Monday, June 27, 2011

Hola mi amor...


I don't know what it is about Mexico. I don't know if it is the food, the people, the culture, the ocean... but there is something about Mexico. When I come here, I feel so much better. I feel like I can breathe. Or perhaps I just remember to. The first day we got here, the woman that picked us up had to stop at a wedding on our way to the condo. All I wanted was a shower, but the wedding was lovely...
flower girl

Granted when I am here, I get to live a 'fantasy' life. There is something to be said for that. For staying in a penthouse with this view:
bedroom view
There is something nice about laughing with friends and understanding the 'quirks' of Mexican electrical wiring. About drinking fresh orange juice on the porch and listening to the surf in the morning. About little land crabs that come to a wedding as a surprise guest!
land crab
There is something wonderful about sleeping in... not *having* to get up early unless I want to. Last night it thundered and there was so much lightning I asked for mercy from the Mayan "Chaac" who strikes the clouds with his lightning axe to produce rain and thunder. He was certainly busy last night. :)

bit too much sun!
I've already had a bit too much sun, I've spent a few too many hours in the pool, but it doesn't matter. I'll survive the sunburn and I'll move from spf 50 to spf 70 and not care.

bedroom view

I remember when I was in college and when things in my life got dicey, I'd run away to Mexico. Culminating with hitchhiking through Mexico with a friend and sleeping in a whore house. Swimming with the whales... ah those were the days. I don't know that hitch hiking through Mexico these days would be such a good idea... people seem to 'disappear' a bit too frequently around here for that... which is a shame. Because this country, these people are good people and being here is still an amazing adventure. And apparently? For me? It still works as a balm to my soul to be here. Last night I ate shrimp the size of your hand, with their heads still on. I did not, no matter how much Zimmern says it is tasty, suck the stuff out of the head. I ate their tails and enjoyed some tequila served in a cucumber (it was some unlabeled tequila... and *yes* omg it was good) and laughed all the way back to the condo.

shrimp and steak
tequila in cucumber glasses

I am enjoying this vacation. I really needed it. It's been a long year from this point last year... a divorce, my dad's heart attack and thyroid cancer, my best friend's situation...
eternity pool

Although this time? I'm not running away to Mexico. I don't feel like I need to escape here. I'm older and I'm not looking to 'find' myself here either. When I lived in Guadalajara, when I traveled here before, it was always with this edge of longing. Of feeling a bit lost. Of hoping I'd find part of myself in Mexico. I've matured a great deal from those days.  I know more now about who I am. For me? Returning to Mexico is returning to the embrace of an old love. The feelings are still there, but they are just a deep simmer instead of a raging fire. I'm not saying I won't get into a bit of trouble... and hey... the pool guy is *so* cute ;), but I am not here for an adventure (although adventures *do* tend to find me) I'm here to relax and recharge. And honestly? I don't know of a better place or country to do that. 

My friend on the balcony drinking fresh orange juice

Even with her bumps and bruises of being in a bad situation right now, Mexico is a land of great beauty and great pride. I feel honored to be here, I feel enamored with her charm and grace. And I am humbled by the generosity of friends who have allowed me time here to reconnect with my battery, recharge my spirit and look forward to all I have to accomplish this summer. I appreciate all the friends back in Washington who are staying with my cat, watching my garden, watching my house, etc. That helped make this happen for me. 
beach waves in Ixtapa

Gracias mis amores. Gracias.



Friday, June 17, 2011

A Long Strange Trip...


"It's in my brain, my lungs and my liver, MK."

Those were the words I heard this morning when I called my best friend. For a moment I allowed myself some tears. Then instead of asking about prognosis (do I really need to ask that question anyhow?)  I told her I had rented an RV.

We are going camping. I hate camping. I just want to be sure y'all know that. However, I'm going to love camping like I have never loved anything before.

My bff's request is to get a big RV and drive across America. She is so excited about it. We talked a good twenty minutes about all the things we want to do. It is the way to get around the big white elephant in the room.

We're going to pack the kids, her, me, a family friend into the camper and go. C wants to go to the Grand Canyon. I told her whatever she wants? I will do my damnedest to make happen. Right now? I'm not even going to worry about cost. At this point, what is money, anyhow. My dad has been amazing and saved money for me to use as a downpayment on a house or retirement someday. I'm going to talk to him about letting me have some of it. I refuse to worry about money.

*I* want to spend the night in hotels. SHE wants to camp. Lord. The things you do for the people you love. My mom understood things well when she said, "My idea of camping is Howard Johnson's".

I want to make this happen. For her. For her kids. For me. I am selfish enough to want to spend as much time with her as I can. Sitting under the stars, talking. Because... well... yeah. I don't need to go into it. There isn't a single one of you out there, with a very very best friend... who doesn't know why.



Monday, June 13, 2011

Uncomfortably Numb


The last four days of my life have been very difficult. In order to explain, it is going to seem like somehow my issues are more important than my best friend's issues. They are not. My life, in comparison to hers has little struggle, little strife and few battles. 

Many of you know my best friend has survived breast cancer for two years. Thursday I found out the cancer had returned and eaten through her hip and was in the bones of her back. She's had severe neuropathy in her face for the past month. She couldn't look at lights or use the computer and was pretty much bed-ridden from the pain.

Yesterday, she found out the cancer had reached her brain. When she called me yesterday morning to tell me, we cried together. I felt my life shift sideways.

My best friend is one of the most amazing women I know. And I know a lot of people. She has always been my cheerleader. Always supported me. Always loved me. We met almost 20 years ago and from the first time our energy connected, for me? It was like the world had been put right. I have not met a woman so strong. I have not met another woman so determined, so loving and so giving. She is my best friend and my life is full because she is in it. Always the first to offer to help, the first to suggest things in my life to support me, the first to rush to my defense, the first to hold my head when I cried over ended relationships, the first to come out swinging by my side. She is an incredible mom, taking her kids to COSI, museums, listening as her daughter grows up to be her own person. Talking about the complicated issues. My best friend and I planned on growing old together at the lake. Driving in our golf carts, mumu's and bath robes over to each other's house early in the misty mornings to drink fresh coffee and gossip about her kid's lives and her grandchildren and our lives. Even now, as I sit here, I can see us in those golf carts up at the lake, tooling around, laughing and loving each other. I am not ready to give that up. I am not ready to give up, period. 

Saturday, we both cried. We didn't say anything about the future. I tried to be strong, but I wan't very successful. By Sunday, she was ready to do whatever she needed to survive. I don't know what that will mean, likely radiation and the surgery on Monday (today) to do a hip replacement. Right now, she can't walk.

My best friend has two children, my beautiful goddaughter and her wonderful brother, 11 and 8. She also has a loving husband who also has his own battle with cancer he's fighting. If anything happens... well... besides being without my greatest cheerleader, as the godparent, my life will change considerably.

I am not ready to concede to cancer. I do not want to look down that road to some end that seems inevitable. At first, when I found out, I held on SO tightly to my life. Thinking that my life mattered. That my job mattered. That my house here mattered. Having had a day or two to process? I realize it doesn't matter. What matters is doing what I am called to do. Because in the end, I am lucky in my life to have a friend like her. I am lucky to have so many wonderful friends in my life, period. But when you make a promise to a friend, especially one involving her children, that promise is your bond. At least in my world it is. And if the day comes I have to navigate that, I will find a way to do that.

I feel grateful to every single one of my 'family' who have supported me. Even people I *just* met have been incredibly kind and loving. To every one of you with a kind word to me and a prayer for her and her family, thank you. To the amazing ladies in my writing group, who found me sobbing in my kitchen two hours after I found out about the brain cancer and who loved me and loved on me and helped me focus on my writing for a while and not my shattered heart? I love every one of you. <3

This chilly Pacific Northwest morning, I have my feet (mostly) back on the ground. I am alive and so is she. Today? That is what I have. Tomorrow? I will deal with tomorrow.

I will be leaving for the summer to spend my time in Ohio with her and her family. She will require 6 weeks of therapy to be able to walk again. I will stay there as long as I can. I won't be able to do the triathlon, but my friend Perry is going to help me ship my bike there, so I will have a bike to ride with my goddaughter this summer. (Thanks Perry! You are such an awesome guy!) I'm going to try to keep up with my swimming and walking. Perhaps when I get home, my friend Trish and I can find another smaller triathlon to do in September. I don't want to give up on the idea of doing a triathlon, I just realize I can't do the one in August.

Again, just in case I haven't had the chance in person, I love you. I say it to my family whenever I talk to them and I am saying it to you, because in the end, it isn't *really* blood that makes a family, is it?



Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Well, who is that lovely lady?


Today one of my students who is all of 18 asked me if I had any idea what it was to know someone who could finish my sentences. Who understood me in a way no other person had ever understood me. If I knew what it was to be so in-love with someone you felt your soul open up. And to know it is someone you can’t have. Someone who can’t return what it is you offer. Someone you loved so deeply and so desperately that life without that person seems empty and barren.  I told him I knew that feeling, yes. I knew the feeling of loving someone and realizing it is unattainable. And? I told him that truly being in-love is reciprocated. Truly feeling that amazing feeling of belonging, of connection, of love is something that comes from two people, not one.

But I'm wondering now if that is true. If maybe, in order to be ready for that amazing feeling of belonging between two people, you gotta master it with the only 'one' that matters.

Recently, I have made some deep realizations about my life. And getting to this point hasn't been easy. There have been tears. Lots of them.

But I think I get myself now. Maybe for this round of understanding I've finally made it to the other side of the river. And I can see where I have come a little better from the this side of the rushing water. 

For many of my 43 years on this planet I have been searching for 'the one'. It has driven my life. I felt that if I just found 'the one' and I looked in his eyes? I would see that I am okay. That I am loved. That I am whole. I thought once I looked into his eyes and he thought I was beautiful? *I* would finally feel that way about myself. Once I looked into his and eyes and *he* said I was smart? I'd believe that about myself as well.

Except in my life? That hasn't happened. And in my life? It wasn't going to happen. Not because I haven't or won't fall in-love, but because finding that space to realize I am beautiful and that I am worthy doesn't come from outside myself. It comes from inside. And for most of my life, when I looked in the mirror, I saw someone fat and unattractive. I chose relationships that reflected that back to me. Guys who loved me... but weren't in-love with me. Guys I could pour my heart out to that could not return that sort of affection. Guys who were as emotionally crippled as I was.

I did this, not because I chose bad men. Categorically, the men I have chosen in my life have been good guys. Every one of them. But I chose guys that couldn't dig into problems and be honest with themselves or with me. And I chose men like that because *I* couldn't do that fully with myself. I couldn't look in myself and see that I was worthy of what I needed and wanted in a relationship. That it was *okay* to want and need things within a relationship. That I didn't have to give myself away to be loved. It was naive of me to think that some man was going to take care of those things for me. That some partner was going to 'heal' that need for safety, security and that deep deep need we *all* have to feel loved.

A few weeks ago, I was putting on makeup in my bathroom. And when I was done, I said to myself, "You look so pretty today." As I walked out of the bathroom, I had an OMG! moment. Followed by tears.  I realized I had said that to myself and NOT added "if only you lost 80 pounds", or "on the inside", or "if only you could make that nose smaller" or "if only you didn't have scars on your body" or or or. A lifetime of "or's" and "if only's". And in that moment? I knew I finally got it. I understood what it was not to be waiting for someone ELSE to tell me I was pretty. Or I was special or I was worthy of being loved.

And I realized? I was done looking. Well.. done looking for THAT ONE guy that was 'the one'. I realized I was fully ready to be who I am. Solid in the knowledge that I like me. I'm not going to drag someone to dinner with me, or keep trying to force someone to hang out with me, or continue hanging out with someone that doesn't add something amazing to my life. I may meet a thousand more people before I find a partner I want to be with as an equal. I'm okay with that. I know I will make a lot of friends on the way and? I'll meet some people who are not people I'll keep along the way. And that is okay as well. I do not *have* to like everyone. I can be kind, I can be loving and I can be honest without being cruel.

And if I am 83 and I am not partnered up? I will go dancing with my goddaughter or her children and walk the beaches by myself and think... dang woman! You've lived an incredible life! What an amazing lady you are! 

And I know I'll say this because right now? I finally understand I already am.



Thursday, June 02, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, I was pretty sure I knew everything. I was pretty sure I had it all figured out.

Recently, I learned of another young person passing from the world. I wasn't close to her, but I have memories of loving her very much when she was younger. I particularly remember one day we walked together and talked about how hard it was to be 'different'. I don't know if she had any memory of that walk, but I do. I think of it from time to time. Her mother was a woman I respected and admired a great deal (I still do but present tense didn't quite fit the paragraph *smile*) and I felt lucky and honored to have known both her and her daughter. I am sure this isn't an easy time for their family.

J, a longtime friend of mine, asked me my thoughts on death. She asked if I thought the Creator gave all of us a certain 'amount' of time on this planet and when our time was up? Our time was up. Fifteen years ago? I would have had an answer. Now? I have a vague 'knowing' that is nothing even remotely like an 'Answer' with a capital A.

Here are my thoughts J, and these are only that... just my thoughts. But oddly, to tell them, I have to talk about my favorite Deep Space 9 character. The character's name is Odo and his species is called "Changling". Essentially, he can be any creature he wants, or a tree or any object he chooses to impersonate. He thinks he is alone in the universe, only to find out his species thrives and has sent him to learn all he can about the universe. Eventually he hears an internal 'program' and he returns 'home'. There he 'melts' into the liquid pool of his people and all that he is becomes all that they are. All that they are, become all that he is. Every time I watch the episode where he returns 'home', I cry. I cry because it calls to me. And something about it? Speaks truth.

That liquid pool of community? Well, I sort of see death as a returning of each of our spirits to the 'all there is'. How long we reside in this human experience with the notion that we are outside that pool of 'all there is'? Isn't nearly as important as the joy and sorrow, the success and falters, the passion and the apathy wrapped in all our experiences we bring with us and share of the time we are apart.

Do we all have a certain number of days all metered out that we get to use up until there is nothing left? I don't think so. I don't think it works like that. I think, perhaps, what we do here, what lives we touch and what moments touch our lives is much more important than how long we get to do it. Whether we die young or old, we hold a unique set of experiences that we will eventually share with 'all there is'. God is defined for *me*, not apart from us, but existing in the collective 'all' of us.

Quite a few years ago, I came home to Ohio during a particularly difficult time in my life. I felt lost; I felt my identity had disappeared with the end of a relationship. I had no idea who I was anymore. One day, while I was up at the Lake, I went swimming. It was evening, and I was the only one around. I stepped into the Lake and for a moment I was overwhelmed with memories of my past. As I walked deeper and deeper into the water, more and more memories of my childhood and life spent in connection with the Lake surfaced in me. I had the distinct feeling that the Lake had been holding my memories for just such a moment. A moment when I would come and ask to be reconnected to myself. Without getting too esoteric?  I felt the Lake reach out to me to comfort me. I heard many of the whispered prayers I had, over my life, imparted to the Lake. I felt the Lake giving back to me what it had been holding. As if it had been waiting all along for me to return.

Do we have a certain amount of time on this planet? I do not know. Do we have an arrangement with God before we get here about what we will do and who we will do it with? I do not know. What I do know? Is that all things we do are sacred. All things we do matter. Because all things we do connect us. There was no judgment in the memories the Lake held for me. To me? There is no judgement from God when we return to the 'all there is'. There is only love for us when it is our time to return home.

It is those of us left behind, believing we are apart from those we love, that weep.