Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wandering Soul Syndrome

There are people who find a spot in life and make themselves comfortable there.  I was one of those people until the day I had my first injection of estrogen.  I realized, deep down, that I was crossing a threshold from which I could not retreat and would very likely lead to upheaval in every element of my world.

Until that time my life was very clearly divided into 3 parts.  I call the first my "Transient" Phase, and it covered the entire period from my birth until my high school graduation.  My father was an academic in a very specialized field and was paid to come to universities on one year fellowships to help establish biophysics departments there.  As a result, we moved almost every year.  When I think back to my time in grade school it's all based on where we were living at the time....6th grade Buffalo NY, 7th grade Santa Barbara CA, 8th grade East Lansing Michigan, 9th grade back to Buffalo.  Over a period of 5 years I attended 5 different schools.  Whereas kids of those in military service sometimes to refer to themselves as "Army brats" I referred to myself as an "Academic brat".  Different specialty, same result.

The second part of my life covered my 4 years of college.  I was anxious to live on my own but circumstance had other ideas.  I went to 3 colleges in 2 countries, and took an entire semester off, before graduating from Syracuse University in 1981.  Those years seemed to continue the theme of Transience that had dominated my life until then - the difference being that until that time I couldn't get away even if I wanted because I wasn't "of age" but for those four years, I was simply being practical.

That all ended one night in November 1990 when I met a woman who would eventually become my wife.  With her I found the stability that had eluded me to that point in life, and after a year of getting established we bought our first house near Rochester NY.  We lived in that house for 15 years - that was my Stable Phase.

Artists rendition of "home" on Cottonwood Ln, in Pittsford NY....
My son was born there.  My career grew from nothing and became successful there.  I had a side business that hatched and thrived there.  We made lots of friends there, and eventually the entire rest of my immediate family came to live there (only briefly).  My father died there.  The roots that had eluded me to that point in life finally took hold, growing deep and strong.

In 1995 we decided that we'd had enough of the harsh winters there and bought a house in Scottsdale AZ.  It seemed like paradise, and we expected to live there for the balance of our lives.  That calm lasted until the moment I described earlier, in 1997, when I got that first shot.  Everything that followed was a gradual but accelerating trajectory into the theme of my early days - no roots.

I left the Valley in 2000 with the expectation of setting new roots in Austin, TX.  I had been hired by Dell, and it was my first job ever as me - every job before that was thanks to the exterior I presented before transition.  I envisioned setting those same roots that I had established in Rochester there but time and circumstance had other ideas.  After 4 years I was back in the Valley.

Over the past 10 years I've had more than 10 addresses.  People have

The Valley seems to have a way of calling/bringing me back.  It's the most fertile place I've lived as far as career opportunities go.  I've got more dear friends there than anywhere else.  I love the weather, and the quality of life.  I've learned the hard way that there are specific areas of the Valley that energize me, and others with which I feel no connection whatsoever.

All that writing is a round-about way of saying that I am hoping that my history of Wandering Soul Syndrome is finally coming to an end.  Ever the optimist, I'm approaching what happens over the next several months cautiously and for many significant reasons I will refuse to fully relinquish my connection to the the Low Country.  But if and when the stability I'm seeking proves to be more than a mirage I'll do what needs to be done - whether that be in Phoenix or in Charleston.

I'd be lying if I said I haven't grown weary of all of this.  But I'd also be lying if I said I'd allow that weariness to determine where I ultimately land.  I suppose time and circumstance will work their magic, as usual, to help make the decisions clear.  Until then, onwards.

Last week a group of us spent a week in Phoenix to attend dear Maria's Holiday Party.  Dear friends came from all over the country to attend, and I had a wonderful time.  It reminded me how much I miss life there and was a very much appreciated pre-welcome back.

Some of my dearest friends in the world converged in the Valley recently for Maria's Holiday event
One of the highlights (among a week of highlights) was a weekend run along my old running route.  In the earliest days, before transition, I started to train my body in an effort to re-shape it.  All the muscle I'd built over the years needed to go, and I needed to lose 20 pounds to get to a place where I'd be comfortable moving forward.  In order to achieve that I trained as hard as I've trained for any physical event or competition I've ever entered.  A key part of that involved early morning runs near our north Scottsdale neighborhood - up near Pinnacle Peak.

It's gorgeous country.  Unspoiled, large saguaro cactus everywhere, largely removed from "civilization" - even after these many years since I ran with a keen sense of purpose.  I took an hour on Saturday afternoon to re-trace those steps and although I'm not as fast as I remember the run was more enjoyable because of the appreciation of what those many miles along those roads have led to.

The beauty of the Sonoran desert along my running route - a truly magical place for me.
I've had some of my most introspective moments on those runs, where the mind just wanders and goes places it doesn't seem to go when the body isn't in motion.  My most recent run was similarly magical, and I look forward to doing more of them in the future.

On the medical front I went to the surgeon today to get the results of my recent CT scan and was told I've got a clean bill of health.  My discomfort is likely due to physical exertion but there's nothing that needs to be "fixed".  I'm glad, and relieved.

I talked with my mom today.  I've got a lot on my plate, and a lot on my mind, and talking with her helped.  I expect to see her again sometime between now and the New Year, on my way to Phoenix.  I appreciate the opportunities I've got while I can.  Like so many things - you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Planning Within the Headlights

It has been quite a while since I have checked in here.  I have no idea if anyone even visits anymore, although I know at least one person (hey Sophie!) misses me.

I have no explanation other than I haven't felt the need to write.  I think there are a number of reasons.
Two contributing factors:  (a) the availability of other avenues to do it and (b) my need for a little time and space.

The main "other" area where I share elements of my day-to-day life is Facebook.  Over the years I've established a definite love/hate relationship with FB and admittedly don't share with the same depth or detail there as I typically do here.  Although I've got many "friends" there, most don't know me or haven't followed my life other than what the see or read via what I share there.  I've reached a point where I don't share much there anymore - if I post a brief update more than once or twice a week that's a lot.

A lot has happened in my life since my last post.  There's no way for me to catch up here on everything between then and now so I won't really try right now.  I think a year-end retrospective is probably on the way so I'll fill in the necessary blanks a little later.

That said - I'm back because I NEED to write.  I've got a lot going on in my life right now and writing has always been a pathway to clarity for me.  I've always felt that if you can take the time to articulate complex thoughts and emotions you provide yourself the opportunity to make sense of it all. What I'm about to say here is only available here.  Less than a half dozen people know any of this, but heading into what's about to happen I've got a lot to work out.  As a result - I'm back.

Two events have shaped my current mindset this past year, and have affected decisions I've been making.

The first was when I ended up in the ER in April.  I was in Charlotte, where I've been working for the better part of the past two years.  When I was lying in that hospital bed, curled up in pain, the nurse was asking me intake questions. This is what I wrote in my blog entry at the end of May:
As I lay in the hospital last week the nurse asked me if I had anyone locally that they could call, or who could pick me up if I needed it.  As I thought about it the depressing reality was "no".  I really have no friends in Charlotte.  I work there.  My co-workers and I get along great but we're not on a level where I'd want to share too much personal medical information.  For all intents and purposes, I was all alone.  And that sucked.
Over the course of the last several months that singular realization has felt like a wake-up call.  It said volumes to me about the trade-offs we make in life and the fact that I was accepting my dual-existence of home/career where bulk of my time is spent away from home as "ok".  It isn't.

My living arrangements over these past couple of years have been a little less than ideal, given the fact that I typically commute over 200 miles a week between Charleston (where I live) and Charlotte (where I work).  It has taken quite a bit of time, energy, and money to maintain this dual life.  But the fact of the matter is that my deepest need in recent years has been to set roots as "home" and I had decided (for a number of compelling reasons) that those roots need to grow in Charleston.  The unfortunate outcome of that decision - and one that I had simply accepted - was acquiescence that the cost necessarily involved travel.

Starting the night I was in the ER, I headed down a path that stressed the importance of surrounding ourselves with our support networks - our dearest friends, the people who care most about us, the people you can count on or can call any time night or day and they'll be there.  Having those people around you is more than simply convenience - it's critical.  So - coming out of that experience I found renewed dedication to surround myself with my support network.

There are 3 places I've lived in this world and have those kinds of friends.  First - there's Rochester NY.  That's home.  Second, there's here in Charleston - but the problem has consistently been that I can't find a job here so I end up traveling and making my life complicated.  Third - perhaps the largest group of those people in my life are in Phoenix.

The second event was much less dramatic, but equally as affecting.  To be honest, I still don't know what caused it and if I were to try to explain it my words would only trivialize it.  It happened over Easter when plans that had been made got changed.  It wasn't so  much that they changed that caused the upheaval in was HOW that week unfolded that caused the uproar in my world.

In that same blog entry from late May I wrote:
I look at the various events and people from my life who have led me to where I am now.  Some of those people and things have faded away, others have weaved themselves into the fabric of my world, and others have become foundational elements.  Good decisions, bad decisions, wisdom (or lack of it)  in choosing friends and placing trust, strongly held beliefs that transform themselves into life decisions....they're all part of this tapestry that makes up my life right now.
The key phrase in all of that is  "Strongly held beliefs that transform themselves into life decisions".  As the beliefs change, so too do the possibilities worthy of consideration and the subsequent decisions that get made.

Both those events have led me to question whether or not the foothold that I thought I had in Charleston is really the long-term "roots" I've been seeking.  It still might be, but whereas I once felt sure now I've got questions.  When I've set my mind to something I can be pretty tenacious about it, but when something causes me to stop and take a step back it becomes time to reassess given the appropriate opportunity to pause.

The next natural opportunity happens at year-end, with the end of my contract in Charlotte.  I've been there for two years now, and a number of decisions needed to be made about "what next?"  Given my mindset - there are more options than simply accepting that more of the same is ok.  I was offered a 3 month extension, which I turned down - more of the same ISN'T ok.  I've exhausted efforts to find something worthwhile locally.

Without going into all the details - I have accepted a long-term opportunity that will bring me back to Phoenix at the beginning of the year.  The logistics of how that is going to happen become overwhelming to this little brain whenever I try to wrap my mind around them.  I'm sure they will be the source of future entries here.

If getting myself back across the country in two weeks weren't enough - there is the potential complication of a medical procedure that may need to happen between now and the end of the year as well.  I had an appointment with a surgeon late last week who sent me for a CT scan to get a better idea of what's going on.  I've got an appointment with him tomorrow to review the results so I expect I'll know more then than I do now.

I've very good at considering life in short-term bites.  I call it planning within the headlights.  It's like driving on a dark road at night - all you know is that is illuminated by your headlights - the rest is just dark.  You react to each turn as it appears in front of you, and you can't really get too far ahead of yourself.  That's how I approach things like this.  I'm gauging everything that needs to happen between now and the day I'm supposed to start my new job in Phoenix (Jan 4).  The rest is just the details (although I'm told that's where the devil lives).

There is quite a bit of irony in all of this.  Most of my life "stuff" lived in a storage unit in the Valley for several years until I finally went to get it 18 months ago.  I truly expected that my days of calling the Valley "home" had come to an end.  And even as I write this I'm not saying that my time in Charleston is over, either.  We'll see how all of this unfolds.  What I am saying, however, is that life as I know it is about to change.  Again.  It's a good thing I deal well with change.....

Lastly - it's nice to be back!  :)