Edward and I took a day trip to Montgomery AL a little while ago because we are going to be moving there next summer for his final two years of medical school. I've been reading a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald so I was excited to visit this place. I think I can survive there for two years and am hopeful that I can even thrive.
It's birthday month - day 5 of it. I'm reading a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. Here are a couple of photos I took in September. I'm waiting on a lot of things right now:
- My proof copy of my new book of poems & photographs to get here
- Something I ordered online to arrive so I can NEST a little more
- A day trip with Edward tomorrow after his tests are over
- A trip to Boston for Edward's friend's wedding right before my birthday
- My first ever stay on a houseboat
- Some inspiration to show up today for this project
- The urge to work on this project some more
- The emotional energy to work on my Mercurial manuscript some more
I am going to drink some more coffee, do some apartment work and keep working on the book I'm reading.
I lost my wedding ring in the coral pink sand dunes somehow and Edward & I had to do a little ceremony with the replacement one I got once we got back to Birmingham to make it "official" again. It was sweet. Sam and Lena were quite popular at the sand dunes. We went to Zion National Park, which was stunning, and Edward fell absolutely in love with the Petrified Forest National Park - so much in love that he bought a t-shirt there and now wears it quite often. We drove along the US-Mexico border. We went to Marfa TX because one of my favorite shows, I Love Dick, takes place there but it was pretty disappointing for a number of reasons. We started to panic about how much this trip was adding up to on my credit cards after Marfa. It was an exhaustingly long drive home from Marfa to Birmingham and Edward was a champ. We stopped in Houston to say hi to my old friend, Charles, and he got to meet Sam for the first time (Charles & Lena are old buddies). All four of us needed days to recover before we felt normal again after spending so much time on the road and so many days in the car. Our bodies were stiff and exhausted. It was a beautiful trip though and I am grateful to have taken so many photographs to remember it by.
We've been home for about 3 weeks now (I think) and I've picked 10 of my favorite photographs from this Southwestern adventure, made prints of them and hung them in the kitchen.
Here is an except from some writing I did last night to try and exorcize myself of my emotions. I was in a bad place, you've been warned.
"I feel powerless but I can’t articulate why. Maybe I am combining powerless and hopeless into one confusing mess of emotion. They are confusingly similar feelings, at least to me. They basically mean the same thing. I don’t know why I have been using the word “powerless” all day when really I might mean “hopeless.” I don’t know which one I mean, so I am just going to go with both.
I want to feel more powerfulhopeful - or at least less powerlesshopeless.
Edward doesn’t seem to understand why I feel powerlesshopeless but how could I expect him to when I am doing such a shit job of explaining things. I think I am terrified of saying something emotionally or factually inaccurate or hurtful or something that will be misunderstood or damaging to our relationship or his love/respect for me so I just kind of clam up. His response has basically been, “You’re not trapped - you could leave me if you wanted to, you’d just need to make some new plans.”
What he’s missing is this, or something close to this: I don’t want to leave him. I don't want to do that AT ALL. I want to be with him for the rest of my life, he's my favorite fucking person in the world, but I want things to be different than they are. I want to find a new way of being together, a slightly different way of being myself and of being married, in which things feel a bit more equal (though I can’t quite exactly explain what feels unequal - which frustrates both of us) that makes me feel happier, more stable and more powerfulhopeful (which is to say at least a little more in control of my fate and less like I am just following someone else around while they are following their life path).
My happiness is my responsibility, I know that.
But I don’t even know where to start with making changes and becoming happier - more gratitude is probably the advice most people would give me. It's kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert wrote (I'll paraphrase because I can't find the actual quote though I have searched and searched the internet), "I was an active participant in every choice that has built this life I have, so why can't I live in it anymore?" sort of situation. I want some things to be different - which they will be, I know, because everything changes with time. People like to say change is the only constant. But I want them to change in good ways. I want things to get better, not worse. And I don’t have the emotional energy (maybe I will tomorrow but today I don’t) to handle the “things will get worse before they get better” mentality. It feels, in this moment, like it is going to be a long time until things get better, and even then it’s not guaranteed. I want a normal brain that is happy and sad at appropriate times when it makes sense to be happy or sad. A brain that only becomes riddled with anxiety when there is actually something to be anxious about. I want a guarantee that the future will be better than the present but there are no guarantees. I hate that I could wake up tomorrow and feel completely differently then than I do about everything right now. My being so “mercurial” is exhausting for everyone involved and it makes me hate myself and it makes me feel a lot of shame and guilt for how it effects Edward. I hate that I need as much care taking as I do at times.
I’m terrified of spending my life unhappy yet I know my brain is what's making me unhappy - its abnormal and unstable chemistry. This pisses me off to no end. I don’t like who I am when I am unhappy. I don’t like who I am when I am powerlesshopeless, depressed, anxious, indecisive, resentful or angry. Both my brain chemistry and the situation need to be tweaked.
I want a lot of things that feel opposite, all at once. Here are just a few of them:
I want Edward to do what he is passionate about (medicine) and be fulfilled and excited by his career but I also hate that he’s chosen that path because it makes him incredibly busy and stressed out most of the time. I know it will bring us financial security but I’m afraid that won't even begin to make up for how little time I will get to spend with him. I'd rather have a partner I can experience life with than money. I have no idea how busy he will be as a doctor someday but I know he has a lot he wants to do with regard to his career because he's told me about some of it. This is all projecting into the future though, I have no idea how things will actually be. I've never been a doctor's wife before.
I am afraid of feeling like I never reached (or even really reached for) my potential as a person or an artist. How to even try to reach for this "potential," I have no idea. Ken would tell me to trust the universe.
I want to be busy because then I don’t feel my boredomloneliness (again, two emotions that are fairly interchangeable to me) but I also crave simpler days. I guess I want to be able to be happy with simpler days, without rushing from thing to thing to avoid my thoughts and emotions. I guess I want to stop having thoughts and emotions that I am so afraid of that I feel the need to numb them with buying things I don’t need or obsessing about my weight or endless to-do lists on my phone. I want my life to look more like the life in the A Wilder Life book I have.
I want to be a minimalist and I also want to surround myself with things. I want to buy things and nest and organize and curate and decorate and donate and collect - continuously.
I want attention and recognition for my work but I also want to not share any of my work with anyone ever again.
I want the apartment to be clean and I need to be the one to clean it, not Edward, but I also fucking hate cleaning the apartment because it is so tedious. It is so tedious because everything I do just has to be done over again almost everyday. The tedium makes me want to just give up and let the place go to filth, which sometimes I do. The dishes are washed then they are dirty again. The clothes are washed and put away, then they need to be washed and put away again. The bathroom needs to be cleaned again. The bedding needs to be washed again. There is garbage sitting around (old mail, nicotine patches and wrappings, used paper towels, empty toilet paper rolls, food packaging…) that needs to be put in the trash. Then the trash can is full again and the bag needs to be taken outside. A new bag needs to be put in. Sam is barking and I have a headache and it feels like someone is banging a hammer against my temples and I hate myself for wanting to hit him. Shit, everything is starting to get dusty. The air feels stale in here.
We are out of stevia or milk or coffee or food again and I need to go to the store again, which makes me anxious because spending money makes me anxious because I have never had much of it. The floor is covered in dirt and dog hair again even though I just swept all of the rooms yesterday. It’s a ridiculously tedious and soul-sucking system that I can’t quit because it’s basically my only responsibility in life. Edward says I should stop attaching morality to housework and just think of it as things that need to be done but I can't - I feel like a shit wife and a shit partner and a shit person when the apartment isn't in perfect working order.
And I am coming to hate this apartment. It doesn’t feel like home anymore for some reason. I don’t feel safe here. I don’t feel cozy or calm. I know the problem is that I want to feel those ways in my own head and I don’t so I am taking it out on the apartment but every room I walk into I see 5-10 more things to add to my to-do list so I can’t find peace anywhere. I cannot keep up with all of the things that need doing in this apartment, I cannot keep it up to my standards, so I constantly feel behind and like I am living in a filthy, crowded and disorganized space that doesn't help to quiet the turbulent place that is my mind.
I feel lost, powerlesshopeless, overwhelmed, drained, exhausted, lonely, like I have no family because for all intents and purposes I don’t and that makes me feel really shitty about myself and even more lonely, disappointed in myself but I can’t even articulate exactly why, like a burden, like I need Edward more than he needs me (a vulnerable and scary feeling), afraid, devastated & angry (mostly with myself for not being happier or more grateful or just generally a better person/wife). Maybe some part of it is that I am getting frustrated with myself for being more mentally ill than usual right now.
What I want are some changes. But I need help figuring out what changes I need. What I want is to be less mentally ill (read: more stable), to be more grateful, to be less lonely, to be less anxious, to feel less overwhelmed by the apartment, to be kinder and softer with myself and with Edward, for there to be less drinking and healthier meals and more working out, to feel more like Edward & I are on the same team, to feel more independent, to feel more secure, to be less selfish, to feel more in control of things or to learn to accept that I don’t have any control."
Then today happened: I woke up feeling okay. I drank coffee and checked social media (I've gotten off Facebook but still use Instagram) and emails. I edited photographs from a shoot yesterday, backed them up and sent them to the client. They were happy with the photos and that made me happy. I went to the grocery store and while I was there I bought a bunch of flowers. Then I came home, trimmed them and arranged them into three different vases. I photographed my arrangements. I put one in my witchy/artist alcove, one on Edward's desk in the living room and one on the kitchen counter. I wrote this little post for you, even though a lot of people will tell me I shouldn't write like this on the internet. But the internet can be so fake - that's why I got off Facebook. I was tired of seeing people I sort of know but don't really care about anymore wearing their social media or social justice warrior masks while not being genuine or owning up to their struggles or less photo-worthy moments. I was tired of constantly having bras advertised to me when, newsflash: I am not that interested in bras and avoid wearing one whenever I can. I want to be genuine on the internet. I want to be able to be myself on my own website's "Diary." It's only 1:30pm right now and I have just had lunch. I'm in a much better place today, so far at least, than I was last night when I wrote what you just read above. I'm waiting on a call back from my psychiatrist so I can try another anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medication (the one we tried last week made me feel like I had the flu, apparently a first as far as side effects my doctor has seen when he's put patients on that medication before go) and a call back from our landlord which probably will not come (Southside Apartment Company in Birmingham, Alabama - DO NOT RENT FROM THEM, yes I am a little angry) about fixing maintenance issues that have been going on for months and have yet to be solved no matter how many times I call or put in maintenance requests. I'm not sure how the rest of the day is going to go but I am going to try to make it a good one.
Oh, here are the photos of the flower arrangements I just told you about:
We rest for a day in Moab, UT - realizing we have, once again, planned a road trip that's a bit "too ambitious" with not enough rest time (our vacations actually tend to be more exhausting than rejuvenating). We get Thai food + I buy a few souvenirs (a maroon dreamcatcher, some agate wolf figurines in desert colors...). I find a book called Sister Moon Lodge all about menstruation in a free bin at a health foods store. We shower in the motel for the first time in a few days, having not had running water the past two nights, and it is glorious. We just lay around in the comfy bed for a long time. I DJ music on my phone for us.
The next day we hit Canyonlands National Park + Arches National Park. I take a lot of photographs and we stand on the edges of canyons with the pups and meet a cool, older biker couple. We drive SW for the rest of the day mostly listening to the new Fleet Foxes' album. Sam starts to get a bit car sick and we pull over quickly onto the side of the highway. We finally get to a hotel near Zion National Park where a lot of movie stars used to stay when they'd come to the area to film cowboy movies. Several hours later we are at the hotel and Edward realizes he can't find his phone. We learn from technology (magic) that it is on the side of the highway where we stopped for Sam, about an hour away from our hotel in the direction we came from. We are both grumpy because we are exhausted and I had a low blood sugar freak out while waiting for dinner. We had to leave the restaurant because they were super packed, hadn't even taken our drink orders yet and I needed food ASAP or I was going to pass out. We ended up running to a grocery store and whipping something together quickly in our hotel room to eat. Edward and I were both upset because we both really wanted to eat at the restaurant - they had amazing vegetarian options and good vegetarian food is hard to come by on the road.
We drive an hour in the dark, it's late by now, to go retrieve Edward's phone then an hour back to the hotel. We drink a bit because things feel weird and we aren't sure how to get back into adventure mode. There are no photographs from this grumpy part of the trip.
- Morning coffee + calling around making appointments
- Morning time with Lena, who is anxious for no reason because she is Lena
- Essential oils (mostly applied rose - "fortifying")
- Watching Paranormal Storytime on YouTube
- Running errands and wearing new sunglasses
- Dropping off a bag of donations at Goodwill
- Some quality time with Sam while Edward is at a dissection
- Eating a pound of blueberries to try to calm my anxious self / taking a pill
- Edward studying / 2nd year of medical school
- Feeding Ghost, the beta fish, pellets and frozen brine shrimp / he attacks his food
- Went to the store for more balcony garden plants (oregano, mysterious tiny purple flowers, fern + plant that seems like a hybrid between mini roses + tiny peonies)
- Not pictured: me spending hours designing and ordering new business cards
- Not pictured: me eating several meals, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, doing apartment work, etc
- Not pictured: Edward and I watching The Royal Tenenbaums (a new favorite)
- Playing basketball with Edward / I take off my shoes and dance around the court in my socks
Edward drives us over 4,500 miles on this trip. We are gone for 8 days. Lena's favorite place while we drive is sleeping across Edward's lap, facing me. We stop often to give the dogs water. It storms a lot while we are driving at various points - sometimes our visibility is almost zero from the rain hitting the windshield. The first night we stay at a hotel in Forth Worth, Texas. The second night we stay in a yurt in Madrid, New Mexico. Madrid is a weird little town I hadn't heard of until this trip - it seems to be populated by hippie artists and largely LGBT, or at least very LGBT-friendly. There are "watch for dogs" signs along Main St instead of the usual "watch for children" or "children at play" signs you typically see. The sunset and sunrise from the yurt are amazing - we see both. We drive up a very rocky and unpaved road to get there - it's a bit anxiety-provoking for everyone. Edward and I yell "BIMP!" frequently because someone put signs next to some of the bigger bumps in the road to warn people like us who do not have the right car for this situation and we are amusing ourselves and mildly spastic already from all of the time in the car. The next day I fall in love with Santa Fe. I feel more at home in this landscape of mountains, canyons, plateaus, desert and very determined plants than I have anywhere else I've ever been - which is a little strange given that I am from Pennsylvania. It scares me and thrills me and makes me feel at peace all at once. I feel safe here for some reason. It inspires me - as cheesy as that is - and I feel like I could live here and make art about this landscape, this little portion of the country, for the rest of my life. I decide Edward and I might need to move here when he does his residency after medical school. Sam "learns" the cactus lesson three times but doesn't really learn it any of those times. He runs around the yurt like crazy and gets cacti needles in his skin but is like a tank, he doesn't even seem to notice. He gets a clump of them on top of his head and it is a little funny watching poor Edward try to remove them because Sam thinks it's the best game in the world to not let Edward pull them out. He's not at all bothered or hurt, he just thinks everything in the world is a game. He's 13 or 14 months old but is still very much a puppy sometimes.
We walk Sam and Lena around the main square of Santa Fe where the Native American artists lay out their goods to sell on blankets in the shade and walking with Sam feels like being with a celebrity. Everyone wants to say hello or ask about him or comment on his size or call him a horse or pet him or let their child pet him or take his photo. I am amused by the attention but Edward feels uncomfortable with being a bit of a spectacle. We leave Santa Fe and head towards Utah. The first of my false eyelashes, which will all come off during this trip, does. We drive for a long time and come to Monument Valley. The roads are unpaved and I'm afraid if I put the window down to take pictures the whole car will be filled with dust, so I just do the best I can shooting through the dirty windows. Lena is used to road trips and is super chill about the entire process. Sam, on the other hand, is new to this "road trip" idea. He went with us to Saint Louis when he was much younger but probably doesn't remember. He's only used to short car rides to Paty's house or the dog park. We were going to leave him at a dog kennel but the day before we left he broke my bleeding little liberal heart, so we brought him along. Edward and I were sitting on the couch working on our laptops and Sam was whining up a storm. We couldn't figure out why he was being so extra because he'd been out and had food and water. We tried to shut him up by offering him different bones and other things he usually likes. This did not work. Eventually we made room for him on the couch and he immediately calmed down, curled up into the smallest ball of dog a Sam can and fell asleep. I kept thinking "All he wants in this entire world is to be where we, his people, are. That's literally his deepest fucking desire." So there was obviously no way I could leave him with strangers for 8 days after that, even though I knew they would take good care of him. He'd miss us too much and, admittedly, I would miss him too much too. He was A LOT the first day of the road trip in particular. We had to stuff blankets, sheets and a bag of large breed dog food between our seats and sides of the car to keep him from (good lord can he make himself fit through a space when he wants to) climbing over the sides of our seats and onto our laps. At 140 or so pounds he still thinks he's a lap dog sometimes - typical.
The third night of the trip we stay in a little converted post office in Cisco, Utah. Edward is absolutely exhausted from a super long day of driving and we arrive much later than we planned. Once there we perk up a little - Edward has a few beers and I try astrophotography in real darkness for the first time. I become giddy from photographing the stars. It is in a ghost town that is being rebuilt by a super cool woman who dropped out of SAIC (she did drawing and painting) to move to a ghost town in the desert with a population of one: her. She is renovating the town with found materials and learning the construction skills as she goes. We hang out with her and her friend the next morning and it is fun to be out of the car and socializing with interesting and new people. She says I can come back and stay for free whenever I want as long as I bring Lena with me. Her and Lena really hit it off. She dreams of hosting artists-in-residence in her little ghost town someday. I find her absolutely fascinating.
We drive by an abandoned school house as we leave Cisco - supposedly it is quite haunted. One day later I will firmly believe that it is.
- Edward loves being near bodies of water
- Try to cultivate a "sense of wonder" (how to do this I am still figuring out)
- Heating pads, light exercise, plant-based diets & essential oils (lavender + clary sage) can help with menstrual symptoms
- Drink more water
- Eat more fruits + vegetables
- Read more
- Plants + pets
- Walk more
- Stretch (especially in the morning)
- Keep your space clean
On the left wall: Postcards from Marfa Tx, more specifically the Chinati Foundation - where one of my favorite television shows is set / Postcard from Madrid NM, which made me fall in love with the Santa Fe area / Dreamcatcher from Moab UT made by Navajo craftsmen and craftswomen
On the desk: Ghost, my beta fish, in his bowl with his purple rocks and plastic plant / Little "zen" sand garden with tiny rake and stones / Moonstone and juniper seed bracelet, also made by Navajo artists, which is meant to protect the wearer from negative spiritual entities / Rainbow quartz piece / Sunflowers clipped from my balcony garden and put into a little vase someone gave us as a wedding present / Incense burner / Tibetan singing bowl I still need to learn to play
On the bookshelf: Dried flowering branch in a vase with lichen that blew down outside of our apartment during a storm / Little glass and metal jewelry box / Philodendron plant that I continually propagate / Candle my older sister gave me a long time ago / Agate animal figures from Moab UT, mostly wolves but also two turtles and a bear / Pieces of wood found by our apartment while my little brother was visiting / Books and magazines (more have been added since these photos were taken
On the right wall: Peonies print / Moon cycles chart / Silly little love note card / Edward's doodles / Rabbit sticker from a possible pen pal in Oregon / Eliza Rickman postcard from the Welcome to Night Vale Live tour / Polaroids of our little family
1, 2 + 3: Outside the yurt in Madrid, NM / super cool lesbian AirBNB hosts
5. Lena, Sam + Edward in Santa Fe / my new favorite city / I want to live in Santa Fe someday
6. Gas station / bathroom break / so much sky in the wilderness
7 + 8: Driving in Utah / haunted state / sage EVERYTHING / juniper seed ghost bracelet
10 + 11: Everyone crashes when we get home / vacation can be exhausting