abundance · level up · partnership

Maximizing.

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Not the actual bathroom we saw, but not that different either!

This weekend, J and I checked out a place for rent in the East Bay.  We’ve been considering the option of moving out of the homogeneous, one-horse town we live in back to a place where the average age isn’t 25 years above ours and the options for adventure are more varied (though outdoor options here are plentiful).

Afterward, J commented that he was proud of me.  “Why??”  Because in the past, I would have jumped on the place that we saw.  It barely eeked past the necessities, in that it had a roof and four walls!  But the truly atrocious absence of upkeep and update of the place were obvious to me—for perhaps the first time, he said.

I’m a Satisfiser.  Meet the lowest, most basic requirements?  Done.  He’s a Maximizer.  Suuuure, this may indeed meet those, but what else is there?

Each approach has its benefits and deficits.  I can tend to be okay with some pretty low standards (see my blog about being “shmutzy”!); he can tend to research at the expense of taking action.  My way means there’s movement (mostly forward!); his way means he’s aware of a greater field of possibilities available for the taking.

There’s a concept of couples becoming more similar to one another over years, and while this has some pieces within me screaming, “AGENCY!!”, there is a benefit to being positively influenced by someone you’re so close to.  I’m becoming more discerning; he’s becoming more content.

While we still have vast gulfs of difference in some areas, the ability to appreciate one another’s style for its benefits means we’re more effective and efficient.  Being able to make decisions that raise my acceptable standard of living at a speedier pace means I get to spend more time living in and with those better things.  And as Maybelline told me years ago: I’m worth it.

 

compromise · partnership · time

Time Wars

I’m slowly making my way through Minimalist Parenting, written by two women who, according to their bio blurbs on the back of the book, founded blogs named to the “Top 100 Mommy Blogs” (which both makes me want to puke that there is such a thing and inspires me!).  What I’m noticing, though, is that there is SO MUCH useful information in the book for any person who lives with someone else, be that a roommate or partner or child.

One of the questions asked by them early in the book is, “What is your ideal time style?”  If given an ideal day, would you plan it by the hour to ensure everything that you want gets accomplished, or would you seat-of-the-pants it and see how the day unfolds?

I am the former “Plan it down!” and J is the latter “Let’s see how it goes.”  Asking this of myself and of him illuminates how differently we approach our days, and also lends perspective to why we fall into tensions around shared time.

It’s important for me to see that it’s impinging for him when I ask, “When?” and it’s unmooring for me when his response is, “Whenever.”

As our lives overlap further, it becomes more necessary that we have consideration for the other’s ideal.  I need to take a deep breath when he says whenever and he needs to give me some boundaries of time within which to place that “whenever.”

I recognize that we’re pretty lucky that we’re well aligned on one of the major sources of couple tension—money—, but Money and Time can be part of one gestalt:  is there enough of it, how does one “make” more, can you “save” it?

J and I approach Time differently.  To embrace cohabitation bliss, we must each give a little latitude to the other’s approach.

Because however we view the sacred gift of Time, we’ve chosen to share it with one another.

 

habits · self-care · self-esteem

Sabotage.

1.11.19.pngI can be a little schmutzedecke (the state of being schmutzy).  I used to notice it in a different way several years ago, when I’d knock into doorways as I’d pass through and ricochet off (No, I wasn’t drunk!).  Or I’d whack my hand on something as I went by.  Or notice a bruise I don’t remember getting.  None of these things were that painful–in fact, they mostly didn’t register to me.  It was just how I walked through the world, and I didn’t much notice it.  Until I did.

Having been dubbed “The Ice-Pack Queen” in 6th grade for the frequency of times I ended up in the nurse’s office for one, I’d long lived in a state of semi-unawareness of my physical body and state.  There was a physical feedback loop that could happen for my body as I bumped and bruised myself through life: I existed, I took up space, I bump therefore I am.  At the same time, there was an opposite expression: I don’t have physical boundaries in the world, it doesn’t matter what happens to my body, I don’t exist.

Over time, this habit of walking into walls (graceful, I know!) subsided, and I’m pleased to report that’s no longer a regular part of my experience—aside from a sporadic stubbed toe.

However, where this type of behavior shows up today seems to be in the schmutzy realm.  The yiddish/German term implies having a little grime on oneself.  Not splattered with mud or trailing a Pig-Pen-like cloud of filth, my schmutzedecke nature is not (only) the physical spot of dirt realm, but the how I put myself together realm.  Sure, I may have a stain of coffee here or a deodorant mark there, but moreso what I’m realizing is that I almost on purpose mess myself up.  Like “accidentally” walking into doorways.

There’s a laissez-faire aura about putting myself together that I don’t really enjoy.  A feeling of, “It doesn’t matter how I present,” when I know inside that it does matter to me.  It’s the small stain or rip, the dowdy sweatshirt when I get home, the splatter left on the stovetop.

I’ve allowed myself to be in a space that reflects that I don’t value how I’m put together, that I “can’t” put myself together, or that, somehow, this put-together thing “passed me by in life and it’s too late” despair whirlpool.

While there are, of course, times that I “pull it together” and look fierce, those are the exceptions.  More often, I’m walking out the door a product of (feigned) indifference about my presentation.  It’s not a “I want to be label conscious” thing; it’s a “I want to embody my self-esteem” thing.

At some point in my past, I began to notice that I didn’t like “beating” my body up as I slammed and banged through the world.  And that habit faded.  Today, I feel I’m beginning to notice I don’t like slapping on or mushing up my physical envelope.

Perhaps with this awareness will also come change.

 

codependence · grace · habits

Wandering Eye.

It feels like a physical exertion, a CrossFit-style grunting effort, to bring my attention back to myself.  Recently, when at home for a few minutes, or in the morning just sitting in meditation, or writing my Morning Pages, I’ve been asking myself, “What would I be thinking/doing/writing if I were single?”

While this doesn’t feel like the “best” thought to have (“Gee, aren’t you ungrateful,” or “You’re going to attract that experience if you keep thinking about it!”), it does become effective when I truly allow myself to sink into that wondering.

There’s work for me to do on my co-dependency front.  My tendency to abandon what I want for myself is so great sometimes that days can pass without really thinking about what I want for me.  My thoughts swirl with “us” or “him,” and I become crankier, more controlling, less amiable, because that’s not where my real energy or power comes from.

This is not new information for me.  But it feels even more relevant to “come back to center” as we talk about inviting tiny humans into our existence.  I “know” (as in, read books and blogs and heard from others) that having children is an experience that can overtake your life.  In some iterations, this isn’t altogether negative—the rotation of your internal planet has shifted, and you just learn to plant your crops at different seasons.  In some iterations, you become so distant from your internal compass that you have no home within yourself anymore, so focused are you on the needs, desires, passions, and cravings of others.

And yet.  Presently, the effort of will it feels like to bring my thought habits back to myself is Herculean — as in DEMIGOD.  But this thought precipitates the notion of “god,” which then brings me back to the solution.

I am wholly unqualified of myself to stay in my own lane of my own volition.  I need divine intervention of the highest order, and sometimes that is asking what would I be thinking about if I were single, because it brings my focus to what God/Fate/Love/Nature wants for me.

I’m at the place of inviting whatever powers that be into my mind and consciousness (as it is merely a habit of mind, not of heart or spirit) so that I can perform whatever duties in this life are being asked of me.  I can’t know what I want for myself—from career moves to which socks to wear—if I can’t hear my heart over my head.

 

family · gratitude · holidays

Blended.

12.18.18My mom and her boyfriend have been together for a decade or so, she having gotten divorced from my dad about 15 years ago, he having been divorced for longer.  He is a mensch and we’re all very lucky to have him in the family, despite the absence of any government certificate saying he is so.

They’re coming out for a few days right before Christmas, and J and I are getting to plan for their visit.  It’s exciting (to be able to host a pair of full-on grownups, meaning not ones satisfied with a futon mattress on the floor… although at the moment we don’t have much better!).  It’s stressful (to have a week of work and then family drop in right at the end of the work day on Friday).  And it’s heart-warming (to feel that the integration of our families together has begun).

J’s met them both on two trips back East, so there’s none of the trepidation of, “Will they like each other?”  (They do).  It’s more the nerves of, “Oh crap, what are we going to do with them for 4 days?!”

So, the researching of Oakland’s mural and gallery walking tours, a Point Reyes lighthouse visit, our favorite pizza place (Zachary’s—and I don’t care if it’s an “abomination” of pizza!).  My dash this week to the two purported “good” bagel places in the area to taste test, to ensure the New Yorkers are amply satisfied with our West Coast fare!  A friend’s low-budget Christmas-special show, a trip to the zoo that is SF’s Union Square on Christmas eve.

Wearing as it is to feel “on” for 4 days, I gotta say all that sounds pretty rad to me.  And I’m grateful that our “families” have the marvelous fortune to get along as well as we do.

Happy holiday season, folks.

 

family · finances · goals

Family Meeting

12.17.18I asked J if we could schedule a “family meeting” for this weekend to set down our goals for 2019… and he agreed(!).  So, yesterday afternoon, all cozy as the wild wind blew rain and leaves around the house, we took out our calendars and J began to take notes.

I wrote in his back-country ski trip; he wrote in my Spring and Summer breaks.  I added in his birthday; he told me he still had mine on his calendar, that he hadn’t erased it from when we split up earlier this year.

Then we turned to our travel priorities for the year: the local weekend trips, maybe back East for Thanksgiving, the Paris trip for his mom’s 70th birthday… and how that would work best for us—since “Paris with your mom” doesn’t quite ring like “vacation” in our ears!  So, what would we need to do to help us all have the kind of trip we’d want?  (Hint: 3 days all together, then go off with your own person, is what we’re thinking!)

After that, we talked about our vehicles: are they in a good state for the upcoming year?  Mine is, his isn’t.  What does he really need?  If it’s to tow motorcycles to the track, as he’s planning to do, can he use the one he’s got which needs significant repairs or should he buy a new one?  So, we put an action item in the notes to research motorcycle trailers with brakes.

We talked about the house, if it’s meeting our needs or not.  If yes, how to improve upon the situation, if no, what steps to take to change it.  This precipitated talking out his career plans and that if, as he’d like, he’ll be moving into his own venture soon, we’d need to keep cash out-lay pretty low.  He’s got a call with someone to talk about home options in the area that would improve our financial circumstances, and if there aren’t any, then we stay, but don’t do any major home improvements.

Then, we came to another piece of business: whether or not to attempt to have children this year.  (And his leg immediately began to jiggle!)

While we’ve spoken of it before and, as a teacher, I laid out the timeline that would make the most sense before, it was time to really ask: Will you do this with me?  Will we do this together?

Because of my financial situation right now, I’m able to save quite a chunk of money (even after setting aside a large portion for retirement).  I could be apportioning this savings toward the first year or two of child expenditures.

So, do I?

It’s a huge question and even though he’s been the one more “deer in headlights” about it, I began to feel my own adrenaline rush.  Because it would mean trying in the summer, this summer.  *rush of adrenaline as I type!*

There wasn’t a resounding, “YES! I totally want to and can’t wait to have children with you,” but his answer was: “I’m in it to win it, babe.”

We’d spoken yesterday about the difference between “a default” and “a choice” when we were talking about the house, and the same applies to kids.  I can’t allow bringing humans into the world be a default for him, just because it’s “part of the package.”  It’s unempowering for him, and it’s distancing for me.  (This isn’t, “Guess what, I bought tickets to the opera,” here!)

As our business meeting came to a close last night, he on the couch next to me, darker now outside, we snuggled and agreed that we have a pretty good plan for next year…

and you know what they say about plans*;)

 

*If you want to hear G-d laugh, make a plan.

 

 

control · light · meditation

Giving up, in a good way.

IMG-5251-e1544798447398.jpgToday’s Deepak/Oprah meditation from “The Energy of Attraction” included the sentences:

When I go into my true self, then the energy of attraction meets no resistance.  All the complaints, demands, and criticisms that create problems at the level of the ego are erased.

For reasons unknown, when I heard the words “are erased,” my eyes began to well.

The relief, I suppose, of imagining that all the “complaints, demands, and criticisms” becoming absolved, removed, unburdened from my consciousness…  Imagine the LIGHTNESS if we/I weren’t laden with those “ego thoughts”?!

It’s punctuating to notice that the experience of imagining freedom brings such relief—just the imagining of it!  To be hamstrung by anything in this world, and then look down and realize, Hey, it’s gone!

Or, it could be.

Sometimes in meditation, like the other morning, I imagine placing all my thoughts about a topic or person into a cardboard box.  Then I place that box in G-d’s hand.

G-d gets to hang onto that problem or person for a while, and when I’m done meditating, I have the option to come pick that box up… or not.

It’s a relief to know that I can set down my carrying of all my thoughts about them, if only for a brief moment, and not feel concerned with clinging onto my plans for them.  However, for me, one benefit of this idea is that I can come back to them.  I can pick it back up, this security-blanket sack of concern and habit and burden.

Clearly, this is not the benevolent security blanket a person may say they want, but when you’ve been carrying it around for so long, just giving myself a few minutes without it is a big enough deal.

And then, coming to this idea of Erasure — that these concerns or demands or criticisms don’t even have to exist.  That it’s not about putting them down, or picking them up, or peeking inside the box to make sure all my worries are still tucked in tight.  Rather, to imagine them GONE.

That, is different.  That is a release of this security blanket at all.

Having experienced a moment this morning of imagining a relief, an ERASE, of my concerns/demands/criticisms, I do wonder if I can allow that spaciousness and levity to breathe

for

more

than

one

moment.

 

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community · flexibility · frustration

De-funkify

12.13.18Yesterday morning, I was silly enough to check my work email before I completed my journaling, or meditating, or blogging.

I discovered a series of last-minute emails that detailed a change in plans that would affect my morning class plans and, indeed, my morning practice, as it meant I took time to email my students, the faculty, update my calendar, and put on fancier clothing than I would have if I’d not read the emails.

Within all this activity, I was feeling FUNKY.  Not good, James Brown funk.  Like, “in a funk” — or perhaps more accurately, “in a smoldering.”

The smoldering wasn’t exactly warranted, but I do hate last minute changes and can sometimes find it quite difficult to be flexible.  While teaching a class is in itself a gargantuan exercise in flexibility, I can tend to hold some rigidly inflexible habits around the structures and landscape of my teaching day that allow me to have that openness in the class in the moment (i.e. creating a lesson plan = important; letting the class take it where it may = also important).

But, the impingement on the structural changes to my day meant that I felt thrown off my morning track, and I was stewing in negativity around it.  I crafted an email THREE TIMES to the person who delivered these messages laying out that, “Hey, maybe we don’t send emails after work hours for imminent changes in the morning.”  I also deleted this email three times(!!!), and came back to what in the world I could change.  This moment, clearly, was something that was done, set, past.  What did I really need then?  I needed to give myself the notice in advance.

So, I opened my school calendar, copied all the germane events to my own, and set up an email alert for the day prior.  This is what I need.  While, yes, it’s important to speak up for what I need in general, my ire at this woman was unwarranted.

So, I scaled it back, did what I could in the moment to prevent it next time… and then made three phone calls!

I left two cranky as f*ck voicemails, and then I reached a live person.

However, instead of going into what I was all “panties in a twist” about, I asked her how she was.  And, in fact, she was at the airport about to travel for work with her new boss, and needed that phone call herself!

We got to talk about her trip, her thoughts that arise about how she’s perceived at her job, and how she also feels different–better–in this new job.

Then, we got to talk about fashion.

She was going to be attending an apparently very fancy Hollywood Hills party, and she detailed what she’d wear, the swag bags she’d receive, and how to pack that up on the far side of the trip!

In other words, we got to talk about LIGHT things.  We got to laugh, to giggle, to get excited, to feel inspired and joyful.

And by the time I arrived at work after that maybe 10-minute call, I felt lighter, too.

I felt relieved of my irksomeness and my bile.  I remembered again the wholeness of myself and my experience and my interests.  And I got to let my bad mood go.

And that’s good, because yesterday at school ended up being a truly fantastic day.

 

honesty · parenting · relationships

The Fine Balance

12.11.18.jpgSometimes—no, always—it’s difficult to know in a relationship when to zip your lip and when to speak up.

While I’ve absolutely become better about not venting all my crazitude onto J (and what will or will not happen in the future based upon my extrapolation of the present), there are truly times when it feels important to share some of those thoughts (or requests, or needs).

Some of finding this balance has meant sharing those thoughts earlier, so they don’t become a towering inferno of resentment that destroys my faith in the relationship.

Some of finding this balance has meant letting him have whatever experience he’s having without my trying to change it.

I am … not skilled at this yet.  It’s still very tough for me to negotiate where the line is between “my stuff” and “our stuff,” but it does feel further along the path than it did.

It’s impossible to think about your own potential parenthood without also thinking about how you grew up.  Indeed, I think most of us attempt to have a redactive experience with our own children, to “do it better.”

Yet even if we can’t “do it better,” perhaps we can avoid some of the same egregious pit-falls.  But to do that, you must communicate if and when you see them, especially if they feel like blind spots, or sore spots, to your partner.  You–er, I–must say, “Hey, I see this reaction as part of a pattern, and while I’m able to handle the fallout of it (for the most part), a child is defenseless against those reactions and actions.”

This is not a chiding or judgment that the other person’s behavior is “wrong” (really!), but it is an invitation to say, “Before there are tiny humans in the mix, can you reach out for help to soften or release some of this particular type of reactivity?”

We are not the first people in the world to talk about having children.  We are not the first to experience heightened feelings of doubt.  But where there is dread, because we’re not taking proper care of ourselves or reaching out for the proper support, then that negative pall will shadow what can be (at least in many moments!) a wonderful, inviting, and blossoming experience.

I know that I carry baggage of my own, that certain behaviors in others trigger a ptsd-style reaction.  And that’s my own to work on.  But, where the balance line of relationships is concerned, it is also my work to speak up and say, “This is not okay,” to model to our children, to take out on them, or to blame them for.

We are the grown-ups, and we must act like them, doing what grown-ups do: assess the problem or situation, find the appropriate tools to handle them, and ask for help if we don’t even know where to start.

 

affluence · compare despair · reframe

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~ Anais Nin

12.10.18For most of the weekend, I learned about anatomy and fitness at a workout studio nearby, training for a certificate in teaching this style of workout class.  As you can imagine, the type of person (read: woman) who attends the workout classes I go to in this area are generally of a homogeneous strata: white, thin, 40-somethings with enough money and time to spend on an expensive workout class.

The training was lead by a similar trio of women and was attended by a set that generally matched.  Of course, there are the exceptions that make the rule, the fuller bodied woman, the brunette, the two POCs.

But I told J as I was heading to the training this weekend that I was feeling nervous, like I didn’t really belong.  The women generally wear rocks that you could scale and sport the trendy half-solid, half-mesh yoga pants with a name brand.  And I felt weird.  I felt like the posturing odd duck.

When I began going to these classes nearly 10 years ago, I felt much the same way.  For a while, I held my discount clothing-store outfit as a point of pride and designation: I’m not like you.

But over time, I am coming to realize, in many ways I am like them: I’m coming for a good workout and to feel supported in my “practice.”  And while wearing less pricey clothing is something I still may choose to do, perhaps I can stop showing up with deodorant marks on them!  Because that mark is simply a way I’m trying to say: a) I’m not like you, and b) I’m approachable because I’m not perfect (like these other women appear to be).

I don’t need to distinguish myself away from the group in that way.  It’s just an artificial way for me to put a wall between us that I don’t need to raise.

I have stories in my head that tell me, “We grew up differently.”  They grew up with a deep-rooted confidence that they were loved and supported.  They grew up with Tahoe trips and private schools.  They walk today through the world with a sense of belonging, and a sense of expectation that others will implicitly accept their belonging.

I have stories that tell me that I did not grow up this way.  That I had foundational flaws and cracks in my own development that mean I am fundamentally different.

But.  I really don’t need that story anymore.  Frankly, it doesn’t quite matter how either of us grew up—we’re grown ups now.  Grown ups get to choose how they want to present themselves in the world, but more importantly, how they feel about themselves.

I don’t want to wallow in “Compare Despair” when in conversation with others, particularly as it comes up more frequently here in this more affluent community where we’ve moved.

They’re not “making” me feel less than; I’m choosing that.  Which is totally f*cked.

We ALL have our hills to climb.

But even if they don’t, even if my story is that these women have every advantage and privilege on Earth, how *I* choose to be in the world, how *I* choose to perceive myself will be a much greater indicator of my happiness than anybody else’s view.

View myself as “less than,” and I’ll feel less than.  View myself just as I am, however and whatever that is, then I’ll get to remain more open, more receptive, and more connected to the world around me—even the blondes.