Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Held Hostage September 15, 2012

I cried in the middle of CVS the other day. But what’s important is not that I cried, but that I only cried a little bit, and not for very long, and there was no screaming or throwing of products up and down the aisles.

Because given the circumstances, that’s super impressive.

Chris and I were in CVS because we were waiting for his prescription of Oxy-codone, because he’d just gotten out of the hospital after having surgery on his shoulder for the second time. Only this time, they also did a bone graft from his leg. So he has double the pain, and double the difficulty getting around. We’d arrived at the hospital the day before at 10:30am, and now at 6pm the following day, all we wanted was to get his pain meds and go home and forget the laundry list of frustrations and indignities he’d been subjected to (including waiting in pre-op for 4 hours because his surgeon was late, having a random part of his leg (not near the incision) shaved with what I can only assume was a dull butter knife, being catheterized, having to ask for hours for ice for his leg, and being forced to eat hospital food, to name only a few).

For my part, I’d been at the hospital the day before from 10:30 am until 11pm, and then gone to work the next morning and then to the hospital at 3 where I sat with him until he was discharged at 4:30. We got lost getting out of the hospital, (completely my fault. I suck at being in charge), and it meant he had to walk really far on his bad leg. Now we were at our second CVS because the first didn’t have any Oxy in stock, and now there was a problem with the DEA number on the prescription that the intern had written. We’d been in this CVS for over an hour, I was freezing, and hungry and losing patience with the entire medical system in this country. Chris’s pain was etched all over his face and for the millionth time in the last two days I had to see that and know there was nothing I could do about it.

As we stood in the middle of the store trying to find something to distract him from his pain induced nausea, I kept thinking “We’re hostages. Hostages of the medical system.”

That’s when I wanted to start screaming, like an actual hostage would, in the hope that someone would hear and be able to rescue us.

Because it wasn’t just Chris who was captured in the system and divorced from all agency and recourse. I was trapped too.

And not just because I am Chris’s partner. I have my own medical dramas going on.

See, about 6 weeks ago, I found a lump in my breast. I’d had a benign lump removed about three years ago, so I assumed it was scar tissue.

After seeing my doctor, and getting a referral to the Breast Diagnostic Center where I had my first mammogram (a story for another blog post), and an ultrasound, I was scheduled for a biopsy. And around then finally accepted that it wasn’t scar tissue.

After the biopsy, the radiologist decided I actually had two lumps, and she’d only biopsied one of them, but needed me to have a breast MRI so she could better visualize the second lump before doing another biopsy.

So I made an appointment for the MRI. All of this took place in the span of about 2.5 weeks. Everyone I interacted with from schedulers, to techs, to the doctors themselves were helpful, warm, pleasant and reassuring. I felt confident that the lumps were nothing, and that everything would be sorted out and it would all be a distant memory by Thanksgiving.  I was really calm and remarkably unstressed out. For me, anyway. I mean, I was still a gigantic baby about the biopsy and acted like I’d had a piece of my boob removed with a hunting knife, but for ME, that counts as being a trooper.

Then, the day before the MRI was scheduled, I got a call from the Breast Diagnostic Center that they had to cancel it because my insurance company declined to pay for it.

Cue screeching record sound.

There were a lot of calls and messages back and forth between me and the radiologist, the radiologist and my primary and my primary and me. At the end of the first week, the theory was that only my primary could sort it out.  I talked to her and she promised to handle it and to stay in touch and that if she didn’t follow-up, that I should call her. In the week that followed I left two more messages and she hasn’t called me back yet. Which seems out of character for her, and so my theory is that the women who answer the phones aren’t giving her the messages because they always seem super annoyed that I insist on talking directly to the doctor instead of leaving a message in the physician’s assistant’s voice mail.

The last message I left her was right after they took Chris into surgery, and I’d been waiting on pins and needles for her to call me back.  I was really  needed to have an update, some information, so I could have a sense of agency, of control,  over this one part of my life, since I had no control over anything happening to Chris.

But no. No call back. No information. No forward motion. Also, I’ve become convinced that in the downtime since the MRI was canceled the lumps have tripled in size. Like they know they’re unsupervised and are running rampant.

And there’s nothing I can do. Again. I’m a hostage of a medical system that lets insurance companies make decisions about care, and receptionists that think they know everything.

I want to scream, and tear things off the shelves in this CVS, and kick and scream until someone hears. Until someone rescues us.

But really, I know that’s not going to do anything but get me arrested. And that would definitely be a step backward in this whole quest to be in control thing.

So instead I cry. (But JUST for a minute or two.) And Chris shifts into the position of caretaker, gently hugging me with his one good arm.  And I’m aware that I’m supposed to be taking care of him, not the other way around, and I start to cry more because I feel like a terrible girlfriend/person. But then I think, “Who am I kidding?” because these are the roles we’re most comfortable in anyway. Chris is a caretaker to his core, and I’m constantly in need of care, and I think this is a big part of why we work.

Once I stop crying I can tell Chris’s energy has shifted, and he’s gone from withdrawn and cranky to  cheerful (albeit forced), and when the pharmacist calls his name, he acts like a man receiving a prize as he limps up toward the counter, like he’s not at all frustrated, or in overwhelming pain, and I can’t help but smile.

So fine. I’m being held hostage.  But if I’m going go through this, at least I’m going through it with him.

 

There Will Be Blood July 12, 2012

This weekend is Chris’s family reunion.

Which is a milestone.

Which is awesome, right? Because we all know how I love milestones. And its a pretty big one as far as these things go.

What’s less awesome are the activities associated with this family reunion.

When Chris first told me about this event he prefaced it by saying “My family isn’t a sitting family, like yours.”

I was like “Huh? What else is there to do when you get together with your family aside from sit around and talk and tell stories?”

Well, a lot, apparently.

Saturday morning we meet at 8am to get into a van that will drive us to the top of a mountain, where we will get on mountain bikes and ride down the mountain along a 17 mile trail (which is not actually entirely down hill. Bike peddling will need to occur.)

I have a few issues with this. They are, in no particular order: 1. the down a mountain part, 2. the being on a bike part. 3. the 17 mile part. 4. the 8am part.

Plus, we have only two hours to do it, non-negotiable, because then we have to get cleaned up to get the picnic. Which means “Suck it up” and “Push through the pain” and “that’s barely bleeding at all” will be phrases I expect to hear frequently.

Then there’s the picnic. Which is the real heart of this reunion, with dozens upon dozens of Chris’s family members.  And in case that wouldn’t be anxiety producing enough on its own, there is also rock climbing involved.

Now, when Chris first explained this day to me, I thought he said that we have to climb these rocks/cliffs/instruments of death in order to get to the picnic.

That’s the part where I started to cry. Seriously.

Now he has clarified that we drive to the picnic but that the rock climbing is just an activity that people do. Which makes me feel much better, because I’m sure not everyone will participate, so I’m going to become BFF’s with whoever seems least inclined to impersonate a billy goat. That way, I can be all “I’d love to climb that big rock, but I feel bad leaving my new Soul Sister. Sorry!”

After the picnic, there are fireworks. This part I’m actually looking forward to. I love fireworks. From a distance. So I’m going to let Chris go with his cousins up to the hill and set things on fire, while I sit back at the house with my BFF from the picnic and try not to imagine all the different types of death by pyrotechnics that can occur.

Sunday morning we get back in the car to drive home. Assuming I haven’t been hospitalized.

Talking, sitting, and storytelling are really my only solid skills. And if Chris came from a normal family, AKA a “sitting family”, I would have only the normal level of anxiety about meeting all his people.

But instead I keep picturing myself being introduced to a family member with my face red and splotchy from the heat, my hair in a wild disarray (possibly with some leaves in it) dirt smeared across one cheek, and so out of breath, either from the activity or the anxiety attack brought on by the activity, that I won’t even be able to engage in conversation. Which, if you remember, is the only thing I bring to the party on a good day.

My biggest fear is that at some point, maybe while I’m trying to arrange a helicopter to pick me up from the side of the mountain, or while I’m digging a trench in the grass  with my heals as Chris drags me toward the climbing cliffs, that someone, or perhaps even several someones, will say “Why’d he have to bring HER?”

Ok, that person likely be me.

But at least I should get some good stories out of it. Near death experiences usually make for good material.

Assuming I live.

 

If You Can’t Beat ’em… April 16, 2012

I had a little run in with Chris’s crazy neighbor the other day. Remember her?  Well for the last year she’s gone out of her way to avoid talking to me, even as she went out of her way to talk to everyone else, including Chris’s daughters and their friends, routinely holding them captive on the sidewalk or half inside their cars.

But apparently she’s had a change of heart.

It started small – one day last week I passed her on the sidewalk and she made a random comment about something to do with her kids and playing in the parking lot.  I offered an unconvincing laugh and something along the lines of “oh… hmmm” as I continued walking. She called something else after me as I turned the corner so I gave an even less convincing head nod and vague hand wave as I continued on my way. (At that point it occurred to me at perhaps Chris and his girls simply aren’t rude enough.)

Then this week, as I walked up the sidewalk toward Chris’s house, she came out of her house, her gaze locked on me, and I knew with certainty that we were going to have a conversation.

Part of me was a little excited that I was going to get a “Neighbor Lady” story of my own to share when everyone else told theirs.

As we came face to face in front of her car, she reached out to put her hand on my arm, surprising me so much that I froze in my tracks, thus eliminating any small hope of escape that might have existed.

“Can you talk to Chris about,” she said, and my brain immediately shifted into slow motion and several things moved through my mind:

“She has a problem with Chris?”

“How can she have a problem with Chris? Nobody ever has a problem with Chris.”

“What could this bitch possibly have to say about my boyfriend, and why does her tone suggest I’m his mother?”

“Should I set my bags down in case I need to scratch her eyes out?”

And then I realized she was still talking, so I clicked my brain back into gear and rewound the tape so I could get the rest of her sentence. Which was:

“…about recycling.”

Ok, so I should explain. Chris doesn’t actually recycle. I know, its shocking and you’re probably suddenly worried that you’ll be guilty by association for reading a blog by a person who is in a relationship with a person who doesn’t recycle. (Don’t pretend you weren’t doing it.) I don’t want to get sidetracked from this story with a meta discussion about social shame and recycling, so I’ll just say that I asked him why he doesn’t recycle a few months ago, and what I took from the conversation is that he’s not adamantly opposed to recycling like some right-wing nut who thinks it’s another way for the government to control us. It’s more that he sees it as just one more thing to coordinate and deal with on top of all the other things he has to deal with and coordinate in his life. I got the impression that if someone else wanted to take responsibility for it, he wouldn’t object.

So back to my conversation with the Neighbor Lady.

Once I process her statement, I realize she’s staring at me waiting for a response. My liberal shame and social guilt is quickly replaced with glee as I realize she’s giving me blog content.

Me: oh yeah…um, well… sure…

NL: Because really, he should recycle. Why doesn’t he recycle?

Me: Yeah…I don’t know. He’s quirky like that.

NL: I can get him a bin. I think if we just make it really easy for him, we can get him to do it.

Did you see what she did there? “If WE just make it really easy for him.” WE. Apparently she and I are now a team. Apparently since she couldn’t get rid of me, she’s going to partner up with me.

My personal opinions on recycling are replaced by my desire to not be a team with her.

Me: ah? uh huh…

NL: I went through his garbage the other day and I noticed that it’s mostly plastics and so if he even just started with that…

Yes, she said that. Unabashedly. I had to contain my glee at how good a story this was going to be.

Me: yeah…he does use a lot of plastic…

I say this just to have something to say, but I then immediately feel disloyal. Saying something like that is not going to demonstrate that I’m on Chris’s team, not hers.

NL: I mean, if he just did plastics and maybe some cans…

Me: yeah, that would make a difference

Crap! I’m the worst teammate ever. I’m torn between getting away and getting more material.

NL: But really, why won’t he recycle?

Me: ahh, yeah. I don’t know…he has a thing about it…?

I know it doesn’t sound like it, but this is actually me being a good teammate. I’m not going to explain to her why he’s not recycling because that will reveal too much about him. But I’m also not willing to engage her in a conversation about the reasons against recycling because that will make it look like I care what she thinks.

NL: You know, if he doesn’t start recycling its going to make the trash pick up cost more. You need to talk to him! For everyone’s sake. They’re already doing it in Alexandria. 

Me: Oh really? I’ll tell him that.

Part of me is shamefully, secretly, enjoying her presumption that I have power over Chris – a presumption based in a recognition of my legitimacy as his long-term girlfriend. She’s gone from inviting Chris to the singles group at her church, to assuming I’m the kind of woman who is in charge of her man. I have this urge to go with it, to let us be those suburban women who stand on the sidewalks of their subdivisions, possibly with a glass of wine in the early evening, talking about “our men” and how hard it is to keep them in line.

.

Worst. Teammate. Ever.

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NL: You know he has daughters? Who are educated!

Her tone implies this could be new information for me. I hate her again. I start to walk away.

Me: yes, he certainly does.

NL: They are going to college. They understand…

Me: yes, they do go to college…

Now I’m laughing. I’m suddenly giddy with how ridiculous this conversation is, how much material she’s feeding me. I want to ask her again about going through the garbage, but instead I keep walking.

NL: Tell him to recycle for them! So they are proud…

Unmoved by the argument, I keep moving, not looking back at her.

NL: They’ll get married some day! I assume. They are going to have babies. And those babies are going to want a grandpa who recycles!

This makes me stop, and I look at her for a second, tempted to tell her that of all her arguments, that’s her worst. There are few topics more likely to agitate Chris than talking about him becoming a grandpa, and all that that implies.

I try to stop laughing long enough to give some sort of appropriate response. But then decide that laughing is probably as appropriate a response as any.

She’s yelling things after me as I walk away, things about how she teaches recycling in the schools and can teach him. I offer a vague wave of my hand as I continue walking away, trying not to skip in my excitement to tell this story to Chris.

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Of course, I’m sure you all now realize that as long as Chris lives there, he can never, ever, start recycling.

Sorry Earth, but seriously, what did you expect?  I’m a terrible teammate.

 

Two Timing March 22, 2012

Dear Tiny Bit of Crazy,

I’ve been neglecting you. I know this. But I have an excuse.

I hope you’ll hear me out.

At first it might seem like a bad thing, but if you keep an open mind, I think you’ll see, this is good for everyone.

So, the truth is… I’ve been writing for another blog. But not just any blog, and not just writing either… I’m the managing editor for an awesome new blog about storytelling. Its SpeakeasyDC’s blog. I’ve been working on it for a few months, and it just launched this week.

I’ve only written two posts so far, but I’ve spent all the rest of my time finding the other posts, editing them, thinking of new themes and ongoing series to make sure there would always be fresh content. Making sure it doesn’t get stale, or look neglected.

What’s that you say? Like you? Oh.

Oh, well, yeah. I guess so. But only because I’ve learned from you, learned how not having reliably fresh content can kill the momentum. See? I’m better because of you.

But I’m not leaving you, I swear. You’ll always be part of my life, you’ll always be the first place I turn to record all the crazy. I promise. But this other blog is new, its young and it needs me more. But it won’t always be this way, I promise.

But I’ve also learned something in my time away. As much as I love you, TBoC, I’ve always struggled with an internal debate between being a blogger and a Blogger. Being a Blogger requires much more effort, much more intention not to mention attention, and I’ve been afraid to make that commitment, afraid I wouldn’t be able to follow through. I just don’t have as much source material as niche bloggers, like those lucky mommy bloggers for example.

What? Oh yeah,thing did start to look better for a minute after Ambien Chris came on the scene, but there’s only so far that could have taken us.

But aside from the issue of source material, which I think falls into the attention category, I’ve never been sure if I’d want to be a Blogger even if I had the content, which is the intention, I think. As I talked about here, I think I’m happier behind the scenes. And my time with the SpeakeasyDC blog has helped me to confirm that.

I’ve loved the time I’ve spent thinking about topics, coordinating writers, editing posts and figuring out my editorial calendar. On a bad day, editing someone’s blog, discussing a new series, or obsessing over the editorial calendar cheers me up.

But it won’t always require this much of my time, I swear. Pretty soon habits will be in place, routines created, short cuts identified, and content stock piled. And then I’ll be back, TBoC, I’ll be back. Not that I’ve ever really even left you. I think of you daily, writing posts for you in my head several times a day. I just haven’t been able to sneak away and write them.

Except for this one, so hey! maybe this is the beginning of the shift! Maybe the worst is over and before we know it we’ll be back to our old ways, spending hours together, obsessing over witty phrases, when to isolate a line for emphasis, and which tags will offer the best SEO.

Just like old times. Only better, because now I know myself better, I know what I want to be when I grow up, and that can only be in both our best interests.

Take a look at what I’ve been doing while I’ve been gone. I think you’ll like it. Or at least respect it.

This is going to be a weekly column (don’t get jealous – I’m not nearly as funny there as I am here) – http://www.speakeasydc.com/2012/03/social-storytelling-vs-performance-storytelling/

and then this one :http://www.speakeasydc.com/2012/03/choose-your-words-carefully/

And just know, Tiny Bit of Crazy, whatever else happens, you’ll always be my first love. That’s got to count for something, right?

Faithfully,

Mer

 

 

This Side of Normal February 8, 2012

You know what’s normal? Having a romantic relationship last a year.

You know what’s NOT normal?

This girl.

This is me. Crazy eyes.


See, Chris and I celebrated our one year anniversary this week. And unlike our 6 month anniversary, I was totally calm leading up to this milestone. I wasn’t even a little bit superstitious, afraid of jinxing it, or even particularly emotional.

See how much progress I’m making?

Yeah, don’t get too excited…

Our anniversary technically fell on a Sunday, which I think we can all agree is the least romantic day of the week, plus I was going to be gone at rehearsal for the show I’m co-directing from 1:30-5:30, so I suggested we deputize Saturday for purposes of celebration. But we didn’t really plan anything specific because it came at the end of a long and stressful week for Chris and so the most appealing option for both of us was just having a quiet weekend together.

Saturday morning we decided we’d take a trip to a brand new gluten free bakery for treats, and as we were leaving the bakery we decided to stop in at a coffee shop, sample our GF confections and do some people watching. It was perfect.

But as we walked back to the car through cold rain we started to rethink our plan of dinner in Old Town, and opted instead for Cheesecake Factory where we had our second date.

Traffic was terrible and it was a stressful drive. We waited for more than an hour to be seated, and…well, all I’m going to say about the actual dining experience was that Cheesecake Factor hates people with gluten allergies.

But returning home to the leftover GF chocolate chip cookie lifted the mood considerably.

Sunday morning we made breakfast together and slow danced in the kitchen to “If It’s Love” by Train while the sausage was browning.

And then I used the sausage to make a frittata. Which I may or may not have burned. (But the burned part stuck to the pan and the part you could actually scoop out was delicious, thank you very much).

Chris made dinner while I was at rehearsal, and we had a relaxed and intimate evening where we ate, watched most of the Super Bowl and ate our dessert of strawberries with cheesecake and whip cream in bed before exchanging sappy cards and going to sleep early, our stomachs bursting from the cheesecake and whip cream. (Ok, the truth is, I was the only one bursting from the whip cream. I kept overfilling my mouth when I sprayed it in).

It was a really, really, great weekend.

And yet…

That night as I tried to fall asleep, some weird thoughts started poking my brain.

Things like:

It WAS a great weekend. I love the fact that an afternoon spent in a coffee shop feels special when I do it with Chris.

And while things didn’t go perfectly (bad traffic, bad dinner, burnt Frittata etc.) it didn’t matter, and that is something special. I like that we’re past a point where I need to pretend his driving doesn’t stress me out, and we hardly notice a burnt frittata.

BUT at the same time, it could have been any weekend. Does that mean something?

I mean, there really wasn’t any sparkle in the weekend. You know that little bit of fairy dust that seems to cover all parts of a new relationship, when you go out of your way to surprise and wow each other? That’s sparkle.

At first, I was fine with a sparkle free anniversary weekend, in part because I still find comfortable and familiar to be novel and exciting.

Until I started worrying there would never be sparkle again.

Were we already in a rut? Is that what happens at the one year mark? Because seriously, I have no idea what happens at the one year mark. I’m so far into unfamiliar territory I feel like I should have a passport.

This makes me panicky.

Suddenly I have perfect recall of every episode of shows like According to Jim, ‘Till Death, and Everybody Loves Raymond. Shows where wives are always nagging their husbands to be romantic and the husbands are forever rolling their eyes and reluctantly agreeing while clearly resenting every minute. Shows where the comedy comes from a premise that romance and long term relationships are mutually exclusive.

Is it funny because its true? This is what I’m trying to decide at 2am.

I’m scared that, by no choice or effort of my own I will become one of those sparkle starved nagging women and Chris will become one of those lazy, anti-sparkle guys.

What if that’s as unavoidable a law of nature as the ones that make it so your boobs eventually rest on your belt, reality TV seems disgusting, and driving faster than 30mph always feels excessive?

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In the light of day I struggled for perspective.

I tried reminding myself of the facts because I like to believe this will help to quiet the crazy.

Fact. I have hit the jackpot with Chris, of this I am sure, and for the last year every day with him has felt above average and full of sparkle, so it was silly to get worked up because a weekend – which just happened to be one year from the day of our first date – had only the same amount of sparkle that every other day had.

Fact. I’m not the type of girl who needs lots of sparkle. I’m low maintenance. I like the steak more than the sizzle.

Fact. A good bra will always keep the girls in place.

This never works to quiet the crazy. I seriously don’t know why I bother.

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Part of the problem is that I’d been focused on the one year milestone for 364 days.

Every milestone I invented between days 1 and 365 were like a relationship advent calendar meant to break up the days and distract me with treats until the big day.

Getting to the one year mark represented achieving normal. It meant not being the girl whose relationship history consisted of crazy stories and responses like “Where do you keep finding those douchebags?”

I told myself that at one year I’d be able to trust that he wasn’t too good to be true and that I’d have figured out how to do the whole functional relationship thing and I could stop worrying I was going to ruin it by saying the wrong thing.

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And all of that happened, but it actually happened somewhere around the 10 month mark. At some point I just started to relax, feeling confident I was going to glide over that finish line.

Which I did. And then sailed right past it.

Into…whatever comes after one year.

I had no new goal to focus my anxieties on. No new advent calendar to start to break up the time and distract myself with chocolate.

I felt unmooered.

I felt like I was flying without a net.

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Which is why the night after our anniversary was spent with me randomly dissolving into tears.

Each time Chris would calmly wipe away a tear or hug me and ask me what was on my mind. And I would say I didn’t know while crying harder, and he would say “Ok, well, whenever you figure it out I’ll be here to listen.”

Which, to be fair, is a conversation we have about once a month. Sometimes the crazy just builds up to the point where tears are the only way to release the pressure. True story.

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Anyway, in the past it could sometimes take many hours before I could talk to him about whatever had fermented the crazy that time.

But on this night, I thought about the New Year’s Resolution that I was given to use my words more than my tears, and I worked really hard to find words sooner than later.

After only about an hour of off and on again crying, I managed something along the lines of “What about the sparkle?” And somehow Chris understood exactly what I meant, and we were able to have a good talk about feelings. And I have to say, words really are SO much more useful than tears. Who knew?

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We talked about the appropriate application of sparkle in a relationship that already feels above average.

I agreed to stop pretending I’m low maintenance, and to own the fact that I need a little sparkle now and again.

Chris explained the difference between TV and real life, and how we can decide what kind of couple we are. And also that we’ll always enjoy reality TV together.

I promised to keep working toward being able to have feelings conversations that involved more words than snot.

As I started to feel better I tried to explain a little about my unmoored feeling.

“I’m just not sure what to do on this side of…”

“This side of normal?” Chris asked with a smile.

Yes! Exactly. A relationship that lasts more than a year is normal. Being happy and secure in a mutually rewarding relationship is normal…and that’s where we live now.

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I’m so screwed.

Anniversary Self Portrait

 

Resolved January 4, 2012

It’s that time of year again.

Time for reflections and resolutions.

In my Year in Review post from last year, I said goodbye to a year that had been filled with reluctant change and loss, and was looking forward to a year filled with purposeful changes like going to grad school for creative writing, moving to a new city, and leaving my job.

Which might be why that post reads a little like it was written by a manic cheerleader on speed.

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I’d declared that my theme for 2011 would be “No Risk. No Reward,” mostly in attempt to make me brave enough to quit my job, move to a new city and start graduate school. And even though none of those things happened, 2011 was still pretty kick ass.

After all, it’s the year I met Chris. Which would totally be enough by itself.

But wait, there’s more.

Even though I never checked back with this list after hitting “publish” on the blog post, I totally rocked my resolutions:

2011 Resolutions:

1. Do at least one thing that scares the crap out of me (aside from starting grad school).
Um, how about I let myself fall in love? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Check!
2. Seek out more performance opportunities. Try to move outside my storytelling and performance comfort zone a little bit.
I was on stage at least 6 times in 2011, which is  at least 4 more times than in 2010. Check!
3. Read more.
Thank you Kindle – Check and check!
4. Write more. Especially for money. Often the freelance stuff isn’t exciting or very creative, but it still feels awesome to get paid for words I’ve written. I never want to lose that feeling .
If we count blogging, check! But there wasn’t much money made from writing this year… although I did set some things in motion that should hopefully lead to some cash for words in 2012, so we’ll give this a half check.  
5-8. Dance more; Laugh more; Trust more; Believe more. In myself. In my friends and family. And in the Universe to know what it’s doing.
Thank you Chris, check, check, check and check!
9. Make fewer excuses.
 I’m not sure about this one actually, because I wasn’t really paying attention, so I’m just going to ahead and say sure, totally killed this one. Check!
10. Judge less (except reality TV people. And celebrities. I’m still gonna judge the fuck out them.)
Yes. I was given a lot of opportunity to practice being without judgement of my friend’s lives, and it made a lot of things much easier this year. I also watched less reality TV, so that probably helped a little too. Check!
11. Pace myself with what I commit to, so I don’t get overwhelmed and drop the ball on a bunch of things (again).
I think I did ok with this. I can’t think of any major balls that I dropped or commitments I flaked out on. So…check and mate, baby!
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And right at the end of 2011 I majorly changed my perspective on my job as well. When Chris broke his collar-bone, my boss let me use sick time – of which we have unlimited days – without so much as a sideways glance, to be with him at doctor’s appointments and during his surgery. And when I was in the office everyone was super supportive with endless sympathetic ears.
At some point when I wasn’t looking, my co-workers became extended family and my office an extended home. I’ve heard of people saying this about their work places, but I always assumed they were lying, or just had really, really sad home lives. And while I do kind of have a sad home life, that’s totally not what this is about.
Plus, the unchallenging nature of my work lets me have a lot of time to pursue other projects and freelance work to supplement my income, and that ain’t nothin’. Not by a long shot.
 All of this has gotten me to thinking that sometimes what you do to earn a living isn’t necessarily as important as how you do it…I’m interested to see what this new perspective will yield in 2012.
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Last year I ended my post by wishing everyone reading that they have the year they need, even if it’s not the year they expect, which is exactly what I got in return.
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So you’re up 2012, let’s see what you’ve got.
Bring. It. On.
 

Thankful November 30, 2011

I’m big on tradition. I like the predictability. The familiarity. The control.

Over the years, I may have been known to…react strongly to a suggestion of changing any of our holiday traditions. And by “react strongly” I basically mean pitch a fit, and as a result, I’ve probably held my family hostage in our traditions for the past 30+ years.

But now, this year, I suddenly find myself a little less concerned with traditions and more concerned with flexibility. Possibly because I have a  motivation to be flexible.

And that motivation may or may not be named Chris.

This is my first holiday being part of a real couple. We’re talking serious milestone here.

And as always, major milestones tend to cause me some level of panic – mostly born of a fear that I’ll stumble over the milestone and tear a big hole in the fabric of our relationship somehow.

This was probably one of the scarier milestones so far, because it actually requires decisions and action and involves lots of other people. With the other ones, like our 6 month anniversary, or meeting the friends, I could navigate them by just avoiding any sudden movements or major personality changes. But the holidays are a totally different ball of pine needles.

I spent a few months obsessing thinking about options.  I knew enough about his work schedule and family demands to realize he wasn’t just going to be able to jump in the car with me on the day before Thanksgiving and head to my parents house for a long weekend. Which is what I’ve done for Thanksgiving every year since I graduated from college.

And I knew enough about us to know that I wanted to spend the holiday with him if there was any way possible.  All of a sudden traditions didn’t seem as important as finding a way to balance his holiday experiences with my own.

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I’m pretty sure that’s called growth, people.

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But, at the same time I was struggling with a special holiday edition of  the type of fear and insecurity that accompany my milestones: If I just didn’t go home Thanksgiving, is it wrong to choose my boyfriend of not even 10 months over my family? What if I regret my choice and miss my family and we have our first bad weekend ever? What if he comes with me and realizes that my family is too overwhelming and he misses his quiet vacation days? What if I suggest a change in my family’s tradition and they all flip out the way I always did when someone suggested changes?

But then, about two weeks before Thanksgiving, when we still hadn’t made any firm plans, I got an email from my mom saying “maybe this is the year you don’t come home, maybe this is the year you have a Thanksgiving with someone else.” From some mothers that would have been a trick, a passive-aggressive plea to in fact be sure to come home for Thanksgiving. But from MY mom it was permission.  Permission to break with our family tradition, permission to experiment with a new tradition, with putting someone other than my family first.

It took away some of the fears, but didn’t completely solve the problem. I still didn’t know if our relatively young relationship could handle the weight of replacing my family.

But before I could respond I got an email from Chris confirming his work and family schedule would allow us to spend Thanksgiving day with his family and then drive the 7ish hours to see my family on Friday and stay until Monday.

I knew my mom always served a second Thanksgiving on Sunday of that weekend to use up leftovers, and so I told her we’d join her for that meal, not wanting to ask her to cook twice or for everyone else to change their plans. I figured it would mean not seeing all of my siblings, but it seemed a reasonable compromise.

A few days later I heard from my mom that everyone had jumped at the idea of moving Thanksgiving to Sunday. It turns out, everyone else was ready to experiment with new traditions as well.  One brother had a private Thanksgiving day with just his wife where they spent the day eating, sleeping and drinking on their own schedule. One sister went to her husband’s family’s Thanksgiving for the first time in years, and my other sister didn’t have to feel like she was missing her family’s celebration as she spent Thanksgiving day with her husband’s family and she was now able to invite another brother and his family to join them for a traditional Italian Thanksgiving (they serve raviolli instead of turkey!)  Basically, it worked out great for everyone to have Thanksgiving on Sunday, and I couldn’t have had a better introduction to my first attempt at making new traditions.

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As Thanksgiving got closer and standard small talk with friends and co-workers became “what are you doing for the holidays”, I heard tale after tale of couples torn between two competing families. I heard stories of couples who skipped Thanksgiving all together and went on vacation, who had to manuever around complicated alternating year schedules and manipulative, guilt tripping parents who had no interest in sharing or experimenting with different traditions.

I know I’ve heard these stories in past years. In fact, I know that one of my best friends has endured guilt from her mother for the entire length of her marriage for every holiday she’s spent with her husband’s family, even after the marriage ended. So I know this is a thing. But I never really heard those stories until now.

And now I know that what I have to be thankful for this year, beyond all of the obvious things, is that I have a family that cheerfully got behind moving Thanksgiving from Thursday to Sunday, and that I have a boyfriend who was willing to spend two days in the car to let me spend time with my family.

I know that part of my family’s flexibility comes from the fact that I’m the last person in this big old family to need a change. Until now I’ve been static as all around me things have changed: marriages have ended and started; people have moved houses and states; babies have been born and teenagers have appeared fully formed.

I was always the least flexible because I had the least motivation to want change. In some families that would be the kind of thing that comes back to bite you. But not in my family. And for that, I am grateful.

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Of course, we still have Christmas to figure out. To me that’s a bigger holiday than Thanksgiving, so its still a new milestone.  I think its something to do with the presents. So it may turn out that my family has exhausted its flexibility reserves and any attempt to change our Christmas traditions will be met with rigidity.

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Or maybe this blog post will be enough positive reinforcement to grease the wheels for Christmas. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

 

 
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