Post-Road-Trip Slump

Zion National Park, Utah, bevy of books, rock hound, geology
Yet another amazing rock formation in Zion National Park.
Too much to do and then not enough? No, that’s not right. Over-stimulation and then the recovery period? Closer, but still not right.

I spent a bit more than three weeks alone with myself (a phrase that really doesn’t make sense, you can’t really be alone with someone, even if that someone is you. Right?). October 14 until the 22 was spent alone on the coast of Oregon. On 23 I hit the road, traveling 4,185 miles to North Charleston, South Carolina via Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, Nogales Mexico and New Orleans.

Colorado River, bevy of books, rock hound, geology
Colorado River in Arizona, north of Grand Canyon
It was mind-altering. It was sometimes boring (mostly the driving in Nevada and Texas). It was educational. It was a bit stressful (when my car broke down). I spent 3 nights and 2 days in New Orleans at this great Airbnb place… and then I was just OVER IT. I was ready to be done with the moving and the packing and the navigating and the learning and just STOP already.

So I cut the original two-day trip from NOLA to Charleston to one long 11-hour drive (which ended up being 12, thank you rush hour in Atlanta) and pulled into my cousin’s driveway at 11:25pm, November 6. And I’ve basically done NOTHING since then. Got chauffeured to see the ocean (which was great). Saw a movie. Ate a lot of great food that someone else decided on and cooked (which meant I didn’t have to!). Crocheted some baby hats and helped a tiny bit with a baby shower.

Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, New Orleans, bevy of books
This is not the ocean, This is Lake Pontchartrain, just north of New Orleans.
All the things I want to write about and share seemed to have evaporated from my brain. How did that happen?

I’m just now getting back to that stuff. Looking through the (just from the camera, after much deleting) 965 photos I have from that road trip helps. Finding videos I’d forgotten I had taken, which spark memories of specific times and places on the road. Little by little, it starts to return.

One of the best moments:

I’m driving across the widest point of Texas, the first full day back on the road after my car broke down. I had spent about 24 hours wondering if I’d have to ditch the car and spend a ton of cash renting something to get me to South Carolina, and then more cash to get a new car. I was over the moon to be out of Nogales and back on track to New Orleans. And it just hit me like a ton of bricks…

I am on my way to New Orleans.

For no reason at all, other than I wanted to go there.

No one who knows me actually knows where I am right this minute. I am not obligated to anyone to be anywhere for anything.


And this is MY LIFE right now.

How can that even be true? That’s Amazing! Amazing like the clip below:

And it’s not over.

Better living through slacking off.

Clifford beach California, bevy of books
Best seat in the house.

I went to the beach yesterday.

All by myself.

It’s not really warm, but nice enough that capris and a sweatshirt will let you stare at the ocean as long as you like. I saw a seal lion fishing in the waves, the sun peaking through the clouds and a surfer practicing in the tiny waves.

I wrote a bit in my journal, I read some of my book (Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley) and took 133 pictures in about 1.5 hours.

And it was amazing. And it was enough. And today I can do that all over again. Or I can stay ‘home’ and read all day, or color, or binge-watch Gilmore Girls.

I’m house-sitting for a friend on the southern Oregon coast for more than a week. House is empty except for a cat that hides most of the day. No one around to give a shit what time I wake up or how I want to waste my day. I really can do WHATEVER I want.

It wasn’t until recently that I had really asked myself that question – what do I want to do? – without some heavy modifier, like ‘that doesn’t cost more than $50?’ or ‘that isn’t more than 100 miles away?’

Rocky Mountains Montana, pileated woodpecker, bevy of books
I bet this bird has it all figured out.

It took months to train myself to think about days on my own terms, rather than those determined by permanent residency and limited time. You can’t just dump a 30-year mindset like an old pair of shoes that hurt your feet. It’s more like learning a new language, or moving to a brand new city. You still have to eat and sleep and wash your clothes, but you have to figure out how to do that all over again.

I’m hoping to kick-start that process by staring at the ocean a lot. Then I’m off on a driving tour of the southern USA, highlights to include the Grand Canyon and New Orleans. Maybe I’ll see you?


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.