Saturday, 6:37 a.m., Aug 31.

Brain is on overdrive these days. It’s been like this since Monday morning, when I dove deep into the photography captions finally, letting my old school journalism procrastination take over. As per protocol, I spent Monday panicking while working through the first set of captions. By Tuesday I felt better and somewhat in a groove, although still intimidated by what I’m writing because I don’t know ANYTHING about sailing and the terminology. At the same time, that’s not completely true. I’m a year and a half into exploring this world and I learn something new with every conversation and outing. I’m currently working my way through the last set of interviews today, this time with sailmakers and there are tabs open to study the definitions and look at images: sailmakers thimbles, storm staysails and jib tack pennant.

Writing overdrive has been nice but a struggle, again, as is per writing protocol but I’m finally mature enough to recognize this. I’m used to having a boss and editor expecting a certain format and style. For this project though, which is a completely volunteer side gig, I can do whatever I damn well please and write however I want. Jeremy wanted my journalism angle, which is easy, but also likes my writing style, so I finally relaxed and let it fly. All that matters is what he thinks and what the tradespeople think. So far, I’ve received feedback just enough to tweak the captions but not enough to derail my style, so that’s good.

As I was sitting in my writing chair last night, I could hear the music blaring from my tenant downstairs, which didn’t bother me. I thought about asking her to turn it down but then I thought, wait, I’m enjoying this.

It was a delightful mix of modern female soul one minute and classic black and white film soundtrack the next. For some reason, I felt like I was in a scene of an old movie (film noir?), in some 2nd floor apartment in France, as the young are blasting away music but it’s slightly muffled, while the landlord/writer is upstairs tucked away in the corner of her tiny messy office that is lined with books, old racing medals, maps, artwork to be hung, stacks of important life papers, the “war corner” for a house remodel, piles of clothing for Goodwill and a drying rack of delicates, but only focused on what is coming out of the fingers and onto the computer screen late into the night.

I was kinda sad when she turned it off and left.

I woke up today at 515 to continue the photography writing. I walked by my backdoor and a swath of white caught my eye, looking like snow had fallen. Nope, just a big white Ithaca RV sneaking an overnight spot on my side street.

2 more minutes.

I realized last night that at 40, I’m much more content pounding out words in a quiet corner of my house on a Friday night, in an IKEA chair that needs upholstering, under an old lamp that was left behind by previous homeowner than being in a loud noisy bar. Last night at least. It feels like a big creative art weekend anyway, with work on next weekend’s photography show and this weekend’s Wayzgoose printmakers festival, which I’m very excited to visit later today.

I wouldn’t have minded a glass of wine to celebrate the end of the week but that would have put me out. Tonight, after I get this last set of captions done, I will be able to dig into that glass of wine. Maybe even that chardonnay from Switzerland with J …

6:52 a.m.

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7:28 p.m.

It’s my last night “living” in Port Townsend. I’m out for the 3rd night in a row, by choice, sitting at Chetzemoka Park, which is a five minute walk from the house. It has peek-a-boo views of the water and Whidbey Island. I can see the stage (and hear the actors practicing) where Shakespeare In The Park will be performed in a few weeks and I’m happy to report, I’ll be attending.

I was here last night too, around the same time. My sailing outing was cancelled and I took advantage of the time for more transcribing interviews. Turns out sitting in a park has been the most productive work space in town for me, and so I am here again, transcribing. I am so happy here.

I’m pretty sure I’m used to the quiet at night now, and can sleep pretty soundly, waking up just before my 6 a.m. alarm. (Although a beer or glass of wine has helped. Tonight will be the last one until Saturday night, in prep for a big run that day.).

At Jeremy’s suggestion, I finally sat on the back porch this morning with my breakfast and mug of tea. Of course, I lingered out there way longer than I should have. Wondering where Beth and I will put our tent when we’re here in a month for The Thing Music Festival, during which Jeremy is graciously letting us crash in his backyard. It’ll be like Doe Bay, in a way, but on a smaller scale.

This town is like living in a bubble. Kinda like the suburbs, but definitely not like the suburbs. There’s a different aura here than anywhere else I’ve experienced. It’s like living on a Hollywood set, where everything is just where it should be – every unkept garden, every perfectly laid out stone pathway, each community space with open doors and music floating out, quirky shop, or happy chatter of people gathering. People walk everywhere here. They say hi when passing each other on the sidewalk. You may get a wave when passing in cars.

Even if they don’t say hi, they’ll smile. And not a shy passive aggressive PNW I-kinda-sorta-will-maybe-give-you-eye contact smile. Like a legit, bright smile. It happens while running too.

It’s delightful and refreshing.

There’s a group of middle school kids running around the park this evening. I was annoyed for a second because they’re loud but then they started yelling at each other:

“What’s the border? Is the water the border? Where’s the jail? It’s the picnic table! TO THE JAIL!!!”

This is cracking me up. It must be a camp. And I’d love to completely forget about everything I should be doing right now and join. It reminds me of playing Freeze Tag and Ghosts in the Graveyard on Heatherwood during humid Ohio summers.

To forget about having to go back to the house and gather all my triptrap I’ve strewn about the house. To toss my clothes into my duffle bag except for what I’ll wear tomorrow. To do a quick wipe down and sweep. To stuff four pairs of dress shoes, two pairs of running shoes, and two pairs of sandals into bags. To reorganize all the camping gear. To load it all up in Bertha The VW Battlewagen.

To not think about the weeds in my gardens at home. The mail stacking up on my front porch. The house next door that is in a significant state of demo. The empty dry erase board that will soon be filled up quotes equating to tens of thousand of dollars for a house remodel.

“Can we call a quick truce, I need you to take my shirt to the table.”

“Can we shake on it?”

7:43 p.m.

—–

Post-edit: I just got a glimpse of myself in my computer screen reflection. Total pretentious brat here with the real life running around me. Floppy hat, big hot pink sunglasses and scarf with a damn computer and headphones in the middle of a park.

8:13 p.m., July 23, 2019

Location: Port Townsend Vineyards Tasting Room, Water St., Cloudy. Mist blowing in from the west.

I decided to finally leave the house this evening, or rather, not putz around in a big lonely house after work, or sit and stare at the windows in my writing room. After being here for two weeks, and for once, not being exhausted (despite 3 hours of sleep today) I decided to actually go out and be in the presence of people (and see a friend). Mainly because I knew my extroverted sanity needed it.

So, I’m sitting on the back patio of the PT Vineyards tasting room, at a table for four but with the attendance of one. A healthy serving of Viognier, the pita bread and hummus plate and those New Yorker magazines again. Last night’s article was about a Bjork-like pop musician, which I enjoyed; tonight’s article is a heartbreaking story of a family with twin babies and how they’re using GoFundMe to help support their $2 million medical needs for their childrens’ disease that likely won’t let them live much longer. I couldn’t finish reading it.

Also, sorry, J, if your magazines may be a bit more wrinkled with a minor grease stain, as the wind fluffed Pages 19-21 into my dish that had a significant drizzle of oil. But I learned that I love cold cooked sliced beets topped with roasted cauliflower and garlic hummus. It’s an earthy purple cracker.

I’m under a fancy canopy that automatically rolls back when the wind kicks up. But the sprinkles that were promised at 8 p.m. are splattering my screen.

I also get to walk home in it. The sprinkles that is.

This Viognier is really good. This evening is also a recon mission for possible future visits with company.

The water looks like it’d be a great night for sailing, despite the low clouds, as the water’s surface is wrinkled and a tiny bit wavy.

(wipes off the screen)

Realized (again) on Facebook today that nothing of value is being posted these days. It’s mostly “Feel Good About Yourself” memes, political shit and videos of animals. Super tired of it. Except the cat videos. I’ll pause to watch the cat videos. Dog videos make me cry.

8:22 p.m. I have 6 more minutes.

I had planned on transcribing more of my maritime interviews this evening. My little Olympus recorder is surprisingly pretty awesome at catching the interviewee. I just need to shut the hell up during the interviews because it catches my unnecessary commentary. It’d make editing the transcript A LOT easier. Just think of it as recording audio for a video.

(wipes the screen again)

oh what else, what else… brain is fading because of the wine. It has the same effect as beer. Which is why I don’t drink during the week when I want to get stuff done.

Speaking of, the weeds, OH GOD THE WEEDS in the front of my house in Bremerton are horrendous. I’ve never let my yard go this far. Garden therapy next week.

I wish I’d been able to spend more time at the little places in town during the evening during my time here, but, well, it’s no fun to go out on your own regularly. It’s not a thing I do, anyway. I like it occasionally – but mainly for breakfast and lunch. At night, I prefer a dinner companion. My daily streak of time in PT ends on Friday but I hope to spend more time up here in the company of others in the future.

8:28 p.m.

Post edit:

No wonder I like Viognier. It comes from the Rhone region and my favorite red (Syrah) is from there.

 

The title is actually false. I put in a lot of miles this weekend. Mostly on Friday and today, Sunday, driving to and from Bogachiel State Park for a ladies camping weekend on the coast.

Put a couple hundred miles on Bertha, but about eight walking miles on my feet on the South Fork Hoh River trail. Woke up more sore today than I have during some of my last few long runs. Huh.

The trail was lush with ferns and spooky with moss draped over dead tree branches, but it petered out into a climber’s trail, with no destination for a day hike like ours (We learned you can access Mt. Olympus from here, though). We met a bio-acoustic ecology student from Schumacher College who told us trees communicate through the ground. He had tied red flagging to his listening spots and encouraged us to stop at each.

“Be well,” he said as his goodbye.

We heard various bird chatter at one. Not much at another. Distant rushing water at the third (or was it the breeze?). I figured maybe understanding this concept was like learning to drink wine – it takes time to train the ear on what to listen for.

We took pictures and moved on.

Speaking of sound, the evening winds are picking up right now in PT. I’ve decided to move to the front porch for the first time since “living” here to write and soak in the last of the weekend sun while sipping on a Zero Miles double IPA.

That will certainly guarantee that I will get nothing done this evening, except maybe unload the car and possibly consider entertaining the idea of making lunch for tomorrow. Also write drivelous nonsense on a blog that doesn’t get as much love as it should.

That breeze really does cover up the street noise and people noise unless the source of the noise is within eye sight. I’m still not sure if I like it or not. After 2.5 days of friend chatter, it’s a hard transition to a quiet house. It feels lonely. But that’s part of the retreat part, right? To get back into the head. The problem of an Extrovert. And the reentry process after a weekend (mostly) off the grid. It reminds me of climbing trips and how girlfriends and I would bemoan the transition back into civilization and day-to-day life.

I blissfully managed to stay off the phone this weekend, save for a few texts. Popping on Facebook right after I got home justified staying off it this weekend. People went to beer fests, music fest, Pride fests, had hearts broken and generally screamed about the state of the world.

The phone is tucked away in the corner of the house and silenced. My head is already in a weird space during this transition. Maybe I should pop on the OK Computer vinyl that my friend purposefully set out for me.

He also has New Yorkers that I am gleefully devouring. They’re so new even he hasn’t had a chance read them. I apologize in advance, J, for the smudging of some of the words from my thumbs. The July 1 looks OK – except for the column from Patricia Marx, who is always a delight to read; the July 8-15 looks more interesting. I loved discovering in 2013 that my sister also loves New Yorkers – I think I introduced her to them (or maybe she read them before?). Regardless, I like that we have that in common. We’d read articles to P as bedtime stories when he was 2. He probably thought we were crazy. If you put her and me together on a good day, he’d definitely think we’re crazy. Or laugh at us. Or with us. On a good day, our family is like that. I miss that.

I was so excited to find Chetzemoka Park down the street from the house the other day. Shakespeare in the Park is performed there every weekend in August. I went once and it was delightful. Despite this August being 99% filled already with travel and commitments, I hope to squeeze in a performance -– maybe on a Sunday?

This week looks to be painfully less chaotic compared to last week. The previous seven days involved shellfish, mountain goats, things that needed to be posted ASAP, supporting our team in preparation for a presentation, and photographing 3-year-olds who were supposed to be throwing oyster seeds on a beach but instead were chasing small crabs.

The most distinctive noise in Uptown is the church bell calling out the hours. I don’t have to look at my phone in the middle of the night when I hear the chimes. Even when half awake, I always hear the chimes.

The sun has finally gone down behind the house across the street. The breeze is picking up. It’s time to go inside.

I’m in Port Townsend house sitting for 16 days. I’ve never house sit for this length of time before. It’s for a dear friend from mountain rescue. We’re also collaborating on a project for an upcoming photography show; I’m supporting with written words. I wasn’t sure of my time commitment to do such a thing this summer but I knew once I settled into his house, my journalist deadline instinct would kick in and all would be fine. I’m treating my time up here like a writing retreat and it’s been refreshing to just sit in my own head for a while with a project.

In fact, I don’t know whenever I’ve ever done something like this. It’s hard for me to sit down with my thoughts.

Of course, it’s taken some adjusting. It’s like being in an AirBnB but you know the person who lives here but yet you don’t, since for the majority of your six-year friendship, you’ve lived an hour from each other and visited only briefly via meetings, missions or the Internet, plus the occasional meal to catch up.

It’s also really quiet up here.

It’s an older home, historic, built in 1889. 10-foot ceilings, odd additions, with exterior siding on the inside of the first floor bathroom. It’s two floors, with a lovely wide staircase that creaks. Especially that last step at the top. Until yesterday, whenever I put weight on it, I jumped a little. It sounded like a little mouse squeaking. Or a groaning rocking chair. I couldn’t decide.

Now when I approach the step, I gleefully put my weight on it, entertained by its “eek.”

I told an acquaintance I was staying in PT in an older home. Her eyes got really big and she told me of her stay in an older home up here one time too. “There are ghosts, Tiffany. But they’re friendly ghosts.”

To entertain myself, I’ve named the “ghost” of this house, who is responsible for all the little old house noises, Ellie Mc Kay.

***

But I didn’t think about ghosts the first night. Or the second night.

The first night was filled with nightmares that I blamed on drinking old wine. And just not being used to the structure’s noises – gutters leaking, house settling, neighbors scuttling about. But it was one of those nightmares where someone walks into your room, even though you know it’s not real, and they appear in the doorway, and you’re trying really really really hard to say the name of who you think it is, and if you just open your eyes and speak, it will all be over, and then they just say in a deep low voice:

“I missed my ferry.”

Your eyes fly open, you start panic breathing, and then you don’t sleep for the next hour.

Night 2 had legitimate reasons for unusual noises.

I was mostly awake (again, blame the old wine) and suddenly, there was a huge BANG downstairs, followed by the entire house shaking.

“OMG SOMEONE IS COMING TO KILL ME THEY’RE COMING UP THE STAIRS WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHAT DO I DO–”

Then the shaking didn’t stop – for about a solid 30 seconds (so it felt).

“Wait. I think we had an earthquake. That HAD to have been an earthquake.”

A few minutes later, at 3 a.m., I see half of the Pacific Northwest is awake on Facebook because of a 4.6 in Everett, followed by a 3.5 aftershock.

Reassuring to know but I still didn’t fall sleep for another hour.

On the third night, I didn’t have any wine. I slept like a baby.

***

The past few days, while I adjusted to establishing a routine in a space that isn’t mine, I’ve almost dreaded coming back each time. It’s quiet. Almost too quiet. There’s no one here.

Not that it bothers me at my house in Bremerton. I live by myself there too. But I live in a whirlwind of energy, with lots of traffic, a tenant going in and out downstairs at odd hours, my own coming and going all the time, sprinting out the door to run or go to work. Plus, projects, so many house projects. And social events.

But here? Nothing.

Tonight, as I was sitting next to five photographs from which I’m taking inspiration to write interview questions, I was struck by how much I’m enjoying the quiet. The only noise is the rustling of the trees from gentle winds that breeze through town every evening, which seems appropriate for a seaport town.

I set priorities during these 16 days to retreat, interview, write and run, and not really do much of anything else (aside from the full time job). Haven’t really even cooked, thanks to the delicious farm stores and the co-op with their fresh grab n’ go food.

I thought I’d stack my time here by jumping on all the weird things that PT has to offer. But nope.

And now I get why writers do these things. I thought I’d be bored or distracted, but that’s the point. I’m not.

Of course, I’m distracted right now, laying out my thoughts about the blissful quiet. But I’m treating it as a writing exercise. I don’t do that enough. I’d like to do more.

Hopefully this house will give me more adventures to write about.

 

 

March 9, 2018 9:28 p.m.

And so, of course, my bummed out mentality leading up to the morning of my birthday turned for the better.

It always happens. Every year. Always annoyed the last few days of my previous year, but then the day of, I’m flooded with good feelings and everything is OK with the world.

I worked a half day, and took rest off to go to Seattle. Wasn’t sure what I was going to do; maybe just wander around the city, maybe hit a museum.

Then, while getting cleaned up, the idea of owning a scooter overcame me.

It’d been in the back of my head the past few years, thinking a little bright cherry red scooter for work commuting would be great fun. It’d match the Jetta. I’d take the nice backroads of Central Kitsap, especially on blue sky summer mornings.

The idea came over me in a kind of panic at first but in a very determined fashion, like, yes, YES this is something I DEFINITELY NEED TO DO. No research, no overthinking, just go out and buy.

So, after a brief search on Craigslist, with a little help from KG, 2 hours later I found myself getting out of an Uber at Seattle Cycle Center near Greenwood, walking into the shop and suddenly wondering what the hell I was doing there.

But I approached the desk and started with, “So, it’s my birthday. I’m turning 39 and well, I’m interested in the Buddy 125 you have on Craigslist…”

The next hour or so, the nice sales guy patiently dealt with my questions, my request for pictures of me on the bike, any history on it, what I’d need to do to get it out of his shop, what kind of helmets were out there, how they should fit. He was quite informative, didn’t try to sell me something quick, encouraged me to take a class, learn what kind of bike and brand I’d want, make sure I really want something like this.

I left feeling better, more educated and excited. At dinner, KG quizzed me on why I wanted it (um, from a vanity point of view, it seems cool and it’s a good commute alternative. In his classic way, he drops his head a little, slowly closes his eyes and shakes his head, then looks at me with a sly grin and says, “No, those are perfectly good reasons to own a scooter.”). Plus I was getting encouragement from Sara, the one of few motorcycle ladies I know, and then there was the absolutely raging cheerleading crowd from Facebook that was all in agreement that Tiffany should buy a bright yellow scooter for her birthday.

This all happened Tuesday.

I called the sales guy on Wednesday with a few more questions. I printed out the motorcycle knowledge and skills guide from the state department of licensing web site.

Thursday, I put a deposit on the scooter, cleared my schedule for Saturday, and scheduled with Sara and KG to get it back to Bremerton.

And that is how Tiffany had a mid-life crisis named Buttercup.

March 5, 2018

At the time of this writing, I will have been alive for 38 years, 11 months, 5 days and 3 hours.

I think.

Honestly, I’m not sure if that math is right.

But an easier way to look at it is that I’ve been alive for nearly 14,235 days.

“That’s it?” I said outloud to my empty house.

It does not feel like it’s been that long. It feels a lot longer.

At the time of this writing, at about 10:20 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, March 5, 2018, in about 21 hours (figuring in the time difference for living on the West Coast, but being born in Louisville, Kentucky at 10:09 p.m. on March 6, 1979), I will turn 39.

As the day worn on today, the thought of the ticker turning became a bit more… heavy. I don’t know why. Maybe because Sarah, my work sister, is leaving this week. Maybe because it’s been blah and gray here lately and definitely the time of year when cabin fever and the gray hits me (and the rest of the northwest) pretty hard. Also, Monday.

I also get kinda glum around my birthday, especially if I don’t have something planned. And I don’t really.

Well, that’s not necessarily true. I always try and plan something on the weekend closest to my birthday, whether it’s a long getaway or just a one-day event. KG indulged me on Sunday and went with me to Musselfest in Coupeville, where we sampled 8 types of mussel chowder, did a fair sampling of the wine beer and garden, ate our way through the Paella and BBQ food trucks, tried to get on a boat to see a mussel farm, and then drove alllll the way back around to the mainland, with a stop at the Skagit Valley Co-op for our weekly groceries, before popping on to the Kingston-Edmonds Ferry and zipping back down to Bremerton.

Or, maybe because I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be feeling at age 39.

It’s like going through puberty for the 4th time in your life. You’re not quite a kid but you’re not quite an adult.

I’m not married. I don’t have kids. But I own a house, have a pretty good job, am surrounded by a strong supportive community and certainly don’t sit around twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do.

So, is this it? Why does it feel like something is missing?

I’ve been feeling like this for a few years now, and expressed it to a friend recently, who is a slightly older version of me by a few years (not married, no kids, owns her house, has a solid career):

“Yeah, I went through that. And then, you suddenly realize,  you’re OK with it. And you’re happy. And you do what you want.”

That worked for a while. But it’s hanging over my head again. (I really think it’s the gray. And not enough outside time. I was never this cranky when I was hiking/skiing on a  regular basis.)

I’m not much of a long term planner, more of a short term, “get things done because I wanted them down yesterday” kinda of person when I feel passionate about a project – both in my professional and volunteer careers. I mean, when you find something good, why move on? I’ve never been super career driven, just something stable, I guess. I wasn’t even sure out of college what I wanted. Honestly, the magazine industry scared the daylights out of me and newspapers were the only other option for my skill set (aside from going back to college). I knew I always liked promotions/public relations when I dabbled in it in college. Promoting the tribes’ treaty rights wasn’t ever something I’d considered as a job but well, it’s surprising what people will pay you to do these days. It was also made clear to me that I’d likely work for the tribes after I sent home reports about how much I enjoyed covering them as a reporter.

It’s supposed to be sunny on March 6, 2018. I certainly hope so. I need that sun. I notice it helps considerably with being able to survive out here. I’ll work part of the day, then go for a run, clean up, and ferry into the city for a stroll to absorb the energy, then meet KG for dinner in Pioneer Square. And I know I’ll feel better by then.

The New Year Resolutions.

The List.

What I’m Going To Do in 2017.

How I’m Going To Make Myself Better.

How to Stop Making Excuses.

I’ve been making these lists the past few years and posting them here. Then later I publicly flog myself for not doing the 20 million things I want to do.

I stepped back the other day and thought, well, why HAVEN’T I done those things?

I’d realized I’d set myself up for failure. I wasn’t planning. That and I was wanting to do too much, which turned out to be overwhelming so I’d just go back to scrolling through Facebook and Instagram.

Stuff doesn’t just happen. While I prefer that it just does, I know in reality, depending on what it is, it just doesn’t.

Other than committing myself to things that involve other people relying on me (Group vacations or athletic events, OMR trainings/meetings), I hadn’t followed through with the first step that I tell myself every year – print out a paper calendar, tape it to the wall, each month side by side so I can see it daily, and write in all the stuff I want to do this year.

That’s all fine and great but it’s like a brainstorming session – you can come up with a million ideas but who is going to do the follow through?

Looking back at my  previous lists, as well as my ongoing internal list of things I want to do all the time, there’s a lot. And how much of it is reasonable?

I want to play all the time – yoga, ride, trail run, scramble, get back to indoor rock climbing, try out water sports.

I want to garden all the time – make my backyard a sanctuary, do manual labor and put some much-needed sweat equity into the house.

I want to work on personal development – read those self-help books that help me look a little deeper and help open my perspective on life at almost 38, with no kids, not married, GREAT job and yet still frustratingly wonder “WTF am I doing with my life?”

Frankly, I feel like I should be traveling the world as a vagabond, not trying to Martha Stewart the shit out of my cozy 2 bedroom, 1 bath little house, with a 9-5 job. (at the same time, as I wrote that out, I realized that sounds kinda fun too – SEE! TOO MANY WANTS).

(This also brings to mind a Gloria Steinem quote from an interview in 2015 on Fresh Air about her latest book, and is pinned to my wall – “I think in general, as a culture, we tend to think there are two choices: settling down or traveling. And actually you need both … birds need a nest and they still fly. It took me a while (to understand) that it wasn’t either/or – it was both.”)

I’ve recently gotten into professional development – I want to take classes – certified or not – on digital marketing and social media, help develop my skill set to help my current job and see where that takes me. Put those skills into practice. As the world knows, I’m terribly bored with my current skills.

I want to bring more creativity into my life – sewing a little bit last year helped that, and dating someone these days who thinks outside the box, thus leading to some very imaginative conversations, has me excited too. Take drawing classes, finish up a few of those woodworking projects, hell, even paint the house different colors. I want to write and read more.

But all these things take time. And I could pick one of them and focus on it the entire year, neglecting the others. But how is that balanced?

After last year’s insanity, in which I became the absolutely most busiest I’ve ever been in my entire life (which is hard to believe since I seem to be busy all the time, but when you’re eating out three times a day for 2-3 months straight because you have no time to cook for yourself because of work and volunteer activities and bike training, that’s the extreme end of busy for me), I finally was forced to step back and take stock of my mental, emotional and physical capacity in early August.

Relinquishing a lot of that “I must do this and that” because that’s who I am or who I USED to be was a huge relief. I just wanted to “be.”

But that’s a key question – who I USED to be. Life changes. There are no constants. I need to be accepting of that. Except tea. There’s always tea.

I’m in mountain rescue but I haven’t climbed a damn mountain in three years – am I still interested in this work? I am, because I love the concept of SAR and participating in it when I can. And I want to use OMR as a way to practice communication strategy and public outreach. But again, that requires sitting down, time and focus.

I like to plan and pay for events (i.e. organized trail runs and bike rides) so I have something to look forward to, and it forces me to commit to it, but then it hurts when I have to say no to something else when it comes up and conflicts with my original plans. I hate saying no. As cliche and millennial as it is, I DO live that life of Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). I also question why I don’t just go out and do it every weekend like everyone else (run, ski, etc) and realize I always have something else going on. So it’s not like I’m at home sitting around watching TV all the time. I take pride in knowing I DON’T do that but I also wonder, then what AM I doing?

KG and I have had several conversations about the FOMO effect recently. We’re both pretty independent people who need “me” time to take care of stuff. We get in a funk if we don’t have that “me” time. We struggle to give each other that space yet want to spend time with each other so not to miss out on experiencing things together. Thankfully, we talk about it, rather than me wringing my hands at home going, “oh god, am I giving him enough space? And yet I can’t be afraid to tell him no for my space. We both have major projects we’d like to complete on our own, how do we do it and see each other and yet support each other but also have fun like we’ve been doing the past few months …”

(Which, I’ll admit, I still feel this at times. This is old anti-communication Tiffany speaking. She’s continually working hard to break through those barriers. She’s still realizing that relationships go through evolutions and development and not everything is sparkly and hearts and unicorns and rainbows all the time, despite how much she wants it to be).

KG made another good point too. He has developed a list of governing values – a set of overall rules, values, moral codes that he lives by. And he makes most of his decisions measured against these values. He said that should be my first step, which will help guide me toward the things I REALLY want to do (and not what I feel I should do or what I THINK I want to do just because it’s been like that in the past) and add value to my life. Not take away value (i.e. time management, enjoyment, etc).

I’m also realizing that while I’m a people person in most capacities, in the past year I’ve discovered I REALLY like being alone too. When it comes to learning/education – I enjoy in-person environments the best, networking, sharing ideas, brainstorming, being creative together. Call me old school that way, I guess.

At home, in the evenings, especially lately since I’ve been sick, I’ve been enjoying being at home with an online course, a book, even editing for work (and snuggled under that amazing blanket I got from KG for Christmas).

So, all this rambling – what’s the result?

I FINALLY printed out all 12 months of 2017 and they are taped to the utility closet door, so I see them every. single. time. I pass by it on my way to the bedroom and kitchen and bathroom. I keep a pencil nearby to update each day with whatever fun activity I’ve done that day. Kind of like a daily journal. DONE.

My 2017 “resolutions”: (initially laid out early Jan 2017, with updates early Feb 2017)

“Me”

Simple. 

Regular yoga (Start with just Wednesday nights, my favorite yoga class at the YMCA – that’s ME time). No one gets in the way of these, not friends, KG, dinner, work, anything. Someone must be dying, bleeding or throwing up for me to give up this. (UPDATE: So I’ve yet to go to that specific class – even though KG pushes me to go it when I mention I have other options on the table-  but I discovered YouTube has a ton of yoga videos, and I found a pretty good 30 day series that I’ve been sticking with, so, progress!). 

Regular cycling – weekends, as they get nicer. I have a nice regular group of cycling friends now to rely on. Sign up for STP again? (Update: talks with friends point more toward RSVP and/or the week long bike tour of Oregon in the summer)

Creativity (classes) (still working on this – thinking more of the yard and interior of the house right now – hitting up the sewing machine may be a good start though)

Professional development (UPDATE: UW social media course was cancelled so, do a social media marketing online course via coursera; then sign up for the digital marketing course at UW in March!)

Personal development (take those books on your shelf, make those dark week nights your reading nights)

Get back into mountaineering shape – this will happen in time as the season gets warmer. If I set a goal to climb Baker (FINALLY) that will help get my butt in gear. Use the Melissa Arnot plan. Or shoot – train for another triathlon! oooohhhhh I wonder who i could get to do that with me!!! 

This post feels a lot like the previous ones, but this has more awareness and energy behind it. More external moral support instead of just my brain. more intention with ideas of how to move forward. And the list is not nearly as long and overwhelming. And it will be printed out and posted next to that calendar. OOOOOHHHH – corkboard with command hooks for the wall. That’s enticing.

Another concept I came across the other day too – living a life that is meaningful versus finding ways to be happy.

SO many buzzwords and phrases – finding your passion in life. finding happiness. What does happiness look like? Working to live, not living to work. make your job not feel like work. Another post for another day.

 

 

 

I’ll be the first to admit – I’m not politically active.

They bore me, they confuse me. For my professional life, I was trained to be objective, unbiased, and I carried that in to my personal life. I don’t debate because I know I don’t know all sides of the story. I don’t like arguing, I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like being told I’m wrong. Some call that lazy or ignorant.

But I have a job. I pay my bills. I try to adult as best as possible. I’ve worked hard to get where I am. I have food on my table and a roof over my head. Stay the course and all will be fine.

I kept my ear kinda open this election season, but not too much because it all turned into white noise. I tried to listen to the debates but my brain just shut down and absorbed nothing. I just followed the wrap up stories afterward for highlights.

My general view on politicians is not the person themselves, but the people they choose to advise them. That’s what scares me.

I unfollowed as many of my FB friends as I could who were posting political stuff 24-7. I didn’t see my first old-fashioned presidential candidate TV commercial until the night of Game 7 of the World Series, seven days before the election.

I was going to write in myself, vote for Gary Johnson or Hillary. Regardless of where I filled in my little dot, it still felt weird, hard, confusing, heartbreaking. I couldn’t figure out why though. I asked myself, “Why do you care so much?”

And now, I’m experiencing feelings I did not know I had about politics. Or the future of our country.

I, like others, felt decent that Trump was not going to take the presidency. I tried to avoid FB all day on Tuesday, and didn’t really check any results until just before I went to a meeting at 7 p.m.

At 8:15 p.m., Lana and I leaned over her phone. Trump was winning. 209 – 168 or something ridiculous. We stared at each other in disbelief.

My stomach dropped. And didn’t stop. It still hasn’t stopped. I knew that despite what happened Tuesday night, we’d all wake up, still with jobs, families, values, morals.

But I know it’s what’s down the road that scares everyone.

I get it. We need turnover in political environment. Break the elitism. Were these the two to do it? We all constantly heard no, and was sorely disappointed that our country of more than 300 million people couldn’t have had better popular candidates.

Do we need someone with political experience, familiar with that realm, environment, and is diplomatic? Can reach across the aisle? Yes.

Do we need someone with business and financial know-how to help run the business of government, which, as someone who works for a government agency, knows it is ALL ABOUT managing finances to get the right things done? Yes.

Are these the two to do it? Despite whatever horrible things they’ve done, said, portrayed, pontificated?

These two have zero reality of the majority of the American population. They are SO out of touch.

I only watched and read about an hour of the results before I turned it off. In a situation when a majority is upset and freaking out, my gut reaction is to play Devil’s Advocate – Sure, he’s said all these horrible things and can’t talk his way properly out of a paper bag, but let’s look at …

Then I think, yikes. NO. No way.

Then the commentators this morning started reviewing his campaign promises. From what it sounded like to me, he will be UNDOING EVERYTHING EVERY PRESIDENT BEFORE HIM HAS DONE, DESPITE POLITICAL LEANING.

Things that have led us to where we are today.

Now, of course, many will argue that those things have led us to current state of greatness or current state of disaster. So, there’s no trying to debate that.

A commentator this morning put Paul Ryan and Trump side by side and ticked off all the things they disagree on, despite being from the same “side.”

It was EVERYTHING.

*sigh*

My father.

For the past 18 months, he’s been saying, “Don’t underestimate Trump.”

Whenever my father makes a declaratory statement, and my gut knows he’s probably right but my heart wants to doubt him, he always turns out right.

For the love of America, I hope you’re bloody right, Dad. Jesus Fucking Christ, I hope you’re right and he proves us all wrong. I can only hope that someone comes in and sedates him, putting to sleep his horribleness as a person and pulls out whatever teeny tiny business sense he does have to balance a government budget. That is absolutely the best I can even possibly muster for finding something positive out of this entire situation. But even that’s a tiny sliver of hope that my gut is not happy with.

The only other positive takeaway is listening to my sister tell me how her 5-year-old son has been listening, paying attention, absorbing information and making his own decisions the past few months. He and his mother both voted for different candidates. Neither of their candidates may not have won, but I could not be more proud of them and especially, him.

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That picture above. Right there. It’s gorgeous, right? Only a few miles from the road, yet wonderfully rugged. The North Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Hours from home. Fresh air, steep terrains, squeaky pikas, bear prints in the snow, flowing mountain streams. Stuff I’ve been traipsing in and around for almost 10 years.

I had a panic attack in the valley. Deep in the forest. Just out of the photo frame. Bottom right.

—–

This was part of the Annual Ladies Backpacking Trip. Organized by one of my favorite outdoor ladies, it was guaranteed to be a good time. Get in a heart-pounding hike up and over a few ridges, with the potential to camp by a lake and even bag a peak. Most of us on the trip are constantly hiking and climbing with boyfriends/husbands/male partners, so the women’s trip is a refreshing change of company.

Despite all the promise of a trip with lovely company and views, part of me wanted to stay at home and just … stop. I’d just ended five months of absolute insanity. It’d been two weeks since the last of it, ending with the massive bike ride from Seattle to Portland.

I even complained to Maria a week before the trip. “I’m so exhausted and tired, I have no desire to leave my house.” No, you have to go, she said, don’t bail. I’ll even drive.

* sigh * Ugh. OK. I guess.

As email traffic increased leading up to the trip, I started to get excited. I started packing Monday night, even though we didn’t leave until Friday morning. I also had no choice, as apparently my life of insanity had not stopped and I had no time Tues-Thurs evenings to pack. I also was determined to go as light as possible, so I gave myself time to go through my gear and ditch things (and, well, buy a smaller pack). I eventually got down to 17 lbs of gear and 13 lbs of food and water = 30 lbs in a 50 liter pack, with room to spare! That’s a RECORD for me. However, just before we hit the trail, I added meat, which brought my pack up to 41 lbs, the heaviest of the group. FAIL. Seriously, 11 more pounds of food? I was so mad at myself.

We met the other five women at the trailhead and heartily started up our first trail: 4 miles and 3,000 feet to Easy Pass. With all the chattering and excitement, that seemed like a piece of cake and before we knew it, we were having lunch three hours later at the pass in the shade, with Fisher Basin open before us.

From there we could see the rest of the day’s route: drop down to the valley, climb out the southern end of it, scramble up and over some rocky ledges (a.k.a. “The Cakewalk”) and then drop down to Silent Lakes for base camp. Great! (Even if “The Cakewalk” looking nothing like that).

We started down to the valley, dropping 1,500 feet in 2 miles, under the oppressive heat of the July sun, and swarmed by mosquitoes and black flies. We reached the bottom of the valley near Fisher Camp and turned southeast, following a rough boot path with some log hopping.

At this point, I was doing OK. I’d enjoyed the climb to the pass, but something started to bother me on the way into the valley.

It started slowly with a sense of not wanting to be there. I felt guilty about that but then those feelings started to get raw: Damn my pack is heavy, why the hell did I pack so much food, I was totally cool with 30 lbs last night, I’m so exhausted, I guess I’m still trashed from the past few months, damnit it’s really hot all I want to do is go home I want to be in my gardens if I’m going to work this hard I want it to be at my house working with iced tea brewing on the backporch and feeling a sense of accomplishment why do I do this to myself–

Then came on the shallow breathing followed by a racing heartbeat, then a feeling of suffocation.

Maria was just a few yards in front of me.

“Maria?” my voice breaking to my surprise, and then suddenly feeling myself mentally, emotionally and physically crumble. “I’m… done. I’m just … done.”

She turned toward me.

“Oh, yes I know I am too. We bit off more than we can chew. And it’s really hot right now.”

“No, it’s not that,” I said as we met in the middle, my trekking poles dragging behind me like a toddler with a blanket. “I’m, like, DONE. I can’t go any more. I’m just …”

I then burst in tears and collapsed in her arms, and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

Like body-goes-limp-but-trying-to-catch-my-breath-while-trying-to-get-it-all-out-sobbing. I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard.

Maria held me for awhile before she gently guided me to a log to sit down and collect myself while she went to catch the girls.

I sat there dumbfounded, numb. I wanted to turn around and march right back up that hot hill and then back down to the car. It was only 5 miles. It was not hard. I knew I was still trashed from the past few months but I didn’t realize it would hit like this. I’m supposed to enjoy these types of outings. These types of outings are supposed to relax me. Take me away from everyday life.

When Maria returned, she didn’t have her backpack, which immediately crushed me.

“We’re going to stop just a little ways up here and make camp,” she said. “We won’t go all the way to the lakes and one of the other women is pretty done too. The heat is getting to all of us.”

“Oh… I was hoping we could go home.”

“No, now that’s silly. We’ve come all this way. We can’t leave now. We can just sit in camp, we don’t have to do anything.”

With a heavy sigh, I got up and trudged on. My body felt heavy but my head was completely void of emotion. I was just floating now. Not really engaged but still aware of my surroundings: that creek we had to wade, the boulder field we had to navigate, help make decisions on where we’d camp that night. Just barely.

But I continued on. Our group made the decision to camp below The Cakewalk and the next day, those who wanted to could do a trip up to Silent Lakes and Fisher Peak.

We camped on a rocky outcrop with established tent sites, with a stream to our left and a snow patch to the right. The southern end of the valley rose above us, with Fisher Basin behind us. We established campsites (Maria had to call my name a few times to get my attention as I stood there mindlessly just holding one end of the tent as she was trying to set it up), rinsed off in the creek, changed clothes, pumped fresh water, had dinner and drank snow-ritas (margarita mix and tequila poured over cups of snow – WAY better than anything served in a restaurant.). We shared stories of previous trips and read outloud from the trip’s Official Literature, “Woman’s World Weekly.”

I explained to the ladies that I didn’t think I had the mental capacity for the climb the next day. They completely understood, and said they’ve been in my place before, where all you can manage is just one foot in front of the other just to get to camp. I was so thankful for these ladies. I may not have been all “there”, but I knew I was safe. If there was an emergency, I could snap into rescue mode, that wasn’t problem. But, at this particular moment, I didn’t have to do anything. I could just … be.

The next day, I woke up only feeling a bit better. Still in a funk but at least rested. I was wondering if I’d step out of the tent and see the day’s objective and wonder if I’d be struck with the usual “OMG I should go, I’ll feel guilty if I don’t, I came all this way, I should take advantage of this, I’m weak if I don’t go!”

Nope. Nothing. I mean, I felt a slight twinge of desire to scramble something but not necessarily do the weekend’s objective. I could have climbed to the edge of valley to peek over the other side, but I also felt completely OK with just staying in camp. Maria would be staying too. In fact, I entertained the idea of a nap after breakfast.

After the ladies took off for their climb, I straightened up camp, organized my food and took stock of what I had (why the hell was my bag so heavy?) and made it an objective to eat as much food as possible during the day, even if it meant stuffing an entire block of cheese, several landjagers and a log of sausage down my throat over the next 12 hours.

After I finished my food organization and made a list of lighter gear to research, I moved to the tent to organize my other gear. Maria was reading inside, shaded and away from the bugs.

“So what are you doing there, Tiff?”

“Oh, just organizing, putzing, nesting … Wait! I’m NESTING! Which is what I want to be doing anyway but just right now it happens to be while I’m seven hours from home and in the middle of nowhere!”

We both laughed.

That’s when I realized it.

It took me being in the wilderness to force myself to stop. To put myself in an environment free of any stressors, to simply just survive. To not be distracted by anything. No projects to tackle (even if that’s what I thought I wanted to do). I love being in the outdoors for those reasons – to simply survive and not think about all things I should be thinking about.

How to mitigate the bugs, what layers should I work with right now, when should we fill up the group water jugs, how much food can I eat today, when can I steal Maria’s book after reading Woman’s World Weekly from cover to cover again…

After coming to that realization, I finally relaxed, finished my putzing, then took my pillow and sit pad out of the tent, laid out on the ground and thought, “Here’s the vacation I’ve finally wanted. It may not be on a beach, but it certainly was warm, outside and quiet. No family, no work, no Internet to distract me.”

And I was OK with it. I even took that nap.

Later that night, when the ladies came back from the climb, the first thing Eileen did was march right up to me, embrace me, and exclaim, “Smart decision!” Apparently that climb was not for the faint of heart. Or the mentally unstable.

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Back to my regular self

By this point, I was back being OK with life. I also made a few decisions, such as to truly zero in on my desires in the moment (mountains, city or home?). I also realized the mountains weren’t where I wanted to be this summer. I’d been biking since March and really loved it this year. So I mentally cancelled my Mt. Baker trip that was in two weeks. Once I made that decision, and started making plans for fun things to do around town for the month of August (including more bike time and yard time and yoga), I started to feel immensely better.

Just because it’s summertime in the Northwest doesn’t mean it always needs to be spent in the mountains. In fact, I LOVE my house in the summertime. The front porch is great for sunsets. The backyard (when it’s weeded and cleaned up) is cozy and lush. The light in the morning in the living room is lovely.

Then there is the question – am I living the life I want? Every year, I’m faced the issue – I want to do EVERYTHING. With EVERYONE. I need to climb mountains to stay strong for mountain rescue, which I absolutely love, almost more than life itself. I want to kayak though. I want to enjoy Seattle in the summer, with picnics with city friends in the little city parks. I want to spend time at home enjoying my investment. I want to be closer to the water these days, and not be far away in the mountains.

How do you find balance so not to burn yourself out or be overwhelmed?

Talking with a friend the other night, he said, you just have to learn to say no. Truly listen to what you want to do and do it. It doesn’t make you weaker or less of a person if you don’t climb mountains all the time, or decide you want to have an in-town weekend, or if you want to do yoga all the time instead of sports, or embrace your new found love for biking, or pick up a water sport.

Fay offered a quote that stuck with me: “You have to let go of the life you expected in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Basically – go with the flow. Do what you want. Do what makes you happy.

Three days after that emotional backpacking trip, I was sitting at a campground on the Pacific coast. I was there for two days of work but I couldn’t bring myself to find a hotel or sleep in the Jetta. I wanted to sleep as close as possible to the ocean. So I tossed the tent,  sleeping bag and pillow in the car. A few snacks. Backpacking stove and a dehydrated meal for my dinner, which I delightedly and slowly ate on the beach as I people-watched. I could feel the sticky but refreshing layer of the saltwater on my skin. I’d been excited by the idea of sleeping by the ocean, by myself. Ironically, all completely forced by logistics of work.

And maybe my friend is right.

Maybe I should buy a surfboard.