The Universe has Another Plan for You

Sometimes you visit me in my dreams. Why, I’m not exactly sure. I wake up in a fog thinking it was real, but then reality hits me like a left hook to the face I should have seen coming: Oh yea, you’re dead.

Because the Universe had another plan for you. And why it involved you killing yourself with a cocktail of drugs and leaving me wondering why, I’m not exactly sure…but maybe that’s the point. Maybe I’m responsible for my own path, and you were responsible for your’s. And it’s just that simple; that’s the only lesson.

When we were kids we would fight like cats and dogs. Over stupid shit. Over video games, over bathroom time, over rules for basketball. “Mom, he’s so mean to me.”  “You’ll be the best of friends when you’re older.” She would say. And I believed her.  Especially during those times after school when you would walk me to the school bus and when everybody knew me as C’s little sister.  Those times…those times established an identity I wish today I never had…Little Sister

When we were older I would talk to you about space and quantum physics and Stephen Hawking. And you would tell me that there are an infinite number of universes. That nothing created is ever destroyed. That nothing really dies: our energy just takes another form, maybe it leaves this universe and goes to another; but energy, life never just disappears.

One of the few times I cried about your death I was worried I didn’t have enough memories of you. And I cried because I was afraid I would forget. Forget the times we would go to the store and buy only candy when we were kids, forget the times we would walk up main street to get ice cream, and forget the times we would ride bikes together.  Did that even happen? Did I even have a big brother? Did you love me? Did you want to protect me and stand up for me like a big brother should? You left me alone and with so many questions… Are you the reason for my tough, walled-up exterior of a personality? The reason I’ve befriended so many “big-brother” types? Am I angry because of something that happened in my past, because of you…or just something I wanted to happen, for no particular reason?

When you died, I guess you carried with you a letter from Mom and a stack of books. Books by Hawking, Gould, and Poe. What dead-beat junkie does that? It’s funny, how you still carried with you what you used to be before you became a different person, before you became a slave to your addiction.

So you started coming to me in my dreams. Maybe this was your way of telling me you remember me, you really did exist, I really did have a big brother once.  And I guess I started writing back to you blindly over the internet. Knowing that the energy I used to type each letter, write each sentence, publish each post could never be destroyed. That in some shape or form, that information would forever be floating in the inter-webs available to anyone or anything that wanted to find it.

So maybe my writing, my random ramblings to a group of anonymous people online is my way of letting you know, I miss you and I don’t want to lose the memories, so don’t stop visiting me in my dreams.

Living the Dream

I shivered inside my sleeping bag that night. The Santa Ana winds ripped through my tent. I had two layers of thermals underneath my top layer and a down vest over that and still received no relief from the cold. It was only 30 degrees outside, but the wind made it feel so much worse. And after being outside all day in the 20-40 mph gusts, I just wanted it to stop. I wanted warmth. I wanted silence. My ears were screaming and my face was hot. So here I was,  another couple weeks out in the field. Another couple weeks without a shower…or running water. And I thought, What am I doing with my life?

I woke up the next morning after a couple hours sleep. Restoration work in Joshua Tree National Park starts early – before the sunrise, in fact. I ripped my layers of sleeping clothes off like a band aid and got dressed for the long day ahead of me.

After breakfast with the rest of the field crew, a small group of 5 other misfits, we piled into the truck and headed to the field site. The site was located deep in Joshua  Tree where no visitors were allowed.  The sun slowly started to rise, hi-lighting the alien landscape of the southern California desert as we drove. The spiny trees looked less botanical and more animal or human as the sun created long shadows across the desert landscape, making there branches look like mutant arms reaching aimlessly across the dirt.  My gaze stayed fixed on the horizon as we drove through the park. A coyote made it’s way through the dark green creosote and vanished as soon as it saw us barreling by.

It had been over a year since I graduated with a masters degree in wildlife ecology. I was so close to going to grad school last fall and continuing my career in academia in a PhD program, but instead, my best options for work had been field jobs, I had become what my friends and other wildlife ecologists liked to call a “field junkie.”

“Your writing, your organization, everything has gotten worse ever since you became a field junkie,” my friend accused me, in an email a couple weeks ago. “I wish I was in the field right now.” I replied honestly.

This last trip, I was working on a nitrogen deposition study in southern California….living the dream, I thought. I dragged my weary body out of the field truck. Truthfully though, I was struggling. I was barely treading water after receiving a graduate degree with what seemed like no future prospects of a job or acceptance into a PhD program. I thought higher education was supposed to better me, help my career, not hinder it.

The field crew got to work as I took my time and breathed in the crisp and very cold January morning air. By the second day in the field, we knew each others life stories. Like with any field trip, the field crew becomes a temporary family. We work together, cook and eat together and even drink together. We become best friends and are each others biggest supporters in what can inevitably be a really stressful working environment. The labor can be intense and the weather can be horrible and often we only have a short amount of time to collect a huge amount of data. So, you learn to love your field crew, or die trying. Ironically, when the work is over and the field job ends, the family breaks up too and we rarely talk to each other again, unless you’re lucky enough to work together at another job.

I could do this, work from field job to job, sell all my things, even give my dog away. I thought, my hands raw after making plant-enclosure cages. I sipped a beer and sat down and looked out over a beautiful sunset. The rest of the crew joined me. Even more, I felt reborn after the women in my crew had a shampoo party in the bathroom of the deserted campsite. After moving our entire camp late the night before we were all over joyed to learn we had running water and actual praise-jesus-buddha-allah flush toilets.  Neither of us had showered in over a week, so we bathed in sinks.

I sighed, content. But then another thought made it’s way into my mid…there was that other part of me that wants to settle. Get a job at a bio-medical company in Seattle or San Francisco. Start saving money so I can actually start my life. All of this struggling, the instability, despite the element of excitement and adventure, it is exhausting. And by the time I do actually reach my goals, will I be young enough to reap those benefits? Should I, in a matter of speaking, Carpe Diem and apply for that 9 to 5 job and forget about PhD school? I’m tired, and really, although I’m still in my 20′s, I’m getting older. In fact I’m no longer the youngest in the field crew…I’m one of the oldest in the bunch.

So, now that I’m back home and have some semblance of stability; when is it time to throw in the towel? When is it time to give up my dreams? Like everything there must be an expiration date, there must be a time limit. When do I decide I’m too old to live on food stamps while working on ecology studies and it’s time to grow up?

My Awakening

The beep beep of a runner’s GPS watch a few steps ahead of me interrupted the repetitive thud thud of my feet around mile 17. I lifted my gaze from the gray and purple gravel, sand floor of the Mojave desert and noticed we were about to enter the canyon. My stomach was in knots. I was dehydrated. I was not going to give up.

But the mind is a powerful thing. And as I ran, I thought.

This has not been an easy year for you, Molly.This just isn’t you, is it Molly?? This marathon thing can’t be good for you. You like riding your bike, you like yoga. You wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for HIM.  And no one will even be there at the end of this race waiting for you…you know, you could have been so much better, you could have done so much more, but instead you’re alone. Alone and just running…running to nowhere.

 And my mind started to run in circles and my feet started to throb with every step and my gut gurgled and twisted and burned. I was in pain. So much pain.

Why am I doing this to myself? Who am I? Who am I??? Over and over again…Who am I?? Why am I doing this??

And then, I entered the canyon and at first it was beautiful. But I was reminded of how I was alone and running and in pain. Suddenly endorphins started to rush through me as if a dam broke and water was flooding a thirst-starved meadow. And simultaneously, I started to cry. I cried because I was alone. I cried because I felt like no one cared. Because I was abandoned and no one loved me. I cried because I ran marathons and that still didn’t make me good enough for him to love me…

My tears dried and I kept running. I passed no one in the canyon and no one passed me. Every turn was deceiving; I felt like I had been swallowed up and I would be stuck behind these cold, gray, rock walls forever. I started to think again.

How long have I been running? My watch was back in my tent. I just want to go back to sleep. I need to sleep. I need my stomach to stop hurting. I’m sick.

I stopped at the next aid station with my hands on my knees, I paced, I walked back and forth. The volunteers just stared. And I thought, Do I get a ride back from here? Do I keep going? Who am I?? Why am I doing this?? And then standing still with my hands behind my head, I took a breath and I started running.

Four painful miles later, the canyon opened to the deep purples, reds, oranges and pale grays and lavenders of the Mojave desert. The sun peaked through wispy grey clouds and beams of light spot lighted the only green in the entire desert. Creosote and pencil cholla looked like ocean coral on an alien landscape.  And three miles away, I saw the finish line. My joints ached after running 12 miles continuously down hill and my mind reeled from self torment after being alone in death valley for hours.

I crossed the finish line and stopped running. My body knew this was it, I was done. And I swore I was done running forever. I swore this marathon thing wasn’t for me.

I clambered on the bus and we drove back to Furnace Creek. Although I survived, that tour through death valley proved to be the worst race I had ever run and I had never felt so alone. “Molly!” A group of strangers I met early on the course yelled my name. “Three cheers for Molly!!”  “Hip Hip Hooray!” The bus cheered. More endorphins rushed to calm my aching body. I left a part of myself, still running, 282 feet below sea level. I hit rock bottom, I thought, wiping the salt and grime that stained my face from tears, sweat and dirt. I collapsed on the nearest open seat, my head was spinning as other runners on the bus cheered and laughed. I was light headed and I felt like I was waking up from a foggy dream as I looked out the window and we drove away from the canyon, away from the finish line and up hill through the mountains.

 

My Coffee Shop

“Hug me,” was all he said. And my confidence melted away, I could feel it whither away like a tree losing its leaves in winter and I became silent. I stood there dumb at the bar of the coffee shop and I hugged him and I smiled and I blushed and I wanted more.

He was the polar opposite of me. Physically, he was dark: his skin, his hair, his eyes. His personality even juxtaposed mine. He was sardonic, he laughed sometime and he was brutally honest. He called himself an artist, which was true.  I called myself a scientist. We looked odd together. We didn’t match.

“Come talk.” he said. I knew he would be here today. I thought, despite being overwhelmed with work, I couldn’t wait to waste my time across the street at the coffee shop.  …my coffee shop, where he worked, where I had made so many friends over the years and where I went to escape mundane everyday mores that went along with academia. I admit freely I hid who I was there and knowing I could go there, not as a scientist, even for just 10 minutes a day, often motivated me to go to work at all some days.

So, I walked across the street with my blonde hair down and my sunglasses on and I walked into the coffee shop. People walked in and out and he waved at me, “Hug me,” he stated flatly. He leaned against the bar. He was on break.  I wanted to stay 5, 10 minutes, but he had a way of dragging me away from reality and bringing me into a universe where real-life didn’t matter. And I sipped my coffee and he ate his lunch while we talked through his break outside in the sun.

Forgiveness

I try to write you, but honestly, I just don’t care anymore. It still sucks seeing you, I’m reminded of what happened when I see your face. And those feelings, those feelings that would fester in my gut and make me want to rot away still oddly, uncomfortably creep up the back of my throat when I pass you on the street or see you on campus. (Ironic how emotions can change so drastically isn’t it? How when I saw your face a year ago, less than a year ago even, my heart would swell with an excitement, with a pleasure I just couldn’t describe…but life goes on, people reveal themselves, and feelings change). To hold on to those emotions is so exhausting…and really, I’m over it, J. I forgive you. Things will not ever be the same between us, and I fear we will never be more than friends that just say “hello,” in passing, but I forgive you.

For all the secrets you kept from me, for taking advantage of my emotions and not treating me honestly, I forgive you. And let me make one thing clear: this is not for you, but for me (I’m not trying to be conceited, I say this honestly, wholly). Because Love is the only freedom from attachment and holding on to this, holding on to you is not love, not love for you, for me…for anything.

Keep it real
Molly

Coffee Shop

I sat on the leather couch cradling my white ceramic coffee cup in my hands. I leaned forward with my elbows between my knees, my legs slightly apart and I looked directly in his eyes as he spoke…then at his lips, then at his eyes. My long hair draped to one side of my neck. His gaze shot through me like an arrow. His dark eyes locked with mine, his jet black hair fell into his eyes and across his forehead and it gleamed in the morning sun that shone eagerly through the partially curtained window. I stared back into his dark brown eyes.  I leaned in closer as we talked, I could see the specs of red-brown in his iris now and I thought: I have been here before. I remember it, vividly. I remember the excitement, the thrill, the expectation…I remember the heart break too. My teal scarf fell loosely around my neck and I tugged at it carelessly. I crossed my legs and leaned back against the couch, I took a breath. I was warm and still flushed after riding my bike to meet him for coffee. One hour passed, then two. My coffee cup sat empty on the end-table between us. We walked outside and I unlocked my bike, “Let’s do this again soon,” he smiled. “Yea, yea, this was fun.” I smirked and rode away.

Dream a Little Dream for Me…

I walked into my dark apartment after a night out in the city. My dog, jumped off my bed and stretched before she trotted into the kitchen to greet me, wagging her tail and yawning. I threw my keys on the kitchen table and took off my coat. I kicked off my shoes and walked into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. I sat on my bed after I changed into leggings and a t-shirt and I turned on my side and saw you.

Derek sat with me in the back seat, he wore that ridiculous top hat he bought for that New Years eve party years ago. He smiled, contentedly. His beer gut had grown since we hung out last and it moved, it bounced. And you, you, sat in front of me, as we drove to nowhere, anywhere. Your hair was shorter since we ran into each other last and your beard was longer. Derek looked at me and laughed. You had turned, twisted in your seat so you could look back at us… and I looked at you straight in the eyes and stated simply, quietly, “you’re bleeding.” You calmly reached for your side, still turning, twisting in my direction. Then, looking at your blood covered fingers at eye level, letting blood drip on the fake leather upholstery, you looked at me and said calmly, “how did you know this thing about me.” Your eye gleamed. And the driver’s seat remained unoccupied.

I turned. It was quiet and there was my  dog, my desk, my books, my lamp; my dark apartment.