After I found out about Ruess passing away. It took me a long time to come out of grief. It was the holiday season, so I was allowed to slip into limbo and not deal. I spent the holidays with my friend Whiteny’s family. I laid around, ate good food, drank good wine. I tried to get upset, thinking about Ruess. I also struggled very heavily with regret. I regretted leaving Fairbanks. I regretted leaving my boyfriend, life, animals and foreseeable future. Emotions began to surface and I felt overwhelmed.
Even though it is painful to have no communication with my ex. It's probably for the best. I know in my heart and in my mind that I made the right decision. There is no other way of saying it. I am pretty sure everyone in my life would agree with that. Even though it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made on my own, it was the smartest thing I ever did for myself.
I have grown in ways I didn’t even know were possible, like when you exercise muscles you didn’t realize existed. By changing my behavior, I have found that my habits, weaknesses and strengths have fluctuated and found balance. For the first time, I am living my life for me and only me. That’s a crazy thought! I’m not doing what my family or partner want. It’s about what I want. I can’t even describe what it feels like to be living the life YOU want - That magical moment when you see that and recognize that you created it for yourself.
December will be referred to as my “month of darkness.” I didn’t do much writing. One blog post actually. That’s pretty bad. I didn’t really do much of anything. Oh, except gain weight.
But don’t worry. I have good news. All of that is changing.
I don’t believe in fate. I do believe in manifesting your own destiny, and making the most of your situations. That’s exactly what happened to me about a week ago.
Let me just say that I’m writing this post from a tour bus in San Diego California, on my way to the House of Blues. Yeah…I know. Don’t worry, I’ll explain.
Torie met a musician named Zach Deputy. I’ve been a fan of his since I watched him play at a music festival four years ago. He’s an amazing musician and fairly well-known. I have no idea how it happened, but Torie met him at a show, struck up a friendship and he’s basically been crashing on her couch every time he comes into town since. I’ve never been in town when he was. But, I always hear stories of how wild the whole situation is and been really jealous. On New Years, he happened to be playing at The Green Turtle, in our home town, an hour from where the girls live in Jacksonville, and where I have been staying.
The girls: Whitney, Katie, Torie. All four of us are best friends since high-school. They came to my UAF graduation.
We started off the night in Jax, but I had a hankering that the event on the island would be super fun. All of these friends I haven’t seen since high-school were in town. Some were doing some amazing things with their lives. Catching up over the holidays was so fascinating. It was probably packed with tourists, which was always annoying. But, it makes it a hell of a lo. Plus, I was interested in hearing Zach perform again.
There were hundreds of people and yes, it was crazy. At one point, a guy I dated in high-school, and haven’t seen since came into view. He was obviously super intoxicated and couldn’t really speak. After saying hello and goodbye, I tried to walk away and he latched onto my arm and wouldn’t let go. He did this several more times as I passed by. Perhaps, visiting your hometown has its dangers.
Anyway, after the show, Zach hung out with Torie, Katie and I. Whitney had gone to see her brother. We hung out for a little bit and I introduced myself to Zach. I told him a little about what I did and he said he would love a poem about Rolly Pollies. The whole thing happened so fast. I didn’t even think he would remember me.
A few days later, he texts tore and says he is coming back into town. Him and his tour manager, CJ, show up at midnight and we all sit up and hang out. To my surprise, Zach not only remembers me, but gives me the biggest hug.
That night he mentions that he is looking at resume’s for an assistant/merchandise manager. Me and Torie are on it like thieves. We convince him to hire both of us a a package deal. I was pretty impressed by Trie’s negotiation skills. We kind of half-hashed out the details and they headed out, promising to pick us up the following Monday at 5pm. We both walked back in dumbfounded. We honestly couldn’t tell if he was serious or just too nice to turn down our offer. We were convinced that we would face the horrendous moment of standing at the edge of the driveway at 5:01 and looking down an empty road.
We joked about this scenario in many forms, all weekend. Torie had to give one (that’s right) day notice at her job and ask to come back in three weeks. Oh, and she was actually told yes. “Well, no turning back now.” She said in the car after getting off the phone. She widened her eyes and laughed, mostly in jest, but probably partly to hide the nervousness.
We spent the weekend in New Orleans for Whitney’s birthday. I love that city more and more. I led the girls down the cobblestone streets, past the smell of seafood and beignets, past the jazz music flooding the streets, through the wild scene that is Bourbon. We weaved through raised cemeteries, horse buggies covered in pink fur and driven by a man with no teeth and a purple suit. Looking up at the live oaks that hover over the streets, one witnesses the beaded remains of Mardi Gras. They were coming up on festival season and the parades were beginning.
The last night, me and Torie collected dozens of beads from then streets and posted up on a balcony in Bourbon street, tossing them to people walking beneath us. We took a tour of a local brewery (I won’t say the name so I don’t get anyone in trouble). We ran into our tour guide while throwing beads from the balcony and long story short, we found ourselves back at the brewery at midnight, playing hide and seek amongst the beer tanks and packaging equipment.
We spent way too much time complaining about getting old. I had to give the group a pep talk at some point. But, realistically, at 25, it may very well be the last birthday of its kind for us.
On Monday morning, Torie got a confirmation call.
“They’ll be here at six.”
Also, just to go sideways for just a sec, Monday, both Torie and I had Skype interviews for a company called Alaska Excursions. If everything goes as planned, we will be meeting my friend Ian in Juneau and working as dog handlers for the dog mushing tour there.
It is an interesting exchange. I definitely wouldn’t have been offered the tour gig if it wasn’t for Torie. In contrast, after Ian recommended me for the job in Juneau, I encouraged Torie to apply as well and helped her complete the surprisingly tedious application online. It is a symbiotic friendship. I am quite thankful to call this magical little blonde a friend. This year marks our ten year marker as close friends. It is wild to think that she is my lifelong friend, that I actually have one of those. She isn’t the only one. I am lucky to remain close with the people I love and to have them as lifelong friends. When we met, me and Torie were rebellious teens who sometimes got out of control. Ten years later, we are women - and I feel the layers of who we have become resting lightly over those awkward girls at a house party, taking swigs of Natural Light past their bedtime. She has managed to stay hilarious and kind and while the rest of us are getting uglier, she somehow gets prettier. Readers are about to overloaded with pictures of her.
I am beyond excited to share both experiences with her.
Okay, going back.
I’ll make it short. They did, in fact, pick us up. Or, actually, we had to meet them at the airport. But, either way, we woke up Tuesday morning, to the familiar smell of seafood and beignets. By the following evening, we were in Texas. By the third day, we were driving up the 1 highway on the Pacific ocean. All I could think was, “Damn, it feels good to be back in Cali.”
There are so many details and stories, but I’ll save them (and you) for another time. Here are some pics
I’ll sum up what being the only girls on this tour, with zero experience and cramped into the messiest van I’ve ever seen: absolutely insane. I know, from having been driving all over the country; it’s not easy. It’s even harder when you have to align said journey with three others, one of them being your boss. Swallowing my pride has been my biggest problem. I don’t want to be a know-it-all, so I try not to overstep. I’m sure everyone feels that way about something. My way is the best. This trip might actually be the perfect lesson at the perfect time. In the beginning stages of my journey, I deeply needed to learn how to govern myself. I had to find my own way of living and it takes being selfish (to an extent) to self govern yourself in a world where everyone seems to be pulling you in different directions.
But, this character development can sometimes harden into an unpleasant stubbornness. I have been starting to feel this happening in me. I didn’t like it. I’m turning into a creepy loner!
Not really, but I do believe this trip is going to give me a good education on inner and outer balance. I have a hard time recognizing my inner strength and lashing out on others, flexing my outer strength. Does that make sense. I’m not talking about going around lifting heavy weights viciously in front of people’s faces. I’m talking about hurting others, trying to hold yourself up. To travel with other people, you got to be vulnerable, loving, responsible and enjoyable. You also need to know how to drive at night, otherwise you are useless, useless I say!
My next post will be all about what it’s been like on the road, so far and how I keep managing to lose everything I own.
I’ll just say, what a strange journey it has been.
1/17/2016 1 Comment
The Art of Losing
I somehow have found myself on a national tour with one of my favorite musicians. I'll go into it in my next post, but I'm writing this from a packed venue, behind a march table. Not exactly the best work environment.
Me and my friend Torie left Jacksonville, Florida last Monday and have been on the road since. It's hard to find the time to write, but I really wanted to get something out. Naomi, back in Fairbanks has been on my butt (Thank you) to not be such a slacker.
I haven't written in a while because the last month has been really hard and confusing. But first, let me lead you into it.
We left Jacksonville around 6pm and got into the garden district of New Orleans a little after midnight. A girl named Claire greeted us at her friend’s studio/guesthouse. It was a large space with a winding staircase leading to a loft, a small bedroom hidden in the front and a modern style living room. A 30ft tall green screen was set up and the entire lighting system was something from a photography studio. It was beautiful.
Torie and I slept on a futon in the living room. We woke to CJ fiddling with the studio lights and treating us to a seizure-inducing light-show wake-up. Standing in the driveway, I could smell beignet’s and fried chicken. I immediately began to salivate. It felt good to be back in New Orleans.
It's interesting, but I continue to meet people that have a strong distaste for the city. They say, “It smells terrible. It’s filthy. It’s dangerous, etc.” All of these things are true in certain situations. But, I would much rather live somewhere that is gritty and FULL (I mean packed full) of life, culture, diversity and energy. NOLA is overwhelming and impossible to describe.
I keep thinking of my drawing instructor Perrin, at UAF, who planned to move to NOLA after graduating. This is before I went. I asked her why, and she shook her head and said, “It’s the only other place I could really see myself living, other than Fairbanks.”
Now know what she’s talking about.
The first time I went was in mid-december. I was leaving Austin, Texas and connected with someone named Jess on Craigslist, looking for a ride there. I picked her and a friend named Terry up at a co-op.
“Are you from Alaska?!” She asked as she pointed, enthusiastically to my license plate. Turns out, Jess just came from Coldfoot, where she had been working all summer. Not only did she know all about Fairbanks and Alaska in general, but we had a mutual friend from when she visited Fairbanks.
Her and Terry were traveling to NOLA to see friends and then catching a ride with one of them up to the Boston, Connecticut area where they were from. Terry had to go back to work and Jess was headed to Bangkok.
The ride was filled with discussion and laughter. By the time we entered LA, I knew I had made long-lasting friendships. They invited me to join them at a drag-king show on Bourbon Street. When we got there, the show was in full-swing as a Justin Beiber impersonator performed “Santa Baby”. I met Mary and her Girlfriend, Kristen, as well as Joe, who was the driver to Boston. Pretty quickly, I agreed to crash with them at Mary’s house.
First: Let me just ask, Have you ever met someone or a group of people and basically fallen in love with them?
No awkwardness, no social distance. It just seems to happen naturally, and immediately. That’s how it was with these amazing people. At brunch, I laughed until I cried, over and over. I was invited to stay the night again. Duh.
The next day, Me, Terry and Jess explored the city, skateboarding around the French Quarter with beers in our hands. We strolled one of the famous above ground cemeteries for several hours and discussed topics like death and memory. We got vegetarian hotdogs and corndogs from Dreamy Weenies. We watched the sunset on the banks of the Mississippi and listened to a man play Christmas music with the steamboat engine’s pipes. All day, I felt such a sense of calm and wonder. That night, we all got Pizza at one of their friend’s pizza places and planned on going to a karaoke bar later.
We headed back to the house to chill. In the car, Joe talked about how he shared custody of his dog with his ex. I perked up at this from the backseat and piped in, “me too!”
I ‘ve never met anyone else that shared this odd relationship. We talked for a bit about our personal experiences. I realized I hadn’t thought of Ruess in a while. I’ve definitely never shared with a stranger that I have a dog with my ex and he has been the only thing binding us together, continually over the last four years. Sometimes I am convinced that we wouldn’t have gotten back together so many times if it wasn’t for Ruess. I sat back in the seat and looked at pictures of Ruess. It sort of came out of nowhere.
At the house, we all laid around and I enjoyed another lively group conversation and some duct tape waxing.
Joe made a Tinder account and was being extremely picky. I was in the middle of harassing a guy on there that looked like Seth Rogen. Mary was cutting Jess’ hair in the living room.
I suddenly felt the urge to go out to my car and grab a change of clothes. I pulled out what I needed and then just sat in the driver’s seat. Sometimes I do this. I take moments alone. It’s the introvert in me. Situations that are very social, no matter how fun, must be balanced with quiet alone time, even if it’s just a few minutes. The time at the cemetery weighed heavy on me. I thought of those ancient names, the people laying behind them, the ceremony of burial, and how we are all going to die. I think about death too often. I don't need a cemetery to get me to contemplate these things. But, you can't stroll hundreds of tombs all day and not ponder life.
I had also had my ex-boyfriend on my mind the past few days. Now, especially since Joe brought dog custody up. I couldn’t explain why, but had been recalling moments and contemplating decisions related to our relationship (BAD IDEA). I had expressed to my old roommate and close friend Naomi that he had been on my mind. “Reach out to him.” She told me.
I didn’t think that was a good idea. There was so much hurt and bitterness swirling around him and directed towards me. I didn’t want to set myself up for his cruel rejection, which I felt I deserved.
My phone began to ring. It was on silent, but I was holding it in my hand and saw it light up with his name. I was dumbfounded.
I know everyone says these things happen, and they are so hard to believe, until they happen to you. I don't know why he had been on my mind. I don't know why Ruess was brought up that day. But, I do believe your intuition can sense things and sometimes, your subconscious tries to help you prepare for things.
There was a picture I had forgotten about under the name. Him as an awkward 18-year old. I made his contact photo as a joke. I stared at it. This must be a mistake. I imagined answering the call and to his horror, him realizing he meant to call another Becca (it’s possible, okay!).
I answer. Slowly, nearly whispering into the receiver, “Hello.”
I’m sure I sounded confused. A heavy “Hi” rings out, as if he was exhaling when he said it. “Hi” I say back.
I’m wondering how long I can prolong this conversation if I just hold us in a perpetual state of greeting. He doesn’t fall for it, and jumps right in. Everything he says has this pained force to it, as if he is reading lines from a play, out loud.
“So, Ruess died today.” It feels like a bomb has been dropped.
I hear the words, but nothing happens. I feel nothing. I go completely dumb and don’t respond for a while. Finally I manage to spit out, “What?”
I can’t really remember what was said verbatim, because at this point, my brain was going absolutely bazurck. I felt like I had just leaped off of a bridge and had to find a solution not to die before I hit the bottom. I’ve received my fair share of world shattering news in my life. I’ll never forget my mother’s voice when she told me that my favorite aunt, her sister, had committed suicide that morning. But, overtime your heart breaks in .2 seconds, a new, horrifying existence begins.
I recognized the feeling. It was like my body and mind were aware of what was happening, and couldn’t quite agree on a plan of action together. Should I break down and cry. No, my mind said to be calm. But being calm was making my insides want to burst out of my body. I didn’t want to upset him. I felt completely useless. There was nothing I could do but sit back and watch this terrible thing unfold. I started breathing heavy.
He continued, “I guess he choked on a potato chip bag.”
Thinking about my baby, that I raised from a puppy, that I loved more than anything I’ve ever loved, suffering that awful death, is nearly unbearable to think of, now, a month later.
He got got uncomfortable on the other line. I was silent. He said he was getting off of the phone. I begged him not to. He hung up right as I spoke his name. That was it. He was gone.
I sat there in my car, looking through the warm, yellow window of Mary's house, at these people I had just met, and felt utterly alone in a way that doesn’t happen often in one’s life. These are painful moments, when we are handed the weight of our humanity. The moments when you realize you are going to die, alone. You, and everyone you love. You have and always will be, alone on this journey of your life.
Sometimes, you have no one to be with in times of tragedy and loss, but yourself.
I wouldn’t recommend it.
Terry peaked his head out and yelled, “We thought you died!”
“Still alive. Don’t worry.” I called back.
I couldn’t decide what to do. Should I tell everyone and ruin the party? Do I even need to be comforted? Do I have the ability to just hold off until I am in my car, alone, tomorrow?
The only thing I knew for certain, is that I had to do something for my ex. I pulled my typewriter out and drug it inside. Everyone was getting ready to walk out the door. They all watched as I lumped the heavy machine onto my lap and started punching at the letters with vigor. No one asked. I didn’t offer up any reason. They all knew about PoembyBecca, so It was exactly shocking to see this.
Without any editing, I just typed out the first poem that came to my mind.
It was called, “Like a Child”.
No different from all the poems I’ve been creating since leaving Fairbanks, he would have the only copy. It felt like I had circled back to something with my poetry. I would have never imagined that I would have to type a poem for this reason and for the first time, felt my personal identity and struggles hold onto my art like a scared toddler. I realized this was what I would do to cope.
I didn’t say anything right away. I didn’t know what to say. It didn’t feel real. I kept wishing I could just be with him - give him a hug. It just seemed so wrong. The entire situation. Guilt started creeping in.
“It’s my fault” I repeated to myself like a mantra. If I hadn’t left Alaska, Ruess would have been with me and this never would have happened. He wouldn’t have been in a strange house in a place that wasn’t his home, angry and scared we were never coming for him. I was hit with the gravity of my decisions and how they had ultimately led to Ruess’ death. Me and my ex had attempted to build a life, with Ruess, for Ruess. But, we couldn’t make it work.
So, over and over, Ruess bounced around. He developed bad habits that I didn’t recognize. He became more skittish after years of going back in forth around the U.S. staying with family and friends. Ultimately Ruess belonged to my ex-boyfriend.
He carried the responsibility of him and did not make decisions regarding Ruess lightly. I don't want to imply that, at all. He did an amazing job of making sure Ruess was well taken care of. I have no room to talk. I had to give up my cat to a better home in Vancouver.
He never wanted to be parted from him. I knew that he was hurting in a much deeper way than me. This added exponentially to my sense of guilt. There was nothing I could do.
Further, he seemed like he didn’t want me to do anything. I could gather from past experiences that we weren’t going to speak again. This made me angry. I called him later that night. No answer. I understood, but it was like a burn to a stab wound.
There is so much to say about what it’s like to lose an animal you love deeply. I don’t think I am capable of even pricking the surface of the pain that has existed in my body, ever since that phone call. I feel like I’m on a different planet, disconnected from the reality. I try not to think about it. Once I start, I can’t stop and I break down.
For several weeks following, I cried every single day. No exceptions. I am crying now, typing this. I find it unbearable to accept that he is gone. It is too painful. It must be a mistake. But then, I realize that it isn’t. That these things happen. They are so unfair. All you can do is learn how not to completely break down every time you see a white dog and try and move forward.
There is this magical creature that existed for a split second, bound by the hearts and memories of two people. It’s hard to not see it as a black hole, now. All that is left is in the heads of me and the person I am in love with, but unable to love. Our bond has been severed, in a permanent, damaging way. He was our good thing, the only good thing we didn’t destroy. The only pure happiness that existed after we broke each other’s hearts. And now, our baby is inverted into more pain, the most pain. He is the final scene in a tragedy.
This is that moment when you realize you are alone. Everything you love will die. Everything we love will become emotional pain.
But I still love him.
I will always love him, even though he is no longer here. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to have him and to feel a depth of love and happiness like never before. What a profound effect he has had (and will have) on me. I will never be the same.
We give our hearts to these animals, though we know that we will outlive them. We take this love on fearlessly, knowingly. We choose to love and to feel the profound loss of their departure. How beautiful! How god damn amazing.
I am honored to have shared this powerful experience alongside the person who showed me what love is. That is something to be thankful for.
We really did love, didn’t we?
Rest in peace bugaboo