I can tell already that this is going to be one of those rambly life review posts, but this has been a crazy couple of months, y'all.
I don't even know how else to describe it except I've been in so many places -- my body and my suitcase and my as-ever hastily-assembled documents, as well as my heart and my mind -- that I'm losing track. I actually forgot how old I was the other day, although I can't remember why I wanted to remember in the first place. I just know I didn't know, that for a stretch of seconds I was ageless, which was nice, although my bones and my blood pressure disagree.
Since the end of my job at the end of May, I've been to Seattle for a week, then home, then Charlotte for what amounted to almost a week. Now I'm home, and due to go to Philadelphia for a long weekend of work and hopefully some more exploration of the city. After that it's here again, and more work on this strange, confusing, and sometimes exhilarating trip into what's next.
Seattle was a gift of a trip to a city that I loved from the first few minutes I got on the light rail from the airport to downtown ($2.75 and easy peasy -- nice!) and saw...well, I saw a lot of stuff, but pretty much all that stood out to me at first was trees. Trees everywhere, a sight for East Coast eyes, reaching feet and feet and feet up into the sky. I'd never been to the Pacific Northwest at all before, and every trip into a side of the country that is still so new to me after decades of going only as far west as Chicago opens my eyes and my heart to a landscape that still doesn't quite make sense to me outside of pictures.
My pictures are gathered here. I took very few of the conference, because I wasn't working the event in that way, and a scant few of the several outstanding meals I had while I was there. Believe me when I say that I ate almost nonstop the entire time, and had not one single bad meal. It's a kickass food town, and I'd go back with that agenda in mind any day. Like, say, tomorrow. Would someone like to invite me back tomorrow? Because I will rearrange some things.
Elliott's Oyster House, for instance, had me at "frozen mignonette."
That is not sorbet. Oh no. That is that glorious vinegar, shallot, wine oyster concoction that I love, except it is FROZEN. SUCH a good idea. I want more now.
Anyway. Seattle was nice. I have a highlights post in my mind that I should be writing right now, except right now what I'm trying to do is make friends with my blog again in sort of a conversational way. See how that's working for me? Yeah.
If Seattle is my new girlfriend, North Carolina is my road girl, POLITICAL CHOICES NOTWITHSTANDING, and Charlotte has its moments.
This weekend was unfortunately marred by an increasing struggle with hormones (hi, 41, thanks) that seems hell-bent on wrecking my body and my serenity for a week out of every month lately, but it also meant time with some friends I apparently really needed to see and feet back on streets with sights I completely understand, like wild roses in front yards and barbecue and sun that slants in a way that will always put my incorrigibly MidAtlantic soul most at ease.
This looks just like the way back of my grandmother's back yard, for instance. I saw so many wild roses on this street, a time machine of wild roses, if you will, down to the little old lady I finally saw fanning herself on the front porch and watching me take pictures of her rose bushes. She nodded and smiled and said good morning, obviously sweetly proud when I told her what she knew, which is that they are so beautiful.
I had luxurious time and meals and drinks with women who make me think better and want to write better, and who seem to see a better side of me (albeit filtered through the wires and tubes you're looking at) that I completely miss at almost all times when it's just me and a bathroom mirror and crushing self-assessment. (Thank you, Tanis. Thank you, Katherine. Thank you, Robin.) I had a beer in an Irish pub that doubles as a gay bar when it's not hosting Kenny Chesney concert pre-parties, served by a wrinkly dude in skinny jeans and a Guinness t-shirt and what you'd think would be an incongruent cowboy hat (however, no, it worked just fine) who seemed to delight in yelling at the myriad straight couples, "Don't say we're GAY FRIENDLY! We're totally NOT FRIENDLY!" And that is when he and I fell in conspiratorial love, so I ordered chicken fingers and stayed through all of the Hank Williams, Jr., on the jukebox to listen to him go on and on about the day.
I sat outside with Robin, who is simply put one of the best people who lives on this planet, and listened to insane boat horns on cruising hotrods. Every time they'd honk one of us would say something mildly funny, like, "Fuck you. No, really, fuck you this time again," and then we'd laugh and laugh. At one point I said "You know, I'd just maybe once like to have peace and contentment." She looked at me and immediately said "That is never. going. to. happen." and we laughed for minutes. It was, interestingly enough, one of the most useful things anyone has ever said to me, so I'm pretty sure that everything else is going to be fine from now on.
The internet may suck sometimes in soundbites, but these friends I have. These friends. I can't imagine my life without two things the most that I've gotten from the internet. One is how it's helping me reshape my professional life, and the work I do every day and where I get to do it. But two, and the winner by a mile, is these FRIENDS. I am lucky cubed and squared, and I don't know math at all so I just made that up.
A lot of other things have happened on and between these trips, things that have me catching my breath at things I read or see or experience, because I suddenly see myself anew in them or they touch a part of me now that hurts where it didn't use to or makes me smile bigger than it would have before. I have tears in my eyes most days, but it's good, it's good, it's all working for good. It's also really hard, some work that I'm doing, so hard I cannot explain it yet, some growing into this better and ultimately most true self that I've come to decide was real along the way. It's amazing how even the most difficult things are way less than devastating when you know after years of gray and indecision that they are simply right. I'm learning that there's amazing relief and calm acceptance and even joy in some of what looks like suffering.
And I know it's why I will look back at the details of this particular stretch of roaming a few cities as a necessary backdrop for the important stuff, as I've known it would be since I decided a few months back that I needed to do what I'm doing now. As much of a homebody as my heart can inherently be, my soul needs motion, to manage my anxiety. (I don't expect this to make sense to anyone.) Geographic cures may ultimately fail, but sometimes they don't, and there are those spaces in between that reassure me that I'm moving, that I will always have some access to my own particular kind of freedom. That how things had been for a very long time was simply not how they were supposed to be, something I always knew but wasn't sure how to really fix until now, in the physical shell and daily routine of this woman. And that every minute now of hyperventilating in public restroom stalls and wiping my eyes and stepping back out into the light and fixing my lipstick is in her better service.
Because this is truer than it's ever been, from me to me, in this 41 years. I can finally say it, Robin. More than even still (all apologies to the Commodores), I think I finally know that I just do.