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The World Keeps Spinning

Shadows

My heart has been so heavy the last couple of days. Mike started working nights again, which is awful. But it’s particularly awful because he’s working a job that brings him absolutely zero satisfaction, so he’s not even enjoying himself. At least if he were doing something he enjoyed, like EMT work, or a property management gig, or if he was gone all night because he was taking classes or something, at least I would know he was getting something out of it. But instead I know he’s on his feet all night, miserable, the hours dragging by like years, and so it’s hard to sit through my own personal loneliness with a brave face.

Then there’s the weather. You guys, seriously. The weather has been cold and gray for days and days. It has rained three times this week. Are you honestly telling me that we moved back from New York for this horrible, gray, dreary weather? Seriously? Because I could have stayed in New York for this. And then at least I’d be in New York.

I don’t mean that. I really do love the Valley. But this weather is seriously bumming me out.

Next is my job. It’s super frustrating right now. I’m having to learn a whole new set of skills, and what it feels like is that I’m learning a new language, and I’m not going to lie, it’s a little scary. I’m learning how to do things I never thought I’d have to learn and on the one hand, that’s the entire reason I took the job. Because I knew it would challenge me in ways I’ve never been challenged, and that was exactly what I wanted. And yet.

I think the problem here is that I don’t handle change very well. Or maybe I handle change just like everyone else does, and maybe everyone else feels super overwhelmed by change. I don’t know. Can you answer that for me? Because all of these little life changes are starting to pile up and feel a little crushing, now that the honeymoon has worn off, and I’m freaking the eff out.

Deep. Breath.

Another. Deep. Breath.

And yet. We chose this. We wanted this. Mike and I both. We stopped going out and eating at restaurants so we could save up enough money for this. We talked about it and planned it out and when we found out it was all real, we were so happy we cried.

And there have been days since we moved when all we can do is grin at each other and knock fists and bro-hug, we’re that pleased with ourselves. There have been happy reunions and little victories and days we both felt our lives were too good to be real. So I’m not trying to say that we made the wrong choice, or that I was starting to regret our decision, or anything like that. It’s just that it’s life, you know? It’s complicated and messy and boring and then it’s fantastic and perfect and full of tiny bursts of light like shooting stars that make all the rest of it worthwhile. I guess the thing to do is try and find the peace within it all. The zen. So that the crappy stuff doesn’t matter so much and the happy stuff is the thing you notice the most.

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?

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.

A Willing Man

twit picTweeted this photo a month ago, not fifteen minutes after I’d finished vacuuming. Then I cried.

In an average week I spend anywhere from ten to eighteen hours taking care of the hearth and home.  By that I mean I spend between ten and eighteen hours vacuuming, washing dishes, doing laundry, paying bills, walking the dogs, emptying the litter box, taking out the trash, et cetera, in addition to the forty plus hours I work at my jobs, in addition to the work Michael does around the house, and I’ll tell you something, that man more than pulls his weight around here.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of headlines about how marriages where the husband helps out around the house are happier and less likely to end in divorce than marriages where the wife shoulders most of the household chores.  I think this is an incredibly interesting topic because I’ve had a personal theory about this for years, a theory something along the lines of how I would die of apoplexy if I ever lived with another man who was incapable of taking care of himself.

No, Kevin, I’m not writing about you, I know you think this post is about you, don’t you? Don’t you?

You guys, I once lived with my friend Kevin and the fact that we’re still friends is kind of a miracle because I was the worst roommate in the entire world.  I did things to that poor guy that I can’t even type here, but to give you an idea of what a really terrible, awful roommate I was, I will tell you that whenever I knew he was bringing a girl home, I would poop in his toilet and not flush.

Hello, future potential employers!

Anyway, I did that horrible thing because I was… I was… I’m drawing a blank.  He got me back though.  He once hid all of my oranges.

Where was I?  I was a terrible roommate, but at least Kevin could take care of himself.  Sure, he left his groceries on the porch overnight, more than once, and I’d find his shoes in my bathroom and his underpants on the TV, but he worked hard and he was patient and kind and he helped with the chores.  And we’re still friends.

I’ve lived with other men over the years, I’m not talking about family members, I’m talking about roommates and what not, and the ones that didn’t help with chores?  They are no longer a part of my life, not even a little bit.  So my theory evolved from my inability to maintain relationships with men who refused to treat me as an equal.  Because that’s what it comes down to folks.  If a physically able man who hasn’t hired full time help won’t chip in with the chores, he’s either a completely dependent child or he thinks he’s too good to stoop to a woman’s level and take care of the home.  Am I being a little brash?  Probably, but I’ve watched too many women I love sacrifice themselves for a guy who doesn’t give back and I’ve been the girl who gives everything and finds herself alone and empty hearted.

When I mentioned the headlines about husband’s who help with housework to Mike he looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Of course.  A husband who helps with chores is the kind of man who helps.  He’s considerate, he’s thoughtful, he’s kind.  Of course his marriage is happier and less likely to end in divorce.”  He spoke the words on the tip of my tongue.

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.

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*

Somewhere in the global community

Many of our teens are in danger of falling through the cracks of a “too busy to care” world. If you’re worried that your child has something dark and troublesome on his mind, he probably does. If you’re too busy to take the time to break through to your child, make the time. If your child pushes you away, remember you don’t need his permission to protect him from anything that could hurt him or his future. In fact it’s your most important job as a parent. If you don’t know how to communicate with your defiant teen, learn to.

That paragraph is about halfway down the article, right at the place where I stopped reading because I knew that everyone I love must read this too.

So here you go…

I go weak in the knees

2624874436_7737a763d8

Gettysburg, 2008

When I was a little girl and I’d overhear someone talk about falling in love, I’d always ask the same question: How did you know?  Responses varied slightly, but the general consensus was that you just did.  You just knew.

You just knew?  Knew what?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Then one autumn night a couple of months after I’d started dating Michael, while I was folding costumes backstage after a rehearsal and thinking about how badly I just wanted to flee the theatre and fly across the 101 and be in his arms again, I suddenly just knew.  It happened in an instant and it took my breath away and the costumes fell from my arms as I reached out to steady myself because I’d almost fallen over.  And I started crying because the vision, the dream in which I saw our woven lives spread out before me was suddenly the most precious, beloved dream I’d ever had.

Happy Anniversary, Michael.  It gets better every year.

Almost four years

Engagement

Our anniversary is the day after tax day.  And we still haven’t filed our taxes yet, or even begun to sort receipts and all the jazz that comes along with it.  We keep putting it off.  Instead we’re dreaming of how to spend our fourth anniversary together.  Shall we grab dinner and a movie?  Hire a private jet and fly to Paris for the weekend?*  Drop acid and make out?**  Or maybe just open a bottle of prosecco and enjoy some hot financial planning?

*unlikely
**even more unlikely

I had a dream last night

The other night I dreamt that Mike and I were hiking the JMT, something he did with his brother in real life last summer, and that we’re planning to do together summer after next.  In the dream we are crossing a narrow, wobbly bridge, the kind of bridge that seems to be suspended from heaven, that looks like it will evaporate if you stare at it too hard.  The bridge hangs over a ravine, so high up there’s nothing below us but sky.  We’ve made it all the way from one end to the next and now have the arduous task of climbing from the foot of the bridge to the lip of a cliff.

A soft wind blows and the bridge sways.  Clouds lick at our ankles, whisper a warning: Don’t look down!  The end of the bridge is at least three feet from the lip of the cliff; we’ll have to lean forward as we reach up, over our heads, grab hold of the ledge and pull our bodies up and through a small crack in the granite.   The land ahead of us is green, flowering, pristine, exquisite.  We are bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, but the threat of danger cannot be shaken, the risk of losing grip, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.

I close my eyes.  I know I can do this with his help.  I know that as long as he’s there I will be safe.  He tells me where to place my hands in the rocks, how far to lean, which way to stretch.  I listen carefully, let his words guide me.  In a moment my feet leave the bridge and I am suspended, clinging spider-like to the side of the mountain, eyes squeezed shut, Mike’s voice in my ear.  My body feels weightless, the breeze plays with my hair, the sun shines warm on my face.  And then I am there, standing in a field of wild flowers, and Mike is laughing.  We did it.

I woke up thinking, “That is what marriage is like.”

I keep trying to put my finger on that impulse, the half-conscious realization, “that is what marriage is like.”  But I’m not sure what I meant.  In An Open Life, Joseph Campbell says, “Marriage is an ordeal.  It means yielding time and again.  That’s why it’s a sacrament.  You give up your personal simplicity to participate in a relationship, and when you are giving, you are not giving to the other person, you are giving to the relationship.  And if you realize that you are in the relationship just as the other person is, then it becomes life-building; a life fostering and enriching experience, not an impoverishment, because you are giving to somebody else.  This is the challenge of a marriage.  What a beautiful thing is a life together; is growing personalities.  Each helping the other to flower, rather than just moving into the standard archetype.  It’s a wonderful moment when people can make the decision to be quite astonishing and unexpected, rather than to become cookie-mold products.  Failure to recognize that is the main reason for the high divorce rate that we experience today.”

Mike and I will soon celebrate our four-year wedding anniversary.  We haven’t been married very long, in the grand scheme of things, but we have learned a lot in our four years of marriage.  One of the things I’ve learned is how little people in general value marriage.  How quick they are to judge, turn their noses up, crack jokes about tuna casserole and joint bank accounts.  I’ve learned not to tell anyone when Mike and I have an argument because people are too quick to jump to conclusions, suggest other fish in the sea.  I’ve learned to ignore the rolling of eyes when I say I’ll check with Mike before making plans, or when I decline a second round of drinks because my husband is waiting at home.  I’ve learned to ignore the looks of pity, turn my back to the whispers of lost independence, pretend not to notice the comments about how fun I “used to be”.

Being married isn’t about falling in love and having a fancy wedding and then going about life as usual.  Marriage changes everything.  It’s not about me anymore; it’s not about what I want or what’s best for me or what makes me happy.  I’m married now.  It’s about us; it’s about what we want, what’s best for us as a family, what makes us happy.  I promised to love him and honor him though richer, though poorer, through sickness, through health, until my death parts us.  They’ll tell you that about kids – that once you have kids you have to put them before yourself, you have to think about their needs before you think of your own.  That’s true for marriage too.  No, I won’t have that second drink because the man I promised to devote my life to is waiting at home and honestly?  There isn’t anywhere on Earth I’d rather be than curled up in his arms.  I don’t care if you think I used to be more fun because when shit hits the fan and the world starts spinning out of control, he’s the one who’s going to take my hand and help me through it.  He’s the one who promised to love me and honor me and cherish me.  He’s the one.

Marriage is an ordeal.  It’s a union to be valued, treasured, respected and cared for.  It can be difficult and frightening, there is always the risk of failure, a slight misstep, a fall to our death.  But we’re bathed in dappled pools of sunlight, the wind in our hair and a laugh on our lips.  Marriage may not be right for everyone, but it’s perfect for me.

wedding