Next up: Chile

A sign we spotted when using a drive way to turn around. Tara and I thought it was hilarious.
A sign we spotted when using a drive way to turn around. Tara and I thought it was hilarious.

In my “About Me” page, I say that this blog is my online journal. And it is. But it’s public, of course, and thus some of the more complicated personal stuff is left out or glossed over. Happy happy happy: that’s me.

I have been sensistive to the fact that I nearly dropped out of the blogging world completely this Spring. Some of you I haven’t read in a year. I can hardly stand it. I miss you more than seems reasonable for a group of people I have mostly never met. I’ve been resisting telling you guys what’s going on with me for a long time, but I now have a way to bring it up that isn’t painfully awkward. Just painfully real. Sorry. Like everybody else in the world, I’ve got layers. πŸ™‚

I’m leaving in a couple of days for Chile! Isn’t that awesome and amazing? It is! A couple days in the capital, then down south to the wine country and the lake country. I’m nervous and excited and hopeful, and I’ve been casting meaningful glances at my Nikon, every time I pass her, sitting on the desk. “You are getting ready for this, right? You have a lot of work to do.” It’s the first last-minute, spontaneous overseas trip I have ever taken. It’s the first trip I have not been the one to orchestrate. All that is kind of surprising, so let me explain.

One of the most brilliant things about me is that I have a crazy intense will to Live. And by Live, I mean that with a capital “L.” Not staying alive, but living with intent, Consciously Engaging with my life because it’s the only one I’ve got and I am loathe to squander it. Things knock me down, and I do not stay down. When there is an obstacle that threatens to make my life begin to resemble merely existing and surviving, things inside kick into gear and get me out of that spot. It is a very good thing. That’s why I’m going to Chile. But…. let me back up a little bit.

Because of some traumatic events during my military service, and the fact that I had no support group of friends or family back then to ease me through it, I developed posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. I didn’t know it at the time. Over the years I built a toolbox for myself of defensive strategies to get through life that are good in times of crisis, but unhelpful when there is no crisis, which is nearly always. So after 20 years of wondering why I was struggling so much, I finally got a therapist that specialized in military trauma, who helped me learn how to give up my crisis strategies. She began to teach me a more accurate way to view my life: not as this enormous, uncontrollable, scary place, but just a place with good and bad things, and none of it was to be taken personally.

In May 2015, my therapist retired. I was doing so well with her that I announced that I did not need a replacement therapist. In July 2015, I moved from the city out to a big property in the country and began country living for the first time in my adult life. In September my only child left home for college, and I began life alone, really alone, for the first time in 18 years. In October I got a new, challenging job. Blam, blam, blam, all these big life events. And it was too much. I sort of lost control of the organization of my life. The old crisis strategies took over. Β And by November, a year ago, I nearly fell to pieces.

I worked too much. I drank and smoked too much. I was depressed and angry and irritable and yelled at Tara when they came home from college. I didn’t clean the house. I didn’t buy groceries. I cried. It has taken me all this time to come back, and I’m still not totally better, but I am confidently on the path to better. I got a new therapist. I’ve been binging on your blog posts now and then. I even won the award for Most Comments On Blog Posts In A Single Day, on Curt’s site, ha ha!

My girlfriend Margaret called me earlier this month and said, “What’s new?” Because something is always new with me. I am a woman who keeps pots going on all burners at all times. Even the small stuff is interesting and exciting. And I replied, “Uh, I’ve been working. And Tara’s still at college. And…um…” While I was saying it, I realized that when she called the last time, 4 or 5 months earlier, I had said the exact same thing. Margaret must have noticed it too. “Meet me in Santiago at the end of the month,” she insisted. “yeah, right, Margaret.” In my mind I was thinking, now wait…in what country is Santiago? Β She said the trip was already plannned, I’d have to split the Air BnB costs, and taxis and stuff. I explained about the big property, and the chickens, and the fact that vacation time at work is always set in January, so it’s too late anyway. She wasn’t buying it. “That’s no obstacle,” she said. I think it was her brassiness that caught my attention. I mean, we’ve been friends for 16 years, but was that appropriate? I asked, “Did you just tell me that the responsibilities I have in my own life are no obstacle?” “I did,” she said with no humility at all. “Crystal, I know you. You are smart and capable and you can figure it out. I’ll call you in two days and get your answer.”

And that will to Live sparked up like when a breath of wind hits a bed of coals.

I realized the trip was just the slap in the face I needed. I made a bunch of phone calls and 24 hours later I texted Margaret to say we’d be on the same plane from Houston to Santiago.

My flight leaves Portland at noon on Tuesday, and arrives in Chile at 10am on Wednesday. That’s a lot of time in a plane. Wish me legroom and no crying babies! (I know, impossible request) I’ll bring the laptop, and with any luck, my brassy friend will indulge me at an occasional wifi hotspot. If not, I’ll be gone two weeks and my beloved Nikon and I will share our stories with you when I get back.

30 thoughts on “Next up: Chile

    1. Well, you are welcome, Derrick. I think of you as part of my friends circle, and I’m glad to be able to catch you up and invite you to share the next step. In the end, life is good. It really is. πŸ™‚

    1. Marlene, I think it will reveal the beauty in the world, and it will be a blast to catch up with my friend. I can hardly believe it. South America! No way, ha ha! I can hardly wait to see what it holds for us.

    1. Aww, Jane, I think so. It was so interesting the way that voice inside me said, “go for it!” It’s amazing to be able to trust my instincts, when I have the courage to do it. I look forward to getting together with you sometime and swapping stories. I’m dying to hear about your trip to Africa.

  1. Crystal I have replied a couple of times on your blog but for some reason nothing appears in print! I do hope that Chile is good for you and that you are able to to flop for while, empty your head and get to ‘be yourself.’ I apologise if any of that sounds presumptuous or pseudo-psychiatric in any way! I wish you leg-room and an upgrade to First!

    I was interested to read that you were once a hard-smokin’, hard-drinkin’ woman. I am now more than ever convinced that should we ever meet we would get on like a house on fire!

    Take care – and enjoy your trip!



    1. Ha ha ha!! You are a riot, Mark. Count on a knock on your door the day I ever make it to England. I’d love to spend an evening chatting and proving that you are right and we’d get on. I’ll buy the whiskey.

      So sorry to hear that the system doesn’t let you post comments. I’m glad you got in this time.

  2. I am very excited for you to travel to Chile, it is my favorite country in the world and has become my second home. I hope you find all of its treasures and glory and fall in love with it as much as I did. Safe travels!

  3. Ah my friend, I’ve indeed thought of you as I’d noticed your absence. Of course, I’ve been posting dramatically less as well, so figured it was the “fullness of life” for you as well.
    What a rough year you have had and what a life energizing, soul revitalizing trip you will have (of course as I write you’ve been gone for a week already). I cannot wait to catch up!!
    And then when you get back home, keep on with your counseling and your mentally healthy lifestyle. From across the miles, know you are loved.

    1. ❀ ❀ Oh, my friend, you are one of the bloggers I've stuck with the longest, and the friendship has been rewarding. Even without saying it, I know you wish me luck and send me love. Thanks for noticing I was gone. Your life has used up so much of your time too, and I've wondered if blogging just has an ebb and flow for some of us, no matter what the reason we drift in and out.

      I'm now back and feeling inspired and feeling so much better about myself as a person. I think everyone else is awesome in their way, and I need to remember that I am awesome in my way. This trip reminded me.

  4. Wow. Always full of surprises.
    I’ve got some catching up to do. As usual.
    It looks like you’re having a great trip from the quick peek I had at your later posts. I hope it does the trick – a sort of re-boot.
    I’m really sorry to hear your troubles (and I know you’ve only shown us the tip of the iceberg). I sincerely hope and pray that you can get back hold of the reins. and get your feet in the stirrups, when you get back.
    I bet the chucks will be glad to see you. πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Sarah. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a few posts on living with mental health disorder. It might be illuminating for others and also for me as I write it. I’m trying for a way to do that but not sound like I’m begging for attention. One of these days, it could happen.

      The CHUCKS!! Too funny. I hadn’t heard that expression till this trip to Chile, and my friend Margaret says, “I have a friend who always calls them ‘chucks,’ I don’t know why.” Ha ha. Yeah, I hung out in the snow with the chucks multiple times yesterday. It was good to see them again.

      1. Talking about mental illness is difficult. I hope you find a way. People do need to understand it more. My mum has suffered from it since the birth of her second (and final) child, and it broke up the marriage eventually. I have a lot of pretty bad memories from my childhood and the baggage that came with that. We’re all pretty much through it all now though. My mum is still on medication (and probably will be for the rest of her life) but she’s been very stable for a couple of decades.
        Btw, I don’t really know why I call them chucks either. I think I picked it up from a friend who has them. I like the sound of it; it suits them somehow. πŸ™‚

      2. I agree with you about chucks; the name does suit them!

        Thank you for telling me such a personal story. Maybe you are all pretty much through it by now, since you are able to talk about it without negative messages coming through like anger and resentment. I hear sadness. I’m glad you talk about it in the past tense, and I’m glad medications do help your mum.

      3. Yes, I carried the baggage around for a long time but I’ve finally put it down. My brother not so much. We had to deal with all kinds of things – absent/ill parent undergoing seemingly barbaric treatment (ECT), mood swings, potential violence, suicide attempts, other people’s prejudice. It’s a lot for kids to handle, let alone the adults. You’re right though – now it just makes me sad rather than angry or anything else. It is such a shame that people and their families have to go through such terrible things with the added burden of the stigma of mental illness.
        I hope you find a way to explore your story through your blog. Be careful not too go too fast, too soon. Do you have someone close who can advise you about when and how much to share? There are some vulnerabilities that need to be protected from the world. ❀

    1. Yep, I’m back now. And yes, it did good things for my head. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but one thing I noticed when I came back was renewed self-confidence. And how was Chile? I LOVED it! So very much. Thanks for your message, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year right back atcha’!

      1. Chile is lovely. Only went once. To Santiagoand ViΓ±a del mar, but I found it lovely. Glad to hear you are full of energy again. πŸ™‚ Again: happy holidays. πŸ™‚

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