Posted in adventure, family, Goals, home, Life, living, Musings, People, random

Liminal Space

As I write this, I am sitting in a living room in a small pool of light given off by the white clamp-lamp attached to the shelf just above my monitor. I love this dumb little lamp and had to rip open a garbage bag to get to it, where it was wrapped in a tangled set of sheets printed with bears and owls. I bought them- the sheets, not the lamp- maybe a year or two ago, when they were still something Camryn would have liked. A lot can change in a year or two, can’t it? More than I ever imagined, that’s for sure.

My keystrokes are echoing in the room of my new house- the place is a lot bigger than it looked in the pictures and videos I saw online- and it is still mostly empty, aside from the bags and boxes shoved up against the walls. Most of them have been rifled through at this point, so it looks like a band of drunk raccoons tried to pack for me. I have no furniture. When I moved to Maine I got rid of my couch, my bookshelves, even my TV stand. I even got rid of my large TV- gave it to the neighbor across the street, who was thrilled. That’s where my TV stand wound up, too. I really didn’t miss any of my stuff while I was gone, but right now I do sort of wish I had a couch. It’s weird in here with no place to sit.

I mean…it’s weird in general, though. I am, once again, in that strange liminal space between arriving somewhere and actually being there. I know that sounds odd, and it’s an odd feeling, but I’ll try to explain. There is an uncomfortable time that stretches out and feels endless when you move into a new place, and though you may be surrounded by your stuff (or not, as was the case for me in Maine), it does not feel like home. It happens when you move from one house to another in the same town, too, but not as intensely. When I moved to Maine, I didn’t expect it, so it walloped me pretty hard. This time, I know what this feeling is so it’s less unsettling, although no less uncomfortable. I keep feeling as if the presence of a couch would really help even though I know that is just my desire to fix it, to feel better, more than anything.

So, where did I end up? Well, in Chico, California, of all places. And no, in case you are wondering, I had never been here before in my life before deciding to move here. I was trying to be closer to my older daughter who lives near Redding, and so I sort of worked outward from there. As it turns out, Chico is about two hours away from her- seems like nothing when you are living over three thousand miles away, but in reality it’s a good drive. I know because I drove it on Saturday when I went and picked her up. Four hours round trip, two days after ending a nine day road trip. I could honestly leave my car parked at the curb for the next six months and be fine with it. Except…I’ll probably need it to go buy my future furniture.

As luck would have it, Chico is beautiful. Not, you know, Maine beautiful of course. Maine was peaceful, serene, quiet, full of wildlife and rugged beaches, stately, empty, summer homes lining the streets. Chico is…vibrant. If you aren’t familiar with California, Chico is way up North and home to a California University that is infamously party-centric. There is a flourishing downtown area with tons of restaurants and shops, ringed with wide, tree-lined streets and darling bungalow houses from the thirties and forties. I happen to be sitting in one of those houses right this very moment. It has wood floors and built in cabinets, a huge backyard and the coolest little thing in the front door that opens so you can look out to see who is knocking. Like a peep-hole but big, you know? With it’s own little ornate, iron screen. The neighborhood is incredibly picturesque and walkable this time of year, with hundreds of citrus trees and front yard gardens in full bloom, the trees a leafy green canopy overhead.

It is also…fricking loud. The street I landed on is BUSY, and traffic flies by, day and night. Two doors down from me, there seems to be a frat house of some sort. Yesterday, I kept hearing cars honking. When I finally left to go grab food, I saw that the kids down there had set up a card table with red solo cups and hung a sign that said “honk and we’ll drink”. By the time I went to bed last night, I was honestly concerned for their health. I wondered if I should walk over there with a jug of water and insist that they go lay down. I wondered if I should call their mothers…or offer to BE their mothers. I fell asleep realizing how old I have gotten, but not before turning up the TV so I could hear it over the traffic going by. I don’t understand why very young people prefer very loud cars.

So, I am here, but I have not found my rhythm yet. I know it will take as long as it takes- hell, I had just started to hit my stride in Maine before I left and it took months. I know there is nothing to do but wait it out. And more than that, even, I find myself in the strange position of being on the other side of a gigantic realized dream- for so long, all I wanted to do was move to the East Coast and I did it! Was it exactly like I wanted it to be? No, but when is anything ever exactly as we picture it? The point is, I did it, and now it is behind me and…I don’t know what my next dream is. I don’t know what to aim for. I suppose that will come to me soon enough, though.

For now…liminal space it is. Which is a space that cannot be filled with a couch and bookshelves. Although I still think it would help.

Posted in adventure, faith, family, Goals, happiness, kids, Life, Musings, People, random

Moving Day…Again

I had to go back through my last couple of posts just to see where I had left off, and to my surprise, I hadn’t mentioned anything at all about the fact that I might be moving soon. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that on February 21st, I still didn’t know what the hell I was doing; that’s kind of how this entire experience has been for me- no clue what I’m doing now, what I’m doing next, or even what I wanted to do. A lot like how I am normally, I guess, but even more so. So. Many. Feelings. To be honest with you, that might be the reason I avoided writing anything here- I’m soooo sick of all my annoying feelings. But whatever- this is who I am, I suppose.

Just a quick recap: Hoped and dreamed I could someday move to the East Coast for several years. Took several trips out here. Got the chance to come. Took the chance. Drove over three thousand miles at the end of last October, in the midst of a pandemic, all in the name of a dream. Got here. Wrestled with homesickness and isolation for, eh…probably at least two and a half months. Started to adjust and feel a little better about things. Then…BAM! Everything changed again.

I got a phone call from my daughter at an obscene hour, and answered it, sure someone must be dead. In fact, the opposite was true- my daughter was pregnant. I don’t remember what I said, but in the morning I sent her a message and told her to take another one, just to be sure. In response, she sent me pictures of the three positive tests she’d taken. Wow. So…now what?

As do most things, it took me a little while to come to the best solution for me. Even though I was finally feeling more settled here, I knew that I needed to be close to Aisley through this experience. I wanted to be there to see her belly grow, I wanted to know my grandson (yep, it’s a boy!) before he came into this world. And I wanted to be there for her, too. To make sure she had what she needed from me. Once I had come to the correct conclusion, the one that felt best to me, I started looking for a house.

And there I entered another several weeks of just…I can’t even find the right words to explain to you the way looking for a house from the other side of the United States is. For the first time in my life, I have good credit, good references, good employment and rental history, and I know I am a great tenant. However, the housing market in California is just out of control right now and it took a really, really long time to find something. I was at the point of applying for places in towns I had zero desire to live in, just to have somewhere to go. Eventually, I did find a house I loved in a town I think is super cute, and somehow it all worked out (as things always seem to for me), but it sucked for a minute.

Now, it is moving day. The trailer is parked downstairs, just waiting to be filled with the few belongings I brought with me. I have lots left to do, and one hell of a drive in front of me. I keep feeling myself shift into super-stress mode, and I have to remind myself that I don’t need to do that this time. I hired someone to come clean after I leave. I don’t have much to pack up. I don’t need to rush across the country like I did last time- I gave myself a little time and I can’t move into my new place until the first anyway. I’m in good shape. I don’t need to freak out.

I can’t believe I’m leaving. It took me almost the entire length of my stay here to find my rhythm, and until I have that, I don’t feel right. Now I do, and here I go. It was a really good one, too- early morning walks on the beach every single day with Lucy. They’ve been getting longer and longer as the weather warms up here. Watching the sunrise and picking up sea glass, then cutting through the neighborhood the long way so that I can take it all in. Coming home and working until lunch, then taking Cam with me back to the beach again. Then our long evening walks down the other beach, headed the opposite direction. There’s been a lot of beach walking, honestly. It’s funny because I lived by the beach in Monterey most of my life and I never went there as much as I have since I’ve been here. I guess when it’s literally across the street, it’s kind of hard not to go.

There’s still a lot to tell about the inner work that went on while I was here, but this isn’t the time and I still haven’t sorted it out. All I can say is, spending months mostly alone in a place where nearly no one knows you, you have no choice but to get really introspective. If you are lucky, you might also figure out how to be real honest with yourself and if you are brave, you might be willing to face yourself and see yourself and love yourself even as you try to heal and improve. It’s messy work. I certainly had no intention of getting into it, but the universe had other plans.

The universe always does. LOL. But I have faith, and I trust that I am being guided as necessary. Everything is going to be okay, no matter what.

And with that, I guess I better get my ass in gear. Catch up with you soon!

Posted in adventure, faith, Goals, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random

Reckoning

I have been quiet.

I know that I have, and there have been many times when I sat myself down here to write, but the words just didn’t come.

Here’s the thing- for maybe the first time ever, the things I have been wrestling with are not things that I feel like sharing with the world. It’s not that I have some dark secret or big story- to be honest, it’s not ever very interesting. And maybe one of these days, when I finish sorting it all out, I’ll be able to lay it out for you in a cohesive manner in hopes that someone else can glean something from it. But I’m not there right now.

I will tell you this, though- this has certainly been a time of reckoning for me. Just me, myself, and I, getting down to the nitty gritty of this life of mine. It hasn’t been pretty or easy or fun, but it feels…important.

And once again, as they always do, the rays of light have started to shine through. Things never stay dark for good, and even knowing this is true, it can still get a little worrisome when you are in the middle of it.

The other day, it occurred to me- my god, if I can do this- if I can pack up my whole life and move thousands of miles away because it was my dream to do so…then I can probably accomplish almost anything I desire.

And while that realization brought me a rush of excitement and some feeling of pride, it also scared me a little bit. Because knowing I can means no more bullshit excuses, you know? I am capable of achieving anything I really want. I have what it takes to make things happen. If I shy away from it, I’m selling myself short.

So…just a quick check in. Things are in a state of flux as they have been since the moment I left California. It’s not ideal, but I suppose I am learning to go with the flow? Or at least not dig my heels in so hard that I leave furrows in my wake.

I’m trying to trust the process and remember that I believe in things always working out exactly the way they are supposed to. They always have, one way or another.

Posted in adventure, faith, family, fun, happiness, kids, Learning, Life, living, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, women

Playing Outside Again

I just got back from my morning walk with Lucy- we left a little later today, and we went a little further, since Devon is here (albeit, locked in the spare room where he has been since last Tuesday when he arrived- he caught a bug somewhere between California and Maine, and though he was only sick for 24 hours, I am not willing to take any chances) and I don’t have to worry about leaving Cam alone.

It occurred to me while I was walking along, up and down streets I haven’t been on before, that my best moments since I have been here have happened almost exclusively outside. Or at least, outside of my apartment. Because some awesome times have been had just out driving around as well.

Here in Maine, at least the part I am in, everything is beautiful. I’m not just saying that, either- it is really, really pretty here. But sometimes, you come around a bend and see something utterly breathtaking, so gorgeous it’s almost unreal. The urge to slam on the brakes and jump out to take a photo is pretty overwhelming at times. I’ve been trying to resist the urge to capture everything, and simply enjoy it, tuck it away as a memory.

The other thing I keep realizing is the way I feel when I am out on my several-times-daily walks, whether alone or with Camryn. It’s the closest I’ve felt to being a child in…a really long time. Do you remember that feeling? When you were a kid on a Saturday morning, and you took off on your bike and you just felt this expansive sense of freedom, like you could go forever and stop wherever and who knows what you might see? When you would turn down alleys and zig zag back and forth through neighborhoods you could never see so well from the window of a car? That feeling.

Everything is new here. And because the weather changes all the time, it is new in other ways as well. Since I have been here, I have kicked through many piles of autumn leaves. I have jumped and kicked through puddle after puddle in my Maine- appropriate lace up boots. I have fallen over in snow banks, made butt prints and snow angels, thrown snow balls and simply delighted in the crunch-crunch-crunch sound of my boots in the snow. I have slid through slush on a golf course and grown braver and braver about slipping down paths and darting through yards to see what is on the other side. I have yet to pass an iced over puddle that I didn’t give in and crack, just to see if I could. I can’t help tricking my dog onto ice patches, either, just to watch her slide. I have swung on swings in several parks, and slid down slides, laughing with Cam as we flew through the air. The birds and plants and trees and buildings are lovely, the sunsets and sunrises unmatched. But it’s the walking and playing and taking it all in that really does it for me.

I thought that I had forgotten how to play- I despaired of this fact, actually, many times. Because I have a child, and it’s important to me that I engage with her this way. The truth is, I just needed a little bit of wonder. I needed a change of scenery. I needed puddles and piles of leaves and waking up to streets that had disappeared under a foot of snow. I needed swing sets and ancient grave yards and candy stores that are a hundred years old. I didn’t know that was what I needed, but I found a way to give it to myself anyway.

Maine is not the solution I thought it would be. It has not changed me into some easier, more calm-minded person. That just isn’t how things work, I don’t think. But the gifts of this adventure are not few, and though they are different than what I thought I wanted, they are somehow…perhaps exactly the ones I most needed.

Posted in adventure, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, manifestation, Musings, People, random, women

The Longest Night

I have never lived in a place like this before, with this strange juxtaposition of wealth and wildness, this funny mix of such salt-of-the-earth people and streets full of empty summer homes, front steps blanketed in untouched snow. The people here are friendly but mostly quiet, and it often feels as though I am too much. Too loud and too chatty and too…other. It’s nothing new to me, but that doesn’t make it pleasant. I want very much for people to like me, and eventually they tend to come around, but…these are very strange times. With the pandemic and having just arrived here, and now winter…well; strange times, strange situation.

Still, I have the feeling that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. As uncomfortable and unsettled as I still am, I have nothing but time and space to face things that need facing. As I mentioned in my last post, there are things right on the surface now that were so easy to push down before. I am seeing things about myself that I suppose I always knew existed, but I could bury or flick away with the distractions of my busy, routine life.

And if you are bored of reading about me figuring myself out, you are more than welcome to go find a crafting blog or some TV review or something. I really don’t care. This is probably more for myself than anyone else anyway. I’m just trying to sort things out.

So here is where I’ve landed- I can’t be mad at myself for being myself. I can wish all day long that I were some other type of person, I could strive like mad to be quieter, or more of this and less of that, and maybe I could even manage it for a minute, and then beat myself up when I dropped the act again and went back to being me. I might just as well try to be a goddamn frog. I could do that for a minute, but eventually I’d be a human again, right? I am me, and if that is too much for some people, well that’s fine. They can do and think what they like. My job is to stop worrying about that so much. How in the world can I ever be okay with who I am if I’m looking to everyone else to tell me I’m okay?

And that is not to say that I can just lay back now and say “fine, fine, I’m done with myself, let’s eat popcorn and melt into the couch.” No, of course not. There is still so much I would like to untangle and resolve. But I have to work within the boundaries of who I am. I cannot become a different person, but I can become a better iteration of myself.

Maine is a really good place to get started. Because here I can see how very much I get in my own way. How desperately I cling to old routines while just as desperately I long to do other, better things. How fiercely the two halves of myself battle for control. It was much easier to keep up appearances when there were people around to keep them up for. But here, it is just me, and all my messy, strange thoughts and habits, all dumped out on the floor and needing to be picked through.

Today is the longest night of the year, and it is a deeply significant marker of time, ancient. Though winter has just begun, already the days will grow longer, a promise of spring and the rebirth of the world on the horizon. It seems fitting to me that I think about these shadowy things this morning- that I face the truths I keep hidden, and stop running from them. Because you know, it really isn’t working.

So what is the point? What can I do then, with all these bits and pieces that are becoming heavier the longer I drag them around? I think…I think I just need to accept them. To accept myself, just as I am, right where I’m at. And not grudgingly, either. But with love and tenderness. The dark parts and the awkward parts, and even the maddening parts. I need to stop wishing to be someone I will never be, and concentrate on loving who I am. I need my own love more than I’ve ever needed anyone else’s. I think we all do.

These are awfully burdensome thoughts for such a joyous time of year, but I need to release them. And I think we can all agree that this has been…such a hard year. If you haven’t come face to face with your deeply hidden self at least once or twice, I’d be surprised. But you know, I believe we deserve to have peace. I was going to say “be happy” but happiness the way I think of it isn’t something we can have all the time. It’s a feeling that comes and goes. Peace is something we can hang onto a bit more reliably.

These are the things I will be working on as I enjoy this longest night, and as I greet my first winter in New England- loving and accepting myself, facing the truth of who I am, changing as much as I am able because it will help me find peace…not because it will help others think better of me. This is my one precious life as me, I have no idea who I’ll wind up as next time around. I certainly want to make the most of it. So I am choosing to go forward as bravely as I am able, with an open mind and open eyes.

Happy Solstice to you all.

Posted in adventure, happiness, Learning, Life, mindfulness, Musings, People

Wherever you go, there you are.

It is 5:30 in the morning, and pitch black outside. Giant gusts of wind roll in off the Atlantic, just across the street, and howl fitfully against the windows and walls of this hundred year old building, shaking the floors. Inside, with the heater blasting, my cat asleep in front of it, and my desk light casting a warm pool of light around the corner I’m tucked into, I must admit, I kind of like it.

All this weather, the drama of it all.

Last night as we drove the million miles to the store (It’s really about a ten minute drive, I just got spoiled at my last house) it started snowing. At first, it was just tiny, spotty things that melted as soon as they hit the ground. But by the time I pulled into the parking lot, they were massive, feathery flakes, falling in a flurry. I was so nervous about driving home in the snow that I rushed through my shopping like a woman possessed…only to find that the snow had completely disappeared, without a trace, by the time I left the store.

On the way home, I saw a fox trotting down the side of the wooded road that leads to my house.

Bit by bit, I am adjusting. There are things I like very much about it here, and things I miss about California, of course. There are things I love about this weird little place I am staying in, and things I am utterly frustrated by; But…I hardly ever feel as if I am supposed to be going back to my house in Seaside anymore. The terrible longing to go home is fading away. Thankfully.

Of course, I have my work, which is the biggest, best anchor of all- I think if I’d had to start all over in that regard, I’d really be in trouble. The familiarity of that has been a saving grace, for sure. And Cam is in school again, so…it’s like normal life has resumed, only thousands of miles away.

And that is kind of the crux of it, really…the part I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge, probably because I didn’t want to believe it- my life will be MY life no matter where I go. What is that stupid saying? Wherever you go, there you are? Well, isn’t that the truth. You see, the Courtney that visited here all those times before was vacation Courtney. But every day, average Courtney is the one living here, and they are two very different people. I would hate to think that I moved three thousand miles from home to get away from myself, only to find that I had the nerve to come with me. And yet…well, here I am.

All my shortcomings risen to the surface, emphasized marvelously by my disorientation. My anxiety, my low threshold for frustration, my disdain for change. My God, what was I thinking?! It’s been probably a decade since Border’s closed its doors forever and I’m still not even over that, for Pete’s sake! Why I ever thought I could just skip across the world and slide effortlessly into a totally different routine is beyond me. It really is.

Yet here I am. A month and a half in, and it’s finally sinking in that I’m here. I’m in Maine. I only have to use my GPS some of the time now- I’d say it’s about 80/20 these days. I can leave my house after dark and feel relatively confident that I won’t end up in a swamp or lost in New Hampshire when I only wanted to grab some milk. I even went to the dentist last week- I mean, I had no choice, my crown fell off, but still, I did it!

In reality, although the view has changed, my life itself hasn’t changed much at all. I don’t know how I feel about that. Again, I am still me, just somewhere new. And maybe I had hoped that I would be nicer or better or different, somehow. What I’ve learned there is that if you want to be different, you have to work on yourself, not your surroundings. And if I’d realized that was at the bottom of it all, perhaps I would have realized that, but I was keeping that secret from myself.

I still don’t know what I’m doing. How long I’ll be here or what happens next. I do know this, though- I’ve landed in a beautiful place. Sunrises and sunsets like no others I’ve ever seen. Howling storms and waves that wash right over the sea wall and onto the road. Streets lined with hundred year old mansions, decked out with Christmas lights as the snow gently falls. Little bridges everywhere over rivers that flow backwards when the tide rushes in. Every time I drive somewhere, I tell Camryn “This sure is a magical place!”, and she agrees that it is.

If I was going to follow myself anywhere, I’m glad that it was here. The rest…well, I’m working on it.

Posted in adventure, faith, family, happiness, Holidays, inner peace, Life, Musings, People, random

Monday Musings

After a fabulous Thanksgiving of my favorite sort- the kind where I have to do absolutely nothing besides show up and eat- where I miraculously avoided thinking mournfully about my family even once, and then a slow Friday after, where I may have done a tad too much online shopping, and then ventured over to Ogunquit to poke around, I was worried I’d used up all my luck. My happy luck, you know? Because I’ve been a bit of a mess since I’ve gotten here, struggling to right myself.

But Saturday was really good, too. My friend and I and our daughters drove up to Durham, Maine to a little craft fair at a farm and yoga center in the middle of the woods. Because pretty much everything is in the middle of the woods out here. The drive there and back took longer than our time at the market, but then that’s half the fun, really. I never get tired of looking at the houses here.

Yesterday dawned sunny and crisp, and Camryn and I took a nice long walk along our road which happens to be the same road that winds along the beach. On the way back, we stopped at the beach near our house, and for the first time in forever, my heart felt light and happy. I threw the ball for Lucy and played on the swings with Camryn. It was her idea to finally head home, and honestly, I don’t remember that ever happening before. For a brief moment there, I was content to let the moment unfold, to be where I was, to let myself not take the lead for once.

The thing about Maine is that it takes a long while to get anywhere, no matter where you are going. Sometimes this is a pain. But on a beautiful November day, when the sun is shining and everything looks like pictures from a calendar or a glossy magazine, it’s no trouble at all. We drove slowly into New Hampshire, listening to podcasts and pointing out sights to each other. We visited Aldi’s and picked up lunch from Chipotle, and overall had a lovely day. So many cars had Christmas trees strapped to the top, and every time you drive down a road you’ve been down before, it has changed a little bit. I love that.

Sometimes, when I am feeling happy I become aware of it, and I become nervous that it will end. I try to hang onto it, push too hard up against it, and inevitably ruin it with my grasping. But these last few days…I have been willing to allow the feelings to come or go, just enjoying whatever shows up.

I think part of it is that I’ve settled on the idea that this move is not meant to be forever. I’m keeping an open mind, of course, but believing that there is an expiration on this leg of the adventure makes it feel so much more enjoyable. And that’s really all I wanted, was to enjoy myself. To have these moments where I can hang, suspended in the wonder that surrounds me, existing right where I am for a while.

The holidays can be rough for people. They have been rough for me in the past, even when things were normal and going well. This year, I hope to fill the season with all the joy and wonder it deserves, because…no matter where I am, I’ll never get this time back again. And where I am right now is pretty extraordinary.

Posted in adventure, anxiety, Blogging, Dreams, faith, family, Goals, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random

The Art of Not Knowing

The stupid tide, in again
Sunset from my deck

I know that it’s not unusual for me to go long stretches of time without writing, but it is unusual for me to want to write and not be able to figure out how. Obviously, I still know how to write, but getting the right words to come out can be tricky sometimes. I wanted to paint this beautiful picture of my new life in Maine, but what kept coming out was…the truth. That I was sad, and homesick, lonely and unsettled. That I missed my house and my neighborhood. That I hated not knowing where things are in the grocery store, and for that matter, not knowing where the grocery store was.

Kennebunkport

The first two weeks was really, really hard. I think it was made harder by the fact that I truly did not expect to feel any of the things I was feeling. I had this idea that I would get here and somehow immediately slip into this perfect, magical, Hallmark Movie life.

Hallmark Movie set

It’s almost like I don’t even know myself, isn’t it? I guess it’s nice to know I still have the ability to surprise myself.

If the first two weeks were hard, the third week was…just awful. I was sure I’d made the biggest mistake in my life, I was mad at myself and mad, quite frankly, at the entire state of Maine (as if any of this was the state’s fault- they didn’t ask me to move here in the middle of a goddamn pandemic). I was mad at this weird condo with its twenty seven sets of dishes but only one decent frying pan. I was mad at the crooked floors and the bathtub (as mentioned in my last post), the screen door and the mailbox. I was mad about the lack of quick routes to places, and mad that the sun went out three minutes after sunset, tricking my body into thinking it was midnight before I’d even had dinner. But…the moment I looked out the window and thought “The stupid tide is in again, I see.” I realized how ridiculous I was being. I actually laughed out loud.

Did I…did I really just look out my window, at the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, that I can actually see without doing more than looking left, and roll my eyes because the “stupid tide” had come in again? Okay, I thought, I need to get a grip.

I wanted something different. I was feeling stifled and trapped in my life in California, and I longed for- I BEGGED for- the chance to shake things up. I got everything I asked for, more, even, than I dared ask for…and here I was, sulking because I received all of my dreams tied up in the neatest little package. What an absolute jackass I was being.

Here’s the thing- I wasn’t really mad. Mad is just the mask I wear when I am other things, especially when I am afraid. Because being afraid is an awfully vulnerable feeling, and I am not comfortable there. But being mad is big and loud and safe, it charges through the house and slams doors. Fear just…curls up on the floor and cries, or stands in the bathroom for way too long, unsure what to do once you open the door.

So, I did the things I always do, which are- I caught onto myself, first of all. I acknowledged that the way I was behaving wasn’t only shitty, but it was a big fat lie. I let myself meltdown utterly for a couple of days. Then I got to work. I asked myself “How can you work this to your advantage?” and “What do you want to get out of this experience?” and most importantly, “What are you going to do next?”

I have come to some decisions. I figure I can best work this to my advantage by doing exactly what I said I would do from the get go- saving, saving, saving. Squirreling away every dollar I can to go towards the house I am going to buy. And what do I want out of this experience? Well, I want the joy of adventure, of course. I want to explore and play, walk and see all the sights that I can. I want to immerse myself in New England, as much as I can in the midst of this never-ending stupid pandemic.

And finally, what do I want to do next? If you have followed me for any length of time, or if you know me in real life, then you will know that I ALWAYS have a “next thing”. And I suppose I kind of do, because I know I want to buy a house, but…that’s pretty vague. The thing is, I don’t really have a next thing right now. I don’t know what I want to do next. I don’t know if I will choose to stay here, or if I will go back to California. And if I do go back, I don’t know where I’ll land. While I am here, I don’t know if I’ll stay in this funny little condo with the world class views, or if I’ll find something else. I am utterly up in the air. I have no clue what I am doing, and my brain keeps trying to puzzle it out, rather like a phone searching for a Wi-Fi connection.

I just don’t know. I can’t know. There’s no point trying to plan when I don’t have all the facts in. I need to be happy. I need to feel connected. I need to feel that I am home, that I belong, that this can work. And that is something that takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen in four weeks, not for most people. So when my brain starts hassling me, or I start scrolling through listings of rentals out of sheer habit, I force myself to knock it off, to sit back and do something else. Stare out the window. Walk the dog. Read a book. I am allowed to stop worrying, to stop pushing myself to decide, to stop needing answers that don’t exist.

I am not skilled at all in the art of not knowing. But I am smart. I can learn anything with a little effort.

I’ll muddle through, somehow
Posted in adventure, faith, family, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, women

Grace Period

A funny thing that recurs repeatedly for me is the realization of how well I think I know myself, how much I think I know about the way I show up and operate within my life…only to be smacked upside the head with reminders of just how forgetful I am. Now, here’s the thing- I can predict pretty accurately how I am going to feel and react and show up in a familiar situation. But put me in a new situation, one where I feel completely out of sorts and out of my element…and all bets are off.

Last night was the fifth night I spent in this incredibly odd condo I rented in Maine (more on that later) and, had you asked me even yesterday morning- even last night, for that matter- how I felt about all of this, I don’t know what I would have said. Probably depends on who was asking. I might have lied and said (in a rather flat and unenthusiastic voice, as I am a terrible liar) “Oh, it’s good- just getting settled, you know.” More likely still, I would have talked about how gorgeous the neighborhood is, which is absolutely the truth, and mentioned that I was kind of lonely, the condo was not exactly what I’d expected, and I was FINE.

A few of my trusted friends and family got to hear the story of my toddler-style tantrum in the bathtub the night before last when I realized the tubs plug didn’t work, after I’d dumped in my expensive bubble bath and jumped in, excited after not showering for two days. I was REALLY looking forward to that bath. My mom is the only one who got to hear the story of how, while loading the new dishwasher that is set up completely differently than my old dishwasher, I forgot that the silverware was in the front and stabbed myself in the webbing of my hand with a dirty fork. Hard enough to draw blood. These are little things, I know, but when everything is so different- and I mean everything- these little things feel so big. Insult to injury, you know?

What I have said to no one at all are the things that bother me the most. Like, why am I not happier than this? Why don’t I feel the way I expected to feel? I got what I wanted most in the world, shouldn’t I be jumping for joy? What if I made a huge mistake? Why am I so homesick already? What is wrong with me?

I have felt this unnecessary pressure to plop right into this entirely new life, three thousand miles away from everything familiar, and be ecstatic about all of it. Overjoyed that I got lost three times in one car ride to the local CVS. Thrilled to shit about the dead spot in town where my GPS glitches out, telling me “turn right in one mile” “turn right” and “proceed to route” all in ten seconds. I feel embarrassed that I’m homesick when I couldn’t wait to leave, embarrassed that I haven’t slipped into life here like an old pair of jeans. I know how lucky I am to get to do all of this- keep my job and follow my dreams and get the adventure of a lifetime- so I’m a little ashamed of how ungrateful I’ve been feeling. Not ungrateful, even. Just…freaked out. Lost. Adrift. Frustrated.

Well Jesus Christ, Courtney. I am not a Muppet on Sesame Street. This is real life, it’s my real life, and it’s pretty turned upside down and inside out right now. I spent the last month packing and cleaning, sorting and selling. I spent five days driving from California to Maine in a car with two cats, a kid, and half of my belongings. I spent four nights in different states. I arrived here on Monday and was back to work by Wednesday morning. I am trying to set my life up in the midst of a pandemic while half-heartedly quarantining, which is easier than it sounds when you take into account that I know exactly four people here and they are all one family. I am exhausted, disoriented, and on my own in a way that I am unfamiliar with. In Monterey, I was on my own, but I didn’t have to be…and I knew where everything was, you know?

So yesterday I started thinking about what I could do to restore some sense of normalcy to my life. Thursday night, I’d unpacked my candles and incense, my crystals, tarot cards, and books and arranged them on a shelf as a sort of mini-altar. Later that evening, we picked up dinner from a restaurant in town and sat down together, Cam and I, at the dining room table and had dinner. I liked that a lot. Yesterday, I meditated for the first time in a long time. Last night, I cooked dinner here for the first time, and again, we sat down together to eat. After dinner, we sat in the living room- she watched TV while I read, and it was nice to spend time together.

We don’t have a yard here and I was worried that would be a problem with a dog, but…actually, it’s been kind of a bonus. There is a beautiful beach half a block from my door, so Lucy gets walked about four times every day, which means I get to walk four times every day! I like that a lot, too. The sunrises here are the most incredible things I’ve ever seen, and a brisk walk at sunrise is a pretty great way to start a day.

And yes, the condo is quirky- it’s filled with too much furniture and SO much junk. The floors slope up and down, the blinds are broken, most of the furniture is rickety and falling apart. It’s also not very clean. BUT: the beds are clean and new, the carpets and couches are nice, the washer and dryer are very new. Most importantly, though, it feels warm, and not spooky at all- which is important in a place that’s over a hundred years old! It’s so quiet here, and very dark at night- no sirens, no neighbors outside yelling, no loud music or fireworks.

There is much to like and be appreciative of, but I forgot that it takes time. I forgot that I might need a moment to catch my breath, to figure out where the steak knives are, to feel at home. I forgot that the way I felt the first day I arrived wouldn’t be the way I always felt, or even how I felt the next day. I forgot that I needed a grace period. And today, I am feeling a lot better.

Oh, and I also found a hardware store and bought an old fashioned bathtub plug. So, I think I’m going to be okay pretty soon.

Posted in Addiction, adventure, faith, friendship, happiness, Learning, Life, Musings, People, random, recovery

Leaving Here a Different Person

I moved into this house in February of 2015, at the end of a short but incredibly destructive relapse. I believe it lasted about four or five months, that last little run. It felt like a million years. I didn’t know it was the end, of course. How I was able to sweet talk my way into this place, I still don’t know- I had horrible credit and was in the midst of bankruptcy, strung out and about to be homeless. I pulled up in front of this place in my little beat up Santa Fe, and I knew this was the house I wanted. When the landlady was hesitant, I wrote her a letter assuring her that I would always make my rent my top priority, that I would take care of the place. Whatever I said worked, and though at the time I was just saying whatever I could to get my foot in the door, it turns out I kept my word.

In mid-March of that same year, I finally reached my breaking point. Of course, it was awful. I had a terrible screaming match with my sister and my daughter one night, followed by a sleepless night and then a breakdown at work…and that was it for me. That was all she wrote. March 16th, 2015 was my first day clean.

From that moment forward, I began to change in ways both visible and not. To be honest with you, I feel like I have almost nothing in common with the girl who walked through that front door for the first time almost six years ago. And yes, I was a 39 year old “woman”, but let me assure you, I was really just a girl. Lost and scared, angry and sick. I had really begun to lose all hope that I would ever, ever break free of my addiction.

And when I did, it was so…uneventful. I mean, after all that fighting and panic, the despair and the fear, it was just easy. That life had become so fucking exhausting, it was a relief to let it go.

Listen, I don’t want to constantly harp on that part of my life at all. As far as I’m concerned, it’s in the past and I’d like to leave it there. But there is no way to celebrate where I am now without mentioning where I was then. Five years and eight months ago, I was as far from okay as I could possibly be. Today…well, today things are light years away.

Tomorrow, I will walk out this front door for the very last time. My landlord is sad to see me go. My neighbors have stopped by to tell me they’ll miss me, that I’ve been a good neighbor. I was a good tenant, a good neighbor.

I’m going to tell you something about myself that I probably imply sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve ever really said it outright- I harbor a stubborn belief that I am actually a terrible person. That if people really knew me, the REAL me, they would be horrified. This is such a deeply rooted belief that it is hard for me to even accept evidence that proves otherwise. I’m sure there are many reasons why, but most of them are because I really did behave terribly for many, many years. I was mean, and loud, and I hurt a lot of people. I wasn’t a good friend, a good mother, or a good girlfriend. I certainly wasn’t a good neighbor or tenant.

But you know what? You know what never occurred to me until like a week ago and I am not even kidding? That person was not me. That person was a version of me with a chemically altered brain. Druggy me is NOT WHO I AM. Those behaviors I exhibited do not represent the person I have always been on a core level. Can you imagine that I never understood that until almost six years after getting clean? That I have still been walking around thinking I am just a giant piece of shit because of the life I lived in my addiction? I am far enough from it all now to feel…just so, so sad for that girl who existed in such misery for so long. I am far enough now to wish I could help her. Which, of course, I did. I saved her life, actually.

So, here’s the thing- I am going to leave this place a different person than I was when I left. When my landlord says I have been a good tenant, it’s not because I fooled her- it’s because I paid my rent on time and never gave her any trouble. When my neighbors say they’ll miss me, it’s not because I fooled them, it’s because they like me. When my friends come by to help me wash blinds and scrub walls, it’s not because they think I’m someone I’m not- most of them have known me for twenty or thirty years! They KNOW me. And they love me, even so.

I am moving all the way across the country, leaving behind a lot of things- my safe haven, my comfortable routine, friends that are family to me, the town where I grew up in more ways than one. But the best thing I am leaving behind is the idea that I am not a good person. I will never be perfect, but I am good. I am good enough. I am strong and smart and loving. I am driven and funny and unique. The good things that happen in my life are not a mistake, I am not pulling off some kind of cosmic, karmic heist. It’s all a result of my choices and effort and maybe a little luck. And I am pretty proud of myself today.

Anyway, I’m off on this adventure. I’ll catch up with you when I get where I’m going. Wish me luck!