Sunday, April 5, 2015

Portland, Oregon

A couple weeks ago I went out of state for something other than spending time with friends. About a year ago, I went to Dave and Katie's wedding in New Orleans, and this past October I went to Las Vegas with Bahar, who was visiting from Belgium at the time. Two weeks ago I went to Portland, Oregon for the library conference ACRL. Remember when I came back from Amsterdam in summer 2013 and joked I wouldn't leave California for another five years? Yeah, that didn't last long.

Traveling really stresses me out nowadays. There is the practical stress of packing efficiently into my carry-on backpack and there is the post traumatic stress of leaving home for the unknown and probably uncomfortable. I pulled it all together and hit the road for the airport. On BART en route to SFO the all-consuming dullness of a migraine announced its formal presence, and little did I know that I would be psychically crushed in its grasp for another 3 days.

The funny thing is that the migraine negated my usual anxiety. I didn't worry about missing my plane, I didn't get preoccupied planning for security. Everything went smoothly, including taking the MAX Line from the Portland Airport to the neighborhood in which I was staying. It was raining in Portland and yet I calmly walked 20 minutes, found my accommodations, and let myself in. I was relieved to set up my homestead, yet by the end of my time there, that little basement apartment became a scene of private suffering that reminded me of Amsterdam, the weird room I rented there with the thin squeaky mattress and smoky walls in De Baarsjes.

The conference itself went fine, and only a few days in did I realize I was making a way bigger deal of it that I had to; the conference itself had become a bell jar that sealed off my equilibrium, the very equilibrium I need to recover from a migraine. I worried about the school work I was to do for credit coming out of the conference, and I worried about giving a professional show for my colleagues in attendance. Very unfortunately I caused myself a deep psychic distress, but there was a strange side-effect or tandem-effect: a nearly ravaging homesickness. I have never been much of a phone person but I talked with someone I was close to back home every day I was gone, multiple times a day.

I must have realized something about my trip, my one year educational leave, that I hadn't before -- that it changed me, or that since quality time is my love language, I want someone to share the experience with, or that I really never want to leave home. That my trip was my very own German Forest, that is to say, a difficult experience I had to put myself through to find my voice. But mostly I marveled that I had never had a migraine that bad the whole time I was away from San Francisco during that year. What is wrong with my present existence to make my chakras go so perpendicular as they have lately, crushed by migraines?

It's a new concept: maybe I am imprisoning myself by "following my dreams;" maybe while in pursuit of high achieving I have become a perfectionist, damned by her strive to produce more proof of success; maybe I am trying to do too much -- my brand is too scatterbrained.

In medias res -- it would be quitting to go back now (on library school, on book making, on book binding, on coupledom, on love), although I wish I could go back to that sweet spot of post MFA, pre 1 year educational leave, when 8 hours a day in a library and poetry all the other time was totally sufficient.

Meanwhile, beautiful Portland was blooming into a magnificent Spring, and it reminded me of May 1 in Berlin -- blossoming, blossoming, blossoming.