They Bring May Flowers

April 12, 2010

Before we get into this post, I just want to share what my friend Lee Ella shared with me on my Facebook wall this morning: “Last night I dreamed you and I got in a fist fight at a skating rink. You kept screaming, ‘I must win because I’m wearing polyester.’ You were and you did. Way to go.”

I love it that 1. I won, 2. Lee Ella took the time to share this with me, and 3. Lee Ella has vivid dreams (about me).

It is raining today. The Californians are saying that June Gloom has come early. It is cold, and I am grateful that today is my day to work from home, where I can hole up in my little room, under my fluffy down blanket, and plow through my email inbox. The window is open even though it is cold outside. The smell of the rain feels as though it is refreshing my lungs — it is the same damp musty smell that saturated my dad’s auto repair shop when I was a little girl — and I don’t mind that my fingers have iced over.

I am thinking a lot about time lately. Last night on the phone with my mom, I was expressing some grievances about life. She expressed sympathy, and I said, “It’s okay. When it comes right down to it, someday I will die, and none of this will matter anymore.”

But I have dreams. I have things I want. Lately there is this one thing that I think of, and every time I think of it, my heart just naturally wells up with prayer. It seems that the wanting is rooting deep, deeper each day, and I struggle with how much I should pray, “Thy will be done,” and how much I should pray, “God, I want this.” So, typically, my little in-car or before-bed conversation goes something like this: “God, you know my heart,” and then I throw in something about how C.S. Lewis talks about the problem with us humans is not that we ask too much of God, but that we don’t ask enough.

God must be impressed with my intelligence when I mention C.S. Lewis.

So, needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. I love my life and my job — I love the present-tense of my life right now, but being only 27, there is much future-tense to be had.

The other day my dear old high school friend Ryan recorded this. I haven’t seen him in years — he lives in Berlin now. I’m excited to reconnect with him and learn about his life. Ryan is an incredible photographer. He has always been an immensely talented musician, and to hear him singing this was touching. His voice is so beautiful and melancholy, just like Ryan himself. He lets himself feel things. He is a tremendous artist and a loyal friend. So, yesterday I asked him if I could re-post this song for you all, because it resonated with me:

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices
I’ve heard them calling my name
Are these the sweet sounds that called
The young sailors
I think they’re one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
There’s something that I’m supposed to be

I have done a lot of things in my life, and I’ve come to a place where, even though things are tough at times, God has instilled in me a sense of peace and purpose. It’s really kind of surreal, given my record of anxiety. I’m thankful. The only way I can explain it is to say that his grace is sufficient for me, and his power is made perfect in my weakness.

The last few years have included a lot of hard decisions — the hardest ones I’ve ever made — and sometimes I am tempted to have regrets. What if I had gone to fashion school right out of high school instead of spending those years at college in Arkansas? What if I had taken this guy or that guy back and married him or him? It would be so nice to have a partner with whom to share this period of my life. What if I still lived close to my family?

It is a sacrifice to live this far away. It is a sacrifice to think about how big my niece and nephew are getting and that I am just this person who floats in and out of their lives during the holidays to get re-acquainted and then leave again. My favorite cousin is due to have a baby in August, and I so desperately want to go to Minnesota during that time, because it’s so, so important when a new person joins your family. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.

And then there are all these hopes and dreams that well up inside me at random moments. If my life were a musical, they are the moments I would break forth in song. I talked to my grandma on the phone last night. It seems that my life is the time for looking forward, and hers is the time for looking back.

So, I’m not going to have any regrets. I’m just going to strive to trust that God knows my heart and that whatever I’m supposed to be, I’ll be.

Tonight a friend asked me if I have any trips planned lately. I was at an event for the nonprofit I work for.

“No,” I said. “I am not planning on going anywhere for a little while. I’m just really happy. I love my house. I love my friends. I love my job. I’m staying put.”

It was great to be able to say that and mean it.

In a few months, the tourists will start to come. Before they get here, it is good to remember that this is just down the road from where I sleep each night:

One way a storm is building.

The other way, there’s this.

And this. I will never get over this.

But the best of all is this…

I don’t know what my life would be without this.

These are ladies I work with: my boss, my co-worker, and our former intern. Tonight we worked an event together, and I am reminded again how grateful I am to have them close. And to have a job that I believe in and love.

Life isn’t always easy, but God is so, so faithful.

Remember back a few years ago, when I started this blog, and I moved to California, and I didn’t know where this California adventure would lead me or if I would even be able to stay here? Remember? This is why I’m here. And it feels so good to know that.

So, thank you God, for revealing your faithfulness to me this weekend, through the beauty of this place, and the beauty of my friends.

On Finding a Setting

August 13, 2008

This evening D and I had a conversation on the phone that lasted more than our typical phone conversations now-a-days. Actually, we had an argument, but that’s not what this post is about. In the midst of all of it, during the resolution of the whole thing — the time when we are done with the heightened feelings and adamantly trying to prove a point, when we both re-cap what we need and try to find some sort of compromise — I closed my eyes for a moment and could picture my apartment back in Arkansas so clearly, right down to the feel of my bed and the cat’s tail ticking against my leg and the way my bed creaked when I moved. We spent a lot of time talking on the phone in those days, back when he was the California branch of our relationship.

It’s funny that the very thing the argument began with (our arguments rarely end with what they began with) was the very thing I was picturing: Setting. This post is not about the argument, so I’m not going to go into the details of what transpired. For the past few days, however, I’ve been attempting to put into words a discovery I made on the beach Saturday. But I’ve also been trying to challenge myself to improve my writing style so it’s slightly less amateur and emotive. Today I tried writing a post entirely devoid of “I” as a subject. It just doesn’t work in blogging. This is what I came up with:

“One of the major components that separates a seasoned writer from an amateur is the emphasis on setting. The category of seasoned writers is by no means this girl’s dwelling place, but freshman year fiction writing left me with a better understanding of setting in writing. Heck, this blog nearly tripled in its readership once it took on the personal of a Midwestern transplant living in Los Angeles. Or maybe it was the advertising to friends on Facebook that did that.” Can you say boring textbook? I just need to stop trying to justify blogging with failed attempts to turn this entirely narcissistic thing into something literary. It’s a blog. Of course it’s going to have a high degree of gush.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that often amateur writers neglect setting in their work, and they leave their poor characters floating around in a readers’ mind in banal, shadowy places like generic bedrooms, rather than putting them someplace specific. In real life, we live in specific places: not just any room, but my room with the pile of laundry on the bathroom floor and the broken blinds and the stale scent of herbal shampoo. Not just any old park, but the park with the statue of the man who invented the chocolate bar. J.R.R. Tolkien is so fantastic with his settings that I am having such a terrible time getting through The Lord of the Rings. Any time Frodo or the other hobbits think of the shire and how they long for their home, I start crying. Homesickness…meh.

Saturday, le roommates and I went to the beach, and the fact confronted me that I’ve only been to the beach three times in the last seven months even though is less than five miles from my apartment. And by going to the beach, I mean donning a bathing suit with at least a slight intention of getting wet. Saturday was the first day since I moved here that I actually immersed myself in the Pacific. And then I realized that part of the reason that I have been homesick to some degree since I left for college back in 2001, moving away from Minnesota for the very first time, is because I have never given myself a chance to get to know the land in any other place.

If you were to ask me about Minnesota, I wouldn’t just say that I lived in a house there or went to high school there. I would tell you about the countless snow structures we built and how we would hang our mittens and hats and scarves over the radiator in our first house to let them get warm before we put them on. I would tell you about the mulberry bushes in the backyard and how they would become so ripe and juicy that you could bump the branches and they’d fall to the ground, washing it in purple, and how the birds would poop mulberry seeds all over the patio. I would tell you how our family built that patio with bricks and sand and cement blocks, and it all went quite well until the ice that winter built up under the bricks made them explode. Every winter the fire department would flood the park for ice skating, and Jack Frost would paint our windows. I remember how it feels to lie in my bedroom, the exact way the bed fits my body, and how it is to wake up there to the sounds and smells of absolute comfort — to knowing the people you love most in the world are only a wall away. When I was a little girl, in our first house, I could always tell who was coming up stairs by the rhythm of their steps. Mom would always stop at the bottom to pick up toys and bring them up. There were twelve steps at my first house. Sixteen at my second.

I never gave myself the chance to know Arkansas that well. There was the damp and musty feeling of our house on Maple Street, where I lived with 3 other girls, and the sounds of the frogs outside my window in that studio above a professor’s garage. There was the feeling of desperation and sadness when I finished college, broke up with my boyfriend, and moved out of that apartment all in a few days. But the same elements and concretes are not there. I was so busy being productive that I didn’t take the time to memorize the number of steps from the ground to my door. These were merely places, apartments for a temporary life. It’s no wonder they never felt like home.

Sometimes I think that I will never feel at home again unless I get married, have kids, and settle down somewhere. Nothing reminds me of home more than watching my niece and nephew play and seeing again the things that are important to children. For my niece, it is wearing pink, putting on chapstick, and reading books. My nephew just wants to run everywhere with his binky in his mouth. They want other kids to play with, adults to entertain them, and lots and lots of cookies. They remind me of what it was like to grow up with an older brother and what it was like to have such a big living room… what it was like to have a house not just cover you, but protect you. There were all the alcoves and crannies to that place… the towel cupboard you could climb inside and close the door, the secret storage closet in my brother’s room, the turning cupboard in the kitchen corner where breakfast cereal was kept.

At the same time, I know that my life is here in L.A. now, at least for the next few years, and I need to be investing myself here. I need to pursue the land with the same intention that I pursue the friends I am making here. I need to count the steps from my carport to my apartment. I need to go to the beach every weekend and find a spot to memorize. I need to stop floating around in this generic place and make it specific. I need to find my setting.

Men must’ve been walking on the roof, and I said as much. “What are they doing up there?” I asked when the building moved.

The night before the earthquake D and I were driving back up to L.A. from Newport Beach after spending Sunday and Monday in the O.C. with best friend L and her boyfriend JT. Saturday night offered a birthday party at D’s house up in the Hollywood hills for a roommate; spending the night at JT’s aunt’s home — a big-whig CBS person; a Sunday brunch with JT’s sister and brother-in-law — a studying architect and a cinematographer; a Sunday afternoon lounging on JT’s grandma’s deck in the Newport Bay while watching JT windsurf; a Sunday night snuggling on the couch to the romantic-est of romantic movies, American Psycho; a Monday driving around Newport in a 1970s convertible Volkswagen, license plate similar to but not exactly THE THING, with a surf board sticking out the back; and a Sunday early evening watching JT, L, and D surf (and attempt to surf) in our very own little section of the ocean.

In the car, on the drive home, we were tired. And satisfied. We love our friends. In the quiet satisfaction of the drive, I sang aloud the song that has been stuck in my head for days and days now, Natalie Merchant’s “San Andreas Fault,” a song I put on a mix CD for D before we started dating. It is off the album Tiger Lily, an album that has been somewhere in my head since I was 14. I know every lyric on it. When I was 14, I almost wished I had a broken heart so the song “Seven Years” could be true of me. It was that lovely and tragic, and I was that masochistic. Still, “San Andreas Fault” is my favorite on the album:

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest star
The world has ever seen
Sun-baked slender heroine
Of film and magazine

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest light
The world has ever seen
The dizzy height of a jet-set life
You could never dream

Your pale blue eyes
Strawberry hair
Lips so sweet
Skin so fair

Your future bright
Beyond compare
It’s rags to riches
Over there

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Earth divided
Plates collided
Such an awful sound

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Terra cotta shattered
And the walls came
Tumbling down

O, promised land
O, wicked ground
Build a dream
Tear it down

O, promised land
What a wicked ground
Build a dream
Watch it all fall down

For as long as we’ve known it, the West has beckoned people with dreams; first those literal gold-diggers with their shovels and pans, those unsinkable Molly Browns. Then Hollywood boasted gold, a Golden Era where riches dwelt not in rocks but in pictures. It is that gold that people come with their pick-axes to claim now-days. There are so many people here, so many, many people who are fighting for that gold, like Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester in A Star is Born. One must wonder if this role resonated a little too deeply with Frances Ethel Gumm/Judy Garland when she played it. Like me, she was born in Minnesota. She crossed the fault line into Hollywood. Perhaps she wouldn’t have died of a drug overdose or attempted all those suicides without all those insecurities about her appearance, exacerbated by studio execs pushing her to be a skinny woman. She might’ve had a long and happy life in Minnesota. Perhaps there really is no place like home.

Sad songs are always the best songs, and I never really understood “San Andreas Fault” until I moved to the wrong side of the actual one. At 14 I didn’t know much about youth even though I possessed it in abundance. Now that youth is ticking away, it has become a precious commodity, more precious than the number in any bank account — even William Randolph Hearst, circa 1928. I moved here not for a dream of wealth, but for a dream of youth. I came here to spend my years of sweet lips and fair skin in a land of water and seemingly endless sun.

You would think that a City of Dreams would offer its residents lovely neighbors, that the opportunities would abound like the pigeons, and all the people would drown in gold and get grills for their teeth. But maybe L.A. is called the City of Dreams and not the City of Successes because so may come here with a dream and leave without it. It doesn’t slip through just any old crack. It slips in the San Andreas Fault. That’s why we have earthquakes: All those orphan dreams are rolling around down there.

When the earthquake happened I stood up. Others I know dove to the floor. Apparently the plastic electrical plates burst off the walls in office buildings close to the origin of the quake. D’s sister E had an awkward moment with her boss under a desk. In my office, we stood in the hallway, each in a respective doorway, watching the juice our company manufactures slosh in the bottles to see if the building was still swaying and that it wasn’t just our scared little knees. A California-native hugged me. This was my first quake, wasn’t it? Was I scared?

Scared? No. So thrilled I felt it through my whole body? Yes.

It isn’t really the San Andreas Fault that scares me, even though my new homeland will supposedly someday fall into the ocean. My own faults scare me much more… faults like financial irresponsibility, worrying so much about my life that I fail to live it, the ways that I take my anger out on the people I love, the inability to figure out what I’m really doing with my life, my tendency toward depression. Meanwhile, youth ticks away. My birthday is next month. My twenties are more than halfway over.

The earthquake didn’t really scare me because the ground did not jump or shake here like I expected it to. I expected it to shake us like pennies in a jar. Instead it moved like the L.A. traffic does when you watch it from the Hollywood Hills at night. All those lights snake up the hills, in a choreography of curves and different sounds. Sometimes when I’m driving home I listen to the classical music station because its like we’re in an orchestra. Enter Ford F150 with your booming tympani; come gently little old Volkswagen Beetle with your flighty piccolo; El Diablo, bring your classical guitar; don’t forget your French Horn, Mercedes Benz. When you’re in it, it can feel jerky and unpracticed — some people play the wrong notes. But when you look above and see it happen with a different perspective, all of it works together. You see the beginning, and you see the end and all the lights and buildings and hills in between.

And when those faults do act up as they inevitably do — the Angelinos have been expecting The Big One for years now and are relieved this small one came to relieve some pressure — perhaps it truly is the best idea to run to the first doorway and stand in it until the swaying stops, and on scared little knees, take a new step.

Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

That’s Quite a Shiner.

February 24, 2008

Yesterday D gave me a black eye. When I text messaged him this morning to let him know he had done so, he wrote back, “Are you serious? I’m so sorry,” and after I told him he did indeed, and that it doesn’t hurt (much) — it just looks bad — I’m sure he went off to tell his friends that he gave his girlfriend a black eye.

Never one to get into fights as a young child, I have only had a black eye two other times in my life. Once, as a little girl, I fell off my bike, and I think I hit the handle or something. This is only a vague remembrance. My brother, incidentally, had a similar accident the same week, and Mom refused to take us anywhere because she was afraid people would think she was abusive.

Also, as my only act of rebellion in my entire life, I got my eyebrow pierced my freshman year of college. I had a black eye from that for about a week. And it really wasn’t an act of rebellion or anything that serious or sinister. I just wanted one.

This black eye was a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I went down to D’s place yesterday to spend my Saturday with him, and we were cuddling. He reached down to the floor to grab something — maybe his phone? I don’t remember — and when he sat back up, his elbow was out, and it hit my eye. I said, “Ouch,” because it hurt, and he apologized and asked if I was okay, and I said, “Oh, it’s fine,” but then I woke up this morning with a huge eye booger in the corner of my eye. Apparently the injury caused my tear duct to work overtime. The mirror shows an angry, red eyeball and a small purplish bruise beneath my eye. You can’t really tell unless you look at it closely, but that will probably change tomorrow. If it looks any shinier, I promise to post pictures.

I’m going to tell everyone that I got it defending my boyfriend’s honor.

Yesterday, while searching for a specific apartment in the Los Angeles area, I realized that in the past three weeks, I’ve learned a ton of stuff. It hasn’t been the book learning that college gave, but a multitude of city smarts that have rained down on me because I’ve had to use them. They always say the best way to learn something is to immerse yourself in it.

So, without further ado, here are a few things these last weeks have taught me:

– Where NOT to look for an apartment in LA. Before this, I had a general idea, which basically came down to NOT COMPTON. There is a certain rapper that Roommate J uses as her guide. “In one song, he does shout-outs to different parts of LA,” she says. “Any place he shouts out to, we should not live.” Just the same, I have a much better picture now of what is shady and what is acceptable from actually driving through the places.

– How to use a Thomas Guide. Before coming out here, many people recommended that I purchase a Thomas Guide for both Orange and Los Angeles Counties. I did so. At first it was quite confusing, but I figured that there must be something to it because everyone loved it so much. Gradually I am learning how to use it. A Thomas Guide is a huge book with maps in it of every street in LA, even the little itty bitties. My recommendation to any LA newcomer is now, also, to get a Thomas Guide.

– The directions of each of the highways and which are the worst for driving. (I’ve even begun placing the Californian “the” in front of highway numbers, as if each highway is an entity unto its own.) Stay away from the 405 and the 5 as much as possible. The 10 West turns into the Pacific Coast Highway.

– Parallel parking. I’ve always known how to parallel, but man I’m good at it now. I can even do it on the left.

– Excellent interview questions to ask. Roommate J’s aunt gave us advice on this, and so far it’s worked — I got called back for a second interview at a job where I asked the following questions: What process are you using to choose the candidate for this position? What does the timeline look like? Where do you see the company going in the future? Based upon the qualifications, experience, and skills we’ve discussed today, how do you think I fit into this position? That way if they are hesitant to hire you because of something, you can answer their fears right in the interview.

– The general commute time for most LA people is about 45 minutes. It’s rarely less. I can do this. I’ve done it before.

– Don’t try to get anywhere when it’s rained. Any type of weather will freak out the Californians. Accidents will occur. After work, go to a restaurant and wait it out, otherwise it will take you one hour to drive three blocks on Santa Monica Boulevard.

– If you go in to Westside Rentals to start an account, be sure to speak of your financial situation loud enough so that an innocent bystander will hear your plea, slip you a note, and offer to let you use his account free of charge. Then quietly sneak out a few moments after him, meet him up the street, and have a new contact in a guy who has lived in LA for the past seven years and is in a band that once opened for Alice in Chains. And as a thank you, give him some publicity on your blog. Click here.

Today the post was going to be about blogetiquette: my definition of what should not appear on a blog, for reasons of gentility and just plain Not Embarrassing Yourself Later. I’m sure that I have broken some of these rules, and I am probably about to break more of them. This morning I realized that I need to do a little honest writing here, a little something that shows what’s really going on.

This transition to California has been hard. I’m not going to go into all the little details of it because I don’t believe in writing things that I wouldn’t tell people to their faces. Especially on the internet. (This would be one important rule of blogetiquette that many, many people violate.) I might make exceptions in a journal, but journals are meant to be private outlets of thoughts and feelings.

But I can talk about myself and some of the things that I have been going through. Most writers tend to be inward people. We are the shy ones, the introverts, the ones who don’t really want fame but have to write anyway because it possesses us, and the fame sometimes just comes with it. It is hard to write anything worthwhile without an audience.

I made an important discovery about myself a few months ago when a Myers/Briggs expert came to my workplace and went through the Myers/Briggs test with each of us. My personality type (INFP) came up as a person who has high ideals for herself — so high that she often can’t reach them. And when she doesn’t reach them, rather than realizing that she’s putting too much pressure on herself, she gets upset at herself and begins a downward spiral. It is so easy to get sucked into that spiral and have a difficult time getting out. It’s happened before, in a life-altering way, so I feel better equipped to deal with it through talking to friends or positive self-talk or even therapy. It’s infinitely more easy to deal with something when you realize that it’s happening.

This Myers/Briggs expert warned me that when I went to California, I’d have to be careful. “I have such a soft spot in my heart for INFPs,” he said. “You need to surround yourself with people who you trust who are going to encourage you and support you when you move. Moving to a new place can be incredibly discouraging.”

This move has been especially hard because I had such a wonderful time with my family while I was home in Minnesota for those few months. I am very homesick this week, not because I necessarily want to go back to Minnesota, but because I miss my family so much that I get tears in my eyes every time I think about them. I know that coming to California was the right decision, and I’m going to fight through this because I can’t live my whole life in the circle of their safety. I’ve got to get out and do my own thing for a while. It’s just that with them I am always home, and here I am not.

Yesterday I acknowledged for the first time that this move has turned my whole world completely upside-down. Just before this, I was in the safest place possible. Now I am living with people I barely know, far away from my closest friends, in the second largest city in the United States, without a job. D is the only person I have known long enough to trust, even though I know many people who are trustworthy, and I even feel bad about depending on him so fully — not because he has made me feel that way but because my over-idealistic personality type tells me that I should be independent all the freaking time.

Plus it’s just difficult to transition from living on your own for the past six years and never having a real curfew in your life, to living under the roof of kind and generous people who raised their children a lot differently than how you were raised.

Also, even though I am overjoyed to finally be in the same city as my boyfriend, moving from a long-distance relationship to a close-distance one is harder then you might think. Roommate J had a similar experience with a guy she used to date, and she told me that finally becoming close-distance almost broke them. I know D on a very deep, communicative level because of the long-distance part of our relationship. As far as the detailed, every-day planning, interacting side of things, I’ve never really experienced that with him except for the few times we’ve seen one another in person. And those times were always with the starry-eyed attitude of, “We’d better savor this while we can because it’s going to be over soon.”

We’ve had a lot to talk through. I’m invading his turf. I’m adopting his friends. I’m expecting him to make adjustments in his life to fit me into the every-day-ness of this. My whole life has been one giant adjustment for the past several weeks. Yesterday D and I had a very good talk about one important thing that was bothering me. It was good. Through all of this, it’s good to know that I have strong allies in Roommate J and D.

And my best friend L is coming down from San Francisco this weekend. She has a habit of swooping in and saving the day at the exact moment that I need her, and I’m getting all teary-eyed right now just thinking about her. It will be nice to have a bit of home for a few days. Also, my friend LR lives in Irvine, and I need to get together with her this week. She is another strong ally who I haven’t seen in a very long time and miss considerably.

I just pray that God leads Roommate J and I to the right jobs and the right apartment. And that whatever He’s developing in me right now will develop quickly and help me later on.

Yesterday D’s roommate B returned to The Astounding House of Six Men Who Rule the World From Three Bedrooms, so I decided to go home early for the first night in a week. D, B, and I were playing Boggle at the table when I realized that D and I have been spending time together every day and evening this past week, and geez, I hadn’t had any significant alone time in over two weeks, and man, D must need some guy-time now that his roommates are coming back from the break. So, I says, “D, I’m going home,” and he says, “What for? Are you okay?” and I says, “I’m fine, but you need to spend some time with your friends.”

I went to bed at 9:30.

I can’t wait to actually have my own friends here. I mean, I love D’s friends, but I also need my own. You know, like, girls.

Perhaps I will sign up for a church small group at Mosaic. It’s nice that some church services meet in the evening, so even if I find a morning church somewhere else, I can be involved in both.

What else can I really say today? I’ve been applying for more jobs. I updated my resume on Monster today. I’ve been searching Craigslist daily. The newspaper has been the subject of my consistent perusal, and I’m keeping my ears and eyes open. I’m almost afraid to get excited about finally being in California because I don’t have a job yet; therefore, I don’t know how long I’ll be staying. I like a sense of permanence just as Emily Dickinson likes “a look of agony/ because I know ‘tis true.” Yesterday it finally stopped raining, raining, raining, and while it is still chilly for Southern California, my goodness, this weather is fantastic.

And then there is the boy. Yesterday we were driving to the train station to pick up B, and I admitted to D that I’ve been mad at him for the past day or so. Well, first I admitted that I was mad at him right then because of something he did. He said, “I’m sorry,” and I said, “Well, you should be. Apology accepted,” and then we both started laughing. If it had been a sitcom, our laughing faces would have freeze framed at that moment, only to be the background for the scrolling credits.

And then, amid our laughter, I told him the dark and sickly truth: “Actually, I think I’ve been mad at you for the past several days.”

“Really? Why?”

“Yes, really. But I don’t think I realized it until last night. I’ve been mad at you because I don’t have a job yet.”

It’s funny how my attitude about seeing D has changed now that we are seeing one another on a regular basis. I don’t have the sense of gratefulness that I had on vacations of seeing him, or the sense of urgency to spend loads of meaningful time with him. We’ve watched a bunch of movies. We’ve sat at Barnes and Noble and done literary things. We’ve hung out with his brother and friends. We’ve gone to church. I taught him and his brother how to air up the tire of his car. We’ve played with kittens.

Yesterday I realized that I have already gotten so comfortable with him that I’m taking him for granted in a way that I never did when we were long-distance. Before, I missed him, all the time, every day. It wasn’t a pathetic sort of pining way of missing him. It was just constantly with me as I lived my life and did the daily things. It wasn’t really pining, but wishing: I wish D could come out with me and my friends tonight. If D were here, I wouldn’t have to go to church alone. It would be nice to go out to lunch with D today. One great thing that we both acknowledged about our long-distance relationship was that we never took one another for granted.

For the past week, his roommates have been either gone or out of the house most of the time, and my future roommate has yet to arrive. I don’t have many friends yet, and I’ve been depending on D quite a bit to learn where I’m going. My world has a pretty small radius right now: my house, D’s house, Panera, Starbucks, and the real stretch is the Chick-Fil-A (Top 5 Quick Service Restaurants: 1. Chick-Fil-A, 2. In and Out Burger, 3. Subway, 4. Jack In the Box, 5. Wendy’s) in La Habra that I hunted down my first day here. I have driven to Hollywood a few times but have yet to do it on my own. This is a new feeling for me – the sense of dependency that I have not really experienced since I left for college in 2001. And it annoys the shins out of me.

That is why I have been mad at D. My sense of dependence on him has robbed me of my independence. So, while he is all helping me adapt and taking care of me and being so wonderfully protective (do you know just how romantic it is to have a strong, sexy boy usher you through a crowd of crazy Hollywood people? Whew. It’s hot.), I am resenting him because of my own failure to take steps of my own. Or because none of the places of employment that I have applied to have responded yet. In a few ways, I have been taking steps. I just need patience… and trust that God has me here for a purpose.

Yesterday D asked me if we’d been spending too much time together. I was hesitant to answer even though I know the answer is, “Yes.” The hesitancy comes from how comfortable it is to depend on him. While the dependency is aggravating because it’s not really how I operate, it’s also safe. I am the kind of girl who has a few close friends rather than a network of distant ones. Those close friendships are hard to build. They take time and effort and a dollop of vulnerability. At the same time, I know that missing D has always been a vital component to our relationship, and now, even though I’m currently living just a few blocks from him, I need to let myself miss him again, so I can come to him at the end of the day excited to tell him about all the great or discouraging things that happened to me, on my own, in this new life.

Minnesota has been very cold lately, so I decided to counter-act the frigid by taking a really hot bath when I got home from work today. It was just the ticket, but now I’m so relaxed and sleepy that I just want to curl up in my bed. While I was in the bathtub, however, I thought of a new topic to blog about for the next week or so. It may not be quite as interesting as long-distance dating, but just the same, I get asked a lot of questions about it, so I’ve decided to unlock this mystery of mysteries: Homeschool.

In church yesterday, there was this litttle girl who was sitting in front of me, wearing this gauzy, sparkly, pink little dress. I’m betting she had dressed herself that morning, and if her sister’s fuzzy Elmo sweater was any indication, she had done the same. I love, love, love it when kids dress themselves. The outfits crack me up because I see so much of myself in those girls, so much of the little girl who wore purple jogging pants all the time and refused to wear socks. Stirrup pants were my wardrobe staple for a while, and I owned a neon green sweatshirt. Remember scrunchies? Yeah. Had ’em. Wore ’em as bracelets.

Most of you probably don’t know that I was, indeed, homeschooled for most of my life. But mark my words: I swear that I never wore inordinate amounts of denim.

Tomorrow I will begin writing about the things that made homeschool a successful experience for me. And I have a pretty good grasp on the particulars that made homeschool difficult at times. So, if you’ve been homeschooled, are thinking about homeschooling, or just plain think homeschoolers are crazy (my boyfriend D claims to be in this camp of people, but guess what, he’s still dating me), catch me tomorrow when I plan to be well-rested and ready to share all the deep, dark, dirty secrets of homeschooling.