The clock is ticking. Whenever I get a moment of peace in an otherwise hectic life, I hear it. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. And the thought is, I will have deformed babies.
Not even, I will have no babies. Surely that’s the most likely case for the over-the-fertility-hill of ladies ages 35 and up, up, up. But no. It’s always deformed lumps of skin with multiple eyes that will serve as a life-long reminder that because I waited too long I sentenced another being to a life of pain and suffering.
Then I ask myself, Couldn’t you love a deformed baby, you selfish no-good so and so? Do you think there’s something wrong with five eyes, you shallow ego maniac? I find myself forcing a future me to love Rosemary’s Baby before I’ve even gotten the thrill of being impregnated by the devil.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock, while I have these stupid thoughts.
That special feeling never came. The one that everyone promised would swallow me whole, make me pant at the sight of tiny clothing, make me yearn to brush the face of an infant with the pad of my thumb, make me weep at the thought of others getting impregnated around me. But it didn’t happen.
That’s what I was waiting for. I longed to be consumed by it and cry for it and fight for it. I wanted to beg to have a baby deep in my belly because then I could feel certain that it was a good choice no matter the circumstances. Instead I still think, We don’t have a house. We don’t have solid, unwavering employment. We don’t have enough time, patience, or selflessness to give a child all it deserves.
I do watch moms and dads and their babies in public. I do sometimes think, I’d like one. But it’s on the level of, I’d like a size 6 bottom. If I was good enough, then I’d already have it.
If I had another five years to wait, I’m pretty sure I’d beg for it. In the meantime it somehow seems that if I’m not begging for a baby, then I don’t deserve one. I’m trying to overcome that feeling, despite my better judgement.
Because Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. That 35th birthday is right around the corner now.
I’ve been wrestling with spirituality. Losing My Religion fits, though I was never brought up with a “right” religion. My dad is far to the right in his Christianity. He believes that women shouldn’t drink or lead countries. My mom is moderately Methodist. My husband is Jewish in gourmet preferences alone.
Then there’s me, a former experimenter in Buddhism turned agnostic. I do believe that a greater power exists. I don’t believe it cares about me any more than the grass.
I would really love to feel looked after by a God again. I’d even feel pretty great if I could just get on board with destiny. That would give all of this struggling and waiting and wishing some bigger reason. But I don’t have faith in any of that any more.
Having dinner with friends recently, someone said that engaged couples have to work out all of the big life questions together if they hope of having a happy, successful marriage. I didn’t agree. My husband was an athiest when I met him. I was a devout Methodist. We both had open minds, and now he is the one who talks about our “fate” and I roll my eyes. We evolve in all kinds of ways, us humans. I think it’s only love, unconditional, that makes a successful marriage or not. I think it’s only love, unconditional, that makes a happy life.
But I do also believe in people and the goodness of community. I am convinced that helping each other leads us all to more happiness. I think that our lives have meaning when we work towards good and that the world that we live in gets better when we are mindful of enjoying it.
I also see a flicker of my spiritual self in a quote from the Talmud. Maybe there’s a reason why I married a Jewish boy. Maybe it was fate that he married a Christian girl. Maybe our own angels whisper to us whether we choose to believe in them or not. So the saying goes:
Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.”
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The worst has happened. My husband and I are sharing a computer. First a bed, then a laptop. What next—a toothbrush?!?!
Seriously, though, this new merging of married life has us both on edge. My computer had a meltdown last week and, given that we’re both still unemployed, we cannot go around buying up new electronics.
Yet this comes in a series of misfortunate events since we lost our jobs. The washer and dryer both went kaput. No worries—we will go to the laundromat! The breaks went out on my car. Soldier on—we will skip Christmas presents and get them replaced! The breaks on his car went out. Buckle down, kids—we’ll only use one car! The bed frame broke while I was sitting on it. Go to the gym, gal—and let your man super glue and bungie cord the stupid thing back together!
Then this! My computer! My lifeline! My sanity! My digital brain!
I’m an only child. Sharing has never been my forte but I’m getting a good healthy dose of “for poorer” as our life slowly konks out. And here’s the thing. After nine years of marriage, if I have to share the things I desperately do not want to share, I’m still glad it’s with him and nobody else.
We’ve got our vows and so far those are still working tip-top.
(Knock on wood but not too hard, dear. We don’t want to break the coffee table.)
This morning at 7:20 a.m. a car on my street started honking and honking and honking and honking and honking and honking. I can’t even relay to you how long it went on because it was truly the longest bout of honking that I’ve ever experienced … except that I’ve now experienced it three mornings in a row at 7:20 a.m. So this morning, instead of exchanging Valentine’s cards in bed as is our tradition, my husband threw on his shoes and went flying out the door ready to throttle the person doing all of the honking.
We’re still jet-lagged and cranky in general but we’re also only getting to sleep around 3 a.m. so this honking business has got to stop. My knight in shining bathrobe went out to slay the beast … except the beast was a man getting ready for work and frustrated as all hell that his new, fancy car alarm that sounds like someone inconsistently honking—like there’s a real emergency—keeps going off. My husband came back home kind of feeling like he was the jerk, pestering someone about his alarm going off when we’re the ones who can sit at home sleeping all day if we want to while that guy has to go to work.
That got me thinking about Valentine’s Day, the day of love. Specifically, I was thinking about the kind of love that’s the runt-of-the-pack, the under rated orphan of the love tribe, loving thy neighbor.
Their lives are as brutally complex and infinitely irritating as our own. It’s a fact that’s easy—and blissful—to forget. But here’s a challenge for today:
Hold an elevator. Let a fellow commuter cut in. Offer your tissues to those that sneeze. Tell someone that they look beautiful. Smile. Say thank you. Be loving to all you meet, just for a day. Let’s try it and just see what happens.
Here’s wishing you an amazing Love Day, neighbor with the stupid car alarm! Tomorrow we’ll give you a pass … but if it ain’t fixed by the weekend, buddy, you’re in for an earful come 7:23 a.m.
Most days when asked how I’m feeling, I lie. My husband always gets the same answer, the truth, always, which is that I feel out to sea. Untethered.
When I’m honest with others, like today maybe, I can say, “I feel untethered. The waters are calm and the sea spray cool across my face. The destination is unclear but I follow the dolphins, the whales, the sharks! I follow and believe the horizon is near.” Some people get jealous, which I find ridiculous. They, perhaps, dream of all of the wonderful things they could do if suddenly they and their loved one were unemployed.
Other days, a lot of days, the waters are choppy and storms lead us off course. People seemed so depressed when I told them that I felt out to sea with no clue where to go, so I stopped telling them. I started lying and saying, with gusto, “I feel untethered.” The truth is that unemployment is scary—scary good, scary bad, scary—and most people just don’t like to think about it at all, including me.
In honesty, we applied and were accepted to two different programs to teach on the Thai/Burma border, then within a few days of acceptance both non-profits folded after being active in the area for more than a decade. Why? I don’t understand. My husband said that it was fate saying that we shouldn’t go. I gave up belief in “fate” after that. But we still didn’t go. I may not believe but I won’t try slapping lady destiny in the face either.
He’s interviewed in San Francisco. I’ve interviewed in London. We’ve both interviewed in Los Angeles. All of the money we’ve saved for a house dwindles with each passing day. Nothing has led us closer to the horizon, not yet. No land, no solid ground, no offer on which to build the next phase of our lives. The sun is hot and I’d love to build a treehouse, but I’m unwilling to settle for the first open spot on the Titanic either. At least at the moment, we’re still allowing ourselves the freedom to choose. Untethered.
As I said, today is hopeful. My house is warm, my husband kind, my belly full, and my mind at ease. I see friends often and truly enjoy them. I’ve babysat their children and danced at their destination weddings—things I never had the time to do when I had a job and only two weeks vacation. I saw my family for Thanksgiving, the first time in over a decade. My grandpa calls in the middle of the day, and I can talk to him for an hour. I do favors. I go out of my way to be nicer to strangers. I pulled weeds yesterday and kind of liked it. I am short on a lot of things, but I have a wealth of time.
Secret Fifty-Seven, Revealed. I think the trick to finding calm waters is to just be here now. The past is behind, the future ahead, and regardless of their power over us, usually right now is bliss if we take the time to enjoy what is instead of what isn’t right here right now. Tethered or untethered, happiness is under our noses, always.
I’m onto something big, huge, a gigantic life secret. It started with my husband getting laid off.
That’s right. We’re both unemployed, which might make you go awww except you’ve read this and this and this where I woe-is-me-ed over the fact that I wanted to travel from Bangkok to Bombay but how? We had jobs, bona fide careers, and a house that we should buy and babies that we should make. We were in our thirties and having twenty-something dreams. Woe. Is. Us.
So instead of giving me sympathy for our jobless plight, instead you’re thinking, Time to get going, sister! And you’re right. It took me a teensy bit of time to come to that answer, but you’re right!
I’d been carrying a business card around in my purse for a year or so for a non-profit called The Tiziano Project. They send journalists into war-torn and politically unstable countries to train young people how to be street journalists and then provide them with the equipment to create their own stories. VERY cool work. VERY much the kind of work that makes me swoon. Guess what? I’m now a volunteer for The Tiziano Project. And guess what? In person, they’re even more amazing people than what I had imagined.
My husband and I applied to the Burma Volunteer Program, the Burmese Refugee Project, and ExPPACT this week. They’re all organization helping Burmese refugees along the Thailand/Myanmar border. I think we’re going to go. I think we can. I think we can. We’re trying.
Secret Fifty-Six, Revealed. All you have to do is try. I was so scared before. I didn’t know how to contact places in Thailand and tell them I wanted to leave my job. I thought I had to have all stars aligned before I could hop on one. Not so.
All you have to do is try just a little, and I cross my heart that the answers start coming. The more I tell people that I want to teach Burmese students how to tell their stories through writing, filmmaking, and social media, the more everyone in my universe is moving all of their planets so that my stars align. It’s phenomenal. It’s a blessing, and I think we all have it. We’re just too scared to try it out.
Don’t be frightened! Whatever you want to do, tell people. It’s terrifying and yet I see a life unfolding for my husband and I that includes more possibilities than we could have ever imagined for ourselves. We could be traveling from Bangkok to Bombay beginning in February. It could happen that fast, when previously it seemed nearly impossible.
We are laughing more. We are loving more. We are learning to trust each other in new ways, again.
So try, try, try telling someone today what your biggest dream is. All you have to do is say it and then say it again and then watch it grow. I promise.
“My parents divorced when I was older, but my mom especially realized the impact it had on us kids and has apologized numerous times. Personally, as I watch friends and family dissolve thier relationships, it makes me grab my husband and hold onto our relationship even more. But I think if I were borderline unhappy, seeing everyone else choosing the easy way out might seem attractive too. It’s an on-going decision not to take the easy way out.”— Amy Jo Trager, whose quote I meant to add to the Best Advice section over 2 years ago! Better late than never!!
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”—Margaret Atwood (via kari-shma)
Every morning at five o’clock I woke up gasping, until last night. It’s been 13 days since I lost my job and finally I slept through the night. I’ve had this blog for three years. I worked for Disney for five. All of those dreams I’ve been writing about, now’s the time. Don’t you think?
A large part of my anonymity in this blog has been because of my other job, the day job, the full-time job. I didn’t want to blur the line between my professional writing for children and my personal writing for grown-ups. Now, it’s just my writing. There’s no difference between the two.
I’m deeply proud of the community we have here and also of the other community I developed from the ground up for Disney. I think you’ll be really surprised and delighted to finally meet them.
Secret Fifty-Five, Revealed. Thirteen days ago, I ceased to be the head writer and lead producer of a very special blog.
Now, I’m onto some really exciting new adventures. More on that soon …
I’ve been MIA for two months. I finished the second draft of my novel, turned it in for my master’s thesis, graduated, and have been making ottomans. Yes, ottomans. I’m now a little obsessed with Design*Sponge.
I’ve also realized that it’s becoming much harder to have anonymity on the internet and the days of feeling secure as Mrs. Levine are quickly coming to an end. I’ve shared a lot in this space that I’m really proud of, but I don’t necessarily want people to be able to google my name and find my quite private insights on life. So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, too.
The quiet and clarity have been nice. I haven’t been going to the gym but I also haven’t been worrying about my weight. I’ve been saving for a 3-6 month trip to Myanmar and India and not worrying about if it would mean I’d need to quit my job or if my husband would have to quit his to go with me. I’m following my heart and trying to only tackle problems once they become problems, once I’ve already dove in, instead of never sticking my toe in the water because I’m scared of the sharks at the bottom of the swimming pool. It’s been good. Balancing. Freeing. My daily life, my friendships, and my marriage are better for it. I’m happy.
So I’m thinking that I might go public this summer and finally put up a picture, let you know my name, stop hiding behind my pseudonym. That also means that half of my archives will probably be made private. If you’ve been meaning to read the Secrets, now’s the time, friends! They’re in the sidebar today and might be gone tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’m going to be chilling, not doing much writing, doing a whole lot of thinking and relaxing instead. Why are we on the internet anyway? It’s summer. Let’s swim and garden and hula hoop and ride bikes and pick strawberries and enjoy the lives that we’ve got while we’ve got them. Happy summer!
I hate my hair. I recently got it cut and it still looks shapeless.
I hate my body. I’ve been cutting back, shaping up, getting my “I’m too exhausted” butt up the stairs instead of the elevator and yet I wobble. My arms wobble. My legs wobble. I’m embarrassed and feel fat. It’s important to note, though, that I am not fatter according to the scales but I quite possibly am definitely less toned.
And I hate my tendency to go so far into my work that I lose perspective on things like my butt size and bagel calories.
I also hate that I can’t just live as a brain without a body so that I could just work without ending up with all the little bits that jiggle.
I hate that I worry about the jiggle. Who cares? I have a husband that loves me. I’m about to have a master’s degree, a novel, and a screenplay being considered by a major movie studio. Shouldn’t people be able to look at me and think, Her achievements far outweigh the fact that she couldn’t resist Free Bagel Fridays at her office.
I hate that I care what people think. Who are these “people” anyway? The people who love me are called friends and family and they don’t care if I overindulge. They don’t really care if I never sell a book. They love me and want me to have happiness and balance, whatever that means to me.
I hate that I don’t know what happiness means to me. I hate that I just wrote that because I hate that I actually know what happiness means to me but I’m not able to grab it.
I hate that I’m not able to reach for my true happiness because I’m afraid.
I love getting home from work before my husband. I think it should be my new mission in life to get a job that lets me out of work before him. Our vision board should have some sort of symbol that means that I get home from work first in our future life because let me tell you, it is bliss.
I notice the daffodils on the table, how they bloomed while I was away, and I actually bend down to smell them. I see how the light comes in through the windows and remember that it’s spring. I say a little prayer to the gods that it’s still light outside when I get home from work. I wash my hands and think about what to have for dinner.
Secret Fifty-Four, Revealed. I breathe. And I don’t talk. I change into my pajamas and I don’t rush. I chop vegetables. I pour myself a glass of iced blueberry green tea. I put the dinner on and write a blog post, email, light a candle or two. Just an hour. That’s all I need, but oh man do I love it.
And I love my husband, too. Don’t get me wrong, I love that man. But man, oh, man can that man chat my face off when I come through the door. I like my face chatted off by him, I really do. But not right after work. Not in the last few minutes before sunset. Not when it’s my time, which feels like it almost never is. I really need to see about this new master plan. I want a little more time all to myself.
You see that golden sparkling bubble bar? I just had that in my bath. Yep, $6.15 melted into water and made the surface shimmer like a yellow brick road.
It is expensive but it made me feel good as gold. Now my skin sparkles and, amazingly, my spirit feels a little more dazzling, too. I recommend stepping into Lush and onto the Sunny Side.
This Week’s Joys:
Sunny Side bath
Making better choices when eating out — it’s incredible how something as small as that can start to make me feel more in control of life again. Who knew that choosing tuna fish instead of fried chicken could make such a difference?
Going for a walk when I get frustrated — again, it’s about little choices to take more control back.
Stopping to admire a perfectly formed rose sticking out through the bars of a gate
Water—drinking water seems to always help almost anything that ails me
Waking up to the sound of rain
Aluminum-free deodorant from Lush—I’ve been looking for a deodorant that won’t contribute to my impending Alzeihemer’s so hopefully this is the one!
Driving all the way across town with my husband, randomly, to have lunch at one of his favorite hole in the walls.
Running into a friend when I least expected it, at a time of day that I had no where to be, and sitting down for a long chat.
Buying a new phone. I didn’t like the buying of it. Who could have ever dreamed that these phones of the future would cost so much? But it was really time for an upgrade.
Moving my savings over to a high interest savings account, re-evaluating my 401k, and finally looking into a Roth. My husband read a money book that he loved (called I Will Teach You to Be Rich) and we’re beginning to take all of the steps suggested in the book. I’ll let you know how it goes!
I can’t describe it other than to say it feels like I’m waking up from a very long sleep. I suppose that’s what spring is about, isn’t it? But this is different. I see where I want to go next in life, even if I’m unclear on how to get there.
I think I’d like to travel from Bangkok to Bombay, maybe circle the Bay of Bengal. I want to publish my novel, for sure, but I’d like time and space to write the next one. I’m glad that I found a way to work a full-time job, get my master’s, and write a book but I hope the next one is easier and includes waking up in a farmhouse and writing during a baby’s naps maybe.
The Fisherman’s wife says that now her little one is over a year old, they are both beginning to be well fed and well rested. He’s happy. She’s bored and itching for an intellectual project to tackle in her newly found quiet time. I like the idea of raising a child and then being ready to write a second book.
But I also want to help people, women, in need. And by “in need” I don’t mean hungry or sick or poor, even though certainly many women need help with those things. I want to end situations in this world where women feel like prostitution is the only answer for feeding their children, keeping them well, and escaping poverty. I’d like to give silent women a voice and skills and hope. I’d like to do that globally.
I write these things and the air goes right out of my lungs. Excitement. It’s every bit of what is missing in my daily life. I feel like I was meant for more than sitting at my 9-7 job everyday getting fat on bagels and spreadsheets. Weren’t we all meant for more than that?
A change is building for me. It’s coming. I’m trying to remember to take more things to the vision board but, suddenly, finally, I’m finding that my brain is working faster than my cork board.
This Week’s (and a bit more’s) Joys:
THE HUNGER GAMES, THE MOVIE! Saw it in IMAX and it did not disappoint.
Peet’s Coffee at home - why do I ever buy anything else?
Mad Men and Game of Thrones coming back this week - love the anticipation
Wrapping myself in a blanket straight from the dryer and then crawling beneath my regular bed covers with it right before bedtime. Massive heat on cold nights makes for the nicest sleeps.
A painted postcard that I got from Costa Rica catching the sunlight in the morning
The sweet smell of a peppermint candle
Shrimp and scallop burritos - Delicious. It’s my new obsession, even though I’ve only had half of one so far. Once I’ve gone back to the gym, I will have more!
My grandpa - He sent my husband his model train in the mail just as a surprise. He got it when he was a little boy and has now passed it down to my husband. It feels really good when I can see that my family considers my husband their family, too. It’s a special feeling.
Boiled eggs - Okay, admittedly a weird one, but I’ve found that if I eat a boiled egg and a piece of fruit for breakfast, I stay full all the way to lunch with no trouble. It’s been really good for balancing out things like shrimp and scallop burritos.
The Fisherman’s Wife - She was visiting last weekend with her son, which is why I didn’t get a chance to blog. Just love her. Love her. My mind has felt more at ease this week and when I stop to think about it, I feel that it’s the effect of having seen my best friend.
Elvis records - my husband has been playing them in the mornings recently
Haircuts - I’m getting one today after an ungodly amount of time of having not had one. You know when you start to become embarrassed of your hair? I’ve had that for like a month and I finally get to see my hairdresser today. It’s always nice to see her, too. She secretly thinks I’m old but I don’t care because she makes me feel wise.
Anticipation - Maybe it’s spring, like I said before, but I’m really feeling the blossoms of possibility and how planning and looking forward to things can shape my life. Something relatively small, like shelling out $20 to see The Hunger Games in IMAX on opening weekend, to bigger things, like starting a savings fund for a trip from Bangkok to Bombay. These are things I can do, right now, that make my heart jump in its cage and why not bring some of that into my life? Why not?
My husband has been telling me I’m wrong a lot lately. Sometimes he’s not very nice about it either. But here’s the thing, he’s mostly right about the ways in which I’m wrong. Maybe that’s what sucks about it the most.
Yesterday he told me that he thinks the self-esteem problems I’m having are stemming from the fact that I’ve stopped going to the gym. He said that I should complain less and workout more. I think he’s right …
In the interest of a happy compromise, here are this week’s focusing-on-the-positive-without-working-out JOYS:
The smell of fresh garlic
My new subscription to Poets and Writers’ Magazine
Having an amazing dinner with an old friend and her new husband
Feeling fat, weighing myself and confirming the fatness, but not looking fat. I’m still looking good but my husband is right, so I will workout if only for my self-confidence.
Kale salad, one of my new favorite things
Getting excited about my novel
My colleague telling me that I’m the best boss she’s ever had
Getting older— it’s so underrated.
Finding my center, even when it’s not other people’s
Ordering an Oscar Wilde cocktail during a Sunday brunch with another old friend in Chicago
Discovering what my vision board is saying to me — more on that another time
Still having up white Christmas lights in the house just because we like them
Making food for my husband, which I’m going to finish doing right now (spaghetti squash with kale salad—a dinner packed with self-esteem for those currently skipping the gym)
I had to learn a tough lesson this week and that is that just because I’m ready to confront my issues, doesn’t mean that everyone else is, too. I’ll admit it. I’ve been a little bit like a drive-by Dr. Phil, telling it like it is wherever I go. Secret Fifty-Three, Revealed. Honest insights are not always welcome.
But I desperately want it for myself. That’s why I’m doling it out. I crave being told exactly what’s going on, the stuff I can’t see. I’m finding it really hard not to talk constantly about what’s going on with me to my close friends right now, but not all of those friends are willing to help me cope. It’s making me panic. I see people looking at me like I’m growing two heads or addressing me as if I’m a bomb that might explode.
Here’s what I’m learning. Friendship is not a straight give and take. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of my friends’ crash-and-burn life talks. I assumed that when I was ready for mine, that they would all bravely walk with me through it. Not so.
Because I guess you can’t go through all of those deep psychological thoughts with someone without also examining yourself, and we’re not always ready to look at ourselves even when our friends are. Sometimes we just want to sit back and enjoy life instead. I get it but it also kind of hurts. But I get it. Friends have to put on their own oxygen masks before they can help with mine, so I’ve got to stick to the people who are currently wearing theirs.
I’ve found three. They’re my people that are looking right at the ugly, the crazy, the puddle that I am right now and saying, “Bring it on” and “I love you no matter what” and “I’m really glad you’re doing this now.” I’m reminding myself that it doesn’t mean that the other people in my life don’t also feel that way about me, but not everyone is ready to walk the deep self-reflection road right now. Not everybody wants to hear it like it is and certainly don’t want to come out of their comfort zone to tell me how it is. I’m glad that I have a few friends who are and really glad that one of them is my husband.
Hello, friends. I’ve been M.I.A. lately. Between Valentine’s Day and my birthday, I’ve just been chilling out more than usual I suppose. But my husband is out for the evening and I’ve got some potatoes boiling, so let’s chat…
So. I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about this blog and how it’s existence is both my freedom and my hiding place. I’m now 33-years-old and I wonder if that’s old enough to know that …
Secret Fifty-Two, Revealed. I might actually just be old enough to speak my mind without fearing what others will do to me or say about me. Since my current heroes include people like Marc Maron, Caveh Zahedi, and Ayelet Waldman, I think my heart has decided even if my head is slow to catch up.
My head also tells me not to say hello to Marc Maron when I see him around my neighborhood—it’s very un-L.A. to acknowledge the famous. But when I listen to him talk about what a jackass he’s been and having to apologize to people, I feel a little more human. I’m a little less afraid of people. I think I’m a braver person because he’s saying it, a lot more publicly than I am. Maybe next time he’s in line for coffee ahead of me, I’ll just say hello or introduce myself as someone who also feels compelled to share her shit publicly. We’re of the same tribe. I think it’s a good tribe. I think we’re saner for wondering if we’re slightly insane.
Joys of the Past Two Weeks:
My mentor called me “kid.” It’s been a while since someone has and I was beginning think those days were over.
I had the best sushi in San Diego. San Diego! It’s a new place for me and I think I liked it. A dash Portland. A dash San Francisco. A sprinkle of Los Angeles but without the traffic.
I went into Claire’s on my birthday just to make myself giggle. I hadn’t been in one since I was twelve. Found an amazing necklace and am no longer laughing. Three people have asked me what boutique I bought it in! I don’t see mine online but it’s similar to this.
Man, do I love a quiet evenings at home blogging.
I started reading Norwegian Wood and am really liking it. Library Thing used to recommend it to me all of the time but this is the first time I’ve read anything by Murakami.
I’ve discovered the greatest fish taco recipe ever. It tastes remarkably like the tacos from the food trucks in my neighborhood. I’ve substituted tuna, chicken, and beef in the recipe and it’s still great for all choices.
I also found the world’s most comfy flats. I’ve now bought them in brown and black. No blisters and they mold to your foot-shape.
My husband’s parents gave me money for Hanukkah and an Amazon gift card for my birthday. Put a little in for myself and got the greatest birthday gift—the Fossil Modern Cargo Tote. It’s like a new addition to my family. Love it so much.
I’ve been turning my radio up really loud in my car when a song comes on that I like and Jerry Maguire-style rocking out. It feels really good.
I had a revelation. Always I ask myself what I could have with what I can do. Now I’ve started asking what I can do with what I have.
It’s a little shift but powerful. Like I like the idea of living in Southeast Asia for awhile. I’d been thinking that we could sublet our house and I have a resume that could get me an entry-level ESL teaching position. But that never feels exciting or freeing to me because it’s essentially throwing out the career that I spent my twenties working to achieve. It’s negating one dream to have another. Instead, this week, I’ve started looking at the facts like I can write. I can teach writing, I think. I can set goals and achieve them.
It’s led me to think things like: I can publish my book. I can get writing grants. I can sell my screenplay. I can get freelance work. I can write from anywhere in the world. I can build upon my career and travel the world. With my hubby, of course, who is putting similar types of things on our vision board.
"I can" is more empowering than "I could." I feel inspired.
This Week’s Joys:
An old, olive green scarf from the back of my closet has re-emerged and become the fashion statement piece of my winter!
My husband put all of the groceries away because I have the sniffles. So nice.
I spent all of Saturday working on my novel. That, also, feels empowering.
I’ve started a new habit of finishing things that I’d previously left undone—mostly crafts that have been sitting for years half finished. Feels good.
I’ve decided to buy another sweatshirt like one I got for Christmas because I love it so much even though it’s not on sale and I doubt that I can wear it to work.
The Actor’s Wife’s baby has gotten old enough to hold his own head up. It makes snuggling with him a lot more fun now that I don’t feel so much like I could break him. Is that weird? I’m an almost 33-year-old woman that’s scared of breaking infants just by holding them…
The Accountant and his Wife are about to celebrate their 10-year anniversary. If you were reading this blog last year around this time, you know how incredible it is that they’re together, happy, healthy, and celebrating a decade. Makes me really happy.
Why are so many of Hollywood’s beloved wonder couples on the blink? Hard economic times affect us all. It sinks into our lives and absorbs our culture whether rich or poor, celebrity or not. When times are tough, souls are rocked off the foundations. In the land of happily ever after, can our favorites make it?
Rumored that he will not attend the Oscars so as not to fuel further rumors of whether they will split or if they won’t. I think they won’t. Something tells me that married or not, Johnny and Vanessa are soulmates. I know, I’m crushing the hearts of single women everywhere.
Two children, Willow, Jaden, and Trey (Will’s child by a previous relationship)
Married for thirteen years
Their children’s budding Hollywood careers are rumored to be at the heart of the couple’s marriage problems. Jada has sought legal counsel but they’re still together. I have faith that the Fresh Prince and Princess can come up with a fresh compromise to save their marriage. Fingers crossed.
We’re stuck. We’ve never been stuck before. Either he wanted to go to grad school or I wanted to go to Southeast Asia. Never have we been at a loss for what our next big thing would be. But we’re stuck.
Last night I had a dream that there was an apocalypse. People were living indoors. Food and medicine were running low. I knew one place that would still have water, still have food, and safety. My grandpa’s cabin. I moved through the wreckage of the world, people looting, sick people lying in the streets. It was midnight and I hid from the few cars on the roads as I made my way to the forest. I cut through a restaurant at the foot of the hill before heading up to the cabin. The owners knew me, knew my grandpa. As they handed me the spare keys, I remembered and I woke up with a gasp. My grandpa doesn’t live there any more and I wasn’t the one that bought his cabin.
That’s the real life feeling now. The dreams we had planned fell through. We didn’t buy the cabin. Someone else did. My husband’s film didn’t tour to as many festivals as we really thought it might, creating more freelance work for him, the work that he loves. It didn’t happen. The only thing left is my novel. I have such high hopes for it. Six years in the making and I love it like a child. And if it falls too, what then?
Or even if it’s a great success but it takes years to get there. What if it takes time to find an agent, find a publisher, what if they don’t give me enough money to quit my job or what if no one wants to publish it all? What will we do in the meantime while we’re waiting for our world to change? We don’t know. This was the time when our dreams were meant to start coming true. I’ll be thirty-three next month. It feels like I’ve paid my dues.
But you can’t count on dreams. So we’re starting to figure it out. Yesterday we pulled an old cork board out of the garage and have put it up on a wall in our house. It’s an idea board, to be filled with things that we want for our future.
I saw my husband pinning the first things to it yesterday and I yelled at him. I’d printed two pictures to frame—one of my husband filming some cows in a pasture in New Mexico and another of my grandpa standing and watching those same cows cross the pasture. Together, they made a panoramic of the two men I love, working on a film that I love. But my husband had just poked holes in them, pinning them to the board. He told me I was just going to have to print two more. The originals were dedicated to our future, it’s the image of what he wants our lives to be like.
I like that because I do, too, whatever that means.
This week’s joys:
I found an old frame that I’d bought at a rummage sale years ago that fit perfectly a watercolor print that I bought in Costa Rica last November. It was like they, from two different times and places, were meant to be together.
My husband and I went on a hike yesterday. It was my idea. I wanted to get free of my head-space and be in nature. We decided halfway up the hill that I hate hikes. He said it, but I was thinking it. He told me that he thinks I’m more of a walk girl instead of a hike girl. He’s right and I like that he’s right. We discovered something new about me, or maybe just something that we’re both finally ready to admit. lol
My own novel is starting to seem as exciting to me as The Hunger Games. The characters feel real and the plot thrills me. So cool to be surprised like that with something I wrote.
I talked myself out of a bout of jealousy yesterday by raking and weeding my whole backyard. After scooping up raccoon poop covered in furry, white mold and rotten oranges that the squirrels had thrown out half-eaten, I suddenly felt better about myself, enough to be happy for a friend that deserves the good news that got me down. Life could be worse—I could be mold on raccoon poop but I’m me instead. Sweet deal!
Last week I did more things on my “fun” To Do list than on my actual To Do list. That feels like progress.
I hate self-help books. Here’s my interpretation of reading a self-help book.
I am going to tell you this.
Then I’m going to tell you that.
Are you ready for me to tell you this?
I don’t think you are so really look into yourself.
Now are you ready?
Are you sure?
Last chance, because I’m going to tell you now.
We’re all seeking love and acceptance.
I hope you have now learned what I told you.
If you haven’t, buy my next book.
I had to get that out of my system because I’m about to recommend—maybe for the first time ever—a self-help book.
The Fisherman’s Wife sent it to me, so I felt guilty and had to at least start reading it. Woo-wee. Fascinating stuff. Basically, our society is narcissistic, right? We value the shallow. And we all have narcissistic traits, it’s just some people let those traits define their lives while others don’t. I see myself, my husband, my friends, my family, little pieces of lots of people’s lives unfolding in this book. Our patterns explained and defined. It makes me feel more compassionate and at peace.
For instance, I am a person that doesn’t help out around the house very much. It’s a facet of narcissism. I am content to let my husband do my laundry and dishes. In choosing me as a wife, we perpetuate the pattern where my husband must cater to my needs in that way instead of a stronger balance.
Second instance, my husband is a person that doesn’t highly value stability. He would rather quit a job that he doesn’t like instead of putting up with it until he has another job lined up. That means that I am required to be our breadwinner, keeping our life financially stable for the both of us but in the process prioritizing my husband’s happiness as higher than my own. My husband and I are working on breaking that pattern as well as the negotiations on housework.
So my narcissistic self, that thinks I don’t need self-help books, just learned something from a self-help book!
My husband was watching the Black Power Mixtape this week while I was getting ready for work and I caught that line from the voiceover just as I was walking out the door. I’ve been thinking about that ever since.
Maybe happiness doesn’t mean being positive and sneezing rainbows every day. In fact, recently, I’ve been thinking that happiness is accepting every part of myself, being accountable for my behavior, not holding onto shame, making sure I apologize when I need to. Tough stuff but the shift really is bringing forward a deeper sense of happiness.
I’ve been doing those To Do lists. Things get carried over each week, and it feels fine. I haven’t been feeling the stress that I normally do about not having enough time to get everything done. I get the important things checked off the list—both changing my bank and taking a yoga class. Other things will happen later—taking a meditation class and scheduling an orthodontist appointment. Little by little, I’m getting there. Peace. Calm. Balanced.
People will feel angry at me. People will feel hurt by me. People will believe that I should drive faster on the freeway, slower on the freeway, that I should listen better, that I should speak up more. People will think that I am embarrassing, that I’m too shy, that I’m not social enough, that I don’t return emails fast enough. As my husband likes to remind me, Haters gonna hate. But that has nothing to do with me as long as my happiness starts from a quiet place, when it comes from deep within. When I’m happy, I don’t hurt people, not intentionally.
And also according to my husband, the Black Power Mixtape was one of the best movies of the year. Watching it later today to see this amazing quote fall into context. I’ll be sure to get the specific quote and who said it when I do.
“What I admire about Lucille Ball is that she was bold and not afraid to look silly, unkempt, or even…ugly. For a woman so glamorous and so beautiful, it is really wonderful to see her dive in. Really go for it. We can all take a page out of her book. Let’s not obsess about being pretty. We can dress up or down to make us feel good, but in the end, does it really matter? What makes you feel good? Really, really good? I doubt that your number one answer would be, “being pretty.” You know what makes me feel good? Laughing.”—Dianna Agron (via littlewishjar)
It’s January. I know, mostly from blogging, that I get depressed about this time every year. It ain’t lack of sunshine either. I’ve got plenty. I feel all right this year, though, despite a disastrous Christmas.
But I’m here and probably more comfortable in my own skin than I’ve maybe ever been. I’m proud I’m a writer and proud of what I write. I’m a good person with my own point of view. I like people. For the most part, they like me back.
I fear that I gained all of the weight back that I lost last year on Weight Watchers. I haven’t gotten on the scales because I don’t want to know. I can see it when I look in the mirror and catch myself thinking that it looks a little like a fat suit. Alas.
The year is young. It’s going to be a good year. I love my husband. I’ve finished the first draft of my novel. Life is good. Hope you’re feeling so too.
I have one resolution for 2012 and that is to keep a weekly To Do list. One list is for things that nourish me. The second is for errands. I want to write them both at the start of each week, on Sundays.
This first week of the year, I have yoga, meditation, and massage on my nourishment list. I have listed to set up a credit union account, begin revising the first draft of my novel, and order more allergy medication on my secondary list. Voila! Balance in two pages or less.
I’m also doing one other thing, though it’s not a resolution. One list has: buy new stationery with a fancy wax seal. The other has: write thank you notes to the ten people that touched my life most last year. It might be a new tradition for New Year’s Day, though we’ll have to see if it makes the To Do list on December 31st, 2012.
Secret Fifty-One, Revealed.By the end, I was looking for the joys at the end of each day instead of creating them as a shift in my lifestyle. Hey, it worked. Things in my life were a lot more joyful by the end.
But I’ve been thinking about a new plan for the new year, maybe a little better strategy for fusing joy into my life. If a balanced life is an even mix of body/mind/spirit maybe each week should be divided into 2 days body (exercise), 2 days mind (reading, writing), and 2 days spirit (meditation, dates with my husband, all things fun). And a freebie day of whatever I want to do.
We’ll see. In the meantime, hope your holiday season is looking bright!
This week’s joys included…
I finished the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. (Need a last minute gift idea? For anyone who loved Harry Potter, Twilight, LOST, or Battlestar Galactica, these books are addictive!)
A friend of mine was truly happy when she opened the Christmas present I gave her. It wasn’t so much that the gift was amazing (wine with a bow and spring of rosemary), but she’s good at receiving gifts. She allowed me to feel as good about giving it to her as she was at getting it. It’s something that I want to remember as I head back to Indiana for the holidays, to be a gracious receiver as well as gift-giver.
I’ve been on vacation. And other things, but mainly vacation. Man, do I have a lot of things to say … but there’s a dinner in the oven with the timer about to go. So, I guess I’ll have to be brief.
My husband and I hiked a trail in Costa Rica with one other couple and a guide. Not a single human noise around. Only plants and animals and rain. Lots of rain. We stopped in front of a great big tree that sloped over to one side. Our guide said it was the inspiration for the storyline of the movie Avatar, The Tree of Life.
He said aborigines believed that when people died they should be laid out on a rock for vultures to clean their bones. I saw vultures. They’re actually beautiful birds. When the bones remained, they buried their loved ones at the foot of The Tree of Life. And they believed that the tree carried the spirit up to heaven, back to where they came from.
I’m not sure why this story has centered me so strongly, but it has. There hasn’t been a day since I got back from vacation that I haven’t thought of the aborigines and the bones. I told my husband that I think it is my religion. I don’t even know what that means. I’m just grounded. We came from the earth. We go back to the earth. Let’s love each other and do good while we’re here. Amen.
On that note, some joys:
I’ve got another meeting with the movie studio about my screenplay.
I finished my novel!
My husband and I have started cooking again. Making food together, it’s one of the better things in life. Good for our souls. Good for our bodies. Good for our marriage.
In meetings at work now, I flip through my vacation photos on my phone instead of paying attention. I highly recommend it.
Yoga. It’s really good medicine.
Friends. I have a lot of wonderful friends.
I have a new heater in my house and it. is. wonderful. Even heating throughout the house, all because a man came over and cleaned the inside of the heaters then gave us a new thermostat. Winter bliss.
You, wherever you are, who are still reading my blog even though I’ve been incredibly sporadic this year with updating it. I’m really glad you’re still here with me. Thanks for not giving up!
I’ve been following Lori Lowe’s blog Marriage Gems for a couple of years and find her advice on marriage truly wonderful and inspiring. She’s not a marriage counselor, just a marriage student and writer like me, but she has researched lasting marriage and interviewed happily married couples from all walks of life. Now Lori has a new book coming out—First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage—and I took the opportunity to ask her some of my burning questions on how to help a marriage last a lifetime.
Below are a few of the highlights. Follow the link at the bottom of this post to read the full interview.
Mrs. Levine: Is avoiding lifestyle traps one of the best ways of helping a marriage flourish over decades?
Lori Lowe: I do think avoiding today’s lifestyle traps can help a marriage flourish. For example, the ever-changing desires for more material goods, nicer cars, bigger houses, great vacations, and the like, can cause financial stress. Research shows couples who are more focused on material goods have less strong marriages. The truth is that material goods never really satisfy our deepest longings. If we spent the time and effort focusing on trying to please each other and doing something great in the world that is bigger than ourselves, we find much greater happiness.
Mrs. Levine: When illness or an accident changes the marriage so that one spouse is a care provider and the other is a care receiver, how does a couple maintain an equal emotional balance in the relationship?
Lori Lowe: One couple in the book experienced a brain injury at a young age, and the wife has become a caregiver. Due to his slow awakening from a coma, it’s almost as if he fell in love with his wife a second time. He asked her to marry him before he understood that he was already married to her. She remained at his side and committed to his recovery, and works daily to help him regain his mobility. Just because one person has physical limitations doesn’t mean that any part of the love dies away. At some point (hopefully much later in life), most of us as couples will face some physical limits either in ourselves or in our spouse. While it’s not pleasant to think about, it may help you prepare for the future.
Mrs. Levine: What is your best piece of advice to couples for a marriage that lasts a lifetime?
Lori Lowe: If I have to limit the advice to one thing, I’d say focus on pleasing each other. It creates a virtuous cycle of giving and loving. If you are willing to go first and be the one who acts in love and generosity, you can start that cycle. What is something that would please your spouse today? More sex or touching during the day? Grocery shopping or cooking dinner? Spending time together? Saying thank you instead of complaining? Do what you know will please your spouse, and if you don’t know, be sure to ask.
If I can add one other thing, I’d say don’t expect your spouse to fill your every need. If we each learn to be interesting and fulfilled people individually, we bring more to the marriage, and we hopefully won’t have as many unrealistic expectations of each other.