Time to face the strange ch-cha-changes

I’ve been waking up early in the morning lately. Partially because I’ve been going to bed at a somewhat human hour. The days are getting shorter and soon the nights will be longer than the days again. The leaves in the mountains are just beginning to change, with those fiery reds and oranges and yellows shimmering on the aspens. Soon the mountainsides will look like they are ablaze with color.

The fields have subsided again to the golden brown of autumn already and hunters are stalking elk with black powder rifles and bows until the true insanity of hunting season starts again. Orange is the new black.

Sorry I have been remiss in my posts lately. I’m still playing catchup right now and hopefully I will have a lot of good stories and such to post both here and at gettingoutmore.org. As usual, I will post the things going through my mind, the gooey emotional meanderings and thoughts I have been experiencing, all the heavy stuff.

I want to talk about chasing. And trying to find that balance in life. I know the things I talk about are hardly the discussion for polite company amongst strangers, but I feel like if you’ve been reading my posts, we’ve somehow crossed that threshold a while back. Thank you for continuing to read. I just hope my thoughts resonate with my friends and readers and you find a kind of comraderie here.

Anyway. Chasing. I don’t want to bloviate about my trainwreck of a marriage, but I will say that for a very long time, I bought into the idea that I had to put my life on hold to embrace the prescribed way that married people have to live. Instead of adventures with a companion, I was toiling away at a job, never breaking even, buying too much crap for Christmas and birthdays for kids, and watching the world pass me by year after year.

When I got out, I understood the things that I was missing. Sure I had hedge trimmers and lawnmowers and I knew how to fix an eave and replace a gutter and spackle walls and hammer in flooring to improve a house that hardly ever felt like home, but I had almost no idea or sense of place in the rest of the world. I was piped everything from cable news or the internet. I watched travel shows and took whatever bullshit Rick Steves or Tony Bourdain was feeding me for gospel. But I was still hungry.

I was also hungry for human connection. I had my kids, half the time, but that was a continuing battle, just as it was when I was married. The only difference between this battle of wills in parenting was I had about five miles distance separating the kids from their mom every other week. It was all still the same game for her.

So, I chased that ever-elusive thing called a relationship in my off weeks. In the beginning, I was myopic because anyone would have been better than the person I had left. Even if they weren’t good for me. It was hard lessons, which took years. Finding someone, trying to incorporate our lives together, looking past the fundamental differences, and then watching things fall apart, regardless of my efforts. Believe me, I was good at lost causes. I held my marriage together for years. It was my superpower. It was a talent I have since taught myself to abandon. But that chasing sure as hell beat the war of attrition I was fighting with my kids. At least at the end of the day, I had something for myself that someone who hated me so much couldn’t take away.

The kids are gone now, and so are the women I had been pursuing. What remains is almost stark in comparison. I have the rest of my life. With me in it. Just me. I’m not chasing anyone. I’m no longer participating in the Greek tradgedy of parallel-parenting with a clinical narcissist. What remains is my own ambition to build a life for myself. I have resources such as my ability to write, my desire to learn new things–like photography–and now that I no longer have these other distractions, I am trying to figure out what to do with the resources I’ve got at my disposal.

How do I make it all come together? How do I turn these things into money? I’m about 25 years late to this game. I have to say it is not easy. There are days it feels like this is exactly what I need to do. Like I am following some sort of plan and things are falling into place. And there are times I think, dear Lord, I’m going to starve to death.

But those days when I wake up and the sunrise is shining purple on the hills, igniting the clouds, and the air is cool and crisp, I think I could get used to living like this.

And even the nights these days have felt much less cold and empty and alone.

The neat thing is sometimes you glance back to where you have come from and you actually see the progress you have made. It is encouragement enough to keep going. Even if things are so much different now than they were three, five, eight years ago. In many ways, it is so much different than your expectations. And in other ways, it is more amazing than you could have dreamed.

I’ve lost a lot along the way. Friends. Family. Lovers. A whole way of life. But I’ve gathered new experiences, met really cool people along the way (you know who you are!), and learned who my true, ride or die people are.

Everytime I go someplace, it takes me further away from who I once was, and closer to becoming someone new. I can’t help but wonder if one day, I will have lost myself entirely. Maybe that’s the whole point?

Things I have learned

Twenty-five years ago, I was a different person. At the age of 21 you are just in the process of figuring out who you are. 21 year olds are stupid, green. They seem so sure of themselves, but they really aren’t. More times than we would like to admit, at that phase of our adulthood, we are still running on autopilot of what our parents, or usually our friends prepared us for. Our values come from our community, our peers, our places of worship, and the books and movies and television we like and relate to. All of it is our care package that runs out pretty quickly when we are first on our own.

We begin to experiment with things. Drugs. Sex. Religions. The things we read. Some of us might go through a phase where we only listen to indie rock or watch foreign films. Thank goodness for getting that our of our systems pretty quick. In the middle of this experimentation phase, we often think we’ve got the code cracked. We’ve done what no other adult in the history of ever has done. We have solved the problem that has affected generations stretching back to the beginning of time. We know better.

Or we think we do well enough to partner up and reproduce.

There’s a thing called emotional maturity. Some of us are stuck at a certain age. Most adults we know are walking around in ageing bodies with a ten year old or a fifteen year old at the controls. Many uphappy relationships stem from the fact that one partner finds themselves raising the other.

I went through that phase too, mutually raising the other partner. The only reason it was “mutual” is because I dumbed myself down enough to need to be raised from time to time myself. Mostly because of fears. Like I said, it was mutual participation, so it became a contest as to who could be the most helpless sometimes. I hope that was as much of a phase as watching movies where mimes play tennis or death plays chess with someone.

We, as humans, are awfully good at putting each other in boxes. We recognize patterns and categorize accordingly. My ex used to say I was just like her father. Only that couldn’t have been further from the truth. She wanted me to be just like her father, and dragged me into that kicking and screaming. In the end, I considered it. It would have been easier to just step into someone else’s box.

I went to the dentist one time while I was married. It wound up being for a full-mouth debridement. They scraped 20 years of crud off my teeth. That was one of the most painful experiences of my life. Underneath, I had beautiful teeth. No cavities. Just some gums that needed some TLC. I had a hard time taking care of myself or putting myself first. Though my wife at the time went to the dentist, got new cell phones, drove the new cars, etc., I made sure she and the kids were taken care of first. If I didn’t, I heard about it. That also became a competition. She would say she was nearly blind and needed new glasses, when I was the one working. I needed glasses to work, but I had the same prescription since college.

When I finally left, I started dating someone who gave me a taste of being selfish. She told me I needed to see an eye doctor because one night when I went to her apartment to go for a walk, I nearly walked right past her. I couldn’t see her face in the dark. I got glasses and I could see again. Work was easier. Writing was easier. Driving…was much safer.

Later, I went in for a teeth cleaning and they found a cavity. My first. I was 40. The strange jump my life had taken from being 21 and just starting off at figuring out my life brought me back to 21. I mean in the meantime, I had worked regularly, was in the process of raising three kids, but I had not done some things for myself that many adults take for granted. I was terrified of getting a tooth filled.

The woman I was seeing told me to close my eyes and think of her holding my hand if I got scared. Then that was comforting. That someone cared. Someone had that kind of compassion. Someone wanted to take care of me for a change. I felt better. Today, I’m not the same. I’ve been catching up.

Back then, I had never gone anywhere on my own, much less booked a hotel room, plane tickets, bought a car from a dealership, or done much for myself. By myself. Nearly every experience was raw, new, and scared the shit out of me. I had been captive. I would say my wife had done all of those things, but she hadn’t. She had her mother book rooms and car rentals and plane tickets. Her mother was always center stage, from buying our house to our cars, and so much more. We were dependent on her, which meant whenever we wanted to do something different, we had to clear it with her, since she was the one doing all the leg work. She was the only one who was allowed to watch the kids. My ex was just as much at her mercy as I was.

The things I was good at were taking kids to the ER in the middle of the night. Taking care of sick kids. Fighting with my wife and trying to hold a marriage together for a very long time. I became very good at shutting down. At blowing things out of proportion to suit the narrative. Everyone else was bad. We were poor and always going to be that way. Everyone was always out to screw us over.

I’m learning now that your 40s get to be a new time in your life where you decide what your values are. It’s sad that for so many of us it takes this long. We finally give ourselves permission. The last several years has been trying to unlearn a lot of what I was taught wrong in my youth. Mostly by two young people who had a child together and were faking it themsleves. Living in a small town. Under the disapproval of family who had their minds made up about the world and our place in it. Like I said, this stuff goes back generations.

Some things still make me anxious, but not as much anymore. I figure it out. I like to problem solve. In my forties, I’m learning to worry less about what others think of you. Chances are if they’ve made that call already, it’s not your problem. It’s theirs. I’ve been held back from doing so many of the things I have wanted because I’ve been afraid of what other people might think. Every single one of us has done something new for the first time, and most of us have failed spectacularly at it. If we keep getting up and trying again, we usually get better at it. There’s no other way to master something. And if we were instantly perfect at doing it, maybe we didn’t aim very high?

Very few of us are born into a position that is guaranteed success. I’ve met people who were and they are a mess. When you are born into your life, you’re no different than that 21 year old who is just going by everything they were taught. You aren’t learning it for yourself. Those are the kind of people who aren’t happy. They aren’t sad either. They have a weird feeling they cannot describe because they’ve never wanted for anything. They don’t know what it’s like to want more and not just be able to have it. And they can’t understand that not everything we have is even something we want. That wisdom comes from loss. Or looking beyond what is familiar, and maybe wondering if it’s a cage or not.

Anyway, I’m getting better at getting out of my comfort zone. Over the years, I have been paying attention to the lessons I have been given. I no longer need someone to hold my hand at the dentist. If I need new glasses, I make an appointment. I am prepared to make mistakes and once I weigh all the options and think things through. I jump anyway.

21 year old me would have told me that was what I should have been doing all along.

On the road

Today I was on the road quite a bit. Sometimes I forget how meditative the experience is. Therapeutic.

I had a lot of errands to run in the city and since I got a late start, it was mid-afternoon before I even got where I needed to be. Part of my errands was unloading some things I didn’t need anymore. I was reluctant to let some of these things go because of the memories behind them and what they meant. But they have exceeded their usefulness and are just taking up space now. Now they can take up space for someone else.

Letting them go was not as hard as I thought.

I got coffee. Did some grocery shopping. Took Penny into a couple stores with me and she got lots of pets. She’s getting better with people. Less skitterish. Me too, Penny. Me too.

Sunset was beautiful. The Colorado sky was the color of bronze and lavender, streaked with so many fiery clouds. You only get skies like that here. Not saying they are better than anywhere else, just unique.

On the way out of town, I felt something break inside of me. It was a strange sensation. Unexpected. It felt peaceful. Unrelated to the stuff I got rid of, I felt myself let go of something else. I’ve felt that sensation before. That moment when you just…let go. I guess it was time.

I got home late. I’m not tired. Probably from all the coffee.

It was a day that felt a little like this.