Twitter Facebook

He’s Probably Right

Me:  I have to be out of here at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I have my first therapy session at 8:00 a.m.

Him:  That’s right! With the cognitive behavioral specialist?

Me:  Well, it’s the “assessment”. They have to decide if that’s what I need or if I need some different kind of therapy.

Him:  So… you might not be back.

Me:  …

Him:  I mean, one look at you and it’s off to the psych ward.

Me:  I’m blogging that.

 

Perfectly Perfect Perfect

When we moved from Hells Kitchen to Harlem I was working eleven hours a week and Mike was unemployed and on Spring break from school. We were able to spend the better part of every day cleaning, unpacking, decorating, nesting, and we were all settled in a matter of weeks. It was fantastic. But this time I’ve been at work every day and Mike’s had to do most of the heavy lifting without me.  Me, who likes to do everything myself because I want everything to be perfectly perfect perfect.

This has been the source of several very high energy moments in the past couple of weeks. Mike is very patient and very laid back, and I am the Tazmanian Devil. We signed our lease on a Monday but by Tuesday I’d spent four days decorating the apartment in my mind and making long lists of everything that needed to be cleaned.

One morning as Mike was driving me to the office, we had a huge fight.  Except it wasn’t really a fight. Calling it a fight implies yelling and screaming, and that’s not our style.  Anyway, immediately after lecturing Michael on how I won’t be able to live in the apartment until the bathrooms have been scrubbed inside and out, I started telling him that I thought it would be fabulous to decorate said bathrooms with all gold vintage decor.  He made a face at me and said he thought that was the most horrible idea I’d ever come up with ever.

Except not really. What he said was, “That will look really tacky,” but what I heard was, “That is the most horrible idea you’ve ever come up with ever. Also, you are fat and ugly.”

When he dropped me at work I was nearly in tears. I was also on my way to being late for work, so I couldn’t sit in the car and talk about how I was feeling. Instead I had to sit in my office and stew about it.  And stew I did, for a nice long while. Then I texted him:

“I love you. I want for this to be a fun and happy time for us.  I want to feel like you accept me and like my ideas. It’s crushing when you think my ideas are stupid. You’re my best friend and when you think my ideas are stupid it’s really painful. So far you’ve hated every idea I have and I’m starting to feel like this is your apartment, not ours.”

Don’t you love how dramatic I am? It’s so awful it’s funny, right? “So far you’ve hated every idea I have…” Straight out of Days of Our Lives, the generic suburban version.

He texted back:

“All I’m doing is cleaning. I understand how you feel. I’m sorry. I don’t want to feel the same – like you want to make this your apartment, and all I do is scrubbing and hauling. The good news is that we are not in a huge hurry. I want us to work together to make a home. I respect your ideas, and I know we can make this work.”

I took a deep breath. Why was I so angry? I mean, seriously. Sixties gold décor in the eighties-era bathroom with the clamshell sink. It wouldn’t have worked at all. So I called my mother and my girlfriends, some of the most brilliant and wonderful women I know. “What should I doooooo?????” I whined. They all three said the same thing. They pointed out that we both had valid points and we’d both expressed a desire to work through the situation.  They said we were ahead of the game. They offered help, advice, encouragement, and comfort.  They made me laugh. And Kim gave me complete instructions for how to wash out my filthy dishwasher, something I otherwise would not, for the life of me, have known how to do.

I wasn’t angry that Mike didn’t like my ideas. I was angry because he was doing it all without me. I felt like I was missing out on everything.  All the cleaning, all the moving, all the furniture-arranging.  He thought he was getting a big chore out of the way, but I felt like I was being cheated of an opportunity to nest – something I’d been aching to do since August. Meanwhile, here he is, spending his days scrubbing and hauling while I yammer on about curtains and throw pillows and give lectures on how to clean the toilet. No wonder he didn’t have the patience to talk about gold vintage décor.

When we finally got another chance to talk, we realized that we were both aiming for the same thing – a fabulous little home we’ll love for the next two to five years, depending on how long it takes us to save up for a house.  Once we figured that out, we were able to talk about all of the things that needed to get done, his priorities and mine, and I realized that moving comes before decorating and maybe my evenings were better spent scrubbing the filthy toilet instead of shopping online. Which, of course, was what I really wanted to be doing anyway.  After all, there is nothing in the world like a freshly scrubbed toilet.

Weather Check

Yesterday marked one-month since we arrived in Los Angeles and started living with my parents. One month with all of our belongings in boxes in their garage. One month of shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. One month of little dogs with muddy feet on white linen slacks, one month of cats leaping from dark bookcase corners.

My parents are incredibly gracious. They even seem to enjoy having us here, and thank goodness, because being able to land here, with them, to have a home base while we gather ourselves together and get ready to move on to the next phase in our life has been invaluable. And wonderful.

Friends keep asking how the apartment hunt is going, but we haven’t even started looking. For one thing, I’ve been too busy at work to do anything else, and as long as Mike is still looking for an apartment manager job, why should we sign a lease? In the meantime we’re enjoying the shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. Mike’s been wonderful about chipping in with chores and cooking, and I’m trying too. The dogs are enjoying the backyard and the cats are taking full advantage of sharing a room with us. They spend their nights tracing our faces with their whiskers, leaping back and forth from our bellies to our pillows and back again.

I’m sure it’s not easy for my parents to share their home with another family, especially one that consists of so many animals. But every time I ask them if we’re driving them crazy yet, they just laugh and insist that Mike’s cooking is worth it. And honestly? I’m a little surprised at how easy it’s been for Mike and me to adjust to sharing our life with another family. Granted the other family is our family too, but I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough privacy, or we’d impede on their privacy, or Theo would pee all over the garden furniture and drive my mother nuts, but so far it’s been fine.

Mike and I started running in the mornings, and since he started a part-time job our run has become our one chance to touch base during the day. He’s working nights, I’m working days, so it’s morning runs or nuthin’. As close as we are, it’s become really important for us to have the opportunity, every day, to clue each other in as to how we’re feeling, what’s going on, and where our heads are at. I’ve found that when we miss that hour alone together too many days in a row, I end up feeling disconnected, insecure, and uneasy. Then when we  run we get awkward. We trot side by side, talking small about the weather, our plans for the day. But by the end, sweaty and out of breath, we’re excited and talking about our future, the fixer-upper we hope to buy, the trip to Nepal, the degree Mike will earn, the family we hope to begin.

Do a “weather” check during the day Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you. — From 10 Tips for Happy Couples, by Dr. Mark Goulston.

Mike’s working in a restaurant, so calling him at work is out of the question. And I really don’t feel comfortable taking personal calls while I’m working, because they distract me too much. But the idea is what’s important, and for us, the hour of running is what is keeping us in tune. So what about you? What do you do to stay connected to your partner? Do you have a weekly date night? Do you share a daily meal? How do you manage sharing a life with opposite schedules?

It’s not weird, it’s not. (Say that fast.)

Lately I’ve been having this conversation with my dogs –

What? You don’t have conversations with your dogs? Really? I find that hard to believe.

I’ve been talking to Valentine and Theo about change. After all, there are going to be some pretty big changes coming up. There have all ready been some little changes; all our stuff has disappeared into big boxes and the cats are gone. So I explain this to them, and then I tell them about how we’ll be driving a big truck across the country, and we’ll spend the nights in campgrounds and friends homes, and then we’ll be in California! California, where the sun shines year-round, the sidewalks glitter with mica, and the markets are cornucopias of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I say all of this to the little dogs, who blink, yawn, and promptly fall asleep.

When I was a little girl, my brother, who’s birthday it just was, worked on a video for a kid’s TV show about a little girl who learned a lesson about change. After all, there is only one thing that doesn’t change, and that is the fact that change is inevitable. Just when you think you’ve found your groove, things change. Just when life gets cozy, things change. Everything is always changing. The girl learns this lesson and at the end, she gets a red cape and a red crown and she becomes Captain Change! And she learns to feel really good about all of the opportunities change presents.

I feel like that kid in the red cape. Change is wonderful! It gives us an opportunity to grow, and learn, and figure stuff out all over again. Change keeps life exciting, presents challenges, keeps us limber. And the changes coming up are awesome changes, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that change is also really scary and frustrating and is making me grind my teeth at night. Which is why I talk to my dogs about change. I’m really talking to me.

Mish Mash

This photo isn’t really related to this post, except that it is. I love this photo; my friend Christine took it at the after-party for her gallery show, and she has perfectly captured a moment when we were out enjoying a night with friends, having fun, and not thinking about canceling ConEd, or finding movers, or whether or not we can live without the salad spinner for the next eight days.

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DRY MY LETTUCE NOW, MIKE? HOW?

I am Captain Change, embracing the discomfort, and moving forward with an open heart.

Thursday Night Family Dinner

family party 2006

A family gathering, November 2005

One of the reasons I am so excited to move home is because finally, finally after three-and-a-half years, finally I get to participate in Thursday Night Family Dinner. My mother always spends Thursday afternoons with my niece, and then my brother and sister-in-law come over for dinner, and often times, at least when I’m in town, most of the other siblings and their partners and various off-spring come over, at least whoever is free that night, and we all sit around the dining room table and eat something wonderful and talk about our day and what’s been going on lately, and sometimes we end up reminiscing and telling family stories, and those are my favorite times of all.

Other times we have a big family fight and someone stomps out of the room and everyone whispers in hushed tones and the person who said something to make the other person mad goes upstairs to apologize and then the mad person and the apologetic person come downstairs and we all eat ice cream. Or graham crackers with peanut butter and honey.

When I was growing up, my parents and I sat around the dinner table every night, ate a meal my mother cooked, and talked about our day. Which usually led to us talking about other things, like something great that happened, or something that was bothering us. Dinner time was our time to reconnect as a family. When I was really little, I would get sleepy listening to Mama and Papa talk and I’d crawl into Papa’s lap and lay my head on his chest and the deep rumbling of his voice would lull me to sleep.  Later he’d carry me upstairs, say my prayers with me, and tuck me in. In the mornings Mama would wake me up singing, she’d fix me breakfast and pack my lunch and Papa would walk me to the bus stop so we could spend a little extra time together. In the afternoons I walked home with the other kids and Mama would be waiting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and we’d sit and have snacks and visit and then I’d do my homework while she cooked dinner and when Papa came everyone smiled and laughed and kissed and hugged and then we ate dinner and talked about our day. Family dinner made my childhood better.

Mike and I eat dinner together at the table every night we possibly can, which for the last year and a half has been nearly every single night. I adore our dinners together. Next to when we finally curl up at the end of the day, dinner is my favorite time of day. Dinner is when we reconnect, talk about our day, the great things that have happened, something that’s bothering us. It’s our one guaranteed hour of quality time in the day. It’s a gift from one to the other.

When something is bothering me I need a little time to warm up before I can talk about it. I can’t just pin Mike down at the end of a busy week and dump my heart out. I’ve got to spend a little quality time with him, talk about the weather, the dogs, something stupid, anything. I’m slow to warm. Which is not to say I don’t feel safe with Mike, because if there is anyone I feel safe with, it’s him. That man has known me through some of the ugliest moments of my life and he has always stood next to me, arms open and ready to catch me the moment I fell. I’m no psychologist, but I believe that open and honest communication is the only way to have a solid relationship. And open and honest communication only comes when you are able to communicate on a regular and frequent basis, because communication = human connection. Therefore family dinner = human connection = happy marriage = happy family.

I was not at all prepared for the loss of connection with the people I love the most when I moved to New York. Of course we’ve all made the best of it, found ways to connect through social media and lengthy emails and photos and regular visits. But it’s going to be so much better when I’m not so far away! And also more annoying, probably. There is nothing like seeing someone on a regular basis to make you feel like they’re driving you crazy. Even that considered, I’m really excited to go home and take part in Thursday Night Family Dinner. I can’t wait to hear about everyone’s day, what’s on their mind, what’s going on. I can’t wait to be a part of their lives again, and have them a part of mine. I can’t wait for everyone to get to know Mike better, and for me to get to know his family better. And also? I can’t wait until the day we get to bring our own off-spring to dinner, Thursday nights and every night.*

*That’s at least twenty-two months away,** so don’t get excited.

**Not that I’m counting or anything.

I love you, but

Me: Do these need to go in the laundry?

Him: I don’t know.  Sniff ’em.

Me: … I love you, but I’m not going to sniff your shorts.

Him: You know you want to.

Me: If you wanted me to want to you’d have married a gal with one of those fetishes.

Overheard at our table

Me: If I had a blood clot in my leg, would it hurt really bad?

Him: It would be the worst pain you’d ever felt in your entire life.

Me: Really?

Him: Take the worst pain you’ve ever felt in your life, and multiply it by ten.

Me: Because I’m having this little shooting pain in my leg and I was worried it was a blood clot.

Him: It’s not a blood clot.

Me: You’re handy to have around.  I think I’ll keep you.

*kiss*

And yet I dream of gardens to grow things in

Him: Can you hand me that plant so I can treat it for aphids?

Me: I’ll just get out of your way and you can get it yourself.

Him: Don’t get up! Just hand it to me.

Me: (Deep breath.) Ok.  (Picks up potted plant and …) Kind of freaks me out to touch this.

Him: What?  Why??

Me: Aphids are related to spiders.

Him: I’m pretty sure aphids are six-legged insects.

Me: They spin webs.

Him: Lots of bugs spin webs.  What do you think a chrysalis is?

Me: Psh.  A cocoon.

A little while later…

Me: You were right.  Kind of.  Aphids are six-legged insects, unrelated to spiders, and they do not spin webs. Spider mites spin webs.  OUR PLANTS HAVE SPIDER MITES.  THAT’S LIKE BEDBUGS FOR PLANTS.

Him: … I think you’re being a little over-dramatic.  And the treatment worked.  See?  The plants are fine.

Me: And that’s why you’re my hero.

*kiss*

On our favorite Thai place in Thai Town, Hollywood

Him: If I can’t see the little old Thai ladies cooking in the kitchen, we’re leaving.

Me: Ok.

Him: And the only reason I won’t hate you for dragging me away from them, all the way to New York where all the Thai food is heinously Americanized, is because they’d started the renovations before we moved.

Me: Wait … what?

Him: I’m just saying, it’s grounds for retroactive resentment.

Excerpts from Dinner


Him: I’m so tired.  If it were up to me I’d spend the rest of the night curled up with bad TV and a box of Girl Scout Cookies.
Me: Aw, honey!  Are you getting your period?
Him: … …
Me: Have the cramps started or are you just feeling icky?
Him: … The only cramp I have is the Tricia-shaped cramp up my asshole.

Yowza.  And that’s what you get for being contemptuous!

(No, but really.  It’s all in good fun, folks.  All in good fun.  You better watch out or I’ll punch you in the face!)

(I hope somebody got that joke. Otherwise things between us are getting pretty awkward right about now.)