You were marching for me


Today is a day that will go down in herstory. 3 million women and honorary women marched around the world to make their voices heard. Our voices. Our outrage and love. Our fears and hopes. Our refusal to allow the horror looming on the horizon to go unchallenged.

Apparently, the world has our back too. They are almost as terrified as we are. Those 3 million people weren’t just here in the United States of America. They were all over the world. Women. All. Over. The. World. Marched. Thank you England, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. But holy mother of god thank you Kosovo. Seriously, Women in Kosovo feel badly for us and wants to stand in solidarity. This war torn country want us to know that they’ve got OUR backs.gty-womens-march-washington-4-jt-170121_12x5_1600

Just before I began writing this, I posted on my Facebook page, “I cried so much today and wore out my love button on your brilliant and beautiful posts from the front lines. I am in love with every woman out there who joined hands and carried signs and loved each other. My spirit soared with every glorious moment you shared and my spirit sped to everywhere you were. I am in awe of the truths shouted loudly, clearly and full of passionate intelligence, wit, and force. No-one will ever forget this day. I have my work to do – work that I can do to contribute to the greater good – and I’ll do it. Proudly, fiercely, and with devotion. You are my heroes and I have your back. Now, I need to blow my nose and charge my iPad again. I’ve got work to do.”

(I apparently was so much in love with the word ‘love’ that my composition skills took a back seat.)

So. I’ve opened my internet mouth. What do I do? I started scrolling down and immediately under my post was one of those Facebook things urging you to pimp your business page. See, I have another page. It’s not a business but Facebook doesn’t get that. Anyway, the only things in the box were the name of my page, the cover photo and the page description. It’s the description that slammed me. It said…

I write.

That’s what I do. That’s what I can do.

I’m a writer.

I write about my journey. I’ve been told that that’s helpful.

So. I’m starting right now.

Why wasn’t I out there marching?

I have friends all across the US who got on planes, buses, cars and trains to get to the front lines. To wear pink pussyhats and carry signs and Be There. Instead, I obsessively watched every moment. I cried. I reveled in every photo and post. I took immense joy from speeches and raps and those fantastic signs. I felt guilty for not being there. Horribly, horribly guilty. And ashamed.

Why wasn’t I out there marching?

I’m not agoraphobic. I’m great one-on-one. I love going to events like the theatre and jam sessions and giving big parties. At the moment, however, I don’t have the ability to handle crowds of potentially angry people. Seriously. Pathologically. I saw how passionately loving and peaceful these 3 million people ended up being. Well before it played out that way, I’d have passed out from fright just before I thought my heart would burst from the adrenaline that pumps through my body when I’m on constant startle reflex. Sadly, this is not hyperbole.

You were marching for me because I couldn’t do it. You marched for everyone who couldn’t do it. There are a number of us. In case there are any who are ashamed to own it, I’m taking this one for the team.

My point? I refuse to be ashamed anymore. This will take some personal work but everything we believe in takes work. This is also work I know how to do. I create things behind the scenes so that everyone in front and in the audience can shine. This is my love for the world in action.

You deserve, in turn, for me not to be ashamed to own it. I’m standing up for every woman and honorary woman who works tirelessly to contribute without marching. Your actions enable me.

I am a powerful and brave woman, responsible for my own destiny. I take chances and both soar and fail spectacularly. I know this.

So, why couldn’t I march?

I also have PTSD and have been living triggered for almost 2 years now. If you don’t know what that means, let me give you a shortcut. Imagine walking through a Halloween haunted house and discovering that they are all real and you can’t get out. That’s what it feels like.

Last August, I began a Hail Mary effort to make the horror stop. The woman – of course, it’s a woman – who is helping drag me kicking and screaming up for air has performed miracles. This is an agonizing and funny-not-funny story in itself. I will brave the telling another time.

When working on PTSD (and just about anything like this), shame is a frequent roommate. It’s not unusual for even the most enlightened people (cough, cough…).  I have to fight the shame and self-recrimination along with fighting the PTSD. And, I have to not be afraid to admit it. It’s such a rude condition, too. Can’t I just have the one thing to deal with without it imposing these pissy complications? Whinge, Whinge, Wink.

I’m no longer constantly triggered. It’s been about 3 weeks. I am like a toddler who falls down a lot but can sometimes giggle about it because I fall on my padded tushy and occasionally miss hitting my head on the living room coffee table.

I’m no longer living in crisis. May I express here and now what a mind-blowing thing this is? In the process of going from 100 to 5mph, I’ve discovered that my day-to-day stress management skills are a little atrophied. I don’t need those super-powered survival skills that my brain has been focused on every day. So, she’s also teaching me how to deal with the whole spectrum from miffed to ripping mad. It’s pretty cool.

Here’s how your marching + my personal brain health work are now combined.

Last night, as I was writing this, I made my first Facebook post about Donald Trump. The afterglow euphoria of this herstoric day was not yet faded and I was getting to work like promised. I am accepting the baton. I feel empowered and supported enough to do so. I stood with you every moment, soaking in your ability to do this. I feel my post was intelligent and had substance. I’m happy I made it.

Is this a big deal? It is for me. I put myself out there and stated what I believe in with no fear of repercussion because the repercussion didn’t matter. I felt I could handle it. It’s also what I do and I love it.

I write.

I bet there will be a day when I can go to a gathering. I fantasize about going with friends and not puking in the car on the way there. Maybe it can be like hountitled_artworkw I learned to love broccoli. It started out covered in stir fry sauce and great gooey things like that. Slowly, there was less and less goo and more veg. Eventually I was like, “Give me the broccoli STAT!” Maybe we can get together for coffee and I find that we accidentally run into more friends at the Colectivo. We have a great and passionate chat about something important. Maybe we all walk to our cars together and stand in the parking lot getting worked up about the thing that’s happening and what we’re going to do about it. All of a sudden, someone’s holding a banner and it won’t phase me a bit. I’ll be like, “And, my banner is going to say (something really brilliant)!”

Thank you for marching for me.

(Did I mention, I love you?)

 

 

Hi, my name is Susan and I have a vacation prejudice


(This was written in November of 2016 and has noodled around since then but here goes)

Date: Monday, November Somethingth Three Days Before My Anniversary and Barely Into our Six Night Visit to Max and Nancy’s Home near Cabo San Lucas, Meburroxico…

My best friend sleeps with a white noise machine. So have I for the last 3 nights. It’s called the ocean. The experience has made such an impact that I wonder if I should pick one up – a machine, not an ocean – when I get home. Probably not. I suspect that there’s no way to replicate this sound. It’s not just the noise. It’s about letting go of the voices in my head.

I’m on an honest to god vacation. From my monkey brain and my fears.

Preconceived Notions and Insecurities…

Back in the late ’80’s, when I (and my shoulder pads) started climbing my peculiar corporate ladder, I had young women co-workers who dreamed of this kind of romantic – romanticized – escape to a seaside paradise. I never shared that wish. I was mystified by how fervently they dreamed of sitting by a pool or by the ocean, getting a tan, drinking margaritas from sun-up to sundown, and shifting from a bikini to a mini-skirt to go out partying all night. I condescendingly – and silently – saw it as a desperate grasp at being beautiful. Holy crap – stick a fork in my eye. B O R E D just considering it.

Of course, the fact that I would never look good – as defined in my 20’s – in a bikini or mini-skirt never entered my condescension. My incredible social awkwardness – which made me want to vomit at the idea of clubbing – never entered my keenly honed sense of distaste. Of course not. Of course, my current physical awkwardness of lugging around an unbalanced body nearly at it’s height in weight but now on 54 year old knees never entered my current trepidation of accepting the gracious invitation that led us here. Well, perhaps a little.

What to do? What to do…

My previous vacations – the Bucket List Biggies – were Europe. Or hiking. Or hiking in Europe. All perfectly brilliant optionhome-banners. Nearly always the kind of vacation where one needed time off between flying home and going back to the office in order to recover from the vacation. I’ve built those requisite days into the end of this vacation but my mellowed brain is instead pondering how to use those bridge days to hang onto this feeling. Should I buy that white noise machine?

Ever since I conceived of ‘vacation’ as something I could do myself, I clung to the belief that the days must be full, comprehensive and thoroughly planned. This current mind and body trip to stay with friends in their stunning home on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico near Cabo San Lucas and just barely north of the Tropic of Cancer isn’t about hanging onto anything except the stream of consciousness that whisks hours away watching the ocean do it’s thing before during and after a couple of sunrises. Plus dips in the infinity pool.

I’m sure there are some physics involved – science with an exceptional tan – that enables that let-it-go synapse I’m experiencing. Or, disables other synapses. Something I do every day with the right medication and something that I do every night in order to sleep at all. If I sleep. Which, I’ve managed to do quite easily – perhaps for the first time in my life – here.

In the social awkwardness category, my anxiety about this getaway was horror at imposing myself for so many days as a guest in someone’s home. Joyful and engaging pre-vacation get-togethers with Max and Nancy led to their kind invitation to visit. I didn’t want to jinx that magical connection by being the guest that would never leave. Our hosts are neat people and our dinners made me feel witty, curious, and relaxed. How in the hell could I keep that up for more than a 2-hour dinner, much less for almost a whole week? I’m so screwed.

Our hosts have pulled out their sure-fire menu of guest experiences and it’s working like magic.

Nancy asked what we wanted to do when we got here. I was clueless. The activities and sights are usually what drives me to visit a particular place. We came here simply because we were invited. Thank goodness she extended the invitation several times – often enough for us to plunge in and say yes. Blessed tenacity.

We contributed a few activity ideas. I wanted to sit and stare at the ocean, read my book and hike. Maybe do some writing. Fry wanted to snorkel, parasail, body surf, ride horses, eat hot peppers, snorkel, drink tequila, hike and snorkel. Nancy crafted the perfect itinerary.

This is the weirdest, freakiest c99fafd9c69abe86c38cd0eb83bd2ed03ombination of heart-palpitating experiences and the calmest atmosphere in which to experience them. Not only did I have no idea what to expect and pre-worry – but I released all control. I pretended to consider and choose among Nancy’s suggestions of what we should do at any given time but really, I just trusted her. She built in plenty of time for me to sit and stare. I have reveled in rolling with anything.

Their magic has worked miracles…

My goodness, my pathological concern about my inability to be enjoyable company for so long and to not be underfoot has evaporated. I don’t feel like I’m imposing.

My goodness. I actually can stare at the ocean for hours and never be bored. The sound of waves crashing outside my screen door – which we keep open all night long – does not drive me bonkers.

My goodness. I can walk into the sea up to my knees and get buffeted around and get scared I’m going to fall and not be able to get up and be okay. I can dunk my head under the water in the pool and swim 2.2 strokes before blowing my air and following the bubbles up 6 inches and be okay.

It’s only been 3 days. I have plenty of time to screw this up.

Friendship…

This extended visit is enabling our friendship vs engendering the horror I anticipate will happen when Nancy and Max realize that I’m a boring fraud. I’ve learned that Nancy and I share a similar criteria for calling someone a friend. It’s an honorific, heavy on the honor, that’s earned through shared experiences and enough of a world-view Venn diagram overlap. I believe we are friends.

I believe that Max and Fry share a similar criteria with each other for considering someone a friend. It consists of proximity and an innate delight in their humanity. That’s all the groundwork needed. Everything else is showing each other the electrical room for their solar paneled home and the website of their artwork and sharing exceptional tequila and a gorgeous sense of adventure. That and their respective devotion to their iPhones are all the Venn diagram overlap required.

Baggage…

For the first time in my memory I managed this trip with carry-on. Perhaps that primed the pump. My ‘must have handy’ bits and bobs have pared down dramatically. I started out with earrings, purse, antacid tablets, credit cards, nail clippers, eyeliner, and a variety of ‘spring into action / take immediate care of whatever catastrophe might strike’ supplies. It’s now my phone for pictures and posting. Lip balm, sunscreen, bottled water and… that’s it. Oh, and the sun hat that Nancy lent me is convenient. Right now, I’m using it for set deco on the table where I’m writing. I don’t need it. It just looks pretty sitting there. Like I’m ready to spring into action. Which I’m not.

I’ve been wearing my bathing suit, sandals and cover up dress in various combinations almost non-stop.img_0054

Living here started out as a dichotomy to my American-expect-smooth-sailing sensibilities. Their beautiful home built from plans they crafted with their architect contrasted with a bumpy, dusty, long, long, long adventure of a drive from the newly paved main road to get to their house. I would get righteously lost if I tried to find my way out.

They live in a town that at first glance looked to me like a bunch of large houses with lots and lots of space in between them and a bar and grill on the corner of the access road. I had an initial but brief Romancing the Stone: “This is a town?” reaction. It’s a town because Nancy and Max are so connected to their neighbors.

Flora and Fauna…

The flora is low, dense, gutsy, unpolished and dusty – except for the potted plants in colorful Mexican pottery that line their patio. The flora is also beautiful once you let yourself love it – which is easy to do as soon as you – meaning me – decide to drop the ‘but it’s not pine trees’ wistfulness. It’s beautiful. Especially the palms. And everything else.

There are no road signs but free-range burros roam around in the afternoons. I just looked up to see a hawk about 15 feet from their wrap-around windows facing the Sea. Flew parallel to the patio and my strategically placed writing table facing the sea.

The fauna are mostly the aforementioned free-range burros. We witnessed a mama protecting her baby from fellow burro marauders yesterday afternoon. It was quite the braying high drama conflict. We’ve also seen free foraging cattle ranging from Guernsey’s to Brahmas grazing at the side of the main roads. Can’t call them herds since it’s usually 2 to 6 of them at a go. Lots and lots of vultures. Great big ones. Hanging on the thermals – the vulture version of surfing – and keeping tabs to see if we’re feeling okay.

By the 3rd day here, it all seems perfectly natural. It’s just what you see and do. Time expands. There’s distance to cover between things. A trip to a waterfall and to a hot spring took all day. It’s a land of ‘you’ve got to want it’ and you do.

Life…

There’s nothing else to do and it’s more than enough. It’s not a compromise. It’s paradise. Not just because of the view but because of what it does to you. You can’t help it. Just try. You will fail. Why? It’s a mystery.

Yeah, you can get used to it but I get the rose-colored impression strife is more about the tribulations outside this world. Every home and life has it’s bumps like trying to figure out international health insurance options. The wind knocking down a glass and breaking the plate underneath it. The flock of birds looking for fresh water every morning who descend en masse to their pool and poop in the water regardless of how many twirly things you hung in the palm tree or the fake crocodile floating in the pool. You know.

Changed…

Thank you, Max and Nancy. You changed my world.

This is about as introspective as I’ve gotten in and for the longest period of time – or 3 days, whichever comes first. I’ve chatted with Fry about observations but they’ve lasted as long as it takes for the next 2 waves to come in.

I’ve changed for the moment. Will I be able to hold onto it when I get home? No. Does it matter? No. Am I ‘all better’? No, but better. Has my world expanded in just 3 days in magnificent ways that I could never have imagined?

Yes.