Falling, Down Under, Getting Back Up, (a bit further North) & Dodging Teeth.

So I’m presently in Victoria, which, oddly enough, is where I was a month ago. Except that Victoria was in Australia. This one is a bit further North.
So, here I am, my second country in 2 months, and it’s Halloween, which used to be one of my favorites. I even threw a Halloween party for ‘E’ and I’s engagement once upon a time…but that was another life.
Anyway, it made me think about what I was doing last year at this time.
I was in Hawaii. That actually made me laugh out loud.
Yesterday, this very nice man started chatting me up at the coffee shop (Very friendly, these Canadians, which can prove challenging for an introvert).
He was very inquisitive, and I had nowhere to escape, so I obliged and answered his questions. The first? He wanted to know if I was from South Africa- the second time I’ve been asked this in the past two months, the first being in Australia.
I simply don’t get the South Africa one, but interestingly enough, when I’m in the U.S., people ask if I’m from Canada. (I say ‘abowt’ instead of ‘about’ for whatever reason).
This seems to be a theme. When I’m speaking Spanish in Latin America, they ask if I’m from Spain. When I’m in Spain, they ask if I’m from Latin America. When I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they asked if I learned French in France. And when I’m in France…I think they just try to understand me. (I haven’t quite conquered that language yet).
Anyway, this very nice man continued. He wanted to know where was I living (I avoided that one), where had I traveled, what line of work I was in, what work was I doing in Paris, and what in god’s name was I doing in the Congo.
He was fascinated, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was misleading him. That life is just so far removed from where I am now.

I know, “I won’t be here forever”, “I am more than my circumstances”, “the further you fall, the higher you rise”…I know.

Just somewhat comical. I go so fluidly between being flown across the world on seemingly exotic adventures…to sleeping on friends’ couches.

 

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My current sofa du’ jour, however, is quite comfortable…and I am in Canada with a very dear, very patient friend, so there’s that.
My dreams have been quite interesting here. Have you ever dreamed that you lost your teeth? This time it was my two front teeth. Which makes sense, because I did actually lose my two front teeth when I was little.
I already had a lisp so you can imagine. I couldn’t say my ‘r’s’ either. I basically sounded like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Sylvester the Cat. Cute when you are little. But I’m here to tell you, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ was quite the feat.
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One down…

There are various interpretations of what ‘losing teeth’ means in a dream:
1st scenario: It usually means some important relationship will be lost.
2nd scenario: You will take more responsibility and become more stable and mature.
3rd scenario: Tooth loss is likely to show that a difficult situation will soon be over.
4th scenario: There is really something wrong with your teeth.
Okay, well, the first one certainly applies.
The second, not so much. I’m kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum, but I’ll certainly take it.
The third scenario: Um, yes, please. I will gladly hand over a tooth or two if that one can play out.
And the last one, I’m not 100% sure, but they all seem to be intact.
So I’m going to go with the third scenario. Although I’d rather keep the teeth I offered up so as not to revisit the previously-mentioned ‘lisp era’…not so cute when you are trying to pull off scenario 2…or rebound from scenario 1.
But in keeping with the subject at hand- ‘teeth’ seems to be a theme here in Canada.
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About three days after I got here, I went to the gym to try to work off some angst from scenario 1 and the whole ‘sleeping on friends couches’ thing.
I was making solid progress sweating it out when I saw something flying toward me out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t even have time to flinch before I saw a set of teeth lying on the floor in front of me.
I’m not talking about the ‘these are a part of my Halloween costume’ teeth.

It was a full set of teeth.

I somehow refrained from reacting and promptly looked down, pretending to be studying my distance/speed stats intensely. I definitely never saw a heavy-set man walk directly in front of me, bend down, and pick up his teeth.

The poor guy must have been mortified. It did make me think, though, “well shit, things aren’t that bad. I mean, yes, my heart’s a little bruised, my circumstances aren’t exactly ideal, but at least I don’t have to worry about my teeth falling out. I get to wake up from my bad dream, shake it off, and then head to the bathroom and brush my teeth…versus, you know, having to fish them out of a glass or whatever you do when you have to put your teeth in.
So, that’s all I got. I’m still in Canada, still living out of my suitcase, still making people guess where I’m from, and still trying to figure out where I’m going.
The good news, however, is (according to the experts) “My difficult situation will soon be over.”

That’s something I can sink my teeth into…

 

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Falling Up from Down Under & Steering Clear of Rabbits

“Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! But I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is…Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand? Or Australia?

– Alice in Wonderland

So I went under…because everything kind of blew up. What I mean is, I went Down Under, to Australia.

Why Australia? To visit a friend. Because he wasn’t just a friend. But now he is…or perhaps he will be someday.

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“The little girl just could not sleep because her thoughts were way too deep, her mind had gone out for a stroll and fallen down the rabbit hole.” ~ Lewis Caroll

So things didn’t quite go the direction I’d hoped. But onward and upward, right? Although I’m not quite sure which way that is at this point.

It seems that I haven’t gotten the whole ‘things are looking up‘ thing down.

I’ve gotten close. Painfully close. My sister was optimistic, my friends let out a sigh of relief, cheering me on to what we thought was the other side. And we did get really close.

But here we are. Except, that’s kind of the issue…

I can’t exactly say where I am? Teetering on the edge of oblivion sounds about right- still walking on the wrong side of the street, sleeping on yet another friend’s couch (who is literally why I’m at least still teetering), and my current physical address is a P.O. Box.

What I do know is my mind is reeling, my heart hurts, and my soul is most definitely bruised.

There is a place, like no place on earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Which, luckily, I am.” – Alice in Wonderland

But this is my Oprah moment, right? That moment when it all seems so bad that you just have to laugh at how ridiculous it is or you will go mad. To keep your wits about you, you imagine yourself recounting that moment when you hit rock bottom and the play-by-play of your subsequent ascent.

This is mine, right?

Except I already have a solid collection of ‘rock bottoms’. I’m all set for the whole “redemption- see the gift in it all- inspire millions with my strength and resilience” part.

But apparently, we’re not quite there yet.

Not to worry, I shall forge on…or up or whichever direction is required to resist gravity and steer clear of rabbits.

In the meantime, I get to be in a beautiful place with a dear friend, do my best to walk on the ‘right’ side of the street, and switch from enjoying Springtime Down Under to Fall on the up side.

And really, doesn’t falling up sound much better than being down?

“You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants some magical solution to their problem and everyone refuses to believe in magic.” – Alice in Wonderland

Down & dirty in the Congo…germs included.

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Be clear, I’m not a germaphobe.

In the states, I probably take more liberties than most with the various bacteria lurking on doorknobs, kitchen counters and community peanut bowls. I’m sure I’ve raised a few eyebrows when I fail to skip a beat before rescuing a precious morsel from the floor that fell off my plate.

Cringe if you must, but I’ve always had a resilient immune system, which I credit to the steady flow of all things vitamins and minerals I try to consume…and the threat of having to stay in bed all day if I do get sick, which I rarely do. So why dowse myself with copious amounts of anti-bacterial gel?

So off to the Congo I went, armed with my super-human immune system and a solid supply of vitamin supplements, fully prepared to embrace any unsavory bacteria strings I might encounter in the jungles of Africa.

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…Let’s just say, since my arrival, I’ve found myself a bit hesitant to ingest the contents on my plate…or breathe in, really.

The reality is, soap is a luxury item here (as is toilet paper). The only cleansing option available is a toxic-looking, soap-esque powder that’s locked up in the sanctuary office.

Each morning, Christophe scoops out a small portion on a scale, scribbles down the exact weight, and then distributes it to the workers for their daily shower. (It seems counter-intuitive to shower before you are going to do hard-core labor for 8 plus hours, but it’s to protect the chimps and monkeys from germs).

Beyond that, the only cleaning supplies I’ve spotted in the kitchen are an extremely weathered scrub brush and tap water.

That brings us to drinking water. A seemingly normal process, the water is boiled and stored in plastic bottles…that held their initial purified contents a very, very long time ago.

You know the smell- the water bottle you refilled a couple of times, left in your gym bag for too long, opened it back up, got a whiff…and decided against it. I’ve found it best just to shut off my senses and chug.

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Mama Bea…Love that woman.

And then there is the issue of electricity. There is none.

This means our refrigerator is now more of a bug and cat deterrent than a means to preserve perishable items. I’ve refrained from trying to explain my loss of appetite when Carmen offers me leftover chicken from two nights before…I just can’t do it.

My break from my carnivorous tendencies has proven timely at this point, placating my conscience and my stomach.

Or so I thought…

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I’ve just finished my first round of antibiotics. And yes, my bottle of anti-bacterial gel is my new constant companion.

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A Love Story of Sorts

In keeping with the theme this week, I’ll offer up a love story of sorts.

Okay, it’s not really a “love story”, in the traditional sense. But it is a story, and it does involve love.

In the romantic sense, love has proven itself to be a fickle companion. I’ve lost myself in it and also found myself. I’ve sworn it off completely, and then blindly plunged back in. I’ve felt it with a force as powerful as breath, and now find myself wondering if it even exists.

But I’m a romantic and seem to be incapable of giving up on it completely.

So Valentine’s Day. I admittedly get seduced by it all: a day dedicated solely to celebrating the person I love and being spoiled by the person who loves me. It’s a subject I believe worthy of its own holiday.

But I’m also acutely aware that this day can place loneliness and heartbreak at center stage, making the absence of the person we love as consuming as their presence used to be liberating.

That’s the side of it I was on, once again. There was no lover to spoil. And besides the sweet guy at the coffee shop, I wasn’t the object of anyone’s affection.

All to say, I expected to be in the same place I was last year: front and center.

I am, in fact, front and center, but not in the same place.

It feels more like equilibrium.

There was no huge revelation that occurred. I didn’t even realize anything had changed until the sweet boy at the coffee shop gave me a chocolate heart. It made me happy. And I didn’t want it to be from anyone else. And I was completely content with the fact that I had the whole day to myself. And there wasn’t anyone I was missing (not entirely true. I miss perhaps the true love of my life, my Biscuit, terribly but subject at hand.)

It seems I unknowingly declared a truce.

Despite the fact that I desperately wanted to move on, I kept looking back. I’ve recycled everything possible- memories, relationships, behaviors- all of which kept taking me back to the exact same place I was before…which was the last place I wanted to be.

This isn’t to say that my mind has completely stopped revisiting what’s lurking beneath the surface. But I finally understand its tactics. I can catch it now, reel it in and release what has clearly been sustaining my demons all along.

But there is admittedly one last relationship I’m trying to rekindle. It’s risky to be sure. It was extremely messy before and full-on destructive when we parted ways. But I really do believe it will be different this time.

I think she’s finally realized she had something special that she came really close to losing.

and-suddenly-she-found-herself-grateful.

Warning. Proceed with Caution.

I’m struggling a bit with all of this.

Writing in general. sharing all of this, exposing my mess. This blog is the thing that brings me the most joy these days, but I can’t help but wonder, am I killing you? Are you so over hearing me bleed? I know I am. But shit, I’m still bleeding a little bit.

So I admittedly went into publishing mode, which I certainly don’t think is a bad thing. It makes me happy to see my words out there in a forum that can reach more people. I love seeing people’s comments, even if they aren’t positive (okay, I don’t like seeing those, but I suppose it means that I made them feel something). And I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty fucking cool to see my bio hanging out down there below an article published in the Washington Post. I’m only human.

But then I come back to this, to you: this community that has grown into something akin to a family, kindred spirits who offer me brief glances into your lives. I get to learn your beautiful stories, one post at a time. It feeds my soul on a daily basis. And your writing!! It blows my mind, and I can’t believe you actually want to read mine. But now, I have this crazy fear you’ll stop wanting to. Because goddammit, I’m tired. I’m tired of being sad. I’m tired of writing about being sad. And I can’t help but think that you have to be tired of reading about sad. But I haven’t quite arrived at happy yet, so what the hell do I write about?

On a side note, for you poor souls who think going on a second or third date is a good idea, I have discovered a full proof method to ensure that we definitely won’t. Just say something to this effect:

So I think you should write about…I don’t know, something happier, like your travels or maybe how you are getting through all of the pain…something that might inspire people, maybe give them hope…

Really? You’re joking, right? Because I seem to recall you telling me that is why you loved my writing in the first place. ‘It’s so honest, raw, engaging, bold…’.

Regardless, I’m just not quite at a place where I’m ready to conjure up my favorite memory from childhood, or from Spain or France or Colombia. I will someday, I have countless. But until I’m in the mindset to write about those memories with the same authenticity and passion I can about the not-so-happy parts, then they will remain unwritten.

In the meantime, I have a bit more bleeding to do.

But I am curious, are you requesting happy because it makes you more comfortable? Is it because, if we did actually start dating, someone you know might read what I write and question why I’m still so sad and heartbroken if we are dating? Shouldn’t I be ‘over it’? Shouldn’t I be happy because I’m with you?

Or maybe you really do just want to read something happy. I totally get it. My favorite new blog, The Incurable Dreamer, is my favorite precisely because it makes me laugh. The author’s writing is honest, raw, engaging…and it’s hilarious. I laugh out loud. And I also cry. Because parts do make my heart hurt, mainly because I can completely relate to her, and because she writes so brilliantly that I feel like am her, in the place where she is, seeing what she sees, and feeling what she feels.

I love it precisely because she does what I so want badly to make others do….she makes me feel.

So apologies if this comes across as bitter, or if it makes you uncomfortable. I want you to feel how you feel, and I want to know what that is, even if it isn’t always what I want to hear.

I won’t, however, write what you will always want to read. And in my defense, I try to set a tone, even throw out a warning in the beginning, to give you a head’s up if what I wrote is going to be especially brutal.

Summary: For those of you interested in a second date, not to worry. I stopped dating altogether, so feel free to offer up any advice you have. And for those of you who are weary of me being sad and writing about it, please know, I am too. But this present state will eventually subside and give way to the me who almost always has a smile on her face and a positive spin on shit situations.  She’s still here, you’ll see glimpses of her in even the most tragic posts, but you have to look a little closer sometimes. And you might actually have to feel something…

So, you have been warned.

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Masters of Our Fate

The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions…disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending .”  – Brene Brown

Timing. I struggle with this whole thing, both in the sense of the ‘space-time continuum’ and in the sense of being defined as ‘good or bad’.

Space-time continuum. Time as duration. What we use to define how long it takes to do something or for something to happen. How long we have been married or working at a job or living somewhere. In theory, this concept of time should be relatively straightforward. But it does seem to be relative, doesn’t it?

Bad timing. We hear it all the time. It’s usually a deal breaker, right? You got the perfect job offer or met your person or want to move to a new city…whatever the situation, there is something you want, but the circumstances aren’t ideal for it to happen.

I think ‘bad timing’ can be split into two versions: 1) Timing as uncontrollable– when things or events (beyond your control) happen to you, and 2) timing as a decision– the point when you decide to let things or events happen (or not happen) to you.

Timing as uncontrollable: Clearly, there are events in our lives over which we have no control. For me, there have been terrible things that have happened at the worst possible time, and there was nothing I could do about them. My dad getting terminal cancer when I was about to graduate from high school. My mom getting in a fatal car accident two weeks before I was supposed to move to Spain. Meeting the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with at the exact point when his world came crashing down.

Timing as a decision: But there are also times in our lives when events happen based on the choices we make…or don’t make. We convince ourselves that a certain outcome can only be attained based on “logic” or after a series of stipulations that first have to be checked off.. (I can pursue a new relationship or career, as soon as I…or I can finally take a vacation or sign up for a writing/dance/photography class once I…)

 

Timing has become particularly relevant in every sense of the word over the past year. Falling in love ‘at the worst possible time’. The duration and perception of time enduring six months in a dysfunctional relationship. The death of three boys because I was in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

Time- it can be a curse, a prison, and a means of facing our fears. It can also be a gift, a source of hope and barometer for progress. More times than not, it how we choose to approach it.

This has become especially apparent for me as I try to approach dating and relationships post-divorce and heartbreak. I’ve heard repeatedly from well-intentioned friends, “Are you sure you are ready?”, “You know, they say it takes at least half the time you were in a relationship to get over it.”, “You are supposed to give yourself at least a year after you get a divorce before you start dating again.”

Am I ready? Do I need to wait a year, or 5 months? What if I meet my person somewhere in-between? Do I walk away because the allotted time has not passed? Am I measuring time by the actual end of the relationship or the point at which I knew it was over?

I don’t think there is a strategy or ‘perfect time’ to get back out there. Clearly, there are points in our life that might be better or worse for starting a new relationship. But I think this is something we have to decide for ourselves, not because a friend or a book or a therapist gave us the go-ahead.

Timing can be a deal breaker, there is no question, but I also think that we have a huge say in whether it is or not. I think we often use it as an excuse. It is easier to dismiss something as bad timing vs. questioning why the timing is bad. Is it really timing? Or is it the underlying emotions we are too afraid to unpack? Acknowledging they exist means we have to do the work. Admitting timing is irrelevant- if we are brave enough to do so- initiates a process that can be very painful and anything but a quick fix.

But isn’t it actually more painful to keep repeating the things that aren’t working in our lives? Isn’t it more painful to continue preventing ourselves from experiencing life fully, whether that be love, fulfillment, success…whatever it is that would make your heart happy. But happy takes work. It isn’t something that just happens. It is something we have to make happen. It’s a decision.

“No one can be both happy and unhappy at the same time, right? One blights the other.”
                    ~ Mike Dooley

I have a love/hate relationship with this quote. It seems completely logical and seemingly impossible to apply to my day-to-day. It would be so much easier to be the victim, to believe all of these things are happening to me and chalk it up to bad timing.

But that’s exactly what defines us, isn’t it? We can’t always control our circumstances- and yes, our circumstances can be terrible. But, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, doesn’t all come down to our approach?

Are we the victims of ‘fate’, or are we the masters of it?

This brings me back to timing, but in the time-continuum sense. Application, essentially. How exactly do I do this whole transformation part? Relationships, for example, since this is definitely something that has not been working for me. And I’m not the least bit interested in repeating my past experiences with them.

Am I ready to get into a relationship? I really don’t know. The truth is, I’m questioning everything right now. I don’t 100% trust myself anymore. My intuition and ‘follow my heart’ approach to life has not served me of late. It is extremely challenging at this point to trust myself, or anyone else for that matter. More times than not, I find myself functioning from a place of fear and insecurity.

So does this confirm that I’m really not ready to put myself back out there? Maybe. But I’m not sure the alternative, forcing myself to steer clear of all things intimate, is the solution either. I don’t think you can know for sure unless you know and trust yourself enough to listen to what your intuition is telling you.

What I do know is that I can’t do the work if I’m not giving myself the chance to try again. True, I need to be very cognizant of the issues I need to work on. But, if I am determined to never go back to the place I was a few months ago, then I have to figure out how to go another direction. Standing still certainly isn’t going to get me anywhere.

Oddly enough, the general theory of relativity kept surfacing when I was thinking about all of this. Quick review (I definitely needed one).

The theory dealing with gravity…based on the postulate that the local effects of a gravitational field and of acceleration of an inertial system are identical.

I know, where the hell is this going? Bear with me, here.

If we want to move forward, then we have to be willing to fall and trust that the result will be a progression forward. One cannot happen without the other, because they are happening simultaneously.

And just to take it to the extreme, cause that is what I do, let’s consider the space-time continuum

The four-dimensional continuum- consisting of length, width, depth, and time- in which all objects are located and all events occur, viewed as a single and continuous framework for existence. 

So, moving forward in time (i.e. progress), and how far we are able to go, are inseparable from the depth and breadth to which we travel.

Okay, just one more and I’ll stop.

There is a cosmological theory that the space-time continuum has a curvature in 3 dimensions. So, if you travel in one direction long enough, you will return to the same place where you began.

So, metaphorically speaking, if one of the primary forces of gravity is acceleration, then couldn’t that mean that we have to let ourselves be pulled down/go to the depths of what is keeping us stuck, in order to move forward? Isn’t the latter impossible without the former? If we do let ourselves travel the depth and length needed, then wouldn’t that lead us back to the place we were, to a place of falling or being in love, but now armed with the knowledge and tools we acquired on our journey back?

Just something I was thinking about…

Regardless of the applicability of my Einstein tangent, I think you simply have to find the courage to go deep, dig up all the shit that is keeping you from where you want to be, and replace it with behaviors and actions that will manifest what you truly want.

Some say that you have to be alone to do this. I don’t agree. For me, my issues usually surface when I am navigating the emotions involved with being intimate with someone. All the fears and insecurities that, for me, are inseparable from making myself completely vulnerable and opening myself up to potential rejection. It’s actually my worst fear and what has resulted in the most growth.

When you do experience the pain of rejection, the last thing you want to do is go through it again. it’s instinctual, right? Fight or flight. Stronger than our inherent desire to avoid pain is our instinctual desire to make it stop once we feel it. But it’s been my experience that it is much more painful to be alone because I was too scared of getting hurt than to stay and fight through the pain with someone I love and trust. You can’t experience the opposite of pain and fear, which I think is love if you choose ‘flight’.

So I guess that is where I’m at. I’m ready to fight again. Maybe it is too soon. Jumping back in the arena sounds terrifying. It is terrifying. It feels so much safer to stay on the periphery, to protect myself from any more potential suffering.

But is this living? Or is it just existing?

I don’t want to just exist. So my only other option is to fight. Yes, it’s scary, but complacency scares me more. I saw my parents do it, my grandparents do it, others I love do it. It was heartbreaking to watch and it literally killed them. I tried to fight for them, but I couldn’t save them. So now it’s me and the things I love I have to fight for. I don’t think it will always be a fight, in the sense of a struggle. But I do think there is always a certain degree of pain to navigate in the beginning.

But I think it’s time, and it has nothing to do with timing and everything to do with my decision to risk falling in order to move forward.

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
                                       – Willian Ernest Henly