Ineffability

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One week and a day ago I woke to another gloriously bright Sunday in Las Vegas. I went for my morning walk. Almost every person I encountered gave a wave or a good morning. As I walked I felt so happy. This new home was nothing like I’d expected.  I had the realization that I love it here. I love the scenery and the people. I love living in a thriving community where no community should thrive. It’s the middle of the desert after all. I realized I felt at home.

I realized I too am thriving.

The next morning I woke up to a phone screen lit up with texts. Sisters saying they were devastated reading the news, parents making sure I was okay. My heart racing, I immediately opened my news feed. Mass shooting…Mandalay Bay… hundreds injured… death and panic.

Just miles away from where I slept safe and sound, the worst mass shooting in modern American history had unfolded.

Last Monday is a haze in my mind and yet feels like yesterday.

Rob convinced me we had to leave the house. I agreed to drive to Hoover Dam. I don’t know why we chose this, but I knew just being around other people would be comforting in a strange way. I’d finally stopped crying when we got in the car to leave. As I’d been doing every few minutes, I refreshed my news feed.

Tom Petty. Fresh tears and a sense that my whole world was falling apart. To say Rob and I are Tom Petty fans in an understatement. I wanted to go back inside the house. I wanted to hide in bed until I could wrap my mind around the grief that had already been too intense. Rob didn’t let me. He went back in the house for the box of kleenex and we drove.

The rest of the day is cloudy. The rest of the week is cloudy.

Today is cloudy.

I grapple with so many emotions and thoughts over the course of the day. What kind of world are we living in? How are people that I know and love against gun control? Why did this happen? How do we heal?

Months ago I bought tickets to a concert at The Mandalay Bay. It’s thirteen days from today. I still don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I’m torn. Part of me doesn’t want to miss seeing a band I’ve loved for so long. This part is reminding me that I never saw Tom Petty in concert. I thought I had time. The other part of me is afraid. I’m not only afraid for our safety in big venues, but I’m afraid that I’ll be too emotional to even enjoy the show. Can I possibly enjoy a concert so close to where so many endured the most traumatic night of their lives?

The only thing I know for sure is how important people are. Your people. My people. Hold them close. Even in such uncertain times, we have each other.

 

 

 

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Fruition

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Every morning the past looks different. A new yesterday overlaid giving it an unexpected hue. I can worry away the minutes of today (and I probably will), but I cannot predict tomorrow or the next day or the next.

And yet, even knowing this, I worry.

Has the future ever turned out the way I imagined it might? Never. This is a blessing and occasionally a curse. The things I held onto with utmost certainty have often been the heart-strings painfully pulled apart. All the while, worries that had taken up my entire world, never see fruition.

What am I trying to say?

I don’t know. I only know as I sit here on this Friday morning on the first of September, I’m worrying. I’ve had two cups of tea as I’ve looked around at my new home. Once again I’ve realized I would never have imagined this new address. Even a year ago I would have insisted I could never live in Las Vegas. Yet here I sit. Alive.

And isn’t that what matters in the end?

I guess I do know what I’m trying to say. I will continue to worry.  I will continue to live. And I will continue to be amazed by it all.

Identity

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“Since we’re friends in real life now…” the text began.

“You should know there’s an extra ‘A’ in my name”.

Yes, I was being very “Anne with an E” Green Gables about it, but my name without that extra letter never feels right. It’s not me.

The recipient of the text was very gracious (as he always is) and needlessly apologized for getting it wrong. I let him know that it’s been an issue my whole life. Even my birth certificate has it wrong I informed him.

Wait…what? Wouldn’t that mean that I am, in fact, the wrong one? Au contraire. My social security card and all other official documents use that extra ‘A’.  The first passport I obtained went with the SSC spelling as did the second passport.

I have never had anyone other than myself question my identity, and that is always purely existential.

Perhaps this text was tempting the universe to mess with me, put me in my extra letter place. Or maybe it was always only a matter of time.

Last week I went very responsibly to the DMV to register our vehicle in Nevada and also to apply for a Nevada driver’s license. This goes against my usual habit of letting whatever state license I have expire before even worrying about it. Lately I’ve been waging less of a war against adulthood, so off I went to the DMV.

Proof of residency – check. Proof of identity – check and check . I handed over all items as the friendly (it’s true) DMV employee chatted and filled out forms. That’s when it happened. She paused. Looked at my birth certificate, looked over to my social security card, back to the birth certificate, glanced at my Montana driver’s license, only to land back on that damn birth certificate.  She looked up at me, and in a tone that didn’t let on that she was about to ruin my day, informed me that there was a discrepancy in the spelling of my name. It didn’t matter to her that everything else of importance in my life didn’t use that spelling, the Nevada DMV firmly goes by the birth certificate.

I held back tears. I pleaded. I almost stopped the entire process. I should have now that I look back. Before I could fully process the implications, I was standing in line for my glamour shot. The photo snapped, the man let me know my new license would arrive in a few days.

I walked out.

I cried.

I actually sobbed the sentence “Who even AM I right now?” to poor Rob. The new spelling of my name had rendered even my grammar useless.

A rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, but I bet the rose would cry too if you called it lily.

At home, I googled. I contacted my friend in law school for advice. I texted my sister to cry on her shoulder. How does one change their birth certificate? I was imagining lawyers, court dates, huge bills and stress. My sister wasted no time texting me links to the appropriate site in Washington State. She had gone through an issue with her own birth certificate years ago and had to have it corrected.

It appears I will be able to claim that extra vowel again eventually. It’s been surprising to me how very much my name and it’s spelling are my very identity. Two days ago when the new license came by mail, I cried again over the ‘mis’ spelling of my name. Even the photo of me looking like a fifty year old insomniac didn’t faze me.

I may be lost in the details, but I keep finding that deep down I am truly Just Me Actually.

 

Mobility

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The annual move is complete. As with the last four or five moves, I swear I’ll never do it again.

Except I will.

I won’t regale you with the tortuous days of packing up in Portland, driving one thousand miles, living in hotels for a week while looking at rentals, unloading our belongings into temporary storage when the search seemed futile, taking a few days out of town when the hotels filled and became unaffordable (welcome to fabulous Las Vegas), learning to do everything with crossed fingers, almost crying with relief when the approval call came through, loading our stuff back into a truck in 104 degree heat, unloading it all into our newest home (also in said heat) and collapsing exhausted at the end of it all full of hope that it would at least be a year until we do it all again.

Oops I regaled you.

You’ve been regaled.

 

P.S. I left out the broken garbage disposal and the rat I met yesterday. You’re welcome.

Playing Alone

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When I was a little girl I liked to play alone. In my mind, elaborate story lines and characters swirled. The only way they would go exactly as I’d imagined was for me to act it all out on my own with invisible friends.

My little sister didn’t like this arrangement. So, the only way I allowed her to play with me was if she said and did what I told her to. Every word out of her mouth was what I wanted her to say. Whether we were playing with dolls in our room, or running around outdoors playing pirates, she was my puppet.

One day we were sitting on my bed playing with our cabbage patch dolls. My doll said something to her doll and I waited for a reply. My poor sister looked at me helplessly and asked what I wanted her doll to answer. In that moment I realized I didn’t want my perfect stories anymore. I wanted the play to be spontaneous and unpredictable!

I think of this day often. I think of it every time I realize I’m let down, angry or frustrated at another human response (or lack of response) to something I’ve said or done.

Lately I see it all around me unfolding in the story lines of lives intertwined with mine. I see family relationships torn apart, siblings not speaking, children pushing away parents. I see friends pulling away from each other.

Maybe it’s simplistic of me to think it all starts with the common thread of expectation. Maybe it really is that simple.

We expect a very specific response to an email or a text. We have an idea of how a father should always react. We are sure a sister only says certain things. We hold fast to our picture of what real love is and when our love doesn’t match, we rip it apart.  We get so wrapped up in our own pre thought out ideas of how everyone else should be acting, that we lose the entire plot.

The plot is, there is no plot.

Without the freedom to be their very own human selves, we actually wouldn’t like our loved ones very much. We would miss the spontaneity it brings to our lives.

So what I’m wondering is if we can try to let go of our expectations? Can we allow our people to be flawed and love them anyway?

Nobody likes to play alone. Not even me.

 

 

 

 

Salve

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What a world.

What a scary, beautiful, disastrous, heartbreaking mess of magic.

It’s okay if all you did today was breathe (I say to myself like a salve for the bruises).

It’s okay if all you did today was breathe (I say to you like a salve for your broken heart).

 

 

Reaching

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Most of the time, my definition of strength is complete self reliance. Admitting I need help or attention…the epitome of weakness.

Life throws random difficulties at me and I respond by hardening my outer shell. Oh life, your parking tickets, rain, loneliness and depression can’t reach me in here. Nothing can get inside. I’ll even crawl down into this deep hole to hide from you. Nothing can harm me through my thick armor down in my dark pit.

Nobody can know I’m hiding so I smile bigger and I laugh louder. Distraction is key.

Eventually I remember I’m afraid of the dark. I don’t like being alone. I’m very brave and I’m very strong, but why wouldn’t I want my hand held? Why wouldn’t I reach out to someone who loves me and ask them to hold me up when I get too tired?

I’m still learning. I’ll always be.

But, I see my fingers stretched out in front of me more often. I see how this does not make me weak. Quite the opposite.

When my confessions are met with love and validation, when I’m bolstered by even one person who reminds me none of us are going it alone…. my heart opens and I know I’ll be okay.

And so will you.

Doubts

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There are days when I feel like all I’ve made are bad decisions. I take a raw look at my life and what I see is a mess.  I see a disaster so complete and so expansive that nothing could clean it up.

Then I look up.  I look to the sky for answers. If I’m lucky, the sun peeks through. If I’m extremely lucky, wild geese take flight overhead.

Lesson: Keep looking up. And if the rain is relentlessly falling, let it mix with the tears and wash them away.

It can’t rain all the time.

Can it?

Transitions

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Last night I had a nightmare that my passport had been stolen in Loas and because it is such a difficult place, I couldn’t come home to America.

I keep having flashbacks. I keep remembering small things I’d forgotten in this swift transition from a third world country back to big city America.

Walking down the sidewalk in downtown Portland, I still think to myself how clean it is, how well laid out. I stop at crosswalks. I don’t run at full speed across the street between scooters and small cars.

I miss scooters.

The months I spent overseas are so small in the larger scheme of things. But… I’ve put off getting a hair cut because I love knowing that the last person to cut my hair was a man in Bangkok who didn’t speak much English but treated my head like a Bonzai.

It’s a strange and alienating feeling.

This morning in the shower I opened my mouth to the warm rush and drank from it. I can’t ever shake that fear of the water in Laos. Wondering if I was poisoning myself or my husband by rinsing vegetables in tap water…

I randomly remember so many things from life in Loas. I’m realizing that I basically came “home” and tried to turn off one valve while opening another.

Life doesn’t work like that.

So what do I do? I try to let myself think about what happened, how difficult and rewarding it was, I try to allow the managerie of feelings to have the space they need.

But, I still just want to shout at people around me that they are SO lucky! They can drink the water in the shower! They have a  light at each crosswalk the vehicles follow that allows them to cross safely. Oh how I want to tell the lovely people around me how many things we can be grateful for!

All the while, most of my energy is spent trying to acclimate. Even now I feel out of place and awkward. It’s not easy. Portland is amazing, don’t get me wrong I love it here, but SE Asia to Portland is jarring and I’m realizing more and more all these weeks later that I have to find a way to work through these feelings.

Transitions in life are like this, don’t you think? Some small, some leaps over canyons but none are easy.

What has been your most difficult transition and how did you work through it?