I want to go hiking, so I'm waiting for the snow to melt. Sometimes I remember to see the view.

I want to go hiking, so I’m waiting for the snow to melt. Sometimes I remember to see the view I have.

If you’ve been waiting for me to come back to this spot, I’m sorry. I know how annoying it is to wait for things. Because I’ve realized that’s what I do, most of the time. Wait. I suppose you could say I’d been waiting for inspiration to write something here. I do know I’ve felt kind of torpored the last few months. (Blame some personal stuff.) But I think I’m coming out of the doldrums.

But waiting is a challenge, a seemingly fruitless state most of the time. Limbo. Huge challenge. It has to do with control, I suppose, and how we usually don’t have any. Keep trying though, to move things along. But everything, efficient or inefficient as it might be, seems to end up with waiting.

My apartment building is in the midst of repairs. Some have been done, though the amount of waiting involved was phenomenal. We had the roofers from hell, as far as inefficiency, unresponsiveness, lack of communication, and time-wasting goes, though I hear from others that there’s nothing unusual in that.

Our courtyard was re-waterproofed, and a new surface put down. It’s quite beautiful, though they took so long that the weather-dependent bits have to wait for better weather. Still waiting. Also waiting for garden season, so we can replace the plants that were torn out of our planters when the old courtyard surface was torn up, last summer.

It wasn't a pretty sight outside my window this January.

It wasn’t a pretty sight outside my window, this past January. That’s my place, on the bottom, with no plants in the planter.

The guy repairing stucco for the roofers noticed a problem area, and so in January we had one wall torn open, so that some carpenters could “chase the rot.” This is a term that no one in a condo in this part of the world wants to hear. Anyway, it wasn’t a disaster, and new stucco went on, all fairly quickly. But then the waiting set in, maybe a week for them to come take down their scaffolding, and after that about three weeks waiting for one broken tile to be replaced, and one small fence to be repositioned. Many phone calls, much gnashing of teeth, before I finally got the privacy of my patio back.

Months, spent waiting.

It’s very hard to get your own projects going when you are in the midst of waiting for someone to get back to you. Besides waiting for contractors, I spent a good deal of time the past couple of months for things to happen at my bank, after filling out forms, oodles of them. Missed some important ones (which no one mentioned) so then realized I was waiting for nothing. Trusted someone to fax something, that either didn’t get faxed, or went to the wrong place, and I’m sure caused plenty of cursing as they waited for the twenty or so pages to be printed out (and I hope got tossed straight into recycling). In the end I printed it out and mailed it myself. Then waited. It’s all sorted now, mostly.

I’ve been waiting for a cheque from our building’s manager, so I can go pay for some lights for the building. I’ve been waiting over a month. Today I finally hear it’s available, so now I can go pay for the lights (the lighting store has been patiently waiting). Then we can wait for an electrician to come and install them.

Sometime this summer we are to get new gutters, repairs to the back stairs (the lights installed) and then the building will get painted. This is a lot of contractors I expect to be waiting for, but first I think we have to wait for the building manager to  get a bunch of quotes. He’s been sick, so there’s been some waiting for him to be better. I’m sure this will all happen this summer. What could go wrong?

Then, when all this work is done, I want to sell my place. The realtors I’ve been talking to have been waiting quite a while for me to get to that point. Then I will have to wait for a buyer to come along. Then I’ll have to wait for the closing date. It’s a lot of waiting. But at least I’ll be able to do something when someone buys my place. Pack.

Recently I discovered my body doing something it shouldn’t, and I made a pretty quick doctor’s appointment. But then I had to wait for an appointment for an ultrasound, blood tests, and then I had to wait for my next appointment to see the results. And now I’m waiting for another appointment to be set, so I can get some more tests done. I will wait to see what’s what before I react. Really.

I admit I am not very good at waiting. When I’m stuck in traffic, I will pull out, go down back alleys, find my way to other routes. And wait there. It usually takes longer to go around traffic snarl-ups, but it doesn’t feel like waiting. So my mission right now is to find things to do in the interim of waiting for things to fall into place at my building, so I don’t feel like I’m held hostage (which is a bit how I feel). And of course I need to distract myself as my medical fun and games resolve.

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see how things go. I won’t wait so long to post again.




Posted in life, writing | Comments Off on waiting

nouns and verbs


A view of one of the bridge’s I liked to cross.

Two months away from Vancouver, with my own place to stay, I’d begun to feel as though that were home. I have a new appreciation for my daughter’s city, having walked lots of the waterways, and rambled through quite a few neighbourhoods. I know place names now, bus routes (they have transitways that really do allow for express buses, unimpeded by cars. Metro Vancouver should take notes). I appreciate why she calls it home. Even my little bachelor suite began to feel like home, or at least the city began to feel like I could find a home there.

But then I came home to my city, last night around midnight, and woke up this morning back in my own home. It’s full of things I hadn’t thought about for two months, and mostly, not missed (though I could have used my cheese grater). I recognized this place as home, but it feels different too.

Each city has it’s own culture, something you can delude yourself isn’t so, if you never go see. It’s grittier in Central Canada. Older, obviously. There’s a lot more brick, a material you don’t see much here in Vancouver. I heard French spoken everywhere, and I’m used to hearing mostly Asian languages, when it’s not English. Vancouver is more sleek, somehow. All the metal and glass, I suppose. More rain too, manages to wash away the dust. I think winter is way harder ‘back east’ on the structures, and it’s reflected in design, of condos, for instance. They seem much more utilitarian, somehow. Inside as well. They don’t go in for as much glitz as Vancouver’s (new) condos do. There’s more of a recognition that ordinary people are buying the places, and they don’t have to mortgage their lives away. And house prices! There’s a house for sale near my daughter’s, for $275,000. Now it’s a little house and needs work, but my goodness, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bachelor suite in Vancouver for that price.

Air travel is very disorienting. I got on the plane last evening in one city, set down in another, briefly, and then walked out of the airport in a third, behaving as though my body didn’t know it wasn’t really three hours later than the clocks all said. This transformation took place in the space of one day, and mostly without leaving my seat. One (unfinished) crossword puzzle, one Sudoku, two or three episodes of Law & Order, SVU (they kind of run together), several repeats of CTV news, a dry sandwich. It’s a pretty mundane way to experience something really quite amazing, flying. The brain can hardly adjust to the changes; at least when driving, you see the landscape change. William Gibson, in his novel Pattern Recognition (great, by the way) suggested through one character, that the human soul isn’t meant to travel so quickly, and that jet-lag is really the sensation of the body reeling the soul back in. Makes metaphorical sense.

Everything is familiar here, yet everything is strange. I walked into my apartment and thought, oh, this is a nice place. I’d forgotten, somehow, what it looked like. Forgot how a few things worked too, is that possible in only two months? It’s all coming back to me now. Got the power back on, marvelled that it felt cold (it’s been toasty warm and sunny in Ontario). I’ll have to shelve my flip-flops now.

It is different outside my window. There have been repairs ongoing, the planters are gone, more light comes in my windows. The courtyards and stairs are all being re-waterproofed, and soon will have new tile laid (it’s begun, but not in front of my door yet). Once all the tile is down, new planters will go up, delineating my patios, and I’ll get some greenery back, but I think I’ll be careful about how much, as, lovely as they were, the rhododendrons that used to be outside my windows were very dense, and blocked a lot of light.

The roof is also being replaced, a job that is creeping (slouching?) towards completion (breaking all records for renovations taking longer than promised, and no I wouldn’t recommend the roofers, though it sounds that when finally done, it will be a good job). There is some hope that they will finish before Christmas. (They had begun before I left!) It hasn’t helped that they found dry rot, extra things needed repairing. Another metaphor? Be careful when you lift the roof?

I was hoping to miss all this by being away for two months (serendipity of the timing of grandchild’s birth) and I did miss plenty (though not lots of email/phone conversations about it) but coming in at midnight, I had to manoeuvre down stairs (railings removed for painting) that had recently had the last coat of the waterproof membrane applied, and it isn’t completely dry, so my feet stuck, if I stood still. Couldn’t drag in all those bags, so my brother and I had to lift them, squelch, squelch, squelch, down the stairs over the courtyard and into my door.

There is too much stuff here, in my poor neglected apartment, that’s apparent. I mean I’ve managed the last two months with the contents of (what grew to) three suitcases in a sparsely furnished bachelor suite. It’s quite luxurious now, here, not doing everything in one room. More than one place to sit, that’s got to be worth something.

I’m torn of course. I have two children in this city and one with two grandchildren in another, and I can’t afford to live in two places either. No this was an extraordinary occasion, spending two months visiting, helping through the first few months as my daughter and her family adjust to the realities of two babies, not one. And one of the nice things about spending two months pretending to live in their city, is that I got to know them all just that much better.

But I think that I need to remember that their lives are one thing and mine is another. Takes a while to adjust, shifting personal world view, and I was definitely rattled this summer by my return to single life. The different landscape helped tremendously in adjusting to that reality, and I think I can hold onto that perspective. (Nothing stopping me from flying back for the occasional visit, either.)

I read a book recently, entitled What Matters Most, by James Hollis. One of the things that struck me (many things did, my copy is full of sticky notes) is the idea that we like life to be nouns, fixed. But life is really all verbs, it moves, changes. It makes sense to think of home as a verb too (also adjective or adverb) so why I expect it to be static is anyone’s guess.

Spending the two months seeing two babies most days, also helped remind me that nothing stays the same. I remember when I had small children, and every time I thought I’d got things figured out (things being my children ;) they changed. Well, I saw that taking place again, with both kids. My life is still like that. Every time I think I’ve got things figured out, I don’t. So maybe at this late date, I will finally keep that thought in mind.

Change is both noun and verb, and unpredictable too. Makes life worth living. Doesn’t it?


No shortage of bridges to cross  in Vancouver, either.

Posted in writing | Comments Off on nouns and verbs

different road

I wasn’t expecting a change in my status, but seems I’m a single woman again. Entirely shocked by my guy’s defection, but if I’m honest, not entirely surprised. A contradiction, yes. Depending on how I’m feeling, it’s either that I was employing willful blindness to things I didn’t want to accept, or that, well, things were going to work out. The truth is somewhere in the middle, that I was both deluding myself and that my trust was betrayed.

My hopes had certainly taken a hit in recent months, but my unwillingness to accept what I was feeling reminds me of how my mother used to suggest, “Do as I say, not as I do.” She would say it laughing, but acknowledging she didn’t often act the way she wanted us to act. Anyway, in the last, what, six months? I could hear one thing, but feel another. Turns out the feeling was the place to pay attention. Something for my brain to digest. You live and learn, as the cliché goes. Or listen and learn, that would be a place to go. Listen to my heart, because my head twists things. Or maybe it’s the other way around, my head knew but my heart didn’t want to. Difficult, these things.


A different view on things.

Anyway, having a door shut in front of me, I have to make up whatever story works for me (there’s no one around to contradict my version). And surprise, another door opens. I can re-assess my life, acknowledge that the road I’ve been on for the past six years has been rocky, but not without value. Learned lots about myself, always a good thing, and surprisingly still necessary at my age (61; slow but surely). Gained confidence and belief in my worth, which maybe also seems contradictory, being the dumpee in this story, but it’s true. I’m pissed off, that’s also true, and hurt, yes. But I’m okay, this is good for me to discover.

Being alone is a challenge, takes work, no question. But I’m not interested in being not-alone at any cost (anymore) so we’ll see what the future holds. There’s more time for writing, definitely, but I am becoming clear that I let that time go, all by myself, part of my own difficulty hanging onto myself when in a relationship.This is very interesting, because for quite some while I thought I wasn’t doing that, losing myself. Not his fault at all.

Another thing I’m trying to take away from this, is to trust my own judgment. I too easily give up my own authority, doubt my own thinking, believe that others’ views are the ‘right’ ones. Something to work on for sure. (It’s easy to sound all sure of oneself in a place like this, where the discussion is a monologue.) Also, being clear on what I want, that’s a major challenge for me as soon as I’m with someone else (I don’t think I’m particularly unique in this). Easier to do when I’m living alone, though not a slam-dunk as I seem to carry around inner voices that undermine me, something I do try and talk back to (don’t worry, not in a Sybil sense).

But it’s definitely in relationships that I am most challenged to hold onto me, keep any sense of my own worth. Goes back to childhood stuff, of course. Everything always goes back to childhood. Things we learn as kids come out unconsciously, and that’s my challenge now, is to keep myself conscious of what I’m doing. I have no intention of becoming a recluse, a way of ‘coping’ with this sort of thing (something I saw my father do). Doesn’t work. I do want to be stronger in my own self. That would be good.

So I’m on a different road now. The timing of this change in my situation turns out to be good (one door shuts, another opens), and so I leapt at the chance to shake off my usual stomping grounds in Vancouver, and temporarily relocate to Ontario, pretending for a couple months to live here. I’m escaping a large repair job at my apartment in Vancouver, skipping looking out my window at workmen and construction rubble, but my major mission is to play a support role for my daughter, who has now added another baby to her family, and the distraction puts a real focus on what’s important in life. Very healing, and at a good time for me.

new sweet babe

New sweet babe.
(Another takeaway; it’s not all about me.)

Another change, I’m now Grandma x2, a role I’m finding I don’t mind at all, even though the concept of being a Grandmother takes a bit of getting used to. It’s a peripheral kind of status, hard to not acknowledge, a later-in-life status. Time, you know. (My grandparents are all dead, as are my parents. Yikes.) Anyway, I can see I’m important but not essential. People outside the family congratulate me (again) when I haven’t done anything. Inside the family, we’re all just happy to have one more added to the mix.

I remember how much I loved the grandparents I knew (while they lasted). This is sobering; so while I do know that I matter, I’m not kidding myself that I’m in any way primary. I do want to be one of those Grandmas that kids are happy to see, though. No groaning when they ‘have’ to come see me. Gives me plenty of reason to live long and prosper (if I needed more reasons beyond life itself) and I look forward to knowing these two very interesting little people as they grow. I hope for uncomplicated relationships… well, yeah.

Right now I am happy to provide an extra set of arms for my daughter to make use of (they’re close in age, my two grandbabies, quite a handful) just to make it a bit easier for her as she gets into the routine of dealing with two sets of demands. I can see, and it is a joy to see, that she is entirely good at what she is doing, that both parents are good at what they are doing. It’s a nice family to hang around with, and I feel no worry or concern when I go ‘home.’ It’s a nice place to be.

And quite freeing, really. I slowly am learning that my life is up to me, and it’s the business that I really need to attend to, my own life, my own path. This holiday from my home in Vancouver is time for much reflection and repurposing in that sense. I intend not to waste it.

Posted in writing | Comments Off on different road

southern roads

It’s been a springtime of driving. I’m home now, but full up with impressions from taking myself down to California and back. I started out driving at the end of May, making my way south to take part in a couple of workshops at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. A quick check on Google maps, and I could see I was looking at around 1800 km, which I would have to repeat coming home. A part of me wanted to do this on back roads, skipping the I-5, but the time it would take decided things for me. It’s still a bit daunting, driving so far alone, so I decided to break up my trip into digestible chunks, by stopping in Portland to visit old friends, in Ashland, hoping to see a play, and in Davis, near Sacramento, to visit family, then on to the workshops.

I didn’t drag out my camera very often this trip, just spent my time thinking, while I let my car be drawn down the conveyer belt of the I-5 south. I got off to a slow start, loading my car with enough gear to cover a range of weather. Speaking of weather, it was miserable and wet in Vancouver, which made me quite happy to be driving away. Getting across the border and around the fallen-down-bridge in Mt. Vernon took some time. Consequently I got to Seattle around 3 pm, not good timing, beginning rush hour (maybe it’s always rush hour there). I didn’t realize what I was into, but the city basically sprawls south through Tacoma (at one point I counted ten lanes going south!) all the way to Olympia, before it becomes a pleasant road to drive on. I’ll admit to being a bit rattled by all the traffic. Stopped for coffee around Olympia, and thought rather fondly about highway 37 in northern BC, stretching through the trees with only the occasional other vehicle. No coffee shops there, mind you.

I’ve become a convert to using a GPS when I drive alone, which is what I was counting on to find my friends in Portland. Technology is great, but it makes us kind of stupid too. I hadn’t consulted a map, which normally I would (I did have one) but trusted the machine to tell me where to turn off the freeway. As it would happen, the thing lost satellite contact  and left me hanging at rather a critical point. So I got off the road anyway, and texted my friend, making sure I had the right address (there was a street, avenue and I forget, maybe drive, with the same name!). This added a bit of drama, got my friend all worked up wanting to come find me, but I didn’t know where I was, so that seemed a bad idea. I did spread out the map, and locate myself generally, and then the GPS woke up, and brought me to my friend’s door with only a couple more “lost satellite” comments from the machine.

I stayed a day in Portland, got rained on from time to time, convincing me I wasn’t far enough from home yet. Enjoyed rambling around with my friend, catching up on about, oh, twenty years. Then set out for Ashland, a much nicer drive with no major metropolitan areas clogging things up. Ashland is absolutely beautiful, and was kind enough to be warm and sunny the day I arrived. I hadn’t bought tickets ahead of time, none available, so I bought one for the trip home, and then consoled myself with dinner on a patio by the creek. Walking back to my motel I came upon an author reading at Bloomsbury Books, which I was only a few minutes late for, so I tiptoed into the back of that, and listened to some poetry for a bit.

Next day took me into California.

First impression of California as you enter from the north, is big. Mt. Shasta helps with that impression.

Mt. Shasta: First impression of California as you enter from the north, is big.

I know I’d passed Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier, hmm, maybe Mt. St. Helens too on my way south, but never saw them, hidden in clouds and rain. But California welcomed me with sunshine, though alas, that didn’t last. I didn’t realize where exactly Davis was, but it’s in the central valley, and it’s flat and it’s hot there (35 C). People ride bicycles everywhere, and it makes sense too. No hills! Hung around there for another day, doing more catching up on people’s lives. Cycled to the farmer’s market, watched a young cousin hitting tennis balls, yakked. And on Sunday, set out for Big Sur.

There are a lot of people in California. They’ve got a population that matches all of Canada, but like Canada, there are wide open empty spaces. Which means that when you are on a road that skirts past a city like San Francisco, you see a lot of cars. Whew. Freeway, to freeway, to lesser highway, to Monterey and the first sighting of fog, oh, oh, and then boom, onto Highway 1, on the coast, and everything slows down. People stop their cars and get out to look at the ocean. The views are spectacular. The road is narrow and winding. What a relief, to leave the intensity of the freeways.

looking south from the lodge

looking south from the lodge at Esalen, with a brief sighting of blue sky

Esalen. Various people have told me about it recently, what a beautiful place it is. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but then expectations are usually misguided. Vancouver is on the coast too, but only sort of, as it sits on an inland sea, and is protected from the Pacific by the bulk of Vancouver Island. At Esalen you look out at the ocean and see only the horizon, nothing beyond (though most days the sea and sky were grey, which is something I do recognize from home, the colour grey, though without the rain, more tolerable). The ocean, too, is different. It constantly moves, like something alive. And it’s noisy, all those waves breaking on the rocks. It’s peaceful from above, on a cliff, but never quiet.

So that’s what I found was a beautiful property stretched out in a fairly narrow ribbon between the highway and the sea. But no awareness of the highway when on the property, because it’s a quick steep drop down below, and it’s the slow road, not a tremendous amount of traffic, not after the freeways anyway. Esalen is a mass garden, full of flowers that haven’t bloomed yet up north. It’s definitely a warmer climate, “indoor” plants, like jade, growing outside, though I was glad to have brought my fleece along. Somewhat rustic accommodations and a darkish lodge, lovely grassy expanse, chairs facing out to the ocean. Hot springs baths hanging over the ocean, down a fairly steep path and out of the way, clothing optional, which I fine is not automatically a good thing, though it’s certainly hippie-cool (I used to be hippie cool, back in the 60s, but now I’m in my 60s, not so much).

bits of sculpture, functional like this gate, are all over the place

bits of sculpture, functional like this gate, are all over the place — the gate’s latch is a tongue, vaguely rude, like the baths

For solitary dreaming, sitting in a hot tub looking out to sea is great, and privately I’m happy to do it without clothing, but finding myself with a group of young women chatting away jarred the peace. That night people sorted themselves into boy tubs and girl tubs, but that’s not always what happens. Not sure I’m so happy about my body either that I can get my mind out of myself to not notice the contrast of youth and age. Difficult. And really, there’s something that jars with showering, dressing and undressing in a coed room. Something about putting on and taking off clothing that just isn’t uncomplicated.

I do like the philosophy that goes something around being uncritical with our bodies, accepting ourselves, but it’s hard in the practice. And say what they will, there is a frisson of sexuality around the baths; it’s a lot to deal with. I did challenge myself, had a (short) soak, and intended to go again. I even walked down another evening, but then thought, no, this is just not comfortable, and tossed my towel back into the pile. I expect that the clothing optional (everyone I saw opted for none) keeps a lot of people out of the springs. Too bad, but we’re just not all that easy.

Maybe it’s something around anonymity. When I was young, I would go with friends down to Wreck Beach (clothing optional, in Vancouver) and was never bothered by it. Unless I saw someone I knew only casually. Then it became awkward. This perhaps is what made it hard at Esalen. Because I did meet people casually, who I would normally not take my clothes off around, and here’s this situation where it is supposed to be okay. It’s all too loaded for me, I discovered.

Esalen has it’s share of contradictions. Full of good intentions, a sort of religious or tribal fervour (our way, the way), educational impulses and personal growth (I guess that’s what I was after) organic foods, free thinking, and a rebel feel, mixed with wholesome summer camp, annoyingly feeble wifi in the lodge, part of the get-away-from-it-all ambience, but all wrapped up with resort pricing, so definitely a capitalist venture.

For my first five nights I had a private room hanging over the ocean and listened to waves crashing against the rock. A small room, but blissful, no chocolates but flowers left in the room, a couple of fluffy towels, a comfy bed. It allowed me the retreat that I was looking for, and I managed to forget what it was costing me (if I am well-off, it may not be for long). Windows looking out to sea, no TV or other electronics (well, actually I had an ethernet connection, but a laptop that only connects wirelessly, so I was saved from the temptation of web-surfing). I did have a phone for some reason, and got one phone call, a recording offering me a deal on my mortgage, an incongruous surprise.

the view from my first room

the view from my first room, minus the sound

I had to move out of this little piece of paradise on the fifth day (such is life) and into one of the shared rooms. Found that I had to make my own bed, very character-building if I had signed on for summer camp and didn’t usually have to make my own bed, but it surprised me, given the expectation that comes along with a fairly fierce cost, even for a shared room. And no flowers, just a green sprig of lavender, definitely one of the lesser beings now, if my value was solely on the money I was willing to spend. Dismal bathroom, too. Strange.

But oh well, or so what. The food was good. And what I came for was the workshops, which just happened to be at Esalen. I would have taken them at any old resort on the coast of California. I was there for Eric Maisel‘s Deep Writing workshop, and then a followup weekend workshop on his New Psychology, an exploration of the meaning needs we all carry, and how to meet those if you happen to be of an existentialist bent (which fairly describes me) and prone to, well, depression.

The writing workshop wasn’t about any specific kind of writing, it wasn’t a craft workshop, but one dealing with what we call writer’s block, and therefore included a wide range of people with very different projects. So we weren’t there to share what we wrote, we were there to figure out why we couldn’t seem to write it. What is the psychology behind not writing, when we say we want to write? It seems paradoxical that lots of writing happens at a workshop like this, but it’s because the time is so clearly set aside, there’s nothing else to do, no distractions. That part of it I’ve discovered at other workshops. But Eric intersperses long bouts of writing time with discussions of the psychology that is going on in our all-too-human brains. Anxiety, negative self-talk, how to sustain belief in projects that may take years, and have no guarantees of success. (Why would anyone do this to themselves?) He provided us with tactics to deal with this, practical ideas mixed in with the writing time. Ways to keep it going once we got back to the real world, the one full of all the distractions of real life, all the busyness, and just us, alone.

The result for me was that I managed to get re-interested in the novel I’ve been writing. It’s languished for a long time, and I couldn’t have told you why I wasn’t working on it, even though it matters to me. I’ve a better idea now why I resist at the same time that I have much meaning invested in the project. I have some ideas now about how to deal with that, ways to keep myself going. (I’ve managed two days with writing time, now that I’m home, good start; I intend to keep it up.) And of course there’s the benefit of meeting a group of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, new friends of the real-world sort, though from now I suppose that’ll go online.

The weekend workshop, talking about value-based meaning-making, well, it just made huge sense to me, and was a natural progression from the writing (and not-writing) discussion. A new bunch of participants, and a very brief and quick though intense weekend, loaded with ideas and insight, both from Eric and from the other people there. Lots of talk about depression (or as Eric would have us ‘re-language’ it, sadness). He calls depression monetized sadness, and has quite a campaign going against psychiatry’s continual spread of creating illness diagnoses for what are many areas of rather normal human experience.

But that’s a bit of a digression.

What I took away from the week?

Eric talks about mysteries, that there are things we just don’t know. He posits that we are born with a personality, he calls it original personality, the nature part. If you’ve had more than one baby, you’ve seen that to be true; they are different from day one. Then there is our formed personality, the result of our early lives, nurture (or the lack), various experiences, traumas or otherwise, that cause us to behave in ways that we don’t think about. I think of this as unconscious behaviour, and it’s usually reactive, ways we figured out to cope when young. Usually unhelpful as adults, but we keep doing it. Then there’s our available personality, in Eric’s terminology. The part of us that can act. The conscious part. The challenge in life for me, is to bring more of that formed personality, that unconscious, into consciousness, so that it becomes available. In other words, so that I am aware of what I am doing, mindful, authentic. Choosing. Eric expresses it as giving yourself a personality upgrade, an idea I kind of like.

What else, in this effort of making meaning (a human need) in a world that holds no particular meaning beyond that it just is? It’s true, you see, that I don’t believe in anything beyond, see the cosmic joke of a meaningless universe, a universe that just is, but that has somehow got us in it, creatures that need meaning. (Who’s laughing?) I need to figure out my values, actually articulate them for myself. Note what matters to me. Accept that some things are just facts of existence (it rains in Vancouver). Identify the thoughts that don’t serve me, and substitute ones that do. The idea here being that we choose what is meaningful, and can subvert that meaning, drain it away, if we think negatively (saying my novel sucks drains the meaning away from it, oooh yes). Whether the thought is true or not is not the point (I certainly hope it’s not!) it’s just whether it serves me to think it. (It matters that I write my novel. I am a writer. That’s better.)

Eric insists that meaning trumps mood (I can work with that idea), that if we keep on working on what is meaningful to us we will get to that better mood. Or not notice our mood. Sometimes the work, the process, doesn’t feel meaningful, but do it anyway, as it serves the intention to make meaning. There are no guarantees of success, sometimes things you invest with meaning will disappoint (family gatherings, a novel you’ve taken the time to read, or worse, write, a trip to another country, dinner with friends). This doesn’t mean you can’t re-invest meaning somewhere else. The choices are individual, but there is choice.

It’s to try to change my life, from one that is just going through the motions, being sad and always disappointed that meaning isn’t there, to one of finding a way to make life meaningful, to become the heroine of my own journey.

Quite a challenge.

And then I had to drive home. Another short visit with cousins with a detour through Santa Cruz, and the drive back to Davis, visited my cousin’s lab, noted that it was now cloudy and cool. Then on to Ashland, added a night’s stay and another ticket to a play, so saw King Lear and Cymbeline, both very good, actually Lear was tremendous, left me gasping, and overshadowed Cymbeline (outdoor theatre, fleece again and a blanket too), though it was extremely good too. A marvelous example of the artifice of the theatre being transcendent. To use Eric’s language, it was a meaning opportunity I decided to take, and it paid off!

And one more day in Portland, a browse through Powell’s books, and a movie too, We Steal Secrets about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, tons to think about there too, complexities of everything, makes my head spin. Timely, given the latest whistleblower story filling the airwaves, which I caught up on when I turned on a TV in my motel in Ashland.

And then I had to face the Tacoma/Seattle ordeal, and I made a choice to drive up highway 101 instead, to Port Townsend. This way I was still on a journey, enjoyed a meandering drive on the other side of Puget Sound devoid of traffic and absolutely beautiful, clinging to the water for good long stretches. And the sun came out! Then a short ferry ride (with a miraculous five minute wait, such luck) over to Whidbey Island (and it only cost me $12.70–the equivalent in BC would be at least three times as much). Then down some more road I hadn’t traveled before, until eventually reconnecting with the I-5 just north of the collapsed bridge. No rush hour, no traffic, and then even no wait at the border, phenomenal. And the sun was shining in Vancouver too, something I’d seen little of the whole week on the coast in California. You just never know.

Posted in life, writing | Comments Off on southern roads