Note: Over the last several weeks, it’s come to my attention that alert readers (I have readers?) wondered whatever happened to me after my most recent July 9, 2018 voyage out “to my new island home” on Peaks Island, Maine.
I kind of—OK, completely—trailed off after that. Life continued to happen, but I stopped writing about it, somehow feeling as though I were “done” with my desperate, astonishing, and magical California-to-Maine travelogue. I started living my life unobserved again, completely oblivious to the miraculous fact that people had been paying attention as I deliberately re-create my life.
And so, encouraged, here I am with an update on my continuing adventures since I last wrote on July 9 aboard a ferry out to Peaks Island, certain of my future and vision for what would be.
I love Peaks Island. I really wanted to live there—especially after the owners showed me around their rambling old place filled with local art, a view of the ocean from every front window, and the thriving, riotous garden out back. The ferry ride out had been spectacular and inspiring, and I had no doubt I was seeing my new home for the first time.
And then…the probably-OK-ish $750 rent suddenly became a thoroughly overwhelming $1,000. (“Oh, yes, did we mention utilities?”) And I’d have a housemate—an idea that filled me with misgivings, having lived happily alone for several years. Plus, Mini would have to stay on the mainland to be useful, which would take more dough. I started to get a heavy feeling of dread in my stomach that I’ve learned (finally!) to recognize as the sign to drop a Bad Idea.
I’d also (“Oh, and how would feel about this?”) be in charge of all house maintenance and paying utilities while they were out of the country most of the year. On returning me to the ferry dock to go back to the mainland, the couple dropped me off late and I had to run and jump over the part of the boat that was rising up and away from the dock, wrenching my cartilage-less hip. I found a seat and took a deep breath.
“Well, that’s not going to happen,” I thought.
And it didn’t.
That night I went back out to the countryside outside Portland and the lovely attic room I’d been staying in at my parents since I’d arrived on June 24. You know, thank God for my parents. After being gone for 30 years, they took me in and let me stay as long as I needed, with no strings and no expectations. Honestly, this whole thing couldn’t have happened without the soft landing place they offered with such love and kindness. I love them hugely.
Meanwhile, there was my increasingly intense search to find paying work. Just something to get me started and pay the bills as I redesigned my new life around me—preferably something I found meaningful and worthwhile. While I’ve continued to work with my California coaching and writing clients, I really wanted to find a solid income source to reduce my anxiety and stress levels. Sometimes, I’ve found, a steady gig can be just the thing for a freelancer. The hustle gets pretty rough sometimes.
Operating with the notion that I’d pick up some writing work at a paper or magazine in Portland, I started making phone calls, sending in resumes, and filling out online applications. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Until one day Portland Magazine called and said they’d like me to pitch some ideas for their October issue. I was thrilled and came up with some great stories based on my experiences of the city as a newcomer. I had an appointment to meet with the editor and the owners, who were “excited” about my talent and experience. The meeting was postponed to the next week. No problem. I was ready! Then it was postponed again. (“We’re really sorry; it’s crazy busy!”) Um. Finally, after more delays, I left the editor a message saying I’d be around if they ever wanted to meet. But by that point, I didn’t.
Not so much with the writing, then. I applied to the local grocery store, the University of Southern Maine, Trader Joe’s, ACE Hardware, and a dozen other places. ACE in Portland wanted to hire me to be their full-time “rock star cashier,” but (again with the dread feeling!) I turned them down. Cashiering is sooo not my natural environment. I still have trauma from being fired as a kid when I worked in a busy deli and kept ringing up tuna sandwiches for $37, with a line of impatient customers trailing out onto the hot sidewalk. Seriously, it sucked and I swore I’d never do it again. I tried one more time in a bookstore just to be sure—same result. I think I saved myself (and ACE) a lot of headaches.
One day my mom and I were wandering around in Portland and came across a little natural foods place (“Oh, I completely forgot this was here!”), which turned out also to have a very nice supplements section. We went in for some sandwiches, and Mom was talking with the supplements assistant manager about something while we waited. I was looking around, recognizing many of the brands I’d worked with in the supplements section at Lassens Health Foods in California right after the divorce. There was a pause in the conversation, and into the silence I heard my voice ask, “Would you happen to be looking for any help?” And then my conscious mind caught up and I found the supplements manager staring at me, wide-eyed. “As a matter of fact, we are!” she answered “We were just about to advertise the position!”
I had an interview a week later, during which I was hired to work in the supplements section. Just as I was leaving Portland to go back out to my parents’ house, I got a text that a room in an ocean-front house right around the corner had opened up, and was I interested? So I went over there and interviewed with the two housemates (hey, whatever), falling in love with the spacious, white-painted loft with windows on all three sides, and the Atlantic right out front. And that’s where I live now. It’s a beautiful 10-minute walk to work along the ocean.
It feels good to be more settled now. I mean, my definition of “home” has broadened over the years—particularly since the cross-country drive—to include any place where I sleep regularly. So right now, I’m home.
Meanwhile, the small-but-steady part-time paycheck I’m getting every two weeks (I even punch a time card, lol!) has done quite a bit to reduce my financial anxiety. I like structuring some of my time, too. I’m meeting the whole city and working with a lot of young people, which I love. I’m expected to cashier when it gets busy up front, and it’s still not my thing, but I’m getting better at it as long as no one tries to give me 7 cents as I’m getting their change. In my head, I’m like, OK, what the fuck is that?! I look at them blankly. Most just smile and say, “Now you can give me a dollar back instead of 93 cents.” Others just tell me what I owe them now that they’ve thrown random change at me at the last second, just when I thought I was in the clear. I’m fine with that. Geez! Also, I get a little panicky around the deli sandwich button.
But the work has also given me the space and time to pursue what I feel is my most important purpose for this phase of my life: writing songs and singing them.
Here’s the first song I’ve ever written, from last week. It doesn’t have any music yet, but I’m learning to play guitar to remedy that. Portland is great place to see interesting, weird, inspiring things.
Chickadee, sweet chickadee-dee-dee
Chickadee, sweet chickadee-dee-dee
What's befallen you?
Cold, tall, city glass
Looked like the sky
Like your great blue sky
And now you sit on the sidewalk bricks
Your tiny bones on the earth
I came upon you, dazed and stunned,
Slowly press you into my warm, heavy hands
You fight and then settle
For a few moments
Just a few
A man and his dog arrive
We consult on your welfare
And set you to rest
Down low, on a branch, but
You burst from my hands
Soaring...out of sight
The man and I high-five
Glad of our sudden good deed
And the beauty of the day
And of every day...