Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stressed? Who is stressed?

Walking the high bridge

Time Magazine in the mid 1980's had a lead article on stress and consequences of it. Some research facility had assigned points to various events in life; so many points for losing a job, moving, getting a divorce, etc.  Those were the big ones. 

At the time the list appeared I had been moved by the company I was working for, was going through filing for divorce from an alcoholic husband, visiting a dying parent in a hospital, while temporarily living with my mother facing the eminent death of her husband. The last was not on the list but should have been. Oh, and I was less than a year clean and sober and had a sponsor who said I should not be doing any of those things. If you tallied up just those life events on the list I should have checked myself into a mental institution. Or committed suicide.

But I come from a long line of troupers. We keep on keeping on. And are the perfect model of decorum while doing it. There was a t-shirt I saw during that time which I should have bought. It defined stress as, "When your mouth keeps saying yes, but your heart is screaming NO, NO, NO."

There are no huge things like that going on in my life currently. Well, I am trying to refinance my house. Working on a community board trying to reorganize and organization. I have an erratically sick cat, and a dog older than Methuselah with a liver issue. And then there are a series of difficult people I am trying to avoid or not shoot.  I have survived financially some routine auto maintenance issues which came in four figures. (the bigger the truck the more expensive the tires). I began paying attention to a health issue which seems to require opening every letter from the health clinic or insurance company with trepidation. I am redoing my whole diet approach which means reading labels again. This time for sodium. And when you try to blend a diet for low blood sugar with an allergy diet and then add sodium and reduce meat it makes even meal preparation a source of stress. Not to mention it deletes all comfort foods just when I need comfort.

I could really go for a large hot fudge sundae just about now. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tired of Being Adult

I am tired of being adult. 

A combination of things has conspired to make me have to be on my best of behaviors entirely too long. I have had to act proper in public, be nice on the internet, bite my tongue too often, stay within my budget, make all appointments, keep the house presentable, and eat all the right things which means cook.

I told my sister just last night I wish my community had just one drive through restaurant. Just one so I could drive through and order all the things I know I cannot eat while honking at people for being too slow in front of me and playing very loud music with the windows rolled down. I cannot afford the speeding ticket but I would love to race from one end of the town to the other (a whole mile) and flip the finger at any slowpokes who got in my way.

While out on the distant plains with a long standing friend we both broke down in hysterical giggles. She had been adult for too long too. Fortunately there was nobody around unless a drone flew over. But it was small relief. I just really need to be a brat! I am itching to tell someone to go  to . . . . (pick the location of your choice.) And I have a list in mind.

There was a little girl
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

THERE was a little girl,
And she had a little curl
  Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very, very good,        5
  And when she was bad she was horrid.
One day she went upstairs,
When her parents, unawares,
  In the kitchen were occupied with meals,
And she stood upon her head        10
In her little trundle-bed,
  And then began hooraying with her heels.
Her mother heard the noise,
And she thought it was the boys
  A-playing at a combat in the attic;        15
But when she climbed the stair,
And found Jemima there,
  She took and she did spank her most emphatic.

But, unlike Jemima, I almost always got away with it. Maybe it is just a second childhood thing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lost Again in Las Vegas

I began going back to Las Vegas after my head injury because it has the Social Security office. And I hated going to Taos so much I even went to Santa Fe medical appointments via Las Vegas. I came in from the Mora direction and then had to find myself to I 25, which is not clearly marked. And Social Security is hidden behind Walmart. So I came to use the term lost again in Las Vegas.

Given my wanderings around it would seem I could have found everything by now. But when you are being led by a camera and interesting old buildings I am just thankful I am not hopelessly lost. I have found the important places like the Castaneda Hotel by the railroad. The train station looks new and not what I saw from the train. Need to google that. Glad they are renovating the hotel.

And I found Highlands University because they were filming Longmire just across the street. I found Luna University because I was looking for a background casting call for Longmire. 

Found this little church going from Luna University to the Montezuma Hotel turned university.

And along the way I found great old places to photograph beyond the Plaza. And now I am finding memories as well.

Grand Avenue has some more places I need to explore. I think in the future I need to reserve a hotel room and spend a few days just exploring.

Probably some of the interesting things I find to photograph the local residents might not be that happy about. But I hate sterile neighborhoods like nearby Angel Fire. No charm. So I am constantly running off to Raton or Trinidad or now Las Vegas.

Hopefully soon I will be familiar enough with the area I don't get lost as much. Still looking for the oldest church in the city, the reopening of the Castaneda Hotel, a tour of the Montezuma, the path down to the hot springs, the old mental hospital (interesting memory there - and no I was not a resident), and the money to stay at the Plaza.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Once It Has Been Opened

Once it has been opened, you know it will not keep. I think I heard that in a movie pertaining to wine or other alcoholic spirits. I have used it to refer to dark chocolate bars and from time to time ice cream. But lately it seems to mean memories. Open as the first rush of remembering, and keep as closing them back off again.

And it is not just about Las Vegas, New Mexico, but also the Bruce years. He died in October 2015 which did not bring those memories rushing back. But a mutual good friend has been helping his daughter sort through stuff, boxes and boxes of stuff. Dianne recently brought me a couple boxes of things she thought I might want to see. Things Sue did not want. Memories she did not want to open. I am at this moment not that sure I wanted to either. I totally understand why Sue escaped back to the coast fast. Today is sometimes only safe because we have closed off yesterday.

But the Bruce years were a significant part of my life. Bruce introduced me to John Steinbeck, Moby Dick, Tennessee Williams, and William Shakespeare. In the years I was with him I learned I could act, design costumes and theater sets, write poetry, and even a 400 page novel. But when I fled his company all I knew was what I had lost. Me. 

I am reminded of Marc Anthony's funeral oration for Julius Caesar, "The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with the bones. So let it be with Caesar." 

I remember the first time I read about the Stockholm Syndrome I immediately identified. I took my car, my dog, a few boxes of writings and some journals, and me. In a life filled with photography the years with Bruce contained no pictures I had taken. The boxes Dianne brought up had those he had taken. Those, except for his many loves on the side, were mostly of the good times. The picture perfect times with his daughters on vacations. Or documentation of the plays we were in and roles played.

And there were the letters. Ones I wrote from Indianapolis and Traverse City. The ones I wrote in response I assume to his pleas for me to return. The ones where I tried to lay out that it was daily less and less possible it would happen. Re-reading those gems I am grateful I escaped. And would like to slam the door on all the memories forgotten, but for those photos of Kris and Sue and I with my poodle Brandy sitting on the porch swing at the Hawkinson house on a farm outside Lindsborg, Kansas. 

Too bad we cannot reverse what Marc Anthony spoke by way of William Shakespeare.

I will keep the photos. I will take all the love letters he wrote to all the affairs in his life and burn them unopened with the pictures he always showed me. Flaunted. I will keep the poetry and inter the horror of those years.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Looking Back

Castaneda Hotel awaiting renovation

December 24, 2001 I was hit by a drunken skier while teaching a lesson at Angel Fire Resort. Prior to that day I was known for my memory. It took me a while to totally know the depths of the loss that day. I was thrilled at first that I had only lost three and a half hours of time. Later, when I passed the short term memory tests, I was elated. Except for not always knowing the right word at the right time my mind seemed fine.

But recovery from a closed brain trauma is a very complicated thing. To stay sane I concentrated on the positive, and practiced what I did not want to lose. Unfortunately I was not really aware of what I had lost. Largely I do not miss what is not in my head any more. At least until I am confronted by friends or circumstances with the reality of what is gone.

Last weekend I was in Las Vegas, New Mexico with an old friend. She was driving and we went to places in Las Vegas I did not remember. She talked of adventures there she was sure she had with me. I nodded and took pictures. It was a fun day in spite of this nagging feeling I had forgotten something very important. And, now as I look at the photos I took, and remember the day, and the stories she told, I just want to cry and I do not know why.

Memory is a tricky thing. It is details hung on context and shored up with emotion. You do not know what it is you have forgot until someone or something triggers what I call a shadow or ghost. A fleeting image of a place or thing or a joke shared. And like ghosts and shadows they can vanish as quickly.

Frequent readers of this blog will know I have developed an affinity for Las Vegas in the last few years. I seem to be drawn back there to take photos and walk the streets. If I had the money there was a building I wanted to buy and refurbish.  I never questioned why I felt so much loss when on my next visit I found it had sold.

I know I have fond memories of Las Vegas. In what seems like a snippet of a dream, I remember hanging out a window of the Plaza Hotel and waving to friends in the Plaza below. The building I wanted to buy is right across the street. That memory is from before I knew my travel companion of last Saturday. It was from college and the days of hanging around with the peace corps volunteers training at UNM. We went to Las Vegas to have Thanksgiving with the contingent to Ecuador before their departure. They had been training at Anton Chico and Villa Nueva nearby. They would be off to South America after Christmas. But there is also more sadness than just a last holiday with a group of friends.

Plaza Hotel Windows

I know it is not my only time in Las Vegas. I have no doubt I have soaked in the hot springs with my friend Dianne. She remembers it well. Doesn't understand my blank stare and silence. Maybe now that I have absorbed enough details, and some of the context the memories, more will come back, and I will only have to rearrange them so they make sense. 

I know I have been in the lobby and dining room of the Castaneda Hotel. I hear music when I look at the photographs I took. I so wanted to break in and walk through the lobby, but just took pictures of the outside. And maybe it is about ghosts and my wild imagination. I didn't miss the memories when I did not know I had lost them. Now they seem a hole in me. An abandoned room with one dim light.

Friday, January 15, 2016


The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings.

And typically, as tradition dictates, resolutions for the new year. I don't do resolutions. I have called them commitments and acknowledgments but I seem to avoid the avoid the world resolutions. It reminds me of court room dramas - It is hereby resolved . . . Resolution is defined as 1) a firm decision to do or not do something or 2) the action of solving a problem, dispute or contentious matter.  I think the words firm and action get in my way.

A resolution just seems negative like stop biting your nails, stop drinking, or lose weight. Even phrased in the positive (I will do ten planks a day) has negative connotations. And half the time as you are writing them down you know you will not keep them. Not for a full year. No way. And that is assuming nothing gets in the way like a broken leg which makes planks impossible. Or a definite nail biting situation. Even nail biting can have its place.

And so I take the airy fairy way out and just decide to put some aspect of my life in the forefront in the year ahead. This year it is health. To quote Mickey Mantle: If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself. But in truth I did manage to live this long which beats some of my relatives, several of my friends, and a couple ex's I know about. Not bad considering my wild and crazy youth which included drinking a lifetime of alcohol in just 15 years. Evidence of that is I find Hunter S. Thompson funny which means I can identify with his terms of reference.

But, the time has come, to take a bit more care with life things. At least take as much care of me as I do my fur kids. They get annual check ups and so will I from here on out. Though frankly I was doing very well when I had the physical. Still it is my intention (another word I use instead of resolution) to put more focus on health, exercise, and diet.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Life is Like That

Searching for a way down

I don't believe my cat thinks about how he is going to get down when he goes up. Maybe that is why you always hear those tales of firemen rescuing cats out of trees. I have heard the explanation about the direction of their claws but one of my expert tree climbing cats always came down tail first rather like us humans repelling off a cliff. Thicke is great at getting up. He mostly jumps to his position of the panels.

Balancing act

But once up there he seems to be mostly looking for an alternate way down. A way which does not involve jumping down to the mat table from where he ascended. I can understand that. Down is always more scary than up. I will climb a ladder easily enough and then stand near the top and ponder the first step back down.

I tell people I am afraid of heights. Inherited it from my mother. But that is really not true. I walk to the tops of mountains in search of the best camera shot. I stand on overlooks, sometimes lean out,  to get the best view. I am afraid of going down. There is the slow way. The way you got up. And there is the short cut. I do not always feel I have a choice. The route will be thrust upon me. And while I feel in control going up. I feel totally out of control going down. That is true for cars and ladders, and stairs, and paths. I am always missing the bottom rung on a ladder.

It sometimes even feels safer to stay where you are until rescue arrives. My brother and I would lead our kid sister on trails we had no business being on ourselves let alone with a six year old and a Toy Manchester dog. Our parents, standing at the bottom of whatever cliff we were on, always made the most horrible faces. Mom was total fear and Dad seemed to be harboring thoughts of what he would do to us if we made it down safely. Neither inspired a return to base.

Life can be like that. Going forward is more natural than a return. And sometimes just staying where you are is what you want to do. But life rarely allows that. It has its ups and its downs. Its joys and fears. If we are lucky we have a nice basket or easy chair to settle into after our adventures.

And a caring friend or two ready to welcome us back to earth.

But beware. What we consider safe ground isn't always. Yesterday after his adventures, Thicke, decided to jump out of his basket as opposed to taking the ladder, just to the right, down. He can be a risk taker. I think of myself as less than that. But I have friends who play it way safer than I do. But then we all define our risks in different ways. Maybe Thicke fears going down ladders as much as I do. My safe haven in New Mexico is for some city friends entirely too risky. My treks solo off road too dangerous. But if I lived in a managed safe community in Dallas I would never go out the door. Too dangerous.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Year of Living Dangerously

For most of the world the title would mean climbing a mountain or selling their home and becoming a vagabond or getting married, yet again. For me it means pushing the envelope just beyond my comfort zone. I have almost all my life (except for one crazy year upon graduation from college) been the person who did not believe in burning bridges. Never know when you might want to cross them again. But I have always believed in strategic retreats to high ground or safe caves.

Retreats are not as easy in a small community as they were in my moving around days. I find myself rather firmly rooted to my spot on the mountain. So retreat is to my studio or behind my camera on in front of my computer. I am not totally convinced the computer is a retreat, but that is a subject for another blog on another day. Retreat is closing myself off. And this year is about opening myself up.

The year 2015 was about finally getting myself free of a toxic friend, bringing a new cat into my life, and re-involving myself into my community. Specifically the art community; being more actively involved. I generally prefer being behind the front lines. After all, I was the one who helped form an art organization with no organization. And it has worked quite well.

I do a lot of things in my life in that manner. I may not burn my bridges but I can pretty effectively turn my back on them. In my youth I broke up with lovers and friends with huge fights, often in public places, one even became a police incident. I am famous for slammed doors, declarations of Never More and Over My Dead Body. In my dotage you will get an eye roll and me exiting the building, oh, so quietly, or deleting you without fanfare from my friends on Facebook. It is about stuffing my anger and hoping you will just go away.

Anger stuffed is stress. I had thought it was Zen. And the last half of this year the stress began to get to me in the form of health issues. And, in typical form, I did a and this shall pass pronouncement or keep on keeping on. Denial is a survival skill mentally, but it can also kill you physically. That said, 2016 will be more focused on health rather than weight. I tried skipping meals in 2015 which did not work. Could have killed me, and I didn't even lose weight. Besides, dieting is just more stress. 

Are you under any stress, the doctor asked in Urgent Care.

"Me?" I too quickly responded, then listed a couple things.

"Uh, huh," she said, making a note.

"Well, and then there is . . ." and I added a couple more things.

"Working too hard?"

"I'm retired," knowing that just meant I was not getting a salary for things I do like a job.

"And conflicts?", she asked as I frankly searched for a way out of the conversation. "Difficult people in your life just now?"

"Could this be about low blood sugar?" Note changing the subject does not always work.

This year will be about reducing stress.

And if reducing my stress requires I tell someone, in no uncertain terms, to stuff it, then that is what I will do. Now where did I misplace that mountain top I retreat to.