I had a bittersweet false nostalgia and then true optimism reading a friend's facebook post just now. She mentioned being at a place called Bar Bar. My kneejerk was, "I know that place," and it was a visceral knowledge; I could feel in my bones being there.
And I had a very firm belief that, as most places I have such an intense reaction to, it was in LA and a place my ex-husband and I had frequented. But as I searched my cells for a description of the place, a photograph of Mark enjoying a drink there, I couldn't find one. It dawned on me that the place is in Portland.
Last week I wouldn't go to an event I would have joyously loved because too many people I don't want to see were sure to be there. One I even e-mailed ahead of time to try to dissuade him from going.
It seems I am beginning to feel Portland in my bones, see it in memories, experience ghosts here. Not sure it's the way I would choose to begin to recognize a place as home, but it's a start.
Twice in two days, driving on the same road, I've had the exact same emotional/mental experience when encountering a police car.
Instinctive reaction: "Fuck! The police!" Sharp intake of breath. Automatic assessment of speedometer and general interior of car; movement of foot toward brake.
Then, some brain engagement: Wait a second! My cruise control is on at 1 mile over the speed limit (today was exactly at the speed limit), I am not texting or on the phone, I am stone sober, and my car is registered and insured. What's their effin' problem? (Noting at this point that no sirens or lights are directed at me.)
Revised reaction: "Fuckin' coppers." Yesterday, since the black-and-white I passed was staking out a speed trap, I flashed my lights as a warning to the oncoming cars, an act of defiance I hadn't engaged in in years. But I hate speed trap cops more than most other blue-uniformed doughnut graveyards.
Why do I hate cops at all, and in particular, the workaday traffic drones, who under other circumstances would garner my sympathy for the repetitive, thankless work? Is it ingrained or is it the product of my upbringing? My parents are both law-abiding citizens; my mother has an almost pathological aversion to questioning or challenging authority of any kind, and my father is a dyed-in-the-wool middle American conservative (in the old-fashioned sense) who would take the position that the officer is "just doing his or her job." Notwithstanding, my general attitude about law enforcement is that "stupid laws don't apply to me" and law enforcement as a profession is essentially societally-condoned thuggery.
Now, I make no secret that I've never had a good real-life experience with a cop. But I've never had a good real-life experience with a fire-fighter, either. In fact, I was pretty angry when they let our barn and my dad's baby, a 1949 Plymouth, burn to the ground while they hosed down our neighbors' house, just in case it might catch fire. I was in college when the fire happened, and intellectually, I was able to understand that it was a dry season, and they had a legitimate concern about a residence and no real belief that they would be able to save our useless barn. And the work of forgiving the firefighters was but an instant.
Not so with police, even though I can intellectually understand that they have to make similar judgment calls. They feel they need to lie to put the "bad guy" [in one instance, me] away. (I was present at the alleged crime, so I know that the police report was a work of fiction.) I know that I would consider lying for a co-worker if he/she got caught stealing office supplies, so is it really worse for cops to cover for each other? (See, my position on that is, no one wrongfully goes to jail if I don't tell the partner that I saw a colleague working on her resume' on company time.) But even trying to control for the extremity of the consequence when a cop does something iffy or more geared towards a private loyalty than the public trust doesn't explain the intense visceral reaction of "fucking coppers." (And "copper" is a good mood word, too, for when I've got Broken Bells blaring and the windows all the way down on a cool spring night.)
When I really explored my feelings and experiences, I realized that my very first memory of the police was of sitting in the gutter outside the elementary school when my mom forgot to pick me up. I had wandered up and down the driveway for a while, read for a bit, then gotten worried. I cried for probably half an hour, watching the cop about 20 feet away just sit in his car and do nothing for me. I didn't know what a radar gun was then, but that blow-dryer thing seemed so much more important than a scared little girl. So I think where my attitude comes from is that primal perception that cops are, apart from anything else, just mean.
I realized today that yardwork is kinda like doing drugs. You start out just chipping, thinking that you're just going to pick up the bits and piles left by the trashmen and the real gardeners. Then you figure, as long as I'm out here I might as well cut the overblown roses. Pretty soon you're yanking out blackberry vines (the hydra of the backyard scourges) in your bare hands, the tracks of the thorns are worse than and covering up the scars from last time, and you're hoping no one will think it's weird that you always wear long sleeves to work. Last time you stopped when both hands were bleeding, but this time one leg is torn up also. (Of course you have an excuse for that - last time, your shorts were longer, so the vines didn't bang against your knees when you dragged them to the bin - sure, maybe, but do you think maybe it's because you yanked so hard you fell into a bush and almost knocked the apiary over?) But you still won't do the 'shoot in your neck' of backyard toil: stamp the compost bin down in bare legs and sandals.
I'm looking through old pictures. Damn myself for not uploading more of them!!! These are some of the ones lost in the Hard Drive Crash of '09. Why am I convinced I won't remember these events, people, etc. if I don't have pictures of them?? Because I know my memory isn't what I'd like it to be. I have a hard time conjuring up the ghosts of people who are gone.
I feel like a meteor's heading towards me, and I'm knitting a shield. The stupidest part is that the meteor is imaginary, but the damage it is doing is real. Not just to me, but to my sister and mother. It's like the tv shows where they say if you die in the game, you die for real.
My life is only as bad as I work at making it. And sometimes it takes work. But I seem to be more willing to do the work to keep myself at the abyss than to climb away from it. Has the abyss become such a part of me that I cannot bear to be apart from it??
Starting over again. Needing to redefine my lowest common denominator. I don't get myself into untenable situations because I'm a loser who can't do better, but because I get overcome with fear and paralysis, retreating into escapism and avoidance. The bad decisions are made out of a manufactured sense of desperation at doing things at the last minute or beyond. But things can change. I can change. Steven Johnson, a new favourite nonfiction writer (even if he does worship too heavily at the altar of the internet) says that "faith in science and progress necessitated one other core value...and that is the radical's belief that progress inevitably undermines the institutions and belief systems of the past." The Invention of Air, p. 213. He also talks about how ideas (and I'm going to add beliefs) are nurtured, sustained, and developed over time through the creation, strengthening, and expansion of conceptual networks, alluding to the neural pathways in the brain. Id. at 72-74. He stresses the importance of a conducive environment for the formation and blossoming of progressive, creative, and accretive ideas. I need to work on making my brain a place where positive overhauls of my belief system occur, as well as continue to surround myself with people who believe in the reality of positive change. Granted, the Founding Fathers Johnson lauds in this book and the epidemiologists in his last book were exploding scientific, social and political belief systems on a global scale, but hey, I've got to start somewhere. If I can improve myself and use my talents better, I have a better chance of fanning a fire that might, as Franklin said, "attract the 'attention of the Ingenious.'"
"They" say that if you understand the 'why' of your life, you can brook any 'how.' I'm starting to internalize the concept that my 'why' includes not being homeless or living with my mom. My big fear is that no 'why' is sufficient to inspire me to care and to get a job. But I think facing real homelessness, and at the same time forcing my sister and her kids to move, might do it. And I might even go so far as to imagine that I might be willing to find a how that will allow me to continue to dance.
2 eye-openers lately:
First, for the first time ever, I am sort of grateful that I grew up in a place I completely despised and looked down upon. A fabulous woman I know, who is so pretty and smart and vivacious that I was initially too intimidated to approach, was talking recently about her self-image issues, particularly about dancing, which she says she doesn't do much because she feels so awkward. When she was in the obligatory elementary school ballet class, a classmate's mother asked the instructor to keep my friend out of the recital because she was too gawky and would ruin the recital for everyone. She took this to heart. When I was a kid and people told me I was ugly and geeky and useless, I cried for a minute, but ultimately thought, "what does some provincial hick know?! I'm going to be fabulous and beautiful and successful, and I'll show them!!" So in this bizarre irony, I have a better self-image now than this woman who, by all objective measures, is a more successful, more competent person than I am. Thank god I didn't care too much what those people thought!!
Second: People (and in this instance I mean my common-law-brother-in-law) always say that we learn from our mistakes. Not me. I learn from my successes. I learn that I CAN do things, that I CAN overcome obstacles. I learn what works. I just haven't had many successes lately. I need to focus on how I felt when I was getting things done, and on how I managed to take action.
Tango again tonight. I don't love tango as much as Angel does, I'm afraid. Or maybe I just think I don't love it as much as waltz because of the grand, sweeping style of the waltz, as well as the fact that, after a couple of months of lessons, I'm better at waltz. I don't know why I'm hard-wired to love something more just because I'm better at it. Tango is definitely more intricate, more sensual, more nuanced. And the music involves bandoneons. Tango has been seducing me for years, I don't know why I'm suddenly playing hard to get. (And if succumbing 4 nights out of five is "playing hard to get," no wonder my relationships don't turn out so well!)
And this whole tango-waltz push me-pull you is simply allowing me to distract from the real issue: when will I have time for SALSA?! Which I must learn before returning to Costa Rica in Feb!!!
Looking through just about this whole journal looking for a couple of writings (which I never found - starting to wonder whether I posted them here), I was again reminded of the richness of this format as compared with the marketing soundbites that are facebook. I feel like I must have a facebook account, because that's how the spelling bee people communicate (and god knows, one doesn't want to be out of the geek loop), but it's a huge time waster and causes me to pare down and simplify feelings, experiences, reactions to feelings and experiences, rather than expand and explore them.
I'm incredibly grateful to have such a detailed account of the upheaval in my life the past few years as this journal provides. Since I'm still unsettled and uncertain about who I am, what I want out of life, and what I'm doing, I'm sorry not to have a continuing documentation of how I got to this point.
Hopefully I will get back on track.