Let me just say…

I’ve been trying to determine a title for my blog and the phrase that keeps floating around my head is, “Let me just say…” It’s a phrase I tend to use a lot – at work, in relationships, etc. I’m an opinionated person but I also recognize that I can’t force people to listen or agree with me – sometimes I just need to say something because I need to say it.

I used to think I could explain away everything. If I could get the person I was talking to to only listen, then they would understand where I was coming from and do what I wanted. If I could reach the magic formula to say the right thing in the right way, it would work.

After years of this, I learned that arguments do not change people’s minds. People are emotional more than they are logical. Debates are often futile.

But then I swung the other way, and kept very quiet, keeping all of my thoughts and opinions to myself. No one would listen anyway. But then I would get incredibly frustrated and sometimes physically ill from never speaking my mind. Keeping it all in isn’t good either.

So now I’m trying to strike a balance. All we can really get do is maybe reach a level of empathy and understanding in a conversation. And sometimes you just need to speak your piece with the awareness that it might not do any good. But to speak out is for you. So please, let me just say what I need to say. Take it or leave it.

I think this is what this blog is going to be. I can’t force anyone to read, to agree, to find common ground. I’m not trying, for once, to change anyone’s opinion. I just have a lot of thoughts and feelings and carrying around with me and I need to let it out. So let me just say… anything.

Hoedown at the Winery

Last weekend, my friends and I rented a small cabin in Omoro, Wisconsin – a small lake town northeast of Milwaukee. We left our city bubble to be surrounded by nature and fresh air. But also Trump signs and thin blue line flags.

On Saturday, we went to Vines & Rushes Winery where they were advertising live music in the afternoon. After tasting several Wisconsin wines, we sat down for some pizza and blue grass music from the Fox Crossing Stringband. We were the youngest people there, and at one point the band mentioned they were from Chicago and we cheered, alerting the whole room to our outsider status.

Even so, when they played an upbeat tune and the table behind us got up to dance, a woman in a pink cowboy hat coaxed us out to join them. I dragged my friend out there and we danced, not well but we didn’t care. We followed the lead of the lady with the pink cowboy hat until the song was over. Laughing and out of breathe, we collapsed in our seats.

“What does ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ mean?” another friend asked, pointing out the pink cowboy hat lady’s button. A quick Google told us it was some convoluted, right-wing code for “Fuck Joe Biden.”

And there it was again, the division, the anger, the tribalism, the hatred. On one hand, she knew we were Chicagoans, probably liberal, and still asked us to dance. On the other hand, the nastiness follows us every where.

Glennon Doyle likes to joke that she loves humanity, but actual humans are tricky. I think I’m the opposite – humanity really gets me down. Humanity has destroyed our planet and let a deadly pandemic rage on far too long. Humanity has waged wars, built systems of oppression and reinforced class structures. Humanity has engaged in racism, sexism, ableism and all sorts of discrimination.

But individual humans? I’ve found that they are usually just trying their best. I find it healing when I can see people not as their slogans or internet memes, but as humans. Individual humans are just dancing a hoedown at the winery.

I do struggle with what my responsibilities as an individual human in these situations are. I recognize that I can feel safe in that environment because I am a white woman who more or less blends in. Usually, I air on the side of being kind and letting my humanity show. Maybe making sure they see me as a human will help cut down some of that tribalism too. Or maybe I’m just condoning and allowing harmful beliefs and behavior that lead to Q Anon conspiracies and riots at our Capitol.

My friends wrote off the lady with the pink cowboy hat. When the band finished their set and it was time for us to go, we passed their table. I touched her shoulder lightly as I passed, “Have a good rest of your day,” I said.

I Want to Blog

I used to blog – I wrote about politics, my beliefs, my travels, my thoughts, my feelings. I thought I would “be a writer”. I’ve always written – most of it in journals that I would rather burn than allow to be seen, a bit of it online. It’s how I’ve gotten my feelings out.

I’ve always had a lot of feelings. The stories of my feelings predate my memories of them. My infamous tantrums make great family stories now. And though the tantrums did eventually stop (mostly), the feelings never did. I just learned to mange them – mostly through writing.

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of feelings that have started to feel unmanageable. And they don’t seem to just be my feelings. It seems like everyone is having a lot of feelings. The pandemic, politics, social media, elections, quarantines – it’s left us all with so many FEELINGS. I recognize it online, in movies, tv shows, conversations with friends. All the feelings are getting overwhelming. So now I want to do what I always do, and I’ll blog.

You won’t find a lot of my old blogs here, because they never lasted long. I used this site years ago to blog about a trip to Peru (amongst other things). I’ll leave those posts there for now. I could never sustain a long-term blog, and this time might not be any different. This may end up being my only new post. But for now, for today, I want to blog. That’s what I’m feeling.

Delayed Reaction

I’m really good (or bad) at making plans and completely removing the emotion from the decisions. Not until the moment my plans start taking effect do I develop a proper emotional response.

For example, I planned to move to Chicago, with no place to live and only online freelance work. Ya that sounds good! And not until my flight was boarding do I start to get excited, nervous, amazed. I’m moving to Chicago. I’m moving to Chicago!

If nothing else, it will be an awfully big adventure!

Machu Picchu

I’ve been in Peru about three weeks and nearly every conversation in that time has included Machu Picchu. Have you gone? What did you think? Isn’t it amazing?

Because Joe started his trip with the 4 day Inca trail before I arrived, I planned to end my trip with Machu Picchu after he left. This meant there was three weeks of incredible build up. I grew concerned that there was no way it could live up to the hype. And then I started to think there was no way it couldn’t.

The day finally arrived when I was going to see the World Wonder. I barely slept the night before, terrified of sleeping in and missing my big day. The hour finally came to wake up and begin the final adventure.

Unless you hike the Inca trail, the only way to get to Machu Picchu is by train, and then by bus up cliff side switchbacks. As the train began to move, I began to reflect on the last year. It has not been the best, to say the least. In certain aspects, it has definitely been the worst.

So as I reflected on the last year, and the last three weeks of my trip, I decided it was time to move on. That this train ride was going to be my last few hours to wallow in self pity and then I was going to leave it all on the mountain. Machu Picchu probably had religious and spiritual significance for the Inca people, and I hoped to tap into that to once and for all heal me.

Next, was the bus ride. I ended up sitting by the same couple I had sat by on the train. They began telling me about their other travel, and even showed me pictures of Cambodia. As nice as they were, I was a little annoyed. Didn’t they know I had issues to work through? Between their pictures I tried to catch a glimpse of the peak from the bus. Finally, we pulled up to the front gates.

After months of planning, three weeks of build up, and my grand plan to be healed by the mountain, I turned the corner and saw…..

This.

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It was like someone was playing a cruel joke. It was pouring rain, you couldn’t see anything, and there were just people everywhere. Not exactly the serene, majestic, soul inspiring scene I’d been hoping for.

Not knowing what else to do, I started hiking to the Inca Bridge a 20 minute walk or so in the opposite direction of the mountain. Whenever I was alone on the trail, I found myself crying. The emotions of the last year, the last three weeks, and the last half hour just came bubbling over. I found a couple terraces to the side of the trail and sat down. I was overlooking what was sure an amazing view, but for now it was just clouds.

I pulled out some Oreos I had bought at the train station, because chocolate, even the fake Oreo kind, cures all. Yes it was overdramatic, yes it was stupid, and yes I knew this.

Eventually, I wandered over to the Incan bridge, which may have been more interesting if I had been in a better headspace, and then headed back to the main complex.

As I walked, I just started to laugh. It was all so ridiculous. I had put so much pressure on myself and this site and this moment, that there was no way anything could ever deliver. Even so, this was extra bad. Pachamama (Mother Earth) was playing a joke and the only choice I really had was to laugh at it. I was tired of crying, I was tired of feeling bad, and I was just tired.

I found a rock near the top of the complex and sat down. As I watched, (and as you may have already guessed), the clouds cleared out of the way and I got the whole picturesque view. I made someone snatch a quick picture of me in case it didn’t last, but it did. The clouds never came back.

Even after I was able to see Machu Picchu, I didn’t feel some profound spiritual awakening. I didn’t feel fixed, I didn’t feel as though my problems were solved. Instead, I saw a gorgeous mountain landscape with a 500 year old architectural marvel built in.

I found a quiet, empty alcove, that was probably once someone’s home or place of business, and sat staring at the mountains. There, I realized that a place can not heal wounds. A place is just a place, a mountain is just a mountain, people are just people, and circumstances are just the way they are. All we can do, and all I could do, is accept them. Mist and all. (Or, say scatter brained lost cell phone and all.)

What I realized is that Pachamama, the universe, whatever you want to call it, was teaching me a lesson of acceptance. When I left that mountain nothing was going to be different. Everything was going to be the same. It just was. And I needed to just accept that. Once I realized that, a lot of the hurt did melt away. Things still aren’t perfect, and they probably never will be. But they are what they are. And I am who I am. And I can accept that.

I blew off my tour and just wandered the complex alone. It was huge and gorgeous and wondrous. Four hours after arriving, I was sad to leave. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Machu Picchu again, but my experience there will always be cherished.

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