Another year has passed. I am now settled into a degree program at CSU of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. It suits me, though I am highly curious where my journey in the degree will take me. I sense it will not be the same as most others who graduate with a degree such as this – seasonal work in field research. No, after almost ten years homeless I have little desire to return to an outdoor setting for long periods of time. Instead I’m finding my way into more of the writing side of things – which is no surprise for anyone who has read my blog; I’m obviously a woman of many words!
Life continues to be an adventure. All those years in the tent and ill, I often dreamed of traveling to other countries and seeing more of the world. The dream helped fuel my recovery – and the dream finally came true a few months ago. In January I journeyed to Ghana with a class from CSU for a three week adventure into the Ghanaian culture. (Picture is me and a new Ghanaian friend, Eric. We were buddies for a couple days while our group was in his town.)
My trip was life changing! I had an amazing time learning how to be an international traveler. I brought my camera with me and it was my best friend there. It felt magical to see such a different, yet similar way of living. I continually had thoughts that human is human, and we are all people. White or black. Young or old. There are commonalities across the American and Ghanaian culture that go beyond culture and gave me a glimpse as to what being human really means.
As well, the trip was three weeks of living outside my usual comfort zone; in reaching beyond myself I grew immensely. The lessons I learned in Ghana have greatly influenced my life since coming home. I am growing in beautiful ways that will allow me to be a more whole and sound person. Through Ghana, I have learned how to be more mindfully present and less part of the shadows that have stayed with me through a great deal of trauma.
The last year at a glance:
- I became a runner! Last year I ran in the Bolder Boulder race (a 10k) and also the Big Gay 5k race for Denver Pride. An ankle injury in Ghana still has me unable to run this year, but as soon as possible I am going to start training again. I find a great deal of joy in running and feeling how healthy and strong my body has become.
- I also became a Blues Dancer! It became a passion for me during the summer, however is hard to maintain during the school year. I’m looking forward to another summer of dancing soon! (I’m in purple in the middle with the big grin!)
- Camping with Falkor several times. He’s an amazing dog who continues to grow and has become my best friend. Love this pup!
- Last summer I worked as a groundskeeper at a city park. It was my first job since I became disabled in 2001 and felt amazing to be productive in this way once more. (My job had a lot of fun toys… I mean tools!)
- Zain met a wonderful woman and they both live in an apartment here in town. We are more family than just friends, which brings a great deal of warmth to my heart. It was very painful to lose Zain in such a close way when we had to part ways as a couple. Having him back in my life as someone I can turn to and trust, who can still share a good laugh with me – it makes my heart happy. His girlfriend has also become someone close to me as well. She quickly found a spot in my heart too and is one of the people I enjoy spending time with the most. Even just last night, Zain and his girlfriend invited me over for a BBQ they were sharing with their neighbors. It was an excellent evening with a lot of love and laughter to fill my heart. (Picture is from Halloween!)
- I’ve been a full-time student this year at school. I am enjoying my classes and doing well. (Pictures are me in class and later in chemistry lab. We created a battery!)
- I rented my own apartment last August after a string of terrible roommates made me realize I needed to live by myself. I love this apartment. I can see the foothills out my window and walk Falkor in nature each day at the natural area next door. Last week was a milestone in my life – I renewed the lease on my apartment through July 2017. I have never renewed a lease before; I was always moving and doing new things. It feels really good to put down some roots here. Amazingly good. (Falkor and I walk along the trails at this pond at least once a day)
I wonder what another year will bring. I feel as though I’ve really found the flow of life in the last few months. It’s amazing to sense that I’m right where I need to be. I have grown the number of people I have in my life and feel love from all of them. There is a new sense of peace growing inside me since coming home from Ghana. This has the potential to be an even better year than the last one and that one was pretty darn good!
I made a new friend recently from an interesting place – archery club! I’ve taken an interest in shooting a bow after driving past the archery range one day and feeling such a strong tactile sensation in my hands that they needed a bow RIGHT NOW, I knew it was time to start. Leah’s becoming a surprisingly good friend in a very short period of time. It’s one of those comfortable friendships right from the start that tend to pop up unexpectedly.
Late last week I was mentioning to her that my birthday was coming up and how this year I wasn’t so thrilled to be having one. My birthdays have often been hard and Zain always tried to do a bit extra on my day to help make up for so many lousy ones. However this year, he really hasn’t been in my life as much since we’ve been working to build our lives separately and we still hadn’t even talked about my birthday being less than a week away. I’d already started feeling depressed about it and the disappointment it was looking to bring.
Then Leah offered to make it a good birthday and its sounding like it shall be exactly that! What a surprise. I’d known her a week and here she is offering me dinner and planning a bowling trip for us and some friends. She also suggested that perhaps this birthday could be a day of rebirth as well. Rather fitting given life’s circumstances right now.
So for my 100th post (yay!) I’m here not only writing about my birthday as I usually do, but also to continue on with my healing story as part of the rebirth I’ve been trying hard to live up to right now.
One can’t always know where healing of old traumas will take you. In this case, I’ve finally healed past some very old wounds and doors shut tightly inside myself to discover that I’m gay. No doubt that takes some of the mystery out of why if Zain and I had such a good relationship we are now moving apart – this isn’t really something we can find a way to mend. It was actually the mending and healing that brought us here.
This has been a hard time in my life. It’s filled with a large volume of grief for the loss of Zain and the life we had together. Things were comfortable, safe, and loving. At times, it’s a mystery as to why anything had to change…but then I remind myself that for the first time in my life I’ve stopped asking the question “Who am I?” because I now have the answer I was always lacking.
It’s strange to go through life feeling as though you are missing something, but you can’t really put a finger on it. Everything seems fine, looks right from the outside, but inside it feels a little off. I finally know why I felt that way and I’m sad at the loss it has brought, but happy at the things I am gaining too.
I’m gaining myself. I’ve never been me, always hiding those parts of me I was afraid others would judge, but I’m working hard to just be me – Cat. I think the name change has helped and was one of those important keys in the process of opening many locked doors inside myself behind which I was hiding in fear.
I fear those doors no longer and have been busting them down with a vengeance! ROAR!
Life is weird. That’s all I can say most days. I didn’t see this one coming, though in hindsight many things are rather obvious. Isn’t that always the way?
Birthday as a day of Rebirth!
I wasn’t sure I wanted to post about this, it’s terribly personal and of a nature that some may find offensive to their beliefs. Sundog Tales has always been about my healing journey and this is a very large milestone on that road. While I’ve been out for the last couple months with almost everyone I know, the internet is a very big place and so its a little scary putting this out here.
I’m tired of hiding me. I’m tired of being someone I’m not because the world I grew up in said I had to fit exactly inside their misshapen and pain-filled box. Time to burn that box, it’s never going to hold me again.
I’m curious where my journey will now go and am having a pretty fun time exploring this new aspect of myself. I’ve been getting active in the queer community around Fort Collins and on campus, while also just enjoying discovering all the things I kept hidden even from myself. As with most other things in my life since finding a way out of the darkness of the tent, I’m grabbing life and living it with a gusto that I once lacked but always envied in others. That gusto is mine now and I intend to keep it!
This post is a birthday gift to myself, words that will always remind me of who I am – a woman of integrity, courage, and strength.
Happy (re)Birthday to me!
I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to post here. Life has been an interesting place to live in the last couple of months and there are two really huge things going on which I have not mentioned here. It can be hard to balance private life with what I want to share on a blog. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my healing journey over the years and it’s always been a source of strength for me to share it openly here.
The next few posts are going to be the most difficult ones to share. They are probably some of the most important ones to share as well.
I’m coming to find out that the healing process can take many different roads and sometimes you have no way of guessing which way it will take you. It can be a place of both sadness and great joy all at the same time – which is a hard place to live in.
For many months, in hindsight maybe even a lot longer than that, Zain and I have been growing apart. It’s taken a big leap over this summer when we both hit huge milestones in our individual healing journeys. We’ve now grown far enough apart that it’s time to move on as friends, but nothing more.
When I started writing this blog five years ago I really wouldn’t have thought I’d be where I am today. Going to college at CSU and rocking a calculus test I took this afternoon. Feeling more healthy than I ever have in my life, both physically and mentally. Having an amazing dog who just gets more awesome every day. Grieving for the loss of my relationship with Zain. Exploring new realms of adventure that have opened up to me and which I will most likely speak of in my next post. If you’d told me five years ago that this would be life today, I’d have sworn you were off in a fantasy world.
It’s all so … big. When this blog started, my life was simple. Survival for another winter and keep hope alive until the day when I found a way to heal. I can hardly believe I’ve healed.
Yes, I am almost fully healed at this point. I feel like it must all be a dream still. Especially as life keeps taking weird turns that seemed so far away from possible reality as to be fiction.
Yet here I am working on my degree in mechanical engineering while having to relearn how to be 100% independent from Zain because we need to move into separate homes sometime soon. It’s all part of the healing process and so I’m happy, but I’m also sad. My world is opening up before me, though it also means closing the door on the some of the dreams I had been working so long to make happen.
Living life with an open heart and drive to improve, never settling for less than you are capable of doing, it’s simply amazing where that can take you. Where will I be in another five years? I truly wonder.
The last few weeks have been very intense. I’ve been attending CSU for two weeks and prior to that were many student orientation activities designed to make us feel more a part of the college. It’s been a lot of fun, but also an incredible amount of stress returning full time to classes.
Calculus was a bit of a surprise and I found myself quickly swamped. My instructor is a graduate student and this is his first time teaching. He’s nice and tries hard, but that doesn’t really take the place of experience. When comparing the learning experience of myself to that of Blue Jess who’s taking calculus at the community college, I feel she’s getting a much deeper teaching of the subject. It’s taking a lot of extra study time for me to make up for what isn’t being taught in class, but I’m getting there and feel as though I’m doing well.
Speaking of being taught in class – I found it rather odd that in every one of my classes, the first two times we met were mostly fluff. Nothing was being taught, it was all about the syllabus and how to be a student. I understand these are typically freshmen level courses, but as an experienced student ready to learn it was a little frustrating. Especially as the homework kept coming in, but no instruction was given on how to handle the problems.
Chemistry was my favorite class. The instructor was humorous and had a dynamic teaching style. Unfortunately, by not coming to it fresh from Intro to Chemistry, the homework load was enormous. A few days ago I decided to drop chemistry for this semester and try it again closer to when I’ll be needing it.
Intro to Astronomy has been ok enough so far, I think it will start picking up soon though. We have been covering the ancient Greeks and Romans and their contributions to modern astronomy.
I’ve had to pick up a one credit odd course since dropping chemistry in order to keep my financial aid, therefor I shall also be taking a class in West African contexts and perspectives. It begins in late October and will hopefully be very interesting as I hear the instructor is pretty great.
It’s been a bit of a frustrating thing to drop chemistry. I don’t like feeling as though I could have done more, done better. Truth is, there is an enormous amount of stuff going on right now in my personal life and this heavily contributed to my choice in dropping chemistry. There is only so much of me to go around and still actually feel like I’m not neglecting something important. Still… while the reasons are sound, I can’t help but wonder if I could have done chemistry had my personal life been less chaotic right now.
I have had a good time meeting some new people last week in various clubs. I’ve even volunteered to be a student council representative for SHPE – “Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers” and pronounced as “ship.” I’m curious as to where my involvement with them will go as they are a friendly group of people and I can see being with the club the next several years of my education.
Last April I began going to a CrossFit gym to do a dramatic boost to my fitness level. I’ve been pretty consistently going three times a week ever since. I love working out there, such an amazing group of people. My hope at the time had been to see my endurance raised enough to handle a full day of school and homework when I began at CSU. At one point last week, I was climbing 4 flights of stairs with a heavy backpack on my back full of textbooks and easily keeping up with everyone else. The thought struck me around the third floor that this was exactly why I’d been working out so hard all summer – I’d achieved my goal.
Even though I had to drop chemistry and feel a bit of failure in doing so, the reality is that I have achieved so much more that its time to focus on all the success. I have moved here, applied and been accepted into CSU, received residency so I could afford to attend, gotten my math skills up to the level they needed to be so I could succeed at calculus this fall, gotten my physicality up to the point where being bedbound only three years ago seems like it happened in a different lifetime, and am healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally than I have ever been before in my life.
That is a heck of a lot of success to culminate in these last few weeks. No wonder I feel so tired, it’s been a very long road to get here and now I see that this road has only just begun. Life is an adventure and I’m incredibly happy to be on this one, even when I’m feeling tired and drained by the road I’ve been walking to get here.
Math is done! Hurrah!
I kicked it’s ass! I didn’t just get an A, I got a 97.5% for the entire course kind of A. I don’t usually brag a lot about my grades, but the work and dedication I put into getting this grade has made me very proud of doing so well. Wow, what a way to begin going back to school. This has been an amazing summer for many reasons. Odd as it sounds, I’m going to let my last writing assignment for this class sum up my experiences of the last two months.
The only thing not mentioned in that essay is the amazing person Zain has been this summer and how instrumental he has been to my success. This didn’t seem like the sort of thing to put in my class essay, but it must be said. I would never have done this well, possibly not made it as far as the first exam even, were it not for Zain. His support of my efforts and unending belief that I was more capable than I could believe for myself, have helped me to achieve this marvelous feat. Thank you, Zain!
Last, though a little confusing, the only other women in my class this summer oddly enough are both named Jess. Each is pretty damn awesome and I’ve been a very lucky person to have a chance to get to know them inside and outside of the classroom. After our final test, we went out on the town and I had a night that left me feeling incredibly alive once more. I didn’t feel like someone who’d lost the last 13 years to illness, but instead I felt like someone who’d found the ability to live and play once more. We ate tasty Mexican food, drove around town picking up various things we needed from each of our homes, and ended the night with them playing guitars and me on a drum out in a park as the sun and moon both set while the stars came into being. We saw dozens of shooting stars and shared so much of our lives, it was a brilliant time.
On with the show! Hopefully I’ll have pictures I can put up here soon now that I’ve the time to work out some bugs that came up recently with my photo hosting.
Pre-Calculus: A journey of growth and numbers. (last essay for my class)
I’ve been looking forwards to this question and am happy it has been asked. What is the most significant thing that I learned in this course? I have been finding out who “Cat” is at this stage of my life and developing in marvelous ways.
When I began this class, I was a 37 year old returning student fresh out of a life of very long term disability. I’d disappeared over the last 13 years as my life was dramatically changed and terribly hard to gain back. I knew I was a strong woman or I’d not have been sitting in that classroom jumping into pre-calculus after having just finished a self taught course in intermediate algebra two weeks earlier, but it was a strength born of need. I had to be ready for calculus this fall semester at CSU in order to enter the mechanical engineering program next spring and I trusted in myself enough to reach well beyond my boundaries with this class and give it a try.
It was a whirlwind the first few weeks; frightening and many times I doubted myself and my abilities. Thankfully, though I may have lost many things during my long hiatus from life, I also gained many skills in return – such as the ability to persevere even when I feel completely overwhelmed at the task before me. The first unit test was a terribly nervous affair in which I was now faced with proving the knowledge I wasn’t really sure I was actually learning. It was also a completely new experience as the last time I was taking class tests I was a healthy woman in my early 20’s taking my tests with the rest of the class and being fueled by classroom competition. Instead I now had to learn how to overcome a great deal of anxiety and other symptoms caused by my disability and which threatened to leave my mind completely blank or make horrendously simple errors.
I honestly did not expect to achieve an A on my first test. I left feeling that I really hoped to see a B, but not even sure I had managed that much. However an A was a great surprise, almost like an echo from my past who always easily found such grades in math because it all came very naturally. This time I’ve had to work hard at my grades, but they feel much more like I’ve earned them rather than showing up and being handed a good grade.
I’ve grown considerably more confident in my abilities and my testing shows this. I am absolutely amazed at having once again earned a yet higher grade than my last test – I had thought I’d peaked with my 98% on unit 3. To sit here now and think of how I doubted my abilities at the beginning of the class, even considered the possibility of not passing the class – I just shake my head with a bemused smile on my face at the amazing ability of the mind to heal.
I feel ready for CSU this fall. I am now excited by the prospects before me and feel tremendously more confident that I will be able to walk this new path of an engineering student. Thank you.
I also must thank the two Jess’s and the time I’ve spent with them. I certainly would not have met them in other settings and they have also played a part in my personal growth this summer. Combined, they are less than a year older than I am – yet they’ve helped me to shake off some of the more stoic traits I had to learn while dealing with the depths of my disability and find again the young woman I once was.
In the younger (blue haired) Jess, I found a vibrant spirit filled with much of the innocence of her age and a wonder at just starting to explore the adult world around her. Her zest and ways of looking at things are marvelous. In the somewhat older Jess, I’ve been completely surprised at finding a kindred spirit and the friend I’ve needed for many years. Our friendship has been transforming my life back into a place of beauty instead of the stark realities I’d been living in for so many years of hardship.
In every way possible, I have grown into more of the person I truly am instead of who I had been forced to become by circumstance. This class has been a wonderful experience for me. I am incredibly grateful for the spark of fate that came to me while napping just four days prior to the first day of instruction and left with me the thought that I must look up pre-calculus at FRCC and ignore the cost of non-resident tuition because some things are more important than money.
I’ve been delaying posting this until things were in the process of becoming legal – Jeremy and I are fully changing both of our names! Not a post I thought I’d be writing when I started this blog nearly 5 years ago… wait, 5 years? Wow!
I’ve shared so much of my life here. The struggles we had living in the tent and trying to get well, but only getting sicker. The fantastic journey to Hawaii where everything changed and healing became part of our lives once more. Then now, this journey leading me back to college and a future that is opening more for me every day.
Changing our names is a pretty big thing for us. Those of you who have read through this blog know things were rarely easy while we struggled to find healing in that tent. Though this blog starts in 2009, that struggle actually began in 2001. It’s been a very long and hard road to get to the point we are at now.
Along the way, I found it interesting that the only time in my life I ever began identifying with the name “Lisa” was in the deepest and darkest part of my life story. Somehow, through all the pretty lousy stuff in my childhood (of which I’ve rarely said much, but trust me, it was not good) the name “Lisa” came to mean pain, unhappiness, sickness, and life being upside down with no easy way to right it.
As one might imagine, while my healing has been progressing these last couple of years, I’ve felt rather distanced from the name of “Lisa.” I’m just not that girl anymore for whom normal is sadness and believing that life beats up on you, never feeling like I can succeed because that only allows in more pain when you fail.
I’m on my way to being happy, truly happy and being able to feel it. Starting to believe that life isn’t only ever going to tear me down, but that instead I can trust in the foundation I’m building on to hold me secure while I build to greater heights.
It’s scary, very scary. Everything is new and different – I’m new and different.
Hence, the new name. Something that is more the me who I’m becoming and want to be in life, rather than a name that is connected to so much pain in the past. As for Jeremy changing his name too? We’ll, that’s his story to tell, but it’s much the same – just as our last names are changing to be the same too.
Who will I be? It was a hard choice, I mean – how often do you really stop to think about what name suits you best? After settling on something I liked very much, then came the trial period where I had to try on the name, much like a new set of clothes, and see how it fit. My first try at a name fit me very well – too well. I found it highly uncomfortable when people would mispronounce it or worse yet they’d make fun of it. Since the name was so close to my heart I had no armor to protect me from their words. A new name had to be found, but I already had a nickname I liked and wanted to keep.
I’ve decided to go with Catrin, but you can all call me Cat. Yesterday, someone didn’t hear me right when I said my name was Catrin and understandably they thought I’d said Cathrine. I found that I didn’t mind it so much and easy enough to tell them to just keep on calling me Cat. It also seems to help that Cat is so easy to see where it comes from with the name Catrin.
What happened to the first name I liked so much? Well, I’ve decided to keep that one too – but I’m putting it in the middle where it can be a bit more protected from the world and the evils of telemarketers who find your phone number.
Jeremy has been a different story. He simply asked me one night for interesting names starting with “Z” and when I mentioned Zain, he knew that was for him. Same with his middle name, I just tossed something out and he loved it so much he’s kept it.
We’ve filed with the county courts and are in the middle of making everything legal. Within a few weeks we should legally be Catrin and Zain and can start the task of changing our names everywhere – and I do mean everywhere. It’s a little daunting, but also exciting and fun. Think for a moment of everyone and everyplace you interact with at least once a year and that will be the list we use to change over our life to new names. Phew, it’s a big list!
Our dog Falkor, well he’ll be staying Falkor. So I guess not everything’s changing around here!