Saturday, October 3, 2015

What is Real

I have been called strong and emotionally stable too many times to keep count. Although it's true that  I have managed to keep my wits about me in some rather tense situations, it's not because I am a particularly well-balanced person or that I have some foolproof coping method to turn to during life's challenges.  I am just as weak as anyone who gives the appearance of a person close to losing their hold on what is considered reality by popular belief.

Today I find myself alone in the desert quite literally. Phoenix is an inhospitable location, and I frequently wonder what possessed someone to settle here in the first place. The water is so thick with minerals that every spigot is covered with a white and yellow crust. The summer is five months of 100+ temperature days dotted with violent thunderstorms that cause dangerous flooding, bring winds strong enough to bring down the trees and add intolerable humidity that lingers for days afterwards. There is a large population here who are conservative and closed-minded. Many are racist, homophobic and outspoken about their prejudices. They basically find reasons to hate everyone. I'm pretty sure that the climate plays a major role in the strength of social intolerance. I've even felt some occasional hate for the city and people since moving here in February.

I visited home in July. Well, I called it home then. It was no longer my home. Although I love Northern California dearly, I no longer feel at home in the place where I grew up. Phoenix is my home now... sort of. I still haven't yet succeeded in finding a way to make a living.  I burned through all my liquid assets and I'm gradually selling off everything I own. I have a $453 car note, $800 rent and $220 car insurance payment every month.  I have yet to actually earn that much in a single month. I'm averaging about $1100 a month. There are also tuition payments, health insurance, internet, phone, electricity, water, gas, food and the unexpected expenses that come up for everyone. Right now I need my windshield replaced and a 50K-mile service is overdue on my vehicle, which I use to earn money. I feel like I am just waiting for something to happen. Either it will fall apart or it will fall into place. I'm done pretending that I have any control over it. I have been to dozens of interviews and hiring events and been offered several jobs that make about a third of what I need to survive. I tried to make the one job that earned a little over half of what I need work, but I had a major breakdown after my fourth consecutive week of getting only 3.5 hours of sleep 4-5 days a week with mandatory overtime and no option of changing my shift. I just couldn't do keep it going. I cried about that job. I cried on my way to work.  I cried on my way home.  The tears weren't just for the realization that the one spark of hope for survival I had couldn't last; They were the death of my belief that I was going to be okay. I couldn't qualify for any government help, and I had no one to call to rescue me.  That was it.

Since then I haven't put much effort into finding a new job. I pursued that job for six weeks before they gave me an offer and then waited an additional three weeks before I could start working. I pursued another one immediately after for three weeks with no luck. I really turned on the charm, and it didn't matter. I still go to school full time on weekdays and drive for Lyft 12+ hours a day on weekends. I finally reached the bottom of my account with the payment of my rent two days ago. My car note is due on Wednesday.  I don't know when my insurance payment is due, and I don't feel compelled to check since I have no idea how to make enough money to pay it. Both this weekend and next weekend's earnings will pay my car note (late), and then I will have two weeks before rent is due again, which is approximately three weeks' worth of Lyft driving. On Monday I will go to the school and request a leave of absence of six weeks (of which I am only allowed one). That should give me a chance to drive 12+ hours a day every day and, hopefully, make enough to catch up on bills and take care of the car service and upcoming tuition payment.  If that doesn't work, I'm not sure what I will do. Even if it does work, I will still need to figure out how to sustain myself while attending school full time for another year and three

During my last few months in California in 2014, before my trip to visit my friend in UK and my niece in France, every time I drove across the bridge I envisioned myself driving off the side and into the bay. I felt trapped by my life. I began to feel a similar way recently. I started to miss my old job back home because it enabled me to distract myself with gambling and drugs when things got really bad. I do not miss my family. In fact, the reason why I haven't had the desire to get high or drunk is because I can just be at home in peace without the judgment or destructive criticism. the last few phone conversations with my mother were just her criticizing me for leaving, telling me that I'm a failure and saying that I should just come home. I have stopped answering her calls.

I cry a lot. When I say a lot, I don't mean that in the terms of how I once was.  It used to be so rare for me to shed a single tear for anything.  When I did, I punished myself for showing weakness.  This is the new, liberated me. The new me comes home and cries several times a week because it is a safe place where I can be weak and vulnerable, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I realize that showing vulnerability can be an act of courage, and most of the time I am not a strong enough person to do it. The new, liberated me prays. I started praying because I have a gun, and I was afraid that I might turn it on myself if I got desperate. I felt better the very next day, so I started praying for people that I miss and friends who are going through tough times in their lives.

Since taking up prayer, I've had a bunch of ah-ha moments. The most recent was this morning. I wasn't praying at the time, but for some reason the regular practice has given me the ability to look at myself from an emotional distance that I sought for years to obtain with meditation alone. I'd even go as far as saying that prayer and meditation are the therapeutic dynamic duo.

I haven't forgiven my mother. I thought I forgave her years ago. The old me would've been disappointed by this realization, but I am relieved. It's okay that I haven't forgiven her.  It's even okay that I may not be ready to do it yet. It's okay that I still feel sad when I think of myself as a little girl and I still want a mother to nurture me instead of punishing me for being born the favorite child of a terrible husband. Whenever I feel this way, I say, "I miss my dad." But is that really the truth? I'm not certain anymore. I forgave my brother when he broke down. I watched his back twitch as he sobbed, and I saw him as a little boy in our house, just as powerless as I was, and I realized that he never intended to hurt anyone. My mother, on the other hand, was an adult. I was her child. She made the rules. Whether I followed them or not, I was punished. If I cowered, I was bullied.  If I cried, the punishment lasted longer. The only way to to survive was to act like nothing really affected me. I suppressed them and tried to keep them locked away in my journals. Forty years later, the act continues. I will get through and past this too somehow. Maybe I had to come here, to this place and situation, to be able to heal. This isn't the education I moved here to get, but I'll take it as a bonus.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The next episode

I haven't blogged in a really long time. I made a decision to go back to school.  I cannot go to community college anymore because the curriculum doesn't move quickly enough. The biggest challenge is ignoring the students who haven't done the reading or homework and not getting irritated by the time wasted in class going over information they should already know. I felt like either I should be paying less tuition than they were or there should be slower classes for them.

I'm intimidated by writing classes. UC Berkeley has a ton of intensive workshops. The first one I've got my eye on is Screenplay Writing. That will be useful for my projects with Twin Peaks. It will be nice to work in someone else's project for a while.  

Following the first of the novel creation workshop in the series, I've taken another break from the memoir. It's mostly to protect my sanity. It's especially difficult to keep it together while surrounded by the main players in my story. Mom has returned from the Philippines. My brother and his wife haven't moved out yet (it has been over two years since they moved in and said they'd only stay for a short time). Everyone else it's stagnant, so now I've got to do something. I need pace and quiet. I need privacy. I've gotta get out of here!

Now that I have a dog, I can't live at my former residence. I'm considering giving him away to a co-worker who already loves him. School and moving are big changes. The only way I can keep him is to have a yard or a safe walking/running path or trail where he and I can get a good run in every morning before my other responsibilities take over. There's no rush, so I have time to really look carefully. Either way he'll be just fine. We'll be just fine.

Monday, June 3, 2013

June's Project

I’ve enrolled in a beginning novel writing course.  It’s every Sunday in June.  Now I'm wondering if a person can write a novel in one month.  I have so much that may not be used at all.  This is an idea that doesn’t sit comfortably, but I’ve accepted that it is a very real possibility.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bite me, self conscious thoughts!

Last night I spent several fun hours hanging out with a small group of friends from junior high. Twenty eight years we've known each other, and I actually considered skipping out because I felt self conscious about being overweight.

A few nights ago, after meditating, I decided to just get over it and accept myself the way I am right now. I may not feel attractive at this weight or at this fitness level, but I'm still me. Anyone who loves me won't stop simply because I'm overweight and any "friends" I lost during my fitness hiatus weren't real friends anyway. These people in particular have known me so many years that they won't care about anything so shallow. They just want me to show up.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprising after all, I've been steadily picking my healthy habits back up since that night without any feelings of obligation or dread. I dare say it has even been fun! I tell you, what they say is completely true; the kindest and most satisfying embrace is the one you give yourself.

Friday, April 26, 2013

hard work

Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is put your own problems aside long enough to support a friend.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shattered Pieces in my Wake

The Puppetmaster and I walked along the embarcadero after brunch on Sunday. We passed the yacht club at China Basin, and a memory of being a theater usher came flooding back.

It was late one night after a Rent show. There was a cast and crew party at the yacht club, and there were a handful of ushers in attendance. I sat out on the deck in a dark corner with a few of the sarcastic girls smoking and cracking inappropriate jokes about the guys performing their favorite selections inside. They were each very talented, most of them so much that it overshadowed their larger than life egos. I had watched them in their glory so frequently that it was no longer a novelty.

A stranger walked in during one of the performances and bellied up to the bar. He was dressed in the dark layers common to the area like a fisherman or longshoreman. His pace was slow and purposeful, but his height allowed him to cross from the entrance to the bar with a few steps. The deck was silent as we looked on in awe.

He was beautiful. The ends of thick dreadlocks dangled beneath the wrap around his head, brushing his back just above his waist. His face was smooth olive with a thin goatee.  His eyes glowed golden green. The silence on the deck was broken with a whisper from one of the girls behind me, "Now, that's a man." The rest of us sighed and groaned in agreement. The top of my head tingled.

The tension in the yacht club was palpable. It became painfully clear that the stranger had encroached on a private function. He didn't stay long, but I don't recall anything that happened after his departure that night. I felt as though I'd seen a ghost, there for a fleeting moment and then gone forever. At least that's what I assumed at the time.

Monday, April 1, 2013

the ego's familiar face

I’m probably a typical underachiever.  I don’t take risks because I don’t feel like I’m good enough at anything to really excel at it.  I don’t compete at anything because I’m always afraid that others will beat me.  Not only will they prove themselves better than me, but they will rub my face in their victory.  That’s crazy!  My brain goes in a crazy direction there.

As a young person I never felt like anything I did was good enough.  When something turned out well, I felt compelled to come up with something better.  Perfection was the only scale for measurement.  If it wasn’t perfect it wasn’t right.  Mom taught me that.  I could never please her.  I tried.  Oh, how I tried!  She focused on every imperfection she could find.  To this day I cannot wear shorts because my hyper pigmented hair follicles, which she referred to as “polka dots” looked terrible in her opinion and should always be covered.  I’m not exactly sure why that particular memory came up, but it seems unnecessarily cruel to me now.  Why would a person tell their kid that?  Confidence is something that takes people far in life.  It’s one thing to teach your kids that disappointments happen (and then give them the tools to recover from it); it’s another thing entirely to take away their confidence and make them believe that success is unattainable for “someone like them”.  She probably just didn’t know what she was doing at the time, but it still makes me sad.  I feel sad not just for the child Hester whose dreams of the wide, enchanting world were shattered, but also for my mom who was so hardened and broken that she couldn’t even allow the people around her to believe in kindness, faith and miracles.

I am now at a crossroads that will likely be a recurring one for me – growing out of my irrational fears.  An important part of this process is looking at the beliefs I have about self-worth, remembering where they came from, reliving the emotions associated with the formation of those beliefs and rising above them.  It’s challenging to say the least.  The ego wants to cover up, cry, guilt, attack – anything to make the probing stop, but my logical mind knows that this is all necessary.  I lie awake at night while they fight sometimes. I don’t remember my dreams when I wake up afraid, angry and upset in the middle of the night.  It takes hours to shake it off.

This morning, for the first time in several weeks, I felt light.  I felt a peaceful acceptance of the things that are going on in my life.  I slept well last night.  I only wanted one cup of coffee, which I drank after the rainy and crowded commute.  I’m not exactly sure what changed, but it felt great.  I meditated in the dark before dawn and the minutes flew by.  Whatever this is, I hope I am able to sustain it.  I’ll need it to deal with the emotional gunk that I need to pull out.