Home.

I’ve been back home almost a week now, and I have to say that the process of re-entry into my life in Portland, Oregon, US of A has been full of unexpected surprises and unlooked-for realizations.  Allow me to go off on numerous tangents for a few moments, if you will…

When I set out to embark on this trip, all of my thoughts were focused 100% on the preparation; saving the money, the vacation time, the airline miles, the coordination of keeping my bills paid and my dog happy and arriving at the same time as my brother’s family, not to mention managing the cobweb levels in my house to a sub-haunted level.  Also, there was the matter of finding the right place, the right school, the right situation, to make the experience a non-sucky one.  All in all, I have to say that I’m quite happy with all my choices and preparations; I did one bang-up job, if I do say so myself.  I am good at organizing and managing chaos, after all. 

Then, during my three months, I was focused 100% on making the most of my time there; learning as much Portuguese as my brain could handle (which was less than I hoped), and immersing myself in as much culture, activity, and life as I could handle (and afford).  I’d give myself an 84% on that one.  I think I could have done more, learned more, if I’d spent less time hanging out in my room hiding from the sun in the last few weeks, but am still rocking an amazing tan, and never turned down an opportunity to go do stuff, and have some truly amazing and treasured memories (some of which were documented in video!) as well as some great new friends.

But with the prospect of going home in front of me, I was only focused on getting in the last few times out on the beach, having that last tapioca, that last tall glass of caldo, my last classes in Capoeira and with my MMA gym, the last times with my friends, the last bit of shopping for gifts and cachaca.  I thought about how happy I was to be going home, and how I missed my house and my friends and my dog and my routines.  But I never thought about how being gone for three months in a foreign country with a foreign language would impact me when I did return.  And to my surprise, amazement and (slight) consternation, I find that the culture shock of coming home quite outstripped the culture shock of living in Brazil for three months.

The first thing I experienced was having to intentionally remove the mental blocks I had apparently placed on my ‘You are permitted to speak English all the time’ neural pathways.  Odd, since I did speak English at times, quite a bit occasionally; but I always felt guilty about it looking back, as if I was robbing myself of an opportunity to get just a little bit more fluent.  Now, that excuse was gone, but the mental block was still there.  It felt weird, allowing myself to speak English.  I miss speaking Portuguese.  I find myself wanting to go to all the Brazilian stuff I can, just for an opportunity to continue speaking it.

The next thing I noticed is how all of my prior habits, routines, and proclivities were, if not gone, then certainly greatly weakened.  It’s as if I hit a reset button on my life, and I could pick and choose which ideas, habits and propensities I wished to take up again, and which I decided to toss in the trash, with not a single emotional thread (or very few) to bias my decisions.  And while that has been a truly awesome unlooked for blessing, it also caught me off guard, because I did not see it coming AT ALL.  It’s like getting hit upside the head with a lucky stick.  It still smarts!  Kinda like this:

It’s also acted like oxygen on the fires of my love of travel.  You’d think that after three months I’d be all like “Dayum that was a long ass trip and I am stayin’ HOME for a while!!”, but I’m already looking forward to my next trip.  Most likely I’ll be returning to Amsterdam and London in May again.

I feel like there’s a ‘lastly’ here as well, but I’m not sure what it is.  Like I should be able to sum up my trip in a pithy sentence, like many of my coworkers and friends seem to hope I will when they ask me ‘how was your trip?’, but I’m not sure I can; nor do I think I’d want to.  There was a lot happening there.  I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about teaching, about myself, about my values and how they affect me.  I thought about language and culture and the impacts they have on each other, and how they can affect the interaction between other cultures.  I thought about how important art is to a community, and realized how proud I am of mine.

If I were to come up with a ‘lastly’, it would be this:  I now have offers of a place to hang my hat for a few days in five different countries.  That’s something special, and is always in the back of my mind.  And it means I need to find a better way to generate a metric fuck ton of airline miles.

Paint.

My last few weeks in Brazil have been gradually increasing in epicness.  There was the beginning of my teaching at a place called Lar São Domingo, a sort of school type place for kids from the local favelas.  There was the discovery of my favorite beach, which is off the beaten path and fairly sparsely populated even on beautiful weekend, complete with 4 beach bars in a row.  There was watching one of my new friends, a fantastic musician originally from Virginia named Atiba play at a fancy little beach bar named Lopana, and having him call me up to play bass with him on a little blues number.  The list goes on, and culminates in this, which happened just last weekend:

That’s my friend Suel, his wife Carol and me live painting a new mural at a beach bar called Milk Beach Bar, where I learned to pay attention to which cup holds the beer and which cup holds the paint, to my cost.  And also found out that water based paint, initially, tastes kinda watery.  Suel is an artist, and Carol teaches art history at the local university.  And all of it was fabulously documented by my other new friend Matias, all of whom will hopefully visit me in Portland someday.

There are still a few more days in Brazil, but the end is soon and I will shortly be reunited with my friends, my dog, my house and my city on Thanksgiving day.  A perfect end to an amazing experience.  And while I still have much I’d like to show you all about brazilian life (and yes, food) those posts may come after I’ve returned and have time to organize all the photos and video I’ve taken – which is a hell of a lot, have no fear!  I’d like to put together a couple of videos and will be posting those up as well.  As for my feelings, they are mixed; I look forward to going home.  I miss my home, and my life and everyone and everything in it tremendously. But I will also miss the people and things that have touched me here, and feel certain that I will have to return soon.

Language.

original_headache-cat

I have apparently broken my brain.

No really, it’s broken.  I imagine it was all resilient and springy a month ago, soaking up new information happily and processing it with alacrity.  But it got fuller, and fuller, and more and more new information – absolutely necessary information for continued and improved human interaction – kept being added.  Kind of like when you put more and more and more sugar in your tea until the tea just won’t get any sweeter and really tastes like liquid teeth rot by this time and you still have clumps of sugar floating around in your tea laughing at you.  My brain has developed soft spots that refuse to learn anything more.  I can sort of feel them, one in front of my right ear, and another one all the way in the back on the left.  These spots flop down on the ground and hold their breath until they turn purple and when that doesn’t work they just turn their back on me and stick fingers in their ears and cry “LALALALALALA I’M NOT LISTENING LALALALALAAAAA”.

Broken.

Most of this past week has been like this.  I think my teachers are starting to worry about me, but they keep saying it’s normal and this sort of thing happens and it’ll pass.

But until then I could really use some aspirin.

Worry.

I find myself spending more and more time and effort trying to disabuse all my friends, neighbors, coworkers and various other associates of their jealousy of my impending adventure. It seems everyone I talk to who knows about my trip has told me how jealous they are, how amazing it is that I’m taking this trip, or expounds on their physical flexibility when it comes my suitcase. And my response has always been “No! If you knew what I was getting myself into, you wouldn’t be jealous! You’d be as nervous and full of trepidation as I am!”

(Trepidation.  Yeah, I used it.)

But today, I started wondering why.

Because today I also realized something. For some reason it’s the fact that others are jealous of me…of ME…that’s been making me all sorts of anxious and so insistent that they are overlooking the seriousness of the situation. I am clearly very uncomfortable with this position.  Granted, as far as I know it’s not one I’m accustomed to be in, but I could say that about being able to eat a banana sundae with brownies every day without gaining weight, and I think I’d be able to handle that with no difficulties whatsoever.

Anyway.  The fact remains that they haven’t misunderstood the gravity, the significance of this trip – they all understand it perfectly well! They also know just how awesome this trip will be, and are perfectly correct in thinking I’m going to have an amazing experience that I will most likely treasure, and will definitely impact my life in all sorts of ways I haven’t even begun to fathom, which I think is never a bad thing. They know I’m going to eat amazing food, get lots of lovely sun, go swimming in the ocean most every day, meet marvelous new people and work on perfecting my salsa dance moves. It’s me who is starting to frankly get on my nerves and needs a good smack upside the head to get me to stop worrying and start grinning like a silly fool.

So.

“Hey Morgan.”

“Yeah?”

“Quit worrying about the trip goddammit. You’re gonna have a great time. You’re gonna be safe. You’ll have no trouble meeting people. Quit downplaying how awesome this is. From now on you should just smile, or nod sadly because they can’t go, or just have them give you their address so you can send them a bonafide Brazilian postcard with a leaf taped to it or sprayed with Brazilian suntan lotion or sprinkled with Brazilian sand or chewed by a Brazilian monkey, instead of being a worrying dumbass.”

“But…”

“But what?”

“Yeah I got nothing. You’re so right. I *am* a worrying dumbass.”

“Yep.  So stop.”

So I’m done. I’m done worrying and downplaying how fabulous this is, and ready to get on with being, as my friends keep telling me, awesome.

As soon as I figure out why having people jealous of me makes me so uncomfortable.

To be fair however, there is this:

Excitement.

excitement catPeople keep asking me if I’m excited.

I think they expect me to be excited like if I’m going on a 10 day cruise, or a 2 week vacation to the coast.

But I am not going on a cruise or a trip to coast.  I honestly don’t think of this as a vacation.

I’m going to live in South America for three months.  I’m going to leave my home, my friends, my dog (who has been especially cute these past few days), my routines, my comforts, my support and my stability behind and toss myself into the Great Unknown.  And frankly, excitement is not the emotion that those things kindle up in me.  I’d say a bit of panic and anxiety would be more appropriate reactions, wouldn’t you?

No?

Yeah, me neither.  I know, I’m suprised as well.  I thought I’d be waaaaay more excited at this point.  I thought I would face this adventure with my head held high and a ‘fuck you, bring it on’ attitude and jump off that cliff without a care.  After all, wasn’t it me who moved 3000 miles away on a (seeming) whim with nothing but a skateboard and a few boxes balanced on it?  Although looking back, I think I felt a bit of panic and anxiety about that trip too.  But I still did it, and never regretted it.

Make no mistake, when it comes time to leave I’ll probably LOOK like the fuckyoubringiton attitude is on top, like this is just another adventure in a lifetime of adventuring, like yo I do this all the time, no big.  But underneath it will be loads of panic and anxiety too, which the fuckyoubringiton attitude will be determinedly trying to stomp out.  I foretell limited success on the fuckyoubringiton attitude’s efforts.

The only difference between fear and excitement is your attitude about it.

Now to be fair, if I was going on a cruise or a vacation to the coast, two weeks out I may be a very teensy tiny bit excited, but not much. I usually don’t get that super OMG I’M OUTTA HERE dancing on the ceiling feeling until I’m packing, which I don’t generally do until the day or night before.  This time seems to be no different, either for excitement or for packing. (Although I do have a pile that I’ve started for ‘stuff I shouldn’t forget to bring’.  But it’s not actually *in* the suitcase, just on top of it, so it totally doesn’t count as packing. It’s more like…prefunc for the packing.  Yeah.) Therefore, the fact that I’m not feeling excitement yet is not terribly unusual for me.  Plus, all the work I’m trying to get done and all the preperations and last-minute commitments I’ve commited to have kept me focused all the more on Portland, which is kinda drowning any excitement I may be feeling.  I guess you could say I’m too busy to be excited just yet, and probably will be right up to the end – which sorta leaves room for the panic and anxiety to have a field day.

In conclusion:  Ask me if I’m excited when I’m on the plane.  I’m sure the answer will be a resounding HELL YEAH BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  But till then, I’m gonna quietly continue to freak the fuck out.

List.

To-DO-List

I have a list.

It’s a todo list.

It’s not full of particularly interesting or fun things.   Mostly just people to call, things to pick up, that sort of thing.  Mundane things.  Pick up milk and a loaf of bread kind of things.  Nor is it the shortest or longest list I’ve ever written.  I don’t write lists often – just for those times when I find I can’t keep all the things I need to do for specific event or occasion in my head.  You know, brain gets a bit too full, a bit too scattered, and sometimes a list helps keep it all together.

But this list…this list is different.  This list is unique, for all that it resides in the place many other lists have been before.  Because I’ve never had a list on my kitchen white board which made my heart stop a little bit every time I look at it.  Or missed a beat.  Or made my breath catch in my throat.

This list is a harbinger of events to come.  The tasks on this list are fashioned out of portent.  It heralds the impending arrival of my impending departure to a place far, far away for longer than I have been away from any place I’ve ever called home.

And sometimes, when I look at that list, it says to me “Girl, you are fucking crazy.” (Intentional withholding of exclamation mark.)  It says “This is a crazy crackbrained idea and the fact that I’ve taken it this far is pretty insane.  You’re only doing this because you talked so damn much about it that you’d look like a fool if you didn’t!”

But every once in a while, that list sits there, and is quiet, and just…pulses.  And the sound that comes off that list, the feelings that I feel when I look at that list during those moments – those are filled with possibility.  Pure kinetic potential.  Pure energy.

I am leaving.

God Father

Marlon Brando as The Godfather

My father’s favorite movie was the Godfather. I remember he made me watch it one afternoon, sitting on his bed in one of the immaculately furnished apartments he rented after my parents divorced, one of the lovebirds he used to keep perched on my shoulder as the grisly horse head scene played out before my eyes. I was 12, maybe 13, and I remember feeling like I was in a mafioso family as well, because my father was just as intimidating, just as imposing a figure to me as the Godfather in the movie. When he was angry, he would fix you with one eye, the pupil quivering in the eye socket, with such a glare that you felt riveted to the spot and couldn’t move. You just waited for whatever horrible fate he decided to assign you to be issued, for your punishment to be meted out with the coldness and impartiality of a judge, for all that his visage spoke of such anger. And yet, I was my father’s daughter – I saw in the Godfather what he loved so much about it. It was the music. I think the theme from the Godfather was probably one of my father’s favorite melodies, and I would often hear him humming it to himself as he went about his day.  And when I hear it now, I am gripped by a many-faceted melancholy: for the passing of time, for the passing of opportunity, for a misunderstood life, and for the finality of death experienced and inflicted.

I Have Slipped The Surly Bonds of Earth…

I remember clearly the first time I ever flew in a plane. I was six years old, and my father and I were taking a trip, just the two of us, to visit his father in Istanbul. We boarded a Pan Am (remember them? Remember the Pan Am building in New York?) flight in New York. I remember feeling like this was the most amazing thing I would ever do, embarking on this adventure where I would defy reason and logic and actually fly. I felt like I was boarding a magical craft, one that would take me to places I could never in my wildest dreams imagine, and as a kid, I had me some wild dreams, let me tell you. I remember watching in amazement as all the lessons I had learned in school about flight were demonstrated to perfection. I remember feeling my heart beat louder and harder as the plane muscled its way faster and faster down the runway, and then the feel of my center dropping as we pulled away from the earth’s tenuous hold upon us and became, for the first time, truly air borne; carried by the winds.

I also remember the agony I endured as my ears struggled and failed to adjust to the pressurization and depressurization of the cabin. It is still probably one of the most painful things I’ve ever endured. (Parents, take note: if your child is screaming on a plane, it may very well be that their ears feel like someone is plunging icepicks into them. The only cure is to have them drink liquids; the act of swallowing will help their ears adjust to the pressure.) But despite that ordeal, I was completely and absolutely in love with this experience, and everything it implied. It’s no wonder that all my aspirations as I considered my future was somehow connected to flying; astronaut, astrophysicist, aerospace engineer, air force academy. My life has not lead me to those things, and I don’t regret it, but that love was always there.

And then, two things happened.

The first, we all remember: September 11th, and the two hijacked planes which tore into the World Trade Center buildings in New York. Buildings which I remember having family pictures taken at the top of, my mom pregnant with my brother, all of us smiling in wonderment at the view. Buildings whose destruction cast a pall of fear over every single flight I have taken since, where I cannot help but look at all my fellow passengers with a tinge of suspicion.

The second, less well remembered but happening just two months, was also plane crash, also in New York, also in 2001. With all the insanity still swirling around 9/11, as soon as it was confirmed that the cause of the crash was not related to terrorists, poeple soon forgot about it and returned to mourning and speculation around the 9/11 crash. Eventually the cause was determined to be “excessive rudder inputs to counteract wake turbulence”. Basically, what this means is that a jet took off and caused a huge amount of turbulence in the air. The jet immediately following the first one takes off, flies into that turbulence, and apparently due to the pilot’s overreaction it caused the entire tail section to shear off. However, at first the news claimed that it was due to that wake turbulence and not the pilot’s reaction to it that caused the accident.

So I have two pieces of information in my brain after that. One, terrorists are everywhere and are trying to kill us using the aircraft we take for granted. Anyone can be a terrorist. Anyone. Two, simple turbulence during takeoff can sometimes be so violent that it can shear off a plane’s tail section, which is downright impossible to recover from.

Plane taking off at sunsetErgo, my love of flying has been subsumed by a complete fear of flying. It did not stop me from flying, but the joy, the wonder, the feeling of being really ALIVE that I so enjoyed was completely and forever gone. Or so I thought.

Yesterday, I took a flight. I’ve taken a bunch of flights since September 11th, 2001. But this one was different. Sure, the terrorists and wind shear and turbulence were all still in my head. But this flight? This flight, to a place that is not at all special, for reasons not at all interesting or exciting – this flight was different.  This time, the fear and suspicions faded into the background, and once again I enjoy the rush and the rumble of the engines as we tear down the runway and leap up into the blue.

I think next year I will take flying lessons.

In Defense Of Dating, Part Two

Could this be an arm around my waist?
Well surely the hand contains a knife…
-Morrissey, “I’m Ok By Myself”

A disturbing trend has revealed itself to me, my dear faithful internets.  I’ve been trotting along my merry way, dating here and dating there.  Gathering ye rosebuds as I may, so to speak.  Now me, I have a pretty regular pattern when navigating murky dating waters: Relationship ends.  I enter period of celibate mourning.  I feel better after a variable amount of time and commence dating, ready to find the next serious relationship.  I’m not saying it’s the best, or the most effective, or even the pattern I would choose were I able.  But it’s what works for me, and that’s pretty much that.  Every relationship I’ve had has been better, healthier than the last, and I have learned valuable lessons with each one.  Binge dating, one night stands, empty sex just have never appealed to me.  Well, not *really*.  I have my moments, I mean GOD.  I’m only human. But anyway…

This time around, there is a term that has cropped up again and again, not just in my experiences, but those of my friends as well.  I had not personally encountered this term in the past, but now it seems to be pervasive:  This thing called “emotionally unavailable”.

Now this might surprise you but
I find I’m ok by myself
And I don’t need you
Or your morality
To save me
No no no no no

My reaction to this term has always been negative.  Consider the premise upon which I function:  That a person’s natural inclination, emotional entropy, if you will, is to find that one person that completes them.  It might be for a few years, or forever.  It is generally not possible for someone to connect this deeply with more than one person at a time; they can come close, but there is the desire to have that one partner, that one companion who is above all others.  A soul mate, for lack of a better term.  The urge to create connections, to bond, is stronger than all others.

This might disturb you but
I find I’m ok by myself
And I don’t need you
Or your benevolence
To make sense
No no no no

Based on that premise, I concluded that the only reasons someone could have for claiming this state of emotional unavailability are twofold; either they are unwilling to be truthful about the real reason they don’t want to connect (“She’s just not that into you”) or they have succumbed to the fear of being hurt, and are unwilling to face that fear – a cop out, in my view.  But I had never truly investigated that stance outside my own admittedly flawed brain, and decided to start asking around.  Determine if perhaps there were other reasons, or if the reasons I had were valid.  Time for some investigative blogging!  I was surprised, somewhat, by what I discovered.

After all these years
I find I’m ok by myself
And I don’t need you
Or your homespun philosophy
No no no no

What I found during my highly unscientific in-depth investigation is that while those reasons are quite valid, there is a different way to view the second one, and a third one I had not considered.

A short word on the first one:  If you’re just using someone for the sex, or to fill time, then say so.  To do otherwise is to lead someone on, and that is never ok in the world of the human heart.  That’s all I think I need to say about that.

We have all been hurt, except for all those perfect couples of which there are OH SO VERY MANY, and perhaps some yogis sitting on a mountain in Tibet.  And I’m sure there’s been squabbles over yak milk there, too.  But I’m talking about being heartbroken – that pain is hard to risk again.  I seem to be somewhat risk immune to it, but whatever.  Not everyone is so lucky, I guess.  So saying you’re emotionally unavailable could be construed as a way of keeping the definitions vague, thereby saving us from having to make a choice.  Which is not a bad thing; sometimes we need to scope out the situation for a while.  But in this case, I maintain that the use of the term is misleading.  Instead, let’s perhaps say that ‘I’m keeping my options open’, or ‘I’m not ready to commit to anything’.  Emotionally unavailable gives the impression of being inflexible.

This might make you flop in your bed
I’m ok by myself
And I don’t need you
And I never have
I never have
No no no no no

The third reason I found were those people who have not yet recovered from that heartbreak.  The ones who are still damaged, who are going through repairs.  They cannot even contemplate any sort of emotional connection.  The difference, and probably the reason I did not consider it, is that when I am in that state I turn into a hermit.  You don’t see me.  I don’t go out.  I sit in my house and heal, I do things for myself, I hug my pets.  I do not, however, eat pints of ice cream – I’m more likely to grill up a steak.  Gotta watch that waistli…um…yeah.  I may go out and see friends occasionally, but I’d much prefer they visit me.  And I do not date anyone, see anyone, sleep with anyone.  I couldn’t comprehend the thought of someone else touching me, or me being at all interested in touching anyone else, which saves me from having to explain that at that moment, I am emotionally unavailable.  Other people embark upon a game of conquest, sleeping with everyone who catches their eye and is willing, but refusing to apply or entertain any meaning to it.  These people heal however they may, but they most certainly have no business trying to enter into another serious relationship until the damage has been healed.  They then use the term to explain the situation, which is probably its most correct usage.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is how to love and be loved in return.
-Eden Ahbez, “Nature Boy” (1948)

I guess in closing, what I’m discovering is that the term “emotionally unavailable” has become a blanket term for a host of different things, and in the case of close interpersonal relationships, I suggest that a more descriptive term of the actual situation be employed, if possible – realizing that the line between the second and third reasons are very cloudy at best.  I also think that it is not something you are, it is something you become.  It is a reaction to an external input, and as it goes against the initial premise, it is not something to be content with indefinitely.  Much as I use Morrissey’s song as an effective tool at maintaining emotional distance, it is a temporary state – behind the walls, underneath the facade, my truth is the line from Eden Ahbez.  Of course, my initial premise may be wrong, or just my own; but I find that emotionally, we are so very much alike in so many different ways.  More love, more commitment, more honesty, more passion.  These are the things I seek and treasure, and hope for everyone.

Teh Slows – I Haz Them.

Halloo internets!!  I have a new theme, whattya think?

Yeah.  I know.

It’s slow.

S    L    O    O    O    O    O   W.

I can’t even say slow slow enough to fully capture just how slow my blog loads now.

No fears tho!  Thanks to the fabulous Jason Grigsby and his talk  from last year’s WordCamp Portland ,  ”Speed Up WordPress: Make Readers Happy and Your Site Green”, I have this handy little tool on my FireFox called YSlow .  And I’ll be using it to optimize my blog so the SLOW WILL BE NO MO.

Just as soon as I have time.  I mean, you see how long it took me just to install a couple new themes to play around with? 

THE BUSIES.  I HAZ THEM.

Still.  Here’s a short little list of all the plates I have spinning merrily:

And that’s just my projects.  I still go to martial arts class, I still work on the Eternal Project, I date people, I try to keep my dog well exercised and happy because she’s the bestest dog on the planet, I am trying to build a couple of DJ sets to shop around, and I still love to write using blogs for my various writing outlets (this here personal one, OurPDX, and now the WordCamp Portland blog is gonna need some loves from me.)

Oh yeah, and work. 

So, busy.

I could use some help with that stuff, you know.  If you’re not doing anything.  Stuff like:

  • Recommending great local bands who’d like to play the 30 Hour Day 2 Variety Show on July 3rd
  • Volunteering for some core responsibilities for WordCamp Portland
  • Mow my front yard

Ok I was kidding about the yard one.

Mostly kidding.

Also, just so you know – lolcats  might be taking over my brain.  If my posts start to become a bit gibberishy-make that more gibberishy than usual-please send a couple dogs, or cat exterminator, to save me and my dog from the lolcats.