Life Stories, Travel Adventures, Food Experiences, General Musings
I am a crafter, artist and blogger/writer. My paintings can be found on www.MelodyErickson.com. My official blog site is www.MelErickson.com. I have several other things in the works as well. Great things are happening!
On day 5 of our Viking River Cruise, we departed Pinhao for a beautiful sail to Pocinho, where we would make a short stop to allow some passengers off for an alternate excursion. We stuck to the included excursions, so we remained on board and enjoyed the view on the way to our final destination, Barca d’Alva. Our travel dates aligned with the start of the picking season, so we often spotted workers in the fields. I wasn’t able to get a picture of them, but there was one vineyard where the workers stopped picking, and jumped and waved their arms as they shouted a greeting to us. (I choose to believe it was a heartly hello!) Our Captain responded with a sounding of the ship’s horn.
Between breakfast and lunch, Chef Andrea demonstrated how to make Pastel de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts).
A short time later, we passed through the Pocinho Lock:
We arrived at Barca d’Alva after lunch and transferred to our designated bus to made the scenic trek to Castelo Rodrigo. You’ll see from some of the pictures coming up that there are people living in these old dwellings surrounding the castle. While the castle is only remains at this point, the area is a thriving tourist location. They even have 5g fiber, believe it or not!
There were so many beautiful pictures from this stop I have to add them in several separate slide decks. First we went down to the church:
Then I did some wandering on my own:
Then into the castle where they have a museum, and…an ATM:
After touring the castle on my own, I made my way back to my group, marveling at the beautiful views along the way. Back near the entrance there were shops were filled with – you guessed it – cork products, olive products and wine! In one of the shops I tasted Almond Sparkling Wine, which was a mixture of almond liqueur made only in that area of Portugal and sparkling wine. If I hadn’t already bought a few bottles of wine from some of our other stops I would have grabbed some of that Almond liqueur, but I knew I was already near the tipping point on my suitcase weight limit, so I had to walk away sad. 😦
On the ride back I was able to get a few pics of the pigeon houses. Our guide told us a story of how pigeons were, and still are used as food in Portugal (pigeon rice, yum!). Also, their droppings are used as fertilizer. There was a time long ago when Coca-Cola was banned (I don’t remember when and couldn’t find a reference online), and so smugglers stored it in the pigeon houses. Pigeon houses were scattered among the rocky hills all along our route. This is the best picture I was able to get:
Day four of our Viking River Cruise began with a sail along the Douro river from Vila Nova de Gaia to Regua. In the photos below you’ll see the Crestuma Lock, one of 5 locks we moved through on our travels. You’ll also see some beautiful views of vineyards and evidence of some of the wildfires the Portugal mountains have suffered – they came very close to many homes along the water!
We weren’t docking until 2:30 PM, so after breakfast we headed to the lounge for a presentation by “The Cork Lady”. The Cork Lady brought loads of products that she makes by hand (presumably): handbags, notebooks, wallets, hats and jewelry. But…before we could shop, she gave a presentation about cork and its importance to Portugal.
It turns out, cork has many uses beyond sealing wine bottles. It is used in products like flooring, clothing, shoes, insulation, and many other things. Quality cork doesn’t burn, so it’s a very useful product in homes. Growing and harvesting cork is quite a lengthy process. It takes many years for a tree to produce high quality cork. The cork is taken from only the trunk of the tree, and the cork can be harvested only so high up the trunk in order to keep the tree healthy. A cork tree must grow to 51″ high and 27.5″ in diameter before it can be harvested. The first harvest will be low quality cork, but there are still uses for that. Nine more years later the cork is harvested again, and again it is low quality. Finally, after nine more years, the tree will yield a quality crop, and it will continue to produce for about 100 years!
According to The Cork Lady, since trying to set fire to store inventory is frowned upon, the best way to test whether the cork used in textiles is good quality is to scrunch it up in your hand. When you release it, if the wrinkles pop out, it’s good cork. This tip came in handy for the rest of the trip, as everywhere we stopped there were cork products for sale.
After lunch I snapped a few more pics from the upper deck and then got ready to disembark the ship and board our bus to Mateus Palace & Gardens. In these next pictures you can see very clearly how the mountains are lined with row after row of grape vines! The first couple pics were taken while still on the ship; the others on the bus – and you can see the dizzying heights from the road! Most of the roads we traveled were “two lane” roads, which were really only the width of a single lane here in the US. This means, when you come across another vehicle heading toward you, one of you has to move waaaay over to let the other pass!
Mateus Palace & Gardens was beyond beautiful! The 18th-century baroque house and gardens once belonging to counts. The property is comprised primarily of the manor, the winery and the chapel. The pictures here are the manor:
One more that didn’t fit into the slide show:
Then on to the gardens:
From there we boarded our bus and headed to the Sandeman Winery, (Quinta do Seixo), to learn about and taste (and buy) some wonderful Port wine! Our very enthusiastic guide for the tour did not speak English well at all! I just remember “something Portuguese, something Portuguese, something Portuguese, Welcome to the Vineyard!” Over and over again. She ended each of her very long, fast strings of Portuguese with, “Welcome to the Vineyard!”
In the first pic below, you can see that we’re very high up in the mountains! The roads were single lane, switchback roads the whole way up! On the way down we met another bus and our driver had to do some fancy steering to make room! The three drivers (one for each bus) for these tours have all been with Viking for many years. They are experts at navigating these treacherous roads!
The last picture in the slideshow isn’t in focus, but it’s an example of the giant signs the vineyards install to let you know who is who!
Back onboard the Osfrid, we enjoyed some stunning views, and then had a wonderful dinner. To cap it off, on the upper deck after dinner, we got to enjoy watching a crew member having a workout – well, part of him, at least!
On the third day of my Viking River Cruise, we were up early and had breakfast while our bags were collected and loaded onto our bus. Some of the views from the bus:
It was a bit of a haul to get to Porto, so we were happy to have a few stops along the way. The first stop was in downtown Coimbra for a short shopping excursion.
Our second stop was at University of Coimbra, where we learned so many things, some quite unexpected! One of the unexpected things we learned was that J. K. Rowling was teaching English in Porto, Portugal during the time she was writing the first Harry Potter book, and the uniforms worn at Hogwartz were influenced by the uniforms worn in universities in Portugal! Who knew!
Salazar Slytherin’s name was influenced by Antonio Salazar, a Portuguese dictator. There are, in fact, many Portuguese influences in Harry Potter, as explained in this very informative article by Chelsea Szmania. There is also a lot of ceremony around the robes. Here are a few:
First years don’t wear them. You have to be a second year.
You don’t have to wear it every day, but when you do wear it, your cape can never be more than six feet away from you. You can take it off, but if you, say, took it off in class and then left the room to use the bathroom and were spotted in the hallway without it…there were consequences (I don’t remember what the consequences were).
Relationships are represented by tears in the robe. A family relationship is represented by a tear in the front, right – over the heart. Strong friendships are tears on the front right. Romantic relationships are represented by tears in the back of the robe. If a relationship ends, the student must hand-sew the tear using the color that represents their program (law is red, pharmacy is purple, medicine is yellow, etc.). So someone who dates around could have several sewn tears on the back of their robe!
In the photos below are the grounds of the University, which show ongoing restoration. There is a statue there of King Denis, known as the Farmer King for planting a forest to provide raw materials for royal ships and also known as the Poet King because he wrote poetry and was influential in establishing Portuguese as a literary language. There are pictures inside Prisão Académica, which dated back to when the University would hold its own court and imprison students who had broken rules. We were also able to see inside a small library, but the much larger Joanine Library has a no photos rule, so nothing to show there, but the page at this link will has a couple of pictures.
Here are some pics of St. Michael’s chapel inside the University building.
After University of Coimbra, we stopped for lunch at Republica da Saudade, where we experienced one of the robe rituals first hand! The restaurant was staffed by university students, and as we entered the restaurant, there were two students, one on each side just inside the door, holding their robes so that they fell on the floor in front of them and you had no choice but to walk on them to get into the restaurant. Having your robe walked on is an honor.
For me, lunch was a wonderful Cod casserole, ice cream and sparkling wine, while listening to Fado Music performed by the restaurant owner and friends. It was beautiful! I don’t have a recording of what we heard, but this recording is by the same group.
After lunch we continued to Porto where we boarded our ship and began unpacking before heading to the lounge for a welcome reception with wine and cheese and some lovely piano playing by our onboard entertainer.
From the lounge we headed to the ship’s restaurant for dinner. It was a long, eventful day, but we had to stop on the upper deck to view the city at night before retiring to our cabins.
On day 2 of our Viking River Cruise, we remained in Lisbon (not yet on the ship) and did some sightseeing.
We started our day with a bus ride through the city and then arrived at the Belem Tower, which is a fortification from the 16th century and was a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portugal. More info can be found here.
From there, we moved on to Jeronimos Monastery, the former monastery for the Order of St. Jerome. In 1833 it was secularized and ownership was transferred to a charitable institution. In 1983 it was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is awe-inspiring, to say the least!
A couple photos from on route to our next stop:
We next visited a huge modern art installation by sculptor Joao Cutileiro, a well-known sculptor who contributed several pieces of modern public sculpture, including several female nudes, which were quite controversial at the time. His work marks the beginning of a new contemporary era in Portuguese public sculpture.
After our excursion we were on our own. While my travel buddies decided to visit St. George’s Castle, I chose to visit the National Tile Museum. We couldn’t get an Uber because our phone service was non-existent, so we tried our luck on local tourist transportation, which was a golf cart decorated with artificial flowers. Aloha.
After negotiating our smooth-operating driver from 50 down to 30 Euros for both stops, we all headed for St. George’s Castle, which meant driving along narrow streets that wound their way up, up, up the cobbled streets of Lisbon. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Once there, my travel buddies got off, which left me on my own for the remainder of the ride to the National Tile Museum. It. Was. Terrifying.
Going down the hill was much more death-defying than going up. We bumped along the cobbled streets, weaving left and right, winding down at what felt like break-neck speeds in that little cart! At one point I glanced at the speedometer and we were close to 40 mph! I really should have made him stop and let me off, but I was too terrified to even speak! I did manage to catch a couple of photos on the way though.
The National Museum of the Azulejo, or National Tile Museum, is dedicated to the traditional tilework of Portugal. I’m including a LOT of photos here, but there is so much more! I’m so glad I made this stop!
After the museum and castle, we all met back at the Hotel Tivoli, where we attempted to get a table at the rooftop restaurant, Seen, but we were too late. We took a quick walk through the outdoor bar, which was also full, but I got a few pics of the sky view – breathtaking!
In the end we decided to have a light dinner in the lobby restaurant, where I had a yummy chocolate martini and a bowl of seafood soup. It was the perfect ending to a busy day!
I recently had the opportunity to explore Portugal on a Viking River Cruise. Here is day one of the adventure!
Flying to Lisbon from the East Coast is an adventure in itself. I left Nashville at 2:35 pm and had a layover in Newark, where I met up with my friend Lee. We boarded our plane to Lisbon at about 7:00 pm and then after a short delay for a flight attendant medical emergency, we were on our way. Then, about half way through the flight (I’m guessing about timing because I was mostly asleep at this point) there was some shouting and people running to the front of the plane. What?
It was a passenger medical emergency, and we were somewhere over the Atlantic, so the only option was to ask if there was a doctor on board. Fortunately the passenger appeared to be okay, at least far as we could tell. As we disembarked the plane, she was seated in her wheelchair and there were paramedics checking her vitals. Hopefully she was okay and able to enjoy her time in Portugal.
The challenge with a trip like this is, of course, jet lag. When we arrived in Lisbon it was about 10:00 am the next morning, which meant our day was just starting after a long day and night of travel. And we couldn’t get into our rooms until 3:00 pm. We left our luggage at Hotel Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, where we would be staying for the first two nights, and then dragged our tired, selves out the door for a (very long) trek to TimeOut Market.
TimeOut Market is a huge food court that had soooo many options for our first meal in Portugal! There is an upper entertainment level, but we didn’t make it up there. I had a hard time deciding what to order because I was too tired and dehydrated to be hungry. But I ordered some shrimp with garlic, which was one of the recommendations Lee had read about and I figured it was safe for me. It was a dish of shrimp that was swimming in a delicious butter and garlic base and served with bread – to sop up the sauce. I didn’t get a pic of it, but there’s pic on the TimeOut Market website here. I would have loved it any other time, but I’m afraid it was lost on me this day. I also bought two bottles of water, which was really what I needed.
Part of me wants to have someone in my life; part of me wants to remain single. Here’s the thing: I’ve been in several bad relationships in my lifetime – mostly when I was much younger, but – there were a lot. So I know pretty well now what I don’t want. And I’ve got a pretty good thing going right now. I’ve got a home that I love, two dogs that make me smile every day, and friends to spend time with – responsibly, of course.
In this time of social distancing, I feel pretty good. I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, which is what I prefer to do anyway. Another benefit to COVID: Now I don’t need to feel guilty for choosing a night at home over a friend’s invitation. Please don’t get me wrong. I know COVID is a terrible thing and my soul hurts for those who have been negatively affected by it. But…I see a silver lining.
The problem, of course, is that this is not a good environment for meeting eligible single men. There are multitudinous dating apps out there, and I’ve been on many of them, with little success.
I found my last relationship online in 2007. Three years later it ended because he had an addiction that I couldn’t live with. Turns out, he couldn’t live with it either. He passed away two years ago. There’s a lot more to that story, but not here. I’ll just say that that experience soured me a bit, and I’m now very cautious about who I spend my time with and I’m protective of my personal space. One or twice a year, though, I sign up on a dating site, pay the money (because that’s the only way you can actually communicate with a person), and then immediately feel buyers remorse. If only the IRS allowed deductions for donations to dating sites. Unfortunately, the same story repeats.
The typical scenario is either:
I message someone I’ve been matched with and never hear back. They disappear from my list of matches (meaning they have quietly removed themselves…shh…step…away).
I receive a message from someone I have no interest in and try to find the kindest way to say, no thank you.
So essentially, I’m not really matching with anyone. I have occasionally had success getting over the first threshold and on to messaging within the app, but it generally doesn’t take long to figure out the guy is either:
On rare occasions, I get to the phone call stage, where I’m likely to find out they’re either:
a bad fit (uneducated, strong opinions that do not fit my view of life)
On even more rare occasions, I get to meet the person. Here are the typical outcomes:
Misrepresentation (nothing like their photos, not in the job/profession they stated)
Bad fit (self-absorbed, rude, no chemistry)
As you can see, as the prospects progress through the funnel, the outcomes do not tend to improve.
What I’ve found over the years is, like me, many people are on several different apps and return to them as they move out of relationships. Each time I renew on an app I see profiles of people I’ve seen before. Some are even using the same photos they used ten years ago! That in itself is a “big red flag”, to quote my second husband, who himself was the embodiment of a big red flag, or, to say it differently, there were so many big red flags I should have seen early on in that relationship that I was clearly in a bad place when I married him. Another story for another time.
I’m not asking for much, really. I just want someone who is interested in getting to know me a little before jumping into bed. I want to have conversations, not listen to someone tell stories about themselves. I want to see evidence of character: kindness, strength, humility. I want to see how they dance in the cacophony of this crazy world.
So many times, I’ve read in a profile or been told by a prospect that they want to get to know someone first, then “see what happens”. What that means is, on the first date he’ll try to get a kiss from you – just to check things out. On the second date he’ll try to feel you up.
I long for an age of patience, anticipation, and respectfulness, where we get to know someone before getting into the groping and sweating. Maybe a chance encounter that turns into a friendship…and then, one day, a spontaneous, mutual agreement to grope and sweat. I know what you’re thinking, but, no, I’m not into romantic chick flicks. They’re the same story told over and over, and we all know those things don’t really happen. But now that I’ve written this, it does sound like that’s what I’m asking for.
So what other options are available now outside of online dating sites? Volunteering used to be an option, but that’s not safe at the moment. And I’ve volunteered many times and never even made a female friend, let alone a potential male companion.
Maybe there’s still hope. Or maybe I’ve had my share of companions. Maybe I used up my quota when I was younger. In the end, I know I’m okay. I’m happy with who I am and where I am. But once in a while, as I sit on my deck gazing into the starry night, I think: Wouldn’t it be nice to find my person so we could enjoy this together?
I was clearing out old voicemails recently because someone told me my mailbox was full. There, at the bottom, was the Blocked Messages folder. I opened it to find the same three messages, the last one dated 12/16/2017. That left me curious. I did a quick search of my inbox and found the last email from him was on 12/26/2017. I was curious what made him finally stop.
Something tugged at me. I wonder what he’s up to these days. Could he have finally gotten himself together and moved on?
I did a quick Google search on his first and last name and came up with several hits, but not him. I thought that seemed odd. He didn’t like social media, but he should at least have a LinkedIn profile because of the type of work he does.
I did another Google search using his full name. There was one hit. An obituary.
I stared at the screen, stunned. I read and re-read the content. This couldn’t be real. “…died in his home.”
It was a Tuesday when I stumbled onto the news, and I had a very busy work schedule that week so there wasn’t time to process my feelings immediately. I had planned to take Thursday off, but had a full day of activities that day and didn’t want to be a wreck on Friday. So I filed it away as best I could. That’s right, I was scheduling time to grieve. We do what we must.
For the next few days this new bit of reality continued to swirl around in my head. I allowed myself to feel very little emotion about it, but every time I would pause – or when I would wake up in the middle of the night to roll over (yes, I wake up for this) – I would feel the gut-punch echo of the words “…died in his home.”
A day or two into this, facebook presented me with a memory. It was not something directly about him, but it was an event that I remembered as happening shortly after I moved out. It had been nine years. So why was I feeling this strongly?
Friday evening finally arrived. It was grieving time. I sat on my yoga mat and talked to him. I said I was sorry. I said I had hoped he would find strength to work through things. I said I was sorry I hadn’t been able to help him. I told him I missed what we had had in the beginning of our relationship. I cried. I punched my fists into a cushion and shouted. After exhausting myself, I laid on my mat and stared.
In the three weeks following my discovery of his death I found myself in a funk off and on…mostly on. I didn’t want to talk on the phone with my friend, who by the way both lost her father and broke up with her boyfriend in the two months prior. I felt some guilt about not being there for her, but I needed to be alone.
Nine years. That is the marker for when I moved out of our three year live-in arrangement. I had loved him dearly, but his alcoholism proved to be too much for us to overcome. I tried so many approaches to encourage him to help himself, but he was not interested. He didn’t have a problem, I just needed to lighten up. I didn’t recognize my behavior as codependency. He was an alcoholic and I was a victim.
Toward the end of our live-in relationship he would pass out in his chair once or twice a week – sometimes more often. He’d wake up after a bit and resume whatever conversation we had been having before he had passed out. In his opinion we were having playful banter; I felt it was obnoxious and harrassing, though I never used those words with him because my life path had taught me there were boundaries I should not cross if I wanted to be safe.
We had come together fast and intensely. We had an extreme physical chemistry from the start, and we connected on so many other levels. I heard him and I knew he heard me. I felt loved unconditionally for the first time in my life.
I knew from the beginning that he liked to have a drink now and then, but I didn’t see it as excessive. He always seemed to be in control. It wasn’t long after I moved in that it became clear he had a problem. Once his secret was out, all bets were off.
The first time I was locked out of the house while he was passed out drunk, I told him I was leaving. But he had been so repentant the next day and actually promised, for the first time, to quit drinking. So I stayed. He lasted maybe three weeks. The second time I was locked out I didn’t tell him I was leaving, I just started making plans.
There had been so many good things about our relationship…when he was sober. He was the person I could fall into…when he was sober. He was the kindest, most reasonable man I’d ever been in a relationship with…when he was sober. He often said he’d lie down on railroad tracks for me. For all these reasons, even after I moved out, we continued to stay in touch.
My codependency – my need to be loved wholeheartedly – allowed us to come back together a few times over the next four years. He only did his heavy drinking at home, so it would appear to me that he was doing better. Each time we’d come together we went through the same cycle:
We would start with an agreement that we’d just be friends.
I would give in to his promises that he had everything under control and lean into him once again.
He would resume drinking heavily.
Somewhere in the timeline there would be a beach trip, where I would get to relive the experience of living with an alcoholic.
I would push back and say we had to keep it just friends or I was out.
He’d agree to that, but then would become more and more demanding of my time.
I would push back again.
He would drunk email or voicemail me to tell me how heartless I was.
I would break off contact completely.
A month or two later he’d reach out again, promising once more that we could be just friends. He just really wanted me in his life.
By the time I shut the door for good his mental faculties had degraded significantly. I could see the changes in his personality and in his ability to think rationally. He was moving further and further into a darkness that I couldn’t understand. And I felt less and less safe.
In June 2015 I blocked his number. He would still leave me voicemails, but I wouldn’t know about it until I emptied my mailbox. He would still email, but I wouldn’t respond. In December 2017, he emailed to tell me he’d straightened himself out and maybe we could make a go of it. I finally knew better. I didn’t respond.
He passed in May 2018. “…died in his home.” I’m pretty sure I know what happened.
So why had I felt so bad about the news after all this time? I was sad that he wasn’t able to move on with his life and find happiness in some way; that he wasn’t able to see rock bottom and recognize it was time for long lasting change. And I’ve pondered my role in all of this. It was his disease, but I played a part in his emotional health because I allowed us to come back together over and over again until he could no longer see past a life with me. I know I didn’t directly cause his death, but I have wondered if he might have seen his way through this if I had just walked out the door and not looked back. Eventually I made my peace with the understanding that, even if he had moved on from me, he would still have kept drinking. It’s what he was wired to do.
While we’re on the topic of grieving, I’ll mention that I lost a dear friend in January of this year. It was a relapse, and the cancer took her quickly. Nobody expected she wouldn’t get through it, most of all her. I’ve no doubt the loss of my friend added to the weight of this more recent loss.
It is said there are several phases to the grieving process. According to the Healthline website, the five stages of grief are:
They also say, “Not everyone will experience all five stages, and you may not go through them in this order.” I would add that you may experience grief differently each time.
When I lost my friend, I found myself wandering the house in a daze for the first week or so. I would walk into a room and just stand there, staring and swaying. It was like I was lost. I had just had dinner with her a week before she went into the hospital for the last time. Her spirits had seemed high and she had planned to go back to work part-time the following week.
My current grief is different. It is a haunting of my soul. He was supposed to be the person I lived out the rest of my life with. We had each been married twice before and the idea of another marriage never came into play for either of us. I just wanted him and he wanted me. It was simple. It should have worked. But it didn’t.
I think I’ve been hanging out in denial over my friend’s death ever since it happened in January. I only saw her every couple months or so and we didn’t chat on the phone or text much. But each time I saw her was memorable. A part of me still expects her to call me one day and say, “Hey Mel! I’m going to a freak show this weekend. Come with me – it’ll be a blast!”
As for Eric, my emotions pinballed between denial, depression, and anger. Some days felt like a heavy grey blanket of sad. He may have passed two years ago, but to me it’s new. And it still hurts.
I’m so tired of seeing “COVID” this and “COVID” that in my social feeds. I get it. Stay inside. Wear a mask when you absolutely have to go out. It’s depressing. And there are so many people out there trying to “help” (AKA get their 15 minutes in the spotlight). I’m really over it all. Don’t get me wrong. I feel horrible about what’s going on and I am so grateful for the people who are risking their lives every day to keep people (like me) safe.
There actually is some good content coming out by some people who are finding creativity in their confinement. Some of it is sad; some heartwarming. I love that entertainers/musicians and those sorts are streaming free concerts/plays/other content to cheer us up in this stressful new life we’re in. But the volume of it is overwhelming.
It is a surreal time in this world we’re sharing. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) These kinds of situations are supposed to happen in movie plots, not real life. What’s next, Universe? Zombies? Oi.
But this is real life. This is our real life now. And I’m trying to do my part by…not doing. I’m here, in my house, with my dogs. Thank goodness for streaming apps. But it’s still hard. After three solid weeks at home, I’ve found myself skipping over most of the COVID-themed content in my social feeds. Is it wrong that I am desensitized? I prefer to think of it as emotional self-preservation. The worst of it is reading about people who aren’t taking this seriously and are putting more lives in danger. Get real, people.
I’m not going to talk about politics: who did what / who should have done what. I’m focusing my energy on the here and now. This is where we are. Now what? It’s heartwarming to see how so many businesses and individuals are stepping up to help wherever they can. Sewing masks and retooling equipment to manufacture much-needed PPE for our medical professionals. I have faith that we will come out of this a stronger nation because of these pockets of love and generosity.
I understand this experience is different for each of us. We each must navigate through our own lense of truth and sensibility. We all have our tolerance levels and personal methods for coping with stress. Some of us need to shout about how we got here. Some of us need to desensitize with meditation, exercise, streaming, wine…whatever works.
I am an IT consultant, and my current situation is that I’m sitting at my computer all day every day while I wait “on the bench” for a new project. The client I was working for had to redirect their budget to support…you got it, COVID 19. So here I am.
Currently I’m working on some small internal projects and self-training through whatever means possible so that I may be more of a value-add on my next project assignment. In the meantime, though, it’s a bit stressful, and I’m having a hard time staying focused. Will I really get a new project or will I soon be added to the count of n million Americans filing for unemployment benefits?
I know how fortunate I am. I am still being paid my full salary. I am not having to put my life at risk delivering food to people (like me) just to keep a roof over my family’s head. I’m not on the front lines caring for infected patients who are not able to see their families in person…and I don’t have to worry that I may become infected and bring it home to my family.
I’m actually in good shape, considering. That fact is at once comforting and disheartening. For me, there is guilt that comes with safety. But also gratefulness. Some days I’m up, others I’m down, and still others I swing wildly between the two states.
I am also an artist, so I have that to keep me distracted. Except I’m not making art. And I’ve got a great space set up in my home for yoga and meditation. But I’m not doing that. For now I’m stuck in a funk. But I know I’ll come out okay in the end. Sometimes I need to sit in a funk for a bit. For whatever reason, that’s my process. But I’m getting up every day and showing up…for whatever happens. I try to get some fresh air every day, but even if the only thing I can do is put one foot in front of the other, I am moving forward…one day at a time.
If you’re a perfectionist OCD control-freak people-pleaser…can I get a “Hell yes!”
I work on myself. I try to make myself a better person. And I beat myself up in the process.
Here’s my latest story:
It happened yesterday. I had volunteered for a “feed the people” event. It was for a local organization supporting patients and family members of patients who are visiting Nashville for medical services. The task was to prepare lunch for guests at the facility.
We were to prepare a taco bar. There were lots of moving parts…cooking the meat, chopping onions, slicing tomatoes…you know how it goes. There were three volunteers at the start with more arriving soon.
My friend (I’ll call her Sue) was coordinating the event on behalf of her volunteer organization. When we arrived, Sue was busy collecting lost volunteers so I jumped in and started making things happen…as I do. I set up a few work areas for cooking and chopping. Several more volunteers had arrived and we all sort of fell into a rhythm and things moved along nicely. It felt good. Food was served, the kitchen was cleaned, and we all went home. I spent the rest of my day running errands and feeling fulfilled for having supported people in need.
And then it happened. As I navigated my evening, little bits of shame began seeping in. There were scenes replaying in my mind over and over again where I wondered at first – then decided – that I had been more pushy than helpful in a few situations throughout the day.
I mean, there’s more than one way to slice an avocado, right? I thought I was helping because the volunteer seemed to be struggling. Sue was there as well and was moving in the direction of helping her but I jumped in and showed the volunteer my way – because it’s best way. How self-important am I?
Shortly after the avocado incident I noticed the volunteer had disappeared. I never saw her again. Was it me? Had I caused that? In retrospect I felt I should have hung back and let Sue handle it, but in the moment I was just digging in and doing. I hadn’t noticed Sue was moving in to help the volunteer until I was already in motion, and once I’m in motion…
Then there was the ladle incident. It could have been harmless or it could have been another time I stepped on Sue’s toes.
These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head since my return home last night, even seeping in during one of my bathroom visits in the middle of the night. What’s up with that?
I’ve always considered my take-charge personality a positive trait. It’s served me well in my career. I get things done. The problem is, I don’t know how or when to turn it off. When I’m in the moment, I’m just pushing forward. I’m not always aware of everything going on around me. I’m just doing.
I’m also not good at turning off my self-judgement and the shame that comes with it when my brain replays the event. I may not have been aware of things happening in the moment, but once it was all over my brain got right to work showing me all the ways I had been unaware and potentially inconsiderate. What people must be thinking of me!
At some point in the shaming process I had to stop myself. Had I really done anything wrong? Am I really so narcissistic as to believe a volunteer might have left the event because of me? Or had she not been feeling it from the start? She had come in late and was just sitting, waiting for someone to tell her what to do. Someone gave her avocados. And when she appeared awkward with them I decided to help rather than let her suffer. But – honestly – she would have gotten through it on her own – or someone else could have helped her. But I felt the need to insert myself into the situation.
I know that I tend to take over in situations where somebody needs help or no one seems to be in charge. I feel impatience when there are things to be done and they’re not being done as quickly or proficiently as I feel they should be. I know the best ways to do everything!
I believe my perfectionism and desire to lead springs from a childhood where I felt unheard and discounted. As an adult I overcompensate, hungry for the attention I often receive for going above and beyond. But that’s not always necessary.
After waking this morning with these thoughts tumbling around in my head I decided to meditate. The question I asked myself was, what do I need right now? I’d hoped to find an end to the shame that had now settled into my stomach. Each time I asked, what do I need right now, the answer was, write.
So I decided I’d start with this story. Maybe by writing it I’ll be able to let it go.
In the end I know what I’ll do. What would you do in this situation?
I’ve recently moved into a new house (that I LOVE) and I’m settling in when I remember an apartment that I have that I need to get the last of my furniture and belongings out of by Saturday (today) because the lease will be up. It’s an apartment I haven’t used in a long time and had forgotten about until today. I can’t imagine how I could have forgotten about it, but I’m glad I remembered, even though it now brings on great stress because I know I’ll need help (strong bodies to move things and a truck) and there’s not a lot of lead time to make that happen. I go to the apartment to look around and decide what to do.
I’m in the apartment, which feels like an old high rise building that hasn’t been updated in a very long time. I pull the sheer curtains aside on the window to my left and I can see another apartment complex that feels a lot like one that is very near me in real life and where I once lived (in real life) except that it has a clubhouse with a nice rooftop space. There appears to be a party going on on the rooftop. The women are dressed in fancy cocktail dresses with flouncy skirts, and I think to myself that it looks like a fun party.
I move away from the window and look around the room. There is sparse furniture that looks sort of art deco from the 70’s. It’s not placed well, mostly scattered around the room. I walk into another room and there are white cabinets from floor to ceiling. I pull open two doors that swing out like french doors and I see drawers, also white, that are the full width of the two cabinet doors I’ve opened. I pull one drawer open and it’s full of boxes of stationary, but it looks as though someone has run a roller of white paint over the top of the boxes. It’s like the cabinets and drawers were all painted, then the drawers were opened and the roller was run across so all the boxes have white paint on them, but I can still see that the boxes are navy blue and they have lettering on them, some with peoples’ names. One is the name of an old female acquaintance of mine (in real life). I open more drawers and find the same things. The boxes are varying sizes and with different names and “feelings” about them, but they’re all kind of covered in paint.
I pick out one box and open it. It conjures a memory – a story about someone. I think to myself that I need to get these boxes out of here before I run out of time. I don’t want to leave them behind.
Suddenly I’m outside at what may be a park, but there are groups of people here and there. There is a circle of chairs where several people are chatting. I’m walking toward something (not sure what, but I have a destination in mind) and as I pass the group in chairs, a woman looks my way. Our eyes meet and she waves at me as if to say Hello. I wave back. I know that I know her but can’t remember from where. I think about going back to ask her, but decide against it. I need to get where I’m going.
Now I’m back in the apartment. I’m in the first room with the scattered furniture. I look around and think, This is not my stuff. But I still know I need to get the boxes out of the drawers.
[End of Dream]
I woke up after this dream with my mouth wide open and breathing heavily…not panting or panicked, but like my body was trying to pull as much oxygen into my lungs as possible…like I hadn’t been getting enough. (Very sexy image, I know.) I was also very groggy. I drifted in and out of sleep and grog; each time I returned to grog I would think to myself, If I just close my mouth and breathe in through my nose I’ll get more oxygen to my brain and I’ll wake up.
I eventually forced myself awake. This is what happens when I take off my CPAP and then fall back to sleep. I obviously am not breathing properly, but I also have some very vivid dreams during this time.
I’ve been trying (consciously) to get myself back to a regular writing practice. I’ve been telling myself I need to finish my memoir and maybe I might find an agent and publisher in the process.
I recently bought a new house and quickly settled in. Within two weeks I had all boxes emptied and everything pretty well organized. It’s almost like I was getting ready for something.
I had a house party just two days ago – not a cocktail dress party, but…could have contributed to this.
I get a feeling that the woman who was sitting in the circle waving at me represented someone from my life. She had my mother’s coloring and build. And by the way, a lot of my story is about my relationship with my mother, so there’s that.
I feel like the boxes in the drawers were stories I need to tell. I think it’s interesting that the cabinets and drawers are white and that the boxes are partially covered in white paint. Does that mean purity? Honesty? Truth? My truth?
Shortly before I resumed using my CPAP machine, I had one of those dreams – I had been having a lot of vivid dreams toward the end of no-CPAP, which is probably because I wasn’t breathing well – but in this particular dream, when I awoke, the only thing I remembered were the words: My life depends on it. I immediately thought of my CPAP and decided that must be a sign, so I resumed using it that night.
So what’s the part in this dream about running out of time or it being too late? Am I truly on a time limit? (Scary thought.) Or is it a message that I’ve put off telling my story long enough and it’s time to get moving because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing? (I prefer the latter explanation.) I guess I’ll find out eventually!