Mini-Post: Post Secret Gets It

Please tell me you know about PostSecret. If you don’t, vacate the rock you’ve been living under and get on this!

I read the updates every Monday morning. I love them because the secrets shown remind me that we all have things we struggle with, we all have hidden joys and sadnesses. It is a lovely, humanizing way to start a week.

A few from this week’s post hit home for me, as they likely will many of you.

Now go follow PS. Like now.

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Minipost: The Story of Us

You guys…

I owe you all a post because I have things to saaaay. Nothing too terrible exciting, just some massive realizations about life and stuff. You know, the usual emotional vomit I’ve made the very cornerstone of my blog.

But I’m busy. And last night I got 5 hours of sleep between a fitful baby and a brain that could not stop obsessing over this terrible anniversary party I have to throw for my in-laws this weekend that I’m convinced they are going to hate. Maybe they’ll hate it so much, they’ll stop talking to me? I feel alarmingly ambivalent about that outcome.

In the meantime, I’m still reading your posts. And I’ve just got to say… I love us. For serious, guys. I love our stories. I love the relative honesty we have about our lives, our struggles, the tiny triumphs of putting our lives back together after grief, loss, frustration, and disappointments.

Thanks for letting me follow along.

I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed

So I didn’t get the job.

Before you offer your condolences, I’m okay with it. Sorta. More along the lines of “You broke up with me before I could break up with you.” Ultimately, I knew I wouldn’t take the job, but no one likes to feel rejected. It is, in fact, only the 3rd time ever I have interviewed for a job and not received an offer. This feeling is weird, but I’ll get over it. (This is just me stating facts, haters.)

I found out I didn’t get the job the same week as my birthday. For the first time EVER, I was not looking forward to my birthday and that’s odd. I’m usually all into my birthday because I am awesome and like to take at least one day a year to celebrate said awesomeness.

Instead I spent the day in back-to-fricking-back meetings, doing double duty on pick-up and drop off because Mr. O had a haircut after work, then bitching him out because he didn’t actually wish me Happy Birthday until I reminded him it was my birthday… at 8:00 pm.

Then I cried. Then Chick fell and hit his head. And we both cried.

My birthday present to myself was a historic tour 5K. (#runningnerdalert) We were supposed to do it as a family– me, Mr. O, and Chick in the stroller. I was all set, but Mr. O fell ill so he stayed home with Chick. Instead of the family run I had been hoping for, I was going solo.

On my way to the meeting point (alone) I thought:

I’m just tired of being disappointed.

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#sadturtle

That’s where I’m at these days. I’m disappointed in so many things, I can’t even begin to list them (and we know how I love lists.) Nothing is out and out terrible any more –infertility and death of a loved one have a strange way of putting things in perspective. But I’m left with this general residue of severe let-down-ed-ness. And I don’t think I have been asking the Universe for too much. Honestly.

A few years ago at Christmas, my family requested a list of things I wanted as gifts. This has been a contentious issue for years– my family is notoriously cheap so you can’t recommend anything over $20 which is tricky because if I see something I want that is under 20 bucks, I’ll just buy it my damn self. Anyway… I spent a lot of time coming up with a few ideas that I wanted, needed, and magically came in around budget.

I had asked for a pair of black gloves and a Stevie Wonder CD. Instead I got a pair of socks from my brother, a book of poetry (by my dad’s favorite poet) from my parents, and a statement necklace from the J. Crew sale rack from my sister. Oh, and I also got the gift of white hot rage, because I was pissed. Why ask what I want when you’re just going to get me what you want anyway?! Then I felt horrible because I also felt ungrateful.

Because on top of feeling disappointed that my life right now is not what I would like it to be, I also feel immensely guilty for not being grateful. I have a good job, a roof over my head, a mostly decent spouse when he remembers not to be an idiot on my birthday… I look down at Chick and am filled with a wee bit of self loathing because he doesn’t make up for all the short-comings. It took me ages to have this baby, shouldn’t he just wipe away all my cares and woe? (Um, no… because it is uncool for a parent to make their child responsible for all the happiness in the world. Or at least that is what I tell myself for feeling like a bad person when Chick isn’t the only reason my day is awesome/shit.)

Should I pull an Oprah and list out my gratitude? That’s a little too Shiny Happy People for me… Besides, I’ve always hated this exercise because it seems to imply that if you have anything to be grateful for, you magically shouldn’t care about all the serious crappy things going on.

Good things in life don’t erase the bad ones. They just add to the texture.

Panic in the Mother’s Room

It all started innocuously enough.

It was an ad.

As I was feeding Chick breakfast and listening to the news, I heard an ad announcing that a very large company will be moving to my city. It will take a few years– 2018– but they’re relocating their entire headquarters. My first thought was “Man, housing prices are going to skyrocket.” My second thought was “Man, I either need to buy now or get out before it happens.”

As you all know, I’ve been seriously thinking of leaving the East coast. I’ve been looking at a few cities. In typical fashion, I created a spreadsheet comparing said cities with an Ostrich Quality of Life Index (patent pending.) I like to make informed decisions, and this process helped me quickly eliminate some options and zero in on others. Using my proprietary formula (factoring potential income, average commute time, average cost of a 3 bedroom, and average cost of daycare) I quickly tossed out San Francisco. LA would be possible, but Seattle was looking like the very best alternative. I shared my findings with Mr. O and started to dip my toes in the Seattle waters.

Mr. O had been rather silent. Not entirely out of character, but in retrospect I should have known better. You see when Mr. O doesn’t want to do something, he ignores it. Pretends like it just isn’t happening. And because this Ostrich abhors a vacuum, I fill the silence with whatever I *think* he thinks. And I thought silence was complicity.

With the dawning realization that Very Large Company is coming, my urgency to leave kicked into high gear. I went to work and started looking at how to make this move West work. The trouble was, I couldn’t. Even with all my spreadsheets and research, the three places we were looking at weren’t working out. The logistics were wrong, the cost of living one I can’t support, or commutes I can’t bear. I have been working on this relocation puzzle for weeks, and no matter how much I tried I couldn’t make it fit.

I started to spiral. I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt tight. Cue panic attack! So I ran to my one refuge at work– the Mother’s Room.

While trying to get my shit together, I tearfully called Mr. O because I really needed to talk. More specifically, I needed someone to talk me down.

ME: I’ve tried and tried, and I can’t figure out how to make this work. I’ve looked at all the pieces, all the variables…

 

O: You’re putting too much pressure on this one decision. You need to slow down. Why don’t we just move and see what happens?

 

ME: I can’t do that. I want a home, Mr. O. I want to settle down with our family. I don’t want to move across the country, only to pick up and move again because we can’t afford it.

 

O: Maybe we need to compromise on somethings. You’re not going to find everything you want in one place. Maybe it will mean a longer commute…

 

ME: I know, but there are somethings I won’t compromise on. I want our own home, and I want to be with our family. Chick is growing up so fast, and I don’t want to miss that because I’m driving two hours in a car everyday. That matters to me.

 

O: …

 

ME: I’ve tried and tried, but I can’t make San Francisco work. I know that’s where you want to be, but I can’t figure it out-

 

O: Well, I don’t want to move to Seattle.

 

ME: … What?

 

O: I never wanted to move there.

 

ME: I can’t make California work, Mr. O. I don’t know if we can move at all.

This, it should be noted, triggered more crying and chest heaving. Because I realized that when Mr. O said he wanted to move West, he really meant he wanted to move to San Francisco. There is a part of me that feels this is totally irrational on his part. It’s like a kid who says they want to live in Disneyland. That’s charming, but completely unrealistic.

69025388This is where our partnership typically hits the skids. Mr. O is the dreamer, the kid who wants to live in Disneyland. I’m tethered to reality. It isn’t like we don’t know this about ourselves– we even have a joke about it. This dynamic first came to light when we went on vacation together for the first time. Mr. O doesn’t plan anything and just likes to let serendipity take over. I have to plan everything because… well if I don’t, who will? Thus Vacation Ostrich is the planner, while Vacation Mr. O is the free spirit.

(That makes me sound like a total kill joy, but if it weren’t for me we quite literally wouldn’t have places to stay. Mr. O doesn’t even want to pick a hotel because “Let’s just see what happens…” I’m not okay with just rolling into town without a bed booked because I did that in my 20’s with very poor results. This is not my default mode- you can tell because I looooathe the planning process. In fact, I’ll admit I even resent it. But I’d rather that than sleep on a park bench, literally or metaphorically. Yes, I am justifying my behavior. It’s my blog. Deal.)

Anyway… Where was I? Ah yes… panic attack in the Mother’s Room. I was crying while mumbling “I can’t make this work, I can’t fix it, I can’t fix it…” when Mr. O told me to stop and breathe. And made the radical suggestion that we swap roles. He will be Vacation Ostrich and I will be Vacation Mr. O, at least for a few weeks. We come at problems differently, but we’re not going to go anywhere unless we meet some kind of middle ground. For the next few weeks anyway, I have agreed.

Since then, I’ve been trying to define what being Vacation Mr. O really means. It isn’t so much that he isn’t realistic, but that he sees possibility. I’m trying to broaden my perspective a little bit, even opening myself up to staying where we are.

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What do me and Donna Reid have in common, besides a love for home appliances? No really…

I’m also trying to sit back and figure out what is important to me and why. It’s been a good clarifying exercise so far. In the midst of my sweaty panicky freak out, I blurted out the two most important things to me: Home Ownership and Family. Smack me with a wet noodle, I never thought I’d say those things. It’s just so damn Leave It to Beaver, but there you have it.

Family… okay, yes. It isn’t uncommon for a mother of a small child to want to spend more time with said small child. As much as it was a surprise, I wasn’t really shocked by that response. The specificity of home ownership? Yeah, that seemed weird. While I was driving home from dinner with friends last night, it dawned on me where that is coming from.

Since my mom died, my father’s mortality has become more real. No, he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. (Hopefully. Seriously, Universe, if you even think of screwing with me like that right now, you and I will officially have a smack down.) But I’m also keenly aware that he will die some day. When that happens, my family home will be gone. My siblings and I will have to sort through ~40 years worth of our collective identify, and decide what to keep. At that point, I will be without a mooring… Unless I moor my goddamn self.

There are other things here that need unpacking, like the realization that my income is what keeps my family afloat. I am the head of the household, which wasn’t really a role I was prepared for. With that comes responsibilities I haven’t even started to grapple with. You’d think Vacation Ostrich would relish that, but I don’t.

Mr. O and I have agree to regroup in a few weeks to see what this Freaky Friday swap yields. Until then, I will do my best to dwell in possibility.

There Ain’t No Easy Way Out (of the East Coast)

(Pardon my use of poor grammar. Blame Tom Petty.)

Blaaaaagh.

I’m being a total weirdo right now. But if you can’t be a weirdo on your own anonymous blog, where can you?

So.

If anything good has come out of my interviewing for the best job I will never have, it is the realization that I’m ready for something new. I’m fairly certain that something new is a drastic change in scenery. After 18 years as a Southerner and almost 20 as a Northerner, I’m ready to move West. This isn’t wholly arbitrary– Mr. O and I have visited various western cities over the last few years and really love it out there. Besides… why the hell not?

Now that Mr. O and I have pretty much agreed on a move being vaguely in our future… I agonize. Did you know that “West” is a pretty large portion of the country? We’ve narrowed it down to “Somewhere in California” and “Generally Seattle.” I start googling, feel nauseous, then google pictures of puppies in order to avoid any real decision making.

Because this is the only way I can tackle large problems, here is my list of criteria:

  1. Mid-sized city with a few larger employers. I tend to bounce every 3-5 years, so there has to be another game in town for me to rationalize moving there.
  2. Decent standard of living. I would like to be able to buy a modest house wherever I live next. No McMansions, just a nice lil’ bungalow with room outback for a smoker. (Cue my dream of smoking my own meats.)
  3. ~ 30 minutes commute time. I would rather spend time with my family than in traffic with thousands of my closest over-worked and over-tired friends.
  4. No hyper-conservative local governments. Look, I spent my entire childhood in a state that is currently under travel advisory by the UK because of its idiotic policies. I’m not subjecting myself or my family to that level of inanery.

Other considerations… I would like a good-ish school system, but I’m not above sending Chick to private school. I would love to send my kid to the public school system, but ultimately I’m okay with being bourgie if I have to be.

That makes it sound soooo easy, right? I want there to be some form on the interwebs where I can plop all this information and it will give me a list of the top 5 cities for me to focus on. But the best I can come up with are useless Buzzfeed quizzes that tell me my spirit animal is Wyoming or something else equally unhelpful.

Regardless, I need to come up with a plan to escape the east. Any thoughts, recommendations, or pictures of cute puppies welcome.

I Am the Accountant

Here I was, thrashing around in my midlife crisis, when a recruiter came a knocking. As braggy as it sounds, I get contacted with a degree of regularity by recruiters. Normally I say no. Because I was stewing in my own angsty juices, I decided to talk to this one. It’s a small start-up in the city, building an app for something I personally find interesting.

At first, I was all “Whatever…” but then I talked with the founder. You guys. YOU GUYS. I love this company. And I love this job. I would be employee #6 and get to build my team from the ground up. When I went in for the in-person last week, I talked with the founder for almost two hours and realized that every job I’ve had in my wayward career has made me the perfect candidate for this job.

But damn it… It’s a start up. Which comes with a lot of instability, terrible health insurance, long hours. Over the weekend, I have debated the pros and cons of my situation replete with the tiny angel and tiny devil duking it out on my shoulders. It dawned on me sometime yesterday (as I was weeping in a grocery store parking lot stuffing my face with brownies, btw) that I probably can’t take it even if I was offered the job.

Here are all the reasons why this is probably a waste of my time:

  1. Insurance at most start-ups looks like this: Tylenol, an ice pack, and a coupla band-aids. Mr. O and I are socializing the idea of Chick Part Deux, which means we’d need actual grown up insurance that covers infertility treatments. Though I haven’t seen the plan, I seriously doubt it covers this– certainly not as generously as mine currently does.
  2. New job would likely not have maternity leave. Thank you, America, for treating new mothers like shit. Birth that baby, then get back on the factory floor! #rantover
  3. Should said attempt at baby-making not work out, I would like to be in a place where I could lick my wounds for a little bit. I’m not sure the 24/7 nature of a start-up would be conducive.
  4. This new job would probably not help me with a relocation effort. After a particularly insightful comment from labmonkey2, I realized I should try moving to some place that makes me less hostile. Right now I’m working for a known company in a high growth unit, which is part of the reason recruiters contact me all the time. Coming from an unknown company that may or may not get off the ground… not as attractive.
  5. Depending on the way the position evolves, it may not actually be the direction I want my career to go in. Long story, but I’m in the middle of a pivot right now and this would keep me firmly planted in the area where I already have expertise.
  6. This will not be the last cool start-up ever. Though this specific job may not be open again, opportunities like this are not infrequent in my field. It’s totally possible I could have another shot like this one, if not with this company.

My current sitch isn’t bad– I go to work at 9, run at lunch, eat a salad from the company cafe, answer some emails, then I’m home by 5:30 to spend time with my gorgeous kid. I’m not weeping at my desk everyday, I’m just kinda bored. Boring, I’ve found, is sometimes necessary. I needed it for a few years, what with my mom’s health and my own shitastic fertility treatments. But now that I’m sorta waking up from that period of emotional trauma, I’m realizing the day in and out isn’t too exciting. It explains why I’ve been a little out to sea with this job lately. Yawn.

And yet… This is not the direction I thought my career would go in. Indeed, this isn’t exactly how I thought my life would end up. I am a responsible adult, damnit. In my heart of hearts, I had always assumed Mr. O would be the adult and get a stable job as an accountant or something, leaving me free to be risky and irresponsible. (Woohoo!) Through an odd turn of events, I am the accountant (metaphorically speaking, that is.) Being the breadwinner was never on my bucket list.

As I was moping around this weekend, I realized that this will be the first decision I’ve made not to do something I want to do. If it weren’t for Mr. O, Chick, the twinkle of Chick #2, I would be jumping in with both feet. I don’t mean to imply that I wish they weren’t there. More that it was a strange realization that I have to be responsible, even if it goes against my own personal wishes. My choices have an impact on my family now in a way they never did before.

I can’t decided if this is depressing or just the truth.

Is it just me, or did Arthur Miller write a play about this? Death of an Accountant? Was that a thing?

POEM: Everything is Waiting for You

When I was a teenager, I wrote copious amounts of bad poetry.

When I was a young adult, I read fair quantities of wonderful poetry.

As parent, I hardly have time to wash my face.

Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised listening to a podcast on my commute this morning where poet David Whyte read “Everything is Waiting for You.”

Years of infertility and the loss of my mom made me feel so intensely alone. This poem is a beautiful reminder of how not alone we all are, if we chose to live with intent.

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press