Saturday, July 31, 2010

Falling... falling...

The question always is, for me anyway, how much do I really say. How much is too much for public consumption; where are the boundaries, and how much of where they lie is constructed from some idea of politeness and social conventions, some misguided notion that we are supposed to buck up, snap out of it, keep our private issues private, not be a burden, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and march on, etc. Maybe I can’t know for sure exactly where that is… I can just write and hope I’ll know it when I hit it.

Since my last post, since coming home from Tahoe, I’ve slipped further and further down the rabbit hole. My family and close friends are worried about me, and rightfully so—I am worried about myself, too. They think I need to consider anti-depressants, and have become quite verbal in their opinions—and I’ve been just as verbal in my resistance.

And, please, don’t get me wrong. Drugs have a place, and for some people—perhaps me included—they can make all the difference in the world. But what has haunted me these past days, maybe even weeks, is the idea that in this depression there just might somehow be a message. Yes, I get that it’s a brain chemistry thing; something about serotonin, dopamine, endorphins; and yes, I understand completely that it’s physical. But I don’t think it’s always so clear what causes the brain chemicals to go out of whack, and speaking solely for myself, maybe because of the circumstances in which I felt it come on, there’s a part of me that thinks I’m feeling this way because something in my life is not right. And I’m beginning to get an idea what that might be.

I knew, in the early days of gut-wrenching, heartbreaking decision-making about my marriage, that if it didn’t survive, then I wanted a life completely different. If I couldn’t have what I seemed to most want—partnership, nuclear family close by and a part of the fabric of our daily lives, then I wanted my new-found freedom to count for something. I wanted adventure, to see parts of the world I’d only drooled over in pictures, experience other cultures, learn Italian, set sail, not care if my hair was perfectly coiffured or my jeans wrinkly. In short, I wanted—desperately, and with my whole being—to take off, and fly. And on a deeper, more fundamental level, what I wanted, what I believe(d) freedom would bring me, was the feeling of being truly, tinglingly alive.

I have had that feeling. As I look back, it seems always to have to do with stepping outside the box, leaving the strong arms of safety and security, and RISKING. It was there when I leapt from the boat and swam with wild dolphins five years ago. I knew it two years ago when I drove by myself from the South of France north to the French Alps, not able to speak the language or read road signs or find my hotels. It coursed through me when I kayaked for the first time in my life while on Moloka’i, the wind and waves nearly hurling us more than once into the beautiful sea. And also on Moloka’i, when I stared straight into the face of my fear of flying and sat in the front seat of the little plane that took us to Kalaupapa and back, and then cruising along the highest sea cliffs in the world. And just yesterday, I felt that aliveness flow through me when my realtor loaned me his 12-year-old, bright red, rough-around-the-edges Jeep and my sister and I, with the wind whipping our hair, and the intoxicating scent of pines, cedars, and firs, explored some of the less traveled mountain roads north of where I live. Small things for sure, but for me, whose life has been so limited for so long by fear, they were transforming.

With the best intentions, completely unwittingly, perhaps through being too emotionally driven and not discerning enough about what I truly, in my heart of hearts want--what will ultimately make my spirit soar--I think I’ve trapped myself once again. I’ve taken on a house, a big, demanding yard, unforeseen costs and debt and responsibilities, not to mention new cats I’m already in love with, and I am feeling overwhelmed and buried by it all. Someone suggested that maybe the freedom I experienced on Moloka’i, as exhilarating as it was, scared me on some level I’m completely unconscious of and I rebounded to the safety and security of home. Home away from home to be sure, but the comfort and security of a home, nonetheless. Safety, but with nothing to be excited about or look forward to, nothing that makes me tingle, lights me up, or gets the juices flowing, no boats or planes or unknown places or languages in the future.

Good heavens, I think, is it any wonder I am depressed?

I’ve been spinning around these awarenesses for a few weeks now, terrified to even entertain the idea that I might have made some big mistakes. Two days ago I spoke it out loud for the first time, and just in the speaking, a bit of the burden has been lifted. Not all, not even a lot, but a bit. Enough to stop the spinning, since only once admitted can options be explored. And in the new found freedom to explore, the trapped feeling has eased ever so slightly.

Here's a quote that changed things for me this week...

Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
~Howard Thurman

Until next time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness is a large piece of land west of Lake Tahoe and north of Highway 50 that is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. It is nearly 64,000 acres of subalpine and alpine forest, granitic peaks, and glacially-formed valleys and lakes. It is wild and desolate, and a permit is required to enter the area even for day use.

Lying awake at four o’clock this morning, it struck me that this terrain I am navigating is its own kind of desolation wilderness, and maybe, just maybe, I should have thought ahead, applied for a permit, and at the same time, learned all I could about traversing the area—trails, elevation changes, obstacles, wild animals I might encounter, moon phases (to guage times of light/darkness), etc. I could have talked with some experts, people familiar with the area, googled it, maybe read some travel books. Anything to have had some information ahead of time about entering a wilderness area while carrying a heavy load and leaving behind everything known and comfortable.

All kidding/sarcasm aside, a couple of years ago, in the time period before I actually moved out of our home but knew it was going to happen, when I was so distraught I was having trouble getting out of bed, it came to me that perhaps what I was experiencing was a dark night of the soul. In years past, during one hard time or another, I had innocently tossed the notion about after having read about it in books, but never, not until going through this time, did I even begin to have a clue about how devastating the experience could be. According to Wikipedia, dark night of the soul is a metaphor used to describe a phase in a person’s spiritual life, marked by a sense of loneliness and desolation. I’ve also seen it described as a lengthy and profound absence of light and hope in which you feel profoundly alone, and in which all things that normally aided and inspired you provided no sustenance at all.

Loneliness and feeling profoundly alone. Two states that I am experiencing intensely right now, but am big-time resistant to admit to or to speak of. Somehow I have the idea that to feel lonely is somehow a personal or spiritual failure; that to feel alone, to ever want or need more than myself, means that I’m doing something wrong, or am somehow, in some way, deficient. Is there a stigma about loneliness or is it all in my imagination, my own projection? From where I sit, I can’t honestly say. I only know that in the recent past, alone for three months on Moloka’i, moving up here alone, that when people have asked if I ever felt lonely, I was always pleased (relieved? proud?) that I could honestly answer no.

One of the things that in the past sustained and inspired me was the idea and experience of things mystical; synchronicities, and signs of a great web of connection and interaction between the universe and all of life, suggestions that something much larger, wiser even then we, was in operation. Whenever a red-tailed hawk, my primary totem animal, soared over my car on the highway, I knew that I should slow and listen. When dolphins began coming to me in dreams, I knew it was time to skate to the edge of my terror of swimming in the ocean, and answer their call.

As a kid, I loved butterflies—giant yellow and black tiger swallowtails, especially. The way they danced through the air was magical to me. As an adult, I still love all butterflies, from the biggest to the tiniest, and learned long ago that their “medicine,” their message to us humans, is all about death and rebirth of transformation. Yesterday, walking around the gardens at the Tallac Historic Site in Tahoe, I saw more tiger swallowtails together than I had seen since I was young. Yellow and black, and white and black, with the beautiful bright red and blue spots on the tips of their wings. Sitting gracefully on the bright pink and red flowers, twirling together, circling so closely around me before landing again, I could practically feel them. In another time of my life, it would have been breathtaking. I would have stood in awe, I would have been deeply moved, I would have seen it as a sign…

Yesterday, it was merely a photo op…

Or was it?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tonight I have no idea what to write about. It's late, I feel pressured, and since I got home this afternoon, have been feeling really sad. And honestly, exactly how many times can I write about feeling bad?

It was nice to get away, spend time with good friends, relax on the beach and in the pool, drink margaritas, walk in the beautiful high mountain mornings to the local cafe for lattes and internet time.

And take pictures. Here are some I took this morning...

Wild Lupine

Taylor Creek

Taylor Creek

White Penstemmon

Wildflowers on the Beach

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Ever Changing Landscape

I always notice scenery, but on my drive up to Tahoe yesterday, what struck me most was not only how definitively the landscape changed, but how my mood shifted drastically along with it. Climbing slowly out of the woodland oak countryside where I live, into dense forest, as I drove on, that changing into my favorite Sierra topography: trees spread out more, Manzanitas crawling over huge and beautiful rock formations, small, high-altitude lakes and creeks, stunning mountain peaks and vistas, and this time of year, so many beautiful wildflowers, and with the butterflies to go along with them.

I’ve been told that because of all the air in my natal astrology chart, that the ideal place for me to live, the place where my energy would be recharged the best, where I would feel the most vibrant, would be high up in the mountains, where the air is thinner, fresher, cleaner. And it’s true that I always notice something shift as I make my way up a mountain, and yesterday was no exception. About 5,000 ft. elevation, I turned off the air conditioning, opened the windows, finally was able to pass all the slow “Sundays Drivers” that were constantly in my way, and literally flew up the mountain. It felt so good, after the trapped feeling I’ve been living with, my nervous system feeling the sweet relief of letting loose and moving. I even cranked up the music, and actually sang along a bit…

Well there’s tears and there’s fears
and there’s losses and crosses to bear
And sometimes the best we can do
is just to whisper a prayer
And press on because…
There’s so much to live for,
so much to learn

It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world…

It’s been years since I crossed the Sierras on Highway 4, and I didn’t remember how narrow the road becomes, how remote, how isolated it is. And, how beautiful. I slowed (well no choice, with all the hairpin and “s” curves…), and took the road more deliberately, enjoying the views, the smells, the cloudless deep blue sky, the snow dotted mountains, the constant chatter of insects. A few miles after I crested Ebbett’s Pass, the road headed steeply down the east side of the range, the land changing yet again, a little more barren, with less trees, more high mountain sage—definitely not my favorite—and as it shifted, so did my mood. Suddenly all I could think of was that the last time, the only time I’d taken that road was years ago with my husband. That led to remembering all the dreams we had shared about life after he retired: moving away to some beautiful place, traveling, enjoying a new chapter of life together.

It’s not like they ended suddenly, the dreams. Just like the landscape on my drive, they shifted slowly and subtly, unraveling almost invisibly as we lived out our days. On the drive, it broke my heart all over again, and as I traveled along the east side of the mountains, then turned west toward Tahoe, into Hope Valley, and past the pretty little resort where we had once spent a really nice weekend, the tears began; when I stopped for road work, I put my face in my hands, and let it all loose.

Just so darned much to regret, miss, adjust to, live through.

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Off to Tahoe

Yesterday was my oldest daughter's 28th birthday. For the second year in a row, now that she's relocated to the Seattle area, we weren't able to celebrate together. One of the many hard things...

This will be my post for the day, as I'm off to Tahoe to stay with a friend for a couple of days. I look forward to getting away, winding up and over the beautiful Sierras, maybe stopping to take some pictures along the way, then sitting at the beach, staring out at the amazing blue water and the majestic mountains that surround it.

So many good memories there...

I know that internet connection is spotty where I will be staying. Still, I am committed to a post a day even while I'm gone. There's a sweet coffee shop just down the road from my friend's condo. The plan is to head over there in there in the mornings (while she's still sleeping - very different bio-rhythms!) and post while enjoying a latte.

Until then...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mahalo Moloka'i II

One of my favorite things to do on Moloka’i was to spend the afternoon sitting at Kalele Books and Divine Expression in Kaunakakai, talking story with Teri, the owner, and whoever happened to come and go in a particular day. During my last few weeks, I was there often, making the thirty-minute drive into town, one of Lono’s CDs blasting in the car stereo, Hawaiian breezes blowing through my hair, my heart alive and pumping joy, wondering who I would see or meet that day, eager and excited about spending time with folks who were more rapidly than I ever thought possible, growing to be truly important in my life. So much love, friendship, acceptance, understanding, healing, fun and laughter was exchanged, that I came to dread the end of the afternoon when it was time for the store to close, and for me to make the long drive back to the west side. By the time I left the island, they had become, in large part, the community I had long dreamed of having.

I will never, ever forget those afternoons, nor will I ever forget the people I grew close to there. As much as I miss the land, I miss them that much more, and often feel the longing to cruise down the highway, pull up outside, hear the door squeak (or ring?) as I walk in, kiss hellos, pull up a chair, pour a cup of coffee, relax, and thoroughly enjoy. And though I will never forget them, or how they impacted me, I assumed (I know, how sad is this…) that once gone, I’d become just one of so many folks that move through, get lost in the crowd, and ultimately are forgotten. Not getting it that I can impact others as strongly as they impact me is unfortunately a long standing issue.

So I was moved to tears this morning to receive an email from a man that I had many wonderful and meaningful conversations with at Kalele, telling me that they are all tuned in, reading “voraciously," and there for me 24/7 should I need them.

It was a beautiful thing to read, to feel all their presences and loving support. Then, as with so much that has to do with Hawaii, the pain arrives along with the pleasure. The sorrow of missing a place—and now its people—that I love so much, that my spirit resonates so with, that has brought me such pleasure, that has welcomed, soothed, and healed me on many separate visits, and that touches me so deeply and inexplicably, it is often felt as a big, open, and very raw wound. The pleasure/pain quotient that has been my Hawaiian experience from the very first visit.

So, big mahalo, Bo, and to all my dear friends on Moloka’i. I miss you sooooo much!! And knowing you are there, just like when you actually were there, when I showed up on your doorstep in need and want, and you welcomed and took me in in the beautiful spirit of aloha, just like all those awesome afternoons last fall, you have, once again, brightened my day immeasurably.

Mahalo, mahalo.

Aloha nui loa

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Joke's On Me

Okay, this blog is about honesty, right? Well, here's some for you...

Half a day or so after I posted "Down The Rabbit Hole" my energy spiraled even lower and I panicked about writing a post a day (or for that matter, a post ever again feeling like I did). So, I deleted the post. Only to open my email an hour or two later to see that it had already been automatically emailed to the people who subscribe via Feedburner.

Oh God. If I were in a better mood, it might almost be comical.

Okay, so it guess I have no choice. And obviously I am already behind. And the truth is, when I am so low that it takes incredible energy just to move my body, writing seems impossible. What in god's name can possibly be said from that place? Where everything is viewed through a bleak gray lens, where I am overwhelmed by the simplist things; where taking care of myself is the supreme challenge, never mind taking care of my dog, cats, plants, home, yard; where all decisions of late, whether big or small, included but not limited to buying a home, moving away, the much-needed bathroom remodel, all seem collosal mistakes.

And the next question, who in heaven's name would want to read this....????

But then that was the whole idea, wasn't it? Writing myself through this, around this, out of this, further into this, whatever. And in that case, it's so not about whether it ever gets read. It's simply about the act of writing. Putting it down. Getting it out. Writing. Write, Debby, just write.

Write, Debby, just write.

Ah... Okay, I can do this...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Down The Rabbit Hole

It’s so strange how one day I can feel really fine—almost “normal” again even—only to stumble the next day back into the bottomless pit filled with grief, despair, and this time it seems, pretty deep depression.

I’ve been riding along relatively smoothly since I moved to Tuolumne County; not “happy” by any stretch of the imagination, but most days nearly content, able to enjoy my new home, even revel in my new surroundings, and free of the really painful emotional state(s) that have been my constant companion over the past couple of years. As a result, I know that somewhere, deep inside, a little ember of hope had begun to burn that maybe, just maybe, I was through the worst of it. A light, if you will, at the end of the tunnel. But last week the darkness came on again big time. Out of nowhere, relaxed and feeling good after two new friends spent a really fun Fourth of July weekend here, it was like someone turned off the light switch and I tripped down the stairs once again into the dark basement.

I’m always reluctant to write a post about feeling awful, even though I remind myself that that was the very purpose of this blog to begin with, chronicling the journey through huge life transitions—candidly and honestly. Yet the truth hits me again and again (will I ever, just really get it?) that the only place I can ever truly be is exactly where I am. And to not honor each moment, to not respect each and every particle of the journey—out of fear, out of some misguided idea of what should or shouldn’t be, for whatever reason—simply does not serve.

If you’re new to this blog, it’s been a year and a half of incredible change and upheaval. Separation after thirty-plus years of marriage. Empty nesting. Moving out of, then selling our family home. One daughter moving out of state. My own recent move two hours away from my lifelong home, the Bay Area. Oh yeah, and menopause right smack in the big middle of it.

Big, huge life changes.

So now, it seems, another pit stop. And more than ever I am seeing that just like walking a labyrinth, there is no clue where one is in the process. I simply do not know where I sit in this journey. Am I halfway through the grief process and mental and emotional exhaustion and transitioning? A quarter? Five-eighths? Who knows. There is no formula or flowchart, no GPS or map; no reference guides, no Chicken Soup For The Woman Who Feels Like She’s Been Walloped By Too Many Changes in Too Little Time. Nothing to light or ease the way, and even if there was, the road, the path ahead, seen from this vantage, is opaque at best, non-existent at worst.

It is horrible to feel hopelessness. Staggering to live in the midst of meaninglessness and lack of purpose, to feel one’s life has evaporated, never to return; to miss one's kids and the closeness of nuclear family so thoroughly it is a constant, acute, devastating, physical aching. It is unfathomable to be so unable to move and function that houseplants wither and die before my eyes, dust and mail and dishes pile up, cupboards begin to empty, bills get paid at the very last minute. To be so aware of how my lust for life, the mere idea of joy, the ability to manifest and create have all disappeared. And most terrifying of all, in some of the darkest of moments (which fortunately for me, though often, are fleeting) to not be able to even glimpse the reason—a reason—for living.

My last post was about wanting to begin writing again. It hasn’t happened. Yet, I can’t let go of the idea of writing through this, not only because I know it can provide amazing insight, movement, and healing, but most importantly because I love it and miss it so much.


To that end, I am making a commitment to write a post a day for the next thirty days. Long, short, happy, sad, confused, tortured, one word, one picture, someone else’s words (as in poems and quotes, not plagiarism :), I will do what I set out so nervously a year ago to do—chronicle this journey through brand new uncharted unexpected unwanted uninvited but here I am this is my life better get used to it might want to start living it land. I will care less about the product and more about the process. I will edit less and write from stream of consciousness more. I will endeavor to leave the pursuit of perfectionism behind. I will not care if not one person decides to read it. (Well, I’ll try not to, anyway…) I will return to the basics and the only thing that really matters: write what is true in this moment. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thirty posts in thirty days... twenty-nine to go.