A Temporary Return to The Grind

Redwoods California, Bigfoot, bevy of books
I’d rather face Bigfoot that go back to work again

I’m back in Portland for a few weeks, refilling my savings account with a short-term contract job that was too good to pass up (which made the Frugal Franny voice in my head SHUT UP for the first time in months). And while the work itself is not any worse than it was five months ago, the experience of working is a seriously unpleasant shock to the system.

I was exhausted for the first few weeks – a combination of greatly increased mental efforts (finding and fixing a crazy quilt of errors on the project) and not having adjusted back to a work-supporting schedule.

I said yes to all the social invites I received – as I would when I was just here visiting – and as a result did not have one day in the first ten where I got enough sleep. I had a lot of fun, but I was wiped out.

I make jokes about the oppression of work and the rigid schedule it imposes on your life… but it’s not really a joke. Most people are just so acclimated to that schedule as a way of life that it seems normal, and therefore unavoidable.

I spent months with no particular schedule on a daily or even a weekly basis. Other than having payroll deadlines to be meet twice a month, my hours, days, weeks, meal and bed times were my own, to organize or ignore however I liked. Often, those would be heavily influenced by the people I was living with and travel I was doing… but all of those things had also been chosen or determined by me.

Redwoods California, trees, bevy of books
My preferred view.

I don’t think I have the words to properly convey the joy I took in reminding people that – while they had to go to work tomorrow, go to bed early, leave before the show was over – I did not. I’m quite certain a few people were sick of my shit, and I don’t blame them. But it was often as if I was realizing it for the first time. I DID NOT HAVE TO PLAN MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE AROUND THE NEED TO BE AT MY DESK AT 9AM MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY.

Because it really does take up WAY more time than those 40 hours to be a good worker bee. Commuting time, wardrobe maintenance, meal planning, hygiene, daycare or pet care – the time to manage all of these activities is greatly increased (and sometimes only made necessary) by the demands of a job outside the home. Not to mention the additional work many of us bring home and the stress induced by all of the above.

So now, here I am, week three of this project, and I’m right back where I was in March. Not ‘what do I want to do today?’ but ‘what do I need to do this weekend so I can go to work on Monday (grocery shopping, laundry, etc)?’

But I don’t have to work Monday – I’m off to Montana for a week. A fact which has been virtually invisible to me for the last two weeks as far as daily planning is concerned. Vanished. Overwhelmed by the unaccustomed demands of the work schedule.

A schedule I have to remind myself will be gone again very soon. Intellectually, I know I’m running off again in early October – but viscerally, I feel like I’m back to working a real job again and next week will look just like this week, and on and on forever. And, having recently been removed from that mindset, its return looks like the tyranny that it is.

A rat race most of us have acclimated to. A thing I’m hoping to leave behind forever.

Gold Beach Oregon, bevy of books, ocean
This isn’t me, but I plan to be this guy in two weeks.

Full Moon Over Montana

New Hampshire, full moon, bevy of booksThis morning I saw the almost-full moon as I left a friend’s house at 2:30am. I feel like I’ve noticed a lot of them lately… and I haven’t hit two in a row in the same location since I quit my job. I remember looking at the almost-full moon late last month in Portland, and then tripping on the sidewalk and skinning my knee like a kid learning to ride her bike. And then seeing the actually full moon in the darkness of rural New Hampshire (yes, I know, it’s mostly all rural, just go with it).

starts Googling, checks photos on computer and phone, checks calendar.

There were two full moons in July, so I was in Portland for the July 2 viewing (though I managed not to trip on the sidewalk that time). June I was in New Hampshire, dark and awesome, and May I was in Montana.

Lincoln City Oregon, moon, bevy of books
Okay, this not actually a full moon, and it’s fuzzy. But I think those are stars/planets next to it, and it was taken in Lincoln City, yet another place I’ve almost seen a full moon lately. And, let’s face it, lots of pics of a white moon on a black background don’t make for interesting blog accents.

April. Well, it seems that April’s full moon happened on Saturday, April 4 at 6:07am. That would be the first day of my brand new life. I swear I didn’t plan these things (first day in Montana was my birthday!).

The lunar calendar seems like a good way to mark time when you’re trying not to mark time too closely.  Where was I 28 days ago? What was I doing, and with whom? And what kind of new and interesting things have I seen and learned in that time?

Since I last saw the full moon, I’ve driven my car 3,055 miles, through 12 states (including two new ones, Missouri and Nebraska), and stayed with lovely people, old friends and new, in places both familiar and newly discovered.  I learned that NW Missouri is gorgeous, and Indianapolis is HUGE.

I’ve seen both sisters and all their children. I haven’t seen the ocean. I sat listening to cicadas in the sweltering heat of Warrensburg, and actually got a bit chilly in the mountains of the Bob Marshall wilderness. I re-learned that the appropriate wardrobes for these two places are very different.  I spent four nights in the woods, and got out right before the fires ripped through the camp I was staying in (everyone, including the stock, got out safely).

Hungry Horse MT, full moon, bevy of books
Full moon in Hungry Horse May 2.

I discovered that, for some reason, 1500 miles in two days is easier than 600 miles in one (which I still do not understand). I got a massage. I added two new wifi networks to my electronic devices. I made choices about what to do with my 401k. I decided where I’m going to be for Thanksgiving.

And I was offered a short-term bookkeeping gig for good money – which I accepted, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be seeing the full moon from Portland once again in September. Looking forward to that one, too.

It’s not a mess, it’s my work flow

I’m not a ‘do one thing until it is done, then do the next thing’ person. Mostly, I think, because there is rarely just ‘one’ thing to do. If you are cleaning your room, that involves doing laundry and re-shelving books and realizing that you need to buy new socks, plus wondering where your favorite pen has disappeared to and thinking it’s time for new pictures on the wall. Cooking dinner means washing dishes, noticing you are out of butter and thinking about what to have for lunch tomorrow.

I’m most happy when I am in the middle of at least three things. I think this is likely frustrating for my employers and other people in my life, who look at my half-finished piles of whatever and wonder when I’m ever going to finish anything.  The answer, of course, is usually that they’ll all be finished about the same time.

tea and a bookI remember moving out of my house a few years ago, and my then-boyfriend showed up to help me load the Uhaul. He was very much a one-thing-at-a-time dude, and therefore would get angry if you interrupted with a new wrinkle in the task he was performing. He saw each as a separate thing, to be addressed individually. The look on his face when he saw a dozen half-empty boxes and what appeared to be nothing ready to go was… well, not a compliment.  But he changed his tune a half hour later when suddenly (to him) almost everything was ready to go.

Similarly, an average non-travel day means I’m likely to be reading a book, writing in my journal or typing on my computer, interspersed with making tea, eating a meal and changing the music. I’m pretty good at cleaning up after myself, but not usually in a ‘drink last sip of tea, get out of chair and put mug in the dishwasher’ kind of way. The mug will likely sit on that end table until I finish the chapter I was reading. The journal might sit on the table while I go take a shower, then work on my computer. At the end of the day, the dishes will be in the kitchen and the various books and electronics will be back where they belong – but in the middle of the day, they are usually strewn everywhere.

Which is fine if you’re in your own house… but not so great if you’re staying with friends. I try to be a good houseguest, which means certainly cleaning up after myself, and well as chipping in where I can with chores and errands. No one likes coming home from work to see that their company (who slept in while they had to get up early, and hung out at home while they dealt with work BS) has left their shit all over your house. At least – this is how I imagine they would feel. I try not to let that happen.

All of this to say: I’m quite happy this morning/afternoon, as I settle in at my sister’s house, where most of the residents seem to have much the same pattern of work, and where they know I will clean up after myself.


Too Much Stuff

As a person who has recently whittled her stuff down to a bare minimum, and then made a smaller version of her stuff to travel with, it should come as no surprise that I am very careful about buying anything that might add to my pile. I’ve seen adorable ceramic turtles for the shelves I’ve gotten rid of and artwork for the walls I no longer possess. And it’s pretty easy to resist buying these sorts of things, regardless of how much I like them.

I have added three shirts and a swimsuit cover-up to my wardrobe since March, so I not exactly expanding my wardrobe, either. And all the books I’ve purchased lately have been e-books, so no mass gained there.

Turtle boots

But somehow, my stuff no longer fits in the bags that I brought it in. I was a week in Brookings, and couldn’t fit all my stuff in my suitcase – though I’m sure it was all in there when I came. Can 20 tea bags and sneakers rather than sandals really take up that much room? It would seem that the answer is Yes.

I have, of course, been buying food and sundries while traveling, which creates a similar problem. I’ve left a half-used bottle of mustard in virtually every refrigerator I’ve had access to in the last month. And I’ve abandoned avocados and sour cream in more than one kitchen where these items are not usually found. The choice always seems to come down to ‘buy too much and waste it’ or ‘don’t buy enough and be hungry/ hangry.’

Most of this problem will go away once I START TRAVELING WITH MY CAR AGAIN next week, but it appears to be yet another thing I didn’t realize would be a thing.

Accepting No Substitutes

Clifford Beach, CaliforniaI was in Seattle last week, and I took a ferry from there to Bremerton, about an hour’s boat ride across Elliott Bay.* From the boat, the water is surrounded on four sides by land, since Puget Sound is all twisty and you can’t see where the bay meets Admiralty Inlet, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and later the Pacific. It was great to be out on the water, and from some viewpoints, any land in view was a long way off.

Seattle, Washington, Puget Sound, Elliott BayThe views of downtown Seattle and Mt. Rainer were spectacular and I was sorry I’d left my good camera back in Portland. The gulls followed us, and fought the wind by being still in the air just a few feet over the deck. The public dock in Bremerton had nice benches where you could stare at the water to your heart’s content.

Chetco Point, Brookings, Oregon.
Sunset from Chetco Point, Brookings, Oregon.

But it was not the ocean. And it seems it really is the ocean I’m looking for, not just a big body of water. Because I didn’t get the same feeling I got in Lincoln City three weeks ago, or here in Brookings today.

Here is the land I’m standing on, there is the water, and then there is nothing. The waves are constant, ever-changing and never-ending. Maybe it’s hot, maybe it’s cold, maybe it’s windy, but the water goes on forever.

Seals in Lincoln City, Oregon
Okay, I realize this is also not the ocean, but SEALS. Seals are cool.

*the ferry is only $8 for passengers. EIGHT DOLLARS! For a two hour boat ride, and the ride back is free.