I feel like a raindrop over a waterfall – Kenny Chesney

Sorry Mr. Chesney but that lyric is lame. The Flake quoted it to me, not because he was feeling introspective but because that’s the song playing through his speaker at the moment. I can relate to that feeling of insignificance but a raindrop over a waterfall becomes part of the waterfall, something bigger than itself. Offering an alternative perspective to someone who may or may not be listening and may or may not ever suffer from feelings of insignificance.

I told him “goodnight and I miss you. Or maybe I just miss the idea of you” Because how can I miss what I never had?

Is this week of sleepless nights, heightened aches and bouts of hopelessness a result of my body struggling with hormones or a keto diet? Maybe both. My mind feels like a butterknife. My body an uncooperative, aged machine.

Sharing conflicting knowledge and personal experiences with Hashimotos and hypothyroid sufferers in a keto group in social media, I lament, in addition to the challenging dietary restrictions of keto, we must also limit our dairy and cruciferous vegetable intake? My staples are broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, lettuce, cheese… what CAN we eat? A woman replied “I heard we can have ice cubes”. I laughed heartily at that one. Frustrating but funny!

I also officially took a Hiatus from the samba troupe. They scheduled a publicity photo shoot for the group which I knew was coming. I told them I had hoped to be in better physical shape by the time it came up but that hasn’t happened. I admitted to them that
being excluded because of my size still bothers me and I’ve decided to temporarily pack up my feathers along with the rest of my wardrobe that I haven’t been able to part with since my relapse. I told them thanks for letting me hang but I’m just going to dance with my clothes on in the meantime. What I didn’t admit was that I was not going to subject myself to a photographer who would try to hide the big girl in the back or under a feather fan.

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“All the vampires living in the city walk west down Ventura Boulevard” ~Tom Petty

Drunk in the airport, cucumber gimlets swimming in my gut, the impossibly full moon reflecting in the terminal glass, I think “Here we go again. Scotland part 2…at least the soundtrack is better”. The is PA is reading my mind, playing my alt-rock favorites: Muse, U2, Strumbellas, Grouplove, Lucius, Twentyone pilots (one of only two songs I like from them) as well as the one good song from Kings of Leon (Molly’s Chambers). I force myself to put down my phone, look up and make eye contact with strangers (at least the ones who aren’t buried in their own phones). I want to start a conversation with someone but their faces don’t process and I suspect anyone looking at me sees a woman lost.

Well, if you’re not going to make friends then read, I tell myself, picking up the Tim Robbins book a blind date recommended but now 50 pages deep, I’m put off by all the pussy talk and sick of hearing about this chick’s giant thumbs. I want to text someone. I want to text him. To tell him I’m going to his old stomping grounds in California find my own damned seaglass and that he cant have every country song…

My trip to the Pacific Coast was everything that my trip to Scotland wasn’t: Clear and peaceful. I went swing dancing in San Diego, watched F18’s and Seahawks show off against the backdrop of the setting sun on Coronado Island, tried In-N-Out burger to see what the fuss was about (give me Five Guys anytime), made a “pie run” on a crotch rocket through the winding hills to Julien (and popped a wheelie in there along the way), and dropped my bag in the spare bedroom of a friend’s house on Camp Pendleton and headed north, hugging the coast on the PCH (Hwy 1) through the OC, Santa Monica, Malibu…well, the intent was to spend time in Big Sur but I only made it as far as the southernmost tip, around Cambria and the Hearst Castle. From there, Hwy 1 was closed due to rock and mud slides. It rarely rains in CA but I did pick the “rainy season” I suppose. My heart sank but I shook it off almost immediately, promising to return, maybe later this year, to spend quality time exploring the forest. I headed south again along the coast, stopping often to take in the view or explore a trail or cove. I only found one piece of white-ish sea glass, which admitted was a mission this trip as the Flake had collected several lovely pieces for me a few months earlier which he failed to bring or send (I’m still holding strong, by the way. Missing him daily but not enough to pick at that wound).
I marveled at the changing geography: green mountains and forest that resembled Scotland (had the weather been clear) turning into mountains of smooth rock all running alongside cliffs of cold, cold ocean. Elephant seals quietly swam and slept along the shore in the north while their smaller cousins barked and basked on the southern coast.

I caught up with two girlfriends from my Army days with whom I shared a common age and unfortunate history of bad romantic choices. Both had moved to the Pacific Coast to “start over” and within a week or two of going back online to meet people, had met their husbands. One is now married to a young Marine and the other to a Jewish lawyer. It gives me hope and frankly, gets me thinking again about a piece of advice the Millionaire Matchmaker once made: If we are willing to move to improve our professional situations, why wouldn’t we move to improve something as important as our love life? Moving might just improve my odds of meeting someone decent. And the people did seem decent there. Relaxed smiles and not afraid to make eye contact. Perhaps there’s a legal weed joke in there somewhere but I was pleasantly surprised by the laid back culture.

In 2014, after my last trip to the ‘Stan, I added San Diego, sight unseen, to my short list of places I might leaving the Gulf coast for. Now that I’ve seen it, it is at the top of the list. One of the acquaintances I visited who had moved from Florida to the PC several years ago put it in perspective: “I would rather be broke in San Diego than rich anywhere else”. And it IS expensive! With California charging $13 for a $6 bottle of red, eating at least a third of resident’s paychecks in taxes, and the only affordable living being across the border in Mexico, I figured I would have to not only downsize my household but earn at least $60k roughly just to scrape by in that area. Maybe after I finish my MBA, I’ll move to Ocean Beach next to the dog park or Oceanside where I can watch the beautiful boys stripping out of their wet suits and remind myself “Dontstaredontbecreepydontstaredontbecreepydontstaredontbecreepy…”

But I “get” my friend’s sentiment now. The expense is worth it. I wasn’t depressed, not once. Unlike Scotland, I enjoyed even the days alone with my own company. The negative inner demon was silent as I was too busy trying to recall high school Spanish to translate local names. And when out of signal range, there was a soundtrack playing in my head with Tom Petty singing about the vampires on Ventura Boulevard, Courntey Love singing Malibu, Everclear singing Santa Monica, Bugs Bunny singing about the swallows coming back to Capistrano…
I’m going to try and go back before the year is out.

“It haunts me that I never got to say…” – Frenship

I’m not angry at you as much as I’m just feeling sorry for myself right now. I don’t have any right to be angry so when I get upset, I think it’s best if I just don’t talk to you. You don’t think I’ll cry but I know me and when I get frustrated, I cry because it’s that, or punch a wall and scream…sure, everyone does it but the SANE ones do it in private. I don’t take my frustrations out on others if i can avoid it. And that’s what I was doing: avoiding it.

I struggle to explain why I even got so upset. I know why, I just can’t find the right words without feeling stupid. I don’t like the word “jealousy” because that sounds so petty.

You know how weddings can sometimes be cool bunch of adults drinking and dancing but this was NOT that kind of wedding. Surrounded by kids, couples and remains of a past life, which i suppose i should have expected the same way I expected the kids and couples. But that made it worse for me. Added pressure like a high school reunion with everyone wanting to rehash the past while sizing each other up. 

Maybe it’s all in my insecure head but nothing like a wedding full of kids and couples to remind those of us (solo hand in the air) that we are chronically single.
By choice, I suppose. I turned down Asheville. Turned down Portland. Turned down San Antonio. Turned down Downtown.

The problem may be (and my mother has pointed this out to me) isn’t that men don’t want me but I only want the ones that dont. I was loved by a few, but not loved enough.

I’m not sure how to fix my “picker”. That’s what my family says: the women in our family have “got it all” except we are all born with “bad pickers”. It takes a few tries to get it right. More than a few in most cases. Some of us have yet to get it right. In fact, as much as I want you, even if if it were mutual, my head tells me you’re not right for me either. Certainly not as-is with strings still attached. And I can’t base how good of a guy you would be in a relationship with me on how good you were/are to everyone else.

Every night I want to petition you to come home. I try to coax you with pictures of palm trees and water, remind you of the things you used to love. I don’t tell you I miss you or ask if you miss me because I already know the answer:

You left.

“She is lonely most of the time” ~Sarah Barielles

Two weeks after returning from my 40th birthday solo travel adventure, I was laid off. Not surprised. A few of us felt the squeeze over the course of the last year with the arrival of fresh corrupt middle management slowly poisoning the well. The Commander contacted me weeks later to say he was shocked, upset and could he provide me a Letter of Appreciation. I told him “Of course” and no hard feelings because this blackball was rolling long before he showed up late last year. No one should gain or lose a job due to nepotism in modern times but it happens, particularly in my field where women struggle to compete against the Good Ol’ Boys and I never knew how to just “shut up and color”. I was increasingly stressed and miserable and could find nothing redeeming about my work anymore. The end was coming; Others jumped and I waited to get pushed. Strangely, my announcement was met by fewer condolences than congratulations. Even my autistic brother sent me a message: “Mom said u lose ur job. That’s great!”  I had hoped to hold onto the job through the holidays but in truth, even that would have been a challenge because seeing the end near, I enrolled in a Masters program at last. My VA Vocational Counselor has tried for the last two years to convince me to get out of this line of work but whenever I suggested an alternate career path, she would say “No, you’ll take that job home with you too”. Finally, she said something that made me reconsider my entire outlook on jobs “You’ve already had the jobs you were passionate about, Now maybe it’s time to find a stable, flexible boring job that pays well, that you can do anywhere, roll over your retirement points, and focus your energy and passion on things that don’t keep you up at night.”

I know people, including my former roommate-for-a-minute who only work as much or as hard as they need to because they enjoy their downtime. It’s not about constantly upgrading, buying more “stuff” and then upgrading again. One of my favorite sayings is “To have more, want less”. I want a peaceful, happy life. I want to love and be loved in return. Is that really so difficult to attain?

So in my first week “off”, I ordered textbooks, finished orientation, rolled over my 401k into an IRA and insisted to the financial consultants that damn the tax-consequences, I’m not going to starve during my sabbatical. And that’s what this is. It’s not just about trading a paycheck for 40 hours of homework, it’s about sleeping when my body needs rest, taking my dog to the park every day, dancing more because I no longer have an 8pm bedtime, and taking advantage of cheap airfare to pay friends across the country visits for a  few days here and there. Maybe even head back to the Caribbean to hike the hills in Jamaica or the Virgin Islands. But not alone. I’m over vacationing alone. Oh, and I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. How is that for proof that that place was affecting my physical as well as emotional health? Oh, the irony. Call it a parting gift…

And the scale is moving at last. The day before I left for Scotland, I had a follow up with one of my doctors who reassured me that endocrine issues take time. “Six – 12 months. I don’t know where you got 5-8 weeks from.” The internet, I admitted.  I weighed the exact same amount after 9 days of hiking the Highlands as the day I left. But three weeks later, I was now only 35lbs overweight instead of 50. He noticed too without me fishing for it. I sent him a few pictures of an Aerial Silks class that I tried and his response was “You look thin”.  No, I’m not thin but I am getting stronger and my bones no longer hurt, thank G-d. It still takes me longer to recover than it did before I got sick but I am getting better, I think. I squeezed into one of my black swing dresses last night. Still a squeeze but it went over my hips so that counts. It was the first time in many months that I didn’t hate how Iooked and felt and it made a difference in my attitude. Until later that night when he’d had a few drinks and decided to tell me about another woman who picked him up at the bar. This is now the third time that I’ve had to remind him to save those conversations for his guy friends because I don’t particularly want to hear about his game. He kept up until I finally said “Do you just like fucking with me? You know how  feel about you”.  He even sent a picture. There were a group of them at the bar but he was leaning in close to a young brunette. Whenever I don’t hear from him in the evening, I assume it’s because he’s found someone new to occupy his time (and he knows I don’t want to hear about it). I figure he only keeps in touch as much as he does because he’s lonely in a new town. I wasnt really joking when I remarked that he’d soon forget me amidst his new friends in the tiny dog club.  Six inches shorter, 20 years younger, and 80 pounds lighter and I might have had a chance with him.

“Does he make you feel good about yourself? Do you feel better after having communicated with him?” The answer is still No and no.

But I’m still dancing. I’m smiling. Sometimes it’s even sincere. My once-lifelong bachelor friend and his new bride canceled their honeymoon because she’s 14 weeks pregnant. And now I really don’t have a single close friend locally who doesn’t have children or a significant other.

I need a nap. Well, what I REALLY need is someone to put their hands and mouth on me but since that isn’t an option, a nap will have to do.

“And I’m craving, craving, craving something I can feel” ~ James Bay

(July 15-24 2016)

THe military likes to use a “BLUF”, a “bottom line up front”. And my BLUF when asked by military cohorts “How awesome was  your trip to Scotland?” I tell them it was “LIke SERE school, minus being smacked around”. Because I was cold, wet, hungry and exhausted the entire time.

Day 1: Spent almost entirely in an airport or plane. No drama, no hurrying so I settled down at the bar to kick off my vacatio with a glass of wine, smiling, chatting with strangers, feeling mildly excited at the prospects of my adventure. Fast forward 11 hours, I land in 50 degree (freezing for a Florida girl) Scotland and am informed “You missed the sunshine by about a week”.  I’m at the rental car counter in Glasgow. I reserved the smallest vehicle they had for a reasonable $260. When they asked if I could drive a standard, I said “Yes”. Wait. Shit. What side is the stick on? Um, make that a “no”. So I was “upgraded” to an automatic that cost as much as my f*cking plane ticket. Thanks Budget/Avis, for the ass-rape there. Not like I needed the steering wheel on the other side of the car…

Trying to maneuver in downtown Glasgow, I immediately regretted not brushing up on traffic signals before I came. THere are no stopsigns, only round-abouts and traffic lights on the side of the road which are split into lanes. Meaning, I see a red light and cars behind me honk because one of the lights in that signal is green, the light for MY respective lane. Oops. I breathed easier outside the city but I still hit the curb periodically while trying to guage how much distance I had to work with from oncoming traffic on roads that felt half the size of those in the US.

One thing I DID do prior to my trip, thank G-d, was pre-plot all the points of places I intended to visit (and stay) on my google maps before I left. You can also download areas of google maps for offline use but this takes up a lot of phone storage. But as loong as you pre-plot your points and dont have to go searching for them, once your gps is set, you can put your phone in “airplane mode” and still use your turn-by-turn gps via google maps. This helps to not drain your international data plan (although I still busted mine). And it helps if you are hiking out in the boonies with no signal: yes, in airplane mode, the gps still works.

I had only one stop in Glasgow and that was Saint Andrews and it’s co-located Necropolis. I love cathedrals and old graves. I opted to travel light with only my phone for pictures but then, my phone has just as many megapixels as my full camera set up and I even invested for snap-on lenses from Moment. They were rather pricey at $100/lens and after the trip, I cant say I saw a big diference between using them and not. I also bought a gorilla tripod and remote shutter, which are necessary if you are traveling solo without ANYONE around and want proof to say “I was there”. The Tripod may have been more beneficial for wrapping around trees with low branches but I lost it in the woods around halfway through the trip and didnt miss it. The tiny bluetooth remote shutter though is a MUST. It allows you to back up and get into position and take multiple shots without haveing to run back to the phone and reset the timer after every shot.

Also, a note for anyone staying in the major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh with a car, download the “PayGo” app to your phone. This linked to my paypal account and I could pay for parking (and renew without walking back) anywhere without having to feed coins into the meter. Just delete it when you leave.

After Glasgow, I drove through and stopped for short hikes in Loch Lomond and stopped by (and peed in the woods behind) Rob Roy’s grave. Doune castle smells like cow patties mixed chicken poop. There were areas along the trails where I had to cover my nose with my shirt. I realized crossing a field that it was neither cows nor chicken but sheep that caused that stink. Again, I skipped going into the Castle because another blogger had posted pictures of the interior and jokingly refered to it as the Disney Castle. I only stopped here because it felt mandatory for not only Outlander but Game of Thrones fans.

Here I picked up my first hitchhiker, a Belgian named Jolene (pronounced “Yolene”), two women bravely hiking (with sporadic drives in between) across Scotland solo. Moving on to Stirling (where  I was staying in a private spare bedroom thanks to the AirBnB app), neither the Castle nor Wallace Monument impressed me so again, I walked around the surrounding gravesites, followed trails around the Castle (there are some good views of the city from up there), and eventually popped into a coffee bar for a shot of caffiene and free wifi. Because of the time change, this was still Day 1 but I had been awake for over 24 hours and buzzing off 5 Hour Energy shots packed for the trip (because I wanted to ensure my chronic fatigue didnt prevent me from accomplishing what I had set out to do).  I had also packed a lot of Kind bars thank g-d, because instead of snacks in the woods, those ended up sustaining me through my entire trip because ALL the food sucked. I mean, “Just send it back to the kitchen and just bring me a double shot of whiskey”, sucked. In fact, the headlines for my Tripadvisor reviews of a handful of restaurants was “Starving in Scotland”. Yes, I tried the haggis the first night; had to, right? I got one bite down. The server figured “Well, that counts”.

My host that evening was an early 60’s divorcee named Malcom. We hit it off fantastically and stayed up most of the night drinking and talking, despite my tight plans to spend the following day hiking in GlenCoe. During our chats about life, dancing, recreational nudity and lost love, I complained (knowing full well that he was turning 62 the same day  was turning 40) that men MY age were only intersted in women in women 20 years younger whereas my only prospects were men 20 years my senior. Malcom laughed “Then I’m one of them because I find you attractive”. To be fair, the only reason I rule out men significantly older than me at this point is because I’m pretty sure none want to become fathers (again) at that age. And I’m still clinging to this distant possibility that I might still have children. But for 62, he wasnt bad looking at all…

Day 2: the sun is up at 4am (17 hour “days” this time of year) and I was up at 8, still tired, having only slept a few hours. But Malcom hugged me goodbye and good luck and I set off. A few hours drive to Glencoe from Stirling, the drive was beautifully scenic but behind the wheel on perilously thin roads, I really couldnt “look up” and out to enjoy it. By this time, it was raining non-stop and coming through the mountains, I glimpsed only silouettes of ridges of green through the misty haze. But I was here. And I was doing this. I parked at the visitor’s center and grabbed my gear. After staring at the trail map for a bit, I asked for advice. They first sent me down a path away from the mountains. Boring. So I traveled back up higher and higher until I disappeared into the trees and couldnt see anything at all. Eventually, I circled back around to the visitors center and said “What else have you got?” In this weather, they eyed me critically, “Try Signal Rock”. It took me a minute but realize as a hiker in Scotland, a closed gate doesnt equate to “no trespassing”. It’s simply to hold in the rabid sheep and feral goats. SPeaking of, there are signs along the road in some areas. Apparently, Scotland has a feral goat infestation. Closing the gate behind me, I head back into the woods and up, up, up…I only had a thin plastic poncho over me and my pack but it worked well enough. But rocks were slippery, dry or wet, and I found myself hugging trees and asking them “Dont drop me”. Signal Rock was so anti-climactic that I doubted for a few minutes that I had reached it. A 5×5 slab of rock on the mountainside promised “spectacular views” but was overgrown. Not that I would have seen much through the mist anyway but disappointed, I returned the way I came, trying to capture a sense of awe that I was certain would stem from being in this land where “the veil is thin”. I looked around and breathed deep and told myself “This is Scotland” while my inner voice answered back “And it looks like Washington State”.

How could I be so uninspired amidst such landscape? Is it the depression? Or is it the foul weather, fences around everything, subdivisions encroaching on history, inescapable traffic and power lines marring every photo?

Day 3:  After feeling like I had all but entirely missed out on something special in GlenCoe, I drove on to Dornie just outside of the Isle of Skye where I was again staying in a spare bedroom I found on AirBnB. The room was lovely but the bed uncomfortable. Still, I could see Eilene Donan Castle through my window. The rain continued while my new host cursed the weather for me and offered me a rain jacket. Rain or no, I was hiking. I drove into Skye, past Portree and came upon The Storr. The rain was hammering down and visibility was such that I couldnt see “The Old Man” which was supposedly visible from 5 miles away. And I was just beneath him. So I drove on along the coast where the Atlantic stretched out like hazy black glass, hoping the rain might clear a bit by the time I reached the Quirang. Today, I was 40. The rain abated briefly en-route and I pulled over at a point which looked like a trail to the Atlantic. Was I supposed to be there? A man pulling out of the cottage that I was approaching only waved so I took it for permission. Closing the gate behind me, I was surrounded by hundreds of acres of green cliffs, dotted by sheep and overlooking the ocean.The rain came down in spurts but I pressed on. A few sheep followed me curiously as I picked my way down the slope to the water. Here, standing on shiny black rocks on the edge of Atlantic did not feel like Washington State. It didnt even feel like standing on the edge of the Atlantic on the Eastern coast of the United States. Here, the ocean was vast, a gaping mouth and I, standing on the tongue. If there was ever a brief moment that the veil felt thin, it was here.

I took my time despite the rain and chill, working my way back up the hillside. I filled my water bottles from falls (I had a “lifewater” straw but the water was so clear and cold, I didnt use it) and continued North toward the Quirang.

The rain thickened once again and although my GPS told me I had reached my destination, I saw no trails, no hikers, no room to even pull over and park. I crawled slowly up and up into the Quirang on a single lane road meant for a donkey, the rental car growling on the incline. I dont know how long or how far I drove but eventually I found a small culvert to pull off. I stood there looking up, down, around. I’m here. This is it. But where could I hike? Im not a professional or even an enthusiast in the greatest shape and I hesitated to launch myself off the side of a mountian. I raised my camera but the view was so obscured by fog that the moutains were invisible through the lens. Looking at the photo, I might not even know a mountain was there if I didn’t know better. Through the thick mist, I couldnt make out any of the views that I had been pinning to my “vacay” board on Pinterest for the last 8 months. Defeated, I got back into the car, executed a 20-point turn, and backtracked. I stopped for coffee and wifi again in Portree, consulting the weather forecast and debating options. What to do now? Drink would be the “obvious” answer but I don’t enjoy it, frankly, especially not alone. Mood considered, I was almost afraid that any booze at the moment would tip the scale in the wrong direction, leaving me in a sad puddle of self pity and loneliness. So I should not drink, I decided.

Of all days and sites on this trip, I planned for my birthday the most carefully. I wanted to be imersed in breathtaking, ancient natural beauty. I wanted the pain of exertion to mark satisfaction of personal accomplishment. Eventually, I gave up, left the cafe and headed back to the room at Dornie. Stopped along the way to slog through a few short woodland trails to put a few more miles on my legs but my birthday bucketlist was a bust. I had a lackluster dinner at a pub, no cake, more whiskey. A few bikers came in and I considered chatting them up until a group of ladies also walked in. I wandered to take photos of Eilene Donan, and wandered back to bed.

Day 4: ONE day of sunshine according to the forecast. ONE day before nonstop rain all day and night. So I decided to veer off schedule in order to take advantage. Instead of heading directly across country, I drove back into Skye with a French hitchhiker named “Hillin”. I decided I had only enough time to hike the Storr because I was staying the night in Inverness. Hillin was on no such timeline and decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and carry on to the Quirang. I wish I could have.

Now, in the sun, I could see the Old Man of Storr clearly. The initial path was crowded with tourists and well hewn so I didn’t think twice about leaving the hiking poles in the car. However, halfway up was a clearing where most of the sightseers stopped because from there, the path leading up to the Old Man became quite steep and rocky. Now I kicked myself for leaving the poles behind it . I went at a snails pace and eventually made it without sliding off a rock and dying but I didn’t feel any great sense of accomplishment nor awe taking in my surroundings, which now I could see. Oh yes, the view was stunning and by definition awe-inspiring but I still felt like I had flat-lined.

I was driving like a native now. No more hitting the curb although I continued to climb into the passenger seat initially.

As I drove cross-country to Inverness, I wondered what it would be like to live in Scotland. What would I do? Return to radio? The radio, like the food I determined, sucked. Too much unentertaining prattle interuppted by techo-pop garbage. I like techo-pop, when it’s good. And I always thought BBC was held to such a high standard. Although it was amusing listening to Scotsman debate American politics, as if our next President affected them. One caller insisted that anyone “..with a conscience cannot trust Clinton, and if you are afraid of Trump, you must appreciate the transparency and remember that the government is not one person…Besides, it doesnt really doesn’t matter who is president because nothing happens without congressional approval. Nothing changes. It’s the same thing with a different face.” All of this debated with a thick Scottish drawl.

I learned a bit more about “Brexit” too. I had read that Scotland was in favor of remaining in the European Union but to be on the ground amongst them, they are quite upset about it. They voted just last year to remain part of the UK largely in part because they wanted to remain part of the EU so they feel mis-led. “We are our own country, we have our own economy, are own government, and yet we are still represented by a Tory!” they lamented.

In the valleys where the radio signal faded out, I felt most alone. So much for solo travel being a time for introspection because I found that I hate my own company. As kind as I am to everyone, I am not kind to myself. Courses on meditation, self-love, positive thinking to manifest your dreams… but here I was, negative self-talk non-stop in my head. I wasnt just hard on myself, I hated myself. I rehashed recent and past rejection. Disgusted by every photo of me in the last year. My body disproportionate. “You’re ugly now”. The crazy thing is, I know that’s not true. I’m not ugly, not even naked! But I couldnt stop telling myself that I was. Walking past other hikers, I thought “Here goes the fat asthmatic American heaving her way up and down the mountains…” In the absence of any company other than my own, I turned inward and devoured myself.

Periodically, I would find a place to pull over, enjoy the sunny views for a few minutes and stretch. Folding myself in half, palms to the ground, I enjoyed the soft pops of my vertebrae. Until my inner voice said “Yeah, fat girl is still flexible”. My body is holding up alright I suppose. The weight slows me down though. My footing is unsure, as I am going up and down slippery, rocky mountains lugging a near 200 pound ruck sack, aka, my body.

By the way, Falls of Foyers, skip it.

Day 5: As promised the rain returns. I’m really starting to feel lonely now as my new host is an elderly woman who runs a bed and breakfast in the country. Why couldnt they all be “Malcoms”? I park in along the River Ness and pick up the bicycle I had already paid rental fees for. Admiring my perserverence to ride in this weather, the shop lent me a rain jacket and the best route out of the city to Culloden battlefield and Clava Cairns. It wasnt terribly far, maybe 20 miles roundtrip but much of it was uphill and in the rain, being additionally hosed down by muddy water with every passing car, this was no longer a vacation but a personal challenge. Mine was the solo bike in the rack at Culloden but I was visiting at the same time of year that the Jacobite loss at Culloden took place nearly 300 years earlier so the rain and mist so thick on the field that one might not have seen but only heard their enemy a few hundred yards away, I could imagine it. I opted for the audio tour which was so cheesey that I turned it off and walked the field in silence. I was walking on a mass grave and silence seemed most appropriate.

After Culloden, I peddled on to Clava Cairns. It looks nothing like the standing stones in the Outlander series. Interesting to consider the age of these piles of mossy rock but still, I felt nothing here.

Peddling back into town by 7p, I dropped the bike off and stopped for food at a Turkish restaurant. Maybe the only food I enjoyed in Scotland. An aquaintance had recommended the live local music at a small pub called Hootananny but bloggers recommended getting there early. Like, by 7p although the music didnt start unti 9:30. Sit there for more than 2 hours and drink before the music even starts? THere’s no uber in Scotland so pace yourself. But as I dried out over the first real meal in days, I noticed a smell. It was me. Not body odor but the exterior of my clothes which were stiff with drying mud smelled like a gutter. Probably from all the passing traffic that day. I know many more self-assured folks would have said “Who cares?” and gone to the pub smelling like a hobo but I grew too self-conscious and as I was staying outside the city, I didnt have the time to get back to the room, shower, change and get back to the pub in time to get in.

I was in bed by 9 with a shirt over my eyes because it was still light out. But by now, my loneliness had gotten the best of me and I sent him, my former roommate-for-a-minute, an email with a few pictures from my trip so far. He replied almost immediately and I felt a giddy sense of relief and happiness.

And by now, I was convinced that UK taste in music was as bland as their cuisine. But then, what could I expect from the country that gave us Spice Girls? What will it be today kids? Robbie Williams or Ariana Grande?  Or Robbie Williams? Or Ariana Grande?

As far as Wildlife I only see goats, sheep, birds and bunnies.

It seems everyone here has a dog and they take them everywhere they go. Restaurants allow the dogs to come inside instead of relegating them and  their owners to outside patio tables and inclement weather. Dogs in all sizes and breeds however I note the absence of pitbulls. UK’s banned breed list dates back 200 years. Floors me that these seemingly educated dog loving people still hold prejudice against certain breeds. Do they really believe there is some flaw in the genetic make-up a certain breeds of dogs? An inborn trigger that makes them uncontrollably aggressive?

With exception of those who I board with in evenings, I haven’t met any locals, which is a bit disappointing. I suppose it’s partly my fault for being an introvert and not striking up a conversation as often as I could although my excuse is I’m quite tired and foggy headed at this point. But I had hoped the locals would be more engaging. The trails I take are usually empty in this weather and I find myself too exhausted to go hang it a pub after 8 hours of hiking or biking. Plus I smell offensive.

Again, hikers: Presence of a gate does not mean ‘stop go back’, you can go through just shut the gate behind you. And don’t worry about trespassing; if its private it will be marked. The ground was really quite mushy. Waterproof hiking boots are useless if the water gets in through your ankles. Additionally, it holds the moisture in so eventually I opted for open toed hiking sandals because it’s inevitable that you’re feet will get wet but at least in this case they might also eventually dry out. Galoshes would probably be the most appropriate footwear for this bog but who has room for that in their luggage?

Day 6:  Can you believe it’s been 6 days and Scotland and I’m just now hearing bagpipes? Its coming from the town of KingGUSSIE but I’m hearing it all the way up in the glen. I would have clapped for him if I thought he might hear me. I recall my friend Patrick playing his pipes out by the generators in Saudi Arabia. He was the Clan Bard so he had to stay on top of his game.

How do I know that my health is not as it should be? Because anyone else would have dropped 10 pounds on a trip like this. Covering so many miles, on two feet or two wheels and sustained on 2 kind bars and 5 Hour energy shots, both which I have been forced to ration at this point.

One of my acquaintances remarked on a picture I posted on social media saying “You look like you were having a blast!” Do I?

Walking or driving through Scotland require the same precautions: You have to stop before you look up. I tripped and slipped a lot for someone who fancies herself a dancer. Speaking of, there is a brief swing dance this evening on the outskirts of Edinburg. I’m hoping I can muster up enough energy to go. I might finally meet some locals.

I occasionally see locals out walking their dogs through the woods while wearing headphones and I am tempted to ask them if they are listening to Robbie Williams.

The violent crime rate here it is quite low. Why do you suppose that is? Did they get it out of their blood centuries ago and have nothing left to fight about?

Day 7 of my personal challenge. I was no longer calling it a vacation or a holiday and nearing the end of it, it meant nothing more to me than a series of checks in the boxes. I wanted this to be over. I felt trapped in Edinburgh which was the NYC equivalent for Scotland. I was staying in the hood in a shared slummy flat with an uncomfortable young french couple. The only good thing about slumming it was being surrounded by thrift shops and Middle Eastern food. But then, I was too fat to shop or eat, or so says hateful company. The swing dance the night before was pleasant but not unlike a swing dance back home: Still more women and men and older men preoccupied on picking up young women. I liked that they all danced Lindy and they even thought I was ‘pretty good’, although I was quite exhausted and knew I wouldn’t last more than 2 hours. One of my partners remarked “You sound a bit American”.

“I am a bit American.”

“Oh that’s alright,” he replied as if to console me of my unfortunate circumstances, “We welcome everyone here except the English.”

But after the dance, it was all downhill. If you dislike the city, get in the car and go somewhere else, I told myself. You can go anywhere. Except home. If I were in a proper hotel room I might go back and have a bath and a nap to see if that improved my mood but that wasn’t an option. So what to do with myself on the staircase in the shadow of Edinburgh castle with a dying phone?

I took 2 bites of my food and tossed it. Ate my pills. I was choking up at the sight of every passing family.  Malcolm, the youthful 60 – something invited me back to Stirling for wine and nudity if Edinburg was not to my liking. Meanwhile, I asked my beautiful server if drinking and entire carafe of wine by myself made me a lush, he responded quickly, “No, it makes you a hero”.

I was now busting my data plan in order to text him, my former roommate-for-a-minute? Why him? He volunteered “You feel sorry for me?” No, I was feeling sorry for myself. No doubt we were both lonely, strangers in new cities but still, I have other friends, better friends that I could be sharing this experience with. “Im not alone cuz my cell phones on yeah…” I think as Jimmy Eat World plays in my head.

In another attempt to meet locals, I log into couchsurfer where a single dad from Edinburgh invites me to meet his group later for drinks. But I’m already drinking and people watching. I pick out a man in a group of suits at a nearby table. I take measure of his hands before I ever reach his face. Manicured, resting on his thigh…Large but large enough to cover my breast? I rip my gaze away. Self conscious, but I drink more than one person should, because the beautiful server who leaned too close said I was a “hero”, not a lush. It’s been 17 months now since anyone touched me. I fiddle with my wine glass, fiddle with my phone, as if I was just killing time til I had somewhere to be, someone to meet. As if I had someone.

Eventually I start walking again. The bar with the single dad is 2 miles away. I pass the Hard Rock Edinburgh where tuxedo’ed bouncers guarded the front and ushered in ladies struggling to stay upright in stillettos. Thank goodness he didn’t want to meet there. But turned out the bar he did want to meet in was nearby and equally “bougie”. The bouncers still let me in despite me looking like I had just crawled out of a loch, which wasn’t far from the truth. I had showered and put on lipstick but I was still in an Old Navy jacket and hiking sandals. After several failed attempts to locate the single dad and his group amidst this crowd (but more importantly, failed attempts on my part to get close enough to the bar to order), I wandered back outside and started walking again. I found myself in Greyfriars Cemetery at a quarter til midnight. The sun had finally set in it’s entiretly and I could see nothing but it was a refuge from the growing clamor of the nightlife beyond so I sat. A passing ghost tour was spooked by me but soon I was alone with the dead again. I think I may have even nodded off for a minute before my phone buzzed. Somehow I made it back to the slummy flat although I may have been sleepwalking.

Day 8. I slept in and woke up bleeding. Not that I was truly expecting or even looking to get laid by some burly Scotsman on this trip but this just ensured I wouldn’t. My fun-meter is pegged. I went for coffee then got my nails done. Still feeling dissatisfied, I set out for the last check in the box: Arthurs Arse. Thats what I call “Arthurs Seat”, if I had anyone to talk to. Barely beyond the road, the trail steepened and became quite slippery. I trudged a short bit then sat on a rock, feeling lightheaded as other climbers slipped around and past me. All I could think about was returning to the slummy flat, inform the uncomfortable french couple that I was leaving early, throw my bag into the car and head straight for the Holiday Inn at Glasgow airport. I turned and gave Arthur’s Arse my middle finger “Fuck you, I’m done.”

By 5p, Edinburgh was in my rear view. Glasgow traffic was no longer daunting after 8 days on the road. I even found Kimchi Cult in a last ditch attempt to find flavor in Scotland. Fermented food is not shy on flavor so I may not leave Scotland starving after all.

There was a wedding reception underway as I checked in at the hotel. Does it sound catty of me to note that the men were all hot kilted Scots while their ladies looked like an episode of my Big Fat Gypsy Wedding? If the boys liked em that size, maybe I’d have a shot here after all. Well, too late for that. Besides, I’m bleeding. I grabbed a big glass of red from the bar and headed straight to the room to run a hot bath.

Day 9. Going home. I admitted to him that I was ready to come home because I was lonely but the truth is, I’m lonely at home too; not coming home TO anyone. The only difference is being home provides distractions like work and dance. And my dog. I miss my dog. He said he was lonely too, and scared. My initial thought was that he didn’t understand having only been single off and on for a few months tops but on second thought, he was with someone for so long, it must be alien for him to be alone in bed, to come home to no one. So to each his/her own brand of lonely.

I was still puzzled why I spent nearly the entire trip staying in touch with him? We have no history. We never were nor ever will be anything to each other but I cling to him like I clung to “C”, a man who tried to shake my grip from the arm of his coat. Let go, girl!

Reality check time, I returned to The List: Among all the ways he doesn’t measure up is his apparent lack of passion. Do I know for a fact he lacks passion and is not up to par in the sack? No, but it’s the impression I get.. Oh I could make him feel better than he’s ever felt before, but that would be gratifying for only so long. Eventually I would want it to be my turn, someone to push me to my knees and tell me I’m a good girl while playing with my hair as I serve him with my mouth… I can’t even imagine that being something he would even think to do. Missionary Man, this one. Maybe sleeping with him would cure me of wanting him, I wondered. But I’m home. It’s raining here too except it’s warm and smells like salt so I don’t mind. The fact that it took me more than two weeks to even finish this ‘entry’ is further evidence that this “bucketlist trip” was a chore. Maybe I’ll have fonder memories of it later. But to anyone who criticises me for my seeming ungratefulness at this “opportunity”, it was an opportunity because I created it. I tapped into my savings to pay for it, worked overtime to get enough time off. It was a milestone birthday and I had expectations that were not realized. No one “gave” me anything. I worked hard to make this happen. My trip. My birthday. My let-down.

​“I wanted everything I never had…” ~  ‘Alive’ by Sia

They played that song in my ballet class and I began crying. Softly, in the corner so perhaps no one noticed. Even now, just thinking about it…”I’m still breathing…” yes, but is breathing enough? Existence, survival…

“I saw my life in a stranger’s face…”   Is this akin to seeing your future in another’s eyes? Connecting so primally, at least for me, and you can only pray it’s mutual. I found myself asking “How soon is too soon to know?” To know in your bones that you want to nest under the skin of the one who crept in on their own, your heart like a dark, unlocked bedroom and they slip quietly under the covers and make you the ‘little spoon’. And you want to stay like that.

Or is it a reference to happening upon our Mirrors? Not our literal mirrors but a stranger who reminds us of ourselves. Recognizing ourselves in strangers? I saw a woman days ago who was built like I am right now. And I still thought she was beautiful, which is a thought I don’t apply to myself. And evidentially, from her body language –tugging at her shirt, shoulders hunched as if to hide her generous breasts—‘beautiful’ was a thought she did not apply to herself either.  

“You’re taught to cry in your pillow…”   Have I mentioned that sometimes I cry after I orgasm? Don’t worry guys, it’s only after sex-with-myself. It’s at that peak when you open your eyes and know that the person you just ‘used’ is not and will not be yours. That ecstatic moment which you fantasized about, possibly repeatedly, has never and likely never will happen. At the peak of orgasm, I feel acutely alone.

I’m leaving for my bucket-list trip to hike the Highlands for my 40th birthday this weekend. Note to self: Don’t get shit-faced at a pub on your bday. Not a foreign woman traveling solo, celebrating a milestone without anyone accountable to her, no ‘wingman’…could be a bad idea. I joked to my former roommate (still don’t know what to call him) “How do you say ‘Put on a condom’ in Gaelic?”

“No.” was his response.

I thought it was funny. He’s neutered so aside from swapping body fluids and risking the spread of STDs, he doesn’t use one.

Eight days alone, trekking and biking countless miles (I wonder if there is an app I can download on my phone to track my distance. Just out of curiosity). What is there to be worried about? “Are there bears in Scotland?” someone asked me. I said “I don’t think so. But there are sheep. Possibly rabid, blood-thirsty sheep. But I have a set of hiking poles which can double as Kali sticks. Yeah, I’ll just go Muy Thai on some sheep ass!”

“But I survived.”

“I’d die for you…A bullet for everybody in this room” ~ 21 Pilots

May the alterna-rock g-ds gasp and strike me down but I’m not a 21 pilots fan (nor Strokes or Kings of Leon for that matter but that’s another blog). When one of their songs comes on, I usually flip to another channel but this morning I sat through the song “Ride” and the lyrics struck me. Maybe it’s the timing, maybe it’s just my sentimentality. They aren’t profoundly poetic but he makes a point that I can relate to when he says that it is easier to take a bullet for someone than to live for them. Perhaps that isn’t exactly what he meant but that’s how I choose to understand it.

I sent the lyrics to him. He likes 21 Pilots. He text me pictures of furniture that he purchased for his new apartment. Oh, he’s committed now. Can’t pack his entire life into the bed of a truck and run away anymore. He said he didn’t know if he was running away or starting over. I said it doesn’t matter which one it is. Fear and Excitement are the same emotion; the only difference is how you interpret them.

Desiderata…

I give it a week, to stop hearing from him. By then, his abusive ex, their mutual acquaintances and a handful of new friends will have his attention again and I’ll be forgotten. He treats me like a “stop gap”, someone to talk to when no one else he prefers more is available for whatever reason.

Forgive me if I’m repeating myself here (memory of a goldfish, remember? Nope.) but I made a list about 3 years ago detailing what I was looking for in a man. Long before Oprah began pushing her “Vision Boards” with more glitter and glue than a kindergarten project, the Millionaire Matchmaker suggested a physical written list of the “non-negotiables” of a relationship. To keep things in perspective in the crush-phase, you must remember exactly what your deal-breakers are. I have a fine list, I think, and someday I may post it here but as an exercise in reality, I compare those I develop strong feelings for to this list to see how they measure up and most of them fall quite short. And if it seems that every other blog I write is about some heartache I’m experiencing, consider the dates, and you will see that there is a good year or more between them. Because I don’t meet many men who get under my skin. Or maybe I just let the broken ones in.

But I digress. So I compared my former roommate, friend? I don’t even know what to call him, to “The List” and he failed on every point. That’s not to say that he doesn’t exhibit those qualities at all, but he doesn’t for me. Integrity, steadfastness, loyalty, kinky… there is evidence to support the assumption that he has those traits but they are reserved for those he cares about. And if they do not apply to me, then they are moot.

He teases me. Flirts. He doesn’t need to add the details that he’s naked AND horny to our textual conversations but I’m an easy target, (sexually frustrated is a gross understatement) and he cant resist. Even though he gives no indication that there is or ever was a mutual physical attraction. Maybe he just likes the attention or knowledge that someone out there wants him. Chemistry is #1 on my list, by the way. But the caveat is “mutual, enduring chemistry”.

Over time, however, I came to realize that my friend, nice as he is, prizes extreme beauty above all the other desiderata that one might seek in a partner.

— Adelle Waldman, “‘A First-Rate Girl’: The Problem of Female Beauty,” The New Yorker, October 2, 2013

I also did a walk-in at the VA hospital last Friday morning, based on my mother’s advice. The ironic thing is, I had my bi-annual check up with Mental Health less than a month ago and after a half hour chat, the doctor says “Well, you are in a good place so want to catch up in a year?” Sure, see you in a year. Or three weeks, crying uncontrollably in your nurses’ office. With chronic exhaustion still lingering post-op, what anti-anxiety or sleep medication won’t turn me comatose? She prescribed a mild sedative for sleep and told me she wanted me to consider going back on Wellbutron. I chose to come off it last September because I felt I could cope fine without it. She said “The nightmares and anxiety could be the depression coming back and I think we need to nip that in the bud”. You don’t have to stay on it long-term, the nurse told me. It takes weeks to build up in the body and weeks to ween your body off it so at the shortest, I’m looking at 3 months back on medication.

Listen, I don’t judge anyone on Xanax or anti-depressants but the military judges ME. On one hand, the military urges it’s members to seek help when needed while quietly destroying the careers of those that do. At least, that is my impression. No, we do not have to disclose any form of counseling unless it concerns the intent to harm others but we are expected to disclose our medications during routine and annual physicals. And that is where you could end up in a never-ending “waiver” battle to keep your job and your security clearance because many fields in the military are deemed “incompatible” for those on psychotropic medication. Although last I read, as much as 80% of our military is medicated. It’s inevitable when people are faced with decades of violence. Consider everything you see on TV and remember the Military, law enforcement, and medics may be living and reliving it.

I ASKed my bestest friend (who happens to be an asshole) to suggest an “uplifting” movie since I was in a bit of a funk. He suggested Reese Witherspoon in “Wild” since I am gearing up for a 10 day solo hike through the Highlands for my (gulp…) 40th. Half-way through the movie, I text him to say “WTF.” His response “Well, she doesn’t die.” I did enjoy watching Reese get railed but hey, I’m a bit of sicko in the sexual fantasy department.

On a lighter note, I danced quite a bit this weekend. My stamina isn’t what it was 18 months ago but I did manage to swing dance for nearly 2 straight hours without passing out and/or vomiting. I hang primarily with a group of seniors because the group that is closer to my age-range is “The Scene” and very clique-y (F*ck those guys). We took a picture of our filthy legs and feet when it was over. Then they suggested that I follow them to a nearby brewery to continue the dancing with another live band. I was still panting and thinking incredulously, “So this is what it’s come to: I can’t even keep up with the 60 year olds…” (PS: that’s my foot with the yellow mosquito coil around the dirt blackened ankle)

I also returned to ballet and combatives classes. I’m the fat girl in the ballet class, surrounded by waifs and mirrors. And coincidentally, I’m the only one without a diamond on my left hand. As for the combatives class, it’s led by a coworker of mine; a retired Green Beret. He personifies what it means to be a Green Beret. Perhaps it’s partly generational bias but our Army’s best-of-the-best suffers from “they just don’t make ’em like they used to”. To quote another older G.B. that I work with, “What a bunch of fucking girls”. As a “girl” myself, should I take offense to my gender being one of the worst derogatory slurs one can bestow on another human being? If I did, I wouldn’t survive in this environment.

PS x 2: , “ohhh woah woah ohhh woah woah I’m falling, and taking my time on the riiiiiiyeee eyeee eyeeed eyeee eyeee eyeeed”

“I’m not alone cuz the TV’s on yeah…” Jimmy Eat World

I helped him pack out and he left at 3am. But he said “Goodbye” so that makes it okay. And maybe in a few weeks, months, I’ll really be okay with it, not take it so hard, so personally. Because my rational mind says it’s not at all personal but my heart aches for the friend that could have been. I wanted to help him, to hold him, to erase and shield him from all the hateful, hurtful abuse he’s suffered over the months from a poor emotional investment and in doing so, heal myself. Those who know and love me best have told that both my greatest strength and weakness is my heart.
I woke up alone in the house 7 hours later with the intention to keep to my usually peaceful weekend morning routine starting with good coffee and a breakfast. But the skillet sits cold on the stove because I’m not hungry. And coffee right now would only aggravate my anxiety, I tell myself. Because I am feeling anything but peaceful. I’m just feeling alone. And sad.
So I turn on the TV LOUD and give my dog a hug.

“Caring is Creepy” ~ The Shins

“Cardinals mate for life”, I recall him saying as I smile and watch the feathery couple bounce across my backyard, my dog and cat mutually disinterested.
And that is the word for him: Disinterested.
I thanked G-d for him too, literally. Just a few months ago, I thanked G-d for bringing a someone into my home who would be a friend, assist me with chores made difficult by my wavering health, he even said he would dance with me. I didnt ask, he offered. He set my expectations so how can I be at fault for believing? Innocent until proven guilty, truth until proven false. I especially trusted him because he also served and veterans generally dont fuck over other veterans. Be patient, my mother advised me. He was going through a divorce and a rough rebound. His head isnt screwed on straight, we agreed. Still, he disappeared for 2 months. Not a word to ask how I felt, how the latest surgery went. Nothing. I finally text him to ask “Do you still live here?” If I were a landlord, his shit would have been in the street. But I wanted a friend, not a tenant. He knew that.
He apologized, said I was “right about everything” and he would make it up to me, we would be friends. The first week, he did make an effort. We hung out, watched movies, talked, laughed, drank wine… but then he disappeared. Into his room without explanation. For two days, I hear his phone, text and email alerts, going off every few minutes at all hours. It’s maddening. As an empath (I dont know how to shut off the “give a fuck” no matter how often I read tips on Shielding) I continued to knock on his door and ask how he was, try to coax him out. He eventually got frustrated and “I’ll be out of here in 15 minutes” he announced as I stood there stunned. Later, he text to ask if he could stay through the month and be out in August. I”m not an asshole so I agreed although it’s difficult for me to share my pesonal safe space with someone who is not my friend, and I told him that.
Today he announced he’s moving to Atlanta, his apartment will be ready Monday. Total abandonment and a few months rent-free storage. He realizes it but just as my “Give a Fuck” wont turn off, his wont turn back on. So I wished him well and said if he regained his humanity later, to feel free to look me back up and re-friend me on Facebook. I’ll probably never hear from him again.
Less than 2 weeks between (what appeared to be a sincere, determined) “We WILL be friends” and “I’m leaving”.
I had a nightmare last Sunday night too. THe worst I’ve had in over a year. I went to bed happy after a dance and woke up 5 hours later screaming into my pillow, wishing to G-d I had someone to hold me. He was being reclusive in his room and I tried to coax him out. Of course, I’m too proud to call a friend or ask for help but here was this “friend” 10 steps away and I wanted him to come out. Hang out. Talk to me. Watch a movie, have a glass of wine and laugh like we did two nights earlier. A friendly distraction. But he only got irritated and left the house.
So I pushed him out. The “needy roomate” has a bad dream and wants a hug but I’m not on his short-list of people he cares about. But his phone goes off every few minutes with an incoming text or email to which he readily responds. That nightmare clung to me for two days. I hovered on the verge of a panic attack and was late to work, distracted, irritable, kept disappearing to the bathroom to cry. Granted, I’m surrounded by cohorts with some degree of PTSD but what do you say when they catch you red-eyed? I had a nightmare.
I feel so stupid. To be this upset, to feel so rejected and abandoned by someone who I hardly knew, even after 5 years of social media acquaintance and the shared venn diagram of social circles. Not “as advertised” certainly. But I was emotionally invested. Hey Empaths, how do YOU shut off your “give a fuck”? Can you? I’m not asking G-d to make me different in this sense, but some control would be nice. Like faucet valves, adjusting to a comfortable emotional temperature rather than being scalded or numb. Balance? Shielding? Advice?

Popular advice is to surround yourself with only positive people, cut negativity out of your life entirely. Isn’t that selfish? Everyone can’t be “up” all the time. Mother Teresa had bad days, years in fact. Would you cut a good person out of your life to save yourself? But because of this thought, I tell myself “Don’t call for help. Don’t bring anyone down with you.” So I hold it in (or spill it here, to an anonymous audience of none). Is that healthy? Somehow, I think not…

Hey but the good news is, I can return to walking around the house naked.

“This time at least I am not so cold” – Chvrches

Eclipse.

I made an agreement with myself that I would not write again until I had something positive to say.

In the months that passed, the last of my Zoo died (my sweet old sick kitty) , I gained back every pound (and then some more) that I had shed post-deployment, and yet, I am standing again at the mouth of the cave of depression. There is sunlight and there is hope.

What hasn’t changed is my relationship status. If I couldnt get laid for my birthday, I wanted to be having such a great time that I didnt care. So I traveled to Alaska for a blinding 3 day break to obscure the marking of my 39th year on this earth. It was too costly and circumstances prevented me from full immersion in nature but I hiked half way up a glacier, saw moose, and caught up with an old Army buddy, green beret-turned-Alaskan state trooper. So, worth it.

Still, from the moment the plane taxied back into my home state, the panic set in. The desperation. The loneliness. The paranoia. Things at work got worse (and that is all I can or care to say about that). I began cognitive therapy. Only a few sessions, unfortunately. I appreciate the theory of rewiring the brain but like teaching an old dog new tricks, it takes time and practice. Like writing, I did not dedicate my time and energy towards it.

Then another major disappointment from family. I am close to my family even if they are not close to me and this was the biggest blow to my heart to date. The brutal undeniable revelation that I do not mean to others what they mean to me. Not by a fraction.

Deeper I went. My anger boiled over and I lost control. What was worse is I didn’t care about the collateral damage of my rage. Fuck ‘em all.

I walked out of work.

I quit therapy.

I continued to make plans and never kept any of them.

I stopped dancing.

Everything full-stop.

Then my Jewish mother suggested I call a Catholic Priest. “There is something lingering from your last deployment that even a year later, you haven’t been able to shake. I think that’s why the cat still wont come near you. You need to be blessed. So does your home.” Why call a Catholic? Because I don’t know of any Rabbis who do this sort of thing. I still cant say the word ‘witch’ because that alludes to a power that I do not feel that I possess. Still, I have performed rituals to include clearing my home. I hadn’t done it since the Spring but even that, ‘casting’, ritual prayer, was something else I had stopped doing. As I have said before, my faith was long gone and if I prayed, it was only out of habit. And here may have come a point where perhaps, I required outside intervention.

I called the city Diocese (which oddly, is less than 2 miles from my home) to ask if a priest would be willing to bless my home, but he was out of town. I then put out a call to a couple of Wiccan witch friends of mine and asked if they might know anyone “but it must be done in the name of G-d and in Christ” I explained. Later, one of them called me back to say she knew of someone who was a “Light Worker”. A Catholic, ordained, a psychic, a Christian “witch”. I was skeptical. I truly don’t deal with psychics much and really preferred a Priest. But in the short span of a 15 minute phone conversation with this woman, I knew she was the real deal. More intuitive than any ‘psychic’ I had ever met–of course she ‘knew things’– but most importantly, she was a saved Christian and everything she did was in the His name. She confirmed that ‘nothing lurks’ in my home and the darkness came from me. So she blessed me and cleared the home regardless. But we spent over an hour talking before the holy water began to fly. We also performed a banishing ritual. It was one I had performed before: names on paper, people to forgive, painful events to release, we prayed over them, then burned them. Oils, sage, candles, holy water, a bible, a crucifix… The paper turned to ash in the space of a breath. I was ready to let go, she determined.

“You are a spiritual woman,” she explained later, “you are not of this world so why are you allowing yourself to be so burdened by it?” And stop projecting myself onto others then being let down when they fail me. Let go or be dragged. Brilliant words of wisdom from Pinterest.

I wont go into the details (too personal, too lengthy) but I was unburdened that evening and have been in the weeks since. Her first words to me when we spoke over the phone was “I see an Eclipse. G-d is still there. You don’t see or feel Him but he IS STILL THERE in your life.” I hadn’t even admitted to her yet that that was my intent, my wish. I didn’t need a husband, or a lover, or sex, or family or kids or a better job or body…I needed peace. I needed G-d back in my life. I was going to tell her that but before I could, she told me He had never left.

To paraphrase, C. S. Lewis said that we were never meant to be at peace in this world lest we never wish to leave it for something greater. At best, we would catch brief respites of peace, to leave us desiring more.

I am at the mouth of the cave and the sun is warm on my face…