Since the beginning of a new year seems as good a time as any to look back at the past 365 days and forward at the next 365, I thought I’d pop up and say some things.
2011 was a very peculiar year, full of growing pains. My graduate program has been more or less dismantled, which I have been reluctant to go into much here. I finished the spring semester excited for the summer and the following year of learning, but by mid-summer I knew that at least in the fall I would not be in classes and as of a few weeks ago, I am done with that school for good. One year of an MA under my belt and I am bitter. I was supposed to be done with my masters by this summer and instead I’ll have no degree and very few transferrable credits, and I haven’t applied to other programs yet because I loved that one so much and have no idea where I will find another one like it. So in the meantime, I’m working, trying to figure out where I’m going, what the fuck I’m doing, what matters to me. So the year began with direction, purpose, energy, excitement, momentum. And ended, here, with a grinding halt and a giant question mark.
2011 was the year of moving to Oakland, which ML and I decided to do before I found out that grad school was up in the air but which I ended up being very glad of, given that rent at our new place is $700/month less combined. And we have a house! With a yard! And wild blackberries and lemon trees, and I have a hammock and spent many fall afternoons reading in the hammock drinking lemonade. We also have a roommate (a friend of ours from before) who is pretty much my favorite person ever and I actually really like living with a roommate again. And we have a cat, Gilda, who owns all of us, and who knows to sit to get a treat. ML is trying to train her to take to a leash. So far, she’s having none of it.
2011 has been a year of a lot of personal and emotional upheaval, which has been both painful and broadening. I’m trying, probably unsuccessfully, to tow a line between taking risks and making a giant mess, and I think I’ve crossed that line in unfortunate ways at times this year. Maybe, eventually, I will go into some of these things here.
In 2011 I deepened friendships that are so meaningful to me in so many ways, and I watched one friendship between close friends crumble and am still grieving that, especially as I feel in some ways in the middle and don’t know how to support them and also give myself space to be angry at both of them and sad. In 2011 I grew apart from my parents but closer to my siblings and especially my sister who, despite being mystifyingly different from me also, still, can finish my sentences. We now live in the same state!
I came out to my grandparents this year, in the middle of everything else, and sobbed for three straight hours when my grandpa hung up on me. Not that that response was a surprise, but that there was so much of all of this other stuff stagnant inside me and unable to surface emotionally, and that when I started crying about grandpa hanging up on me it turned into crying about everything all at once and altogether. Then I brought ML to Thanksgiving with them, and with my mother and and my aunt and uncle and (gay, but not yet out) cousin and my sister and her boyfriend. And three days later my grandpa called me and told me, awkwardly and hesitantly, that ML sparkles and that he will consider her in our family. And I was like, wow, that was it? Like eight years of agonizing over this and he tells me she sparkles? I should’ve done it a lot sooner.
2011 was a year of deepening politicization and although this hasn’t been a space where I’ve really talked much about politics, current affairs, and theory much, I’m wondering whether that will change this coming year as all of those things are more present for me than they’ve been before as things I’m constantly wanting to think about, talk about, process. It was also a year in which that politicization has changed me personally, changed my sense of self and my sense of possibility in the world, and that feels exciting and that regardless of my grad program no longer existing, that energy is still simmering and I am running with it still.
Things look a lot different from this end of 2011 than from the front end. Maybe I won’t even bother trying to look forward; maybe I’ll just take this next year little by little.
I can’t believe I didn’t post at all in April – at all! I thought I was on such a roll at the end of March; then, classes resumed after spring break, and here I am now – it’s the last week of class, I’m sick in bed for the third time this semester, and I am utterly overwhelmed. But also okay. I’m okay.
J, C, ML and I have all hooked up a bunch more times since the initial time back in February (that post is password-protected; just email me for the password!). It’s been awesome and lovely. We’re cooling it for a bit now; largely because J and C are going to be in New York all summer but also because we all want to focus a bit on our primary relationships. Also, another classmate of mine, K, is someone that ML and I are both excited about and for different reasons than J and C. I’ll write more about her in the future, I’m sure, because I hope something will come of it. She’s smart and open and sexy and curious and really mindful. She lives way outside the city now, but is probably moving into SF this summer so hopefully there will be more time to spend with her.
Speaking of moving, ML and I may be moving into Oakland this summer. We wouldn’t have come up with that on our own; the short version of the story is that a friend of ours lives in a 3-bedroom house in Temescal and his two roommates are moving out at the end of July. It would be $1000 for both me and ML for the two bedrooms. I.e., $500 each. For a house, with a yard, and two bedrooms, and a living room/dining room/kitchen, our own bathroom… two blocks from BART… And did I mention $500 each? That is an absurdly good deal. So we’re seriously considering it. It would mean living with a roommate, which would be different for us and I’m not sure I’m that excited about that. So we need to have conversations with him to see what his living habits are, etc. I do know that he spends about half his time at his boyfriend’s place anyway, so there’s that.
Another reason why this would be a prudent move is that we are getting a kitten!!! Our current place is tiny and has no easy access to safe outdoors for a cat. A house with a yard would be a much better situation. The kitten we’ll be getting is one of a litter of 4 that our friend’s cat gave birth to on April 15th. We’ll get to take it home with us in mid-June. We haven’t actually identified yet which one we’ll take home with us; we figure we should get to know all of them a bit better through frequent visits and sooner or later we’ll figure out which one we have the best relationship with (or which one seems the best behaved!). This semester has been rough for me in many ways and one night, when I couldn’t stop crying, angry about the world because of street harassment (which will be another post…), ML said, “I know what you need… kitten videos!” and for half an hour we watched kitten videos on youtube and it really did make me feel so much better. I’m looking forward to having something to love like that, something so removed from the hard stuff in the world, something to care for uncomplexly.
I’ve been sitting here for a bit trying to figure out how to write about the things that are on my mind: my summer practicum, drama in my grad school program that I’ve somehow been swept into, gender identity and street harassment, showing up. Showing up especially. This semester has brought up a lot for me and sometimes showing up is all I can manage and sometimes I can’t even manage that, such as the several times I’ve gotten sick. It’s like years worth of pent-up rage and sadness and internalized sexism are oozing out of me out of my control, infecting me with their toxicity. Right now I’m tired, too tired to write about this in depth. But perhaps classes ending will be a chance for me to catch my breath; maybe seeing the kittens again this week will boost me up.
In the meantime, I need to go make myself cayenne and garlic soup to try to kick what seems like a nasty sinus infection. Any other non-medical sinus cleansing tips…?
There are always going to be bad days, of course, and it just so happened that Tuesday was one of them. After a busy week, an even busier weekend, and then a late evening on Monday with friends over for dinner, I think the cards were stacked against me.
Settling into a semblance of a routine has been tricky. Am I unemployed? If I’m unemployed, then I ought to treat my days as if I were employed, because being unemployed sounds irresponsible and unproductive. If I’m unemployed, I ought to schedule my days full of Things To Do and be disciplined about getting it done. Or … am I on vacation? If I’m on vacation, then I ought to relax as much as I want, do whatever I want, and do so unapologetically. I’m sure what I’m looking for is a happy medium of the two (I am unemployed, sure, but I’m also on fucking vacation!), and just haven’t managed to land there yet. Until Tuesday, I’d been treating my days as if I were unemployed — sitting down every morning with my planner and my master to-do list to figure out what I needed to do that day and when I would do it. And then I was rushing around all day trying to get it all done, and would wind up feeling anxious in the evening – because I still wasn’t getting everything done.
What the hell was on my to do list? Um, let’s see. Trips to various grocery stores to stock up on pantry items. Locksmith. Bike shop. Dentist. Post office. Dry cleaner. Back to the dry cleaner. Consignment store to sell leftover clothes from yard sale. Statistics. Call Grandma. Send Dad birthday card. Talk to grad school re financial aid. Also, I’m still working irregularly for my former employer doing German translation stuff for a few of their cases, and last week, that ended up being about 20 hours (this week, about 10). OH, and have I mentioned UNPACKING AND ORGANIZING? Right, except that last thing has totally taken the shaft in the face of all these bloody errands.
So, anyway. Tuesday. I was supposed to go to a counselor support meeting for the rape crisis center I work for, except I was so overwhelmed and hadn’t even finished the main thing on my to-do list that day — ORGANIZE THE FUCKING CLOSETS — that I threw up my hands in despair and didn’t go to the meeting. Instead, I made summer squash soup because otherwise the squash was going to go bad. And then I talked to ML at work and she said “let’s just relax tonight! let’s just cuddle and watch The Wire and have sex!” And I was all YES. PLEASE. Except that when she got home I was still cooking, and I still hadn’t organized the fucking closets, and I started taking my general anxiety out on her. I felt like I was doing so much, so much that I wasn’t even able to do it all, and so I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough. And I started blaming her for not telling me that I was doing enough. And so I was irritable and mopey all evening instead of cuddly and relaxy. I felt like I needed some kind of assurance that I was doing okay, that I didn’t need to do anymore, but I didn’t know how to ask her to give me that assurance and so instead my overwhelmed brain decided that the only way to get that assurance was to keep doing more so that she’d tell me to stop. So… I kept doing more. I puttered around in the kitchen while she was doing dishes, and she told me to stop. But I didn’t believe her. So I kept puttering. And then after I puttered I went and started throwing stuff around in the closets. Getting more and more overwhelmed and frustrated the whole time. And in general, the more frustrated I get, the less able I am to articulate why I’m frustrated, so this was all just a baaaaad baaaaaad downward spiral.
Suffice it to say, the cuddling was unsatisfactory, the sex was non-existent, and we only watched 15 minutes of The Wire before going to bed. I probably broke out in tears three or four times over the course of the evening. ML is so good at making me laugh and cheering me up, so her efforts did temporarily break me out of my funk, but I was already at a point where I didn’t really know what was wrong and didn’t know how to snap out of it. So I went to sleep feeling dejected and disconnected.
I woke up on Wednesday feeling similarly. I watched ML get ready to leave for work, already feeling bereft and still feeling sad and disconnected from the day before. I still felt like I needed assurance that I was doing okay. I didn’t know how to shake it.
So, ML left, I breakfasted, and then I finally decided that that would be the day. The day to scrap the planner and the to-do list and just do what my heart felt like doing, because I needed to kill this anxiety.
And so? I organized the closets. I emptied all our clothes our of our dresser and our two closets and the basked of clean laundry and a big bin of clothes that hadn’t been put away yet, and I spent all day heaping and folding and hanging and shuffling around and finally, by early afternoon, the closets were organized. And you know what? That did it. My funk was killed. That’s all it took. Organizing the fucking closets. ML called me when she was leaving work and all she had to hear was my bright “hiiiii!” before she knew that I was all better. “What happened to YOU?” she asked. “Did you clean the closets or something?”
And now I think I’m going to scrap the planner and the master to-do list and instead just start each morning with a cup of tea and the question, “what do I most feel like doing today?” After all, this period of unemployed vacation is temporary. I really ought to just take full advantage of it for what it is.
I don’t think I’d ever cried while having sex, until last night.
Granted, big changes always unsettle me. When I first moved into the place I just left last year, I felt disoriented and weepy for the first week, questioning my decision to move and convinced I would never feel at home there. Of course I got over the disorientation and weepiness after a bit (though I never did feel quite at home there, with a roommate who was lovely but who really had made it her home). I didn’t think it would happen this time, given that on the surface there didn’t seem to be anything remotely disorienting about this move: same neighbors, same building, mirror-image floor plan of the old place. And moving in with my lover, ferchrissakes. What’s disorienting about that?
Well, I’m not quite sure what’s disorienting, but I think I do feel vaguely disoriented and weepy this time around too. The move in with her feels completely natural, and in fact it doesn’t seem like much has changed in terms of our patterns except that we no longer have the stress of trying to balance quality Us Time with roommates being around. The shift into not working also seems entirely natural — I get up early, when she does, and the past few mornings I’ve been popping muffins in the oven (batter whipped up the night before) so that by the time she leaves for work, she can take some fresh out of the oven with her to work. And then I spend my days doing (for now) house stuff — massive grocery trips, unpacking, setting up internet, cleaning, organizing… But I guess there’s a period of adjustment just the same. Stuff still spilling out of boxes, things every which way in the house, closets utterly overflowing (damn San Francisco and its tiny closets!). It’s just not settled yet. And when things in my environment are unsettled, I think I’m more prone to being emotionally unsettled, too.
So maybe that’s part of why I cried last night when she was fucking me. But somehow I think there’s more to it than that.
It’s not like she was doing anything new. She was fucking me with her right hand, which I love because she can fuck so hard and so fast that way. But lately, I’ve developed a kind of mental block about being fucked this way. It started back in November, when I noticed one time after sex that I was bleeding. Then I kept noticing it — almost every time, I bleed. And despite the fact that I brushed it away, “don’t worry, I’m fine, no it doesn’t hurt, it felt really good, don’t worry!” sure that it was just some very minor tearing, it did bug me. I did go to my gynecologist, and she didn’t find anything wrong, so that was comforting as well. So I just shrugged it off. What’s a little blood here and there?
I thought I’d shrugged it off, anyway. Except for this afore-mentioned growing mental block around penetration. There’s a tiny rise of panic when she first goes in me, which she can read and so she always checks in with me. “No, no, do it, I’m fine.” But for some reason, that tactic wasn’t working last night, and as she was fucking me, my panic was stealthily rising. Panic isn’t exactly the right word. Not anxiety either, really. It’s more like this little voice of fear in the back of my head that kept getting louder, only since I was keeping the voice kept in a glass box, it was getting louder and having to pound at the walls of the box in mounting force and anxious energy because I was trying to ignore it. (How’s that for an extended analogy?) And so suddenly, I found myself crying.
My poor lady, she was so concerned, and was probably perplexed, too. I was telling her to stop and go and “it feels good” and “something doesn’t feel right” all at once. All of that was true. It did feel good, I really, really wanted her to fuck me. But at the same time, something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t anything about our connection, or about the way she was fucking me, or anything specific like that. It was so frustrating not to be able to put my finger on it. So instead I cried.
It’s funny. I’ve often wondered about triggers, since I’ve rarely been “triggered” while having sex. I’ve heard that many women who’ve been raped have a lot of trouble with sex and have a lot of trouble with physically-triggered flashbacks. I’ve only had that once, I think. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that my memories of being raped are dissociated. I don’t have physically-triggered flashbacks because my mind separated from my body completely. But I wonder whether what’s coming up for me now, what came up for me last night, is some kind of trigger. I was dissociated from my body during the actual trauma, but came slamming back into it right after and for the aftermath — immediate and long-term — I was definitely experiencing my body. I have very acute physical memories from that time. But even those are rarely triggered, and even when they are, it’s not always easy to identify what it is that’s going on. I’m not even sure whether it’s worth trying.
Last night, though. I think that was a trigger. I think the slow build-up of anxiety over the past few months about this bleeding thing, I think that’s a trigger. It’s a trigger of physical damage, lasting physical pain, blood, and above all not knowing — not knowing and trying to repress, make it go away, ignore it, not let anyone know.
Jesus. I don’t know. I guess talking about it is a good thing. I’m not sure what to do about it though. Therapy, yeah, I know, right. I’ve cut therapy out, though, for now, for budgetary reasons since leaving my job with cushy health insurance. I just wish I knew how to help soothe that panicky, isolated voice in my brain that thinks it’s invisible and inaudible and that’s afraid of — what, pain? I guess — I hope — noticing it is the first step. Hearing it, voicing it, hugging it, letting it know I hear it. Does it sound like I’m schizophrenic? I think I feel kind of schizophrenic about this. Is that what dissociating does? It’s confusing. I don’t want that flattened 15-year-old creeping back. No.
Or, maybe I do. Maybe it’s the right time to go back and visit her and tell her everything is going to be okay.
Fuck this is ridiculous. I cried during sex last night, and look what I’ve made out of it! Anyway, here’s the moral of the story: I’m working on sorting shit out. And luckily, I have the most amazing lady to support me in all of it. After the tears last night, and after a little bit of trying to articulate what was going on, she asked me if I wanted to stop.
“No,” I said. “I want you to fuck me.” And so I patted that anxious voice on the head, and listened instead to how good it feels when she’s filling me up. Mmmmm.
Well, hello there. I’ve been going through major blog withdrawal in the past few weeks as my posting here has been sporadic, at best. And believe me, it has not been for lack of inspiration or motivation. It’s been for lack of time. My last two weeks at work were a true test of my stamina — I clocked — wait for it — 175 hours in the span of two weeks. One hundred and seventy fucking five hours. I would wake up in the morning at 6:30, shower, head in to work, grab a granola bar from my desk drawer and work 15 hours through, often not stopping for a 10-minute lunch until 3 or 4 pm, and often skipping dinner entirely, until leaving at 10 or 11 and falling right into bed. And I was supposed to have my burlesque debut on the 11th, but there was no way that was going to happen, not when that was the day before my last day, and my last day was a major deadline on my major project. A project that, no, no one else could take over because my manager is inept and didn’t find someone to replace me until the afternoon of my very last day.
I was about to continue my rant, but let’s just stop. It’s riling me up. Instead I’ll bask in the fuzzy delight of now being on extended vacation. I left work around 10pm on my last day — I was the last one leaving the office, and it was weird — and took about 6 hours off on Thursday: slept in, went to a coffee shop, read some blogs, intended to post but then realized OH SHIT, I’m MOVING tomorrow. So I spent the afternoon and evening on Thursday starting to organize my shit. And then I spent all day Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday moving.
It’s a bit surreal — my own place, no roommate, just me and, of course, my girlfriend. Our own space, left to our own devices. On Sunday we borrowed a friend’s car and went to Ikea to fill in some gaps (you know, matching dishware, a floor lamp, kitchen table chairs, that sort of thing), and now we’re … almost set up. We’ve both got some unpacking to do, I’ve got some major organizing to do (my favorite part!) and then there will be, of course, the finishing touches (I want a pin-up gallery in the hall, she wants to buy some artwork from artist friends, etc.) but oh my gosh it is so amazing, this is our space, and it’s space that I can be at home in.
Home. I have a complicated relationship with home, with the very concept of “home.” I’m not sure I even know what it means to me. Home isn’t the place I grew up. My parents were both transplants to the town I was raised in, and for them, home was always someplace else — the Bay Area for my mother, and Boston for my father, though I suspect my father’s ideas about home are just as complicated as mine are. So although I spent most of my childhood in a town in upstate New York, it always felt transient to me. Then I was raped in my neighborhood when I was fifteen, and connecting my childhood residence to any concept of home became even more complicated. A year later, not having finished high school, I left upstate New York for Germany. I spent two years there (one year then, one year in college) and though I grew very attached to it in some ways, and in fact sometimes felt more “at home” there than I did in the town where my parents lived, I was still a foreigner. I’m not German. It’s not my home.
Then came college, and while I was there I often said that it truly felt like home. I had friends there who were (and are) like family to me; I flourished there; I learned how to be happy there. I came out there. It was there that I felt at home in myself for the first time since leaving childhood behind, I think. Going back every fall really felt like a home-coming, and when I returned to Germany for my junior year, I experienced homesickness for the first time.
But, well, college doesn’t go on forever, and can home really be a thing that was always intended to be temporary? And I don’t just mean my residency there was temporary. I mean that experiencing it as home was temporary, and I knew that right from the start. When I go back now, I feel nostalgic, and warm, and fond of this place that held so much meaning for me.** But I don’t feel at home there anymore, for obvious reasons. I don’t belong there anymore. My time there is irrevocably finished. So what then?
So I moved to San Francisco. And while I’ve known for a while — since before I even moved here, really, which I articulate a bit in my answer to a formspring question — that I see the city itself as a blanket notion of “home,” in that I feel I belong in the city itself, I haven’t yet found a particular space that’s my home, a space that I can just relax and open up and let down and exhale completely in. I’m an accommodator, I tend to acquiesce to my roommates’ preferences and requests and demands and habits, rather than sticking up for my own. And so I have prevented myself from having a home here.
Until now? With my lady I know I don’t have to accommodate her. I mean, I do, but she accommodates me, too. We compromise and negotiate and figure stuff out and I don’t have to have my hair pulled back and my shirt buttoned all the way up in order to do that. And I am so relieved. Already I feel like I can breathe better. Even though there’s so much clutter in our hallway from stuff that’s been partially unpacked that it’s suffocating, I can breathe better here than anywhere else. And it’s different from college, because not only do I have my own space, but I organize my own life. All at once. I get to be the way I want to be, live the way I want to live. It’s amazing.
So, what is home, anyway?
**Speaking of going back there, coincidentally, I am doing that this week! I have a college reunion, so I’m going back to visit my campus, and most of my friends will be there too. So forgive, again, the light posting until Sunday, when I leave Massachusetts for New York to visit with my folks.
Amidst all my excitement about this summer and all the potential it carries, I have one nagging worry. I’m worried that my copious amounts of free time, most of which will probably be spent by myself, will put a strain on my relationship, that when she’s home I’ll be wanting to hang out while she may often have other things to do. Maybe this isn’t so much a worry as it is something to look out for and be mindful of this summer.
As it is right now, I do sometimes feel as though we don’t have enough together time. I work a lot of hours, take burlesque classes, volunteer on the crisis hotline, have family obligations once in a while and statistics homework to do, and have various appointments that sometimes inevitably take up evenings and weekends. She, meanwhile, has band practice generally one evening every week and one full day into the night every weekend, plus the occasional late evening at work or evening/weekend appointment. All this PLUS spending time with friends at least weekly means that … we really don’t have that much plain old hangout time. We spend a lot of time together, but it’s often just in that hour before bed when we pop in the latest disc from our Netflix queues, watch for a bit, and then have a quickie before going to sleep. It’s been even tougher lately with her new work schedule, which has her (and thus, often, me) getting up at 6:15am, rather than 7:35 as it used to be — a change which necessitates an earlier bedtime, obviously. But since my work schedule hasn’t changed (yet! ha!), and I’m still getting out of work at 6 or 6:30 on a good day, our evenings have been shortened.
And, to me, it doesn’t feel like enough. To me, it feels like our sex has stopped progressing — we do the tried and true, rather than the new and unknown. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I realize — hell, we’re still having sex at least 3 times a week, usually 4-5, and it can’t always be new and unknown (nor would I want it to be! familiar is often exactly what I most desire). But it’s at a point now where I do feel like we don’t have the time to spend with each other working on our relationship. The time we spend together gets filled up with having our relationship — watching movies, fucking, cuddling, cooking/eating, giving each other footrubs, talking about our schedules, decompressing after our respective days, sleeping — because those are usually the most pressing wants. We want to relax after work, we really want to hear about each other’s days and all the things going on that are bothering us or exciting us. We want to zone out and watch movies and curl up together just feeling each other’s bodies. And we want to have sex, to connect physically, erotically.
But I think a lot of that stuff is very short-term gratification. It’s what we think we want to do right NOW because NOW I’m tired and want to relax and chat about regular stuff. It’s comfortable, and cozy. But to me, always indulging that immediate sense of relationship laziness starts to take a toll. Sexually, I start to feel like many of my more elaborate or scarier desires are slipping into the realm of “fantasy,” rather than the realm of “to do this weekend.” Other than sexually, I start to feel like the more we do the same things with our time together, the less able we are to do other things. So maybe this is about spontaneity — making sure we keep infusing the Regular with the New and Exciting. And this spontaneity has to be something that we work on together.
I’m not sure how to start bringing more of an Our Relationship Is a Project that We Work on Together mentality into our routine, especially because (1) we’re both so busy doing our own personal projects that we really love and that really fulfill us, and (2) I think the Project Relationship mentality is more of something I want than something she wants. She, I think, is perfectly happy to just go along the way we’ve been going along. She likes comfort and routine, and doesn’t like feeling like she has to work on yet another thing in her life. I, on the other hand, really like to have relationship check-ins, and to discuss what’s working and what isn’t, figure out how to fix what isn’t and congratulate each other for what is, and to set little goals, and to be intentional about things that we do. In fact I start to feel anxious and unsettled if we don’t do those things. And I know that because that’s not a high priority for her there will always be some give and take on that front. But it’s starting to feel more pressing for me lately.
To bring that back around to my worry about this summer, the worry I have, I guess, is mostly that I’ll have a whole lot more time to devote myself to our Relationship Project than she will (I mean, I’m hoping to write here every day, and oftentimes, even this is, in a way, part of our Relationship Project), and that that will start to build up in me as this tension that isn’t getting resolved because there just isn’t time.
(What’s a good balance, anyway? How can you find the spot between co-dependent and over-committed to other things? Is it better to spend a lot of time on our own things so that we’re whole complete individuals without needing the other to complete us? Or is it better to spend a lot of time on each other, so that we feel unity and affinity? So that these anxieties don’t surface? Clearly I think a balance is necessary, but what is that balance? And at what point do we have to start sacrificing one thing or the other in order to strike it?)
So, I think it’s good that I’ve identified this issue as something that might come up for me this summer. I still have enough time to work on coming up with ways to avoid that surfacing, and strategies for combatting it if it does. Like if I set goals for myself every day, enough to keep my on my toes and sufficiently busy, then that should help. Spending time actively out and about with other people will help, too. And I think I’d like to bring up with her the idea of committing to eat dinner together whenever possible, shutting off all our other projects at least an hour before we go to bed whenever possible, and identifying and scheduling Together time as separate from time we’re together but working on separate things, so that we can make sure we’re staying attentive to each other and our relationship. And I just need to remember, too, that it’s much more of a relationship Want, for me, to be intentionally thinking about this stuff than it is for her, and that that doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about the relationship as much as I do.
Last night, we climbed into bed much later than we’d planned, both tired and already bracing ourselves against the Monday morning alarm clock. We settled into what we call our Sleep Position: big spoon (her) and little spoon (me), her arm wrapped around me. It’s become so much of a habit that I hardly think of it anymore. But last night, after a few moments, she pipes up: “Do you like sleeping like this?” “Yes, baby, I do.” “Why?” “It makes me feel safe, and snug, and warm.” “Okay. Just checking.”
Snug as two bugs in a rug.
I am very happy. Having been sitting with my decision to stay here and go to CIIS for a few days now, I can honestly say that I’m just plain happy about it. And that’s how I know it’s the right thing. I read the blog Zen Habits, which, for those unfamiliar with it, is a lifestyle blog of sorts — for living life simply and productively. I take some of it and leave some of it (barefoot walking? no thank you, plus, I have massive foot problems and need arch support), but one post this past week was particularly apt for me: The Secret to Making Life Decisions. It went up after I made my decision, or else I might think it’d influenced me. Instead, I get the nice feeling of knowing I made my decision all by myself, without any help, plus this sense of validation afterwards:
We’ve been brought up in a very left-brain-directed world, where the traditional decision-making strategy is a very logical process that involves listing each option, listing the pros and cons of each option, and then weighing up your lists in order to make your decision. This can be useful in very stable, predictable environments where we have all the information we need and in some business environments where we’re solving simple problems, but it isn’t the most effective way to make your most important life decisions . . . . In an information-rich world where we have abundant options, when it comes to making important life decisions, we need to be able to synthesize lots of information, see the big picture, spot themes and relationships, intuitively sense what information is most important to us, and invent possibilities that don’t even exist yet. These are all right-brain-directed thinking skills that we can employ through our emotional navigation system.
Most people treat their emotions as though they’re purely incidental and sometimes even a hindrance in life. Emotions are often side-lined as impulsive and troublesome parts of ourselves that have to be controlled and are of little value to us. Actually, our emotions, both negative and positive, are all perfectly safe and healthy and serve us in incredible ways, especially when it comes to making important life decisions. Every emotion you experience is a clear signal to help you differentiate between the expectations and demands being placed on you and what’s truly important to your Essential Self.
As a chronic list-maker, I always tend to stay emotionally uninvolved with my decisions. Emotions are too messy, too disorganized. I like things to be organized! Straightforward! Clear! Who needs more confusion, you know? Let’s just be practical! But I had to follow my heart on this one, because no matter how many lists I made I wasn’t finding the answer. The answer wasn’t in line-by-line comparisons of program statistics or in budget spreadsheets analyzing the costs and benefits of each option. I really had to dig around and go with my gut feelings. And that wasn’t easy either, because, as I kept saying, “I have two guts! And they’re saying different things!” But I had to go with the one that was kicking me harder.
When I came home today, there was a beautiful vase of tulips on my kitchen table and a sweet note from my roommate, saying “Congratulations on your choice EVG! I’m glad we’ll get to keep you!” [My roommate, see, has airport codes for everybody in her life, and they come from a funny mix of our names, initials, random facts/qualities about us, and what sounds good. Apparently "Ee-Vee-Gee" has a nice ring to it? Her lover du jour, for example, is called "IPM": International Playboy of Mystery. Lol.]
Speaking of my roommate, though, I don’t think I’ll be staying here much longer. The lady and I have decided that June 1st will be our day. This afternoon, we went and looked at a place not too far from where we both currently live (we’re not really looking at places yet, but this one just sounded so lovely that we had to go see). It’s gorgeous and affordable. Hardwood floors, giant windows, lots of closet space, perfect location, and a HUGE backyard with a garden and a patio all belonging just to the one flat. Amazing. We’re going to apply and see if a May 15 moving date would be too late for them. We’ll see.
And suddenly, after typing that out, I feel all jittery again, just like that. Like, wait, what? We’re moving in together? Ahhhhhhh, wait, no, what?! Can’t do it! Stop! Scary! What if we hate each other? Where will we go when we need space! What if we lose all our friends! Is this really the right thing to do? Quick! Let’s make some lists! Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis! GET ME A SPREADSHEET, STAT.
I guess I’ll just have to go with my heart on this one, too.
So, we’re talking about moving in together in a few months. We’ve been talking about it in vague terms for the past several months already: “maybe next summer, if we’re still together, we’ll want to live together, and then I’d NEVER have to be mad about dishes piling up in the sink because you’re good at doing dishes!” and “if we’re living together, we’ll be paying less rent, so maybe I can afford to leave my job a few months early.” That sort of thing. And neither of us had really dared to bring it up in a serious way, until this past week, because, well, it’s kind of big and scary. And also vaguely far away. Someday. (Doesn’t summer always seem far away in the middle of winter?)
But the truth is, it’s not all that far away. I’ll know about grad school within a month, and I will probably leave my job by two months later, and will be starting graduate school (hopefully) within three months after that. And my calendar is filling up already for things happening in May, June. And it was when I realized that I’ll be in New York and Massachusetts for 2-3 weeks at the end of May/beginning of June for my college reunion and some family and friend visiting that I realized, um, yikes, maybe we’d better actually have that serious conversation about moving in together. Because I’m not going to be around for a large chunk of May, rendering a June move-in difficult, and she’ll be gone for part of July, and then we’re both travelling to her sister’s wedding in August, and then my classes start… which leaves May 1 and July 1 as our options, really, and for several reasons I won’t bore you with here, May 1 seems a better fit for me.
And, well, May 1 is kind of soon. Not omg-we-need-to-start-apartment-hunting soon. But soon. Omg-we-need-to-really-consider-what-we’re-getting-ourselves-into-and-are-we-ready-to-take-this-step-and-what-does-this-mean soon. I think we’re both simultaneously really fucking excited and really fucking scared. I feel a bit like how I feel about maybe leaving my job if I don’t get into grad school (and thus face immense uncertainty). It feels so right, and thinking about it makes me so happy and so excited, and when I really think about it I want to do it, like, tomorrow, but then I freeze up, like, but what if it doesn’t work? Things are fine the way they are, aren’t they? You’re not unhappy or anything, why tempt fate? It could be disastrous, what if you’re really not as ready as you think you are…
I don’t know, you know? I worry about some of my tendencies, and wonder whether really I need more time to work them out living separately before I’m surrounded by her and us all the time. I worry about my control-freak micro-managing ways; I worry about her messiness. I worry that those two things are a horrible combination, and wonder if the reason they work alright now is that we each have our own space and so I can be the boss of mine and she can be the boss of hers. I worry about my tendency towards co-dependency, and if I don’t have a space to call my own, will I lose track of my self? Will we be able to make space for our selves and for each other? I worry about being able to strike a comfortable balance of shared responsibility for our space, given my high attention to detail in household matters and her relative leniency. And, I don’t know, what if we lose the spark? What if we get boring, stop being interesting to each other? I’m afraid of taking each other and our time together for granted. I want it all to still be special.
And as I was writing all that there was the other little voice in my head saying “but! but! but!”, countering everything there with other (happier) thoughts. Like that if we can deal well with our current situation (and we do), then of course we’ll be able to handle living together, and in fact much of what’s hard now might (even probably will) be easier. Right now, though we each have our own individual space, we don’t have our own couple space. We can’t just come home from work and cook dinner and chill, read together, watch a movie while cuddling, then get distracted and start hooking up in the middle. We can’t do that because there are always roommates around. So in a way, our sexuality is quashed. Then, also, living out of two separate apartments is a drag, to say the least. I always have to be thinking a day or two ahead when I know I’ll be over there, and even though I generally have clothes over there, there are still shoes and makeup and computer and whatever my plans are the day after (burlesque? dinner with friends? show?) to be thinking of. And toting around. Cooking is harder to plan ahead for, and is more expensive, because we’re dealing with two pantries and two refrigerators.
Mostly, and maybe this is boring, but I don’t care if it is, mostly I just want to be able to spend time together not doing anything. I want to be able to come home late after an evening of being busy and have her there, working on her music, and I want to kiss her hello, throw some leftovers on the stove, and plop down on the sofa with a good book or some writing ideas and each do our own shit together, and then eventually get distracted by each other’s presence and fuck on the living room floor before crashing into bed and briefly sharing the highlights (or lowlights) of our days with each other as we drift off into snuggly slumber.
That’s what I want. I guess I’d like to take the leap of faith; we’ve done well so far with circumstances that aren’t always easy. Living together certainly won’t be easy either, I’m sure of it. We’re two people. There will always be conflict. It will be different conflict from what we have now, to be sure, but won’t that also be fun? Figuring out how to navigate a whole new set of situations? An adventure. In love.
Scary as fuck. But honestly, I think the thing I’m scared of most is that I’m less scared than she is. I want her to want this and believe in this as much as I do. What if she doesn’t? What would that mean?
I guess it’s probably time to have that conversation, yeah?