Saturday, March 3, 2012

Wrapping Up Fifty

My Year of Fifty

Reflections on the past year, as I turn 51 in two days, on March 5.

Fifty was a big weird––good weird––year: a hinge year that leaves me facing a different direction.
I started out a writer, living alone, and am now a job-searching nursing assistant, living with a best friend I met on the Internet.

Friend Me and Leave Me

Fifty started with me finishing my first stand-alone book for teens (not part of a series). I dedicated it to friends in the blogosphere. (You!)

bink pointed out its major flaw: it's so short, you're left wanting more information.
The space constraint had really pinched me, putting the book together, and decided I didn't want to write for children's book publishers anymore.

Good timing, because due to the economy, the publisher didn't offer me any more work, and I was unemployed most of the year.


Without any work, this past year I spent the last shreds of the almost $40,000 I'd inherited from my mother and an auntie in 2003.

With my ancestors' money in the bank, my forties had been an easy financial time:
The inheritance had allowed me to take my sweet time compiling the geography books I wrote on contract--work so low-paid, most people crank out each book in a few weeks, while I took a few months.

I also gave myself a semi-sabbatical in 2008 (took on only short publishing projects) and spent the year blogging, watching and thinking about Star Trek, and making my first videos;
and I could afford to take most of 2010 to research and write Friend Me! (which only paid a few thousand dollars).

Bloggers on Pilgrimage

Most of the last of the money went toward walking the Camino de Santiago again, this past May and June, to mark 50 as I had marked 40.

It was a bloggy trip, even though I was mostly offline.
To begin with, I could really only afford it because Momo, who lives here but whom I only know because we both blog, gave me a $1,000 airline voucher she'd gotten for giving up her seat home from Europe.

Then, I invited Marz to walk with me and bink. Marz and I'd met on the blogosphere a year and a half earlier. (I didn't know it, but she'd first found my blog through a macro of mine reposted on the Shatner site Look at His Butt.)

And in Santiago, we met up with Annika and Eeva, Trek blogfriends from Scandinavia, to walk the last week to the Atlantic coast.

Above, L to R: Annika, me, Marz, Susanna, and Eeva, putting on rain gear.

I've always been impressed to read about bloggers meeting up with one another––so cool! so exotic!––and here I was doing it.
I felt like I was in a story.

I'd thought my sense of outlandishness was because of I'm so old, the Internet in Real Life  still surprises me and feels kind of surreal.
But since then, several young (and old) people have asked me if I wasn't afraid to meet strangers from the Web. Maybe the leap from electronic friendship to meeting in the flesh is just a weird thing for anyone:
on a primal biological level, it seems to be, as one of Marz's friends said, "Whoa... sketchy."

My Roommate Marz

After the trip, Marz moved here from Oregon and moved in with me.

She is the main thing that's happened in my year of 50. 
Here's an example of how she's changed my life:
For years, I've idly wished I had Photoshop so I could attach pictures to each other. Last night I was complaining to her that I couldn't stick together photos of young Shatner & Stephen Colbert.

Marz said, "Why don't you put them in a word doc side-by-side and then screencap it?"

So, I did. [post below]
Little, yeah, but the way a kindred brain can make you see patterns differently, show you possibilities and connections you hadn't seen before, is big.

ABOVE: Marz and her trumpet in marching band 

A weightier example:
A while ago, I was fretting over a troubled friend I felt powerless to help, and Marz said,
"Why don't you let them solve their own puzzles?"

Obvious, yeah, I guess.  But this is one of my big life struggles, and the way she phrased the question was so helpful for me: as a matter of granting autonomy to the friend (not dismissing them), thereby easing an impossible burden I had placed on myself and was resenting more and more.

Freeze Lock

Marz says I present possibilities in a similar way for her, but our interactions aren't necessarily smooth and easy. Sometimes they're jerky or paralyzing, like when you wheel a shopping cart beyond the parking lot, causing the wheels to freeze lock.
Figuring out why that happens––what boundary-crossing leads to a breakdown in communication, and why––has been interesting too.

The root of it is, we come from antithetical belief systems. The ramifications of this became clear only recently, after talking in person every day since May 8: ten months!

A key misunderstanding arose because for a while it seemed we had the same dismayed view of humanity.
But underneath similar surfaces run entirely different mechanisms.

I'm dismayed with people because I think we should all be great! and excellent! like our own personal versions of Beethoven or the Dalai Lama.

I stew: Why don't we invest in ourselves more, like NASA in the 1960s? Why don't we seek out for ourselves the best resources and education, so we can explore strange new worlds?  (And, why don't I?)

Marz, on the other hand, inherited a dismaying view of humans from her fundamentalist Christian upbringing:
Humans are bad because they're bad, according to her childhood faith, not because they need more resources. The only thing that can help them is faith in God, who then does good things through them.

That belief can lead to people of faith doing good things (or God using them for good things), but if you don't accept the whole dealio (heaven and hell and all that), which Marz doesn't, you're in the outer darkness with a bad nature, which is not like the optimistic exploration of strange new worlds at all.

Marz may not believe this, but the residue is really sticky. So, when I'm carrying on about humanity's unrealized potential and our need to evolve, sometimes that sticky stuff jams the works.
She recently said that it surprises her how sticky it is––realized, in part, through freeze-locking conversations with me––and figures it will take a long time for this to become less sticky.

That she even wants this to happen bolsters my belief that she is a VERY GOOD PERSON, naturally. Natural goodness is good enough to get you to the Moon.

ABOVE: Our kitchen cupboards: left side represents me; right side represents Marz

Because I care deeply about all this stuff––Photoshop and Puzzles and Personality––I love Marz and I love living with her.
And that's the biggest change in my life, this year: deeply loving someone new.

I had written at the end of my post about the gun my mother used to kill herself,
"Sometimes I think I'm just fine after all this time, free and clear, lucky to have such a resilient personality. Sometimes I think I'm not fine at all, I just closed off a room in the house of life, love, and hope and walked away."
In loving Marz, I see I may have closed off a room, but I didn't lock the door forever.  Marz blithely opened the door, moved in, and is now sleeping on the couch.


tintorera said...

Just ordered your book via
Might take them two to four weeks to process this order. Well, I can wait.

Fresca said...

Thanks, Tintorera! But if you e-mail me (frescadp at gmail) I can send you a link where you can read an e-copy free, online.

Hey--and thanks for the link to GIMP too. I've meant to download that for a loooong time and finally did, this morning. I immediately got lost but I'm sure if I keep messing around with it, I'll figure it out.

bink said...

Hey Girl! You are supposed to be encouraging people to buy your book, not read it for free... you get royalties, remember?! Besides, as you have made clear to me recently, reading a book on your lap is far better than reading a book on a laptop!

tintorera said...

Right. I want a hard-copy, it's not only for reading, it's for touching. I'm hoping for a nice, glossy cover :)