Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Year

It has now been a year that we've been back in Colorado.  It's been a very full year, and a lot has happened.  I have to say, I think most of the changes have been very positive.  I thought I'd share this little "first impression" bit I captured when we'd just arrived and I didn't have Internet (or furniture):

"We arrived the evening our little street was having a block party, complete with cones blocking access to our townhouse and a street filled with small people and their bicycles milling about, unheeding a slowly inching vehicle trying desperately to avoid running them over. We had been given a casual invitation to join them, but as I was dead tired, sweaty, and frazzled, and I knew M was, too, so we stayed inside.

I unpacked the car and surveyed the new place. My first impression was that it was smaller than what I had imagined it to be, and so I was mentally re-arranging my furnishings as I walked through our empty townhouse. The lingering smell of fresh paint and the marks of the carpet cleaner supplemented the appearance of the immaculately clean rooms and pristine cream and beige color scheme. I have never lived in such a new building. The style is refined but not fussy, and I know that my few pieces will look well in this space. I love the mantle. The kitchen is much smaller than I am used to, and I see that I will need a baker’s rack or something like that to supplement the counter space. I am amused by the abundant closets and lack of room in other things.

The neighborhood is lovely and quiet and safe. The greenbelt and walking/biking trails nearby are gorgeous. There are so many trees, and I can see the mountains, and the air is fresh and smells good.

I had to go to four stores to find a shower curtain and a fifth to get the rings that I somehow forgot. I am so reliant on Googling everything that trying to navigate without it, or depend on my memory, is pathetic. I finally found the stores I was looking for and bought the supplies I needed, but I felt inefficient and a little vulnerable doing it.

My moving truck has still not arrived, and being without chairs is the most uncomfortable thing of all, followed by a lack of kitchen items. I do not want to buy duplicates of things I already own, and am determined to get along without as long as I can. Fortunately, the complex has a business office with Internet access, a laundry, and the stores are close by. I really want my stuff. "

In the year that we've been here, I spent the money I'd saved, and am now in the process of building it back up.  Now that I'm debt free, and our expenses are pretty fixed, that shouldn't take too long.  Although I've been looking at Real Estate porn lately, I know I can't realistically consider buying anything until I've saved a big chunk of money for a down payment, and these days I can think of lots of other things I'd like to do with my money.

I've got a good job.  I've been there 90 days now, and I just received some great feedback from my boss on a project I'm working on.  The guy that was causing me trouble succeeded in pissing off the project manager and the business owner of said project, and so the balance has shifted and he's no longer my problem.  That's the best outcome I could have hoped for.  I have found a person to be my mentor, and when I asked her if she'd be interested, she gave me an enthusiastic yes.  So now I have to figure out how to go about that process.  I am hoping I can find a good book to guide me.

My daughter has been going to a school district run summer program and has been active in lots of activities and field trips.  It's been a positive experience for her to get to do so many varied things and get out in the community going places.  School starts back up in three weeks and she'll begin First Grade.  As great as the summer program has been for her, it is in the opposite direction from my work, which means an extra half hour of driving each way that I'll happily give up once school starts and I'm back to dropping her off at her school.

Buster has informed me via one of his incredibly short emails yesterday, that he did not find work in Colorado.  This doesn't come as a big surprise, considering how the economic climate here has effected teaching jobs.  What kills me is how oblivious he is to how this makes M feel.  He continues to speak to her about things without talking to me first.  I don't know how he expects her to have an adult's understanding of how things work when he hasn't a clue himself.  He somehow found a position in West Palm Beach, Florida, "teaching computers in a high school."  Those poor kids.  He also told her that he'd love to have us visit them in Cape Cod next summer.  Through the haze of my anger, I simply said it is too early to make plans for a year from now.  He still has to get himself down to Florida, find a place to live, and get himself through a school year of teaching teenagers.  Somehow I think that he will find this a challenge.

For a little while recently I was in a kind of funk, and I finally realized that it was a result of having been so goal-oriented and worried and busy for so long, and then having my plans fall into place.  I was reeling with "what now?" and the disorientation of suddenly stepping off a long, crazy ride.   I discovered that now I have to focus on living in the moment, enjoy things as they are, and let the "next thing" reveal itself in its own time. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Birthrights and Heritage

When I think about the pattern of the relationships in my life, one obvious thing stands out (to me). I was so intent (subconsciously) to avoid an abusive man that I attached myself to men who were unable – for one reason or another – to fully engage. Not only with me, but with life in general. Somehow that lack of aggression was enough of a safety flag for me that I was willing to overlook all the other deficiencies: irresponsibility, isolation, lack of motivation, limited interests, and poor self-esteem. To varying degrees, the men that I’ve spent the most time with over the years have all been quite happy to let me do everything, make most of the decisions, and set the pace of the relationship. They didn’t have great jobs, but they didn’t hit me. They didn’t share a lot of my interests, but they didn’t violate my boundaries. They didn’t really want to know me, but they also didn’t try to control me. For the most part, they were affable, quiet, predictable, but severely limited.

While I was proud that once I left my parents' house I was never again hit or molested or yelled at, I knew that there were many things I was not experiencing. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to believe that you deserve better than you’ve known, even if you have been lucky enough to know inside that what you’ve known is wrong. While you are spending years learning a different way of navigating in the world, other people are going to college, starting careers and families, building the life that you envision from a distance. By the time I felt like most of my decisions were in my best interest and I had stopped taking three steps back for every one step forward, I was a lot older than I had started.

Maybe that’s why – besides the accident of genes – I have consistently been mistaken for someone a lot younger than I am. I am well educated and well read, so I don’t “sound” ignorant. But I am aware that I have retained a certain naive quality despite my accompanying cynicism. I’m sure it is as confusing to others to try to interpret as it has been for me to live.

Being smart doesn’t offer you a road map to normal. And it is desperately hard to learn how to behave with people who have not grown up with crazy beyond just the pretending that kids like me learn way too early. There are nuances that can make you feel inadequate that a person who hasn’t been abused just doesn’t fathom. Back in the day, “self-help” books were just beginning to appear and therapy was damned expensive. It is sort of like someone who hasn’t grown up with private school and money doesn’t really “get” how to feel natural in that environment, except that we don’t tell our children that “everyone” knows what wealth feels like. We do, however, paint pretty pictures in our culture that families are sources of love and comfort, that parents and siblings care for one another, and that there is no place like home. By the time that you find out that you are different it has already shaped you.

I vowed one thing: that I wouldn’t pass it on. That it stopped with me. And though it cost me, I have fulfilled that promise to myself and the universe. I am raising my daughter – although alone – in a home that has an even keel, lots of hugs and kisses (but no creepy ones), regular hours and consistent rules, fun, no yelling, treats, honest discussions, vacations, permission to be royally pissed off – but not to be mean, attention and oversight and involvement, but minimal trying to make someone into someone they’re not, and a concerted effort to be kind, real, and fair.

Even driving with her in the car, I can glance at her fresh, lovely face in the rearview mirror and feel so very thankful that she is here with me in my life. Because I do get so much vicarious joy out of making sure that she is safe, whole, and happy. She tells me about her concerns, and I rejoice in their mundane ordinariness. She is spontaneous and kind. She is interested in the world around her. I am doing right by her.

She does not hear from me that boys are something to fear (although we’ve had some interesting conversations about cooties and such). And I hope that she will have the confidence to form relationships with people who have a healthy amount of drive and ambition and involvement with people and issues and projects that appeal to them. I hope she will be able to meet her match – and that it will be connections based on mutual strengths, not mutual neurosis. I wish I could be a better example in that department, but I’m not magic. But our household is peaceful and loving, and that is light years ahead of my legacy, so I will glide on that for a while.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Not that kind of animal

I am soon to be embarking on a new career challenge. My current boss wants me to find a mentor within our company and pursue a formal mentoring relationship. I mulled this for about a week, and coincidentally, we both came up with the same person in mind for the role. (We haven’t shared this with her, yet.)

It’s strange to be in this position, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m always up for something new. Heaven knows I haven’t ever followed the “traditional path.”

In other news…

I have a friend at work who shares a lot of my tastes- in music, books, humor, general outlook. He is a single parent of a young son. We email each other during the day and laugh at the same things. And he’s 32. Good grief. What is it about these young guys? I am old enough to be their babysitter. He doesn’t “get” the Eighties. He wasn’t alive – let alone understand the significance of – the 70s or the 60s. I am about to have my 49th birthday. Today, I said something to him about this disparity, and he actually used the C word.

No, not that one. He said “Cougar.”

I am NOT a cougar. Just because, for the past 15 years – or so – my relationships have been mainly with men sometimes as much as ten to fifteen years younger than me. I don’t have this intention. I don’t seek out someone younger than me on purpose. It used to come as a big surprise to both of us, and now it is something I’ve come to dread. I just meet some guy that I like. We get along. We talk. At some point, we start comparing notes, and then it happens. “wow,” they say, “you don’t LOOK that OLD.”

It happened when I was 38. It happened when I was 40. And 45, 47, and today.

“Gee, thanks,” I think. “You don’t seem that young.” And then I wonder what it is that makes me different.

On a typical work day, I turn off the alarm, get up, take a shower, and then stand in front of a mirror. I have no illusions about the passage of time. I don’t dye my hair or employ any special tricks. I think I look like I feel (which most of the time, is tired and preoccupied).

I hate that term “cougar.” It implies so much premeditation and predation. I am neither. I haven’t had a boyfriend since I broke up with my daughter’s father (who is nine years younger than I am). My desires as far as men are concerned are so far from what the culture says a cougar's are is laughable.

I’d like someone to “get” me: my sense of humor, the way my mind works, what is important to me. I’d like someone to share my interests and like some of the same things I do. I’d like to sit across from a nice man and share a meal. I’d like to be kissed on the back of my neck. I’d like to have someone reach out for my hand in the evening as the day comes to a close. I’d like to have someone to bounce thoughts off of.

I have none of those things. It has been years since I shared that whole part of myself with anyone. I feel like that part of me is on hold. I see myself getting older and I feel wistful, but I think that what I’m doing now is important, and that’s as far as it goes.

To be called a name that seems so far away from who I am kind of makes me feel that much lonelier.

Just because I like Indi music and look good in my jeans. Sheesh.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Rocky Mountain High, Colorado!

I had a long, hard, stressful week. By Thursday, I knew I needed to do something. More of the same just wasn’t going to cut it. I was facing a long 4th of July weekend at our complex, which had already sent out the warning about using illegal fireworks. The pools would be full of screaming teenagers, the street in front of us would be full of kids, and the same people would be sitting in their lawn chairs and talking. All weekend.

I hadn’t been able to get a camping reservation in time, and while this was a disappointment, the thought of crowds there too didn’t seem appealing. I was feeling rather disenchanted with my fellow man. I wanted to get away.

As luck would have it, I had an email from one of the web-based travel agent sites. It was advertising summer discounts at hotels. It got me thinking about what I really wanted from this weekend – quiet, beauty, getting away from it all. I thought about how there are so many places right here in Colorado that I haven’t seen yet. And I have a credit card.

I started looking for hotels up in the mountains. I found one in Aspen that sounded like it was just the thing: in the winter, during ski season, this hotel is situated so that skiers can “ski in, ski out” – which means it is up on the mountain and not in town. I could hear the Aspen leaves rustling in the breeze already. I booked a room. And then I realized that I’d have to go home and pack, because leaving on a Friday afternoon to head up I-70 is guaranteed to be crazy crowded, so I’d have to be ready to leave immediately after work.

As expected, the first hour of the drive was spent just trying to get from where I picked up my daughter in town to Idaho Springs, which is kind of a trail marker on the way up to better things, and usually takes about 30 minutes. Once we got past Dillon Reservoir the traffic lightened up, and I started to enjoy the scenery. Even the rest stops are pretty.

It rained for a while before we got to Glenwood Springs and the turnoff to Aspen. Glenwood Canyon is truly spectacular, and the road follows the Colorado River. I thought about how lovely it would be to be on a boat, floating along on the water. Clearly, I was seeking a respite from my busy life.

Glenwood Springs is a pretty town. I could live there, if I didn’t need a job. The road takes you past the towns of Carbondale and Basalt until you come upon Snowmass, and then Snowmass Village, which is actually just before Aspen. Between the Village and Aspen is the Airport. While we were watching a fancy plane land I missed my turnoff, so we got to check out the row of expensive airplanes parked at Sardy Field. My daughter loves the Fancy Nancy books, so we talked out how fun it would be to fly from Denver to Aspen.

Snowmass Village is all about catering to the skier. In summer, it is definitely sleepier, but this suits me fine. The surroundings are gorgeous; steep mountainsides of conifer and aspen, wildflowers and rocky outcroppings. Many of the shops are closed for the season, but the sporting goods stores have simply shifted their focus to mountain biking and hiking, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafes. It is still possible to spend an obscene amount of money, even without the snow.

We were given a condo in the building furthest up the hill, bigger than I had reserved, just because they had the availability and the front desk guy was being very nice to us. Our unit is nestled into the hill, and the living room windows look right out at the lush tangle of aspen trees. We have a large equipped kitchen, a wood burning fireplace (totally unnecessary right now, but would be so lovely in the wintertime), and two bedrooms (I had asked for one) and two bathrooms, both with showers/tubs. The “kid’s” bedroom has two twin beds and built-in bunk beds, which M thought was fascinating and had to climb up and inspect immediately. The whole unit has been (over) decorated in a Western/Cowboy/Ski theme, and is so kitschy and profuse that it is kind of endearing. Everywhere you look, there is an artifact or symbol of some kind, including the requisite elk head over the mantle (which was rendered in carved wood, thank god).

I brought groceries, so we have been just poking around, going for little walks, reading, watching movies, playing cards, and enjoying not having to care what time it is. This morning, we going for a short hike and may hit the pool, if it is warm enough. It’s been in the 90s in Denver while we’ve been up here in the cool mountain air, and I’ve absolutely loved being able to open the windows and not hear air conditioning running.

Not being in Aspen Proper, I couldn’t say how it compares with the surrounding towns. (The airport is a clue) but I’m glad we are here. The Village is full of tourists, many of them from outside this country, judging from the different languages I’ve heard, and it has a definite Vacation feel to it. Most people are walking around in hiking boots and shorts or bicycling gear, and so I am unnoticeable in my jeans and flip flops, hair up and sunglasses on. Heaven.