Friday, May 26, 2017

Finding Home

"You can follow your job, or your family, you can follow your heart
You can wander, and wonder, and end up right back at the start
It may take a month, or a year, or a lifetime to know,
You may think you've arrived, and you realize, it's time to go..."
-Tim Grimm

On a recent Saturday night, I found myself driving down a lonely stretch of country road, heading out to a friend's party barn. The darkness pressed in on all sides, and I slowed down, as much to avoid hitting any suicidal deer as to enjoy the balmy night. I turned down the radio to better hear the crickets, and I absently marveled at how insanely my life has changed. 2 years ago, I would have been driving down a populated California road, passing a few palm trees lit up by the brutal sun, finding a way to avoid all the many people I disliked and distrusted. Now...well, I was driving to a party barn, for chrissakes.

A couple of months ago, my one-year Indianaversary flew past. I was too caught up in moving establishments to really note or celebrate it in any way, but it was--and is--on my mind, how that year has passed. How I settled in and adapted. How I've made this my life, on my terms. How little I missed California, then or now. How much I love it here. How I still feel like seasons, and how rapidly yet predictably they shift, are a kind of magic. How I feel at home here in a way that I've never felt anywhere else, and how the simple beauty of a green field calms me in a way very few other things can. How I pass by old barns and forests and think about my grandfather growing up, and wondering what his life was like. How I drive through Indy and fall a little more in love with it each time I go. How I enjoy the kind company of my colleagues and the undemanding trust of my boss. How lucky I've been, and how lucky I continue to be, with most of the people I've met and the friends I've made. How right it feels to be here, and how peaceful I feel, just driving down a country road.

Is this my forever home, here in Bloomington? I know enough of the nature of life now to know not to count on anything, or assume something is set in stone. I love it for now. I love Indiana forever. I don't know what's going to happen past the next year or two, but for now, this is good enough for me. This is home.

Five Words

Vacations are lovely things. They are a perfect time to do nothing or everything, just as you please, to eat all the things or skip all the meals, to read a stack of books or gaze blankly into space, to catch up with friends or ignore texts sent by obnoxious creeps, to be alone or go to all the parties, or to gaze at your navel or expose it to the sun as you drink a margarita by the pool. They are a perfect time to run away and escape on your 37th birthday when you don't want to do anything but you don't want to do nothing, either.

I plan to do all of those things in the next few days, but for the moment, I am content to lay in bed and do not much of anything. In this moment, that entails catching up with Eldest's formidable body of online literary works. But alack! Almost as soon as I started reading, I stumbled across a phrase that just stuck with me. It's blunt and yet a little harsh, like I am, and it's succinct, which I most decidedly am not, and I love it to bits. 

Living your own goddamn story. 

It's a little like the statement "living your life on your own terms" but a little bit more bold, a little more uncompromising. Both of which I need to be more of in my life. 

It's hard to do, sometimes, especially when your story gets caught up in someone else's. It's hard to do when other people don't seem to like your story. It's hard to do when the plot hits lulls or snags. It's hard to do when you're not quite sure the story is going the way you want. 

Living your own goddamn story. 

Living purposefully, deliberately, proudly. Making conscious choices, being proactive rather than reactive. Walking away when shit gets fucked up (I've gotten good at that.) Actually, no, not just walking away--walking away with that purposeful stride that somehow makes my entire body bounce and jiggle. (And then owning that I have a stride that does that.) I guess it's owning all the parts of the story, and choosing how I tell it. 

I can't choose the ending of the story--the when or how or inevitability of death, but I can choose how to get to that end. I can't choose the incidental events or the minor bit players, but I can choose the characters and the major plotlines and the setting and the moods and the themes. 

Living your own goddamn story. Here's to me learning more, day by day, how to do that. Here's to me perfecting the art of choosing the right characters, and to actively knowing where and how I want things to go, and owning the mistakes and triumphs. Here's to my 37th year on this chaotic, fragile rock, and to making it uniquely mine. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On the Edge, and At the Bottom

The adventure through the Yucatan wilderness had been fun. Under the blazing sun, in the humid, cloying heat, we explored temples, drove through the jungle, fondled boa constrictors. Now we stood at the edge of a 30-foot cliff and gazed down at the beautiful, deep waters of the cenote and thought of plunging into them. We were hot and sweaty and exhausted and there was no way we weren’t going in, because the other option was simply to, well, melt to death. The staircase leading down to them would take a few minutes to clamber down, or…

“Okay!” joked the tour guide. “Who’s brave enough to be the first sacrifice to the Mayan gods?”

“Where’s Mel?” asked my recently-wedded husband.


Later, my husband and I gazed in equal parts awe and dismay at the bruise that was forming on my backside. Perhaps a cannonball wasn’t the best diving position for an impulsive, bottom-heavy woman to take when jumping off a cliff. Of course, it was perfectly emblematic of the type of thing I do: something absolutely zany, and sudden, with little fanfare, but lots of commitment once I’m in. And afterwards, there are usually a few scars and bruises to show for it.

My divorce happened the same way. I had been pondering it for a while. Inching up towards the edge of the cliff, gazing down into the murky darkness below, I knew I was scared because I didn’t know what lay in the darkness, but I did know the unhappiness that had chased me up to the precipice. The same unhappiness that lurked there when I finally took a breath, closed my eyes, and jumped off the cliff. With little fuss, on an otherwise uneventful night in January a couple of years ago, I stood in my kitchen in California and told my husband that I was done with the infidelities and lies and unhappiness, and that I would be divorcing him.

It took a while before I hit the ground after that leap. There were a lot of dark and lonely nights, a lot of false starts, a lot of sacrifices and some high prices to pay. But it finally ended, perhaps fittingly, on February 14 of this year. While I was drinking margaritas and watching Deadpool with my friends in Indiana, a judge was signing off on my divorce decree in California, freeing me from a life that I had once felt was the only thing left for me. Now, I know that's not true; I've had a year and change of really genuine happiness to know that the only unhappiness that is permanent is the one that we force on ourselves. 

There will be bruises, but they will fade. There will be wounds that bleed, but they will scab over and scar. The fall may be long and terrifying, and the landing may be rough, but just have to jump.