It’s the journey, it’s not the destination. Good. Because I don’t even know where the fuck my destination is. I can tell you what it’s not, however. My destination is not having the kind of house where my bathroom towels match the shower curtains match the shower rug. Nope. My destination is not a life where I have a coaster for every table. (Although some coasters would be nice.) Ultimately, my journey is not about arriving at the grave safely in a well preserved body…..hold on, those are Hunter’s words.
Looks like Hunter also didn’t prioritize a nit-picked, hyper-organized life. And neither do I. Do I strive to live a life as reckless as Hunters’ was at times? No. I will not leave a string of debts across the country or an estate of horded items. Then again, fuck, the rate I’m going at the moment, I actually might. But I guess the point of this piece is, I’ve stopped worrying about it. I’ve stopped nursing the urge to compare my life to those of others. This is one of those times where I am thrilled to be an over-thinker because I can arrive confidently at the conclusion that ayep, you’ve looked around, Ash, and there ain’t nobody living their life like you. And I think that’s just fucking awesome.
I live the kind of life where I can tell you a good place to grab coffee in every soulful city on the East coast but for a while couldn’t tell you where my hair straightening iron was. I hold professional licenses in multiple states but had my license to drive suspended in one of them. I can catch a D in every city I’ve ever lived in but outrun every man who’s ever tried to catch up with me. It’s funny to see them try. Especially the moment when they fall back muttering something about me being too fast, too hyper, too MUCH. That’s right, sweetie, it’s not you, it’s me. All the fault is mine. Everything is wrong with me. Thanks for the breather, baby, I’m off again. I’m sure you’ll find a girl slower than me. The kind of girl that will smile at every disrespectful thing you say and let it pass. The kind of girl who will lie there like a cold, dead fish. Like sushi. Enjoy. Wasabi’s over there…..
To me, the progress of living in this year of our Lord 2016 is that as a woman, I can stop giving a fuck about what makes me eligible bachelorette material. The imagination, impulses and actions of my life are deeply rooted in who I was as a child. I am a fierce protector of the child spirit within me. She is precious, magical and full of potential to heal the world. I give her great reverence. I give her the speaking floor perhaps more than I should. But I also know I give into her impulses way too much of the time.
My journey through my twenties has been all about reckoning with that inner child. There have been times when my inner child has gotten me into some messy situations. There have been times, still, where my inner child submitted way too much to the demons under her bed. The demons that still control her with fear. At the age of 27, I met those demons face to face. Since the age of 27 I have realized that as strong as the inner Joan of Arc within me is, she needs my help dealing with the demons. Because my inner demons throw my inner child into a pool of dark water that goes way over her head. A pool of pills, IPAs, bongwater, dirty dishes and used condoms. A pond frozen over with self-doubt and low self-esteem, which keeps my inner child trapped underneath banging on the ice of insecurity while she suffocates. This is where her sidewalk ends. This is where her power wanes. This is when Mommy needs to get her shit together, find the hole in the ice, put one mitten in that black pool, and pull.
Growing up in the Ocean State that is Rhode Island, my family went on a lot of ferry trips. Wishing to understand the boundaries of life and death, I remember asking my dad every time we were out on the water, “Is this water over my head Daddy?” I usually knew the answer was yes, but I looked to my father to set the boundary with his casual yet certain “Oh yeah.” I needed my father to help me set those boundaries, you see, because I wanted to jump into the water. My father’s necessary help in setting boundaries that would keep me alive did not stop at childhood. When I decided to move to Maine after graduating college, I remember him strongly cautioning me to not indulge my frequent urge to take long drives into the unpaved back roads of the wilderness, as the ones in Maine have a tendency to swallow people up to never return. “I’m serious. No short cuts. You WILL die.”
This would not be the only time I would hear my father say this. “You WILL get arrested, Ashley.” “You WILL get fired Ashley.” Boundary, Ashley. Boundary. Don’t push this one. I’ve had friends have to hold me back from running into the crashing waves at my local beach while a category four hurricane was two hundred miles away. “No, Ashley!” I’ve had friends tell me to stop the car in the fifth minute of the chase I was giving to the New Hampshire highway patrol cars that pulled a sharp U-turn after I whizzed by their concealed cruiser on the ever-changing-speed limit that is New Hampshire Route 16. “Just stop, Ash, pull over, you’re toast.”
I’ve actually had concerned motorists call the police concerned about how I was driving, because I was tailgating a slow-moving Subaru trying to get off Mount Desert Island. I had just finished a 12 hour work day where I had to put a sign up to even relieve myself in the bathroom, and my beer and burger were fifty miles away from me, and this Subaru was in my way. I guess I was too anxious to get home, because the cops explained to me that I couldn’t drive like a maniac as they ignored the overwhelming aroma of the ounce of marijuana that was sitting in my Tupperware salad container directly behind my seat (it was too big to fit into my underwear and I was wearing tights and a pencil skirt.)
I was the oldest of two daughters born to a man who mourned the loss of opportunity in having a son out loud when he discussed his vasectomy with my mom. “Well I guess I’ll never get my son, will I?”
For a quarter century I tried to make up that loss to my father. Me. I was going to fix it. After all, I was the first disappointment in not having a penis. Once I realized the lack of opportunity that came strapped to the concave sexual organ I possessed, I wasn’t too thrilled about being born a girl, either. I settled for tomboy. At the age of five I was already striving to be “not that kind of girl.” I would satisfy my father’s “son” receptor by talking history with him, not needing time to find my watermelon lip gloss but jut hopping in the car and enjoying things like sitting in the living room with him on Memorial Day watching old World War II films on the Turner Classic Movies channel.
When the inevitable force of femininity finally crept in, I mourned. I tried to minimize my first period. I tried to never talk about boys I had crushes on. And I fucking lost it when my mobile flip phone had the audacity to sound the birth control reminder alarm I set, right in front of my dad. When he asked me what the alarm was for, I muttered under my breath. As if he had just stumbled upon a porno mag, a bong or a kit of heroin tar spoons and syringes. I was so ashamed at becoming a woman. I am certain when I look back, that the thirteen year war in which I would battle myself, began at the age of seventeen.
My sexuality became sneaky. Very sneaky. Sneakiness coupled with Sleater Kinney CD’s overflowing from the glove compartment of my ’89 Volvo 740 wagon, complete with cranking sunroof. This maroon tank of Swedish engineering also featured a Roxy surfing logo sticker on the back window and a black-and-white checkered vinyl sticker on the interior roof made special for me by this death metal bassist with long hair that I met at one of my Rocky Horror Picture Show gigs. I used to sneak out at night and travel 30 minutes up 95 to listen to Type O Negative and hear him tell stories about stage blood and how his lead singer was such a beastly vampire that a female’s menstruation was his favorite time of the month to fuck. “Oh brave new world! That has such people in it!”
One day I know I’m destined to wake up after a good beer drunk on the floor of my kitchen and for once get a glimpse of all the worrying I swept under the rug of the sweet, sour, haze of alcohol. It’s not going to be pretty. That’ll be the day before the night I dream of every single bad decision I’ve ever made transformed into colored beads which will be strung chronologically on a string into a necklace and upon finished product, will ultimately form a pattern indicating poisonous, self-destructive behavior as telling as the colors on frogs, snakes and spiders in the rainforest whose markings indicate levels of toxicity. And for some reason, just now, System of a Down started playing in my head.
I love the fact that I’m getting older. You hear me? I fucking love it. It’s like Father Time trimmed his beard especially good to go down on me with no mess, and I’m gripping his long, white hair as he flicks his tongue in a manner only manual strokes have ever felt before……
Sorry did I just type that out loud? Damn extroverted personality type…
But yeah. Despite the overwhelmingly erectile-dysfunctioned perspective the Baby Boomers have stained on us about aging, I’m grateful for the opportunity to recognize my patterns. This is one of the few spiritual advantages we will ever have in life to NOT being a kid. Because when you’re a kid every impulse is by law of survival mandatory to act upon. You know, urges such as eating and pooping. Pretty good things to successfully and often execute. Whattya know? They even carry a little dopamine reward mechanism to boot. Mmmm, striatal substantia nigra. Let the Latin show that all dopamine pathways are paved in black. And I can safely say at this point that nobody knows what I’m talking about.
But the point of this piece is, I’ve stopped worrying about it. All of it.