Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Memoir of Sorts (For Class)

It's ironic, a bit, settling in to an old blog that chronicled an entire journey of my life to write a brief memoir for a current class I'm taking. There's a Lazarus effect. There's what was laid to rest here rising in me.

((I don't know who's going to stumble across this. Just know why it was written and let it be at that.))

This blog was my ramblings as a young twenty something. Moments of presience, triumphs, yearnings.

Like water, I was always chasing love. It eluded and confused me for a long time, but I diligently and hungrily searched. I learned that sometimes what you need, you can only give yourself. That when it's real, it isn't questionable or unstable.

But I didn't learn that the pragmatic, light bulby way reading the words now clarifies so simply. No. I went into the woods, over the hills and far away.

In 2011 I was at the end of a thing. A heartsearing thing. I'd been embroiled in a bit of a lovemess over the winter prior. Mostly mess, some strong love of the friend variety, anxiety, and a shit ton of blind hope / intricate delusion that wove a complex tale. I was in a fit of unrequited passion for the idea of someone who was also a lifeline at the time, a friend who shows up when you need them and fills your flailing heart with something to dream about. The season before had been a wash with a romantic prospect, as the tide of that receded, awareness, pain and want were littered on the shore. The connection sort of lit up the driftwood, took the sea rime off the bottles and trinkets, energized the whole picture. But, it didn't mobilize anything. I kept feeding the flames, but stayed on the shore as mist grew thick and clouds formed, waves raged.

Alaska has always called me. Always. I've answered twice thus far. Once as an independence-craving teen, and the year I was 24. I stood up on that beach of misery and strange burned objects, and said, my life is my own. I need new perspectives.

Something about moving on feels like dying. But when you're young, healthy, somewhat robust and prone to resilience, it's merely fire for the phoenix. You rise from that shit. But first, you have to send it up in flames. I wanted that reset. I knew it. I was building tinder for months.

I was a river guide of many seasons, the post I assumed in Denali National Park as my mode for making the excursion financially doable. I spent the last money I had in the airport and hadn't even purchased a return flight upon arrival. Initially I was the only female guide. Those suntouched nights, the baritone voices of my comrades, the waves of a visciously cold and violent river changed my current. I rowed mightily, oars drenched in glacial silt. I stared in the eyes of a grizzly, alone in a boat while it pawed at the shore one morning. I hiked miles and miles alone, amongst unknown eyes in the woods of the park. I connected with someone else I fell in friend-love with, she led me up mountains and endearingly let me be her Bear Bait. She was delicious and uncomplicated and heard my stories with a full heart and simple, encouraging responses. I remember so many times where I was preoccupied with thought staring out at immense, boundless Alaskan landscapes. The mind does that. You look at one thing and see/feel something imported, from somewhere else.

Part of going to AK that year was reclaiming myself from conditioning of a lifetime of gender polarity and women's roles that I could neither fit into nor identify with. I was strong, not always soft, but soft too, depending on who was asking. I was independent, stubborn and willful, wanting for connection but also to define it on my own terms. I'd been raised more or less Mormon, the daughter of a strange pairing. By the time my mother and father divorced, she met her long yearned for goal of going through an LDS temple for her Endowment, an experience that I knew was sacred for her in earnest. My father was able to withhold her from going for years and years; as a married woman, the church's rules and patriarchy at large obligated her to comply with his wishes. His esteem for the Mormon church was at best derisive, mostly antagonistic as their own views on the church tore them further apart. I've heard each of them blame the church for their divorce in their own way. It always made me sad. Some part of me internalized that having a picture perfect Mormon forever-family was The Thing I'd missed out on in my youth and should secure for myself in adulthood. Except, that wasn't who I was. As I set out on my own career/academic path, I was anything but traditional. I wanted some of the traditional benefits - generosity, kindness, community - with none of the hangups, such as misogyny, patriarchy, inauthenticity.

Love as a search warrant I had out in the universe was, indeed, my unmet need to make peace with a turbulent first family, to construct one of my own that would be bulletproof where what I started with was broken. It was a role I created and subjected my ideas of a few men in my life into, like playing paper dolls. Here is the vision of what I need. Here are the ways in which I can selectively honor aspects I genuinely love in you, while forming the rest to fit. It wasn't conscious at the time. I became conscious of it only through two things: one, revulsion when anyone treated me the same way. It was so much more obvious. The guy I'd dated for years and not-quite-waited-for while he was serving an LDS mission once said to me "Jenn, when we get married (yes he said when, not if) - I expect you to give up skiing. I don't want the mother of my children in a wheelchair at 40." Immediately I sensed the confines and conjuring of what he wanted for me, and how it was out of sync with my true self. And yet, the breakup process was months.

The second thing that clarified my methods was that relationship I mentioned earlier, which by the end of the term in AK led to having that person I loved, and I did love him, tell me in his own slowly delivered way that I'd created him in the image of my own needs as our friendship had deepened and he had relied on it for his own well being - until I supplanted something else into it entirely and it became damaging for him. Now, there's a lot that went into that major mixup. A LOT. And in any relationship, each party can and should only own 50% of the story. His lot in it was poor communication; trusting me with all sorts of deep secrets, but not openly stating simple facts. Mine, well I've been telling you about it this whole time. And, I only own 50%. As does he.

So after one thing that cracked open Pandora's proverbial box, to worshipping an effigy of my own hopes and dreams to reconcile a lost past, loosely based on a friend, I set about that summer to actually do the thing by chasing my own dreams and identity, differently this time. The further I got, the less I could hear / think / feel in the same ways that created past climates. And part of me simply forgot, and has chosen to never fully remember. Just recognize what did/did not serve me well in the process, and build on that in future endeavors.

I'm still writing the story of my half of all my relationships, and my whole story of who I am. I've given up religion, for good. There's no ambiguity in that statement. What I have found in its stead is that its benefits do exist in this world without tradeoffs and abuses. That gender is malleable, mine a little queer at times. Confining a self to a storyline is restrictive. Sometimes we need to construct some shelter for ourselves. Sometimes, always... we construct the whole world in our view. Sometimes those view(s) serve us and others, sometimes they don't. Sometimes, they enable abuse of ourselves and those we claim to love.

In all my years writing this blog, I didn't disclose the full value of my religious wandering. I didn't disclose my own struggles with gender identity and sense of self articulately. It's my style to suffer undercover until I either explode and have to change my life/surroundings as was the case with that summer, but typically things resolve, get pretty again and I can talk about them with composure. I wish I'd talked sooner to a few people, in the maw of it. I wish I'd parsed fewer words and exposed more raw wound, and active healing. Because we're all out here on our own, and our shared fallability and humanness is what keeps us real and honest with each other and ourselves.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I switched hosts, and then went into hiding for a few months.
Back at it, here.

Much love, all y'all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dear, beloved readers...

The time has come to grow and move along. It's been a marvelous stay here at Quarterlife Musings. I've chronicled four years of life and adventures here, and I've enjoyed every breath and every word of the experience.

I'm now officially over the apex, the proverbial "hill" of my twenties. I'm not really even a quarter-lifer anymore.

I opted to go with Wordpress for my next round of blog authorship. I want to cut a bit deeper with issues I'm willing to talk about, go further into the world and the state of being human, being alive.

This blog was the first time I really let my writing out of the pen and turned it loose upon the digital world. It's been a marvelous chapter of growth and learning, yet as they say, the more one understands, the more one realizes how little is truly understood.

Thank you for your readership.
Thank you for the comments.
Thanks for all the love.
And thanks, most of all, for just being alive.

All of you on the left - you bet your sweet little blogger hearts I'll still be following you.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ten Years Gone

It's been mentioned here, a time or twenty five before, this thing called skiing.

In many ways, it's been the love of my life. It called, I answered. It beckoned, I came. It schooled, I learned. We were sort of married, skiing and I. It's taken me beautiful, unbelievable places, given delicious moments of triumph, wonderful people, livelihood - filled me with purpose and set the rhythm of my years.

We hit the advent of year number ten this fall. To celebrate, I damn near filed for divorce.

Fall of 2002. It was a dark night, I was just barely sixteen. I followed instructions to the basement of a building in downtown Boise. Sat down at a table of strangers and scrawled my name in red Sharpie on a sticky tag. A gregarious man with a commanding nose and booming voice took over, introducing himself and his quiet, petite feminine co-part in leading the group interview. Something like eight of us followed suit with our own introductions. I was the youngest there, by far. I wanted the job, though, wanted it with all my heart and soul. My blood ran cold with nerves but I revved the stamina of my confidence, kept pace with the group. And, was hired. I know I squealed for joy. I cashed out my entire savings account buying a complete setup of gear and clothing. I was so, so stoked. I taught all three larger-than-life ski seasons of my high school years.

August 2005, I'm just about to turn nineteen. I'm a fish out of water, blue collar daughter, going to college for the first time, had thrown myself into life in downtown Salt Lake City. I am, to be sure, clueless, green as grass, though I wouldn't know it for quite some time. I apply to work at Alta, and meet with no less than three ski school managers to interview at a bagel shop - I didn't even own a car yet. Truth be told - I'd never even been to Alta. Grandpa raised me on his endorsement; simply put, Alta was the best, and thus it was the only place I wanted to be. The first time I drove Utah State Highway 210 to join my new ski school family at a pre-season breakfast... I cried a little inside - with awe and overwhelm.

Places that made me tremble a bit to ski that first year have become my favorites in the six seasons since. I've grown into my self there, in so many ways. I've cried real tears in that canyon, been still and silent, screamed with joy, laughed and bonded with place and people and periphery and found myself a HOME in the heart of Little Cottonwood, a place that will always be sacred and special to me because there I have been ALIVE. So very much alive.

Yet last month there I was, staring down the barrel of the coming season, not knowing where to pull the trigger, stay or go, aim my sights elsewhere or focus on what I know. Had been feeling the pull to invest in the more year-round things I have going on, to settle a bit, to hold still in one place for more than six months at a time.Thought through the options, alternatives, motives...

And in the end, I'm going back. Lucky number ten, a nice, round, double digit.

Sacrifice may very well be the heart of love.
Sometimes it's letting go that best teaches what we hold close and dear.

Peace to you.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Days (daze?) of Rest

So-called. Slept in, again. Jumped out of bed and hit a Crossfit session to the brink of nausea before standard Sabbath activities. Had attended celebrations with many delicious delicacies and desserts over the weekend, a friend invited me to her gym, an opportunity I literally jumped at - I loveth Crossfit, said friend is a studess, and I was in need. Didn't puke, didn't pass out on the bench during the following hours of Church, did take notes and meet new people, and - am going to sleep like a rock tonight. 

I forfeited sleep in the name of new horizons and empires for many, many of my young adult moons. A deep debt is mine for the repaying; the sweet reaper has come to collect. I sleep now, routinely, deeply, hard. Some days I can't draw the lines between the lucidity of nights' dreamscapes and real-time moments. It's crazy beautiful awesome. Right about the time Freudian theory was turning a lens on sleep consciousness, Surrealist painter Salvador Dali utilized a technique of approaching sleep often sitting upright, key in hand, so that the moment sleep came, the key would drop and awake the artist. He would do his work on that buzz, and love it. I can relate. A Dali print hangs in my room - surrealism, that's pretty much life, right?

Fall term last year was a circus. I left academia for the year following, in part drawn to a consecrated inquiry of the meaning and modes of love, swearing I wouldn't return until I had some answers. The words of the poet Kahlil Gibran speak well to how that journey has gone/is going;

"And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course."

And that it has.

 It's been harrowing. Humbling. Potentially humiliating. Love demands its price, even as a seductress, even as the light dancing just ahead on the dark and thoroughly barbed path. It will be worth its weight (or not) in both risk and reward. Jonathan Franzen wrote beautifully on the subject in the NY Times, read it here. The takeaway quote, the line that keeps reaching back at me - "...the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard." There's some serious dirt on this mirror, and justly so. Also said by Gibran, and to this a hearty AMEN from me -

"For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning."

I have learned often and repetitiously that I really don't know love at all, as said by the luminous Joni Mitchell. Her voice in youth had the clarity and purity of a brook, a bright silver bell; the version of the Both Sides from the seventies is charming, yet the pure weather in her vocals, the sound and feel of thirty years' wisdom and maturation conveyed in her performance of the song in 2000 is... words fail. I suggest them both, in succession. Something tells me, despite her modesty, I could sit for hours listening to miss Mitchell's findings on love and life. 

Yet by now you're probably sick of my thoughts on the subject. I am. This self-imposed sabbatical indeed changed my course as well as my courses; what I'll register for in the following semesters as much as who I'll be as I travel forward from here, forever. Grateful for the words, people, philosophies and experiences that have graced my path. And I got enough, more than enough of what I went inquiring after, and so - it's time for me to go back to class, back to scholarly endeavors, weed through it all and put it to good use. 

In other news, it's been another beautiful fall in the Wasatch. I re-enter into this valley after summers away in awe and appreciation for the days of ever-cooling warmth and brilliant foliage, temperatures dancing the seasonal transaction, Old Man Winter awakening from his months of slumber, ready to turn the key on skiers' surrealist dreams and paint these mountains white with powder ripe for the turn-taking...

Exhales of tenderness. 
Blessings of peace. 
Much love.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Twenty Five to Life

I hear the winter of 1986 was excellent. Perhaps my conception was the grand finale to one of those blessed days on the mountain which decrescendo over a winding descent into city lights, having spent, incinerated, seemingly every cell's energy - only the warmest coals left glowing after stoking the fire of life with laps over fresh fallen snow.

A little prematurely, four weeks so, the hormones and essences of life synchronized between child in utero and host mother elected Labor Day for the waters to break way for my arrival. Stubbornly, breached, I delayed that til the early hours of Tuesday, arrival crescendo to emergency C-section, all six pounds of me exiting the womb at 2:44am, September 2. My mother thought I was beautiful. Everyone else noted the misshapen nose still imprinted and off balance from the curves of nesting against her spine. They called me Yoda. She called me Jennifer Elaine, after my paternal grandmother. The resident staff of St. Luke's labor and delivery ward took note of only the latter of the names, thankfully.

A heap of living between then and now, but that was the moment celebrated this weekend as I traveled the miles between Salt Lake and Boise for a time that must be among thousands by now, musing on the precious and temporary conditions of life. Thought that of all we have as human beings, no matter who we are - none of it couldn't be lost or dissolved in the contents of a day. Not even our stories are entirely our own. We drift through these moments on borrowed time and at the mercy of a universe of changing circumstance. We can take ownership over what we give, but not what we get given.

Not knowing what tomorrow may bring - what's to be invested in? Relationships, experiences, whatever makes one grow in love and gratitude - that's all I'm truly banking on, at least. I drive long obnoxious miles for that end because really, such is what I'm driven by. The cost dissolves in the dividends: love is worth its expense, worthy in spite of or maybe even because of - its impermanence.

As the now reigning majority, mine was a home broken over time, love and lust lost between the entities that created me. Even fleetingly, the powers of attraction, passion, lust and ideally love witness their lasting merit; entire lives are borne of mere moments shared, in connection, in synthesis, whether the instincts and emotions make it for the long haul or even through the night.

Adulthood is no longer pending. Not at twenty five. You're in it, whether acted upon or not. I've got ideas about what I want, have the foundations established in the first half of my twenties and then some, have forward-thinking hopes and intentions. That doesn't really matter, though. I could die tomorrow or live a thousand years and what surfaces of meaning in all of this, what I've spent the last week plus change musing on, is real, meaningful love for life and my people, which doesn't require perfection or poise or even a state of being "pulled together." As you may know, I'm often scrambling at the wiles of a full schedule and deep seeded wanderlust - grace, patience and tolerance go a long way in preserving relationships in the tumult of life.

Perhaps the most remarkable transition of adulthood is going from approaching the world for the taking, the exploit, with unskilled-as-of-yet hands and heart, demands, needs, expectations - to pure, whole hearted love that seeks to give, understand, nurture, as is, for better or worse, knowing intuitively that it's worth it even if painful and with invisible returns.

Not that I'm there. I surely haven't fully arrived, but the wheels in me are turning ever forward. Learning continues. Loving, so much that it hurts is a choice I've made, openly, knowingly, with intention. In the act of prayer, more than a few times I've been returned powerfully that I am to be an active part of the answer, that the universe has invested in me; I have been given much - and even in the act of making requests, they require action, choices, discipline at the junction of awareness and loving. Giving back. Knowing or desiring to know how, when, where, why, to whom and what is to be given. And firstly - to love oneself enough to give love and support inwardly, which makes all the difference in reaching out.

Another transition: I've been thinking about Facebook and what it implies in its brand of "friendship." In contemplation of technology's artifice, the opportunity provided for people to interact in means unprecedented - much of which I'm grateful for, there's a magic in being to connect with friends past and see how their stories are unfolding, and knowing things and events are happening with little effort can be really great. However, sometimes retaining connection is not for the better, is not appropriate, windows that would naturally and/or intentionally shut are kept open by social media. I don't believe the validity, importance, value of a connection is diminished in its end any more than a novel or movie - endings are part of life. When a connection is grown out of, moved on from, finitely over - is it appropriate or healthy that either party be updated about the comings and goings, relationships and current images of the other? Never in the history of mankind has this been the case, at least not without a human third party, or stalking - which was previously regarded as sociopathic, creepy, and illegal. Is this a normative change we want to embrace? Perpetuate?

I've 'unfriended' very few people since I first joined the site in 2007. I've never gone through and 'weeded' as I've heard some people describe. It all seemed sort of like human farming, a bit of a grotesque approach to connection.

But I get it now. I've heard expressions of open contempt and derision for contacts maintained online, kept for entertainment, to feed competition, pity and criticism. That's not a friendship, and that's not honest. I think the more we feed into that sort of approach and even abstractedly christen it friendship, the more a falsely presented environment of scrutiny, criticism, unkindness and ultimately injury is fostered. It's sick, it's cyclical, it's harmful, and I want no part in reinforcing that. I want to be a real person and share loving, whole acceptance with others. I don't want to edit my posts for audience, I want to just post, as I am, with integrity and a whole heart.

I did some housekeeping this weekend and closed a few chapters of Facebook "friendship." My guiding principle in my decision was this - would I, or could I, sit down and share a meal with this person, exchange stories and feel sincerity and mutuality and human goodness? There were no's, and logistically and practically I'm not going to be seeing most of my FB contacts anytime soon, some maybe ever. But I did recognize that I have much to be grateful for and many connections to nurture with time and over good food in the future.

25 to life: I'm conciously taking you full on. Being real. Loving hard. Come what may.

Cheers to that.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

All Au-gust-o

Admittedly, I've had a lot of time on my hands lately.
I've been more or less unemployed for three weeks.
It's been scrumptious.

Flew back to the Lower 48 earlier this month after spending some time in the charming hamlet of Eagle River, Alaska, reconnecting with a dear friend and getting to know her sweet baby boy.

In flight somewhere over Canada whilst descending latitudes, I saw the stars for the first time this summer. Completely mesmerized, I pressed my face against the glass and was both very still and abuzz with celestial ecstasy. The first nights back I slept out in the back yard, still in awe of a dark sky full of twinkling stars, such a novelty after the months of midnight sun. I can't conceive of ever taking that for granted again.

By design, the day I landed my family and I gathered at Deer Valley to celebrate the marriage of my cousin-brother, we're three months apart. It was a tender, beautiful fete and I'm grateful for his love and happiness, his bride is a perfect compliment to all that he is and will be a treasured presence in our family.

Spent a few days in SLC moving things out of a dusty 5x10 and into new-to-me space before skipping town, in hot pursuit of sunshine, ocean and bestfriendship. Met up with my beloved sisterfriend in Vegas, where another dear friend had graciously lent his place. We headed for the ocean and a sailboat in Mission Bay. Got mani/pedis, laid purposelessly on barely warm sand beneath overcast skies, listened to the ocean, enjoyed the simplicity of each other's company. Giggled and conversed over plates of delicious food and walking aimless miles of unfamiliar city streets in Encinitas, La Jolla, San Diego, Solana Beach and surrounding. Swam. Loved. Just were, as is.

     After she flew out I returned to Vegas, spent a smattering of days in pampered, soulful exile excepting a few meaningful connections via phone.  Overlooking the endlessly moving human zoo, glitz, money spending opportunities, rich food that this city is known for, and I admit - I'm dazzled. My crusty, bitter Vegas hating environmentalist face has retired... because in the wilderness of Alaska, so very far from all this - I gained perspective and appreciation. It is what it is. It has a place, I'm glad for it, happy to experience this... from a distant bird's eye perspective at least. I went to Harry Potter IMAX 3D at the Palms yesterday. HP was everything I'd waited for, just the escapist experience I'd craved. Walking through the Palms was so classically Vegas, it's the casino host to the Playboy scene, which is boldly advertised from flashing screens and building-length banners, everywhere. Vegas is relentless. Trashy. And kinda just perfect for itself. I've treasured my time here and absorbed much sun as souvenir.

The City of Sin. Doesn't look so bad...
Tomorrow I suppose I'll mosey home, and create a new meaning of the word, yet again.
Pick up what still exists of the pieces I left behind in SLC.
Forge synthesis of new and old rhythm, relationships, life.

By all definitions, it's been a friggin' fantastic summer.

Photo at Muzita, an Ethiopian eatery in UCSD area.
Also, I'm almost 25. EEEeeeeeek!