Categories
General Musings

courage

Several weeks ago, Casey and I were on the couch in the living room, winding down for the evening as we so often do with a drink and a selection of short clips on YouTube. While we mainly stick to clips from various late night shows and commentators on the news, we do occasionally find something else that looks interesting or funny enough to watch. 

 On the evening in question, a video about the different sounds cats make popped up and while I honestly don’t remember what prompted us to watch it, we did. 

Heimdall (these days his name has been warped into Memers) was on the couch with us and as the video went on, I noticed him move. He did so gradually, rising from where he had been settled with Casey, and slowly, slowly made his way across Casey’s lap, headed towards the edge of the couch closest to the stairs. As he moved, his gaze was locked onto the wall-mounted television. 

Then the video ended and in a blur of motion with the sound of scrabbling claws on the floor as he tried and largely failed to gain purchase on the hardwood flooring, he was gone, puffy-tailed and obviously freaked out. 

We laughed. Of course we did. Both because of the suddenness of it and because Memers is still pretty small and because our interpretation of events was that he had just seen some kind of giant monster-cat who was somehow perched above the whole room and who had recently been saying something that was perhaps in some way menacing or untoward. 

Immediately after laughing, I felt a little bad, but figured that he would soon be over it since nothing ever seems to keep his adventurous spirit down for long. 

It being late, we turned off the television and began to go through the stages of our bedtime routine. It was then that I noticed Talisker on the landing of the stairs, crouched low and half hidden around the bend of the stairs. He had caught Memers’ terror and I immediately felt far worse for him than I had for Memers, since Tal is nothing if not perpetually jumpy. We often wonder what happened to him in his early life to make him so wary and the caution that we noticed in him so early on has not left him in the 18 months we’ve had him. I don’t think it ever will. 

I’ve learned, over time, that Tal does not find it soothing to have human contact on any terms that are not his own, so I simply sat on the other couch, where I could watch him as he crouched on the stairs, obviously torn between his fear of whatever had just taken place downstairs and his desire to come down and take advantage of the fact that part of the bedtime routine is feeding the cats and Casey was even then refiling their bowls. 

For his part, Memes was hiding behind the other couch, between it and the wall, giving me a clue just how spooked he was. Memers is nothing if not a little pigger come feeding time.

Because I somehow ended up being the one to completely fall in love with these two cats, I delayed going to bed for a while, even as Casey concluded filling their bowls and headed upstairs to brush his teeth. Talisker disappeared for a while, running away when Casey started up the stairs, clearly convinced that he was the motivation of a human heading in his general direction. 

I called him, pointlessly, because he never comes when called unless he can see you have a special treat for him. 

Memes continued to hide behind the couch, only his face barely visible, his entire posture somehow expressive of his readiness to retreat further, should any giant demon cats emerge from nowhere. 

Eventually, Tal had gotten so brave as to make it down to the penultimate step before hitting the main floor. He paused for a long while, grandly ignoring me as I made small coaxing noises. With aching slowness, one paw touched the ground and then another, both back paws remaining on the step while he ascertained what he could of the room. 

And then? Then my sweet little Tal Tal, who so often seems afraid of his own shadow, crept into the living room. He circled to the left, still ignoring me, but craning to get a good look at the rest of the couch I was sitting on. No demon cats there. 

Staying low, he continued past me, scoping out the various new angles of the room as they came to him. Nothing under the coffee table. Nothing on the coffee table. There was a long hesitation as he tried to see the top of a tall cabinet that sits underneath the television, but he kept going until he had circled around the coffee table and back to where I was. 

I understood as he made this circuit that he was simply gathering information for himself. Was the room safe? Was he safe? 

He seemed a bit more relaxed as he came back to where I was sitting, and didn’t bolt when I moved to scoop him up. From my arms, I showed him the top of the tall cabinet and then took him past the stairs and into the kitchen, where we circled the island and then I put him back down. 

No demon cats here, buddy. It’s safe. You’re safe. 

I sat back down on the couch, watching as Tal went to where Memes was still hiding behind the couch. They sniffed at each other cautiously, they way they sometimes do, when there’s apparently some need to verify on an olfactory level that their eyes don’t deceive them and that other cat is who it appears to be. 

I told Casey all about it and I am telling the story here, because I was so moved by it. Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, as I do, I have often said that if I were a cat, I would be Tal – or that if he were a person, he would be me. He gets scared and runs to hide whenever he hears someone coming down the stairs (even though it’s always just me or Casey) in the same nonsensical way I get scared of trying a new food (even though I have never shown signs of having any allergies to anything other than pollen in my entire life). 

To see him confront the danger of the unknown in such a practical way was another kind of parallel. I often badger Casey to Google things on my behalf (hypochondriacs shouldn’t look up medical information on the internet, I’ve found), and it’s for exactly the same reason. I need to understand the lay of the land and have information so I can have some assurances I am safe. I need to clear my mind of my own demon cat fears. 

And I think there was good lesson in there for Casey, as well. It doubtless seems ridiculous to him that I am, in Talisker terms, afraid of him coming down the stairs, even though every time I run and hide it’s always for no reason at all. 

“I can’t control this,” I told him. “But I can be brave, like Tal was brave, and I can seek out information until I feel like I know enough to feel safe.” 

Just because something doesn’t appear to be brave doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Just because someone doesn’t appear to be brave, doesn’t mean that they aren’t. You never know when something that may seem ridiculous to you is, in fact, something that requires great courage on the part of the person – or cat – doing it. 

Categories
Grief

pride and joy

Tomorrow, it will be two months since my dad passed away. 

Writing it still doesn’t feel right or true, and yet the spring of grief within me wells up at the same time. I suppose it’s denial, which makes sense. I seem to live in either denial or anger these days. 

I have lost other people, of course. Most of my grandparents have long since passed and there have been others: acquaintances and people from my husband’s family. My miscarriage was the worst loss until now – until cancer took my father long before it should have been his time. 

My relationship with my dad was not always easy. He was not an easy man. I have always thought that I understood him in many ways, because I am very much his daughter in the sense that we seemed to see and process the world around us in similar ways. I often wondered how much of that was nature and how much was nurture. 

He was often angry. As a child, my few friends were terrified of him because he was always vocal in his anger. As a person who cherished order and solitude, he was perpetually frustrated. Seven children and a disorganized wife will cause chaos to abound and I have some sympathy, looking back, because I know all too well the irritation that builds and builds with each new random thing out of place and the utter futility of anyone else in the world ever understanding that need, that requirement, that itch to have all things have their place and to be in it for more than a minute at a time for fuck’s sake.  

I was rarely a target of his anger growing up. I was an introverted kid (who grew into an introverted adult) and spent the majority of my time in my bedroom with the door shut and my head in a book. I wasn’t the child to make my mother’s life any harder either – to the contrary, I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t her primary source of assistance for anything from keeping the house clean, helping to cook meals or taking one or more of the younger children aside whether to simply mind them or to help them with their school. 

As I grew older, I took a job at the same place my dad worked, and then I was a young adult sharing a commute and water cooler chats with my own father. My mother seems to think Dad and I shared some strong bond as a result of those years, and maybe we did, but as is so often the case, things changed. I changed.

The last few years were particularly strained. I had spent a lot of that time – I don’t know to put this exactly – consciously rejecting a lot of what I was raised to believe. Mostly screwed up religious stuff, of the white Evangelical Christian bent with all the culture steeped in the patriarchy and racism. My parents likely believed these changes were because I was hanging out with the wrong crowd but it was actually that I honestly couldn’t reconcile the version of God I was raised on with the same one who came to preach love and acceptance. So I started disagreeing with my parents out loud when they would opine that women shouldn’t preach and all lives matter and that the 45th President was in any way, shape or form a man of God.

“When did you become such a damn libber?” my dad asked, summing up and dismissing whatever point it was I was trying to make. We didn’t talk for a year, which I know because it was my birthday when he said that to me and I didn’t call until his birthday, which falls two days before mine on the calendar. I don’t know if he noticed.

Fast-forward a few years and my dad was diagnosed with AML Leukemia in May 2020. Because he was stubborn, he decided early on not to seek treatment. Nine months later, he was gone. His final decline was sudden and swift. 

We still weren’t talking very much or very often. It was still a painful exercise for me, not knowing when it was worth an argument with him when he said something offensive and when I should just let it go because I knew his time was limited. 

The Sunday before he passed, I felt a sense of urgency to call. Because I never want to actually put myself through a conversation with either parent, I asked my husband to talk me out of it. He considered for a moment and then said, “I think you have to. Whatever it is that’s prompting you is something out of the ordinary. Call it God, the universe or philotic connection. You should call.” 

So I did. And we had the most normal conversation we’d had in years. I got an update about his health – he was tired, he’d had a nose bleed for several days – and we talked about things so mundane I can’t even recall. The only time we came close to a touchy subject, I remarked that we already knew we weren’t going to agree so perhaps it was better to save our time and energy. 

The next day, I got a text from my mom saying he was going on short-term disability. 

The day after that, my youngest brother called to say that Dad had collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Later text updates were that he had regained consciousness, was lucid and the doctor was working on getting hospice care set up. 

The day after that, I left my home for virtually the first time since March of the previous year (when COVID hit hard enough for my job to send everyone home) and flew for several hours to make it to my parents’ home. 

He never woke up, not really, and when he did he was so drugged that he clearly had no idea what was going on. 

And then he was gone. 

I am grateful for the last dialogue we had, because it was so normal and because we didn’t argue and I didn’t walk away from it hurting all over again over things that I can name but can’t and couldn’t solve. And yet, I lack closure, because we didn’t have a real conversation and talk about anything meaningful or true or deep. 

As always, Brandi Carlile expresses it best:

Where are you now?

Do you let me down?

Do you make me grieve for you?

Do I make you proud?

Do you get me now?

Am I your pride and joy?

Categories
General Musings Home Improvement

stuff i did when i wasn’t here

  • Watched a stupid amount of stuff on Netflix and Prime. Like, so much stuff. I still haven’t watched all of the first season of Stranger Things, however; nor Game of Thrones. I have no plans to change that state of affairs any time soon. #poser
  • Graduated with a BS in Business Management. It took me just over 11 months to complete the 79 credit hours I needed. #braggart
  • Thought about starting an MS program. Subsequently failed to start a MS program. I think I may still be burnt out, although I seem to be making a recovery in recent weeks and wanting to go out and learn stuff on purpose. #tired
  • Got promoted. Twice. Which means I finally successfully tricked people into thinking I would be good at people leading. It’s been more than a year that I have been leading my teams, and they haven’t fired me, so I guess I have that going for me. #braggart #again
  • Went back to Scotland for two weeks. Visited Edinburgh, Glasgow, Islay (where we waved to Jura, but didn’t make the ferry across due to poor planning), Oban, Skye and then a few areas around Inverness before heading back to Edinburgh, the airport and home. Visited more distilleries on this trip than I can properly remember, enjoyed another gorgeous and meaningful day at my spiritual center of Neist Point, went to church in Inverness and met some amazing people both there and at Oban who spoke life to me. I still want to move there. We’re still working on it. #wistfulAF
  • Helped to build a deck. Not just a regular deck mind you. Someone recently referred to it in my hearing as the “Titanic of decks, except it won’t sink.” (only partly because we live in a desert) I got to play with a flame thrower and get a jump on my 2020 goal of doing scary things, like climbing shaky ladders and operating power tools on said shaky ladders[1. Probably, they were not really all that shaky, but I have never loved man-made heights. Or power tools.]. I will get to keep helping with this in 2020, since we still have so much to do but at least got the roof on before the snows started falling. #JustProudIGuess
  • Got a new kitten following the sad loss of Loki earlier in the year. He’s the sweetest and the cutest kitten I’ve ever met and we named him Heimdall. Thor is not a fan. Yet. #HeartEyes
  • Also went back a week later and got Heimdall’s brother. He is wary and watchful and a beautiful smokey grey. So we broke with our Marvel-themed naming tradition and called him Talisker. #MoarHeartEyes

  • Had countless lunches and dinners with friends and people I thought I might like to get to know better over table. I was not wrong. #Communion
  • Speaking of Communion, got to practice public speaking at my church a time or two. Monopolized the time to assert my deep belief that everyone is welcome at Jesus’ table because #LoveWins and #legalismsucks
  • Got to visit one of my friends after she moved to Southern California to get a job with Disney Animation and to tour her workplace! She is so smart and so damn gifted and I am pleased as all hell to get to cheer when I see her name go by on the credits in films (most recently, Frozen 2). #WomenInSTEM
  • Read several books. Would like to claim a lot, but I really did take a break from life for an extended period of time there, and am just working on getting back into it. I am doing my level-best to make up for lost time though. #literarynerd

Probably a lot of other minutia as well, but I think that is the highlight reel. What have you done recently that makes you excite or passionate?

Categories
General Musings

oneword365, 2020 edition

I would in no way be me if I didn’t kick off my questionable return to writing random shit on the internet that no one cares about if I didn’t take a moment to talk about my OneWord. Like, look back a post or two and then skip further back to the turning of the year before that you will see that this is indeed a thing. Probably the very thing that makes me think blogging is a good idea, like it’s still 2005 and no one has moved past this particular form of expression.

So my word for 2019 has been largely shrouded in mystery up to this point[1. I say, like there were hordes of people desperate to know.], but now I feel just peachy about admitting it was “mother” and that I totally spent most of 2019 thinking I was going to adopt a child until I realized in September that my mental health state still really sucks balls and bringing a child into that kind of situation seemed like a shitty thing to do to both me and the theoretical kid, even if it wasn’t the absolute worst fate I could imagine a kid having to deal with.

So much for 2019 and OneWord. Onward and upward to 2020. I wanted a word that was about doing things and being engaged but not giving fucks where they don’t need to be given and basically trying to live without letting fear drag me down because the whole story of my whole life for the past several years has been all about fear and how I can’t possibly experience new things from foods I have never tried before to breathing the air in a different city because, my god, that’ll probably kill me somehow.

So I picked the word ‘badass’ for 2020.

Not because I think I am one, kicky new asymmetrical haircut notwithstanding. Not even because I think I can be one, really, what with my pushing 40 and having an exceedingly proper job where I have to act my age and not swear freely and it’s part of my actual job responsibilities to tell other people how to set their career goals for the year like that makes any sense in any universe. At the end of the day and the week and the month and the year, I will probably still mostly be who I am now, but I’d like it to be a better version. A braver version. A kinder version even, because I still think loving people is a pretty hardcore thing to do and one I am still not very good at.

Assuming I can keep this thing going at all, I’ll report back on any badassery that may occur.

Categories
General Musings

obligatory ‘welcome back, self’ post

Please. Hold your applause. This is so embarrassing. Stop clapping.

I know I’ve been MIA since March of 2018 (no I didn’t, I had to go look). Some stuff has happened since then. I’ll get to the details later. Maybe. We’ll see.

For now, I’m backish. 2019 did not escape (in my timezone) without my saying something and thereby doubtlessly justifying whatever it is I pay to do the thing where I own this website or whatever. 2020 is upon us and I have a goal to write between 500-100 words a week.

Not a resolution, mind you. A goal. That I wrote down and failed to share with my friends and random semi-acquaintances when I was telling them shit like that I am learning Gàidhlig[1. Like some ridiculous poser or perhaps a deranged Outlander fan] and trying to say yes to things when my default answer is no. I also noted that I stopped really living my life after I graduated, but now that I am thinking (and writing) about it, I am pretty sure I really stopped living somewhere around the time I started going to school.

Genuinely. Other than a few things that have happened here and there, it’s really been all work work work and school school school and then more work work work for so long it’s a miracle that there are still people in this actual world who will still speak to me.

Anyway, I have a goal to write more. And as all the evidence would suggest, I am not the sort of person to take the trouble to write a thing down if no one else will ever see it. (Reference: prior blogs, Facebook, Twitter, this blog, and the whole work website I put together in the guise of trying to provide helpful information to a target audience but which is really a secret way for me to publicly and semi-professionally let some 3000 people know that I think they are largely inadequate at their jobs and it would sure be nice if they could benefit from all my vaunted wisdom).[2. Wow, I sound like a total dick.] Hence, my dubious return. I mean, let’s not get carried away. If the last few years have proven anything, it’s that my enthusiasm for this sort of endeavor flags easily and in direct proportion to my perennial realization that I really don’t have that many interesting things to say.

What I do have is some trauma to work through with regard to my family and how I am in denial that I could possibly be related to any of them. I also have a shit ton of rage for various personages at my workplace that might hearken back to those good old days when I waxed eloquent about wanting to beat my guildies with sticks sometimes because damn. I am also learning Gàidhlig, which might be exciting for exactly none of you and which I may have mentioned previously.

Stay tuned. Or don’t. I’ll write more later. Or won’t. But in the meantime, I hope everyone has a glorious start to 2020.

Categories
General Musings

so, so close

You guys! You. Guys.

There is a tunnel.

There is a light.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

That is all.

Categories
General Musings

bydand and other things

Hello?

I wanted to say, “Hello!” all Hannah Hart style but, uh, it’s been a while. A long while. A long while made longer by the fact that I am constantly starting posts and never publishing them.

So here we are. March something or other and a few months down the road from what is usually my annual post about #OneWord365 and I am just as scattered and incoherent as ever I was back in those good, old KMA days.

I bring up KMA, because I miss that time so desperately as of late. I miss the person I was and the freedom that I had to talk about anything I wanted and in pretty much any manner I desired. I miss Alas and find this Lesley person to be a grave disappointment in many ways.

So even though it’s March and I’ve been AWOL for quite some time, I wanted to spend some time talking about my #OneWord2018 and I also just want to spend more time here in general. I am not sure that will happen, seeing as how I am stretched oh so thin these days what with school and work and a social life and MOAR school, but the desire is most definitely there.

Unlike last year when I agonized over my #OneWord and then ended up settling on three words, this year came easily and dropped outta nowhere. (Not quite nowhere. My husband has some Gordon heritage.)

As you are supposed to do, I have been spending a fair amount of time contemplating my #OneWord and it’s been a very different kind of experience for me, this year. I’m not 100% sure why that is, but I do have some thoughts.

I think part of it is that my #OneWord is kind of a big word, with a lot of different directions that I am able to associate with it. I chose – or it chose me – bydand, which is a Scots word and the motto of the Gordon clan. It means ‘steadfast’or ‘abiding’ or even ‘stand and fight.’

I’ve been thinking about how I don’t fight enough these days. I have been more inclined to shrug and think that people can have their opinions, which is true. But I am also entitled to my own opinions and even to sharing them with people who I know won’t necessarily agree.

On the flip side, a quote from Bosch (the TV show, not the books) got me thinking about the corollary.  To paraphrase wildly, Bosch said he had gotten some “squid” tattoos on his knuckles: “Hold Fast.” His partner asked a question about “Hold fast to what?” to which Bosch replied, “To everything good, to anything that matters.” (Still paraphrasing. Wildly.)

YES. All the yes.

I have done a poor job of this in many ways. There are relationships I let lapse and I bitterly regret that. There are aspects of myself I have buried in what is commonly acceptable and this is just as bitter to me, because giving up who you are is always a tragedy (unless who you are is a raging asshole. I hope this is not true of me, but… y’know… let me know!).

Likewise, there are things that are not worth keeping around. So, yeah, hold fast to the good things that matter, but if you have toxic shit in your life? Throw it out as fast as you can. Like, yesterday.

Hold fast and let go.

Two sides of the same coin.

I think more about holding fast, mostly because these days I am holding fast to only one or two things when I would like to be retaining a dozen. I also think about it the context of my mental illness and the fact that I am so insanely good at believing terrible things but instantly scoff at the idea of anything good happening in my life.

This, despite all the arguably amazing and wonderful things in my life.

It makes no sense, but when have I ever?

Steadfast.

Abiding.

Stand and fight.

I am not sure where bydand is taking me in this year. I do know I have already been challenged in many ways and that the outcomes are going to be mainly positive for me (or at least, I hope so), if only I can step outside of mental illness and discomfort and into some kind of positivity and hope.

I want to talk about it more, and I hope I can find the time and space to do so here. Y’all know I’ve always processed through writing.  Whether or not anyone ever reads this is somewhat immaterial because I need to bleed my thoughts in order to analyze them.

If you’re here, if you care or don’t care, thank you for reading. I appreciate it.

Categories
General Musings

life on purpose, with purpose

Casey and I are talking about moving to Scotland in the next five years or so.

We’ve been telling people this bit by bit ever since we realized that this is a genuine life goal, and seem to get one of two reactions. There’s the negative “I think this is a bad idea!” reaction, which I don’t think we’ve even had thrown at us in actual earnest up to this point [1. But then again, neither have we mentioned this plan to the people most likely to be vociferous in their disdain for it, so there’s that.] And then there’s the positive, “Awesome! I want to come visit!” reaction, which we’ve gotten a lot more of, and which has certainly been genuine.

The decision feels almost frivolous to me, probably because I don’t really believe it myself. I am trying to put some faith in it, but there’s also a level of resistance in me since I am quite attached to my current life and cannot really fathom leaving behind Salt Lake City and my community.

Again.

I just got that back, for the love.

At the same time, it is Scotland, and if other posts of mine haven’t been enough to shed some light on how I feel about about it, I freaking love the place. I have since long before I went there and I think I always will, because it’s a part of my soul in some way I can’t quite define. It’s a home I have never really lived in, only visited, and too briefly.

Perhaps my DNA is wrapped up in Scotland, although genealogy charts don’t dictate that there is high percentage of ancestral blood to be found there. Perhaps it is just a quirk of myself, to feel so connected – long before setting foot on those melancholy moors – to that culture and those people.

The idea of living in Scotland at once fills me with joy and with concern.

On the one hand, I believe down to my core that I could feel very much at home there – or anywhere else in the UK – despite the many differences I noticed just in a three weeks’ visit. On the other hand, I am too an American, and I like owning guns for no other reason than self-defense. Also, Costco. And sinks with a single tap. And a clothes dryer that isn’t some sticks and string in the open air. I had enough of that growing up, thank you very much.

But none of those things are necessities for me.

We’ve been looking into the requirements, At and I, and I’m glad we’re committed to at least finishing out our educational plans first. He is getting an MBA and I am getting my BS in Accounting Business Management, with plans to obtain my Master of Science Management and Leadership after.  While I doubt Scotland is crying out in need for business people, we may be able to manage a work visa on At’s IT skills and higher education combined. And once there, I won’t be unemployable, since Business Management is a fairly generic field to get into and a Masters in Leadership can’t hurt.

But so much of all this post has been written with an eye to the future.

For the here and now, this plan to move to another country has radically changed our lives. Gone are the days of talking about the improvements we could make to our house. We intend to finish out the basement, but that’s our only actual plan for the foreseeable future. Literally everything else we’ve ever talked about falls under the category of “Why bother? We’re moving in the next five years or so.”

As a goblin in disguise, I love this. I have been crunching numbers of how much we can save once we pay off the few existing debts we have outside our mortgage (mostly the car and a few small furniture purchases),  and the numbers are frankly gorgeous. Even if we don’t move anywhere, we’ll finally have a really lovely savings account and I won’t have had to fight At every step of the way for it. [1.What? He’s a frikkin’ spendthrift and he knows it. If I could rein in his incidentals, we’d be in truly outstanding financial shape.]

Balanced against that, again, is the very idea of no longer being here in the life and the community we’ve carved out for ourselves in the good old US of A. With Casey’s family mainly being in Europe and Africa, he finds the idea of adjusting to be very easy. Whereas if any of my family were within a few hour’s flight should we live in Scotland, they would be in a war zone. And I don’t want that ever.

Nothing is settled. Nothing is certain. But we keep talking as though it is and that? That exhilarates and terrifies me all at once, for so many reasons. We’ll be in Europe this fall and I can’t help but feel that this upcoming trip will be so much more important and so much more indicative of our probable future path. I’ll journey with an eye towards being an ex-pat and the realities both obvious and less-so that such a status would bring me.

In the end, all I can hope for is to be guided by God’s good hand.

Categories
General Musings

school is in session

All work and no play has made Alas a dull girl!

I’ve been enrolled in courses since 2/1, and while life hasn’t been all studying ever since, there has certainly been a lot of it. As always, I am a bit shocked to realize that it’s been a few months since I last published anything here. I say published, because I have a drafts folder full of half-composed ideas and tidbits of news and no clear idea of if or when they’ll be completed.

Anyhow, I can now say that I have finished every course for which I was officially enrolled originally and have added two more into the mix since I have a bit over 4 more months to go before my term ends.

Let me be honest: I am beyond pleased with myself.

Let me be honest again: I am annoyed with the school’s model on just one point.

First off, I knew that this would be the model going in, so it’s not like someone decided to spring something on me. I also figured I stood a pretty good chance of not liking this particular portion of the model. Since, um, I work more or less closely with the people who are in charge of this portion of events and most of them seem pretty dumb. Like, exceptionally dumb.

As a student, I don’t have any control over this forced interaction with someone I figured was going to know less than I did about a lot of the University policies and procedures. But then? Then I also got saddled with someone who not only was one of these people, but is also a person who has been around for a scant few months.

I haven’t been around a whole lot longer, in the grand scheme of things, but I have been around in what is – so far as I have been able to tell – the one freakin’ department in the whole place that isn’t allowed to pass the buck.

So even if I get asked something I don’t know, as a staff member, I can’t just be like, “LOL. This is someone else’s problem now!” and give it the heave-ho. I have to figure it out. I have to provide a solution.

I appreciate this to a certain point, but not as student in the department that I am in, being condescended to by someone who literally could not do his job without my department being there to support him and his kind.

Secondly (remember where I said “first off” several paragraphs ago?), I am actually making this condescending bullshit work out for me. For every time my mentor expresses doubt in my ability (which is often), I am automatically all fierce and in my mind all, “Fuck you, [mentor name]!” because I respond to perceived slights on my ability with ferocious displays of prowess.

At least in my own mind.

Which is where I operate.

And I have completed 14 credits with an eye towards another three this weekend and I am less than halfway through my term.

Again, I am beyond pleased with myself. Someone should probably come along and make an honest go at trying to wrangle my ego into submission.

And that is basically where I have been ever since February 1. Tied up in studying or working or semi-raging against the mentor I’ve been assigned as a student.

At least since I have finished 14 CU’s, I am no longer required to maintain the same level of communication. I am down to a bi-weekly basis and this? This is the best news I have had in a while because it means that 1) I get to sleep in this Friday and 2) I am trusted enough to do the work without regular check-ins.

Which, wow, of course I have been.

I can’t believe they made me wait two months to prove that I don’t need someone to hold my gorram hand the entire way.

Categories
General Musings

Chapter Six: My Spiritual Center *a straight up excerpt from my so-called memoir, but with pictures

The Isle of Skye is probably the most breathtakingly beautiful place I’ve ever been in my whole life. I suspect it may be the pinnacle of all earthly creation and I say this despite how fond I am of the mountains in my own back yard. I’d recommend everyone go there if they ever the chance, but I’d also say that you might need to love the rain or you might need to be the owner (or married to the owner) of a magic umbrella.

Casey owns a magic umbrella, so our trip to Skye was perfection.

We had debated for quite a while whether or not we would even go to Skye. At this point of our UK Adventure, we had arrived at Loch Tay in Scotland, the leg of our trip I had been most looking forward to. I think we were all a bit tired of being in the minivan and considering only Casey and his father were supposed to be driving, the idea of making it from Kenmore up to Inverness – to see Culloden Field, which was the one thing I absolutely had to do – and then cut all the way across to Skye was a bit daunting.

In the end though, we agreed that although it would be a long drive, we were much closer now than any of us would be in a few weeks and come on. It’s Skye.

To make the logistics a bit more difficult, we knew that we would have to try to find lodging once we got there. The gentleman who sold us some lunch supplies near Invermoriston on the banks of the Loch Ness told us we were crazy and that we should have made some sort of reservation a few weeks ago at the very latest.

aka: best picture Alas has taken in her WHOLE LIFE

We didn’t let that sort of pessimistic talk deter us and continued on our way. The closer we got, the more epic the scenery became. It’s truly the kind of beauty that could kill you with the longing to see it again. I don’t know how the people who live there cannot all be poets and photographers and painters. Or maybe they are. I didn’t get to meet any of them to talk to them about it.

Once we’d crossed over the bridge onto Skye, we all whipped out our cell phones and got down to the business of trying to find a place to stay. As our friend from the shores of Loch Ness had cautioned, it wasn’t looking too promising.

But God was watching out for us, because I eventually discovered a place in Carbost called the Old Inn, which claimed to have a bunkhouse attached. I called to see if they had enough space for five adults and the answer came back that they did, but that we would all have to be split up amongst three separate rooms. A hostel is hardly my idea of staying within my comfort zone, but after all, I had signed up for adventure. And there was no room at the Inn, Old or otherwise.

The rest of the drive to Carbost was filled with gorgeous scenery and a familiar sense of disquiet. It didn’t take any figuring to reach the conclusion that we weren’t going to have anything in the way of cell reception. If the medical emergency I’d been waiting for since October the year before finally decided to strike, I figured I was probably toast.

I just have a cheerful outlook like that.

Arriving in Carbost, we found the hostel was conveniently located a mere stroll from the only distillery on the whole Isle of Skye. We’d had no idea it was there when we reserved the remaining bunks, but it was quite fortuitous that things turned out that way. If the one thing I had to do was walk Drumossie Moor, well, the one thing Casey pined after was a chance to see how real Scottish Whiskey was made. And, you know, to have a free tasting. Priorities.

We secured our bunks, split up among three rooms as promised. My sister-in-law had begged and wheedled from the initial phone call all the way there to be permitted to stay in the room that only had one bunk. I think of myself at any age and in any state of mental health and know that I would never have wanted to be left alone in a room full of strangers. Either I’m not independent enough or my introversion really can be crippling. I admired Tori though, and was secretly pleased for her when she got her way.

The Old Inn boasts a pub, so we all headed over for dinner after getting settled. The place was surprisingly packed for such a tiny little scrap of a town on the edge of the western coast of Skye, but we managed a table and the food was really excellent. There was to be live music later, but we decided on a walk after eating and meandered down to a pier and back, taking our sweet time about it and reveling in the beauty.

And the weird signs.

As we walked, we firmed up plans for the following day. We’d kick things off with a tour of the Talisker Distillery because who doesn’t want a dram of Scotch first thing in the morning? After that, we decided we would head out to Neist Point, which – insofar as I have one – turned out to be my spiritual center.

If I could force people to listen to certain music as they read these words, this is the section where I would insist people listen to “Mightier” by Aaron Strumple, who doesn’t even have the decency to put out the best version of his own song that I’ve ever heard. Sorry, Aaron. It’s true. The worship team at The Fellowship often does it better. But you wrote the words and for that? I will give you everlasting credit. And profound thanks.

Plus, “Mightier” came out in 2015, and that was the same year I stood on the shores of Skye and felt all the things that are in this song echoing in my head but without the lyrics to put voice to them. I wish I’d had those lyrics then. I was with my husband’s folk, and they are almost all musical and we could have had the most beautiful and amazing worship service there on the rocks of Neist Point had we had the words, the talent and soft hearts. Probably, mine was the only heart that needed softening before that day and before I found my spiritual center.

I’m not entirely certain I can convey what I mean by that, but I’ll take a run at it anyhow. Maybe it’s that I’ve always seen God in his creation, and most particularly in the rocks and mountains. Maybe it’s that the whole day was basically a microcosm of the lessons I’ve been learning ever since my trip to the UK. Maybe it’s just the sort of place that feels holy, despite being covered with sheep dung.

Whatever part or parts of any of that it might’ve been [1. Probably not the poop part], it is still the shore of Skye that seems to resonate with me on some deep level. It is the mental picture I hold in my times of closest intimacy with my God.

Funny how when I was there, I had absolutely no idea how important it would become for me. Which is not to say that it didn’t impact me. It did, and profoundly so. I had just imagined that the impact was all cerebral and not spiritual. But Neist Point is where my heart started to soften a bit and where so many of my spiritual cairns mark a path out of darkness and into the light.

It was drizzling by the time we arrived there, and everything was shrouded in a wispy fog. I was cold at first, but between a borrowed extra jacket and the long walk we had from the parking lot down to the shore, I soon warmed up. Even had that not been the case, I think the wild beauty of the place would have soon distracted me from any physical discomfort. I know I forgot to be afraid the whole time we were there.

How can I convey the magic of this place? They say a picture is worth one thousand words and I have dozens and dozens of pictures, some of them quite spectacular, and even they fill me with a vague sense of disappointment. A picture can’t capture the bracing breeze or the scent of the sea. A picture can’t tell you anything about the slipperiness of the path or the constant bobbing everyone’s necks did as we focused one moment on our feet to make sure we weren’t about to land in a steaming pile of sheep dung and on the next moment had to look up, had to look around, had to draw everyone else’s attention to that cliff, this view, that unearthly clear patch of bright blue water.    

There’s a collection of older buildings there, one made to look like a lighthouse. They are painted gold and white and are striking against the endless green of the hills and the pale blue of the ocean. They are also abandoned, a melancholy end to what must have once been a rather charming B&B. The very remoteness of the place – not to mention the walk down to it from the parking lot – makes this understandable.

From the looks of things, there used to also be a place where guests or perhaps supplies might arrive via boat, and from there it was just a moderate tromp through the soggy mixture of grass and mud and, yes, sheep poop to arrive at the buildings. I keep mentioning the poop because you have never in your life seen so much sheep poop all in one place unless you are a sheep farmer. I just want that to be clear.

Beyond the decrepit former B&B was the rocky coast, and that was something else again. Again, I find myself frustrated with the lack of words to adequately describe how it was.

There was an absolutely massive tumble of rocks, none of which looked as though they could possibly be natural or original to the area. They were so largely uniform in size and general shape, all squared off, as though they had been shaped and used to build some sort of structure.

For all I know, that’s exactly what happened. They seem to have a great fondness in that region for dry-stacking walls. Why not buildings without mortar?     

Probably nearly every visitor before and after us had taken the time to stack a few of the rocks, one atop another, a beach full of cairns leading nowhere and signifying nothing other than that their makers had been there.

We didn’t make one, but that was probably only because my father in law had the notion to build a mini henge and that was enough fun to engage most of us in its making and subsequent photography shoot.

Beyond those stones was another type of rock, this one obviously more natural and rumored to be part of the Scottish side of the Giant’s Causeway, the more famous half of which is in Ireland. But it was unnatural in its own way. Closer to shore, all the terrain was grey. Further out, where the waves sighed against the stones, they were a stark black. It’s the sort of place that can make rocks interesting enough that you understand why some people major in geology.

We climbed all over the rocks, out to the ocean and looked out over the waves. Watching the mindless surge of the water against the pillars of stone, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the rock formation had been worn away by that endless striving. Jellyfish were occasionally visible and the seabirds wheeled overhead, raucous and wonderful in that setting in a way seagulls just aren’t around dumpsters in a parking lot in Salt Lake City.  

Overcome by the beauty of it all, I found a place to sit, sheltered from the wind by an outcropping and with a good view out over the water. Time stood still while I sat there, watching the skies clear from the mist that had enshrouded them. Eventually, I could see small blurs of land on the horizon – other islands – and the distinct line on the horizon where sky meets water.       

Eventually, we had to get going. Our stay on Skye was only ever meant to be the one night and we had a long drive back to Loch Tay before nightfall.

The walk back up to the parking lot warmed me so thoroughly that I was almost wishing for the mist and the wind again, but sunshine had arrived and burned off the clouds and spread a gentle warmth over everything.

As a result, the landscape was even more spectacular on the way up than it had been on the way down.

“Oh come on!” Tori blurted at one point, her eyes fixed on the cliff opposite of a small inlet of water from where we stood. “There was a waterfall hidden over there the whole time?”

I knew what she meant. It was just too much.

Since that day, I’ve looked back and back and back again. I can’t get any of it out of my head, and nor do I want to.  

I said earlier it was a microcosm of my life since then, so having said all of the above, let me now try to explain that statement.

I arrived at the most beautiful and peaceful place my soul has ever known in the midst of a shroud of rain and clouds. Kind of like how I arrived back in an active relationship with God, my beautiful refuge, in the midst of a shroud of anxiety.

I descended down a slippery and treacherous path that was covered with poop, finding even hidden beauty along the way until I came to the water. Sort of how I descended through the layers of myself, headed towards bottom, still finding some good things but mostly just blinded by the fog until at last I came to the end of myself and was faced with the waters of change.

And though others were with me on that day and though certainly others have been with me on my personal journey back towards wholeness, my contemplation of the sea that day was just as solitary as my spiritual journey has been at times. Solitude can be either peaceful or just lonely and I have been both, but I have also been brought to a deeper understanding of the fact that I am never truly alone for my God is always surrounding me, inside and out, and this truth has been one I have clung to through many fearful nights since.   

Lastly, in many ways, coming back up the hill was so much more difficult than going down could ever be. Burning muscles, shortness of breath, exertion. In my spiritual journey, putting my whole trust in God to keep me often feels like one step forward and two steps back. I stagger and fall a lot. I try to recall how loved I am, and I feel abandoned. I often want instantaneous healing, not this gradual process of recovery.

I’m not there yet, but I can’t wait to hit the summit of this spiritual journey and to turn my face to the Son and to see everything that was hidden from my sight before.