Sunday, March 30, 2014

On the Question of Separate Bedrooms

In my last post, Chrissy was curious about why Paul and I plan to have separate bedrooms, and I thought, “Hey!  That could be an interesting post!”  Let’s talk about it.

First, let me acknowledge that we are very lucky that we can make this choice to have a particular arrangement.  We don’t have to move in together.  It’s not a personal requirement, nor do our finances tell us we must do this.  We want to live together, and we want to be realistic about what we need to do that happily.  I know that some couples live in tiny spaces because it’s all they can afford or because they can’t afford to move.  If you are in a situation like that, let me say this: hang in there, and I hope things improve for you.

It’s kind of a miracle that Paul and I like spending time together because we’re both hermits by nature.  We like solo hobbies (reading), we both spend a lot of time working alone, and we’re homebodies.  We’re classic introverts.  That being said, we do enjoy our friends very much, and we enjoy each other.  Our goal is to create a living space that honors our shared need to be alone while still living, you know, together.

Separate bedrooms seem like a great solution to a significant problem.  A bedroom is a sacred space in a home.  It’s a room with an aura of privacy around it.  By having separate bedrooms, we are creating spaces where we can retreat.  We can close the door and soak up the privacy of not interacting with others.  With separate bedrooms, we give each other the chance to maintain a private self.  When you are in a serious relationship with someone, it is so easy to lose your sense of self.  You start not only defining yourself as your role in someone else’s life, but you also start thinking of yourself not as YOU first but as so-and-so’s partner.  I love being Paul’s girlfriend, and I love it because I choose it, every day.  Every day, I choose him and I choose us, and I choose the life that we are building together.  But before there is an “us,” there has to be a him and a me.  Our separate bedrooms are a way of honoring the individuals we are.

On a more practical level, Paul is an engineer.  He’s always designing or building something, which I love.  Having separate bedrooms gives Paul his own room and project space.  Honestly, what I really want is a studio for Paul to use as his work space.  I can’t offer that right now.  But a bedroom of his own is better than nothing.

A room of his own is our dream.  For now, that room looks like this:


And this:      

Better I Think{Whew—that’s better.}

I love that window in front of the desk.  I’m a little jealous that Paul will have it in his room—it lets wonderful warm breezes into the room on beautiful days.  But mostly I’m delighted to give him a nice space like this and to see our daily lives become a little more integrated into a cohesive whole.

You can see we’ve got our work cut out for us.  Wish us luck!  I’ll report back in a month, if all goes well and I remember.

Friday, March 28, 2014

(Somewhat Neglected) Goals for This Month

Oh, you guys.  I have been feeling so out of sorts this month.  My cold has tightened a death grip around me, dragging me down into sickly misery for the past week.  I’ve been freaking out about everything—work, money, love, family, my closet.  And my thoughts have been very dark in a scary way.  I’ve been feeling hopeless and depressed, definitely not my usual happy self.  In short, it’s been a hard, hard month for reasons that I barely understand.

I haven’t been writing enough, whether it’s journaling or blogging.  I find myself feeling paralyzed about what to say and worried that it’s too stupid/dark/banal/boring to bother writing.  But I also know that writing is a way to the other side of whatever it is I’m feeling this month, so I decided to finish writing this post I had started earlier this month.  I’m trying to re-establish some momentum on my life goals.  (Speaking of which, maybe I should write that neglected 2014 goals post?  Yes?)  Truthfully, all of these goals are good ones for April too, so here we go.  Let’s finish this post, and I’ll add some end-of-the-month commentary.

* * *

Here is my not-so-big realization this month: I need to work on my self-discipline muscles.

From what I’ve read, self-discipline really is like a muscle (metaphorically, at least) in that the more you work on it, the stronger it gets.  Now that I’m partially self-employed, I need to be more driven to reach the goals I set for myself.  One of my strengths is that I am good at adjusting my plans on the fly, during the normal course of a day.  It’s good because it means that I handle setbacks and interruptions well.  But it’s bad because it’s easy for me to “adjust” my goal by putting it off until tomorrow.  Tomorrow’s goals never get accomplished.  I need to be working on today’s goals.

For this month, I set three straightforward goals.

Clean Out the Spare Bedroom_March 11{Calendar image source.  Edited by me!}

* Cleaning out the spare bedroom this month.  First, some news: Paul and I are moving in together this summer!  We’ve decided to consolidate our lives into my two-bedroom apartment before we move to Austin later this summer.  Funny story: we’ve known for many months now that we are happy living together, as we lived together for two weeks while traveling out west last summer.  But we were both happy in our respective living situations, so we decided not to change things.  (Plus we’d only been dating for about five months, which seems a little bit fast for packing boxes, at least for my taste).

Fast forward to this summer, and living together feels like the right fit.  The only problem?  One of the bedrooms is my office, and by “office” I mean it is filled with crap.  So the challenge before Paul can move in is to clear space for him to have a bedroom of his own (yes, separate bedrooms—we each like alone time).

Earlier this month, I had been working on it, at least a little bit every day.  Then we went to Dallas and things got really busy, then I went to Detroit and I got sick.  Now I’m going to resume this project for the rest of the month and for April.  I think the goal will be for Paul to be able to move in by the end of April, if he wants.

Study More

* Four hours of chemistry study this each week.  I mentioned in my last post that I have ideas for finding more tutoring business.  My best idea so far: chemistry tutoring.  I was a chemistry major in college, so the subject is a firm part of my background.  Plus I love and enjoy chemistry, so tutoring in that subject sounds fantastic.  In order to brush up on my working knowledge, I bought a textbook and am actively studying in the hope of attracting chemistry students.  This week, I had my first chemistry tutoring session (found via Craigslist), and it went well.  Win!

I have another new student scheduled for Sunday, so onward we go.

Ready for Walking

* Walk at least 15 minutes each day (in addition to “commute walking” to get to work).  One of the hazards of my work life now is way, WAY too much time spent in a chair.  On top of that, I have not been great about getting exercise since the half-marathon at the beginning of the month.  I decided to challenge myself to get at least 15 minutes of walking every day on top of any other activity (bike riding, climbing stairs at work, etc.).  I love meeting this goal.

END-OF-MONTH EDIT: I was doing great on this goal until I went to Michigan, and then I just fell flat.  It was cold, I was tired/busy/distracted and just didn’t fit my walking time into the day.  But!  No time like the present to jump back into things, so tomorrow morning I’ll be strolling around my neighborhood.  Is it weird that I’m thinking of doing the Couch-to-5K program to get back into a fitness habit?

* * *

Whew!  It feels good to finish this post.  Hopefully that didn’t read too awkwardly, as I awkwardly try to find my way back to a routine that makes me happy.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Where I’ve Been

In the air…

Descending into Detroit

…and on the ground!

Pretty Colors


Snow on the Ground

Hi, friends!  It’s been a whirlwind week around here.  I flew up to Michigan for my sister’s bridal shower, which went swimmingly yesterday.  But before we could shower Theresa in presents and good cheer, my brother John and his fiancĂ© Thom got married on Saturday, in the short window during which same-sex marriage was happening in Michigan.  We celebrated their surprise nuptials on Saturday night with pizza and beer and balloons and a hand-finished banner.  I was finishing up the banner in the living room after they arrived while John was wondering, “Why is Rose-Anne doing arts and crafts right now?”  But they loved the decorations, and we loved celebrating with them.

Today I’m hoping to get my hair cut and spend a little time with my parents.  Yesterday I started feeling some cold symptoms, so I’m not at 100% right now.  But after coffee and a light breakfast, I do feel a bit better.  I am really looking forward to getting my mop trimmed—my hair is at the point where it just looks and feels like it lacks any kind of structure or style, and it is driving me nuts.  I need help, ASAP!

I’m glad I made the trip up to Michigan for the weekend, especially after what became my hardest travel experience yet.  My original flight was delayed and then canceled due to mechanical problems, and I wasn’t able to get out of Houston on Thursday.  I ended up on the 9 AM flight Friday morning.  Fortunately for me, my sweet friend Courtney was able to rescue me on Thursday afternoon after I spent eight hours in the airport.  (As a fun bonus, my suitcase went to Detroit without me, so I had no extra clothes or toiletries with me.  Yay!)  So my day on Thursday went from okay to awful to much, much better, once I left the airport.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of uncomfortable feelings lately, giving me sleepless nights and a zombie-like state during the day.  As you might remember, this year I started a new part-time job as a lab manager and I’ve continued tutoring privately (which I started in November 2013).  The lab manager gig is okay, I suppose—my boss is great, but the fact remains that I don’t want to work in a lab any more.  I’m tired of lab work.  Tutoring is awesome, but it is really hard to land tutoring gigs.  There’s not a huge demand for biology tutoring, and even when students do contact me, there are a lot of cancellations and reschedulings.  So my work life has been a source of distress for me because I’m not able to find enough business to move away from lab work.  I have been brainstorming ways to find more tutoring business, but clients remain elusive.

On top of my work disappointments, I’m feeling really anxious about money, which is causing problems between me and Paul.  We’re working through it, and I think we’ll come out on the other side stronger and with a deeper understanding of each other.  But it’s hard when he doesn’t understand my anxiety about money, therefore he doesn’t understand why I’m upset that things aren’t going more smoothly this year.  “Worry about today now; don’t worry about tomorrow until it’s here” is Paul’s attitude about money.  Me, on the other hand?  I live in a perpetual state of worrying about money.  I don’t know how to not worry about money.  I wish I did—I’d feel a lot better if I did.  But that anxiety is practically woven into my DNA.

* * *

To my sweet blogger friends, I’m sorry I’ve been MIA this month.  I’m looking forward to catching up on your blogs and seeing what you’ve been doing!  Here’s hoping that spring brings with it some brighter days and lighter feelings after a long, cold winter of gloom.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

This Week in Thoughtful Consumerism, Vol. 10

Hello, friends!  I’m embarrassed that it’s been a month between volumes of “This Week in Thoughtful Consumerism.”  I’m busy, you’re busy, excuses, excuses—you don’t need to hear them.  Today I’d like to share with you a funny, insightful blog I found when I googled “shopping ban”:

The Year of Nothing New 

It’s a blog that starts with Danielle, an aspiring actress in Chicago, deciding to put herself on a year-long clothes shopping ban.  Before the ban, Danielle is a nearly out-of-control shopper who has too many clothes and yet spends way too much time coveting what she doesn’t have (paraphrased from her words, I promise).  She stops shopping so she can learn to work her closet, discover her unique sense of style, and stop spending a fortune on new clothes.  I love Danielle’s daily outfit posts, tips on how to manage a long-term shopping ban, and reflections on her struggles and successes.  As far as I can tell, the blog isn’t updated any more, but I’ve been reading the archives and enjoying them.

The Year of Nothing New digs deep into the questions about why we buy clothing and the roles that clothing has in our lives.  For many (if not most?) of us, our clothing is more than functional; our style is an expression of who we are.  As another favorite blogger put it, “style [is] an act of narration.”  If that’s true, then what happens if your closet must be sufficient to dress and express you to the outside world with no updates for an entire year?

Not to spoil any of the fun, but what Danielle finds is that less can be more.  We like to think that we own our stuff, but when we have too much of a good thing, our stuff starts to own us.  Finding the sweet spot is an art and a science.  Danielle’s honesty and good humor make this blog a treat to read, and she looks so much like Chrissy that I kinda think she might be Chrissy writing under a pseudonym!  Ah, I kid, I kid.  But The Year of Nothing New is a great read.  If you need to find me, I’ll be digging around in her archives, finding posts to pin to inspire me in my own closet adventures.

Monday, March 10, 2014

There is no karmic balance sheet.

Sandia Mountains and Mirroring Clouds{Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico}

Over the weekend, I found myself bouncing between joy and sorrow.  Friday night, after learning about David Koff’s passing, I was glued to my computer, tears dripping out of my eyes, while behind me, vegetables waited patiently to be turned into company-worthy soup.  I had friends coming over in an hour, and I just couldn’t pull myself together enough to focus on all that I needed to get done.  So I sat, reading and weeping, heavy-hearted, until I felt moved to start cooking.  Just because.  Not because the clock told me to but perhaps because washing potatoes and chopping onions is still, after all these years, a comforting connection to earth and people and the love we put into the food we make for the ones we hold dear.

Paul came over that night, and we turned into co-hosts when our friends Dana and Jason arrived.  (As fate would have it, they were late, so there really wasn’t a rush.)  We ate soup and drank wine and played Settlers of Catan, and we stayed up reaaaalllly late.  And it was all so much fun.

I find it bewildering that joy can co-exist with such sadness.  Even when I am grieving for a lost loved one, it’s possible to smile and laugh, to feel a happy feeling.  And I can easily flip from sad to happy and back again.  On Saturday night, after Paul and I had finished making love, I burst into tears.  The grief I felt for Crescent’s loss had been with me all day, and there was something about the intensity of sex that brought it all to the surface, and I couldn’t hold back my tears.  I wanted to—oh, I really wanted to—but I was a dam that had burst.  So I cried, and Paul held me, and I cried some more.  And I felt guilty for all the fun and laughter I was enjoying that weekend, along with the tears.  Don’t we all feel that way sometimes?  That feeling anything but sadness during a time of grieving is inappropriate?  And yet, there is no karmic balance sheet that says if you feel happy, someone else must feel sad.  Your sadness doesn’t magically make someone else feel better.  There’s no earthly limit on our happiness, only an unknown expiration date to each of our lives.

Grieving is a strange process.  Each time I experience it, I think I get a little closer to understanding the mystery of it.  But the mystery is too deep for me to ever come close to clarity.  All I know is that we each grieve in our own ways, and not all grieving is about crying.  Sometimes it’s about remembering, and loving, and helping, and doing whatever feels like the right thing to do.

I still catch myself feeling guilty that I am alive and my brother is not.  There’s nothing I can do to change that basic fact, and the guilt gives way to gratitude that I am alive.  I don’t know what else to do other than to acknowledge that I don’t deserve to be alive any more than he deserved to be burdened with a crippling mental illness.  But gratitude is all I really know how to do in those moments.  Maybe gratitude is a milestone of grieving, and I just keep circling around it, laps of guilt and gratitude, over and over again.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Asking for Grace

March Icicles

Hello, friends.

Today I have a sad story to share with you.  I’m sure many of you know or know of Crescent Dragonwagon, a beloved cookbook author who wrote the tome Passionate Vegetarian, among many, many other books.  I first “met” her through Passionate Vegetarian and have since had the good fortune to connect with her through the magic of the internet: e-mail, our blogs, and now we’re even friends on Facebook.  She is an amazing woman, a beloved adopted aunt, someone whom I deeply admire and love.  Maybe it sounds crazy to describe how I feel about her this way when I’ve never met her in person.  Or maybe not.  Perhaps by now we’ve all learned that real connections can be forged through social media.  The internet may be the vehicle, but we are still humans, seeking kindness, warmth, and love wherever we go.

In late 2013, Crescent’s mother passed away.  It was a peaceful death after a long, satisfying life.  At some point while Crescent was away from her home in Vermont, I believe the basement flooded and caused terrible damage to the house, damage so bad that I’ve been told it’s unlive-able right now.  And this week, her longtime partner, David Koff, passed away.  He took his own life.

I learned about David’s suicide yesterday and have been in tears on and off since.  My brother passed away by suicide in 2012; to lose a loved one in such an awful, this-should-never-happen kind of way just rips open your heart and leaves you feeling empty and gutted.  I can’t even imagine losing a partner this way.  It is beyond devastation.  I am sure I would want to die right along with him rather than live through the pain of grieving.

And yet, Crescent is still here among the living, grieving and living life in that moment-to-moment way that we all do.  She’s been sharing her story in Facebook updates, and each one of them breaks my heart again.  Some of you may be thinking, “Really?  Facebook?  At a time like this?”  Let me tell you: after my brother died, Facebook and my blog were a huge source of comfort.  They gave me a place to write, even just snippets, and they gave me a way to receive the strength and love of people near and far.  It was life-affirming at a time when the ground beneath my family had crumbled.  So yes, Facebook.  As I read Crescent’s updates and the responses, I imagine all of us holding an invincible, invisible net in which we catch her during these dark days.  We are holding her in our love.  We are grieving with her.

A brilliant soul found a way for us to support Crescent with more than our invisible net.  Angelic Rodgers (what a name! especially at this time!) set up a fundraising page to help Crescent with her expenses during this time.  As Angelic wrote about Crescent, “She has done so much for us and for the world through her writing and workshops.  It's time to give back as much as possible.”  With our support, we can ease the financial burden of repairing the house and any other expenses Crescent has right now.

I’ll be giving some money to the fund in the morning.  If the spirit moves you, perhaps you might consider helping our beloved Crescent at this time.  Or if you don’t have money, maybe you could spread the message on your blog or your social media channels.  Money won’t bring David back to us, but it is another way we can give Crescent love and support.  During our worst days, we need all the love we can get.

Donate to Fearless Love for Crescent Dragonwagon here.

D is for Dragonwagon

“Thank you for being part of this book and, though I may not know you, part of my life.  We are all so different, and so utterly alike: Do we need further introduction in this world of famine and feast, loss and love, courage, the struggle for self-mastery, and tiny, irrational, vital hope?  I think not.  I think we have already met.”  Crescent Dragonwagon, from the concluding page of Passionate Vegetarian