Reentry

Todd Rundgren: Something/AnythingHello, it’s me. I was told once that I looked like Todd Rundgren, and I was insulted because I thought he wasn’t very attractive. He had bad teeth and long hair. But, aside from that, we  really do look a lot alike. He writes better songs than I do.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a long break from the blog, doing other things—traveling, learning, teaching, living life. You know how it is. I’ve missed it some, missed the conversations it can spark mostly. A little voice in my head kept reminding me it was here waiting, but it hasn’t felt like a crisis at all. I hope you had a nice break, too.

Looking at when I was last posting, I guess it should not surprise me that my unplanned hiatus happened and lasted this long. I went away to see my family. Come November, I started two big writing projects: NaNoWriMo, where I put 50,000 more words to paper (or the digital equivalent of that); and an intensive online course called Writing from Your Queer Goldmine, five weeks of digging deep into a life-changing experience from my queer past. Material from both projects will help fill the gaps in what I hope becomes a novel one of these days.

Around the same time, I treated myself to some weekends away—a yoga retreat, a meditation retreat, a long drive to LA to get some incredible teachings—and a birthday party, a wig party where I really did look like Todd Rundgren, a holiday party…

Hong Kong hotel viewThen I left for Asia: Hong Kong, Bangkok, Cambodia, and best of all, Bhutan. I’ll probably write about it; but then, I thought that about last year’s trip. In the meantime, my trusty travel companion, Alan, documented our trip in his hilariously zen way on his blog. I recommend it.

It was another of those trips it’s not so easy to adjust to being back from. Travel has this overwhelming effect on me sometimes. Reentry is hard. It’s not just the jet lag, though that did wipe me out. I come home changed, and everything is new, my life a clean slate. It takes me a few weeks to get into a routine, taking my time deciding what to allow back in.

Usually after a big trip, I don’t call anybody right away. I sit with myself, cocooning, and see what happens. Nobody calls. Maybe they know. Eventually, I reach out and get things going. I go back to work and put things on my calendar and see the people I love. It’s like emerging from a dream or a good meditation or savasana at the end of a yoga class–I don’t want to shake things up and lose the feeling.

boys on their phones, Trongsa festivalI move slowly, lightly. I question everything, and I feel sensitive. Mostly happy. Sometimes I do the things I used to do, and it just doesn’t feel right anymore. I feel closer to some people, more distant from others. I love them all.

There’s nothing so unusual in all this. (I’ve never been much of a drama queen, thank goodness.) Everything changes all the time. I’m not the same person I was a couple months ago, or yesterday; neither are you. How great!

 

 

 

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Overwhelm

wheelbarrow in LumbiniWHERE DO I BEGIN? I haven’t written because I don’t know what to say. I keep waiting for 2014 to settle. Do you have this feeling too? So many people I know are feeling seriously off kilter these days. Others are hurting in more tangible ways. My heart goes out to them. The world feels even more crazy than usual. Mercury is in retrograde, they say, and I’m almost convinced it matters.

I spent most of January traveling through Nepal and northern India on a pilgrimage to the most sacred ancient Buddhist sites. It overwhelmed me in so many ways, and I’ll tell you all about it another time, once I figure out how. I’ve never had such a hard time adjusting to being back from a trip. The jet lag and lingering illness (and my cat’s illness) didn’t help, but they’re pretty much squared away by now. The biggest adjustment has been in my head.

I don’t want to overdramatize. I’m fine, really. But I feel spaced out. I find myself stretched thin emotionally. Or you might just look on the bright side and say I’m emotionally open. Things are getting to me in ways they usually don’t. It’s not all bad—a lot of it is good—but it’s all a little unsettling. And tiring. It’s too much.

I’d kind of like to have a normal, relaxing week. One way might be to start doing again those things I miss doing. Like this. Maybe I need to take myself on a nice date. Maybe I need a hug from you. Don’t freak out if I start to cry.

Away from it all

Amphitheater in MalagaHERE’S A FIRST: I’m blogging in the air. I brought my laptop on this latest trip, not knowing if I’d use it for writing, but wanting to have it with me just in case. I figured it could come in handy, and it did…but not so much for writing.

As it turned out—and as I probably could have predicted had I thought much about it—I didn’t do much writing while away. Which is fine. I was busy vacationing, and one of the things I found (I didn’t realize it beforehand, though I wasn’t surprised) was that I wanted to take a vacation from everything.

I know there’s a stereotype out there of the writer who has an overwhelming need to write all the time. They say the same thing about all kinds of artists. I always felt like an imposter when in art school because I just didn’t feel it. I could live without doing it. Was there something wrong with me?

I’m a little smarter now, so don’t fall so easily into such self-doubt. I like writing. I miss it when I don’t do it, but it’s not as though there’s some divine calling compelling me. Writing is work—enjoyable work, often, but still, work. I find there’s great value in doing it regularly, to get better at it; but, as with most things in life, I also think there’s value in taking a break every once in a while.

Dave X Robb at Pousada de CascaisI had been so busy for so long without a break—doing mostly things I like to do, but real busy—I decided pretty quickly once away that it felt nice to be on vacation from it all, not just work, but the whole routine: daily writing, bike riding, yoga, Facebook, getting 8 hours of sleep every night, even meditation. All of it was put more or less on hold.

And, as always happens when I take a long vacation, I find myself craving return to my usual life and look forward to approaching it afresh. Isn’t that, after all, a big part of what vacations are for? I find it can be good to take a break from things, even things that are good for me, once in a while. Doing so helps me decide consciously how those things fit into my life.

I realize I said similar things upon my return from Peru last year. Then, I worried more than I do now about going so long without posting on here. I thought it was important to post on a schedule, even though nobody really cared about the schedule but me. As far as I know, nobody else ever noticed if I was late. But I know I have a tendency to slack off when not holding myself to arbitrary deadlines.

It doesn’t work for everyone. Most people logically know that the deadlines aren’t real, there are no consequences for missing them, and so they don’t have the intended effect. I must have a good imagination because I am usually able to fool myself into thinking that my fake deadlines matter.

Speaking of artificial deadlines, I look forward to putting into practice being a part of a writing group of a few people who will hold me accountable and keep me on track, deadlines and all. Having built some momentum during my recent online writing course, I crave returning to that work.

Do You Want to Sleep with Dave X Robb?And so, we shall see. I hope I’ll be able to get some good work done and still manage to have a reasonably stress-free life…for that is another goal of mine: to make it all easier, to slow down and stop feeling like I am always running behind, like I am not doing enough, or god forbid, not good enough.

Travel is such a good teacher. This trip was a microcosm of my life in that I found myself pulled in two opposing directions, on the one hand wanting to take full advantage of being in special places and see and do a lot, and on the other, wanting to settle down and relax.

This trip was unusual in that I went to all places I’d never been, in Portugal and Andalucía, and tried to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. When able to stay in a city for more than a few days, I found I could see all the sights on my short list and still have time to wander without an agenda, which was nice; when I had just a day or two someplace, that became more difficult.

There were places I didn’t get to that I would love to have seen, but isn’t that always the case? You can’t do it all. And you can really stress out yourself (and your travel companion) trying to do too much. It can be hard to find that balance, in travel as in life. I enjoyed my time away. A part of me wishes I could have stayed longer. And I am glad to be heading home.

Fall Festival stage

2012 lessons

Nina Hagen: FearlessWHERE WAS I? Oh yes, reflecting on how every year is an incredible year. This one has been no exception. I think my biggest shift in 2012 was not in the content so much as in my attitude toward it all.

That said, 2012 did stand out for me in some very nice ways. I set as my top goal to go easy on myself, to stop driving myself so hard. I’d say with the exception of a few hectic weeks toward the end of the year with too much freelance work and too much holiday decorating, I’ve been pretty successful at slowing down and enjoying life, grounding myself in those things that bring me joy and peace of mind.

It has been an interesting process figuring out how to structure my time to make room for what’s important, including the very important doing of nothing. There’s something seemingly contradictory about having to schedule one’s down time on a Google calendar, but I swear, it’s either that or I don’t get any. It’s dawning on me that time management is a lifelong process, kind of like coming out…and I’m getting better at it all the time.

I had a goal to reduce my work hours to create space for other interests of mine — getting more serious about writing, among other things — and that is happening. I have two interns starting in January! I’m glad to have prioritized and negotiated that success and excited to see how it will change my life.

Meditation, Amantani Island, PeruI did a whole lot of traveling in 2012, more than usual — Peru, Mexico, San Diego, Las Vegas, DC, New York, and New England — which has been wonderful. Looking forward, I expect to travel less in 2013, but Turkey and Portugal top the list. I’ll have to see how much vacation time I can scrape together.

My massage business started the year strong, but slumped a bit as life intruded. I will revive it in 2013 with some marketing, once I have that extra day free. I plan to take another course early next year, perhaps at Esalen, perhaps in Thailand. My freelance editing biz, on the other hand, has been going gangbusters.

I’ve found it tough in 2012 to get as much physical activity in my life as I’d like — yoga and the rest — and I hope to correct that in the new year. I have enjoyed swimming on the roof at UCSF’s Mission Bay fitness center, but might do the reverse-resolution of quitting my gym again this January because I’m just not able to find the time to go very often. We’ll see. I’m still riding the bike, at least, when it’s not raining.

As followers of this blog know, I learned some good lessons in 2012, which I will carry forward into 2013 and beyond. These are my favorites:

  1. Abandon self-cherishing. Every problem in the world is rooted in it.
  2. Love right. Selfless, unconditional love doesn’t hurt; that’s attachment.
  3. It’s cool to be single. Not to be confused with loveless, mind you…
  4. Lighten up. Take it easy and be surprised at what happens.
  5. Be fearless. It’ll be fine.

While we’re making lists, here are my very favorite happenings of the year so far:

  1. Peru: one of my best trips ever. Or, if I have to pick a single moment from that trip, arriving at the top of Amantini Island in the middle of Lake Titicaca with Chiquis just as the sun set and the full moon — a supermoon, no less — was rising
  2. Posting short stories on here and hearing people were moved by them
  3. The Singles Awesomeness Day party: brilliance!

Johnnie Taylor: EargasmThose three stand out. There were so many great moments I shared with so many wonderful people — family and friends new and old and John Ford Coley — from unbelievable meals to the California Dharma Celebration, watching the election returns, and discovering the unexpected awesomeness of Eargasm by Johnnie Taylor; it would be impossible to list them all. (In years past, when time seemed so much more abundant, I would have done a top 40 countdown.) 

I feel like I’m forgetting some important highlights. My record-keeping is not what it used to be. Even so, I think I need to face it: 2012 really was an incredible year.

Geographical Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell: Wichita LinemanTHE BEST OF Glen Campbell graced my turntable last week, and it struck me how many of his big hits name cities — Wichita, Phoenix, Galveston, Houston, LA. I discovered some of his smaller hits follow a similar pattern: Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Manhattan, Kansas, figure in the names on his 45s. One of his last hits was about Branson, fer god’s sake.

Do you notice a trend here? It’s striking how the places Glen likes are all located solidly in red-state territory. He mentions LA as a place to get away from (with his mind on Tennessee) and Albuquerque as a place to pass through without stopping. It’s no wonder he performed at the 1980 Republican National Convention.

His biggest hit, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” is an oddball. It seems to be about New York, though it never says, and there’s a little bit of a Midnight Cowboy vibe to it, to which Glen seems oblivious. It’s not quite clear whether the cowboy/hustler likes it there or not. One could argue that this ambiguity makes it interesting, but have you heard the song?

Perhaps the most vexing thing about a Glen Campbell hit, though, is the screwy time frame of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” The song supposedly takes place over the course of the day Glen left his lover and drove east. We don’t know where he started from — it doesn’t really matter — but by the time he gets to Phoenix, the story goes, she’ll be rising. She finds the note. When he reaches Albuquerque in verse two, she’ll be at work. Then she takes a lunch break and calls him. In the final verse, he’s made Oklahoma and she’s asleep and crying.

Dave X Robb and tumbleweed, Painted Desert, ArizonaWhat’s wrong with this picture? Unless this gal gets up before the chickens and takes a super-late lunch, there’s no way he can get from Phoenix to Albuquerque in the time it takes her to get ready for work, get there, and still not be on her lunch break. I don’t care how much time she spends doing her hair and makeup, I just don’t buy it. That’s a 7-hour drive. (Getting from Albuquerque to Oklahoma by the time she gets to bed would be easy.)

I thought long and hard about this. You know how I am. It finally occurred to me: He must have flown from Phoenix to Albuquerque then rented a car.

Flight, Rail, and Drive Times from Scottsdale, Arizona

THINK!

Barack Obama and Elizabeth WarrenOKAY, NOW I UNDERSTAND a little better what all these people have been going on about, people who just can’t wait for the election to be over. Seriously, there seem to be an awful lot of people out there ready to slash their wrists if they hear one more ad. People can’t sleep.

I didn’t get it. I’m not sure if it’s because I live in a state where there’s no question who’s going to win, for both president and senator, so we don’t get the ads, or because I never watch TV, or both; but here I am in Massachusetts on election day, and now I kind of get it.

There’s no doubt Obama will carry both Massachusetts and Rhode Island easily, but the Boston stations serve New Hampshire, too, so there’s that. And we’ve got the most expensive senate race in history going on here as well, though it looks like Elizabeth has got it in the bag.

Since arriving here Friday night, I’ve been watching a lot of TV—not really by choice, it’s just always on—and the ads have been pretty relentless. Yes, they really are irritating, irritating for how they, like most TV, discourage thinking. I love living in my Bay Area bubble where I don’t have to deal with the opposition: right-wing fundamentalists, homophobes, mean people, and other various nut jobs.

Apolo Ohno shirtless Cosmopolitan coverIt’s a choice, and I’m lucky to be able to make it. I realize not everyone has the luxury of being able to move somewhere else, and I admire the people who stay—whether by choice or not—in difficult places and fight. I’m glad you do it. And I’m glad I don’t have to. I don’t like fighting.

I’m always kind of surprised by how many people get into fights with their Facebook “friends” whenever an election rolls around and they discover all kinds of terrible things about their old high school buddies or second cousins or whatever these people are. Really? I know it’s just Facebook, so they’re not necessarily real friends, but still, shouldn’t you choose your “friends” more carefully? Okay, maybe you didn’t know.

I have a funny relationship with television: I almost never watch it, but it seems like when I do, it comes on at the perfect time, like the final innings of the World Series or when Apolo Ohno rips off his shirt on Dancing with the Stars. Watching TV this week also helps me understand a little better how it’s possible that this election is so close, something most of us in the Bay Area just cannot fathom. I forget that a whole lot of people get all of their information, if you can even call it that, from television. Sorry, peeps, but that is just lame. And lazy. Sorry, there isn’t a nicer way to say it.

I remember in 7th grade, my history teacher wrote in huge capital letters on the blackboard first day of class, “THINK!” It stayed up there all year. Best lesson I got that year; not ironing records came in second.

Hejira

Joni Mitchell: HejiraJoni Mitchell went to New York City to buy herself a mandolin, get her fortune told, play bingo, and watch the ice skaters in Central Park in “Song for Sharon.” I went to New York City in 1976 to buy Hejira.

I listened to the album this week, and it moved me all over again. I loved this record as a teenager, a lot, and I like seeing how, in some fundamental ways, I’ve not changed over the years.

It’s common for people my age to look back on their high school years with embarrassment or relief that they’ve moved so far beyond all that, and I am not immune to the sentiment. In many ways (sexual orientation and religion come to mind), I was completely clueless — of course I was, we all are at that age — but still, how nice to see that there are certain parts of me that have not changed.

Or maybe it’s more that I’ve gone and traveled about, metaphorically and actually, learned a bit about life and love, but have come full circle on some things, returning older and wiser to where I began. The Joni Mitchell album brought that to mind, which seems appropriate since it’s all about life and love and travel. The title she chose, Hejira, means “journey” (and refers more specifically to the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD), and she wrote the songs while driving solo across the United States, something I would go on to do. Maybe she planted the seed.

Listening to the record now, I’m transported back to where I was then and what I was feeling. At the time, the record seemed more of a mystery — I found Joni’s stories fascinating, and I wanted to live and feel some of what she sang about. I had no experience with love or travel to speak of. Now, 36 years on, I’ve got road maps from more states than she has in “Blue Motel Room,” and the songs about love and longing make some sense. No regrets, coyote…

Even so, despite the intervening years and experience, the album resonates with me now in much the same way as it did in 1976. I can’t really describe what I mean by that; it’s just a feeling, a nice one, knowing that this ever-changing person I call me still retains bits of what was there so long ago, some kind of soul or essence that remains consistent for life. Joni Mitchell also gets credit, of course, for creating this artwork that transcends age and time.

I’m enjoying a similar reaction to a lot of the records I’ve listened to from that era of my life: the things I liked or didn’t like about the music, the ways I relate to the records, are much the same now as they were then. Not always, but usually…which means either that I was a very mature record-listener as a teen or that I’m very immature now. Either way, I like it.