I’m horrible at goodbyes.
They haunt me. I hate them. So much of my life has been regrets about not embracing them. Mostly because I hate letting go. Or life is so crazy and overwhelming that it just goes too quickly. Or the completely unexpected happens.
And there you are. Holding her shoes. And you never have another conversation with her.
When I decided to leave Colorado (and it was clear it was actually happening this time), the one thing I decided I had to do was say goodbye to my beloved soulmate. To my childhood. To my parents. To all the people I’d been.
I made plans–many plans–for roadtrips–to write documentaries and write a love letter to this place that held me so close for all of my life.
Only change happens and the places that were special disappear. And cats get cancer, and you spend your entire savings trying to save her…and you win…and then have to take care of her–every day–making it hard to go anywhere when it’s just you. And time just runs away–no matter how many postponements. No matter how many good intentions.
So, I didn’t write that documentary. I decided it needed more time. And this wasn’t forever. I could come back–do it right. And I didn’t go on any roadtrips this year. Instead, day in and day out, I nursed this sweet girl back to health. And she is so good right now. Cancer free for almost 9 months now. Diabetes regulated. IBS in check. Holding. And while I was always packing or purging or cleaning in these months, I was also procrastinating the big things. Carefully avoiding the things that would inspire too much emotion.
I wasn’t ready.
I so often am not ready. Not for goodbyes, at least. With every single move of my adult life, I am always the one packing frantically as the movers knock on the door–or doing it all by myself–failing hard and realizing I need to hire some help.
But always holding on till the very last minute. Always pulling my best impression of Wonder Woman. And it always works out. Even if my entire body ends up bruised–and I lose a toenail.
This time, we had so much time. But when I started this journey, I didn’t realize how much would change. How hard it would be just to keep up with my life–to practice daily self-care and be kind to myself. I didn’t expect so much change, and change is overwhelming–even when good. I found myself paralyzed often. I had no good excuses and plenty of good intentions. And oh, how I knew that I would kick myself so hard for not tackling this early–for waiting and putting so much more stress on myself.
And when I criticize myself, I am the worst kind of unkind. As a people pleasing, perfectionistic control freak…in recovery…well, trying.
But then Sunday happened. And it was exactly what I needed. Permission to go. The grief I’d been processing suddenly lifted and I felt the kick in the pants I needed. And ever since then, I’ve been pushing–getting an amazing amount done…but still avoiding a few key areas. At first, I felt so much better. And then, yesterday, the anxiety built up and I found I was utterly spent. It was an emotional weariness–not physical.
Work has been particularly crazy this week. And packing before work, at lunch, and until 1 am when I get up at 6 am has been hard. But work itself has been stressful as I’m holding down the fort. My beloved coworker’s water broke yesterday at barely 28 weeks and she welcomed her sweet baby–who will be in a NICU for a while. I’m holding her stuff together, along with my own, and also pulling lead duties while helping a desperately struggling account that keeps getting worse. The amount of mental effort of all of this along with processing this move has just felt like too much. Add to that the fact that all these things here had a deadline of later this week–when my roomies would be here…and needing my help with their stuff.
Tonight, it just became so apparent that I was heading toward paralysis and a breakdown if I didn’t practice some radical self-care–quick. I knew I had a dental appointment tomorrow and I might be in pain after. I knew I was already sick from overworking myself. And I realized all these deadlines were mine. That the only reason I had to do any of this by that unreasonable date was because I was trying to make room for goodbye.
And it just became really really clear. I didn’t need my goodbye. Self-care was more valuable to me.
A long time ago, after years of not visiting my father’s grave, I went finally and realized he wasn’t there. His body was–sure–but my father had never once left my side in all the years since his death. I was reminded of this every time I lost my keys, whenever there was a crazy storm, and by the rainbow he delivered the day I scattered the last of Mama’s ashes at Never Summer. Oh, and the countless times I legit should have died and didn’t. On his death bed, my father told my Mama he would never leave me. He kept his promise and I’ve been so grateful–even during the years when I still hated him.
When I scattered my Mama’s ashes, the wind carried her across the meadows of Never Summer. I have no doubt she is all over Colorado, and for me, everything here reminds me of her. Though I rarely feel her presence in my life–like my father–she shows up sometimes in my dreams. But the reality is my mother is the heart I wear on my sleeve. She is so much of who I am.
We have these memorial sites where we go to pay our respects. These places that remind us to remember those we’ve loved. But I’ve never needed a reminder. Every day of my life, I am my parents’ daughter, and I’ve only got to look in the mirror to visit them.
The funny thing is that this whole thing–all of this anxiety led me to one of the biggest lessons of my life today–and a newfound peace that I never expected to find. All these years, I’ve regretted not saying goodbye. But there is no real goodbye. I’m stuck with them. I’m stuck with the little girl I used to be–with the place I grew up in. It’ll go with me no matter how far away from home I get. It’s in my DNA. It’s in my emotions. It’s my lens.
It’s just another see ya later. And I’ll always be back. Even if it just means coming back to my heart and remembering where it started beating.
(Deep, healing breath in…deep, healing breath out).
This morning, I woke up with a cold and asthma symptoms…took some medicine…and started on the morning chores–mentally setting a plan for my day and this week.
Basically…do my kitty stuff, eat some breakfast, and pack like a banshee. No, really.
(I have till Friday to go through my entire bedroom and the bathroom plus the 1/2 bath and hall closet. It’s going to be hard simply because my closet is a no man’s land, and that no man’s land contains every emotional landmine ever from old relationships and my parents. I’m hellbent on purging, so some tough decisions will be made).
We’re in the home stretch. Roomies will be here Friday and then more packing like a banshee will commence. And then Sunday morning, I drive up solo to Never Summer, say goodbye to my Mama, and then drive out to Westwood and Fort Logan to say goodbye to my Daddy and my childhood. Sunday night, we move out to a La Quinta Inn near Boulder and then, Friday morning, we drive to Durango, then Flagstaff, then Vegas, and finally home. With three cats. On a holiday weekend.
I told my roommate, I will likely ugly cry the entire way out of Colorado. He questioned that. 8 hours? (Really, Alma?). And I assured him that it might go much longer. But yes, it will be sobbing crying. The kind that makes my face fall apart.
Because if you’ve known me in any capacity, in any part of my life, you know this about me: Colorado has been the love of my life–along with my parents and my kitties and a couple guys I used to know. In the five years my roomie & I have lived together, he’s never seen me truly heartbroken. I’ve only had two big loves–romantically–in my life…and losing them changed me in many ways. Life does that. Sometimes, it’s good. Sometimes, it’s a learning process. I’ve been in love and smitten–and seen those relationships fall apart, sure…but nothing that caused actual heartbreak.
When my heart breaks, I spend lots of time in dark rooms. Sobbing. Writing. Sometimes, singing to myself. Sometimes, talking to friends. The last time, a great friend introduced me to Ted Talks and various self-help gurus. Because he knows me and loves me. I love hard, and when I let go–finally–of the things I actually love–it guts me…takes me a good long time to feel like myself again. Even if what I need most is to lose that love–it’s hard on me.
Colorado, of course, will still be here to visit. I’ll likely be back before Christmas–or by Easter, for sure. But the me that comes back will be different. Colorado is changing so rapidly–and not in good ways–a long, sad process that has left me heartbroken many times in the last five years.
Mostly, though, I’m leaving myself and all the people I’ve been…all the people I’ve lost…and wiping the slate clean. I’ve been aching for transformation and new starts for so, so long. So, all of it is good and exciting and full of joy. But also completely full of nostalgia, sentimentality, and pouting. Because why can’t it come with?
I changed my mind about breakfast and decided to treat myself to something just when the music started. A live band. A man on a saxophone on the corner. I smiled, thinking, “Never change, Cheesman.” And then more. And I realized it was an event. AIDS Walk. I usually volunteer, but–this year–for obvious reasons–didn’t and totally forgot about it. This meant road closures, so no special breakfast delivery for me. I started making breakfast and walked out onto the balcony, dancing in my PJs. I was not alone. It seemed like everyone in my building was doing the same, cheering, singing, and dancing along to Paul Simon. Soon, a crowd congregated on the empty street and people were legit dancing with one another. It was one of those idyllic, beautiful moments of community that made me fall in love with Cheesman and made me adopt it as home in the years after I left Westwood. This place where people supported each other and laughed and danced. And loved.
I found myself bawling and laughing at the same time. Incredibly happy to be part of it and sad to be leaving this place–that hadn’t changed as much as I thought. It was as if my Denver decided to give me one last hug–to let me know it was okay to go.
I’m going to cry a lot between now and September. So, if you see a freckly faced redhead falling apart in Cheesman–that’s probably me. Feel free to give me a hug. I probably need it.
For a very long time, my birthday has not been something I’ve loved exactly. When my Mama was alive, it was a special day for me because she made it special. And it was just as much about her as it was about me.
I’ve never really been one to care much about material things. I don’t care about gifts. I’m not one to really go out on my birthday either. The only thing I really want is acknowledgement that my existence in the world matters. And I know you shouldn’t seek that external validation from outside yourself, but I’ve always been a people pleaser and that kind of simple recognition matters to me. So–yes–I do get hurt when people forget or (worse) purposefully say nothing or (even worse than that) do it passive aggressively. Like yesterday, according to a friend, an ex I’ve tried to make amends with mentioned it on Twitter–but failed to actually say anything to me. Since we are not friends on Twitter or anywhere, he was counting on third parties to relay the message…and to me–that’s just bullshit.
I think more than those things, my family’s continued slights on my birthday are what bothers me the most. I didn’t really expect much, but I did probably hope they’d say something given we are now connected on FB–which makes it so easy to say something. But, of course, they didn’t. I was disappointed, but I was prepared for it.
On the other hand, my work peeps–who had no way of knowing it was my birthday–somehow found out. And people I’d totally given up on actually were kind and went out of their way to say hi.
Overall, it was a decent day. And many people remembered me. Enough that I did get the warm fuzzies. The thing is–I never expect much of anything. And while the day can sometimes be this wonderful day, it usually isn’t. So, I’m good with ho-hum.
The evening was not so fun, for reasons that had nothing to do with my birthday. But in the midst of feeling frustrated about that, I decided to turn the situation around. Due to a whole bunch of errors, I ended up with a shitty Subway sandwich for dinner–and they completely effed up my order. It was inedible for me–given what landed on my sandwich. I was a bit pissed off about it and decided I just wasn’t going to accept that. It was my Goddamn birthday, and I was going to find a reason to smile. So, I decided to make my own reasons. I packed up a care package–that sandwich, some fruit, a hot thermos of tea, and some birthday cake along with some toiletries and a blanket–and went out searching for someone who was hungry and in need. I found a homeless man at the bus stop, and I told him it was my birthday. And that I wanted to help someone else on this day–so he was my someone. We chatted for a bit, and he was so happy–so appreciative. And it made me smile just talking to him–knowing something so simple could change his whole night. It changed my whole day. And I think this might be my new birthday tradition. It felt like my Mama was there with me.
In my 38 years on this planet, I’ve struggled most with human relationships. I don’t understand the slights and the things people do to each other. Mostly because I wasn’t raised to leave people out or exclude others. I was raised to acknowledge people and respect them–to celebrate at any opportunity. But my life was also hard–so I was also taught to look for crisis–to anticipate bad things. I treat all my friends like my family. I treat everyone well. I enjoy that. It’s who I am. And I don’t need much from people to be okay. I’m emotionally a strong person. But on days like my birthday, I realize I really focus on the bad things–on the slights and the bullshit–instead of those who take the time to love me.
Last night, I realized I am driving this bus. People will do what they’ll do, and I can do nothing to stop that. My fair, get-what-you-give side wants to retaliate by forgetting them next year. But that’s not me, and they probably wouldn’t notice. The tit for tat thing never was my thing. That’s hurt driving. But I do know one thing–I need to let these people go–because they do distract me from my blessings and create more of the negative. That doesn’t mean not showing up for them when they need help or not acknowledging them. It just means not engaging unless they engage. I’m done holding on to a rope that’s been abandoned by them. I’m done going out of my way to care for them. It’s time to focus on those who actually notice I exist and don’t feel the need to purposefully forget me.
From now on, I’m done chasing after people. I’m done apologizing for things. I’m done trying to clear the air. I’m done engaging the one-sided thing. I’m done caring when there is nothing to care about. No malice. No sadness. Just moving on and making room for abundance. If they want to engage, so be it–but it makes no difference to me. It’s done. I’m done being depleted by the past. They have no influence or pull here anymore. Because I’m not attached or mad or sad. I am in acceptance of who they are and aren’t. It’s okay.
Instead, I’m going to take that love and give it to people who really need it–who are willing to accept it–even if they’re perfect strangers. Life is too short for this stuff.
Goodbye. I don’t need you anymore.
For some Godawful reason, I’ve been waking up at 4 am every day this week. Today, it was because it was so hot in my bedroom. I think our thermostat is either broken, or the temperature difference between my bedroom and the living room is way off the charts. In any case, the AC works just fine in the hallway on our floor, and the thermostat says it’s only 70.
I decided to get up, go on a quick walk, and then take a bath. And then I checked FB and etc. Modern Love posted this link on FB.
So, there’s a study out there that says that answering questions can foster intimacy between people–even strangers. Well, I sure as Hell know that. And I like questions, so–Hell–why not?
Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Not anymore. I’m on the phone all day, every day, so I’d lose my mind if I did that now and would never get anything done. I’m pretty comfortable with phone conversations. They may even be my comfort zone now. I get too impatient writing to people, and I’m way more shy in person. As a kid, I totally did that though. Scripted the whole damn conversation based on what I thought they’d say. Ha.
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Right now, I can think of nothing better than a drive along the ocean with a picnic somewhere along the coast and some quality time with my camera. With someone or not. It wouldn’t matter.
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I actually sing to my cat, Fogg, all the time. I usually sing, “You are My Sunshine” to her, which melds into “This Land is Your Land” because I’m a weirdo. Or I make up songs to sing to her. It was probably yesterday.
If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
There’s actually a good chance I will live that long. My Mama’s parents were both over 90 when they died. I would want the body of a 30 year old just because age includes so much physical suffering. Watching my mother die taught me how devastating that actually is.
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
No clue. I don’t think I want to know either.
Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
I have no current partners, so I’ll answer this from my last “partner.” (Does three crazy dates count?). 1) Ability to understand suffering. 2) Impatience. 3) Keen interest in helping people.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
The suffering my parents endured in their lives that taught them the dysfunctional things they taught me.
Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
Born and raised in Denver. Difficult childhood steeped in poverty and addiction. College at a Jesuit school. Grad school. A failed attempt at a teaching career. A successful attempt at a career I never anticipated that I hated for years and then learned to appreciate. Striving. More school. Complete idiocy in love. Wholehearted living. Vulnerability. Death. Cats. A good life.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Well, tomorrow is my birthday–so it would be a birthday present. And you can choose to embrace qualities. I think the biggest thing would be self-care. It’s still such a hurdle for me, but I’m getting better at it.
In about a week or so, I turn 38. And in exactly 4 weeks, we will officially hand over the keys to our landlord and hit the road with our three cats.
It’s a little terrifying. On both counts.
38 seems ridiculously old, but I am oh-so-grateful for all of those years. But the older I get, the more I realize time is quickly passing through my fingers and I have so much I want to do–and who knows how long to do it.
Last week, I made a new friend–who just happened to be celebrating his birthday on the day we met. I mentioned to him, rather uncharacteristically, that–in recent years–birthdays kind of upset me and throw me into a brief depression. I tend to get butthurt about who forgot, focusing on them instead of the people who remembered. I tend to isolate myself and even have shut down my social media to avoid the internal battle that goes on with me. Because, when people remember me, I’m actually so in love with my birthday. And it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Just simple acknowledgement. But, as I get older, the more sensitive I get to slights and the more almost angry it makes me. Plus, it’s always a hard day because the person I always spent my birthdays with isn’t here. Being single, it’s especially lonely–and I’ve even been known to post embarrassing things on Craigslist during such times. Haha.
So, every year, I really have to manage my emotions. But I’m always pretty introspective and moody about the whole thing. I always set intentions for the year and look back at the year that was.
I don’t think I’m doing that this year. I probably will avoid social altogether. And I doubt I’ll check to see who said what on Facebook. No offense. It’s just a mental health thing, and I’m choosing to just believe that everyone I love most said what needed to be said rather than keeping score in my head.
I don’t think I’m going to review the year or set intentions either. Because if this year taught me anything, it’s that I have zero control over anything at all. Sometimes, random shit will just suckerpunch you. And it was a hard damn year. I don’t need that reminder. As for intentions? Well, everything changes in four weeks. I have no idea what life will feel like once all our shit is out there. But I do know I’m in for lots of change. Rather than managing the change, I’m just going to embrace it and try to love it as much as I can. So, if there’s an intention for year 38, it’s surrender.
I am a goal-oriented person, and leaving Denver is a big deal for me. The next four weeks, I am focusing on letting go of all the physical things I don’t need. That means a lot of non-physical things will be released too, of course, because that’s how that goes. But leaving also means leaving behind people who may not be great for me and putting distance between me and the past–since I won’t have as many opportunities to bump into it.
I want my California adventure to be just that…an adventure. I want to fill my life with new people and places and make new memories that I choose. It’s time to play and also work hard on the whole life thing. It’s time to get serious about my dreams. It’s time to embrace abundance and be happy.
I’ve really thought about what’s been missing in my life these last few years and, basically, it’s been my heart. I’ve held back. Protected myself and others. At times, I gave up. I want to dance to great music. I want to stimulate my mind with wonderful lectures. I want to laugh hard. I want to feel my body touch the Earth. I want to feel the breeze and smell the ocean. I want to nourish my body and my heart. So, I am planning on a lot of new things. I’m going to push myself out of my introvert comfort zone and explore things that make my heart happy and inspire me. Namely–just be more social–go out and attend events. Get lost. Find community. Travel. Study. Volunteer. Make the most of this beautiful place that isn’t mine and maybe make it more mine.
Because that is when I am most myself. Not when I’m hibernating and licking my wounds.
As part of all of this, I’ve decided to take on a new personal project–which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while–and even started attempting a bit ago. I’m going to start a new blog sometime in September that will be focused more on my passions and healing. It’s not really going to be introspective or a diary exercise like what I do now. It’s going to be more about sharing things that have helped me and also celebrating life. A lot of it will be a way to keep myself accountable and committed to the things I’ve decided to embrace. So, expect a lot of photography, food/recipes, life lessons, and joyful tales in this crazy new place. I’ll probably always also have this little side place for my introspection–and eventually–that will find its way there–but for now, it’s not going to be my focus. I’ll share all the new things as I get them set-up and posted.
I’m certain that, no matter what ups and downs 38 has for me, it’s going to be a magical, radically shifting year. I can’t wait.