Thursday, April 13, 2017

Watershed

I haven't written and shared anything in a long time. This season at the Goldminer's Daughter I have been working as sous chef, which has ended up taking up most of my time. I work, run, occasionally ski, and sleep. The season is coming to a close and I feel myself coming back to life yet being quite introspective.

Here's the thing: I cringe when I write, I cringe more when I share. It seems so self-indulgent, and why would anyone care about what I have to say anyway? Yet I write and I share. I guess maybe I need validation, or maybe I'm hoping that someone will read what I have to say and gain something from it? Not that I'm the wisest person in the world. I am not. Anyway, here I am, writing and sharing. Stream-of-consciousness, here we go.

I have mentioned this in a pervious post but I think I kind of knew my father was going to pass away. I felt the need to visit home a lot more in the last couple years to spend time with my parents, and felt something heavy in my heart for a couple years leading up to his passing, like something major was going to happen. I was home the week he passed, which I was thankful for. Intuition is a crazy thing, I'm glad I listened to mine. This experience taught me to listen and trust myself with more confidence.

A lot in my head and my heart changed with his passing. I was holding onto people, things, ideas, expectations, and beliefs that all went out the window when dad died. My mindset totally changed. It was similar to leaving Mormonism, and solidified many of the conclusions I had been coming to since leaving the religion.

Here's what I want:

I want to be around people who push me, support me, make me better. I want my relationships to be equal and mutual. I want to be around people who emanate the same energy I do.

I want more experiences and less things. I want to live life as fully as possible.

I want to write a book.

I don't care about what society tells me I should be doing or having. I don't have a car, haven't for 3 (or 4??) years now. I don't own a house, don't know if I will? Don't plan on getting married or having kids anytime soon. I feel great about all these things.

I want to be as healthy, both mentally and physically, as I can be. As much as I have control over, that is.

I want to allow myself to change my mind at any point, because it can and will happen.

I want to be good in the community I live in, good to my friends, good to my family.

I want to get really good at running and rock climbing.

I want to be totally in tune with my body, heart, and mind.

I think that's all for now? The list could change, get shorter, or longer. Who knows?

Here's what I know: I feel really good about myself right now, where I'm at in life, and what the future holds. I am content. I am more present than I've ever been. I'm happy with being a nomad and a wanderer, even if in the eyes of society I look irresponsible. I am happy, and that's what matters. I think too many people worry too much about what they SHOULD be doing. Shoulds don't necessarily make us happy. Maybe they make some people happy, maybe they make you happy, I don't know. But I spent so many years doing what I was told I should do, and once I threw the shoulds out the window, I began living, and became much much happier.

That's all.

PS love you, dad.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dad's Eulogy


David Keith Heywood was born in Blythe, California to Kenneth and Lorraine Heywood on September 4th, 1954. He loved his daddy; he knew the sound of his father’s car and would get excited when his daddy came home from work. Dad and his brother Bob loved to dress up in their boots, hats and vests and would go outside and play cowboys. He recently told me a story that Uncle Bob reminded me of about riding Thunder the horse. In Bob’s words:

“Most summers we went to Grandpa Heywood’s house in Panguitch, Utah to visit or spend the entire summer there. Grandpa used to graze one of his horses around the house to keep the tall grass down and when David and I were boys we would take turn riding him. We loved watching Grandpa or dad saddle him for us so we would have a saddle horn to hang onto. Grandpa or Dad would either lead us around the yard or ride with us to keep us safe. Well it didn’t take too many years before we fancied ourselves to be quite the cowboys and we decided to saddle Thunder ourselves. Thunder seemed to think it was okay, too, so we saddled him up and tightened the cinch as best we could. We thought we were ready for a ride around the high school track which was right next door. David was the oldest so he got to go first. Off he went at a nice easy walk, and everything was looking great until Dave kicked Thunder in the ribs to make him go a little faster. I’m sure everything was a blur for David after that as he got the intended reaction from Thunder and then some. Thunder broke into a dead run and when he did the saddle David was riding on flipped down between Thunder’s feet and David fell off rolling away from Thunder’s pounding hooves about half way down. Thunder walked over to the fence of Grandpa’s house and started munching on grass and it seemed like he was smirking just a little bit, while David laid face down in the dirt, eventually got up, and shook the dirt from his trousers. He learned a lot that day about smirking horses who hold their breath while they’re being cinched.”

Dad was a typical kid, involved in typical kid shenanigans. Again, in Bob’s words:

“We got new bows and arrows for Christmas one year and being safety minded as we were, thought the best place we could shoot them was down the street in the Richland School yard. After a while of shooting at targets, we could barely see because of the fog, so we decided it would be great fun to shoot the arrows straight up into the air where they would disappear, and then run for our lives. We thought that if we shot straight enough that the arrows would fall at approximately the same spot from which they were shot. This being our well thought out stratagem, we went on with our plan until we mysteriously lost all of the arrows. Thankfully no one was hurt.”

When Dad was 2 or 3 years old, he and his brother Bob were riding in the back seat of the old car. Those were back in the days when there were no seatbelts, and Dad and Bob were playing in the backseat when Dad opened the car door and went tumbling down onto the highway. Grandpa was able to stop the car immediately, scoop Dad up, and took him to the doctor where all they found were a few scratches. Grandma said the next morning, Dad was on his rocking horse, bouncing and laughing like nothing had happened.

Dad was someone who always had a good sense of humor, and was a bit eccentric. His sister Valerie gave this account:

“I was sitting at the piano practicing and David bursts through the front door, scaring me, and singing, 'they’re coming to take me away, haha, they’re coming to take me away haha hoho hehe, to the funny farm where life is beautiful all the time.' He was flapping his arms like a chicken and bounding all up and down the room. My initial fear turned to almost immediately to uncontrollable, tear filled laughter.”

A story from his brother Carl:

“My brother David was an awesome guy. I’ve idolized him all my life. Of all my memories of Dave, one in particular stands out in my mind. We had gone into Bakersfield and decided to stop for pizza. As we sat at the table I hoped he was buying because I didn’t have any money. The nice-looking waitress came over and David ordered two pepperoni pizzas. I thought, ‘Wow, he must be hungry!’ Before I could order she walked away and I thought, ‘this is gonna be a long lunch’ because all I had was a cup of water. Anyway, David whispered, ‘here, take this toothpick and put it into your straw,’ which I did, thinking we were going to have a spit wad fight. Then David pointed his straw at the waitress and said, ‘watch this!’ With a puff on the straw, off went the toothpick hitting the waitress in her lower extremity. Naturally the waitress jumped. I looked up at David in shock. He was looking down at the table, completely red, holding his hand over his mouth to stifle his unique, loud laugh. Then he looked up at me, still red in the face, and said, ‘your turn!’ and then he started to laugh out loud. A little later the pizzas came and David said, ‘here, this one is for you.’ My jaw dropped! I’d never had my own large pizza before! At that moment David went from an idol to a god! After that I remember scarfing down the pizza as quickly as I could, trying to keep pace with David.”

His son Tyler recalls:

“Dad always liked to sit in his chair, watch TV, and eat a snack; especially on Friday nights. One such night, when I was in high school, Dad had made himself a hamburger. The problem was that he was apparently very tired. He had fallen asleep with the hamburger still in his hand without a single bite taken out of it. In his other hand was the TV remote. I watched as dad, half asleep, took the remote (which I'm sure he thought was the hamburger) and put the end of it in his mouth. Upon realizing that the remote was indeed, NOT a hamburger, his eyes opened in a very brief surprise as he removed the remote from his mouth and then fell immediately back to sleep.

I then received instructions from my mother to take the hamburger, put it in a bag, and place it in the refrigerator. I did so with as much Indiana Jones stealth as I could. then I excused myself to my bedroom to get ready for bed. About a half an hour later I came out to get a drink from the kitchen, and on my way I found my Dad, still asleep, with the hamburger back in his hand and the bag left on the kitchen table. He had obviously woken up, realized something was missing, went and found it, then took it back and fell asleep, without ever taking a bite. He just really wanted to hold it I suppose.”

Of course, everyone knew of Dad’s love for music. Grandma and Grandpa said this love started even as a baby, saying that when he wasn’t even one-year-old, Dad would bang on the piano and dance. His sister, Becky, recounts, “when I was about 18 he took Carl and I on a work related trip to Sacramento. He had an 8 track tape player in the work van he was driving and one 8 track tape. We listened to Queen all the way there and back. That's where I learned the words to Bohememian Rhapsody and We Are the Champions. Like so many others, he influenced my love of all different genres of music.” Valerie remembers him “blaring his horn to Chuck Magioni’s ‘Primal Scream’ and trying to reach that triple high C like his idol. The windows would shake in the house,” she said. Dad eventually completed his Bachelor’s in Music and Master’s in Curriculum and Development, and taught music for 35 years, sharing his passion with his students and the community.

Dad was never secretive about his past, and considered himself a hippie. When he was in his early 20s, David joined a traveling jazz/fusion band where he played the trumpet and keys. This was a time when he explored and experienced lots of things, but he eventually made his way back home, and shortly after this time he started writing letters to his future wife, Christy. Dad and Mom wrote letters for a year, and were married on August 7th, 1981, shortly after they met in person. This last year they celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. He adopted Heather and was sealed to both her and Mom in the Salt Lake temple. As it happens, Dad’s little sisters were a bit jealous of Mom and Heather at first. Valerie remembers, “he was very generous with his little sisters…I was so jealous when he got married and he had Heather to give all of his attention to, but I also knew Christy and Heather would be part of our forever family.” Heather was a little hesitant of Dad at first, but of course, he was able to win her over. In Heather’s words:

My Dad's first real attempt at winning my heart came just a few days before he married my mom. I needed new dress shoes for the wedding and he said he'd take me shoe shopping. I was a little worried about that because I wasn't too sure about him yet. We got to the shoe store and I immediately fell in love with a beautiful pair of dress shoes that looked like they were made out of wood. They had a little 2 inch heel on them and I was convinced my love affair would never be realized because they were too grown up for a 6 year old. But lo and behold, Dad thought they were perfect and immediately purchased them for me. I thought for sure mom would march us back to the store and exchange them for a more age appropriate pair. But Dad was confident we could get them past mom, and instantly I knew he was someone I could tolerate for at least a little while until I could figure out a way to get rid of him. Seriously, though, he was one of the most accepting and welcoming people I knew. He never made me feel like I was someone else's kid. He was my Dad from day one.”

Dad’s love for Mom is also something that stands out. He was always writing songs for her, writing her poems, and sending her flowers “just-because.” Not a day went by that he didn’t tell her how much he loved her and how beautiful she was. I remember, every day, he would say us, “do you kids realize how beautiful your mom is?” We all remember their make out sessions (which Tyler would interrupt by hugging them while they were kissing), and the times dad would take mom and dance with her in the kitchen, cheek to cheek. His love for and devotion to his wife and his children was incredibly strong.

Dad was a good, supportive, and loving father. He cared deeply for his children, almost to a fault, and he wanted them to know of his love for them. Sarah remembers riding to school with dad, and told this story:

I attended first and second grade at Belridge where Dad taught a couple of days out of the week. He drove me to and from school each day, even on the days when he was assigned to different schools. It was an hour drive round-trip, so we spent a lot of time driving together.

On one such ride out to school one day, we decided to pass the time by writing a song together. I was supposed to write one verse, Dad would write one verse, and we'd write the chorus together. And this is what we wrote (though, let's be honest, Dad coached my verse):
It's a kiss "hello," it's a kiss "hello"

Instead of a kiss "goodbye"

It's a kiss "hello," it's a kiss "hello"

Instead of a kiss "goodbye"

My daddy is a teacher

He goes to school with me

So we don't have to say "goodbye"

We say "hello," you see

We love to talk and talk and talk

While driving in the car

It's always fun to be with us

No matter where we are

It's a kiss "hello," it's a kiss "hello"

Instead of a kiss "goodbye"
It's a kiss "hello," it's a kiss "hello"
Instead of a kiss "goodbye"

On a different drive home one evening after a long day at the school, we climbed into the car and Dad looked at my half-closed eyes and said 'I'll bet you a kiss and a hug that you'll fall asleep before we get home.' Being stubborn and six, I said 'No I won't.' But of course I fell fast asleep. When we pulled into the driveway and I woke up and realized I had fallen asleep, I burst into tears. I had lost the bet. Dad said I had to pay up, even though I was crying, because a bet was a bet and you had to pay. So I gave him a tearful hug and kiss. He gave me a hug and kiss back, and then took me to get ice cream.”

Jana remembers the fun way dad would put us to bed. She recounts:

“The memory that I often think about, especially when I can't sleep, is when we were younger: the days where we pile on Mom and Dad's bed and read the latest chapter of Little House on the Prairie. 



After Mom read, Dad would tell us about a land in our dreams that was entirely made of candy (pretty typical of Dad, right?). We would each take a turn and describe our little place in this Candy Land, painting the most delicious picture possible. 



Whoever was next had to name the previous places and then describe there own. By the end of this, we would have a land with volcanoes that spewed hot fudge and baseball games where the ball exploded marshmallows and edible gardens that would make Willy Wonka jealous. As Dad closed the land, he always added the detail that we would all be there together, enjoying each other's company, eating to our hearts' content."


A little over a year ago when I decided to quit my full time job to travel and explore, dad told me how great he thought that was and said wished he could join me. He didn’t lecture me on how unsafe it would be to travel alone as a woman, he didn’t tell me it was foolish for me to leave a full time job with benefits, instead he hugged me, and told me he was proud of me. His love and support are part of what gave me the confidence to do a lot of the things I’ve been able to do.

Maybe you’ve noticed that pizza has been mentioned a few times? Dad loved food, and seemed to especially have a passion for pizza. David Jr, his son, shared these experiences:

“In reading through the stories people have shared about Dad, a lot of them have involved pizza. The first one is just a sort of vague recollection. Mom was gone, and there wasn't much in the house to put a meal together with, but such were the conditions under which Dad thrived, at least to the pleasure of his own palate. For the rest of us, Dad's experiments in the kitchen either turned out really great or really bad, with not much in between. But somehow, with no yeast, tomato paste, or about half of the other ingredients that are usually required to make a decent pizza, and to my pleasant surprise, Dad produced one of the most delicious home-made biscuit dough pizzas I've ever had.

On another occasion, Dad, Tyler, and I were driving back home from Las Vegas. We were at a car show or something like that, which was never really our cup of tea, but we had met up with some family there and had had a nice time. It was late, so we were pretty tired and quiet on that trip. When we were about halfway home, a commercial came on the radio for a local pizza place, but for some reason, the way they described the pizza just gave me a huge craving for some. I noticed Dad reach down for his phone, so I asked who he was calling, and he said that he was calling Mom. So I (jokingly) said "Hey, tell her to order some pizza for us." Of course, it was a silly request since it was about 10 at night and we were still 2 or 3 hours from home. Dad's reply: ‘Well why do you think I'm calling?’ When we got home, we had cold pizza waiting for us. It was delicious.”

Dad was also someone who gave his love freely, and was always willing to serve. He rooted for the underdog, took anyone into his home who needed help, and never spoke ill of anyway. Growing up, if any of us ever started gossiping, dad would stop us and defend the person we were bad-mouthing. He was a defender and a giver. His sister, Becky, described him perfectly by saying, “He was always someone I trusted as a confidant.  He was thoughtful and wise.  He wasn't judgmental. He was gentle.  He listened and then he talked.  I always appreciated how loved I felt after a conversation with him.  He was intelligent, well read, and had a beautiful and practical testimony of the Gospel.  He filled his life with service.” His sister Chrystal recounts:
“One of my first strong memories of my big brother, David, was having a date night with him when I was about 7 years old. He picked me up and drove me to his little white house just a few short blocks from our home on 2nd street. I felt like a queen just getting to spend time with him by myself. We made homemade pizza with tomatoes and onion. He teased and tickled me, asked questions about my life, we laughed and had a lot of fun. I saw a spider on the living room floor and asked him to kill it. To my amazment he said all living things are precious, and I watched in awe as he swept it up with a piece of paper and put it outside. That's the kind of big brother he was. I felt safe when he was around.”


His daughter Jana tells this story:

“One Christmas Eve, when Dad was branch president, I remember being fairly young and heard the phone ring. It was a call from the police department, informing him that there was a homeless man at the station who said he was LDS and needed assistance. Dad rolled out of bed, got dressed and headed to the station. A few hours later I heard him come back and he told Mom that it was clear that this man was not all there, in fact, he soiled himself as dad was taking him to the local hotel.  Mom got up and cleaned the car seat as Dad made final preparations for Christmas. I'll never forget their love and kindness for a complete stranger. Dad, I'm sure, took care of this man the best way he could, with a meal in his belly, a warm bed, and a few bucks in his pocket. Dad embodied the concept of the Good Samaritan, regardless of his church service, and was always giving, both his money and time, but moreover, his heart.”


That's the kind of man Dad was. His faith, strength, and love, always evoked love and admiration from others. That’s why he was such a good teacher, and why his students care so much for him, he truly loved all of them and was willing to let them lean on him for whatever they needed.”



Grandma Heywood, Dad’s mother, wanted me to share these words from her brother, Bob. “I know our Lord has made a place for David as He has for each of us. He knew his heart and character by the things he said, what he wrote, his music, his actions, the way he loved the kids he taught, and his work. He was a good man, son, brother, and I suppose our Heavenly Father has a work for him that is important, but when I consider eternity it seems to me it could have waited a few more years.” I think we all feel like this was sudden and that it was too early for Dad to go. It may take some time for us to fully heal from the loss of him, but I think the best thing we can do to honor him would be to love one another, think the best of everyone, be accepting, give of ourselves, do good in the world, sing and play music, eat good food, hug each other often, and laugh loudly. Thank you.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016

Everyone is talking about what a shit year 2016 was.

It wasn't for me.

I mean, my father passed away, which is hard.

Trump got elected president, which is hard. There is a fight ahead, one I am so ready to fight.

But other than those things, 2016 was good to me.

I was able to see so many countries and meet so many people and learn so much about myself.

I love myself more than ever. I am at peace with myself more than ever.

My dad's passing caused me to see how much like him I really am, and how happy I am to be like him. He was an amazing man loved by so many people. How could it be a bad thing to be like him?

I have learned that it is important to keep good people in my life, and not fret about the rest. I love people so much, but some people are not good for me. Life is short. I want to be with people who love me and appreciate me and help me to be better. Though I still value everyone, I've decided that if someone is draining me or hurting me, I don't have to keep trying with them. Perhaps that is harsh, but I am at peace with this realization.

I love my family so much my heart can't handle it sometimes.

My mother is amazing.

People are good. They really are.

I learned what love is, or at least what I would like it to be. My best good special friend Adriaan, who I met over a year ago (crazy), still keeps in contact with me. We talk everyday. We trust each other, support each other, are honest with each other, share everything with each other. I've never been so comfortable around another human being. It is a beautiful thing. We are not meant to be together, I don't think, but I am so happy I met him and experienced the comfort I have with him. That is what I want. I want to be totally comfortable with someone. That, to me, is love. Perhaps I will find that with someone who lives closer to me someday.

The world is a lovely place. I have more to explore.

Yes, many people died, got sick, tragedies happened, but 2016 was a damn good year, in my opinion. One for the books.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dad

For a long time, probably a couple years now, I've had this looming feeling that something major was going to happen in my life. It was not a pleasant sensation, it was a feeling of doom, like something was going to hit that was going to be very difficult. Of course, being the selfish hypochondriac I am, I thought I was going to be diagnosed with some horrible, incurable disease, or get into a bad accident or something. It didn't even cross my mind that this feeling of doom could have to do with another person.

I also felt very strongly that I needed to spend more time at home with my parents in California. Part of the desire to visit California more often had to do with my cute twin nieces and their baby brother Gus, who are growing up so fast it breaks my heart, but I also had the feeling I needed to spend time with my parents, especially my dad. I have been able to go home four times in the last year, when usually I only make it home once a year. After this last trip to Montana, I hadn't planned to go back to home, but for some reason I felt like I needed to. I wanted to be able to sit down and talk to my dad. I wanted to go on a daddy-daughter date with him. I wanted him to share some of his music with me. I booked a flight to California instead of going right back to Utah. Turns out I have a magical intuition.

My dad passed away suddenly a month ago, while I was in California visiting. He and I were able to go on a daddy-daughter date the Monday before he passed, and I was able to sit down with him and listen to a few of the pieces of music he'd been working on. We had pleasant conversations. Things were peaceful between us. I am so thankful I listened to my gut.

You see, my father and I kind of had a rocky relationship. My dad was diagnosed with depression and anxiety (however, I wonder if maybe he was misdiagnosed and was actually bipolar, though we will never know at this point). Growing up, my siblings and I never knew what dad we were going to be greeted with when he got home from work. Sometimes he'd be in a crazy good mood, laughing easily and loudly, joking along with us, having a great time. He could be such a funny, happy guy! But sometimes he was volatile. He had a temper, he was paranoid, he could not be reasoned with. He would overhear conversations we were having, assume we were talking about him, and erupt for no reason, sometimes lecturing us for hours about things we hadn't even said or done. As kids, we all just took it, not wanting to deal with dad, and we'd just roll our eyes and laugh about it with each other later. But as I got older, I became less and less tolerant of these unnecessary outbursts and started to argue back. I had a couple tear-filled, knock-down, drag-out fights with dad because I was so tired of being blamed for saying or doing something I hadn't said or done. Then I just started walking away from such arguments. Especially the last couple years, dad liked to debate about everything, even though none of us wanted to debate. There were a couple times on a recent visit when dad started arguing about something unnecessarily, and I just walked out of the room, ignoring his comments, because I didn't want to deal with him.

We all had so many conversations about what to do about dad. How could we help him? How do we deal with his crazy? Do we just put up with it or argue back? How do you deal with someone who is so unreasonable? How do we love him? Then I listened to an episode of Invisibila (which is a great podcast, check it out) where they talked about this village in Belgium where the villagers take in the mentally-ill. Here is the description of the episode from their website (they do a better job of summarizing than I do):

"We are naturally drawn to finding solutions. But are there ever problems we shouldn't try to solve? Lulu Miller visits a town in Belgium with a completely different approach to dealing with mental illness. Families in the town board people – strangers - with severe mental illnesses in their homes, sometimes for decades. And it works, because they are not looking to cure them."

That last sentence is the trick: the mentally ill who go to this town find happiness and thrive because the people who take them in don't really care if they ever get better. The villagers accept the mentally ill for who they are, crazy and all. The episode goes into more detail about how the families of those who suffer from mental illness actually do more harm than good because they usually have unrealistic expectations for the family member suffering from a mental illness, they get disappointed when the person doesn't make progress or doesn't seem to be getting better, and they have too much pity for the person, saying things like, "I would do anything for them to get better," or "I just want them to be happy." They don't accept the person for who they are, mental illness and all, but instead constantly look for solutions to the problem of mental illness, which ends up being counter-productive. After listening to this episode, my whole view of the way we had been dealing with dad changed, so I sent the episode to my siblings and my mom, and we discussed how we had been treating dad. All of us decided that we needed to be more patient and more accepting of dad, even if he was hard to deal with sometimes. We needed to just let him be, and let go of finding solutions, which is why I wanted to go home and visit him after my trip to Montana. I wanted to repair the damage that had been done. I wanted him to feel loved and cared for. Then he died.

My dad was a music teacher at the junior high in my hometown, and was beloved by his students. We decided to hold a memorial for him at the gym of the school so that students could say words about dad if they wished. It was incredible. The gym was filled with students, parents, teachers, and community members who all went to pay tribute to dad. Several of his students spoke about dad, talking about what a fun, energetic, kind man he was, about how they knew he really cared about them. My dad saw the good in everyone and believed in the kids he taught. He was eccentric, without a doubt, but that was one of the things everyone loved about him. It was so interesting to see the view all of these strangers had of dad as compared to my view of him. I mean, I had always known him to be a very kind and caring man with a big heart who was willing to sacrifice for others. But I also knew the crazy, volatile dad who could be so hard to live with. I had focused more on the negative parts of dad instead of the good parts. How tragic! I have a genuine love and concern for strangers and for friends, yet I am so hard on my family members. I try so hard to see the good in everyone, yet I couldn't focus more on the good in my dad.

Of course I need to be more forgiving of myself. The fact is that dad was good at turning on a happy face and fighting his anxiety to be such a wonderful and loving educator, but that drained him and when he got home, where he didn't have to put on that face anymore, we saw some of the ugly parts of dad. His students saw only the good parts, we saw all parts. Living with someone who has a mental illness is really, really hard, and we did the best we could, but I wish I had done better.

In the last conversation I had with my mom, I admitted to her that anytime someone told me I was like dad I always took it as kind of an insult because of how difficult a person he could be. But now, when I think of all the good in my dad, I want to be like him, and I'm so glad that I have a lot of him in me. I asked my mom what traits she thought I got from dad. She said dad had a curiosity for the world, and if he'd had the time and money he would have travelled a lot more. This makes sense because when I told him I was going to quit my steady job to work seasonal jobs and travel, he said he was proud of me and wished he could join me. My dad felt things very deeply, did not have a very good poker face, and wore his heart on his sleeve; I am very emotional and feel things very deeply. It's hard for my not to express my emotions. My dad was very hard-working and goal-oriented, always striving to achieve; as a little girl I would write lists of goals and then rewards for completing those goals, and I continue to do that as an adult. Dad loved to create things, was always writing poetry and stories and music, of course; I love to paint, write poetry, write stories, and play music. Most beautifully, however, was my dad's huge heart, his willingness to forgive and to see the good in everyone. He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. I genuinely love people and think everyone is good, or at least has good in them. I try to see the good and bring it out in people, just like my father did. I know I got that from him.

If only I had seen these things earlier. I think my dad and I would have had a much stronger relationship. I would have appreciated him more. But then I wonder if I would have realized any of this if dad hadn't died. Maybe his death was what I needed in order to feel closer to him? I don't know. I'm working through it.

All I can say is this: love those who are closest to you. Forgive them as you would a stranger. Focus on the good. Appreciate them for the people they are, warts and all, but try not to focus too much on the warts. We need to be so much kinder to those we love.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Thoughts from the road

May 28th 2016--
I finally made some friends! For the last few days, there has been the same group of people staying at the same hostels every night, which is so nice. There are two older guys from Holland, who are really sweet and funny (I love the Dutch!), Dennis from France, Marj from Montana, and Medi from France. The Dutch guys ended up staying in Porto for a couple extra days, Dennis walked ahead a couple days ago, and Marj is behind by a day now, but Medi and I are on the same track.

I've been trying to ask everyone what they think love is, but I only remembered to bring it up with Marj and Medi. Marj's husband passed away a few years ago, but she talked about him a lot. I told her I could tell she really loved her husband, so I asked her how they met. She said they worked together as medical professionals for 4 years before they got married, and then worked together for 30 more years after that. When I asked her if she ever felt butterflies for him, she just laughed and said, "no, never." Her relationship with her husband was founded on mutual respect and companionship. She said they were both introverts, didn't really talk much, but when they did they had really good conversations. They never fought, and she knew that her husband always respected everything she said, even if he didn't agree with her. They took care of each other and went on adventures together, but she didn't describe it as a sweeping, butterflies-in-the-stomach romance, but more friendship and caring, perhaps what could be described as a more practical type of love.

Medi is so sweet. He asks everyone he meets so many questions, and listens so intently. He is genuinely interested in getting to know people deeply, which is a magical thing to witness. And he is hilarious! When we walked through Porto together, I guess some guy was checking me out and he said, "that guy just looked at your legs like he had never seen legs before!" Maybe that isn't as funny on paper, but the way he said it and the look on his face made me laugh so hard.

Medi's thoughts on love have been the most significant to me so far. He has been with his partner for 13 years, but he said, "if he ever wanted to be with someone else, I would not stop him. I want him to be happy. Love is letting the other person do whatever makes them happy and not trying to control them." I've heard this logic before. You know, the idea that if you love someone you have to set them free? In the past I've always rolled my eyes at this sentiment, because I can be a bit possessive in love, so it didn't make sense to me. I have always wanted someone to love me fully and completely, and only me, forever. As I have gotten older, and as my views on so many things have changed, my view on this idea has changed as well. I think it shows a lot of respect and maturity to let the person you love live the life they want to live, and love them anyway, even if their choices don't lead them to you. I have no control over another person. They are going to do and feel however they want, and I can't stop them. I've always wanted to be the type of person who could just let go, but my personality has a hard time allowing for it. However, for some reason, as Medi was telling me all of this, a switch flipped in my brain, and I thought back on all the times I tried to control past lovers, even if I didn't realize I was doing it, and I was so ashamed! My desire to control them showed my lack of confidence in myself. Whether or not a person falls in love with me, and/or stays with me forever does not reflect my worth. I am beautiful, strong, smart, funny, etc, regardless. So if I truly love someone, I have to let them live however they are going to live and not worry about it. If they choose me, cool, if not, cool. Whatever makes them happy. I love this way of thinking so much better. Not only does it free the other person, but it frees me as well.

May 31st--
I've lost Medi! He went a different route than me (and took the train for part of it), so he is a day ahead. It's all good; a couple nights ago I hung out with this hilarious couple from Australia who just kept pouring me more and more red wine...I slept well that night! Yesterday I did 40 kilometers, up the steepest part of this Camino, and it was so much fun. I started running and up and down the rocky path, because I just felt like running (I get it, Forrest Gump). All these old people kept looking at me like I was crazy, and many of them cheered me on, but honestly, when I see 70+ year olds doing these long strenuous hikes I am totally in admiration. I think they are amazing. Hopefully I will be going on such adventures when I am older as well.

A couple days ago I met a girl walking the Camino with her 3 month old. She said a lot of people tell her she is stupid and reckless for it, but I couldn't help but be in awe. That takes guts. Then the next day I saw a couple with a baby walking it as well! Super parents, also an inspiration for me.

After my conversation with Medi about love, I haven't thought about the meaning of romantic love since. I think the idea of loving and living and not having expectations for the other person is perfect. That is beautiful love, I think. What I have been thinking a lot about is how I don't feel like I really have a home anymore. Like, nothing feels like home. I miss California when I am away, I miss Utah when I leave, I missed Spain when I finished my first Camino, today I crossed the border from Portugal into Spain and automatically started missing Portugal. I miss The Netherlands like crazy. I'm excited to go to Germany and Denmark, and I will probably miss them when I leave. I am always longing to visit old places while at the same time excited to explore new ones. Everywhere and nowhere feel like home, both at the same time. I don't have a place. When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I am a vagabond, because I don't know what else to tell them! I quit my "real adult job" a year ago and have been wandering since. I am a wanderer. An explorer. And I wonder if I will ever find a home.

(On an unrelated note, Spain has the best coffee IN THE WORLD and Portugal the best croissants. I also associate the Camino with Magnum bars and Milka with Oreos, and have been eating a lot of those things as well. I feel really good about it. I burn about 2500 calories a day hiking so whatevzzzzz.)

Monday, May 23, 2016

I am no better than you, my friends

The last three days have been amazing. I got my walking legs back, finally! Plus, the trail in this region is well marked, and so I haven't lost my way as much, and when I have it's been easy to get back on track.

A few days ago, in Tomar, I stayed in a hostel that actually had people in it, and I probably annoyed the lady at the front desk because I spoke to every single person that came into the rec room. People! I ran into an older guy, Ricardo from Orange County, who I had seen the night before. He offered to pay for my dinner, and a broke traveler never turns down free dinner. We ended up talking for a couple hours about travel mostly. He shook my hand and commended me for traveling at a young age, talking about how there are lots of people who never see the world, so it is admirable that I am seeing it, like he had his whole life. Though I appreciated the comment, it almost came off as if he thought people who traveled were better than people who never traveled, and it really bothered me. I think travelers can sometimes be just as arrogant as someone who has achieved career and/or monetary success. Yes, travel brings me a lot of happiness and I love that I am doing it, but it makes me no better than another person. I think happiness can be found in so many different ways, and it is arrogant to think that travel is the only way to experience happiness and adventure. Sometimes I worry that the pictures I post make me seem like I'm showing off or bragging, which really is not my intent. I share pictures because I've had people request them, it brings my parents comfort to see I am alive, and I figure people might be interested in what I'm doing. I am in no way trying to rub it in. People must find happiness in their own way, and not everyone has wanderlust.

I asked Ricardo what he thought love was. He fell in love with a woman when he was in China years ago and they were married for 15 years. He said when he met her, he got a really peaceful feeling around her. He said she put him at ease, and that's why he fell in love with her. I asked if he ever had butterflies for her and he said no, just peace. It makes sense, because Ricardo suffers from OCD and anxiety, so butterflies were probably not what he was looking for, but peace and comfort were.

That next morning I finally got in to the mountains! I thrive in the mountains. I am much faster at going up and down trails than walking a boring flat surface. I felt so good I ran for part of it, and then found that my guidebook had fallen out of the pocket of my pack. Luckily there were a couple brothers from California that had the same guidebook and so I was able to take pictures of it and have been using those pictures as my guide.

Yesterday I ran into two older guys from Australia that were really cheeky and fun, and walking verrrrry slowly, but it was nice talking with them. So far I've only met retired old men on this Camino, which honestly is probably a good thing. On my last Camino, I was very preoccupied with a handsome Dutch guy and so I didn't end up doing the writing and reflecting I was hoping to do. This time around I've been writing a lot more, which is nice. Keep the old guys coming.

I've also been thinking a lot about my belief in God. I do not believe in the God of my upbringing; God is not a white man with a white beard sitting on a throne wearing a white robe watching at all times. I do not believe this, but I do not deny the existence of something. I have had too many experiences in my life, and in this journey alone, that point to there being some power taking care of me and moving me. I don't know what it is, I don't know if something is actually there, but I also don't know for sure that there is nothing there. I like doubt. I find comfort in it. It leaves my mind free to question and to wander and to wonder and to never come up with a definitive answer. I think the words "I don't know" should be more respected than they are.


Friday, May 20, 2016

The Road Less Traveled

I am alive. Portugal is hard.

Yesterday I spent an hour and a half and walked 6 miles just getting out of Santarem, the village I stayed in for the night. I am used to the French Way, which is the Camino I did last year. It is incredibly well marked, and if you happen to get lost, all the locals know about it and can direct you accordingly. The Portuguese Way is not so easy. Because it is less popular, it is not as well marked (or maybe because it is not well marked it is not as popular...). I met a German guy in Santiago last year who had done the Portuguese Way and said it was really hard to find his way to Spain, so I understood it would be harder, but I had no idea it would be this hard. The yellow arrow marks The Way, and yet many times on this Camino I will be following the arrows, and then they just stop. I have ended up having to follow highways to the next village, and I've learned that walking on flat asphalt for 20 miles is really hard on my body.

I also stupidly brought a different pair of hiking boots than the ones I used on the French Way. Those old boots never gave me blisters, fit perfectly, protected my precious feet. But they were worn and dirty, and I had another pair I had been wearing all winter that I figured would do me well this time around. I was wrong. Because the boots fit a little too loosely, my ankles kept hitting the insides of the boots, causing bruising. To remedy this, I thought I would wrap my ankles and wear two pairs of socks, but the bandages I used to wrap my feet just caused burns on the backs of my ankles and the bruising was not helped. Along the way I angrily threw those boots to the side of the road and put on my running shoes (it's funny; I would see abandoned boots on the French Way all the time and wondered why anyone would leave them behind, now I understand). When I got to my stop last night, I couldn't walk anymore. It hurt so much to put pressure on my ankles. On top of this, I am not used to walking in such heat and sun, so I was completely worn out. I slept 12 hours last night out of shear exhaustion. The sleep definitely helped because I was still able to do the 31km (20ish miles) today, and my feet aren't as sore. I think wearing my running shoes is going to make a big difference, and I expect that in a few days I will be fully healed. 

It's interesting the reaction I get from people when they see me walking alone, like it's the weirdest thing they've ever seen. On the French Way, the majority of Pilgrims are solo travelers who meet other people and then end up walking together. It is not uncommon to see Pilgrims, even female Pilgrims, walking alone. In Portugal people are amazed/confused/concerned, which is probably why everyone has been so nice to me. Take these examples: yesterday I flagged down a guy after walking in circles all morning to ask where to go, and he gave me a ride to the highway and directions on how to get to my next stop; this morning a woman walked with me to where the trail began; just now a guy walked me to the hostel I'm staying at. Everyone is so kind here.

I'm also starting to get a little lonely. I have always been comfortable doing things by myself, and I'm still fine with walking alone, but it would be nice to have some company. On the French Way, I fell into a group of guys who I walked with half of the way, and when I broke off from them I was able to find other people to walk with. There were always people on the trail and familiar faces in the hostels at night. So far I have only met 8 other people walking to Santiago, and they are all older and walking at a slower pace than me. I would walk with them, but most of them have 25 or 30 days to get to the end, I only have 20, so I have to walk a bit faster. I understand that in Porto, which I will get to in about a week, more people start the walk to Santiago, so I'm hoping I can find some people to walk with then. Otherwise I might go crazy.

I think I am learning that my body has limitations. I have never been so hurt or broken that I haven't been able to keep going. Even on the French Way when my legs and shoulders were really sore, I could still push myself. Last night I felt pain like never before, and had a lot more respect for what my body can do. I wondered if I would be able to go forward today, but thankfully was able to. But man! That pain was crazy.

On the upside, a man named Miguel who owns and runs a hostel in Santarem offered me a job for two months at his hostel this summer. I started seriously considering it, because, why not? But then, I have to admit, I miss the good old USA. I do not consider myself a patriot; I think the way we pushed out Native Americans and enslaved African people and mistreated Latinos and continue to stomp on the working class is nothing to be proud of. I cannot say I am proud to be an American, nor do I think it is the best country in the world, and it is not the happiest either. But I love it. Can't exactly explain why, other than it is my home, I know it, I love the people, and I love the land. It is beautiful.