Tag Archives: purpose

Birds & Broken Hearts, Pelicans & Productivity

(Top left clockwise: Least Bittern, Barn Owl, Starling nestling, Second year, Brown pelican, Ruddy duck female)

“Here I am. Here I am. Here I am. Here!” a Scarlet tanager announces every few seconds, yet remains hidden in the trees despite his blood-red body and coal-black wings.

I’ve strained my eyes for ten minutes trying to locate him in the dense oak, maple, and tulip trees to only catch the briefest flash of red as he dives deeper into the treetops.

Water thrushes pipe along the river and robins sing from low bushes. Red-eyed and Black-whiskered vireos chip and chirp their distinctive calls, little gray-green bundles of feathers forever in motion in the bright green leaves.

There are catbirds here also, yet another bird to add to my life list. I feel some guilt for calling one out of dense brush with a recording on my phone. He approaches in the open, echoing my phone repeatedly, concerned, it seems, as if answering a mate. I end the charade and seconds later, he dips back into cover.

Birds, not boys, were my first love. I wrote silly little poems about them as soon as I could string words together but before I knew or had seen their variety.

When I left Surfside Beach, I left my “puppy birds,” my beloved Brown pelicans. Probably the greatest joy of my life other than my child and grandchildren, was rescuing pelicans. I went to lengths most would not, stripping off shoes and socks and submerging myself into murky ponds or the wind-blown “old Brazos river.”

My first solo rescue. She was very hungry & very flea & mite infested. And I had no crate. She sat quietly while I drove her 20 miles. The fleas & mites were not so obliging.

Of all the things I left behind—a man, a job, beautiful sunrises, and amazing storms—the pelicans were my greatest loss. Some days I’m convinced it wasn’t the man that broke my heart, but these flying dinosaurs with their sweet demeanors and often desperate need for help. The man didn’t need me; the birds did.

Maybe that’s what it comes down to—my being needed.

I tried telling a friend, as I have tried telling many people in my life, I must have purpose and without it, I am flotsam. He said, “Purpose isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” (Paraphrasing because — crummy memory)

My ex would say my purpose was to take care of him and his house.

My family would say they need me so that’s purpose enough.

My writer friends say my purpose is to put my art out into the void.

They’re all wrong and all speaking from places of value in this world. They have people and things for whom and which to care. My friend has family and a job that expect his care and effort. My ex has a job to which he endlessly tends. My daughter has her job and kids that need her. My writer friends have established writing careers and other jobs.

When I worked full time, I felt whole. I felt needed. I was rewarded for my efforts.

This society rewards “work” but it doesn’t reward saving birds. Two Surfsiders were kind enough to help me with a little money when I was spending hundreds on gas every quarter to save birds.

Society rewards only what it sees as “product,” some outward and obvious expression of usefulness. A bird, healed from a shark bite or parasitic infestation and released back into the wild is, “nice,” even admirable, but not a product. It doesn’t warrant pay and barely warrants praise.

Yet, all these songbirds I have been listening to and recording for the past two weeks as they fly through or settle in the mountains, are crucial to the workings of this planet. Diversity in animals is as important as diversity in humans. We let these things fall apart because of selfishness, greed, “capitalism,” and the mistaken belief that the more money we make, the more value we have. Pretty, wild things have no transferable value.

In my heart, I know that what I did for the birds of Surfside was of value. What I did deserved more than pats on the back and a few dollars in Venmo.

But my rational mind knows that the rest of the world will never understand that until it’s too late, if it isn’t already too late.

My rational mind still says, in order to be of value to this world, I must find my way to a “good paying job” that everyone else deems acceptable and productive. My rational mind knows that I can’t bear to live out my life not being “acceptable and productive,” because society has taught me without that, I am worthless.

But my heart is so tired.

In this valley off the grid with just the birds to entertain me, it’s easy to let my rational mind slip forever into nothing but bird song and isolation. It’s easy to be the catbird, realizing another bird isn’t there and in need, and dive into the safety of the brush and never come out again.

Ether Or: Dark to Light Ruminating

Once more in electronic darkness and I am thinking of capricious time. How quickly the last six months have passed and how little I have accomplished. How slowly these seven days to come will pass as I contend with a silent ether and my loud and persistent demons.

The drive into this valley (oh, had I known, I would never have come here) was frustrating and hard on Blanche, Betty, me, and Sam. Signal loss resulting in wrong turns. Cars behind me too impatient to allow me to get a map and sort out my route. Dead ends with difficult turn-arounds and deep mud. (Yay for 4-wheel drive!) I will escape into town mid-week to get my bearings, but I dread it. The road is treacherous even with a small truck.

And now I know why the spaces were readily available on such short notice. There is only one other trailer here plus the host. My assigned site was flooded, so the host said I could have one of several others.

I’m also out of porter. Probably, given my mood, that’s a good thing.

On my drive here, through Appalachian towns and highway construction, I was optimistic. The hills seemed manageable, then I turned toward this place about twenty miles out and my heart sank. Yes, another deep river valley, threatening rock falls on either side of the road, and shadows, shadows, shadows.

The gate attendant, a young mother, and her waif-like daughters are light — bright in their shining honey manes. The littles are energy and cheer as they pedal their bikes in circles and esses.

I think again of time.

Of a tiny, thin, tow-headed, green-eyed girl, all legs and arms and sunshine, grown now to honey-haired beauty; those eyes like a wild cat’s, large, intense, and mesmerizing. She is a mother herself now, and it is difficult at times for me not to cling to the little girl I remember. I still have dreams of her — small, vulnerable, and sometimes challenging, but always full of love. She is still bright, as if she carries her own light source in her chest. I’ve known few people like her in this world: my mother, my sister-in-law, a friend I lost in the divorce.

Sunshine.

And I think of how she and these little ones on their bikes, thus far, have the luxury of time while other children have not.

How time and cruelty take parents, lovers, friends, and children from us.

I am certain, most days, that I have time. That I will find my way before the geographical journey is done and “stay put” somewhere that makes me feel I am at home. That I will find my way on the emotional journey and stay put in a life that makes me feel whole again.

Other days, I wonder if I will simply wander until I can’t anymore.

Damn these mountains and the pits of despair they inflict on me.

Damn my memory.

Damn time.

Intermission

Last night, as I lay in bed, having driven a single-car road into these shadows, I had an intense, brief pain in my head. I’ve had them for years and am told they are akin to migraine or cluster headache but likely brought on by stress.

For a moment I considered it could be something more ominous and the sudden image of a quick and unexpected death here actually frightened me.

I discounted sheer self-preservation. I thought of people I love and miss so much when I am disconnected. I thought of how much those connections mean to me, even those that are merely electronic. What struck me, selfishly enough, was not how they will feel if I pass now (I can always minimize that in my depression), but how I will miss out on time with them. How I will miss out on a chance to get where I truly want to be.

It’s easy for me to think I am too old to ever be anywhere or anything, to feel productive and safe in a country of such division, to ever have a loving relationship again, etc.

I’ve been conditioned for forty years and two husbands to believe I am unlovable. One told me no one would ever love me like he did. (Well, thank the Universe for that!) The other, through implication not words, told me no one would ever really love me at all. I was just an object to “all men except him.” The Wrong Man, though caring and gentle and a good listener, rarely spoke of the non-corporeal things about me that he liked, and certainly never claimed love for me.

Going down that line of reasoning is what gets me into the wrong headspace. It makes it too easy to believe there are no men out there that would find me a good match. I’ve developed an almost pathological hatred for the institution of marriage (for me) and the smallest whiff of possessiveness or jealousy. That doesn’t fit well with my demographic (Xoomer/Boomer). I am quickly losing my appeal to the Xillenials and that’s probably for the best. 😄

So when night fell and I was alone and had gotten through my nightly cry, and had the realization that my life was, in fact, finite without my intervention, I “came to” for a moment.

In an odd way, it was a relief to be scared of my own mortality again. As anxious as those moments were, they were useful. I still feel like little more than an object. I still have little hope for anything resembling partnership. I’m still dismayed by American exceptionalism. However, I do want to see my loved ones again. I do want to try to make something of these last, potential years.

I don’t know what the next seven days will bring. Weather permitting, I’ll escape into a satellite-lit land for a small period of time to make further reservations and check on the signal at the upcoming reservations. To reach out and let my loved ones know I’m safe.

I may have to alter my path. I have let import things slide as I puttered through Appalachia, certain life was of little value.

It’s time to come out of the shadows.

Beauty in the shadow & light: Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

Craving: Reassembling in Fog

Bear with me. It has been a rough couple of weeks but there is light at the end of this blogging tunnel.

April 2022. South Carolina.

The sky poured onto the forest last night.

Now, in the midday slivers of sun, the duff warms and its sweet musk rises to mingle with the tang of pine & hickory perfume.

The scents smother my thoughts. Dog bounces and tugs happily at my side and I wonder how can his nose, so much more sensitive than mine, not be overwhelmed by this fog of tree.

My head is full—of memory, rage, exhaustion, anxiety, of a lingering love I just can’t kill—yet all this swims in the fog of tree and I can only walk and react to Dog’s alerts, lunges, and pauses.

The fog never lifts as the day wears on. As evening comes, dampness coating Blanche’s innards and exterior, I stare at my phone to try to find words, to try to string ideas and emotions together to form not just coherent work, but a plan.

Nothing coalesces.

For some reason, (the smells and tall trees, perhaps) an image from a nightmare I had years ago comes to mind as fitting of my thoughts: I was a solitary traveler walking an abandoned railroad and came upon a massive pile of rotting, human body parts leftover from some apocalyptic event.

(Yes, I have horrendous nightmares sometimes)

To be fair, it is apt; my plan for the future, my concept of where my work is going, my thoughts on how to recover from my past and move on, my ability to partner ever again, all look like random, damaged, mismatched, and hideous pieces of dead beings.

I struggle to assemble something human from the pieces, something recognizable as complete and functional.

The pieces simply don’t fit.

Sitting at my tiny dinette, I turn on my Bluetooth speaker and look through my music library on my phone. Times like this, I seek something that hits the core of my current mood and existence. I launch K. D. Lang’s “Constant Craving,” her silken voice flowing around me like dozens of warm rivulets.

When I heard the song decades ago, I didn’t examine the lyrics but assumed it was a love song. Now, of course, I know better and appreciate it even more than I did in its early days.

Several people (all women) have called me brave of late. Some, I feel sure, have sat back and thought me quite the opposite as they watch and wait (seemingly indefinitely) for me to succeed or fail.

I feel neither brave nor afraid. I feel disconnected; as far from my future and any certainty as that character in my nightmare who stumbled upon the mountain of human offal and stood in disbelief.

In my dream, I merely walked on, trying to shake off the horror of what I’d witnessed.

For now, I can only sit still and examine these pieces again and again. Hope that something knits them together.

I’ve found no answers in this particular rumination.

I wrote. That’s all I can do sometimes. One word followed by another, like footsteps on a journey.

I suppose, in that, I’ve assembled at least some small figure from the pile of parts.

It’s something.

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.

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?

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.