Colorado & Living My Truth


Friday: We flew to Colorado for a Celebration of Life reunion for my late grandparents. My grandmother passed in the summer, just before her 90th birthday. Back then, I was fortunate enough to be able to say goodbye in her more lucid, yet silent moments. This trip was actually pre-planned by my grandmother, with funds set aside to pay for the entire trip for our family and even included a day at the Spa. My grandmother lived by the saying, “Go big or go home.” The travel inbound wasn’t terrible, but I should clarify by mentioning that, as a rule, I expect travel to be terrible, so anything less than terrible is acceptable to me. Our flight was initially delayed by an hour, but our drive into the mountains from Denver was serene, my professional driver brother our chauffeur, and the weather humid and brisk, but not rainy. Mesmerized by the scenery, I would switch off between losing myself through the window, and taking blurry pictures of trees framed by mountains as we zoomed past, inspiring my brother to joke throughout the trip “Where are you, Katrina?” and “Earth to Katrina….”

Earth to Katrina, indeed.

Saturday: A day at the Spa awaited us courtesy of my grandmother. And, thank God it did. The morning started off by being greeted by my miffed aunt, and older cousin, gossiping about my mother while waiting for breakfast in the restaurant portion of the resort. A little background: The plan for this trip was not just a reunion, it was to spread the ashes of my grandparents together on their favorite ski slope, where they spent their golden, and arguably happiest, years together. And, like her mother, my aunt has a hard time going small. She had planned for a helicopter to fly herself, my two uncles, and my mother out to the top of the mountain to spread a share of ashes. The plan was poetic, dramatic, and no longer happening. The weather conditions were not conducive to flying and spreading ashes in this way, so the ‘copter opted out. This left my aunt understandably disappointed, yet undefeated. She insisted on repeating this trip next year, saving the leftover ashes for another trip to this same location in the fall. My mother took unpaid time off from three of her jobs (which is not uncommon for the state of our economy), and is already less than at ease with travel, though it was most-expenses paid, the trip was trying on her physically and emotionally. She wanted the grieving to end. She needed closure. She needed this to be the only trip. And, she said so.

Not surprisingly, my aunt was miffed, and baffled by my mom’s steadfast refusal of her new plans. So miffed, in fact, that she made the complacent mistake to speak in dramatically hushed tones about my mom’s obdurateness to her first cousin. In front of my brother and myself. As we waited for breakfast. My head got hot, and I took a breath. I couldn’t let this fly. I interrupted her hushed tirade mid-sentence. “I need to remind you that my mother is taking unpaid time off from three jobs to be here this weekend,” my tone eerily stern. (I’ve been told I’m scary when I’m angry, which leads me to expect that my eyes must have been wide, my brow severe, and my cheeks gray with anger). My cousin responded nervously, “Oh, we understand. We do.” And the conversation dropped like a stone.

Growing up, it wasn’t a secret that my mom was different. She was and still is a dreamer, a poet, a humanitarian. She became a counselor, and made far less money than my non-social working relatives, who went on regular trips to countries they’d never been to before, golfed, and took up Scotch tasting as a hobby. As a child, I didn’t want to see the reality of how my aunt and uncles treated her. I had heard stories from my dad, but wanting to see the good in people, especially in my relatives, I tried to reason it away, and play dumb. As I got older, I noticed the cliquishness, and naively tried to befriend the clique, hoping that my acceptance would promote hers. On this trip, I learned the pathetic truth. My relatives are relentlessly elitist, and will find any excuse to criticize, exclude, and belittle my family, especially my mom. Little did I know that speaking my truth wouldn’t stop at breakfast.

After a tense breakfast, the timing perfect, I was spoiled by luxury I’d never known, and a massage including a cranial sacral treatment. Afterwards, the cares of breakfast seemed as far away as my day-job, and I recouped my patience for  dinner with the family, catered at the hotel. As though planned, my aunt’s son proved that no matter how old and accomplished you get, you can still choose to remain a child. Married, with his wife at his side, he sat not a foot away from the makeshift bar my aunt had prepared. I walked past him to refill my water, when he lifted his empty scotch glass to my shoulder. Without a word, he gestured for me to take it. “Scotch,” he said, and specified the brand. I took it, unimpressed. He was unkind to me as a child. And, when I was about four, made a point to emphasize that we weren’t really family, as his mother is a stepchild to my maternal grandfather. A true and bonafide ass on a number of occasions, this gesture was unsurprising. What surprised him, however, is that I am no longer four years old, timid, and pining for his worthless approval. I looked down at him, his petite wife staring, “Hmmm,” I paused, “I’m looking for a word….” He stared down at the floor where he sat, wordless. “Starts with a P….” I waited. “Ends with an E….” I waited. His wife’s eyes widened. “Okay, I’ll give you a hint. Second letter is L….” He continued to stare. I did not waver. Finally, he relented “You can have a sip.” Knowing I’d made my point, I cheerily quipped, “Why, thank you!” filled the glass with two fingers, and took a polite sip. I’m beginning to notice a trend.

Sunday: The day of the Celebration of Life. Now, it was my brother’s turn to be on the receiving end of my cousin’s favorite pastime. My brother was very close to my grandmother. More so than I was. They’d do everything together once they moved back to Illinois. He’d go swimming with her the most often at the neighborhood pool, and spent nights watching movies with her when he was little. They shared many memories, and were a lot alike. This was not an easy occasion. A grown man with a career, and not a man with a physique you’d want to cross, I was his life-vest. Embarrassed at the likeliness of overt emotion, he asked me to sit with him at the far back of the banquet hall of the ski resort, next to an unfortunately placed trash can. We sat in silence, watching the friends and family pour into the room, with golden aspen leaves flickering in the wind outside the picture windows. We were silent, together, in a moment, starting to grieve. This was until I saw the jarring display my cousin put on. Gesturing loudly, eyes wide with a jeering smile, he pointed his long and bony finger at the two of us, laughing. He motioned to his mother to come over to us to correct our antisocial behavior. She patronizingly grinned at the two of us, and came over to the table, insisting that we relocate closer to the front. My brother tried to explain he was emotional, and as she started on didactically about how everyone’s emotional, I told her that I agreed we’d need to move forward eventually. We sat down towards the front, and soon were joined by my uncle’s wife, an artist, and in a friendly disposition. She started to chat with my brother, which presented a fortunate opportunity for me to get up and make a beeline for my ridiculous cousin and his enabler wife. They were giggling inwards to each other. Once I reached his back, I spoke into his neck, “Excuse me.” He turned around, their eyes wide. Sternly, and clearly enough to spook him, “This is a difficult day for my brother. Go easy on him.” I didn’t wait for agreement. His eyes were enough for me to know I’d made my point. With a beat, I turned around and walked back to our new table.

The Celebration was cathartic, and bittersweet. I even managed to speak through my tears, mostly in grief at what I didn’t get to experience with my grandparents, and gratefulness for the poignant little that I had. I was proud to be a legacy of theirs, living my life on my own terms, carrying on their most important legacy: the resistance to conformity, something some of their own children could hardly understand.

One of my elder cousins and my uncle split the ashes among plain white dixie cups so that everyone who wanted a hand in spreading the ashes could. We all walked onto the slope, some of us pursuing spots under the ski lift, others finding spots overlooking the aspens, and mountains in the distance. I took the moment to lose myself in the view, learning that my grandparents and I had more in common than I ever realized, with the same appreciation for the Earth, mesmerized by the same interminable beauty.

The event concluded with a formal dinner that included the whole family, which was lovely, and even my less than amicable family seemed happy and friendly. I even had a fantastic talk with my grandfather’s closest friend, who even gifted me a copy of the book he wrote, hand-writing in the front page a dedication to me. I felt my grandfather would be pleased at our connection. I slept well that night.

The following day, in spite of the unifying experience, my family reverted back to their old ways. Right before boarding the plane home, my aunt posted a status about the experience with the entire family, thanking everyone who came out, with an accompanying photograph of the mountains featuring the family. Pictured were my aunt, her husband, my two uncles, and their wives. My mother was nowhere to be seen.

Sick to my stomach, I commented, unable to stop myself, “Nice…. Look at the whole family….”

The plane ride was uncharacteristically intolerable emotionally, and in reality. We were stuck on the tarmac after landing for an hour. Without hesitation, I made the most of the extra time. I checked in to Facebook. No acknowledgement of my comment had been made, but more pictures had been added, again, none featuring my mom, or my brother, or me. I felt the need to clarify.  I began typing in a private text to my aunt:

“Did you take any pictures with my Mom?” Sent. A pause. “I hope you post them.”

She replied instantly, “You mean her and i”

What a question, I thought. I replied monotonously, “Or any with the fam. I’d like to see them.”

She replied skillfully, “I have lots of pictures of the weekend and I am going to get people to send me theirs and share as soon as I can. Are you home yet”

Confident that I had my answer, I replied, “We’ve landed. Looking forward to seeing them.”

To which she replied, “Ok”

It has been a week since that conversation. No such pictures have been uploaded. No existing posts have been edited. Fortunately, my mother took pictures for herself, and my brother had one of our cousins take a lovely picture of us on the slope.

My Mother is a noble woman. Who loves fearlessly, and is the most forgiving person I know. She has transcended a lifetime of hurt, and still made sure my aunt made it home safely.

My Mother may not be accepted by her family, but with family like hers, this rejection is an honor.

We did right by my grandparents. And my Mother did right by herself. She did not let a single emotional or social infraction stop her from finding her peace on this trip.

My Mother taught me to live in my truth. On this trip, I finally did.

 

 

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Gone Fishing, To a Psychic, & Illness Strikes Twice


Friday, I chose to rest, hoping to recover from the week’s emotional and physical trials. I knew now I’d need tests, which was additional stress, but stress I was prepared to endure if they meant answers and solutions.

Gone Fishing

Saturday, I finally allowed myself to feel sadness, missing my friend who left for Wisconsin. Learning to accept that friends is all we can be has been hard, but worth doing. He’s onward to amazing things, and so am I, I hope, but we aren’t moving in the same direction at the moment. On Saturday I cried, and took a walk. It was a beautiful day, and I was feeling a little sensitive but lively. Out with my Mom, we stopped to sit by the river, a bike-path and a park adjacent to it. While there, whimsy entertained us, and we met a boy, an aspiring herpetologist, who caught a well-nourished green frog, and he assured us he’d put it back as soon as he showed his mom. We also met an older gentleman eager to teach me to fish (I have been fishing before, but I’m no expert). I caught a small blue-gill which we promptly threw back after appreciating its gorgeous scales (we let the fish keep the worm, of course). The fisherman confessed that after mounting an impressive catch on his wall, he vowed to never keep another fish he caught again. He said the fish he’d treated like a trophy would’ve been a mature fish for its size, and that “you don’t get that big by being stupid.” He regrets it to this day that that fish isn’t still swimming where he caught him. In fact, the trophy he gave away to a friend, not bearing to look at it. Afterwards, I got home feeling generally better, and happy that I forced myself to see the world outside of myself for a while.

… To A Psychic

Sunday, I saw a psychic, an Angel Reader more specifically, the one I’ve been going to for a while. I see her quite exclusively, because in conjunction with whatever message she might receive for me, she accompanies that message with helpful advice and insight. She’s a calming person to be around, and I value her for more than her intuitions. She’s seen me through hard transitions, especially of the romantic kind, and she helps me without judging me. She is nurturing, and speaks to me like an equal. Whether or not you, reader, believe in psychics, I think a person like this in one’s life is indispensable. What I mean by that is she’s a person who helps me by providing an objective perspective, advice that helps me to keep a positive and productive outlook on my life, and she helps me keep in touch with my spirituality, and make peace with the unknown, and the greater scheme of things. A person like that, whether in a psychic, a teacher, a mentor, or a therapist is invaluable, each specifically helpful to individual needs.

Illness Strikes Twice

Monday, I came down with a swift and terrible cold, and so left work 15 minutes early as soon as I was done with what I needed to finish. And I slept.

Tuesday, sick and in bed, I meditated on healing thoughts, because I could not have a raging cold and take the last of my prescribed tests. In fact, due to my upcoming tests I could not take normal pain killers or cold medicines. I was limited to Tylenol, and help from the Universe. I needed to kick this thing.

Wednesday, I was substantially better than the night before, but had to prep for the next round of tests, and so was on a liquid diet for the day, and we’ll leave it at that to spare the details. My mood survived at a convenient neutral with the help of (Spoiler Alert!) Daphne and Niles, finally professing their love for each other on the 90s sitcom, Frasier. Guilt-free, I admit to watching all eleven seasons for the third time around.

Thursday, the (hopefully) last round of tests. The nurses were incredibly kind, and even found me funny, which always lightens my mood. My parents were also supportive, and gentle. In spite of the anxiety I knew they were experiencing, they did their best to hide it from me. So far, the prognosis is favorable, and I’ll know officially in about a week. Relieved that this is likely something manageable without long-term or high-stakes consequences, they ate hearty at lunch, and I ate light, now developing a habit of asking for a to-go box no matter the size of the serving, respecting that my stomach may be the right size, but the system might not be up for the challenge. I’m feeling optimistic, and comforted by the fact that so many of my friends have wished me well today. I guess that’s the silver lining of the storm cloud of illness: you find out that people you wouldn’t have guessed really do care.

Take the Long Way Home & An Update– I Was Wrong

take the long way home collage

Every man I date comes with his own soundtrack, each one starting with a repetitive impending percussive intro, each with the potential to become his own song, only to resolve himself in Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust-ah.”

Today, I got subtly dumped (as in postponed for the third time in a row, this time with no alternative date in mind), his excuse seeming disappointingly unimaginative and irreprehensible. This excuse delivered via Snapchat Chat, the impermanence of his action stinging. I finally made our status clear, wishing him good luck in his future endeavors, asserting we wouldn’t have enough time for each other, joining the ranks of his exes.

Now to choose happy.

I was dumped this day at work, at 2:00pm, my bagel from lunch still not completely digested. Now, certain indigestion wasn’t a good enough excuse to duck out early, as tempting as that was. Having dated briefly by most standards, I was not irreparably broken-hearted. He was a friend first, we thought we ought to try, having agreed mutually that as soon as we felt our friendship was at stake, we’d end it. Now I think I fully understand why we are advised not to date friends, for fear such a choice will ruin or change the friendship. As much as I wanted to avoid that, it happened. How quickly we jeapordize happy memories in greed for more happiness.

I knew to manage my expectations with him. Still in college, I knew he came with a disclaimer. In fact, as the summer came to a close, knowing he had barely enough time to see me while he was in the state, I knew a long distance relationship was impossible. I could just see myself driving out to the boonies only to be told that Game of Thrones had hijacked our date night yet again. In short, I wanted to end it kindly, and in person. I truly wanted to retain this friendship. Where I went wrong was to provide warning.

Before our first opportunity to hang out, I had mentioned I wanted to talk with him, nothing was wrong, just wanted to “check in.” He seemed to clumsily circumvent the topic, saying he was in a place with “bad reception,” and could he call me later? Of course, I agreed. And finally the dreaded conversation had no choice but to take place essentially via text, old news for me considering this has been the case for not the last one but THREE guys. I expected more from this one. He wasn’t a Tinder date, he wasn’t a set-up, he was a friend. And I didn’t even merit a phone call. I played dumb. We will likely have to work together in the future, we’re both in the small village that is theatre, and I don’t intend to ‘salt the Earth’ here. I’ve tried that in the past– weeds still insidiously grow on that land.

Choose happy.

I left work later that afternoon, having finished my full day in spite of my disappointment. As I drove, I tried to think of what I’d do today to make this better, to make me happy. A workout  felt like too much to ask of myself, even though it had been my original thought from the morning. I turned up the radio, and let my hand slice through the impending fall air. Judah and the Lion came on, “I ain’t trading my youth for no suit and jacket…,” then the mandolin, “I ain’t giving my freedom for your money and status…,” the mandolin crescendos, “‘Cause everybody I know, everybody I know, is growing OLD, is growing OLD too quickly, and I don’t wanna go… No how am I supposed to slow it down, so I can figure out who I am?” By this point, the music is blaring, and I’m impassioned. I’m young. I’m free.

I take the long way home.

I drive a mile out of my way, and choose to pull into a forest preserve. I love being in nature, but I rarely manage it by myself. I intended initially to only park and listen to music, but when the DJ switched tracks, I was inclined to step out, and take a walk.

The local high school a mile away had a pep rally, blaring horns and drums echoed through the trees from the distance. Cheers broke through as I landed on the edge of a prairie swamp. Surrounded by life, cicadas and crickets competing for the loudest choir, bees swarming a bright yellow congress of flowers, and a hasty frog, startled by my imposition, dashed across my feet off the trail and into the tall grass. A sapphire blue dragon fly hopscotched across fat green leaves, and not one, but two monarchs sucked on bright pink wildflowers. The temperature dropped five degrees as I moved deeper into the trail, shaded by a thicker canopy of trees. The Earth awoke from its afternoon siesta with the gentle grumble of thunder, enough warning for me to start heading back to my car.

I felt peaceful. Happiness today meant contentedness, and a comfort in knowing this isn’t my last chance at love. With every exit, I learn the same message. Like the bumble bee once in view, and in a moment is lost to distraction, so will people love and leave. It’s in our nature. I will know I’ve found the right one when he stays. And in the meantime, I won’t regret my steps deeper into the trail, if even though more often than not I ‘get caught in the weeds.’

An Update: I Was Wrong

The last day has been draining. After not hearing back from him in 24 hours, no reply to the answer to a question he had asked, I started to worry. I messaged him ironically, “It’s been 24 hours, please let me know you’re alive, and I’ll leave you be,” assuming he was sick of me.

Last night I found out he is indeed ill, and in the hospital even. I got woozy. I feel I should set the record straight. I don’t know what to think anymore… Were the two prior postponements due to feeling ill? Have the precedents set by other men before him ruined my ability to be objective? The one time I refrain from granting the benefit of the doubt, he turns out to be telling the truth.

I’m far more jaded than I realized, the hurt from the past deeper than I thought. I quickly judged a friend, who, in my defense, has withheld what’s been happening in his life from me in general, only adding to my lack of trust, but the judgement weighed the most in mind, in spite of perhaps emotionally knowing better. My prior hurts the loudest voices in my brain.

Why did this time have to be different? I wish he was lying. Right now, I wish he was like all the others. Instead he’s sick, and I’m worried sick.