The pendulum swings back and forth, up and down, here and there.
I know my “public” interface on this site is on a pastel background and has a nice font and is light and bright (“public”, is that you, Ghost?). Trust me, it’s not like that on this end. Over here, the screen is black, the type is white, and I am in the dark whenever I begin writing, usually in all the ways you might imagine.
But the good times are lasting longer, these days. Things are generally pretty “up” and I have a good therapist who assures me that my feelings are not wrong, that I’m not going crazy, and that there is hope for the future.
Whistler Trip with Marcus, Day 2:
The aforementioned being said, I’m currently in a bit of a funk, which is surprising to me given that I am on a mini-vacation to Canada. The purpose of this trip is to bounce around on my bike, which is always a good thing. In fact, today and tomorrow I’m attending a women’s jump clinic to try to learn to properly send my BMX bike through the air. This morning’s practice session was incredible, and I cleared my first microscopic jumps and felt what it was like to hit a landing properly on the downside instead of landing flat on a tabletop. It was exhilarating.
Dear Ghost, do you ever have such a high that a low almost immediately ensues when it’s over? I imagine you’re on a pretty even keel there in the afterlife or purgatory or wherever you reside. Here, though, in the real world, I finished jumping my bike and learning new and exciting things with some really cool chickies, I walked my bike back to my Airbnb, and once I was in the room felt an almost overwhelming sense of ennui tinged with some wistfulness and a little heartbreak.
Some of this might be due to the fact that I’m here with my ex, which is raising some feels and some general sadness all over again, despite our friendship and mutually enjoyed activities. Or it might even be as simple as that I’m tired from three hours of laps on pump tracks and over jumps, and possibly that my blood sugar is a bit low from the efforts. It could also be that I am suddenly alone again after enthusiastic and upbeat banter in the company of fun women; M is sending his bike off some of the gnarlier stuff on Whistler mountain and won’t be back for hours. And it might be akin to the aftermath of a night of rampant abandon, when you say goodbye to the person (bike?) who drove you to sensory overload and send them home for the next week or two, the adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin dissipating along with their scent.
The highs got higher…and stayed that way. I had one of the best days of my life on a bike. My god, I had no idea. So many revelations in one day. The coaches were amazing, the lessons were explained in so many different ways that I was able to grasp them, visualize them, no matter who was speaking. It was fantastic. The lessons from the first day were applied on the dirt jumps again, but my legs were exhausted and my traps and triceps were burning from the day before. I did the best I could, had almost decided to scrub the last hour, and then…
And then my coach for the day, Austin, asks “Who wants to try the Snake Run?”
The Snake Run is an S-shaped series of banks and features that get progressively deeper on a slope, ending in a lovely concrete bowl with vertical sides. It’s right next to Whistler’s skatepark, an extension of it, actually, which I hadn’t seen before. I just knew I wanted to try something different, so I raised my hand…one of two women who wanted to try out something new.
Holy Jesus, mother of god. Much to my shock and horror, I love concrete. I love the stickiness of it, I love the tiny screaming sound my wheels make when I carve a corner. I love airing out of it. I know I would hate falling on it…but why tempt fate? Why not just enjoy what I felt? Not for the first time I wonder what it would be like to be 30-40 years younger and trying to learn these skills.
It’s been a minute since I’ve been that proud of myself. I got confirmation of that when I told M that I loved the concrete. He said “I kind of want to make out with you right now.” He was right. I kind of felt like making out with myself. What 51-year-old is dropping into a concrete bowl? What woman my age is beginning a journey like mine, learning to jump a BMX bike? I kind of fucking rock a little bit, sort of.
The last day was a real downer. This is when M and I fall apart. It’s a great reminder that we’re great during the highs, but we fall apart during the lows. We’re great on road trips, we suck when the fun is over and it’s time to head back.
This has always been the way. When all is well, we’re good. The second there’s any kind of negativity, whether it be one of us catching a cold or one of our parents needing to be moved back to Illinois and, subsequently, into hospice, the empathy and kindness goes out the window. I know I’m not the easiest person to deal with during times like these. I imagine most people have a hard time holding it together under certain circumstances, but we really had issues. My overthinking and attempts to take things seriously and be a “fixer” were met with, at best, small jibes, at worst outright ridicule from my partner. I worry about things like what to bring for lunch for everyone who was helping my in-laws move, and how they were feeling. He said things like “let them figure it out” when I talked about preparing a route for travel, and “just sell everything” when they waffled about what to include in the demolition of their lives via a garage sale.
It’s easy for him to write off feelings. It’s something I have often wished I could do, under certain circumstances. It would be nice to be able to shut things off, to not worry about details and emotions. But I can’t do that. I’m wired differently.
Marcus’ Dad was a difficult person to grow up with. He drank heavily when he was younger, was unkind to his sons and his wife at times. He set the example for Marcus with his joy-squashing and stress-amplifying behavior. He would make fun of me when I used small tools to excavate an artifact, saying things like “get a shovel” and generally ribbing my desire for an advanced degree.
At the same time, his work ethic was infallible, and I think he was proud of Marcus and me, he just showed it in a way that took me a long time to understand. In spite of all the grief he gave me, I felt loved and understood by him. Once I looked past his little digs, I saw a kindhearted man. In a weird way, he took me down a notch to show me that the education, the interests, none of it really matters; only people matter to each other. He always supported me. He gave me a job at a very low point in my life. He taught me skills and believed that I could do them. He ribbed me even there: “Put some paint on that brush!”, when I was too careful about edging a room. “Why aren’t you pulling?”, when it was concrete day and I tried to drag a screed across the heavy mixture. “You’d better hurry, the pooky’s drying!”, as my fingers froze at the tile saw, cutting tiny tiles into tinier pieces on a 20 degree day.
I think Marcus had decidedly mixed feelings about the man, but we both loved him. Marcus loved him intensely, as intensely as he sometimes disliked him. One of the things he confessed to me over the weekend was: “I’m so alone.” Said simply, no embellishment, but with a depth of feeling I haven’t heard often in his voice. I know how he feels, but I also don’t. I’m far more outgoing, willing to meet people and strike up conversations with strangers. Marcus would never do these things.
“I didn’t visit my Dad all that often when he lived in Santa Fe, but I wish I could now.” He misses his father. He misses Ed most at a time in his life when they could potentially be kindred spirits: Ed would be in his mid 70s and Marcus is now 50. Two aging men understanding each other better and moving with one another toward the inevitable.
I think Marcus’ uncertain childhood relationship with his Dad, coupled with his family’s uncertain finances (he remembers “government cheese”) and the general hardness of treatment in his life as a kid, have made him wary of emotion. It’s way easier to make fun of someone who’s having a feeling than to try to understand them or share some of your own. Vulnerability is relatively foreign to him, so the fact that he’s finally being a little bit vulnerable to me after we’ve already cancelled our relationship speaks volumes.
It means lots of things. It means: “I want you back.” It also means: “I don’t want you back, I just want you in my orbit.” It means: “You’re the only person I can tell my deep feelings to, so I’ll use four words to do so: I am so alone.” It means “I want to sleep with you after five years of no physical contact.” It means “I’ve made mistakes, and I’m going to continue to make them.”
It means: I love you. It means: I’m sorry. It means: I thought we would grow old together.
My response: I love you, too. I’m sorry for some things, and I’m not sorry for others. We still can, just not in the same way.
So the last day was hard, in that it confirmed some of the reasons why we’re not together anymore. It reminded me why I never want to live with him, and possibly anyone else, ever again. That last day I was ready to be done. I have always taken my cues from him, and his ennui and morose demeanor brought the general upbeat feeling of the trip grinding to a halt.
I was angry; I felt like a lovely travel day with my best friend was wasted. He said very little to me on the 9 hour drive back to Portland. I tried to draw him out, initially, tried to recapture the good feelings of the weekend. Eventually I caught myself doing this, recognized that I was not responsible for his feelings, and popped on Spotify with my 6-hour marathon playlist, which probably exacerbated his discomfort (we don’t agree on music, generally speaking).
10/10 would do the trip again. 8/10 would do the trip again with him. I miss him so much, miss his friendship and his presence and his wry sense of humor. It makes me so terribly, deeply sad that I would rather be on my own most days. I wish I still lived near him so that we could do things together on the weekends. I wish we could race BMX together again. I wish for more road trips where the last day isn’t a total bummer because we know we’ll see each other again the following week. I wish, I wish, I wish.
I hurt. I know he does, too.
EDIT: reading this one over again I realize that I spend a disproportionate amount of time with the harder stuff. I want to spend more time talking about the good times and positive emotions, the little successes and tiny victories.
In unrelated news, I’m reading a BMX memoir “Pull Back or Die” by Kris Fox, and he put into one paragraph what I recently said in 1800+ words in an article in The Cycling Independent:
“Find that hobby that you can’t live without and complements your style of love and don’t let anyone take it away from you. Use it as a vessel into yourself, use it as a vessel to keep walking toward it. That’s the ticket to life and learning. Whatever it is, let it offer the world. Use it to see things, feel things, learn things. Let it hurt. Let it dig deep, deeper than accolades and name legacy. Let it cause madness, let it cause struggle, then let it pick you up and dust you off. Although there’s a starting line there’s not a finish line, and it’s never too late to start. It’s not a contest. There’s no trophy at the end of all this. Personal gratitude and growth for the better are all we have, and from there the virtuous things in life will magnet themselves to the areas within you that are just and tender.”