I have an uncle and when you stand next to him, you feel invincible against the sea.

We both live in New England to have some space from our families. He tells me countless times how his mother (who he insists he is not related to) continuously ragged on him… “Easily led, easily led.” She is the same person who spoiled me rotten throughout my childhood, but somehow I understand him. After his first year of college, he went home once during the summer and never again. His father tried desperately to hold the family together. I understand him too.

My uncle is smart. He understood math. He graduated from college early. He had wanted to be a professional baseball player but graduated with a degree in physical education. He soon realized that his monthly income as a gym teacher would not be all that impressive. He could make the same amount in two weeks by fishing.

I sometimes judge people on their reaction when I tell them he is homeless. It speaks a great deal to people’s impression of fate vs. free will. Victim of circumstance vs. one’s personal agency in a situation. He fished for 30 years before developing MS. His wife became an alcoholic. The housing crisis happened. I was told his crew had to actively keep him off the docks for some time. Sympathy is not just a virtue but a reflex.

For a long time, I had only seen him at funerals. First his father’s. Then his mother’s. He showed up better dressed both times than I can ever remember. I wrote a song called Shoreline. “The gulls fly inland for the winter; I was thinking that maybe, you should too.”

When I first moved to Boston I was apprehensive about contacting him. He has a tough exterior and a mouth to match. But he knows I burn easily and he told me to wear sunscreen before I went to visit. There is someone in there who still cares.

I arrived in Rhode Island and met him at a mini-mart, where he was clearly a locally recognized character. He introduced me to the store owner, who let me take a beverage for free. He introduced me to Mr. and Mrs. McCay, a lovely couple in their 60s. Mr. McCay also has Alzheimer’s. We went down to the dock where my uncle once was king. “I fished on that boat… and that boat… I didn’t fish on that boat… But I fished on those boats…” He mentioned “Bleak Island” and the Rhode Island Sound.

I asked, “What is that?”
“It’s the Rhode Island Sound.”
“Yes, but what is it?”
He sighs. “Never mind… don’t worry about it.”

We had a wonderful lunch full of lobster and fish and bloody marys and craft beer. It was the best seafood I had eaten in a while. We got in his car to drive back to the mini-mart and it didn’t start. I panicked while he kept his cool.

“But how are you going to get home?!”
He laughed and lit up a blunt. “I’m home. How are you going to get home?”

When I told him about mom, he still cared. He went down with me to visit her–twice. (The seven hour car ride was hell to endure–for both of us.) He saw her once for her birthday and another time for Thanksgiving. To be honest, he spent most of his time on the couch watching television or outside smoking pot. But one day at 6am he got up and was making a turkey dinner. He and his brother, Reynolds, exchanged phone numbers. He watched his language around the neighbors, just like I had asked him to. He started calling my mom somewhat regularly.

I wonder what will happen when I leave New England. If he will accept my offers for train/bus tickets to Phila or if I will be resigned to visiting him on my way to Boston once a year.  Either way, I hope we never stop feeling invincible against the sea.

here we are… 5 months into 2016. i’m so disappointed in myself for not updating sooner. the silence has been anything but ordinary.

i think i went into 2016 with a dream. i am trying desperately to keep that dream alive. i imagined a home, with windows and light, a place for tiger to watch the birds and for me to host company. an outdoor space for gardening and again…hosting. and the home would be within a community, of beloved friends and family. and a job that provided a balance of support and independence… an opportunity for growth and meaning. an income that would allow for interior decorating and travel and guitar lessons and tap classes.

these things are attainable in both boston and philadelphia. i know this. i could run down the list of pros and cons of each place, but it seems silly to consider degrees of latitude and temperature in a decision so important. so if i can create this for myself, then the rest is just geography.

there is still more work left to do. on myself. on my relationships. there will always be work left to do. the balance between connection and setting boundaries. once again i am reminded of schopenhauer’s porcupines. intimacy, engagement, vulnerability. they are such difficult concepts.

so these are the things are stake in either town…

boston – i have my space, my freedom, my ability to radically compartmentalize. these are both the things that make me happy and the defenses i should be challenging myself to fight against. most days, i feel like i am on vacation. i am away from it all. i have found a sense of peace. also, i’ve dreamed of living here for a long time. it has been nice to see plans come to fruition.

philadelphia – the biggest pull to move to philly comes from a longing to be near people i’ve considered my closest friends and family for a long time. that feeling of not being rootless anymore. of having a plan for the holidays. i see my uncle, some of my closest friends moving forward with their lives and i am not present. and i am moving on with mine, and they are not present. mom will move soon and she misses me. further, i haven’t been to paint nite with reynolds, haven’t seen will’s new house, haven’t met sri’s wife more than a handful of times. sara seems like she wants to get to know me. of course, i was also an anxious mess in philly. at times it was all too real. if i move back, can i take the good and leave the bad?

it is like she said. i know in my heart what the right answer is but i’m worried. about setting limits. holding my own. feeling lonely in a familiar place. starting over. regressing back. making mistakes.

2k15

The final hour of 2015 seems as good a time as any to do a mandatory debriefing of the year. December and I cannot wait to clean out 2015 from under my nails. It was a bitch right up until the very end.

I cannot say it was ALL bad. There were some very notable moments. I passed the EPPP and subsequently became a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts. I took up painting. I raised close to $1,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association doing the walk in September. Tiger and I are both (relatively) healthy. I have a job I love and friends/family that I can bear my soul to and feel loved and accepted.

Other adjectives for 2015 include… snowy, snowy, and snowy. I didn’t think I would ever shovel out some days. It finally melted in July.

Unfortunately, my dad treated me very badly this year. Betrayal and secrets and losing faith in someone you looked up to as a child. The silver lining is the incredible growth I’ve experienced as a result. Lessons in independence, forgiveness, transcendence, courage, and humility.

I parted with my car. And my pride. And my false/unusually high expectations. Life is all about letting go.

Things with my mother continue to deteriorate… However thankless it was, I can move into 2016 knowing that I did my best to provide her with the very best birthday, Thanksgiving (with her two brothers), and Christmas that I could. It will never feel like enough, but it needs to be.

I said goodbye to my loving, strong, graceful grandmother. I miss her everyday. I strive to be her everyday. I do things I feel would honor her life, and from time to time I feel her presence.

2015 was quite possibly the most trying year yet. It contained some of the most difficult hurdles in terms of financial, emotional, and health-related events. This may be a year where the best I can do is be thankful that I’m still standing at the end of it. The licensing process bled me dry. And there are still too many debts to pay, vet appointments to schedule, colitis symptoms to manage, prescriptions to fill, rent checks to worry about, memory care facilities to research and tour, and life decisions to be made.

That being said, many things have been put into their place in preparing to welcome in 2016. Relationships that needed to end have been ended. Relationships that needed to heal have been… somewhat mended. Roommates have moved out. Licenses have been attained. Gifts and gratitude have been given. I have cleaned out the clutter and put as many “things” in their proverbial place as possible.

In terms of expectations for 2016… I am super excited to finish out my postdoc. I absolutely love it. I haven’t made any decisions about what will happen after that (September-ish), but I do believe that it will. be. good. Again, I have wonderful friends and family and there is love and light. I find that again and again, I am able to create that feeling of home for myself. I am progressing from that feeling of “rootless” to… rootful?

Life is unfolding and I will feel and follow it.

Cheers!

December 15, 2003 I started cutting.

Since then, I’ve stopped cutting, gotten out of a verbally abusive relationship,taught homeless people to read, danced, graduated from college, prevented a suicide, rekindled family relationships in Colorado, traveled,  understood, earned my masters, started playing guitar and songwriting, laughed, formed some of my best friendships, adopted a cat, defended, earned my doctorate, loved, secured my dream job, moved my life 300 miles to Boston, grieved, celebrated, financially supported myself, became a long-distance caregiver, survived the worst winter, played dozens of open mics, forgave, raised nearly $1000 for Alzheimers, healed, studied, softened, and started to realize my own inherent sense of worthiness.

Today, 12 years later, I became a licensed psychologist.

Whatever your dream, whatever your difficulty… keep going.

“O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.”