Thursday, September 10, 2015

Escape from West L.A.

Pismo Beach, Sept 9, 2015
I'm on my way back up to Seattle. I don't know if this is day one, or day nine, as I was supposed to be out of my apartment in West Los Angeles on August 31. It took me until September 8, at about 10:30 pm, to actually get out of my apartment. It seems like most things I try to do these days becomes more complicated, plodding, and energy-consuming than planned.

The whole moving away from L.A. plan started with moving to Spokane at the end of July, for the MFA program. I didn't get a teaching position or even a financial aid offer. I actually never got a yes or no on the teaching position, and the financial aid offer was kept being delayed. First, I was supposed to find out mid-April, then June, then July, then August. You get the picture. Every time I emailed or called the financial aid office it was going to be another 2-4 weeks, with different reasons each time. The total amount of financial aid changed for the university, so all awards had to be recalculated. Graduate students get their aid offer after undergraduates. There's no reason, it's just going to be another three weeks. It finally occurred to me that, 1) teaching is a integral part of my Plan For The Future, and there is little to zero chance of me teaching creative writing after an MFA program without teaching experience in said MFA program, and 2) I can't afford more student loan debt. Business school was expensive, and even when I was making the big bucks my loan balance didn't go down significantly. With teaching comes a tuition waiver, and usually a stipend, and many MFA programs are moving to a fully funded model because MFA degrees don't get you the big bucks. So on July 20 I cancelled with EWU, with the intention of applying to fully funded programs for next year.

I'm still moving back to Washington, to Seattle, because reasons. Seattle still feels like home to me, even after eight years of living in Los Angeles. L.A. stresses me out- traffic, poor air quality which has meant annual sinus infections and a reoccurring cough, and so, so hot. Oh my god, so hot. I need to re-group, re-set, re-whatever. But, I delayed moving another month because my dog, Sparky, was getting sick and I had a feeling that it was serious this time. My feelings were right. I had to put him to sleep on August 14. I don't even know what to say about that. I can't sum up how devastated I am. At the same time, I've dealt with this in a fundamentally different way than I've handled emotional difficulty in the past. I was able to stay with it, in the moment so to speak. I didn't numb out or shut down. It's a significant milestone in my trauma recovery. Before, when I experienced bad things, upsetting, traumatic, triggering things, my emotions took a walk. I didn't know how I felt about my life most of the time. It happened at such a subconscious level that I didn't get a chance to consciously decide whether to turn off my emotions or deal with them. I should clarify that it was protective, life-saving even, when I was a child. It needed to happen so I could get through that trauma. It's been a problem in my adult life though. I couldn't manage my life very well, because I was running on auto-pilot so much of the time. The worse a situation was, the more disconnected I got, which meant I was emotionally unavailable to respond, that is, get the hell out of that situation.

Now I am definitely in phase two, the feelings all the time, as they happen, with fire hose strength. It is much better because I am finally getting real-time feedback on my emotional reactions. I know what I'm feeling, absolutely, unfiltered, no moderating it, no avoiding it. Phase two is not the final phase. It can't be. This is kind of like being a teenager again, at least emotionally, with the life experience of an adult. I can keep the strength of my emotions in perspective most of the time, and realize that it's a phase and that eventually my emotional reactions will calm down, and be tempered with, you know, stuff that keeps you from crying in public all the time. But right now, I don't have a filter, and getting hit with fire hose strength emotions is exhausting. Exhausting enough that I can only handle so much, and moving back up to Seattle is a lot of so much. When I moved to L.A., it happened very fast. I got the job, and then movers came and packed up my apartment, and I drove 14 hours the first day, and it was a tornado. In eight years I didn't even unpack a lot of that stuff. This time, I got rid of a lot, but there was only so much I could handle. I ended up throwing things in storage that I couldn't get rid of, and it took me eight extra days. I don't really know why I couldn't finish by August 31st. It took me until September 8th.

Last night I made it to Sylmar, where my friend lives. Today, I made it to Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach was a little random. I want to see the coast. Both google maps (wow, font change!) and my Garmin GPS just can't get off the direct route through the middle of California, so I was trying to trick them into going to the Pacific Coast Highway. I'm actually staying in a cheap hotel on PCH, the Blue Seal. I got here at 6 pm and stopped for dinner, and wanted to walk on the pier and the beach and decided to stay for the night. I didn't have a plan for the next place to get to. It's stunningly beautiful here, very California. I've never seen so many surfers in one place, running down the street towards the beach with their surfboards, and people can take their dogs on the beach. Seeing so many dogs made me cry, and I thought about turning around and hiding in the hotel room. But I sucked it up and kept walking down the pier and on to the beach and to the water, where I ran from the waves to keep my Doc Martens relatively dry, and picked up garbage on the sand. Garbage on the beach drives me crazy, especially plastic.

 When I was an undergrad, we read a book called My Old Sweetheart by Susanna Moore. I don't remember the class, or what the book was meant to teach us, but I remember the book. It stayed with me. It is about a girl in a dysfunctional family, a family where the parents don't take care of the kids, and the girl takes care of her mother. The book is set in Hawaii, and unfolds like a flower. The family splinters, but slowly, languorously.The girl's sister runs away, but the way she runs away is to go to a neighbor's house. Then she goes to a neighbor who lives a little farther away. House by house, bit by bit, she gets farther and farther away until she's in a completely different place.

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