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.

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:

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot…

Well, there goes another year, internets. Another year of trials, tribulations, happiness and heartache, highs and lows and everything in between.

The highs of this year? Easy. Meeting and getting to know the most amazing community I’ve ever had the honor, luck and pleasure of being a part of. Thanks to the pdx tech community, I have new ideas, new activities, and most importantly, new friends and connections which enrich my life in ways I could never have imagined (*cough* igniteportland and 30hourday *cough*), and will continue to enrich my life in ways I can only dream. So whether or not I follow you on Twitter, friend you on Facebook, or we hook up on LinkedIn, I’m glad I met each and every last one of you.

But it’s not all about the pdx tech scene! There’s been old friends reuniting, new activities ventured, and new friends made in other areas of my life as well!

In reviewing my year, I decided to steal copy borrow an end-of-year blog post idea from my friend Rick Turoczy, the Silicon Florist, and see what my blog posts from the past year say about me (That Rick, he’s big on the word clouds, isn’t he?):

Wordle of words from the titles of my blog over the year 2009.

I see hope there, my friends.  Spring fires and hope.  And also vampires.

Have a safe and happy New Year.  May you find the courage to make your life what you want it to be.

Today I Am a Good Wolf.

I recently ran across this story through a friend of mine.  I’ve heard it in many forms before; I’m sure we all have at some point.  But for some reason, today, it resonated down to the deepest darkest recesses of my soul.  So I felt it only right that I should share it with you all.

A Grandfather from the Cherokee Nation was talking with his grandson.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.”

“One wolf is evil and ugly:

He is anger, envy, war, greed, self-pity, sorrow, regret, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, selfishness and arrogance.”

“The other wolf is beautiful and good:

He is friendly, joyful, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, justice, fairness, empathy, generosity, true, compassion, gratitude, and deep vision.”

“This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other human as well.”

The grandson paused in deep reflection because of what his grandfather had just said. Then he finally cried out; “Oyee! Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The elder Cherokee replied, “The wolf that you feed.”

Driver 8

On January 6th, 1990, I boarded a train in Boston with all my possessions packed into a couple boxes and balanced on my skateboard.

On January 9th, 1990, I arrived in Portland Oregon, where I found my friend and her parents waiting to pick me up.

In between those two events was one of the most profound experiences of my life.

Even now, looking back, those three days on the train feel like some strange dream I had. The colors were all muted, yet raw. Figures, people, floated in and out of my existence, but never seemed to really be present, or real. It was like I was passing through some sort of transitional dimension, and I would come out the other side changed.

Perhaps that’s exactly what it was, because I did change. The person who boarded in Boston was not the same one that arrived in Portland. The trip changed me, in subtle yet profound ways. Yet still, after all these years, I can’t quite put my finger on how I was different. I just knew, and still know, that I just felt different. And not different like if you dye your hair a different colour and look in the mirror. Not different as if you took a different path to work and saw some new stuff. Different, as if you just had a small animal die in your arms. Different as if you just witnessed your math teacher have a complete nervous breakdown, and you don’t know how to react.

So here’s what happened. It will probably sound quite mundane and boring. But something about it wasn’t. Perhaps this exercise will help me figure it out.

I spent a month saving every penny to buy this train ticket. My mother, who was dead set against the whole idea, refused to lift a finger to help, even though the passage from Dostoevsky I used to explain my reasons seemed perfectly clear. But fine, I hadn’t gone home for her help, I went home to say goodbye. I had enough money for a taxi to the bus station in Manchester, for the bus from Manchester to Boston, and my train ticket was already purchased. I didn’t have money for food on the trip, but I figured I’d raid the pantry on my way out. Fortunately, the night before I was planning to leave, my mom relented and offered to drive me to Boston. Yay for food money.

Although this was after CD’s were entering mainstream use, I didn’t have the money to buy very many. Most of my music was still on cassette tape. The two tapes I had with me were a mix tape that my friend Sean made, and REM’s Fables of the Reconstruction.

Awkward goodbyes at the train station. I boarded the train, stowed my stuff, and settled in. I was nervous. Not so much at the prospect of moving across the country with nothing, basically. For that, I felt a lot of fear. But the nervousness, that was for 3 days, alone. I wasn’t very good at talking to strangers back then. I was 19.

The trip from Boston to Chicago went pretty quickly. I remember passing through Syracuse and being in a foul mood just being in close proximity to that place. I so hated that town, and that school. It was years before I could even stand blue and orange together. Heh.

The first night comes. I slept. Sleeping in a train seat is not much better than sleeping in an airplane seat. Somehow, it’s worse, although less pressurized.

Change of trains in Chicago, and then the long trip from there to Portland.

They hand out cards to everyone when you board, with a list of interesting sights to look for along the way. I remember that I couldn’t wait to see the Rockies. I imagined how majestic, glorious and soul-lifting they would be. I had worked myself up to quite a fever pitch about them, in fact. But they were a day away still, at least. So the next interesting thing on the list was a beautiful statue of a wolf, in Wolf Point, Montana. The statue commemorates the town’s beginnings as a wolf trapper’s camp. I waited hours to see that wolf statue.

Hours.

Hours of nothing. Nothing but seas of wheat, and rolling hills, and emptiness. No towns. No houses. No people. No nothing.

And then…a house, in the middle of nowhere.

And then…more hours upon hours of nothing.

That’s the kind of thing that makes you think. Which is what I did. I thought. I wrote stories about G-d. Parables. I silently panicked at what I was doing. I thought about death, and family, and faith, and something deep inside me shifted, shifted away from the angry, disillusioned girl desperate for meaning. Shifted in subtle ways, finding flashes of calm, tiny moments of introspection and peace in between the fear and uncertainty.

And I listened to that REM tape. Fables of the Reconstruction. Driver 8.

The walls were built up stone by stone,
Fields divided one by one
And the train conductor says
Take a break driver 8, driver 8, take a break,
we’ve been on this trip too long

That song will always transport me back to those three days.

We pulled into Wolf Point, and I saw the statue. It was about the size of a medium dog, in a bank parking lot.

We entered the Rocky Mountains around 11pm. It was pitch dark outside. I saw nothing.

I met people, who were nice to me. I found them confusing, threatening, and comforting all at once. Confusing because they used strange words, like ‘pop’ for soda and ‘sack’ for paper bag. Threatening, because I knew I was different somehow, and they were (or seemed) normal, and I was afraid they’d see I was different and hate me for it. Comforting, because they didn’t.

I arrived in Portland the afternoon of the next day. Changed. A bit more accepting of life. A bit more introspective, and forgiving, and perhaps a touch less judgmental.

I wrote about the larger story of my move here a while back. If you’re interested, check it out. It’s in two parts.

Amalgamation: a story.

“I’m leaving.”

“Hmm?”, I replied.  “Where are you going?”  I feigned obliviousness.  It’s a defense mechanism built out of hope that I was quite adept at using.

“No.  I mean I’m leaving”, she said.

When you walk into the surf at the beach, and stand in the water, just ankle deep, you feel the immense power swirling at your feet.  You’re just not in deep enough that it can really affect you, not yet.  But it’s pulling you out to sea, out to where its power is stronger.  I felt that power now, except this wasn’t the tide, it was fear.  Swirling just at ankle level, and rising quickly.  My heart skipped a beat.

“You mean…”

“Yes”, she interrupted.  “I’ve taken the offer.  I leave at the end of the month.”

I sighed, bracing myself for the discussion we had had so many times already.  Tapping into the seemingly endless pools of patience I always managed to find at times like these.

“I thought we decided you’d wait until I could find a way…”, I started.

“No.  I don’t want to wait anymore.  I’m doing this for me.  I’ll be back, but I need to go.”

Inside my mind, inside my heart, I heard a low rumbling.  With every passing moment, the rumbling grew louder, more shrill.  I recognized it; it was the sound of desperation.  The sound I heard when I gazed into the dark abyss of loneliness that I knew so well.  It was coming for me again.  The sound surrounded me, as the fear lapped at my knees, slowly engulfing me.  I faced that sound, faced the growing fear and what lay behind it, and firmed my resolve.

“Then,” I said, “you should go.”

The look of relief on her face spoke volumes, while I felt at once both pride and pain.  Pain, from the agony of knowing that it was over, that I would never see her again.  My skepticism would not allow that she spoke the truth that she’d be back; we both knew it was a lie, one for my benefit, and all the more stinging because I knew it.  Pride, in knowing that I could let her go to follow her path, that I could stand fast and remain true to my beliefs in the face of such pain.  I knew the loneliness that lay before me, and could still let her go.

But oh, how I hated the thought of being alone.  What a fool I am, I thought.  What a total fucking fool.  A fool for love, and a coward in the face of loneliness, unable to walk away from love even when it’s all wrong. But now the struggle was over, the fight lost.  Or was it?

It would be an end to the lies and confusion.  No more wondering who she’s sleeping with behind my back.  No more thinly veiled recriminations, or being told that nothing I tried was ever *quite* up to par.  No more struggling to be understood.  No more questioning myself when I knew full well the answer.

Yes, as always, this would be for the best.  She was not the one.

I pulled out my suitcase and began to pack.

This was not the end.

This is a story.  An amalgamation of those moments when the relationship, my relationships, end.  I’ve learned many things from my past relationships:

  1. There is always someone crazier than you out there.  You can’t fix them, no matter how much you love them.  Don’t make excuses for them either.
  2. Maintain your own identity.  Don’t lose your individuality.  You, and your relationship, will be healthier for it.  And always tell the truth about how you feel.
  3. Sometimes, the problem *is* you.  Fix it.  Be self aware.  But sometimes it takes screwing up something truly wonderful to figure that out.  Sucks, I know.
  4. Don’t settle for someone you’re not interested in just to keep away the loneliness.  Don’t sacrifice your standards; you’ll just both get hurt.
  5. Yes, you still prefer women.  And yes, you are awesome, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
  6. Attraction is very, very important.  So is communication, understanding, and compromise.  And letting the one you love follow their own path.  And not forgetting to follow your own.

Through it all, I have never given up on love.  I am frankly amazed at the fact that I keep bouncing back, willing to try again; for all the times I’ve been hurt, I ought to be jaded beyond repair.  But I’m not.   I marvel at my heart’s resilience, and look forward to the next lesson.

I said GOOD DAY SIR. GOOD DAY!

I don’t take offense easily AT ALL.  Really.  So when it does happen, I’m not sure how to deal with it. 

And I am offended.  Boy howdy, am I ever.  Actually angry, even, which feels very foreign to me of late.

So I’m trying to figure out how to deal with it.  And while I’m doing that, I’m finding that it’s hard to give the numerous blog post ideas I have stewing around in my head the proper focus they deserve.  Apparently, I am only inspired to write by negative emotions if I write about that which is influencing that emotion, and I don’t feel very motivated to do that at the moment, either.

So.  Tomorrow I’ll relate my sturdy cell phone stories.  Tomorrow I’ll wonder about the strange disease of the trees at Holladay West Park.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you how Kabbalah changed my life years before Madonna ever heard of it, and how it helped me discover intentional acceptance, and how important that is in my life.

Today…I’m just trying to practice that acceptance.

What do you do when you can’t blog?

You SUFFER.

Heh.  Perhaps that’s a bit strong?  Probably.  But still.

I have lots on my mind.  But I just can’t blog about it.  It’s stuff I just can’t safely release into the wilds of the interwebs with a clear conscience.  Believe me, I would if I could.  I even have a couple draft posts just sitting there, mocking me. 

I read them, and they say “Come on, what’s the worst that could happen?”

“Oh, it could be bad.  It could be very, very bad”, I answer.

But they continue to sit there, smirking.  Taunting me.  And I know that if I hit that “Publish” button, I would feel a moment of release, of accepting my fate, of peace. 

And it would last all of, oh, two seconds.

Because then the internal recriminations would begin, and the repurcussions…  Like a huge tsunami breaking over a sunny remote beach.  There you are, all happy happy joy joy, at peace with the world; next you’re pulling seaweed out of your teeth, getting knocked in the head with rocks and shells,  fish are bitch slapping you in the face with their tail, and you’re treading water like a banshee:

“Oh, crap.  You really, really shouldn’t have done that.  All hell is gonna break loose.  You knew that, why the f*ck did you publish that?!”  Etc, etc, etc.

And when the repurcussions of my little post start to hit (and they will.  Trust me, they will.):

“Told you you should’nt have published that.  Dumbass.”

Mind you, taken alone, those posts are pretty innocuous.  Like a little pebble.

A tiny little pebble, that when tossed in a lake, goes KAPOW, because what you didn’t realize is that tiny, innocent little pebble was coated with nitroglycerin.  Oops.

The last time I was in a position like this, I hit publish.

This time…I think I’ll close the browser.  But right after I publish this post…

Good stuff.

One thing I’ve learned about myself as time goes by…I write WAY more when I’m down and feeling crappy and bleh and stuff.  When things are going right, I don’t ..well..write.  I guess only one right/write can I handle at any moment.  But I feel kinda remiss about not writing about the rightness, or increase of rightness at least, that’s going on for me.  Especially when I’ve unloaded so much wrongness in this space!

Um…so I’m feelin good.  I smile when I look in the mirror more and more.   I’ve met some really cool people and been strangely emotionally intimate with these relative strangers, and that’s been …ok.  Good even.  I’m starting a business!  oh em gee!!  I’ll probably do a nice little plug on here for it soon, as soon as my website is closer to being done.  So yeah.  Life is good, I’m envisioning my beautiful backyard every day, and soon you will all be invited to feast on my new patio and enjoy the tranquility of it all.  Just wait until you see it, it’s awesome.  I can’t wait :D