Hi! Since the last time I showed my face around here, I have: turned 45, tried and fell very short when helping my child with distance learning, lost both my bras for weeks at a time. I’ve- stopped shaving completely, then really regretted that when I made myself start again; resumed some weird, nervous habits that I thought were related only to my drug use, but I guess not. I have wondered daily if I were completely going off the deep end, or if…you know, my feelings were warranted, based on the information I had.
I have vacillated almost comically between wanting to make the best of things, and wanting to just throw the freaking towel in completely. Sometimes several times within the same day. Things are hard. They are weird. They are scary.
It doesn’t matter that I’m one of the luckier ones whose life hasn’t even changed all that drastically, really. I still work from home. Cam would have been off school anyway, it just happened a little sooner. It’s the way it feels. I can’t just go do whatever, whenever I want to- well, I can, I guess, but not safely. Even when the restaurants here were open for a few weeks, there was no way in hell I was going out. I knew that it was too soon, and I knew exactly what would happen. It gives me no pleasure to find I was right. Now everything is shutting down again, and this virus is worse than it has ever been here.
It feels like I am in limbo, because I am. Everything is uncertain and on hold. I catch myself holding my breath. A lot. Nothing about this feels good to me, I don’t like it, and…there’s not a single thing I can do about it. Other than keep soldiering on, trying to do my best.
Some days my best looks really great! I get a lot done and go to bed at night thinking “This isn’t so bad!”. Other days, the best I can do is peel myself off the couch and away from whatever I’m binge watching on Hulu long enough to make my kid a grilled cheese sandwich.
All this to say…whatever you are going through, wherever you fall on the spectrum, you are well within your right to be there. I don’t know a single person, not one, who is not struggling in some way. This is the weirdest event most of us have ever, and hopefully will ever, live through. It won’t go on forever. I don’t know what that means right now, but I do know that things will change, because that is simply what things do. They change.
One of the reasons I took a break from all of this was because I was so overwhelmed by the clamoring voices all around me, spouting out their opinions as if they were facts. It got to be too much, and I didn’t want to contribute to that, in case I was making things confusing for other people. I didn’t want to be part of it.
But I do want to check in and tell you all…hang in there. Do your best, whatever that looks like today. One way or another, this will all be behind us eventually.
Until then, I can’t recommend highly enough watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from start to finish on Hulu. Now that’s what I call a great escape! 🙂
I have been the absolute worst about following up since I have been home, and there is really no reason why, other than my work schedule has changed and adjusting is always hard for me. So please, accept my apologies, and enjoy these photos from the last leg of my trip to the East Coast!
So, we took our time on our way to Massachusetts- got lost on a few detours to find bathrooms, and ended up having the best time on the winding little roads past beautiful homes interspersed with amazing houses, and of course, the requisite cemeteries every few miles. I am endlessly fascinated with the graveyards on the East Coast, and could spend days just reading the headstones. I know that sounds morbid, but really it isn’t. I love the history and the artwork on the stones, and…well, I’ve always loved cemeteries. They are peaceful and beautiful, and the ones in Maine and Massachusetts are super cool.
From Maine to our place in Rockport, Massachusetts, was only about an hour and a half drive! For me, a born and bred Californian, this is mind-boggling. It takes hours and hours to get out of California, but on the East Coast, I was in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all within the span of a few hours! I was trying to take a picture of some river or another and missed the New Hampshire sign, which bummed me out, but oh well!
The little air bnb that my mom rented in Rockport was just perfect. We both felt like it was the most comfortable little house, as if we’d been there a million times already and were just returning. It felt like going to grandma’s house, if you know what I mean. That first afternoon, we dropped off our stuff and strolled into Rockport. The funny thing is, I’d been there only eight months before, but somehow missed a ton of the town. In my defense, it was freezing cold when I had been there in October, and we were on the opposite side of town searching for beanie’s to warm our frozen ears, so we weren’t really strolling very much.
Rockport is incredible in cold weather, but it is PERFECT when it’s warm. We spent some time on the little beach right before town, then wandered around Bearskin Neck (pretty sure that’s what the street is called, for some odd reason) and looked in the shops. Eventually, we were starving to death, so we decided to eat at Roy Moore’s Fish Shack, mostly because they had items other than seafood on their menu- at that point, I was sick of seafood and needed something else! I had a BLT, Cam had her normal cheeseburger, and my mom had the lobster mac & cheese. I was all lobstered out. 🙂
To be honest with you, the next few days are all kind of a blur to me now. We did spend one afternoon in Salem which was cool! Funny thing is, I loved Salem so much the first time I was there but it was too crowded for my taste in October- going back in June, it was much less crowded, but after seeing so many beautiful places in the preceding days, it wasn’t as awesome as I remembered. Maybe it was the Fall magic that was missing? I did get to visit the Salem Witch Museum, which was very cool, and Camryn REALLY liked it there. We also visited Salem Willows, a super old-timey park with old rides and an arcade. I got sunburned like crazy that day, and we were very tired by the time we headed back to the house. I believe Cam and I stayed in that night playing dice while my mom went to town and ate dinner alone.
We spent a lot of time just driving around, looking at houses, to be honest. I’m really glad my mom was into that, too, because it’s just so much fun back east. Even though it’s all in the USA, it couldn’t be more different than California- and that’s what makes it so incredible!
We never made it to Boston, and we didn’t do the walking history tour at night in Salem like I’d hoped, but I was more than willing to let those things go just to enjoy the little town where we were. We walked so, so much and just did a lot of sightseeing, and I couldn’t have been happier with the way it all worked out.
Before I knew it, it was time to head home. I was glad to be back, but I will always, always love New England- and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if one day I called it home.
Riding on the tails of yesterday’s post, I want to share with you that one of the most troublesome offenders of polluting my mental space and making me feel…Jesus, all sorts of unpleasant things…has been Facebook. This is not big news. I have posted about it time and time again, I’m pretty sure. (Like I said, I’ve had this blog forever, I honestly have no idea anymore what I’ve posted and what I’ve simply thought about. But I know I’ve posted at least once about this.)
It isn’t really Facebook’s fault. The responsibility for my troubled relationship with that social media platform is solely mine. I mean, I think so, anyway. The thing is, I spent way too much time there. WAY, WAY too much. Every spare second I had, it seemed like, I was reflexively tapping that little blue square on my phone, scrolling, scrolling, refreshing, scrolling. Leading up to the last election, I really spiraled out of control. I jumped on the political posting bandwagon, and flooded my feed (and everyone else’s) with meme after meme of Republican bashing, Trump bashing, right leaning bullshit news clips. I fought like hell to get my point across, to verbally destroy anyone who didn’t agree with me. I was rabid in my outrage. More than one friend unfollowed me. A few blocked me.
Guess what? Trump won anyway. After that, it was months of disbelief, horror, commiserating with like-minded friends, arguing with those who disagreed. More often than not, it would devolve into name calling and real hurt feelings. I blocked my own mother more than one time. Guess how much of a difference any of it made? How much good it did? Not a bit.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything political. I just don’t have the energy anymore. I suppose I’ve kind of accepted that this is the shit sandwich we’ve been served, and though it may be all that’s offered, I don’t have to sit at the table and eat it. I’m just over here, working on me, I guess. So, no more Trump stuff. Fine. I’ll just focus on the other stuff.
Well, that wasn’t working out anymore, either. I joined a lot of groups aligned with my specific interests- some connected to podcasts I love, a few ADHD related ones, a GOT one, of course. I can tell you honestly that there was not one single day in recent months where being on Facebook brought me more happiness than it did disgust.
People cannot spell. How that is possible with spell-check, I do not understand, but it is a real problem. People are anxious and depressed and suicidal, and Facebook is where they go to discuss it. People have health problems, and Facebook is where they go to discuss it. People hate the finale of Game of Thrones, and Facebook is where they go to talk shit about the writers and demand a do-over. People are upset about everything. Every. Fucking. Thing. And Facebook is where they go to discuss it. The place we go to complain and it feels like something was actually accomplished, when in fact, usually, it means nothing.
My feed was filled with memes I’ve been seeing for ten years, “woke” people getting offended and clutching their precious outrage to their chests as if it were heirloom pearls, cryptic, vague posts from attention seeking souls, preaching about veganism, preaching about the Keto diet, pictures of rashes with “does anyone know what this is?” attached, and like…maybe four pictures of my friends new baby (which I love) and an actually funny or insightful post from one or two friends.
I’m not saying I’m not guilty. Oh boy, am I! I’ve gotten better over time, but it’s definitely been a learning curve. My Facebook “memories” that pop up daily have some humiliating little gems. I am just as bad as the next guy- sometimes even worse.
Oh, Lord. My blood pressure is up just talking about it! I’m not even joking. So clearly, it’s no longer a healthy outlet for me. Plus, here I am, in the midst of all this spiritual shit, trying so hard not to judge myself or others, and…Facebook is never, ever gonna allow that shift to happen. Maybe when I’m more advanced or something? I don’t know. But at this time, I recognize that I have no business poking around there. It brings nothing to my life. It makes me feel terrible.
And so, the other day, without even thinking it over, I just deactivated my account. I didn’t flounce, I didn’t announce, I didn’t say shit to anyone. I just bounced. And the relief was immediate. I’m choosing to opt out of things that make me feel yucky. Things that cause me to have unkind thoughts that therefore make me feel guilty or shitty. I wondered briefly if friends would think I blocked them, but then I realized if they are really my friends, they can always call me. Or send me a message. Most likely, they won’t even notice or care.
I don’t need more opinions clamoring for attention in my head. I don’t need to constantly wonder if my humor is offensive, or if I’m a good enough parent, or if something I’ve said will be taken the wrong way. I don’t want to open myself up to being schooled by someone who thinks they know so much more than me, but in reality, simply has a different idea of the world. I don’t want it. I want out. I want out of all of that malarkey. So I left. It was simple as that.
Will I go back? I don’t know. Not anytime soon, I don’t think. I’m looking forward to thinking for myself, eating in a restaurant without checking in, avoiding the court of public opinion and overbearing political correctness. I want to be in a quieter world, with real life people who aren’t experiencing the rush of digital bravery only a keyboard provides. Facebook encourages and rewards false living, fake thinking, pretend empathy, and real meanness. I can’t seem to moderate my consumption, or get on board with the status quo…so I’m opting out.
Sorry, I just really needed to get that out. I feel better now. 🙂
I know, I know- this is a weird time of day for me to write a blog post. I don’t even know if anyone will see it, but I want to get my trip recap out of the way because I have something I want to post tomorrow that has nothing to do with this, and my brain is funny that way.
So, we got a later than intended start on Friday afternoon- instead of leaving the coast at 2 like I’d hoped, we didn’t get on the road until 4. A considerable difference when you have a 6 hour trip ahead of you. Nevertheless, we were all on board and out the door two hours late, it is what it is. Also, didn’t factor in the colossal number of pee breaks my eldest daughter would need, and the hunger issue. Basically, we finally made it into Tahoe and our room at almost eleven Friday night, and we were SO TIRED.
Saturday was the only real time we had, and we made every second count. Up for our free breakfast at the lodge at seven in the morning, I was totally impressed with the spread offered at Granlibakken (the little baby ski resort I’d booked us at). This was not your standard hotel fare- this was REAL food. Great coffee, piles of bacon, sausage, breakfast casseroles, cinnamon rolls, blintzes, fresh fruit…basically, anything you could dream up was available. I really liked that part, and I am not even much of an early morning diner.
We went straight from breakfast to our private snowboarding lesson, just one instructor for all three of us girls. Let me be straight with you- I had no real desire to learn to snowboard. That was strictly my daughters’ idea. I would have been quite happy skiing, but I thought, what the hell- kids want it, I want to be with the kids, I’ll try something new! Funny, then, that Camryn called it quits within 15 minutes and Aisley quit after 30. So I was more determined than ever to succeed, and I’m proud to say that I did. Well, sort of- I learned how to board down a tiny hill, and how to stop falling and how to stop without falling over. I also learned that snowboarding is probably not for me, and I am okay with that- at least I gave it my best shot.
After the boarding debacle, we went up to the room, changed into our suits, and hit the hot tub and heated pool. We got super lucky- everyone was so busy playing in the snow that not a single soul was in the gigantic hot tub. We had the whole place to ourselves, with a gorgeous view of the snowy slopes behind us. We even went in the sauna for a while.
After that, we cruised into town and grabbed lunch, then went back to our room and rested for maybe an hour. Then it was go time again! We all got cleaned up and drove to the other side of Lake Tahoe to take Aisley on her first casino adventure. We had a ball! Cam stayed with her dad at Harrahs arcade while Aisley and I roamed the casino, and I showed her how to play the slots. I won 35 bucks straightaway on a video poker machine, then we found a super generous machine where we stayed for like an hour. I walked away with a hundred bucks extra, and Aisley won and lost about two hundred altogether. She still left 20 bucks richer than she came, so that was cool.
Finally, I waited in the long, long line at the buffet while Aisley went with Cam’s dad to gamble for a little longer. The wait was worth it, though! Crab legs for DAYS, I ate. I’m not kidding, I killed two full plates of crab legs, not to mention prime rib, sesame balls, and who knows what else. When everyone else was eating desert, I was working through a bowl of butter and more crab legs.
We all got back to the room, passed out, woke up, ate, and headed home. It was a short trip, but it was good. There were a couple little bumps in the road, personality clashes and bullshit, but… I’m choosing not to focus on that. From my perspective, it was a great time, and if anything I learned exactly how to make it perfect the next time around. And it was good enough that I definitely believe there will be a next time.
So that was my two night, one full day trip. I made it home safe and sound, and I’m excited for the what’s next! Stay tuned! I’ll be spilling my plans tomorrow.
So, today, at 2:00 p.m., we leave for our long awaited trip to Tahoe! I am so excited! We had to postpone going in February because it has just been dumping snow in the Sierra-Nevada’s, but things have mellowed out (fingers crossed!) and we should be good to go now.
Anyway, according to my reservation, I have been upgraded to a suite, which is SO cool, because at the last second my older daughter decided she wanted to go. I am really looking forward to a couple of days with both my kiddo’s! You have no idea. We never really do much as a family now that Aisley is out on her own…she’s 21 and doesn’t have much use for her 8 year old sister. So, this will be cool. Well, hopefully it will be. We do have a five hour car ride to get through.
Anyway, I should have been preparing all week for this. I should have been cleaning and doing laundry and packing, but…true to my ADHD nature, I haven’t done shit. So today, while I work, I will also be doing laundry and trying to leave the house in a decent state. I have Cinamon coming over to house sit for me…maybe I’ll just offer her some money to do some cleaning while I’m gone.
So, we are going to be up in the snow, skiing and snow-boarding, sledding and hot tubbing, and we’ll probably take a trek into South Lake Tahoe so that my 21 year old can gamble a little for the first time ever! I’m just really excited to be getting away. I need it. This year got off to a rough start for me, and I’m ready for some fun. Trust me, pictures will follow.
In other news, this bout of anxiety seems to be relinquishing its hold on me, bit by bit. I think, when you are going through something like I have been going through, you begin to fear the anxiety so much that it creates a new kind of anxiety- anxiety about anxiety, if you will. You become nervous about it coming back, and therefore continue the cycle. Sort of a horrible self-fulfilling prophecy. You know, I have always been a tightly wound person. No one would ever describe me as “mellow” or “laid back”. That just is not who I am, no matter how much I wish it was. I am trying really hard to learn to accept myself the way I am, to not strive for an ideal that just is not me. There is plenty to love about who I am, and I need my own love right now, very much. So I am trying to change the running conversation in my head to one of love and positivity rather than despair and disappointment. This is no easy task. But like every hard thing I’ve gone through, I have no doubt I will succeed, and be better and stronger for it.
And that is how I know I am on the upswing- when I can see a glimmer of hope, find some excitement for the future, then I know the worst is behind me. I am going to go into this trip with no expectations and lots of love for my beautiful kids and myself, and just let things unfold as they will.
When I get home, I have some pretty big plans. I can’t wait to share them all with you. In the meantime, may your weekend be blessed, may you be surrounded by people and things that make you happy, and may you love yourself madly. Talk to you soon!
Yesterday started off like most days do for me- up at an insanely early hour, I sat down here at my computer and waited for my coffee to finish brewing while I read some blogs, and indulged in my latest utter waste of time- slot machine games on my phone. I don’t know what in the world it is about fake slot machines that are so much fun, but they really are. I mean, it’s the ultimate time suck, right? No skill required, no real money is won, but…whatever the attraction is, it’s really caught me this past week.
Anyway, I sat here, drinking my coffee, winning fake money, then wrote for a little while on my novel. The sun had started to come up, and…two coffees in, I decided to head back to bed for a while. Cam had stayed an extra night at her dad’s. The house was a mess, there were things to do, but…I just felt like laying down. So I did. I got back in bed, and I slept for an hour or so. Around 7:30, I sent a text to my ex saying I would pick Cam up for our Sunday beach walk at nine. He replied “It’s raining, you know.” Um, no, I didn’t know. I hadn’t opened my blinds or looked outside yet. Hmm. “Do you just want to bring her home, then, when you guys are up?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied, “I’ll be there in about an hour.” I unlocked the front door so that they could get in, and I went back to sleep.
Somewhere in there I watched a few shows on Hulu, then slept some more. Devon, true to his nature, was very, very late. For once in my life I wasn’t bothered- I was busy slipping in and out of dreams. By noon, I knew exactly what kind of day this was going to be- and ultra-lazy-not-getting-out-of-bed-day. Every once in a while, I have a day like this. Usually, I fight it. I make myself sit up, and I procrastinate and make mental plans that my body cannot seem to execute, and it’s generally not a lot of fun. Yesterday, I just kind of rolled with it. I ate some very bad things- as a matter of fact, I broke my “No Fast Food” rule yesterday, indulging in McDonald’s for the first time this year. Man, was that disappointing. Yuck. After going without for so long, it didn’t taste like a treat at all- it tasted like…well, honestly, it tasted like garbage. Which is basically what it is, so I don’t know why I was surprised.
I did not shower yesterday. I did not change my clothes. I did not look in a mirror, or pick up one item off the floor and put it back where it goes. I didn’t do laundry or dishes or one productive thing. And you know what? I. Don’t. Care.
Last Wednesday night, I went to the movies with Cam and a couple of other people (one adult, one child.) Thursday, I visited with my friend Donna. Friday night, I had therapy and my writer’s group meeting directly afterwards. Saturday, I had a date with a guy I’d never met in real life before, right after a memorial service for another friend of mine who left this world far too early. That might be an average week for some people, but for me…for ME, that is a LOT of activity. Pair all of that with the gnawing anxiety I’ve been dealing with, and it’s no wonder I needed a day of pure laziness.
That’s another thing worth mentioning. I didn’t have a single moment of anxiety yesterday. Not so much as one. And when the anxiety leaves, there is some exhaustion. All that adrenaline leaves the building, and a girl gets tired. I’m not just making that up, either. I’ve done my homework.
So, yes- it’s Monday morning, and I’m starting my week with a messy house and hair that is currently in one big knot over my right ear. I need a shower, we are out of dog food, and I’m hoping I can scrape together at least one clean outfit for Cam to wear to school today.
But you know what? I feel ready to face this week. I feel rested and more calm than I have in a while. I feel like I probably could have at least stretched yesterday- my back kind of hurts, but…eh, so what? I wasn’t being lazy. I was powering up. And I feel pretty good this morning. Which is nice.
It seems crazy that it’s almost been a week since I’ve been home. The funny thing about travelling is that it takes up your mind for so long after you get back. Not to mention how strange it is to have this momentous event in your life and then, suddenly, you are right back in the middle of your normal life, trying to get back in your groove. Maybe seasoned travelers don’t go through that, I don’t know. But for me, it’s been really weird.
On the third full day of our trip, we decided to go to Boston. I am not a big fan of cities, but it did seem like something that I shouldn’t miss, seeing as how I was going to be so nearby. So when my friend Alicia said she wanted to see Boston, I agreed. Boy, am I glad I did. We parked our rental car in a giant garage and took the train into the city. Honestly, for me, this was one of the coolest things ever. I don’t take trains, ever, so I just felt very sophisticated, even if it was kind of nerve wracking trying to figure out how to buy a ticket and which train to get on. Lucky for us, there were no lines and there were signs everywhere that said exactly which train went where. We hopped on with no trouble, and took the fifteen minute ride to the government center stop.
We wanted to walk the Freedom Trail, so we struggled for a minute to figure out where, exactly, that was. I told her to ask the guy dressed in period clothing in the Starbucks where we should go, but she chickened out, so…we were on our own. Luckily for us, it was not hard to find, as it is literally painted and bricked into the ground, so, after chugging down a familiar latte (I swear to God, there are Dunkin Donuts on every corner, but the Starbucks are few and far between) we quickly found our path. But before we could go more than a block, we stumbled across yet another amazing cemetery, and of course I had to go in. This one was tiny, wedged between buildings in the middle of the city, but WOW. King’s Chapel and Burying Grounds is beautiful. We wandered through, reading all the information, and I snapped a few pictures. Then we went inside King’s Chapel, and let me tell you- they don’t make churches like that anymore. The pews were like booths with doors, and from what I understand, you had to buy them? Maybe I’m not getting that right, but there were many placards describing the men who owned them, so…You’ll have to forgive me, I was very, very tired on this final day, and it’s all kind of a blur.
After that, we found ourselves at the State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, among other things. The museum inside was well worth the ten bucks, and we really took our time checking it out. I can’t emphasize enough how mind-blowing it was to read about the very early history of the country as we know it while standing in the places where history was made. It kinda…well, it gave me a bit of an emotional moment, honestly. It was just very cool. I’ve been much more interested in American History since I’ve been home, wanting to know more about how those days and years played out.
From there, we ran through Faneuil Hall, then made our way tiredly to Paul Revere’s old house. Very crowded, but so, so neat! I didn’t take any pictures because it was forbidden, but did you know that Paul Revere had 16 children? Yeah, me neither. Another thing- you can’t walk through that place without the words “The British are coming!” playing on a loop inside your head. It’s impossible.
After Paul’s house, we walked back to the Government Center, which by the way, passes right through what has got to be Boston’s Little Italy-I can’t believe I wasn’t hungry enough to try a legit cannoli. I’m still mad at myself. Anyway, we took an Uber from there to Cheer’s- not my idea, by the way, but…once you see it, it does cause a little nostalgic thrill. For people my age who grew up watching the show, it doesn’t suck. The inside looks nothing like the bar on TV, but so what? I had my Shirley Temple at the bar, and felt like I’d done something cool. Cheer’s is right across the street from the Boston Public Garden, so we strolled around there for a few. They have some serious squirrels in Boston, let me tell you. Fatter and far more spry than any I’ve seen here in California, there were so many of them that it started to give me the creeps. If they ever decide to organize, Bostonians will be in trouble.
Our final destination on our quick jaunt through Boston was the Museum of Fine Arts, and I am SO glad we went. My one regret is getting there at 3, just two hours before they closed, because you could truly spend an entire day in there. As it was, we saw a good portion, but we had to rush, which wasn’t the best. I was so excited to see Monet’s work in real life, but you know what? That wasn’t even close to my favorite. I loved the Egyptian display- it was thrilling to see things so old and so well preserved- and the Greek sculptures. There was so much more that I wanted to linger over- stained glass and fabulous paintings by who even knows who. My brain was just overwhelmed with the quality of the things in that museum. I learned another thing about myself on this trip-I REALLY love museums! I kind of knew that already, but living in a small town with just a few little museums, it’s hard to comprehend what a large museum is able to show to you. Unbelievable!
After a slow ride back in another Uber, through terrible rush hour traffic, our driver deposited us safely back at Faneuil Hall so that we could grab a few last minute gifts before catching the train back to our car.
The thing you learn on your first trip somewhere is how to spend your next trip there, right? I know now to never visit Salem in October, and that if I ever go back, I should give myself a few more days to spend on the things I love- namely, museums and exploring the little towns along the coast. But there are so many places I still want to see, not only in my own country, but in the world- who knows if I’ll ever make it back there? Seriously, though…I have a strong feeling that I will.
Since I can’t seem to get my body back on “normal” (West Coast) time, I figure I might as well go ahead and tell you all about day 2 of my trip. Day 2 wound up being my favorite day, and I learned some important things about myself as a traveler- namely, that I am happiest without an itinerary, and much, much happier in more idyllic settings, with far fewer people.
The day started off super slow- we were both so tired from the debacle in Salem the day and night before that we were not in a big hurry to get anywhere. To be honest with you, I actually felt hungover. I had been so tired the night before, but I couldn’t seem to fall asleep, and then I woke up way earlier than I wanted to, so I wasn’t very rested. I felt achy and dehydrated, and just generally shitty, but…when you are on a short vacation in a new place, you find it within yourself to soldier on. Which I am so glad I did!
Anyway, after an incredibly unappetizing hotel buffet breakfast, we hopped in the trusty charger and headed…north? North-east? Anyway, we headed out of Peabody and away from the more populated areas. The thing about these little towns off the freeway is that they are literally right off the freeway. The parking lot of our hotel exited onto the actual freeway. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. They also have stop lights on the freeway and places to make U-turns. Crazy. But we made it on safely and before you know it, you are in the middle of massive beauty. The bright red and orange trees, and water, just everywhere. I still don’t know which were lakes, rivers, or inlets, but I guess it doesn’t matter…all I really know is, for me, water is the key. I love being near large bodies of water. I just feel better.
Just off the highway, we stopped for the first time at a big old candy store in the middle of nothing. Nichols candy house has been in business for 86 years, according to the sign. They make all their candy on site, and the ladies running the counter looked like they might have been there when the store opened. Seriously, they were adorable, in a no-nonsense, getting shit done kinda way. I didn’t buy anything there, which is my one regret of the whole trip. Alicia did, and I was lucky that she shared with me, because they know what they are doing. My advice to you? If you find yourself there, buy the truffles!
Anyway, after that, we programmed directions to a lighthouse into GPS. This was one of many times that Siri failed us on this trip. We asked for a particular lighthouse, she steered us to the middle of a neighborhood in Gloucester and told us we were there. After that, she stopped speaking to us. I’m assuming she was embarrassed. So, here we are, lost, trying to figure out why the ocean was so far away from a lighthouse, and we turned a corner to find…oh my God, the most beautiful graveyard in the world. It was called Oak Park Cemetery, and I demanded to be allowed to wander through it. I could tell Alicia was hesitant (she’s got weird Catholic guilt) but I was going, no matter what. I am so glad I did. The wind was super chilly, but the sky was bright blue, and the trees looked like they were bursting into flames, and the cemetery…so peaceful, and so insanely full of history. The headstones back east are incredible. I wish I had taken more pictures, up close, so that I could look into the symbolism. But at that moment, I was just so happy to be there, experiencing REAL fall weather, ambling quietly through this beautiful place, surrounded by graves that were hundreds of years old. It was one of many perfect moments I had that day.
After a while out in the cold, the warm car was a welcoming place. We got back on the road, missed another turn, and wound up in downtown Gloucester (pronounced “Glah-stah” by the locals 🙂 ). Sometimes those wrong turns are fortuitous. We easily found parking (yay!) and walked up the hill to a little coffee shop to get a warm drink and figure out what next. The place was called Drift Coffee, had a wonderful view of the water, and, much to Alicia’s delight, a full bar! I had a fancy latte, she had a glass of pinot noir, and we figured out our next move. I have to tell you, I had my next perfect moment sitting at that little coffee bar, staring at the street below and the harbor across the way. It was so beautiful, so peaceful, and so quiet…I was in heaven. THIS was the trip I had imagined, and I couldn’t have been happier to be where I was.
We wandered the down the cobbled street a bit, did some shopping and sightseeing, then headed down to the harbor to see the lost fisherman memorial. We saw our first drawbridge thingy- that’s what they’re called, right? Anyway, it was delightful. And I picked up some shells and sea glass to take home. After a while longer in the icy wind that was no longer quite as bracing and more like torture, we headed over, on the recommendation of one of the friendly shop owners, to Rockport.
Rockport, if you can believe it, was even more idyllic and quintessential New England, (or what I imagined New England to be like, anyway) than Gloucester had been. We parked near a little white church with a tall steeple, and braced ourselves for the now freeeeezing wind rolling in off the ocean. Holy smokes! It was so cold. The first thing I did was find a store that sold beanies, and happily threw down 20 bucks for a super warm cap. Once my ears had recovered some feeling, we walked around a little bit, and decided to check out the little harbor. It was incredible. I know I keep saying this, but the sky there is just SO blue. Coming from the coast myself, there were so many similarities, but differences as well. The ocean smells saltier and brinier there, somehow. The scenery was just breathtaking.
By this time, we were starving to death, so we found a little place called the Blue Lobster Grille, and grabbed a table. I had hot apple cider- it’s a whole different thing over there than any I’ve had here- and a giant plate of mussels, followed by seafood pasta that I could barely put a dent in. So, with full bellies and to-go bags, we raced to the car, waved goodbye to Rockport, and headed back to our room to get rested for our final day in Boston.
I’ve been home less than 24 hours, and I’m not (very) ashamed to tell you that I am still wearing the clothes I flew home in. In my defense, I wore stretch pants and a t-shirt, so they are kinda like pajamas anyway, PLUS…oh dear lord, I was so tired when I got home that I felt kind of drunk. We got up at 3 in the morning, which would be 12 midnight here, so that we could catch our flight on time, so the long and short of it is…I am all kinds of screwed up right now. It’s barely 4 a.m. and I’ve already been up for an hour. I have no experience with jet lag or time zone weirdness, but I’m learning fast. I got home yesterday, handed out gifts, hugged my children, ate some food, and passed out. I meant to shower and change, but I slipped into a coma instead, and that was that.
I’m going to break this down into three posts, since each segment was such a totally different experience, and I thought I’d start at day one- Friday- which was my first little taste of Salem. Little did I know it would be the most sane part of my visit to that particular town. Anyway, we flew into Logan, grabbed our rental car- I was expecting a Jetta, but apparently, a Charger is about the same thing (NOT), and either way, that’s what we got. My dear friend Alicia volunteered to drive, thank God, and we headed out of Boston to Peabody (pronounced Pee-biddy, apparently) where our lodgings were. After dumping our stuff, we hightailed it toward Salem, in search of food. Along our route into town, we saw a place called Kings, advertising the best roast beef sandwiches AND lobster (lobstah) rolls- two things I wanted to check off my list. Let Me Tell You Something!! That lobstah roll was good, no doubt, but the roast beef sandwiches on the east coast?! Holy smokes! I will be dreaming about that super thin, super rare, tender, delicious beef for years to come. Oh man. SO good! You know that feeling of disappointment when you realize you are going to be too full to finish your dinner? That happened. But the super friendly guys running the place wrapped it up for me, and I was able to have a little midnight snack later. It was still delicious the next day.
Oh, that’s another thing I don’t want to forget to mention- the people we met, and I mean almost without exception, were the friendliest, chattiest, funniest, warmest people I’ve ever run into. I was in seventh heaven, as my chatty game is on point. I felt like I’d found my people. Anyway, onto Salem…
So, on Friday night, we made it into downtown Salem just in time for the end of the night market- I think this is a thing they do only in October. There were booths selling all sorts of Halloween or dark-themed items, and we wandered around, noting stores we wanted to return to the following day. We didn’t stay too long- it was already past nine and we wanted to be well rested for the next day, so we were in and out, after some oohing and ahhing over the amazing architecture and cobbled streets.
Saturday morning, we decided to Uber into Salem since we were worried about parking. The plan was to get there, Uber back in the afternoon, and then head back over in the evening for a ghost/history tour. What ended up happening, however, is that we decided to stay, from like 11 in the morning until around 10 at night.
Everyone said it was busy in Salem in October. I am not pretending like we were not forewarned. But “busy” isn’t exactly the right word for what we experienced. “Pandemonium” would be better, or “utter fucking chaos” even. It was intense. We couldn’t get into the restaurant we wanted to eat at, we couldn’t find a place to go to the bathroom, we couldn’t get into any of the stores we wanted to shop at. I mean, we could have done all of these things, but only if we wanted to wait in line for at least 30 minutes for each thing. I am not even remotely exaggerating. Even the stores had bouncers outside, letting in small amounts of people at a time. It was crazy.
Even so, we did have a good time. We had lunch at the Howling Wolf Taqueria, and I tried deep fried avocado for the first time. I promise you, it will not be the last. The service was great, and the atmosphere was happy and fun. We got to see the graveyard where the “hanging judge” John Hathorne is buried, and the graveyards back east are not to be missed. I tried real hot apple cider and cider donuts, I drooled over the houses and the history and the greenery away from the crowds, and a few times, I managed to lose myself in the merriment of it all.
One saving grace of the day was the Peabody Essex Museum. Not only did it have the most amazing Maritime exhibit I have ever seen- and the east coast has an awe-inspiring maritime history, let me be clear about that! But-and this is important-for the price of admission, you can come in and out all day, using their clean and uncrowded bathroom as many times as you please. I loved that place.
Alas, the museum closed at 5, leaving us to wander the streets like pitiful, tired zombies until our pre-paid ghost tour at 8. So we wandered over to the Salem Commons, and I am so glad we did. We found a tree to park ourselves under and sat and watched the carnival on the periphery, and closer, families playing, and the big trees bursting with fall color. That was a happy moment. We wandered the side streets a little more, taking pictures of houses, and then made our way back into the fray, being swept along by the crowd, which showed no sign of thinning anytime soon. I saw the Bewitched statue, and managed to elbow my way into a store and buy hoodies for my kids. And finally, FINALLY, it was time for our tour. At this point, I had already clocked about double my normal amount of steps on my Fitbit, and I was tired enough to cry, but…
The walking tour was MAGICAL. Seriously, if they offer a walking tour in a town you are visiting, you should take it. You learn so much. Every time I have ever taken one, I’ve been so happy I did. This one was extra cool, though. I wish I could remember the name of the one we did- there are many to choose from in Salem- and I will definitely be doing some research to find out, as I want to give a good review on trip advisor or something. Anyway, our tour guide was a young woman and practicing witch, and she led us through town, telling us all about the history and the legends of Salem. Even as tired as I was, I could have kept going for twice as long just to hear more.
In the end, we made it back to the hotel in one piece, exhausted and definitely overwhelmed by our October Salem experience. I would definitely go back, no question about it. But not in October. No freaking way. That being said…I’m still, oddly, very happy that I had that experience. It was wonderful. I bet it would be even more wonderful in, say, June. Ha-ha!
On Monday, I was feeling grouchy and restless, like a caged animal after sitting here working all day long- that’s one of the drawbacks of working at home; when I worked in the office, I couldn’t wait to go home at the end of the day. When you work at home, all you want to do is go somewhere else when you clock out…except, if you are me, you are probably still wearing sweaty-ass yoga pants, no make up, and hair that looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket. So, I either have to summon up the energy to make myself look slightly less homeless in order to leave my house (how funny) or, give in to the beckoning call of inertia and flop on the couch to watch TV which will ultimately do nothing but make me feel even worse.
On this particular day, though, Camryn suggested we go to the library. We had books that were a week past due, and I really did need a change of pace, so I agreed. Plus, bonus- you don’t have to look nice at all to go to the library! After settling part of my outrageous overdue book fees, Cam got herself a drawing book, and grudgingly trailed after me as I wandered up and down every single aisle in the downstairs section of the Monterey library. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I hoped to find something inspiring and uplifting- something to shake me out of the funk I had been going in and out of for the past…I don’t know, 40 years or so.
I grabbed a stack of books, and we checked out and headed home after a quick stop at Trader Joe’s for some chocolate and blueberries, among other snacks. Soon as we got back to the house, I pulled out one of the books and started reading it. It was called “Martha’s Vineyard- Isle of Dreams”, and at first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get through it- it’s written in handwriting-like script, and there are hundreds of quotes and watercolor pictures throughout the book, so at first it’s a little jarring, as it doesn’t read like the books I am used to- books that have very few, if any, quotes, and generally no pictures at all. But within a few pages, I had forgotten all about the strangeness of it and was totally sucked in to the story.
Oh, and it’s not a story-story, by the way. It’s a biography of sorts, the true tale of a woman named Susan Branch who “accidentally” moved to Martha’s Vineyard and bought a house in the woods, after fleeing California when her marriage ended. She was looking for a house to rent, short term, and wound up buying a little house after being there for three days or something like that. The whole story takes place in the 80’s, which doesn’t matter other than the fact that you probably can’t buy a house there super cheap anymore, and anyway…I just fell in love, you guys. The way that she describes the changing seasons, and the beautiful simplicity of her life- her garden, and her walks in the woods, the ocean, the seasons, the quiet. Just talking about it right now makes me want to cry. It stirs such a funny longing in me. And it really makes me think, very hard, again, about the way I am living my life.
I have only been clean for a little more than three years. Which means that I am just now, at 43, learning about what kind of person I am, and trying to figure out what sort of life the person I am truly wants to live. I sort of woke up right in the middle of a life that I had stumbled into, and it is a GOOD life. I have this career, and security, good health insurance, stability…all of these things that people want, right? So when I think to myself “this doesn’t feel like the right life for me”, it is scary and I feel guilty, as if wanting something different makes me ungrateful. I am not ungrateful. I’m just…wondering. Wondering if I could survive, or thrive, or be wildly, giddily, in love with a different kind of life. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for wanting to be happier.
I checked out the book on Monday evening. It is now Wednesday morning, and I have finished it. It was 368 pages, and I worked all day yesterday, so when I tell you that I did a lot of reading, you have to believe that I did. Because of this book, I made a batch of blueberry muffins with Camryn, from scratch, yesterday after work. Because of this book, after my meeting last night I went by myself to the beach, and sat on the rocky sand, as evening descended, and just soaked in the salty air, watched the choppy, steel-gray waves crash on the shore, and relished the cold. It really got me thinking.
I need to slow way down. Like, way, way down. Be outside more. Be quiet more. Be on Facebook WAY less. Read more books and watch less TV. Cook more often. Talk to actual people, rather than scroll past their faces online, clicking like instead of having conversations. I don’t have to- and I shouldn’t, I know this- uproot my life on a whim and move across the country to “find myself”. But I do need to examine these feelings, and see what I can do to honor myself, and my one precious life. I have faith that I will find the answers, that they are already there, just waiting for me to discover them. I have to stop losing sight of what really matters, and every time I check out- on the internet, or by binge watching twelve seasons of some stupid TV show- I am doing just that. Losing sight of what really matters. Checking out. No wonder I feel so restless…my spirit is trying to get my attention, and I have been ignoring that.
No more. It’s time to pay attention. Time to make some changes.