Gina Penn, unabridged.

Archive for November, 2019

Right Through You

I opened this blog on a whim and saw that it’s been (almost to the very day) a year since I last wrote anything.

Blogging is difficult. It’s difficult to come up with something to say. As a person who really strives for the best, I tend to trash a million ideas because they aren’t good enough to devote time the time and energy to.

Another year is winding down again. Last year I wrote something similar. Another spring has come and gone, another summer, another fall. Snow has already fallen this season and the promise of some today. Right now, the sun is shining outside and the temperature is mild. Should reach the mid-40s today, so maybe we’ll only have a few flakes, just enough to crisp the edges of the lawns.

I try to blog about what I’ve done and what significant things have happened to me in the past year. Painful or pleasant, I try to get it all down. A recap, if you will.

This year has been a tornado. The best thing to happen to me this year? Europe. I did some traveling this year and flew to Europe for the very first time in my life. My first stop? Paris. Paris, the city of love and lights. My friend J went with me and she and I had a right and proper girls’ trip overseas where we traveled and shopped and saw all the touristy sites and ate all the good food, drank great wine, and had just an amazing time.

Paris is an incredible city and everyone should see it at least once. We arrived in the morning and had a whirlwind day of walking the city. Our first stop was a bakery to purchase breakfast. I wanted to go into a real French bakery and use my French (oui, je parle un peu le Francais) to order food. I did all right too but that might be because so many Europeans speak English. So, if you’ve always wanted to travel overseas but have been hesitant due to a language barrier, fear not; they probably speak English.

After breakfast, we walked the city. The public transport there is second to none. I’ve been to New York and even their subway system is a mess compared to Paris. In one single day, J and I were able to decipher and use the Metro to see the Louvre, the Moulin Rouge, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. We walked the Champs-Elysees and saw the stores that are far too expensive for us to shop in. We walked the Louvre and saw the infamous Mona Lisa (something I’ve always wanted to do). We only had a single day to tour Paris (a planning thing that I now regret-Paris deserves far more than a day) but we managed to fill it with so many gorgeous sites. The Parisians are fabulous, friendly, and helpful. We missed seeing Notre Dame and after it caught on fire, I definitely regretted skipping it. If I went back, I would spend a few more days there and see the magnificent church, as well as the Palace of Versailles. Paris, I promise I will return to you one day.

After Paris, we had a long layover in Munich. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to leave the airport and tour Germany, which I also regret. I wish we had slated at least a day there. I can attest that the airport in Munich is the cleanest and quietest airport I’ve ever been to.

We left Munich and flew to Rome. We spent several days in Rome and toured the city. We saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, and the Sistine Chapel. It was incredible to stand under Michelangelo’s awe-inspiring Creation of Adam and see all the colors and intricate details of his work. And that was the first full day we were in Rome. We shopped, ate, and walked all over the city. The food is incredible and the people are simply amazing. We also took a train to Naples and saw Pompeii. We joined a tour and saw the ruins of this once great city that had been buried in volcanic rock and ash. We saw fountains that people once drew water from, we saw pots people once drank from, we saw the stone roads that people once walked and pulled carts on. We saw the majestic Mt Vesuvius looming over the city, an ominous reminder of what it’s capable of. Pompeii is too incredible to describe and the restoration of it has been nothing short of unbelievable. And it hasn’t been fully uncovered yet so who knows what else lies in wait to be discovered? I hope I’m around to find out. I’d love to go back.

After Pompeii we took the train back to Rome. The train system there is a little overwhelming to be honest and I’m glad J was there with me to help me navigate. The tickets are in Italian and not many people at the train station speak English to help you. The train station itself is large and stuffed with people milling around, a true assault to the senses, if you’re an introvert like me who doesn’t care for large, crowded places. But the experience was so wonderful, I’m so glad I didn’t skip it. Pompeii is not a place to be skipped over. It deserves a day for you to walk and marvel at and experience how they lived and what life was like for this once great resort city for the Romans.

It was sad to leave Europe. If I had the money and resources, I would go more often, perhaps even live there. It’s an amazing place filled with great food, people, and sites. A person can breathe there, in the sense that it doesn’t have the same sense of political dread that America has. But that’s a post for another day.

So, what goes up must come down, right? Well, I experienced a tremendous loss in April, about a month after Europe. The loss of my beloved 14 year old dog, Carmody. Carmody had been my buddy since 2006, (she was not a puppy when I got her) when I found her from an animal shelter from the blue period of my life. She was such a wonderful, smart, happy girl and I miss her and think about her every day. I will never stop feeling terrible about the way she died and will always believe she deserved better. I tried to save her and she ended up dying anyway. I can’t talk about her right now, I’m not in a place in my mind and heart where I can do it without sobbing hysterically. I will never forget her.

The next piece of 2019 is I started school again to finish my IT degree. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time but hadn’t been in a place and time that would have made it feasible for me. I am now and am now entering my fourth class and getting straight A’s and feeling pretty good about my chances of graduating. For me, this is my third attempt at college and hopefully this one will be the charm. If I don’t stumble and get frustrated and quit, like I’ve done before, I’ll graduate and finally have that expensive piece of paper that makes me a little more marketable to the workforce. Thankfully, this time I have a much better support system to get me through the tough times. Along with studying IT, I’m also learning how to code and trying to learn and teach myself as much as I possibly can. I’m a girl alone in the world and I need a safety net, should something terrible happen to me. I love computers, I’ve always been good with them and had instincts and so this feels right to me. I hope I’ll be able to blog about the graduation experience sometime soon.

My second, and hopefully final tremendous loss for a while, was the loss of my 18 year old kitty, Beatrice. Beatrice is different from Carmody in that her death was natural and expected due to a few illnesses that happen to cats as they age. She had been receiving treatment for thyroid issues for several years, had heart issues, and this year, been diagnosed with advanced kidney disease. Once your kitty has kidney disease, there isn’t too much you can do. There are medications (which she was on) and foods you can give (which she was also eating) and remedies you can try but ultimately it has no cure and will eventually take them, whether you want it to or not. She died on a Thursday, in the morning, and I was with her to pet her and love her and between tears tell her I loved her and will miss her and treasure her always.

Losing Carmody and Beatrice marked the end of an era of my life, and losing two pets I’ve had for so long only five months apart was harder than you can realize. Those two, especially Bea, had been through things with me that no human was. They were with me through my marriage and divorce, through several moves, and finally the house I’m in now. They were with me during the darkest points of my depression, braving it in a way that no human would have been able to endure. I was so lucky to have them with me on this journey. I was so lucky to have two girls that were both endlessly sweet and loving and faithful. An animal’s love is deep and unchallenged and without strings and I believe that humans are undeserving of such a thing, being the flawed and potentially cruel creatures we are. But I was so lucky to have them in my life with me. Now I have two boys, a dog and a cat, and although they will never replace the girls I lost, they bring a love and laughter to my life that is different yet just as fulfilling.

Losing Beatrice was two months ago. Carmody was seven. So much loss in such a short span of time. And yet I’m still here. Every year, even with its loss, trends upward ever so slightly. It’s like watching a grid of the stock market, it has its peaks and valleys but a little at a time it tries to move upward. That’s kind of like life, in a way. You trudge this path, sometimes with people, sometimes alone. Some days you feel on top of the world, happiest of happy days. Other days, you are at the bottom of a crash, scraping beneath the bottom of the barrel. If you’re lucky, you’ve had people with you, family and friends, to help soften the blows and get you through the tough times. If you’re like me, you’ve endured most of your life alone, going through tough times completely alone and misunderstood, no family or friends to be there to talk you off the ledge. After doing the math, I’ve determined that I’ve lived just as much of my adult life alone as I have with someone. And honestly, even when I was married, I don’t consider that ten years to be completely not alone. Just because you’re in the same house as someone else, doesn’t mean that person is really with you and understands you. I spent much of my marriage alone too. I’ve come to the determination that I’ll probably always be alone, in one way or another, even if I manage to find someone who can tolerate being around me for more than a year. I’m not sure I was meant for a relationship, at least not one that’s long-term. My mind and soul can’t be tamed by one person alone. I grow bored when I’m with a good one and anxious when I’m with a bad one. I can’t find middle ground. I have yet to find someone who can both understand and challenge me in a way that will keep me intrigued and endeared. Unfortunately, my standards are incredibly high and I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t get me. So, I’ll be alone. And I guess that’s okay. Being alone isn’t much different than being in a marriage. There are times when I really want someone around and times when I don’t.

What’s the moral of this story? I don’t know. Just keep on, keeping on. I believe I’ve reached a plateau in my life and I’ve crossed only a small portion of it. I’ve climbed some hills and tripped over some rocks but for the most part, the vast expanses of my mind, for the moment, are flat and endless with only a wide horizon to be seen from a far-off distance. I don’t believe my journey to be unique in any way. Many have tread this path and many more will after me. And until that day, should it come, when I encounter a person who gets me and can see right through all the rough edges and tough exterior, right through to me, then I’ll try to keep walking until I can’t anymore. If that doesn’t happen before I can no longer be here? Well, I’ll be in good company after I’m gone.

RIP my sweet girls. I’ll love you both forever and ever.

G