On Love

October 17, 2008

For the past several years, the idea of love has held a large amount of cynicism for me. The cynicism likely emerged from a few experiences of disappointment and a lot of wandering around trying to figure out what I want. Also, some shattered ideals from experiences with boys who were flawed (as everyone is) threw their shards into the mix. When I was a pre-teen I filled my mind with all sorts of Christian romance novels that gave me an inaccurate picture and thoroughly mono-dimensional idea of love. There’s a reason romance novels are so addictive to women, and besides the fact that Christian romances offer an absence of erotic scenes, there is little difference. Both fill this void that women have to dream and fantasize about the ideal man — a man who is comforting, compassionate, strong, bold, handsome, and MOST OF ALL completely and irrevocably captivated by us. See, these books fill our voids not for the ideal man, but for the ideal pedestal — on which to be worshipped.

In high school I had an amazing teacher named Mr. K. He taught a class on Marriage and Family (I went to Christian school), and the class was very practical for many reasons. He taught us to expect marriage to be hard. Too many people walk into love thinking it will be their own personal Cinderella stories,  but this is simply not the case. Problems do not disappear when one falls in love. In fact, some problems may multiply. I, being a pessimist, tend to focus so much on the negative and psyching myself up for it, that I forget about the positives. Namely, that love is probably effing awesome even with all its emotional turmoil and the collisions that must arise when two people attempt to blend their stories into one life.

A few weeks ago my friends K, J, and I got together at our favorite little Sunday afternoon coffee shop. We are all single girls who are adventurous and excited about life, all transplants from other states who came to L.A. because we believed that God had purposes for us here, and we are slowly watching those purposes unfold. Somehow our conversation turned to wedding dresses. Now, I’ve never been the girl who sits around planning her wedding. It has crossed my mind a few times, and my first thought is how fun it will be to gather my family and friends together for one giant party. My second thought is, people spend too much money on weddings. My third thought is, Potluck. Then I quickly scratch out that thought and pencil in, Cookout. And then I think about how dear my Cousin S is and how great it will be to have her as a Matron of Honor, and how lovely it will be to ask my friends to be bridesmaids. And I think about how much I want my grandma to be there. I think so much about the people that I want there that I often forget to include the man. I think so much about the love I share with my family and friends, that I forget that he is significant. Without him, there will be no wedding. My friends and family will not assemble like this to celebrate my spinsterhood.

It was so good for my heart to talk about wedding dresses and love with my girlfriends. Lately Best Friend L and I have had conversations about how we aren’t ready for marriage right now, but it’s nice to imagine it someday. And believe me, it’s taken me a few years to get to that place — where I look forward to it with a sense of hope rather than a wave of fear. I’ve decided I either want to get an inexpensive dress, or make my dress, and use the money I saved to buy a sensational pair of shoes. I’ve also decided that my husband is going to be an incredible man with a giant… sense of adventure. (First I wrote “giant sense of adventure” and then I thought it was funny if I added some ellipses. Take those as you will, sickos.) But really, since the wedding-dress conversation with K and J, I have been thinking a lot about that list I made when I was 16 of all the characteristics I want in a future husband. I hope I wrote it down in a journal from back then because I have no idea where it is now. I’d like to look at it again and see if it’s changed much from experience and maturity.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my characteristics. Some of them need a partner who enjoys the same things, and some of them need a partner who will challenge them. My sense of adventure really calls out for someone who likes to try new things and take giant steps of faith. My pessimism calls out for someone who is positive and a natural encourager. My shaky budgeting skills call out for someone who is good with money. My tendency to be shy calls out for someone who is outgoing and inquisitive. My generosity calls out for someone who is equally as generous. I want our future home to be a place where friends and strangers are always welcome and comfortable. My cooking skills call out for someone who is tolerant of mistakes.

Last night I wrote a list of things in my journal that I want for the future in my relationship with my husband. In the past few years, I’ve been so preoccupied with hoping for a good job that I’ve forgotten to hope for a good life. Here are a few items from the list (some of them are private, and it’s kind of nice to have these little secrets, written down in anticipation of who-knows-when):

1.) Every New Year, instead of making individual New Year’s resolutions, it would be fun to think up an adventure — big or small — to go on together that year, and do it. This could be anything from biking to San Diego, to building a sandcastle, to building a piece of furniture for our home.

2.) I want the proposal to be magical… so overwhelmingly wonderful I can’t even believe it. That doesn’t mean that I need anything with a lot of fanfare. I just want to be so overwhelmed with who he is that I can’t stand it. I would be interested to know from my married friends who read this if it’s really like that. Girls? Boys? Anyone?

3.) I want our talk about God and spiritual things to be as natural as brushing our teeth next to each other.

4.) I want him to love my family and be a part of us.

5.) I want him to adore my niece and nephew as much as I do.

6.) I want him to be the one who predominately handles the money.

7.) I want him to be hard worker just for the joy of working hard.

So, friends who aren’t married, what are some of the things you’ve dreamt about having with a spouse someday? And please don’t say sex, because, obviously.

And friends who are married, what is something you never thought you would find in another person that totally surprised you in your spouse?

Bounce-Back

October 16, 2008

Since last month was the hardest month since moving to California, this month is going to be the best, I hereby declare. Operation Get Life Together has begun, and though many obstacles most certainly still lie in the future, there is one thing to remember: I effing live in L.A.

Now, some might suggest that this isn’t such a great thing… the skeptics, the small-town lovers, the jaded… and even though it is a rough, rough city, I have to admit that every time the opportunity to go somewhere arises, the outing no-doubt turns into an adventure. Today traffic was more insane than usual on the way home from work, so since my homecoming would be late anyway, I took a different route, got lost on purpose, and found my way back again. At times like these I think back on those first few months in L.A. and how crazy it was to go anywhere, how I even almost cried a few times because it was so frustrating getting any place, and I learned to read maps real well. Now if I get lost it’s pretty easy to find one of those eighteen-thousand giant freeways here, or a big, familiar street and just cruise it until the landscape is familiar, until the landscape looks like (dare I say it?) home.

Some very positive things have been happening lately, and there is so much to look forward to. I need to write another letter to Los Angeles, but it’s getting late, so I’d just like to holla out to a few amazing things, a few praiseworthy things that are helping reverse the downward spiral. At work I’ve realized how important it is for me to get out of the office and away from people for a while just to remove myself for a half hour and recharge my batteries. Being an introvert, it is very hard for me to do this around people unless they are people I am comfortable being totally silent around, like my family. Obviously work people do not fit this category, so I’ve been eating my little sandwich at my desk every day and using my lunch break to go for a walk. Every day it has felt so freeing to don my tennis shoes and a tank top and cruise about 10 blocks before I have to return to my desk. I’ve even wanted to break out in a run a few times — the feeling of freedom is that… freeing — but the idea of getting all sweaty and returning to my little computer is not quite as appealing. I am hoping to work up to going for a run by the beach three days a week after work in the next few weeks, but for now my walk is very happy.

Moving to L.A. 10 months ago definitely squelched the tendency I have for wanderlust, but in the past few days it’s started to return. On Facebook I posted some pictures of the trip to Ireland I went on in college, and it had been a long, long time since I looked at them. It filled me with longing to go on another adventure, even though I’ve been drowning in an adventure for the past 10 months. Then I remember that L.A. is so huge that I really only have to go a few miles away in order to appease this wanderlust, and it is so very good to be here.

But I am going on an adventure to Lake Tahoe in a week and a half, and Sunday night I’m going swing dancing. The newly started writers’ group is meeting again this Saturday, and believe-it-or-not, but I’ve actually made some pretty significant progress in writing the Bigfoot novel.

Today I am thrilled to be young. I never want this feeling to stop.

On Guilt

October 7, 2008

Back in college I came to the realization, through the help of my favorite teacher, Prof. K, that I am a terrible guilter. I don’t guilt other people into doing things too often, though some friends might disagree with that statement, but I do guilt myself a lot. Too much. Prof. K helped me realize that this is a bad tendency and that I should stop. There is also the tendency of believing that I am constantly imposing on people — that I shouldn’t just drop by on friends — even close friends — or even ask my supervisor at work for help because I don’t want to bother people. I don’t want to impose, because when I impose, I guilt-trip myself.

As silly as it sounds, I have even been hesitant to give money or food to homeless people because I don’t want to impose. You have to understand that I grew up in Minnesota, where people are very, very kind and generous and helpful, but we’re not the most bubbly people in the world. We’d do anything for anyone, but that doesn’t mean we have to talk to you or greet you on the street. It was quite a contrast when I moved to Arkansas and strange ladies said, “How you doin’, hun?” in the Wal-Mart line.

The other day during my lunch break, there was this man standing outside the grocery store with a sign that he needed money. I didn’t have any cash, and there are so many homeless people in Santa Monica (where I work) that it’s impossible for me to give money to everyone. On occasion, however, I have felt particularly drawn to certain people, and I have coached myself into giving them something. The inner monologue always ends with me convincing myself that that homeless person will not be mad at me if I talk to him, and he will not yell at me if I give him something. (I believe this inner complex arose from a certain department at my college that I nearly sold my dignity to in an effort to succeed and still walked out of feeling like they thought I was Amy Winehouse or something.) So, as I was eating my lunch, I decided that since I didn’t have any cash, I would buy him lunch. As I walked around the corner, however, to see if he was still there, I was disappointed to find that he was gone. Then I guilt-tripped myself for spending so much time guilt-tripping myself that I let him get away.

HOWEVER…. he was back the next day, and I went through the whole inner monologue again before I bought him a sandwich, a rootbeer, and a bag of chips. I walked up to him almost apologetically and said, “I’m sorry, I never carry cash on me, but I wanted to give you this.” He accepted it. I’ll never get over how interesting every homeless person’s eyes are. The ones that aren’t crazy look so rough on the exterior, so leathery and weather-worn and fragile with a sand-paper exterior. But their eyes are so clean. The man thanked me and took the bag. I walked back to work. He didn’t glare at me. He didn’t yell at me. He didn’t threaten to steal my Hello Kitty debit card. He said, “God bless you.”

Lately I’ve been struggling a lot with feeling like my work here in California thus far has been inadequate. This month has been particularly hard. I cried on the phone to D tonight, telling him that I’m working so hard, but the finances, the stress of my job, the being far from home, the making new friends, has been so hard. But this is what I do. I look at all the ways I’ve been working so hard and trick myself into believing that it’s not good enough… that there is always more I could be doing. Obviously if I’m not glamorous and successful and startlingly fulfilled, I must be doing something wrong. Tonight my mom told me on the phone that all I can do right now is to strive to make it through every day. I’m making a pact with myself to do at least one joyful thing every day. Today I ate lunch at my desk and used my lunch break to go for a walk. I spoke with an old lady in a neighborhood. She wore a hat.

D called me right after work today, and I remembered this dream I had last night that made me laugh really hard. It is definitely the manifestation of my recent need to guilt myself for doing nice things. This weekend D, G, N, and T are coming over for our second session of our newly formed writers’ group. We are meeting at my house, and I am making dinner for everyone. Well, my dream took place on that day, only I was frantically trying to get dinner ready for everyone. They arrived, and I was so relieved that I actually had the food ready, so I told them to sit down and eat right away. We all ate in silence, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with everyone. Then T stood up. “Well, I’ve got to get going,” he said. “I’ve got Taxidermy Class in an hour.” (T has been helping me out with some hunting research for the Bigfoot novel I’m writing, and I guess I subconsciously associate him far too much with the dying of animals.) Then he looked at me and said, “You’re going to make me late, and we didn’t even get to read my poem.” Everyone was really mad at me because I made them eat the dinner I had prepared for them. All along I had thought it was 5 p.m., but then I realized that it was only 11:30 a.m. G told me that since it was lunch time, they’d eaten just before they came, and now they were all sick because I’d forced them to eat the food I cooked for them. And now they were all mad because they had to eat and had no time to read the stuff they’d written. And it was all my fault.

I woke up this morning feeling terrible, but when I told D the dream, I started laughing and couldn’t stop at the part where T tells me he has to go to Taxidermy Class. I’m still laughing outloud at this moment… sort of about Taxidermy Class and sort of at myself… at foolishness… at how in the world does God put up with me? And now I am guilting myself again.