Cars, music, and broken abandoned things

I was in a discussion recently with a great friend (whom I’ve yet to meet in person) who lives in Detroit. She’s an amazing artist and photographer, and through her, I’ve come to appreciate the forgotten city. When people think of Detroit, it’s often in relation to the breakdown of the automotive industry and the horrible recession/depression that destroyed so many livelihoods so quickly. I jokingly commented that I relate to Detroit, because the three things the city is known best for is cars, music, and broken abandoned things. I have a deep and abiding love of cars, music runs through my soul, and anyone who has read any of my past posts knows that I am a broken abandoned thing.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards, some are strong at the broken places.” I’ve not had the easiest life, but I know others who have had it much worse than me. I grew up with the knowledge that I would only ever be second best, behind my sister. It didn’t matter how well I did, how smart I was, how much I tried. I would never be the golden child. That was the first crack. I started dating and discovered that I am drawn to abusive men, either physically or mentally. More cracks. I’ve never been good enough, and because of this, I get cast to the wayside. I am a broken abandoned thing. I’m still waiting to find out if I’m stronger at the broken parts.

Here’s the irony: broken abandoned things can be beautiful. Looking at photographs of abandoned factories in Detroit, I see all the years of history and feel the pulsating energy that once filled those buildings. I don’t see rubble, I see memories. I try to look objectively at my life and see the beauty, and that’s a lot harder. Some breaks can’t be fixed. How do you get over hearing “you’re worthless” and “you’ll never be good enough” continuously without it slowly eating away at your soul?

My answer is a little 10 pound charcoal tabby and white cat affectionately known as Tiggy. He’s also a broken and abandoned thing. He was handed to me through a car window, and the woman (girl, really) who handed him to me promptly drove off, leaving a very scared cat in my arms. I took him home because I was still devastated by the loss of my previous cat Moo. Three days after bringing him home, he started peeing outside the litter box. That’s a common sign of a urinary tract infection, so I rushed him to the vet and it was confirmed. She also told me that during her scans, she discovered that he had a history of untreated urinary tract infections and that his bladder, kidneys, and urethra were terribly scarred and that he would be an expensive cat to keep because of these medical problems. She also told me that he had fractured ribs (and I recently discovered that he also had broken vertebrae in his back which have since fused and cause him to hunch over when he sits). At that point, he was literally a broken and abandoned thing.

I had a gaping wound in my heart from the loss of my Moo, so I told the vet that he was my cat, he needs me, and I would do whatever it takes to make things right for him. Thankfully, a proper diet has solved his UTI problems, his ribs healed on their own, and he loves me unconditionally. He’s no longer broken, and he’s definitely not abandoned, but that’s because the universe set out to put him in my path at the time I needed him most, and he needed me most.

I don’t think I’ll ever get past the feeling of being broken and abandoned. Too many harsh words, too many physical wounds, too many people walking out on me when I needed them most. Until then, I listen to a playlist of musicians who make me happy and I seek out cars that lift my soul. I try to remember that breaks can be repaired, but those repairs will always be imperfect. I try to accept that I am me, and to shut out those people who don’t like me or want to change me.

I look forward to finding happiness again someday. Lately, that’s been difficult. I disappeared from writing for a long while because my life had become so painful that metaphorically slashing my wrists to let the poison run out was too much to bear. The past month has been a roller coaster of emotions. The ascent so high I felt like I was flying, only to be followed by the let down that reminded me that I am a broken and abandoned thing who doesn’t deserve happiness. My depression is lying to me again. I do deserve happiness, I just need to remember that it comes from myself, not from anyone else. I’m sorting through a lot of emotions and dilemmas right now, and flowing words are how I function best. There will probably be many posts over the coming days, weeks, months, even possibly years. Many of those posts will conflict with each other as I argue with myself, and many will probably be repetitive. I apologize in advance if you’ve gotten this far.

Thing(s) that I am grateful for today: Driving around in a light drizzle with the top down and Matt Nathanson blasting on the radio. The soft, extra fluffy white belly that my cat loves to have rubbed. Dark chocolate M&Ms.

What we want, what we get

That’s a favourite song of mine, by Dave Barnes. It’s an oddity to me because it’s a breakup song, but the lyrics call to me in a way that not many songs do. (I highly recommend searching out the song and listening to it sometime) The gist of it is that what we want is not always what we get – in case you didn’t figure that out by the song title. I think we all have those things that we want, that we know we’ll never have, but which doesn’t stop us from wanting them regardless. Sometimes even selfishly.

When I moved back to San Diego in July 2008, I told myself that it was a temporary thing while I sorted out several life altering things that had turned my world upside down. My goal was always to get back to the place I loved. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is back in South Carolina. Well, here I am 7 years later, and I still haven’t made it back “home.” I’ve gotten to the point mentally where I question myself as to whether I love South Carolina because that is where I truly was at my happiest (barring a couple really bad months) or if I’m fondly remembering a place that my mind has altered to seem better than it really is, simply because I despise San Diego so much. And I do despise San Diego that much. The only things I love about this place are a few people who have made my life richer by being here.

Everything happens for a reason, and right now, I’m extremely torn. It looks like I will be given the opportunity to relocate back to my beloved Carolinas as soon as my knee is completely healed, and that is screwing me up mentally. I loved the Carolinas very deeply. Maybe because it was my first taste of true independence. I basically threw a dart at a map and ended up there by chance when I had the opportunity to escape San Diego back in 2004. I drove for three days with a two year old and two crying cats, arriving in the middle of a hurricane. Ivan, if you care. From the very first day, I was in love. I’d never seen a place so lush and green, with water everywhere and gorgeous old buildings.

The longer I stayed, the more I loved it. I met some incredible people and found my way to a job that I actually really enjoyed, and at the end of the day, I could dip my feet into a lake or stream and mentally escape. It wasn’t all wine and roses though. Towards the end, some things happened that caused me to move back to San Diego. I started regretting that decision almost as soon as I started driving west, and by the time I reached the California border, I had to pull over because I was crying so hard that I couldn’t see. I hated myself for moving back and swore that as soon as I could afford to, I’d head east again.

Then, the doubts crept in. Do I love the Carolinas or do I just despise San Diego and anywhere else would be better? I flew back to Charlotte for my birthday the following February, and said that the only gift I wanted was to see snow. It almost never snows in the Piedmont, so I knew it was a long shot, but minutes after I collected my rental car and started driving to my friend’s house where I would be staying, the flurries started. It felt like the Carolinas were welcoming me back with open arms and begging me to return. Getting on the plane to return to California hurt even worse than driving away. I told myself then that I couldn’t return unless I was returning for good. It was like running into an old love from whom you parted amicably. Best not to spend too much time or mental energy chasing down all the what ifs. And there are a lot of what ifs.

So, what’s next for me? If everything falls into place, do I return to my true love knowing that time changes things and that the enchantment may no longer be there? Heraclitus once said “You cannot step twice into the same river” and that is true. By your second step, both you and the river have changed. I just don’t know how the changes I’ve undergone over the past seven years will affect my love of a place that once filled me with happiness. Perhaps I should consider a new place to call home, so I’d be out of my hated San Diego, and can keep my fond memories of the Carolinas as fond memories. Maybe I should stay in San Diego and remember that the people I love here outweigh the hatred I have for the city. I’m lost. I’m confused. I’m even a little bit scared. This is something I’ve wanted so badly for so long that I no longer know if I actually want it or if the wanting of it is just a mental twist. Sometimes, having mental illness really sucks. I can’t trust my brain to tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A niggling thought in the back of my mind is yelling to GO FOR IT! Even if it’s no longer the perfect oasis that I remember, I still have a support system there, and it would be better than living somewhere I hate.

For every high, there is a low

It seems that my life is a constant struggle to balance out my highs and lows to maintain some sort of “even” that I’m not actually sure exists. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes the bad days outnumber the good days, but sometimes the good days outnumber the bad days. I’ve found that when I’m at my lowest point, staying busy and cleaning or organizing helps my mood. There’s something very satisfying about fixing something that is broken AND fixable or organizing a space and seeing the improvement afterwards.

I took a huge emotional hit two weeks ago when I found out that I’m going to need at least two more surgeries on my right knee, which means that I’m stuck here in San Diego for a minimum of one, but more likely two, more years. Worst case scenario, it might be as long as four more years. I know it doesn’t make much sense to San Diegans as to why someone would want to leave this “perfect” place, but it has no emotional ties to me, aside from a few very good friends who live here. There are planes. I’m trying not to dwell on the fact that I’m stuck in a city I don’t like, that has emotionally been nothing but despair for me, and instead making long-term plans for how I am going to escape once it gets to that point. I’m also working on building up my credit while I have the opportunity to do so, so that when I do move, things will be easier. There is no way I’m leaving my beloved Morgan behind, which means renting a U-Haul with a car hauler, which means expensive.

I’m also starting the process of weaning away at stuff I don’t need. There are things in my storage unit that I haven’t even looked at since putting them in there. Aside from my books, that tells me that they’re not necessary to my life. In all honesty, if it weren’t for my books, I doubt I’d need anything except my clothes. Everything else can be replaced. It’s time for me to really start getting rid of the detritus in my life, so that I can concentrate on healing my knee and my life.

At least I’ve pulled myself out of the deep, dark hole I was in for three weeks, when every day was a struggle to just make it through to the end of the day. I’ll get through this.  I have before and I will again, and I’ll keep on getting through this every day, even if getting through just means pulling myself out of bed and hugging my cat.

My birthday has come and gone

Considering that I “did nothing” special this year, it was still one of the best birthdays because my family & friends all chipped in & made sure that I felt special.

I’ve reached the point in my life that dependable friends & family are way more important than presents (although the surprise gift card capped a great day).

I’m still trying to figure out my direction in life, and a lot of that has to do with waiting endlessly for updates on my knee. At this rate, it will be September again before it all gets sorted. I’m not in a hurry anymore. I’m not anxious to escape San Diego at first opportunity as I had been. Instead, I’ve applied my adoption cat philosophy, with a twist. Instead of “the right cat will find you at the right time” I’m thinking that “the right opportunity will present itself at the right time” and until it does, I’ll just keep on being the best me I can be in a city I’m not fond of, but where I happen to be.

Happiness is what you make of it, and I’m determined to be happy, despite all my recent problems & setbacks. Shikata ga nai. If you can’t change it, don’t worry over it.

39 will be a good year for me.

I’d like to be a Luddite

…she says, while typing away on her blog, on a laptop, connected to wi-fi, with her Android cellphone and her Kindle Fire sitting next to her.

Seriously though, I think my world was a happier place before I became so “connected” with it. I don’t own a television. For some reason, modern Americans think that’s strange and often give me recommendations on the best kind to buy when I say I don’t own one. I don’t want one. When my last television died, back in 2007, I got rid of it and never replaced it. I’ve never missed it.  I own a Kindle for reasons of convenience; it’s easier to carry a thousand books on it than to have them in paper and binding. That’s not to say that I don’t like books, I have boxes of books that I have carefully transported through at least a dozen homes, all the way across country and back, and they are stored more securely than some people store their diamonds.

Remember back when we were kids? We rode our bicycles around the neighborhood – without helmets – and we played with our friends outside, making up games with balls and sticks, until the lights came on and we went home to dinner. I remember being 10 and walking to school by myself, and no one thought it was strange. Now, as the mother of an eleven year old boy, I am torn between wanting to give him the freedom to walk home by himself and worrying about strangers abducting him. This is why I hate technology. It’s so easy now to hop on the internet and read about child abductions all over the country (or the world) and think that it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen to your own child, so you must protect them. And yes, we must protect our children, but we must also allow them to be children. We want to lock them securely behind doors to keep strangers away, and then complain that we have an obesity problem because kids these days would rather sit inside and play computer games than run around with their friends outside.

My son is not fat by any means. I’m not saying that as an overprotective mother, he’s inherited my metabolism and seems to be able to eat an entire horse without gaining a pound. I was the same way when I was young. The last time I saw him was in July, for his birthday, and one of the things he wanted to do was go hiking, which I was more than happy to do, because I enjoy being outdoors and moving around. We went to a nearby hiking spot and settled on a fairly flat 4 mile loop. Since this is Arizona, in July, I made sure that he was wearing a hat, had coated himself thoroughly in sunscreen, and had a full bottle of water to drink. Less than a mile in, he was done. He was too tired to continue, so we turned around and went back to the car. I was able to get him interested in an art museum after that, but it was a bit of a disappointment that a mile of hiking was too much exercise for him when I remember riding my bicycle for miles at his age.

Of course, this enforced resting of my knee is driving me insane with the desire to exercise, to move around, to do something other than stretches and strengthening moves and wearing this constricting brace that pinches after too long. I want to pull a Henry David Thoreau and walk out into the woods and live a life of purpose. I want to have a little shack for just me and my cat, heating it with wood that I cut with my own axe, and with water pumped from my own well, and living from sunrise to sundown, with candles for light instead of harsh electricity. Maybe there are still places like that in the world. If so, does anyone know where they are, so they can point me in the right direction?

Of course, I’d miss my car, but I wouldn’t miss my car payments, or dealing with car insurance and maintenance (although, to be honest, I actually love working on cars). I wouldn’t miss the sirens from the local fire station or the helicopters flying overhead. I wouldn’t miss watching people wandering around with their concentration so fully on their cell phones that they don’t see the world around them. I realized this about 10 years ago when I noticed that when I’m taking photos, I try to make sure there are no people in them. I take pictures of things; flowers, trees, sunsets and sunrises, mountain ranges, falling down buildings, and so on, but I try to frame my shots to keep the people out. I guess, subliminally, I was separating out the things I think are beautiful by removing the people. Considering that I have worked in customer service for most of my adult life, I don’t really like people very much.

There are individual people that I like, but as a group, I don’t like humans. I don’t like what we’ve become, as we crowd ourselves into cities and try to seem more important than we are. I think that’s part of why I hate San Diego so much. It’s too big, and it’s too crowded, and everyone is so centered on whatever they’re doing, they don’t notice how they inconvenience everyone around them. I’m guilty of it myself, sometimes. I try not to, but sometimes the technology creeps in when I don’t want it to. There has been more than one dinner where my date spent more time fiddling with his phone than talking or interacting with me. I can understand if you have an important job and it’s a necessity, but just texting with friends or checking on your facebook page while on a date is selfish and rude.

My 39th birthday is coming up in a week and a half, and I’m taking some time off from work to unwind (and also to allow some contemplation of whatever my knee surgeon says), and I’m thinking that it will be a good time to unplug for a while and detach myself from the digital world. Maybe I’ll take my cat on a vacation somewhere with a few good books to read. By candlelight.

What is home? Where is home?

There are a lot of quotes regarding what home is:

“Home is where the heart is” – Pliny the Elder

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” – Robert Frost

“When you finally go back to your old home, you find that it wasn’t the old home you missed, but the childhood” – Sam Ewing

“Home is any four walls that enclose the right person” – Helen Rowland

People frequently ask me where I’m from, because I work in customer service and it’s a nice friendly question. Depending on the phrasing of the question, I will either respond with, “I was born and raised here in San Diego” or I might add on “…but I consider the Carolinas my home.” I am a firm believer in that just because you were born somewhere, that doesn’t make it “home.” I have never felt comfortable in California. I don’t fit in here (unless you count the crazy colored hair) either in ideology or in personality. I didn’t realize this until I moved away and then came back. I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t realize how much I dislike this city until I returned. I don’t think it necessarily has anything specifically to do with San Diego, per se, but cities in general.

Some people love the hustle and bustle of high-speed city life, and others, like me, prefer the slower pace and open spaces that you can only find in small towns. I miss the friendliness that comes naturally to small town people. When there are only 2000 people in your town, you run into the same people over and over again, so it seems natural to be nice and polite to those people. True, in small towns, it’s hard to keep your private life completely private, but I’d rather that than to be invisible in a city of millions.

The older I get, the less social I become. I have no interest in going out and meeting new people just for the sake of going out and meeting new people. I’d rather stay home with my cat and a good book. Maybe I’m destined to be the stereotypical crazy cat lady. I’m okay with that. To me, home is a quiet place filled with books and at least a cat or two. I’m trying to save up to move out of this city that drives me crazier every day and back to a place where I feel like I fit in better. I feel like I was born in the wrong decade, in the wrong place. I don’t fit in my own life. As soon as my knee is “fixed” then I will seriously start planning on my move away from here, to get back home again.

I have faith

When people ask me what my religion is, I always reply that I don’t have a religion, I have a faith. I consider myself a Buddhist, although I could certainly use some help in that area of my life. I do try to follow the basic tenets of the faith:

  • All life knows suffering. Nobody gets what they want out of life.
  • The cause of suffering is ignorance and clinging.T Wanting it is the problem.
  • There is a way to end suffering. By learning not to want it.
  • This is the way to end suffering: The Eightfold Path.
  1. Right Understanding Learning the nature of reality and the truth about life.
  2. Right Aspiration Making the commitment to living in such a way that our suffering can end.
  3. Right Effort Just Do It. No Excuses.
  4. Right Speech Speaking the truth in a helpful and compassionate way.
  5. Right Conduct Living a life consistent with our values.
  6. Right Livelihood Earning a living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.
  7. Right Mindfulness Recognizing the value of the moment; living where we are.
  8. Right Concentration Expanding our consciousness through meditation.

I am not a perfect person. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. I have made a lot of bad choices in my life. I have ignored good advice from others trying to help me with their greater knowledge because I was too stubborn to hear. Every now and then, I get it right, and I have small moments of perfection in my life. I have been diagnosed with Dysthymic Disorder (why does everything have to be a disorder these days? True, it could be worse. I could have Major Depressive Disorder or Seasonal Affective Disorder or Unipolar depression. I have some friends who have these diseases, and while I hate that they have to deal with the disease and the stigma that is still attached to “mental illness” I am also immensely grateful that my “mild” form of depression is mostly easy to deal with.

I have not had an easy life. In comparison to the rest of the world, that statement could be laughable. At the moment, I have a roof over my head, and I can afford to eat and drink sanitary food and water. Now, here is the bad part. I know that I am going to die at a relatively young age. I think I knew that as fact when I had to be taken to the hospital over and over again when I was a child to find out what was wrong with my kidneys. The night I gave birth to my son, I was told at the hospital that my kidneys had stopped functioning normally, and that I wasn’t going anywhere until I had that baby. I was then given a warning that another pregnancy could end up with my being on dialysis either temporarily or permanently. Then came the headache. It started back in 2005, and my doctor then thought it was a migraine, because my sister has a history of migraines, and I was showing a lot of the symptoms of a migraine. So, we tried assorted medications. At least five that I remember. The headache would fade for a bit, and then come back again. By the time August of 2009 rolled around, the headache had developed into a massive pain that felt how I would imagine it feels to have an ice pick jammed up the back of your skull and out through your eyeballs. I am in a constant state of pain. I honestly cannot remember what it feels like to NOT be in pain.

Most days, I am okay. I get dressed, I go to work, or do my chores, survive the day, and go to sleep in anticipation of tossing and turning all night from the intense pain, and wondering how my body is going to torture me next. I’ve gotten so good at disguising the pain that most people don’t realize that there is anything wrong with me aside from my warped sense of humor. Then, I’ll have a bad day and my world will come crashing down around me, spiraling me into a depressive funk where I feel like I just cannot handle the pain any longer. Those are the days that I long to just die and get it over with, but I can’t be that selfish. So, how does this long, rambling post relate back to my title regarding faith?

I was mostly happy living in my tiny little town in South Carolina, until my mom guilted me into moving back to San Diego. I knew I didn’t like the city when I left it, but once I returned, I realized just how badly I hated it. The traffic is terrible, the housing prices are ridiculously high, and the pay is ridiculously low compared to what I had gotten used to. There is nothing about this city that makes me the least bit happy. There are, however, people that I have either met or re-connected with by moving back that I would have never had the pleasure to know if I hadn’t come back. Does that mean that I don’t think longingly of living in a quiet town where you’re more likely to hear the lowing of a cow than the screaming of a fire engine siren or a police helicopter overhead.

I am at a crossroad right now. The lease on the apartment where I am currently living in is up at the end of the month, and as of right now, I have not been able to find any place to live that fits within my mediocre budget. So, I am packing up all my belongings into boxes, to be stacked neatly in a storage unit, awaiting a decision from me. I don’t know what’s in my future. The open road beckons me. Some people are designed to settle down in one place and spend the rest of their life there. I have a few friends who have never even left the state they were born in. I am not one of those people. I am restless. I am a wanderer. I don’t have much life span left. Or maybe I do. I don’t know. Where do I go from here? I am letting go of the worry and letting my destiny unfold as it will. Maybe something good will come out of it, and maybe something bad. Either way, it is life. So long as I have my cat with me, nothing else matters.