Cultural District, Portland, Oregon. Seven stories up.
I’m wide awake and can’t fall back to sleep. This hasn’t happened in a while, but tonight, I find myself restless, tossing, turning, unable to get comfortable. The source of my discomfort tonight, is physical pain rather than emotional. Hours on Zoom calls during the day, sitting at a desk in a chair tilting my head at angles that are anything but ergonomically correct is creating neck and shoulder pain that cannot be tamed with acetaminophen. I’m out of ibuprofen and it is too close to dawn for any pain meds left over from last year’s thyroid surgery. Those might well be outdated anyway.
I lie for a moment looking out the window of my bedroom, shifting my position to get comfortable. My mattress is the exact level of the bottom of the window that fills one entire wall of my small bedroom. It’s not the floor to ceiling wall of windows I enjoyed when overseas, but it is pretty close. The view is fantastic, no matter the hour, but at night, it’s a spectacular collage of color and light against the night sky. Tonight it is clear and cold. I can tell from this particular shade of darkness that there’s not a cloud in the sky and sunrise will be an event for which I will have front row seats. It’s entertainment that never gets old. It will be a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. I shift again, trying to get comfortable. It’s no use. I give up the fight against consciousness and give in wholly to the fact that, against my will, I am awake. I throw back the comforter, slide open the pocket door that seals my tiny bedroom off from the rest of the small 500 square foot space I call home, and head to the bathroom for some Tylenol. It won’t help…much.
I swallow two of the bright red gel capsules and walk about twenty more paces to the kitchen, flick the coffeemaker to “brew now”, never even switching on a light. My condo is small, but the windows are large, taking up one entire side of my living space. No matter where I am in this space, I have spectacular views of downtown. City lights serve as a built-in night light. It’s one reason I live here now. The condo is small on space, but large on cityscape. As I wait for the coffee to brew, I pick up my kitten, a gorgeous gray, cream and tan Torti-Lynx I found last October on Craigslist. She’s definitely a pandemic pet, and it’s a constant battle to keep her off the expansive granite counters in the kitchen, but I love her. I take a few more steps to stand at the door to my balcony and gaze out at the world. The view from seven stories up is perfect. High enough off the ground to see some incredible distances (through the buildings) and yet low enough to the ground to see everything that goes on. High enough off the ground to mute the noise of the traffic below, close enough to still have birds land on my balcony and bees flying in the windows if I leave them open during the summer, which I do. I face east, toward the waterfront, Mount Hood and the rising sun. I’d have a perfect view of all of these except for the skyscrapers that stand in the way. The very ones that provide light and interest as I allow my thoughts to drift from one unrelated idea to the next. When the sun comes up the lights will transform to glass mirrors reflecting all the colors of sunrise.
The coffee finishes brewing. I put the kitten down, return to the kitchen, and choose a mug from my vast collection. In the last five years, I reduced my living space from 1500 square feet to 500 hundred, but somehow, in all the downsizing, my mug collection made it. The kitchen in this place is surprisingly spacious. It is only slightly smaller than the kitchen I had when I lived in the three bedroom, three bath townhome in my past life. I downsized everything else, and kept the mugs. I have an entire two shelves of cabinet space dedicated to coffee drinking receptacles. It’s crazy what people collect, sometimes. A mug collection is not that unusual a collection to have, I suppose, but when faced with downsizing, especially as much as I had to in order to fit in this space, you wouldn’t think mugs would be the priority. While I downsized in terms of space, I surely upgraded in terms of quality. This is a well-designed small space. Not perfect, but damn near.
The mug I choose is a smooth dark mug; the word “Oregon” etched on one side, the Oregon license plate etched on the other…the letters ORE separated from GON by a single Doug Fir, Mount Hood in the background. This mug, found on a dusty and neglected tourist shelf in some big box discount store last Christmas when my oldest and I were out picking up some last minute items, speaks to me. It’s a totem in a way. All my life, I’ve tried to leave this state, tried to leave the Pacific Northwest, but I can never get away or stay away for long. Even when I had the chance to go literally anywhere in the world, I chose here. Four and a half years ago, my life was in free fall. I had the opportunity to decide where I was going to land and I.chose.here. I am part of this place. I’ve ceased fighting that. This place is part of me. This is home. When I saw the mug on the shelf, I loved the feel of it, how smooth and comfortable it is in my hands, and also how it represents my metamorphosis over the last half decade from fighting where and who I was, to accepting, embracing and loving me. After all, I am the one constant companion in my own life. I should be nice to that person. With the lights still off, I add creamer to the bottom of my mug, and pour my coffee. I head to the couch, and curl up and gaze out at the cityscape. My world is not what it used to be.
I reflect on the past decade. They say change, even positive change, can be a significant source of stress. In the last two decades of my life, beginning with my divorce from my first husband, while pregnant with my youngest child, I have endured the gamut of human experience and emotion. Change, dramatic, unexpected and traumatic change has been the capstone of my existence.
Ten years ago, I was stuck and stymied. I was nearing that half century milestone in my life and I was miserable. Unhappy and struggling to make ends meet as a single mother of four children, I worked endless hours to keep up with all the needs and demands, taking on any extra job I could find. I had little support in my world. My job was stressful and so were my finances and my home life. I drank to get through it. At first the alcohol relieved the anxiety and helped me get through. I was unaware, at that time, how much I was depending upon it. Now, as I gaze out on the slumbering city, my life now is the impossible dream I fantasized about despairingly back then. Had you told me then, that I was going to be living this existence, I’d have thought you were crazy. Had you told me what I’d have to go through to get here…well, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here now.
As I watch the sunrise, I think of all the horrible decisions I’ve made. Of all the wrong turns, the missteps, the failures. In 2016, when I finally hit bottom, I was alone and without a job or a place to live. My stress was off the charts, as was my anxiety. The drinking kept pace. In spite of everything, I managed to land a fantastic position (off the charts stressful, but fantastic), I settled the divorce from the marriage that should never have been, and I settled in to my new city. I was desperately lonely, but alcohol helped me forget that. Things gradually began to improve for me. I finally realized that I’m the only person in my life I can rely on to be there for me, so I’d better start stepping up.
Everything is great until it isn’t, right? That’s how drinking was for me. It was great fun, until it wasn’t. Until every time I drank it was too much. Until even when I didn’t drink I felt like I had a hangover. Until I began forgetting things and my hair started falling out in clumps. It was no longer any fun and the anxiety was still there. As is typical, I was drinking more and more, but I was long past ever feeling a buzz. I would just go straight to feeling sick. It was no longer any fun. So, at the beginning of 2021, after joining a wine club the summer before, and having put away more bourbon in a night than should be imbibed in a week, and doing that every night all summer long, I decided I just didn’t feel very good, and I stopped drinking. On January 2, 2021, I finished the last drop of bourbon in the last bottle in my condo. Tomorrow will be seventy days since. It will also be, the one year anniversary of moving in to my little condo. I reflect on the hardships, but I also celebrate the triumphs. Completely redesigning a life is hard work. Getting sober is too. I have much to celebrate and to be grateful for. As I gaze out on the city, I welcome the overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude that inevitably results in such musings. I made it, I think to myself. I actually did it and it’s really, truly just as wonderful as I imagined. Not perfect. Life is still life and there are challenges and struggles, but it is still wonderful. This is a small space, but that is city life. It suits me.
The timer on my phone goes off. It is fifteen minutes before sunrise. My coffee mug is empty. I step out onto the balcony, breathe in the crisp morning air. The streetcar lumbers past below as I snap a photo of the pink and marmalade hues along the Eastern horizon, a ritual act I’ve participated in nearly every day since moving in a year ago. The buildings reflect each other and the colors in a fantastic display of mutual admiration. The cityscape is beautiful, but the skies are the real artwork here. It is going to be a brilliant day.
I started writing this blog, because I figured if I was awake maybe putting some of my worries and rants down in print might help me dish off some anxiety. I hoped maybe it would allow me to work through some of the stress and tension I experienced on a daily basis. I certainly wasn’t having any success tossing and turning at night. I usually ended up exhausted from the ordeal of attempting to force sleep. So, I started writing down what bothered me, or stressed me out, or sometimes what interested me. When I first started this blog, I was living with a man that was a sorry mess. As I look back on my life, there are a few episodes I wish I could completely erase. This man was one of them.
As the relationship unwound, I found myself filled with anxiety and I brought that anxiety here. I also found myself awake at night worried about my career and supporting my family. In those days, I was struggling financially, after a divorce where I ended up with ALL the marital debt. That was my reward for marrying a man who never paid his bills. I worried about everything. It kept me up. I ranted through it all here. My life is in a very different place than when I began this blog almost four years ago. Read the rest of this entry
I must confess. I have not been up late at night…much…lately. I’ve been sleeping very well and feeling good when I wake up the next day. Never mind that I was sick for two weeks with food poisoning. My bills are paid. There is food in my cupboards. And there’s a wee little bit to offset the unexpected thing that might come up. It is amazing how having a little extra cash in the bank and a car that is reliable changes one’s outlook on life. It’s also pretty incredible how that makes it easier to sleep. It’s been a good month. Or rather, a good couple of weeks. I can’t complain. And I won’t start now, even though, life has turned on the proverbial dime for me, once again. Read the rest of this entry
Tonight, I lie awake. The moon, this late in August is almost full, the second full moon we will have this month; a blue moon, they say. The light floods the deck outside my bedroom, illuminating everything in a beautiful blue glow that can only be seen and appreciated in the wee hours, on nights like these, but only if you are one of the fortunate ones who cannot sleep. I have my own beautiful, exquisite dreamland right outside the slider leading to my deck. As the moonlight streams down onto my personal paradise, as I gaze from my bed out onto the deck, I think, “If I felt better, I would go out there and enjoy that beauty.” Instead, I remain in bed and I wince with each movement. Tonight, my back is killing me. I can’t get comfortable. I’m in pain.
If there isn’t emotional pain going on, then someone, somewhere is hurting physically. It is the way of this life. While it is true that we learn and grow and deepen during our times of suffering (if we are paying attention), I’m not sure that I like this particular aspect of suffering that I am enduring. When I was younger, I could do anything or nearly anything with no consequences. I mean, really, almost anything. Today, I attempted the “almost anything.” I moved a tree from the tree store into the back of my vehicle. I then moved the tree from the back of my vehicle to the driveway of my place. I then attempted to move this tree, with only a little help from one of my children, from the driveway clear around the house to the back deck. The tree? A Japanese Maple, as tall as I am and a little bit wider. This did a number on my back. Years ago, I could have done all this activity with no consequences, but these days, I pay for every bit of effort I expend. My currency is pain and sleeplessness.
This year has been filled with pain for me. Six days into it, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. I have four children, three of them at home, the oldest is not yet fully launched. What horrible timing. Pain. I have had more financial struggles this year than I’ve had in a good, long while. Another car blew an engine. That’s a deductible I couldn’t afford to spend the family grocery money on. And in the professional work realm, I encountered a year that I would put up there with my top three worst years in the world of work ever. Add to this, uncovered medical expenses which I am still paying off, and a boyfriend who suddenly decides to take off without giving me notice. I mean, I thought we were working on forever, and it turns out that he was only working on him and his kids and I was the stepping stone. Pain. Pain. Pain.
And with it, regret.
But tonight…I’m in a different kind of pain and it isn’t emotional.
Physically, my body is killing me. It is punishing me for the work I expended today to create some additional beauty in my world. Beauty that was worth the pain I am experiencing now, because if I’d known I was going to feel this way afterward, I would have still moved that tree single-handedly onto my back deck. It is so worth it to me. And, as I lie here in physical pain, pain that Vicodin was created for, I think this: My body hurts, but my psyche does not. While my body screams in agony and I cannot get comfortable, if I am honest I have to say, that, in spite of my recent experience of being abandoned faster than most people cash in on a lottery winning, I am doing okay.
And okay is okay.
I’m not happy about the fact that my love life is nonexistent, and likely to be so for a very long time. (Actually, if I can’t have the Gone Boyfriend, I’m okay with this. I just don’t want to go to the effort.) I’m not happy about the fact that I’m likely to attend all of my children’s monumental events in life…alone…while their other parents attend these very same events happily married with a second or third spouse. Yeah, what kind of loser must I be? Pain.
In spite of all of this, here is what I know: I am okay with me. I haven’t settled. I haven’t compromised. I am the one I have to wake up to each morning, and, for the most part, I am content with who I am and what choices I’ve made. Sure, I’d love to rewind life several decades and make some different choices, but those different choices would eliminate certain people from my life that I simply find I cannot do without. So, I’m okay with the choices that I would re-do, under other conditions. I’m okay with where I am right now. I don’t like a lot of my current reality, but I’m okay with most of it.
I’m good with the the fact that I’m able to provide for my children, that we are surviving and thriving in an economy where many are struggling.
I’m so grateful for all the people in my life who’ve given me hugs, emotionally and otherwise in my most painful moments and who, in spite of my drama, still care to call themselves my friend.
I’m grateful for a career, that while stressful and imperfect, enables me to provide for my family without having to depend on someone else…and to do so…reasonably well…and which allows me to make a difference in the lives of very important people who will someday make decisions that affect us all.
I’m grateful for a Japanese Maple…or two…on my back deck that will provide me with some beauty and a peaceful respite for some years to come. If I can just enjoy the beauty of a tree and a moonlit night, I think I just might always be content.
I’m in pain, but I’m content with my lot. I’m good with this.
Home should be a refuge from the pain. I, thankfully, have this refuge in my life.
I can’t complain…but…you know I will…just because….it makes a great story!
Tonight I’m exhausted. I should be able to sleep; I’m certainly tired enough. I even took a sleeping pill. I’m so tired that just writing this takes effort. And my legs and feet hurt today. Every day it seems it’s something new. Aging sucks. The pain keeps me awake when I should be sleeping.
But here I am.
Wide awake and nothing to do.
Well, you know how this goes, don’t you? We complain because the weather isn’t warm enough. It’s June, by God, and still raining! Many in the Pacific Northwest are ready to pack up and move elsewhere where they might be guaranteed more than three days of sun this summer. I am not one of those people, though, I do live in the Pacific Northwest…but…just barely.
I, on the other hand, complain (well, I hope not too much and not in a negative way) about staying up late at night because of the rain. I don’t mind the rain, really. I don’t even mind staying up late at night, really, except that I know that it is not really the best thing to go without sleep. Especially for one, such as I am, who is attempting to recover from a brief (yes, six months was brief, I have friends who have lived to tell of battles lasting 13 years) skirmish with cancer. Please ladies, don’t skip the mammo’s. Anyway, they tell me that sleep is important when you are healing, so I suppose, it frustrates me when I cannot sleep for that reason.
But otherwise, being awake late at night is really the best time to blog.
I have no interruptions. I have no guilt about which people in my life I am neglecting as the result of my writing. It just kind of works.
But, the rain is gone, and now I have yet another reason to be awake. You probably saw this coming. Yep.
It’s heating up here in the Pacific Northwest and in my particular area, the air conditioning kicked on at 8:00 this morning. My bedroom, being upstairs with fully half of the entire wall (or more) glass and being the only room on the south-facing end of our home, gets a tad bit warm.
I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry. I have no idea why I was so hungry. I just was. I’m not prone to midnight snacking at all so the fact that I actually got up out of bed to get a bowl of Life cereal and eat it was pretty unusual. After eating as quietly as I could (the entire upstairs opens up to our living/dining/kitchen area in the form of a balcony and I didn’t want to wake anyone), I drug myself up the stairs. The house was deliciously cool and I was tempted to grab my black velour blanket from my bed and curl up on the couch downstairs. I walked into my room and it was like I’d entered Tucson in the middle of the summer. Wow! Outside my door, deliciously cool. Inside my bedroom door, Tucson summer. Something is wrong here.
Then I remembered about the glass windows which I usually don’t pull the shade down on, and the sun which beats in my bedroom all day long, and the fact that I’m upstairs and heat rises. I should have seen this coming.
I can fix all that for tomorrow night…but for now? Well, for now, I can just add one more thing to the list of things that keep me up all night.
P.S. I actually spent a summer in Tucson. That’s it, just a summer. From April to September the year my oldest daughter was four and a half months old. She’s turning 22 this year, so that was a while ago, and, yes, I am old…but not infirm by any means. Back then, we lived in an apartment complex and our 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment rented for $250 a month. It was the only time during my then married life that I didn’t work and I stayed home with my child. Our complex was built around a swimming pool. It was the perfect arrangement. The worst part of the deal was packing the not-yet-walking child down the stairs with the laundry and the detergent to the laundry room to do the laundry. That was truly awkward. Since then, if/when I ever rented, I insisted on space for a washer/dryer in the unit. Other than that one little laundry thing, I truly loved Tucson in the summer.
Interesting weather we’re having here, isn’t it? While most of the country is burning up, my little corner of the world is experiencing a deluge that might become record-breaking. The water is pouring from the sky in monsoon-like torrents. The thing is, I live in a region not known to ever experience monsoons. We don’t have tornadoes either, so I’m hoping that’s not next on the weird weather agenda these days.
The rain is definitely good for us. Though my area is known to be a bit rainy at this time of the year, rains of this magnitude usually occur in January and are accompanied by colder weather and snow in the mountains. It’s raining like it is January, but it is 64 degrees out. And it’s the middle of the night.
I love summer rains. I love them even if they keep me up at night. I’m tempted to go brew a cup of coffee and sit out on my upper deck. Sitting in the rain soaked air with a cuppa joe at night, just listening to the rhythmic cadence of raindrops on roof, and on cedars sounds like a heavenly idea. Maybe if I took a blanket, I could fall asleep out there.
I won’t do it though. I’m certain to wake someone up. I don’t mind that I’m up at night. In fact, I’m becoming more and more accustomed to these late night rendezvous with my tiny iPhone screen, and the WordPress app. This does not mean others in my home would view wakefulness at this hour with the same charitable nature. So, out of consideration for them, and to save the neighbors from hearing the rest of the family yelling at me in the middle of the night, I’ll save the coffee-in-the-rain idea for a night when I am all alone.
The rain does sound so very nice…and far away…so does the rumbling thunder accompanying it.
Hope. It’s a great term. It has all sorts of positive connotations. We hope for something better, always. When things are rough, we hope they will improve. Certainly, without the hope of a better tomorrow, one’s spirits lag and motivation declines. I wonder sometimes, is hope a good thing…or does it just serve to delay the inevitable? I mean, if we knew things weren’t going to get better, at least for a long time, would it change our behavior? Or would we still cling to our hopes? I do not know.
We hope for an improvement in our circumstances, but the reality is for many the world over, that things will not improve…ever.
We hope to have that wonderful experience of a deep and meaningful relationship with a significant other, but for many, myself possibly included in this, it might never happen. Soul mates seem to miss more than they connect it seems.
And that brings me to another question. What is a Soul Mate anyway?
That question brings me to yet another question. How do you recognize a Soul Mate if/when you meet him or her.
Personally, I just don’t get it.
Maybe it is because I’ve never really experienced a decent relationship with the opposite sex. Maybe, I’ve not yet met my “soul mate”. Quite honestly, if there is such a thing as a soul mate, which I doubt, how would I recognize him if he came along?
But hope would keep me thinking that there is always the possibility of such an experience happening, no matter how old I am.
I just don’t buy it.
I mean, relationship with another of the opposite sex is fun…at first. Everything seems to roll along smoothly. You connect. Things are easy.
But let’s face it. No one, these days, has a perfect life. The other person has issues, right? They either have too many children from the Evil Ex, or maybe Evil Ex is plural. They probably have debt. They certainly have child support payments. This alone means you are going to be a very broke woman for a long time to come. So…with all that noise…in life after divorce…how do you recognize your soul mate?
Most people I talk to mention hopeful statements like, “When you meet him, you will know.”
Really? I thought I had met him…2.5 times before. It’s been a bust on all counts. I’m now living with a guy that I kinda sorta think likes me…maybe? Yeah, he’s the .5 part of the 2.5, because he’s certainly willing to live with me…and off of me…without making any legal commitment that says, “We’re in this together and it’s going to cost a boatload of money and angst to make it change.” Yeah. I feel great about that.
But I hope things will change.
But I hope there is still a relational future for me.
But I hope I’m wrong on some things.
The reality is this…I think…(note the hesitance there)…
Who really can say what real love and commitment is? A decent relationship looks different from every vantage point. There is no set formula. Well, that’s not entirely true. There’s a definite pattern when it comes to relationships that don’t work. More about that later…maybe. But lasting relationships seem to be very different. What works for you, might repulse me.
I also don’t think relationships are necessarily easy.
People disagree. They get annoyed. They certainly think their own kids are better than their partner’s kids. And, there’s always the money to stress about if the rest of the relationship seems okay.
I don’t know.
I used to hope that there was a possibility for me of “real love”.
These days, I simply wonder what that means, and whether or not I would even recognize it.