, humidity, and sweat, one of my favorite parts of summer emerges. Sunflowers. Tall and glorious, happily soaking up the sun’s rays. They’re also a sign that autumn is on the way. Along, with the various pumpkins and squashes emerging from leafy, orange flowers. Somehow, the heat of the late summer is easier to deal with than it was a few weeks ago, knowing that the season that makes me who I am is not far away. And that cricket soundtrack playing throughout starlit nights is pretty awesome, too.

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July 12, 2013

I call them life-i-versaries. Days, moments that are relatively benign to others, but deeply significant to you. I’ve been thinking about this day, four years ago. The day my little four-year trip into Wonderland began to end. It wasn’t a quick end – it took another two years to reach the final chapter. Today, I might still be in the Epilogue. Or, perhaps I’m really at the end.

That day was very similar to this July 12th. A typical, beautiful, yet bordering on a little too warm, midsummer day in the Pacific Northwest. Bright blue sky and golden sun, with soft evening breezes. (Fast forward four years… I now have a set of beautiful, melodic wind chimes hanging on the front porch. Life-transforming, I must say. They would have brought me comfort on that day four years ago.)

I had a long, hectic workday today, just as I did in 2013. Only, I’m at a different job now. You see, life-i-versaries or not, life does go on. Always. You might stop for a while, cuddling up with your memories. However, mighty life keeps trudging forward. The future is always there.

One of the biggest differences between then and now is how I feel. Back then, I was sad. Resigned to the reality of his departure, and hopeful he’d return at the same time. It wasn’t a dramatic goodbye – we’d had those before. It was simple and sweet, and I didn’t look back as I walked out the door, headed back into the world of me, myself, and I. He promised to write, which he did. A lot. I felt good about our future for once.

And then, it all fell apart. Even with an ocean between us, we couldn’t get past our usual implosions. Arguing via email and IM. So 21st century. Here I am today, a bit numb, a bit wistful, a bit bitter, yet a lot happy that I don’t have to deal with the stress of our implosions. I never wanted him to hate me, however, which he does – vehemently. Oh, and he returned. Just not to me.

As I continue to try to make sense of it all, I find myself moving backward down Memory Lane. I want to remember us when we hardly knew each other, twenty or so years ago. I’m always nostalgic for the 90s, but have become even more so as of late. That’s when we met, when I still believed in love, when he still had hair. Well, I guess I still believe in love. I know now that it’s much more complicated than a fairy tale would suggest, and not for everyone.

These days, my focus has shifted from my relationships to the places I want to see. As I said, life keeps barreling ahead at a rapid clip. Time to start seeing those far-off lands, or revisiting the near ones. I went to Seattle for a short trip a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t been there in eight years! Life had just been too busy, too much upheaval and subsequent introspection. Seeing Puget Sound was like visiting an old friend again.

Back to July 12th. I’m starting to see that I’ve truly moved on. Four years of hard work, a few ups, but many, many more downs. I was, for all intents and purposes, forced to move on. Now I see that’s just fine, whatever it takes. July 12th will never be just another day. However, I’m hoping I’ll reach the point where I give it maybe five minutes thought – tops. Life speeds ahead to the next July 12th, and the one after that, and the following year.

Healing

Just think for a moment how often we undergo the process of healing in our lifetimes. Whether it be simple, or complex, physical healing or deep emotional healing, perhaps even healing our souls, each and every one of us experiences it. Stop and ponder it a while. At first it seems like the pain will never go away. Then, over time, you notice the pain is disappearing. One day, perhaps when you haven’t thought about or noticed it in a while, the pain is gone. Biology plays a part in physical healing. Emotional healing takes so much more work because it isn’t as simple as a new layer of skin forming, not that I consider that simple!

I’ve been meaning to write about something, but haven’t had the energy to do so. A week ago yesterday, my hometown was the scene of an awful, disgusting act of hate and violence. I’m talking about the hate-motivated killings on one of our light rail trains, in the midst of Friday afternoon rush hour. By now, most know the details. What I want to write about is the emotional impact.

Horrible things happen to innocent people every day around the planet. Unfortunately, this seems to be an inescapable aspect of human existence. What touches me about this situation is, it’s so relatable. I ride those trains, through that transit center, just about every day. I know the Hollywood District well, as it’s close to my neighborhood, and family members land friends live and work in the area. It’s my part of town, my community. I also know what it’s like to hear hateful speech and want to stand up and speak out. Would I have the courage? I’d like to think so. I also know the uncomfortable feeling of being near a person who appears to be on the verge of violence. No one wants to be in that situation. Being able to face it head on and not cower, that is the definition of courage in my dictionary.

I think of those two girls, having to endure those hateful words, in public, in front of everyone. How frightened they must have been. I would have gotten as far away from that man as I could. What trauma they must be experiencing. With time they will heal. However, what they need now is love.

Of course I think of the brave men who stood up. Their actions restore my faith in humanity. The whole concept of good vs. evil is complicated. However, some people are just decent human beings to the core. The bright lights in dark times. People like that will never be forgotten – their lights will always shine. The bright lights are what keep humanity going, through the years, decades, and centuries.

With time, the community will heal. The survivors and witnesses will heal. Sure, a scar will remain, but life will move on as it always does, scars and all. I’ve been thinking a lot about another horrific, hate-filled event in my hometown’s history. In November 1988, Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant, was murdered by Skinheads on the streets of the Laurelhurst neighborhood, not far from where I live now. (Portland, and the entire Pacific Northwest, has a complicated history when it comes to racism and exclusion. I don’t know if a lot of recent, hipster, Portlandia transplants understand this. Please do some reading and research. It will open your eyes.) To this day, almost 30 years later, I think of him as I pass through Laurelhurst. As a young college student, majoring in Sociology, that crime shaped my worldview. I wanted to know what led to people feeling such hate. I longed to learn about the experiences of people from all over the world. I delved into learning about different religions, cultures, communities, all in the hope of understanding this thing called human existence. Why couldn’t we embrace our differences and find our common threads? I wanted the answers.

Not long after Mulugeta’s death, I participated in a march in his honor. We started at Laurelhurst Park, held a moment of silence at the location of his murder, walked across the Burnside Bridge into downtown, and ended up at Portland State. One of the most powerful and meaningful days of my life. I was interviewed on a local news station with my name and “College Student” displayed on the screen. I’m convinced I said something silly and dorky. However, it was heartfelt. As I said, I’ll carry that day with me until the end. He did not die in vain.

Last evening, I visited Hollywood Transit Center for the first time since that awful, heartbreaking late-afternoon commute. I’ve passed through the station several times this week on the train. However, yesterday was the first time I walked into the heart of the transit center. As soon as I stepped off the train, the air felt different. The sky was still blue around 6 PM. A soft, warm breeze carried the scent of all the flowers through the early evening air. The station is usually a chaotic, loud place. It was unusually quiet for a Friday evening. Messages of peace and hope were written in colorful chalk all over the concrete. People of all sorts – young, old, black, white, whatever – silently read the messages. Some in pairs, some alone. Oddly enough, everything felt peaceful. Part of the healing process…

I took a quick photo. As much as I wanted to snap photos of all the wonderful sentiments and beautiful flowers, I didn’t do so out of respect. I just absorbed the moment. To those who died, you did not die in vain. To the survivors, you will go on and be stronger because of this. To the community, continue to search for answers.

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