Monthly Archives: March 2022

To Sea: Feet & Hope in the Surf

Most places I go these days are places I have never been, but are, nonetheless, familiar in their character. However, this latest stop feels monumental to me.

I wasn’t really aware of where I was at first. I was just driving to the next town and the next space in which to park Blanche & Betty.

I decided to check the weather report when I arrived and in so doing realized I am minutes from the eastern coast of the United States. I suppose, in my head, I had placed this region along the Gulf Coast. In my perception, the idea of crossing four states and going “only” 1050 miles vs the 900 miles I drove from Houston to New Mexico, had taken so long and been so piecemeal and cautious that I’d lost track of where I was going. I was so busy connecting dots, I lost sight of the big picture.

What an odd sensation to wake up (mentally) and realize you have gone from one coast (albeit the middle coast) to another coast rather haphazardly and unwittingly.

“Haphazardly,” because during the winter months, I had the luxury of driving and just stumbling on a place to stay without putting much thought into it (that has evaporated with spring break and the summer months ahead).

“Unwittingly,” because my mind has been so preoccupied with grief and depression and love that I neglected to be fully aware of my surroundings much of the time. In the last park I was largely in an emotional fog that was punctured only occasionally by calls from family and a friend.

This coastal RV resort is crowded, snugly packed, heavily canopied with trees, too close to a significant road (although that has grown quieter as night wears on), and full of other dogs to keep Sammy in a constant state of crazy.

Still, I feel like I’ve come to life for a moment, hopefully several moments. I want to work. I want to breathe and accomplish things. Two days ago, I didn’t care if I didn’t wake up at all much less metaphorically.

Nothing has changed. I’ve had no grand revelations. I don’t feel any different about my skill set, my desire for companionship (or lack thereof), nor my relationships as they stand. Dog is still a huge pain in the backside when he sees other dogs. I still have repairs to make to Blanche that can’t be made immediately. I still have allergies kicking my ass. My heart is still tangled.

But I feel—

What’s the word?

Hopeful?

Perhaps it’s the bustle around me. People doing things and living and not just on the road to doing or sitting out at a campfire (perfectly fine things to do, mind you). This is a park full of short and long-timers and the long-timers make it feel like home with potted plants and dog pens. There’s a strange comfort in that.

It could be just the Atlantic Ocean whispering to me from a few miles away. Perhaps the very thought that I can drive just a little while and put feet in salt water again, different salt water, and say, “I am here. I made it. I didn’t crumble between there and here, though it got damn close. Yay, me!”

Pier on a Georgia Beach

Going where? The Stagnation of Predictability

21 March, 2022

Two years ago today, I was moving into a new house and putting many of my belongings into an off-island storage space. Two years ago today, I stomped rage into every step I took up and down the stairs of my former home and my new home. Two years ago, for the first time in months, I breathed in a truly deep and relaxing breath after I shut the door behind me that night and sat in bed letting the silence and isolation flood the room completely.

I spent a lot of nights in that little house on Thunder Road, feeling that same level of peace. I spent a lot of nights there staring at the ceiling and worrying.

I’ve said it here; I get anxious being in one place too long these days.

I leave this place tomorrow and move east. I had intended to be in the new spot about a month. I erred and didn’t get my reservations soon enough and can’t be there for more than a few days. I’ll go north for a while instead and that may upset some plans for others. I’m not happy with myself for the error.

I wonder, however, if I didn’t sabotage myself subconsciously. I wonder if I didn’t know my dawdling would put me in this situation to a degree (though perhaps not this badly). The original plan to stay a month was weighing on me the more I thought about it. It felt as stifling as that house I had shared with my ex-husband. I could see myself stuck. When you say you’re going to rent a space for a month, you pay for a month. You stay. A month in one spot makes me just a little nuts. I’m finding two weeks in most of these places to be pushing my limits. I’ve been in this current park since March 10th (eleven days) and I’m getting antsy and uncomfortable. I don’t know how to fully convey the feeling. It is a bit like being at a party to which you weren’t invited; it’s pleasant but you know you don’t belong. That feeling has nothing to do with the people around me; I’ve experienced this same sensation in a nearly deserted park.

A lake in central Georgia

I was speaking to a friend about relationships and loneliness and he said, “You’ll find someone whenever you stay put for a while.” (paraphrasing because—beer) I didn’t argue. I didn’t agree. The discussion moved on to other things.

However—

I wanted to say, “Well, that is exactly why I don’t want to stay put.”

I wanted to say, “My heart is tangled up right now. I don’t need to incorporate more threads.”

I wanted to say, “I want to come home.”

I am growing homesick, but I know it is not because I actually miss my house or the beach or the birds or the people I barely knew.

I am growing homesick because home was predictable.

Home was always going to be the ex down the street and occasional run-ins with his family. It was always going to be worthwhile but low-paying work that didn’t demand much of me mentally but often much of me physically and sometimes emotionally. It was always going to be that one guy who floated in and out of my life like a Portuguese Man-of-War. It was always going to be pretending to be nice to the ex when the grands came to visit even though every interaction was distressful for both of us. It was always going to be me giving time to the rescues (that I adored) and getting nothing in return except more wear and tear on my truck and loss of funds.

It was always going to be.

It was always going to be really good seafood and beautiful sunrises and gorgeous storms and mesmerizing foghorns and pelicans in huge squadrons flying up and down the beach ahead of a front.

Predictable is safe. Predictable is calming. Predictable makes other decisions easier. Predictable was all I’d known for twenty-nine years.

Predictable allows (even encourages) you to give up on your careers (yes, both) and then regret it the rest of your life because you have lost your skills. Predictable makes you bend to another’s will instead of standing up for yourself and saying, “I deserve the respect of personal autonomy!” Predictable leaves you in a marriage at least eight years longer than you should have stayed. Predictable keeps you in family dynamics that hurt.

Perhaps I am scared of lighting in any one spot for all of these reasons. Perhaps I fear that I will once again have my autonomy subsumed by the comfort of predictability. Even my friend floats in and out on his own whims such that I can’t assign much predictability to him and that feels oddly safe to me.

When I was married, I knew I’d be married until my death. I knew I’d die at a fairly ripe age and probably some time after my spouse. I knew I’d die in or about the home we shared. I knew all this because that is what the predictable day-to-day existence made me believe. Nothing ever changes when the person you are with and the person you have become both conspire to keep things predictable indefinitely.

I feel, every day, the unpredictability of my life now. I awaken not knowing if I will find the strength to go on, if I will find work that allows me to stay with Sam who is getting more and more dependent on me, if I will just have to run out of my savings and be done, if I will choose to shorten my stay in my current spot or lose the money and just pick up and go boondocking, if I will have a car wreck on the highway, if Blanche will have a blowout, if I will get COVID-19 and become too sick to travel and have to talk my hosts into some kind of act of kindness, if a tornado will blow through and upend all of us, or if I will simply have a stroke or myocardial infarct and die quietly inside Blanche to be found when my campsite is supposed to be taken by someone else. None of this is known.

I could be bothered by that and, in my former marriage, no doubt I would have been. I was taught to be bothered by such.

But predictable literally almost killed me in October of 2019. If unpredictable kills me by virtue of accident or ill health, then at least it did so while I was doing something with my life rather than sitting in a house waiting to die. I cannot imagine ever going back to predictable. I cannot imagine, ever again, being someone’s belonging that waits to be put in storage.

Sloshing: Trauma, Memory, & Blurting

In the grand scheme of things, nothing I do or don’t do is of any value. I am not a young military engineer sacrificing myself for my country in the destruction of a strategic bridge. I am not a nurse or doctor saving lives in some COVID-19 ward. Nor am I on the wrong sides of either of those equations; I don’t actively try to destroy life.

I am neither the activist screaming for change, nor the bloated capitalist determined to keep his millions a day earned on the backs of those he treats shamefully. I neither build nor destroy. I exist.

My life is perhaps one of the most meaningless lives on this planet. I am merely a vessel for memory and the shreds of hope left in the wake of leaving a life locked in a Hardie plank box. I have flashes of goals—flickers so brief they could be illusions like the sparkles you see when you press your eyelids hard against your eyes.

I have moments when I believe the ember of love remaining for the wrong man can someday regenerate for someone new — moments quickly smothered when I see behavior in men that mirrors that of one of my exes.

Through it all, I am struck by my memory—how in one instance it is hazy and fragile, the next, in sharp focus and fully formed.

I understand the whys; in one space the memories are the fog of trauma and reaction while in another they are the unforgettable shining of pain, rage, and love.

However, I can’t walk around day-to-day simply being a glass of the past, sloshing around and occasionally spilling onto unsuspecting passersby. I can’t continue to just spill all this trauma, drama, and emotion on people who stumble into my path.

The jar refills and I keep going, keep sloshing about. Nothing changes.

I wrote a poem and it speaks to this:

“Every night I try to empty myself

of you through

                 my eyes,

                 my throat.”

Every night. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day, I try to empty myself of my memories in hopes of moving on and finally being someone, even something, of value.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day when the light is strong and I am “doing things” I can convince myself I am making progress. Then darkness arrives and I am simply alone, simply in the same space, simply treading water still.

I have no desire to give up.

I have no desire to continue.

I have no desire to do anything.

What would I do? Crack open this vessel, spill it all on this screen and let everyone see? No. I’ve been trying to do that. People don’t like that. If I shatter my vessel, theirs will take a hit in some way and we can’t have that.

So, once again, I am biting my virtual tongue. Not writing or living for me because I have always protected others. At least tried to.

And what of these memories?

I am astonished at how little I now recall of my second marriage. I know, rationally, that we had good times. I know I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone and more than I thought possible. Up until year 21, I’d have told you that despite some rough patches, I loved him more each day than the day we married. Up until year 28, I couldn’t fathom a life without him even though, by then, I was no longer “in love” with him and questioned the wisdom of staying.

I still have snippets of memories of good times. Laughter. Love. Passion. They simply hold no emotional value anymore. They feel like window dressings. Peeling paint on stucco.

I do recall many, many bad times and what triggered them, and how, always, I was ████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████

As far as my first marriage, I recall almost nothing. My first husband was a raging, physically abusive alcoholic.

By contrast, I can relate myriad details of those encounters with the wrong man in 2020-2021: every glance, every vocal nuance, every careful touch. Every conversation we had, good or bad is still seated firmly in my mind. It’s not that this relationship was exceptionally safe or secure, it simply didn’t warrant me blotting it out in rage. My writer’s brain demands I not relinquish those memories. No matter how many times and ways I recreate them on the page, they remain. Blessing and curse.

That same writer’s brain demands I not relinquish the anger-inducing memories of my second marriage despite months of therapy and multiple attempts to journal them away.

I know, ultimately, I must put these things on the page in a formal way, perhaps even on social media, if I am to heal. Not because I need to reveal anything or anyone to the world, but because I have wounds that won’t close as long as I keep stumbling into people in my life and blurting my pain in a haphazard and confusing manner. My siblings, my best friend, any potential lover, can only take so much of my blathering before they tune me out entirely. In my anxious blurting, I often make no sense or the import of what I say is lost on them. It is not the individual events of thirty-six years that formed and informed me, but the cumulative.

Will this theoretical/hypothetical formal documentation of those years mean anything? Will it change my earlier statement about being and doing nothing of value? Eh, probably not. I have come full circle then. Can I really justify, knowing potential harms, letting this vessel spill in its entirety?

Obligation: Buzzing around Blanche

This second week of March, 2022, marks two years since I moved out of the beach house my ex-husband and I shared on the Upper Texas coast.

The coming days will bring rain and cold. They have been sunny and beautiful all week. In the warmth and sun, the Alabama wetlands have released mosquitoes, tiny and quiet compared to the Gulf Coast marsh mosquitoes with which I am all too familiar. They are no less effectual, however. I never feel their nibbles, but my ankles and some fleshy parts are rather spotty now.

Along with those almost gnat-sized biters are the plump carpenter bees, zipping, hovering, ascending, and fighting all other flies, bees, and wasps. Sammy, who had mostly only watched until today, has since made several growling lunges at the male bee hovering a few inches from his nose. Thankfully the dog is at the end of his tether. Carpenter bees are not much of a threat; males have no stinger and females are fairly docile. However, I don’t wish to see my dog take out a harmless bee.

This bee’s game seems pointless from my vantage. Best guess is that he, hover-parked between me and the picnic table some fifteen feet away, is tirelessly defending the holes (the “gallery”) in the table seats drilled perhaps last year (they look old/dark but recognizably bee-made). He goes so far as to defend them from a Cloudless Sulphur flitting by. I have yet to see the missus.

Sammy requests air conditioning, so I let him inside Blanche and Sir Buzzalot vanishes. Apparently only the dog represents a threat in the moment. A few minutes later I test my theory and I stand and pace near the table. Sir B does indeed return to monitor me, as well, charging at my phone as I try to capture video.

Sir Buzzalot in SLO-Mo

Apart from the obvious, appearance and size, I am not unlike the carpenter bee. There are two things motivating me to exist right now: 1) obligation and 2) protecting my home. Perhaps that’s one thing; I’m not sure I can tease the two apart.

I am obligated, with regard to my survival, to certain people. Family, that is.

Sir Buzzalot is obligated to whatever female he has or will have and the offspring they will produce, but only in so much as he is obligated to the nest; the nest being critical to his future family.

I’ll leave Motivation Number One at that. I think most people understand the concept of staying alive for people we assume love us and would be hurt if we “left.”

Motivation Number Two: my nest. I spent money on her that would have gone to rent or other belongings. As such, she has value and I feel an obligation to stay and make use of her at least until I have nothing left.

I also feel I have an obligation to protect her. I have named her.  She has been my shelter for several months already and has become more to me than a material possession or shelter. She is indicative of my attempt (perhaps ultimate failure) to recover from the last 40 years of my life.

More than that, I am emotionally attached to her. Blanche isn’t just a trailer any more than Sammy is just a dog. She is home. She is safety. She is comfort.

I can’t entirely qualify this attachment to this “thing.” In contrast, I like Betty (my truck). She is useful and comfortable and works well. I appreciate all Betty has done for me on the job and on this journey. Blanche, however, is something else. It may be as simple as the fact that no one has intruded on her since I took ownership. I’ve had no men in this space (as lovers or love interests) and all my daily tasks take place within: cooking, sleeping, bathing, and most of all, writing.

From the first night in this little, fiberglass bubble, I felt utterly at home. I felt and feel as if I have wanted this all my life—to have my world condensed in this way while at the same time having the world outside completely opened up to me.

I have bored a hole in the universe and it is all mine. I can hover around this little hideaway and scare away interlopers and retreat within with Sammy and feel at peace.

After two years, I am home. After forty years?