Friday, October 7, 2016

Ghost Town - Written 2/21/15

The city is a ghost town.

I don't mean that it is an abandoned, dusty relic in which the streets are deserted and the homes barren of life.  What I mean is that it is filled with ghosts.

I had the need to drive to Rohnert Park this evening by myself.  I was delivering a special order and didn't think anything of it, that is until I turned down Golf Course Drive and Steve Perry was singing "Open Arms."  Whoa, did everything shift.  The light changed, the air changed, and there I was remembering a different house, children young, friends loving - and leaving.

I was alive during those years, more fiercely alive than I have ever been.  From 1984 to 2001 my life was centered in Rohnert Park and Cotati.  As I drove toward my destination I flipped the channel to country music, and rather than dissipating, the feeling became more intense.  I gave up, gave in, let it take me.

Lost in thought, I dropped off my package and picked up the envelope under the door mat.  I was lost in memories and deep feeling as I drove away.  I was so tempted to drive around town, to all those places so fresh in memory, so intensely present in my heart, but I resisted the impulse.  Instead, those memories continued to crash over me as I drove up Snyder to my next destination, and that didn't help.  Snyder, that midpoint between the two main places I'd lived, past the virtual middle ground of the bookends of my first married life and the greatest joys and greatest pains I'd ever experienced.

Believe me there were highs.  I smiled as I remembered roller blading with the kids, sunshine and laughter, watching them learning how to ride a bicycle, cooking dinner, doing homework, playing games.  Walks at night when I could see my breath before me, hands tucked into pockets as I looked at Christmas decorations and smelled baking cookies.  Getting dressed for a night out, filled with anticipation and in the best physical shape of my life - a person looking back in the mirror who only exists in memory.  Sitting on my bed with my best friend, talking for hours and hours, laughing and crying and consoling and learning.  Pregnant and birthing and sitting with my new little one in the freshly mowed grass, looking to the blue sky.

Life was full.  It was an adventure.  It was extreme highs and terrifying lows.  It was confidence and love and joy and lots of great sex.  It was loneliness, hours on the phone, sitting alone, writing and writing, and working and fretting.  It was trying to find my way.  It was thinking I found it.  It was having it all torn from me.  Complete destruction in the wake of what I thought was the greatest story ever told.

It was flying across a dance floor.  It was laughing and singing.  It was finding myself.  It was losing it all.  It was feeling enveloped in love and then utterly destroyed.  I left Rohnert Park not scarred, but with deep unhealed and weeping wounds I still carefully hide.

Life changed.  I shut down.  I still laughed with my daughters, cared for my youngest baby, was present, worked hard, but I was more worried and less open.  My heart had broken open.  When I put it back together, it functioned to pour out love into the world and onto those around me.  It functioned perfectly well.  It took care of those I cared for.  But it did not receive.  It was closed, sheltered, protected, because no one other than family could really be trusted.  No one was let in.  No one would hurt me that way.  Ever.  Again.

I remember weeping while sitting on the concrete steps in my garage.  I remember wailing on the phone that I would never, ever, love another again.  I figured I'd get over it as I had before.  But not this time.

Driving home tonight the memories continued to replay as the radio sent me more memories and more messages.  I was really feeling again for the first time in a long time.  Even though some of it hurt, I felt more alive.  I wanted that back in my life.  To experience the highs and brave the lows.  A glimmer of resolution grew as tears flowed down my face, salt sliding onto my lips.

By the time I got home and got busy, the feeling was dimming and the numbing protection creeping over me like the deep river fog.  By writing this I'm fighting it, as I put music on from that era to remind me.  The losses still hurt.  The betrayals still hurt.  But the I miss the highs.  I miss living.  I miss the dance.  I miss feeling loved.

I still don't know if I am lovable or if I want to risk it all again.  But at least I'm thinking about it.  And maybe these tears are starting to heal the wounds that keep me from moving freely in the world as I used to.  At least I hope so.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Strong and Direct?

I recently sent an e-mail to my doctor letting her know I'd scheduled an appointment and to tell her what I planned to talk to her about.  Her response got me to thinking and recognizing that who I am today is not necessarily the person that I carry around inside of me.  Here's her reply:

No problem -- always good to confirm all is well, I appreciate head on approach, but that's who you are Laura - strong and direct :)
I sat and looked at that last line for a while.  "Strong and direct" is not something I'm used to thinking about myself, though when I think about my interactions with her, with my SO, with my coworkers, kids, employers, yeah.  I supposed it really does fit today.

Even though I recognize the truth in my doctor’s comment that I am “strong and direct,” it still took me a little by surprise to think that I am recognized that way.  I realized that that is a long and hard-fought descriptor that is far away from the girl I remember being.  That woman grew bit by bit over time.

For instance, this is representative of the girl inside.  This girl, here, daydreaming in the upstairs window of a Mission building in Ethete, Wyoming my first summer tour.  

She’s 14 going on 15.  She’s lived all over the place from the day she was born - from Southern California and parts East to Germany back to Southern California then to Denver and Franktown, finally settling in Northern California (two moves within Novato) the summer before she started 7th grade.  She left 2nd grade halfway through the year to go to Colorado.  She finished 2nd grade in Denver, then to 3rd in a one-room schoolhouse in Franktown while the new school in Parker was being built.  She made a couple of friends that first year in Franktown, but was the target of a much older boy bully who’d been held back, by the name of John B.  (I remember the name but won't out him.)  She used to pretend to be sick so she didn’t have to go to school and hid her fear from her parents and teachers until 4th grade, after moving to the big school (Northeast) outside Parker.  Finally, she told someone.  The school’s solution to the problem was to suggest that she stay in a classroom or library during recess so John B. wouldn’t bother her.  He left Northeast to attend the new school when it was completed the next year.  5th and 6th were easier, excelling in school, in band and choir, and she won the lead in the 6th grade operetta.

Then her dad was laid off and his new job at LAIR found them a new home in California.  7th grade was scary.  The girls were tough and she was country.  Her clothing, her way of living, didn’t fit with Marin County in the early 70s.  She was afraid to go to the bathroom except in the safer PE locker room bathrooms because the tough girls smoked in the others.  Another move from one side of Novato to the other brought her to 8th grade at a different school, where she was warned the drinking fountains were spiked with cocaine!  (Not true of course.)  Wind Children saved her that year.  The following year she went on this tour.

She was afraid of speaking her mind in case it lost her friends.  She wanted to fit in, and mostly she did.  She didn’t understand relationships and let the boys take the lead.  She accepted the first proposal she received because probably deep down she wasn’t sure she’d get another.  She grew a lot and learned a lot in WC, but not fast enough to be married at 18, just seven months after graduation.

So when someone says strong and direct - this is the girl that lives at my core, and I used to have a hard time reconciling them.  I’ve got it now.  I can still be kind and loving and considerate, because that’s the way to operate in this world of awful to try and make it better, but I don’t have to compromise my core ideals and ethics.  I can accept new information and reformulate my beliefs and reality, but don’t have to if it doesn’t fit.

And I’m not afraid of being alone anymore.  I handled that well enough for 18 years and know how to take care of myself and be alone without being lonely.  Which makes me honor even more the chance I now have to love and be in a relationship.  I get to figure out how to do that as this strong and direct woman, who knows how to love and how she wants to be loved, and how to form a solid partnership in which both partners are honored and respected, not just the bigger, stronger one.

I think that girl in Ethete would be happy about this.