Apr 29, 2010

Not my favorite virtue.

I'm not a particularly patient person. I believe I mentioned here, here, here and here how I feel about waiting. Let me summarize: waiting sucks. This deeply-held belief is what made it so frustrating to go through six years of infertility issues. It's why I had trouble with what seemed like an interminable recovery process after my car accident. It's why I wanted to scream at someone every day while the lawyers worked out our real estate debacle. And potty training Grace? Let's just say I did the best I could and leave it at that.

Grace. I realize the most important lesson I can learn from her, other than how to say, "I love you" with abandon to anyone and anything (including trees), is to be a more patient person. There is no rushing a four-year-old. When we walk to school in the morning, Grace really doesn't give a rip when we get there. Why should she? My impatience has everything to do with the fear that the teachers silently curse me for consistently being late and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Grace might miss a few minutes of circle time.

I'm actually fine with Grace when we have no destination or goal. If I'm with her at the park, or tagging along while she rides her tricycle, or hanging out at OMSI or just farting around (literally—she farts like an old man), I don't have the same awareness of time that I have when I'm getting her ready for bed or watching her eat (torture).

The trouble I see on the horizon, however, is that she may learn—or inherit—impatience from me. She hits the ground running every morning and doesn't stop until bedtime, and I've noticed lately that if I don't hear something the first time she says it, she is enormously burdened by the need to repeat herself. Maybe this is just typical four-year-old behavior; I hope so. But she also has little patience with herself (very familiar territory), which makes me wish she could enjoy a few more years of carefree experimentation before she starts worrying about doing everything perfectly the first time. But I'm afraid that ship sailed a while ago. Grace is one of those kids who started walking late, but nailed it in a day. Ditto with talking—there wasn't much trial and error with Grace; she just started speaking in complete sentences when she was ready.

I'm working on cultivating patience where I feel it will serve me well, mostly with family and friends and, to a certain extent, myself. But I will never feel comfortable engaging in idle chit chat or waiting to hear from someone I miss talking to. I'm much more into making things happen than waiting for things to happen to me. I know that this may come across as pushy or controlling to some people, or even a little crazy. I just don't really care.

This morning I ran into a man whose wife recently died unexpectedly, leaving him with two young daughters. Although I had coffee with her a couple of times, I'd never met him and had no idea what to say. So I said nothing, but cried all the way home, wondering how many experiences that family missed out on because they were waiting for the right time. I'm projecting like crazy here; for all I know, they lived every day as if it were their last. But I've been living my life in limbo for more than two years now, and I'm tired of wondering what will come next. Life is happening every second of every day, and waiting seems a waste of time. I get it: I made some tough decisions and big changes, and I need to wait for the dust to settle before I can feel settled. I've no one to blame but myself for my restlessness, so I'll try to be patient a while longer. Really, I will. But I don't have to like it.

Apr 21, 2010

Misc. drivel...

Things I like to do alone:
- go to a movie in the theatre
- write
- eat breakfast or lunch at a greasy spoon
- clean
- do laundry
- look at art
- nap
- go to the dog park with Brady
- take road trips
- shop for necessities
- sleep

Things I like to do with someone else:
- jog
- read in bed
- travel
- talk about miscellaneous drivel
- garden
- cook
- make big decisions
- shop for recreation (almost never happens)
- go out for drinks/dinner
- take Grace somewhere fun
- sleep

Apr 12, 2010

Facebook funk.

I went to bed in a great mood and woke up at 5am. I couldn't go back to sleep, so I slumped in front of my computer and spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at the walls of Facebook friends. (If you're not familiar with Facebook, skip this post and never, ever join.) Over the course of the next hour or so, I managed to work myself into a really, really bad mood. I learned a few things about my "friends," which was nice, but I also began to feel like — dare I say it? — a loser. This is a trap into which I fall too easily and often, but I'm fairly certain that almost everyone leads a more interesting life than I do.

Facebook is fine, as long as it's taken at face value: a convenient way to keep in touch with many people at once, on a fairly superficial lever. Most people on Facebook, including me, try to be witty and clever and show how cool they are. Share photos, share news, share random thoughts, share political views — all free, with no risk attached. Then wait for validation that what you've shared, no matter how banal, was read and appreciated by a handful of "friends." It's good, clean fun.

But Facebook is a poor substitute for maintaining or creating real connections with friends, old or new. We present our best selves (most of the time), and it feels a bit like a high-school party. Will anyone "friend" me? If I "friend" someone, will they accept? Will I say something stupid and be met with silence and subsequently ignored by the cool crowd? Even worse, will someone UNFRIEND me? Do I look fat in these jeans?

Facebook, or any social networking site, gives the illusion of connection without having to look someone in the eye. Much like blogging, it's inherently narcissistic, shallow and — one hopes — no more than a fun hobby. When it becomes the primary means of reaching out to the world, however, it disappoints. I spend too much time on Facebook (clearly), and no matter how much I truly appreciate the friendships I've found there (I do!), it's not the same as real social interaction. Most of the friends I've met online are people I would love to meet and hang out with. But I don't. They live far away, they're busy with their families, their jobs are demanding — or I'm too lazy to take a shower and meet for coffee. I don't know why this is, but there you have it. I have yet to sit face-to-face with someone I've met online. They remain my "bonus" friends, somewhere to turn when I don't feel like making a phone call but need to vent a little or share a thought. It's just so easy, and keeps me from talking to myself.

I'm not finished retooling my life, but in the meantime, I am someone's mother, daughter, sister, friend. (And Food Lady to the dog — shit, I forgot to feed her.) All of that is very real, and it should be enough. But it's not. Not when I compare it to the picture perfect lives of friends more settled, successful, smart or happy than I am. Holding myself up for public scrutiny on Facebook doesn't phase me; it's the personal scrutiny that gets me into trouble. Stop doing that, Laurel.

Apr 9, 2010

Dishpan hands.

Back to the Year of Living with Less. You know what? I have very little to report. What we have given up: space, a dishwasher, a microwave, control of the thermostat, cable TV, a land line, a fenced yard and the ability to properly check the weather without walking up a flight of stairs. Boo hoo. It's simply not that dramatic. The two (three?) flooding incidents that first week were the worst of it so far. Knock on wood.

It's a pain to deal with the dog when Grace is here, but when Grace is at school, Brady gets long walks, rain or shine. We both needed that. It's become more difficult to have friends over, particularly Grace's friends, because there isn't much room to run around. But Grace has the biggest room in the place, and soon I will convince her that it's much more fun to play in her room with her toys than to pepper the adults with questions like, "What are you drinking? What's your favorite color? Do you toot a lot?"

More than anything else, I'm struggling with unpacking. There is space here for most of the belongings I chose to keep. (The thirteen boxes of books have me stymied, since in the past I've hung bookshelves, which I've decided not to do here because I'm tired of doing it over and over. There's no room for a massive bookcase, so for now they are in my closet, where my clothes should be.) My ambivalence has more to do with the notion of actually settling in here, and what it means in the grand scheme of my life. We've moved six times in the last five years; we will probably move again when this lease is up. I'm tired of packing and unpacking, and we seem to be getting along fine with the basics. Why bother finding a place for things we don't need? But that leaves me feeling unsettled, as if this is not a home as much as a pit stop on the way to my real life. That feeling is getting old, fast.

When I open a box full of vases, all I can think is, "Why the hell do I have so many vases?" It will be a long time before I buy another candle or a box of fancy soap. I have a ridiculous collection of kitchen utensils from my previous life of cooking (as a hobby!) and entertaining frequently. Since I've gotten into the habit of eating practically the same thing every day so that I don't have to put much thought into my meals (it's enough trying to get Grace to eat a healthy diet), I really don't need that giant roasting pan, or a kitchen scale, or separate little scrubby brushes for corn, potatoes and mushrooms. I have a huge box of barware that hasn't been opened since John and I moved out of our first house. Wine glasses, champagne flutes, pilsners, water goblets and who knows what else. I know I won't bother to unpack this. I just need to hide the box.

Today I'm going to take the plunge and haul everything out of the laundry room into the apartment and decide what to unpack; the rest I will probably get rid of. Just like a closet full of clothes that don't get worn, I have a surfeit of things that don't get used or appreciated. They are weighing me down, and I doubt they will be missed. Wish me luck.

(As far as dishpan hands are concerned, I'm lucky to be washing my dishes in a sink rather than in a filthy river in which someone upstream is peeing. And it's a little slice of me time that I'm beginning to enjoy.)

Apr 7, 2010

Lightening up.

Last week I spent a few days moving the rest of my stuff from the rental house where we lived for a year. I decided to finally get rid of things I don't need rather than continuing to move them from house to house. (Actually the decision was made for me by the fact that I don't have enough room.) The whole experience was a pain in the ass, physically and emotionally. It was a lot of work that symbolized another false start, failed.

I've been itching to purge, however, and I'm determined to keep weeding out what I don't need or love. Clutter drives me crazy; even confined to a basement or garage, I still know it's there. Now I'm trying to identify what I want to keep and what I've held onto out of habit.

I'm hoping this exercise will inspire me to make similar changes in another cluttered place: my brain. Just as I didn't have to think twice about keeping my favorite pieces of art — and I will never apologize for schlepping my books from place to place — my top priorities are clear: Grace, family, friends, writing and striving (fighting?) to be a better person before I die. For some reason, however, I'm easily distracted from these things. In fact, I seek out distractions. Maybe I'm afraid that my best efforts won't be good enough, but without focus, I'm completely rudderless and tend to spiral into my own little self-pity party. It's pathetic.

The other day, I told a friend that I like being alone, that it was something I needed. Then I read my last couple of posts (because, you know, what better reading is there, really?) and thought to myself, "Laurel, you are full of shit." Or am I? I suspect the word "alone" means something different to different people; I also believe the experience of being alone isn't always the same for one person. I can enjoy long stretches of solitude and never consider myself alone. I take off for the coast for three days of uninterrupted writing, barely talking to another soul, and couldn't be happier. On the other hand, if I have nothing to do on a Friday night, and I feel like doing something for a change, all I can think is, "Holy crap, I'm so alone!"

Why am I sometimes so afraid of being alone? I covered it pretty thoroughly in this post , but apparently I have trouble remembering my own little epiphanies. Today I realized it's even simpler than that. What I miss is having one person I know I can talk to every day (someone over four). There is a sense of continuity when you have that person, whether it's a best friend, a parent or a lover. I've had that for my entire life and now, suddenly, I don't.

It blows.