Once again I have spent time in old haunts and get really screwy for a little while after I do it.

Yesterday was one of the bigger experiences where 20 years worth of thoughts and emotional snippets got in a blender and spit back out through the words of an 8% IPA. Good stuff, funny stuff, weird stuff, fucking gut wrenching stuff, and where on earth did that come from stuff. Stuff I want to apologize for and stuff I don’t.

When I lived up that way I was pretty much batshit crazy, unmedicated depression, rape survivor, court process victim. I had no idea how to manifest myself or express my needs properly so I was very dramatic….even intentionally loud at times just to draw attention. I was unbearable and obnoxious and yet made some of my deepest friendships at that time. I fell in love but it was too intense for me to know how to manage it. I made friends I still see and talk to 20 years later….people I can’t believe still want to be in my life considering who I was then. You see pieces of them in many things I write.

Thing is, I don’t really identify with who I was that far back so it’s hard for me to understand what these people see in me, what keeps them attached. I’ve moved around. I’m a Massachusetts girl through and through….so much so that I live in the last town in MA before getting to NH because I work up there but can’t live there again. I need city. I need music. I need art. I need ocean, family….airports and highways. Liberalism and The Republic of Cambridge. That stuff really does go through my veins.

But so does Portsmouth, so does Portland, Saco, York, Dover, Durham, Somersworth. I spent a couple summer vacations at York Harbor Inn in my early 30s trying to connect to something amorphous that’s always in my rear view. Saco….where my family spent every summer but family fallout prevents me from going there now. I almost drove through today on my way home but I couldn’t do it. I was already spent.

Don’t get me wrong, yesterday was one of the best days. My boss sent me home from work early for busting my ass all the time and because she appreciates the hell out of me. The weather was gorgeous. The commute was scenic. Fergus was with me and wearing a hip new harness and bow tie. I had a dog friendly hotel situation. I got to see one of my best friends for the first time in about 18ish years I think. Drank some very high quality beer in a brewery that admitted Fergus. People kept fawning over him and taking pictures. I saw John Butler Trio….on an empty stomach with lots of beers throughout the evening. I did get a little silly and sloppy after 9. I underestimated the emotional shit. I always do. It happened after dinner in Portsmouth with Rich. It happened after Jess’ Xmas party in Somersworth. It happened last fall at a Haven event where I ran into my old attorney and experienced flashbacks I had blocked out for 20 years. I think it took my body about a month to recover from that night.

Every time I am in these places, I connect to a person I was deeply ashamed to be and find myself wanting to apologize for anything and everything, even if I didn’t do it. It’s jarring to be so in the face of that me. That girl wanted to get married and maybe even have kids. I figured I’d always live on the seacoast traveling back and forth between families. I’d be a teacher. I’d hang out at the same bars in Portsmouth I did right out of college. I’d summer in The NEw Hampshire mountains and Maine Seacoast. I’d grab coffee on summer mornings in relaxed beach towns.

But something in me snapped. I started therapy and then took off 2300 miles away to see if I could become someone else. I left all these people I loved and who loved me for some odd reason. I don’t even drink caffeine anymore.

I have never completely rid myself of her. I’ll always have some level of exhibitionism but I am a writer now. Back then, it was undiscovered art that didn’t have a canvas. Picture Jackson Pollock with no place to spread his paint. Now, it’s part of the way I see the world and I just write the shit out of myself because mine is the busiest mind I know. My depression comes in different depths but it’s medicated and gets therapy every 2 weeks. It has PTSD with it too so that gets exercised and massaged out with occasional anxiety medication and sometimes waking the dog up in the middle of the night when I start screaming from nightmares. But I still have it together on top of all that. I kick ass at my job most days. I own my own home. My debts are manageable and I have a great relationship with my family that didn’t exist 20 years ago. I have this little pug nugget….love of my life. I’m a hundred pounds lighter than I was when I was nuts in New Hampshire and Maine. Overall, there isn’t much I dislike about myself now. The friends I have made in the past 10 years, I am not confused by what attracts them to me. I travel alone…big, meaningful, life altering trips. Yeah, I’m single with no kids and I’m getting more and more ok with it.

I lost my shit a little more than usual after Trump got elected and, thankfully, my friends were looking both ways when I wasn’t. Fixed my medication and got back on the bike. Feel better than I ever have. Every time a famous person commits suicide I get shaken up for a few days because that’s when you realize all the armor in the world can’t prevent your damaged brain from turning on you like that if it wants to. You just have to hope your friends are looking and point it out.

“Are you happy?” He asked me. That question is going to fucking haunt me the rest of my life, I think. I don’t know why I couldn’t answer it because I am….certainly more than I ever was back then. Even though when I get up in those states I see people living the life I thought I was going to have, it’s not a life that appeals to me much now. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling it when I put myself in front of it for some reason. Yet, I feel like I am missing out on something only when I am there. I fucking hate the girl I used to be so I hate looking at her through the eyes of these locations. I worry that the eyes of my friends are just waiting for me to lose it again or that they don’t see the sweeping changes in me that I think are there.

I come home and try to re-ground myself. I want to get promoted. I want to get published. I want to keep doing Cape weekends and August vacations. I want to get married and share my world trips with someone that has the same wanderlust and curiosity I do…someone who wants to bring a piece of every country back to our insane US lives. I want him to love my family because he will need to spend a ton of time with them. Dogs…we have to always have dogs. We need to read good books and grown our brains together. City nights in small clubs seeing great, local bands. Brewery tours, plenty of good beer and the forever search for what will be our favorite. It’s a pretty different life than the NH\ME girl wanted so I don’t know why it rocks me so much. I think shame probably has quite a bit of a role. Even if others have forgiven or forgotten her, I never will. I will always be ashamed of who I was even if that’s what it took to get me to who I am.

So I am trying to integrate back into my life if I can. Salt lamp night in the living room, Fergus snoring next to me. Great music through Spotify….albums I was listening to a lot 20 years ago. Blogging. Cooked a steak for dinner. I haven’t cooked myself a real dinner in forever because it doesn’t work with my schedule. Canceled the gym tomorrow because I am still wheezing a little from the asthma I experience after every cold and sinus infection. I’ll probably take an anxiety pill tonight. Tomorrow I will clean my bedroom and try to figure out a good outfit for a chill Sunday night folky date. And then back to work Monday anticipating my Cape weekend. I will try to figure out what it will take to pay down my credit card so I can start saving for my next trip to Europe. Norway, Iceland, Germany are all speaking to me as of late. Massage and reiki Tuesday night which can help move this energy out. My poor massage therapist. She is physically drained after my reiki every time. I think she’s the only one who gets a glimpse at my empath soul and all the work it’s doing scanning the environment, feeling other people’s feelings, seeing parts of your soul you don’t even see at times and then driving home with it on my mind, writing stories of you in my head. I have to listen to frivolous podcasts or 80s playlists to balance myself out.

Maybe being an empath is why this happens when I go to my old haunts. Those places carry actual feelings, sensations, smells and memories that are living things when I attach to them by parking my car. Even if it’s a happy occasion, it’s still an internal physical assault I am never prepared for. You’d think my complaint today would be a hangover but I don’t have one. I took my Tylenol and beer shit when I got up. Drank a ton of water, took a shower and ate a whoopie pie. This is an emotional hangover I think. It will pass.

I am incredibly blessed to have the life I do now and the close friends who have stayed with it or entered later along the ride. It’s an artist’s life, kind of. It’s on display for a reason. It’s not about attention at all. It’s art and social study of sorts. It’s to challenge and grow…me and all of you. But it does extract quite a bit of energy sometimes and today is one of those days.