This week, it rained and rained and rained. The rain came down hard, in great gusty sheets of water. The sidewalks flooded and formed rivers running toward the drainage ditches. I got used to having squishy shoes and wet clothing, and my umbrella tagged along with me every day, tucked into the bag with my lunch and water bottles.
With it, the rain brought cooler weather and walks outside in the evening, after the rain let up for the day. It was nice. I had forgotten how much I love being able to walk outside comfortably. The heat down here is just thisside of unbearable, and I know that it’s only going to get hotter until perhaps September. I’ve become an indoor cat for the season, moving from air-conditioned home to work to treadmill and back home again. I still try to get outside for more than a few minutes each day, but the appeal of doing that shrinks every day. Except when it rains.
I have yet to figure out how much of my emotional life I can share in this space. I feel like it’s important to be as genuine as possible. There are, of course, things that I cannot discuss too openly—family secrets, work conflicts, intimate details that are not mine alone to disclose. I wish that all of these things were on the table for sharing because it’s very comforting to know that you are not alone in your struggles. But somehow, even in this age of tell-all, look-at-me, attention-grabbing behavior, I feel that discretion is an important tool in our kit. So without going into too much gory detail, I will say this: I feel like the rain this week. The one steady thing that I have in my life right now is my work, and my research appears to be imploding. It was never my intention to build a life that looks so one-dimensional; this is the curse of the postdoc years for scientists. No job security, few local friends, no real personal community on which to lean. Down here I have my research, my lab colleagues, and my apartment. Today I’m afraid that’s just not good enough.
Then there’s Matt, who somehow manages to be both here and not here. He’s not physically here right now—he’s in Philadelphia this weekend—and yet technology makes him just a button push away. It’s times like this when I really want him here, right now. And it’s times like this that I’m not sure I can continue with an arrangement like ours, deliberately separated by many miles. I love that man deeply and dearly, but I fear that I am giving up too much in our relationship. There is a very obvious pattern to my happiness: when things are going well at work, I don’t mind the distance. When things are not going well, I feel so alone that it breaks my heart not to have the support I think I deserve.
Have I told you too much here? I don’t know. Maybe. I feel drained, so tired of crying and fighting with myself. Let’s not talk about this any more. Let’s look at some crazy pink flowers instead.
Aren’t these great? I found them growing on a tree in my neighborhood. They look like muppet hair! I just love how crazy and exotic they look. And the leaves are gorgeous too. They are fern-like to me, long leaves with many rows of leaflets extending out from the main branch.
This weekend, I shall practice the fine art of self-soothing. You’d think that by now, with all the time I spend alone, I would be an expert at it. But I’m so hard on myself, so critical and primed to see the bad things. I’m more likely to beat myself up than try to soothe myself. Over the years, I think I’ve gotten better at stopping the negative feedback loop that runs inside my brain, but it’s still hard. I’m trying to be my own cheerleader and my own caretaker because if I don’t do it, nobody will. I believe it’s important to treat yourself well.
The art of self-soothing starts with taking deep breaths. I like to lay down on my back and do deep-belly breathing, where you put your hands on your belly and breathe so that your hands rise and fall with the air coming in and out of your abdomen. Yoga is a more involved form of self-soothing; I highly recommend it as well. Movement helps too; last night I went for a bike ride around the neighborhood. Then I came home and cried some more, so I don’t know if that counts as self-soothing.
Today I feel rather dehydrated, so I hope I’m done crying for a while. The plan now is to move the self-soothing practice into the kitchen. I’m going to make a batch of my favorite old tomato soup recipe and then eat it chilled with a side salad and slices of Pugliese bread piled with shreds of Parmesan cheese and broiled until the cheese melts. I’m going to bake the famous Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger from this book. After several rounds of trial and error, I’ve figured out that my favorite way to bake that bread is not in a bread pan but rather in a 9-inch round cake pan for about 45-50 minutes. Not only is my bread not burnt, but it also looks more like cake, which is what this “bread” really is. It’s dessert, and I love it for that.
Finally, this week I was so happy to find a poem that I loved upon first reading and then could never find again. It’s a Walt Whitman poem from Leaves of Grass, and I want to share it with you today. This one hits close to home for me.
What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand?
What think you I take my pen in hand to record?
The battle-ship, perfect-model’d, majestic, that I saw pass the offing to-day under full sail?
The splendors of the past day? or the splendor of the night that envelops me?
Or the vaunted glory and growth of the great city spread around me?—no;
But merely of two simple men I saw to-day on the pier in the midst of the crowd, parting the parting of dear friends,
The one to remain hung on the other’s neck, and passionately kiss’d him,
While the one to depart tightly prest the one to remain in his arms.
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Happy weekend, friends. Thanks for reading, and for caring.