Friday, August 15, 2014

Loving more?

Many years ago, I was introduced to the concept of polyamory, which seemed to involve open multiple loving/intimate relationships.  I respect and love the people involved, so I listened to their explanations with my inner skeptic firmly throttled down.  It seemed to work for them, but the operative word was WORK.  Lots of communication, lots of checking in, lots of loving negotiation.  Also, lots of people who really didn't get the concept, but just wanted to sleep around without repercussions.

I decided that it wasn't for me.

Fast forward to 2012, when I moved to New Mexico.  I met a gent who invited D and me to a potluck with "unconventionally-thinking people."  After we accepted, he expanded the description:  it was the Santa Fe Poly group.  As he described it, it was a way of including sex in the friendship mix.  Friends fulfill your social, financial, cultural, and sexual needs, but not usually all four at once.  So, you have a friend with whom you go to plays, and you have sex afterwards.  You have another friend who is a domestic partner (shared finances and sex implied.)  You have other friends with whom you are social, and maybe sexual.  In some cases, there is no sex at all.   Etc etc.  The common denominator is that everyone knows about everyone else.  And, there are discussions about that.

I was a bit confused:  it sounded to me like he was describing the basic rule of thumb:  you can't get every need met by a single person.  But, how is polyamory different from having a lot of different friends and sleeping around?

It was the beginning of a whole new exploration of the phenomenon.  There's the vocabulary:  metamour, compersion, primary partner, unicorn hunters, cuddle parties, solo Poly.  There's the etiquette: asking if it's okay to hug, for example.  I discovered that there are groups that meet to discuss issues (what do you tell the kids?, how do you handle jealousy?  what do you do if your primary partner does not want to meet your other partners?)  Afterwards there's a potluck.  It's surprisingly innocent.  Of course, some of the groups are loosely-veiled swinger clubs, but most differentiate between swinging and Poly.  There's a book that describes the various forms of Poly (a W is five people, whose connections form a W, a V is 3 people, etc etc).  The author is the doyenne of the movement, and is also a couples counselor.  I'd say she has lots of business amongst the Poly crowd.

Being fresh from a disastrous stint of monogamy, I was open to the possibilities.  I wanted a loving relationship that would allow me to pursue my own interests and friendships, with none of the control and claustrophobia that characterized my failed marriage. My OKCupid profile indicated that, and I began finding that my best matches were Poly.  I checked in with them, and discovered that Poly means different things to different people.  One man wanted nothing to do with the negotiation and communication (one might say over-communication) of the Poly community.  He didn't attend meetings or meet his partners' other partners.  He wanted the openness of dating and sleeping with a number of women, but didn't want any of the other connections.  He was totally open to basic non-sexual friendship, too, which was what we had for many months. Another wanted the connection (triple dates, for example), but his form of Poly was hampered by his inability to honestly connect, and I don't think he really liked independent, thinking women. Certainly, he did not like discussion or compromise.  Any confrontation was met with, "I don't feed the drama lama."  There was a kink element too, which is often the case with failed Poly attempts.  For example, I chatted with another gent who was mostly interested in finding a "slave."  Loving relationships were not what he was looking for.

There's the more insidious type.  This man discusses the whole thing up front and is very much into meeting other partners, but he doesn't know how to handle ex-intimates. Part of his problem is the hierarchy of primary and secondary partners.  People who emphasize the hierarchy are suspiciously like non-monogamous marriage partners: you can sleep with other people, but the real caring and commitment is with the primary.  There's a truly gag-producing term for one aspect of this:  fluid bonding.  Basically, it means non-protected sex.

I met a woman who exemplified the hierarchy gone wrong:  she got involved with a couple and then tried to detach the woman of the pair.  It ended badly:  she said the male partner was a chauvinistic misogynist with control issues, and he said she went into a screaming fit when he and his partner confronted her about her divisive behaviors.  I'd guess the honeymoon was over, and they had not been honestly Poly from the get-go.

I only met one person who seems to actually walk the talk.  He attends conferences and potlucks and discussion groups, mans booths at festivals, and is generally immersed in the lifestyle.  I think he is an anomaly, though.  He sincerely wants loving relationships, not just sex, and he wants the same for his partners, whom he thinks are awesome women (he is not bi.)

The awesome people don't, for the most part, seem to be Poly, though.  I met a Colorado group and I've attended two sessions of the Santa Fe Poly, and it seemed to me that a disproportionate number of the attendees were misfits.  They were breathtakingly homely, or exceedingly obese, or socially awkward or all three.  There were a large number of sexual deviants, aka kinksters. Trans-gendered and bi individuals were the norm.  Those who were most conventionally attractive seemed to be Poly-curious, not actually Poly.  One man in Santa Fe had fantasies of a fivesome:  3 women and 2 men.  He was very specific about that.  So, there was a lot of variety in motivation and understanding.  However, the common denominator and saving grace was an attitude of  inclusiveness.  Members were truly kind and thoughtful of each other. They had interesting jobs or obsessions, they liked to discuss many of the things I like to discuss.   They seemed, despite some personal unawareness, to be genuine in their desire to create community. Surprisingly, there was a reasonably even distribution of gender and age, and hooking up did not seem to be the main emphasis of the get-togethers.  I get the impression that other Poly groups are not like that, however.  The groups I attended are organized under the umbrella of Loving More, which is a political and convention-planning entity.  I found the leader in Colorado to be thoughtful and even-handed in her approach, and, if she has demons of her own, they are not in evidence. The leader probably sets the tone:  there was some discussion of a gent in Denver who seemed to use the group as his personal dating pool.

Anyway, I was comfortable spending time with them, but I was not attracted.  Community for the sake of community is not enough for me.  And sex without commitment isn't either.  There is an inevitable emotional connection that comes with the physical connection, and people who deny that are lying to themselves and their partners.  I don't know the answer to my desire for connection, but polyamory is not it. The recent encounters with Poly folk netted some friendships and an insight into the ways other people deal with the inherent loneliness of the human condition.  But that's it, even though  I like the honesty and the sincerity exhibited by many of the pilgrims, and I do believe that people should be free to pursue love and friendship in a variety of ways.  Diversity should not be a buzz word, applicable only to the politically correct few.

Still,  friendships are not soul mates, and increasingly I find that's what I want.  Do I seek for one, or do I table that longing and attend to living a meaningful life?  Can I do both?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


I just spent 10 days away from the cooperative, visiting the boyfriends, rehearsing, and playing 2 concerts. I also attended the Tedeschi-Trucks Band concert with G, and visited El Malpais, the VLA, Pie Town, the Museum of Nuclear History, and the Rattlesnake Museum in ABQ Old Town with M and S. I hiked the Sandia Crest twice. I had a fabulous time.

I can't say the same for the folks at the cooperative. While I was gone, E's caregiver/niece discovered a big mouse infestation. In my defense, I think the signs became obvious right before I left: I told her I'd heard mice and explained our trap system (a jug of water, desert mice are drawn to dive in and drown). I had heard the mice, but not seen them or their leavings, so I had not done anything else about them.

Anyway, she went into huge overdrive: there was apparently a nest of newborns, and there were holes in the roof and, and, and... She used to be involved in infectious disease stuff (had a PhD and worked in a lab), so she has been following an extremely careful CDC protocol and cleaning every day. EVERYTHING has been moved and disinfected, except for a pile of brooms and containers in the bathroom, and the things under furniture in my room. Those, and the myriad numbers of books will wait until the last mouse sign is gone. C arranged for foam blocks in the Epod and the Casita (which also has a mouse problem.)

I was sick all last week with nausea, fatigue, and aches, and I missed E's 99th birthday party. I was advised that those are symptoms of hantavirus, which has a 38% of being fatal. Never mind that the mice for hantavirus are deer mice, not field mice, and that you need to have contact with fresh feces, and E was not showing any symptoms. I bowed to the panic and went to the doctor on the Monday I returned: No, I do not have the hantavirus. My symptoms are probably due to stomach flu and reaction to the bodywork I'm having done for last month's whiplash..

After I went to the doctor, I gave J a break and spent the afternoon with a tub of diluted 1:10 Clorox, doing battle with mouse turds. Most uninspiring. Then, I sent a message to my boss, regarding schedules and the possibility of getting a piano for Esther.

She wrote back that we need to connect on her next visit and clarify things, and she is not happy with the idea of having a piano in her house: no room, and E wouldn't use it anyway.

So now I am going into paranoia mode. I think she is thinking that I am getting paid too much for my work, since I'm gone for a week every month, and have subs for two overnights and one afternoon a week.  Of course, we had agreed to that back in January, she perhaps wanting to change the terms of our agreement?  Or perhaps she is reacting to the hysteria regarding the mice? Whichever, it is not an acceptable attitude. I am a live-in caregiver, and I am here 24/7. My current rate of pay is barely $100/day. July was an anomaly: I had 17 days off (only two of which were covered by paid backup) and two 5-hour afternoons. That means, in July I worked 393 hours. At the going rate of $18/hr, that would be $7074. I'm getting $2100 a month, which translates into $5.35/hr last month, plus room and board.

Whatever, I'm cheap. And I am good at it. E and I love each other, and I do my best to shoulder my share of the co-op work, even though I'm not a member.

Probably this defense is not necessary. My boss is probably wanting to get another sub and hammer out the time off so she can budget for it. The real issue, of course, is that I'm thinking of the future. E just turned 99, and she is not happy here, and her memory and health will probably deteriorate. I'm only 55: What do I want to do for the next ten years before I retire? I actually spent the last few days of my recent vacation thinking about this. The mouse hysteria and my boss's message were just the tipping point.

I guess I feel like I'm ready to go back into the real world. I've been doing this since mid-September, so I'm close to the one year mark. I think that I could actually do this for a living, but then again, I can't expect to find other clients as wonderful as E. However, if I did this more formally, I would have much more freedom. Here, I'm responsible for scheduling my backup, and I don't have a real weekend: my weekends are 48 hours, not two days with the night before and the morning after, like most weekends. If I were working for an agency, like my friend C's, I would be making $15-20/hr, and if I were working a 24/hour shift, I'd be working a 3 day work week.

I'd need to get some EMT training, though. E is easy: she has short term memory loss, some hearing issues, and some physical frailty, but I don't need to administer meds or take her to the toilet or give her baths or any of that sort of thing. I'm just here, keeping her company and picking her up if she falls, making meals, and monitoring things.

I'm thinking out loud I want to do this much longer? Do I want to go back to library work? Do I want to stay in New Mexico? The last few days have proven to me that I still don't handle criticism well, so it's tough to figure out a job and a living situation that will suit my perfectionist, flawed, thin-skinned style.

I'm irritated
By implied criticism.
I don't have to be.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The etymology of feelings

Last week was my last session with Mollie. She is quitting her job of 10 years and going to take care of her aging mother. Her family is overloaded by the issues there, and she wants to regroup personally.

I feel so responsible.
(late 16th century (in the sense ‘answering to, corresponding’): from obsolete French, from Latin respons- ‘answered, offered in return,’ from the verb respondere )

Seriously, I'm not sure who influenced whom in these similar trajectories. My guess is that we are mirroring, not each other, but the changes in our society. My friend B wrote a long comment to a previous blog, the gist being that as a culture we are moving from independence into cooperatives, which, in our current isolated and virtual lifestyles, might be a good thing. While this move is being prompted by financial woes, it's totally probable that those woes are a symptom of the basic sickness of our version of capitalism.

However, both Mollie and I are not so interested in the financial aspect of our choices. We are pondering our live's meanings, goals, and futures, in a spiritual sense. We have both been feeling stagnant, staid, static.
  • mid 17th century: from Latin stagnant- ‘forming a pool of standing water,’ from the verb stagnare, from stagnum ‘pool.’
  • late Middle English (as a verb): from Anglo-Norman French estai-, stem of Old Frenchester, from Latin stare ‘to stand’; in the sense ‘support’ (sense 5 of the verb andsense 3 of the noun), partly from Old French estaye (noun), estayer (verb), of Germanic origin.
  • late 16th century (denoting the science of weight and its effects): via modern Latin from Greek statikē (tekhnē ) ‘science of weighing’; the adjective from modern Latinstaticus, from Greek statikos ‘causing to stand,’ from the verb histanai . Sense 1 of the adjective dates from the mid 19th cent
We both have spent 10 years on a path that is mostly about serving others and staying put. We miss our adventurous selves, the people who traveled and explored. She has, I think, been more adventurous than I. After all, I stayed in one place and profession for close to thirty years. She moved around a lot in her earlier life, and that is much more typical. How many mid-lifers actually want to be nomads, really?

Still, she has been questioning her choices, and I think it was her inner searching which informed the discussions which opened me to possibilities. Instead of feeling trapped....
("contrivance for catching unawares," late Old English træppe, treppe "snare, trap," from Proto-Germanic *trep- (cognates: Middle Dutch trappe "trap, snare"), related to Germanic words for "stair, step, tread" (Middle Dutch, Middle Low German trappe, treppe, German Treppe "step, stair," English tread (v.)), and probably literally "that on or into which one steps," from PIE *dreb-, extended form of root *der- (1), an assumed base of words meaning "to run, walk, step." Probably akin to Old French trape, Spanish trampa "trap, pit, snare," but the exact relationship is uncertain). ......I now feel haphazard,
(1570s, from hap "chance, luck" (see hap) + hazard "risk, danger, peril.")

The difference is nominal, really, but important. Snares are dangerous: one walks, runs, steps, MOVES into them. By chance, one moves into peril. So, will this haphazard movement of mine lead to another entrapment? Is that what life is, movement from one danger to the next? Is all change haphazard? Perhaps. Or perhaps that's the final fear that needs to be answered before I can move on, before I can fully feel adventurous.
(Middle English: from Old French aventure (noun), aventurer (verb), based on Latinadventurus ‘about to happen,’ from advenire ‘arrive.’)

Am I about to arrive? I hope so. Meanwhile, I feel so grateful
(mid 16th century: from obsolete grate ‘pleasing, agreeable, thankful’ (from Latingratus ) + -ful.)
to Mollie for being there during the past 20 months (has it really been that long?). She has been a sounding board. She has not let me flail in negative self-talk, but has asked the questions that needed to be answered. If I can say that I have arrived at a place where I am no longer PTSD, it is largely due to our work together.

It's probably time for me to to do that work on my own, or with other people, but I will miss her. I hope her trajectory is a joyous one, or that the painful moments are few. I have every expectation that her next steps will be good for her and those she loves. And I trust that I will follow a similar trajectory.

I feel hopeful.
(Old English hopian "wish, expect, look forward (to something)," of unknown origin, a general North Sea Germanic word (cognates: Old Frisian hopia, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch, Dutch hopen; Middle High German hoffen "to hope," borrowed from Low German). Some suggest a connection with hop (v.) on the notion of "leaping in expectation")

Bored angels again (or, will she never learn?)

In mid-May, I took my Honda in for a checkup. $900 later, I was set with new tires, clean spark plugs, and a schedule for maintenance clearly in place. I was feeling smug, happy: my car was good to go for some time to come, and I was starting to save money (as evidenced by my ability to buy new tires.)

Like a fool, I voiced my satisfaction with my lot, and those goddamned Bored Angels heard me. About 3 weeks ago, I was driving in Albuquerque, en route to a therapy session followed by a nice lunch with a newish friend. I pulled off the highway to stop by UNM and return M's book for her. As I sat, second in line at the stoplight (Candelaria and the frontage road), I heard a loud bang, felt a sharp impact that moved me forward into the car ahead, into the intersection. I braked, panicking as I picked up speed and pushed the other car, realizing in a second that I actually had my foot on the gas. I stopped, looked behind, looked ahead, and continued on through the intersection. Pulling over, I sat, stunned, with the contents of my purse and the car's cubby and the passenger seat scattered along the floor boards.

Long story short, my car was totaled.
I learned the following things:
  1. I hate insurance adjusters.
  2. I really hate car salesmen.
  3. I really really hate our credit system
The insurance adjusters offered me $8400 for my nice little Honda with the leather seats and moon roof and gutsy engine and good mileage and brand new tires.  (My research tells me I cannot find a replacement for less than $9000, realistically it's worth about $9700.)  They told me I could have my rental for 7 more days, but I wouldn't get my money for 6 more days. So, I could shop all I wanted but I couldn't actually buy anything before my rental was gone.

I fight with State Farm.
The final call ends thusly:
"You guys are assholes!"

Another mind-boggling fact:  insurance checks are considered high risk. I have to wait 7 business days before I can actually access the money. So, they don't send the check for 7 days after they offer a settlement, and then I have to wait another 7 days before I can use it, but they don't give me a rental for that length of time.  How am I supposed to find a car if I don't have a car?  How can I buy a car with no money for a down payment?

Somehow I am missing something: it doesn't make sense to me. Why would they write a policy like that?

Car salesmen....well you know. It's a game, and I don't play it well. I did my research, test drove a lot of cars, negotiated, asked the opinions of friends and family, looked some more. I started with the idea of making lemonade of the situation: I need AWD for the mountains, and this was the chance to get it. But, with AWD you give up fuel economy and pickup. And, with used cars, you have to look at so many things to offset the lack of warranty. And you never find the price or the model that you researched at home. I tried used car lots in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Denver.

5 hours with salesmen.....
Typical used car salesmen.
I have bought nothing.
I hate dickering,
So I don't. Instead I have
Cinnamon French toast.

Nowhere could I negotiate the dealers down to true market value. Craigslist specialized in personal used cars with over 150K miles on them, or dealer come-ons.  So, I started looking at new cars, and hit the problem of finding what I wanted at the price that I wanted. Things look great, doable, reasonable online.  On the street is another matter.  My auto body guy told me that the problem was New Mexico's small population, so I tried Autotrader, with an expanded geographical search. They had no cars, new or used, for under $16K.  I was seriously considering buying a junker and running it into the ground, but I live in the mountains:  if my car dies, I can't just take public transportation until it's fixed.  In the end, I was weighing the pros and cons of buying an older used car with the money I had, versus buying a new car and repairing my credit.  

This is where I ran afoul of the credit system. Did you know that banks and car dealers figure your credit differently? I was given 3 different numbers: 640, 612, 603. None of them good, of course. Then, there are the loan applications, which want you to have a stable income and residence.  10 months is not stable.  In the last three years I have had 5 addresses, 2 ft jobs, unemployment, and 4 pt jobs.  My current job has no pay stubs to speak of, and no tax information (I filed it as hobby income last year.) Finally, there is the house in Portland. As far as the banks are concerned, it's a debt, and they don't recognize the rental income. So, I look like a total financial flake to them. Never mind the 20+ years living in one place, working at one place, and paying my bills. 

The process of determining all this goes something like this:  We can offer 0% interest for the life of the loan....FOR QUALIFIED BUYERS.  Okay, you're not qualified for that, but let's look at the .09% offer for a 3-year loan.  Okay, let's add a co-signer at 5%.   That's not going to work, but we can probably get you, 9.9% with no co-signer and you can refinance with your credit union. Oh, we can't do anything without a check in hand.  (As you recall, I had no check from State Farm.  Still don't for that matter, until 7/19.)  At this point my head explodes and I go home for a stiff drink, leaving the car which I have negotiated down to a reasonable price still sitting in the lot.

It's humiliating, being treated like pond scum by the system. Even though I've made some poor financial choices in the last few years, I have also basically taken care of business. But, because I don't currently fit the system's mold, that past is wiped out. I resent the fact that people who need assistance can't get it.  If you need money, it follows you can't afford a high interest rate, right? I mean, I do get that these people are in business, but it's an inherently unfair system. Those with money get the deals, those without don't.  And, I discovered a new quirk: a co-signer needs to live at your address. Or maybe it was the fact that my potential co-signer lives in Colorado while I live in New Mexico. Whatever, I was unable to get a loan at a reasonable rate.

For 3 weeks I fought the good fight, tried to navigate the system, and hoped to not be forced into a bad decision.  And yesterday I threw in the towel.  My co-op mates were loaning me cars, but wanted me to be done with the process.  Next week I have rehearsals and other plans that necessitate having my own wheels. Everyone is weary of the process, no one more than me.  So I made what seems in retrospect a strange and hasty decision.  In the end, I gave up all my original financial specs, but kept the criteria regarding the car. I may change insurance agencies in the future, I have an appointment to check for whiplash, and I may need to get a warranty for the new/old car, but I am DONE with car shopping!

Yesterday went something like this....
I watch the sun rise,
Spend the whole day with car guys,
And watch the moon rise.

We're picking car-beds
Since it seems we're sleeping here
At the dealership.

It's been a long time
But I'm still good at hangman
And she is, also.

Just two hours later,
A nice sunset and moonrise,
Seen from my new car!

I'm tired and driving.
She takes pix through the window
And I edit them.

Here is my last word on the subject, sent to all the people who gave me advice and watched me flail:

To my patient friends who saw me through the last 2.5 weeks...I'll spare you the saga, which most of you followed patiently, but, suffice it to say, everything took too long, there was a bait and switch at the end, and I said, "just take me home." But then things smoothed out.

Esther was a trouper throughout the whole ordeal: accompanied me to all the Santa Fe dealerships and told me I was great. 
She is so patient.
We stop for some gelato,
Then look for more cars.
And tonight, as the hours (yes, HOURS) dragged on, we played hangman.

Oh, you want to know about the car?

2013 Impreza AWD hatchback. Black inside and out. 61K miles. $19225. 2.99% over 76 mo, $178 monthly payments. 60-day/2000 mi warranty. I may need to buy more coverage, but balked at their price tag for it.

Has paddles that let me shift gears...still figuring that out.

It's exactly what I wanted, actually. So, all in all, I'm happy. The drive home was lovely: on my right, purple/orange/pink/golden/red sunset, with streaks of vertical lightning. On my left, an apricot moon rising. Almost worth the time it took to get signed. Almost.

Anyway, thanks for all your support, and please don't tell me I made a bad choice. I like my new car. :)

I'm hoping the Bored Angels don't notice that last line.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wave jumper

Back in my late twenties, I made my first visit to warm ocean beaches, visiting my friend L in Kauai.  Previously I had never been enamored of the tropical climate, which I associated with cockroaches the size of your thumb and sunburn.  But on that visit I discovered the enchantment of warm plumeria-scented breezes and blood-warm salt waters.  L was tired: she had a 3-month old and a 3-year old, and her then-husband was working two jobs.  So, I explored the rim of the island on my own, visiting Salt Pond for the sunset and family atmosphere, Poipu for the waves, and Lumahai and Tunnel beaches for the snorkeling.  We went on some family hiking and driving excursions, too, but it was the beaches that called to me, and ever after I was hooked on the tropics.  (They still have cockroaches the size of your thumb, but....I can compromise.)

I'm thinking about that experience, because I recently visited my mother at her new home in Ormond Beach, Florida. The air is very, very damp, and the sun is a strong baking presence always, but when you are in the ocean or the pool you become absorbed by the submersion of self in water. I find myself thinking of the womb:  is this what it was like?  No, because, in addition to the weightlessness and the cradling, there is the hissing heartbeat of the waves, and the flickering reflection of light and sky.  Mom is a short elevator ride away. I spend a couple of hours each day enjoying the waters, and a couple more on her balcony, watching the pelicans soar past in their pointy/bulbous-billed squadrons, swift and silent.

The Florida beach is nowhere near as beautiful as the ones in Kauai:  the palm treesare lined up like soldiers along the roads, and the condos and hotels are high-rise ugly, with very little landscaping.  The lush vegetation of the tropics is lacking, and so are the sweet scents of flowering vines, which are unhappily replaced with the odor of sunscreen.  And, the lithe brown local children are supplanted by white vacationing blobs and hobbling retirees. But, it doesn't matter. I stand, thigh-high in the warm pea-green water, sideways to the ocean, watching the light scatter along the broken wavelets, watching the sea build up into larger and larger swells until the waves finally break and I leap with them.

Buoyed by the green waves,
I put feet down to jump high
For the seventh one

In Kauai the waves often broke over my head, sometimes taking my glasses with them, sometimes filling my nose and stopping my breath.  I didn't have the chutzpah to swim out beyond the breakers, nor did I usually have the boogie board. So, I was not body surfing properly, and I was feeling the immense power of the ocean.  In Florida, it was a calmer affair.  I could float in the shallow water, bobbing up and down and back and forth with the surge of the ocean, and there was little fear of undertows or big waves.  I lost time, thought, even joy.  I just was.

Always the trend-setter

The NYT just published an article about women in their 50s giving up their careers to care for parents and grand-kids. Of course, what it means is they are ceasing to work during their most productive years, and when they reach their 80's, they will not have the income to care for themselves. The loss figure is around $325K. For me, it's probably more. I was making $60k a year before I moved to Albuquerque, and $34K after that. Multiply by 10, and you have between $340K and $600K that I am losing, not to mention the loss in retirement income.

While I'm getting paid to do this care-giving, and I am trying to put away some savings, it is interesting to realize that I'm still following the trends. First, I had the problems with my mortgage. Then, I got to experience the reality of Obamacare. Now, I'm facing facts: like many women my age, I've abandoned my work-life trajectory. This has very real repercussions for my retirement and end-of-life.

Actually, this trend is not just affecting women. Many people seem to be just tossing aside their career paths and trying something new. Part of it's the economy and reduction in public service jobs, but I think some of it is lack of job satisfaction. J describes several of her writerly friends who have packed in their secure jobs and moved on. C mentioned a gent who found religion and divorced (not necessarily in that order), and now the Lord is telling him to move to Italy. Several library folk in Portland have jumped ship, not retiring, but finding at-home or contract work. None of them say it, but I'm convinced that they are just tired of the bureaucracy and incompetence. That comes with any job, but is especially noticeable in the public sector, I think.

The article gave me pause. I've already been thinking of my situation, but this is the first that I've really done the math. Up to now, I've mainly been thinking about my psychological well-being, not my financial well-being. When I started this gig, I set a budget for savings, paying off marital and house debts, health, and travel. I was fine with the concept that it'll take 5 years to pay off debts and build up savings, but I hadn't really projected my long-term income. I was in hunker-down emotional-healing mode, and I've been living beyond my means for so long, I was just happy to be saving anything. However, that has changed. In a recent letter to friends, I said, The real issue is that I need to figure out and prepare for my next work. E will be 99 in July, and she is still going strong, but I can't do this for the next 10 years, and I don't think I want to be a caregiver for a corporation. Emotionally, I seem to have come back to myself: the last 9 months have been healing and supportive. And physically I'm doing well, exercising and eating a diabetes-preventive diet. So it's time to buckle down to it, now that I'm no longer PTSD.

Yes, and it's time to recognize that my income and my budget need to be reworked.

It's difficult to give up the travel, though, and I'm doing it on the cheap. For example, this month Mom's birthday present to me was a trip to see her in Florida. It had been 18 months since I last saw her, and she's 85 now, so it's really necessary. And one of the plus features was that my brother L and his wife X drove 900 miles to see us. I haven't seen her in several years.

During the visit, X talked sternly to me about jobs (you are still young, you have plenty of time to walk on the beach and sit around later) and about men (next time you marry, make sure he has a job), and about health (you should try kayaking!) She's basically right, but I do like this lifestyle. It's going to be difficult to go back to a 40 hour work week, and I'm not sure I want to. On the other hand, what I actually have is a 115-hour work week: it makes it difficult to do my extra-curricular stuff. So, going back to a regular hourly job might be an advantage.

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, clearly. And now I've added in concerns about end-of-life issues. E and Mom are very lucky in their situations. I will not be so lucky. I don't have a child to take care of me, and my pension is not going to be enough to support an independent lifestyle when I am frail. I need to spend the next 10-20 years preparing for that. It's time to stop lolly-gagging here on my mountain. Or, it will be soon.

I need to set a new trend. Do you think I can publish my iPhone pix and Facebook haiku? It's about all I've produced since I started this gig. Sigh.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Double nickels

For the past two years, I've gone to Ghost Ranch for my birthday.  Last year was a solo excursion:  I was two months past the divorce and one year past the move from Portland; I was trying to figure things out.  I just re-read the blog I wrote about that.  It was eloquent with pain and full of retrospection.

This year I had a companion, my friend from Colorado (check out the Kansas City blog).   I focused on that nascent relationship, not on myself.  We explored our friendship, and we rambled around the area.  I hiked Chimney Rock again:  3 miles round trip, 500 feet elevation gain, lots of wild-flowers and dead trees and rock formations.  Clouds, of course.  The only internet and phone reception was 7100 feet up:  at the Ranch itself, we were virtually free, living in the moment.  


There was almost no retrospection, although we did talk about our various personal battles and histories.  But, in all, it was a time to just be and to discover. There is always something new. For instance, Mollie had told me about a nearby rock formation, Georgia O'Keeffe's "White Place," and we found it a few hours before sunset on my birthday. 

   We couldn't get into the mosque, but the drive back along the Rio Chama was beautiful.  One frustration:  my friend Strongly Encouraged me to leave behind the amazing rocks that I found in the arroyo surrounding the hoodoos.  There was a lot of quartz, one rock the size of a goose egg.  I like to pick up rocks and worry them with my thumb when I walk, and I like to take a few small ones home.  But, I do grudgingly understand the concept of "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints."   Very grudgingly.

In addition to walks and talks and nice meals, there was also thunder and lightning, and some amazing animal vocalizing in the middle of the night.  It was probably coyotes, but it sounded like a rooster with asthma.  Every day was a gift, and I didn't push for anything beyond that.

Today, I'm back to work and thinking about where I am.  My friend wants to see me more often, to continue to build upon the relationship.  I am not sure what I want.  He is fun and kind and quirky, but he has a primary partner who is also fun and quirky.  I have been burned by this sort of situation in the past year, and I'm not really in the market for a long distance or long term relationship. And, I have so much to do here, and so many friends, old and new, to spend time with.  As I said a few days ago, I want to be independent.  

A few months ago I met with Mollie to discuss my ongoing frustration with my lack of productivity. Her suggestion was to stop with the shoulds (it's not a new suggestion).  She pointed out, as many people have, that I have had changes in every possible aspect of my life, and maybe I should just BE while my body and emotions absorb them.  I don't know where I'll go next, and that's okay. I'm in a place of change, and who knows what my next life will look like.  Being an embryo is enough work, I don't need to add to it.

Since then, I find myself thinking less about what I'm doing with my life. I tell someone, jeez, I spent the morning doing the crossword and watching the hummingbirds and I think, what a GREAT way to spend the morning!  How lucky I am to have that freedom!  I am giving myself permission to enjoy this respite.  I know that it is not forever, and dammit, I'm not going to beat myself up for not DOING.  And, at any rate, I am doing.   I've found my practise (the haiku/photography that I've been doing forever), I'm tutoring, I'm making music, I'm seeing friends, and the joy comes back in bits and pieces.  I have to remember comes back.

It came back on my birthday, and that should be enough for now.