Get Mad About It

Just get mad.

That’s what I tell myself when I feel like I can’t go on. Can’t take the next vertical step, can’t row another single stroke to move my kayak, can’t push one more pedal to keep my bicycle upright. And it works. I’m not proud of the amount of cussing that went into the last 1/2 mile of my first backpacking trip. It was solo, so nobody got injured from my verbal tirade except maybe my immortal soul.

When my hubby or kids make me mad, my house is cleaned in a snap.

Mad for me, is a motivator.

And yes, I use the term “mad” loosely. It can mean angry, crazy, tightly wound, or deeply passionate in my world. It’s a multi-use word. Like y’all.

And my blog. That’s why it’s called Diary of a Mad Baby Boomer. Not a happy, sleepy, bashful, dopey, or terrified Baby Boomer (Terrified was the 8th dwarf I think).

Mad means no mercy for myself.

I have mercy for all other things, in fact if you could have witnessed me catching a salamander in our shower just now, you would be laughing madly (see how I used mad  there instead of hysterically, and it works right?). I don’t know why, but lizards are particularly nerve-wracking for me.  Maybe I think it rather unfair of God to put feet on a snake. But…I did battle with that little bastard to get in a cup, and he did not go quietly (why so many times underneath the cup?).

Now he is happily residing in the garden. Mercy.

Besides, how many times could that poor thing take a shower with my hubby and have it not be cruel and unusual punishment?

But this is not a lizard post.

My greatest endeavors have been birthed after getting deeply mad about something. Like my trip up the west coast solo. It was born in madness, but ended in bliss.

About 7 months ago I got very mad. So I booked a solo action adventure in New Zealand. Right up there at the top of my bucket list. I was really, really mad.

Since then every hike, every kayak endeavor, every bicycle ride, every single circuit training exercise has been leading up to this trip. Don’t be too impressed about the aforementioned, they’re like little old lady versions of the real thing I’m sure.

Nevertheless, I have worked HARD! In fact, in recent weeks I broke through to almost double the weights in my circuit training.

And now, this trip is only a couple of weeks away. So what would I have to be mad about you say?

My body has been working against me every step of the way. It doesn’t mean to, it just gets confused on what it’s supposed to be attacking, so it attacks itself. Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (with autonomic involvement) is a little bitch. The Lupus link.

But this is not new you say. You’ve been on chemo meds for 10 years. Why get mad now?

Because I have Pneumonia! Arghhhhh. Some little snotty nosed, sneezing, coughing kid kept running an orbit around me at the grocery store and I knew instantaneously that this was not going to end well.

Not his fault. He’s just a kid. I just have a compromised immune system. And it’s just that time of year. A toxic recipe for an immune system that is already working double time to repair nightly from that circuit weight increase.

I’m slowly getting better, but my body is not my friend. And as much as I would like to jump right back into where I was, I run the risk of becoming truly debilitated as a result.

img_0448

I know this from experience. It takes me 6 months or more to recover from Bursitis when I decide to push my joints farther than they are willing to go.

So here I lay, 10 days in bed and counting. Losing muscle mass at a faster rate than I made it, and in terrible, inexplicable pain (ah, the joys of auto-immune disease).

So it has left me no choice. I am just going to have to get mad. Real mad.

 

And I will make it to my destination, both mentally and physically as a result of much prayer and even more madness.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Pacific Coast Highway Day 4 – Gualala to Trinidad, CA

Dear Diary,

I can describe Northern California in just one word – Spectacular.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

Maybe because I knew I would have the shortest drive day thus far ahead of me, or maybe feeling accomplished (having conquered a part of Highway 1 the day before that made the stretch between Carmel and Montereey look like driver’s ed), or maybe just being awoken by a gentle surf, I rose with such a feeling of tranquility.

I would say that on a map Gualala is unremarkable, but my soul had been fed by the Gualala River/Pacific Ocean estuary outside of my window, the redwoods at my back, and the incredible South African transplant I had met the afternoon before. Gualala is quite remarkable in that regard.

I also got to meet and speak with another transplanted (from my area – LA) very young couple who managed the motel where I stayed. They had moved here to make a go of the solitude of this place and hopefully start a family.

I encouraged them to tell me how they felt about their relatively new digs over the complimentary continental breakfast served in the motel office. This is another perk of traveling alone. There is nobody demanding your attention, so you have the luxury of directing it toward absorbing what the moment is offering.

Remember, my husband is the energizer bunny with the AAA personality type. He is always pushing me to hurry, hurry, hurry which leaves no time for anything but the task at hand.

The couple told me they loved Gualala, but the transition had been difficult. The nearest Walmart was 3 hours away (driving time one way) and while they had chosen this place because of it’s remote location, they found themselves longing for the option of stimulation (restaurants, theater, museums, sporting events, amusement parks, etc.) and conveniences (groceries, shopping malls, medical/dental care, etc.) that we who dwell in the city take for granted.

Still, they were not going back. The traffic, fight for parking, crime, cost of living, and the lines you must stand in for ANYTHING kept them on track to continue to adjust. What fantastic role models for braving new frontiers they were.

Yet another notch in my fascinating people belt.

With both my soul and stomach satiated, I packed the pony, put the top down, and hit the road again. I was blazing an unfamiliar trail from here on out. There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of penetrating the perimeters of the familiar, liberating yourself from the chains of your own making that bind you to your quotidian.

I was ever so slightly becoming aware of something else. Just a dawn of awareness if you will.  The only way I can describe it is something twisted, turned, and pulled too tight. Like a rubber band when you twist it around and around while pulling it between your fingers to the point right before it breaks. The pinch points seem to be at each end, but in reality is every twist in-between.

I am not big on self-awareness, not because I have anything against it, I just never had time for such a self-indulgence. When self-awareness has crept in on its own in the past, it was usually as a result of a tragedy or horror. Not anything I wanted to spend any time analyzing that’s for sure.

What I was feeling was entirely new. A gentle awakening. A look inside that however fleeting, was generated by a calm desire to understand the obstacles lying between where I was, and where I wanted to be.

I also become aware that this journey was both physical and metaphysical. This is not something I had planned. Was it as a result of me taking this journey alone? Was it as a result of the time and distance I had put between the year’s events?

All I wanted to accomplish with this trip was to answer the question…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE. I still didn’t have an answer, nor did I have an answer for all of the rest of what was happening. It seemed like I was becoming more of a mess than I was straightening myself out.

The drive between Gualala to the point where I would turn back inland to join the 101 again was nothing less than stunning, and what I had envisioned when planning this journey. The sea became much more untamed than So Cali’s beaches, and I drove so close alongside it that I could feel the spray, taste the salt, and smell its incomparable fragrance.

Fort Bragg

Who needs Calgon? Take me away Pacific.

For the first time I was eager to go inland. I was looking forward to driving through forests of my favorite tree – the California Redwood.

Let me say I am not what you would consider a tree hugger, but when it comes to this tree I would do whatever it took to preserve it. The tallest and longest living tree in the world grows only in this place.

My love affair with these ancient living monoliths began when I first laid eyes on them as a little girl. My mother introduced me to them and her love for them was infectious. She in fact wants her ashes spread among them which is going to be a trick, since I’m sure that’s probably illegal.

I digress.

Since our first meeting, I have spent time with them but in inland places like Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nat’l Parks. Never enough time.

The old growth forests, like its mammalian equivalents the land elephant and ocean whales, were logged nearly into extinction. The giants were so threatened by tourists and loggers alike that the “Save the Redwoods League” was formed at the turn of the century and the preservation fight that continues today was born.

Since it takes a redwood tree 100 to 200 years to mature, every Californian (and for that matter everyone everywhere) should be concerned for their future safety.

Reacquainting myself with them by foot by way of the Newton B. Drury bypass was planned for tomorrow, for today I planned to enjoy them from my convertible by way of highway 271 (old highway 101) that parallels the new highway, but would allow me to drive through the forest on just two lanes.

It didn’t disappoint. I followed the Eel River through these magnificent trees for 31 miles.

Eel River

The sun dappled road and the perfume from these one-of-a-kind trees is like no other. It was so much warmer here that I was actually shedding layers as I drove. The sweet explosion to my senses was intoxicating. A one-dimensional photo leaves so much to be desired in capturing the experience.

giants1

I joined the 101 again to its 8 lane meander through this magnificent stretch of land as it bypasses the Lost Coast, and coincidentally the object of my Next Big Thing.

As I finally got closer to the coast again, the weather changed dramatically from sunny and warm to grey, wet, and cold. I approached Eureka with much anticipation, since I knew this place was lousy with old Victorian homes and a colorful history that only a town built by salty seamen and brawny loggers could render.

I kept putting back on layers with my pink t-shirt, pink sweatshirt, pink ball cap, and finally my new pink Monterey wind breaker with the hood pulled tightly over my ball cap as it started to sprinkle.

Hello Kitty does Pacific Coast Highway.

As I entered into Eureka I was met with a much different sight than I expected, which attributed to it being dramatically worse in my memory than it actually was.

Good people of Eureka, forgive me in advance of what I am about to say.

There was people wandering everywhere on the street in the middle of the weekday, and they seemed to be walking in a daze like zombies. I would later confirm this with a Eureka resident I met in Redding, Eureka has a serious drug problem.

There was quite a bit of police activity, and I became painfully aware that my purse and canon camera were laying on the passenger seat in my convertible for anyone to grab. I felt scared and vulnerable. I didn’t even feel safe enough to pull over and put the convertible top up.

The outskirts of town (despite being on the coast), were industrial and for lack of a better word…ugly. Why had San Francisco done such a good job with its shipping docks, and Eureka so poorly?

In a word…money. Eureka’s long financial descent started with the gold and lumber booms ending over the last century, then the economic hardships of the 70’s, 80’s, and most recently in 2009 had hit this city harder than it could recover from.

I would have thought coming from such a metropolis as the LA area would have better equipped me for this, but I was at a loss to ingest the desperation on Eureka’s streets. In LA prosperity and everything in between co-exist with poverty, but not in this place. There was no tolerance in any of it.

I was so glad I had not planned to bed down here. I couldn’t leave fast enough, and again I apologize to the Eurekans. I know I didn’t give you anything even resembling a chance.

On to my destination of Trinidad, CA. I was terrified at this point that Trinidad was going to be more of the same I had seen in Eureka. I felt very alone and…well, Hello Kittyish. I pulled off of the busy Highway 101 to Trinidad with much trepidation, all the while my mind was scurrying for a plan B.

I was “wowed” as soon as I left the interstate. The sun came out to meet me like a cheerful greeter through the dazzling mossy canopy.

Canopy

I had a heck of a hard time finding where I planned to bed down for the night as it was a Bed and Breakfast and not your standard hotel. While it was beautiful terrain, I was still skeptical about its hospitality.

I finally found my destination and discovered a note on the door “Back in 3 hours”. I knew I was a bit early for check-in, but seriously? Now what was I going to do if I didn’t feel safe here? My window on options was closing fast.

I drove down the street a piece to Patrick’s Point State Park. This photo is not very good (taken from over my windshield again) so you can imagine how green it really was in 3 glorious D.

Patricks Point State Park

Green is not a color I am accustomed to in So. Cali.

After paying the park fee, I struck out with my trusty map of the small park to find, you guessed it, the sea.

I parked and reluctantly left all of my worldly belongings in my trusty steed, and headed out on foot to one of many trails in the park.

And there it was. The mighty Pacific in all her glory.

PatrickPointweb

There was a couple on Outlook Rock (where I took this) that were taking turns snapping photos of each other. I offered to take a photo of them together, and I knew he was from LA by the reluctance with which he handed me his camera.

We have trust issues.

I took the photo and confirmed my suspicions…he was from LA. In fact, he was an oncologist and also on the board of directors for the UCLA cancer research center, where my niece (Susan’s daughter) was working to get her Masters Degree in cellular and molecular biology. When I asked if he knew her, he said he did. Small world eh?

He returned the favor by taking a photo of me with my camera, in all of my Hello Kitty Layers and Steroid Swelled glory.

Outlook & Me

I asked him where he was staying, as this was still a worry for me. He gave me the name of the exact Bed and Breakfast I had booked to stay the night and had found the “be back later” note on.

Thank you God.

It couldn’t be bad if this doctor was staying there. I asked him how he liked it, he stated that they liked it so much they cancelled their plans to spend time in Napa Valley so they could extend their stay.

Thank you again God.

Once again he put someone in my path that renewed my energy, filled me with happiness, and was such a genuine and unique people (both him and his wife) that my life is richer for knowing them.

We parted ways after chatting and I went on to explore the park with a much lighter heart. The sun was beginning its descent and I wanted to take in a little more. The photographic possibilities were endless.

The forest floor…

Forest Floor

The biggest slugs I have ever seen in my life were plentiful (I was careful not to step on one and make a mess of my shoes and their life). Ew.

Giant Slug

I headed back to the B&B and found the door open and my host inside. I had spoken to the owner on the phone when I made the reservation, and at that time she had prompted me to ask if any of the large rooms on the second floor were available for an upgrade.

I did so and she replied “No, we only have the smaller room downstairs available as all of our other guests are staying the week.”

I imagined staying in a coat closet with a toilet.

When I took my key and made my way to my room you can imagine how wrong I was when I opened the door and caught sight of my view.  My Room - Trinidad

Thank you God.

This was the small room? Really? I couldn’t even fit in this photo the office, changing/make-up room (yes a seperate room for that) and ridiculously spacious bathroom, but who cares with this view? And my own stove/heater thingy in my own sitting enclave. I was already sorry I was only staying one night.

I walked out onto the deck and gazed at Turtle Rock outside of my room. Turtle Rock was very loud with barking. What the heck?

I retrieved my hubby’s trusty binoculars (as it turns out the hotel provides them too), and I found the source of the noise…California Sea Lions. They were at the base of the gigantic rock and in the rough water surrounding it.

California Sea Lions Turtle Rock

I found out from the owners that the noise was primarily coming from the male bull of this harem and all of the young males who were attempting to gain access to the rock to rest, challenge, and mate.

The other smaller rocks around Turtle Rock had groups of the pinnipeds as well. I could just make out their shiny coats in the setting sun.

Small colony

I actually went out for a quick meal (opting out of my customary PB&J with trail mix combo) and came back to sit and sip a cup of herbal tea by the fake fire and the most glorious of views.

ViewfromBB

As I sat and watched the sun shine its last rays of the day, I quite unexpectedly felt one of the tight twists in my too tight rubber band give way. The Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement (ever after thought of as the Lupus Link in my mind) I had been in the fight for my life against for a year suddenly didn’t seem like such a heavy burden.

I was finally at peace with it. Suddenly, and with no conscience effort.

I was again mindful of the enigmatic awareness of what, I wasn’t sure. That peaceful self-awareness that had started my day had also ended it with an incredible gift.

The internal war I had waged against the dark passenger that had ravaged my body was over. I was at peace with the Lupus Link, and if it chose to take my life, then so be it. It has been in God’s hands ever since.

Sometimes the biggest battles are not won with will, but with grace.

Until next time dear diary, I leave you with my Trinidad sunset.

Sunset in Trinidad

A Bucket List Expose’ – An Affair of the Heart

Dear Diary,

The only guideline I gave myself when I started writing to you dear diary was that I had to be honest. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…as I know it.

I hate it when I do that.

I want to tell you so badly about my Pacific Coast Highway triumph, but I cannot do that unless I tell the truth of what motivated me to accomplish the solo trip from LA to Seattle.

It’s a painful truth.

Let me set the stage – April 2013. I had been off of work for 3 months and was still fighting for my life. I had not told anyone of the severity of my illness, that’s not how I was raised.

When things get darkest, I was taught from a young age to go inside. Don’t expose the monsters, don’t ask for help. Silence was rewarded.

My job had just let me go for being sick and in exchange for my silence on the matter and a 5k settlement, I signed an agreement that I would not pursue legal action.

I was too sick to care about legal action. I gladly signed it just to be over the LOA extensions and hostility I perceived every time I let them know I wasn’t getting better.

Still…it was a blow to both my ego and my pocketbook. I had not been without an income since I was 15 years old, which was 40 years. The 5k was only about 7 days worth of salary for me. They got off cheap.

I had never been faced with something I couldn’t overcome. Once I set my mind to achieve something, I don’t let go until it’s done. Being sick was new to me, and as hard as I tried, I could not affect the outcome.

If I’m being honest (and I have to be now that I made that rash promise to you diary), I knew deep down that I had been sick for a few years, but I kept talking myself out of it. I kept telling myself “it must just be from getting older, or it’s just stress, or I’m just tired, or I just need to eat better, or I just need to get more exercise.”

All of that was true to some extent, but the real culprit was the dark passenger ravaging my body. That’s what I call it.

Science calls it “Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement”. Those are fancy words that mean I have disease overlap between Lupus, Scleroderma, and Polymyositis with Rheumatoid Arthritis thrown in for good measure. The autonomic involvement is just a fancy word for saying my esophagus doesn’t work.

You would think I’d be thinner.

I was finally motivated to go to the doctor when I got up from my desk at 10:00 at night (I was the only one left in the building thank God), and the world went dark. I woke up looking at the underbelly of my desk. I’d never seen it from that angle before.

Kind of a Dead Poet Society moment.

I went to a doctor the next day and found that my heart was under attack. The unchecked disorder was damaging my ticker and it was in critical danger. Who knew? No matter how hard you try, you can’t will the heart into getting back in the game if it is marching to the beat of it’s own drummer.

By April 2013, my heart was showing signs of improvement. Not completely out of the woods yet…but at least it was not boldly marching down it’s fatal path.

But this wasn’t the catalyst for the bucket list trip. Not by a long shot.

I was lonely and not a little bored. I had been cut off from the outside world. My friendships were mostly work-related, so I had not had social contact for 4 months. My world had gotten pitifully small and silent.

The day came when I heard my hubby’s phone go off so I picked it up and looked at the text from his best friend Steve. They were discussing the upcoming “guy” weekend they were planning at our house in Arizona.

Mind you, in 20 years of marriage I had not checked his wallet, his phone, his pockets, his car, or anything else. I trusted him completely.

I read the text because I was hungry for some sort of outside contact. Any kind of interaction would do, even if it wasn’t mine.

It was delicious, so I didn’t stop there. I opened his recent texts and there it was. The catalyst. One text of three little words.

 “Wear something sexy.”

And it wasn’t sent to me.

It was to a female friend of his (let’s call her Tran) who he had arranged to meet on his way to work and sell some ammo to.

Well Wyatt Earp, you just shot me. Through.The. Heart.

The heart I was already so desperately trying to mend. The heart that was already at risk. The heart already under attack.

Except this blow was not from a dark passenger, it was from the person closest to me, my partner, my best friend, my mate.

Who is this guy? I felt like I suddenly didn’t know him at all.

I floundered. And true to my roots, I dove deep inside. I revealed nothing.

This was not a new pain. Although it had been many years, betrayal was not new. My mother betrayed us when she didn’t save us from my step-father. My first husband betrayed me with a co-worker when I was pregnant with our child.

So why am I always so surprised?

I had this roiling and seething inside of me for 2 weeks. The anger was building. The anger at being betrayed, the anger at having to deal with this while I was still trying to get back to good with my dark passenger, the anger at having this occur when I am 55 years old and supposed to be enjoying life, the anger at feeling like a fool.

Then came the monsters.

The ones that tell me it must be my fault somehow. The ones that tell me I must be unlovable. The ones that tell me I don’t deserve to be happy. The ones that tell me to pretend like it never happened so I don’t have to deal with the truth.

Not this time monsters. I am older and wiser now. I don’t have the time or energy for a trip down self destruction lane.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time. I’d lost my job, I’d lost my health, I’d even lost my figure thanks to the rapid weight gain from the massive amount of steroids and other medications I’d been taking for the last 4 months. I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror anymore. And now I’d lost my trust?

I’d lost my way.

It finally all came to a head at…of all places…a Wal Mart.

Let me just say, I have an abhorrence of public scenes. People who air their dirty laundry by arguing loudly in public have a lack of self control or a desperate need for attention in my book.

On this day I had gone with him to Wal Mart and true to his nature, Wyatt Earp insisted upon stopping by the ammo section. The Area Manager told him that they were expecting a large shipment of .22’s if he wanted to wait. There was already a line forming.

He asked if I minded waiting. I didn’t. What else did I have to do?

Then I remembered that .22 shells were what had brought Tran and Wyatt together on his way to work. Did she wear something sexy that night (he works off shifts)? Like a holster maybe?

I walked away, pretending like I was doing other shopping (I hate Wal Mart, so this is out of character for me normally). I could feel the anger doing a slow boil. It was dangerously close to spilling over.

2 hours later Wyatt called me and told me he had the .22’s and was ready to go. I could meet him at the check out lanes. He again thanked me for waiting around. I told him that it was fine as long as he didn’t sell them to someone he had arranged to meet on the way to work and had told to wear something sexy.

There it was. I spilled the beans in Wal Mart, a very public place. They had boiled over and right out of my mouth. Like anger vomit.

The realization of what I’d said visibly went through his mind and onto his face.

He has no problem with public scenes. His family is notorious for them.

He hissed at me, “You invaded my privacy?”

What? That’s what the issue was in his mind? Here comes the cray cray feeling.

I walked out and waited by the car. I wasn’t going to rebut in Wal Mart.

When he got in the car he was mad. HE WAS MAD. I love that.

I finally rebutted, “The only people who need privacy in a relationship are the ones who have something to hide or something to protect. Which is it with you?”

He said, “I don’t have anything to hide. I sent that text to test you to see if you checked my phone.”

“How convenient”, I replied. “Let’s just say I was buying that, which I’m not, but if I were…why would you send the text to Tran? She thinks it’s real.”

He said, “No she doesn’t, she was in on the test.”

He was not helping his case. This put me over the anger edge.

“You brought in a woman, a third person into our relationship to TEST me? Now I really don’t buy it. I’d like to think you are not that stupid.”

“I didn’t really think about it that way. It was an innocent text. It’s not like you caught me going out on you. After all, if I was going to go out on you, do you think I would be with someone like Tran?”

This just keeps getting better.

“Really? Now you’re going to be insulted by WHO you would NOT choose to go out on me with?” I said incredulously.

“The point is this…do you REALLY think that I would ever go out on you?” was his rebuttal.

“No, but I also would not have believed that you would ask someone to wear something sexy to meet for a late night business exchange. You were flirting, whether or not you meant it to TEST me, at the end of the day it wasn’t about me. It was about you, and I’m done talking about it. I need to think where I go from here.”

To make a long story longer, we managed to have quite a few more very loud arguments (in private) about it.

When he left for his “guy” weekend, I decided since I was already accused of being a privacy invader, what did I have to lose?

NEVER, EVER underestimate a woman’s ability to find shit out when she’s mad.

I hacked his mail, his ipad, his computer. I found a couple of photos of him, Tran, and a woman we shall call Piggy (for obvious reasons, just sayin’) in the garage of our Arizona house partying. Piggy’s long standing crush on Wyatt was a joke among our friends who enjoyed ribbing him about it.

I wasn’t laughing anymore.

The date on these photos were at a time that I was still working 6 days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day. For us. For our future, while he was partying with Tran and Piggy at our other house?

It wasn’t a smoking gun, but still this was more than I could take.

I needed a time out. I needed to think. Away from this place. Away from everyone.

Belatedly I realized that I had no support system in place for this kind of thing. My little sister had been my support system, and she was gone.

A nagging question begged to be answered.

Would I be ok alone?

I hadn’t been alone since I was 20 years old, and  a short year after getting married, became a single Mom.

The nagging question became a shouting question. WOULD I BE OK ALONE?

I didn’t have an answer. I truly didn’t know. I needed to know. More than I needed anything else.

And my heart needed to heal. In so many ways.

I turned to a very unlikely source for comfort. I turned to my bucket list…and the solo Pacific Coast Highway trip was born.

The fun begins next time dear diary.