1.20.20

Progress Report:

If my social calendar is any indication, I’m benefiting from the intention I set for My Last Chance Midlife Make-It: Regular lunch dates, comedy club weekends, cooking, crafting, old repairs “I’m meaning to do” … DONE!

The bullet journal is the key. It’s so simple. Annoyingly simple. I’ve thought about bullet journaling since the craze began. It appeals to every piece of me: LISTS, LISTS, checking off LISTS. LISTS, colorful LISTS. Organized LISTS, LISTS, LISTS!

Look at everything I’ve done! Marinate in delicious minutia! How I adore you, shimmering pens. Leaves and glitter climb columns of beautiful lists, lists, lists! Oh, the euphoria of checking off LISTS!

DO WHAT YOU LIKE. For the love of all that’s holy, what are you waiting for?! It’d be amusing if it weren’t so annoying. It would be infuriating if it weren’t so fun!

I’m seeing old friends, making plans, making food, watching less TV. I’ve joined a Book Club! I’ve always wanted to. I read a lot. I’m constantly asking friends or family to read this tome or that so we can talk about it. No one bites. Or a tepid response to something that inspired me is so deflating, I don’t ask again.

A girl from belly dance invited me to her group last year. She lives in BFE Suburbia. The last thing I want is to navigate some paltry transit extension out there – in the dark, cruel middle of winter – and, worse, try to get home again later, when even downtown options can be limited. At last, I got noisy on the group page. Week after week, I asked if anyone would be willing to hop off the freeway, pick me up from someplace I can bus to, and hop back on. It worked.

I’m loud. I’M NOT QUIET. Fear and insincerity yield nothing. Everyone knows this, but living it is something else. I have a voice, goddamnit. I need a ride.

Thank you!

It’s going to be wonderful! The book, right up my alley. The women, just who I was looking for. Mothers, daughters, lawyers, hippie dippies, and at least one miscreant.

So far, so good. Thank you, Hindsight 2020.

Oh! New glasses. (Check!) Restored to 2020 Vision, I can see behind; I can see ahead.

Headlong into Hindsight 2020!

It’s here! It’s here! It’s actually happening!

Did anyone else do that? Set an intention for Hindsight 2020, when they’d have all their shit figured out? Well, I did, and I marked it a long time ago. Like, 20 years or more.

The confluence of midlife and that symbolic cliché struck me long before I knew what a bitch this shift would really be. I mean, I knew it would be. My early life was painful. I knew it would be the work of my life to process all that.

I planned to have it done by next month, haha! The weird thing is, I do.

2019 was the first successful hard year I’ve had. It was productive. There were so many opportunities to state feelings of upset, anger, and fear without freaking out, and I did.

The thing I have that I didn’t before is confidence. I trust myself for the first time.

The sexual violence I experienced during festival season, culminating in Burning Man, was a trauma I only just released… last week. I didn’t realize how much of it I was still carrying around until I wasn’t.

I’ll never allow predators to remain again. I know it, because I don’t apologize anymore for my limit. I don’t question anymore if I’m worth walking away from people who don’t honor my boundaries. My safety’s not negotiable.

It’s not asking too much. Refusing another chance – when your needs have been stated and ignored, multiple times – is normal. It’s called Healthy Boundaries.

“Actions speak louder than words.” Listen, dummy!

(It takes time to learn a foreign language, and quite literally, boundaries are not my native tongue. It is what it is. I got it now. I probably have an accent that gives away my place of origin, but that’s fine.)

“Fool me once, shame on you… twice, shame on me” is too reactionary. The benefit of the doubt might enrich us both. Show me it was a slip-up, not the norm. Or don’t, but that tells me about you, not me. I’m not shamed by that.

I legit did not know that. I couldn’t connect it to emotional truth, that I really am allowed to call disrespect by its name, and walk away.

believe them

I’ll give one chance more. Fix it or confirm it. Your choice.

“Disregard those who disregard.” That’s my MO. No guilt or guess-work.

Y’all, I know my boundaries for the first time. Take that in. It’s life-altering.

Kids who grow up with abuse have to love the person(s) hurting them. Boundaries don’t form there. I forgive myself for being a perfect target, because I didn’t create the circumstances that made me a victim.

It’s weird that it took me so long. I knew what I knew what I knew… but not really. I knew what I didn’t want. I had an idea what I did. But real boundaries? I just didn’t have any. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what they were. I was ruled by fear of what I didn’t want to repeat, and terror of being found out: I can’t do better. (I’m not worthy of better!)

Well, I am. Let’s build something!

Now, the only thing keeping me from the future of my dreams is inertia. And that’s a big one for me. I’m lazy. I could blame my luxurious, indolent Taurus. I could blame a life of vigilant anxiety. (You hunker down and dip your toe in, never swimming freely.) Yeah, sure, all the things. I could blame. But I’m staring down 50. It’s now. Holy shit!

I’ve joked for decades, “My epitaph will read, ‘Lovingly gave half her life to sleep.'” If I don’t get up now, I will die never having truly committed to any life. I’m sitting, waiting for it, watching. Get UP and make it!

I feel myself very clearly looking behind me at a wild, manic, amazing first half. I see me – oh, wow – aching for that girl, understanding her, cringing and regretting her, LOVING her. I’m so strong! I survived! I fought like hell not to stick my head in the sand that shields my family from reality. I’d rather kill myself than hide from the truth. I LOVE THAT ABOUT ME. I stared down death to live honestly.

What I see now is courage. I had strength without the tools to voice it in meaningful ways. I was screaming for my very life, and that’s how it felt. What I see now is power expressing itself weakly, and it will again, but not as often, and not blindly.

I’m not as afraid as I was, even two years ago. I think that’s about where the shift took place in space and time. The last two years. In other words, now.

I see myself pivoting, with intention, 180 degrees, to look out on a tabula rasa. Its blankness doesn’t scare me. I don’t have to control right this second what might happen out there. I’m going to make what I make, and I’m excited! I want to start walking, now.

A sad truth of this change has been the adjustment of several relationships. Unfortunately, young Christie’s friends aren’t used to this middle-aged lady’s insight. I built those friendships when I was sick, and those patterns of interaction don’t work for me anymore. I’m not operating from weakness, and I’m not apologizing.

I had to leave a decades-old friendship last year. I sent a card six months later for her birthday, a love letter, really. She called. I answered, glad to put it to rest and move on, only to have her start up with justifications and explanations, and a complete lack of awareness. She was still in a fight that didn’t matter anymore. I tried to work through it – I believe in working through it – but we were talking in circles. At the end of the day she confirmed what I saw for the first time six months prior: a woman who will not share responsibility for misunderstandings. I owned my shit and wouldn’t let her off the hook for hers. I deserve friends who apologize when they’re wrong, of their own volition. I do.

She can’t. She’s not sorry. She’s comfortable in a world where I blame myself for the behavior of others. “I’m fucked up. What do I know?”

Not anymore. Level up.

I had no idea she needed to be “the healthy one” until I got better. In 22 years, we had two fights. After the first, I acquiesced (apologizing without reciprocation) because I needed her and didn’t know my worth, so I couldn’t recognize that she didn’t either. After last year’s argument, I couldn’t stay in a friendship that won’t grow with me.

I love her so much, and I know she’s out there with no clue why our friendship is over. She actually thinks it’s because we had a fight. She needs me weak, and if given the opportunity, she’d go over the minutia again, to prove her point under the guise of resolving things, when it’s long-since moot.

That friend is the keeper of my youth and beauty, of joyful exuberance, freedom, and fun! I’m still fun, can’t help it, but it’s different. I’m fun, with edge. And I love my edge! It’s wicked and sharp, still silly and laughing at my own expense, but not… young anymore. Anyway, the pictures in my mind of this sweet friend and me are footloose and fancy free, if anything ever was. We pranced through mountains singing, and swam in glacial lakes – head underwater three times or it doesn’t count – not a care in the world. She’s a hallmark of an unpolluted era. She holds my innocence, and I love her forever.

Moose Falls

Some badass chick I used to know ~ 1995

kayaking Hoback

Adventure Duo! ~ 1995

I wrote about the friendship that changed after Burning Man, the couple I introduced who got married out there and then hung out on Zafod’s art car after he assaulted me. It doesn’t hurt anymore to accept them at their level. They were friends of long standing that I thought of as intimates, but I see now a childish eagerness to make family of peripheral community. They’re friends. Their values are different from mine. Okay.

I like them. I enjoy them. I’ll seek them out at every gathering. I invest nothing more.

One more important friendship is in 2019’s crucible, on the verge of moving from sister to drinking buddy. We’re in process, and I think we’ll be okay, but my new boundaries are being met with a resistance familiar to me now. The equalizing of power imbalances doesn’t feel as hopeful and thrilling to others as it does me, it seems.

“I’m changing,” I told her. “Keep up or don’t.”

I have no delusions that my patterns and problems will go away, but I’m a different person. EMDR is hard. I hate/love it. I’m hoping to love/hate it soon, but one year in, I still can’t sleep soundly the night of a session. It’s disruptive to a brain!

I have gods-honest panic attacks now, not just the white-knuckle, jaw-clenching stranglehold I’ve had on the day-to-day. On one hand, I prefer it. It feels more honest, less monster under the bed. “Okay, you’re real. Let’s face this down and really talk to it.” On the other hand, panic attacks fucking suck.

I asked my therapist if I’m having fits now because growing new neuro-pathways has basically turned me into a toddler. He said yes, haha! It feels like it. It eases my mind a little to think of them as the tantrums of helpless child because, well, it amuses me, and because a phase is less menacing than a condition.

I don’t have a panic disorder. I have control issues, sure, but I inherited those from a scary childhood. I expect it to settle, because I also feel, for the first time, like a mature adult who can handle her shit without losing it.

I DARED, and I’m so glad I did. I see real results from intense therapy.

(Sometimes, when my practitioner passes over the hand buzzers, I still see them coming at me in slow motion. It’s the craziest thing, like I can watch how I used to “pop out,” but I stay in my body now. It makes me feel faint, and I sense my whole body, the fluttering in my gut, the tingling and numbness in my limbs of staying put instead of running away.) (At this point, as a kid, I just started screaming god-knows-what stream of consciousness, and by age 7-8, I was being mocked for how “smart” I was. I couldn’t stop the violence, but I could get in your head.)

I’m not afraid of that screaming thing in me anymore. It kept me alive. It’s the same warrior that made me willing to stare this down, and put it to rest. Real strength is nascent in me yet, but I trust it. I believe it. I can do it. I am.

It’s not my fault what happened to me, but it’s my responsibility now.
go bravelyLooking forward, the only thing I have to confront (that has nothing to do with cPTSD) is that lazy streak. I have to muster up some self-discipline! I got no time left. If I keep sitting, I will actually die waiting for my life to happen.

So, to that end, here are my plans:

Get my ESL certification in preparation for moving to Bolivia to teach English.

Finish my recovery. (Unlike Donald Trump, my bone spurs were real. You don’t get out of Vietnam. You get surgery.)

gross foot

It was so swollen under the bandages, I have to slough that skin entirely. The peeling!

Keep up Afro-Brazilian drum lessons until I can…

Return to yoga and dance!

Audition for Samba Fogo drum corps.

Restring my guitar and start online lessons.

Participate in SLC’s 3rd annual Rock Camp for Womyn.

Build the E11 Temple again (Hindsight 2020 theme!) and join an art installation crew.

Tarot… Actually learn the deck, and do readings at E11.

Cook something healthy at least once a week, for the love! (I’m skinny fat.)

Oh. BULLET JOURNAL! Why have I never done that? Oh, yeah. I’m not busy enough to need a planner. But I love lists, and I love pretty things. Boom, done. Bullet journal.

Write short blog posts. 😆

The end.

Cured!

gentle power

I didn’t believe quiet strength was available to me until 2019.

(P.S. Two fights in 22 years? [222!] … Ignoring my experience and intuition is my Achilles heel. “I’m tripping myself up” repeating old patterns of unhealthy relationships. Foot metaphors? [I fixed my toe, and relationships are changing.] I love synchronicities, and that’s too coincidental not to notice. *hi, angels*)
repeat repair

Gen X Women

Interesting. I said to myself just yesterday, “Generation X was the perfect name for us. We’re nothing but a bridge between Boomers and Millennials. Crossbeams. We hold shit up.” Then my friend posted the following link on Facebook.

This article is long, validating, terrifying, and excellent. Ambiguous Loss has a name! And I’m not alone in rage.

The New Midlife Crisis

“Like X, for whatever,” I thought aloud. “I give up. X for cancel us out. X, for cross right over us. Without us, Millennials couldn’t ‘speak their truth.’ We fucking insisted on it!”

Gen X was pretty much there just to be a battering ram against the old guard, as far as I’m concerned. Thing is, the Boomers were the original revolutionaries, and look what planet-killing warmongers they became!

*sigh*

Maybe we’re all just assholes.

X is whatever value you give it. Perhaps in mid-life it’s a negative integer, but screw the “U-Turn” the article describes for other generations. X that shit out and start over! Isn’t that what we’ve been doing all along?

Perhaps I’m just Oppositional Defiant. Perhaps I’m a fucking survivor. Today I feel depressed, displaced, discouraged. I’m still getting up tomorrow.

X marks the spot. Start here. Start now.

Murky Full Moon

I still feel spun near the center of a Universal smack-down, but I’m ebbing out of the survival zone. Last month’s eclipse is still with me and hurting, specifically because my ability to have fun with it made it all the more bittersweet. Sometimes it makes me sad to see how good I am at making the best of a bad situation. I don’t know how to explain that, except to say that the little girl growing up beaten, abandoned, furious, and scared to death just figured out how. And this middle-aged gal still has it. How can that be sad?

It’s bittersweet, too, because though I was able to make a joyous occasion of it, I could simply have gone home and enjoyed my family, the spectacular countryside, and the magic. I chose instead to scrape out another miracle of mood-alteration. I guess I needed to believe I still could. Nice it didn’t take drugs, like the old party girl would.

I hope in the second half of my life, I’ll finally let go the need to prove myself to myself. It’s like the first half was so hard, especially the nascent beginning, that I simply refuse to believe that anything is real or solid or sticking around if it doesn’t just suck.

Thing is, that’s childish, and I’m the only one who can grow up, or refuse to. I’m in danger of not doing it at all if I don’t get this shit behind me, like, yesterday. I’m 44.

Christie, trust that the skills are in there to enjoy and appreciate magic and beauty every day. They don’t disappear or stop coming if you know that. Expecting miracles is different from taking them for granted. They’re your right and your routine.

I suspect that they’ll become more powerful if I let them in every day, rather than needing each one to be epic. It’s just the way it is. I’m connected and I know it. So are we all. Nothing special, just a walking marvel, ‘s all.

So, here I am in full moon energy during the day, a red-gray sun snuffed by wildfires severe enough to cause evacuations in northern Utah. It’s bad. The throat and eyes sting, mountain beauty’s blotted out, and the whole damned planet is burning or flooding or turning night at midday, just 2-odd weeks ago. It’s eerie and spooky, and everyday run-of-the-mill. It all is, and I’m busy cleaning up the mess I’ve made, of my life, my family, my namesake, my most important friendship, and my last relationship.

****

Today, this memory popped up on Facebook. It seemed especially poignant and timely, so I’m marking it here to make myself accountable. Of the memory, I wrote:

“Two years ago, the last of my 3 best girlfriends left Salt Lake City. At that time, I began planning my move, too, to the next phase/location of my adventure, but found continued wonderful reasons to stay, as one does. The last month+ has got me asking the Universe, sincerely, “Is Utah kicking me out?” I’m anchored through November with a passion project 24 years in the making, which would make any big transitions impossible until the end of whatever lease I’m able to come up with next month, which tells me: ONE YEAR. My life purpose for one year is to look at 20 years in the Promised Land and squeeze in all the personal goals I meant to reach but didn’t, face character deficits I ignored or pretended away, and set myself up for the second half of my life. I don’t want to leave next year, but I’ll have a picture of and real progress toward a clear 5-yr intention, with no particular destination in mind. What’s next? It’s terrifying, exciting, bittersweet. It’s time.”

jojo's good-bye

Jojo’s good-bye… Germany, here she comes! Aug. 29, 2015

 

Downswing

I feel icky. And then I feel bratty. And then I feel like I can’t get safe enough. I need money.

It started yesterday. My cat has long-since established dominance in my new place. My roommate’s cat holds his own just enough that she doesn’t attack him (much), but there is the odd chase here and there. Penny is obsessed with Oliver, and his room is her favorite place in the house.

Several weeks ago, my roommate caught on that she was using his litter box. I was horrified, of course. That’s complete alpha ownership behavior, and poor Ollie must feel so violated and insecure.

Recently, my roommate changed litter brands and Penny didn’t approve. She pooped outside the box and he stepped in it. He, my roommate; not he, the picked-on cat. His slippers were ruined and he ground shit into the carpet all over his office.

I fell apart.

As far as I was concerned, it’s all over. There’s no coming back from that. I felt like an idiot. She’s been at it forever, and we just got wise. It’s not going to get better. Ollie’s not going to hold his ground any more than he does, but she’ll keep getting bolder.

The only solution I could immediately find was to keep my girls captive in the bedroom while I’m at work, and I wanted to cry. That’s fine for Fat Cricket, my little Shadow Cat. She never leaves our room, never has. But Penny basks in the sunlight of living room windows, or on a recliner and blankets in the spare room, and on Ollie’s bed while he cowers underneath it.

She can scarcely stand our door being closed overnight. She wakes me up with the most pathetic (hilarious) chorus of mews, begging to wander in the dark. Every night. Her vocabulary of varied pitch, vowels, and syllables is staggering, and utterly delightful. “Oh! You tell a good sad story,” I tease her, and readjust to fall quickly back to sleep.

I can’t bear it. I can’t imprison her.

My mind leaps. “It’s over. I have to move.”

I tried to keep myself in check. No need to “awfulize,” or borrow trouble. Let it play out. There might be an option you can’t see in this state of mind. If not, you face what comes next when it comes. Today, you just clean the carpet.

I couldn’t! I was pouty, angry, sullen. The mood of the entire house changed, and I felt that old shame for using my energy to hold everyone hostage. Negativity was palpable. Jax kept reassuring me and I wanted to scream, “Shut up!”

Even my cats looked at me with that searching anxiety. That’s the worst. I felt awful. I was mad, at a cat! Who has no ulterior motive, who’s being perfectly feline. She’s alpha, because she is. That’s all. And I was mad at her!

I was mad at myself, for thinking her dominance was cute. For thinking I was some kind of cat whisperer who’d negotiated a sort of peace between the 2 of them. For thinking it was getting better. For blurring the lines with my roommate, and spending most nights in his bed and not mine. Why shouldn’t she?

I was mad that I can’t afford to live in Salt Lake without a roommate, mad that I’ll never be able to buy a house. I was mad at all the stupid decisions I made in my 30s that cost me so much. I was mad at all I’ve lost and given up, and can’t get back. I was mad that I’m getting older and running out of time to do anything I once dreamed I might. I was mad to know that my life will never be anything more than scraping by. I was mad that my roommate thinks his yard is xeriscaped, when really it’s just overgrown and ugly. I was mad that I’ll never have a haven of my own. I was mad that I’ll always be alone.

I’m mad that that’s exactly what I want, and I’m still not satisfied. I’m mad that I’m losing my looks. I’m mad that I failed, and now I’ve lost my bloom. It’s all over.

You know, perfectly reasonable stuff like that. Meow >^..^<

Online Dating and Other Misadventures

Here we go again!

I got a love note from OkCupid, telling me how dismal life has been since I deactivated my account a year ago. The wheels started turning again (“Maybe…”) so, sure, hell, why not? I rejoined.

I think online dating is a young person’s game. I simply cannot force a connection with someone I meet there, even if the date is pleasant. Even with dynamic, interesting conversation. Even with a good-looking fellow. I don’t know; some kind of mental block.

And those are the rare finds. Generally, they’re of the trying-too-hard variety. Must we be Always On. Worse are those with screen names like “QualityGenes,” and I find myself wanting to remove them from the gene pool.

I know it’s hard out there, but no.

I’ll give it another week, and if all I feel is hostility for myself and all others in the gene pool, I’ll get out of the water and back in the shade.

Speaking of young people, I got chatted up (insistently pursued) by a PUPPY of 21 the other day! He was very gracious and charming about not taking no for an answer, bless him. He did eventually, but – goodness! – he really believed we needed an affair, haha!)

It was a fun flirtation, and a great boost (gorgeous young specimen, this one, looking all of 16, as far as I can tell anymore). The young’ uns asked me out en masse 5 or 6 years ago and then stopped en masse about a year ago, so it was nice to be the sexy older woman again to some young bloke wanting lessons.

Anyway, let’s be honest. I had a temporary affair in a temporary city and, nearly a month on, I’m still pining for him. I know he’s only human. He’s perfect because he was gone before either of us could show or find flaws, but… PERFECT, I’m telling you!

He. was. perfect.

*sigh*gene pool

My Cat Needs Surgery and I Have Cancer

Well, it’s a grabby headline, anyway.

My poor kitty. Her ear has swollen even more since yesterday. Any more, and it will pop on its own. Maybe that would be cheaper. I feel so sad for her. It’s been one thing or another with her since she was 4 weeks old, from the innocuous to the terrifying. I’m always amazed at the next new thing. “Seriously? It never ends for you!”

I’ve decided she has a compromised immune system that makes her vulnerable to attacks of this, that, and everything. “Well, it’s obvious you’re my children,” I tell them. “One of you never stops talking and the other has auto-immune disease. We’re family!”

How I love them. =^..^=pen and crick

And the medical information I had to worry about all night? Well, I didn’t worry. I felt comforted, by my mom and my cheerleaders on high. I spoke with the nurse first thing this morning, and my biopsy came back positive for squamous cell skin cancer. No biggie. I’ll wait for the site to finish healing, and in a month I go back in to start freezing it to death.

When I mapped my genome 2 years ago, it revealed a higher than average risk of squamous and basal cell carcinomas. Both are relatively harmless and very common among fair-skinned people. I’m a redhead in the desert, and I’m a cyclist. Though my hands didn’t burn in the last decade, I confess I didn’t always wear sunscreen. Sheer bike gloves afforded some protection, but I knew better. It’s begun. (I was comforted to learn that I have only average risk for melanoma, the more deadly skin cancer.)

Yesterday, mom told me she got a cream from her dermy to put on her face for a couple of weeks to seek out the bad patches and burn them. She said she looks like she has acne on every square inch of skin. “Poor mom!” I laughed. “I’m sorry you’re ugly!”

Hopefully, it’s like a chemical peel and takes age spots, too, because ALL of my freckles have morphed these days and I, no doubt, will be getting that treatment myself one day.

Mid-ife was never supposed to happen to me!