Saturday, September 17, 2016

Creating Your Life: Suburbs and Marriage Part 2 with Neighbors


Two years ago I wrote the first part of this blog. Ray was so not happy with it. I hadn't thought much about him, as I wrote, until he was hurt by it. He thought it said I hated my life and somehow he was responsible. Re reading it, I get that. It was supposed to be about partnership and how that manifests in a marriage when two people don't want the same thing at the same time. The fact is, one person doesn't know what they want all the time much less two. I was unconscious of what I wanted and the blog told the truth. When I write, I'm a spewer.

These days it's laughably obvious I've only ever wanted to live like we do now. In a small bright condo, over a juice bar/coffee shop/dry cleaner, in a small feeling urban community, in the giant city that makes up the space between San Diego and L.A. 


As a young parent living in a family suburban home I'd daydream about living downtown over the bookstore. Having coffee downstairs with other downtown dwellers. My neighbor having an emergency key to my house. When we traveled and stayed in cities with large urban populations, like Manhattan, Seattle, or Los Angeles I'd end up with a longing I couldn't quite identify.

Part One of this blog was written after visiting a friend in Portland Oregon. She lived in the city and we walked to dinner, walked to drinks, walked to her pharmacy. Her neighbors dropped by to chat. She'd been recently widowed. They brought her food and drink and their children to distract her. I left with a longing. So I wrote and spewed.

In Arizona I envied my niece who lived in a $400 a month studio apartment across from a dive bar literally a block away from the poorest and most dangerous streets in the city. I envied her for the coffee shop she was known at, the friends she ran into on the street, and her neighbors. They drank coffee, smoked cigarettes, met for drinks, shared stories. Watched each others backs in a hood with some problems. While I lived in a 5000 square foot home with a custom pool/hot tub/deck/bar/kitchen yadda yadda yadda. In a neighborhood unnaturally quiet all day every day.

My love and longing for a way of life outside the suburbs, the only life Ray'd ever known or aspired to, was a problem for us. It made Ray scared. He wondered out loud once, what would become of us if I was unhappy with the way we lived. We mostly ignored it. The way long term couples do. We gnawed at the edges every now and then. Looking at housing in a high end historical gated community in the middle of downtown Phoenix. Near where my niece lived but with all the amenities Ray loved. Never finding the thing we could both love.

Ray found our town before I did. A friend of his lived here. He visited he loved it. The community, the connection, the walking, the weather. He came home with a light in his eyes. I didn't know it then but recognize it now as joy brought on by relief. He'd seen something for both of us. Because he knows me well and loves me more, he then gifted it to me.

This week two of our neighbors are out of town. I sat with another neighbor and went over the schedule for who was watching one neighbors dog on what day, who had the other neighbors cats, when the plants were being watered. Ray helped an elderly neighbor last week, on memorial day we had a hood BBQ. We pot lucked, sat in the community pool, laughed. When my granddaughter was here a neighbor taught her to make bracelets. She spent the day there. That same neighbor texts all of us when she's at the store to see if we need anything.

While I was in NYC last week three neighbors asked about Ray's health and if there was anything they could help with. They meant it. I didn't come back from NYC longing for something. I came back thankful for what I have. I also have an emergency key to more than one of my neighbors homes. I love not living in the burbs.



THE END

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Definitely Not Skiing



I was thinking about skiing this morning. It was out of my income range as a teenager, even though I lived at the base of a popular Idaho ski mountain. Most of the kids in my high school had grown up on that mountain and spent weekends on it. I’d moved to this particular resort town mid freshman year with a struggling single mother. We didn’t do things like Ski.
Later, as a young adult, I skied. My first husband and I honeymooned at the Idaho ski resort I couldn’t afford as a kid. After our divorce a new boyfriend bought the kids and I season passes to a different Idaho resort. We would make the long arduous trek from the city to the mountain on weekends. Packing lunches and gear and a thermos of coffee.
Skiing holds absolutely no appeal anymore. That’s what I was thinking about this morning. How much of what I cared about, spent my time on, or desired has changed as I age.   
I no longer want to lay on a beach or by a pool for hours. Who doesn’t want to lay on a beach? Myself and my also older now best beach buddy.  It was something we loved as young women and spent countless hours doing. Now neither of us can last twenty minutes before getting hot and bored.
Discuss my relationship for hours on end. I don’t want to do that anymore either. A few years back I was out to drinks with female co-workers ranging from mid-twenties to mid-thirties. They were going on and on ad-nausea about the men they were dating or wanted to date or married to or divorcing. I wanted to bang my head on the table. The thought “oh.my.fucking.gawd I sounded just like that then” admonishing me.
Buy things. As a young woman there were so many “things” I wanted. Not anymore. That’s likely a combination of age and accumulation. There aren’t many things I coveted left for me to try at this age. I wanted a house in a nice neighborhood where all those other families lived. Got that. I wanted a pair of boots in both black and brown. Got those. I wanted to go to Belize. Been there. Three times.
I have become my mother. There is nothing to buy that makes me happy. I used to get frustrated around her birthdays and Christmas. She didn’t want any thing. Now I am her. The older I get the more I want to shed things. A smaller house, fewer clothes, less jewelry, cheaper car, fewer dishes.
To “be” someone. To be special. To be unique. To have a title that said I was s.o.m.e.b.o.d.y. That one was stubborn but it did go away. Completely. Now I’m just grateful to be what everyone else is. Human, alive, flawed, and simply part of a big universe I don’t understand. Instead of being someone I would prefer to be of service to others. In whatever small way I can.
Don’t read that last line and think I’m altruistic. I’m not. I’m just bored by things that in the long run, at the end of my life, don’t matter a lot. What I own, what my title is, who thought I was pretty. Not sure how skiing or laying on a beach factor into that. If at all. Just pondering.
And not skiing. Definitely not skiing.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

This is Not About Women Motorcycle Riders...



 
I don’t want to make this blog about being a woman motorcycle rider. For one thing I get slightly annoyed by the focus on a rider because she’s a woman. Whether it’s from herself or from the people around her. To some degree it takes away from the accomplishment of mastering a sport that in fact, is not at all gender preferential. It does not require testosterone or strength. Unlike being an NFL Linebacker or some other thing that is based entirely on stuff only men have.
But I do want this to be about women’s issues. And….
 I understand the systemic bigotry women have overcome in order to ride. We weren’t/aren’t expected to be capable of it. Not only have I had men (MANY of them) ask me how I ride such a “big” motorcycle, but I’ve had women who were interested in riding ask me the exact same question. In both cases I point out the machine is powered by gas, not muscle. I also point out that an 800 pound touring bike on its side cannot be lifted up by a man on his own either. Well there’s a technique but that story would be for a motorcycle blog. Which this isn’t.
Women aren’t “mechanical” or “spatial”. It’s true I’M not mechanical or spatial. It’s not true it’s because I’m female. After I met my husband, seeing how not mechanically oriented I was, he asked me “how the hell did you manage to take care of a motorcycle”? Which baffled me. I’d think the answer would be obvious; “I paid someone…duh”.
Unless it’s your only transportation motorcycling is a luxury. The machines are expensive, they usually have to be insured and they require specialized gear. Women on the whole are lower income than men. Combine that with the other factors and it means historically women rode on back of motorcycles men bought, maintained and operated. A number of years ago there was a man’s motorcycling t-shirt with a saying on back: “If you can read this the bitch fell off”. I have one that says “if you can read this the bitch just passed you”. Love that shirt. 
The most insidious prejudice about women riders relates to the danger. It’s a dangerous sport. If they get hurt or killed they are hurting their families and that is simply irresponsible. Which if true, is just as true of men. The difference for men is a dangerous sport or hobby is portrayed as manly, and courageous. Not irresponsible. You’re a stud if you’re playing football and risking death or injury. You’re a stud if you race a motorcycle or ride one, you’re a stud if you cage fight as a hobby or your job is in the military. If you’re a woman risking death or injury you’re being selfish and irresponsible. “How could you do that? What about your children?!” they ask.
Many of those NFL guys have children. I guess if they’re dead or disabled from an injury it doesn’t matter because they were manly men and their widows will be rich? A different kind of bigotry towards women all together.
Last but not least, as a woman on a bike, the men around me expect they’re better riders than I am. I often ride with groups of women and have had comments by men about a group of women riders being “scary”. In the first ten years I rode the only people I’d ever known who wrecked a motorcycle were my husband’s male friends. One of them, an experienced motocross rider but an inexperienced highway rider and the other one literally just drove off a curve at 55mph. Of course when my female friend overshot a corner comments were made about her being a woman.
It isn’t just men who think women are automatically less capable. I’ve known women who only feel safe riding their motorcycle with their husbands in the lead. Also baffling as he isn’t in control of their motorcycle. I see women riders, even experienced ones, deferring to men and accepting unneeded advice from them about how to handle a situation. Having been told forever and ever that motorcycles are primarily for men, they can’t help but believe it on some level.
Women who ride because of men is an entirely different blog. It happens. Harley Davidson knows it. They’ve got an extremely sexist and annoying commercial running that shows a woman on a Harley while the narrator is saying “So and so met her husband on her blah blah model Harley Davidson”. Fuck you Harley.
Considering the history one can potentially understand the self-congratulatory tone women riders sometimes adopt. It can be annoying but it isn’t unwarranted. Every time a woman rolls on a throttle she’s doing something she wasn’t supposed to be able to do. Something she’s still not expected to do well.
Yay for us

 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

For all the Women Who Don't Behave Well

Four years ago I had an impulsive desire to film a three day motorcycle ride I’d been on annually with a group of women for, at the time, ten years. I got the idea after watching homemade videos a regional musician with a cult following had fans send in. They were GOOD. Made by mostly teens and young adults using smart phones they told excellent stories. I thought “I want to tell a story”. I wanted to capture the magic that happens when this group, most of whom only saw each other once a year on this ride, got together. There is no intention behind this film other than for my friends and family and now for you. The women, the people who have found my blog. If you've read my blog and liked it then maybe my goofy little video will make you feel as inspired, energetic and free as it does me. This is not a 60 second clip. It’s a full 35 minute home video. For my wind sisters.  The women who don’t behave well.







Wednesday, December 31, 2014

THE 50'S SUCK SHE SAID



 
Some time ago my sister in law began telling me “the fifties suck”. She’s nearly sixty and has nothing good to say about her fifties. I was there for my sister in laws fifties. They really did suck.
Recently, at fifty, a woman I went to high school with died of cancer. We barely knew each other. Mary was simply a kid in a small town in an Idaho high school who was kind to me, the new girl. The outsider. Teeny tiny, blonde and beautiful. She was a hellacious arm wrestler.

A week before she died I thought of her for the first time in decades. Wondering what her life had become. Her life was over. Weird.
One of my closest friends got cancer in her fifties. Diagnosed the weekend before she was scheduled to start a new job in a new town. The pink slip from the new job came six months later. In that time she’d undergone one major surgery, one less major surgery, chemo and radiation. The entirety of it left her unable to absorb nutrients or gain weight and leeched her energy. Much of her fifties was spent wondering. Wondering if the cancer would come back, if she would be employable, if she was living her life well, considering she might not live it long.
Last spring a neurologist informed me he wanted to keep an eye on my symptoms to determine if they were “indicative of something worse”. Looking slightly embarrassed he followed with “because your middle aged”. Although my friend Jerri laughed out loud when I referred to myself as middle aged. “You’re not middle aged anymore honey” she said. Like I couldn’t live to be a hundred and two.
Even if you don’t get cancer and live or get cancer and die, have your second child die, or have a neurologist want to keep an eye on you… Shit just might get real in your fifties.
Like menopause. Whether you suffer the severe symptoms or not, it’s a strange thing to know the hormone associated with being a juicy female (don’t pardon the pun) has disappeared from your system. Your skin changes, your hair starts going gray, and all the things you thought happened to other people are happening to you. An older friend of mine told me ten years ago that dying the hair on her head was one thing. Finding gray pubic hair was another level of horror altogether.
I started writing this blog because I turned fifty. Figuring it was a milestone of some sort; that there would be changes. I knew my sister in law thought it sucked. But women’s magazines would insist “the fifties can be one of the best times of your life”.
So which is it?
A year into my fifties, I’d say it’s a combination of the two. My health has fallen apart. I haven’t been free of illness more than six weeks since July. That sucks. Without a doubt. I hate every single thing about it. The lack of energy, the black circles under my eyes, the fucking up of my workouts. The workouts which are keeping my butt up where it belongs and my self-esteem semi intact. I doubt the fifties are to blame for my health though. It was just the luck of the draw. There are plenty of people in their fifties who aren’t unwell this often.
On the other hand, I’m not lonely anymore. My younger years were gut wrenchingly lonely. Not only am I surrounded by love and people I love back, but something has changed internally. I can be alone for days at a time and not feel at all lonely.
From twenty eight ish to forty something I spent a giant amount of time obsessed with whether or not I’d sleep at night. In my forties I gave in and took sleeping pills. I was uber cautious with them and never got dependent and they helped. I could write a book about insomnia and anxiety and what came first. The anxiety or the insomnia.
 In my fifties I just sleep. Beautiful, incredible sleep.
I think I sleep because I’m not scared anymore. I’m just not. Until my almost fifties I was always scared. The DSM, a tool psych professionals use to make diagnosis would call it “Generalized Anxiety Disorder”. No tangible reason to be anxious, nothing logical about it, just in general anxious. I still get anxious on planes, and boats and in a handful of other situations. But in general, the anxiety I lived with most of my life is gone.
There are dozens of blog entries I could write around each of these things: loneliness, anxiety and insomnia. But for now let’s just say the fifties don’t suck. So far, logically and like everything else in life, it’s a tradeoff. I’ve traded some of what was good about my youth for things that are good about my fifties.
I would like to keep my ass up where it belongs though.
 

 

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

REBELLION


 
I had a bizarre urge to stop at a local bar and get drunk the other night. I’ve been drunk maybe a half dozen times in my life. The last time in the late eighties. Where alcohol is concerned, I have a stop button. It isn’t a conscious thing. It’s just there. I don’t choose to not get drunk. Not getting drunk chooses me.
Lately, getting drunk sounds wild. I’m wanting to be wild. To dance on tables, hike through the wilderness, without a shower or a real bed. I want to be scared, be uncomfortable, be crazy, be loud, be incorrigible. I want to dig ditches, drag race, smoke cigars, get in a fight. I want the stories to tell that happen when you’re drunk.
If my kids and husband are reading this…
What I really want, is to have the energy to do those things. I want to not think about my back pain or my blood pressure or how tired I am. I want to have the energy to stay up past nine pm, hear a band, and dance on tables. I want to wear high heels and cute skirts and feel good doing it. I want to feel desirable. I want to feel on fire.
I don’t want to go to the doctor or physical therapy. I don’t want to talk about the doctor or physical therapy or meds or sleep number beds or anything to do with being unwell in any way. I want to get dirty in the woods and stay dirty and shoot a deer. I don’t really want to get drunk. I want to have the energy to get crazy and do the unexpected.
To do the unexpected…
I quit wearing my motorcycle helmet this week. And every day, while I’m still not tired, I go riding. I take roads I’ve never been on before. I ride fast, I listen to loud music and love the feel of wind in my hair.
It’s my small rebellion. The one that says “I’m not done yet”. Because I’m not done yet.

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

When Life Gives You.... Oh Never Mind


I’m not sure how I feel about positive thinking. About gratitude, acceptance, believing in yourself, staying strong, and all those other Facebook memes cluttering up my newsfeed with positivity. Not that Facebook is the only place describing how you’re attitude entirely determines how good your life is. There are bzillions of self- help books on how to perceive life in order to have a better life. Even the big box stores like Target and Pier one sell art work with instructions on how to be happy and fulfilled.
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results”

“Find a place inside you where there is joy, and the joy will burn out the pain”

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow”
It’s like pain isn’t real.
Several years ago I had a friend die of cancer. An ugly cancer that took over a beautiful young woman’s body. The kind of young woman you can’t imagine dying. When alive she glowed. People noticed her wherever we went. Drop dead gorgeous with an incredible sense of humor and energy. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of her in my mind. One particular day when I was feeling bad about myself and she appeared to be everything I wished I was.
During her illness, when she was up to it, we e mailed. There was also an e mail chain for her friends and family that was all about staying positive and helping our friend stay positive. The message being “we can change this if we stay positive. She can change this if she stays positive”.
It’s like the pain isn’t real.
In actuality my friend wasn’t all that positive. She told me so in one e mail. Saying she was “having” to stay positive but in reality…wasn’t. I don’t recall the exact words anymore. What I do recall is knowing she felt guilty for believing she would die and not being able to find the right attitude. The attitude that would keep her alive. As though she were responsible for her illness and therefore her death.
It’s like the pain isn’t real.
It’s like we’re supposed to live without pain.
I guess how I feel about all that positive thinking is this: While being positive is better than being negative and absolutely can affect our lives. Our attitude is not always responsible for our pain. Sometimes, our pain is responsible for our attitude.
Sometimes it is flat out fucking impossible to find the silver lining. It’s more comfortable when we can find it. Like the first blush of a good buzz from a nice wine at the end of a terrible week. But it isn’t always going to be there.
Sometimes the pain is just real. Until it isn’t.