Saturday, July 23, 2016

Coming home

A year ago yesterday, I moved out of the southern Portland suburbs and into the far northern reaches of what I guess could be called Portland's ruburbia (does anyone still use that term?).

It was quite a change for me, and one that I was hesitant to make.

I grew up in suburbia, and grew less and less enchanted with it as I got older. My ex-husband and I moved to Baltimore in 2005? 2007? Somewhere in there, anyway. That was the moment I realized I really am a city girl at heart.

From that aspect, moving to Portland was an easy choice. I fell in love with the city, and it's a small enough city that I don't feel intimidated like I do in larger cities. Even DC is too big for me.

And even though I was living in the Portland suburbs, we were close enough to Portland proper that the city felt like it was home.

What I am not and never had been was a small-town girl, a country girl. That, plus the distance from Portland, from my friends, made me hesitant to make this move.

But a year later, I am oh so glad I did.

The area I live in is beautiful. We have a view of the Columbia River out our back windows. It's quiet and peaceful, and in this year I've needed that quiet and peace to heal from a lifetime of struggle.

I was particularly hesitant to make this move because Roy & I had been together for so short a time. It was putting a lot on a relatively new relationship for me to uproot and move in.

But I am oh so glad I did.

I'm adjusting to being far away from everything - well, except for St Helens and Scappoose. I'm getting used to small town life. I'm getting used to driving for a long time to get to Portland.

And as the city I love goes through some severe growing pains, it's kind of nice to have some distance between it and me.  This small town feels safer, more comfortable.

This is home now.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Olympic National Park

I'm so far behind on posting about things that have been going on, so I'm going to start with a trip we took in June.

I was having such bad anxiety leading up to the anniversary of Jay's death that I said to Roy one evening that it would be nice to be out of town between 6/1 and 6/6 (between death day and birthday). We'd been watching the Ken Burns National Parks series, which had inspired us to want to travel to more of them. So bless him - he set up a trip to Olympic National Park, which was a park neither of us had been to.

We started our road trip on June 1st, driving up I-5 and eventually onto 101, which road eventually led us through the hamlet of Humptulips, which led to a lot of giggling.

We stayed in Quinault, WA at the Lake Quinault Lodge. Ironically, that was right down the road from where Jay had spent so much time at the Rain Forest Writers Retreat, which made it all a little bittersweet. But that was OK.

On 6/2, our first full day there, we drove on South Shore Road, which led around the southern perimeter of Lake Quinault and long the Quinault River.

On the second day, we drove up 101 to the Hoh Rain Forest (link to Google Maps), which we didn't hike in because we timed things badly and were both ready for lunch when we got there (and there was no place to eat). So we kept driving until we go to the town of Forks, where we had lunch and wandered around a bit.

The coast along that piece of 101 is very wild - by that I mean, it's natural and not built-up like the east coast beaches I grew up with. A lot of it looked like this:

We also stopped along the way to see the biggest spruce, which had been mowed down by lightning on Roy's & my birthday in 2014 (yes, we share a birthday - aren't we just too cute?), as well as the biggest cedar.

On 6/4, it was beastly hot, so we drove up to Ocean Shores to enjoy the cool ocean air. We parked for a little while on the beach itself, where I was lucky that the dead sea lion on the sands wasn't visible to me, although the guy that came up and took a tooth from the corpse certainly was. People make me wonder ...

One the way back from the beach, we stopped in Aberdeen to visit the Aberdeen Museum of History, which is an eclectic little museum, but fascinating. Of course, it had an exhibit about Kurt Cobain, but most of the contents were about the founding and development of the town. This is my favorite picture of the ones we took there:

Never let it be said that I don't want to undermine the government and wreck the nation.

I also introduced Roy to the experience that is the Star Wars Shop, which is a can't-miss stop in Aberdeen.

Our last day there was so hot, we didn't do much more than admire the view from the back of the lodge.

A good trip, all the way around.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The body remembers when the mind forgets

I've been having hideous anxiety for the past two weeks, and I couldn't figure out what was causing it. There didn't seem to be anything going on in my life that would trigger the kind of "anxiety so bad I think I'm having a heart attack" that I have been experiencing.

Then this memory came up in Facebook's memory app, and I posted it with commentary to my FB page:
And it occurred to me that I've never publicly told the story of the weeks between Jay's discharge from NIH and our return home. So here goes:

At the time Jay was discharged, he was having severe eating problems. The chemo used in the trial to knock his immune system down left him with unending nausea, which caused him to throw up most of what he ate, which led to him being completely deconditioned to eating.

It was in this condition that he was discharged from NIH, although he'd had at least one day of good meals and good sleep, so the consensus was that he would be OK. I disagreed with this decision, but it was made nonetheless.

We spent some time with Jay's dad and (step)mom after Jay's discharge and before they returned to Portland. It was a meal-to-meal struggle with Jay, but it was good to have help.

At one point between discharge on March 26 and our return to Portland on April 16, he and I traveled to the Maryland shore for a week. Hence the picture of the beach at the top of this post.

For that week, I was solely responsible for keeping him alive. I was terrified. We were four hours away from his doctors if anything had happened. We were in a resort town during the off-season, with unknown resources to take care of him in an emergency.

The recent two weeks of abject anxiety I've been having are an echo of that terror, written into my body even when my mind had utterly forgotten.

Things were a little better when we got back to Bethesda, although there was something in the house where we were staying that set Jay's cough off, so we had to move back to the hotel we'd been staying in originally.

I was so grateful when Jay's dad came back to Rockville, and then even more so when we got back to Portland and back to our support system.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Opening the other door

I've been feeling a great surge of energy with the coming of Spring. Even the advent of miserable allergies can't dent that feeling of wanting to and being able to move forward.

One of the things that's changed is that I'm participating in one secret and one closed group on Facebook. The secret group is related to the grief writing course I'm taking. The other is an accountability group for writers, where we each check in each day to talk about whether we've met our goals for that day.

Both of them have gotten me writing again, and focused on my writing projects again. After the depression and grief of the winter, after being trapped in those dark feelings, the feeling of openness I'm living with now is an amazing relief.

One other thing that's changed is that I just finished an amazing blogging course, which has inspired me to try and breathe new life into this blog. I know I'll never be an every day blogger, but I'd like to write more here, so that's my goal.

Let's see how I do, now that the other door is open.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Joining the loose threads together

I'm currently participating in Andrea Scher's Brave Blogging class, having decided that I needed a little creative oomph for this blog. And also because I've reached the point, as she has, where the stories I need to tell next are ones I can't easily tell because they're not entirely mine to tell, and this has frozen me into saying nothing.

I'm tired of saying nothing.

Be that as it may, refocusing on my blogging caused me to look at all the past blogs I've had, all of which are locked down and private now.  I had two in particular that I loved: my original Blogspot blog Emotional Diet, and Life on the Riverside, which I started when I thought I was actually going to start writing fiction seriously again.

It seemed silly to have those two blogs, those two pieces of my life separate, so I did some Googling, and figured out how to import the Blogspot half of my life into the Wordpress half.

And now I'm re-reading all that content from the beginning, sometime in late 2005.

It's fascinating to me to read my entries in 2006, which led up to me starting my addiction recovery program on Boxing Day in 2006. And it's both fascinating and frightening to see how many of my posts are about the same things I'm currently and still tackling. It's as if the last 10 years have been nothing but me circling around these issues and getting precisely nowhere.

I'm not sure I have a point here, other than to note that I'm slowly being energized by my own history to address again for the umpteenth time all these things that I can never seem to conquer: creativity, play, exercise, self-doubt, and self-love.

This time I'm coming to all this old material and all these old issues with a greater understanding of how my Complex PTSD plays into it all, and I have such compassion for the me of the past who had almost no understanding of her PTSD.

My conclusion? I think therapy is in my future again, but I want to write more of my own story for my own consumption before I tackle that.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The sky was bruised, the wine was bled, and there you led me on

It’s been a rough time since Jay died, and only now as I come out of the tunnel do I see just how rough it’s been.

After his death, I kept going through my life through sheer force of will, determined both to grieve as I needed to and to have a life without him.

What I didn’t realize was what it was I really needed to get over his death and what our time together had done and meant to me.

Last April, I had the opportunity to leave my job via a buyout, and I took it.

I pretty promptly fell apart.

I spent time looking for work, but had little success, and my efforts became more and more half-hearted. I was sleeping a lot, and half-heartedly exercising. I started seriously eating my grief.

I moved out of Jay’s house in July, and that disconnection of the last thing connecting me directly to Jay seemed to let me slow down enough to really start to recover from the stress of his illness and his death.

Only I didn’t realize that’s what was happening until very recently, as I start to come out of the darkness.

Our time together was wonderful and full of love. It was also pretty much wall-to-wall full of stress over his illness, his care, his future. Every decision we made together was inflected by the potential shortness of his life. The time we spent in the clinical trial and after we returned home from it was even more stressful than I realized at the time, and there were times during it all that I truly didn’t think I could go on.

The two years we were together sucked me dry, and I had no idea that was the case until I had a moment to just completely stop. And when I did stop, I fell over in exhaustion and didn’t recognize it for what it was.

I’ve spent most of the past year berating myself for not having any energy, for not being a self-starter, for not getting anywhere with my life or doing anything with it.

Now I can see that I was trying to live my life on an empty gas tank - dry tank, dry reserves, nothing but parched and scorched earth as far as I could see.

I’m starting now to catch my breath, to come back to myself in awareness that I’m not nearly done healing, but at least in awareness that I needed to fall apart completely, to stop dead (as it were). Now that I’ve done that, I can start putting myself back together, which means in part getting back to my addiction recovery program and in part just taking better care of myself.

This process is one of those things that makes me wish I didn’t take so long to figure things out, that it wasn’t so hard for me to learn the lesson I’m meant to learn. Being hard of learning is tough.

But then, so am I.

Friday, December 11, 2015

I come from the land of the ice and snow, or in this case, rain and landslides

So here's the saga of my day yesterday, pulling together all the disparate threads I started on Facebook.

First, a little background: We've had a genuine fuck-ton of rain this week. Roads are washing out, sinkholes forming, land- and mudslides sliding. Roads are out all over the place.

Wednesday afternoon, a landslide covered the northbound lanes of I-5 near Woodland, WA, which is the town I see across the Columbia River out my back windows. No traffic was getting through.

The only viable alternate route is Highway 30 in Oregon, which is my main route between home and Portland. Highway 30 is a 4 lane road, with a suicide lane in the middle for most of it, especially north of the St. Johns Bridge.

So here goes the story:
I have a massage every Thursday in St. Johns, which is a neighborhood in North Portland. This week was going to be a special one: a 90-minute massage as a gift to myself for my birthday. I was really looking forward to it, and that enthusiasm led me way the hell astray, as you will soon see.

I left way ahead of schedule Thursday morning, not knowing what the road conditions were going to be as I traveled south. By the time I got to Scappoose, I noticed that the lanes traveling north had heavy traffic, a lot of it tractor-trailers, neither of which is usual for the time of day or for the road.

But I didn't put the pieces together until I got to St. Johns, where I realized that there was a line of solid traffic on the route from I-5 to the St. Johns Bridge.

If I'd had any sense, I would have turned around right then and gone home. But I really didn't want to miss this massage, and I also really had no clue how bad things would get.

Also keep in mind I grew up on the east coast, where there are always many multiple alternate routes to get anywhere. I haven't really come to grips with the reality that this isn't true here.

The massage was wonderful, and afterward I walked over to the McMenamin's for lunch, figuring I didn't want to hit the road without eating. That turned out to be smarter than I knew, as was my bathroom visit before I did hit the road.

I fiddled around trying to make my way into the solid line of traffic inching its way to the St. Johns Bridge, and having no luck getting in, I finally decided to head for I-5 south, with the idea that I would stop and get my mail (my PO box is in that southbound direction), and then figure out what to do  from there.  The traffic on I-5 south was slow enough that I changed my mind quickly, and bailed out onto the Fremont Bridge, which would take me back to Highway 30 and home.

I hit the road at 12:30.

At 4:15, I had just barely made it to Scappoose, which is usually about a half hour drive.

At 6:30, I finally made it to St. Helens, where I stopped for dinner. It's usually about a 20-minute drive from Scappoose to St. Helens.

At 8:30, I finally made it home, a full 8 hours after I left St. Johns, a drive that usually takes about 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

There were times during the drive where we would sit utterly still for anywhere from 2 minutes to 40 minutes. Then we would roll, usually at idling speed, until coming again to a dead stop. The times when we went far enough and fast enough to actually shift into 2nd were exciting beyond belief.

I called Roy at one point during this drive because I was going crazy and trying to decide whether it made sense to bail and drive south again and find a hotel room, even though at that point, I was nominally about 15 minutes from home.

The last time I did a drive like this it was in a blizzard in Maryland. At least this wasn't white-knuckle driving.

And I've learned my lesson: bail!!