Tag Archives: autonomy

Swimming in Joy: Fresh Water, Fresh Perspective

I feel like I’ve come out of a long, dark tunnel. I’m not referring only to the many days in electronic darkness, but that of my last three decades.

I will swim in still* (fresh) water after my laundry is done — for the second time in 30 years. My last still water swim prior to a dip in a pool two weeks ago was in my parents’ pool in Pearland, Texas. They moved out in the mid 90s but my pool rights were revoked in ‘91 (by emotional pressure vs verbal demand).

I began to swim again in 2016 but only in the gulf and with a full-body swimsuit. Never alone. Usually, in fact, I swam while surf fishing with the man I was married to at the time. We rarely went into the surf just to swim.

I don’t swim in much less now, capris and long sleeves because — old. Regardless of one man’s overly kind opinion, this old frame is just not bikini-worthy.

This lake is clear and cool but not cold and unlike the Kentucky lake of last week, not stagnant and covered in cottonwood snow. I’m anxious to submerge myself in it and feel that joy again. At the pool I dipped in, littles were everywhere. Maybe a lake isn’t much healthier, but I know what toddlers do in pools.

Laundry Interlude

I stepped onto wet, broken slate and other stones that serve as the “beach” at this park. The rocks, largely “chips” of stone, really, aren’t sharp but nor are they sand smooth. There’s something comforting about that; perhaps it’s the knowledge that crabs and stingrays won’t be burrowed into those hard slivers and chunks of stone.

As a recent boat wake subsided, I waded out carefully until I was thigh deep. I checked my sunglasses** to make sure the strap was snug, and dove under.

I came up damn near sobbing with joy.

The “pool” at sunset.

The water was cool but not cold, like April coastal beach temps, and soft as silk. It slipped around me without seaweed or sand or other slithery bits. I began a breast stroke out to the buoy that demarcated the swimming area for swimmers and boaters alike. I found the gentle slope just at my height, turned and did a clumsy, half-remembered back-stroke (college swim class) to one side of the buoy, turned and did side strokes, first right (awful) then left (much better). Finally I simply flipped on my back and floated a while; looking up into deep blue summer sky with scattered cumulus clouds and a soft breeze chilling my exposed parts.

After years of not being able to float like my mom, I’ve found in recent years that I can. I always assumed it was because of the salt water at the coast. Nah. I’m just fluffy. Higher body fat percentage makes for good floating. HA!

I repeated the above twice, floating in between to catch my breath. Then decided I should get back to Sam.

In my childhood, Momma could never get me out of the pool. I had sunburns that made me sick and miserable but wanted to be back in the water the next day. As soon as I got back to Blanche, I was wishing I’d stayed in the water.

To be honest, it wasn’t just the obligation of Sam that brought me home. The lingering discomfort with “showing” my body in public, even though almost no skin was visible, just my generous curves, was the greater drive that pulled me out of the water. A young couple camping at the top of the hill, certainly not the least bit interested in an old woman doing laps, kept getting in my head without so much as being within earshot.

Obviously, I have yet another “wound” to sort out and have known that since I left. I am female and have curves. It isn’t up to me to police what men (or anyone for that matter) see or find offensive. It is only up to me to be comfortable in my skin. I have changed my style of dress somewhat since leaving him, but I still don’t show cleavage or wear pants or dresses that fall above my knees. I have twice worn a bikini top with my capris (no long-sleeved rash guard) and felt extremely uncomfortable, but that was more because I am fluffy than because I was showing cleavage.

Still, while I am definitely too old for a bikini, I would love to move from being two steps shy of a burqini. My health allows for that now and my sanity demands it. The very fact that I am even considering this, says I have progressed significantly out of that dark tunnel mentioned above.

*the lake has waves, of course, but compared to a gulf or ocean shoreline, it is “still.”

**I need sun/swim goggles.

Thoughts from a Dark Valley: Lenience as Trauma Response.

In these quiet, internet-free days, I continue to discover things about my past and myself that I have been avoiding.

I have determined that my desire to be free of jealousy or possessiveness, both on the giving and receiving ends, is as much a trauma response as hyper-independence is.

I have always wondered what makes some people deeply jealous and possessive. Some men will say they are protecting their partner from all the bad men out there. It seems they are protecting what they see as a possession that can be taken because they fear they aren’t good/strong enough to keep it. I don’t know how most women come by their jealousy, but I suspect it isn’t terribly different reasoning regarding the rationale vs. the truth.

To be fair, in the early years, I had my own jealous fits. In time, however, I became secure in the love of my spouse. I got angry at hypocrisy; when expectations, like no lunches in groups including the opposite sex or no drinks after work, only applied to one of us, but I never feared he would cheat on me.

Obviously, there are experiences that engender this insecurity other than just personal feelings of inferiority. Surely, insecurity is often a trauma response. I’ve examined again and again where my own insecurities come from and I don’t wish to delve into those events from youth and first marriage in this entry. Suffice it to say, I do understand insecurities and still have my own.

Nonetheless, when I look back over the decades and see just how much damage all this “protection” has done to my self esteem, my ability to function in social settings, and my trust in men, I wish I had been more aware of the real dangers of jealousy. More accurately, I wish I’d listened when the experts said, “jealousy is a toxic trait.”

That toxicity isn’t as simple as causing strife in a relationship or even the painful destruction of a relationship. It can be, when it does the kind of emotional damage it did to me over decades, real trauma in the form of complex-PTSD. *

I understand that trauma and c-PTSD more each day relative to hyper-independence and lenience. My desire to be free of any incumbrance of jealousy or possessiveness in a future relationship, to go so far as to tell a love interest , “hey, do whatever you want, just use protection,” and mean it, is also a trauma response. It is not out of some sort of virtue or feigned equanimity that I would tell a man, “I won’t get jealous or possessive. I won’t demand utter fidelity in a relationship.”** It is because deeply ingrained insecurity was used on me in so many painful and unnecessary ways (deliberately or otherwise) to drive me into a cave of isolation through self-hatred and fear.

I will NEVER allow anyone to do that to me again nor will I be the partner doing that to anyone else.

It’s a sort of partners’ version of the abused child who, upon growing up and having their own children, becomes excessively lenient with their own children.

Likely as not, it spells disaster for me and future relationships. It already interfered with one. Many American men expect to be able to do whatever they please, (“men are programmed to have as many partners as possible” goes the story) but their women damn well better be pure as the driven snow. If I tell a potential partner that he can do as he pleases, he will likely hear, as one man said to me, that I want to “sleep with five hundred men.”

I have no such desire. I would like the sometime partnership of one loving and decent man who doesn’t seek to own me.

Otherwise, I will never allow a man to dictate my behavior again, either through insecurity or insults like the above, ridiculous “500 men” comment.

This is me, for now. Perhaps in time, I will balance the trauma response with something more socially acceptable, but for now, the barest hint of jealousy, and it’s concomitant behaviors, dominance and withdrawal of respect, will send me running.

*This is not a self-diagnosis. Qualified mental health care personnel have made this determination and always should be consulted.

**To be clear, I respect and admire fidelity and I would expect it in myself if in a long-term relationship. I simply refuse to demand it or have it demanded of me.

Shadowlands: Recognizing Abandonment Trauma

I am once again in a river valley shadowland. Sunlight filters in barely; Internet, not at all. Rather than being able to walk two blocks to check in with family, I would have to drive six or seven miles.

So, I didn’t even unhitch. Not out of laziness, mind you. Hitching and unhitching have become an enjoyable part of the process. They are like the pen and paper prep of writing a letter; not productive but necessary and oddly enjoyable.

No, I didn’t unhitch because my last time in such a place frightened me with how despondent I became in such utter isolation. I had people around me, but the sense of not having family and friends in the glass rectangle in my hands was suffocating. I was disturbed enough by this second round of connectivity blackout, that I thought, “If it gets really bad again, I will just leave. I’ll forfeit the night’s fee and get on the road, in the dark if I have to, and find a Walmart somewhere that allows me to park and reconnect with loved ones.

This isn’t addiction (no doubt, that is an issue for me) but it is dependence. The fear of losing contact with my friends and family has been a recurring nightmare since my thirties — since I began to be isolated from them quite literally.

It’s a common theme in people’s nightmares but for me it became pathological; I would dream of trying to call my mother and not being able to get through despite dozens of attempts and methods. From not being able to get “bars” on my phone to not being able to make the rotary dial turn properly to having an operator tell me no such number existed, my mother was unreachable in these stressful dreams. I would awaken near tears and sometimes raging.

At the time, I blamed my physical distance from her which I considered the fault of my parents and sibling. After her death, of course, I blamed the loss of her and my grief for these nightmares.

Now, I also blame the man I was married to, whose expectations of my behavior and his feelings about family (“family is overrated” was a favorite quip of his) kept me from pushing for travel to see my loved ones.

So this, like so many, frankly pathological, responses I have to what might just be annoyances to others, stems from a sort of slow, death-by-a-thousand-cuts trauma.

I lost decades with loved ones, with potential friends, and with places and things I loved (the Texas Hill Country, swimming). I gave those things up to be the good wife who did everything to keep him happy (translation: to minimize stress level in the home). That loss now means any separation, any risk of “never again,” frightens me.

I am sure this has played into a relationship I had as well—the Wrong man’s breadcrumbs calmed me immeasurably even though they were just that. Just knowing he was “out there” and had not completely abandoned me, gave me peace.

I am sure, in a twisted way, this fear also kept me in the marriage at least ten years longer than was reasonable. My husband was my family and only truly present friend after my daughter left. Who else would have me and how would I survive? I dare not lose my one connection. In other words, by the time I knew things were not right, I was emotionally bonded in a way that transcended the love relationship and became a pathological need for connection.

So, I had nightmares.

In addition to the phone call nightmares, I had nightmares that my husband was leaving me, literally abandoning me in parking lots as he drove off laughing. This was how much damage had been done to my psyche.

In real life, he assured me regularly that he wouldn’t leave. However, I had already been abandoned emotionally as far as my subconscious was concerned. If I didn’t behave as he wished, then he most certainly would abandon me physically. If I tried to be independent, if I insisted on seeing family by myself, if I pursued a career again that put me in contact with other men, if I made friends outside his circle, or if I “peacocked,” as he called it, by wearing or doing anything he deemed attention getting — all these were reasons, he implied, that gave him the right to abandon me.

But by year twenty-eight, I was exhausted. I was tired of wanting to die. I was tired of being apart from my family. I was tired of locking myself in bedrooms when strangers came over. I was tired of wearing virtual sacks and constant gray and brown. I was tired of carrying the weight of his expectations.

I have not dreamed the telephone nightmare or the abandonment nightmare since I left. I dream, instead, that I am with him again and he is “putting his foot down” again and I am so tired—again.

Still, nightmares or not, the anxiety of alone does not spare me in these beautiful but isolated places.

These two days have been easier, if only because it is two days, not five. I have not been careful about my choices for setting down for the night in one park or another. Once I get out of this valley and can look more closely at the coming weeks, I will be more cautious. A week without connection, is five days too long.

Perhaps, it will be slightly easier to have finally come to understand the cause of my fear. If the fear is based in “complex trauma,” that is a rational response, even though the fear itself is irrational. That recognition may allow me further and faster healing.

Just a pretty image on a positive note. Prunus sp.

The Unsubscribe Button is a Delusion: Survival & Concession as a Single Woman of a Certain Age

I’ve been contained in a valley of Wi-Fi, 5G, and visible spectrum shadows for five days. I can walk a few blocks to get a signal and walking is good for me, but I decided walking for that purpose was less beneficial. I’ve checked in with my brother and my daughter a few times, checked email, made additional arrangements for post-PA campgrounds, but largely avoided social media.

Sitting quietly this morning awaiting my Moka Pot coffee, I looked through downloaded email.

I thought I unsubscribed from this company.

Yes. Yes I did. And I have been patiently unsubscribing from email ads for weeks. Sometimes repeatedly. I have determined it is a lost cause. That effort is a scam; a method by which to inform the company that I am still here and still seeing their annoying emails despite my desire otherwise.

What’s the definition of insanity, again? Doing something over and over despite getting the same result?

I have spent every evening since I got here attempting to write both poetry and blog entries.

Insanity.

I’ve written some truly awful poems.

I’ve written some fairly tight blog posts; posts that were well-framed, clear, concise, and led to a meaningful and valid conclusion.

Unfortunately, each post was a deep dive into the loneliness and anxiety that this valley has exacerbated. I had hoped this time away from social media would be healing. I had hoped freeing my mind of the outside world’s concerns would allow me to address my own. The latter is true. The former is not.

Stuck in my own thoughts, without the words, images, and outright agony and stupidity of the outside world, all I could see was everything I have ever done wrong and the end of my road coming sooner rather than later.

Each post morbidly reflected this. I was, in a word, done.

For the first time since my marriage, I was thinking of a way out. Not just passively wondering if I wouldn’t awaken but actively writing goodbyes.

People in my life do not, cannot, grasp the tenuous hold I have on sanity and self-esteem as a result of being told, both in word and deed, for thirty years that my only real value was in being half of another person.*

They do not, cannot grasp how this impacts everything I do or don’t do. That to say, “I won’t feel insecure about my talent or intellect,” is as pointless as repeatedly hitting that unsubscribe button. My history is as tenacious as those repeated emails, bashing me daily with reminders of what I should want and do with my life and what I gave up.

I do not have an answer. Hiding in a connectivity desert is, apparently, life threatening. That much I have determined. Trying to unsubscribe from my thoughts and history is a waste of effort.

The pat answer is “get out there and grab what you want.” When your hands have been tied with worthlessness for twenty-three of thirty years and with training against and emotional beating for being independent the entire thirty years, how do you just magically slip those bindings and grab?

So, here I am, yet again, struggling with purpose, pointlessness, and isolation. Hitting “unsubscribe from this insecurity?” like a lab rat hitting a reward button.

Insanity.

* To be fair, to ask people to understand this when I do not reveal details of my relationship is probably a bit much. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. Lots of people believe “two become one.” How is that so bad? I will not detail that here, however. This blog isn’t about him.

Setting Boundaries. Fighting demons.

Sunday night. I am alone in the RV loop. Everyone else has gone home or moved on to their next berth.

The world here is peaceful. The world here doesn’t reveal the turmoil beyond the park’s border.

It’s a cold night reminiscent of a Texas winter: temps falling into the 40s, rain, still. I have to remind myself it is May.

I have been thinking a great deal about boundaries. A minority faction of the US wishes to destroy boundaries we all hold dear but because they have attacked an issue some deem one of morality, those same are not clear on what they too are losing.

I have been raging and tearful for days but, if I’m honest, I have been raging and tearful for ten years.

For many years I would lose my temper over the mildest events. Almost always, they were mistakes I’d made: Where is my wallet? What have I done with my keys? How could I forget that appointment?

The man I was married to at the time once asked, “Why are you so angry all the time?” In the moment, I had no answer.

As the years passed I began to incrementally discover the source of my rage: I had allowed one person to determine my boundaries and overstep them on a regular basis. I raged at my little failings because I was so angry with myself for the big failing: allowing that constant and agonizing transgression.

I left that marriage in 2020, bent on not allowing such transgressions again. Some slipped through the cracks as I tried to fight off loneliness and grief. Since taking to the road, however, I have gained significant strength against people trying to impose their will on me. My rage and tears have been aimed at the men in my life rather than my own errors.

This last few days had been difficult for so many. It will continue to be difficult for some time. The episode of rage and sadness it is triggering in me is small compared to that felt by marginalized groups. In the grand scheme of things, it directly affects me very little. For now.

As I sit in the growing gloom and silence of this park in the Blue Ridge mountains, I feel significant guilt for that last fact. I shouldn’t have such outwardly peaceful environs when the country is on fire for others. I shouldn’t be fighting such tiny demons while others fight dragons.

I simply don’t know how to contend with this — this sudden silence and isolation after several days of busy and boisterous neighbors and personal anxiety. It leaves me cold and emotionally void as this Blue Ridge mountain air.

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?

Abandoning Attachment: Ghost Trees and the Unattainable.

I have tried repeatedly to capture the unique texture, dimension, and outright ghostliness of the cypresses here in Louisiana. I’m sure a better photographer could come closer to doing so. Perhaps a video in the golden hour would be more effective. Perhaps a special lens would do them justice. I wasn’t prepared creatively or technically for the almost otherworldly nature of these trees: especially those hanging skirts several feet above the earth, no water hugging their roots.

Is there anything more beautiful than the unattainable? The sunset no cameras can capture. The mountain dimensions no words can accurately express. The softness and deceptive strength of an infant’s hands. The love we are certain will set us free.

All these fleeting moments and things that are beautiful by their very impermanent nature, we desperately want to cling to as if they are the mountains themselves.

Sunsets fade in seconds, not minutes. My camera can prove that. Mountains erode, though not so much in our lifetime, certainly in our mind’s eye after we drive away. Our little ones grow up (in a perfect world) to become better adults than we are (if we do it right). And love? Love, even if real, can be chipped away at by harsh words and actions or is simply, achingly lost to time.

Louisiana Cypress Trees at Golden Hour

I believe there are people I will always love, despite not being loved by them as I love them. In time, might they have freed me? Let me be me and still swing joyously in their orbit? Certainly, they made no rules and pushed no boundaries.

How long does that last? How long before the love I feel now would wither in the day-to-day grind of stress and expectations.

I see some in my circle of family and friends who seem to balance the conflict with the respect and I see autonomy given easily between them. But, life is ephemeral and I see the grief of the lost as well. Loss of a spouse to illness or accident brings an entirely different sort of spiritual effacement.

This soulmate concept, this “love will set me free” sentiment – why do we clamor for it so feverishly only to be beaten down again and again?

I have set in my head that, at this age, it is easier to live in the pain of a love I can’t have than to ever explore or wait for a love that will only be taken from me again. Easier to recall his voice and mossy eyes and smile and miss those things rather than to look forward to being “set free” by someone who will only chain me again with one sort of demand or another.

Easier for me to take photos of sunsets and trees and mountains.

I realized in typing those last words that when I told him I was going on the road not because of him but for myriad other reasons, I inadvertently lied. However, it’s not so simple as, “I’m running away from this because it’s too painful.”

It comes down to this; on the road, I can’t stand still. I can’t form strong attachments because each exchange is fleeting. That is what I want. Being alone is necessary for me to heal after the demises of a twenty-nine year marriage and a brief romance.

When I drive away from here, I’ll feel, as I do each time I move on, a slight misgiving as if I’m forgetting something. I’ll check and double check all the connections, scan the site for belongings, and search my pockets for bits and pieces. And, I’ll feel that smallest of tugs to go back to Texas, to what-ifs.

I’ll wish I’d somehow captured those damn trees. They’ll be there when I come back through, but they’ll never be quite real to me as long as I can’t record them accurately.

Like Louisiana cypresses, love also will never be quite real to me.

Cypress Roots in Sepia

Integral Lee: Returning to Me

With time, my blog continues to change focus because I continue to change focus.

And yet, not really.

Ultimately, I simply write about my life. My attempts to categorize or constrain my words into one box or another have resulted in a blog collection that seems to have no unifying theme. I am not a food blogger or a pet blogger or a nature blogger. I am a “life” blogger and I have no desire to alter that.

In 2018, I pursued a nature blog that would follow outdoor life in Surfside Beach, Tx. That blog had fits and starts as I wrote about real life disruptions on my main blog. Here and there, real life and outdoor life seemed to mesh so well that those disruptions became nature blog entries.

I realized with my more recent beach blog entries that I simply can’t separate the two. My love of and approach to nature is as integral to who I am as my pets, my relationships with other humans, my writing philosophy, and my coping with grief and depression.

Now my life has shifted yet again. This new direction is, simply put, all directions. I have stated here that I have purchased a travel trailer and will be traveling the country. Currently, I’ve made little progress outside of Texas for various reasons, but my intent remains to see as much of the country as time, weather, and money will allow.

As part of this journey, I am looking for me.

My second husband spoke often about marriage as, “two becoming one.” I didn’t see a problem with this until much later in the marriage when I sensed but didn’t fully recognize my near-complete effacement. I’ve written about this here and in bits and pieces throughout my blog.

In finding me, which is quite a process, I have returned to the name I used in high school. I have been detached from the nickname my ex gave me since my divorce (the name that titled this blog originally) and my given first name has become an epithet. I am most comfortable with the simple moniker, “Lee.” It is my name and it is a family name and it was me in many respects more than any name I have ever otherwise used in my life. The teen who was Lee was excited for her future, believed in herself, believed in her talent, and loved people and the world as a whole. The me of the last thirty-nine years (two marriages, two divorces) only had brief glimpses of that girl. The me of today, the Lee-me, sitting here in a travel trailer in central Texas, alone but not lonely, can see all of that girl again but for some gray hairs and extra “fluff.”

Like the volcanic columns that leapt into view a few days ago in the Davis Mountains, the view of Lee-me brings me joy and gentle tears.

My ex once groused that I had changed. He saw my recent growth as rebellion like that of a child. In truth, I changed early in our marriage to accommodate his needs and my desire to be the “good wife.” I supplanted myself with a version of the self he expected and I believed he needed. I didn’t change in the last years of our marriage. I changed back. I had returned to the woman I was when he met me: strong, resilient, independent, and outgoing.

I am furthering that return to me today. I grow stronger, more resilient, more independent, more outgoing, healthier, and happier than I was even thirty years ago.

To that end, my blogs will be changing structure and names in the coming weeks. Most notably, “KC” is being killed off and you will see the name “Lee” in the URL eventually. That’s me. In fact, that’s truly me.

I am happy to focus, if not on a blog theme, at least on being wholly me again — integral me. Integral Lee.

Just trees.