A year ago, I had my DSLR.
A year ago, I had my tripod to hold my camera.
A year ago, I had my nice external flash units.
A year ago, I had fully-charged batteries for the camera and flash units.
A year ago, I had my light stands and diffuser umbrella.
A year ago, I had access to a blank wall.
A year ago, I had my model (o hai, it’s me!).
A year ago, I had that black shirt.
A year ago, I had that red lipstick.
A year ago, I had a great haircut.
A year ago, making this photo would not have been possible.
I spent a lot of years feeling like a failure for not finding a lasting connection to someone where we complement each other. There have been lots of misses, but no real hits to speak of.
And I’m (now) okay with that.
First I needed to go through the difficult journey of learning to love myself. Learning that it is OKAY to love myself. That loving myself is not being selfish, but filling my own cup so that I have plenty to share. (Which I do, in my own, socially-awkward way.)
But romantic love? I’m honestly not sure that it’s for me.
At this point in my life marriage would be mostly a business venture. And after working in pension administration for 14 years and seeing some of the viciousness from divorcing couples splitting assets, you’d better believe that, were I to marry, I’LL KEEPING ALL OF THE DAMN RECEIPTS.
So, yeah, it’s possible that I’ve grown too cynical for Love And Marriage.
On the other hand, maybe I just function best as an independent woman. And by that I mean independent of an intimate partner but not independent of my community, my family, my squad. Because the love that I share with them has lifted us all through good times and difficult times. And that’s more valuable to me than a dozen roses and a box of chocolates1.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you.💘
1If you were to send me a box of chocolates, though, I would not refuse delivery. 😘🍫
Today marks one month since Dos Gatos Locos and I rolled into Raleigh and began making a new home here. As with the day we arrived, today’s weather is warm-ish and rainy (thank goodness it’s light showers and not nearly the gully washer that greeted us).
We are settling into life in North Carolina: the apartment is coming together and I’ve taken care of a lot of the bureaucratic whoop-dee-doo involved with moving to a new area (I still have some business stuff to sort out). I’m beginning to make some car trips without needing to fire up Waze. I am able to restock cat food and litter and keep my fridge and cupboard stocked without getting lost or resorting to having them delivered.
Most of my weekends have been taken up with setting up the apartment and setting up my freelance business, but I have ventured around the Raleigh/Cary/Durham area a couple of times1. I’ve joined a couple of meetup groups and am making my way as a dyed-in-the-wool introvert through this networking stuff.
Other things that I am slowly becoming accustomed to include:
having “Miss” appended to my first name: I’m glad I go by Victoria now and not Vicki because I’m not Tiny Tim’s wife and being called “Miss Vicki” used to send me round the bend when I was a kid.
styrofoam food containers (quelle horreur)
directions: west means AWAY from the (nearest) ocean! Seriously, I need to etch this into my windshield!
weather: as much as I mentally prepared for hot, humid weather, I neglected to prepare myself for prolonged cold2. But we weathered *cough* the cold (and the surprise snow storm) and my electric bill wasn’t nearly as high as I had steeled myself for.
manners3: Last week as I approached the door at Starbucks, I hesitated because the way the light was hitting the area, I didn’t think the guy opening the door would see me and we’d collide. He came inside, saw me and leaped back to the door to hold it open. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. I wouldn’t have thought anything of him not holding the door, mostly because I didn’t expect him to have x-ray vision, so I was a little shocked that he not only jumped back to get the door but apologized for not holding it in the first place. I regained my own manners enough to smile and thank him as I passed through the door.
people complaining about rush hour traffic: unlike the Bay Area, I doubt they have to turn on the metering lights at 05:30 a.m. around here. Come to think of it, I don’t think they even *have* metering lights here.
parking: as in, you can do that here without driving around the block for an extra six miles or needing to take out a home equity loan to pay for an hour or two of parking downtown.
time: Oof. The first couple of weeks here I thought I was doing well with the time change but these last couple of weeks have been a struggle. I also tend to forget that my people back on the west coast are now three hours behind me (so sorry for the texts and FB messages at 06:00 a.m., darlings!)
peace: I live less than ten minutes from the airport and I rarely hear aircraft. I rarely hear traffic, other than the nearby railroad (and a train is blasting its horn as I type this). And there is a FARM right next door! Instead of 24/7 sirens now I hear goats and a rooster.
ease: People here don’t go out of their way to make things difficult. Even the DM-freakin’-V was the easiest and most organized experience I’ve had at a DMV since I left Oregon. I didn’t make an appointment for obtaining the driver’s license or the registration, and both times I was done and out of there within an hour (car registration took 10 minutes).
So that’s a snapshot of the first month of The Raleigh World. I’m grateful that I’m able to ease into this new chapter of my life and that the Boys are adjusting well to their new surroundings.
It’s been a lot change. And I’m just getting started.
1Okay, fine: the second excursion was a driving tour of Morrisville/Cary last Friday because I decided to not use Waze for the trip home and I got on the westbound freeway instead of the eastbound. But what the hell, it was a lovely day out and I made a couple of mental notes of places to return to. 2After living in the Bay Area for 24 years, cold is anything under 55 degrees. 3The manners seem to dissolve once folks get behind the wheel of their cars, however. HOLY CRAP have I encountered some asshole behavior on the roads!
In addition to being the one month anniversary of my leaving the Bay Area, Wednesday would also have been my mother’s birthday.
Sort of a strange set of baggage I’ve got there.
And given the cargo of those Relo Cubes, I figuratively and literally carried much of that baggage across the country, some of it out of necessity. What I cannot leave behind I have to integrate into my life in the most healthy and productive way.
As I push to move things along in this reboot of my life I’m learning to let go of the guilt that my mother’s life was so short, and the guilt that I have achieved things that she was unable to.
That second guilt has been the toughest to put down because so much of our life together was me trying to justify to her why I deserved, well, most anything. I still catch myself doing that and playing the old tape about how selfish it is of me to create a life that I want to live.
And yet I had an experience recently that showed me that I’m not the only one who benefits when I’m living in my truth. Even my small acts made a big difference in two lives. Because of that, this work I’m doing, creating the life I need to live, no longer feels so much like an act of rebellion.
Throughout the day on Wednesday I wove in mini-ceremonies to honor her life and our time together and the lessons that came from that (and that continue to emerge to this day). I honored the fact that we BOTH did our best and that we BOTH deserved to live a fulfilling life. She had her reasons for not pursuing many of her dreams and ambitions, but those should not, and will not, divert me from my own ambitions. My road ahead will have some potholes, just as the road behind me did. But I’m hard-wired for resilience and creative problem-solving. If I’ve learned anything about myself over the last 18 months it’s that I may feel like I’m coming apart, and that may cause me to recalibrate, but I don’t give up.
Speaking of potholes.
I painted again, for the first time in /mumbledy/ years. My apartment complex held a “wine and paint” night and getting back in my art is part of living my truth and also I need to get my ass out of the apartment and talk to people.
I didn’t drink any wine though: maybe I should have.
1) I hadn’t picked up a brush in a very long time; 2) we worked with acrylic paint which is VERY UNFORGIVING for us slow painters; 3) the instructor had us paint the cupcake first and the whole time I heard my old art teacher screaming in my subconscious “PAINT THE BACKGROUND FIRST!!!” and 4) hey, at least I got my ass out of the apartment and talked to people! I even remember their names (for now…I think).
Truthfully, I can’t even pick this apart because I remember enough to see how I’d improve the next painting. It may be the least appetizing-looking cupcake in modern history, but it still whetted my appetite to create more. My easel came across the country in those Relo Cubes, and I’ve dug out my sketchbooks and am ready to get some of these ideas flowing out of my head.
Which brings me to my mantra:
The more I do to create the life I want to live
The more accessible to me that life becomes
One month ago I crammed my Subaru to the rafters and Dos Gatos Locos and I left “Neverland”.
(Aside: I frequently refer to the Bay Area—and San Francisco in particular—as Neverland, because it always has been a place that allowed for play and experimentation, no matter what your age or background. Up until a few years ago the “Neverland” aspect of life in the Bay Area was benign: There was a sort of “take a penny, leave a penny” community spirit. Neverland started to become malignant a couple of decades ago, as dot-com money came in and dispassionately began wiping out communities and the security that comes with community, and worsened considerably over the last ten years.)
So anyway, I started to write about leaving Neverland about a year ago.
I’m pretty sure that I began writing about this four or five years ago. Because I knew then that I had stayed at that party for too long, but I was so emotionally paralyzed that I couldn’t even think of moving. Hell, the thought of even going to the grocery store could send me into a full-on stress meltdown.
But even a year ago, when I tried again to write about leaving the Bay Area, I just…couldn’t. And it was frustrating because I had visions of this E-P-I-C journal/blog. But it just wasn’t happening.
Sans the epic-inspirational-internet-sensation journal, I started making my way across the country. The first three days of the trip provided plenty of time for me to bounce around against all of the surfaces of my mind, while I drove. Somewhere between Amarillo, TX and the Oklahoma border, I realized that the reason why I couldn’t write about the process of “conscious uncoupling” from the Bay Area is because I need distance.
Miles and time.
So now I’m good on the miles part, but the time? Hrmmmmm…
I’ve made it a priority of my yoga and meditation practice to leave enough space to process the experience of living in the Bay Area, with the understanding that this is a big job. I was there for more than 24 years: the longest that I’ve lived anywhere in my life.
It was never easy, especially since I don’t come with the backing of a trust fund or a six-figure tech job. I did make a life there, though. I began collecting those pieces of myself that I had dropped, like breadcrumbs, throughout my childhood and young adulthood and I started to form MY life. But the stress of trying to keep a roof over my head in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world eventually suffocated the fire I had built. All of those pieces were still there, only now they were buried under layer upon layer of protective anger, which grew worse over the last several years in the Bay Area.
Around the time of the Great Recession about a decade ago, the atmosphere in the Bay Area thickened with a hostile stench, like sewer gas in San Francisco. Just like there are corners of San Francisco that don’t smell like sewer gas, there are pockets of human kindness (and I certainly tried my best to keep that part of myself in the light). But it’s hard to feel anything other than anger towards an area when every day I saw working people who were homeless (the lucky ones at least had a car they could sleep in), in a city that criminalized being broke. A place so malignant with a sense of entitlement that tech bros wrote open letters to the mayor bitching about homeless people.
So, yeah. Safe to say these first weeks away from the Bay Area will be spent peeling away more of those layers of anger. Those layers will go in one stack. There will be other stacks: for the great friends I made there, the fun times, the heartaches, the art, the education.
All of it was necessary for me to get here.
And as I shed the layers that stifled me, those important pieces of myself will breathe again, and that oxygen will fuel the fire from which my creativity and brilliance will rise.