Friday, September 24, 2010

Ups and Downs

Some things have really been going my way lately. And yet, today is definitely a down day. I woke up feeling discontented and anxious, grumpy and annoyed.

I received a clean bill of health from two doctors this week, definitely a happy thing. I felt good earlier this week. I felt like things were falling into place, like I had clearance to move forward with my life again. I felt good about continuing towards starting our family.

A house came on the market that our realtor emailed us about. We're seeing it this weekend. It could be really awesome. I keep trying to picture us in a home instead of our somewhat cramped apartment. I also know that we don't have nearly enough saved yet for the down payment we want to make, and even though we could get a house for less down, we cannot afford the monthly payments if we do that. And so we wait.

Donald has been really frustrated lately with his job and his career. He has a very leadership based personality and loves to be in charge and to direct forward progress. He's very good at it, too. So it's frustrating to him that he doesn't have that much control over his career path right now. And it's frustrating to him that he isn't making a salary on par with his education and experience. Especially when we know that more money could put us into a house sooner.

I really want a guest room. And a yard.

And then I feel selfish and ungrateful. We both have jobs, and in this tough economic time, that is huge. We have a safe and comfortable place to live. We have a great marriage and we make a great team. We have two wonderful cats and an awesome (although sometimes pushy) dog. We have a good social life. We eat well and we're healthy.

That is so much good. Why aren't we happy with that?

Donald is also impatient. He feels like he's constantly moving toward better things and never arriving at them. I try to help him see that he has choices about how happy he is with what we have now. He only sees compromise and giving up his dreams. I have been where he is. I hope he can find a way to be happy now without giving up the dreams of the things he wants for himself and for us and for our family. It's a really hard thing to do.

My discontent is not connected to what we don't have yet. Instead, it seems to be more connected to a sense of disconnect, of floating, of not knowing what I want out of life. I don't feel rooted, even though my weekly yoga practice encourages rootedness so strongly. I try to remember to plant my feet and reach for the sky with my hands, like a tree, but as I do, I worry that my feet aren't planted in the right place and that what I'm reaching for isn't actually something I want.

I get in this place where things I have been absolutely, positively sure about are no longer clear to me. Like having a family. Like what I want out of my career. Like what I want to be doing with my time. And while these might seem like normal questions, they arrive in the context of wondering why we do any of these things, why I am here, what I am supposed to do with my life that will give it any meaning.

The silly part is that I have an important role in my job. My daily activities are appreciated and needed. They are at home as well, and Donald does a wonderful job of telling me how much he appreciates and loves me. Somehow that doesn't help. I don't see how my actions or activities matter in the big picture. I don't see any lasting change. I don't see a reason for being.

Before you get worried, I am not suicidal. I do not think of ending my existence. I simply float, from hour to hour, day to day, wondering where the meaning is. Wondering how I can regain my happiness, when I can see the world for the good things and feel like I have a place in it.

I feel like such a drama queen. Like I should knock it off, stop indulging these feelings and get back to reality.

I'm calling a counseling service provided by my employer this weekend. Maybe that will help. I know I need some guidance. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What's the Point?

I ask myself this question more and more often these days.

What is the point? Why am I spending my time the way I do? What am I really trying to accomplish?

I have lost interest in some things I used to enjoy very much.

I get easily frustrated and emotional when things don't work out the way I want them to. For example, Donald and I spent two hours in the car trying to run an errand, but because of traffic, we had to turn around empty handed. By the time we got home, I was in tears.

I get excited about things, like a trip to Europe with Donald I'm trying to plan, but then I lose all interest, feeling like it's probably a waste of money or that our family planning might get in the way or that we won't be able to take time off work to make the trip worthwhile.

So what's the point in trying?

I know how blessed my life is and I know that I should be feeling grateful for what I have.

But sometimes I don't. Sometimes I just don't know why I get out of bed in the morning. I feel purposeless.

I know I am loved and I know that people care about me. I try to smile and keep my head up.

But sometimes I'd rather cry until I am empty.

If I knew what was wrong, maybe I could move forward. Maybe I could say, ok, this is the hand I have been dealt, now I can figure out how to keep living. But I don't know what is wrong. I don't have the information I need.

So I float, in limbo, on automatic, until I find a way to bring some light back into my life.

I'm not unhappy, I tell Donald. I'm just not happy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Faith Revisited

My period is over a week late. Four pregnancy tests over the last week have said "Not Pregnant".

What the heck?

My mom, mother-in-law, sister, and sister-in-law have been wonderful sources of support, sympathy, and common sense for me. When I emailed them yesterday telling them that I feel like a freak and that I did not yet have newsworthy news, I didn't realize how much I needed their input.

I am so grateful for them and for the support they give me even though we're far away from each other.

I'm feeling humbled about my do or do not attitude. While I don't believe that we're having "trouble" in any way, I have discovered that this isn't as straightforward as I had assumed.

Who knew?

I will remember that women have been getting pregnant for a long time and I will bolster my faith that it will happen for us, too. And if it doesn't, then we have all sorts of adoption options.

Maybe all of this is pushing me to relax about the whole process, to stop thinking about my cycle, to just be.

To be fair, the last month has been pretty emotionally complicated with the discovery of the cyst in my breast (it's still there) and Donald's renewed job search. I think I've gotten pretty good at rolling with the punches and figuring out how to adjust, especially when I know exactly what matters most to me and to us.

We are moving forward on so many good things:
We are starting a family and that will happen when it is supposed to happen.
We have a dog, and she's actually quite well-behaved despite some bumps along the way.
We have happy cats that have been very forgiving about this canine creature we have brought into their home.
We are learning about what kind of house makes a home for us, even if we don't end up buying one here in our new town.

Donald is growing in his career, figuring out what really matters to him and what he needs to feel successful and content in his professional life. And while my first reaction was to ask him to shut up and stick it out because we were putting down roots, dammit, I have remembered that my initial goal was for him to be happy in his professional life. That has not been achieved and while I think it can be, it may not be here. We may be moving again. This may not be the place for us to put down roots yet.

We just have to keep learning from our experiences and looking forward to make the most out of whatever comes our way next. And we'll keep up our teamwork, facing each new door as an opportunity, together.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beginnings

A few nights ago, Donald and I were enjoying a cool evening outside looking at the stars. We realized that, a year ago, we were doing the same thing when we were living at his parents' home when he was unemployed, wondering what our lives would be like a year from then. And now we know.

We are living in our own apartment, in our own space, and in our own community. It is beautiful here and I absolutely love it.

Donald has a good job, one that is challenging and isn't always what he wants, but he's working it out and has committed to sticking with it.

I was able to make some income freelancing and I have now accepted a full-time job with a local university. I'll have a lot of responsibility and it's a new position, which means I'll have some influence over how my job description evolves and I'll have my hands in policy and procedure, which I love.

We adopted a puppy on July 1, a Rottweiler mix named Sasha:



We are moving forward with starting our family, hopefully to know more by the end of this month.

We are meeting regularly with a realtor, looking for our very first home. We are learning so much about each other and what "home" means. It has been such a wonderful way for us to develop our relationship together, although it has its challenges.

I have been enjoying a stay-at-home lifestyle, with lots of flexibility in my schedule and lots of time to get projects done. The full-time position that came along was something of a surprise, especially because I had assumed that I would be working from home, which is partially why we adopted Sasha when we did. I have to think that these things happen for a reason, though.

The income from my new position will be a great help towards purchasing a home sooner rather than later, allowing us to prepare for our growing family. Raising a puppy has started to open our eyes to the amazing world of parenting, giving us many restless nights getting up many times and inspiring many conversations about rules, training, and our desires as we make decisions together. I have discovered that I can get very angry in certain situations, and that I need to get a handle on this before we have children. I need to teach myself better ways of expressing my anger. We are gaining so much that is preparing us for what will come.

At the same time, there are bumps along the way.

I discovered a lump in my breast and I'm in the process of finding out what it is and whether it will have any impact on my health and our other plans. It seems to be a cyst, but there may be something else going on as well, so that's a bit scary. I'll find out more this coming week. I have been advised that the possibility of this being something serious is quite small, but even the tiniest chance has been a reminder to me of my mortality and I have made a very conscious decision to be even more present every day, to appreciate everything I have and to make the most of every opportunity.

I am feeling burned out with the animal shelter with which I volunteer, partially because one of the dogs I was getting to know really well decided to freak out on me, causing scratches and bruises, but also because there are some organizational issues that I'm not sure I have the energy to help fix. I'm the kind of person who is very operationally-minded, and I love to help non-profit organizations become more efficient and productive and to find ways to improve themselves. I just don't think I'm up to the challenge on this one. I have a few other things on my mind these days, I guess.

I'm redirecting my energy these days. I have a puppy to care for now. I'm spending more time with my yoga practice, using it to find balance and calm in my life despite the significant changes we have already made and the changes that we hope will come. I have a week before my new job begins and I hope to spend it preparing for what will probably be my last paid job for a long time because I plan to leave the workforce to raise our children when they arrive.

I think a lot about what my identity will be once that change occurs. My time not working since we moved here to our new community has been very helpful to me in that way. I discovered the joy of running my household. I love taking care of my husband and our pets. I am excited to add children to that mix. I found that I am often lonely when I am home all day, which is why I have directed my energy into exercise classes and volunteering in my community. I know that I need to be connected to be happy, and I will always continue that in some capacity.

I am learning that my career, or what I am paid to do, does not in any way define who I am or what I can contribute to the world around me. I am so much more than that. While my career has given me wonderful experience in various ways and has taught me so much, I know that I can stand on what my life has taught me, not just drawing on paid experience, but on those things I have done in my own time. I have grown more confident and willing to ask questions and to learn from those around me. I am drawn to those who are passionate about what they do. I feel like I am on the verge of finding out more about what I am meant to do in this world, and I am very excited about that. And I am living my life every day.

So many new beginnings. And some endings. Such is the way of the world.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Marriage Comes First

So it turns out that our major life decisions are not completely up to either one of us. We're both working to take a lot of things on faith, to relax our senses of responsibility and to trust that things will work out happily.

Donald and I had a breakthrough conversation in the car during a long drive this past weekend and it dawned on me in yoga this morning what my resulting action has been.

I have chosen, very consciously and openly, to put my marriage first.

You see, it turns out that I was so focused on getting what I wanted (babies!) that I wasn't respecting Donald's wishes and preferences. While I intended only to nudge Donald in the direction of having children sooner rather than later, instead it turned into subtle (and not so subtle) acts of coercion.

Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't force anything or give him ultimatums or sperm-jack him. Nothing like that. It was simply in the way that I talked and acted that made him feel like I hadn't heard him clearly, made him feel that his feelings didn't matter.

And here I thought I had this communication thing all figured out.

The breakthrough conversation was really difficult. I learned that Donald felt disrespected by me, which I didn't like hearing about myself. I apologized. I learned that Donald and I significantly disagree about our timeline of having children and purchasing a home. I learned that this may mean that we aren't going to have children as soon as I would like to (yesterday).

Donald's preference is that we have a home before any little ones arrive. My preference is that we have children when we're ready (now) and let everything else get figured out, including the purchase of our first home.

These preferences are not mutually exclusive until you see that we don't have the money for a down payment yet. Remember, Donald was unemployed for over a year and I'm currently minimally self-employed (more on that later). It gets even more difficult when you understand that we would prefer to put 20% down on our first home so that we can get the best interest rate.

This basically means that we are at least a year away from purchasing our first home. I turn 30 in November. I know plenty of women are having children after 30, and I also know that the general advice is to have one's first child by that age. It's just another thing to factor in.

To be fair to Donald, he wants children. His baby timeline is for me to be pregnant before the end of the year. So we're on the same page there.

The real hiccup is the house, which connects to my job. If I could manage to make money in my new e-lancing endeavors, then we would be that much closer to our first home. Right now, I have about five hours of work a week. I'm marketing myself as an editor, proofreader, and virtual assistant. I've been networking hard this week with people who know me and my skills, so hopefully some more work will come my way soon.

Or my dream job with my favorite non-profit could come through. They're still unsure about their funding. As most people are these days.

It would be easy to blame the economy for all of this - Donald's company's failure and unemployment (including the loss of our original house down payment fund), my current minimal employment, and our delay in starting a family. It would be easy to blame Donald for these things, too.

Blame doesn't make anyone feel better though. Neither does feeling sorry for myself or turning myself into a martyr.

Which is why I have chosen to put my marriage first. It is one of the things in my life that is really good, that I don't want to ever be without. It is something that I can depend on and lean on. It resides in the realm of the known.

Everything else that we're considering is in the realm of the unknown. We have no idea what will happen when we journey down any of these potential paths.

And that is why Donald and I as a team come first. We will need every bit of our married strength to take any of these next steps. And we're going to do it together, with respect for each others' views and feelings, and with a balance of faith and responsibility.

Because that's how we roll.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bitches Don't Be Crazy or How Women Should Communicate with Men

I have guest posted again for Kate at Newlywed & Unemployed. Check out my post and let me know what you think! I'll respond to comments there. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Heart Centered

No decisions have yet been made about these huge life changes I am contemplating. One of the reasons for that is that Donald, in his youthful wisdom, has understood the gravity of these decisions for me and has given them to me to contemplate and decide for myself before we make a final decision together.

He saw that I was feeling trapped, angry, resentful, and upset about the way in which these decisions are intertwined. He encouraged me to see each one separately, to consider what I really want, regardless of what I think he wants. He knows how much difficulty I have in listening to myself, to what I want, and how detrimental that can be in the long run, if I wake up in 30 years and realize that I have been living my life only for other people.

Learning to listen to myself, to my heart and soul, is very difficult for me. I try to remember the times in my life when I have been peaceful and happy. That is when I know that I am listening to my spirit and not to my mind, when I act with my heart and not my head.

I am transported.

I walk through an open field covered in tall, green grasses swaying in a sometimes blustery, springtime breeze. Thunderclouds loom overhead, grey and full and energetic. Mountains loom towards the clouds in the near distance and trees dance, their branches swaying in the wind. Surrounded by nature's energy, I feel alive and connected, I feel a little wild and at peace. I am confident in my steps along the path in front of me. The space around me is familiar, yet ever changing. I feel safe and I feel that I am making progress towards a great unknown, a happy adventure ahead of me.

I don't need to look back because I know where I have come from, I know who I am. A coyote trots along a parallel path and then disappears over the ridge ahead. My spirit smiles, my lips say thank you, and my heart lifts towards the sky. The only barriers in front of me are those I allow to exist. It begins to rain, big wet drops landing in the dust around my feet. I feel cleansed and whole and loved. I don't need to know what lies over the next ridge before I get there. I simply need to know what is in front of me, right now, and what I want to make of this moment's opportunity.

When I return from my spirit place, I feel so close to knowing what I want and need to be happy. I can tell that I am on the verge of answers. It's like waking up from a dream in which you were about to see something you really wanted, and then you have no idea what it was going to be. I try to let my mind slip back again, to maintain my peace and faith and calm. Laundry and dishes and errands call for my time. The images recede into my subconscious. I will return again, perhaps next time even closer to the answers I seek.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Big Decisions

I recently tweeted that I'm currently in the process of big decision making about starting a family, my career path, buying a house, and getting a dog. Easy, right?

Apparently not.

I have spent pieces of the last several days close to, or in, tears. I have questioned my value, my purpose, my abilities, and my sanity. Donald doesn't quite know what to do with me, besides lots and lots of hugs and conversations (although I think his gut tells him to stay at least 10 feet away when the crazy starts flying).

I want a baby, more than anything. Donald does too. We are so excited to be on the same page with this, finally ready to jump off this ledge together, ready to change our lives completely and forever. This is monumental and wonderful and terrifying and emotional.

I mean, I sat in front of my husband, eye to eye, staring at our future full on, and told him it was time. I've been waiting to do that for years and it happened, it's here, it's now!

However, even though my mom reminds me to try not to be too rational about this decision, Donald and I still want to make sure that we're making this choice with responsibility and consequences in mind.

For example, we want to buy a house in the next year or so. Given that our financial situation has been under some stress in the past few years, this means that we'd like to be saving up as much as we can between now and then to put towards a down payment on a house. This is exciting, too! It does mean, however, that a baby potentially shortens the timeline during which I can be contributing to this worthy cause. That, and the fact that I am currently unemployed.

Therefore, I've been earnestly job searching this week. I'm still hoping that a group I volunteer with can hire me, but just in case that doesn't come through, I need to have a backup plan. I'm finding that backup plan probably also means a job that doesn't bring me happiness. I'm struggling with this, a lot, especially because I swore to myself that my next job would be doing something I really want to do.

And I still haven't quite figured out what that is. Besides, you know, being a mom. They don't seem to pay you to do that around here. If any of you have figured out how to make that work, call me!

So I peruse the ads and websites looking for something that pays more than minimum wage, won't turn me down because I'm overqualified, and won't make me cry or want to throw up from the compromises I'm continuing to make in my career, forever doomed to make no difference in the world at all unless I can somehow manage to birth an army of do-gooders who will save the world where I have failed.

<deep breath>

Donald convinced me last night that this is not, in fact, my last chance to make a difference in the world, whether our children are all that we hope for or not. He knows me too well. He knows that I will always be involved in things in my community, stirring things up, asking hard questions, pushing for better ways of doing things. He knows that I will always be involved in volunteering and charity work. He also reminded me that I will not be the slave of my children, that they will go to school and take naps and otherwise do things that will leave me with some free time to do for me and my community.

If you're a mom, please stop laughing and feel free to chime in here and relieve me of my terrible naivete about what it's really like to be a stay-at-home mother of one or more children.

The point is, this should be a tough decision. The struggle for women between children and careers is ongoing. While I'm very happy to have a choice about leaving the paid workforce and staying home or returning to the workforce and placing my children in daycare, it is not an easy choice to make. I would love to hear about your experiences and difficult choices along these lines. I know that our decision will be unique for us, as it was for each of you, but knowing that other women have managed to make their decisions and lead happy and productive lives would bring me some peace of mind.

Oh, how does the dog fit in, you ask? Well, we'd prefer for one of us to be home for a new dog, for training and care purposes. So if I can find a job that allows me to work from home, that problem is solved. The other piece of this, however, is that getting a dog and having a baby in close proximity sounds a little like having two babies around the same time and since this would be my first human child and my first canine child, I'm not overly enthusiastic about doing two very different, very new things at the same time.

I did start volunteering with my local no-kill animal shelter though, so perhaps the right dog will find its way into our lives in spite of our plans and rationality. I have to have faith that what will be will be and that in the end, our plans don't mean that we have any control over what might happen.

I'll also try not to cry.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Privacy, Patience, and Forgiveness

I have been thinking about my last post about honesty and self-forgiveness and I realized something.

It would actually be wrong to answer every question with full honesty. Some things are not to be shared with anyone who asks. Some things are private. Some pieces of information should be withheld to keep us safe.

I'm focusing on the privacy issue for the moment. When I was explaining my hangups about honesty to Donald, I realized that my goal is not to answer every question honestly. A balance must be struck between honesty and privacy.

I think my worries about how honest I am somewhat related to how we are going to protect our privacy when we have children and also how to avoid justifying our choices to others. I think these things are very linked.

Here's a scenario. Donald and I visit his parents and one of them notices that I'm not drinking alcohol at cocktail hour. Questions are asked and avoided (or met with lies), assumptions are made, and information we wanted to have kept private is out in the open. How do we navigate these types of social situations with straightforward communication that doesn't alienate people and preserves our privacy? Do we have to just stay home to avoid awkward questions?

I think it's funny that these are the questions that keep me up at night when I think about having kids. It's not about money or danger or how to raise them or worries about birth, it's about how to handle questions without feeling stressed, how to only share the information we want to share and how to feel secure in the decisions we are making together.

Luckily, this means that my struggle with honesty is not as scary as I thought last week and I can now move on to self-forgiveness, decidedly the harder piece of all of this.

Forgiving myself is one of the hardest things for me to do. I am very hard on myself, very critical; I hold very high standards for myself.

For example, I'm volunteering with a local no-kill animal shelter as a dog walker. Many of the animals they receive have had rough lives and part of their mission is to rehabilitate these dogs and then give them to loving families who will want them forever. I believe strongly in this mission, and I know how important my time will be in walking these dogs and showing them affection.

However, I still feel inadequate. I feel like I should be solving the cause of this problem, not simply cleaning up the mess of consequences. I want to get to the root, eliminate the cause so that we don't have to keep cleaning up messes.

Donald just shakes his head and smiles at me. He admires my passion and my interest in solving world problems. He also worries that my standards for myself undermine any sense of accomplishment I might feel in the level of effort I can give. I don't want to accept it when he says that eliminating the cause is impossible for one person.

I often rail against the big problems that I want to solve and cannot. I'm trying to train myself to see the small steps as progress rather than futility. I get frustrated when I spend a lot of time on something that will continue to be a problem because we haven't eliminated the cause. Sometimes this is helpful and sometimes it means that I end my involvement in the process, which doesn't help anyone.

Do I believe that I have more power than I really have? Do I need to stop trying to change the world and simply lower my aim? If I have the power I think I have, how do I harness it and get to the place I want to be?

Passion without action is nothing. This means that even the smallest actions are better than no action. Small actions can become big actions. I simply have to remember that the short term does not equal the long term, that sustained small changes over time are often the way big changes occur.

It's about patience. It's about faith.

If this doesn't look connected to self-forgiveness, it is:
If I can accept what I have just written, then I can forgive myself for only taking small actions and not changing the world immediately.
I can forgive myself for making mistakes, for being human, for hurting other people's feelings, for abandoning things I have cared about.
I can forgive myself for doubting myself. I can forgive myself for a lack of patience and faith.
I can forgive myself for getting carried away and sometimes being selfish and misguided.
I can forgive myself for leading myself astray, for believing things I knew were not true.

I have two difficult stories that I want to share in my journey towards self-forgiveness. They will come soon. Thank you for accompanying me on this path.

Friday, April 16, 2010

My First Guest Post

I am excited to announce that my first guest post is now up on Kate's Newlywed & Unemployed blog. Kate asked me to write about community on her blog and I was happy to do so. I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to contributing more community-related content.

Thanks for visiting her blog and welcome to any new visitors who have arrived from Newlywed & Unemployed!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Honesty and Self-Forgiveness

I am a liar.

I know some people will say, "Oh, that's ok, everyone lies sometimes." The thing is, I don't ever want to lie. I want to be like Temperance Brennan on Bones (I'm slightly obsessed with this show). She says in one episode, "I never lie." I greatly admire that about her. I respect people who are open and honest in their communication. I want to be one of them.

In the last week or so, I have been mulling over the fact that I lie. It is directly related to my inability to forgive myself. The topic is such a huge one for me (and a relatively complex one) that I anticipate covering it in the next several posts, to explore the situation from several angles, and to share with all of you one of the hardest moments of my marriage (related to lying), one I have not stopped punishing myself for, even though Donald has forgiven me and moved on.

Please understand that I am not a habitual liar. Most of the time I tell the truth. The lies come through at strange times. For example, I was returning the E-ZPass I borrowed from my in-laws and wanted to pay them back for the tolls I had incurred. Wanting to avoid the hemming and hawing that comes with trying to give them money, I said that I had already been paid back for the cost by other people on the trip. This was not true, although it accomplished my goal of avoiding further conversation about the matter.

When I was growing up, I told many lies to avoid consequences and to avoid conflict. Of course the boy's parents were home while I was there (they weren't). Of course there was only pee in the toilet when it backed up and overflowed (there wasn't). Of course I washed my hands before dinner (I hadn't). Of course I waited until marriage to have sex (I didn't).

As I remember these events, I realize just how terrified I have been of conflict and of people being upset with me. I say whatever I know the person wants to hear. Most of these lies seem to be in response to direct questions that make me feel judged, that make me feel like a child, that make me feel like I have to defend my actions or choices. Instead of engaging, I lie and flee.

I also lie to avoid judgment, to avoid being wrong. I would rather be the one to volunteer the blame and to accept it before someone asks me or calls me out on it. In fact, I would rather this so much that I have been willing to accept blame even when something wasn't my fault. When I worked as administrative support, when something went wrong and it was my bosses fault, often to smooth things over and fix the situation, I accepted the blame. I have done this on countless occasions, never once feeling that it was a blemish on my integrity.

But when someone asks me directly to account for myself, I get defensive and fearful of the outcome. Even when it's something small, insignificant, and easily remedied. What is wrong with me?

This past March, Simple Marriage had a post that touched on the importance of telling the truth, called The Virtuous Marriage: Sincerity. The part that jumped out at me most is when Corey says "In general err on the side of honesty. Be honest to a fault. Sometimes it may get you in trouble, but generally it will win the respect of those involved."

Since Donald and I are hoping to start a family in the relatively near future, I know that I need to get this problem under control before our children learn bad habits from me. And, while I don't believe that my lying comes into play in our marriage, it's something problematic enough for me that it's in my best interest with or without children in the picture.

So here's where self-forgiveness comes into play. I am unable to forgive myself for mistakes I have made in the past because I have not ended the behavior that led to me making those mistakes in the first place. The biggest issues in my past that I cannot let go of are those mistakes that involved lying to someone or lying to myself.

I don't deserve to be forgiven because I haven't learned from my mistakes in being dishonest. I cannot forgive myself until I learn that telling the truth always is the right thing to do. That is the only way to regain my integrity. If I forgive myself, doesn't that mean that I'm saying that what I did was acceptable?

I'm really going to need your help on this one.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Housewifery

I have spent the last several weeks setting up our new home, which has been surprisingly enjoyable. I think I've been looking forward to this for a long time and I finally feel like this is my opportunity to be truly housewifey.

When Donald gets home at the end of each day, I try to make sure that the apartment is in good order and that evidence of my progress is clearly apparent to show him that I have been nice and productive. I follow him upstairs to hear about his day as he changes his clothes. I make an appetizer and get drinks and we retire to the living room or back patio to sit and talk until it's time for dinner.

Then I return to the kitchen where I have prepared some parts of dinner ahead of time, have all of the ingredients I need, and a full meal plan figured out. I make dinner while he relaxes and then we eat a yummy, healthy dinner that always looks and tastes good. After dinner, we clean up the dishes, sometimes have dessert, and lounge in front of the TV or chat until it's time for bed.

Is anyone else gagging and rolling their eyes besides me?

Ok, to be fair, this is kind of what I've been doing. It's a little frightening, especially to the screaming, bra-burning feminist I have trapped inside this 1950s wifely persona. And while I'm proud of myself for being a "good wife" I'm also starting to realize that this cannot continue.

I need ME time.

I went shopping earlier this week, for example, for three hours, to get some summery clothes since most of mine got decluttered when I went through my closet. I had a budget and there was a need and I was actually really successful. And I felt guilty for spending that time and money on just me. Seriously.

At that point, and after realizing that my tendency when Donald came home was to dote on him from the moment he came in the door to the moment we turned out the light to go to sleep, I knew that something needed to change. And keep in mind that Donald in no way requested that this be the way I operate. He has been wonderfully appreciative, but I think he was also starting to wonder where his independently-minded spouse had disappeared to.

So last night we chatted about my various roles, as wife, homemaker, and independent self. I have been having trouble feeling efficient since we moved here and I needed to have more structure to my days, so it made sense to list out my roles and the tasks that go with each and then construct my weekly schedule to accommodate all of them in a balanced manner.

(I also have to say, for someone who has never lived in a house with stairs, now that we have three floors, I have had a really hard time feeling efficient when what I need is always a floor up or down from where I am. How do you handle this? It seems so far away! I'm spending all of my time going up and down stairs instead of accomplishing something!)

This morning, I got up and made a list. One section was called "housewife" and the other section, for lack of a better word, was "me" (I don't have multiple personalities, really). Here's how it broke down:

Housewife:
- Cooking (meal planning, groceries)
- Cleaning
- Laundry
- Clutter control, filing, organizing, troubleshooting
- Errands and online shopping
- Pet care
- Activity planning for evenings and weekends
- Home care (decorating, budgeting, paying bills, recycling, getting mail, etc.)

Me:
- Exercise routine (yoga, walks, cardio)
- Blogging
- Reading and writing
- Communicating, staying in touch, phone calls, Facebook, cards and gifts
- Career planning/networking
- Projects (scrapbooking, photo albums)
- Relaxing, playing games, puzzles, TV and movies
- Crocheting and knitting
- Personal care, health research

Then I opened up Outlook and starting with next week, put most of these items on the calendar, picking certain days for weekly activities (Tuesday is laundry day) and carving out special time for "me" activities like blogging and exercising. This way, there won't be any guilt, I'll have reminders about what I should be working on, and my productivity and satisfaction levels should go up because I will know that I'm making progress.

It also helps me identify how much time in a day I really have for things like volunteering so I know how committed I can be with new activities without compromising the things I'm already doing. It does get me wondering how I ever did anything useful when I was working full-time. Hopefully my plans to work from home will help me maintain some flexibility and will also be rewarding in its own right.

I have gotten distracted from the point of my post (clearly, showing all of you how OCD I am was necessary). This experience has shown me how easy it can be for me to put everyone else ahead of myself and how important it is for me to actually schedule time just for me in order for me to feel that I have permission to take a half hour to give myself a pedicure instead of detail cleaning the baseboards. This will be especially important as we move forward on having a family, and the better habits I can create now, the more likely it is that I'll continue them when we have another mouth to feed.

That's how it works, right?

How do you balance being an individual and being a wife or husband and/or mom or dad? How do you make time for you?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Five Years

Five years ago today, I married the love of my life, my best friend and soul mate, the one who completes me.

Our vows were simple:
In the name of God,
I, Emily, take you, Andrew, to be my husband,
to have and to hold, from this day forward,
for better or worse,
for richer or poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish
until we are parted by death.

The last five years have asked a lot of us. We have been happy and sad, fulfilled and frustrated, calm and terrified. Our marriage has been tested and it has held strong. Marriage is hard and we have learned to maintain it, to grow it.

Our foundation is stable. The storms we have weathered have made it stronger. We are stronger. We know each other better now and we know more of our own capabilities.

During the last five years, we have faced distrust, unemployment, depression, relocation, family pressures, delayed dreams, financial woes, parental separation, and deaths of loved ones. Truly, it is nothing more than most people face in their lives. What stands out is that we are on the other side, smiling and happy. We made it through in one piece. We have survived and we are thriving. We live to face whatever comes next and we know that our trials are not over. We are ready to take it on.

We could not have done this without the loving support of our many communities. Our families, our friends, my blogging community, all of these people who have supported our marriage and our development as individuals are to be given at least partial credit for our accomplishment today.

Thank you. In gratitude, yes, those are our real first names in our vows. A gift for all of you.

More updates and news to come.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moving Forward

I feel  like I'm supposed to make up for my blogging absence by posting a really awesome story about our epic move and all of the things that went wrong and how much more insightful I am because of the experience.

Strangely enough, though, I don't think I have had any insights. I think I have simply wandered into a new level of happy.

This seems like a huge breakthrough, and it is, it's just that it has been happening so gradually that I didn't even really realize it until I typed it just now.

I am happy.

I think it's a combination of many things, as most things are. We found movers and were packed and loaded and unloaded within a week. I've been driving between our new home and my job (last day tomorrow!), which is actually a really nice time to me to transition mentally and emotionally. Instead of a sudden transition, it's a gradual one. It helps, too, that spring is arriving and the sun is shining more often.

It took some time for me to figure out that our new home is "home" now. It didn't feel like home at all at first. The town was just the place where I would visit Donald while he worked on a contract basis and now you're telling me we're staying here "forever"? Really? It was hard to wrap my head around that. I keep wandering around saying "We LIVE here!"

It's also hard to feel at home when you're surrounded by furniture and boxes of things you've been living without for over a year. It's a weird feeling, like coming home after your first semester away at college. Your room is still yours and it's not. It's like it belongs to someone else and you at the same time.

It has been emotional. Unpacking boxes and finding things has given me such mixed feelings. My pratice with decluttering from going through my closet, though, has helped significantly. While I don't use the "If I haven't used it in a year, then it goes" rule because then we would have nothing left, I am being pretty liberal with the "give away" box and I am proud of how my efforts are going so far.

Our two cats LOVE the new place and I love seeing them in it. They are happy to have us around more, happy to have some of their favorite things again, happy to be discovering new favorite things. They are the closest thing we have to children and it is so much fun to share this new adventure with them and show them all the newness.

Donald and I have had some great opportunities for teamwork, which is something that we tend to be good at, that strengthens our marriage. We spent an entire day looking for an 8x10 area rug for our main room, running through the rain between the car and store after store after store. None of them had anything bigger than 5x7 and we needed something TODAY according to Donald, so we kept looking.

We struck gold when we wandered into a furniture store looking frustrated and asked an employee for advice. He leaned in and said "I shouldn't tell you this, but..." and proceeded to direct us to a discount store nearby. We had stumbled onto the mecca of area rugs. They had rolls of remnants from floor to ceiling of a warehouse sized building and stacks and stacks of "Oriental" rugs just our size. And the price was right, too.

I had brought a pillow from one of our pieces of furniture so we could guess on color matches and we found the only 8x10 in the store that would work. We unearthed our treasure and headed for the register, Donald nearly knocking down several floor lamps ala The Three Stooges. It was pouring rain, so Donald suggested that I bring my car around to the curb. In that moment, it dawned on both of us that there was a significant possibility that our awesome find would not fit in my vehicle (a small four-door hatchback).

Cursing inwardly, I ran into the rain with my keys towards my car, thinking that there was no way, that this rug was obviously bigger than my car and that this would not work. I pulled the car around and pushed the front seat forward, opened the hatchback and prayed. Donald brought out the rug and started inching it from the back towards the dashboard while I adjusted as well as I could at the front. Miraculously, just as the rug was heading for my windshield, the end slid into place inside the trunk and we were home free. Giggling uncontrollably about our luck, we drove home.

I guess I did have a story in me.

I have more travel and unpacking ahead of me before I will really feel settled. Things should be calmer next week, at which point I hope to catch up with all of you and your blogs and share more about our latest adventure.

Until then, just know that things really do work out for the best.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Makeup and Animal Cruelty

Donald and I will be occupied for the next several days with moving and working, so I thought I would write a post completely unrelated to it all to tide my readers over until I can write an update. I would love to read your thoughts on the topic.

If anything, wish us well on the move!

------------------------------------
Animal testing is a touchy topic for me. Many important medical advancements have come from research conducted on animals. State and federal laws also require that certain consumer goods be tested on animals to make sure that they are safe for people to use. I'm not going to address these things. Instead, I want to address the testing of luxury goods on animals, namely cosmetics.

I had noticed that some of my cosmetic products have a symbol or words on them that say "Not tested on animals". It made me curious, so I went through all of the products in my makeup bag and daily routine to see whether all of them had this distinction. Finding very few, I did a little research.

I discovered that state and federal testing is not required for these products. Putting the words "Not tested on animals" is regulated, so you can trust that it is accurate. Watch our for "Final product not tested on animals" because that means that it was tested on animals at some point in the manufacturing process.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that most of my cosmetics are not cruelty free. I decided that my external beauty is not worth causing unnecessary animal suffering. There are quality cosmetics available that do not engage in animal testing. I am making the switch.

I am using my money to make a stand.

I am not a PETA member and I don't agree with many of their practices. They do, however, have a great website that lets you search for companies that do or do not test their products on animals. The list for those that do not test on animals is quite long and extensive and includes many well-known brands. You can also search for cruelty-free manufacturers of specific products.

Some of my favorite products are from cruelty-free companies:
Aveda
Bath & Body Works
Burt's Bees
Crabtree & Evelyn
M.A.C.
Revlon
St. Ives
Tom's of Maine
Wet N' Wild

Surprisingly NOT on the cruelty-free list (these products will be phased out of my collection ASAP):
Aveeno
Cover Girl
L'Oreal
Maybelline
Neutrogena
Olay

I have a choice. I'm glad I had the information to make the choice that is most in line with my values.


**Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with any of the companies or websites listed above.**

Friday, February 26, 2010

Leap of Faith

I have been waiting to write this post since I started my blog. I have been waiting to say these words for a year and a half.

Donald has a full-time job.

He accepted the offer this week. He's signing the lease on our new apartment this morning. I gave notice at my current job yesterday. We are moving in mid-March. We are starting our lives again.

I didn't write this post the minute he received his job offer because it was a mixed experience. He was offered a different position from the one he had been doing on contract, which really surprised us. It was like he had lost a job and been offered a job in the same moment, a moment filled with disappointment and confusion rather than joy and relief.

It didn't help that I was home alone and that he was a three-hour drive away. That evening was especially difficult because we were physically apart. It is so hard to make life-changing decisions when you cannot look each other in the eye, when you cannot hold hands, when you cannot give or receive hugs.

Since that difficult moment, however, we have re-rooted ourselves in what is most important. The job is still with the same company. It will further Donald's career. He will still get to work with his amazing coworkers, just not as closely. He still has the chance to get the position he wants next year (it wasn't in the budget this year).

And he HAS A JOB! We can move forward! We can move out of his parents' home and get a dog and have our own lives again.

We weren't exactly going to say "no, thanks".

We are taking a leap of faith. We trust this company to do right by Donald and our family. We trust that our scramble to find housing has resulted in an apartment that will be "good enough". It might even be great. We chose location over space and I think it was the right choice.

Somehow we had gotten it into our heads that this moment, the one we have been waiting for for so long, would be nothing but happiness, relief, and the end of compromises. As I type that, it seems clearly silly. But that's what we expected. And that's why it wasn't obvious right away that this was real, that we really were doing something good. That compromising didn't mean that it wasn't what we should do.

We are SO excited. We are taking our next steps with our eyes open, our hearts forward, and we are leaping feet first into this next adventure.

Won't you come with us?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Five Love Languages

Kate at Newlywed & Unemployed wrote this month about a book by Gary Chapman called The 5 Love Languages. I found her review intriguing and checked out the website for the book, which includes free personal profiles for men and women to determine their love language ranking.

Donald and I both took the online personal profile quiz and then talked about our results. The outcome was so eye opening and so helpful to both of us. The results below show how each of us want to be loved, not necessarily how we show our love for others, although these are related.

My results (in order of importance) were:
Words
Touch
Time
Service
Gifts

Donald's results (in order of importance) were:
Time
Service
Touch
Gifts
Words

I actually had equally high scores on my top three, which gives Donald all sorts of options for showing his love for me. It was particularly revealing to see that Words, one of my top needs, was at the bottom for Donald. I realized that my words to him don't mean nearly so much as his words to me. It helped me see that the things I do for him and the time we spend together is more important than I had previously thought.

We also talked about my low Service need. I chalked it up to being so independent, not wanting to wait for him to open doors for me or do something for me that I could do myself. It's funny how we assume that other people want to be loved the same way we do. If I had pushed on showing most of my love for Donald through Words, I think he would have been mighty disappointed. Same thing if Donald insisted on showing his love for me by showering me with gifts. It's always nice, but not as fulfilling as other things he could do.

What are your love languages? How does this affect your relationships? Have you talked about your needs with your significant other? Do you know what their needs are?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Disability Awareness

My job working with rehabilitation specialists has educated me about the myths and realities about people with disabilities. In my short time in the blogosphere, I have come across quite a few people who are trying to share good information about the realities of living with disabilities and the things each of us can do to make their lives that much easier.

For example, Barbara Swafford wrote a post a while back at Blogging Without a Blog about how to make your website or blog more accessible to people with disabilities. A recent commenter on my blog, Lindsey, writes her own blog about raising five children with disabilities.

If you're following the Olympics in Vancouver this winter, you might not know that the Paralympics take place from March 12-21 in the same facilities.

I have also been seeing these wonderful ads on TV from Think Beyond the Label about promoting the hiring of people with disabilities. This ties in with my interest in helping Veterans return to "normal" life when they return from the war. Many returning Veterans have disabilities of one kind or another, and they deserve fair hiring practices that allow them to contribute to their country when they come back.

Many of us are currently buried under feet of snow. My particular city has neglected to clear most sidewalks in a high pedestrian area. Pedestrians have been killed by cars because they were walking in the street, the only place clear enough to walk. This is bad enough for those of us who can walk independently. Put yourself in the shoes of someone in a wheelchair and the problem is even more complicated. Public busses cannot get to the curb, so people using wheelchairs have a hard time getting on and off the bus. This is unacceptable, for everyone involved. Solutions are delayed by fights over who's responsibility it is to fix the problem instead of mobilizing the public to help everyone in a communal effort.

On a happier note, many companies are actively making efforts to accommodate people with disabilities. EA Games, a video game company, has taken strides to create settings that meet the needs of people with physical and developmental disabilities. EA Games has partnered with a company called VTree to do more of this kind of work in a project called Games for Good. A group called Able Gamers runs a website all about games and their accessibility highs and lows. This is a powerful group considering that one of their largest consumer bases is made up of Veterans.

As a side note, if you haven't come across Games That Give, check them out. Turn the time you spend playing games on your computer into money for your favorite charity. And it's free.

**Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with the companies, events, or websites listed above.**

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day

More like snow week. For those of you not following national weather news, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states are being walloped by the second snow storm in a week. It has been quite the adventure, with the university that employs me being closed for three days in a row. It's practically unheard of. For those of you in this area with me, please be careful and stay warm and safe.

You might have noticed that I have been absent from blogs, mine included, for the past week. Part of that is due to the fact that I headed home early last Friday because of the first impending storm. That night, the power went out and stayed out for over 24 hours. We had to bring our cats over to the house so they didn't freeze, which was huge because my mother in law is allergic.

It actually worked out really well and Donald and I spent the night in the basement with the cats in front of the fireplace, quite warm and romantic if you ask me. The power came back on at 4 am Sunday morning, but the phones and internet were down until yesterday. So all I had was my iPhone, and I wasn't about to try blogging from there. I know it's possible, but it's not conducive to the way I write.

Work was cancelled on Monday. And Tuesday. We left home for Donald's job away from home on Tuesday morning after getting some files from my office so I could do work from there. The roads were so bad in the city that it took us an hour just to get to my office. Once we got out of the city and were headed to our final destination, though, the roads were beautiful and clear, so it made for a very nice drive. I actually drove, which put a lot more experience in my belt for driving in the snow. Remember, I grew up in California, where we never had a snow day. Donald thinks this is a tragedy of my upbringing.

Since we arrived, I've been rescheduling housing appointments to avoid the second storm, and sneaking out between to see some places early. So far, it's going really well and I am pleased with our options. I have more appointments through Saturday, so we'll see what happens. Ideally, we'll be able to make a decision early next week and then I really will be "all systems GO" for this move.

So that's the factual version. The more emotional version is that all of this mayhem and confusion has been a really wonderful opportunity and reminder for us to see what is most important as we plan for our upcoming transition. I have felt more competent and responsible in the last week than I have in a long time. We had no problem handling the power outage. We shoveled snow and salted. We cared for our cats and made sure that the pipes didn't freeze.

We were reminded of what is most important. Without power and internet and cable, we had few distractions. We sat together by the fireplace and played board games. We did puzzles. We read books and did crafts and talked. It was like we had gone back in time. It was so nice to slow down and relax and reconnect. We have been slower here and more relaxed and more attuned to spending our time on the most important things rather than the infinite distractions around us.

Even though the storms have been branded dangerous and a mega inconvenience, I am grateful for them. I am grateful that it has given us the opportunity to shift our priorities to the important things. I am grateful that it has given me time away from work to focus on our upcoming transition. And I am grateful that it has pushed me over the fear of being on our own again. If I can drive in snow, baby, I can do anything.

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Is Home?

I have spent so many hours over the last week looking for rental housing in our potential community. It's a college town and has quite a variety to choose from. Donald and I are trying to avoid undergrad-type housing and we have found several good options. I'm going out with him next week to visit and I have appointments with eight different places of varying styles and prices.

This experience has been a bit more energy-sapping than I had anticipated. I am the kind of girl who loves projects like this, creating spreadsheets and lists, and doing lots of online research and making phone calls. Sneaking into all of this, however, are several thoughts that have had me sitting back a bit and thinking about our next steps.

Living with Donald's parents has affected us. As in, going out on our own again is actually a bit scary sounding, even though it's something we really want. I'm having a hard time trusting prospective landlords and property management companies. I'm wondering what elements will really make our new place a good home for us. Do we pay more for some things? Should we be saving all of our money for a down payment on a house?

The plan right now is to rent for a year or two until we learn about the neighborhoods and get a sense of where we want to live, and then look for a house to buy. We have never owned a house before, so this step is huge for us. The place we move in to first might be for only a year, or it might be for longer, so we're trying to find a balance between saving money and having the amenities that we really want.

Laundry in-home, for example (we have gotten used to it). A yard (garden, dog, space). An extra bedroom or two (office, visitors, babies!). Are all of these worth spending more money on? Even if it delays a house purchase?

And that's just housing stuff. Donald and I definitely need to sit down and figure out our budget further. We have our basic expenses figured out (utilities, groceries, etc.) and it has been a long time since our incomes could cover our expenses. That is a wonderful feeling. It's the extra stuff that we're saving for that gets complicated. I'm going to be consulting Get Rich Slowly for a lot of advice as we move forward.

A down payment on a house is pretty easy to figure out, because we want to hit a certain percentage of the sale price and we have a sense of how much money we want to spend on our first house.

Starting a family is a very fluid thing to save for. Do people actually do that? Or do you just decide it's time to have a family and then deal with whatever expenses come along? Obviously, you can always spend more money on kids, but does anyone have a suggestion about a baseline for a first kid budget? Am I crazy thinking that this is something over which we have control?

Travel is a big one. My family lives in California and we want to see them there at least once a year. We're also trying to set up a yearly visit with some friends of ours, and there are always family get togethers that are fun to attend. My best friend is also getting married this year and I'm throwing part of her bachelorette party, so those expenses are included here as well. Donald and I want to visit a dude ranch (remember my need to learn to barrel ride?) and I want to take him to Europe (Scotland and Italy are first on our list).

Creeping into my consciousness are also a lot of mixed feelings now that this seems like it's actually going to happen. We have had a truly wonderful year staying with Donald's parents. I am so grateful to be able to say that. It hasn't always been fun, but we have really made the most of it and it feels so wonderful to have gotten to know each other so much better. It has also been pretty cushy and we have gotten used to a certain level of pampered-ness that will be hard to leave. We have gotten dependent.

It has been so nice to always have someone home, to talk to, to eat with, to sit in the same room with. It will just be the two of us again (and our two cats) and that might be weird to adjust to at first. That's why my So Close post included making new friends - it will be so important so that we get out of the house and don't drive each other crazy (in a bad way).

We have a snowed-in kind of weekend ahead of us, so maybe it will be time to figure some of these things out. As always, your words of advice, support and encouragement mean so much to me. Thank you for reading.

Monday, February 1, 2010

So Close

It is so close.

I can see myself running on new bike trails

I see making new friends

I see discovering new places to shop and eat and exercise

I see a new yoga master there, recommended by my current teacher

I see our cats enjoying new space

I see our belongings unpacked

I see myself uncluttering with joy

I see our new laundry room

I see hanging art on the walls

I see sunshine coming in the windows

I see cooking and baking healthy, yummy food

I see my husband coming home from work, tired and happy

I see the beginning of our family

I see peaceful space

I see responsible choices and a happy budget

I see traveling

I see hosting visitors

I see a new puppy and walks and dog parks

I see happy work with a nonprofit I believe in

I see a functional and comfortable home office

I see photos of family and friends everywhere

I see fresh garden produce from my garden

I see community service and a connection with our new home

I see checking out the University, maybe taking classes or workshops

I see continuing to blog and to write and to share

I see a home
I see independence
I see growth
I see quality
I see love


~ Donald's official position offer is just out of reach. We should know something more concrete in the next few weeks. We spent the weekend looking at apartment options online, to move in March. Significant, possibly sudden, transition dances enticingly at the beginning of spring. Fitting. ~

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Distance and Distantness

Last week, Donald arrived home from his job-away-from-home after a very long week. His parents were going out that night, so I was making dinner and I was excited to cook for my man again. It was going to be a night on our own and we were looking forward to it.

The night crashed and burned.

When Donald pulled into the driveway, I went out to greet him. I stopped partway to the car however, realizing that the dinner I had started was still cooking away on the stove and I needed to go right back inside to tend to it. So instead of enjoying a proper greeting, Donald went to change his clothes and I went back to the kitchen with no contact and only a few words exchanged.

I was focused on preparing the meal (something I hadn't made before), so when Donald came through the kitchen, he didn't stop. He caught up with his dad in another room. I noticed this, and realizing that we hadn't greeted each other, I went into the room and gave him a big sideways hug so as not to interrupt their conversation. Not really satisfying for either of us.

The meal turned out well and we even played footsie under the table as we ate. I was distracted, however, because earlier in the day, I had been brainstorming about how I was worried that our differing choices about how we each spend our free time might mean that we don't have as much in common as I thought we should. I wanted to share my thoughts with Donald and I knew that I should bring it up as soon as I could so that we could figure it out together.

I seriously misjudged. Donald hadn't been home long enough to unwind. I started the conversation in a round-about and indirect way. I didn't couch the situation as something to figure out - Donald heard it as something I had decided, not something for discussion. I was thinking about me and how I need to make sure that I'm spending my time doing things for ME so I don't end up like my mother, yet I wanted to make sure that our interests still overlapped so that we were still spending quality time together.

The entire evening really threw Donald off. I hadn't thought about what I wanted to say, which created a very confused conversation that was potentially very scary. I mean, what do you say to your spouse when they seem to be telling you that you don't have enough in common? I was too wrapped up in my head to see how it came across until the stress hit a high point.

We see-sawed between being argumentative and snuggling in front of the TV (I'm not sure how) and we went to bed with a high level of stress and distance between us. I could tell that Donald was upset and instead of trying to comfort him and reassure him, I gave him space and silence so he could tell me what he was thinking. I was distant, physically and emotionally. That wasn't what he needed.

My "giving him space" came across as though I didn't want to touch him, didn't want to interact with him. This only exacerbated the stress between us. We worked it out that night, in the dark, trying to figure out how our communication could have gone so badly off the rails.

After some reflection, I'm wondering about what has changed. Perhaps the physical distance between us while he is back and forth to his job has created emotional distance? Perhaps I have adopted a more independent mind-set so that while he is gone I am still functional and productive? Perhaps the fact that Donald is working again has thrown off my balance in terms of my role and his expectations?

Even though I understand the circumstances that lead to our tiff, and I think that many of them can be avoided in the future, it's important to me to learn more from this experience than the surface things.

I know that I need to be clearer when I talk to Donald about our relationship, especially when my thoughts are scary. I need to phrase things better so he knows that we're still on the same team and that we will work things out together.

I know that when Donald is upset, he needs comforting and reassurance. Even though his words might say "give me space" he wants a hug and for me to show him that I love him no matter what. This will also get me to stop thinking about myself in that moment and to remember that he needs me.

I know that we're still in a phase of transition and that Donald and I need to keep talking about our expectations and roles in our marriage. I need to balance being independent and remembering that even when he is not physically present, that I am not alone. My walls need to come down, not get reinforced.

I know that spending our free time differently doesn't matter. Right now, we don't have as many opportunities to spend time together, so it seems like we're not doing as much together, but when we're living in our own place again, we will have these opportunities again and I know that we will find a new balance.

I know that in addition to being more aware of Donald's love for me and the ways he shows me that he loves me, I need to do the same for him. This means supporting his interests and learning more about him and what makes him tick. It means showing him that I appreciate what he does for me. I don't have to do everything he likes all the time and he doesn't have to do that for me either. It's about making the effort, like wearing a piece of jewelry he bought you that you haven't worn much, or reminding him that you play video games because he got you to try something new and that he pushes you to be a better person.

Two of the blogs I read gave me some important marriage advice that I wish I had read before I poked Donald at a low energy moment. Kate and Newlywed & Unemployed wrote "How to Motivate a Man" and Corey at Simple Marriage wrote "Marriage Made Easy Before It Begins". I'm sure I'll be sharing more about what I learn about the difficulties (and triumphs) of marriage and I hope you'll join me and share your experiences too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blog Awards #2 and #3!

Mindy of The Suburban Life was more than generous when she awarded me not one but two blog awards last week. She has bestowed the Lemonade Award and the Best Blog Award upon me and I only hope that I continue to be worthy of such blog love.















I'm going to shamelessly copy Mindy and bestow both of these awards to the same blogs.

For the Lemonade Award:

- Put the Lemonade logo on your blog or within your post. (check!)
- Nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude or gratitude. (see below)
- Link the nominees within your post. (check!)
- Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog. (check!)
- Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award. (check!)

For the Best Blog Award:
The rules for this award require me to nominate up to 15 blogs to share in my acclaim. (again, see below)

The awardees (in alphabetical order):
(1) booshy - Jessica (not Jess) is funny and open and I think just starting to embark on discovering more about who she is and what she wants to do with her life.
(2) communicatrix - Colleen is diving deep and producing wonderful, raw and honest posts about her journey.
(3) Dreamin' the Life - Karen is new to her journey as a recovering alcoholic and I love how much she shares with her readers about the struggles she encounters along the way.
(4) Ethereal Joy - Joy writes often about her process in becoming more connected to Light and God and she lives on a boat with her two kids.
(5) Joy Discovered - Jodi shares her experiences with love and life with a lovely writing style and I have learned so much from her.
(6) Just My Thoughts - Jill is so open about her exploration of her own life, raising six children, and finding her way to a more peaceful existence.
(7) Confessions of a Young Married Couple - Katie is up for Weblog of the Year and I have loved reading about her journeys through motherhood and marriage.
(8) Newlywed & Unemployed - Kate is one of my biggest supporters on my blog these days and writes wonderfully about her new marriage and her daily life experiences. Her husband, Gary, also contributes some wonderful insights into the male perspective, or as they term it, "mansight".
(9) Thinking Out Loud - Kim was one of my first supporters and she writes such amazing, creative, poignant posts about her experiences and her journey through life.
(10) Wilma's Blog - Wilma and Ann-Marie write thought-provoking and eye-opening posts, incorporating the comments from their readers into following posts, creating a strong sense of community and encouraging personal development as they share their own experiences and listen to those of others.
 
Please visit them and congratulate them on winning their awards! Thanks again to Mindy for her kindness!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I See You

I saw the movie, Avatar, recently. Now, whatever you think about the movie and plot as a whole, and whether you are able to suspend your disbelief about it or not, I can say that it affected me deeply.

I didn't expect anything of the movie except significant visual impact. We saw the 3-D version. It did not disappoint. It was beautiful and breathtaking. What I didn't expect was to feel truly inspired by the lead Na'vi female character, named Neytiri.

She is strong, mentally, physically and emotionally. She is connected with nature and respects and appreciates the animals that are killed for food. She shows compassion. She has grace. She expresses a strong sense of faith and belief. She is respected in her community and she is aware of her peoples' history and memories. She is daring and brave and happy.

Since seeing the movie, I hold her image in my mind, asking myself "What would she do?". This question pushes me to try harder, to complain less, to try new things, to express what I think, to be loyal to my values.

The movie also reinforced my need for more peace in my life. I need to carve out physical space to do yoga, to write, to meditate, to think, somewhere quiet without technology or interruptions. I want to connect more with nature, to heighten my awareness of the beauty around me, even in the dead of winter. I want to improve my connection with memory and ancestors and stories and identity.

The Na'vi greet each other by saying "I see you." Joy wrote about this on her blog recently, too. Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations (p.92) notes this phrase in use by tribes in South Africa who say "sawu bona" (I see you) and respond with "sikhona" (I am here). Scott says "The order of the exchange is important: until you see me, I do not exist. It's as if, when you see me, it brings me into existence." It emphasizes the need for presentness and connection. I need to remember this, to focus on being present and on seeing people more clearly, to truly listen and connect.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Am Truly Loved

This might sound completely off the wall and ridiculous, and I'm going to share it with all of you anyway.

I'm playing a video game called Dragon Age: Origins. In the game, you meet different characters as you go and you can develop relationships with them, speaking to them about their experiences and learning about who they are. The character development is my favorite part of the game.

Romantic relationships are also an option in this game, leading up to a cheesy/lovely sexual cut scene that doesn't show nudity, but implies plenty of... er... enjoyment. <Ahem.> The point is, when I developed my character's relationship with a character in the game to this point, I was very surprised at how much this "development" affected me.

It wasn't just the cut scene being sexy. It was the (fantasy) relationship itself. I was all smiles and giggles and it made me feel happy. I realized how strange this was (so did Donald) and I wanted to understand why I reacted this way to a fantasy relationship in a video game.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what made me feel happy was the sense of being loved. I thought about my relationship with Donald and why I haven't reacted in the same way to my relationship with him, recently at least. It slowly dawned on me that I have not been present enough in my relationship with Donald to see all of the things that show me that he loves me. I believe that he loves me, yet I have not opened myself up fully enough to truly see it, to truly feel it.

In my dating life, I was always looking for "the one". I tried to make each and every guy I dated a possible match. I did everything I could to tweak my own behavior and preferences to be desirable to them (within boundaries). Most of the time, my interest in forever scared them off (I can't imagine why!), so I think I learned to protect myself from rejection. I think this backfired, however, and meant that when I did find real and true love in Donald, I wasn't able to open up completely to this reality.

Donald has been so patient. I cannot count the number of times that I have asked him to show more affection, to touch me more, to connect with me more. And all the time, now clear looking back, he was doing these things. Somehow I did not register them. My protectiveness blinded me to many things he does to show how much he loves me.

I'm still trying to understand this in myself. I'm somewhat embarassed that I have spent the first five years of our marriage in a state that didn't allow me to experience the full happiness of being loved by my husband. I'm working hard to pull down the protective wall and to truly see my husband and his feelings for me.

At this point, I think it is mostly about being present and aware. I will appreciate Donald more and tell him that I do. I will thank him and be grateful. It's about slowing down. It's about making eye contact. It's about opening my heart to something I have always wanted.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Goals and Progress

Progress has been made in some of my goals and I needed a reminder to keep moving forward on some others. I got a little push from Laura Neff who guest posted at Lance's The Jungle of Life earlier this week, who reminded Lance's readers that we need to move forward on our goals a step at a time and keep moving forward.

I remembered my word of the year, Clarity, and realized that there is more I can be doing to keep that my focus. I have planned in my calendar to call members of my family every other week, switching between my mom and sister one week and my dad and brother another week. This weekend it's my mom and sister. The conversation with my mom will be challenging and hopefully good.

I'm going to follow up with her about how I feel about her seemingly judgmental and assuming attitude towards my marriage and how I am not going to explain and defend myself/us anymore. I'll let you know how it goes.

I started doing a little exercise when I get home from work, before I get distracted by other evening activities. I'm using the wonderful little workouts outlined in Real Simple magazine every month. Yesterday, I spent 20 minutes doing exercises to strengthen my shoulders. They have nice short workouts for specific areas of the body and for a general all-body workout. My goal is to exercise for at least 20 minutes for 5 days a week. I'm already back to yoga once a week (for 1.5 hours each time!) and it makes me SO happy.

Donald surprised me yesterday by starting to use the iPhone application LoseIt! again. It's a calorie counting application that helped us lose weight last year. We both stopped using it - Donald because I think he was discouraged, me because I figured I had learned to keep the weight off - and I am so proud that Donald wants to start using it again. It has a Friends feature that allows you to share your goals and progress with people you know, which sounds scary and can also add a degree of accountability, much like sharing one's progress on a blog. I'm going to start using the app again simply to make sure that I'm on track and to help me maintain my weight, which I'm happy with.

His job continues to go really well. He is pretty confident these days that his job will become permanent, we just don't know exactly when yet. My boss at my current job is aware of the situation and I told him that I would let him know as we had more information. I feel loyalty to my current job, yet I know that if I can work full-time for the non-profit with which I currently volunteer, I would prefer to do that. At the moment, I'm content to see what happens. I have a feeling that my choices will become clear soon.

I'm finding lately that when I think about my "Happy Wish List" (some call this a bucket list or daisy list), I'm interested in adding more and more things that involve risky activities. Things like learning to barrel ride, driving on a stunt driving course, and rock climbing (maybe on a wall). I should tell you that I didn't exactly have a teenage period, not in the typical way at least. While I did bend the rules when it came to dating guys, I was otherwise very straight-laced, following my parents rules and generally trying my best not to worry them. I grew up constantly aware of consequences, always wanting to be responsible and being unwilling to take many risks.

So for me to want to do these things now I see as progress, too. I don't want to be reckless, I just want to live a little more than I have before. I want to try something that scares me. I want to accomplish something challenging and difficult and come through on the other side even more confident and skilled. I want to prove to myself that I can hold my own and face down my fears and win. And I want to do it for me.

It all has to do with the question "What would I do if I was not afraid?". What is your answer?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Forgiveness and Conflict

During the holiday season this past year, several bloggers wrote posts about forgiveness. Tess at The Bold Life posted wonderful suggestions about how to get through the holiday season with grace, including the suggestion to “Forgive your past and everyone in it.” Albert at Urban Monk wrote about the healing purpose of forgiveness and Daphne at Joyful Days wrote about forgiveness as a gift.

I took their messages to heart and managed to enter potentially stressful family situations almost with a blank slate. Dani at positively present inspired this with her snowflakes post. I wanted to approach my family members with completely clear eyes, trying to see them as though we had just met and I couldn’t wait to get to know them. I let go of the baggage.

I think this is what helped me enjoy the holidays as much as I did. It also helped me to turn the baggage between my mom and me into useful questions and conversations that will hopefully enhance our relationship.

I read several posts about relationships in the past few months that I’m sure have informed my actions recently. Danielle at White Hot Truth wrote about how focused she was about sending her love outward towards many important world causes and realizing that she had been neglecting her love at home.

Corey at Simple Marriage writes about relationships all the time and a few have jumped out at me in particular. The first one is from back in November when he wrote about how much he loves others, which connects to some questions I raised in my marriage post about truly asking someone “How are you?”. This month, he has been delving into the idea of our lives as a story and our responsibility to our happiness to write the stories we want to be in.

In “A Simple Marriage in 2010” Corey got me thinking about the conflicts I have been avoiding in my relationships. The follow up to that, called “Move Into the Conflict and Live a Great Story”, encouraged me to identify the conflict and then move into it. As I have written before, conflict terrifies me and I would much rather smooth things over than face it head on. We’ll see how this goes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shame

I accompanied Donald to his job away from home this week, which was a real treat for me and for him. While the visit itself was full of learning more about our possible future home, I learned so much more from a conversation we had in the car on the way there.

At the dinner table sometime last week, something about materialism came up and Donald launched into how my mom is so anti-materialistic. All I could do was shoot him a look and change the subject, which his parents may or may not have noticed. I was mortified and embarrassed and a little hurt. One of the things we learned during our pre-marital counseling was that I'm responsible for handling my family and he's responsible for handling his. I felt like that rule had been a bit forgotten.

I didn't bring it up until our car ride a few days later. I didn't want to address him about it at the dinner table in front of his parents. I started by reminding him of the event and expressing that I thought he shouldn't bring up my mom in a negative light like that, especially when he didn't have first-hand information. I reminded him of the pre-marital counseling. I was calm and asked Donald not to talk about my mom like that anymore.

He resisted a bit, understanding my perspective and also wanting to be able to express his own frustration about the choices my mom has made. I felt stuck in the middle of them, trying to defend my mom and being angry that she didn't simply accept Donald, and feeling protective of Donald. Then, it dawned on me.

With a quivering voice, I changed the direction of the conversation slightly. This was actually about me. I explained that I am ashamed that my mom cannot embrace Donald into her family the way his parents have included me. I am embarassed that my mom cannot support our marriage the way Donald's family has. I see the disparity between the way our families have accepted us as a married couple.

Donald immediately understood my perspective. He didn't want me to feel ashamed; I am not responsible for my mom's actions. At the same time, I want so badly to give him a wonderful family-in-law and I'm not completely able to do that. I think my mom will come around and luckily the rest of my family is wonderfully accepting, in their own understated way, even my dad.

So Donald and I are both more connected about this now. I don't really have any action items on this; it may just take time for my mom to sort out her life enough that she can see what is most important. It may be that she never stops judging. Donald and I know, at least, that we are on the same page together, and that we will come up with ways to respond to her judging attitude in ways that open the door for conversation and also stay in alignment with our own values.

We also know that now is the time to practice, before children become yet another thing that potentially incurs disapproval. To think that I spent so much of my childhood seeking my parents approval and had it, and now, when I have stopped seeking that so much, I don't have it from my mother anymore, at least not in everything that matters to me.

I just wish it weren't quite so painful.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Explaining Myself

When someone asks me a question, sometimes I assume that it comes weighted with a judgment. When I respond to heavy questions like these, I include in my answer some kind of explanation of myself, some kind of justification for my actions.

It’s a very defensive response. Even if I am right in perceiving judgment, why should I have to explain myself?

I find that this happens most often with my mom and my mother-in-law. Clearly, these are complicated relationships and I don’t think that should be enough of a reason for me to pre-empt further questions by selling myself down the river on a boat of explanations.

I need to start being more aware of my responses before I say them, to respond with the simple answer and to wait and see whether justification is requested. Then, if it is, don’t give one.

(Most of the time these explanations are about mundane or banal things, like why I wore long-johns under my jeans all day when I spent most of my time inside. Who cares? Did it hurt anyone?)

No more explaining. I just do what I do. I take responsibility for it. If it isn’t affecting anyone else, I don’t need to tell you why.