Wednesday, January 21, 2015

It's a Trip

I used to travel internationally quite a bit but haven't done much in the last few years. (My vacation fund goes to buy Trail Blazers tickets now.) I moved back to the States from Japan in 2006, spent about a year going to Hawaii a bunch of times, went on a big trip to Europe in 2007, and then to Costa Rica for my surf school vacation in 2011. (Crazy, but all of those trips are catalogued on this here blog.) 

I've been saving my frequent flyer miles for years specifically so if I found myself in a position where I really wanted to travel but couldn't afford it, I could use them. I thought maybe that would be retirement. Well, that time came sooner than I thought. 

I'm doing well lately but noticing some strange things creeping into my life. Strange familiar things. Like: too much work, not a lot of rich solitude (as opposed to just spending time along - I got that in spades), and not much constructive reflection. I've been a little on auto-pilot just doing my work and basketball thing, not really feeling checked in.

So two weeks ago I bought a ticket to China. I leave in a week. I'll be spending one night in South Korea (where I used to go for business and the odd Backstreet Boys concert when I lived in Japan), and then 9 nights in Hong Kong. I hope to get up to Guangzhou for a day or two as well. 

When I was deciding where to spend my miles, I only had two criteria: I wanted to go to a place I'd never been before, and I wanted to go to a place where it wouldn't be horrifically cold this time of year. Knowing that could be a million places, I did some quick research and narrowed it down to Panama or HK. And then I just decided to go to whichever worked out best with available flights and my time off from work. 

It's WEIRD. I'm neck-deep in year-end reviews at work (as usual for this time of year), so it doesn't exactly seem real. But when I do have a thought about boarding a plane in a week, I get scited. Or Exared. (That's a combination of excited and scared.) It seems impossible. Wild. 

Cross your fingers for me, please. I'm hoping it will be fun, connecting, challenging, an adventure. And I'm open to anything. 

These guys don't look much worse for the wear.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


It's the holiday season all of a sudden and I'm trying to keep up this year. Last year around Christmas Eve I thought, "This is nice - I should do some Christmas cards" and then realized I was too late. I don't feel like Christmas music, but tonight I pulled out some lights (one strand on the balcony is never too hard) and a few small decorations for the house. I'm debating a tree - I haven't done one in my condo yet and it sounds like a ridiculous pain in the ass. I'm not expecting company before the holiday, and I'm going to my mom's for Christmas so no one other than me will even see it. Still, I'm trying to enjoy moments and not just pass time, and maybe me seeing it is good enough. Royal pain in the ass.

My Trail Blazers are doing well. Man, it's fun to have a sport and a team and just truly enjoy it. I have started to (gasp) have a slight interest in football as well, but baseball never gonna get me. I think it's growing older or something - it's easy to see how sports imitate life, and it's easy to appreciate the athleticism and achievement. I'm a Trail Blazers season ticket holder (300-level holla) and I've only missed a couple games so far. At 82 in the regular season, it's a commitment.

I'm trying to focus on my health right now. It's always hard for me to focus on myself (contrary to popular belief, I'm sure). I think that's true for a lot of women, generally speaking; we are socialized to care for everyone around us. I'm 43 and it's more apparent than ever that health doesn't just come to you as it does when you are younger. You have to work for it at some point, and I'm at that point. It important to me to be mobile, active, relatively pain-free, and I've found myself in the worst shape I've been in since moving back to Portland several years ago. So I'm trying to put in the time and keep the focus on myself, as they say in Al-Anon.

We don't get much snow in Portland, but here's a winter-y picture for the time of year. This is from 2005 or 2006 from the Sapporo Snow Festival on Hokkaido in Japan. I believe those are little advertisements around the snowmen's necks. There were hundreds of those all over town and more snow than I have ever seen.  :)

Monday, November 3, 2014


Summer is gone, the Blazers season has started, and I'm doing better.

I'm a fairly private person but I'm just going to put it out there (and then wince until I forget that I did). After three years of pretty much agony, I started antidepressants. 

It feels like a miracle. 

I didn't want to, and I put it off until I was absolutely desperate for help. I had reasons - I didn't want to "feel" the med, I didn't want to be numbed out, I didn't want to be dependent on something to get through life. I don't think I'll ever understand what happened; I made it through almost 40 years without ever feeling helpless or hopeless. The past three-ish years have been very difficult, with one loss after another, but I have experienced difficult times before and I've always been able to cope. To be honest, it's never even been very hard to persevere, look at the bright side, know that "this too shall pass." And I've felt compassion for, but never really understood, people who experience crippling depression. 

And then it happened - I don't even know what or exactly when. My mind was in a constant loop of defeat; I couldn't stop the intense introspection about how difficult life had become. Every day felt like a massive, lonely effort to climb a tiny bit up a very steep mountain only to get pushed back down. It's hard to describe. 

So about 6 weeks on, I don't feel desperate anymore. I don't feel euphoric, and I don't feel like my problems are solved or that life is awesome. But it just doesn't feel as hopeless as it did. It feels normal - like I have ups and down, and if I have a challenge it's not a huge deal - I can probably overcome it. I just started gradually feeling like myself again. And it's less about what I feel now and more about what I don't feel - I don't feel hopeless; I feel free of the obsessive, hopeless introspection that was suffocating me. It's so subtle. It's very hard to describe. 

That's not very articulate, but that's all I want to say right now. I hate saying any of it out loud but I spent three years wondering if medication could help (and not wanting to try it) and I wish so much - so, so much - that I would have done this three years ago. My big sister helped me want to give it a try, and as much as we fight like cats and dogs sometimes, I'm incredibly grateful for her generous vulnerability and support. It probably saved my life. 

Back to normal ups and downs, the changing seasons, my growing nephews, and the Blazers. Thanks, community. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014


It's the end of summer but we are still having hot days here - it was almost 90 both days this weekend. I love the heat (even though it makes my condo pretty miserable) and everything feels lighter when it's sunny out.

I know that lots has been going on these past few months, but the only thing I can really identify is that I've been working a lot and I've been depressed. I'd never really experienced depression until a few years ago and since then it's been almost constant. I don't understand, I wonder what I've done wrong, I feel almost angry at life (but I don't really have the energy). I'm amazed at how depression neutralizes everything else I could feel or try to feel. It also makes me not want to be in touch with people or go out and do things. Which in turn makes me more depressed.

I keep trying to get a fresh start, untangle myself from depressions's ties, slip out of its reach. I don't feel like I can talk about it because of course I don't, so I'm either going 1,000 miles per hour at my intense, high -profile job, or laying on my couch mad that I'm just laying on my couch. I'm disconnected from people, angry that they're not reaching out to help (they probably are), and still, after about 3 or so years, confused at how I can feel so depressed and not be able to shake it.

I'm going to keep trying to get back to enjoying life, seeing things without the haze and discoloration that depression has added. I miss feeling motivated, optimistic, excited. I miss looking forward to the future, feeling that brief hard times are minor setbacks instead of proof that it's not worth it. I don't recognize myself or even these words - they're just not me. Except that now they are and they have been for some time. I'm going to keep on trying.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #6

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi, The Guest House

Sunday, July 20, 2014


About a month ago my regular annual check up came back with abnormal results. My doctor wasn't so concerned, but suggested a couple other tests. One came back inconclusive and the other indicated that I should have surgery, which I had 5 days ago.

The whole thing has been pretty hard. I didn't want to tell very many people because I was sure (and still am sure - biopsy results in a week) that it will turn out to be "nothing." I was afraid that talking about it would make it more real (it did), I was afraid that people would minimize it and tell me I was overreacting for being scared (they did), I was afraid I wouldn't be able to determine how much I wanted to say and how much I didn't want to say; that sharing a little bit was opening the door wide and would require me to answer all questions. I guess I struggle with boundaries more than I thought I did. So I only told a couple of people and left out several people that I feel pretty close to and ended up exhausted and feeling alone and angry about, well, almost all of it. Not all of it but almost.

Leading up to it, going through it, recovering from it the last few days - at times I've felt so alone. How can a person feel upset that they are alone when they don't tell others and give them the chance to be supportive? The friends I did let in were really wonderful - one drove 3 hours to be with me overnight and take care of me - I still can't believe this, one brought me flowers and went on a walk with me, one sat in my quiet house for 10 hours while I slept. All of that was beautiful and humbling in many ways. I feel broken sometimes - I don't feel the right things at the right times.

And now I am recovering. It's not so ladylike - my throat is killing me from being intubated during anesthesia, I'm constipated from the narcotics I've been on to control my pain, I'm comically bloated from the constipation. I'm oozing icky stuff from strange places. I have a slight hobble in my walk and I keep hitting my hand on things on the exact spot the IV went in and that hurts. But I return to work tomorrow because I guess I'm ready and I feel like I should be and if I waited any longer to go back I'd probably just develop greater anxiety about the whole damn thing.

That's my health update. Thank you for listening. More soon.

Update: Thanks for the kind comments, my people. Results received - all clear. :) xo

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #5

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light
but it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

- Charles Bukowski, The Laughing Heart

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #4

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

-Philip Booth, First Lesson

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Few Little Things

It's mid-May, for godsake, I don't know how that happens. I should dig a little deeper, but for now I'm just going to tell you a few little things:

  • I'm back into jogging a bit. My god, it feels good. I'm just at about 2 miles now, but I crave it after a long day, and I love the feeling of taking cold air into my lungs. I've put on some significant weight this past winter and I just appreciate the chance to try to get more physically healthy and to spend time clearing my mind. 
  • My job. Good gravy, my job. It's fun - which is something I haven't said for a while, y'all. I like it quite a bit. It's very challenging and it takes a lot out of me. I haven't had a job for a long time where I know I am and will be making mistakes. Regularly. It's humbling and hard and good for me. I'm spending too much time at work, but I'm trying to figure that out. 
  • I wish there was never an offseason. My Portland Trail Blazers did so, so good this year. They gave me so many amazing moments and truly brought me a ton of joy. I can't say enough about how much I appreciated this season and how much I'm looking forward to the fall.
  • It's been so long since I've surfed. A year this month. I feel like if my life could have just a little bit of these 3 things in it, I would pretty much be ok in almost all circumstances: surfing, basketball, Al-Anon. 
  • I've been isolating a bit too much lately. It's hard not to with work - I'm juggling chickens every minute of the day, and when the day is finally over? I don't even want the TV on. I don't want to look at humans, interact, be polite, listen, nod, smile. I just want to be. But I want to learn to do that around others better. It's so much not my natural state, but I'm trying. 
  • These guys:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Poems for People Who Don't Like Poetry #3

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the dessert,
You only have to let the soft animal of your
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell
you mine.

-Mary Oliver, excerpt from Wild Geese