Category Archives: Portland

Sunset Blvd

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sunset from Rocky Butte in Portland

Last night, I found myself in possession of a few unscheduled hours between my work shift and a play date at the club. I went to Starbucks, first, for an iced coffee and a protein box, and I’d intended on staying there the full three hours, but there was this guy. Super creepy, mumbling in Russian, standing at the condiment counter. He stared at me, started to approach, hung back, and eventually flicked sugar packets at me, all while murmuring in Russian. Lets just say, my hackles were definitely up. When I’d made up my mind to do something, he left. I took a deep breath and could relax enough to eat my snack and start actually reading my book, instead of just hiding behind it.

Then a large group of political signature-capturers came in. I remembered these folks from a date at the same Starbucks many months ago. I knew they’d get loud.

So I decided to make to drive up to Rocky Butte and watch the sunset.

Rocky Butte is a lookout point high above Portland, mostly known for being a makeout spot. But the views of Portland, Vancouver, and the Cascade mountains are breathtaking, and I’d never seen the sun set from there.

It was worth the time.

Choosing to skip the regular lookout spot, I parked my SUV near a boulder and sat on the tailgate. I watched the city lights come on and the river take on a luminescent glow. It was hazy and simple and so lovely. I tried to clear my mind, to let go of the creep Starbucks dude and the anticipation of my date. To stop the ache for N and the worry over my kids and my mom. To ignore the muscle soreness from my workout, and just focus on being.

And memories flitted past.

My relationship with N isn’t the first long-distance relationship I’ve been in. Jason and I were long distance at the very start and I remember crying on his shoulder the first time he left for his military training in Arizona. It was sunset, then, and we promised each other we would be that old couple who still help hands and watched the sun rise and set together whenever we could. In the months that followed, I would get letters from him about the desert sunsets, once, even a gorgeous postcard of cactus and mountains silhouetted purple against a fire-red sky. Later, when we had cell phones, I would get pictures from his day and his travels “Still watching sunsets. I love you.” and I would send him the same.

We’ve watched the sun set from just south of the Canadian border to just North of Mexico. We’ve watched the Pacific Ocean turn dusky blue as the sun rose behind us, and rosy pink as the sun set in front of us. In Carlsbad, California the cliffs turn a blinding gold color in the dying light. At the top of Larch Mountain, in the Columba River Gorge, you are surrounded by the Cascade Range and the mountains turn pink as a periwinkle mist rises from the valleys. In Tucson, Arizona we watched the desert sky turn a bleached blue color as the sun just faded out. We were teenagers, then, and just engaged to one another. With our children, we’ve watched sunsets turn the Pacific silver and gold after days spent playing in the sand at Lincoln City or Seaside or Fort Stevens. We watched one magical sunset from a rooftop pool in Anaheim, and as soon as dark had settled, we watched the fireworks over Disneyland.

I’ve watched countless sunrises over Mount Hood, including the one on the morning my father breathed his last breath. I remember the golden light of a warm September morning filtering through the maple tree as I said goodbye. I’ve watched the oil fields of Oklahoma turn russet, the oil drills looking like strange sci-fi bugs in stark contrast to the bright sky. I roller-bladed through a cotton-candy sunset on the boardwalk in Long Beach, California, thinking of Jason and knowing he was watching the same sun set just a few miles south of me, at the Marine Corps base where he was stationed at the time. In Japan, I faced the ocean and experienced the novelty of the sun setting opposite the beach, something I’ve never experience before. I watched the sun set from the Tokyo airport, knowing it was headed around the world to my home in Portland, and that I would meet it again, shortly after sunrise there.

So many memories, so many pins on the map. Ever increasing reminders of the smallness of our world… That we all have the sun and moon and stars in common. hat no matter how far apart we are, we can watch the same sun set and rise, day after day, and still feel connected.

 

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Nine to Five

I’ve always loved the song “9 to 5”. Even before I saw the movie and before I starting seeing the world through a liberal feminist lens (yes there are conservative women who also label themselves feminists. I don’t get it either). I’ve loved the movie, too. Dolly Parton is my favorite, there, but I identify more with Lily Tomlin. Jane Fonda’s character reminds me greatly of one of my associates….

Anyhow, lets bring this back around.

This week, I returned to work.

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I think they missed me a little

I posted this pic on Twitter and someone asked if I work in a broom closet.

A broom closet would be luxurious compared to our combined janitor closet/storage room/loading dock/breakroom/manager’s office I think. But it’s home. I shan’t complain too much.

Unless a big earthquake hits. Because I know those plywood shelves are coming down, and bringing heavy mannequins and boxes of hangers with them…

Let’s not think about that.

Just for reference, I work in what is often called in polite company a somewhat rundown neighborhood. Frequently, people who visit from other stores hear our neighborhood is a little out there, but don’t get the full impact of it until they actually work a full shift and enjoy some of our local color…

Arriving at work early for my shift Monday, I stopped at Starbucks to do some writing and ease into my day.

There was a crazy guy lifting up garbage can lids and screaming at the contents of the bins.

“It’s good to be back,” I thought as I sipped my Americano.

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One of my associates bought me this as a welcome back treat… I have such a great team.

I think someone put out the word that I was back. Nearly every one of my regular customers came in and gave me a big hug.

I’ve laughed and smiled so much, my face hurt by the end of my shift Saturday.

One of my associates said “Chief,” she calls me Chief. It’s adorable. “Chief, it was so good to walk into the store today and hear your laugh. I’ve missed you so!”

Another said, “When I called for my schedule, I was so happy to hear you answer the phone.”

The one who bought me the fruit cup said it was good to see my car back in its usual spot.

And my store manager is ecstatic to have me back. The rest of the team said she was practically in mourning the past 2 months.

It’s so good to be back to  myself again. I love my customers and my store and my associates and the challenges of a retail management job. I love feeling productive and creating a shop where all women of size feel beautiful and comfortable shopping.

And I’m not saying this week hasn’t been rough. My body hurts. A lot. And even though I give the speech several times a year about how “if you’ve been out of the business for any length of time, it takes a few weeks for your body to adjust. retail is a physically strenuous job and blah blah blah…” I still had to have someone tell me the same thing when I got frustrated that everything hurt by mid week and all I wanted to do was sleep. My schedule changed twice in five days and I worked one unplanned open-to-close shift. Someone yelled at me because our racks were too full and it hurt her arms to look through all the clothing.

In other words, I’m back.

And it’s so good.

 

 

 


Joy

Two years ago, things blew apart with Wash. Hurting, and lonely, and facing a quiet summer without him, I turned to the modern lonely hearts club, the Internet. And I found on Twitter a sweet and funny guy who was bored at work and wanted to chat about all sorts of things. And we became close friends, and pretty soon, my day didn’t feel right if I hadn’t heard from him in the morning. And I’d go on dates, and would leave them feeling unsatified, because the person I wanted to be dating wasn’t them. It was him. 

And I was deeply unhappy, not realizing that the Bitch had snuck through a crack in my defenses and ravaged me again, so stealthily this time, I didn’t even realize it happening, instead blaming my marriage and my breakups and my job for my deep sense of sadness and dread. I couldn’t sleep in my bed, so I resigned myself to uncomfortable nights in the couch, further eroding my closeness with my husband. I felt friendships begin to crack, and even though I had a new job that I loved and wanted very much, I felt like I was failing, drowning in the darkness.

The bullshit thing about mental illness is how your own brain lies to you. The Bitch will tell you that you are fine, that everything else is fucked up, and convince you that the problem belongs to everyone else and it’s their job to fix it. 

The Bitch whispers sweetly in your ear that you are alone, that you are doomed to fail, and that no one cares anyhow. She convinces you that fighting is pointless, so why bother.

Something in me was strong enough to realize that I needed to fight.

And I couldn’t do it for myself. It had to be for someone else.

There used to be a spot I drove past, every night on my way home from work. There was a break In the fence, there, and no guardrail, and every time I drove past it, I would think of how easy it would be to drive off the road, drop the many feet down to the freeway below. I could see myself doing it, see the crash scene, the emergency crews, everything. But then I would see my husband, widowed, and trying to explain to the kids what happened. I’d see my mom, losing another child to mental illness. I’d see my kids, my sensitive and gentle son and my daydreaming wisp of a girl child, and I’d keep driving. I’d spend another restless night caught in invasive thoughts of falling off cliffs and bridges, waking to a panic attack and wanting to vomit. 

Heavy stuff for a blog post titled “Joy”, but bear with me here.

I realized a few weeks ago, that I had always fought for other people. I needed to beat my illness for them, for my husband and my kids and my mother, because they counted on me. My mental illness, the depression and anxiety and ADD, was something I needed to overcome because they needed and deserved a healthy mother, wife, daughter, friend. 

I didn’t think I was worth fighting for, on my own. My language was never that I deserved to be a healthy person. 

Last year, that sweet and funny Twitter friend flew up here to visit me. We’d never met in person, and I was scared of what might happen. I was scared that the spark that was online wouldn’t exist in the real world; I was more scared of what would happen if it was. I was in a new job, a position I had coveted and worked hard for.

I was miserable.

Everything hurt, all the time. I barely slept. My marriage felt, to me, like it was falling apart. I felt like I was under-qualified for my new position, and I badly missed my children and my friends. The spark was there with my new partner, and the Bitch was right there with it, telling me he’d never come back, that the happiness I’d felt with him would be snatched away too. Finally, a romantic weekend I had planned with my husband had fizzled. I spent it sad and weeping. My depression snatching away another chance at happiness. 

That week, I went to my doctor. I started medical treatment.

And, I just realized recently, that was the very first time in my life that I made the decision to get well, to fight like hell, FOR MY SELF. 

I finally realized that I was a whole person who deserved to be healthy and well and happy. I realized that I was the best person to fight for. That I deserved a shot at joy.

This year, I had the strength to go to a con, with my partner, Ziggy.  We went to Furlandia, here in Portland, and It was amazing . We had a magical weekend together. My husband and his new parter took the kids to the coast that weekend, and we all got together for dinner that Sunday night to share stories and celebrate Ziggy’s birthday.

And I was awash in something I hadn’t felt except in brief glimpses through the worst years of my illness. 

I felt joy.

I see the pictures of myself from the con and I don’t recognize me. My body is relaxed, comfortable, not twisted and tense from pain. I’m laughing, hard. That weekend, I danced. The joy is there, in every line and freckle.

And in my falling dreams? I no longer wake sweating and shaking, bracing for the fall. in those dreams, a breeze catches me, and I grow wings, and I soar.


Long Distance

So, it seems I am in a  relationship again.

It’s been a different experience this time. We met online, in the fallout from my breakup with Wash. He had some questions about the poly lifestyle; I had answers, and a great big hole in my life. We started chatting through Direct Messages, sending sometimes hundreds of messages a day. He lived several states away, in the southwest. We started chatting by phone, and eventually through Skype. And always through Direct Message, until my day didn’t feel right unless I had heard from him.

I wanted to fly out and meet him, but was unable to do so.  The messages flew back and forth, most sexy and playful, but more and more often they were serious. We talked about everything and nothing,  often for hours. I opened up to him about my depression and anxiety, and when I was having a bad day, his first response was always to ask if I needed him to call. My girls at work would tease me about my younger man… he’s 11 years younger than I. I realized that I got my first job when he was in preschool.

We finally met in person in July. I was horribly nervous; clinging to my phone and obsessively reading facebook to keep a hold on the panic in my body. This was someone who’d never touched me but had seen me naked; who’d whispered in my ear dozens of times but had never held me close. 

I was scared. What if the spark we had online wasn’t there in person?

Even scarier; what if it was?

An online relationship is almost easy. There is a barrier in between you and that other person, a safety net made of the screen and the keyboard. It’s easy to whisper about your terrors and demons to someone who lives a few thousand miles away. You don’t feel as accountable, almost, because that person is so far away they almost don’t seem real. 

And suddenly he was real. He was walking past security at PDX and we were getting dinner at New Seasons and we were holding hands and laughing together. He was in my home for a magical week, and then gone again. He held me when we said goodbye at the starbucks near my work, and promised he’d come back. And at the end of August, he did. He found a job and moved up here, to a town 2 hours from Portland.

And I’m learning a few things… long distance relationships are hard but they are worth it. Two hours by car is far better than two hours by plane, and if your lover lives at the other end of a national scenic byway, the drive is quite pleasant. Stocking up kisses to hold you over til the next visit almost works. Snuggling up with your iPad after online sexy times is not nearly as satisfying as snuggling up with your lover after real-life ones. Teaching crochet via Skype is challenging but can be done.  Having the house to yourselves because the roommate is gone is pure bliss. And always charge your phone before a phone date, or it may crap out during something important. 


At the Lighthouse

I want to write, but my heart is so full right now, and I don’t know where to start.

Mr Awesome and I visited my dad today. We made the long drive NorthWest from Portland to Cape Disappointment. We stopped for Snickers bars at a gas station in a small Washington town and had a lovely long conversation about everything and nothing, the way we do when we get together without the kids.

We had packed a lunch, and parked at the base of the trail, and hiked up, past Dead Man’s Cove and through the forest to the cliff face overlooking the Pacific.

There’s been some changes, in the past fourteen years. A fence around the Coast Guard station. Trees lost to coastal winds and storms. Erosion has
shaved some distance off of the path, and eaten the sign with the poem on it that I have always loved.

But he’s still there. My dad. Watching the ocean, laughing with the other old sailors, and listening to the voices of the children who visit this historic site daily. I could feel him there, still at peace.

And I leaned into my husband’s arms and cried.

We watched the ships cross the bar, and the waves strike the jetties, and the dragonflies chase each other. My mom will never make it up there again, to be near him, so I took lots of pictures to show her later this week. And she and I will probably cry together, and laugh, and miss him. I cherish this time with her… I know she hasn’t much time left, and soon, in a year or a few, I will be an orphan. No parents, no sister, no grandparents, no ties to the child I was, no people to tell me the stories of way back when.

And I look down, as I type this, and realize the hands I have are the hands I remember my mother having, except I have all my fingers, and I am the same age now as she was when she had me. She was 35; my father was 50. An age difference that seemed impossible, when I was small, but seems so much less so as I look at my own dating history, realizing the last date I went on was with a man thirteen years my senior, and somehow, we had a lot in common we could talk about.

My mother’s light is flickering now, not as steady as it was even five years ago, and I realize it’s my turn to carry the torch, so to speak. To tell my children the stories of Portland-that-was and the world that used to be before 9-11 and technology and economic collapse and everything else that makes their world so much different from the one I knew. It’s up to me to fill their amazing brains with stories of the grandfather they will never know, so he isn’t lost, so the world will carry him for just a few more years. To let them know that when they see the ocean, he is there, with them always, laughing at them and loving them from wherever he is now.

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