Friday, May 31, 2013

Camping in The Rain

Laura and I, and Sami the dog, were going to go camping last Tuesday through Friday at Little Pond, a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation campground in the Catskills, New York. Unfortunately, the 10-day weather forecast informed us that that there would be between a 40 and 60% chance of rain each day we would be there. So, we rescheduled to this week.

We arrived on Monday, Memorial Day, after the Memorial Day campers had departed. The sun was shining, and the campground surrounded us with a canopy of green leaves and opened up onto the "Little Pond." There was plenty of room to set up Laura's new REI Kingdom 4 tent.

 We had our own path and area in front of the pond.
Sami was very excited about the extra large water bowl at her disposal.

Little Pond is large enough to look out across the water and see something beautiful. I personally like the Rorschach effect.
When we put up the Kingdom tent (which I sort of both like and sort of hate in terms of nomenclature), we decided that the 10% chance of precipitation was enough to use the footprint, and pull the rain fly up and over the tent - those were some chock full gromets, let me tell you (camper geakease).
Despite our best laid intention to go camping in the sunshine, it started to rain the second day mid-morning and only subsided long enough for a fire and dinner before it was time to take shelter in the tent.
Now, rain falling on a tent is a wonderful sound. To me, it's a womb affect. Not because the rainfall is even; a bu-bump, bu-bump heartbeat sort of sound filling your very memory with comfort. It's something different than that. I think it might be the very simple experience of being protected. Just that. Just protected.
I made a little audio of the rain on the tent, and the sweet counterpoint discussion about our pets that ensued - but I can't get it to upload for some reason.
But let me take you back a few hours...
That morning, we'd had just enough time to break down kitchen camp and get covered in rain gear before it started to pour. After snapping Sami into one of her outfits (she had three outfits for our camping trip - rain/reflective, cozy dress, and hiking pack), and headed out for the small walk around the pond.
We got to see the sites where campers leave their cars at the end of the road and hike in. We were close to them because I'd picked the 2nd to most remote site where you could drive in - there was a water spigot right by our site, so I though it was a good exchange for having neighbors.
The walk-in sites had wood outhouses (which made Laura balked, but I thought was sort of cool - certainly closer than the bathroom we had to huff it to from our site). Some were just great - larger spaces with open views of the pond, and wood bridges following meandering paths.
There was also a trailhead. I wanted to go up. Laura thought we weren't prepared. So, we finished our little walk around the pond and returned to our site to get more prepared for a longer hike. Laura went into the tent to change, and Sami the dog and I went into the car to wait. I was already dressed for it - well, as best I could in what I'd brought across country on my little summer vacadventure.
However, when Laura came out, Sami the dog wouldn't move from the front seat of the car. Nope. Not going.
"What are we going to do here then - sit in the tent!?" We hadn't thought to bring any cards or games - it had rained last week. It wasn't supposed to rain this week.
Anyway, I stubbornly turned and went back to the trailhead and began climbing up. And up. And up. It was apparent it is the beginning of the hiking season on the East Coast. The trails were washed out in parts, covered by brick a brack in others. There were trees in the way, and bushes that had already grown across the path.
But, I'm an old time hiker and backpacker from my childhood. My Dad used to take us on 4 to 6 or so day backpacking trips in the White and Blue Ridge Mountains. Hiking in the rain? On trails that were barely visible? Eh. No big deal.
That turned out to be an accurate assessment of my hiking and trails skills. I saw every trail marker, and didn't miss a beat when the trail required me to exercise some long unused bouldering skills.
But, it's been a long time since I hiked on the East Coast, and I forgot that there are no ridges on which there stand no tall, green and leafy trees that block your view of where you are relative to where you've come, and where you are allegedly going.
So! Hiking and trails skills - check. Navigation skills without a compass, a map or the ability to see where the sun was given the torrential rain? Not check. I just kept hiking. And hiking. And hiking. Well, you get it.
I ended up dropping down (just kept thinking, gotta' go down now that I've gone up and up) into a flat place covered by yet another canopy of green leafy tall trees. But, now, in addition to the little red (or faded out pink or just the back white part) of the round NY trail markers, there were large red and orange warning signs telling me not to trespass.
Shit - am I going to get shot!? I stood under the dripping canopy paralyzed. Should I keep going? I was on flat land. It was looking good for me in terms of getting out of the woods. But, those were big, bright, red ominous signs. I didn't know who would come out of those woods, but I was sure it was going to be unpleasant. I turned and walked back. Stopped. Fuck it. Turned back and stopped. I don't know what to do. Stood there. Then, I just went for it. (Later, Laura told me that it wasn't hunting season, and people were pretty nice in the Catskills). 
Anyway, when I started moving again, I very quickly hiked out of the woods and into a gravel parking lot. There was a map in a plexiglas and wood case, and I did my level best to read it. I am not inexperienced at this task. Again - hiking when I was a kid with my Dad (the ex-Marine Captain).
So, I'll just say this:  California hiking maps ROCK. New York hiking maps SUCK. And as a result, I ended up turning the wrong way down the street in front of the parking lot, thinking I had 3, maybe 5 miles of pavement portage. I was wrong.
However, at that point, I was blissfully ignorant of this error in the NY map and walked on for about three miles. The rain had stopped, and the hills were the very picture of verdant. There were yellow and purple wildflowers decorating every incline into every shallow - whether run-off ditch or brook - there were blooming lilacs and white Queen Anne's lace.
And, then. Right there by the side of the road, I saw them. Long, delicate spring green stems with tiny, cup-like yellow flowers bowing their blooms under the weight of a droplet of water.
If you're from the East Coast, you may remember holding buttercups under each other's chin to see who liked butter and who didn't - or if you insisted on your own test, i.e. whether you would get a yellow and white checked dress with a ruffle on the bottom and a little white vest to wear to your First Communion (the Episcopal kind) (and which I did).
There are actually articles on the web about this Buttercup ritual - here's one such link:  buttercup test 

Anyway, I was certainly distracted by the amazing bouquet of Spring flowers I had in my hand. I even fashioned a tie to make it a posey with long pieces of green, wild grass. The farms were picture post-cards - even the country homes looked like white farm houses with shiny red barns. Farms are picturesque outposts in faery land on the East Coast - I wish I'd had a camera with me to show you what I'm talking about.

On the other hand, I could feel every bone, muscle, tendon, etc. from my waist down. It was sooooo not good.  As I turned a corner, I saw a man working on his house and hollered out for a helping hand.

The man and his...wife? I think girlfriend, were so nice. They drove me back to Little Pond (I was 13 miles away - had taken the wrong turn because of the stupid and very BAD map). They dropped me off, and I had to walk down the camp lane, and I just kept thinking, "I hope she lit a fire, I hope she lit a fire..."

She did. I saw it before I saw the rest of our campsite. Of course Laura lit a fire. She's sweet. And in the Army reserves. As I turned another corner, beaming about the presence of that warm fire - wet, bedraggled, and holding a posey of flowers, Laura hustled me into the tent, helped me to drag off two layers of sopping clothes, gave me a warm towel, and had dry clothes set out for me - this time Army issue long johns and thick socks.

I had been gone about 5 hours. Maybe more. We couldn't figure it out. But, here I am about 30 minutes later, my posey of flowers already in a vase of their own. My cheeks flushed by the fire.

Needless to say, I did not have a hard time falling asleep that night. The rain had started again, as I said, and we were all huddled up in our sleeping bags, listening to the rain and talking about Sami the dog and Chester and Bellie the cats.
The next day was uneventful, and relaxed. It stayed dry until late evening. We took our time with coffee and breakfast. Sami swam in the big water bowl. We went into to town for ice and salty caramel popcorn (NEVER BUY THIS OR YOU WILL EAT ALL OF IT ALL AT ONCE).
We started hearing the thunder during dinner, and counted to 8 or 9 for the lightening strikes. We cleaned up, packed the car with everything (there were actually bear sightings while we were there) and got into the tent before there were no more seconds between the thunder and lightening.
Needless to say, that night's storm was ASTOUNDING!  I've been away from such storms for decades, and I had a blast! I got that on audio, too - but it won't upload...oh, well. Sami the dog did not like the storm, and jumped right on my head during one particularly loud thunder clap. We wrapped her in her small sleeping bag and she snuggled herself between us for the duration. It was very, very sweet.
Alas, the next day, the camping trip came to an end...
...and now I've discovered Flipboard...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reply to Alon and the Detractors of the Melting Pot

Here is a comment I wrote in response to a post by my friend Alon Shalev at - I highly recommend his blog, and his books - one of which just won an award in YA category of the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award - see

When I was in grade school, I was taught this idea that democracy was actually a great marketplace – full of different types of people with voracious appetites for ideas and conversation. I was taught that the melting pot that is our American citizenry was just the thing needed to set up the marketplace – to make it hum. I just wrote a blog piece at (blatant self-endorsement) about the way the internet and particularly “social” media have manipulated an amazing opportunity to expand the democratic marketplace worldwide into a means of using us for financial gain. Although I realize that the internet has, in certain circumstances become a deafening marketplace for democratic ideals, all in all, I am disappointed in the way things are going here on-line. That idea of a marketplace of ideas coming from the melting pot of our grand American experiment was what impelled me to study journalism in college, and ultimately to practice of law. As the years passed, I became more and more convinced that no one really cared anymore about that marketplace – about the different ideas and experiences that flow from the rich diversity that flavors our American melting pot – flavors that stand out one from the other – that tell us something about our neighbors – that give us an opportunity for exchange of ideas and cultures. How sad it is to read that the concepts of racism and zenophobia, etc. are being boiled about in an effort to melt the pot away.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I just described what blogging is to a friend of a friend on Facebook. I just made it up, of course. I don't really know what blogging is - to others. I just know that I blog, and I know that my blog contains what may be considered "diary" entries, but really is an attempt to relate my experience to the greater human reality that we all experience.

Wikipedia says that "blog" is a contraction of "web log." Blogs proliferated when techies created web-publishing tools so that non-techies could add content to the www. Other than those two back story items, my definition was similar to that on Wikipedia, i.e. blogs can be personal or political; content can be art, photography, writing, poetry.

What I didn't note either to my friend's friend on FB, nor to myself, was that blogging is usually an interactive tool, i.e. a social media tool. People write blogs. Others comment. Others comment on those comments. Etc.

Also, blogging has become a societal news stream due to larger media, think tanks, organizations, etc. creating blogs where posts are written by different authors on difference subjects. 

There is a way to traverse the blogging world in order to get "traffic," i.e. not just people viewing your blog from your own advertising (say on FB), but also from web searches, or friends of friends, or other bloggers looking for interaction. Sometimes, blogs can become so famous and widely accessed that they decide they don't want any more interactive tools (i.e. no comments, etc.). How exclusionary.

I have not yet figured out how the marketing of a blog happens. I suppose I'd like to spread the news of onecattwocats - but I'm not of the techie generation. For me to figure out these systems takes a long time.

For instance, I've been struggling through the morass that is tumblr now for about a year, and still only have about 200 followers (combined from several different tumblr sites). See or or

I know there is a large writing community on tumblr, but I have no idea how to tap into the community except in a vary random way. There is no central command, so to speak, where you can find all the tumblr blog pages to go to where you can submit your writing for posting, or review, or comments...they are diffuse and once you find one site, the information they give you is also diffuse - so that I have no idea what's being offered or how to get involved. I end up sending messages to the "editors" - the bigwigs on tumblr who choose what poems or writing to publish on the main writing or poetry "features" news feed. They send me back (sometimes) vague replies about looking through the main poetry and writing hash tags for my answers. Which is what I had already done which led me to them.

Lost? Yeah. Me too.

Twitter is another social media tool that is lost to me. I don't have many friends who tweet. Most of my larger social friend group on this planet use FB. And, I'm not famous, or infamous (at least outside of my own milieu). So, how do you get followers? It seems that Twitter, for me, is just a place where others can market their thoughts, fame, products, etc. In other words, I follow them, but they don't follow me.

I am starting to get the feeling that social media is becoming just another marketing/advertising tool for the new breed of robber barons. The fact that we can all send messages to each other, and post funny memes (yeah, ok, what is a meme? do you know? this took me a long time to really figure out), or photos of your vacation. But, in reality, I'm thinking that 90% of its use doesn't involve us - it uses us and our information in order to sell us something. It's obvious in the advertising that is showing up more and more, not just in the right side feed, but in our main news feeds. Also, there is just a feeling I get when I use FB or Twitter that I'm just a rat in a cage talking to other rats in their cages.

The whole blogging phenom - whether it's here at blogspot, or on tumblr - that's simply a popularity contest. How do you get yourself noticed out of the hundreds of thousands of others doing the same thing? How do you get famous? Or, infamous.

Of course, once you get famous as a result of your blogging or tumbling, then you get to start making money off the rest of us - product placement can be invisible when someone is placing the product in a stream of writing or posts that appear to be, well, a stream of writing or posts.

And quality is really not the foundation of fame, or infamy. Of course. We all know that already, yes? What shocks? What awes? Or, who is better at becoming popular on the www.

Regardless, I realize I'm most likely writing to maybe a dozen friends on FB, or their friends. I've gotten one comment in the last few weeks of writing (from Connie Usry - who I adore and should write her own blog because she's so fucking funny).

But, I'm happy about the dozen or so people who click on my onecattwocats FB post and read up on my current life circumstances, my musings on any old thing (like today's blog), and my deeply personal journey through a major life transition (marriage ending; abandonment of a 17 year career that I hated). It's nice that anyone cares, or is amused enough to read. Frankly.

Although, I am ambitious by nature. I would LOVE to get hundreds of followers and starting long threads of comments where a true marketplace of ideas and information could emerge, and separate itself from the hype of the capitalist marketplace otherwise known as the www.

Friday, May 17, 2013

This post is about temper tantrums that pop up out of my childhood to infiltrate my 45-year old life.

Easier said than done.

Things that trigger a temper tantrum in Allison: if you are doing something that I think I should be doing (say, for instance, cleaning house) and I'm not doing it and I ask you if I should be doing something too and you say "no, this is my thing" and then I clean the kitchen anyway because I feel like a chump and then the house is clean except for the guest bedroom and bath (i.e. my rooms), then I yell at you and tell you to answer direct questions with direct answers and would prefer to vacuum the rug when the vacuum cleaner is still out rather than several hours later when I have to unwind the cord and figure out how to turn the stupid thing on while seething inside because you have virtually shouted that I am a self-involved, lazy slug by not cleaning my room and bathroom.

Whew. Did you get all of that?

What I can tell you is that for many, many, and many more years I lived in such a heightened state of anxiety that my whole life seemed to be one long vomitous season of temper tantrums. This was due in large part to working as a litigation attorney for 17 years - about 60 to 80 hours/week under constant deadline and expectations of productivity from my employers, and constant conflict with opposing counsel.

That sort of life is like walking down a beautiful forest path parallel to a sluggish creek whose murk attracts bazillions of gnats who swarm around your head and your shoulders and stick to your hands when you try to swat them away. Every once in a while, the path meanders away and there issome respite, the sun shines through the canopy and dappled light filters through yellow butterfly wings. And, then, back to the gnats. For many, many, and many more years.

And, then, lo and behold, someone happens by with some Skin So Soft and generously heaps it into your hands and you rub it all over your face and hair and hands and neck and clothes and BAM! No more gnats.

This has happened to me. I got the Skin So Soft from various sources, including an amazing cadre of friends and family. And now?

The forest path is beautiful! I can walk with all of my senses released from the bondage of gnat hell. Dragonflies dart in and around the sluggish creek, and wildflowers dot the small incline toward its muddy bank.

And then there's a big tree root and BAM! down on my knees. "My hike is ruined." I whine. "Oh, why, oh, why me?" I cry out as tears roll over cheeks now red and hot with outrage.

But, I'm still in the beautiful forest. It's calm and there are no more swarms of gnats tearing my attention away from is actually happening. There is time to calm down, there in the beautiful forest.

The breeze ruffles the oak leaves and a deer steps on foliage before freezing to look at the ridiculous human moping on her knees. The creek has taken a turn downhill and the water is burbling down a rocky incline.

Feeling a little foolish, I stand up and wipe the dust and grit from my pants' legs and use my t-shirt to dry my face and clear my nose of snot. Moving forward, the beautiful forest path leads up onto a hill covered in green grass and little white and yellow flowers, and the sun is shining.

Of course, this is a (very long) metaphor for my subject here. And unfortunately, there are usually witnesses to my little pity party there on that big tree root.

So, I digress. But, not really. Back in the real world, I stomped around trying to find the vacuum, and then after vacuuming and having trouble getting the stupid cord to wind up, I had to go pee before getting in the car to go to yoga -- all of which was enough time (about 10 minutes) for me to figure out that I was having a temper tantrum. There on that particular tree root. A freakin' temper tantrum.

How embarassing.

Of course, Laura was my witness to this particular temper tantrum. She, of course, sees me and shakes her head. "Ridiculous." That is to say, weird Allison behavior.

Thank goodness that Laura doesn't take these things personally, because I don't have a logical enough reason for the tantrum to convince someone that it wasn't their fault. The only reason I have is something primordial and wordless. A sort of interstitial conditioning from my childhood.

So, here's the ridiculous explanation:

When Laura stops her cleaning whirlwind, the whole house is dusted, swept, vacuumed, washed and de-haired. Except for my room and bathroom. My response? I think that she is obviously pulling a passive aggressive fast one on me -- practically shouting that I am a lazy, self-involved slug who should have known to clean my rooms while she was cleaning everything else.


So, I tell her that I feel foolish for not getting the cleaning rules right, and for getting called out on it.

She has no idea what I'm talking about. She just gets that "you're ridiculous" face and says,

"There are no rules. But, if you want a rule, then here's one - you have to vacuum the hair off the couches once a week. Or I'll punish you." And I say, "Wait, what kind of punishment..." as we walk from the car to the yoga studio.

And there we are again, back to our particularly fun brand of banter developed over 22 years of friendship and love.

The very short moral of this long story is that I just tripped over one of my roots. Without all the stupid gnats swarming over my attention, I can actually see what's happening, brush it off and pray I see it coming around the next bend in the path...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

April 26, 1940 - November 5, 2007

I see you staring back at me every time I look in the mirror...I hear you say "oh, Al" in my mind when I'm being sensitive and silly...I smell the wool yarn smell of you whenever I pull one of your sweaters onto my body...I taste chocolate and there you are...and when I'm feeling vulnerable and afraid, I feel you wrap your love around me...

I just wanted to thank you for growing into the most chill, tolerant Mom a grown woman could ask for...

And, of course, Happy Mother's Day, Mom! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Laura asked me if I was going to write on my blog today. I asked her "Why?" She said, "So I know what you're feeling."

I've always perceived of myself as this big walking emotion. Transparent. Well, this may have been a perception developed over years of hearing others say, "You're so sensitive." Or, "You're over-reacting." When I became a litigator, my colleagues (the ones who actually cared) warned me to "build a skin" or I'd get eaten alive.

I did build a skin - a deep, dark skin where my flagrant emotional responses were caught, netted, internalized into the under-fabric of my soft skin. If an opposing counsel wanted to thrash around in there with me? I usually came out the victor. After all, what they wanted was ego conflict - to win one for their own gipper. Me? I was fighting for my life.

Since my RDP broke up with me, I've become remarkably introspective. One might even say that I've flipped from extroversion to introversion. I suppose all that begging for a little attention - one word even (no, I'm not exaggerating) - and I've finally realized that if someone neither cares nor wants to make an effort to know you, then they don't care nor want to know you. No matter how much loving, yelling, crying, patience, pleading, reasoning or even guiling will do that trick.

Let's pull a word out of my mind after writing all that. "Juxtaposition." Nah, make it two words. "Disconcerted." Juxtaposition is the "the act or placement of two things (usually abstract concepts) near each other." (Wikipedia.) Disconcerted is "to upset the self-possession of; ruffle." (thefreedictionary.)

Can you build self-possession out of a cesspool?

There is another term among lawyers that describes the process of not taking the job personally:  letting the shit slide down one's "duck feathers." In other words, there is shit. The shit is shit. Duck feathers will keep you from wearing the shit.

Begging for attention, for love itself, feels like a bestial act. Primordial. A slow exhalation resulting in the twisting of shit from cotton skirts into a tight rope that curls around and around and somehow forms a remarkably strong kitchen rug.

On the other side of things, unfurling duck wings feels like a ballet. Not Swan Lake of course. Another, Joffrey-like choreography. Not old, but not quite contemporary anymore -- and therefore worked down to its bones, i.e. one highly efficient and effective tool.

Both approaches have produced practical amenities inside my navigational system of a mind. But I think I have finally exhausted the former. They were beautiful flights of human vulnerability, but alas, I now have muscles to pull my skirts up out of the shit. Duck feathers it is! 

Look at this amazing Mandarin Duck! I mean, seriously - look at this bird. It's like a Zebra-lion-woodpecker-tropical fish-punk rock-can't possibly exist in nature freakazoid! And it swims and flies. Awesome.

It's a boy of course. Boy birds are all froo-froo in order to capture the attention of the girls - who don't need to be froo-froo because they make eggs that make babies. Obviously more important in the larger scheme of things. (I know, I know, you need both...)

Another added benefit is that it smells better to let the shit fall of one's duck feathers into parts unknown. Every room in Laura's condo has essential oil (the really good kind) diffusion sticks. The oils are custom, or suited, for the room in which they waft: rosemary in the kitchen; lavender in the living room; patchouli and sandalwood in the guest, i.e. my bathroom; eucalyptus in the master bath; and lavender-vanilla in the guest, i.e. my room.

Get this - she even asked me what smells I liked, listened to me describe my favorite smells, and then went out and picked oils that matched my specific desires with her specific aural sensibilities.

There is also incense burning most days, Tibetan incense intended to "alleviate symptoms caused by disturbed rLung* energy like stiffness of shoulder muscles, dryness of mouth, insomnia, sudden fits**, resulting in profuse perspiration, stiffness of limbs, numbness, emaciation***, yawning, non-clarity of speech and all kinds of mental stress & strains."

I'm thinking that Laura's got it all covered here in New York...

**i just wanted to double star this because it was funny, but in that "oh, yeah, I relate" sort of way, not necessarily just in the ha-ha way

***i sort of wish it didn't solve this one

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Hudson Valley is in a bucolic, dreamy state of sunshine and refreshing breezes. East Coast flora is different than West Coast flora. I remember the trees and flowers of my childhood in Connecticut, but I don't remember their names. The Dogwood blooms are the only certainty. There are flower scents that the breeze picks up -- like the jasmine on the back porch of Jennifer's house, but not jasmine. Delicate and sweet, though; not the musky perfume of lilacs that should be blooming in another month.

Lilacs are amazing, and they don't grow in Northern California. When I lived with my Dad in Glastonbury, CT in the 7th and 9th grades, the driveway was not lined with the Christmas trees from dates before I was born as it was in East Granby; rather, it was lined with more than a dozen lilac bushes. The smell was delicious. Heady. We would bring in large bouquets and their gift of perfume would envelop the inside of the house. And, in my opinion, there is no better color purple.

I'm going to have to do some research on the trees and the flowers and get back to you.

I went to a yoga class today -- the first time in many months. The teachers have New York accents, and their studio is a hybrid of dojo and yoga studio. They make you wear a t-shirt they give you in ascending colors of ability, and use their mats (for legal reasons...odd). But, the yoga teachings are yoga teachings. The owners, Raj-Yogi, and his wife Cathy, are personable, and seem to know details about each student. That's impressive and speaks for their dedication to their students - rather than to the bottom line. Or being super duper yoga cool that runs rampant across California.

I think a little authority and imposed discipline will be very, very good for me. I also think I'll get in shape with their style of teaching. That is important as well given my plans to go to a Mysore studio in Goa, India this winter. Must be in shape, must be in shape...

Today was also get your legal shit together day. This relates to the dissolution of my RDP ("registered domestic partnership"). Not something I care to share, but I will tell you that I was following my therapist's advice.

Now, it's dinner time. Laura is cooking up some quinoa/amarinth/rice mix and her homemade chili (almost as good as mine!). There's a cabbage salad to go with, and maybe a small glass of Flower Power IPA. She's letting me do my thing. Sort of drift around the condo and through time without expectation. Cannot be more grateful.

So, I'm getting by with a little help from my friends...and teachers...building an Allison-appropriate, post-personal-apocolypse sangha...

Friday, May 3, 2013

We've arrived. It's Friday morning, May 3, 2013, and after a week's travel, Chester, Bellie and I have arrived at our destination.

I'm exhausted. Weary. My head hurts, and I'm having a hard time with the necessity of social structure when living with another person. I want complete introversion. Silence. My own set of rules and boundaries.

I want to let the catnip ruin the perfection of a sparkling clean floor. I want to leave the pile of clothes I wore in the car yesterday lay on the guest bedroom floor. I don't want to pull up the comforter of the guest bed, or put the fancy pillows back in their place. I want to sit with coffee and write. I want to ignore everything else for as long as I need in order to stop vibrating.

Yesterday is a blur of long miles. I listened to two programs on NPR in Ohio before finishing up Maron's book. Ohio euthanized a criminal on Wednesday night and Maryland passed a bill outlawing capital punishment. There was a discussion about the failures of the judicial process, the large percentages of innocent people going to jail; about innocent men being killed because of the corruption of police and district attorneys. How we can accept the percentages of guilty people who get off due to technicalities, and/or the limitations of the jury process, but it's harder to listen to or accept the percentages of innocents who get convicted for the same reasons. Interesting stuff, at least to me.

The next program was about service dogs -- the various categories, the temperament needed to be a cancer detecting dog (smell); a hearing dog; a dog who cares for people with mobility limitations; a dog who assist in the recovery of criminals in prison, victims of trauma, etc. This was a sweet show - if not a bit too technical. I wanted to hear stories where the individual dogs were named, given their due.

I passed Kent State, which made me think of days gone by when Americans really protested the inequities and inhumanity of our government -- and our nation's self-involved perspectives in foreign policy.

I finished Maron's book, none of which made me laugh or even snigger. He is, as he admits, completely self-involved. I was sort of sick of listening to his tortured internal dialogue when I had one going on myself. Ok, so we're both completely self-involved. Sigh.

I downloaded another book, Defending Jacob, in the Motel 6 that morning, and was able to start that. It's good. The narrator is top notch (as all the listener reviewers told me); the story compelling. The characters nuanced. Definite.

All in all, I was really ready to be out of the car and onto solid ground. I had had five long days of driving; the first three and the last two days. When I would get out of the car at rest stops, or at the Motel 6 at day's end, my body would be physically vibrating. It took a long night's sleep to ground my body to the reality of not moving.

I didn't sleep all that well in the motels, and I had to anticipate Chester and Bellie's needs -- feed them kitty valium when they became a bit too anxious; coax them into eating and drinking water at rest stops. They were very needy (I think they were completely bored) yesterday. Our last day on the road. Maybe they picked up on my own emerging vulnerability. Not sure, but they seem more than happy to just sit looking out the window of the guest bedroom.

Sami the German Shephard/Whippet mix is entirely excited about their arrival. The cats? Meh, not so much. They'll work it out. Bellie and Chester became friends with our 95-pound Flat-Coated Retriever, Max (our = my RDP and me). I think they'll ultimately be able to adjust to Sami. And, vice versa (visualize scenes of hair-raising bouts of hissing and claws-out swipes in the face of Sami's friendly overtures).

Laura has been incredible -- setting up our room not only for me (empty drawers and closet); but for Chester and Bellie - a baby gate so they can escape from Sami; scratch boxes with catnip; taking extra allergy meds. She also set up a desk area for me on the dining room table. Thoughtful. Considerate. And, she likes me. After 23 years of getting to know me including two failed romantic relationships. That's so comforting and relaxing. And, the feeling is entirely mutual.

My five long days of driving were not only physically demanding, they were were also an ocean or endless sky of internal processing. Thick, muddy waters or grey, overcast days of processing. I don't think I'm done. I'm a little uncomfortable with our "arrival" in New York, much like the discomfort of "arriving" at a meditation retreat. This sort of arrival is about bringing the mind in alignment with the body's presence in a different time/space location. A realization of "no where to go, no thing to do." My goal has been reached.

Time for reconoitering. I have some work to do on my sister-in-law's internet project. That will take up a lot of my time/energy in the week to come. I need to unpack my bags in the guest room, the guest bathroom. My book is awaiting my attention. And, there are travel plans to be made to see all of my east coast family.

There is a trip to Florida to see my mother's mother, and my high school BFF, Claudine and her husband Dave (I get to meet their daughter Mariella - which is exciting - the next generation).  My oldest step-brother, Rikk, his wife and their beautiful horde of four children live somewhere around Queens, NY. My ealy childhood friend, Fiona is in New Jersey.

Then there is the longer road trip to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine to see family: my mother's sister Janet and her two daughters, Anne and Meghan are in MASS, CT and VT respectively. I don't know if I'll visit her son, Matt - I think he's in Boston. (Maybe we can all plan a get-together in one place. I'll have to investigate.)

My father's sister, Jane, is in Maine with her significant other of decades, David, and their several large dogs and cats. I'm named after my Aunt Jane. I am Allison Jane. I feel that I fit in with Jane and David. With my father's family, more than my mother's. I lived -- most of the time -- with my Dad in junior high school and high school. That's where I'm comfortable. Familiar.

I also want to visit East Granby, CT, where I grew up. Where I left my "home" 35 years ago when my mother left us and moved to Northern California to find herself. Before I followed her out to NorCal and ensconsed myself in the gentle seasons of that place. Built a life around a stressful career and "I shoulds." Where I ran multiple romantic relationships aground, but made some of the best friends the world has to offer.

All in all, I've been blessed by this journey across the United States; 11 states in all. Of course, one journey is simply a leg in the overall journey of being Allison (fill in your name). There is more to come. I will keep writing. Maybe you'll stay with me...that would be nice.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

I am currently in my 9th state. I drove through Illinois, Indiana, and am now tucked in for the night in Akron, Ohio. This is my third Motel 6. The first was in Salt Lake City and was pretty bottom of the barrel - recall the bottle opener within reach of the toilet. The second was a more high end Motel 6 - no bottle opener, several stories and obviously only a few years old. This one is somewhere in the middle. There is a bottle opener in this one, as the first, but it's been updated and attached to the vanity outside the bathroom. But, it's clean, has a television and clean sheets.

Today was a longer drive day, but went very quickly for some reason, even though there was a lot of road work - I'd say at least 100 miles of 45 mph. I was primarily occupied by two things: an audible book by Marc Maron, narrated by the author; and a silent dialogue between several moods. These two occupations are blood relations.

First, Marc Maron. Maron is a comedian. He's been through a lot. He's tortured. Recovering cocaine addict and alcoholic. Rage-oholic. Seems a bit preoccupied by his penis. Porn. Himself. He's Jewish and he inherited his father's bi polar mood disorder. If you placed a  piece of tracing paper of his life over mine, or my life over his, there would emerge a recognizable constellation.

My ex-fiancee Aaron used to say that it was really satisfying to make me laugh out loud because it was so rare. I am amused a lot. I smile at funny things. But, I have a very particular sort of sense of humor. I mention this because I think the book is worth it* just for the chapter on his feral cats. I laughed out loud for the entire bit - despite being one sorry sack for most of today.

Second, me.  So, I laughing at Maron's feral cat bit. It felt weird. Inappropriate. I tried to resist. It was too funny. I laughed. I resisted. I watched the whole process from a perspective in my mind that I've been trying to locate for many weeks now. It's a place of guilt and frustration. A place of watching and censoring any feelings of happiness, contentment or relief. When Maron moved on, I kept listening, but I was spiraling more and more inside the stern place. Letting it overtake me, come out of the shadows and be me. It wanted that. It was satisfied.

I was identified with aversive mind. Resistant and bitter. An outcast. Cast out of my family and my home. Old feelings from my childhood comingling with the script I'd just played out with my RDP ("registered domestic partner"). The same script. The ecstasy and the tragedy.

It's easy to feel frustrated and bitter at your ex. If you've been following along this trip of mine, you know that I've indulged myself in a little rant and rave about my RDP. I know that this is normal. Expected. After all, my RDP is certainly and currently thrashing about in the entitlement of victimization. I've witnessed my friends and co-workers engaged in the blame game. Blaming their ex or blaming themselves. Or both. A ouroboros of indulgent self-pity and guilt.

My standard response is, "It takes two. It's best to take responsibility for your own part and move on. Compassion is key." In other words, I judge them. And, I'm judging myself by appropriating my RDP's current state of mind -- I am the guilty one. I deserve to be treated like a perpetrator. She must see something about myself that I don't see. I must be narcissistic or sociopathic. I just can't see the worse about myself. She should treat me this way. I am manipulative and dishonest. Insincere. I did use her.

Ridiculous self-loathing but for me, it's either that or blame her for being an oppressive, controlling jerk. One or the other. It's either her or me. It's a war and one of us will win. It hurt so much inside my mind that I couldn't laugh without feeling guilty, undeserving.

I called my therapist, Theresa.

When I finally reached New Windsor, New York, and my ex-girlfriend, Laura, I'd talked to Theresa who, in no uncertain terms, reminded me that this wasn't a game of war. That the only thing I was missing about myself was that I was in the best possible position for myself. That I'd made good choices about my own self-care. My best interests. That my RDP had scared herself and was thereby scaring me.

My mind gave way. The solid point of stern, aversive mind relaxed. The internal charlie-horse had been fed a bit of psychological banana. I'm not saying that I'm all better now. I've moved past the solidity of my self-abnegation, and am now watching my mind play with the concept of self-care. That it is ok to put my best interests in front of the pack. To let my best interests lead the sled. Make decisions. Find the home I lost 35 years ago. Let it go.

I'm beginning to allow my faith in refuge to emerge. This is my Buddhist training at work. My 13 years of Buddhist training; a solid foundation in the reality of the inevitably of change, the reality of suffering and the stillness of surrender. Acceptance. Not to the fear of my RDP, or to my own fear. Rather, my surrender to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. To take refuge in the only way to live that has ever made any sense to all of me - including my mind's tendency toward the sadistic. Mindfulness. Wisdom. Compassion. For all beings, including my RDP. Including me.

My best interests? What a concept.

(more in the morning...falling asleep...)