Snow and lights

For the first time ever in my life, I watched a real live snowstorm last week.

When I moved to Seattle, I surely expected rain. I’d be an idiot not to. When I was looking for homes to buy in the Seattle area, I researched transportation routes for each option, and as a result, intimately got to know the King County transportation websites. This includes the snow schedule/routes. I knew that Snow Days happened, but from discussions with people from the area, or who’d lived there, snow was not the norm. In fact, Seattle when it snows equated to LA when it rains. Shit shuts down. People lose their shit, and suddenly can’t drive anymore. Luckily for LA and Seattle, rain and snow, respectively, don’t happen that frequently.

Yet, it snowed twice last week, on December 5 and 8, 2016, after I’d already commuted into work. Thank goodness, or I may not have made it in. Having 5+ knee surgeries under my belt, and a propensity for klutziness, I try to avoid snow at all costs. It’s not even winter yet, so snow within my first autumn in Seattle was wholly unexpected.

After obsessively checking weather apps, which kept altering their predictions for snow at 6pm, 7pm, then 8pm… I made it to and subsequently left my physical therapy appointment to head home via bus, praying to a God I may or may not believe in that the buses hadn’t already shut down. After the 12-year-old chiropractor rubbed out my knees, neck, back and tender feet, I shuffled to a CVS for some last minute decorations once the bus dropped me off closer to home.

Suddenly, around 9pm, the snow came. As a Californian, it was never a way of life. It was a commercial. It was on TV. It was the east coast, middle America, Mount Everest, Austria, everywhere and everyone but who I am. And yet, when the uniquely individual snowflakes congregated on the balcony handrail, on the patio furniture covers, as the snow flurried in the light from the street lamps, clung to windshields of parked cars, I felt oddly, and amazingly, at home. I missed my dad, who is no longer of this earth. I hugged my cat tight for at least 30 seconds, every one of those seconds he vacillated between despondent defeat and fervently trying to escape my cuddles. As he tried to break free, like any prisoner in the show Orange is the New Black who fled for a swim in the lake when the officers were nowhere to be found, I felt more… more. That’s all I can explain it as: more. I teared up. I cried for seemingly no reason and all the reasons, at once. I watched the trash pandas (raccoons) that I didn’t even know existed in my neighborhood frolic with a pit bull, ruining the blanket of fresh, white snow.

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I felt myself heavy, perhaps from all the lives I’m not living, yet content with the one I was. Scared about the future of my home and life under the regime of a man who has time for SNL and Twitter but not the President’s Daily Briefing. Most strongly of all, I missed my Dad, and just knowing he was a phone call away, should I pick up the phone. My heart broke and rebuilt, all in the same moment. It wasn’t my first Christmas spent away from California, but it was my first being back in the USA, but not as a California resident. I felt like a stranger to this city, and at the same time, someone who now knew it during the rare occasion of a snowstorm.

Music always makes me feel better, so I airplay mirrored my holiday playlist on my Apple TV (feeling very technologically proficient since my friends showed me how to do so at Thanksgiving,) and began decorating my tree I’d acquired earlier in the week. I bought it at a lot in Capitol Hill, the gayborhood of Seattle. The lot was run by Seattle Area Support Groups, who donates to various charities after they cover costs, including providing direct support to Washington gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and minority communities, as well as toward fighting HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I basically picked the first tree I saw, because every tree is lovely if you have enough alcohol and low standards (and a time limit to your Zipcar reservation.)

My dad and I always used to go cut down our Christmas tree together from a tree farm when I was growing up. I didn’t cut this one myself, but I think the missing him hit me like a tsunami because I was attempting a modified form of getting a live tree without him for the first time since he passed. I had a fake tree my first Christmas back in San Francisco after repatriating from Australia. I hadn’t crossed that bridge until last week.

I also had electricians by today to finally complete a much-anticipated project of mine on the condo: a halogen-to-LED fixture conversion project for a majority of the in-unit lighting. The bathrooms already have somewhat more modern fixtures, and they have smaller, more manageable halogen lights. However, all non-bathroom lights were halogen. They threw off a lot of heat, not appreciated at all in the summer months. Not only am I more energy efficient as a result of this project, but I’ll begin to (hopefully) see real savings in my electricity bills. It was a relatively inexpensive way to add value to my home, and a way to see instant savings in my own use and enjoyment of the lights.

As a side note to any of my friends considering a similar project at their home – let me know if you’ve any questions. I asked a lot of stupid questions of my electricity company, and they helped educate me quite a lot. In the end, I went with 3000K fixtures (that speaks to color temperature along a daylight/bright light/soft light/candle spectrum – here, if you’re curious, is more info on the spectrum. Some folks are leery of LED lighting because it can come off as too bright, even bluish in hue. LED lights have come a long way, and don’t have to look like bug lights anymore. So if you’re thinking about it, do it!

Now that I’ve decorated for the holiday, and added more fairy lights than I previously had year-round, home is quite homey, and ready for my mother and aunt to visit. It’ll be the closest to Christmases I used to have growing up I’ll have since my father passed away. My aunt would usually fly in and it would be just the four of us nearly every year.

It’s a new city for me this year, a new condo, the same cat with new asthma, and the nearly the same but never quite the same again family. It’s been a big year for me, in many positive ways. But I lost my cousin to aggressive brain cancer, and that loss reverberates this time of year. That’s partially why I invited family to visit me here. If I’m being honest, to go back east and face my broader family without him might just be too hard for me right now. But baby steps. We all have projects that need tackling, in our homes, and in our hearts/minds. All in good time.

Restore and update

My world fell apart yesterday. No, I’m not just using hyperbole for fun. I saw in my FB feed a screenshot someone had taken on their iPhone of the new iOS 10 update. I thought, what the hell, and figured I’d get it over and done with in the background as I settled in to do some work. I went into my phone’s settings, and began the process to download and install the update.

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Worst. Mistake. Ever. I was one of those unlucky few who encountered the bug prior to a fix being released. My phone screen was black, with an iTunes icon in the middle and a picture of a dongle cord, begging me to plug my phone into iTunes to continue. It was basically a brick. This, of course, happened in the middle of the work day, and I had plans after work.

My boss was kind enough to let me leave from work a little early to plug my phone into iTunes, and in a perfect world, receive my update without any further hitches. Alas, this is not a perfect world. I waited over an hour for the software to download in iTunes, to at least revert back to the latest iOS before my phone shat the bed. I installed that on my phone, only to find the backup I’d performed this weekend was not accepted by the installation process. All my photos, contacts, music, apps – deleted. I had a factory restored phone, a blank slate, where my life had been. Years of saving important phone numbers and emails, photos with an infinite intrinsic value, a life organized – gone.

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Following a massive breakdown last night when I was inconsolable for a good 3 hours, I’m slowly accepting that, despite making an appointment for Friday evening at the Apple Genius Bar, I may never get that stuff back. While I diligently backed up using Time Machine and an external hard drive, I didn’t specifically back up my phone into iTunes or the Cloud. This especially pains me because this weekend, I was uber-productive and performed a system backup – so had I backed up to the Cloud or iTunes, the loss would not be so devastating. I had to go and make it complicated by backing up to an external drive. I’m going to see if they can salvage anything Friday night on my date with an Apple “genius”, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve begun reaching out to friends to get phone numbers and addresses, downloading apps I used with any regularity, and clicking “Forgot password?” so many times in the last 24 hours, I’ve begun to question how many I truly know. Finally getting logged in, only to find some profiles/user interfaces completely wiped out, has left me completely wiped out.

I had mentally prepared myself for the massive change in my Apple experience this new iOS was supposed to bring, and instead found myself utterly repulsed by any and all Apple products. What a turn of events. I have zero desire to update my operating system, and am thankful for the prior version which solidly works on my phone right now. I don’t want to upset that fragile balance for fear I’ll lose what I’ve managed to recapture in 24 hours.

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So, a word to wise, who proceed with the new iOS update: back that shit up before you go gentle into that good night. Better suggestion – just don’t update to the new operating system. Be old school. Rage, rage against the dying of the light… And have some pity on me – if you haven’t heard from me personally in the last 24 hours, it’s very possible I don’t know your number to ask you what your number is. Help a sister out and make sure I have your digits, if you truly want to hear from me. Approach me with caution, as there is still some residual fragility after the whole experience. Tell me I’m pretty and throw food at me if I start growling/crying, while you back away slowly. Have a little empathy/sympathy for the ordeal I’ve been through, the hardest part of which is usually being that smart person who backs up their stuff, only to find the backup didn’t work.

Decimated. Heartbroken. Shattered. Picking up the pieces, slowly, but surely in my own technologically-challenged way.

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Grief

I read somewhere recently that grief is the price one pays for love.

In a college Dying, Death and the Afterlife course, we read C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, and this quote stuck out when I think of my experiences thus far with grief:

“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

It’s true, I wake up every day having to relive the grief I’ve lived. Re-feel the loss of my father, re-feel the rejection of love I try to give. I’ve known my share of grief, though it is a recent pain I’m still learning to navigate with any kind of grace. This love shit should come with training wheels, a helmet, and heart pads for when someone takes it out and throws it on the floor, and stomps on it.

I experienced my first bout of grief in high school, when my lab partner Scott was killed in a car accident just before his 16th birthday. He was a guy that guys wanted to be like, and that girls swooned over. He just copied my papers in chemistry, since I had taken the advanced placement exam, and he was doing his best to learn and get by. I didn’t have a crush on him or anything, but it was a person within my closed circle of friends and he was the first to meet this fate that all of us one day will.

The most substantial grief I’ve met has been through the death of my father. A friend of mine recently (as in within the last two days) lost her mother to cancer, after a quick yet futile attempt at chemotherapy. When it hits stage 4, and it’s aggressively spreading, there’s unfortunately not much to be done.

The loss of my father occurred around the same time I went through two other substantial encounters with grief – going through a break up with a girlfriend I was still in love with, and a career grief that has since been mitigated. I was passed over for promotion despite being, in my opinion, demonstrating skills at that level for some time.

I am currently suffering another grief, one I have not mentioned to many. It weighs on me and I feel I can’t keep it in any longer. Writing helps you work through feelings and thoughts and for too long, this grief has been the elephant in the room.

Like an idiot, I fell in love in the past year. I do not know when it struck me, only that it remains despite my brain trying to tell my heart to get over it, repeatedly. It is an unrequited love. I offered more than friendship – the very best of my being, of what I have to offer, of doing anything just to make her smile.

This is the second time now when I’ve been in love, and been hurt for it. Both times, they told me in not so uncertain terms that the spark wasn’t there. I never thought of my love as having sparks. I know it comes heavy, like an 18-wheeler truck, and barrels through everything.

Grieving is said to happen in stages, including anger, depression, bargaining, and others. I find often I go to the bargaining stage and get stuck in it. I overanalyze what I could have done differently and if that would have changed the outcome. I would give anything to have it back. I get depressed at the futility of it all – how we only have so much time on this earth, and how the odds are against us from the start. But for my heart, that will make the win that much sweeter – when we are the underdogs and the odds are never in our favor, that’s when a true love will squash anything and everything.

I think of my most recent love often, and wonder if she’s happy. I wish above all that I could be part of what makes her happy. However, that is not to be.

It is this grief I need to come to terms with, and sooner rather than later would be most desirable. Part of my trip will be coming to terms with the second major love of my life and losing it. Some people say it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. I disagree. Both scenarios suck.

It’s better to have love, and have both participants understand what it is to them. Love is a tricky thing and can take many shapes and forms.

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I took a sabbatical from work to contemplate many things, including what I’m meant to be doing with my life, what I should do, and how I want the narrative of my life to change. I write the book. If I truly write the book, I would have a love that actually loved me back. Who didn’t expect love to be something that it isn’t.

I haven’t had the best examples of love in my parents. They’re good people, with their own individual flaws, and they made the best of things. I wonder if it was truly love they shared, though.

I haven’t had many people love me either, not in the romantic sense of the word, anyway. It makes one wonder if they are lovable, when all they encounter is rejection. I like to think I’m a good package. Still, I have some flaws, but in the end, I’m a good person, and deserving of love.

I know there is nothing I can do to get anyone to fall in love with me, or make people love me. Sometimes I wish I could. I’ve spent so much of my life unfulfilled, because no one has loved me, and may never will, as much as my parents loved me.

That brings both mommy and daddy issues into the arena. I see how my dad loved. Well, sort of. OK, not really. He was a gruff man, but he provided, he did things around the house my mother could not, and I see he showed what love he was capable of in certain ways. My mother was the over-doting, extra-protective parent who really thought I could do no wrong, and who still has ridiculous shrines to her only daughter all around her house in the form of framed pictures of me, old dolls that look like me, and a gusto with which she worries about me. Now, those symptoms are not wholly consistent with how my love has debuted itself, but the way the person is reacting to my love is like how I react to my mother’s love. Thanks, but no thanks.

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I find I see attributes of my mother’s love in the most recent unrequited love and the role I’m playing. Not that I have shrines, but with my love, despite seeing person’s flaws, I look past them and still would do anything for her. They’re not flaws to me. They’re part of what make her beautiful and unique. To my detriment, perhaps. That’s scary, because the last thing I want to be is like my mother (in that regard.) I know how I saw her love, and how I treated her. It’s no wonder I’m unhappy. I’ve had horrible role models in love, and I’m doing my best to overcome that.

I’d like to think when I’m working on the next chapters of my life, that I could maybe find a love that loved me back. That’s pretty important to me.

However, I also have to come to terms with an idea that perhaps my destiny is to be single, and I should stop trying altogether. I want to give up, because I’m sick of being disappointed. Maybe I’m just not meant to have that in this lifetime. Maybe this is the kick in the pants I needed to realize that I should stop wasting my time with such frivolous things as the affections of another. For someone who has so much love to give, this is an incredibly bitter pill to swallow.

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So on this trip this summer, I shall be coming to terms with grief as the price for the immense amount of love in all it’s shades of red and blue and explosions of purple that I have. Love is a horrible thing, I don’t recommend it. On the other side of that coin, love is a wonderful thing, and I can’t wait to be in it with someone that actually is in it with me.

Jedi training

I recently acquired the digitally remastered three-pack of Star Wars episodes IV-VI on Blu-Ray. I already had episodes I-III, since they came out when I was old enough to be a DVD consumer. I was born 1 year after the Empire Strikes Back was released. I’d only ever seen Return of the Jedi. And I loooooved me some ewoks and their treehouse party pad. I figured it was about time I watched all episodes, all the way through. It’s something my dad would have enjoyed doing with me.

In hosting my own personal Star Wars marathon in the last week in my spare time, I exposed myself to some very thought-provoking material, there. Yoda is full of pearls of wisdom. “Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the present.” 900 years of seeing shit, and you get pretty wise, eh Yoda?

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It’s good to think about the future and next steps in one’s life, but there is no guarantee of a future. Like my favorite song in the musical Rent, “There is no future; there is no past. I live this moment as my last.” I try to live every day in the present, learn from past mistakes and take tomorrow as a new opportunity. It’s a good way to live. I’ve perhaps had my eye on the future a little much lately, and to my own detriment, the forces-that-be shoved me back into the present. Thanks for that. Not.

Yoda, that smart little green nugget, also said, “Fear of loss is a path to the dark side. Attachment leads to jealousy. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” I also try not to get overly attached to people or things. Sometimes though, someone special sneaks through the defense force fields. I find myself attached. The art of letting go is a trial I have not yet passed with flying colors, so I am doomed to repeat that scenario until I finally learn how to do it most gracefully. What happened, you ask?

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Finally, it was Qui-Gon Jinn in episode I who advises a young Anakin, “Your focus determines your reality.” Any reality is shaped by one perceives the world, and perception is affected by what stimuli you focus on. Or as Timothy Leary conveyed in one of his LSD infused tracks, any reality is an opinion. You form your own opinion. Therefore, you create your own reality. Always good to be reminded of that one.

The reality I’ve formed since my last post has been, well… complex. I have feelers and every once in a while, they get hurt. I’m no stranger to rejection. When one is born against the grain, every interaction causes friction. But it was a hard week. I had to dig deep to keep putting one foot in front of the other, for many reasons actually. I’ve made it out the other side, it’s a sunny cool day in San Francisco, and I survived.

During the week, a song came onto my iTunes when it was on shuffle that normally, on any other day, I’d skip over. I listened to it, and realized how appropriate the lyrics to what I was feeling. I had to say goodbye to some dreams this week. This song summed it up perfectly. So I share with you to gloss over the feelers I’ve experienced recently.

I’ve lived no song unsung, no wine untasted. But the tigers do come at night, and dreams are born, hopefully come to life, and pass away full and rich. Some dreams never see the light of day. Some dreams cannot be, and there are storms we cannot weather. Life may kill some dreams, but you can’t stop dreaming. Make new ones. It’s the only way to make it through. Don’t get too attached to any dream, because it can be ripped away at any moment. Fear of loss, a path to the dark side is.

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Not for anyone’s eyes journal

I’ve promised in posts past that since the return of my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal from my teenage years to my possession, I would share some reflections on what I wrote. Here is what will probably be the first of many of those. I started, where else? At the beginning… but it wasn’t truly the beginning. It was just when I got this nice fancy journal, a dedicated space to put these most secret thoughts. I had one journal that was more like “the journal it’s ok if people find” that had daily happenings and superficial thoughts. But this second journal, the Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal with the fancy binding, was one not meant to be opened to the light of day.

I thought I would surely die of humiliation if anyone found this. I’m not quite so concerned anymore about the secrets in this journal. I’ve done a lot of soul searching throughout my life, figured out who I am. I know a good amount of the good and the bad. I’ve discovered the bad side of myself, to a similar extent that I’ve discovered the good side of myself. I know I am far from perfect, but I’m less concerned with what people would think if they got inside my head. So why not crack it open and see what my teenage mind had yet to learn? There’s got to be some insight my 33 year old self can gather from my idiot self that knew nothing of the world.

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The very first entry in my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal is about my biggest fear. Guess what it was. Nope, not that.

It was dying without saying goodbye. It wasn’t heights, or some other fears, I’ve mentioned in this previous post on fear, and this post about my legacy. I wrote on November 25, 1995, “Of everything I have, my friends are the most important to me.” What a crock of shit. I had no idea how to be a great friend. I was only a what-I-call “fair-weather” friend, up to that point in my life when this was written. I had no concept of real struggle. I knew not the loss of losing the friends I had then. I didn’t realize death wasn’t the only thing that could part me from my friends.

Everyone is on their own journey. Including my friends. Very often, those journeys will lead all over the globe, to places I simply am not. While I’d love to be there, and am in spirit, I am not. Don’t get me wrong – I love my friends. Biggest group of eclectic weirdos and the one thing they all in have in common is some sick, twisted part of them wanted to be my friend. I love all my friends, that I’ve had at any time throughout my life.

I wanted my friends to know that I was ok, and that they wouldn’t be alone. I had no idea if there was an afterlife, or where we go when we die, but I wanted people to think of me and talk to me like I was there after I die. I wrote that I wasn’t afraid of the dying itself, but more of not having left a mark on this world. I didn’t want to be famous, just loved. I didn’t want people to mourn my death and be sorry I died. I wanted them to be happy I lived. That’s fair; I’ll allow that one. That is still true, but I’ve done considerably more living than I had at the tender age of 14 when that was written. When someone I cared about saw a beautiful sunset, I wanted them to think to themselves, “She would have liked to see this.” I wanted them to know as soon as they thought of me, that I was there with them.

Here’s what my 33 year old self would add to that – being true to myself is the most important thing to me. I may still be figuring out who that “self” is when I’m 64, but at least I’ll be true to myself as I am each moment of my life. I’m going to say and do things that people won’t like. I’m going to go places my friends can’t join me. Friends will come and go; not all of them are meant to last my entire lifetime. I’m not afraid of not saying goodbye anymore. I know inside that each time I spend time with friends, I’m grateful for those moments. You say goodbye, and hug, and part ways. Maybe you see them again; maybe you don’t. You still say, “See you next time, mate.” “Catch ya later, alligator.” While I love them, and we may each make our own journeys, we can pick up the book of our friendship anytime, no hard feelings for having to close the book for awhile. We open it, we close it, and it’s a damn good book.

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Life is meant for living, not for only looking after your friends. They are important, but more important is taking care of yourself. It’s being ok to let some friends go. You outgrow some, some outgrow you. Some have a different path to follow that requires them to move on, live in other countries, raise children you’ve never met, and they become people you don’t know anymore. That is ok. In fact, sometimes, that’s exactly what is supposed to happen.

I think why I was really so afraid of dying without saying goodbye, is really about keeping a string attached to the world. I was afraid to be alone when I died, despite not fearing death itself. I was afraid that no one would remember me, that one day, I wouldn’t be known by anyone on earth. That was a truly terrifying thought to me. Not only being alone, but not even living on in someone’s memory. How else would I know I ever really even existed?

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June 3, 1997 – that was the day I wrote about my high school friend and chemistry lab partner, Scott Martin, dying. He got into a car accident with another friend of mine in the passenger seat. Scott’s was the first death I ever had to deal with, of someone I knew, whom I was used to seeing everyday. A lot of girls had crushes on him, and he was one of those guys that transcended cliques in high school. He was buddies with the guys, and a ladies man, for one special lady in particular. But he was my friend. We used to joke, I used to let him copy my work, and we had fun in class with our experiments. One Friday, Scott was there, turning in his homework, and I had called him “chicken legs”. Then one day, it was like he was on vacation, but never coming back.

Scott’s death was the first time I experienced what-I-call my “bad feelings”. It was an intense fear, more than I even knew about in 1995. Those feelings would cause actual anxiety – sleepless nights, nightmares, and I eventually got to a point where I could control them when I felt them coming on. I learned to curb them, shut them off into the shell of a nautilus, into a chamber, and not go down that road anymore. I thought if I let myself get too far into them, I’d lose my mind and never come back as me. I was probably right.

Going through my Not For Anyone’s Eyes journal is already making me cringe. Every time I write about what’s in there, I should just accept the fact that I will be humbled. But hey, we live, we learn, we get smarter. Let’s just say I’m glad I got smarter…