Monday, August 27, 2018

There's No Place like Home

When I worked in California, before moving to New Mexico full time, we taught the students the basic needs of all species to ensure their survival as an individual, and a species:

FWARPS. Food, water, air, reproduction, protection, space.
It was fun working through the acronym from their 12 year old brains. Of course they never guessed Reproduction, and would giggle when I said it. They would guess the "S" stood for shelter, which I would lump under protection. But the final word, "space" really got them. I liked to teach this in the San Bernardino NF, next to a thick stand of hundreds of Ponderosa or Jeffery pine that were only about 6 inches in diameter with a foot on average between them. Next, I would take them to the strand and tell them about the unicorn sightings and explain that if they hug a tree and make a wish, it would come true, and that if they saw a unicorn they couldn't ever tell anyone... but this post is about space, not unicorns.

Over the years, I've identified my growing need for "space". In a recent appointment with my therapist, I was illustrating my own basic needs, and amongst "friends" and "nature" was space: both internal and external, illustrated by me in a little treehouse, with nature all around.

On a recent trip with a group of senior citizens, an older man named George asked where I was from. "I grew up in Texas, but now I live in Albuquerque", is one stock response that glosses over my transient period. "Oh, how long you been there?" he asked. "4.5 years," I bragged, "but the previous 5 years I had lived in 16 different places." "Oh wow. Where to next...?" he inquired. I smiled.
Although he and most of the crowd had been living in Albuquerque since the 80's, all transplanted from the East Coast or some far away place with an entirely different climate, he somehow recognized that my time in this city was coming to an end. 

The view from my old porch
When I ended my season of teaching in California, I moved to the space from which I am typing this. A small one-bedroom casita with modern fridgedaire appliances in a 27-acre park with apple trees, grapevines and lots of space. Friends and family have teased that I found my retirement job a little early. This space has been my Home, and I mean that in the deepest comforts of the word. On stressful days, I've walked from my front door to the pecan orchard and watched the ducks bathing in the irrigated grove. I've seen baby geese and blooming roses along the trails. I've had to say things like "please don't move your furniture into the sunflowers," and "Sorry sir, you can't use your metal detector here" and been offered a guinea hen, and told that I'm the Poop Fairy. In addition to being a constantly amusing albeit public place to live, this home has also been my safe place through the ups and downs of getting a great job, and losing one, and boyfriends coming in and out of my life, and this world. 

Kitchen/living room
 These walls have seen several shades of love, as I've shared them with my first fiancee, my game-warden-bound best friend and her adorable dog Boone, a work friend and her dog and occasionally her boyfriend, my soul-mate who met an untimely fate, and a couple of years with this wild man I'm looking forward to spending my life with. Under this roof, I grew and practiced different kinds of love. 
These walls have shared the laughter of long nights of rants and giggles. The floors show stains of memories from Amil squeezing peaches to distill into peach liquor, and the walls show a few knuckle dents from when things were really hard to take.

There are desert and NM skies like these elsewhere.

Despite all my fond memories of this fishbowl, I may have worn out my welcome. Two friends recently told me, in their own words, that... In life, when you feel like you it's time to do something different, you should really listen to that. I had held onto this space, despite my exhaustion of opening and closing the gates every day, sleeping with my phone on in case I don't hear the alarm, having to find someone to live-in my house and do my jobs for every night I didn't stay there, and the utter lack of privacy of living in the middle of a parking lot. I held on to the perks of my slice of nature in the city, and the pride of the reputation I have built in my Home. But I finally realized this summer, that there are other Homes. We found a beautiful place to rent in Valdez, NM, along a stream in a verdant canyon under the highest mountain in the state. The neighbors are like minded, the dog can roam free, and there is easy access to the Carson NF. 

Farewell, sweet little abode. 

On the day that I moved all my stuff up, I saw a bus boy watering the plants outside with the leftover water glasses from the table; we donated $10 to the local fire department and were told in exchange "thanks! We'll save you first" in all sincerity; and we discovered that the local "post office" is just a stand of P.O. Boxes. I think this place is going to be a good fit for a while. I can definitely start to feel like this is Home
[Check out the song Lost Boy on the link, can you hear me on the back-up vocals? 

---- Just for fun: -------

The 3 stages of packing up your shit.
1) I am the definition of simplicity!
During this phase, you throw out everything you touch, thinking about how good you're going to feel packing the three little boxes into your car when it's time to move. You start with biggest stuff you've been threatening to get rid of, then work your way to the junk drawers and nooks of nothing you've been holding on to since college. You create piles of questionable materials like anything electronic and dead pens...wondering where you can recycle such things.
2) I might need this, later...
About halfway through the purge, you start thinking about your life in the next situation. What if it doesn't exactly work out. What if every Salvation Army and Goodwill across the country suddenly close and you can't ever get that rug/hat/jewelry stand/ boot scraper back...
3) To sleep, or to pack, that is the question: 
Finally, you realize that it will take as many years to sort through everything as it did to accumulate it. You put everything left in boxes, take the final three loads to goodwill, and just move it to the next place, getting rid of more stuff there as it doesn't quite fit with your new floor plan. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Life is Hard

Life is hard, sometimes.
And they don't prepare you for it.

As we grow up we learn to identify animals, make cupcakes, and analyze literature.
We're barely taught nutrition and how to balance checkbooks. The math we're taught is generally irrelevant, and no one can tell us when we're going to use it. We're not taught the importance of moving our bodies, in schools, but instead forced to sit still and attempt to pay attention.
I went to a good school. I learned the basics of American History, I read a lot of good books, I went to college, I took a lot of jobs post-grad that perpetuated my learning of subjects, and life, and it wasn't until then, until now, that I realized why adults are so grumpy. :)
Adulting Life is hard.
There's trust. Which no one in the world can tell you if you're doing right or wrong. Sometimes people will tell you if they can't trust you, and even less often how to fix it. But more times, you'll think you can trust someone, only to realize, maybe several times, that you are wrong...

There's greed. A simple enough thing when Adam is hoarding the oreos at recess and not sharing... but a growing complicated thing that makes people act less like animals and more like devils, intentionally causing ruin to their own species...for what...? power? yachts? I still don't understand.

There's hunger. I was really affected by Richard Wright's book Black Boy in high school. He had a powerful way of describing hunger, not only as a crippling longing for food and sustenance, but also an inner desire to do, to be, to create.

There's passion similarly. Which they don't teach you about. You just seem to have it or you don't. You can see it in others, you can feel it for others, but it can become grossly complicated and interwoven into your worlds.

There's the fact that none of us asked to be here, we all just popped out, crying and hungry and have fought to figure it out ever since.

I work with kids. I spent short but impactful hours with groups of kids of various ages and backgrounds. Many of them want to grow up, to have power and freedom. But with all that, comes responsibility, as Peter Parker probably said. No one wants to pay bills, argue with their partners, fight for their children's health, or spend half their day at the mechanics shop. We didn't ask for this. But we have the option to handle it with grace, or greed. With a smile, or a frown. Nobody really teaches us that.

I have a vision of our future world. Maybe this is more of a sci-fi Hunger Games or The Giver sort of scenario, but picture this:
[use your best mental action movie narrator voice]. It's the year 3000. Aydrean is a Learner, a select group of only about a few hundred people in our human population of 20 billion (only 10 or so live on Earth), who have secure access to books, the way our ancient people gathered information. Aydrean spends his days browsing through library catalogues in a giant pyramid-like library, to collect information to put into the latest technology, keeping things up to date as well as adjusting historical files as necessary. Aydrean is so ecstatic to enter the library every day, he hardly notices that Jiyuna is watching him. Eventually Aydrean and Jiyuna fall in love, and Aydrean confesses his plan to make The Library accessible to all, in case others want to try this unique thing called learning. 
 I believe that education is the solution to everything. I feel that the more our students have the answer to everything at their fingertips, the lazier they get about their education, and lose their will to learn. And even though our teachers aren't required to teach about Greed or Trust or paying your bills, while you're in school... you do learn those things. I'm learning a lot of them right now, and even though it's hard, and painful sometimes... I'm grateful to be learning. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Two Ways to Live (in love)

As a teenager, I wanted to create a board game called "Either/or" or something like that, in which players were confronted with a decision that they had to pick a side on... such as: 
Do you drive the frontage road, or the highway?
Chocolate milk or plain?
Do you brush your teeth up and down or in circles? 

Somewhere I have a list of at least 50 more creative things I thought of over the years. This was a mental exercise that would help pull me from the very non-binary world that we live in and focus on the simple things. Do you prefer Sweet or Savory breakfasts? Are you a morning person or a night person? I never quite sorted out the players move across the board or whatever, so patent is pending. 

As I've grown up, I've become increasingly aware of my science-centric mind, yet as a collector of data, I see the evidence in astrology. All that is to say, that as a Pisces sign, I often experience two polar-opposite things pulling me in different directions. That has ultimate been the theme of my life for the last 6-8 months, if not the last 5-10 years... and I am SO incredibly grateful for the patient friends who have helped me find a course despite the pulling. 

Image result for pisces
Two fish swimming in opposite directions-- a metaphor for my life. 

I was thinking about binaries on my 2 hour drive to my boyfriend's house this morning. My previous partner lived 6 hours away, so I suppose this is progress (even if we lived together for the last two years).  Do you move in with your partner immediately and try to work things out, or live separately until the ultimate commitment? I have always been in the latter category, but for the next few months I get to practice the former. 
Do you write letters, allowing time to wander between thoughts sent and thoughts received? Or reach out with the increasing-ease of immediacy that technology affords? I miss writing out letters of Thank yous. 
Thinking about the binary situations of the way I live now, contrasted with the way I lived when I moved to ABQ, I wondered: What's changed? My partner, partly. Another quality of Pisces is leading with our heart, and being sort of a maleable spirit, and I have seen that exemplified in my life through my last four partners (It's been a wild 5 years...). And also, my job. I remember thinking a lot before I took this full-time position about how it would change the slow-pace of my life. The blog I wrote about how everyone should work part time would become hypocritical, and instead I would spend the next three + years working time and a half or so, for a cause I believe in through every fiber of my being.  

Through the last five years with four different partners and one very complicated job; I have learned the two ways* to live (and love; in love?)...
1) As a planner: 
a)I spent a lot of this life thinking about the future. I wasn't often satisfied with a meal, for I was thinking about my next one. I asked the universe for things, and it responded. I was constantly planning my next hour, day, 10 years. And this helped me get a sense for my current trajectory and how to track success on every step of my journey. 
b)Perhaps more a consequence of my transient lifestyle than my partner(s) at the time, I also had a lot more free time to put into writing letters, being intentional with my words, making food from scratch, and traveling with a flexible itinerary (and 3-6 plans for how that itinerary COULD go).

2) In the moment: 
a)I've been learning this one in the last few years. While I don't think I connect with it as much deep down, I can appreciate the beauty that comes with living in the moment. Why plan the future, if there's a chance it's going to change, is my current partner's mentality. So we wing a lot. We find ourselves in unique unplanned situations that often are pretty cool, but sometimes are less fun than waiting at a dentists office. We definitely have good stories that come from unexpected last-minute decisions. For example, we've been talking about purchasing a bed together for a while. I imagined we'd go to three different mattress stores, lay on 100 different mattresses and argue about the necessary hardness to get a night's sleep... but instead we drove a European-sized Wal-Mart at 9:30pm and gazed at different varieties of inflatable mattresses and toppers before settling on a queen-sized-green-tea-scented foam thing in a 2'x4' box. Through this life, I laugh a lot. Instead of having expectations, I embrace the daily surprises. 
b)Then, as a result of my latest lifestyle, I'm living a bit more frantically. I rejuvenate quickly from a shower or a cup of coffee, then go back into checking off tasks, an ever-growing list that will never be satisfied. Food is less-interesting, and more quickly fulfilling. I live for the deep breaths looking at the clouds, or the rare event that I get to listen to a whole song with nothing else on my mind but the beats of the music. I soak in the sporadic successes of hours of sweating, speaking and scheduling. 

I'm really grateful my my mutability, though it's really a pain in the ass sometimes (there go those fish again). I'm thankful that I have immersed myself into different lifestyles and challenged myself to embrace new behaviors.... for now I have enough data to know that I'd like to settle into 1b, with a dose of 2a. In the very-real transition into my 30's, I'm appreciative of all the chances I took and experiences I had in my 20's. Now I know what I which way I want to live. 

Which way do you live? How would you characterize your life?