Thursday, May 24, 2012


permanence (noun): the state or quality of lasting or remaining unchanged indefinitely.

After 15 years of living in the Upper Peninsula, I've decided its time to embrace this place.

My new found enthusiasm for this place- the 906, the Yoop, God's Country- is, I think, indicative of the fact that I'm back to who I used to be. Explanation...???

I've never really been able to feel completely welcome here in the U.P.; there's something about being a transplant that, no matter who you know, or how hard you try to assimilate, or how much you try to learn about your adopted place, you will always be the Other.

Other. Its a role I know well, and it has (of course) spilled from general life to my personal life. It can't be avoided. Being the Other is something that people in transition become: new town, new neighborhood, new job, new relationships. When we move ourselves to a place where change is inevitable, we also need to recognize that so is our role of becoming Other. Anyone who has been in a difficult relationship or been through a divorce can relate to this role. Friends quickly learn that although two are invited, only one will ever RSVP; you, Other, will always be along for the ride as the third- or fifth- or even seventh wheel.

And mostly, you will be grateful for such kind friends who refuse to mention the absence of your partner. Every. Time.

But I digress. This post is not about transitions, really. It is about the permanence that results from change. Yet it is also about Returning to Self.

You see, the past two years have been a serious Return to Self for me, a transition come full circle, if you will. People who have known me for longer than 15 years surely know what I'm talking about. The people who have only known me since then may have caught glimpses of that girl from time to time, but are really only now beginning to experience her most of the time.

My time here in the U.P. has afforded me the blessing of creating a surrogate family for myself, friends culled from awful jobs or through mutual friends, through shared interests or family. And those people whom I am so lucky to include among the branches of my family tree have accepted me as Other without blinking an eye.

I figure then, that as a re-commitment or Return to Self, I can in turn accept this place I have called home for 15 years with open arms and a smile rather than deep sighs and eye rolls. There is so much I want to do now...

I want to spend time with that floating feeling near Lake of the Clouds. I want to get lost running the trails near Copper Harbor. I want to plunge into Lake Superior from the Black Rocks with Jeff while Kristina takes our picture. I want to go swimming in Christmas with Bridgette and her dogs. I want to have ice cream with Joanna and her babies at the Dairy Flo in Rapid River while we hatch grand business plans. I want to run the Kipling loop with Jessica- even the North Bluff hill part- in preparation for another last-minute, cheap & easy race vacation. I want to read books in the sand at the far end of Aronson Island on a summer day. I want to have too many late night cocktails with Kris and Steph while their baby and dogs sleep down the hall. I want to drive around drinking coffee and running errands with Pat. I want to eat copious amounts of guacamole and laugh, open mouthed and without sound, with Maggie (beergaritas implied).

I want to do all of these things as a testament to the power of transition, to the power of the permanence these family members have used to burn a place on my heart.

I'm just now, 15 years on, becoming comfortable with my role as Other; even though it was made mine as a result of transition, it is a role I'm comfortable making permanent.

Welcome home.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Just Give Me a Minute

A while back, I wrote a post about balance and how I wanted it, and how I needed to work at finding it in my life. Well, in the five months since that post, not much has changed. I still have a frenetic work pace, am still making it through what seem to be never-ending training cycles, and there's still a sometimes-surly teenager doing her best to test my patience and drain my pocketbook.

Lest you think I'm turning into a bitter shrew of a divorcee, I'll point you to this post about what's great about my life these days. Although that post was written over a year ago, I'm standing by that list- it's all good.

But my personal evolution is not all sunshine and rainbows; I have my moments where dark, nasty, charcoal-colored clouds invade my space and linger beyond what's comfortable or productive. It's at times like that when I come up with items on the following list. Indulge, if you will, my momentary Pity Party:

Things I Miss About My Old Life (Even If I Only Tried to Wish Some of Them Into Existence, or If They Were There They Were Only Mostly Meh)

1. My turntable and veranda. And someone to playfully complain about my music selections, and the cackles of laughter carrying across the neighborhood. I miss summer nights watching people walk by and catching snippets of their conversations while I sat silently on the veranda, pretending to read or sleep.

2. The weight of another person- the weight of their presence, even- next to my body. I miss the physicality of someone else while leaning into each other, or standing at the coffee counter, or while reading the jacket of a book, or paging through a Crate & Barrel catalog- those small gestures that say "I like you near me."

3. Someone to argue and make up with; a good conversationalist, even if the conversation is full of total bullshit, makes life that much better.

4. A shoulder or a lap to fall asleep on while watching television, plus couch cuddle time.

5. My good dishes and cookware from Williams-Sonoma.

6. And while we're at it, I miss the kitchen I helped design; from the stainless steel appliances, to the concrete counter tops, to the reclaimed wood floors, to the lighting fixtures from Pottery Barn, to the crocks holding utensils, to the sunny spot where I'd drink my coffee each morning.

7. And furthermore...I miss someone else making the coffee each morning.

8. Hearing someone say "I'm happy you're here with me." (That one falls into the "wishful thinking" category.)

9. Someone to dress up and show off. Listen, as a former art student/current fashion slave, I absolutely lovelovelove using humans as my very own dolls. Just trust me, I know what you should be wearing and why.

10. S. E. X.  (You didn't think that was going to be omitted from the list just because my mother reads my blog, did you?!)

I've always been pretty positive (okay, but with a sarcastic side, too), and have used other's words to help me remain focused on the Good in Life. Just like that picture up top tells me, things will just keep getting better as long as I don't get bitter.

Pass the sugar  :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Risk vs. Reward

Its been just over a month since I posted anything here, and only a few months since I've taken an active role in looking for a guy to date, going so far as to sign up for an online dating service. I've even sent a few "winks" and emails to guys on the dating site, but let's cut to the chase, here: I finally went on a blind date. What hit me after I finally clicked "send" on that email agreeing to a bike ride and a beer was the idea of risk in life, especially when it comes to relationships.

I guess taking risks should be par for the course after a breakup or divorce; the guy I was meeting was nothing like I ever gave a second glance to in my younger days: short, bald, glasses. But he's witty, I told myself as I read his email, and he likes being active. Secretly, I hoped he'd be like Harry Goldblatt, Charlotte's husband from Sex in the City. Regardless, I was breaking from my usual definition of "date-able."

The plan was to meet this guy- let's call him "Not Harry"- in Marquette (about an hour's drive for me) and go for a bike ride, chat, have a beer, maybe two. I take my bike out of the basement, pump up the tires, and go for a short spin. So easy! Of course I can do this. Its only a bike ride and maybe a beer.

I make the drive feeling fine, no nerves or butterflies or anything, and when I pull up to our meeting place, I spot him immediately: he is just as he described himself, and I know that Chuck Woolery was nowhere close, what with his witty and flirty questions, winks, and smiles. We have a brief, sanitary hug hello, and we're off. The day was brisk but sunny, and the conversation was...kind of a chore. Not Harry had a bit of a frat boy way about him, trying in that nonchalant way to name-drop and impress. Also, he was an interrupter when it was my turn to talk. Sigh.

We park our bikes and take his car to go grab that beer and a snack. Driving down a main road, he points out a new local microbrewery & pub that's pretty popular...and drives right on by, instead taking me to a nice but generic place further down the road. We chat more, drink our beer, then head back to our bikes where Not Harry and I say our thank yous and goodbyes, and with another sanitary hug, my first post-divorce blind date is over. Risk: going on a date with someone whom you've only had a handful of email correspondences. Reward: knowing that your instincts regarding the opposite sex are still intact after being dormant for so many years.

I immediately drive back to that new microbrewery, try a few samples,  and pick up a growler of beer to take home. Before I start the drive back home, I stop at another new business in Marquette that I've been meaning to visit- Everyday Wines- and begin thinking again about risk. Two new businesses, successful even though the economy is less than ideal. What would those people be doing now if they hadn't taken such a risk?, I thought as I wandered around the shop, listening to the saleswoman give her friend a coffee order. She chatted me up a bit, found out about my reason for being in Marquette that day, and helped me out with some great wine selections.

And then something else happened.

As I'm paying for my wines, signing the credit slip, the sales woman's friend returned with her coffee and she said to him: "I'm going to introduce her to Also Not Harry," pointing to me. Her friend looks at me and says, "Oh, yeah. Good idea."

Not only do I not know either of these people, but I obviously don't know Also Not Harry. As I look up and say "Um, what?" (clearly my conversational skills need practice), she is already texting Also Not Harry. Just when I thought my risk-taking was finished for the day, this woman throws another at me, telling me I need to befriend Also Not Harry. 

What's a girl to do? Well, *this girl* has learned to embrace risk these past few years, and whereas I probably would have smiled and shouted "Hook a girl UP, yo!"  in my younger, bolder, pre-married days, that day I just smiled, shrugged with that "Why not?" look, and said "Uh...okay." (Again with the words!) Everybody needs new friends. I have yet to meet Also Not Harry, and should say that making new friends doesn't necessarily mean more dates, even if that's how my day started. Risk: letting fate and a stranger in a wine shop take control of the day. Reward: new friends.

Taking a risk can be as big as opening a new business or as small as going for a bike ride. Risk nothing, and you're settling for Good Enough; the low level risks associated with Good Enough can certainly be an enjoyable way to pass the time, but deep down, you know you'll always mentally compare Good Enough to What If, even if the latter is only in your head.

Its fitting then, that you never know how you'll truly respond to risk, even if you're aware of what could happen, what the possible outcomes could be. Your business could fail, or you could fall off that bike and skin your knee something awful. Or you could make new friends thanks to strangers in a wine shop.

You'll never know until you pump up those tires and push off.