Whew

It would appear, that despite all attempts at heart failure via anxiety, that Saturday’s excursion proved a success.

The pressure was on.  I half prayed on Friday night to wake up to torrential rain heavy enough as to provide legitimate excuse for cancellation.  I fiddled around with my back pack, packed up extra snacks, speculated as to the type of person our one signed up participant would be.

There were panicked moments.  Being only a threesome, she’d have to carpool with us.  That meant extra talking…performing.

There were tenth and eleventh thoughts…why had I chosen a hike so far away? What if it’s too long for her fitness level?  What if it’s too short and easy for her fitness level?

In the end, I did what I always do.  I ignored my misgivings and kept marching stalwartly on.  That’s what happens in my head, you see.  There are two warring factions:  One, a neurotic, shell-shocked harbinger of certain, thundering doom and the other, a pink-cheeked optimist believing unwaveringly in the possibility of beauty around each corner.  They’re both of equal size and brawn, and evenly matched in tenacity and conviction.  Predicting the winner in any given week or day or even second is a crap shoot, the odds stacked squarely at 50/50.

We saw our third the moment we pulled into the fresh market parking lot.  No turning back then, so I got out of the truck, shook her hand and invited her to drive with us.  No sense in stepping in one toe at a time right?  She piled her things into the back seat, gave a good-natured shrug to the idea that we had now heat and that our dog is a whiny mess (she takes after her mom….), and we were off.  On the road to adventure.

The rest of the car ride was well-deserving of my sigh of relief.  Conversation was easy and plentiful, and my liberal use of The Eff Word seemed not to offend.  Within a half an hour, I was able to begin congratulating myself on a smooth embarkation, and to allow for the slightest loosening of tension at the very edges of my nerves.  I breathed out slightly, and gave way to what the day wanted to be.  In skydiving, the hardest part is stepping out of the plane.  I find that to be mostly true of most other adventures I subject myself to as well.

There was a moment or two–when we were driving around, unable to find the trailhead–when I began to mourn as fleeting the success of the trip, but, thanks to some cow farmers going about their daily business, we were soon back on track and “a pied”, hiking toward Towell Falls.

The rest of the day passed pleasantly and in the best way I could have imagined it.  Everyone moved at a similar pace and the conversation wove in and out unprompted by foreign fertilizers.  At a mile in, my anxiety was at its lowest drone, and I reached my eyes around, taking in the day.

I fight endlessly and everyday against dark clouds and demons.  I feel, and deeply, the worst of each of my days.  But sometimes–and this is what keeps me from giving in to that neurotic dissenter–I manage to beat my own expectations, and prove the existence of ease and okay-ness.  This Too Shall Pass.  Sometimes, I repeat it enough that it’s true.

Things To Avoid When You’re Socially Inept

Oh why??  Why did I do it?  What was I thinking?!  How could I have forgotten and ignored the basic traits in myself that will surely make this endeavor a total disaster?  What if the people suck?  Or are weird?  Or figure out that I’m strange?

Well, I’ve gone and done it.  I’ve dug myself a hole from which there’s no escape.  In my scramble to find ways to enjoy my time here in this Mexican bordertown, I inadvertently and heedlessly hurled myself into a puddle of stress, anxiety and self-doubt.

Upon moving here, I immediately checked MeetUp.com for groups involving things that I enjoy: Hiking, yoga, exercise, trail running, knitting, writing, reading, drinking.  There was NOTHING.  I looked again with different keywords: backpacking, pilates, fitness, jogging, crocheting, books.  Still nothing.

With the summer rapidly approaching, I kept going over and over and over the same lament: I wish I had friends here.  I wished for D to go hiking with.  I wished for Blondie to clean with.  I wished for M to have beers with.  I wished for K to people-watch with.  It started to form into a bona fide funk, and I needed to do something about it.

So I planned a hike.

But I didn’t stop there.  Oh no.  I kept going.

There have to be other hikers here right?  Out of the tens of thousands of people in these three “cities”, there has got to be one or two that are funny and sarcastic and awesome like D, right?  RIGHT?!

And so, on a whim, I paid $36 and started my own MeetUp group called Hiking For Dummies.  I described my goals for hiking this summer and posted the first trip to Palouse Falls that day.  (Which was, incidentally, Friday, the day before the hike itself….I wasn’t lying, I got a wild burr up my ass and three minutes later, I was the organizer and founding member of this group now open to anyone to join.)

I don’t really know why I did it.  I wanted a hiking buddy, for sure; the Old Man humors me and goes when he has no other choice, but deep down, he really doesn’t like it.  It’d be nice to have someone who likes it like I do.  I wanted to meet other people.  Find things to do here.  Discover ways of forming relationships that doesn’t include the bar–which, I fear, I’m rapidly outgrowing.

For a few hours, it felt good.  I was proactive.  The pipedreams of what COULD be kept playing on repeat.  My summer previewed and it was packed with trips and pictures and summits and waterfalls and fields of wildflowers.

And then came the sugar crash.

Mostly, if you met me, you’d never believe me if I told you that I’m generally uncomfortable in new situations and around new people.  But I’m a fake-it-till-you-make-it kinda girl.  I do my best with small talk and smiles and silently pray for a reprieve from someone else.  Until I get comfortable, I’m happiest standing in the back, checking shit out, letting someone else take the lead.  (After that, look out, I’ll charge to the front, but that’s a whole other post on a whole other personality!)

Expectedly, people started signing up.  I had actual MEMBERS who were excited that FINALLY there was a group like this.  I had the type of people that, on paper, were exactly the type of people I was looking for.  Varied hiking experience, varied ages, varied backgrounds.  And it was all of a sudden, REAL.

End honeymoon phase.

It wasn’t long before I realized that it was me who was the organizer of this group.  Me who was going to have to do all the greeting and introducing.  Me that was going to have to take the lead.  Me that was going to have to make the small talk until everyone started picking up on their own.  Me that was going to have to diffuse the awkward moments (the MOST scary because I am usually the CAUSE of the awkward pause…).

And here I sit.  ready for battle once again with my own, probably very mild, case of social anxiety.  Joining a group like this would mean that I could attend when I wanted and bow out if I didn’t.  I could choose who I talked to and who I pursued a relationship with.  As the organizer, it must be equal opportunity to all who join.  Because that’s the type of environment I want to foster.  On the one hand, I’ve taken steps to create a situation that I’ve been searching for.  On the other, I never meant to sign up for the responsibility that goes with it.

My next MeetUp is this Saturday.  I just posted it, and there’s already one person who’s RSVP’d.  Here’s hoping she’s not a serial killer or close talker…..

Latere

I’ve been on the fritz lately.  A little light-headed, a little bit spaced-out (as in, cadet) and a lit of bit restless.  The spring is creeping in and the weather is getting warmer and the sun’s been shining on my face and beckoning me out.  It teases and charms, but by itself, it’s a  pale and gaunt mistress.  When set against the backdrop of my Now, it just barely coaxes me away from the impending funk I can feel floating just beyond my periphery.

There’s a Despair that looms just around the corner and I’ve got to be careful to keep on moving so that it can’t close the distance.  In it’s lint-filled pocket, a grimy hand closes around a cancerous pit of an idea:  “What if we never get out of here?”  I make desperate lists of places that I want to see, that can take me away for a day or two or four at a time, knowing that my light grows the further and longer I’m apart from this succubus of a town—like the wick on a gaslamp turned up against the darkness.

How many hours to the coast?  The Oregon Coast?  Would it be easier from here? Or a plane ride.  Yes!  A farther jaunt.  An accumulation of frequent flyer miles.  How much to Salt Lake?  Or Phoenix, or San Diego?  It’s awe that I need/crave/thirst for….to be struck dumb….to have an experience that will whitewash this mildew-ridden mediocrity that I’ve been living.  This isn’t HOME and my soul is once again reaching out, grasping for worth and gasping for air.

Don’t ask what it is that will satisfy.  Some days, I imagine that its scent floats on the wind ahead of it, like lilac blooms on early spring mornings.  Others, it’s a train that I run along side, reaching hard as I sprint, only to have the bars just touch my fingertips as it pulls away.  I feel like I am losing time–just missing something that is obvious and grand.  Too little too late for the party that everyone else will be raving about on Monday.

There is something out there just for me, and it beckons…a flickering light through the fog.  I’m squinting very hard now, but can’t make it out.  I’m wishing for a sign, a star, a sigh or a glimpse.  Something.  Anything.  A hint or a clue that I’ll get there and that the journey and unease are merely the tickets to ride.

A Homily.

And now for some church according to Jen.

I was raised Italian Catholic, which differs from regular Catholicism by virtue of its larger than normal portion of guilt.  Guilt on steroids.  Guilt that ate its Wheaties.  Guilt that was watered everyday and spent generous portions of time in direct sunlight.  The guilt is an actual organ in my body at this point, about the size and color of a black plum.

For all intents and purposes, I am an adult in the Catholic church.  I’ve attended hundreds of CCD classes (though I’d be hard-pressed to point to a solid memory of any of them) and I’ve been confirmed.  I’ve been given all necessary boosters of the Catholic tradition.  It’s just that, well, it didn’t take.  If asked to tell the complete truth, I would have to blurt out that I am not so sure that I believe in God.

I can’t, you see, discount the Buddhists or Hindu of the world, when THEIR traditions hold so much of value, or the Muslims whose traditions are closely allied with my own (or the Jews who probably know the best what I’m talking about when I refer to religious and cultural GUILT!)   This is not to mention a host of other practices and beliefs of any of the number of Christian faiths that I find backward and absolutely contrary to what the central tenets of any religion SHOULD BE.

But religious argument is not what I’m aiming for here, so I shall refrain from listing those things and move on to what I think my points are.

You see, I go to church only once a year, on Ash Wednesday.  It’s a tradition that began while I was in college, and which has continued through my adulthood.  I sit, by myself, close to the middle front in old, oiled pews (if I can find them) and breathe in the incense and follow the old routines of Mass.  I shake hands with those around me and smile at the warmth it brings me.  Sometimes I weep, but could not point to any specific thing that brings those scant tears to my eyes.

I am deeply attached to the message of the Gospel on Ash Wednesday.  It’s from Matthew, and it has a lot to do with the way I strive to live my life.  It says, and I paraphrase:

When you give alms, don’t sound a trumpet before you.  Do it quietly.  Don’t let the right hand know what the left is doing.  When you pray, don’t do it out loud and in the streets, do it quietly and behind closed doors.  When you fast, don’t look dismal.  Take a shower and care for yourself.  And don’t store up material possessions while on earth, but rather, commit to enriching yourself spiritually.

To me, this means pay to pay attention to my intentions.  I must do good things because they are right and are the natural outpourings of my soul’s will, not because someone (or some God) is watching.

Ash Wednesday’s teachings are some of the few that I can climb on board fully with.  On this day every year, I take a small evaluation of myself and my actions.  I remember that I’m small.  That I make mistakes.  But that it’s possible to come back from those mistakes.  I remind myself that my ultimate goal is patience and kindness, and take an honest tally of how I fell short of that goal last year.

On Ash Wednesday, I start fresh, and begin again my quest for a quiet and patient inner peace.  I open a new tablet on a calmer, less wrathful me.  I don’t do this for God, and I don’t do this for others.  I do it out of a sense of what is the RIGHT way to BE.  It just so happens that there is a passage in the Bible that speaks to that goal, and there began my relationship with this day.  The first day.  The beginning day.  The day I start being better.

“Remember man, that thou are dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” –Genesis3:19

 

With What’s Left….

Reverb is back with monthly prompts, I found out the other day.  March’s?  What would you do if March was your last month to live?

With 31 days left I would immediately and without hesitation stop waiting for things to get better.

Time is an odd thing.  With the impression of leagues of time, we believe in the barely possible.  With the benefit of hindsight, appearances are positive; time creates beauty and progress and change.  The scales of justice are balanced and equal punishment is meted out to all transgressors.  Grand Canyons are formed, skin color overlooked, polio cured.  Long spans guarantee a tomorrow, a next day, a later.  Limitless horizons of future opportunity allow for procrastination, or pushed deadlines; a surety that we may try, try again, believing in that slow train of evolution.

But to cut that length short?  To know, somehow, that your length is edited, curtailed?  Quite a different story.  With little time, small moments are momentous.  Change the proportion, and nothing remains equal.  Suddenly, the idea of WASTE grows in the foreground, an ominous check making sure that what that specific moment is being spent in pursuit of will hold against hindsight and historical scrutiny.  Nothing can change fast enough, progress is gauged impatiently and only hard, sought after results are rewarded with praise and contentment.

With leagues of time, I stay here in Pasco, WA, quietly (?) biding my time for something better.  I allow the Old Man his opportunity to grow in his new profession, knowing that this is a stepping stone for him.  I maintain my gaze on the cloudy and unknown distance, willing myself to believe that there awaits something better, some future adventure/happiness/pleasure/contentment.  I overlook my dire boredom and lonely, friendless solitude.  I plod on, making do with my bookshelves and Skype and this lovely community I’ve found in the blogosphere.  I regard my marriage as a whole, as a process, as what it CAN be with work and elbow grease and…time.

But take away those leagues, and it isn’t the amalgamation of moments that matters anymore.  It’s the moments themselves.  The tiny things.  Without eons or years, the landscape changes and so do my priorities.

With 31 days left, I will pack my flip flops and a couple of dresses, my Tweezers and some books and I will get the fuck out of dodge.  I will stop waiting for Happiness At a Later Date and begin indulging only Things That Make Me Happy Now.  Piled in the car with my dog and my cat (and the Old Man if he so chooses) I will drive, stopping only briefly to see Old Faithful or the Grand Tetons and some old friends in Salt Lake City.  With a quantity of marijuana sufficient to see me through my end of days, I will head stalwartly east, back to my home, back to my heart.

For one week and change I will surround myself in my parents’ love.  I will listen raptly to my father’s guitar and to the songs of my life.  I will teach my mother how to make an actual Cosmopolitan-not those horrendous things she came up with on her own.  I will tell each of them in no uncertain terms how dear they are to me and how much I love love love LOVE them.

We will have a huge party and all who are able or willing will attend.  I will pour my love out in buckets and laughter and hugs and rue.  I will tell each person with direct eye contact why I’ve kept them in my life and what their friendship has meant to me.  I shall hold Blondie’s baby boy in my arms and whisper secrets to him about his momma that he could only learn from me.

And then, I will adjourn to the beach.  Maybe Costa del Sol, perhaps South Beach or Wrightsville.   I will spend the rest of my days by the roar of the ocean, insisting that those with me treat it as a holiday.  There will be bonfires and beers and quiet naps in the sun.  Strolls along the shore arm-in-arm, dancing in the sand, glinting smiles and sun-baked skin.  I will charge each person in my company a task; to each visit a place I had longed to go and to perform a local tradition of remembrance.

And on my last day, someone will take a picture of me.  I won’t worry about it, or fret that it will turn out badly.  I’ll turn toward the camera and smile a genuine smile.  Me with my giant sunglasses, perfect tan and a joint, passing on in a cloud of love and hugs.

(Post Script:  I felt the need to make clear that I’d also have put my financials in order and bequeathed my body and it’s organs to wherever they could be used.)

On Masturbation. For real.

Okay.  Let’s take a moment and talk about masturbation.  And let’s do it candidly. Let’s specifically discuss situations that include amateur pornography on the internet.  I am going to dip a toe in the water,  and share with you, dear reader, something about myself:  I have been known, on occasion, to experience sexual fulfillment whilst reclining on my couch, precariously cradling the laptop with my left hand and arm.  It requires a pillow, frankly, to be anything close to comfortable, but the details are not, I assure you, as important as the general idea and circumstance about and surrounding the act itself.

Our discussion will focus rather, on the question of the moments after, where I pointedly and deliberately erase the history of the browser so as to conceal the inscrutable and sometimes odd inroads to web-assisted  self-fulfillment.

The question, plainly:

From whence the NEED to purge and maintain secrecy?

Assumed:

That I am not alone in the Act of Erasure and that it is commonly practiced amongst my peers, my contemporaries, my fellows—anyone really who finds it possible to labor for a moment, under the consideration, that their computers could be accessed by the person closest to them.  I.E. That It’s Not Weird To Do This.

I don’t feel that it’s shameful, in the least: neither the act of self-pleasure or the use of internet porn are depraved in any way.  And yet, I am consistently beset by the need to keep them both silent and hidden.  Why?

A Discussion On Why We Blush

Masturbation is a deliciously selfish and decadent act.  It’s a flight of fancy for those in the sexual know.  I’d wager a hefty sum that it’s also one of the few instances where the majority of adults exercise their powers of imagination.  It is as long or short as it needs to be, not to mention a deft show of expertise and efficiency in its execution; hardly a wasted motion or movement.

Without pretense or guise, masturbation allows the indulgence of fantasy.  Further, an indulgence of UNCENSORED fantasy.  I imagine it as  a highlight reel of turn-ons; all fetishes and kinks given open rein.  And then, to be able to connect to a VISUAL medium wherein can be found the LARP of the innermost desire?  Perfectly splendid.

But what that medium does, is leave a trail of smut and skin, that I would prefer the world (read: The Old Man) not see.  Because there’s the off chance that what I look at really IS just THIS MUCH too far.  “Never would have thought THAT about her!” comes the whisper of anonymous and imaginary onlooker.  “*snigger*”  Prude?  Hardly.  Shamed?  Nah.  Embarrassed, demure and the slightest bit modest?  Assuredly.

And what of the things that, for no other reason, are preferred unspoken?  I posit that not all dreams or desires are meant to be shared.  To a certain extent, the unknowable has a lustre and gilded coating that is destroyed the minute it’s actually experienced.  In it’s journey from fantasy to reality, an experience is ripped from it’s pedestal and placed directly in our line of vision.  Once lived, all bets are off and the sheen of new is hammered to the dull patina that covers empirical knowledge.

In the end, I continue to erase and to preserve my little secrets.  So there.  Keep your eyes on your own paper.